Anarchist News


Basel, Switzerland: Sabotage against some profiteers of the prison system

via act for freedom now!

In recent weeks we have been puncturing the vehicle tyres of the following companies:
Two IMPLENIA vehicles
Two ISS vehicles
An ALPIQ vehicle
IMPLENIA and ALPIQ are companies that are not afraid to make money by extending Bässlergut so are prepared to inflict suffering on vast numbers of people. In these times of war and exploitation that are pushing thousands of people on to the roads of exile, the above-mentioned companies are deliberately closing their eyes to the fact that misery prevails everywhere and that their “building contract” will directly affect those suffering it. It is not a swimming pool that is being built there. A prison is a place for locking up and punishing people. A place of violence.

A place that flouts the dignity of humans.
People are being stalked and locked up because of their mere presence and, in the future, some will probably find themselves in Bässlergut’s cells without wanting to, captured by obedient blue-uniformed minions who are nothing but an organized armed gang, representing the interests of the rich and the powerful.
Immoral servants who never refuse to obey an order. Out of fear they are defending an economic system based on misery and exploitation, a system destined to disappear. The future does not belong to them. It is not written. Let’s take note all of us.
Thousands of people are dying on the roads of exile, the Mediterranean Sea is a mass grave, the inscription “We are not all there – The drowned are missing” is a bitter one.
Such an existent requires taking things in one’s own hands and trying not to deprive oneself of acting on reality, even if it is only a knife, a sharp object aimed at a tyre. A fast process, almost silent and easy to perform. It is important to try not to remain indifferent and become isolated in the face of all this misery. And it’s easier to be more than one, to come together, organize in coordinated groups and attack.
There are Implenia vehicles all over Switzerland. Let’s make this company pay the price for its inhuman and reactionary construction projects. Moreover, Implenia is currently building the police and justice centre in Zurich.
The ISS company is also known for its involvement in the prison world, for example in Belgium and it is also an umpteenth company offering “security” in exchange for money. The security of a few to be able to continue to exploit the majority. Our contempt for these companies remains intact – besides, all the repression in Basel will change nothing. We know who is behind the construction of Bässlergut.
Everything continues.

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Banner in solidarity with anarchists persecuted by “Op. Érebo” in brazil

via act for freedom now

Almost four months ago, a police operation led by the deputy Jardim
raided private houses and collective spaces in the city of Porto Alegre. Several people and spaces ended up being the target of this operation and some books edited by the Kaos anarchist library were used as evidence to persecute comrades.

We do not intend, in this text, to turn to the way in which the media exposed the case, even though it is worth emphasizing the way which the press manipulates the masses in order to maintain a stammering social peace.

Even with all the efforts police-media made to depoliticize some anarchist proposals — seeking to find some “legitimacy” in pursuing evil “anarchists”,
taking advantage of tactical differences and seeking to create divisions between anarchist tendencies — combative anarchist solidarity rose up, and the fists were closed to the enemies!

As we believe that solidarity is a weapon against repression attempts and oblivion, and that we also know that it needs to be more than words to vibrate in the hearts of the rebels, we send this simple but, we believe, important message.

We hang a banner in solidarity with the persecuted anarchists in Porto Alegre. For all those who are fighting against the storms of loneliness and the inclemency of uncertainty. For all those whose life was /is being disturbed by this repressive wave and that have not lowered neither arms nor head!

For all those who face the difficulties waking up each morning with the conviction of having crossed the point of no return. The powerful can never stop us!

The political-economic context in Brazil and in Latin America is even more repressive against social movements. The political climate has a bitter taste for all those who oppose, in general, the devastating capitalism. A few days ago, 12 indigenous from Brazil’s southern territory were tortured, hit by rubber bullets and real bullets for the simple fact of claiming their lands, which they were promised almost 30 years ago*!

It also has this flavor for the great “minorities” of that sick society, who are being targeted by an ever-increasing “social cleansing” of large enterprises, fruits of “progress” and the”development”. The government kills “legally” by sending
armed forces to “clean” the favelas ** and does it also by organizing “agricultural fairs” in which the money raised is invested in the “security” of farmers and in the killing of indigenous people and peasants who dare to take back with their own hands their invaded lands.

Make no mistake, terrorist is the state and violent is the system that wants
to impose on us a life we never chose.

Debates on the legitimacy of violence are a false debate. We will never stand on the side of those who are pleased to live as a slave…

Those who celebrate past insurrections, today condemn any impulse of liberating violence, this happens under various pretexts such as the fact that we live in a “democracy”. Democracy, technocracy, dictatorships, all political-economic regimes deserve to be attacked, never was and can never be anything other than the expression of power coercion and domination of a few over the rest.

The articulation between centralized power and capitalism is inherent in
globalized modern society and to think that it is possible to destroy
capitalism without, together, destroying the structures of state power is a
illusion that some leftist parties nurture to seduce souls and thus gain a few more votes in the upcoming elections. Whether left or right governs, for them, the
Guarani Kaiowá, will always be worth less than the benefits of the
tons of soybeans.

If Dilma’s presidential government unleashed social cleansing, anti-terrorism law,
towards more and more progress and political persecution against
anarchists, today militants of the Workers Party and the MST (Rural Workers Without Land Movement) and of the entire “radical” left-wing party are also targets of political persecution.

If lately we meet on the streets to fight, let’s not forget the profound ideological and political differences that separate us. Same if we believe that we should rethink strategies and tactics of struggle in this current context, it is interesting that we question the role/place that we play on the regional, national (and internationally) chessboard in order not to end up being one of the pedestrians used to win the match. History has much to teach us about that…

More than answers, we point to the provocations to reflect the panorama
and to imagine strategies and actions that continue to spread the social war.

The repressive waves against those who struggle seek to frighten and paralyze any attempt to oppose the system. It is precisely what we can not let happen. We will look for ways to continue to struggle against a system and way of life that, in addition to not satisfy us as individuals, bases its values on domination
and in the exploitation of a few against the rest.

Oppression, domination and exploitation must be attacked in its roots and in a radical way. There are no ready-made methods for this, only has the combination of historical memory and creative imagination to invent, to think, to try strategies of struggle in this context each more adverse.

May this little message, like a flame of revolt, lighten the heart
of our persecuted comrades…

Strength and combative solidarity with the anarchists pursued by the
“Operation Erebus”!

With Guilherme Irish and Samuel Eggers present in our insurgent memory!

Long live anarchy!

Long live insurrection!

* On February 17, 2018, 12 Kaingang families in Passo Fundo
were beaten by the BOE (Special Forces Police Battalion). They were occupying an area of DNIT claiming the demarcation of their lands:

http://desacato.info/familias-kaingang-sao-espancadas-pela-policia-militar-em-passo-fundo-rs/

https://www.cimi.org.br/2018/02/policia-militar-agride-e-tortura-familias-kaingang-no-rio-grande-do-sul/

**

http://anovademocracia.com.br/noticias/8264-intervencao-no-rio-militares-querem-invadir-arbitrariamente-casas-de-moradores-em-favelas

http://anovademocracia.com.br/noticias/8254-intervencao-no-rio-forcas-armadas-vao-comandar-a-guerra-civil-contra-o-povo

*** On this theme see the movie “Martírio”, it brings information
and interesting links between private security guards on the farm,
politicians and farmers.

tormentasdefogo.

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Countering Black Metal Bullshit in Olympia

From Puget Sound Anarchists

“When you see misdeeds speak out against them, and give your enemies no peace.”
~Odin

For those unaware black metal has always had a neo-Nazi problem. Extreme music attracted people with an affinity for extreme politics. It being infused with macho bullshit and with the boom of neo-Nazi music outside of Oi around 90s black metal and other dark esoteric scenes became a hot bed for esoteric neo-Nazi activity. With neo-Nazis being forced out of the punk scene they retreated into noise, goth, martial industrial, neo-folk, and black metal scenes. Often the main differences between black metal and other genres like grindcore have to do with instrumentation in a small part, but largely have to do with aesthetics and themes. Another appeal of Nazi imagery is the dangerous aesthetic and since the Nazi project and other fascist projects have been in part the aestheticization of politics it only makes sense that where the aesthetic lives so does the ideology.

