Listen to the Episode — 75 min
Alanis: The Ex Worker;
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world;
Alanis: A monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action;
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock.
Alanis: Welcome back to another episode of the Ex-Worker! You may not realize it - I mean, they’re keeping it pretty quiet around here - but there’s actually a presidential election coming up. And as anarchists, we have lots of feelings about it. We’ll give you our take on the 2016 elections, along with a recent text from the CrimethInc. blog called “After the Election, the Reaction.”
Clara: We’re skipping both the Hot Wire and Next Week’s News this time around in hopes of getting this episode out ASAP. But we’ve also got lots and lots of listener feedback to discuss. In particular, we’ll share updates on the escalating conflict between the Turkish state and the forces of Rojava, including historical background and discussions of militarism and tactics; we’ll respond to a listener’s question about ways to actively participate in resistance with less legal risk; and we’ll take on some thorny questions about the meaning of solidarity. Not only that, but we’ve got a Chopping Block review of a novel by the Italian autonomist Nanni Balestrini, plus prisoner birthdays, an CrimethInc. announcement, and more.
Alanis: Plenty for you to listen to on your way to the polls. This is Alanis…
Clara: And this is Clara, and we’ll be your hosts. As usual, check out our website at crimethinc.com/podcast for a full transcript of everything we say in this episode along with lots of links and references for more information.
Alanis: And be sure to hit us up via email to podcast at crimethinc dot com with feedback, suggestions, criticisms, or updates.
Clara: Shall we get started?
THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Clara: Welcome, welcome, everyone, to the Ex-Voter’s 2016 Election Guide! We’re glad that you’ve tuned in, because we know you’ve been anxiously waiting on the edge of your seats to hear who we’re going to endorse in this year’s election. Trump, as the new spokesperson for the anti-globalization movement that made us into anarchists years ago? Clinton, because… ya know, feminism and stuff? Or maybe Gary Johnson, because “libertarian” in most languages actually means anarchist? Or Jill Stein, because she advertises her campaign T-shirts with the tagline “Wear the Revolution”? Or Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber, who is thus far the only presidential candidate to have been endorsed by CrimethInc?
Alanis: When was that?
Clara: Anyway… whooooo’s it gonna be? Drum roll, please…
Uh, OK, you can turn it off now. The answer is: no one.
Alanis: Yep, we’re still anarchists. Even if Bernie fucking Sanders had won the Democratic nomination, we’d still be right here. As anarchists our positions on the elections haven’t really changed much since the hippie clowns of the Woodstock era:
Wavy Gravy: Let’s hear it for Nobody! Nobody for president! C’mon, let me hear ya! Because Nobody’s been with us a long time. As I explained to the Native Americans, I empathize with their cause, but Nobody was here first. In fact, I know Nobody keeps all campaign promises, in fact I even know Nobody is in Washington right now working for me. I firmly believe that Nobody should have that much power. I want Nobody to run my life. Nobody bakes apple pie better than Mom… and you know, you can just go on and on, endlessly, for Nobody.
Clara: Endlessly.. for nobody. That about sums it up. At some point that used to make me laugh, but today, farce has cycled back into tragedy; as Morrissey says, that joke isn’t funny any more. Especially the line about the Native Americans, given how riot police as we speak are attacking folks occupying the Dakota Access Pipeline to the deafening silence of the political class. It’s pretty hard to overemphasize the degree of disdain and disgust permeating the United States right now about any and all things political. This is nothing new, but having lived through a few cycles of unenthusiasm and disillusionment at this point, I think it’s safe to say that this is a new low. In an atmosphere like this, it’s extremely tempting to succumb to the kind of thinking exemplified by one of my favorite political pundits:
George Carlin: There’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says, they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky; they don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents, and American families, American homes, American churches, American businesses, and American universities, and they’re elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do, folks. This is what we have to offer; it’s what our system produces. Garbage in, garbage out. If you have selfish, ignorant citizens, you’re gonna get selfish, ignorant leaders. The term limits ain’t gonna do you any good; you’re just gonna wind up with a new bunch of selfish, ignorant Americans. So maybe, maybe, maybe it’s not the politicians who suck. Maybe something else sucks around here, like… the public. Yeah, the public sucks. There’s a nice campaign slogan for somebody: “The public sucks, fuck hope.” Fuck hope.
Clara: Now that still makes me smile a grim smile. But that’s not enough, either. Self-righteous contempt for the average American is certainly trending right now, not just among smug liberals and radicals but among right-wingers and conspiracy nuts who condemn the “sheeple,” not to mention nearly everyone in most countries outside the United States looking it at this horrifying spectacle from the outside… if there is an outside. Contempt for the selfish, ignorant masses is actually a pretty populist position right now. Both major candidates have adopted and twisted rhetoric from radical social movements to further their ends, regardless of how distant their actual behavior or proposed policies stray from them. Meanwhile, the third party contenders are trying to hammer away at the obvious hypocrisy of the main contenders to collect the electoral scraps left in the wake of mass disillusionment. For anarchists, listening to their speeches is like looking in a shattered mirror, seeing elements of ourselves but appropriated, fragmented, and twisted almost beyond recognition. The challenge is to figure out ways to articulate the alienation and discontent that we share with those drawn in by one candidate or the other’s rhetoric, but formulated in language and in political tactics that subvert the logic of democracy and representation.
Alanis: So we want to share a piece that recently appeared on crimethinc.com that explores some of these themes, called After the Election, the Reaction. Check it out.
AFTER THE ELECTION, THE REACTION
Clara: Could there be any better illustration of the shortcomings of representative democracy than this year’s Presidential campaign? For months upon tiresome months, the whole world has cringed as US voters struggled to identify the second worst of all possible evils. As anarchists who believe in bona fide self-determination, we have critiqued and mobilized against the reduction of freedom to electoral politics in every Presidential race since 1996. This time, it just seemed redundant.
But the 2016 election is practically over. What’s coming next is worse.
Alanis: Trump le Monde
Clara: The final Presidential debate of 2016 was a gala event in Las Vegas pitting a reality TV star against the latest representative of a political dynasty. It was set up as a symbolic clash between business and politics, with the roles cast so convincingly that it was really possible to imagine the two categories to be at odds. The antagonism of the candidates was still more believable because everyone shares it: these are the most unpopular Presidential candidates in history, at a time when both business and politics have lost their credibility. But these are our choices—right?
Fox News Anchor: Just remember, you are not a participant here…
Clara: …the Fox News anchor reminded us.
Fox News Anchor: At the end of the debate, you can applaud all you want, but in the meantime, silence, please—blessed silence.
Clara: A cursory reading of Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle is enough to decipher this scene. Trump is the harbinger of the apocalypse, yes, but the apocalypse is not on the horizon. It’s here.
Public Enemy: Armageddon? It been in effect. Go get a late pass!
Clara: The Trump threat serves to distract us from what is already happening.
Hillary Clinton: You’re right, I don’t want to rip families apart…
Clara: …Clinton insists, in reference to immigration policy, when the administration she serves under Obama has deported over 2.5 million people—as many as all the US presidents of the 20th century put together. Mothers of the Movement promote Clinton as the candidate to curb racist policing—when police murders of black and brown people have only escalated since she got into office, and the most liberal politicians and prosecutors have failed to challenge the impunity of the police. Trump is dubbed the first demagogue of the Anthropocene—but does any candidate in the election have a realistic proposal to halt catastrophic climate change?
The same good cop/bad cop routine is playing out all around the globe. Explicitly leftist parties like Syriza in Greece and Brazil’s Workers Party have implemented the same policies they accused their right-wing counterparts of pursuing. Today, the only remaining justification for continuing to support Syriza, the Workers Party, or Clinton goes something like this: “If the left doesn’t screw us, the right will!” If the left doesn’t privatize water—if the left doesn’t militarize the police—if the left doesn’t expand the prison-industrial complex…
This strategy has served to cover a steady bipartisan drift to the right for at least half a century. If Clinton now has a shot of winning even Texas, that just shows how Republican her platform is.
There’s a flip side to this, too: if the left doesn’t rise in revolt, the right will. Outraged at the prevailing political class, Donald Trump’s constituency seems primed to reject the legitimacy of the electoral process. Mind you, they’re not calling for a black bloc at the inauguration or marching around with a banner reading “WHOEVER THEY VOTE FOR, WE ARE UNGOVERNABLE” yet, but if things continue in this direction, renegade Republicans will be understood as the chief adversaries of the ruling order.
Roger Stone: If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate—we will have a constitutional crisis, we’ll have widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government… Their inauguration will be a rhetorical, and - I mean civil disobedience, not violence - it will be a bloodbath.
Alanis: Actually, that’s not really that different from calling for a black bloc at the inauguration, at all.
Clara: Fair enough.
Alanis: Anyway, let’s continue.
The Price of Defeat
Clara: When revolutionary movements fail, reactionaries adapt their tactical and rhetorical innovations. This should come as no surprise: practically every aspect of our lives, from the buildings we live in to the music we listen to, represents the appropriation of ordinary people’s efforts and innovations.
The social movements of 2011—the Arab Spring, the movement of the squares in Spain and Greece, Occupy, and subsequent uprisings from the Balkans to Hong Kong—ran aground as a consequence of violent state repression and their own built-in limits before they could pose a significant threat to globalized capitalism and the governments that oversee it. Since the end of 2013, we’ve seen right-wing efforts seizing the initiative where these movements failed, reframing the causes of popular suffering and the objectives of revolt in their own terms.
First, nationalists and fascists used the Occupy model to topple the Ukrainian government. Then, in Brazil, some of the momentum of an autonomist movement against a neoliberal leftist government carried over into reactionary unrest that brought millions to the streets. Rather than a left social movement like Occupy, Germany produced PEGIDA. Meanwhile, racists around Europe attempted to appropriate feminist themes to smear migrants and Muslims. Others are doing the same thing with gay rights - alt-right wonder boy Milo Yiannopoulos being a prime example - while atheist discourse has become a breeding ground for Islamophobia. Nationalists are hailing the Brexit vote as a triumph of direct democracy, with German and Dutch far-right parties promising regular referendums as a plank in their platforms.
This trend reached the United States with the runaway candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump’s campaign appropriated the language of the anti-globalization movement, right down to the rhetoric of “fair trade” rather than “free trade” and the allegation that a global financial elite is benefitting at the expense of working people.
It is instructive that the narratives of a movement founded by radicals and anarchists could serve a nationalist billionaire in his Presidential bid: at the least, it reveals the ways that those narratives were vulnerable to cooptation all along. Indeed, there has long been a far-right opposition to globalized capitalism, which Trump embraced more and more openly as his campaign proceeded. Fascism was originally modeled on left-wing movements: it was a way to channel rightful indignation about class inequalities into violence directed down the social hierarchy, rather than revolt that could threaten it. As in the 1920s, so today: the price of revolutionary failure is reactionary momentum.
Alanis: The Reaction to Come
Clara: Clinton protests too much when she claims that Trump is besmirching the legacy of democracy in the United States by threatening to reject the results of the upcoming election. Didn’t the US actively orchestrate coups to overthrow democratically elected governments in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Iran, and the Congo, to name a few? The interplay between elections and states of exception in which ordinary political processes are suspended has always been central to democratic governance. It’s the exception that proves the rule.
In any case, Trump is not going to lead an insurrection. He’s more of a weathervane than a whirlwind; his genius, such as it is, consists of giving all the other bigoted narcissists in Middle America someone to identify with. He doesn’t have what it takes to seize power.
So Clinton will be President. And then what?
This is not a good time to stand at the helm of the state. It didn’t work out for Muhammad Morsi in Egypt or most of the other politicians who came to power in the revolutions of 2011. In Greece, Syriza was exalted throughout Europe when they won the elections of 2015, but they burned up all their credibility as soon as they took the reins. Only apathy, despair, and the threat of even worse rulers—like Trump—currently shore up the positions of unpopular leaders like Clinton.
In a nutshell, the double bind facing governments in globalized capitalism is that open markets and austerity measures accelerate the processes by which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, but closed markets and state spending drive away investors and drain resources. Consequently, people tend to blame individual governments for economic woes that state structures can do precious little to solve. In this context, the election cycle will likely produce alternating waves of hope and disillusionment as long as the anarchist proposal to abolish government and property remains unthinkable.
But if this is a bad time to hold power, it is a great time to be in the opposition. For a burgeoning far right nationalist movement, a Clinton presidency is good fortune: that’s four more years of the liberal left taking the heat for whatever happens, four more years during which the far right can claim to have a political program that would work if only they could implement it. After the initial post-election disappointment dissipates, this will be an ideal context for far-right recruiting.
Clinton looks unstoppable now, but that will change once Trump is out of the picture. Who knows what other scandals have yet to break? The next wave of right-wing momentum is bound to look rational and well mannered by comparison with Donald Trump; while he has brought scorn on himself, his strong personality has offered cover for others who share his agenda. The next demagogues will have no trouble proclaiming all manner of reactionary ideas, because Trump has shifted the window of legitimate political discourse so far. Right-wing strategists are doubtless discussing how to cast a slightly wider net; if they have any sense, they will shift from old-fashioned white supremacist narratives towards a nationalist discourse of law and order that could mobilize a large number of people even in a demographically diverse US. And although Trump isn’t prepared to orchestrate an uprising, he certainly has helped set the stage for autonomous nationalist movements to come.
If all these pieces fall into place, then when Clinton inevitably fails to solve the problems that originally drove people to support Trump and Sanders, the far right will be in a much stronger position to build street-level power and perhaps even make a grab for the state.
Alanis: I don’t know… that seems doubtful.
Clara: Don’t believe it? Consider what happened to Dilma Rousseff and the Workers Party in Brazil.
Rousseff rode to office in 2011 on the coattails of President Lula, one of the most popular politicians in Brazilian history—a left icon who spent his time in office advancing a neoliberal agenda, taking advantage of an influx of investment dollars to dampen the immediate consequences on poor Brazilians. Powerful autonomous protest movements erupted against Rousseff and the Workers Party in 2013, drawing mass participation and achieving some temporary victories. See Episodes 7 and 25 for more coverage of those.) At the peak of these movements, many people with no previous protest experience or radical politics poured into them; when the Brazilian government outmaneuvered the autonomists by the usual combination of state repression and cooptation, many of these new participants moved on to right-wing mobilizations.
Like countless politicians, Rousseff was vulnerable to charges of corruption. At first, the right-wing populist movement calling for her impeachment—and in some cases for the return of the military dictatorship—seemed laughable enough, as reactionaries from the middle class clumsily attempted to appropriate the organizational methods and tactics of the autonomous movements. Then the movement gained momentum in the streets, plunging Brazil into massive right-on-left violence. In the end, Rousseff was impeached. Today, Brazil’s government is controlled by the right wing.
For those who consider horizontal grassroots efforts the best hope for social change, the most dismaying part of this story is that the autonomous movements that seemed so strong in Brazil in 2013 have been completely marginalized. The participants have been forced to choose between sitting on the sidelines or mobilizing behind the Workers Party they opposed three years ago.
To recap: a controversial female candidate inherits the Presidency from a popular left leader amid charges of corruption, as reactionary momentum gains steam in the wake of defeated autonomous movements. Sound familiar?
In the context of a Clinton victory, the most significant danger is that the entire political spectrum will be divided up between a statist neoliberal left and an opportunistically anti-government nationalist right. Each of these adversaries needs the other; each will seek to absorb those who fall outside this dichotomy or else push them into the opposing camp.
If we don’t want to be marginalized the way our comrades in Brazil have been, we have to debunk the idea that either nationalism or the state could solve any of our problems, and organize to take on both the authorities and their reactionary opposition. This means breaking with the narratives of the left as well as the right. Otherwise, as the Clinton administration inevitably fails to resolve the economic crises of everyday life, more and more ordinary people will run into the arms of the reactionaries—and as these reactionary movements gain steam, the people who should be our comrades will respond in ways that shore up neoliberal democracy. There has to be another way.
If it becomes impossible to talk about how the system is rigged or how the corporate media is implicated without advancing the discourse of the far-right—if NSA surveillance, drones, international finance, corporate profiteering, and the subtle control exercised by social media algorithms become understood as right-wing issues—then all prospects of real liberation will be off the table for another generation or more. Today, even Wikileaks is bolstering right-wing narratives; grassroots outrage is assuming the form of reactionary populism. Anarchists and other partisans of liberation will be sidelined by the popular appropriation of our own tactics and slogans unless we get our bearings quickly.
We have our work cut out for us.
WRAP-UP AND CRIMETHINC. ANNOUNCEMENT
Alanis: In the coming episodes we’ll be discussing this article, along with our reactions to the election and the steps ahead for anarchists…
Clara: Like, should we call for a black bloc at the inauguration of Hillary Clinton?
Alanis: Among many other questions. So be sure to let us know what you thought. Keep the conversation going by email to podcast at crimethinc dot com.
Clara: And one other thing to keep on your radar: some big changes are coming for CrimethInc. In the coming months the broader CrimethInc. Ex-Worker’s Collective will be releasing not one but two new book projects and a new poster, as well as announcing the launch of a new website with an online campaign to support it. We’ll be releasing a lot more details and info soon, which of course we’ll announce on the podcast; you can also keep an eye on crimethinc.com for updates. More than this I cannot disclose right now… but it’s gonna be really exciting.
Alanis: All right! We have a ton of listener feedback that we want to address in this episode, so we’re gonna launch right in. One listener wrote in with a very practical question:
Clara: Hello to you radical people of the CrimethInc. collective. I am an avid fan of your podcast and as a result have become an anarchist and I thank you. However, I request assistance: could you give me ideas for some non-violent, less illegal ways of resistance? Since I am a teenage person of color, I want to avoid illegal activities that could warrant police attention due to the police and young black men not mixing well lately.
Your friend in Anarchy, Afro Marx
Alanis: Well, thanks for writing in, Afro Marx! That’s totally awesome to hear that you’ve become an anarchist, and we’re glad we could help play a role in that. And we totally hear you about the need to keep yourself safe, given the murderous racist nightmare of US policing. Fortunately, even if we tend to emphasize illegal or confrontational forms of resistance, riots and sabotage and occupations and such are only the tip of a really large iceberg. Most of what we do on a daily basis to support cultures of resistance isn’t technically illegal and wouldn’t be labeled violent (though we reject the entire logic of dividing up action into violent versus non-violent; that’s a distinction that only helps our enemies). The point is, there are tons of things you can do or get involved with that have less risk of conflict with the police but are a crucial part of undermining all hierarchy and authority.
Clara: Such as?
Alanis: Such as: organizing a strike or a walkout at the place where you work or go to school, in solidarity with something important like the prison strike or to support a local struggle near you. Or organizing Really Really Free Markets in your neighborhood to get to know folks and share resources. Or helping start a Solidarity Network like folks in Seattle and Miami and other towns have done, to help build our collective power by challenging landlords and bosses who try to fuck over poor people. Or doing research to find out about prison and war profiteers like CCA and the Geo Group or Bechtel, or energy companies like Enbridge who’re trying to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, or VINCI, the construction company trying to build the airport on the ZAD in France. Figure out where these scumbags have offices, or who their investors and backers are, and spread the word, protest the shit out of them, flyer the neighborhoods where their executives live. Find someone with access to a printer or photocopier and make lots of anarchist literature and flyers and posters, and set up a table somewhere with a lot of foot traffic and just talk to people. Learn all you can about electronic security and encryption and how to beat surveillance; set up a workshop for other radicals or civil liberties people to teach what you’ve learned. Study some skills about conflict resolution and help other radicals settle our shit with each other so we don’t end up burning bridges and destroying our fragile communities of resistance. Screen a film or some video from SubMedia at your house or your local library and see who shows up. Throw a big party and raise money for some political prisoners, or to send to solidarity groups in Rojava, or to the occupation resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Do some research about sympathetic lawyers in your area - we always need advice and support when repression comes - and call them up, get to know them, form a relationship so you can call them in the future when you need ’em. Take part in whatever anti-racist organizing is happening near you, and challenge the folks who want to divide the “good, peaceful protestors” from the “violent protestors” or “vandals”; help organize dialogue between folks who take more liberal and more militant approaches to anti-racism and anti-police activity, to help overcome some of the divisions police and corporate media try to foster. Form a collective with your friends and establish some kind of public space where people can meet each other to network and discuss radical ideas.
Clara: This list could go on forever. And it should! But I think one of the themes that links all of these different ideas is this: the first step is to look around you and assess what the bullshit is wherever you are. I don’t know you, I don’t know anything about you, but I’d be willing to bet that wherever you are, there’s some absolute bullshit going on somewhere around you. So the first step is to notice that, think about it, analyze it, feel it, get mad about it. Then think about what it would take to totally change it or destroy it. Could be, if you’re lucky, that the bullshit you’re thinking of is something you can take on yourself. Like maybe there’s a particularly racist teacher at your school, and you might be able to expose them and get them fired yourself, or if the folks in your neighborhood don’t get enough to eat, you could organize a free food program with donations from local stores or food banks and keep people healthy. If so, that’s awesome - do it. But chances are, a great deal of the bullshit around you seems insurmountable - like, how the hell am I going to single-handedly tear down white supremacy, or destroy gender roles, or stop ecological destruction, or dismantle the class system and the wage economy, and abolish prisons while I’m at it? