Monday, March 31, 2008

Notes on Schopenhauer 1.

Notes on The World as Will and Idea (WWI), Book 1. Arthur Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Idea was first published in 1819, and its second edition in 1844. In 1963, three months before she began channeling Seth, Jane Roberts composed a piece of automatic writing with a similar title, "The Physical Universe As Idea Construction". This was to be the nucleus of the complete body of work later elaborated in her channeled and unchanneled writings. There are some interesting parallels between Schopenhauer's philosophy and the Roberts/Seth material. Seth identifies the nature of being and consciousness as action, while Schopenhauer states that the nature of matter is action and causation, and that it, like time and space, is an idea of perception (consciousness). In a pre-Einsteinian intimation of the relativistic space-time continuum, he explains that time, space, matter and causality are all forms of the principle of sufficient reason, and that matter, or mass, is nothing other than the union of space and time. Seth explains how physical time and space flow from psychological time and space, the outer from the inner, while Schopenhauer describes time and space as categories of the "understanding", Verstand, and frameworks of "perception", Anschauung, which in German also means "intuition", "insight", "outlook" and "perspective". The fact that all these meanings are carried by a single word in his language perhaps explains why he does not clearly distinguish between the inner and outer senses; it is often unclear whether he is referring to actual, external perceptions or to mental images. He certainly attributes things to Anschauung which go beyond mere sense-perception, such as solving physics problems and designing complex mechanical systems. The relationship between the terms is expressed thus:

"All intuitive perception [Anschauung] is intellectual, for without the understanding [Verstand] we could never achieve intuitive perception," thus implying a formal contribution of the brain to the Anschauung. In the second volume of his Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, Schopenhauer says that "perception is not only the source of all knowledge, but is itself knowledge... it alone is the unconditionally true genuine knowledge." We can interpret his use of the word Verstand to mean the operation undertaken by the brain and leading to the intuitive perception [Anschauung], since Schopenhauer tells us that "the forms underlying Verstand, the Verstand is a function of the brain." http://webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/1D.html
In comparison, Seth presents a detailed list of Inner Senses, which are fleshed out still further by Elias. These senses depend not upon the brain alone, but also upon nonphysical apects of the self, although they are received and processed through the brain.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Take several forms at one time, by Liara Covert

From: http://blog.dreambuilders.com.au/

In a book called Seth Speaks, Jane Roberts channels what Seth explains as inherent characteristics of any consciousness. That is to say, this book suggests any human being is capable of taking on many forms at one time. Do you underestimate your potential?

For example, your physical body can lie on a bed while your consciousness journeys in a dream form to very different locations. You can explore astral and lucid dream states. You can devise thought forms of yourself which could materialize in another place without your conscious awareness. Are you beginning to discern your hidden strength?

As you evolve to realize your consciousness isn't limited, you also begin to realize that you aren't limited in terms of the forms you can create and project at a given time. The better you get-to-know yourself, the more conscious you will become about what you are doing, what you have the potential to do, and what forms you can control into being.

What would you say if you were able to learn to travel through emotions rather than permit them to control you? What would you say if you felt much more freedom to explore an experience in ways that used to seem unnatural or inconceivable? What would you do?

Imagine what it will feel like when you no longer wish to hide your emotions, when you no longer fear the truth. Imagine how your life will change from the moment you know your feelings are discerned through senses you forgot you had. Choices will make more sense.



Saturday, March 29, 2008

Thanks 2 KEVIN @ Free Democracy.... :)


Friday, March 28, 2008

Autobiography, by Dorothy Parker

Oh, both my shoes are shiny new, And pristine is my hat; My dress is 1922.... My life is all like that.

Amy Goodman Questions Sen. Obama on Heeding Iraqis’ Call for Full US Withdrawal

AMY GOODMAN: Obama was speaking at the Cooper Union. I had a chance to briefly interview him as he was shaking people’s hands after he left the stage. I asked Obama why he’s not calling for a total withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in accordance with the 70 percent of Iraqis who say they want the US out. AMY GOODMAN: Senator Obama, quick question: 70 percent of Iraqis say they want the US to withdraw completely; why don’t you call for a total withdrawal? SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I do, except for our embassy. I call for amnesty and protecting our civilian contractors there. AMY GOODMAN: You’ve said a residual force— SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Yeah, but— AMY GOODMAN: —which means [inaudible] thousands [inaudible]. SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, no. I mean, I don’t think that you’ve read exactly what I’ve said. What I said is that we do need to have a strike force in the region. It doesn’t necessarily have to be in Iraq; it could be in Kuwait or other places. But we do have to have some presence in order to not only protect them, but also potentially to protect their territorial integrity. AMY GOODMAN: Can you call for a ban on the private military contractors like Blackwater? SEN. BARACK OBAMA: I’ve actually—I’m the one who sponsored the bill that called for the investigation of Blackwater in [inaudible], so— AMY GOODMAN: But would you support the Sanders one now? SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Here’s the problem: we have 140,000 private contractors right there, so unless we want to replace all of or a big chunk of those with US troops, we can’t draw down the contractors faster than we can draw down our troops. So what I want to do is draw—I want them out in the same way that we make sure that we draw out our own combat troops. Alright? I mean, I— AMY GOODMAN: Not a ban? SEN. BARACK OBAMA: Well, I don’t want to replace those contractors with more US troops, because we don’t have them, alright? But this was a speech about the economy. AMY GOODMAN: The war is costing $3 trillion, according to Stiglitz. SEN. BARACK OBAMA: That’s what—I know, which I made a speech about last week. Thank you. AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Barack Obama at the Cooper Union in New York.

Meditation Can Wish You Well, Study Says

Imaging tests suggest compassion and empathy can be learned traits

THURSDAY, March 27

New research suggests that qualities the world desperately needs more of -- love, kindness and compassion -- are indeed teachable.

Imaging technology shows that people who practice meditation that focuses on kindness and compassion actually undergo changes in areas of the brain that make them more in tune to what others are feeling. ... The study involved 32 people: 16 Tibetan monks and lay practitioners, who had meditated for a minimum of 10,000 hours throughout their lifetime (the "experts"); and 16 control subjects, who had only recently been taught the basics of compassion meditation (the "novices").

The senior author of the paper, Richard Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an expert on imaging the effects of meditation, has been collaborating with the Dalai Lama since 1992, studying the brains of Tibetan monks.

For the study, individuals in the control group were instructed first to wish loved ones well-being and freedom from pain, then to wish such benefits to humankind as a whole.

"We looked at whether there were any differences between experts and novices in generating compassion with the idea that a central practice in this tradition [of meditation] is to cultivate these positive emotions," Lutz said. "We wanted to see if there were any differences in the way the brain was reacting."

Each participant was hooked up to a functional MRI both while meditating and not meditating. During each state, the participants heard sounds designed to produce responses: the negative sound of a distressed woman, the positive sound of a baby laughing, and the neutral sound of background noise from a restaurant.

"We showed altered activation in brain circuitry that was previously linked to empathy and perspective-taking or the capacity to understand other's intentions and mental states and, more precisely, the insula was more activated, particularly in response to negative emotional sounds," Lutz said.

In the monks, especially, these areas of the brain were activated even more when they hard the cries of the distressed woman, she said. ...


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Barbara Lee's War on Poverty, by Katrina vanden Heuvel

Recently, Congresswoman Barbara Lee said to me, "This is a moment when people are suffering. They are one paycheck -- if they have a paycheck -- away from poverty."

That's why Lee has maintained a laser-like focus on addressing poverty. One in eight Americans -- approximately 37 million people -- now live below the federal poverty line of $19,971 for a family of four. (A woefully inadequate measure that is 42 years old and fails to account for basic necessities.) That's 4.9 million more people than in 2000 and the poverty rate for children is the highest of all age groups. Nearly 60 million people live just above the poverty line. Using the British standard of measurement, approximately 30 percent of Americans -- and 40 percent of American children -- are living in poverty.

In January, Lee introduced House Concurrent Resolution 198 to get her colleagues on record saying that the US should set a national goal of cutting poverty in half over the next 10 years. The resolution stated that "policy initiatives addressing poverty have not kept pace with the needs of millions of Americans" and that "the United States has a moral responsibility to meet the needs of those persons, groups, and communities that are impoverished, disadvantaged or otherwise in poverty."

"That resolution passed on a bipartisan basis," Lee told me. "No opposition. And so we're looking now at the specific recommendations of many groups that have come together to talk about what makes sense to begin to reduce and eliminate poverty. And so, that's the mission of the Out of Poverty Caucus which I co-chair. And it's moving. The Speaker has taken note, the Leadership has taken note."

Lee said that a real test of Democratic priorities occurred in the budget debate earlier this month. The Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), which she co-chairs along with Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, introduced its Progressive Caucus Budget which included an Anti-Poverty and Opportunity Initiative. The CPC budget spent $468.3 billion on defense, $68.7 billion less than President Bush's request of World War II-proportions.

It called for $73 billion in FY 2009, increasing to $129 billion in FY 2018, to fund a comprehensive strategy to cut poverty in half in a decade, including: expanding child care and increasing Head Start funding; making the Child Tax Credit fully refundable and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families; increasing funding for Food Stamps programs; increasing housing vouchers by 200,000 annually; lifting restrictions on TANF, Food Stamps, SSI and Medicaid for documented immigrant families; fully funding block grants to states with broad anti-poverty strategies and distributing targeted grants to states for families where a parent or child has a disability; increasing funding for Indian Health Services, education, housing and infrastructure, natural resources management, and other areas impacting Native American poverty; and reversing the 20 percent cut in child support enforcement.

The CPC budget also offered a second economic stimulus package -- to pump $118.9 billion into the economy -- with funding increases for unemployment insurance, food stamps, foreclosure relief and housing assistance, and Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to states; and also job creation through repair of schools, transportation infrastructure and public housing, and building new wastewater treatment plants. Over the next decade its sustained Rebuild and Reinvest in America Initiative would create green jobs and overhaul our nation's crumbling infrastructure.

In the end, the budget was defeated by a 98-322 vote. But it received 17 more votes than last year, and the Democratic vote was 98-131(during an election year when too many Democrats still fear criticism from Republicans on domestic spending). Clearly, the progressive movement in Congress is growing. Lee and her CPC colleagues will introduce the Anti-Poverty and Opportunity Initiative and also the Rebuild and Reinvest in America Initiative as their own freestanding bills in coming months. She also continues to work on a second economic stimulus package.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Lee said. "We heard while negotiating the first stimulus that there would be a second -- and that the reasons why we couldn't get the food stamps, and unemployment insurance, and those efforts -- in the first stimulus, it just wouldn't pass and we needed to get money in the hands of people right away. But that we'd come back and work on the second piece, and so that's what we're working on."

Lee is disappointed that Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton aren't addressing poverty more aggressively in their respective presidential campaigns.

"Every now and then they'll say a little bit but for the most part I don't think any of them have made this a bold initiative like Senator Edwards did," she said. "Of course, I'm an Obama person. Every chance I get I'm pushing [his campaign] to talk about poverty in a direct way. And I assume the Clinton people are talking to their candidate about this.... We've always talked about the middle-class -- which is fine, we want to make sure the middle-class stays [strong]. But we never seem to fix our mouths to talk about the poor and low-income individuals. And, of course, when you talk about poor people there may be some negative connotations about that. You know, maybe there's a messaging issue. But when people are poor, they're poor. When they don't have any money, they don't have any money."

As for Lee, she will continue to strengthen the anti-poverty coalition and fight for strategies that work. Within the halls of Congress, she's part of the Faith Working Group -- united in its view that the budget is a moral document and that there is a moral imperative to fight poverty. She works closely with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Center for American Progress Task Force on Poverty who urged her to push the resolution setting a national goal to cut poverty in half in a decade. She and the CPC have reached out to work with Martin Luther King III's Realizing the Dream initiative. And the Economic Policy Institute and Campaign for America's Future are very involved in the second economic stimulus package. Labor, health care, and affordable housing advocates are also on board in helping to move progressive legislation.

"A major coalition could develop from this effort," Lee said.

With the poor getting poorer, and the middle-class shrinking, Lee's steadfast commitment to fighting poverty -- and building a coalition to win that fight -- is needed now in new and urgent ways.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008


The world's markets gambled on financial alchemy. They lost.

[Yeah yeah..thanks to him again...] By Iain MacWhirter

COME BACK Karl Marx, all is forgiven. Just when everyone thought that the German philosopher's critique of capitalism had been buried with the Soviet Union, suddenly capitalism reverts to type. It has laid a colossal, global egg and plunged the world economy into precisely the kind of crisis he forecast.

The irony, though, is that this time it isn't the working classes who are demanding that the state should take over, but the banks. The capitalists are throwing themselves on the mercy of government, demanding subsidies and protection from the capitalist market - it's socialism for the banks. Hedge fund managers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your bonuses.

On Friday, the heads of the big five British banks demanded - and got - another £5 billion in "emergency liquidity" from the Bank of England to add to the £5bn they received earlier in the week. But like militant shop stewards they complained it wasn't enough. "Look how much the banks are getting in Europe and America," they whinged. Hundreds of billions of dollars and euros are being thrown at banks in an attempt to save them from themselves.

The quaint idea that loss-making companies should fail, to ensure the health and vitality of the capitalist system, has quietly been discarded. The banks, we are told, are "too big to fail", which means that they have to be taken into public ownership - like Northern Rock - or have their debts underwritten by government, like Bear Stearns, which comes to much the same thing. The central banks are also cutting interest rates to try to boost banking profits, and this is making currencies such as the dollar increasingly unstable.

Which takes us back to Marx. The crisis that is rocking the world is a classic example of the kind of shocks and dislocations that Marx said were an essential feature of a competitive capitalist economy. The falling rate of profit that results from too much investment piling into new technologies and commodities forces capital to engage in a constant search for profit.

As it becomes harder and harder to make money out of making things - just look at the collapse in prices of computers over the last decade - so exotic financial derivatives have been created to boost wealth without engaging in recognisable economic activity. Speculation takes over. British manufacturing has collapsed to a fraction of what it was 20 years ago, and a vast financial services sector has grown up in its place making money largely out of inflation in house prices, ie debt.

Moreover, with globalisation, trillions of dollars have been washing around the world markets looking for a home. This has created a monster: the market in financial derivatives; a Pandora's box of inscrutable financial instruments governed by supposedly failsafe mathematical formulae. Collateralised debt obligations - implicated in the subprime mortgage crisis - are at least rooted in nominal house prices, but they have been detached from the actual mortgages and sold as commodities in the securities market.

Credit default swaps have created a $45 trillion global industry based on nothing at all, merely speculating on the movements of currencies and commodity prices. A credit default swap is a kind of insurance contract taken out between two bankers who bet on the price of an asset. They don't need to own the asset, and there is no actual loss if the default happens. But the contracts can be traded, allowing the swappers to create value out of nothing but their own agreement.

According to the Bank for International Settlement in Basel, the global derivatives market is worth some $516 trillion - 10 times the value of all the world's stock markets put together. And much of it is based on very little but leveraged optimism; pieces of paper theoretically based on the price of an empty house in Cleveland, Ohio.

Billions have been magicked out of nothing by this financial alchemy, but in the end, there is no way of turning dross into gold, and the reckoning had to come. And someone had to pay - which is where we, the people, come in.

As happened in the 1930s, the whole system is collapsing. We are faced with the choice of colossal bank defaults or hyper inflation: saving the banks or saving our savings. The central bankers decided that they would rather save the banks. So our governments are using public money to bolster banking balance sheets and allowing inflation to rip so that the banks' losses will be devalued, along with the pound in your pocket.

So what happens now? Or as Lenin said, What Is To Be Done? Well, not Communism for a start. Central control and outright state ownership along Soviet lines is no longer a viable political option - an undemocratic public monopoly is almost as bad as a private one. The fact that the banks are currently in league with western governments to create a kind of financial communism is doubly disturbing.

Instead of just propping up bankrupt banks, the governments should be democratising them - mobilising their assets to stimulate the productive economy, repairing infrastructure, researching and developing new markets, and refitting western economies to combat climate change. It needs a kind of green New Deal - an update on Roosevelt's imaginative policies of the 1930s fought tooth and nail by the banks.

They want unlimited access to public money to save themselves from the consequences of their own actions; welfare for the wealthy. This is above all a political, not an economic problem. There needs to be a political mobilisation of public opinion to force the banks and the government to bring the people into the equation. Unfortunately, the party that used to perform this function, Labour, has largely been bought out by the banks. They have privatised the government, even as they have socialised the financial markets.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Can this link kick any more ass? No.

[Thanks to dada for the link....especially fun since I have a copy of the Manly Hall commentary book on The Most Holy Trinosophia. Be sure to check out the links on the right side and the art thumbnails..I've been reading this site and links for hours now...way past my bedtime...so yeah...thanks, dada]
"A man who knows everything and who never dies" [Voltaire]
La Tres Sainte Trinsophie Titlepage 2 people at altar Two Lions Emblem Coiled Snake, Chalice and Sword Ibis Pyre and Candle Triangular Symbol in Cloud Ibis, Flame on Altar Circular Symbol with Ancient Script Crowned Lion and Grapes above Altar Pyre Horse with Corpse; Person and Corpse Person Arising from Coffin Snakes Symbol with Feather Decoration Man and Woman Grapple Next to Tree Centurion and woman with Symbol from Sun Crown Symbol with Feathering Motif Idiogrammatic Script Idiograms Circular Symbols and Table of Symbols Hebrew in Target Symbol and Idiograms Idiograms in Triangular Layout Lamp, Wreath, Winged Symbol and Torches The 'Cosmic Master of the Age of Aquarius' and mysterious adept, the Count de Saint-Germain, allegedly died in 1784. He was a spy, virtuoso violinist, diplomat, friend at the Court of Louis XV, adventurer and was said to be able to transform iron into gold. A veritable procession of people have claimed to be the still living Count de Saint-Germain since 1784.
"During the centuries after his death, numerous myths, legends and speculations have surfaced. He has been attributed with occult practices like snake charming and ventriloquism. There are stories about an affair between him and Madame de Pompadour. Other legends report that he was immortal, the Wandering Jew, an alchemist with the elixir of life, a Rosicrucian or an ousted king, a bastard of Queen Maria Anna of Spain, that he prophesied the French Revolution. Casanova called him the violinist Catlini. Count Cagliostro was rumored to be his pupil."
Either the Count de Saint-Germain or Cagliostro is considered to be the author of 'La Très Sainte Trinosophie' (The Most Holy Three-fold Wisdom), from the latter half of the 18th century. It has been called "the rarest of occult manuscripts"1 and the only surviving copy is owned by the library in Troyes, France. 'Trinsophie' is an allegorical alchemistry work and ritual egyptian magical treatise containing an intentionally coded text with arabic, chaldean hebrew, cuneiform, ionic greek, syriac, esoteric idiograms and heiroglyphs amongst the french writing. A full translation is available online if you look hard enough -- I tend to regard the esoteric arts as a fascinating well from which to draw outstanding and eclectic imagery for this site, but if you want to incorporate the mystical and theosophical practices into your life then you ought to inject your own energies into the process, as thou wilt. Suffice it to say that 'Trinsophie' remains an important codex in masonic, rosicrucian and hermetic traditions.

Monday, March 24, 2008

So? ... A Note from Michael Moore

[Thanks to Sunshine Jim for this link] Monday, March 24th, 2008 Friends, It would have to happen on Easter Sunday, wouldn't it, that the 4,000th American soldier would die in Iraq. Play me that crazy preacher again, will you, about how maybe God, in all his infinite wisdom, may not exactly be blessing America these days. Is anyone surprised? 4,000 dead. Unofficial estimates are that there may be up to 100,000 wounded, injured, or mentally ruined by this war. And there could be up to a million Iraqi dead. We will pay the consequences of this for a long, long time. God will keep blessing America. And where is Darth Vader in all this? A reporter from ABC News this week told Dick Cheney, in regards to Iraq, "two-thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting." Cheney cut her off with a one word answer: "So?" "So?" As in, "So what?" As in, "F*** you. I could care less." I would like every American to see Cheney flip the virtual bird at the them, the American people. Click here and pass it around. Then ask yourself why we haven't risen up and thrown him and his puppet out of the White House. The Democrats have had the power to literally pull the plug on this war for the past 15 months -- and they have refused to do so. What are we to do about that? Continue to sink into our despair? Or get creative? Real creative. I know there are many of you reading this who have the chutzpah and ingenuity to confront your local congressperson. Will you? For me? Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht. So? Ask your favorite Republican what they think of that. The Founding Fathers would never have uttered the presumptuous words, "God Bless America." That, to them, sounded like a command instead of a request, and one doesn't command God, even if they are America. In fact, they were worried God would punish America. During the Revolutionary War, George Washington feared that God would react unfavorably against his soldiers for the way they were behaving. John Adams wondered if God might punish America and cause it to lose the war, just to prove His point that America was not worthy. They and the others believed it would be arrogant on their part to assume that God would single out America for a blessing. What a long road we have traveled since then. I see that Frontline on PBS this week has a documentary called "Bush's War." That's what I've been calling it for a long time. It's not the "Iraq War." Iraq did nothing. Iraq didn't plan 9/11. It didn't have weapons of mass destruction. It DID have movie theaters and bars and women wearing what they wanted and a significant Christian population and one of the few Arab capitals with an open synagogue. But that's all gone now. Show a movie and you'll be shot in the head. Over a hundred women have been randomly executed for not wearing a scarf. I'm happy, as a blessed American, that I had a hand in all this. I just paid my taxes, so that means I helped to pay for this freedom we've brought to Baghdad. So? Will God bless me? God bless all of you in this Easter Week as we begin the 6th year of Bush's War. God help America. Please. Michael Moore MMFlint@aol.com MichaelMoore.com

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Madam and the Phone Bill, by Langston Hughes

You say I O.K.ed LONG DISTANCE? O.K.ed it when? My goodness, Central That was then! I'm mad and disgusted With that Negro now. I don't pay no REVERSED CHARGES nohow. You say, I will pay it-- Else you'll take out my phone? You better let My phone alone. I didn't ask him To telephone me. Roscoe knows darn well LONG DISTANCE Ain't free. If I ever catch him, Lawd, have pity! Calling me up From Kansas City. Just to say he loves me! I knowed that was so. Why didn't he tell me some'n I don't know? For instance, what can Them other girls do That Alberta K. Johnson Can't do--and more, too? What's that, Central? You say you don't care Nothing about my Private affair? Well, even less about your PHONE BILL, does I care! Un-humm-m! . . . Yes! You say I gave my O.K.? Well, that O.K. you may keep-- But I sure ain't gonna pay!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Demonstrating Resistance

From: http://www.crimethinc.com

Mass Action and Autonomous Action in the Election Year

An analysis of the successes and failures of recent militant demonstrations

Talking Tactics: The Mass Action Model versus the Autonomous Action Model

In the past six years, the North American anarchist movement has gone through all the stages of a turbulent love affair with mass actions, including messy breakups and attempted reconciliations. In the process, some anarchists have taken up with other approaches to demonstration activism—including, most notably, an emphasis on more autonomous, decentralized actions. In this review of the past year’s demonstrations, we’ll discuss the strengths and weaknesses of both approaches, and analyze how these have played out in the streets.

In considering how to evaluate both mass and autonomous actions, we should begin by establishing what it is fair to expect of them. Most anarchists thoughtlessly describe them as direct action, but, technically speaking, demonstrations—even confrontational, militant ones, in which police are forced out of neighborhoods, corporate property is set afire, and bureaucratic summits are shut down—are not direct action. Making love, growing or stealing food, providing free child care—these are concrete actions that directly accomplish their goals. Militant demonstration tactics, on the other hand, may qualify as direct action to the extent to which they circumvent liberal or police control to make a point or create an atmosphere outside the dictates of the powers that be, but most anarchists who participate in them would argue that their primary purpose is to bring closer the abolition of the hierarchies and institutions against which they are staged, and viewed in this light they are generally more symbolic than direct.[1][1] Setting out to shut down a capitalist summit and succeeding in doing so may qualify as direct action in the most immediate sense, but an anti-capitalist movement that succeeded in shutting down summit after summit without bringing any closer the abolition of capitalist social relations would be a failure, not a success. Hence, such feats ultimately have their greatest value as demonstrations of what is possible.

This is not to say that they are never worthwhile. Even if a demonstration doesn’t serve to solve immediately the problem it is staged to address, it can contribute to this process by spreading awareness, raising morale, exerting pressure on those opposed, and providing useful experience for participants. Not even a whole city of smashed windows could suffice to stop any one multinational corporation from wrecking the ecosystem and exploiting workers; but if a broken window serves to focus attention on an issue and inspire others to mobilize themselves, it at least qualifies as highly effective indirect action.

The protests against the meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle in November 1999 remain the most popular example of effective mass action in our time. Though countless pundits have typed themselves blue in the face on the subject, it is possible that anarchists have not yet finished refining the lessons of Seattle regarding the advantages of the mass action model and the elements that must be in place for it to work. The very fact that no mass action since Seattle has been as successful should make it easier for us to evaluate what made it a success, now that we have plenty of experience with actions that lacked those qualities.

What worked in Seattle and the mass demonstrations that followed it? When they were effective, what exactly did they accomplish, and how?

First, it’s important to understand that, unlike every mass action that followed it, the protests in Seattle benefited from the element of surprise. The powers that be had no idea what they were in for, the police were correspondingly unprepared, and, just as significantly, the corporate media didn’t know better than to broadcast the news of the victory far and wide. When subsequent protests failed to succeed in actually halting summit meetings, decimating shopping districts, or receiving international news coverage, this should not have come as a shock: the forces of repression were thoroughly prepared for them, and capitalist media moguls had learned it was not in their best interest to advertise anti-capitalist resistance as effective and exciting.

All the same, even without the element of surprise, subsequent mass actions were effective in some ways. They brought attention to anarchist ideas and resistance, enabled radicals to gain experience in militant tactics that were impossible in other contexts, and continued to build momentum and connections in insurgent communities.

The chief strengths of mass actions are due to the opportunities accorded by the concentration of many radicals and activists in one space. When a broad range of groups who regularly employ different tactics to address different issues come together, all can benefit from the ways their different approaches complement one another; not only this, but what they accomplish can easily be recognized as a part of a broad-ranging program, rather than a single-issue campaign. For radicals who are used to feeling like a powerless minority lost in a sea of apathy, the presence of many others of like minds can be intensely empowering. In large groups, people can inspire one another to find the courage and sense of entitlement necessary to act in ways they otherwise would not, and there is no shortage of potential comrades with whom to collaborate. When great numbers are present, radicals can plot large-scale strategies and achieve ambitious goals, and the achievement of these goals serves to attract future participants. So many beautiful people concentrated in one space can create a temporary real-life example of an anarchist society, something practically unimaginable for those who grew up in the sterile, colonized, hopeless environments of modern day capitalism.

The other really advantageous aspect of mass actions is that they are accessible and participatory. Because they can incorporate a wide range of tactics, they offer space for participants of a wide range of capabilities and comfort levels; and as they are announced openly and take place in public settings, people can join in without need of special social connections. Thus, they serve to create new connections between people and communities, and to provide points of entry for atomized individuals into a mass movement. Additionally, because so many people, both intentional participants and chance witnesses, experience them firsthand, news about mass actions spreads easily through word of mouth and other non-corporate channels. This makes it difficult for the corporate media to ignore them entirely without risking a loss of popular credibility.

The limitations of the mass action model also became clearer and clearer as the years passed after Seattle. Organizing events on such a large scale, not to mention traveling to them from a great distance, demands a lot of energy and resources, which must be drawn from the same pool of energy and resources upon which ongoing and locally-based projects depend. If a demonstration results in mass arrests, as the less militant civil-disobedience-oriented mass action models are wont to, this can consume time, money, and attention that might be more profitably applied to some constructive end; the same goes for the felony charges and arduous court cases that can result from individual arrests at more militant actions. The connections made at mass actions are more often between spatially distant, culturally homogenous communities than between local, culturally dissimilar ones that could benefit from continuing to work together outside the mass action format. It has been charged that, though they demand a lot of organizing from those in the host city, mass actions often drain more from local communities than they give to them. More insidiously, because the mass action model focuses on exceptional events that largely take place in well-known cities, it can foster the unhealthy impression that history is determined at special occasions in Washington, DC rather than in the decisions people everywhere make in their daily lives.

Because each mass action demands so much from so many, organizers who seek to put on major demonstrations must compete with one another for the privilege of getting to stage one of the few that can happen in any given period; under these conditions, it is easy for authoritarians to seize the reigns, or sabotage the labors of many with a few bad decisions. Because traveling great distances to events and risking arrest is not feasible for people of many walks of life, the mass action model has been criticized as the domain of privileged activists; this does not necessarily undercut the possibility that it can achieve worthwhile goals, but it does indicate certain limits to its effectiveness as outreach and as a participatory form of resistance.

Finally, and most significantly in the post-9/11 era, the mass action model enables authorities to prepare extensively, making every demonstration into a spectacle of their intimidating might. This gives the misleading impression that people are powerless in the grip of an all-powerful government, when in fact the state must draw troops from far and wide to stage these shows of force. It is especially convenient for intelligence-gathering departments to have so many radicals concentrated in one place, working on one project. Working publicly, in great numbers and under constant surveillance, it is very difficult for radicals to disseminate new tactical ideas without infiltrators and police apprehending them.

Knowing these limitations all too well, but not wishing to retire into inactivity, some activists argue in favor of more decentralized, autonomous actions. Generally speaking, an autonomous action is an action on a small enough scale that it can be organized without coordination from a central body, below the radar of the authorities. A classic modern day example of autonomous action is an attack on an army recruiting station, in which its windows are broken and slogans are spraypainted across its walls. Throughout this discussion, we will be addressing three basic kinds of autonomous action: actions carried out by individuals or individual affinity groups that take place entirely apart from mass actions; actions carried out by individuals or affinity groups that coincide with mass actions; and larger mobilizations, such as impromptu street marches, that are organized and initiated autonomously by small groups.

The autonomous action model has many advantages that mass actions lack: such actions almost always benefit from the element of surprise, they require significantly less infrastructure and preparation, and those who organize them can choose the time and terrain of engagement, rather than simply reacting to the decisions of the authorities. Autonomous actions are perfect for those with limited resources who do not desire to act in a high profile manner. They are practical and efficient for striking small blows and maintaining pressure on a broad range of fronts, and provide an excellent learning opportunity for small groups who wish to build up experience together.

In choosing to focus on this model, however, activists should also take into account the ways in which its advantages are also limitations. It is easy to maintain secrecy in preparing for an autonomous action, but it is often correspondingly difficult to spread word of it afterwards—let alone carry it out in a manner that offers those outside the immediate circle of organizers the chance to join in. While the autonomous action model is useful for those already involved in the direct action movement, it is rarely useful for helping others get involved or develop more experience. Without participatory, accessible forms of resistance, a movement cannot be expected to grow.

The essential idea of autonomous action—that individuals can organize their own activity, without need of direction or superstructure—is also the essence of anarchism. The problem here is that the essential challenge of spreading the autonomous action model is also the essential challenge of the anarchist revolution: most people are not used to acting on their own—without direction, organization, and the energy and sense of urgency that special events and large numbers of comrades provide, many find it difficult to cross over from hesitation into action. Even for those who hope to act autonomously, mass actions provide momentum, morale, crowd cover, legal support, numbers, media attention, and many other important elements. Outside the mass action model, we have to figure out how to do without these, or provide for them some other way.

Focusing on autonomous actions is a strategic retreat for radicals if it means dropping out of the public eye. Merely material blows, such as financial losses to corporations, will not suffice to topple the powers that be, at least at this juncture in the struggle; the hurricanes that struck the southeastern USA in the summer of 2004 did literally tens of thousands of times the financial damage of all the direct actions carried out that year combined, without posing any threat to the stability of the capitalist order. What is truly dangerous about anticapitalist resistance is not the actual effects of any given action, but the danger that it might become contagious and spread [2][2] This is not to say that widely publicized but purely symbolic actions are sufficient to build a movement that can pose a threat to capitalism! To inspire others and attract future participants, militant actions must actually strike blows and accomplish immediate goals.; and for this to be possible, people have to hear about resistance, and know how to join in. Too often, autonomous actions that are prepared and carried out in secret depend entirely on the media to publicize them. With the corporate media determined to limit coverage of direct action and independent media struggling to reach any audience beyond a few subcultural ghettos, this can be a serious flaw.

Even when they do attract attention, autonomous actions do not necessarily mobilize others. In the worst case, a direct action movement oriented around the autonomous actions of a dynamic few can degenerate into a sort of spectator sport. This is one of the many reasons most anarchists reject terrorism and other approaches that depend on the actions of a vanguard: for an action model to stand a chance of being useful in the project of revolutionary struggle, it must be possible for others to adopt and apply it themselves—indeed, it must promote and encourage this, it must seduce people into using it who might otherwise remain inactive.

Finally, while mass actions by their very nature involve and benefit from large-scale coordination, it is more difficult to coordinate effective decentralized actions. Clearly, as the past few years have shown, it’s not sufficient for some lone maniac to issue a “call for autonomous actions” for them to take place everywhere—or, and this might be even worse news, if they have been taking place everywhere, it doesn’t seem to have made any discernable difference. We need a model for autonomous actions that actually enables them to take place, and to be effective when they do. In the discussion that follows, we’ll analyze the lessons of the past year’s attempts to develop such a model.

In considering these issues, it’s important to emphasize that neither mass actions nor autonomous actions represent the only possible form of radical activity—they don’t, and shouldn’t, represent even the primary one. If a total moratorium on both could enable an accordingly greater focus on other activities such as the development of community infrastructure and alliances, it might be for the best for the anarchist movement; some have argued in favor of just that. If we continue to invest energy in demonstrations of any kind, it should be because they can, as part of a broader strategy, enable us to make gains on other fronts as well; this author, for one, feels strongly that this can be the case.

Background: Direct Action at Demonstrations from the 1990’s to 2004

Watershed events like the aforementioned protests in Seattle don’t just come out of nowhere. Throughout the apparently quiet 1990’s, direct action groups like Earth First! and Anti-Racist Action were acting on a smaller scale, building up experience and momentum, while previously apathetic milieus like the punk rock scene and college activism were politicized by lifestyle politics and the anti-sweatshop campaign, respectively. Once Britain’s successes with the Reclaim the Streets model demonstrated that mass anti-capitalist action was still possible in the post-modern era, it was only a few months before activists tried to do something similar in the USA at the meeting of the World Trade Organization.

The results surprised everybody. Suddenly, everyone had a working example of anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist resistance as a reference point. Anarchists, among other radicals, came out of the woodwork, and everyone was itching to have a go at repeating that success. Because the Seattle protests had not been a mere fluke but rather the culmination of a long period of growth and development, there was a root structure in place to sustain further such actions—the most notable being the protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, D.C. the following April, against the Democratic and Republican National Conventions that summer, and against the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Quebec in April 2001. And because each demonstration attracted new attention and additional participants to the anarchist movement, the root structure quickly deepened and spread. The movement, focusing much of its energy on these convergences and mass actions, rode a wave that sometimes made it appear to be an unstoppable historical force.

By summer of 2001, when great numbers of people participated in streetfighting at the G8 summit in Italy and planning was underway for more protests against the IMF in Washington, DC, some felt that the movement had reached the crest of that wave. Many were exhausted from the demands of constant organizing, long-distance traveling, and court cases; at least as many felt that the anarchist movement was on the verge of a breakthrough that would change the nature of resistance in North America. We’ll never know whether or not the effectiveness of mass mobilizations had already reached its peak, for before the planned protests in DC could take place, hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the entire context changed. The anarchist response to the new situation was, for the most part, embarrassing: rather than seizing the opportunity to emphasize that now even U.S. citizens were dying as a result of their rulers’ foreign policies, many hesitated to speak out in fear that they would be attacked or seen as insensitive, and thus ceded all the gains made by anarchists over the preceding years. Fears ran rampant that new anti-terror legislation and enforcement would be used to imprison and suppress the anarchist movement, a concern that has since been shown to be unfounded [3][3] This was probably more of an irrational emotional reaction than a miscalculation. To the extent that it was a judgment call, it indicates that activists overestimated either the ability of the government to identify and repress them or the threat the government perceived them to pose.. Now that most activists did not believe that positive revolutionary change could be around the corner, all the internal conflicts and burnout that had been building up over the preceding years of constant action came to the fore, and over the following months anarchist communities saw the worst infighting in recent history.

In retrospect, it is possible to argue that mainstream media attention was responsible for a significant part of the high morale and sense of entitlement that enabled anarchists to act so effectively in the period between the Seattle demonstrations and the 9/11 attacks. Few if any in the anarchist milieu have addressed this irony. In Western society, everyone is raised to desire, however secretly, to be famous—to be on television – because what is on television is “real,” is important. Although at the time many anarchists insisted they didn’t care whether or not they received coverage in the corporate media, it could be said that the simple knowledge that they were “famous” as a movement if not as individuals sustained their spirits and sense of urgency. When this attention was withdrawn, morale plummeted immediately. The corporate media is unlikely to return the spotlight to anarchist activity in the foreseeable future, and the motivation of anarchists should not be dependent upon other’s representations of them in the first place. Anarchists now must find ways to maintain momentum and energy even through a total media blackout.

As the anarchist movement struggled to regain its footing throughout the year following the 9/11 attacks, some tentative attempts were made to apply the mass action model again, notably at the protests against the World Economic Forum in New York City and then at the “People’s Strike” protests against the IMF in DC a year after the terrorist attacks. These were admirable efforts, and if nothing else they served to give those seriously committed to demonstration activism a way to stay involved, but they showed that for the most part the large numbers and high morale previously associated with large mobilizations were no longer available. Older activists were demoralized, younger ones were unsure how to proceed, and people on the fringes of activism and radical politics were too distracted by the spectator sport of the so-called War on Terror to refocus on the struggle against capitalist globalization on other fronts.

When the Terror War shifted into a new gear, demonstrations became popular again, but anarchists were no longer in the forefront of the organizing. Liberal and authoritarian groups attempted to appropriate all the mystique radicals had recently given mass action, while only taking on the superficial aspects of the organizing models that had made protests before 9/11 exciting, participatory, and thus dangerous to the established order. The first two major demonstrations to protest the impending war in Iraq, in DC on January 20 and then worldwide on February 15, were dominated by liberal single-issue politics and models. The protests in New York City on February 15 became a little more raucous when the police attempted to block the march and rank-and-file protesters fought back, but for the most part consciously radical militant tactics seemed a thing of the past at mass actions [4][4] Another notable exception to this generalization occurred during an otherwise placid liberal march in Washington, DC when a small group of anarchists broke away, marched to the World Bank, charged into the building, and trashed it from the inside. . This was all the more disappointing in that the February 15 protests were perhaps the most heavily attended protests in history; because militant activists had surrendered the mass action context, millions of people marching in the streets neither helped to sway the opinions of the masters of war nor to obstruct their preparations for it—nor, for that matter, to build a movement capable of disarming them.

Things changed when the United States attacked Iraq on March 20, 2003. On this day, and over the months that followed it, countless cities were struck by demonstrations that went beyond the limits liberal organizers try to impose. San Francisco was entirely paralyzed; more importantly, radical communities appeared in more surprising locations such as Saint Louis, Missouri, conceiving and carrying out their own disruptive actions as the militant core of the anti-war movement. A new generation of activists, many of whom had not participated in the post-Seattle phase of demonstration activism, gained experience during this time.

As that phase of the war in Iraq died down, activists also slowed the pace of their activity, taking time to recover from such a demanding period of organizing. Anarchists nationwide began to focus their attention on the Free Trade Area of the Americas ministerial that was to take place in Miami the following November. Many believed that, thanks to the new momentum generated in the anti-war movement, this could be the first really effective, exciting demonstration against capitalist globalization since September 11; some hoped this would be the triumphant return of Seattle-style protest activism. Consultas were held around the country at which plans were hashed out, posters were designed and distributed, groups disseminated calls for various forms of action.

Unfortunately, Miami was a poorly chosen playing field for this grudge match. It was the most militarized police state North America had ever seen: there were so many police, equipped with so much destructive weaponry, that any kind of militant confrontation would have been doomed to failure. The protestor turnout was bound to be limited: the majority of potential participants were still distracted by the Iraq war, not thinking about corporate globalization, and Miami was a great distance from most active communities. Consequently, there wasn’t a wide range of diversity among the protestors, which can otherwise temper police repression: this made it easy for the police to pigeonhole protesters as either law-abiding union members or unruly anarchists, so as to ignore the former and attack the latter.

These factors alone might not have spelled doom for the protests, but there were also several strategic errors in the organizing. The plan organizers put forth, to attack the fence surrounding the meetings, was exactly what the authorities expected [5][5] Protestors had applied this tactic at the previous FTAA ministerial in Quebec City, and met with some success, as it was fairly new at the time. By the time of the ministerial in Miami, however, fences had been attacked from Genoa to Cancun, and it was exactly what the authorities were expecting. As a general rule of thumb, it’s a bad idea to try an approach that worked or almost worked in a similar previous confrontation, assuming your opponents are in as much of a position to learn from the past as you are.—and while the latter were thoroughly prepared for this scenario, few activists arrived mentally or physically equipped to undertake this. Even worse, certain organizers cut an unbelievably foolish deal with the labor unions—which, it must be noted, were closely collaborating with the police—to the effect that no direct action would take place during the permitted union march on the afternoon of the primary day of demonstrations. Thanks to this agreement, the police were free simply to maintain order during the union march, with little fear of having to divide their attention; then, as soon as the march was over, they steamrolled across the entire city, beating, gassing, shooting, and arresting everyone who remained, confident that everyone they attacked was acting outside the law and therefore a safe target. The only way anarchists could have turned the tables would have been by acting unexpectedly and en masse outside the occupied district of Miami, but the initiative necessary for that kind of autonomous, covert organizing was painfully lacking. The consulta model, while it indicated an admirable commitment to decentralized organizing, failed to provide intelligent strategic decisions, adequate security for planning, or commitments on which participating groups actually followed through. These may all have been incidental failures, but each one cost dearly.

This is not to say nothing of value was accomplished in Miami. People still came together and acted courageously, with all the benefits that entails, and the police state was revealed for what it was, at least to eyewitnesses and through the few venues that ran coverage of the events. But coming away from a protest with a martyr’s tale of police violence and abuse, or, at best, a story of heroic narrow escapes, is a poor second to actually feeling like one has struck blows and made gains.

In the wake of what many felt to be a debacle, some anarchists began to emphasize the importance of acting outside mass models in smaller, more autonomous groups with the element of surprise. Some had been promoting this idea for a long time; it had even been tested to some extent in mass actions, such as at the People’s Strike in Washington, DC, September 2002, when the organizers distributed a list of targets and intersections and announced that actions would take place throughout the city. Others, notably environmental and animal liberation activists, had been acting in clandestine cells for decades. So it happened that, as the election year approached, the war in Iraq wore on, and political matters came back to the fore of public attention, anarchists were preoccupied with the question of whether mass actions could ever be effective again, and what forms of decentralized action might be able to replace them.

Direct Action in the Election Year

The year 2004 was ushered in by a midnight march in downtown Washington, DC, commemorating the ten year anniversary of the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico. More than one hundred masked anarchists bearing banners, torches, and percussion instruments took over a major thoroughfare for a full hour, leaving spraypaint and stencil designs in their wake. This march appeared as if out of nowhere in a crowded business district, on a night when the police department was so overextended that it took over a half hour for even one patrol car to show up. There were no arrests. Clearly, some anarchists had learned the lessons of Miami, without withdrawing from public actions altogether.

All the same, the first months of 2004 were quiet ones for direct action. March 20th, the anniversary of the declaration of war on Iraq, saw largely peaceful mass demonstrations along the lines of those before the war, lacking the urgency and militancy of the actions carried out during it. In April, there was another protest in Washington, DC against the IMF and World Bank; the extent to which it was a ritualized, placid affair revealed just how far anarchist attention had drifted from the formerly prioritized terrain of mass actions opposing corporate globalization. It was followed immediately by the March for Women’s Lives, a rally in support of abortion rights that drew over a million people. Although there were hundreds of anarchists present, if not more, the possibility that militant action of any kind might take place was never broached. People of militant perspectives were still coming together when liberal organizers solicited their participation, but without a sense that it was feasible to organize events on their own terms.

This impression was sealed by the G8 summit in Georgia that June. The protests at the G8 summit in Genoa, Italy in the summer of 2001 had been the high water mark of the anti-globalization movement: hundreds of thousands of protesters had converged on the city, engaging in tactics of all kinds that had left entire financial districts in wreckage. Eager to avoid another such catastrophe, the powers that be picked a secluded island off the coast of Georgia to host the G8 meeting in June of 2004, and set aside tens of millions of dollars for security. Not only the island itself but much of the coastline around it was thoroughly militarized; as has become customary, the media ran a series of articles demonizing predicted anarchist protestors while emphasizing the invincibility of the police and military forces that would be waiting for them.

Demoralized by the Miami experience, most advocates of direct action assumed from the outset that nothing would be possible in Georgia. In retrospect, it was wise to let the G8 summit pass rather than squandering the last optimism of the movement on a doomed venture, though at the time this resignation seemed to be a troubling symptom of general cynicism. Many brushed off mass actions as obsolete; in the end, there was only one protestor for every sixty-seven security officers at the G8 summit. Much of the energy of those few who did take the trouble to go to Georgia was invested in the “Fix Shit Up” campaign, in which anarchists provided volunteer labor supporting disadvantaged families in the areas of police occupation. The name of this venture, which could neither successfully solicit media coverage nor appeal to liberal sympathies nor inspire the punk rockers whose slogan it referenced, speaks volumes as to its long-term effectiveness as an insurrectionary strategy. When no actual blows can be struck against the system that creates and enforces poverty, anarchists should at least do what they can to alleviate its effects—but many anarchists are already doing this where they live, and traveling long distances to do so has all the disadvantages of traveling to carry out more militant actions without most of the advantages. In every aspect, the G8 summit was the nadir of the general slump through which mass action activism passed following 9/11, notwithstanding the renaissance during the Iraq war.

Some had called for widespread autonomous actions around the country to coincide with the G8 summit. A little-known example of one such call was the “Insurrection Night” proposal, which was circulated via email listservs. In incendiary language, it called for people everywhere to carry out militant, confrontational direct actions the Saturday night preceding the week of the G8 summit. The advantages of this approach over going to Georgia to get tear-gassed and arrested in the middle of nowhere were obvious: it allowed radicals to plan their actions in familiar, unguarded terrain and with the benefit of surprise. On the night so designated, however, nothing happened—or if anything did, news of it was never circulated. If all it took to get people to rise up and strike blows against the apparatus of control was to issue a call to action, this revolution would have been over a long time ago; and even if such calls were to work, it seems clear that the system can survive a burning dumpster here and there—the problem is how to concentrate such blows, and strike them in such a way that they give rise to wider uprisings. From this example, one can surmise that both calls for autonomous action and autonomous actions themselves must proceed from an already thriving culture of resistance if they are to offer any results [6][6] One person or group calling for others to act is little better than a vanguard, and can be expected to meet with as much success as the various communist splinter groups currently do. Calls for decentralized actions work best when activists who are already organizing themselves call upon others in their networks to join in, offering the opportunity to be part of an effort that already has participation and momentum in its favor.—and neither, alone, are sufficient to give rise to such a culture. If the G8 summit in Georgia was the nadir for mass action, the “Insurrection Night” prototype represents the weakest version of the autonomous action model.

A few days after the proposed night of insurrection, on the final day of the G8 summit, activists in North Carolina shut down an entire corporate business district with steel cables, smoke bombs, and banners decrying the G8 and corporate power in general, causing a massive traffic jam in the center of the state. Local newspapers and television gave this more coverage than they gave the protests in Georgia against the G8 summit, and local residents experienced it far more immediately. This took place only two days before a public outreach event, the “Really Really Free Market,” in the state capital, at which people gathered to share resources and entertainment freely. As a result of the direct action that preceded it, the police and media both paid a great deal of attention to this event: the nightly news showed hundreds of people happily dancing, eating, and exchanging gifts, while police helicopters circled overhead and a hundred riot police waited nearby. Thus, this combination of tactics resulted in free publicity for the effectiveness of covert action, the munificence of community activism, and the heavy-handedness of the state. In contrast to the “Insurrection Night” prototype, this can be seen as an effective integration of autonomous action into a wider strategy for building radical communities and gaining widespread attention.

Another example of effective autonomous action occurred a month later in Maine, following an Earth First! gathering, when approximately 150 people converged on the Governor’s Mansion to protest a proposed liquid natural gas pipeline. First, a few activists erected a thirty-foot tripod with a protester locked atop it, blocking the driveway. Once this was accomplished and all but the police liaison and the woman on the tripod had escaped unseen, a small masked group arrived and took advantage of the distraction occasioned by the tripod to dump hundreds of pounds of foul lobster guts across the lawn. They disappeared as other protesters showed up with food, games, and other festive forms of entertainment, further confusing the slowly responding authorities. Two communiqués were delivered: one a serious one for the mainstream media, the other a hilarious statement on behalf of the “lobster liberation front” for activists and others with a sense of humor. The event helped keep opposition to the pipeline visible, gave those opposing it more bargaining power, and demonstrated an alternate model for autonomous actions.

The Maine action was organized in secrecy by a small circle of people who nonetheless managed to open it up to great numbers of participants; in this regard, it possessed many of the advantages of both the mass and autonomous action models. As the target was three hours’ drive distant from the gathering at which participants were recruited, and its identity was never openly revealed, the action retained the element of surprise. At the gathering, two preparatory meetings were held at which organizers described the general nature of the target and affinity groups formed to focus on different aspects of the action. The morning of the action, a caravan left the gathering; the bulk of the participants did not know where they were going until they were led onto the site. This negated the risk of informers being present.

This kind of organizing demands a careful balance of security and communication, for those invited must learn enough about the action to be excited about participating and equipped to do so effectively. This model requires a large number of people to place a high level of trust in a few individuals; thus, it often works best in tight-knit or culturally homogeneous communities. While it is not as accessible to broad ranges of people as the mass action model, it is more participatory than other forms of autonomous action, offering introductory roles for less experienced activists.

The events in North Carolina and Maine were only two of several local actions in mid-2004; but for radical activists and well-behaved citizens alike, the central political events of the summer were the Democratic and Republican National Conventions. At these, the possibilities and limitations of the anarchist movement’s preoccupation with autonomous actions were tested.

The Democratic National Convention took place in Boston at the end of July. It was not heavily attended by radicals; many were saving their time and energy for the Republican National Convention. Regardless of theoretical matters such as whether anti-authoritarians should focus on contesting the most powerful political party or all political parties, activists laying plans for mass actions must take into account practical questions such as how many people will actually show up. Perhaps if thousands of anarchists had converged on Boston to show their opposition to the false alternative represented by the Democratic Party, it would have made an important point, but this was not to be. As many learned in Miami, anarchists must always devise strategies that take into account the number of participants an event will draw and how much militancy can realistically be expected of them.

To get perspective on the protests at the Democratic National Convention, we can compare and contrast them with the People’s Strike protests against the International Monetary Fund in DC September 2002, with which they shared many features. Both protests were less attended than organizers hoped; both included calls for autonomous action, as well as organizing for more centralized, accessible events; both took place in cities that are known for having police that show restraint during protests. At each event, the main day of action featured a critical mass bicycle parade, a march, and decentralized actions around the periphery. Both protests were organized by explicitly anti-authoritarian groups that made media coverage an integral part of their strategy.

The organizers of the People’s Strike had emphasized the confrontational character of their action, declaring explicitly that the city would be shut down; the unapologetically militant tone of their rhetoric was one of the most salient features of that mobilization. Although it turned out that not enough militants, and not militant enough ones at that, turned out to follow through on this threat, the media and police accomplished it themselves by spreading hysteria in advance and clogging up the city in their attempts to defend it. After most of the actions planned had been accomplished, the police, still unnerved and always most likely to go after defenseless sitting targets, mass-arrested everyone present at a non-confrontational action in Pershing Park. This mass arrest, though somewhat inconvenient at the time, proved to be the most important legacy of the action: it ensured international media coverage for the protest, made the police look absurd, and ensnared the city in lawsuits that kept the demonstration in the news for years afterwards and forced the police to be more hesitant to make arrests during future protests.

By contrast, in Boston, the organizers—the “Bl(A)ck Tea Society”—were careful to distance themselves from violence, striving to offset the media campaign of extreme misinformation about anarchists that had become typical by that time [7][7] Seriously, where do they get this stuff? No anarchists have sprayed urine or acid on police officers in the entire recorded history of the current anarchist movement, and yet every corporate newspaper has dutifully repeated these lies as gospel.. Presumably, they hoped that by doing so they could attract more participants; unfortunately, as the prevailing sentiment in liberal circles was that getting “anybody but Bush” elected president was the first priority, participation in protests against the Democratic Party was bound to be limited to radicals. The Boston organizers were also kept on edge by a campaign of police and FBI intimidation, but this never panned out into the raids and arrests they feared. The fact that there were so few arrests in Boston indicates that, however intimidating the police made certain to be before and during the event, they themselves hoped to avoid illegal raids and mass arrests that would draw more attention to the protests. Had the organizers figured this out in advance, they could have strategized accordingly.

Following the People’s Strike model, the organizers in Boston distributed a list of targets throughout the city suitable for autonomous action. However, in preparing the People’s Strike, the organizers had also covertly coordinated many actions, so as to be sure that something would happen—consequently, there were freeways shut down by burning tires, bank windows smashed, locks glued, and a major avenue barricaded by a giant inflatable, though many of these actions went unnoticed by the media or other activists because they took place over such a broad area. In Boston, the organizers don’t seem to have been as proactive, and neither, apparently, were many of the other activists who came to the protest—the most militant action of the event seems to have been an incident in which a dozen people turned over shelves in a Gap clothing store, leaving spraypaint in their wake.

Just as the “Insurrection Night” model failed to yield results, simply distributing a list of targets is hardly sufficient to enable militant action to occur. If they hope to see militant autonomous actions carried out to the extent that mass actions have been in the past, organizers must provide some of the prerequisites that enable people to apply militant tactics in the latter context. These include crowd cover, communications and scouting, media attention, and, above all, the reassurance that somebody somewhere has actually invested energy in making sure something will happen. The Bl(A)ck Tea Society attracted the necessary media attention; they provided a text messaging communications system, though it proved vulnerable to police surveillance, resulting in a few arrests after a botched attempt to assemble following the “Really Really Democratic Bazaar”; they seemed to have done little else to facilitate autonomous actions. This is not to disparage their organizing efforts—in addition to media and outreach work, they also organized a convergence center, prepared legal infrastructure, and staged a variant on the Really Really Free Market model that attracted thousands of participants. But if autonomous action is to rival mass action as a model for militant activity, anarchists have to learn that the “clap your hands if you believe in Tinkerbelle” approach, in which organizers call for decentralized actions and then cross their fingers and hope an army of maniacs will show up to plan and execute them, does not produce results.

The Democratic National Convention was not an opportune setting for a doomsday showdown with the forces of law and order, and it’s important that a movement limited in numbers and experience not overextend itself. Perhaps anarchists should have concentrated all their energy on accessible, non-confrontational approaches in Boston; it certainly doesn’t pay to make empty threats too many times. If effective militant action of any kind was to happen there, given the massive police presence and small numbers of protesters, it would have had to have been decentralized and autonomous: twenty such actions as happened at the Gap, for example, could have caught the police by surprise, generated media attention, and raised morale in anticipation of the Republican National Convention. Failing that, it would have been more sensible to focus on more outreach and community-building, in which the Boston protests were already superior to the People’s Strike. In trying to have it both ways by calling for militant action while neither preparing it nor tricking the police into making it unnecessary, the organizers played into the hands of the authorities, who hoped to show that they could easily thwart anarchist attempts at disruption. This had negative consequences for Boston locals as well as the anarchist movement. While the long-term effects of the “People’s Strike” were that local police became more hesitant in dealing with crowds, the millions of dollars of funding that the Boston police received to prepare for the convention paid for an arsenal of semi-lethal weapons—one of which was used to kill a woman during a post-game sports riot a few months later.

A month after the protests in Boston, the Republican National Convention was held in New York City. Unlike every other demonstration since the invasion of Iraq, this was a historic opportunity for anarchists to apply the mass action model effectively. All the necessary pieces were in place: the local populace was furious with the Republicans for invading their city, and enthusiastically supportive of the protesters; radicals were coming by the thousands from all around the country, hoping this would be the event of a lifetime; and there was to be a wide range of people involved in the protests and a great deal of media attention focused on them, both of which would help deter the police from a violent crackdown such as the one in Miami the preceding year. The attention of the whole world was concentrated on New York City, and while many liberals feared that a serious confrontation there would undermine the chances of the Democratic Party’s presidential hopeful, countless others longed for one.

If all that wasn’t enough, there was a struggle going on between the liberal organizers and the city police department as to whether the giant permitted march would be allowed to go to Central Park. This was the same situation that had precipitated the street confrontations during the anti-war protests in New York a year and a half earlier; if the city was unable to reach an agreement with the organizers in time, everyone knew that the march could turn violent. The leaders of the liberal organizing coalition backed down on their demands on one occasion, only to be forced by their grassroots membership to reinstate them. This conflict provided a perfect opportunity for anarchist organizing. A nationwide call for a black bloc on the day of the main permitted march would have taken perfect advantage of this conflict, giving those frustrated with the city government and its liberal accomplices a rallying point. Had the first major day of protests ended in streetfighting, it would have changed the entire character of the protests and perhaps of opposition to the Bush regime in general. The very last thing the police department of New York City wanted was to have to use tear gas in the crowded streets of the most populated city in North America; this would have been a public relations debacle for both the city government and the Republican Party, and it would have shown that anarchists could pose a real threat to the imposed domestic peace that enables wars overseas. Even if this had resulted in massive numbers of arrests, it could have been worth it—hundreds, if not more, of the anarchists who went to New York ended up getting arrested, anyway.

Alas, anarchists were so caught up in solving strategic problems from past actions that they failed to apprehend these possibilities. While a heavier focus on autonomous actions would have been the only hope of enabling effective militant tactics at the demonstrations in Miami and Boston, New York was a perfect setting for a large-scale, centrally organized strategy, and anarchists passed this chance up in favor of a focus on decentralized, autonomous actions. Perhaps older activists were still shell-shocked from the protests at the Republican National Convention in 2000, at which a poorly planned mass action had ended in a lot of pointless, demoralizing arrests; perhaps it was just too difficult to coordinate actions centrally between groups from around the world in such an enormous and complicated city; perhaps it really was the legacy of Miami frightening anarchists out of using their heads. Regardless, as the communiqué delivered weeks before the demonstrations by the NYC Anarchist Grapevine admitted, there was no “Big Plan” for militant action in New York.

Unfortunately, what anarchists fail to coordinate themselves will be coordinated by authoritarians, and so, while anarchist labor was central to the infrastructure that enabled them, the character of most of the actions planned for New York was non-confrontational, even liberal. At the last minute, the organizers of the main march finally accepted the conditions of the city, agreeing to march in circles rather than follow through on the desires of the rank-and-file who wanted to go to Central Park with or without a permit; likewise, though anarchists and militants swelled the numbers of many other actions, these were largely orchestrated to avoid actually challenging the activities of the Republicans or the occupation of the city.

To be fair, some anarchists, notably including many who had traveled from San Francisco and other parts of the West Coast, organized a day of direct action late in the protests, but they focused only on enabling symbolic tactics of civil disobedience. Worse, they made exactly the same mistake that had been made in Miami and at the Republican National Convention four years earlier: they arranged for their action not to coincide with any others and to take place after most of the less radical protesters had left the city, so the police had free hands to focus on repressing everyone on the streets that night. This resulted in over one thousand arrests, without any concrete objective being accomplished besides the news coverage these attracted and the harassment of some Republican delegates.

One of the most important lessons that can be drawn from the aforementioned action is the importance of different kinds of actions taking place simultaneously. In Seattle, Quebec, and Genoa, legal marches, civil disobedience, and confrontational militant action all took place at once, and the division of the city into zones according to level of risk made it possible for protesters to pick the form of engagement with which they were most comfortable. In the Republican National Conventions of both 2000 and 2004, as well as the FTAA protests in Miami, organizers did exactly the opposite, senselessly endangering those committed to militant action and undercutting the effectiveness of the protests as a whole. The costs of this could have been offset had militants organized a major mass action themselves, but none dared do so.

In the absence of a unified approach, the hundreds of different actions that took place in New York never quite added up to the insurrection they could have. As a demonstration of the possibilities of localized autonomous action, New York was unparalleled, but it was also a missed opportunity in an era that provides few good chances to apply the mass action model.

Two groups did attempt to organize actions on the day of the main march; ironically, one applied the mass action model as if carrying out an autonomous action, while the other did exactly the opposite. The former of these groups was a militant contingent, apparently organized by word of mouth, that took part in the main permitted march; this might be the first case on record of a black bloc going undercover by mixing with civilian protesters and leaving their faces uncovered until the moment before the action. When this group approached the point at which the march turned around to march away from Central Park, right in front of the building hosting the convention center, an enormous green dragon puppet was set afire, and streetfighting broke out; however, there were not enough numbers or preparation to maintain this. Within an hour, the police had reestablished control and the march proceeded as before; only a few impressive photographs of the fire remained, one of which ran in one especially poorly informed tabloid with a caption describing it as the work of “the anarchist group ‘Black Box’.”[8][8] In another hilarious and ironic development, it turned out that there was a theater group in New York for the protests under the moniker Greene Dragon Society. Scrambling to give the impression that they were in control of the situation, the FBI announced that it had infiltrated the “Green Dragon Group” over a year earlier and were abreast of all its nefarious plans; this could only be to the misfortune of both the aforementioned liberal group and the FBI, however, as the Greene Dragon Society doesn’t appear to have been anywhere near the puppet that went up in flames, nor to have had anything to do with its construction. A more likely story was circulated by Starhawk of the pagan cluster, who was engaged in a spiral dance a block away when the dragon caught fire; she speculates that it was the energy released from their ritual that triggered the conflagration.

The other notable militant effort that day was a call for anarchists to intercept Republican delegates on their way to their evening’s entertainment at several Broadway shows. However, because this call was promoted in such venues as the New York Times, these actions lacked the element of surprise, the most important aspect of the autonomous action model. Many anarchists showed up, but as there was no strategy for mass action and few participants brought individual plans of their own, there were many arrests and little more was accomplished than a few delegates being shouted at.

Whatever strategic miscalculations anarchists may have made, it was still thrilling to be in New York with so many others determined to change the course of history. The Critical Mass bicycle parade, which took place before most of the other events, offered a moving illustration of just how many people and how much energy were gathered together that week; to stand at a corner and watch groups of thirty and forty surge constantly past for a full half hour was simply breathtaking. Most who went to New York left with new energy and inspiration, which helped to catalyze further action as the elections drew near.

The election provided a matchless opportunity for nationwide autonomous actions. Unlike any summit or local issue, it happened everywhere at once, focusing public attention on a wide range of issues that could be addressed on a variety of fronts. Among others, a nationwide campaign on the theme “Don’t (Just) Vote, Get Active” urged people to take action on election day to demonstrate all the possibilities for political engagement beyond the voting booth[9][9] Some few anarchists, mostly of the persuasion given to hyper-radical rhetoric and little action to back it up, were critical of this campaign on the grounds that it was too soft on voting. Indeed, insofar as people conflate it with actual political participation, voting is extremely pernicious—as every text circulated by the “Don’t (Just) Vote” campaign emphasized. That being the case, these critics seem to have been raising a new and daring question: entirely apart from the dangerous superstitions associated with it, can voting itself, taken in a vacuum, be harmful? Your humble editor, anxiously concerned about such safety issues, has done quite a bit of research on this subject and has finally turned up some evidence that this may be the case, if only in extreme situations. A dissident account of the untimely death of Edgar Allen Poe, advanced most recently in the amusing miscellany Why Americans Zigzag When They Eat, suggests that the renowned author was killed by being voted to death. In those days, political gangs would rig elections by shanghaiing vulnerable gentlemen and liquoring or doping them up to make them agreeable. On election day, these unfortunates would be frog-marched around to all the polling stations as fast as possible; once one circuit was completed, their handlers would change their clothes, trim their mustaches, and run them around again. The faster the pace they kept, the more votes they were worth, so it must have been a grueling process. (Nowadays, political gangs bypass such clumsy methods and accomplish the same thing with advertising and voting machine fraud.) Poe was known for his stylish dressing, but when he was found—drunk, delirious, and in the process of dying of exhaustion, at a Baltimore bar that doubled as a polling station—he was wearing a very cheap suit that didn’t seem to belong to him. It was an election day. So there you have it: voting, horror of capitalist horrors, killed the greatest horror writer of all time—and might kill you, too, if you put too much stock in it..

The diversity and scope of the actions anarchists carried out around the election make it worth recounting some of them here. In Washington, DC, fifteen polling stations were decorated the night before election day with a stencil design fifteen feet long and four feet high reading “Our dreams will never fit in their ballot boxes.” In Baltimore, the following afternoon, a Reclaim the Streets action on the same theme attracted sixty people.

In Portland, Oregon, one thousand people struggled with police to march through the streets. A “Don’t Just Vote, Take Action” march of two hundred people in Tucson, Arizona was attacked by police employing pepper bullets. A spontaneous march of almost two hundred people in downtown Philadelphia blocked a major bridge to New Jersey; everyone escaped arrest except a reporter from a local television news station who was inexplicably attacked by police while marchers chanted “We don’t need no water, let the motherfucker burn!” In New Orleans, a radical Day of the Dead march featuring a marching band, seventy-five skeletons, and an alter screamed and moaned its way through the French Quarter to the riverfront, at which the alter was filled with remembrances of deceased loved ones and then set afire as a naked attendant swam it out to sea; on the return route, participants dragged newspaper boxes and garbage cans into the streets and smashed the window of a stretch-SUV deemed too revolting to ignore.

During Chicago’s “Don’t Just Vote Week of Resistance,” which included several demonstrations and other events, police tried and failed to prevent over one thousand people from taking the streets in a massive unpermitted march. At another incident in Chicago, a rock was thrown through the window of a GOP office in which Republicans were gathered to watch election results, sending glass flying all over the room. Large rocks were also thrown through the windows of the Republican headquarters in downtown Buffalo, New York and a nearby army recruiting center, and the local news station received a letter claiming responsibility.

In Red Hook, New York, 250 Bard college students shut down an intersection in the center of town for almost an hour until police forcibly dispersed them. In northern Los Angeles county, a group carried out what they suggested might be the first banner drop in their area, with a banner on the “Don’t (Just) Vote” theme reading “Workers: Which Millionaire Will You Vote For?” In Vermillion, South Dakota, a town of only 10,000 residents, fifty people maintained a presence outside a voting booth, stretching a volleyball net to bear a variety of signs, sharing food, and inviting all with grudges of their own against the system to join them. The same town was to host another such demonstration two and a half months later on the day of the Inauguration, attracting media coverage from as far away as San Diego, CA.

The day after the election, a march in downtown Washington, DC on the theme “No Matter, Who Won, The System Is Rotten” attracted one hundred people. Equipped with a powerful sound system, it snaked through the streets, disruptive and rowdy, evading police repression. In San Francisco, five thousand people marched against Bush; afterwards, a breakaway group built a bonfire out of US flags and an effigy of Bush, then marched through the city pulling urban debris and newspaper boxes into the street and smashing the windows of two banks. In San Diego, fliers posted the preceding night on UCSD campus reading “Where’s the Riot?” attracted one hundred people to an impromptu forum as to what forms resistance could take next. When the question “Who’s willing to get arrested today?” was broached, many raised their hands.

Two days later, in perhaps the most militant participatory action of the week, a surprise march of over one hundred people bearing torches, drums, anarchist banners, and a two-headed effigy of Bush and Kerry took over downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, decorating the streets with graffiti and destroying bank machines until it reached the state headquarters of the Republican Party. The windows of the building were smashed, its walls were covered in spraypaint, fireworks were set off inside, and the effigy was set afire in the front yard. The following day, over fifty-eight major media outlets ran a story covering the event, in which the state GOP chief of staff was quoted as saying that campaign offices and party headquarters were being vandalized throughout the nation. “They have a right to disagree,” he pleaded, “but to do it agreeably.”

The following night, yet another spontaneous march occurred in Washington, DC, leaving spraypaint in its wake and meeting with enthusiasm from locals. From one side of the country to the other, by day and by night, militants were carrying out actions that demonstrated the seriousness of their discontent and invited others to express their own. This was the autonomous action model, which had evolved over the preceding year, finally being used to effect in circumstances for which it was appropriate.

Ironically, as the Inauguration approached in January of 2005, it was activists from New York City that insisted protests be organized on the mass action model and called for a massive anti-authoritarian march, while others called for autonomous actions. This time, both were right, and it was only tactical errors, not errors in strategy, that prevented the protests from shutting down the spectacle. Presidential inaugurations provide a rare opportunity for centrally-organized anarchist mass actions: they can attract large numbers of anti-authoritarians, they offer an obvious target, and the risk of arrests and police brutality are forestalled by the presence of diverse crowds and media and the desire of the authorities to maintain the illusion that everyone is pleased with the ruler being sworn in. At this particular inauguration, the ongoing legacy of the mass arrests of the People’s Strike a full two and a half years earlier also served to tie the hands of the police. At the same time, Washington, DC, being the nation’s capital, provides an excellent field for autonomous actions, which could only serve to heighten tensions, distract and confuse the police, and emphasize popular discontent.

The massive anarchist march was wisely planned to coincide with the other protests of the day, so as to benefit from the crowd cover they provided and the divided attention of the police. Hundreds of people participated in the march, even though, as a result of some strange misunderstanding or internal conflict, it left the convergence point early, before many would-be participants had even arrived. At the previous inauguration, a black bloc had successfully broken through one of the checkpoints surrounding the parade route, and the organizers planned to repeat this feat and go on to block the route. This was the major tactical error that prevented the march from being really effective: a basic rule of thumb in planning for an action is not to count on being able to repeat the past. Had the organizers prepared a back-up plan, such as a way to maintain the coherence of the bloc if it could not penetrate police lines and a secondary target outside the immediate zone of police control, it would not have been such a misfortune that the police blocked the path of the march before it arrived at a checkpoint. As it was, having no backup plan, the march bogged down at this point, and broke up; a smaller company of anarchists regrouped and succeeded in reaching and charging a checkpoint, but lacked the numbers and equipment to break through.

Other problems afflicting the march included an apparent loss of contact with the scouting team and poor internal communication dynamics that led many to accuse one participating group of hijacking the march. Aside from these, the fact that the march did not succeed in its professed objective can be attributed to the hesitance with which most participants approached it, as it was the first militant mass action of its size since Miami. There were enough people there to break through the police lines, had more of them been ready to put their all into it; next time, assured by that experience that mass actions are indeed still possible in the post-9/11 world, perhaps activists will arrive better equipped and more psychologically prepared. Speaking of equipment, it’s worth pointing out that the black bloc that broke through the checkpoint in 2000 used an appropriated industrial wheelbarrow to spearhead their charge, while the march at the 2004 inauguration had only a banner reinforced with PVC pipe. PVC pipe is notoriously fragile, and has failed militant marches several times now; the beginning convergence point was so free from police control that participants could have brought in massive wooden shields and other fortifications, which would have served much better in the ensuing mêlée. Likewise, the march passed several construction sites that less hesitant militants would have raided for materials.

Just when it seemed the day’s events were over, the crowd leaving a packed show by punk band Anti-Flag filled the street in a surprise march of hundreds. Bearing torches, drums, anarchist banners, spray-paint cans, and shopping carts full of useful materials, the throng marched through Adams Morgan, an ethnic neighborhood suffering rapid gentrification. The results surprised everyone, presumably including those who initiated the march. A vast banner reading “From DC to Iraq: With Occupation Comes Resistance” was dropped from the top of a Starbucks coffeeshop, along with a great quantity of fireworks. Demonstrators smashed the windows of several corporate outlets, including Citibank, Riggs Bank, McDonald’s, and KFC, as well as those of a police substation and the windshield of a police car following the demonstration; police reports estimated the damage to corporate and police property at $15,000. Anarchist graffiti covered walls, and many pulled newspaper boxes and dumpsters into the streets. Locals who witnessed the march were supportive and encouraging to an almost surprising degree, honking car horns and cheering; a worker at a local Ethiopian restaurant raised his fist and shouted “Down with Bush! We have to shut this city down!”

Massive numbers of befuddled riot police arrived before the march could reach a hotel hosting an Inaugural Ball to which Bush had just paid a visit. Most participants dispersed safely; approximately seventy were trapped in an alley and arrested, but almost all of them were released without charges after paying $50. Even factoring in the subsequent backlash from those who always oppose confrontational tactics, as militant actions go, this was a raging success. It received support from unusual quarters, too, including members of Anti-Flag, the representative of Iraq Veterans Against the War who had spoken at the show, and parents of minors arrested in the alley.

So this is where we leave our heroes, escaping from downtown Washington, DC in the middle of the night, helicopter spotlights flashing overhead and sirens wailing nearby. Is this only a momentary anomaly in a world of consolidated state control, or a precursor of things to come? Will they manage to find common cause with dissidents of other demographics, so a real, broad-based insurrection will be possible? How can they hone their tactics and strategies to fit the current political and social context?

Conclusion: When to Act en Masse, How to Act Independently

From the events of the past few years, we can derive some basic lessons about both mass and autonomous actions. We had better do so—if we don’t, the anarchist movement may have to go through this learning process all over again.

First of all, let’s address once and for all the question of whether mass actions are still effective in the post-9/11 era. The answer, in the opinion of everyone involved in the development of this analysis, is a resounding yes. The examples of the Republican National Convention and the recent Presidential Inauguration both indicate that it is still possible to act en masse, according to widely disseminated, publicly coordinated plans; we have only to be more judicious in choosing when and how to do so.

Without at least occasional mass actions, anarchist communities risk losing the ability to combine forces, not to mention the visibility and influence that are critical to their proliferation. At the same time, anarchists must pick the mass actions in which they invest themselves carefully; every time anarchists call for a mass action, it should be a resounding success, so people will feel safe investing themselves in participating in the next one.

What elements make for a perfect mass action? First, and most obviously, a mass action must be massively attended. The model should therefore only be employed when great numbers of people can realistically be expected to show. Organizers should promote far in advance, and seek to collaborate to this end with as wide a range of other groups as possible; just as importantly, they should be skilled in reading the zeitgeist, so they can pick the right occasions to call for mass actions.

Second, a mass action must be attended by a wide range of people, and receive a lot of media attention. When diverse crowds are present and television cameras are running, police almost always hesitate to use extreme force; when they choose to do so under those circumstances, it costs them a lot, and can even end up being a tactical victory for protesters. Organizers must nurture their ability to predict the factors that determine police strategy: Will the police want to show their control of the situation by making a lot of arrests, or will it be more important to them to avoid this and instead focus on bluffing and intimidation? What will police be expecting, and how will they respond to the unexpected? How quickly can they apprehend new information, and how concentrated will their attention be?

Third, a mass action should have an objective that is immediately comprehensible and attractive, and offer a strategy that people can easily adopt for themselves. The demonstrations against the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Quebec City spread from a few hundred militants to the population of the entire city because the tactics employed—masking up, throwing back tear gas canisters, blocking roads—were easy to apprehend and apply, and because locals were already angry about the police occupying their city. This question determines whether a militant engagement ends up as a vanguardist group slogging it out in a private war with the government or a generalized popular insurrection.

Fourth, militants in a mass action should make sure their plans are intelligently coordinated with those of others. As described above in the analysis of the protests at the last two Republican National Conventions, it is almost always better for dissimilar actions to take place simultaneously rather than consecutively. In a best case scenario, actions employing different tactics can be arranged to complement one another. Healthy relationships between activists partial to different tactics facilitate this; these require a lot of nurturing between actions, and a lot of patience when conflicts arise.

Finally, organizers must take matters such as morale, momentum, and crowd dynamics seriously. Under some circumstances, all it takes to turn a passive mass into a militant force is for a few maniacs to step forward and show what is possible; in other cases, an entire militant bloc can be intimidated into inactivity by police bluffing. In learning what factors enable people to take action, organizers can formulate strategies based on realistic expectations.

In planning a mass action, organizers should look back in recent history for similar precedents from which they can determine what to expect. At the same time, attempting to repeat the past—especially when one’s enemies have learned from it—is almost always a doomed venture. Organizers should consider, instead, the opportunities that have been missed before, and try to take advantage of these. When employing a strategy for the first time, it is important to be prepared for the possibility that it will succeed as well as the possibility that it will fail. New strategies generally work, and fail only because people lack the assurance to follow them through completely; old strategies, on the other hand, usually fail because opponents are all too ready for them, however ready people are to apply them. Employing an old strategy in an entirely new context can be tremendously effective; this is something at which the anarchist movement, being internationally active and interconnected, should excel. Also, both organizers of massive events and individual participants in them should formulate backup plans for different scenarios, so they can turn any development to their advantage.

The communities in which militant activists develop must share basic skills such as how to read a volatile situation, how to work in affinity groups, and how and when to disperse. Activists of all demographics and backgrounds must be encouraged to feel entitled to participate in planning and carrying out militant actions. In addition, when conditions are not opportune for confrontation, radicals must not pressure themselves to do anything rash, but rather save themselves for better opportunities.

During the lulls between mass actions, decentralized, autonomous actions can serve to keep activists’ skills sharp and to continue the struggle on other fronts. As they did during the 1990’s, small-scale local actions can give activists the practice they need to be comfortable acting in more challenging mass action scenarios; they also connect activists to one other, building experienced, dangerous groups linked to broader communities. To this purpose, the best forms of autonomous action are the ones that, rather than striking the most grievous material blows, bring in new participants and build solidarity between different circles so that militant activity may take place more widely.

One of the most important challenges of the coming years, during which we can be sure police repression of all forms of resistance will continue and perhaps increase, will be to develop ways to act socially and publicly yet with the element of surprise. Without this capability, participatory militant action will become impossible except once or twice a year at mass actions, and it will be impossible to spread militant tactics in our local communities. To this end, we have to cultivate sites of social interaction and channels of communication that are accessible to all but the authorities: these can include local communities bonded by potlucks and other face-to-face contact, cultural milieus such as politicized music scenes, and connections between committed activists and formerly apolitical social circles. In these, we can get to know and trust one another, and stage assaults on the capitalist nightmare from unexpected directions.

The preceding analysis offers three successful prototypes for autonomous yet participatory action. The first is the model employed by the activists who carried out the G8 solidarity action before the Really Really Free Market in Raleigh, North Carolina, in which a small, clandestine group acts to augment the efforts of an open, accessible group; this is perfect for carrying out complicated, high-risk plans, but offers little opportunity for new people to be brought in and gain experience. The second is the model employed by the activists who conceived the protest at the Governor’s Mansion in Maine, in which a core group takes advantage of a social setting to invite a larger number of people to help plan and participate in an action without revealing the most sensitive details of the target; this is a less secure, more participatory model, offering roles for those not yet sure enough of themselves to organize their own major actions, but still limiting participation to an in-group. The third is the model employed by the activists who instigated the march in Adams Morgan after the Presidential Inauguration in Washington, DC, in which a participatory action is initiated by a small group within a larger mass; this offers the greatest number the opportunity to witness or participate in an action, even an extremely confrontational one, but it also can endanger participants, especially as collective planning is impossible. Hopefully, over the years to come, many more activists will make use of and expand on these prototypes, refining and combining them in the process.

It may be some time before the next period of intense struggle. While it sometimes seemed during the months immediately preceding and following the election that the country was slipping towards civil war, the atmosphere now is somewhat more subdued, as liberals lick their wounds and radicals adjust to the post-war, post-election context. This is not necessarily a bad thing; the anarchist community is not yet ready for an all-out war to the death with the rulers of the world. Let’s make use of this interval to put down firmer foundations and develop new skills. When the next opportunities arrive to take on the powers that be, let’s be ready, our communities strong and closely linked, our courage and confidence in each other tried and true.

EVERY ENGAGEMENT A VICTORY!

Were a reading list to accompany this analysis, it would include “Hot Town, Summer in the City: Anarchist Analysis of the 2004 RNC Protests” by Alexander Trocchi, CrimethInc. International News Agent Provocateur, and “FROM DC TO IRAQ: WITH OCCUPATION COMES RESISTANCE—What happened in Adams Morgan on January 20; a report, analysis, and response to criticism,” by the Circle A Brigade, both of which can be located on the internet by means of www.google.com.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Organic Consumers Association, on 1,4-Dioxane Contamination of Organic Products

(NaturalNews) Want to know the latest news on the recent discovery of "natural" and "organic" products being contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical 1,4-dioxane? Two days ago, I conducted an exclusive, live interview with Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. It's a 30-minute interview, and it's available for immediate listening on our podcast page: http://www.naturalnews.com/Index-Podcasts.html In the interview, Ronnie and I chat about the failures of the USDA and FDA, the dishonesty of some companies in the "organic" marketplace, and how consumers can protect themselves from cancer-causing chemicals by learning how to read labels to avoid cancer-causing chemicals. Want to know the truth about which companies you can trust? Listen to this interview! You'll learn shocking facts about the industry. What's really happening is that large holding companies are buying up numerous brands when they become well known, then cheapening the formulations and introducing toxic chemicals. So brands that once started out as honest, small-company brands have become mega-corporation toxic chemical brands. And they still have the name "organic" or "natural" on their products! In my view, this is criminal. These companies are deceiving the public and harming the health of individuals who thought they were buying organic. But the Organic Consumers Association and NaturalNews.com aren't letting these dishonest companies get away with it. We're naming them in articles and interviews, and the OCA is issuing Cease and Desist letters to force these companies to stop selling products containing 1,4-dioxane. What's at stake here, friends, is the intergrity of the entire organic products industry. We must either defend the integrity of the "organic" label, or it will be lost to greedy corporations who literally want "organic" to mean whatever they say it does. This is why we're speaking out so boldly about this issue: It's about protecting your families, your babies and your own health from the greedy multinational companies that are trying to jump on the "organic" bandwagon even while continuing to put toxic chemicals into their products. Inform yourself. Protect your family. Learn the truth about which products you can really trust (like Dr. Bronner's) and which products were found to contain this toxic chemical (like the Jason brand of personal care products). Read more at www.OrganicConsumers.org and be sure to listen to this exclusive interview between Ronnie Cummins and the Health Ranger (that's me): http://www.naturalnews.com/Index-Podcasts.html ### About the author: Mike Adams is a natural health researcher and author with a strong interest in personal health, the environment and the power of nature to help us all heal He has authored more than 1,500 articles and dozens of reports, guides and interviews on natural health topics, impacting the lives of millions of readers around the world who are experiencing phenomenal health benefits from reading his articles. Adams is a trusted, independent journalist who receives no money or promotional fees whatsoever to write about other companies' products. In 2007, Adams launched EcoLEDs, a maker of energy efficient LED lights that greatly reduce CO2 emissions. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products (BetterLifeGoods.com) and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also a noted technology pioneer and founded a software company in 1993 that developed the HTML email newsletter software currently powering the NaturalNews subscriptions. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and regularly pursues cycling, nature photography, Capoeira and Pilates. Known by his callsign, the 'Health Ranger,' Adams posts his missions statements, health statistics and health photos at www.HealthRanger.org

In the Shadowlands: Listening to the War Coming Home

Meet the Press interviewer: Two-thirds of the American people now say the Iraq war wasn’t worth it.

Dick Cheney: So?

Webster Tarpley used to be a La Rouchie. I have to admit that’s not really grounds for credibility in my book. He has since distanced himself from the bizarre political cult that is La Rouchism, only to become one of the primary voices among 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Another reason for caution, perhaps—although his book on the subject: 9/11, Synthetic Terror Made in the USA, received high praise from at least one serious reviewer. Be all that as it may, on March 19th, while a few hundred people were disrupting traffic in the streets of San Francisco in order to protest five years of US aggression in Iraq, I was listening to him talk about the evils of monetarism on the local Pacifica radio station. This is one of Tarpley’s big subjects, and it turns out that he is no more fringe-y in his economic analysis or his economic prescriptions than a garden-variety Roosevelt Democrat (which I suppose, in this day and age in America is like saying he is a Bolshevik or a child molester or something).

... And then, of course, there’s this endless state of war. The really disturbing parallel with 20th century Germany for Tarpley is that even though economically we are Weimar, we already have our Hitler in office: his name is Dick Cheney, and he wants us to go to war with Iran. Cheney is nowhere near as popular as Hitler was in 1939, when he urged his generals to invade Poland, and may even have arranged a provocative event to justify the decision once they agreed to do so. But Cheney is no less powerful for all that, no less determined, and for the same reasons: ideology and (voodoo) economics. And now time is really short: only 10 months to go. Like Hitler, in a conversation Tarpley cites from William Shirer’s book on the Third Reich, Cheney knows that the U.S. could soon be too poor and too embroiled in expanding economic unrest to maintain the degree of military might it still possesses. And the banking sector, which keeps grasping for ground and finding that the quicksand is already everywhere, is ripe for uncontrolled panic, from which, as Tarpley says, “the leap forward into war has often come as a relief.” The only heartening news in Tarpley’s worsening-case scenario comes from inside the military itself, which knows better than anyone how overstretched it already is. A desperate struggle is being waged behind the wall of silence that the military brass maintains with the public, and it has to be the main, if not the only, reason we have not already begun bombing Iran.

Because what I listened to and watched these past few days also gave me the sense of an opposition movement that has been utterly outstripped by events. In the San Francisco streets, cops outnumbered demonstrators in every protest. Almost everybody hates the war, but the amount of vitriol being poured out on various media comments pages, from the San Francisco Chronicle to You Tube, against the very notion of protest itself is at least a circumstance to be reckoned with. It is Cheney’s contempt writ large. What else seems to be on the verge of collapse, in our public culture at least, is empathy: we spend so little face-time with our fellow citizens that we are ever-more inclined to lash out at shadow-culprits or Judas-goats online, from the comfortable darkness of anonymity. We’re all strangers to one another in the virtual polity, even to many of the people we euphemistically call “friends.” ...


The Poverty of the Presidential Campaign

From Sam Smith over at the Progressive Review:

. . . my work leads me into a frustrating dichotomy. At some points of the day I concern myself with the often trivial distinctions we make between candidates. But then, moments later, I find myself facing news that glaciers are in their worst shape in 5,000 years, that the Iraq War may cost $1 trillion, that Bush has assaulted the Constitution again, and that the financial markets are in their worst shape in decades. And none of the candidates who stand a chance of being elected - McCain, Clinton or Obama - have anything useful or meaningful to say on such topics.

Indeed, the candidates' emphasis upon trivialities is remarkable, as their campaigns look more and more contrived with each passing day. But it raises another related question: Is it an inevitable product of the US political process, and, if so, should we participate in it at all?

A couple of days ago, I commented upon the deficiencies of Obama's foreign policy positions over at Left I on the News, and suggested that we refuse to vote, because we merely legitimize this illusory process of political participation by doing so. After all, people have historically advocated electoral boycotts in a variety of contexts when it was apparent that an electoral process was being manipulated. Like any political strategy, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.

Eli Stephens over at Left I on the News rejected my suggestion:

Richard, not voting is precisely what the ruling class would love for you to do. By not voting at all, you are sending a message that you are one more apathetic American who is perfectly content in your own little house, and isn't concerned that the world is blowing up and falling down outside you. Every vote garnered by a Ralph Nader or a Cynthia McKinney or a Gloria La Riva is one more vote that says, OUT LOUD, that you are fed up with the system and want real change. Not voting is like having an antiwar protest in your living room. No one hears it.

In a different way, Justin Raimondo over at antiwar.com would reject it as well. In regard to the anti-imperialist struggle, he has exhibited, as a libertarian, a remarkable degree of political pragmatism. In 2004, he openly exhorted people to vote for John Kerry, in 2006, he fervently hoped for a Democratic victory, and, now, in 2008, it is clear that he wants to see Barack Obama elected as the next President. Given his belief that the anti-imperialist struggle is the essential one of our time, one that I share with him, he is quite willing to support political figures that are, in most other respects, antithetical to his libertarian philosophy. He is also willing to support them with full knowledge that none of them will bring the troops home tomorrow, but may assist with the creation of a social movement that will do so in the future.

But there are problems with the views of both Stephens and Raimondo. Stephens, to his credit, supports a candidate for President, Gloria La Riva, whose views closely parallel his own. But does a vote for her, or Nader or McKinney really say that I am fed up with the system and want real change? For those of you familiar with my postmodernist sensibility, it should come as no surprise that I doubt it. Instead, I tend to believe that the presidential campaign has become a manifestation of a spectacle of the kind described by Debord. In this instance, the imagery of the campaign has long ago substituted for the notion that we actually exercise political power by participating in it.

There is also the practical aspect, as presented in my original comment over at Left I. Do Nader, McKinney and La Riva challenge the system by standing as candidates, or do they legitimize it? If they did not run, there would only be two candidates, the Republican and the Democratic one. Regardless of the outcome, we could plausibly argue that much of society was not represented in it. But, what happens when, as in 2004, Nader runs and gets approximately 0.5% of the vote? Of course, the result is taken as proof that the remaining 99.5% of the voters were perfectly happy with a limited choice between the two major party candidates.

A response to Raimondo requires walking upon different terrain. As I said, his disciplined pragmatism is commendable. Most people find it hard to understand that, to obtain an absolutely essential result, one must often vote for candidates that have other disreputable qualities. He is consistently willing to do it in order to curtail, and eventually eliminate, US imperial influence. No, the flaw lies elsewhere. Raimondo is operating on the assumption that the person who becomes President matters in regard to transforming the American Empire. Or, to put it differently, that it is possible to elect someone who will retain their independence from the powerful interests that dominate this country and much of the world.

Unfortunately, a Napoleon, a Gorbachev, an FDR, they don't come around that frequently, and, even when they do, they require a confluence of external events, a backdrop of domestic and international turmoil, to empower them. Perhaps, we are living in such a time, but, as my evaluation of Obama and the activism of Direct Action to Stop the War indicate, I consider the underlying social aspects of US life more important than the political process, at least at this time. It is also important to note that Raimondo, unlike Stephens, is more willing to vote for a major party candidate as a form of long term reformism.

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What Marx Should Have Said To Kropotkin

The following is the transcript of a talk given by Adam Buick to the 1994 Socialist Party of Great Britain Summer School, which was held that year at Ruskin College in Oxford, England. I once read a book which contained a sentence which began "As Marx said to Lenin ..." This would not have been a physical impossibility, as Marx’s life and Lenin’s life did overlap for 13 years. But quite why - and how - Marx would have confided his political views to a schoolboy in provincial Russia was not explained. In short, it never happened nor was it plausible to imagine it could have happened. Marx-Kropotkin meeting on the other hand, though it never did happen, could well have. Kropotkin was born in 1842, Marx in 1818 so, although Marx was a generation older, they could have met and discussed (just as Marx had in fact met and discussed with the three founding fathers of modern anarchism, Proudhon, Bakunin and Max Stirner). If Marx and Kropotkin had have met, it could have been on two occasions: in 1876-7 when Kropotkin arrived in England after making a dramatic and well-publicised escape from a Russian prison, or in 1880-1 when Kropotkin again lived in England for a while (before going to France - and ending up in a French prison). As a matter of fact, I think Marx would have been quite keen to have met Kropotkin on both these occasions. In the last years of his life (he was to die in 1883. aged 65) Marx took a great interest in Russia. He had always seen Tsarist Russia as a threat to democratic, let alone socialist advance in Western Europe and was interested in the prospects of an anti-Tsarist revolution there. He learned Russian and began to study in detail its history and social and political structure. Kropotkins reputation during Marx’s lifetime was not so much as an anarchist but as a Russian revolutionary with socialist leanings and as a geographer and explorer. Kropotkin came from a very privileged background. A member of the old Moscow aristocracy and a hereditary prince, he had been enrolled in the elite corps of pages, a military academy that supplied personal assistants to the Tsar. He had himself been the Tsar’s personal page for a while, but when it came to choosing which regiment to be an officer in he opted not for some prestigious one but for a regiment of Cossacks in Siberia a first sign that he was becoming disillusioned with the Tsarist regime. In Siberia, where he did his exploring and geological studies, his liberal sentiments grew turning in revolutionary ones, especially after a visit to Switzerland in 1872/3 where he joined the IWMA (International Working Mens Association, or First International). On his return to Russia he became involved in a revolutionary circle, of the "go to the people" variety rather than the conspiracies to assassinate Tsarist officials and even the Tsars that later developed. He got arrested and was imprisoned, escaping, as I have mentioned, in 1876. Marx would have loved to have met such a person and to have discussed with him the prospects for an anti-Tsarist revolution and for socialism in Russia including the Russian peasant commune (or mir). But the title of this talk is not "What Marx Would Have Said to Kropotkin". but what "Marx Should Have Said to Kropotkin". So what, then, should Marx have said? Three things: 1. "Don’t call me a State Socialist! I was putting forward a case for abolishing the State while you were still a toddler". 2. "With regard to paying people in labour-time vouchers in the early days of Socialist society, you were right and I was wrong. This was a silly, unworkable idea". 3. "Like me. You’re a Socialist. We both want a stateless, moneyless, wageless society. Why then do you feel you have more in common with non-socialist opponents of the State than with me? After all, your disagreement with them is over ends, while you’re disagreement with me is only over means". read the rest

France to reduce nuclear warheads

President Nicolas Sarkozy has said France will reduce its number of airborne nuclear weapons by one third. ...Gee that was easy...too bad the US can't be so bright...

Five Years Later, by Rebecca Solnit

Read on March 19, 2008 at Montgomery and Market Streets in San Francisco as part of the Words Against War, a City Lights Books and Direct Action to Stop the War sponsored read-out of poets and writers on the fifth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq (actagainstwar.net).

Five years ago and more, many of us vehemently, passionately opposed the war in Iraq. We opposed it by marching in the streets on February 16, 2003, in one of the biggest marches in this city’s history, part of the biggest demonstration in world history with people standing up on February 15, 2003, against war on every continent-including the scientists in Antarctica, small towns in Inuit Canada, South Africa, New Mexico, Turkey, Bolivia…. We were right, and now sheepishly, fudging their change of heart, everyone from Hillary Clinton on is busy erasing the memory of being for the war, of buying lies, of dismissing deaths, terrible deaths, the deaths of so many children, so many mothers, so many brothers, the deaths long ago of far more Americans than died on September 11, 2001, the unrelated event used to justify these five long years of slaughter and destruction, the destruction of the fragile psyches of the young, the ancient landscape of Iraq, the bodies that survived this war mutilated and disabled and shaken to need our care for decades to come. Five years ago we opposed this war, and we were right that it would be ugly, a quagmire, an international disaster, that it would make nothing safer, that it was about oil and geopolitics and never ever about justice and utterly unrelated to September 11, 2001. Five years ago here in San Francisco we shut down this business district to show how passionately against the war we were as it began. The war has been terrible, begetting the atrocities of Abu Ghraib, the deaths of hundreds of thousands and a new generation of veterans saved by modern medicine from death–but for what life with their shattered bodies and minds?

We the international movement against this perfiditous war were right. And our actions reshaped the war-delayed its start, created dialogue, dissuaded potential allies from joining up or convinced them-like Spain, like Australia after progressives won power-to quit the coalition of the coerced, gave comfort to Iraqis and others in the middle east that we were not all clamoring for blood and indifferent to their deaths. The United States has begun in part to awaken from the long bad dream of its romance with conservatism and belligerence, was woken up by the savage catastrophe that was Hurricane Katrina, by the endless grinding sorrow of casualty lists of US soldiers and estimates of Iraqi dead, by the increasingly obvious inadequacy of the far right to do anything but destroy. We stand at a moment of rich uncertainty. Ten years ago, the ideology called neoliberalism promised to privatize the planet. Since the Seattle WTO in 1999, the countering ideologies-of what could be called democracy, localism, populism, anticorporate activism-have remade the world, so much so that nearly all Latin America has undergone an amazing liberation not only from political tyranny but from neoliberal domination by institutions like the World Bank and the IMF. This year the sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein wondered in print whether neoliberalism was dead.

We are at the end of a long hard road, the road out of the era of Ronald Reagan, of the post-Soviet romance with the free market, of the belief in American military invincibility even though that belief should have died in the jungles of Vietnam. When the war broke out, so many of the people in the streets with me here believed that somehow Bush had won. Had won everything, forever, that we had lost, that because we had failed to stop the war, we had failed to achieve anything, had never achieved anything, had no power at all. Dismayed by that despair and the amnesia and confusion behind it, I began writing about hope, speaking more directly to the hearts and imaginations of readers than I ever thought I could, to talk about the strange, unlikely routes that change takes, the unpredictable timelines on which it unfolds, the examples that shine like stars in the dark night of history, of for example of the amazing development in the twentieth century of nonviolence as a powerful tool for social change, one that has toppled world powers and dictatorships from the Philippines to Poland, that is at work in Burma and Tibet today. For guns and bombs destroy, but they don’t convert or conquer; the people of Iraq are not conquered, the war is not winnable, and truth is not the property of the strong but of the fearlessly honest.

In the struggle against this war, I saw extraordinary things at Camp Casey on Bush’s front door in 2005, I made new friends through the antiwar movement, I learned about sorrow and about the destruction of the human soul by torture-destruction of the torturers as well as the tortured, I rethought the relationship between the environment and human rights, between belief and action. I wrote, and I want to end by reading you a little of what the outbreak of war prompted me to write five years ago, the opening passage of my book Hope in the Dark:

On January 18, 1915, six months into the first world war, as all Europe was convulsed by killing and dying, Virginia Woolf wrote in her journal, “The future is dark, which is on the whole, the best thing the future can be, I think.” Dark, she seems to say, as in inscrutable, not as in terrible. We often mistake the one for the other. Or we transform the future’s unknowability into something certain, the fulfillment of all our dread, the place beyond which there is no way forward. But again and again, far stranger things happen than the end of the world.

Who two decades ago could have imagined a world in which the Soviet Union had vanished and the Internet had arrived? Who then dreamed that the political prisoner Nelson Mandela would become president of a transformed South Africa? Who foresaw the resurgence of the indigenous world of which the Zapatista uprising in Southern Mexico is only the most visible face? There are times when it seems as though not only the future but the present is dark: few recognize what a radically transformed world we live in, one that has been transformed not only by such nightmares as global warming and global capital, but by dreams of freedom, of justice, and transformed by things we could not have dreamed of. We adjust to changes without measuring them, we forget how much the culture changed. The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay rights on a grand scale in the summer of 2002, a ruling inconceivable a few decades ago. What accretion of incremental, imperceptible changes made that possible, and how did they come about? And so we need to hope for the realization of our own dreams, but also to recognize a world that will remain wilder than our imaginations.

It’s always too soon to go home. And it’s always too soon to calculate effect. Cause and effect assumes history marches forward, but history is not an army. It is a crab scuttling sideways, a drip of soft water wearing away stone, an earthquake breaking centuries of tension. Sometimes one person inspires a movement, or her words do decades later; sometimes a few passionate people change the world; sometimes they start a mass movement and millions do; sometimes those millions are stirred by the same outrage or the same ideal and change comes upon us like a change of weather. All that these transformations have in common is that they begin in the imagination, in hope. To hope is to gamble. It’s to bet on the future, on your desires, on the possibility that an open heart and uncertainty is better than gloom and safety. To hope is dangerous, and yet it’s is the opposite of fear, for to live is to risk.

I say all this to you because hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. I say this because hope is an ax you break down doors with in an emergency; because hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you havee to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal. Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope. Anything could happen, and whether we act or not has everything to do with it. Though there is no lottery ticket for the lazy and the detached, for the engaged there is a tremendous gamble for the highest stakes right now. I say this to you not because I haven’t noticed that this country has strayed close to destroying itself and everything it once stood for, in pursuit of empire in the world and the eradication of democracy at home, that our civilization is close to destroying the very nature on which we depend-the oceans, the atmosphere, the uncounted species of plant and insect and bird. I say it because I have noticed: wars will break out, the planet will heat up, species will die out, but how many, how hot, and what survives depends on whether we act. The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as the grave.

The war is not over. War is not over. Peace is not over either, nor is truth, or justice, or solidarity, or hope. There are terrible forces at work in the world today, and beautiful ones. And there is no neutral position. We are all taking sides every day in every act we choose. It’s not over. This terrible war will end someday, but our work will never be done as long as there are human beings on earth. Our work as activists, as dreamers, as makers, as noncooperating resistance matters; it is one force that shaped the world the last five years, and it will continue shaping this world long after the war is over. What you do still matters, so don’t stop now.

Rebecca Solnit, a recipient of the Lannan Literary Award, is the author of twelve books, most recently Storming the Gates of Paradise, and lives in San Francisco.


Tens of thousands protest on 5th anniversary of war

Mass marches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago punctuate week of action
San Francisco 3-19-08 March 19th protest in San Francisco
On March 19, the fifth anniversary of the war, hundreds of protests took place in cities and towns large and small. In San Francisco, ANSWER organized a night-time march of 7,000 people. Thousands of young people joined the very spirited and densely packed march which stretched for several blocks along Mission St. Chants of "Occupation is a crime, from Iraq to Palestine," "No More War," and "El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido" (the People United Will Never Be Defeated) echoed through the Mission District. Among the speakers at the event were Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq; independent presidential candidates Cynthia McKinney and Gloria La Riva; Zeina Zaatari of the Free Palestine Alliance; Iraqi American activist Muhammed Al-Adeeb; and Eugene Puryear, National Co-Coordinator of Youth and Student ANSWER. Throughout the day in San Francisco there were direct actions and civil disobedience, planned by many different organizations.

Chicago 3-19-08 March 19th protest in Chicago
Simultaneously, 4,000 people took to the streets of Chicago. Spirited chants of "Troops Out Now, Iraq for Iraqis" echoed throughout downtown as the march -- made up primarily of young, energetic and militant protesters -- proceeded through the streets. The demonstration was called by a coalition of organizations, and there was a significant turnout of young people from Arab and Muslim communities.

At the rally in Federal Plaza prior to the march, A.N.S.W.E.R. Chicago Coordinator John Beacham told thousands that "Our enemies are not in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela or China. They're in Washington, The Pentagon, and Wall Street. They want us to fight their wars and fight each other. We must resist their divide and conquer strategies and fight them. Change will come through a united struggle against the banks, corporations and the war machine."

The March 19 actions came four days after a march of 10,000 through downtown Los Angeles. The march filled the six-lane street from sidewalk to sidewalk on Hollywood Blvd. from Vine to Schrader--many blocks away. During the march, people at the front of the march could see the marchers still joining the action 7 blocks behind them. youthful, with students pouring into the march from hundreds of Southern California schools. A large, militant contingent of over 200 young people wore red shirts and marched together. Other students lined the front banners, chanting "Iraq for Iraqis, troops out now!" and "Alto a la guerra, stop the war!"

Once the marchers arrived at the main rally point at Sunset and Cahuenga, at least 10,000 people stood at the CNN building. Protesters chanted "CNN, can't you see? Put the peace march on TV!" Despite strong, cold winds and scattered rain, many thousands stayed at the rally site for hours.

prysner at ws 2 Michael Prysner at Winter Soldier
From March 13-16 in Washington DC, Iraq Veterans Against the War sponsored Winter Soldier, an event that showcased testimony from U.S. veterans who served in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The veterans delivered powerful accounts of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground in those countries. Iraq war veteran and ANSWER organizer Michael Prysner spoke at the event, retelling his horrifying responsibilities as an occupation soldier, and denouncing the Army officers who used racism and bigotry in order to justify the oppression of the Iraqi people. Prysner's eloquent and compelling testimony cuts through the Pentagon's propaganda and can be viewed here.

Also in Washington DC, several civil disobedience and direct actions took place around the city. Dramatic actions took place in front of prominent government buildings as well as the corporate offices of the principal war profiteers.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

2 Videos

The Big Picture 06 Interview 07

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Apprehensions, by Sylvia Plath

* There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself- Infinite, green, utterly untouchable. Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also. They are my medium. The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights. A grey wall now, clawed and bloody. Is there no way out of the mind? Steps at my back spiral into a well. There are no trees or birds in this world, There is only sourness. This red wall winces continually: A red fist, opening and closing, Two grey, papery bags- This is what i am made of, this, and a terror Of being wheeled off under crosses and rain of pieties. On a black wall, unidentifiable birds Swivel their heads and cry. There is no talk of immorality amoun these! Cold blanks approach us: They move in a hurry. *

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

~*~


S.F. protests planned for Iraq war anniversary

Numerous vigils, protests and rallies are planned in San Francisco for Wednesday, the fifth anniversary of the United States' invasion of Iraq.

The rally five years ago at the start of the war attracted thousands of people, including more than 2,000 arrested over three days of San Francisco protests.

The number of people attending gatherings marking subsequent anniversaries dropped off. But organizers said they expect big crowds Wednesday.

Plans to close streets have not yet been made, said police officials.

-- Direct Action to Stop the War will gather at 7 a.m. at Market and Sansome streets. The group is coordinating a series of nonviolent actions, including blockading building entrances, targeting the San Francisco offices of U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as well as companies such as Bechtel, Chevron Corp. and URS Corp.

-- At 11 a.m., Bay Area poets and writers will begin anti-war readings on the corner of Montgomery and Market streets. The readers will include poet Jack Hirschman, performance artist Guillermo Gomez-Pena and author Rebecca Solnit.

-- At noon, San Francisco's MoveOn Council will host a vigil at the cable car turnaround at Market and Powell streets. The vigil is co-sponsored by Democracy Action, San Francisco for Democracy and San Francisco Young Democrats.

-- At 3:45 p.m., members of the Chinese Progressive Association will gather at 1042 Grant Ave. and march to the United Nations Plaza to demonstrate the community's opposition to the war.

-- The Act Now to Stop War and End Racism coalition (A.N.S.W.E.R.) plans a rally at 5 p.m. at the Civic Center, followed by an anti-war march to Mission Street.

Protest information

For information on Wednesday's rallies, contact:

-- A.N.S.W.E.R. - www.answersf.org, (415) 821-6545

-- Democracy Action - www.democracyaction.org, (415) 999 6273

-- Direct Action to Stop the War - www.actagainstwar.net, (415) 308-3343

-- MoveOn - www.moveon.org


Monday, March 17, 2008

Of Laws and Men, by Ralph Nader

The Governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer, has resigned for being a longtime customer of a high-priced prostitution ring.

The President of the United States, George W. Bush, remains, disgracing his office for longtime repeated violations of the Constitution, federal laws and international treaties to which the U.S. is a solemn signatory.

In his forthright resignation statement, Eliot Spitzer-the prominent corporate crime buster-asserted that "Over the course of my public life, I have insisted, I believe correctly, that people, regardless of their position or power, take responsibility for their conduct. I can and will ask no less of myself."

In a recent speech to a partisan Republican fund-raising audience, George W. Bush fictionalized his Iraq war exploits and other related actions, and said that next January he will leave office "with his head held high."

Eliot Spitzer violated certain laws regarding prostitution and transferring of money through banks-though the latter was disputed by some legal experts-and for such moral turpitude emotionally harmed himself, his family and his friends.

George W. Bush violated federal laws against torture, against spying on Americans without judicial approval, against due process of law and habeas corpus in arresting Americans without charges, imprisoning them and limited their access to attorneys. He committed a massive war of aggression violating again and again treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, the UN Charter, federal statutes and the Constitution.

This war and its associated actions have cost the lives of one million Iraqis, over 4000 Americans, caused hundreds of thousands of serious injuries and diseases related to the destruction of Iraq's public health facilities.

From the moment the news emerged about Spitzer's sexual frolics the calls came for his immediate resignation. They came from the pundits and editorialists; they came from Republicans and they started coming from his fellow Democrats in the Assembly.

Speaker Sheldon Silver told Spitzer that many Democrats in the Assembly would abandon him in any impeachment vote.

George W. Bush is a recidivist war criminal and chronic violator of so many laws that the Center for Constitutional Rights has clustered them into five major impeachable "High Crimes and Misdemeanors" (under Article II, section .4)

Scores of leaders of the bar, including Michael Greco, former president of the American Bar Association, and legal scholars and former Congressional lawmakers have decried his laceration of the rule of law and his frequent declarations that signify that he believes he is above the law. Many retired high military officers, diplomats and security officials have openly opposed his costly militaristic disasters.

Only Cong. Dennis Kucinich (Dem. Ohio) has publicly called for his impeachment.

No other member of Congress has moved toward his impeachment. To the contrary, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Dem. Calif.), Rep. Steny Hoyer (Dem. MD) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman, John Conyers publicly took "impeachment off the table" in 2006.

When Senator Russ Feingold (Dem. Wisc.) introduced a Resolution to merely censure George W. Bush for his clear, repeated violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act-a felony-his fellow Democrats looked the other way and ignored him.

Eliot Spitzer came under the rule of law and paid the price with his governorship and perhaps may face criminal charges.

George W. Bush is effectively immune from federal criminal and civil laws because no American has standing to sue him and the Attorney General, who does, is his handpicked cabinet member.

Moreover, the courts have consistently refused to take cases involving the conduct of foreign and military policy by the president and the Vice President regardless of the seriousness of the violation. The courts pronounce such disputes as "political" and say they have to be worked out by the Congress-ie. mainly the impeachment authority.

Meanwhile, the American people have no authority to challenge these governmental crimes, which are committed in their name, and are rendered defenseless except for elections, which the two Party duopoly has rigged, commercialized, and trivialized. Even in this electoral arena, a collective vote of ouster of the incumbents does not bring public officials to justice, just to another position usually in the high paying corporate world.

So, on January 21, 2009, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney will be fugitives from justice without any Sheriffs, prosecutors or courts willing to uphold the rule of law.

What are the lessons from the differential treatment of a public official who consorts with prostitutes, without affecting his public policies, and a President who behaves like King George III did in 1776 and commits the exact kinds of multiple violations that Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and other founders of our Republic envisioned for invoking the impeachment provision of their carefully crafted checks and balances in the Constitution?

Well let's see.

First, Bush and Cheney are advised not to travel to Brattleboro or Marlboro Vermont, two New England towns whose voters, in their frustrated outrage, passed non-binding articles instructing town officials to arrest them inside their jurisdictions.

Second, George W. Bush better not go to some men's room at an airport and tap the shoe of the fellow in the next stall. While one Senator barely survived that charge, for the President it would mean a massive public demand for his resignation.

We certainly can do better as a country of laws, not men.

Ralph Nader is the author of The Seventeen Traditions

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to watch and listen to Winter Soldier

Winter Soldier will be broadcast live. Here's how you can watch and listen:

Live Video

Live Audio

  • Streaming audio at KPFA.org and warcomeshome.org Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16
  • Radio broadcast on KPFA in Berkley, California and other Pacifica member stations Friday, March 14 through Sunday, March 16

Local Cable

Video and audio archives of Winter Soldier will be available after the event

View the Winter Soldier broadcast schedule

For flyers, press releases and other documents to help you organize a local screening of Winter Soldier, visit our resources page.


David Lynch donates $1 million for meditation scholarships

"Twin Peaks" auteur David Lynch is donating $1 million to the Maharishi University of Management in Des Moines, Iowa -- yes, you read that right -- for scholarships for students of transcendental meditation, the Associated Press reports.

The school was founded by former Beatles guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who died last month, and specializes in "consciousness-based education" ("students discover the field of pure consciousness within themselves as the source of all knowledge" ... hey, does that mean no college loans?). Students study Transcendental Meditation, the mess hall serves organic vegetarian meals, and the campus health service promotes yoga and breathing techniques.

"America urgently needs at least one university to teach the science of peace -- and to actually promote peace in the world," says Lynch, a longtime meditation practitioner.


We are at War: Call for decentralized and autonomous direct action against the war

For five years the cross-hairs of empire have been on Iraq and Afghanistan. In five years we’ve seen enormous demonstrations, protests, and rallies all over the world, yet still war rages. For five years we’ve heard the promises of politicians and ideologues. They were swept into power with anti-war rhetoric, yet still war rages. What do we expect with five more years of the same? It is difficult to think about, and often to realize. The death machine rages while simultaneously we are trapped in the seemingly smooth routine within the heart of empire. Our lives monotonously repeating the roles assigned to us by capital are capital’s fuel. There’s talk of “no blood for oil”, but it is our lives which reproduce, perpetuate, spread, and deepen capital/civilization/empire. This is the reality presented that pushes the contradiction of conflict into the background. Our perceived inability makes our ability to have an impact on our lives something we wish to easily forget. It is long since time to be blunt. The anti-war movement is a corpse, yet the majority is more and more against the war. This says something both about the effectiveness of actions which are allowed and the contempt for the value of the individual within the mass of organizations. But honestly, do we really expect means allowed by those who depend on war, create war, whose existence is war bubbling below the surface to allow an end to what their existence necessitates by means they favor? Only by means that value the individual, strong passionate connections and affinity can we pose an alternative worth creating for – worth destroying for. Thus, we are calling on all of you to let loose your rage. We are calling on you to realize your fantasies and to make them live. On the anniversary of the war, the night of March 20th, meet with your loved ones and put plans into action. Let it be a night of decentralized direct action against war and empire. Let’s ensure that power feels our joy as wrath. Allow them not a moments rest. -some Milwaukee anarchists

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Open-Mouth Sabotage, Networked Resistance, and Asymmetric Warfare on the Job

by Kevin Carson 15th March 2008

A recurring theme in ruling class circles over the past thirty years has been the “crisis of governability” (e.g. Samuel Huntington, et al., The Crisis of Democracy: Report on the Governability of Democracies to the Trilateral Commission, 1975). It increased by at least an order of magnitude with the new possibilities the Internet offered for networked resistance (Netwar) by the late 1990s. David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla (The Zapatista “Social Netwar” in Mexico MR-994-A, 1998) surveyed the global support network for the Zapatista movement as one of the earliest examples of this phenomenon.

One topic that has received far less attention than it deserves, in my opinion, is the application of this networked resistance or asymmetric warfare in the specific context of labor relations. This is the theme of draft Chapter Nine (Special Agency Problems of Labor: Internal Crisis Tendencies of the Large Organization) of my work in progress on anarchist organization theory.

As is the case with the crisis of governability in general, asymmetric warfare in the workplace predates network culture by many decades, if not centuries (it probably started the first time a slave or serf told his master some farming implement “broke itself”).

My concern here is with the specific tactic the Wobblies have called “open mouth sabotage“ and the exponential increase in its potential made possible by the rise of network culture.

One of the central themes of the Cluetrain Manifesto was the potential for direct, unmediated “conversations” between workers and customers. The authors believed that by bypassing the company’s official happy talk and engaging in genuine dialogue, workers would create authentic relationships that would actually increase customer loyalty. But that’s only one side of the coin. Businesses that follow the typical MBA model of repeated and relentless downsizings and speedups, and internal authoritarianism to suppress disgruntlement over such policies, have good reason to fear their employees talking directly to the customer. Their worst nightmare scenario is for the workers to realize that the customer (or the general public) is a potential ally against their common worst enemy–management–and to pass along all the dirt to strategically chosen outsiders with the goal of causing maximum damage to the employer.

And given that the majority of corporate employers follow the same “work ‘em to death and replace ‘em” model of workplace relations, and that open-mouth sabotage is impossible to suppress and almost risk-free, it’s safe to assume that the coming decades will see revolutionary changes in management-labor relations as the new potential makes itself fully felt.

One of the first hints of how open-mouth sabotage might be used in the Internet age was the so-called “McLibel” case in Britain, which–although it ended in the early days of the Internet–was a humiliating PR disaster for McDonalds.

It showed itself again in 2004 with the Sinclair Media and Diebold cases (see Yochai Benkler’s account of both). Both of them showed that, in a world of bittorrent and mirror sites, it was literally impossible to suppress information once it had been made public.

Most recently, the phenomenon was demonstrated in the case of Wikileaks, where a judge’s order to disable the site

didn’t have any real impact on the availability of the Baer documents. Because Wikileaks operates sites like Wikileaks.cx in other countries, the documents remained widely available, both in the United States and abroad, and the effort to suppress access to them caused them to rocket across the Internet, drawing millions of hits on other web sites..

This was yet another demonstration of what has been facetiously labelled the “Streisand effect”: efforts to suppress embarrassing information leading to embarassment several orders of magnitude worse, from publicity attracted by the suppression attempt itself.

Meanwhile, in late 2004 and 2005, the phenomenon of “Doocing” (the firing of bloggers for negative commentary on their workplace, or for the expression of other non-approved opinions on their blogs) began to attract mainstream media attention. The interesting thing is that employers, who fired disgruntled workers out of fear for the bad publicity their blogs might attract, were blindsided by the far worse publicity–far, far worse–that resulted from news of the firing. Rather than an insular blog audience of a few hundred reading that “it sucks to work at Employer X,” or “Employer X gets away with treating its customers like shit,” it became a case of tens of millions of readers of the major newspapers of record and wire services reading that “Employer X fires blogger for revealing how bad it sucks to work at Employer X and how shittily Employer X treats its customers.” Again, the bosses are learning that, for the first time since the rise of the giant corporation and the broadcast culture, workers and consumers can talk back–and not only is there absolutely no way to shut us up, but we actually just keep making more and more noise the more they try to do so.

The current potential for open-mouth sabotage, and for networked anti-corporate resistance by consumers and workers, is positively breathtaking. The anonymity of the writeable web, the comparative ease with which disgruntled workers can set up anonymous sites of their own (witness the proliferation of www.employernamesucks.com sites), and the possibility of simply emailing large volumes of embarrassing information to everyone you can think of whose knowledge might be embarrassing to an employer.

All a disgruntled worker has to do is keep his eyes and ears open, write things down, and keep a copy of every potentially embarrassing document that comes his way. And just about everything is potential fodder for organizational humiliation, if you compare the official happy talk in memos and newsletters to descriptions of what management is actually doing (often in the same memos and newsletters, as a matter of fact), or if you compare the now-forgotten happy talk of six months ago (”Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia”) to what’s actually happening now. It’s pretty easy to put it all together into a single damning textfile. It’s also easy to compile a devastating email distribution list: all your employer’s major customers, contractors and outlets, the community social and charitable organizations management hobnobs with, consumer and labor advocacy groups, mainstream and alternative press at both local and national levels, etc. Just save that draft email with file attachment, pre-addressed to your distribution list, and hit “Send” the day you get fired. Or maybe just set up a dummy email account and send it anonymously right now. Either way, the subsequent barrage of emails and phone calls will hit the executive suite like an atomic blast.

We’re living in an era of labor relations characterized by the convergence of two trends: the emergence of unprecedented possibilities for easy, low-cost damage to employers, at a time when workers have less reason for loyalty to their employers than at any time since the Thirteenth Amendment. In other words, the perfect storm. As more and more disgruntled workers figure out the possibilities, it will be impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

The twentieth century was the era of the large organization. By the end of the twenty-first, there probably won’t be enough of them left to bury.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Black, Latino workers unite against racist employer

By: Gloria La Riva

Construction company pits workers against each other

In a brutally racist and systematic divide-and-conquer campaign, the multi-billion-dollar construction company AIMCO tried to pit Black and Latino workers against each other at a major San Francisco construction project late last year.

The workers, realizing they were all being abused, have joined together in a truly inspiring display of solidarity. Twenty-seven plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit against AIMCO and its contractors for flagrant wage violations and rampant employment discrimination.

On Feb. 28, the workers gave harrowing testimony of their mistreatment at a San Francisco County Board of Supervisors hearing. The City and County of San Francisco are ultimately responsible for what has taken place, since they give the stamp of approval on housing and construction projects.

Thousands of working-class homes and apartments have been demolished by the city’s racist redevelopment programs. The famous Fillmore district was gutted in the 1970s and the African American population has dropped from 17 percent to less than 7 percent today. The trend continues.

When AIMCO bosses began the housing construction last August, they methodically turned down virtually all African American job applicants, even though those who spoke at the hearing had 20 to 30 years of experience each as journeymen.

In a pattern similar to other cities such as New Orleans, Latino immigrant workers were chosen to fill the jobs in the Bayview because the company foremen thought they could get away with extra exploitation.

Struggle tears down racist divisions

But after a young Black worker, Greg Hall, started circulating a petition on his own, the handful of African American workers and the Latinos joined together.

They sat side-by-side at the hearing, held in Spanish and English. Most of the testimony was very emotional; some men cried speaking of the abuse and humiliation they felt.

Charles Chilton, a Black construction worker with 30 years of experience, told supervisors: "When we were hired, they set us up to fail. After 30 minutes of work on a scaffolding, I was terminated."

Randy Keys, another Black worker, was hired as a foreman. He testified that Ernesto, a contractor, said to him, "‘You take care of all the Blacks.’ I told him, ‘If I am foreman, I have to take care of all the workers.’ He told me, ‘If you don’t like it, you get off my f—ing job.’"

Sexto Rodriguez, hired in August, testified in Spanish. He told the Board of Supervisors: "I was paid $24 an hour, but my pay was supposed to be $32 an hour. I was treated very badly on the job. The company would take $100 from my paycheck each week. Then my son became very ill and had an emergency operation. I asked them if they could please not deduct money for a few weeks so I could take care of him. The company said they didn’t care, that in three weeks they were going to double the deduction."

Some Latino workers had up to $400 stolen from their paychecks each week. The foremen would forge their checks at corner stores, give them only a portion in cash, and pocket the rest.

Renee Saucedo, director of the Day Labor Program and community activist, translated a worker’s testimony. He said the Latino workers were rounded up in meetings, and told by AIMCO bosses that if they did not speed up and work faster than the "n—r," they would be run off the job, too.

Racism behind gentrification, exploitation

Bayview-Hunter’s Point, a historically African American community near the San Francisco Bay, has been hard hit by the city’s major urban "renewal" projects. Indeed, urban "removal" would better describe them, as neighborhoods have been gutted for high-priced development and residents driven out by skyrocketing housing prices.

When the massive construction project began at full speed last August, only Latino immigrant workers were hired, at a fraction of the normal union wage. Black workers, mostly skilled construction journeymen, were systematically denied jobs.

André, a Black man with more than 30 years’ experience as a carpenter, was one of the applicants rejected. "I applied several times, but they kept refusing me work," he said. "Finally, a representative of the city accompanied me to the worksite and the company promised him they would hire me. But once she left, I never got hired."

At first, there was understandable resentment by the members of the Black community against the Latino workers, since Black workers were excluded from jobs in their own neighborhood.

One young man who spoke at the Supervisors’ hearing shouted that the city’s neglect of the situation contributed to the divisions. "You almost caused a race riot!" He asked how could young men in the neighborhood help their families when they are denied jobs.

Another young man said, "At first we were angry at the Latino workers, but when we saw they were being screwed like us, we realized we’re brothers. Now we love them!" to cheers from all his co-workers.

Fausto Aguilar, a Mexican construction worker, spoke for himself and his two sons in Spanish. "This is so wrong how our African American brothers have been treated. We don’t like this." He then told a touching story. He was working on a job site with several family members in Oakland when a young African American worker asked after a few days, if he would be his father. Aguilar said, "Of course I’ll be your father. ... He invited me to his wedding. He was like my son."

When Aguilar went back to sit down, the Black workers got up to hug him.

A Black resident from Shoreview apartments in the Bayview testified to the deceitful promises that were made.

"I was involved when the whole process [of the construction project] started," he said. "We were promised that a certain percentage of jobs would be reserved for the residents. ... We went to every agency that we were told to register with. Then when the work started winding down, a few of us were given very low-paying jobs. I was supposed to make $24, but they only offered $14."

The workers met again on March 13 at a Bayview community meeting. Their next stop is the State Capitol, where they will speak with legislators in Sacramento. Representatives of the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) attended the hearing and meeting to express their solidarity.

Despite ongoing attempts by AIMCO to stave off the lawsuit and community support, it is clear that the workers will not be divided this time. Their unity and solidarity, forged in the heat of the struggle, is now hard as steel.

Source: Party for Socialism and Liberation


CHANNELING THE VOICE OF SPIRIT: BRINGING “A COURSE IN MIRACLES” TO LIFE

What would you do if you began receiving communications from an Inner Voice? What if the Voice brought you more understanding, love and abundance? What if that Voice enhanced your Spiritual growth? What would you do if you realized that your experience could be a universal experience - available to everyone willing to "ask" and "listen?"
I was a radio newsman at KCBS in San Francisco. My wife Denny is a California Marriage and Family Therapist. We have decided to share our experience of discovering this Voice Within, but the decision didn’t come easily. What would people think, we worried, if they knew a respected voice of authority who reports the news every day was having such an unusual experience? And how would it look if his therapist wife was sharing this experience? How could we explain that we were connecting with an "inner voice?" We knew this was not the same situation being experienced by psychotics who report hearing voices commanding and controlling them. This voice was gentle and loving, never intrusive, and it appeared only when invited.
The information, which I channeled while in a light trance state, was tape-recorded and is shared for the first time in a book my wife and I have written, "We Are Here: The Voice of The New Perspective" published by Trafford Publishing. Every session began with the greeting, "We are here," and proceeded to impart what we felt were profound pieces of wisdom, guidance, and answers to personal questions pertinent to everyday life situations and challenges. In time, "The We" became known not only as a dear and loving friend, but also a trusted advisor and teacher.
The events we recorded unfolded over a span of three decades and provided a spiritual adventure in the tradition of Edgar Cayce, the sleeping prophet; Neal Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God; Helen Schucman, who took the dictation that became "A Course in Miracles" and Jane Roberts, who channeled the Seth material.
In my experience with channeling, consider the possibility that I connected…and you also can connect with what "A Course In Miracles" calls the teacher within all of us, the Voice for God. "A Course In Miracles" on page 75 of the Manual for Teachers says, "Consciousness is the receptive mechanism, receiving messages from above or below; from the Holy Spirit or the ego."
The Course also says on page 85 of the Manual for Teachers, "The Holy Spirit is described as the remaining communication link between God and His separated Sons…the Holy Spirit abides in the part of your mind that is part of the Christ Mind. He represents your Self and your Creator, Who are one. He speaks for God and also for you, being joined by both."
We believe we’ve had an ongoing relationship with Holy Spirit and we invite you to read the transcripts of dozens of sessions that are contained in our book "We Are Here." We hope that by sharing our experience you will be inspired to a life in which Spirit comes first. The experience has convinced us that there is unquestionably a wise and magnificent teacher living within each and every one of us. When invited to speak, that Voice of Spirit is easily accessible and incredibly helpful.
Here are some examples of the messages we received:
"We are here to remind you…
—All problems are messengers. They bring forth a signal that says here is where faith is missing. When faith is restored, problems solve themselves, as they have no further need to exist.
—No good purpose is served by judging people harshly for the behavior or actions that come from their lack of awareness. There are two states: consciousness and unconsciousness. Bring only light to darkness.
—Allow vision to replace sight. Sight sees only the body. Vision recognizes the Christ within.
—Contentment comes from being one with the content of your mind. To be discontent is to be out of accord with the content of your mind.
—Peace and contentment come from recognizing the unity of all that is. Disharmony and discontent result from believing that anything or anyone is separate from you."
In Chapter Nine of "We Are Here" you will learn a simple process for creating your own spiritual awakening by learning to tap in to your Inner Voice to receive the gifts of Spirit.
As appreciative students of "A Course In Miracles" my wife and I take to heart the promises made regarding listening to "the Teacher within." On page 52 of the "Manual for Teachers" it is written:
"The teacher of God must learn to use words in a new way. Gradually, he learns how to let his words be chosen for him by ceasing to decide for himself what he will say. This process is merely a special case of the lesson in the workbook that says, ‘I will step back and let Him lead the way.’ The teacher of God accepts the words that are offered him, and gives as he receives. He does not control the direction of his speaking. He listens and hears and speaks."
I can’t think of a better way to describe channeling in its clearest form. The Voice for God lives within each of us and willingly comes forth upon our invitation.
Namaste.
Author’s Bio
Ron retired from radio broadcasting in 2004 after fifty years in radio and television. He now devotes his time to spiritual studies, writing, and teaching workshops that help others in finding the Voice Within and their own Self-Realization. He continues to channel "The We" and can be reached at: ronjreynolds@aol.com or through his spiritual foundation The New Perspective, PO Box 695, Alamo, CA 94507 (925-552-0576).
Visit www.thenewperspective.com

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A dolphin saves two stranded whales in New Zealand

A dolphin has come to the rescue of two whales which had become stranded on a beach in New Zealand. Conservation officer Malcolm Smith told the BBC that he and a group of other people had tried in vain for an hour and a half to get the whales to sea.
The pygmy sperm whales had repeatedly beached, and both they and the humans were tired and set to give up, he said. But then the dolphin appeared, communicated with the whales, and led them to safety. The bottlenose dolphin, called Moko by local residents, is well known for playing with swimmers off Mahia beach on the east coast of the North Island. Mr Smith said that just when his team was flagging, the dolphin showed up and made straight for them. "I don't speak whale and I don't speak dolphin," Mr Smith told the BBC, "but there was obviously something that went on because the two whales changed their attitude from being quite distressed to following the dolphin quite willingly and directly along the beach and straight out to sea." He added: "The dolphin did what we had failed to do. It was all over in a matter of minutes." Mr Smith said he felt fortunate to have witnessed the extraordinary event, and was delighted for the whales, as in the past he has had to put down animals which have become beached. He said that the whales have not been seen since, but that the dolphin had returned to its usual practice of playing with swimmers in the bay. "I shouldn't do this I know, we are meant to remain scientific," Mr Smith said, "but I actually went into the water with the dolphin and gave it a pat afterwards because she really did save the day”.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Not Ideas About the Thing But the Thing Itself , by Wallace Stevens

* At the earliest ending of winter, In March, a scrawny cry from outside Seemed like a sound in his mind. He knew that he heard it, A bird's cry, at daylight or before, In the early March wind. The sun was rising at six, No longer a battered panache above snow... It would have been outside. It was not from the vast ventriloquism Of sleep's faded papier-mache... The sun was coming from the outside. That scrawny cry--It was A chorister whose c preceded the choir. It was part of the colossal sun, Surrounded by its choral rings, Still far away. It was like A new knowledge of reality. *

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

by Dr. Bruce Lipton (who happens to rule :)

Bruce H. Lipton, PhD © 2007

This artcle is featured in Mystic Pop’s Nov/Dec issue: Mystic Pop

It is obvious, even to the most Prozaced-out individual, that today’s global crises impacting the environment, health, economics and social stability are threatening the survival of human civilization. Suddenly, the old cartoon of some bearded weirdo carrying a placard reading, “The World is Ending!” doesn’t seem that funny. Media and government continuously focus our attention on the darkness of impending crises, however, recent advances in physics and biology offer a significantly different and amazingly hopeful alternative for these very same symptoms.

New scientific insights suggest the evolution of human civilization resembles the recurring fate of the Phoenix, a sacred firebird revered in ancient Egyptian mythology. At the end of its lifecycle the Phoenix builds a nest of cinnamon twigs that it then ignites; both nest and bird burn fiercely and are reduced to ashes. From the ashes arises a new and greater Phoenix.

A renaissance in scientific awareness is rewriting our fundamental perceptions about life and evolution. Weaving together the elements of the new physics (quantum mechanics), the new biology (epigenetics) and the new math (fractal geometry) reveal that today’s crises are not signifying an end to civilization, rather they are portents of an astounding new beginning, the emergence of a new Phoenix—global humanity.

The character of all cultures is based upon a set of fundamental beliefs referred to as the basal paradigm. Significant changes in societal beliefs inevitably lead to a disintegration of the prevailing culture and the emergence of a new one. Western Civilization evolved through a sequence of such cultural upheavals; transitioning from animism (aboriginal cultures such as Native Americans), to polytheism (e.g., Egyptians, Romans and Greeks), to monotheism (Judeo-Christian and Islamic cultures) and to the current culture of scientific materialism (based upon the “truths” of Modern Science). Each civilization is defined by its own unique basal paradigm.

Currently civilization is poised for another cultural upheaval. Recent revisions in science are profoundly revising four flawed “truths” upon which our culture is built. I refer to these old beliefs as the Four Myth-Perceptions of the Apocalypse, misperceptions that are contributing to the demise of our civilization.

Myth-Perception 1 – Biology is controlled by matter-based Newtonian mechanics [Revision- Biology is controlled by invisible Quantum mechanical forces]

Myth-Perception 2 – Genes control life [Revision- The new science of epigenetics reveals that environment controls genes] Myth-Perception 3 – “Survival of the fittest” drives evolution [Revision- Cooperation drives evolution]

Myth-Perception 4 – Evolution is a Random Process [Revision- Organisms evolve to conform to environment] When these fundamentally new scientific insights replace our currently limiting cultural myths, the ashes of our current civilization will give rise to a more magnificent version of the human Phoenix. The following brief discussion focuses upon new scientific insights that dispel the myth of genes, the limiting belief that genes control biology.

Recently, results of the Human Genome Project have shattered one of Science’s fundamental core beliefs, the concept of genetic determinism. We have been led to believe that our genes determine the character of our lives, yet new research surprisingly reveals that it is the character of our lives that controls our genes. Rather than being victims of our heredity, we are actually masters of our genome.

The new science of epigenetics illuminates how our mind (perceptions, attitudes and emotions) shapes biology and behavior. Throughout infancy, our primary perceptions of life were programmed with cultural beliefs. Since perceptions shape behavior and gene activity, cultural beliefs become biology. For example, are we violent because we are genetically disposed to being violent? Or, are we violent because we believe we are genetically disposed to being violent? The new science reveals either cause could be right.

Cell biology is important because the human body is actually a community of upwards to fifty trillion cells. The physical and behavioral traits of cells are derived from over 150,000 different protein building blocks whose structures are programmed in our genes. One of biology’s most hallowed beliefs, codified as the Central Dogma, stipulates that information in biology flows in only one direction: from DNA to RNA to protein. Consequently, the Central Dogma provides for the notion of genetic determinism, the belief that genes “control” the character of life. Textbooks and mass media are still informing the public that genes control their lives, regardless of the fact that most biologists are now aware that this simplified assumption is not valid.

Between the 1970’s and 80’s, as a tenured faculty member of the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine, I was dutifully programming the Central Dogma into the malleable minds of my medical students. However, my university work was primarily concerned with research on muscular dystrophy employing cultures of cloned stem cells. Cloned cells are created by inoculating a single stem cell into a culture dish and allowing it to divide many times, producing thousands of genetically identical cells.

To my surprise, I found that by changing some of the components in my tissue culture dishes or by changing the composition of the incubator’s atmospheric gases, I could profoundly alter the fate of my cultured cells. For example, I would split my stem cell culture into three tissue culture dishes, each exposed to different environmental condition. In one dish the cells formed muscle, in another they formed bone and the remaining dish the cells formed fat (adipose). Since my culture were seeded with genetically identical stem cells, it was clear that the differentiated fate of the cell was under the control of the culture environment and NOT the genes.

My peers considered my studies “heretical” since they challenged the Dogma of gene control. Heresies, dogmas…my first realization that modern science was somewhat of a religion! These studies, demonstrating that cells were not “controlled” by genes, emphasized the power of nurture over nature in influencing our lives.

Though research has established that genes don’t control life, textbooks and mass media still refer to the gene-containing nucleus as the cell’s brain, fostering the outdated belief that genes control biology. Twenty years ago, I had recognized that the nucleus was not the brain, it was functionally equivalent to the cell’s gonads, strictly involved with cell reproduction. Additionally, experiments in which the cell’s nucleus is removed, showed that cells can live and express complex behaviors for two or more months without having any genes.

Spurred on by challenges from disbelieving peers, I refocused my research to identify the mechanisms by which environmental information controlled behavior and genetics. Eventually my quest revealed the cell’s “skin” (the cell membrane) was responsible for reading and responding to environmental conditions. “Switches” in the membrane were comprised of protein receptors, the cell’s equivalents of eyes, ears and nose, that read environmental signals, and protein effectors that activated cell functions or the reading of genes. Membrane “switches” enable cells to dynamically adapt their genes and behavior to conform to environmental demands.

Membrane “switches” are molecular units of perception used in regulating the cell’s biology. The membrane, more accurately, the “mem-Brain,” represents the cell’s equivalent of a brain. Understanding membrane structure and function would be key to understanding the nature of life. In 1985, I was reviewing the molecular architecture and behavior of the cell membrane as an environmental information processor. In outline form, I jotted down a series of descriptive phrases using terms I’d hadn’t used before. I sat back and reviewed what I had just written: “The cell membrane is a liquid crystal, semiconductor with gates and channels.”

As a cellular biologist, I’d never used these particular phrases, yet they sounded very familiar. Where had I heard them? On the corner of my desk, I noticed my first computer, a smiley-faced Macintosh, and next to it a book I had been reading entitled Understanding Your Microprocessor. On page three in the book’s Introduction, was the definition of a computer chip, “…a crystal semiconductor with gates and channels.”

I froze. The next sequence of thoughts happened probably in milliseconds—but to me, it seemed like hours. First I thought, “What a coincidence…the cell membrane and a computer chip share the same definition!” Then a few more hour-long milliseconds lapsed and it hit me, “This was not a simple coincidence! The molecular architecture and behavior of a computer chip is essentially identical to a cell membrane!” The membrane is not analogous to a chip; the membrane is homologous to a chip. Meaning, the membrane is not “like a chip,” the membrane IS a chip.

The cell membrane is a carbon-based, molecular equivalent of a silicon-based computer chip. Every cell is a programmable chip, with a hard drive (the nucleus) containing software (genes). As with conventional silicon based computers, cellular data is entered via a keyboard—comprised of thousands of different membrane protein receptors keyed to different environmental signals. Ambient environmental signals are converted into cell behavior by the membrane’s effector proteins.

Around ten years ago, the new science of epigenetics evolved to describe the molecular mechanisms by which environmental signals dynamically control the activity of genes. Most importantly, epigenetic mechanisms can generate over 30,000 different protein variations from each gene blueprint. In contrast to the belief that genes are hardwired programs, epigenetics reveal that gene programs are rewriteable enabling cells to adapt to dynamic environments. Epigenetic science demonstrates that the cell’s nucleus is a read-write hard disk, wherein gene software is programmed by the membrane’s response to environmental perceptions.

Since cells respond to environment al cues, why are we not human “clones” since we are exposed to the same environment? The answer, no two people are biologically the same; your body would reject a tissue or organ graft from anyone else by recognizing the foreign cells as not being self. Likewise, your cells would be rejected by any other recipient for the same reason.

Where is an individual’s identity to be found? The cells in each body have a unique set of membrane proteins on their outer surface. Medicine identifies a subset of the these receptors as self-receptors, literally, “receivers of self.” When self-receptors are removed from a cell it becomes a generic cell, transplantable into anyone without being rejected. Transferring one person’s set of self-receptors on to another’s cell would also transfer “ownership” of that cell.

Where does our identity come from? Apparently, it is a unique “signal” from the field read by our self-receptors. Importantly, this communication is a two-way street; signals are not just coming into the cells, since our experiential awareness is sent back out to the field and changes the source! The invisible moving forces described by quantum biophysics that activate the self-receptors are the same invisible moving forces acknowledged as spirit.

Interestingly, the signals defining self are still in the environment even if the cells die and are not here to read them. Even more interesting, a new child could come into being displaying an “old” set of self-receptors—the “old” soul would be back on air…reincarnation!

For a guy who didn’t believe in spirituality, understanding the nature of the membrane rocked my world It was a transformational moment for me to discover that I am NOT a biochemical robot, but a spiritually controlled community of programmable cells who is now collaborating with other cell “communities” to create the new human Phoenix.

For more information on this and other topics, visit: www.brucelipton.com

Author reserves first rights

Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., bestselling author of The Biology of Belief, is a cellular biologist and former Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine.† His pioneering research on cloned stem cells at Wisconsin presaged the revolutionary field of epigenetics, the new science of how environment and perception control genes. His later research at Stanford University’s School of Medicine revealed the nature of the biochemical pathways that bridge the mind-body duality. His book, The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness Matter and Miracles, an LA Times Bestseller won Best Science Book of the Year by USA Book News in 2006.† He has been a guest speaker on numerous radio and television programs, and a sought after keynote presenter for national organizations. (www.brucelipton.com)


Gulf War illness 'chemical link'

Gulf War (file pic)
New research links Gulf War health problems to Sarin-related chemicals
There is evidence linking chronic health problems suffered by Gulf War veterans to exposure to pesticides and nerve agents, US research has found.

A third of veterans of the 1991 war experienced fatigue, muscle or joint pain, sleeping problems, rashes and breathing troubles, the research found.

A US Congress-appointed committee on Gulf War illnesses analysed more than 100 studies in the research.

It found evidence linking the problems to a particular class of chemicals.

These were an anti-nerve gas agent given to troops, pesticides used to control sand-flies, and the nerve-gas sarin that troops may have been exposed to during the demolition of a weapons depot.

'Excess illness'

Dr Beatrice Golomb, the committee's chief scientist, said that genetic variants make some people more susceptible to such chemicals.

When exposed, these people ran a higher risk of illness, she said.

"Convergent evidence now strongly links a class of chemicals - acetyl cholinesterase inhibitors - to illness in Gulf War veterans," Dr Golomb told Reuters.

Dr Golomb said a lot of attention had been given to psychological factors in illness among Gulf War veterans.

But unlike the most recent conflict in Iraq, the ground conflict during the 1991 Gulf War lasted only a few days, she added.

"Psychological stressors are inadequate to account for the excess illness seen," said Dr Golomb, of the University of California, San Diego.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Have you been affected by this story? Are you a Gulf War veteran? Send us your comments using the form below:

My son shows most of these signs and was with the 82nd Airborn in Iraq in 1991. He was attached to an Eng. Co. and was involved with disposing of ammunition and destroying bunkers. He could sure use some help! Robert E. Johnson, Canyon Lake, Tx., U.S.A.

My brother was in the US Marine Corps shortly after Gulf I. After being in contact with equipment shipped back over from Iraq, he contracted an auto-immune disease which caused his immune-system to attack and destroy his kidneys. After 10 years fighting the disease and trying to maintain a normal life, his kidneys failed and he needed a transplant. Though we were lucky and the transplant has kept him alive, he still has unexplicable health problems and pains and the disease is still in his body attacking the new kidney. Teresa, Germany

Every single Marine I knew that did not take the pills has no symptoms of this illness, almost all the Marines that I've talked to with any symptoms took the nerve agent pills. I have publicly said on many outlets, internet and radio, that I believed the cause was the PB tablets. Almost every "expert" on the subject, from those who deny the existence of Gulf War Illness to ardent supporters of finding the cause of this illness, have told me that my conclusions were unfounded and my facts w! rong. I hope they remember who I am when they read this news. Dave Coffey, Seattle, WA USA


Monday, March 10, 2008

Why I Won’t Vote for Obama Or for Hillary, And Certainly Not for McCain

Welcome to Infoshop News Monday, March 10 2008 @ 10:41 AM PDT
by Wayne Price An Anarchist View of the U.S. Elections In the United States, there has developed an enthusiastic movement of support for the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama. Besides the large forces he appeals to, especially among young adults, he is overwhelmingly supported by the left: liberals, social democrats, and Stalinists. I appreciate the movement-like aspect of his popular support, yet I personally will not vote for him. I do not try to persuade individual friends, family members, and co-workers not to vote for him, but I would like to change their attitudes. It is typical of liberals, etc. that they start elections by declaring the Democratic candidate to be the “lesser evil” (which admits that he or she is an evil). But as the election gets closer, they become convinced of the great goodness of the candidate. (In psychology, this is called the operation of cognitive dissonance. After all, who wants to believe of oneself that we are supporting someone evil? So we persuade ourselves that the evil politician is actually good.) Let me give some anecdotes about the real Obama. In the left-liberal journal, The Nation (2/18/08), Christopher Hayes wrote a pro-Obama article, “The Choice.” He recalled, “For the Chicago left, his primary campaign and his subsequent election to the Senate was a collective rallying cry….Young Chicago progressives felt…He is one of us and now he is in the Senate (p. 20).” And yet…. “That’s not, alas, how things turned out,” writes this supporter of Obama. “Almost immediately, Obama…shaded himself toward the center….His record places him squarely in the middle of Democratic senators (same).” This is a typical story of a young idealist becoming corrupted by playing the game of bourgeois electoral politics. Hayes suspects that this was due to Obama having “an eye on national office.” But there were other corrupting forces. For example, Obama has boasted to campaign crowds in Iowa that he had passed a law to increase regulation of nuclear power plants. Specifically this was a response to the Exelon Corp. which had failed to inform the public about radioactive leaks at one of its plants. Senator Obama scolded both Exelon and federal regulators. He presented a bill to force nuclear power companies to disclose even small leaks. On the stump, Obama stated that this was “the only nuclear legislation that I’ve passed. I did it just last year (New York Times, 2/3/08, p. A1).” However, this was a lie. Obama had introduced such a bill, but it was repeatedly weakened until it no longer imposed any demands on the nuclear power industry…and then it was dropped. Obama never got any law regulating the nuclear power industry passed. Why did he cave in? The New York Times reports that Exelon was “one of Mr. Obama’s largest sources of campaign money (same, p. A17).” Since 2003, Obama has gotten more than $227,000 from officials and employees of Exelon. Two of the top executives are among his biggest donors. Obama’s chief political strategist has been an advisor to Exelon. In short, good intentions (I assume Obama had good intentions and that it was not a fraud from the start) were overwhelmed by the influence of big business. Of course Obama is a supporter of the capitalist economy. He hopes to be the top administrator of the capitalist economy. In no way is he anti-business, no matter how many unions endorse him. No doubt he would deny that there are necessary conflicts between labor and business. The bringing together of clashing forces is one of his central ideas. For example, rather than fight for a single payer health insurance plan —which would alienate the insurance industry— he proposes a health program which would include the insurance companies, providing them with lots of cash. But like his nuclear regulation bill, the insurance companies will do all they can to water down his original plan and then to kill it if they can. Perhaps to most people, Barack Obama’s biggest appeal is his opposition to the Iraq war. Unlike Senator Hillary Clinton (let alone John McCain), he opposed the war in the beginning. But this does not make him an anti-war candidate. He proposes that most U.S. troops withdraw, but that a significant number (precise amount unspecified) will remain to guard U.S. personnel, to train forces of the puppet Iraqi government, and to “strike at Al Qaeda.” What he would actually do in the face of a collapse of the Iraqi government is anyone’s guess. But whether or not Obama will continue this particular war, he remains a supporter of the U.S. empire. This empire has military bases in approximately 150 countries and military alliances around the world. Despite its decline, it still dominates the international economy and drains wealth from every continent. Obama is for this empire , which he discusses in terms of the “national interest,” meaning the interest of the U.S. ruling class (including the executives of Exelon). Because he supports this empire, he is most likely to remain in this war and to get into other wars. In interviews, he has already said that he might bomb Pakistan and that he would consider military action against Iran. Another major appeal is his race. Just by being himself, an African-American, he makes the point that it is possible for People of Color to rise in our society, even to be president. However, this distracts us from the real problems of U.S. racism. Most African-Americans will remain at the bottom of society, impoverished, last hired and first fired, and subject to police violence. This will not change by having a cool Black man as president. True racial change will require a social upheaval, not just the election of one person. When pressed, many liberals and social democrats will admit that Obama, like Hillary Clinton, is a candidate of capitalism, militarism, and imperialism. But, they argue, he is far less of an evil than Senator John McCain. In McCain the Republicans have put their best foot forward. Unlike the inept Bush, he is intelligent and witty, a war hero, and he sometimes shows some humanity (as in opposing torture, before he caved). He is still hated by the far right, which does him credit. Yet for all that, he is pledged to carry on the Iraq war, if necessary for a “hundred years..” In general he will continue the programs of the vile Bush regime. It is important to oppose him. Since the U.S. population is far from ready to support a socialist (or anarchist) alternative, it is argued, we must support Barack Obama as the lesser evil. In response, I accept that the Democrats, however evil, are indeed the lesser evil. I only doubt that the greater evil can really be defeated by supporting the lesser evil. After all, liberals, unionists, the African-American community, the women’s movement, the environmental movement, the GLBT community, etc., etc., have been supporting the Democrats for decades, generations. And yet the Republicans have moved more to the right, and the Democrats have also moved to the right (but remain just a little bit to the left of the Republicans). Lesser-evilism has not worked very well. Instead of comparing the Democrats to the Republicans, I propose a different standard: What is necessary to save the country and the world from disaster. Does the candidate have a program which will prevent the economic crisis we are sliding into? Will he solve the danger of ecological/ environmental/ energy catastrophe? Will he reverse the spread of nuclear weapons before there is a nuclear war? To claim that Obama (or even Ralph Nader, the independent) reaches this standard is absurd. No one person can be an effective chief administrator of a unit as large as the United States. On the other side of the coin, any one person’s vote does not make a difference, considering the size of the country. This is just too big a social unit. We need vibrant local democracies, political, economic, and social, more than we need an imperial president. People argue with me: But what if everyone (or if a lot of people) had your (my) negative attitude toward elections or for supporting pro-capitalist candidates? My response is: Great! Then there would be a mass movement. The gains of the thirties labor movement were won mainly through sit-ins in the factories as part of mass strikes. The gains of African-Americans in the fifties and sixties were won through mass civil disobedience and urban uprisings (“riots”). The struggle against the Vietnam war was fought through massive demonstrations, student strikes, and a virtual mutiny in the army. The gains of most social movements have been won through non-electoral means, not by electing lesser-evil politicians. Independent electoral actions, such as that of Ralph Nader or the Green Party, have never been very useful. If successful (as in some European countries), they will also be corrupted by the pressures of electoralism, money, and the need to administer a giant capitalist government. My goal is not to persuade individuals to not vote. It is to raise the idea of independent mass struggle. A single general strike in a U.S. city would do more to advance the struggle for freedom than any number of Obamas. It is exciting to see the popular response to Obama, especially by young people. This lays the basis for a new New Left, a new wave of radicalization. But that will be based on recognizing the truth and telling the truth, as best as we radicals can see it — not by capitulating to the illusions which others still have. A new radicalization will develop when people are disillusioned by Obama and the Democrats. And this will happen. Or we are all in big trouble. _________________________________________ A - I N F O S N E W S S E R V I C E By, For, and About Anarchists A-infos-en mailing list A-infos-en@ainfos.ca http://ainfos.ca/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/a-infos-en http://ainfos.ca/en

Got Noam?

(click title)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Anarchism Essay (again) excerpt

From: http://anarchism.tk/blog ... For all anarchists, the most important principle to remember is that every form of authority and domination and hierarchy — every authoritarian structure — must prove it is justified; it has no prior justification. The burden of proof must always be on the person exercising the authority. They believe that most of the time authority structures have no justification: not morally, not in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or even general society.[62] Anarchists directly challenge what we are led to believe are inevitable and natural facts: that most of us are little more than our labour power, always in thrall to the laws of the market-place, that most things can be expressed in monetary terms, that quality of life is related to the possession of commodities, and that happiness best belongs to a private not public sphere.[63] They believe that none of these are valuable for human life, and they are certainly not part of a ‘human nature’ we cannot escape from. ...

Imagination and the fifth dimension, by J A G U A R I T O

Ah, I always love a bit of theoretical physics! - particularly for its "mindfuck" qualities, if you'll pardon the French. I discovered this video entitled Imagining the Tenth Dimension (see below) courtesy of my younger brother who is in his second year of a science degree and who is also interested in the philosophy of science. As far as the content of this video is concerned, I think I'm only convinced up until the fifth dimension. If we take the idea of "virtual" to describe all of those possibilities in a given set-up that remain un-actualised, it is precisely this which, in the video, is given the name of the "fifth dimension". The first four dimensions (height, width, depth, and duration) all exist in the realm of the "actual", but the fifth dimension onwards exist only in the realm of the virtual. I've thought a lot about the virtual in previous theorisations, but until now, I'd never really thought of it as a "dimension", in the sense that height, width, depth, and duration are. However, I think I like the formulation a lot, and feel it will be incredibly helpful for me in my work! For instance: So many of us remain trapped within four dimensions, but to become cognizant of the fifth dimension is surely to become aware of the fact that what "is" is only one among infinite possibilities that exist in the virtual, and that at any moment, any one of those possibilities can be actualised through a combination of chance and will. It allows us an appreciation that what "is" is not necessarily what must be, and that things might always be otherwise. Reality, then, becomes reconceived as a dynamic process, rather than in terms of static being. As activists, it is precisely the fifth dimension that is called upon in our imaginations as we both re-imagine how the world might be otherwise and struggle to make that imagined better world a reality! The battle-cry of the World Social Forum says it all: "Another World is Possible!" I would contend that the imagination emerges as central here, seeing that it is precisely the faculty of the imagination which we employ in order to behold that which does not yet exist in actuality. I would add that the imagination becomes central in another sense too: Let's say we liberate the concept of the imagination from the human psyche and use it to denote the very realm of the virtual; that is, the fifth dimension from which everything emerges or actualises. That which we know and which we take for reality is but one manifestation of an infinite number of possible worlds, and the realm of the actual (i.e. the so-called "real world") is continually transmutating through relay loops back and forth between the fifth dimension. If we apply the term "imagination" to this realm of the virtual, then we might say that reality itself is imaginative! Anyway, here's the video. Enjoy!


Friday, March 07, 2008

* Her Lips Are Copper Wire*

whisper of yellow globes gleaming on lamp-posts that sway like bootleg licker drinkers in the fog and let your breath be moist against me like bright beads on yellow globes telephone the power-house that the main wires are insulate (her words play softly up and down dewy corridors of billboards) then with your tongue remove the tape and press your lips to mine till they are incandescent *by Jean Toomer* "Jehovah and the Christian version of God brought about a direct conflict between the so-called forces of good and the so-called forces of evil by largely cutting out all of the intermediary gods, and therefore destroying the subtle psychological give-and-take that occurred between them -- among them -- and polarizing man’s own view of his inner psychological reality." Dreams, Evolution and Value Fulfillment, Volume 2 Session 921, Page 400

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Our Noble Trade

This is the Mystery of that Noble Trade; which yet no Master can teach to his Apprentice: He may give the Rules, but the Scholar is never the nearer in his practice. Neither is it true, that this fineness of Raillery is offensive. A witty Man is tickl'd while he is hurt in this manner and a Fool feels it not. The occasion of an Offence may possibly be given, but he cannot take it. If it be granted that in effect this way does more Mischief; that a Man is secretly wounded, and though he be not sensible himself, yet the malicious World will find it for him: Yet there is still a vast difference betwixt the slovenly Butchering of a Man, and the fineness of a stroak that separates the Head from the Body, and leaves it standing in its place --(thanks to Fernando for this link)--

Anarchism Essay, by Richard

A common feeling people have about modern anarchism is that it is primarily a negative political theory. They see it as defining itself more in its opposition to capitalism, coercive state power and general forms of authority rather than any positive alternative. It is also seen as closely tied to the anti-capitalist, anti-poverty, anti-United States and anti-World Trade Organisation movements. While it is true that anarchism opposes capitalism and state power and supports these movements, it also yearns for a better society and provides a number of arguments for what this could be and how it should come about. Generally, all left-wing anarchists believe in a decentralised, federalised society along with workers’ control of the means of production, where people are autonomous and are able to pursue their own goals and dreams, free from state or commercial coercion.[1] Despite the principle of autonomy advocated by anarchists, they also stress community and solidarity. There is no real inconsistency here because humans are social animals and community is something they freely choose as an integral part of their lives; it does not need to be forced upon them by higher powers. Although I will be talking about modern anarchism, the early anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin illustrates the anarchist vision well when he says:

harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being’.[2]

Neoliberalism is seen as a mockery of these beliefs by its reduction of too many areas of life to a universal set of market transactions, so that almost everything has a price and very little has value and where citizens are only seen in terms of their labour power and how much they can consume and acquire.[3]

Organisations such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the WTO are seen as the some of the main proponents of these neo-liberal values. They are executive bodies that administer and push forward modern capitalism on a planned and global basis. To anarchists, such bodies have partly usurped the role of national states, taken on many of their powers and adopted the same ideological armour. For example, they believe in the ‘trickle down’ effect, as most free-market capitalists of the past have done, an ideology completely anathema to anarchists.[4] The popular anarcho-syndicalist, Noam Chomsky sees such institutions as,

efforts to centralise power in a world economic system geared towards ensuring that the general populations of the world have no role in decision making, and that the level of policy planning is raised to be so remote from peoples’ knowledge and understanding and input that they have absolutely no idea about the various decisions that will effect their lives, and they certainly couldn’t influence them if they did.[5]

This reflects anarchists’ belief that capitalism operates based on brutal self-interest and exploitation of the poor, the working classes, and the Third World.

All nation states and so-called liberal democracies are still strongly opposed by anarchists however, in particular the United States, as it is seen to use its unchallenged status as the world’s greatest superpower to support neoliberalism around the world, often by violent means, to those who refuse to kowtow to its agenda.[6] Anarchists try to show the hypocrisy of a so-called ‘free market’ nation-state engaging in economic protectionism. They are also opposed to states as a matter of principle. Despite universal suffrage and the benefits that have flowed from the development of the welfare state, anarchists tend to see putting a cross on a piece of paper every few years, and accepting whatever new laws and obligations are enacted in that period, as a neat example of how power is preserved under the guise of democracy. It is not unusual for anarchists to use voting figures in their arguments because they frequently show that a large percentage of citizens choose not to vote for any of their would-be representatives.[7] While this shows a dissatisfaction with democracy it does not necessarily show support for any other aspect of anarchism, which goes too far for many in terms of rejecting most forms of authority.

An example of this would be anarchists’ fundamental disagreement with the institution of the school. They believe that the ultimate social function of education is to perpetuate society: it is the social function. Society guarantees its future by rearing children in its own image.[8] Moreover, schools are an almost perfectly regressive form of taxation: the children of the poorest one-third of the population of the United States cost the public in schooling US$2,500 each over a lifetime, while the children of the richest one-tenth cost about US$35,000.[9] In place of what they deem a corrupt system, anarchists demand schools from which the principle of authority will be eliminated:

They will be schools no longer; they will be popular academies in which neither pupils nor masters will be known, where the people will come freely to get, if they need it, free instruction, and in which, rich in their own expertise, they will teach in their turn many things to the professors who shall bring them knowledge which they lack.[10]

Along with education, the criminal system is an important consideration for anarchist theories, as many questions arise over how crime would be dealt with in a society without any overt authority. Ward believes that many crimes committed in modern nation-states would not occur in an anarchist society. He gives several reasons for this, the first is that most crimes today are of theft or property destruction, and in a society in which real property and productive property are communally held and where personal property is shared out on a more equitable basis, the incentive for theft would disappear. Also, crimes of violence not originating in theft would dwindle away since a genuinely permissive and non-competitive society would not produce personalities prone to violence.[11] He hopes that motoring offences would not present the problems that they do now because people would be more socially conscious and responsible, would tend to use public transport (when the private car had lost its status), and in a more leisured society we would lose the pathological love of speed and aggressiveness that we see on the roads today. Lastly, in a decentralised society vast urban conglomerations would cease to exist and people would be more considerate and concerned for their neighbours.[12] For the late-19th, early 20th century anarchist writer Errico Malatesta, one of the most important things an anarchist society would have to remember is that the ‘do-it-yourself’ justice system could have a tendency to harden into an oppressive institution. For Malatesta, we only have the right to intervene with material force against those who offend against others violently and prevent others from living in peace. Force and physical restraint must only be used against attacks of violence and for no other reason than self-defence. Further, we must avoid the creation of bodies specialising in police work.[13] He thinks that perhaps something will be lost in ‘repressive efficiency’ by following this line, but we will avoid the creation of the instrument of every tyranny: the police/prison system. There must also be room for deviance in society, and there must be support for the right to deviate.[14] People will not be labelled criminals if they diverge from the status quo.

Now considering the alternatives proposed for wider society, anarchists believe the replacement for today’s states will be based on people taking responsibility for their workaday lives and developing forms of participatory, decentralised, democratic government for complex societies where power is not concentrated in the hands of elites or bureaucracy.[15] It is imagined that the competitive market would be replaced by a localised communal system of production and distribution not based on supply and demand but on the basis of citizens’ needs and the availability of resources, where the citizens and workers themselves decide what goods and services they deem valuable. Instead of ruthless competition for market shares and the search for lower costs, which translates into pitifully low wages and child labour in Third World sweatshops, localisation prioritises local production and small producers. Economic planning would be participatory and on based at the local level, with national and international planning for complex modes of production and scarce or locally unavailable resources. The central organisational idea is that of the federation, built up from a democratic base of associations, workers’ councils and communes, arriving at joint decisions and exercising authority but in a way that does not recreate the authoritarian rule of the state.[16]

All sections of an anarchist society would make decisions based on a democratic ‘consensus’ approach. Instead of voting proposals up and down, proposals would be worked, reworked, and reinvented until a consensus is reached. When it comes to finding consensus, there are two ways for objection to proposals to take place: one can ‘stand aside’ from the decision making or ‘block’ the decision, which has the effect of a veto. One can only block if one feels a proposal is in violation of the fundamental principles or reasons for being of a group.[17] An alternative approach is proposed by Murray Bookchin, which he sees operating in New England town meetings. Problems of local government are discussed and decided in an open vote. Issues such as school tuition and the construction of roads are discussed with issues are placed on the agenda by petition. A board of selectmen (chosen annually) chair the meetings and are responsible for implementing the resolutions.[18]

To ensure an anarchist society did not face the risk of becoming authoritarian, representatives to organisations above the local-level will be members of the community and live within it, will serve only part-time, and will be able to be recalled quickly by their community. Representation would follow a cyclical pattern whereby every able member of the community has an opportunity to participate politically.[19] However, the replacement of government by voluntary cooperatives would not eliminate the need for psychological, legal, and social sanctions, nor would it remove the possibility of some familiar aspects of authority and control emerging in disguised forms.[20] The difference would be that any sanctions would be put in place by the community for the good of the community, and if authoritarianism did arise it would be much easier to deal with as the entire populace would be involved in decision-making.

As for political parties, an anarchist society would not forcefully prevent them from arising. Where there is direct participation in self-management, in economic and social affairs, then factions, conflicts, differences of interest and ideas and opinion, which should be welcomed and cultivated, will be expressed at every one of these levels. It is not clear, though, why these should be divided into two or three political parties. It is unlikely parties would appear in an anarchist society, however, because, as Chomsky mentions, ‘parties represent basically class interests, and classes would have been eliminated or transcended in such a society.’[21]

I will now consider a few criticisms of the proposed anarchist society and possible responses. One of the main criticisms made of anarchism is that in an anarchist society, with no wage incentive or authority, there would be no ‘drive’ for people to succeed and for the economy to grow at the rate we are accustomed to. Chomsky believes that it is perhaps a good thing that there would not be such a drive to produce. He says that people have to be driven to have certain wants in our system, so why not leave them alone so they can just be happy, and follow pursuits of their choice? Drive should be internal — a force of discovery rather than mere production growth.[22] Furthermore, it is a common charge against anarchists that they do not accept any authority, but this is a misconception: only illegitimate authority is opposed completely. For Séan Sheehan,

accepting authority…should be distinguished from accepting professional opinion and judgement; anarchists are not objecting to some people having a more authoritative voice than others in fields where this is appropriate.[23]

Ward believes that there would be no ‘laziness’ or ‘unemployment’ problem either. In fact he sees all previous societies, including our own, as supporting the lazy man: the privileged aristocracy and elites who benefit from other peoples’ toil. If we were to simply give everyone the chance to be useful, which is the opportunity most people yearn for, he says, we would not encounter this problem.[24]

A related question often posed against anarchists is: ‘Why should we expect the kind of work people would find interesting and fulfilling to coincide at all closely with the kind which actually needs to be done, if we are to sustain anything like the standard of living which people demand and are used to?’ Chomsky believes that science and technology have not been devoted to examining that question or to overcoming the onerous and self-destructive character of the ‘necessary’ work of society. He says that it has always been assumed that there is a substantial body of wage-slaves who will do this type of work simply because, if they do not, they will be unable to support their themselves, and that if human intelligence is turned to the question of how to make the necessary work of society itself meaningful, we may find out that a fair amount may be made entirely tolerable. Moreover, if work has to be equally shared among people capable of doing it, it can potentially be satisfying because we all have a hand in the management of the enterprise and thereby determine how the work will be organised, what it is for, and what will happen to the outputs of our production. Even if these arguments are unacceptable, he argues, the choice we face is — if the residue of undesired work is large — between having it equally shared, or having the undesired work receive high extra pay, so that individuals voluntarily choose it, or to design social institutions so that some group of people will be simply compelled to do the work, on pain of starvation. Chomsky would argue for the first rather than the second (and obviously not the third), but they are both basically consistent with anarchist principles.[25]

Considering the ‘growth’ part of the question, Chomsky says that it is not clear that contributing to the enhancement of pleasure and satisfaction in work is inversely proportional to contributing to the value of the output. Desire to create things of value to the community could conceivably be a very good reason why they should want to undertake that work and feel satisfied in doing so. Job satisfaction is undoubtedly an important aspect of peoples’ lives. Psychologists have conducted studies where employees complain when their job cannot be well done, for example, if the assembly-line on which they work moves too fast for them to complete their task to what they feel is their ability. There is an inherent pride and self-fulfilment people gain in simply doing a job well. Additionally, job satisfaction has been proven to be the highest overall predictor of longevity. [26]

The further (very common) criticism made against anarchism is the ‘who empties the privies?’ or ‘who will do the dirty jobs?’ question. Sheehan somewhat concedes this point by saying that, ‘anarchism naturally recognises that many indispensable and useful activities are carried out by governments.’[27] But, as Errico Malatesta pointed out, so-called autonomous societies can carry out very useful functions as well, even in capitalist states. For example, the Red Cross geographical societies, workers’ associations and voluntary bodies show the power of the spirit of cooperation. The relevance of this to the question is that the so-called ‘dirty jobs’ can be divvied up in an anarchist society because it has the organisational ideas to deal with the problem; as Sheehan says, ‘dis-organisations’ is not the same as ‘disorganisation’.[28] Graeber shares this assertion, and mentions – sincerely, but somewhat light-heartedly — that,

There’s no particular reason dirty jobs have to exist. If one divided up the unpleasant tasks equally, that would mean all the world’s top scientists and engineers would have to do them too; one could expect the creation of self-cleaning kitchens and coal-mining robots almost immediately.[29]

Many in capitalist society think that people are inherently materialistic and will always want to accumulate more under any social structure, including anarchism. Anarchists do not accept this at all. As Murray Bookchin says, thinking that what currently exists couldn’t be otherwise is the acid that corrodes all visionary thinking. There seems to be no reason to assume that materialism is a part of human nature. Capitalist society creates wants and needs. Peasant and tribal societies go on without the sort of rampant materialism embodied by modern capitalism. Peasants have had to be driven by force and violence into a wage-labour system they did not want; then major effects were undertaken to create wants. One example of this ‘want’ creation is the ascendance of advertising. A certain sense of status anxiety is also created by capitalists (also propagated by advertising). Once wants are created people are driven into a wage-labour society.[30] This is similar to the ‘false consciousness’ argument of communists: people think they need the things they currently have but they can really go on quite well without them. On the other hand, Sheehan comments,

to believe in libertarian socialism does not depend on a utopian belief in the perfectibility of human beings, just an appreciation of mutual aid and solidarity as basic principles for the betterment of life. What anarchism rejects is the bourgeois mind-set that sees life as a game in some economic playground, with winners and losers.’[31]

So anarchism doesn’t expect to get rid of status anxiety and materialism completely, but it certainly hopes that a different social structure which doesn’t have a fixation on the accumulation of goods and based on the principle of need and mutual will help to blunt this edge of so-called human nature to a considerable degree.

One final objection is to be considered. Namely, it seems that an anarchist society demands the opposite of the division of labour whereby nobody can actually become adept enough at one thing to excel in it due to their numerous other duties. It could lead to a society of ‘jacks of all trades’ where none at all are masters of any. An anarchist could respond that many jobs are simply not required in an anarchist society, and the ones that are required can be completed with a minimum of hassle and time where the rest of the time can be dedicated to true interests and hobbies. But, consider a counter-argument: What about painstaking medical and scientific work which requires large amounts of training and education and is not a mere hobby but work which is necessarily required by society? These tasks can only be performed by those with the relevant (and extremely time-consuming) education and training. A response could be along the lines of: some people will specialise in certain disciplines, necessarily, but this does not mean they should — or would have to — neglect their other social tasks. Others can be trained and can take over at appropriate times; after all, there will be greater possibilities for education for a greater proportion of the population in such a society. This seems to be one of those cases where people would in fact enjoy their job because they find it useful to society and other people respect them for undertaking it. However, it is important that these people’s other duties to society are not neglected. They cannot be seen as elites who get a ‘better deal’ than the rest of the populace, otherwise some may try to exploit this.

Forms of praxis employed by anarchists are important to, first, convince people of their ideology and, second, to effect a social revolution to alter the status quo. I will first outline their general theory of revolution and then go on to examine some of their methods and tactics. Anarchists believe that a social revolution will have to destroy the state bureaucracy and the state’s forces of violence and coercion (the police, armed forces, intelligence agencies, and so on). They believe that if this is not done, the state will come back and crush the revolution. Such a destruction of the state it not designed to enact violence against individuals, but rather to precipitate the destruction of hierarchical organisations, positions and institutions. It would involve, for example, the disbanding of the police, army, navy, state officialdom, and the transformation of police stations, army and naval bases, and the state bureaucracy’s offices into something more useful to society. Prisons would eventually be destroyed when they were no longer needed. Those who used to work as public servants would be asked to pursue a more fruitful way of life or else leave the community.[32] For Chomsky, the revolution must start with the take-over of the management of all factories by the producers themselves.[33] Some would say that this would be too difficult to organise, or even impossible, but this is exactly what the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) did in Spain in 1911 to develop a working anarchist organisation. Ward thinks that if one group takes an initiative that is valuable, others will freely take it up, and the revolution will build from there to develop a mass consciousness of anarchist ideas.[34]

Consciousness raising is of great importance to the success of this revolutionary tendency. Anarchists try to get people to recognise the existence of oppression and domination and the fact that they are not inevitable. They also believe that struggle helps create people, movements and organisations which are libertarian in nature and which, potentially, can replace capitalism with a more humane society.[35] Anarchists believe that they need to encourage those with revolutionary spirit to revolt, and do so by a number of tactics, including pamphlet drops, demonstrations, protests and, of course, dispersal of anarchist literature. Mainstream channels are also a possibility.

However, some anarchists disagree on whether they should use existing structures, such as the mainstream media, political parties, and government organisations to help their cause. The discussion includes not just consciousness raising, but the possibility of reform. Chomsky is one anarchist who thinks that reforms should be sought but, if you ‘press [for] reforms within the existing systems of repression, sooner or later you find that you will have to change them.’ He believes that, ‘there is no conflict between trying to overthrow the state and using the means that are provided in a partially democratic society.’[36] Graeber agrees here by saying that we have to create a new society ‘within the shell of the old’, to expose, subvert and undermine structures of domination. He adds that anarchists must always proceed in a democratic fashion; in a manner which itself demonstrates those structures are unnecessary and helps project their sensibilities to would-be sympathisers.[37]

Graeber does not think that all anarchists are going to agree on every issue or that we can — or should — try to convert another person completely to their point of view, which is why they employ a consensus approach, where everyone agrees from the start on certain broad principles of unity and purposes for being for the groups but leave the detail open for discussion. Discussion should focus on concrete questions of action, and coming up with a plan that everyone can live with and no one feels that it fundamentally violates their principles. Rather than be based on the need to prove others’ fundamental assumptions wrong, the consensus approach (which has been discussed above) seeks to find particular projects on which these assumptions can reinforce each other.[38] This is an application of the principle that revolutions should not be about knowing exactly what will and should take place but to be prepared to experiment and allow differing opinions to influence one another equally and on a non-hierarchical basis.

Some critics of anarchism consider this a weakness: that it does not work in the ordinary ‘political party’ way, with a pyramid-like command structure. While it is true that anarchists are very sceptical of hierarchies in any form, they do not necessarily distrust leaders. Some people of course come to the fore in many situations and charismatic individuals do emerge. Examples include the highly charismatic Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista movement in Mexico. Anarchists believe that leaders are probably somewhat inevitable, and if a structure does not allow for, and accommodate this, the alternative is going to be an informal, undemocratic leadership.[39]

I shall now consider a few examples of direct action employed by anarchists, or in which anarchists have been involved. On New Year’s Day 1994 the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) enacted an insurrection where 2,000 armed supporters occupied towns and a city in Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Declaring war on the national government, they called for self-determination for the indigenous peoples and peasants of the Chiapas region (many of the group’s members are indigenas people). They called on all Mexicans to show solidarity with the indigenas people, asserting that it had no agenda for a Marxist-style reorganisation of society and no wish to seize power. They were originally set up in a hierarchical, centralised way but by 1994 the group had no executive body and operated without a command structure as such. Such a form was inspired by the life of the indigenas: on ideas of community and communal decision making. The Mexican state was opposed basically because it was a state and, in its stead, a participatory democracy was sought that would allow citizens to challenge the economic order. Support for the Zapatistas came in the form of activists from a variety of backgrounds: human rights, indigenous rights, peace groups, environmentalists. Much of the insurrection was organised over the Internet, with some members travelling to Chiapas and organising a medley of support groups and ad hoc activities.[40]

The ‘free city’ of Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark has been making a practical contribution to what remains the long-term aim of the Zapatista movement and anti-capitalist movement as a whole: the building of a global civil society to oppose global capitalism and the power of the state. 650-1,000 people live in Christiania, which operated without paying taxes to the government for over 20 years. Christianites pay rent to the community’s ‘Area Funds’, which are run democratically to provide necessities to all its members. In general meetings, the consensus approach is followed. Decisions are not made on the basis of voting and, consequently, some decisions are not quickly arrived at. It is not totally anarchist, however, with people from all political persuasions living more or less in separate districts.[41]

Lindsay Hart argues that the direct action that has developed within the feminist, environmentalist, peace and animal liberation movements has often had a distinctly anarchist flavour, with decentralist and non-hierarchical organisational structures and direct democratic decision-making forming part of the way that many of their campaigns have been conducted. Illegal tactics have been used as part of direct action strategies performed within the above social movements. Civil disobedience, for example, has been used widely in most of these movements. Hart makes the point that, ‘while convincing more people of the value of anarchism’s tenets is a necessary task for anarchists, to attempt to do this while justifying one’s law-breaking can often leave one in a difficult position.’ For the anarchist, it seems to be far better in terms of tactics to argue for the justification of one’s present actions within the present political context than to argue for the dissolution of the whole of the theoretical underpinnings of the modern world.[42]

Three styles of non-violent direct action that are common to many campaigns used in these movements are: bearing witness, obstruction and mass movement. Bearing witness (as commonly practised by environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace) is regarded as relatively limited by anarchists due to the fact that it relies disproportionately for its effectiveness on the mass media to communicate the message that the individual or small group of activists are bearing witness to. It is only really effective as part of a broader whole. There is also a problem that some organisations who practise this tactic rely on a small group of ‘elite’ activists to witness the injustice on behalf of everyone else. This problem also applies to the ‘obstruction’ tactic. Whereas mass movements tend to occur only in countries where the issue has been one of immediate survival, such as the Cochabamba protests of 2000 in Bolivia over the privatisation of the municipal water supply.[43]

Anarchists have been strongly involved in anti-capitalist marches and protests recently, and most notably in Seattle 1999. These have largely been non-violent in nature as modern anarchism rejects the violence in general and especially the organised violence that states embody. Sheehan describes anarchists as now using:

paint-bombs not semtex, water pistols not guns, and the employment of mock armies of fairies of white-overalled protested, ludicrously emboldened by foam padding or elongated rubber limbs…This is not the expression of a soft, hippy, gradualism but a dramatically visual form, appropriate to public dissent, of a non-hierarchical oppositional movement up in arms.[44]

Even as early as the 1970s, groups such as the Angry Brigade in Britain dismissed violence in favour of property destruction and scare-tactics. They targeted homes of Establishment figures, police stations and computer systems, the Spanish embassy, the Ministry of Employment and the home of the managing director of Ford. They were a libertarian communist group part of an organised working-class opposition to free-market capitalism. They did not see themselves as a vanguard for the revolution, and their small-scale bombs were never designed to kill or maim: targets were selected for their symbolic value. They were mainly designed to complement the industrial unrest that characterised Britain in the early 1970s. From their Communiqué 7, they complain that:

The politicians, the leaders, the rich, the big bosses are in command. They control. We, the people, suffer. They have tried to make us mere functions of a production process. They have polluted the world with chemical waste from their factories. They shoved garbage from their media down our throats. They made us absurd sexual caricatures, all of us, men and women. There is a certain kind of professional who claims to represent us…the M.P.s, the Communist Party, the Union leaders, the Social Workers, the old-old left. All these people presumed to act on our behalf. All these people have certain things in common…They always sell us out.[45]

More recently, Critical Mass from the US and Reclaim the Streets from England have emerged as anarchist-inspired groups concerned to reclaim overregulated public spaces. ‘Critical mass’ is a metaphor for the possibility of leaderless, mass action precipitating a direct action dynamic of explosive social power. They oppose the gentrification of urban spaces and proliferation of surveillance they view as part of the process of class control. Their goal is to subvert controlled hierarchies and they attempt to do so through non-violent actions such as: BASE jumping, hiphop graffiti writing and outlawed microradio broadcasting.[46]

The question of violence is an important one for anarchists, as they are commonly characterised as terrorists and criminals. According to Sheehan, many accept that ‘the anti-capitalist movement must be non-violent in order to viably challenge the organised violence of the post-Cold War, US-led, alliance of nation states that promote and sustain international capital and market Stalinism.’[47] But Chomsky says that violence may sometimes be necessary to defend yourself, for example, against security forces when trying to protest or conduct a strike or simply organise. He believes that violence overwhelmingly comes from the powerful. The reason people talk about it coming from the revolutionaries is that when they are attacked they often defend themselves with violence. He does not think violence is going to be an effective revolutionary tool, however, because there is a limit to how much popular movements can defend themselves with violence and still maintain a popular-democratic character. He sees broader solidarity as necessary to stop violence: if soldiers and police officers feel more allegiance to the revolutionaries than the powers they are serving they might very well switch sides.[48]

Hart quotes the militant anarchist P. Marshall, in defence of revolutionaries who employ violence:

…they have never organised the indiscriminate slaughter that is war or practised genocide as governments have. They have never coolly contemplated the complete nuclear annihilation of the earth as nuclear scientists, generals and presidents have. They have never adopted a deliberate policy of terror in power as Robespierre, Stalin or Pol Pot did.[49]

Some, such as the British Class War Federation, support this assertion and completely reject Gandhi’s famous precept ‘hate the sin but not the sinner’. They believe that ‘the system has no real existence outside of individuals, there is no Capitalism without Capitalists’.[50] They advocate direct action of a nastier, more in-your-face kind, which often included attacking wealthy capitalists.

Most anarchists, however, do not approve of violence for any reason but self-defence. This does not mean they worry about breaking laws they see as oppressive. And they certainly accept that governments can be terribly violent and that they can define their violence as appropriate and legitimate, but for anarchists to do the same would be hypocritical.

Finally, I will look at some anarchist ‘policies’ and the prospects for anarchist revolution in the future. Anarchists usually champion non-voting as a means of expressing a political choice, albeit the negative one of rejecting all of the candidates, but the principle of chosen representatives — considered they are probationary, accountable and replaceable — is far from anathema to them. Nor should it be thought that anarchists necessarily relish, as an end in itself, the prospect of more and more people choosing not to vote.[51] For Ward, non-voting is not an end in itself but it is one of the most important tenets of anarchist policy:

[We begin] not with supporting, joining, or hoping to change from within, the existing political parties, nor by starting new ones as rival contenders for political power. Our task is not to gain power, but to erode it, to drain it away from the state.[52]

Chomsky, as noted earlier, is not totally against voting or ‘reformist’ change. Chomsky feels that anarchists don’t necessarily need to be against all state institutions (in the short term at least). He thinks that political parties should enter the American political area representing the population, not just business interests. He accepts the welfare state as a necessary part of today’s society, and he sees aspects of the state system under attack from others who want to destroy the few concessions it does allow. Although, he says, defending these programmes is not the ultimate end we should be pursuing, we still have to face the problems that are right on the horizon, and which seriously affect human lives. The deeper visions should be maintained but dismantling the state system is a goal that is a lot farther away.[53] Chomsky appears to be in the minority of anarchists who agree with reformism.

Graeber is not necessarily opposed to reformism but he seems to see the anarchist cause as much more urgent. He believes that the struggle against work has always been central to anarchist organising; not the struggle for better worker conditions or higher wages, but the struggle to eliminate work, as a relation of domination, entirely: hence the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or the ‘Wobblies’) slogan, ‘against the wage system’. He concedes that in the short term, what can’t be eliminated can at least be reduced.[54]

Anarchists support the policy of getting rid of superfluous occupations. In fact, this is one of most important tasks of anarchist revolution for two main reasons: first, because the level of production we tolerate today is unsustainable, and second, getting rid of unnecessary jobs would mean everybody would have more leisure hours in which to pursue their interests and hobbies. Graeber believes that most people would agree that there are many jobs whose disappearance would be a net gain for humanity, for example,

telemarketers, stretch-SUV manufacturers, or for that matter, corporate lawyers. We could also eliminate the entire advertising and PR industries, fire all politicians and their staffs, eliminate anyone remotely connected with an HMO, without even beginning to get near essential social functions… The elimination of advertising would also reduce the production, shipping, and selling of unnecessary products, since people would figure out how to find out about goods they actually want or need. The elimination of radical inequalities would mean we would no longer require the services of most of the millions currently employed as doormen, private security forces, prison guards, or SWAT teams–not to mention the military. Beyond that, we’d have to do research. Financiers, insurers, and investment bankers are all essentially parasitic beings, but there might be some useful functions in these sectors that could not simply be replaced with software. [55]

He thinks that, by undertaking this cull we might discover that, if we identified the work that really did need to be done to maintain a comfortable and ecologically sustainable standard of living, and redistribute the hours, it may turn out that the Wobbly platform of reducing the work to 20 hours a week or less, is perfectly realistic. Although he says that we need to bear in mind that no one would be forced to stop working after four hours if they didn’t feel like it. Then again, it might even turn out that no one will have to work any more than they particularly want to. [56]

There are conflicting feelings among anarchists as to whether the prospects for an anarchist revolution are promising. Most agree, though, that revolution cannot come immediately. Chomsky is one who supports this view. He says that, ‘the accomplishments of the popular revolution in Spain were based on the patient work of many years of organisation and education, one component of a long tradition of commitment and militancy.’[57]

From one point of view, according to Ward, the outlook is bleak because centralised power, whether that of governments, or of private capitalism or the ‘super-capitalism’ of giant international corporations, has never been greater. But from another standpoint he views the outlook as infinitely promising:

The very growth of the state and its bureaucracy, the giant corporation and its privileged hierarchy, are exposing their vulnerability to non-co-operation, to sabotage, and to the exploitation of their weaknesses by the weak. They are also giving rise to parallel organisations, counter organisations, alternative organisations, which exemplify the anarchist method…De-schooling movement, anti-university, squatter movements, tenants’ co-operatives, food co-operatives, Claimants’ Unions, community newspapers, movements for child welfare, communal households, black/ female/ homosexual/ prisoners’/ children’s’ liberation. None of these movements is yet a threat to the power structure, and this is scarcely surprising since hardly any of them existed before the late 1960s. None of them fits into the framework of conventional politics. They talk the language of anarchist and they insist on anarchist principles of organisation, which they have learned not from political theory but from their own experience. They organise in loosely associated groups which are voluntary, functional, temporary and small. They are networks, not pyramids.[58]

For Bookchin, the fact that young people in working-class families have increasingly responded to the culture of their white middle-class peers is one of the most hopeful signs that the factory will not be impervious to revolutionary ideas. Once it has taken root, he says, a cultural advance, like a technological advance, can be ever more widely diffused, particularly among people whose minds have not been hardened by conditioning and age. He sees the youth culture, with its freedom of the senses and spirit, as having its own innate appeal and that the spread of this culture to the schools is one of the most subversive social phenomena in the world today.[59]

Chomsky cites some statistics to show why he feels that, ‘more than ever, libertarian socialist ideas are relevant, and the population is very much open to them.’ He says that, despite a huge mass of corporate propaganda, outside of educated circles, people seem to maintain their traditional attitudes. In the US, for example, more than 80 percent of the population regard the economic system as ‘inherently unfair’ and the political system as a fraud, which serves the ‘special interests’, not ‘the people.’ The overwhelming majority think working people have too little voice in public affairs, that the government has the responsibility of assisting people in need, that spending for education and health should take precedence over budget-cutting and tax cuts, and that the current Republican proposals that are sailing through Congress benefit the rich and harm the general population and especially the poor.[60] He feels strongly that, ‘the more these concentrations of power and authority continue, the more we will see revulsion against them and efforts to organise and overthrow them.’[61]

For all anarchists, the most important principle to remember is that every form of authority and domination and hierarchy — every authoritarian structure — must prove it is justified; it has no prior justification. The burden of proof must always be on the person exercising the authority. They believe that most of the time authority structures have no justification: not morally, not in the interests of the person lower in the hierarchy, or in the interests of other people, or the environment, or the future, or even general society.[62] Anarchists directly challenge what we are led to believe are inevitable and natural facts: that most of us are little more than our labour power, always in thrall to the laws of the market-place, that most things can be expressed in monetary terms, that quality of life is related to the possession of commodities, and that happiness best belongs to a private not public sphere.[63] They believe that none of these are valuable for human life, and they are certainly not part of a ‘human nature’ we cannot escape from. If nothing more, anarchist proposals need to taken seriously and become a part of public discourse and, for, even if they fail, the population needs to know that, if they are unhappy with the way things are, there are alternative visions; liberal capitalism it not the necessary end-point of human development. By employing even a few anarchist ideas, we may be on our way to achieving a less oppressive, freer, and more equitable society. Those who do not know of the alleged pitfalls of capitalism and states can easily be shown. But the worst thing to do would be to realise there is a problem, but sit back and do nothing.

Bibliography

Bookchin, Murray. Post-Scarcity Anarchism. San Francisco, Ramparts Press, Inc., 1971.

Chomsky, Noam and Barry Pateman (ed.). Chomsky on Anarchism. Oakland, AK Press, 2005.

Chomsky, Noam, Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (eds). Understanding Power. London, Vintage, 2003.

Graeber, David and Andrej Grubacic, Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century [online magazine], (January 6,2004), , accessed 24 April 2006.

Graeber, David. Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Chicago, Prickly Paradigm Press, LLC, 2004.

Heider, Ulrike. Anarchism: Left, Right and Green (Danny Lewis and Ulrike Bode, trans.). San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1994.

McKay, Iain et al. ‘What do Anarchists do?’, An Anarchist FAQ Webpage [online opinion FAQ], (10 Jan 2005), , accessed 24 April 2006.

Purkis, Jon and James Bowen (eds). Twenty-first Century Anarchism: Unorthodox Ideas for a New Millennium. London, Cassell, 1997.

Sheehan, Séan M. Anarchism. London, Reaktion Books Ltd., 2003.

Ward, Colin. Anarchism in Action. London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1973.


[1] Murray Bookchin, Post-Scarcity Anarchism, San Francisco, Ramparts Press, Inc., 1971, p. 23.

[2] Peter Kropotkin, quoted in David Graeber, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Chicago, Prickly Paradigm Press, LLC, 2004, p. 1.

[3] Séan M. Sheehan, Anarchism, London, Reaktion Books Ltd., 2003, p. 18.

[4] Ibid. p. 150.

[5] Noam Chomsky, Peter R. Mitchell and John Schoeffel (eds), Understanding Power, London, Vintage, 2003, p. 381.

[6] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 16.

[7] Ibid. p. 31.

[8] Colin Ward, Anarchism in Action, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1973, p. 79.

[9] Everett Reimer, quoted in ibid. p. 83.

[10] Mikhail Bakunin, quoted in ibid. p. 82. This was Bakunin’s view and is not necessarily one that is shared by all other anarchists.

[11] This seems too optimistic in my opinion. Violent crime would indeed dwindle, but personalities prone to violence would still exist due to any number of reasons, not least psychological conditions. Besides there is no use in ignoring violent crime for, in an anarchist society, it would still need to be dealt with, but hopefully this would be done in a just way: treating crime as needing rehabilitation rather than punishment.

[12] Ward, op. cit. pp. 126-27.

[13] I am assuming everyday police organisations as well as more oppressive ad hoc vigilante groups and militias are envisioned here.

[14] Malatesta, in ibid. p. 132.

[15] Sheehan, op. cit. pp. 15-16, 151-52.

[16] Ibid. p. 49, and Ward, op. cit. p. 106. Anarchists also support the eventual elimination of national borders altogether as they believe they are often artificial, arbitrary and protect the privileged. Geographical locations and ‘boundaries’ of federations and communities would be democratically decided by the communities themselves.

[17] Graeber, op. cit. p. 45.

[18] Ulrike Heider, Anarchism: Left, Right and Green (Danny Lewis and Ulrike Bode, trans.), San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1994, pp. 61-2. Personally, I see the consensus approach as the more successful one as it seems Bookchin’s approach could end the discussion too abruptly after the vote had been taken.

[19] Chomsky, op. cit. p. 197.

[20] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 50.

[21] Noam Chomsky and Barry Pateman (ed.), ‘The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism’ (1976), in Chomsky on Anarchism, Oakland, AK Press, 2005, pp. 137-38.

[22] Chomsky, Understanding Power, pp. 202-03.

[23] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 33.

[24] Ward, op. cit. p. 109.

[25] Chomsky, ‘The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism’ (1976), in Chomsky on Anarchism, pp. 141-44.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 48.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Graeber, op. cit. p. 82.

[30] Chomsky, Understanding Power, p. 204.

[31] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 153.

[32] Iain McKay, et al. ‘What do Anarchists do?’, An Anarchist FAQ Webpage [online opinion FAQ], (10 Jan 2005), http://www.anarchistfaq.de/secJcon.html, accessed 24 April 2006.

[33] Chomsky, ‘Notes on Anarchism’ (1970), in Chomsky on Anarchism, p. 120.

[34] Ward, op. cit. p. 58. Ward also mentions that the methods used must be tailored to the society one lives in, because some tactics aren’t going to work in all circumstances.

[35] McKay, op. cit.

[36] Chomsky, ‘Interview with Ziga Vodovnik’ (2004), in Chomsky on Anarchism, pp. 237-9.

[37] Graeber, op. cit. p. 4.

[38] Ibid. p. 8.

[39] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 157. I should stress that this means leaders as leaders only, and not as dictators or those necessarily with more social power than others.

[40] Ibid. p. 116.

[41] Ibid. p. 117-18.

[42] Lindsay Hart, ‘In Defence of Radical Direct Action - Reflection on Civil Disobedience’, Sabotage and Nonviolence in Jon Purkis and James Bowen (eds), Twenty-first Century Anarchism: Unorthodox Ideas for a New Millennium. London, Cassell, 1997, pp. 42-3.

[43] Ibid. p. 47-8.

[44] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 17.

[45] Ibid. pp. 102-04.

[46] Ibid. pp. 127-28.

[47] Ibid. p. 17.

[48] Chomsky, Understanding Power, p. 192-93.

[49] P. Marshall, in Hart, op. cit. pp. 43-4.

[50] Sheehan, op. cit. p. 113.

[51] Ibid. pp. 31-2.

[52] Ward, op. cit. p. 22.

[53] Chomsky, Understanding Power, p. 194, 345.

[54] The Wobblies and other anarchists, at the turn of the century, played the central role in winning workers the 5-day week and 8-hour day.

[55] Graeber, op. cit. pp. 79-80.

[56] Ibid.

[57] Chomsky, ‘Notes on Anarchism’ (1970), in Chomsky on Anarchism, p. 127.

[58] Ward, op. cit. p. 137.

[59] Bookchin, op. cit. pp. 28-9.

[60] Chomsky, ‘Anarchism, Marxism and Hope for the Future’ (1995), in Chomsky on Anarchism, pp. 188-89.

[61] Chomsky, ‘The Relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism’ (1976), in ibid. p. 148.

[62] Chomsky, Understanding Power, p. 203.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Obama’s Good and “Proper” War, by Paul Street

Throughout his Senate career and the presidential campaign, the supposed “peace candidate” Barack Obama has reassured the U.S. foreign policy establishment of his willingness to stay firmly within the spectrum of acceptable imperial opinion by voicing strong support for the U.S.-led bombing and invasion of Afghanistan that followed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. According to Obama throughout the current ongoing contest, one of the main problems with George W. Bush’s “mistake” (the Democratic presidential front runner never calls it a crime or immoral) of invading Iraq was that it has “diverted” U.S. military resources that should have been dedicated to the smart and just war in (on) Afghanistan. Like other official “doves” on the “bad war” in Iraq, he was a hawk on the supposedly “good war” in Afghanistan.

BUSH “RESPONDED PROPERLY WHEN IT CAME TO AFGHANISTAN

Here he has articulated a widely shared elite sentiment reflecting the sharp limits of what passes for “left” opinion in the bipartisan U.S. governing class. As very few Americans beyond the so-called “extreme left” seemed to know or care, the Bush administration’s heavily Democratic Party-supported bombing and invasion of the Afghanistan took place in bold defiance of international law forbidding aggressive war. Sold as a legitimate defensive response to the jetliner attacks, it was undertaken without definitive proof or knowledge that that country’s Taliban government was responsible in any way for 9/11. It occurred after the Bush administration rebuffed efforts by that government to possibly extradite accused 9/11 planners to stand trial in the U.S. It sought to destroy the Taliban government with no legal claim to introduce regime change in another sovereign state. It took place over the protest of numerous Afghan opposition leaders and in defiance of aid organizations who expected a U.S. attack to produce a humanitarian catastrophe. And, as Noam Chomsky noted in 2003, U.S. claims to possess the right to bomb Afghanistan – an action certain to produce significant casualties – raised the interesting question of whether Cuba and Nicaragua were entitled to set off bombs in the U.S. given the fact that the U.S. provided shelter to well-known terrorists shown to have conducted murderous attacks on the Cuban and Nicaraguan people and governments.

As Rahul Mahajan observed, the United States’ attack on Afghanistan met none of the standard international moral and legal criteria for justifiable self-defense and occurred without reasonable consultation with the United Nations Security Council. Many defenders of the invasion, Democrats as well as Republicans, upheld Bush’s right to attack prior to such consultation by making the analogy of a maniac who had broken into your house and already killed some residents: “do you sit and around a negotiate with the murderers while they kill more or do you go in and take them out?” But, as Mahajan argued, “the analogy to the U.S. action would have been better if the maniac had died in the attack, and your response was to bomb a neighborhood he had been staying in, killing many people who didn’t even know of his existence – even though you had your own police force constantly on the watch for more attacks.”1

Not surprisingly, an international Gallup poll released after the bombing was announced showed that global opposition was overwhelming. “In Latin America, which has some experience with US behavior,” Chomsky notes, “support [for the U.S. assault] ranged from 2% in Mexico, to 18% in Panama, and that support was conditional on the culprits being identified (they still weren’t eight months latter, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reported) and civilian targets being spared (they were attacked at once). There was an overwhelming preference in the world for diplomatic/judicial measures, rejected out of hand by [Washington, claiming to represent] ‘the world.’”2

But according to Obama, speaking on ABC Television’s “Nightline” the night before the four critical primaries of March 4, 2008 (Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island and Vermont), Afghanistan was George W. Bush’s good war. The president “responded properly when it came to Afghanistan,” Obama told ABC, but “he responded ideologically when it came to Iraq” – not criminally, but rather “ideologically,” according to a candidate who deceptively claimed to stand above “ideology.”

“BECAUSE WE WANTED THEM DEAD”

According to University of New Hampshire business professor Marc Herold, who monitored press accounts in the first half-year of Obama’s “proper” war, the “U.S. air war on Afghanistan” produced a high level of civilian casualties, producing at least 3,000 civilian documented civil deaths, between October 7, 2001 and March 31, 2002.3 When U.S. warplanes strafed the unprotected Afghan farming village of Chowkar-Karez, 25 miles north of Kandahar on October 22-23rd 2001, killing at least 93 civilians, a Pentagon official said, "the people there are dead because we wanted them dead." Queried about the Chowkar killings, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld replied, "I cannot deal with that particular village."4

On February 22, 2008 in Austin Texas, Obama used the platform of a CNN Democratic presidential candidates’ “debate” (consisting of two heavily corporate, centrist, and imperial Democrats) to criticize the Bush administration for dropping the ball of the good and smart war on terror in (on) Afghanistan by choosing to wage its “dumb” and “ideological” war in (on) Iraq.

The Sunday after the debate the New York Times Magazine published what ought to have been widely perceived as a shocking account of the hidden reality of the first and war. Times Magazine writer Elizabeth Rubin went to Afghanistan “with a question: why, with all our technology, were we killing so many civilians in air strikes.” Noting that the United States’ “flying war machines are saviors to U.S. soldiers” in that country but “cannot distinguish between insurgents and civilians,” Rubin calmly observed that “the sheer tonnage of metal raining down on Afghanistan was mind-boggling: a million pounds between January and September 2007, compared with half a million in all of 2006.” Remarking casually that “the jets that defeated the Taliban were [now] wiping out innocent families as well” – here Rubin forgot to note that U.S. air power slaughtered innocent civilians from the very beginning of the American assault – the embedded Times writer recounted how U.S. Special Forces “rocketed and bombed an engagement party” in the mountains of Oruzgan in July of 2002, resulting in the death of forty civilians and the wounding of one hundred.

“I ENDED UP KILLING THAT MOM AND THE KID”

By Rubin’s account based on months “alongside soldiers making life and death decisions that led to the deaths of soldiers and civilians,” Obama’s “good war” in Afghanistan did not seem to have gotten much better more than five years later. Seeking to determine “why so many American troops were being killed in Afghanistan,” she found (predictably enough for those who resisted the original and continuing U.S. justifications for the assault) that “seven years of air strikes, civilian casualties, humiliating house searches, and arbitrary detentions have pushed many families and tribes to revenge.” Imagine that! Rubin’s article focused heavily on the story of the Battle Company of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team in Afghanistan’s Kunar Province and its leader Capt. Dan Kearny in the fall of 2007. Kearny described his duties as analogous to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in a “tough neighborhood.” But Kearny had significantly more lethal resources with which to fight “bad guys” (as he described those who dared to resist U.S. invasion) than the LAPD. Rubin described how Kearny responded to “insurgent” fire in a Kuna village by calling in bombs and missiles that resulted in significant civilian casualties. “I ended up killing that mom and kid,” Kearny told Rubin, recounting his destruction of a three-story mansion purported to contain “people moving weapons around” as well as a woman and a child. “I kept asking for a bomb drop on [the] house,” Kearny stated, “but no one wanted to sign off on the collateral damage.” Finally, Kearny told Rubin, “he shot a javelin and a tow” – armor-piercing missiles – that resulted in the death of “that mom and the kid.”

THUMBS UP FOR “COLLATERAL DAMAGE” FROM “A NEBRASKA SOCIAL SCIENTIST”

Later in Rubin’s narrative she related the story of how Kearny got “his boss, Lt. Col. Bill Ostlund, a Nebraska social scientist,” to “sign off on collateral damage” by approving a B-1 bomber attack on Yaka China, a “notorious” Afghan village thought to contain “insurgents.” On the morning of the attack, Kearny told Rubin, “Okay, I’ve done my killing for the week. I’m ready to go home.” He estimated that U.S. forces had killed 20 people, adding, “I’m not going to lie to you. Some are probably civilians.”

He was right. According to Rubin, “the tally was bad: 5 killed and 11 wounded, all of them women, girls, and boys” [emphasis added]. Reflecting on this grisly outcome, hardly novel in the long and bloody history of the “good war” on Afghanistan, Rubin coolly explained that “killing civilians” is a “political issue. If [Kearny] didn’t explain his actions to Yaka China villagers and get them to understand his intentions, he could lose them to the enemy.”5

Thank God for the noble intentions of benevolent empires.

“I SAID IT WAS GOING TO OVERSTRETCH OUR MILITARY”

This one snapshot among many predictable (and predicted) criminal atrocities from the war whose launching Obama and other top Democrats saw as a “proper” action on Bush’s part, so supposedly different from his “mistake” (never a crime) of invading Iraq. In the Austin debate, Obama made a special point of condemning the under-funding and under-equipping of the allegedly just and intelligent war Kearny and Ostlund were ordered to fight in Afghanistan. Obama criticized Clinton for authorizing a war that “diverted [U.S.] attention from Afghanistan, where al Qaeda, that killed 3,000 Americans, are stronger now than at any time since 2001.” After relating the story of an Army captain facing a shortage of weapons, troops, and Humvees in Afghanistan, Obama reprised his imperial, not so peace-oriented reasons for opposing the invasion of Iraq: “I said this is going to distract us from Afghanistan; this is going to fan the flames of anti-American sentiment; it’s going to cost us billions of dollars and thousands of lives and overstretch our military. And I was right.”

There was nothing in Obama’s widely praised Austin oratory about the much larger number – far beyond 3,000 – of Afghans and Iraqis (some social-scientific estimates placed Iraqi deaths resulting from the U.S. invasion over 1 million) killed by U.S. actions since 9/11. There was no sense of the role that persistent U.S. killing of Afghan civilians and the original and continuing illegal U.S attack on those civilians’ country had played in fueling so-called “anti-Americanism” (actually hatred of imperial U.S. government policies) and no acknowledgement that the majority of the world opposed the attack from the outset.

Obama’s establishment foreign policy team might argue that a more “properly” funded and equipped “war on terror” would have avoided such atrocities in Afghanistan. But this ignores both the possibility (if not likelihood) that more military hardware in the hands of more U.S. occupation forces would have actually increased civilian deaths there and the deeper truth that the U.S. attack on that country was illegal and widely hated from the beginning, within and beyond Afghanistan, before Bush and Cheney “diverted’ America away from its “good” and “proper” war on that suffering nation and towards its “bad” (strategically, but not morally in the language of leading Democrats)and “ideological” war on Iraq.

Paul Street (paulstreet99@yahoo.com) is a veteran radical historian and independent author, activist, researcher, and journalist in Iowa City, IA. He is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Paradigm 2005); Segregated Schools: Educational Apartheid in the Post-Civil Rights Era (Routledge 2005): and Racial Oppression in the Global Metropolis (Rowman&Littlefied 2007). Street is currently completing a book on U.S. political culture and the Barack Obama phenomenon.

NOTES

1. Noam Chomsky, Hegemony Over Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance (New York: Metropolitan, 2003), pp. 199-206; Rahul Mahajan, The New Crusade: America’s War on Terror (New York: Monthly Review, 2002), p. 21.

2. Noam Chomsky, “The World According to Washington,” Asia Times(February 28, 2008).

3 Dr. Marc Herold, A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan (Durham, New Hampshire, 2002), read online at http://www.cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm

4. Murray Campbell, "Bombing of Farming Village Undermines U.S Credibility," Toronto Globe & Mail, 3 November, 2001; Herold, A Dossier, p.1.

5. Elizabeth Rubin, “Battle Company is Out There,” New York Times Magazine, February 24, 2008.



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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Nature of Personal Reality

"What exists physically exists first in thought and feeling. There is no other rule. You have the conscious mind for good reason. You are not at the mercy of unconscious drives unless you consciously acquiesce to them. Your present feelings and expectations can always be used to check your progress. If you do not like your experience, then you must change the nature of your conscious thoughts and expectations. You must alter the kind of messages that you are sending through your thoughts to your own body, to friends and associates." Session 609, Page xvii

Monday, March 03, 2008

New Kerouac-Burroughs book due out

NEW YORK March 2 A previously unreleased novel written by noted U.S. Beat Generation authors Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs is set to be published. The novel, written by the literary pair in 1945, was inspired by the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by noted Beat writer and United Press International National Editor Lucien Carr, The Sunday Telegraph reported. After the homicide, Carr reportedly met with Kerouac and Burroughs and the pair helped him dispose of the knife used in the killing. While Carr later pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges, Kerouac was temporarily incarcerated and charged with being an accessory . Kerouac biographer Gerald Nicosia said the planned publication of "And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks" would have amused the famed literary duo, the Telegraph reported. "This was one of the first books they wrote … it's probably pretty bad. But I'm not surprised it is being published now because it's a sure-fire way of making money," Nicosia told the British newspaper.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Let's Play...

mp3s

Our Master was gone. Us forbidden to play. So we knelt on our knees On that cold, cold wet day. I knelt there with Sally. We knelt there, we two. And oh how I wished there was something to do. Too chained to move much And too gagged to make noise. So we knelt in the house, Our Master's good toys. All we could do was to Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait! And hope that our Master would not be too late. And then Something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump! We looked! And we saw him The Cat in the Hood! And he stared at us keenly Like most Masters would. And he said to us, "Why do you kneel there like that?" "I know you are gagged And chained by the tummy. But we could have Lots of good fun that is funny!" "I know some good games we could play," Said the Cat. "I know some new tricks," Said the black hooded Cat. "A lot of good tricks. I will show them to you. Your Master Will not mind at all if I do." Sally and I Were not able to say. That our Master was out of the house For the day. But our fish said, "No! No! Cat you must go away! For Sally and Amy Aren't permitted to play! You should not be here. You should not be about. You should not be here When their Master is out!" "Now! Now! have no fear." Said the Cat in the Hood. "My tricks are not bad, in fact they're quite good! But first we should get them Up from their knees!" And he pulled from the air A large ring full of keys. "Have no fear." said the Cat. "I will not let you fall. As I string you up high While you stand on a ball. With one leg tied high, Exposing your twat. But that is not all I can do!" Said the Cat... In a moment poor Sally Was strung up as he said. And the Cat he approached me A tilt to his head. "Look at me! Look at me now!" said the Cat. And he gave my bound head A delicate pat. "With a rope web or two And a clit chain perhaps. You might look nice On your knees doing laps. Or perhaps in that chair, Yes that's what I'll do. I'll tie you up tight and your little friend too!" In a flash I was bound In a tight web of rope. Of freeing myself I held out no hope. The Cat in the Hood Pulled the knots tight with glee, And couldn't resist playing With Sally and me. He tortured us madly By licking our clits. That rough old cat tongue He used on our slits! Soon we began cumming And cumming some more! Our cum juice was dripping All over the floor! Our fish he kept saying From his watery spot. He said, "Do I like this? Oh no! I do not. This is not a good game, They are not meant to play! For them to both cum Was not sanctioned today!" "Now look what you did!" Said the fish to the cat. "Now look at the floor! Look at Sally's wide twat! Her cum it did fall On the floor like the rain. I'm afraid that clean floor, Will not be the same. And Amy she cries, For she can't get away From your tongue, she knows She was told not to play! You SHOULD NOT be here When their Master is not. You get out of this house!" Said the fish from his spot. "But I have to be here. For that is my role!" Said the Cat in the Hood To the fish in the bowl. "I will not go away. I do NOT wish to go! And so," said the Cat in the Hood, "So so so... I will show you Another good game that I know!" And then he ran out. And, then, fast as a fox, The Cat in the Hood Came back in with a box. A big red wood box. I was shut with a lock. "Now look at this trick!" And he gave it a knock. Then he got up on top Gave the padlock a tap. "I call this game FUN-IN-A-BOX," Said the cat. "In this box are two slaves I will show to you now. You will like these two slaves," Said the cat with a bow. As he undid the lock He said "They are brand new. Two slaves. And I call them Slave One and Slave Two. These slaves will not bite you. They want to have fun." Then from out of the box Fell Slave Two and Slave One. They go to their knees And said "How do you do? Would you like to have sex with Slave One and Slave Two?" And Sally and I Did not know what to do. Our bonds were too tight, We could not wriggle through. We could not refuse, But our fish said, "No! No! Those slaves should not be In this house! Make them go! They should NOT be about While the Master's not here. Put the out! Put them out! Make them both disappear!" "Have no fear little fish," Said the Cat in the Hood. "These slaves are good slaves, They behave as they should. They are trained oh so trained! They have come here to play. They have come for your cum On this wet, wet, wet day." "Now the game that they like," Said the Cat, "is to tease." And with that, both male slaves Jumped up from their knees. To Sally and I They approached with great glee. With hard ons a bobbing As we could both see. Slave One approached Sally and slipped in with ease. He pumped her quite slowly, In order to tease. Slave two was more wicked, He tipped my chair back. He found Master's flogger And gave me a whack. My breasts were soon red, And he switched to my cunny. The Cat in the Hood, found it all very funny. He laughed and he cried As we both went through hell. Our urge to cum building And making us yell. Soon Sally and I, We could stand it no more. And cum juice went spurting All over the floor. Slave One and Slave Two. They dropped to the floor. They lapped up our cum And attacked us for more. Then our fish said "Look! Look!" And our fish shook with fear. "Your Master is on his way home! Do you hear? Oh what will he do to us? What will he say? Oh he will not like it To find you this way!" But try as we might We could not get away, And Slave One and Slave Two Began once more to play. They traded their places, Now I was being pumped. While Sally, poor Sally, Was being soundly thumped. The Cat in the Hood He lay back on the floor, And waited for Master To open the door. Our Master appeared We felt rescue was here. But instead he ignored us, That made us feel fear. To the Cat in the Hood he said, "At last you came! I was tired of those little slaves And their games. They are yours if you want, I give them to you. If you like, you can even Take my goldfish too!" The Cat in the Hood Jumped up with a roll, And ran to the fish All alone in his bowl. "No! No!" said the fish, "To do this is wrong!" But the cat ate him up And soon he was gone. "Slave One and Slave Two!" Said the Cat in the Hood. "Let's pack up our playthings As all good guests should! I always pick up all My playthings and so... I will show you another Good trick that I know!" Our ropes were untied, Though our gags stayed in place. They folded us up And proceeded post haste To the big red wood box With the lock on the side, And Sally and I Through our gags we both cried. We were placed in the box And the slaves jumped on top, They spread our legs wide and slid in with a plop. The Cat in the Hood Closed the box with a crash And said to our Master. "And now I must dash! New playthings to train, And soon I'll have more! I think I'll call these ones Slave Three and Slave Four!" I was jerked quite awake By the sound of the door. I had fallen asleep At my place on the floor. No sign of a box Or a Cat in a Hood. Just my Master, home at last Like we both hoped he would. "So little slaves," He said to us two, "Did you have any fun? Tell me. What did you do?" We knew he was joking For he knew we could not Have done much since we were both Chained to this spot. He freed us at last And took us in his arms. And his strength reassured me I would come to no harm. But what of my dream, Of the Cat in the Hood? Of the talking fish And the box made of wood? Should I tell him about it? Well, what should I do? Would you tell all you dreamed, If your Master asked YOU?

=======================================

Copyright 2001 (Leviticus)

* Depeche Mode-Master & Servant, mp3


Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Clean Plater, by Ogden Nash

* Some singers sing of ladies' eyes, And some of ladies lips, Refined ones praise their ladylike ways, And course ones hymn their hips. The Oxford Book of English Verse Is lush with lyrics tender; A poet, I guess, is more or less Preoccupied with gender. Yet I, though custom call me crude, Prefer to sing in praise of food. Food, Yes, food, Just any old kind of food. Pheasant is pleasant, of course, And terrapin, too, is tasty, Lobster I freely endorse, In pate or patty or pasty. But there's nothing the matter with butter, And nothing the matter with jam, And the warmest greetings I utter To the ham and the yam and the clam. For they're food, All food, And I think very fondly of food. Through I'm broody at times When bothered by rhymes, I brood On food. Some painters paint the sapphire sea, And some the gathering storm. Others portray young lambs at play, But most, the female form. “Twas trite in that primeval dawn When painting got its start, That a lady with her garments on Is Life, but is she Art? By undraped nymphs I am not wooed; I'd rather painters painted food. Food, Just food, Just any old kind of food. Go purloin a sirloin, my pet, If you'd win a devotion incredible; And asparagus tips vinaigrette, Or anything else that is edible. Bring salad or sausage or scrapple, A berry or even a beet. Bring an oyster, an egg, or an apple, As long as it's something to eat. If it's food, It's food; Never mind what kind of food. When I ponder my mind I consistently find It is glued On food. *

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