Likewise “heathen” pagan circles and esoteric/occult/satanic circles have had a Nazi-sympathizing problem dating back to Julius Evola, Ragnar Redbeard, Aleister Crowley, Charles Manson, and event Anton LaVey. It’s most horrid incarnations being satanist neo-Nazi groups like the Order of the Nine Angels (some of whom are rumoured active in Vancouver BC), Aryan supremacist pagans like PNW local Thorfinn Odinson, and Evolian fash-sympathizing spiritualists who are increasingly common in this era.

Ever since I first moved to Olympia — Occupied Coast Salish, Nisqually, and Squaxin Land — I’ve been wary of the “dark bar” a.k.a. Cryptatropa or the Crypt. Burzum and other racist black metal and goth bands were readily available on the jukebox there, it employed sketchwads affiliated with more esoteric fash-sympathizing, and bands I’ve seen loading up gear there were rocking NSBM(Nazi Black Metal). Like many black metal or goth scenes with sketchy elements it seemed like a bunch of willfully ignorant liberals and some more clever fash-sympathizing elements.

In 2015 tensions seemed to come to a head with the bar and the intersection of liberalism and neo-Nazi apologism seemed to bare some especially bitter fruit. Neo-Nazis were out in bigger numbers in Olympia and a worker at the bar had taken down some antifa fliers while making all sorts of excuses for their Ur-Fascist friends. At one point in time a friend of mine got into an argument with some liberal with a Peste Noire patch who seemed completely unwilling to understand the bands deeply European Supremacist sentiment and totally bought into the “we’re not technically Nazis” smoke screen that bands like Peste Noire often use while actually being very much Fascist and Nazi aligned though of a specifically different incarnation of violent reactionary ideology. A recent Peste Noire interview clears all this right up.

Since then many of the songs have come off the jukebox, the staff have cycled through, and the bar seems less suss than it has been, especially compared the sports bar down the street or the West Side Tavern where Proud Boys and Hells Angels MC meet.

This highlights a trend that is common to Olympia and elsewhere in general: people’s unwillingness to accept things that trouble their relationships with bands and people in their scenes. And the persistence of liberals enabling the more clever Fascist and neo-Nazi organizing and falling for very basic rhetorical traps.

There is a fascist creep in anarchist and anarchist-adjacent milieus, but it’s not just in obscure egoist circles. This creep is exists in the hip DIY music scenes especially in Oly and people’s friendships make it hard for them to see what’s really going on. People who say they are anti-fascist have friends who are in bands that play sketchy festivals and make friends with sketchy people. Esoteric fash or Aryan Asatru are not uncommon in “heathen” music scenes and the overlap between neo-hippie metal punks and “heathen” scenes is substantial. These anti-fascists are thrown off the scent by basic turns of phrase and identity politics or an unwillingness to critically look at themselves and their friendships. They want the easy way out, but things are not so simple. Also, because so much of this is wrapped up in their subversive identity, and thus in their ability to feel comfortable as civilized capitalist subjects, it is hard for some in Olympia to accept the reality of the creeping fascists or reactionary tilts.

At the most recent Wolves in the Throne Room show in Olympia some entry level black metal goth was rocking a “White Power Cross” patch on his battle jacket. Someone who has in the past been an apologist for more esoteric fascist actually took action and removed this ‘neo-Nazi in waiting’ along with his girlfriend. The person taking charge of the removal reasoned that such a patch makes some feel unsafe regardless of what the intention of such a symbol is. This argument is not the most holistically sound or strongest, but it is valid. In reponse to this argument the “White Power Cross” wearer started listing off typical bullshit excuses that neo-Nazis came up with ages ago as they retreated from being able to say their most extreme view. This rhetoric was crafted in attempts to sway people just like this particular white man and his girlfriend. He also said he was being “White Shamed” and how the people who had a problem with his patch were being “intolerant of other ideas” and other side steppings that are really a defense of the use of NeoNazi and other reactionary white nationalist symbols and thus of allowing said groups to spread and organize.

This person was not being shamed for happening to be of European or “White” heritage. We were literally at a show that was venerating all sorts of European heritages. Whiteness itself is the assault on these European heritages assimilating them into White Christiandom and arbitrary nationalisms that break and destroy cultural continuities. Whiteness is a position in a racial socio-economic hierarchy. It is hardly a cultural grouping beyond this. The first solidifications of europeaness was Christiandom and the Crusades as well as the tension between “dark and fair,” and whiteness began to intensify during the colonial period particular on the frontiers of empire such as in the Americas or the Congo. Sure there are such things as Irish culture Italian culture etc as arbitrary and generalizing as those conceptions may be, but whiteness itself is where those lived cultures go to die.

The “White Power Cross,” the “Nazi Salute,” and “wolfsangel” are not accurate celebrations of implicitly european heritages; they are explicit displays of affinities for white supremacist ideologies, narratives, and world views. The Nazi Salute is not an old roman salute or norse salute or anything like that it is a Nazi misinterpretation of a roman salute. The “White Power Cross” although derived from a a Celtic symbol and perhaps in other contexts a valid non-fash cultural print just as the Swastika can be, but in this context there is no denying that it is of the same graphical heritage and used in the same way as those who use it as a White Supremacist dog whistle. As for the wolfsangel it was a symbol that went out of popularity and would have died in relative obscurity if it wasn’t re-imagined and re-drawn by the Nazis and is used as a sort of less recognizable hakenkreuz (the Nazi symbol which is commonly unfortunately called a Swastika because it looks like the South Asian Swastika).

After doing some research it seems this couple were “Proud Nationalists” who were also explicitly white and harped on a great deal of alt-right talking points. Everything they did was a nerfed version of what neo-Nazis were doing both aesthetically and rhetorically. It was very clear they were in the first stages of indoctrination and still pulled on normative appeals to what could be considered liberal ideals, but as we know the shift between neo-Nazi adjacent and neo-Nazi can happen quick.

The idea that people who oppose neo-Nazis and their ilk are “thought police” or trying to get everyone to toe a politically correct party line is bullshit. We are not adverse to unpopular truths, meta-narrative shattering claims, harsh critique, visceral words or images, and we are not trying to enforce a mono-culture or hegemonic ideology. Reactionaries who put forward fascist or violent racist ideas are not just putting forward ideas in some imagined marketplace of ideas, these forces are building to further actualize a violent and oppressive ruling order. If we think that there are ethics worth holding and “anything goes” is not desirable then we also admit there are limits to what we will tolerate.

The reactionaries have retreated into free-speech because they have few good arguments left, but this shows that good critical arguments are not everything. They champion free-speech and supposedly free-thought in a horribly unfree ruling order and as they openly advocate for making the ruling order increasingly unfree. They happily ignore the repression inherent to the foundations of what they are putting forward. They say not just what they believe is true, but rather what needs to be true in order for them to continue being the reactionaries and bigots they are, as well as to justify future violence.

Combating reactionary organizing and existence in general is not about shutting down debate. The purpose of the reactionaries’ arguments, symbols, slogans, etc., are not — on the whole –meant to find some truth through discourse. These arguments are largely used to build and to defend the institutions of bigoted subjugation, whether they be racist or sexist or whatever. These arguments are also used to further the fash and their fellow traveler’s own violent projects such as the repression of rebels and attacks on undesirables like queers and migrants. The violence of national borders is intolerable. Sexual-assault is intolerable. Class-society is intolerable. Queerphobia is intolerable. Transphobia is intolerable. Ableism is intolerable. Colonialism is intolerable. Statecraft is an intolerable imposition. Racism is intolerable. Sexism is intolerable. Racism and sexism like many other intolerable things are not so easily dealt with. We are constantly debating among ourselves what the nature of these undesirable forces are and how they still have a hold of us. This is not to say there should never be debate with people who are implicitly or explicitly sexist or racist, but rather understand that if there is no hope of altering the situation with words then actions must be taken.

Ideas do not exist in a void, especially those pertaining to the value of the autonomy of living beings, especially in a society where said ideas will motivate people to project force to bring the consequences of these ideas to life. It’s not that these things should not be talked about and discussed in depth or detail, but when one idea is given the stage it inherently pushes others aside and there are far more sound and important ideas than those of confused racists or bigots trying make a case for ethnic cleansing. By all means debate with sexists, racists, and homophobes. Some of our dearest comrades were once far more gripped by these things and we too in the present and past are gripped by them. However, if you give them a platform you are tolerating their position and if you tolerate their position you are legitimizing their position and thus legitimizing the existence of their violent projects and trajectories as well as allowing them to recruit for such things.

If we flip the script what is revealed? There are systems of racial and gender subjugation and they target non-whites and non-men. The reactionaries are the ones beating people in the street for burning flags and expressing their ideas. The reactionaries are the ones that are flipping out when someone challenges their uncritically and deeply held narratives surrounding their identities. The reactionaries are the ones who are regurgitating their parents morality albeit sometimes in their own pseudo-rebellious way. Theirs are the ideologies fundamentally in line with and reinforced by the ruling order. The reactionaries are the ones stoking the flames of authoritarian Islam. The anarchists and socialists are effectively combating groups like the so-called Islamic State. The anarchists and socialists are the ones who are helping to forge desirable and autonomous paths for those children of migrants and alienated youth whom have seen the awful visage of “Western” bigotry and apathy who IS recruits from.

There are those on the left that do want to uphold a party line. There are those on the left that do want to shut down debate to control the narrative and suppress critical engagement. There are those that want people to unquestionably obey orders given by people based on identitarian criteria in a way that is extremely problematic. These people are also getting in the way of realizing more desirable life-ways.

Critical thought and engagement is the life blood of desirable ethics. Oppressed groups are not monolithic. There is not one opinion held in common by all of one race or gender or other marginalized identity. Reality is also complex and perspectives can create barriers in discussion that are hard to get through. In order to be more critical we must also be more autonomous and more free. This means liberation struggles are crucial to the struggle for critical and free thought.

What strategies can be used to plant the seeds of critical interrogation of meta-narratives within reactionary people? How can we stop them from growing their toxic projects?

Debating them is not as simple as they would make it seem with their constantly moving goal posts and if certain identifications trigger them to shut down having an actual conversation. Tracing the trajectory of the rhetoric has been helpful in my experience, but it may take years for them to actually get how fallacious their arguments were and who actually benefits from the narratives they push. Like most reactionaries they state what needs to be the case for them to continue to operate in ways they see fit.

We already possess the critiques to destroy all racist and sexist arguments I know of. Most would agree with most of said critiques. Reactionary violence continues to grow. The fash continue to creep. Spaces continue to allow these groups to organize formally and informally albeit less and less explicitly. New rhetorical maneuvers continue to bamboozle would-be allies in the fight against oppression.

The other option is sometimes seen as the classic. Lump them up. Send them packing. Some would say this could make them escalate, but mostly it’ll make those who aren’t already itching for a fight or aren’t true believers stay home and second guess wearing that sketchy patch to make a small point. Now, if you’re dealing with militant armed neo-Nazis increased tit-for-tat violence may be more likely, but with pleb tier black metal reactionaries or Pepe posting alt-right youth who’ve never been in a fight and have been isolated from the violence of their actions and what they support it’s another story entirely. A pampered alientated N.E.E.T., liberal-at-heart posers who just hang around fash to look cool, or some other person caught up in passive-nihilism will likely fall away from the scene or never come out in public to spread their toxic project again if they experience visceral blow-back for the violence of their actions and beliefs.

In France, in the 80s, reds and anti-racists cleaned up the rock scene by forcing largely ignorant rockers to remove their Confederate-flag patches and in doing so open racism diminished along with racist attacks, etc. However, on the larger level this symbolic violence pushed the Fash underground and forced them to get more organized which broke a lot of their popular power, but also did create a violent and specialized reactionary force and with a new wave of reactionaries in France they aren’t making the same mistakes in terms of imagery and blatant Nazi-Sympathizing.

People ask, “How did the alt-right happen?” and one of the answers is GamerGate and the answer to how that happened is that a space was created where people didn’t seriously challenge bullshit and that space was “gaming.” Likewise alt-right and neo-Nazi sentiments have proliferated in black metal because it is not seriously challenged.

It seems like we are entering an era in Olympia and possibly elsewhere where people have to first posit that they are “not fash” or “not pacifists” while being apologists for their sketchy friends or condemning direct action in their backyard. This could be a good thing. It could mean once people are able to get over the personal bs making them more willing to come out in support of future anti-fascism or direct action. It could also mean they will never be more than face-value anti-fascists or direct-actors. It could mean that we are more and more entering a recuperative and crypto era. Recuperative meaning seemingly positive projects used to make subjugating projects more pernicious and crypto meaning obscured or obfuscated true beliefs.

Fascist affinity is not always even very well hidden. Groups like Operation Werewolf (think cross-fit meets neo-Nazi black metal) have easily slid by in mainstream and alternative media let alone in supposedly radical and hip scenes despite being euro-supremacist etc. Eco-extremist knights-of-faith have gained many apologists in anarchist and nihilist circles, and some online egoists have been pulled into a sort of throw-back Nazi-sympathizing and bigoted reaction.

Recently, at a benefit party, a metal dude rocking Thor’s hammer and a battle-jacket with a Burzum back-patch was spotted (and) confronted by comrades about his Burzum patch. He sidestepped valid arguments that Varg Vikerness, the man behind Burzum, is a racist who demeans “mongoloids” etc., complains about arabs, and is a neo-Nazi sympathizer who routinely references Nazi groups etc. After this the Burzum fan began to show his cards and rant about how real diversity means keeping races separate yadda yadda yadda openly saying he was against “race-mixing.” People explained that they too were against assimilation into a mono-culture, but were also for desegregation, free association, and that being against race-mixing is racist because it devalues other races based on fallacious race theory. It was also argued that while cultural autonomy is a valid concern it is not relevant to “whites” as a whole both considering that they are the dominant group and that “whites” are hardly a coherent cultural unit. It was further explained that xenophobia and defense of culture are separate project and that multiculturalism is not about the destruction of autonomous cultural trends, but the proliferation of cultural trends and that “euro” cultural protectionism is a form of culture policing. When people countered with bio-diversity being about cross-pollination and such things, he again changed course and said something about European cultures being on the ropes. This argument was quickly shot down by someone who noted that European-ness is an advent of the solidification of Christian empire, and whiteness itself is the swan-song of autonomous European cultures whom were on a continuum with cultures throughout many continents. He began to make a counter about “the thing about Christianity is…” but this is where he was cut off and people insisted that he leave, but was no doubt going to talk about some sort of anti-semitic conspiracy. He then went outside the venue where heated arguments continued. One person said something along the lines of “I speak to the same gods as you, and they tell me you’re a racist motherfucker.” This continued until the reactionary metal-head’s friend who joined him viciously called someone a “faggot” and the rest is not my story to tell.

The idea that new people moving in, inherently threatens your cultural autonomy seems like a joke to anyone who has actually had to struggle to defend their culture. Our comrades who come from a long line of German Jews, Irish freedom-fighters, and so on are often the first to tell us the need to defend black liberation against the threat of segregation and anti-black racism. They also tell us of the need to welcome refugees drawing from their own histories as examples. Likewise turning a blind-eye to McDonaldsization and the culture-war tactics of picket-fence WASPs seems ridiculous. The reactionaries even act as if beckoning in the authoritarian police state required to enforce cultural norms and borders on the level they desire would not lead to an attack on free thought and free speech let alone the proliferation of freer life-ways.

These forces may not be as powerful as let’s say the state or capitalism, but they can poison our spaces and creating breeding grounds for our more lateral enemies. They can also become participants in statecraft or operate in tandem with the state like the proto-Nazi FreiKorps did or even what cops and neo-Nazis do today.

Also, let’s remember that it’s not just the right whom these ills spawn from; racist Odinism was revived, according to historian Goodrick-Clarke, in the 60s by an anarcho-syndicalist named Else Christensen.

Let us push these conversations and conflicts.

Let us take action to not allow authoritarian reactionaries to exist unchecked in our spaces and neutralize them if possible.

Let our banner be the blackest.

Let our fire be the hottest.

Let our blades be the sharpest.

Let our wisdom be the deepest.

Let our spirit be the wildest.

Let our will be the most indomitable.

Against the moralism of the reaction and the subjugations of nation-states and race.

Against priest-craft and state-craft.

Against the fash and their false critics.

Let’s not tolerate the subjugating control of authoritarian leftism, the passivity and friendly exploitation of liberalism, nor the oppression and repression of the right.

Chaos and Cosmos

Solve et Coagula

hurrah for anarchy

Stay tuned for a joint report on BMBS in Seattle eventually.

Further Reading

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Reframing The Question Of Gun Control In The Context Of A School Shooting

From The Anarchist Library

by Francesca

2/19/2018

I'm not writing this to outline specific steps you should take next, but instead to reframe the discussion that we have after every school shooting to something more real and directed at mass-murderers as a phenomenon. I want to start by summing up the two official American political party positions on mass-murder and school shootings so that I can then compare them to an anarchist's position on the same thing.

Two Popular Positions

So the two basic ready-made stances, as prepared by most media outlets fall under two opposing ideas:

1. "The constitution grants me rights to a gun to use for sport, defense against barbarians/ foreigners, and/ or defense against a future dystopic tyrannical (liberal?) government."

2. "Nobody should have a lethal weapon in their possession who isn't a trained law enforcer and therefore major gun reform should restrict our access to them."

The first position follows some assumptions about patriotism and a pure American ethic, a few narratives surrounding what is perceived to be the rebellious origins of the United States, and then some more narratives about freedom, heritage, and human nature. The second position also begins with a couple of faith-based assumptions, mainly regarding the good intentions and noble purpose of law enforcement, since they would be exempt from this gun critique. Similar to the conservative position, the liberal position starts by assuming that there is sometimes an unavoidable evil that spontaneously bubbles out of a person, with no traceable source or reason, and turns them into a school shooter. The basic difference between the two camps is the answer to the question "Who gets to shoot bad guys, cops or me?"

So if we follow each position to its conclusion we have two timelines: in a Democrat voter's United States, all school shooters are replaced with kids that wish they were school shooters, if only the government would let them buy the tools, which it won't. Those kids would (and in our current timeline, often do) become cops since cops can still legally use guns, and as we know, legally kill. In a Republican voter's United States, kids who want to become school shooters get to try, and theoretically get shot by a teacher, another student, or also maybe by a cop. Either way, both voters have started by accepting that some kids want to be school shooters and that's an unavoidable part of life.

An Anarchists Position

In any media-constructed false dichotomy like this one, we have to imagine that a third position exists and that it rejects the terms of the question in the first place. I would argue that our position has to be that one, and it can't begin with "Mass murder is an unavoidable spontaneously occurring human desire" or end at "Who gets to shoot the bad guys?" That's because we haven't considered that school shooters aren't born, but instead are grown. School shooters are a product of schools that function like jails, media that functions like church, and nuclear family structures that function like cults.

I can only speak for myself when I say that I'm not a mystic and I don't believe that brains do unexplainable things. So now that that's out of the way, you should know that I reject the idea that an impulse can spontaneously bubble into a person's brain without conditioning. Before a kid decides to do mass murder, either because he hates black people, or Jews, or because women won't fuck him, or because he just has inexplicable hatred directed at everyone around him, he has to be conditioned.

I'm not going to claim that I understand exactly when or where in a classroom, on a news channel, or on a fishing trip with your dad's friends that the seed is planted. And I can't claim to fully understand the thought process that clicks into place that tells a brain what it needs to know about the worth of a human life that would enable a school shooter or any other kind of mass murderer. I will, however, say that all of us know that schools resemble prisons at worst and office buildings at best, in order to prepare kids to accept their shitty futures in one of the two, depending on your tax bracket. I did grow up in a household, like a lot of us did, that had the news on at least one T.V. at all times. I would see how they portrayed poverty-stricken criminals in this country, or people living in a country the US was dropping bombs on, as subhuman. I could go on, you get the idea.

I will say though, that I am interested in sharing an anti-mass-murder stance with both state sanctioned parties. I'm against mass murder via school shootings. I'm against the mass murder of 1,187 people formally murdered by police in 2017. I'm against the softer, less direct murder of 45,000 people (according to a study out of Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance anyway, I'm sure it's higher) a year in this country due to denied access to medicine via poverty. And I'm against the mass murder of between 19 and 30 million people in wars the US has waged in Afghanistan, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, East Timor, Guatemala, Indonesia, Pakistan, Sudan, during the Korean and Vietnam wars, and between two Iraq wars.

I think it's essential and right to be against mass murder and I'm suspicious of any claimed anti-mass-murder stance that thinks that it’s not a problem when it's done by cops, soldiers, or by artificial scarcity. I think you would have to believe that criminals, non-Americans, and poor people are less human to also believe that legal mass murder is an exception to your anti-mass-murder position. I think the imposed dichotomy between gun laws and no gun laws misses the point of any anti-mass-murder position which has got to first answer the question "Why does a mass-murderer decide to mass murder" and that we have to be genuinely interested in what the answer to that question is if we are going to claim to genuinely want solutions that can change more than just a law.

I believe that schools, as they are, are people-factories that breed the next generation of school shooters, army generals, cops, wife beaters, etc. I think we can create something better than what we now know of as schools, something that eliminates the line that modern schools draw between learning and living, for instance. I believe that nuclear families, as they are, promote isolation and foster some early and basic "us and them" thoughts that are dangerous. I think prisons should be abolished and people should no longer be policed and that our education system and other clunky institutions shouldn't operate with the intent to separate people into criminals and home-owners. I see that positions are taken by people after school shootings that non-coincidentally mirror exactly the positions of major news anchors and non-coincidentally only pose questions that risk keeping things basically the same. And I understand that it's tempting to reject the idea of fundamental change in favor of making some more laws, because that route doesn't require responsibility on our part over our own lives and it really is just an easier path of lesser resistance.

However, the standard response to any larger scale societal critique like this one (which is usually something between "that's not realistic" or charitably “Okay sure but I want to know what I can do NOW?") isn't necessarily a bad impulse. We should look at the situations we're in and mindfully act immediately. I've seen punks turn their music venues and communal houses into "Really Really Free Markets" that brought neighbors together after a workday, instead of splintering quietly off into their separate houses at 5:00 pm. I've seen kids raised with communal help that learn more empathy by 9 years old than I had at 19. I think we have to create different ways of relating to each other that doesn't begin and end with school bells or work schedules, and I think we do that by getting ahold of spaces to congregate in, expanding our families into networks of care and help, and sharing our lives with each other in ways that are truly dangerous to a government, a landlord or a boss. Whether your mass-murderer talking point is an amateur white supremacist, wears a badge, or holds office, I think the desire to become any one of those is planted in the anti-social home, to school, to prison/career pipeline and should be eliminated at the source. As corny as it sounds, I want to build bridges and take down walls because I think gaps and walls are the main ingredients in recipes for mass murder. I think the question of why kids become mass murderers is something that the gun reform framework can't and doesn't intend to answer.


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What might an anarchist language look like? I created one, inspired by Ursula le Guin

From The Conversation

The Dispossessed is set on two human worlds: the planet Urras, which resembles 1970s Earth; and Anarres, the moon of Urras, home to a unified anarchist collective. Anarres was settled from Urras by people seeking a better, fairer life, and the resulting collective has been largely isolated from Urran cultures for about 150 years.

Anarres is a planet without property, laws or money; but it does have an advisory bureaucracy and some shared conventions, one of which is the language Pravic. This language was devised by the first settlers, to make the everyday casual ownership which pervades human languages almost impossible to articulate.

Anarres is, of course, a utopia; so it slotted well into Utopia 2016, an exhibition at Somerset House for the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. The event showcased a series of utopian visions presented by a range of artists. Two of these artists, Onkar Kular and Noam Toran, proposed that the utopia of Anarres could be presented as a teaching space which they called Night School on Anarres. The teaching space was designed to showcase the planet and its culture, offering the people of Earth a window into a working anarchistic society.

But the night school was also intended to offer realistic lessons in Pravic, so the project needed a realistic language to teach. This was not going to be easy. Le Guin had described some key features of the language in her book but, apart from a few names, she provided no close detail of how the language worked.

This is where I came in. I teach a module on the BA English Language and Linguistics course at King’s College London in which the students design and describe their own constructed language, or “conlang”. The module is an opportunity for students to show their knowledge of how language works (or could work) in the abstract, but it also gives them a chance to be creative in their reasoning.

Kular and Toran asked me to generate a version of Pravic for the project. It had to be as close as possible to the language described in the book; it had to be easy enough to teach the basics in one hour; and it had to feel like a real human language.

The final design incorporated almost everything le Guin stipulated about Pravic in the book. The designed language makes it difficult to assert ownership: possessive pronouns (“my”, “your”, “their”, etc.) are out, but simple words like “have” and “give” must also be excised.

Expression of self also has to be restricted: people would not “do” things (this creates ownership of the action), things “are done” by people. Consequently, the whole language is expressed in the passive voice.

Another device to reduce selfhood was taken from Malay: the pronouns “I” and “you” were replaced by noun phrases expressing roles, with default roles being “a speaker” and “the listener(s)”. A version of this was used by the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones.


Teaching Pravlish.
© Onkar Kular

In the end, though, an anglicised version of Pravic, Pravlish, was used for the lessons. After being shown a video travelogue and introduced to some simple Pravic conventions (no pronouns, no ownership, the actor in an action is given last, and “People don’t do things, things happen to people”), the students were asked to translate some difficult sentences into Pravlish – for instance, Julius Caesar’s “I came, I saw, I conquered” and Louis XIV’s “It is legal because I wish it”. The solutions offered were ingenious and entertaining.

In The Dispossessed, Ursula le Guin gave us an honest look at how anarchism might work in a real world with real human beings. I like to think that the Night School project did the same for a new audience. Linguistically, the project showed that language is not just a coding tool we use to give and get meaning; rather, it has an active role in producing these meanings. And so the conventions we build into our language affect what meanings are possible.

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Greece: Anarchist Prisoner of War Konstantinos Yiagtzoglou Begins Hunger Strike

via insurrection news

Today, 21.02.18, anarchist prisoner Konstantinos Yiagtzoglou commenced a hunger strike to demand his transfer from the prisons of Larissa to the prisons of Korydallos following the rejection of his request by the Central Committee for Transfers. He is currently in Korydallos Prison, where he was sent yesterday for an ongoing court case. A text from the comrade will follow in the coming days.

We call for an emergency open assembly to plan solidarity actions for the comrade’s hunger strike and share information on the case on Thursday, February 22nd at 19:00 at the Polytechnic (Gini building).

Assembly of Solidarity for Konstantinos Yiagtzoglou

(via Athens Indymedia, translated by Insurrection News)

Received on 22.02.18:

A Few Words about the Case of Anarchist Prisoner Konstantinos Yiagtzoglou

Anarchist comrade Konstantinos Yiagtzoglou was arrested on October 28th 2017, while exiting a hideout rented by him under a false identity and while trasferring guns and explosive materials. Dinos is accused of being a member of the Conspiracy of Cells of Fire and for sending parcel bombs to various EU officials including the former prime minister of Greece, Loukas Papadimos. The cops’ accusations are based on a mixed DNA
sample and on the fact that Dinos was visiting a former anarchist prisoner in Korydallos prison in early 2013. The comrade stated that both renting the appartment and transferring the equipment were part of “revolutionary solidarity” and denies all other charges.

The judicial authorities aim to isolate him by assigning him to Larissa prison for his pre-trial detention, in a city 355 kilometres away from Athens where his family, friends and comrades are. Dinos was tranferred to Korydallos prison a few days ago to be tried for an older case (he was arrested in Athens, in 2011 during massive clashes with riot
police). While there, he was informed that his official request to remain in Athens (Korydallos prison) until his new trial was denied by the Central Committee for Prison Transfers. As a response, the comrade decided to go on a hunger strike on 21/02, demanding his permanent transfer to Korydallos prison until the time of his trial.

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Announcing Resistance is Fertile 2018!

via Montreal Counter Info

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Over the past year, there has been something of a resurgence in anarchist activity in Ottawa, a vibrant community has begun to form, and it feels like the conditions are right for rapid growth in the radical milieu of our city. That is why we say: Resistance is Fertile!

Most visibly, for the first time since the shuttering of Exile Infoshop over 7 years ago, Ottawa now has a anarchist social centre that is not also a punk house. This social centre, known as the Garden Spot (or G-Spot for short) is near Carleton University, and is already serving to bring together radical & leftist students from Carleton, the University of Ottawa, high schools, and the broader community. To build on the current momentum, we decided to hold a series of events of interest to comrades and newcomers alike.

You can find the Facebook event for the week of activities here.

The schedule for the week is as follows:

Monday: DOUBLE WHAMMY

The Truth about Truth and Reconciliation at Faith House

Concerning Violence Movie Screening with Anti Colonial Action at the Garden Spot

Tuesday:

Kurdish Voices on the Rojava Revolution (G-Spot)

Wednesday:

Anarchist Community Organizing (G-Spot)

This event is for people who are currently involved in anarchist projects in Ottawa – please request an invite if you would like to attend.

Thursday:

Closed workshop

Friday:

Daughters of Dust Viewing to celebrate Black History Month (G-Spot)

Saturday: DOUBLE WHAMMY

The Garden Spot is sponsoring a for youth by youth “Alt Art Show”

Canadian Involvement in the Pillaging of Latin America (Faith House)

Sunday:

Black Sheep Supper Club Round #7 (G-Spot)

We have a triple aim with this project: to educate, to inspire, and to provide space in which activists can get to know each other. As always, we will be providing free vegetarian food (with vegan options) at all events. Help procuring, preparing & serving food is always appreciated, as is help cleaning up afterwards.

It is our great pleasure to be able to offer all of these workshops free of charge, although we welcome donations and may pass the hat. 100% of donations will go to the presenters. We are doing all of these events with zero budget.

Since this is for Montreal Counter-Info, we encourage folks to take this info and tuck it into the back of your minds. Abominable shit is always happening in Canada’s capital, and sometimes it makes sense for folks to travel here to express their rage and disgust. At such moments, connections with local organizers become invaluable, and now’s a good time for forward-thinking activists to start building those relationships. Remember, Trump still might come to Ottawa at some point, and if a state visit is announced, there might not be much time to mobilize.

There’s also the massive anti-abortion March For Life, scheduled for May 10th on Parliament Hill, which provides an opportunity to confront the reactionary forces of the patriarchy.

These potential mobilizations aside, it is just a good thing in general to densify the interconnectivity amongst those who want to fight for lives free from the state, capitalism, and oppression, so we encourage folks to travel to Ottawa to build bridges between our communities!

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The Hotwire #19: February 21, 2018

From CrimethInc.
Florida School Shooting & Gun Control—Koreatown Against ICE Raids—TN Antifascism

Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com.

Listen to the Episode


37
min

Summary

This episode is packed to the gills with news! There is antifa activity in Tennessee and folks in the Northwest continue to hold it down against the fascist creep. Solidarity for Afrin spreads and an inspiring model to fight ICE raids emerges out of Koreatown, Los Angeles. We offer some analysis about the school shooting in Parkland, FL and interview both an anarchist attending the student led rallies there and an anarchist author who’s written about gun control. There is a short update on the repression Florida prisoners are enduring due to Operation Push. Walter Bond is in need of support and we have some good news about accused confederate statue topplers in Durham, NC. To wrap things up, there are loads of upcoming events, so stay tuned until the end!

Notes and Links

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February's issue of Friendly Fire!

via The Friendly Fire collective

happy valentines day // huey p. newton's birthday // aquarius + pisces season

brought to u by friendly fire collective



it's our first issue of friendly fire! 

we have no idea what we're doing with this - but multiple people have asked us to put them on our mailing list or keep them updated on the work of our collective. so here we go!

who are we?

the Friendly Fire Collective is a loose network of anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist Christians. drawing from Marxist and anarchist political traditions, and grounded in the biblical vision of God’s Kin-dom, we believe we are called to create a new world in the ashes of the old.

what's the purpose of this newsletter?

to keep people updated on the work of our collective, promote projects we love and you'll love too, provide resources for radical Christians, and idk, have fun.

so while you're here...

our comrade and collective member Siang’ani Odera has been building up support the past year for Desirae Glatfelter, a 29-year-old Black woman survivor of domestic violence who is currently incarcerated at Kent County Jail in Michigan. she was convicted of aggravated domestic assault of her former partner who had previously abused and assaulted her. We encourage people to reach out to her and financially support her during this time. as Briana Urela-Ravelo wrote in this article in the Rapidian, “Glatfelter is more than just a survivor. She is a mother to three children, a home health aide, and has interest in going to school for cosmetology. She could use all the love and support she can get from the community.”

For those interested in writing to her:

https://www.accesskent.com/Sheriff/mail_phone.htm

To give to her commissary: https://www.accesscorrections.com/

also...

our comrades at the Street-Based Sex Worker Self Defense Fund in Philly need more pepper spray! they have been buying and distributing pepper spray to women working in Kensington's street economies since a time of increased violence against street-based sex workers. this was made possible with from online fundraisers. more pepper spray is needed, and the funds have run out. consider giving them some money on their youcaring page!


being in love under capitalism ☭

Being in love is good. Amazingly good. Shockingly good. But my partner deserves to be in love in a world where we can hang out for over an hour. Where we can cook together, have time to play Scrabble, even be bored together. I deserve it too. Capitalism frustrates and kills every part of life. And I'm over it, to say the least. I'm over working my ass off to barely pay off loans and rent. I hate feeling guilty for getting Chinese take out when there's not enough time to cook. I miss reading books. My free time is spent in bed. The weight of debt, the weight of bills, it sits on everything. On the best things. I'm tired. Still, I hold on, carried by a grace that makes me believe in a world where people, not held high by privilege, can be in love - with partners, friends, family - without the weight of capitalism. Where people can be fully human. People deserve it. You deserve it.

 


standing up against fascism

fascists are a thing. nazis are a thing. 2017 has taught us that all too well. here at Friendly Fire, we believe if Jesus was alive as a flesh-person on earth today, he'd be as antifa as they come. here are some opportunities to join antifa Jesus in fighting fascism!

FOR THOSE IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Milo Yiannopoulos (anti-Muslim fascist), Stefan Molyneuz (Mens rights fascist), Mike Cernovich (Mens rights fascist) will be in DC this week! Join DC Antica on February 24th at 5 PM to stand against the normalization of fascism. For more information: facebook/AntifaDC

FOR THOSE IN THE MIDWEST

there is a call for a mass mobilization of organizers and antifascists in East Lansing, Michigan. on March 5th, Richard Spencer will be giving a talk on Michigan State University's campus. hundreds of Nazis will be busing in from an Alt-Right conference in Detroit (which will be occurring March 4th). for more info on the Lansing mobilization: https://www.facebook.com/StopSpencerMSU/

& for more info on protests against the Alt-Right conference in Detroit: https://www.facebook.com/events/211065949470808/

Flyer up your campus or church!

Get the word out that the Christian Left is becoming a thing, and we're getting down and dirty on May 1st!

Make your own flyers - or we can send some your way.

You can email us at friendlyfireinfo@protonmail.com!

xoxo, 

the may day retreat

planning committee

❤☭ ❤☭ ❤☭ ❤

☭ ❤☭ ❤☭ ❤☭

p.s. billy graham was an anti-semite

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Ursula Le Guin and Utopia

From Anarchist Writers by anarcho

It is with great sadness that I write this for one of my favourite writers, Ursula Le Guin, had died. The New York Times called her “America’s greatest living science fiction writers” in 2016 but that does not really do her work justice: she was one of the world’s greatest writers. It is just that she worked mostly in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre. And like a few others – Michael Moorcock and Alan Moore spring to mind – also contributed to popularising anarchism outside political circles. Her SF novel The Dispossessed (1974) is still by far the best account of an anarchist society, warts and all!

She was a great writer, one of the best ever. Needless to say, she was my favourite SF writer. Her alien worlds were, well, alien. Her characters, actual people and not cyphers. Her message, humane, egalitarian, libertarian, feminist. She died on January 22, so I hope she saw the women’s marches across the world for as she put it in the 1980s:

“When women speak truly they speak subversively — they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want – to hear you erupting. You young Mount St Helenses who don’t know the power in you – I want to hear you.”

Her parents were anthologists, and you can tell. Far too much of SF (and Fantasy) is just middle-class, middle-aged, white, 20th century American male (who has read or watched too many Westerns) projected into space (or into a cod-Middle Ages). The lack of thought about culture is made up for by some fancy hardware and battles against a thinly-veiled stand-in for “communism” (i.e., Stalinism). The “harder” the SF, the more banal it appears to be. Not Le Guin. Her cultures reflect thought, an awareness that the norms of the current patriarchal, racist, class society are not the only ones. Humanity has provided a diverse range of cultures across time and space, if having an imagination is too much hard work. Much of SF – particularly in its so-called “golden era” – is not particularly imaginative. Again, not Le Guin – her works are imaginative in terms of “alien” cultures.

They were also subversive of the typical reader’s assumptions – the hero of the Earthsea series is dark-skinned, the main baddies white (and she publically lamented when the TV adaption turned that around). The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) addressed gender, by means of a world were humans were genderless except for a week every month during which they could become male or female. Her The Word for World is Forest (1976) exposed the horrors of imperialism long before Avatar trod a similar path in 3D: but no white, male saviour for the – short, furry and green – natives in the Hainish universe, they freed themselves.

She wrote so many books, short stories, articles, that it would be impossible to cover everything. So instead I will make a few comments about The Dispossessed for it is that work – and the related short-story The Day Before the Revolution (1974) – that she has a special place in anarchist hearts.

First, I must note something written on the Guardian webpage after her death. It was an article on what you should read if you had not heard of her before:

“But the physicist Shevek, who is working on a method of interstellar communication called the Principle of Simultaneity, is becoming disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy of Anarres and travels to Urras to find more freedom.”

Do people even bother to read the books they summarise? This is a travesty of the book’s plot and point. Shevek was not “disillusioned with the anarchist philosophy,” he was seeking to make Anarres live up to its anarchist philosophy! He spends a lot of his time on Urras advocating anarchism – if I remember correctly, it is even noted that he was surprised that they allowed him to do so at the Urras equivalent of the United Nations (because his speech is not reported in depth in the popular newspapers). He even compares his academic life to his live in Anarres, considering the academic environment the closest to what he is used to back home – discussion between equals.

And he travels to Urras as part of his struggle to help break the crystallised structures on Anarres – which saw the decision to decline communication with anarchists on Urrras! He did not travel to Urras to “fine more freedom” – he was well aware of the hierarchical nature of the system and experienced it first-hand. He even escapes his “freedom” at the university to join a mass anti-war protest… and he goes back to Anarres to continue to apply his anarchism to the crystallised libertarian society he seeks to bring back to its ideal.

Second, an older comment but one which shares the same apparent unwillingness to understand the book and its message. The SF writer Ken MacLeod, who you would think should know better. I was somewhat surprised to read him proclaim the following:

“It is the absence of political debate, as much as the absence of privacy and the relentless presence of morality, that makes the communism of Anarres, in Ursula Le Guin’s anarchist classic The Dispossessed (1974), so oppressive. When her hero Shevek finds himself in conflict with aspects of his society he has no forum in which to express it, no way to find like-minded individuals with whom he might find common ground; instead, his conflicts become conflicts with other individuals. He is as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state.” (“Politics and science fiction,” The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 230)

I must say that it makes a change for a (ex-?) Marxist to proclaim Anarchism would produce a society which would crush individuality under collective pressure – the usual charge is that we are just extreme liberals whose advocacy of “individualism” would make all forms of organisation and community impossible (Max Stirner is usually invoked, in spite of him having no impact on Anarchism until the 1890s). So it would be tempting to ignore this but the argument that social pressure can be oppressive is stronger and so worth discussing – particularly as many anarchists have argued the same thing and indicated how to combat it.

In terms of “absence of privacy,” The Dispossessed makes clear that people have as much privacy as they like – the environmental limitations of a desert moon pushing towards a more communal set-up. Kropotkin would not have liked the predominant system that much – being on record as opposing hotel-like communes in favour of personal homes – but the possibility of personal/family rooms was there and taken up. As for “the relentless presence of morality,” any society – apart from the most atomised – will have some general set of social standards. On Anarres, these social standards allow quite a range of self-expression – no sexism, homophobia, etc. However, the negative impact of social pressure is one of the book’s concerns – and one which anarchist thinkers have raised.

I’m not sure what MacLeod means in terms “the absence of political debate” as The Dispossessed recounts disagreement on Anarres repeatedly: “in the PDC debates in Abbenay” with its “fierce protests” about supplying Urras with raw materials (83); “Anybody can attend any PDC meeting, and if he’s an interested syndic, he can debate and vote!” (144); Shevek bringing up sending letters to Urras “at the Physics Federation” (137); the discussion on receiving people from, and sending to, Urras. (291-7). In the latter discussion it is noted that radio contact was disapproved being “[a]gainst the recommendation of this council, and the Deference Federative, and a majority vote of the List” as well the “increasing protests from the entire Brotherhood.” (291, 293)

Indeed, much of what MacLeod calls “the relentless presence of morality” is, in fact, political debate – particularly in relation to the “personal is political” and so how best to apply libertarian principles in everyday live. Which includes working with other people in syndicates, communities and federations. He seems to forget that organisations are made up of other individuals – and as the book make clear, Shevek and his comrades (like others) come into conflict with them in institutional settings, in syndicate and federative meetings by means of debates and… votes!

What of no possibility of finding “like minded individuals with whom he might find common ground”? MacLeod seems to have forgotten that Shevek and his colleagues form their own group (“the Syndicate of Initiative”) – as can any Anarres inhabitant – and use the resources of their society – as can any Anarres inhabitant – for their own ends. All of which is an expression of free communism – based as it is on individual initiative, free association and use rights to society’s resources.

So we have “political debate” (both between individuals, within groups and across society), we have “like-minded people” coming together to fight the institutional and societal problems developing within libertarian communism – a far cry from MacLeod’s claims.

How a society described as being so rich in associational life can dismissed as resulting in someone being “as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state” is lost on me. To place this in the context of the book, on Urras which is a hierarchical society marked by class and patriarchy, Shevek’s room is bugged while a mass protest meeting he speaks at – after escaping from his surveillance – is fired upon by government troops, killing untold numbers, and afterwards State repression sees protesters being rounded up (imprisoned, if not shot).

Is Anarres perfect? No, that is the point of the book – it has evolved into a quasi-bureaucratic system (due to routine administration) based on majority rule (via societal pressure). Yet Shevek and his comrades are able to rebel against these pressures using the principles the society was formed on – nor are they actually stopped from doing so (the little mob which forms to stop Shevek’s departure to Urras is ineffectual as well as being obviously spontaneously formed). They are subject to social pressure, disapproval by many others, but they are not – unlike on Urras – shot down or imprisoned for their activities after the appropriate “political debate.”

I should also note that Shevek and his comrades’ activities are part and parcel of libertarian communism and not somehow against it. As Le Guin makes clear:

“from the start, the Settlers were aware that that unavoidable centralisation [i.e., a town where most of the headquarters of the federations and syndicates were based] was a lasting threat, to be countered by lasting vigilance.” (86)

The “syndicate of initiative” is part of this process of “lasting vigilance” – the problem being on Anarres that this vigilance has withered away by becoming crystallised (to use Kropotkin’s term). Indeed, in Mutual Aid elsewhere indicated that this was a recurring problem during society’s evolution – and an anarchist society would also face this danger.

All of which makes you wonder what makes Anarres “so oppressive”? Comparing it to actual totalitarian states shows the stupidity of MacLeod’s assertions. The worse example given in the book is of an artist driven insane by social pressure and its ramifications – which is one of the factors which drive the creation of the “syndicate of initiative.” Which must be placed in the context of the high levels of mental illness within hierarchical systems as well as how often people are driven mad as a result of repressive policies decided upon by the “political debates” within Statist systems.

Of course, I am now comparing a work of fiction with actual social systems – but Le Guin’s book makes you do that because it is quite a realistic utopia, populated by people rather than political cyphers. Ultimately, for all its flaws, Shevek still defends Anarres and its principles on Urras and sees its obvious freedoms compared to that hierarchical regime. He returns to Anarres to participate in the growing movement seeking to eliminate the unhealthy developments within libertarian communism. Again, all very much in line with Kropotkin’s comments in the “Conclusion” of Mutual Aid:

“It will probably be remarked that mutual aid, even though it may represent one of the factors of evolution, covers nevertheless one aspect only of human relations; that by the side of this current, powerful though it may be, there is, and always has been, the other current – the self-assertion of the individual, not only in its efforts to attain personal or caste superiority, economical, political, and spiritual, but also in its much more important although less evident function of breaking through the bonds, always prone to become crystallised, which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State impose upon the individual. In other words, there is the self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element.”

So MacLeod’s summary of Le Guin’s work leaves a lot to be desired – indeed, everything he lists as making Shevek “as isolated as any dissident in a totalitarian state” is simply not supported by the book. Can there be conflict between community and individual autonomy? Yes and here MacLeod is on stronger ground but he is simply covering ground raised by others, as he notes:

“Orwell’s interest in, and aptitude for, politics as a practical art were negligible, but his interest in, and imaginative grasp of, the implications of political philosophies were deep. What he said in a sentence about the potentially repressive underside of the anarchist ideal summarizes most of the message of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.” (231)

Since MacLeod mentions Orwell, I would think it is sufficient to ask the question whether Shevek on Anarres is “as isolated” as Winston Smith in Oceania to show the weakness of MacLeod’s position.

Yet anyone familiar with anarchist thought would be aware that anarchists have also been aware of this danger. Indeed, an awareness of the authoritarian aspects of utopian socialism and their “ideal” communities has always driven anarchism, not to mention the similar – if not totalitarian – possibilities of State socialism.

Proudhon made the same point – against what he termed “Community” and which is usually translated as “Communism.” This was why he stressed that while ownership should be undivided, use had to be divided (see my “Proudhon, Property and Possession,” ASR 66). Although, I should note, Proudhon was addressing libertarian communism by their comments as that did not exist then. Similarly, communist-anarchists like Kropotkin were aware of this danger (indeed, Kropotkin said Proudhon was right to attack what was called communism in his day). More, anarchist-communists recognised the validity of these critiques and created a new, libertarian, communism which addressed these issues as well as building in mechanisms to reduce tendencies towards them in anarcho-communism – for example, Kropotkin discusses its possible impact on individuality in Modern Science and Anarchy, in the second section entitled “Communism and Anarchy” (first published in France in 1913, it is finally out in English translation later this year by AK Press).

So let me be clear what we are talking about – not social pressure and intervention to stop actual anti-social acts (that is, stopping those who do actual harm to others) but rather social pressure against activities some others think of as somehow wrong but which harm no one. The actions of nosy-parkers, busy-bodies, gossips and such like – plus general social disapproval, particularly of those with avant-guard notions and who express them in action.

This can be – has been, in many a small community – a problem. Yes, it can mean no anti-social behaviour but it can also be suffocating. So that is the germ of truth in this objection. However, as section I.5.6 of An Anarchist FAQ argues, it is overblown. Particularly in a society which does not have hierarchical relations in production and elsewhere – where most people spend the bulk of their time and so shapes them most (excluding authoritarian education, which trains children to be bored and follow orders in preparation for their time in work).

But, yes, there is a danger – but as with those who take anarchism and conclude, wrongly, an opposition to organisation as such, the alternative is worse. For while even the best libertarian organisation can become bureaucratic, no organisation at all would make life impossible. Similarly, public pressure does not disappear with laws and authorities – it gets bolstered by them.

Take the racism of the Southern States of America, well, that became a national issue after the decentralised self-organisation and direct action of the oppressed and their allies in those areas and the violent State or State-backed repression against them could no longer be ignored. And it was an example of centralised political power backing oppressive social customs within the former slave States. Needless to say, we would expect external solidarity to happen in a libertarian society if such a development arose (presumably, in areas within which the social revolution had not taken place or been crushed).

This is the case with any societal progress you care to think of – civil rights, feminism, the labour movement. They all start with a minority pushing at what is considered “normal” and increasing freedom by flaunting convention – that is, by direct action. Progress has never been the gift of authority – it has always been won. And the majority finally shift – but adding the State to the mix hardly makes those struggles easier. It only makes rolling those victories back easier – just look at the Trump regime, where State power is being used to do precisely that.

All in all, if oppressive social pressure is an issue in an Anarchy – and it can be – adding political (and/or economic) power does not make it disappear, quite the reverse. Does the customary rather than political nature of the pressure increase the totalitarian tendencies as Orwell suggests? Doubtful…

Anarchist theory recognises the key role minorities play in social change. Kropotkin stressed it (see “Revolutionary Minorities” in Words of a Rebel), as did Emma Goldman (in “Minorities versus Majorities,” in Anarchism and Other Essays) – and it is obvious. Oscar Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism being a must read in this regard. As Kropotkin put it in Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Ideal:

“Well, then, those who will work to break up these superannuated tactics, those who will know how to rouse the spirit of initiative in individuals and in groups, those who will be able to create in their mutual relations a movement and a life based on the principles of free understanding—those that will understand that variety, conflict even, is life, and that uniformity is death”

Shevek’s odyssey is an example of this, of (to re-quote Mutual Aid) “the self-assertion of the individual taken as a progressive element” against the “the bonds, always prone to become crystallised, which the tribe, the village community, the city, and the State impose upon the individual” – or the self-managed associations of a free society. The “syndicate of initiative” is an expression of this minority within the libertarian communist society of Anarres. Progress will remain a product of the interaction of the few and the many, but without the vested interests associated with various social, economic and political hierarchies – and the coercive forces they can call upon in a non-anarchist society.

So where does this get us? That Anarchy is not perfect, but we knew that. Like any social system it will have its problems, its contradictions, its areas in need of work – but, then, we have usually claimed Anarchy will simply be better than the current system rather than perfect. It will be created by and made up of people, people who will be more rounded and better developed than under hierarchy but still flawed. This awareness is why, unlike Marxists, we have always built into our systems safeguards against irremovable imperfections – safeguards such as federalism, election, mandates, recall, socialisation, etc. In short, there will always be arseholes – anarchists just think giving arseholes power over others is not a wise idea.

Sure, in self-management you may often be in a minority – but to see your ideas always be implemented means to either have no groups at all (an impossibility) or be a dictator (or owner, the terms are synonymous as Proudhon noted in 1840). Ironically, the more abstractly individualist a theory is, the more likely it will produce authoritarian rather than libertarian social relationships – as shown by Lockean ideologies (like propertarianism). So not getting your way all the time, ironically, ensures freedom – both yours and others. More, at least in libertarian socialism (unlike capitalism) you will have the resources available to form new associations if you feel that your current ones are ignoring you and your ideas – as is constantly mentioned in The Dispossessed and “the syndicate of initiative” does.

This is not to deny the negative aspects of social pressure – but anarchists are aware of it and build an awareness of this into their ideas. I’ve quoted Kropotkin already on the need for conflict, for variety. I’ve also quoted him on the need for individual self-assertion against crystallised social institutions. So, yes, Orwell makes a valid point – but exaggerates it. As does MacLeod with his misreading of The Dispossessed – which is full of discussion, disagreement, debate. Both fail to mention that anarchism is aware of the problem and has sought solutions – and Le Guin’s book expresses them!

Ultimately, Shevek remains an anarchist, argues for anarchism on Urras and returns to Anarres – for good reasons, as the book makes clear. I cannot envision Winston Smith doing likewise on Airstrip One – or wishing he faced the Thought Police rather than the disapproval of some of his neighbours…

Le Guin, in short, produced a very astute book on anarchism, one aware of the problems and also aware that anarchists had predicted said problems and shown means of solving them. It is a classic – and I gain something new every time I read it. It deserves better than MacLeod’s summary – particularly as those comments are refuted by the book itself, as I have indicated.

Third, MacLeod was friends with the late, great Iain Banks. I should say a few words about their respective “utopias.” The difference is stark – the culture is, to coin a phrase, a Post-Scarcity Anarchism (another classic you should read) while Anarres is very much a “scarcity” anarchism (although the standard of living is high, it is limited by the ecology of the desert moon the anarchists settled 170 years before). Which makes The Dispossessed a far more realistic work. Banks postulates a level of technology which is, basically, magic and so he magics away all the issues any real anarchist society would face. The Culture manages with super-intelligent computers and hyper-advanced technology – but if your system is dependent upon advanced technology (or impossible assumptions) then it best avoided (an economy needs to work if the computers crash!).

Anarres, however, manages it with the technologies of the 20th century – or slightly advanced versions – which makes it more relevant and appealing, in spite of its desert moon setting and the impact that has on the libertarian communist society depicted. Sure, Le Guin did magic – in her Earthsea books! Anarres presents a society which you could see working today, not hundreds of years in the future.

So it is hardly a utopia in this sense, unlike the Culture. In terms of its social organisation, again it is based on federations of syndicates and communities. Again, hardly utopian. Also, the people are people who seem aware of the need to treat others as they would like to be treated themselves. It hardly staggers belief that people brought up with enough to eat, taught to think rather than repeat, treated as people and not resources, would generalise what is now considered the best of us. Its flaws are equally believable – an informal bureaucracy has started to develop and co-operation has started to become conformity.

Shevek and his comrades see the problem and work on a solution which is straight out of anarchist theory. This is because anarchists are aware that people are imperfect and any society we create will be imperfect. We are well aware that even the best society will have flaws and need work. The struggle for freedom does not end with a successful revolution – things crystallise and it needs active minorities to shatter them in a progressive manner.

Is anarchism utopian? No – for its does not postulate anything unbelievable or impossible about humans or social life. It does not seek perfection, just better (which would not be hard!). The people who are utopian are those who criticise anarchism – incorrectly, as it happens – for believing in the natural goodness of people rather than recognising that people are bad and who then turn around and say that a few of these bad people should be given power over the rest. So people will abuse freedom but not power… such is the position of “realistic” people!

So The Dispossessed does not contradict communist-anarchism nor undermine it. Those who claim otherwise should read more communist-anarchist thinkers. As Le Guin did – and it shows. The book is a classic – of both SF and anarchist thought.

All of which shows the power and importance of Le Guin’s work. Her works are full of people and address real issues, like the best SF work it is about now rather than the future. She will be missed – but her writings will endure.

 

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About Author Aaron J. Berg



Aaron J. Berg is the creator of Reality UnKnown, host of the Reality UnKnown podcast, and blogger at RealityUnKnown.com. He started blogging and speaking against the system back in 2009. Now he blogs, podcasts, and produces video content for your benefit.

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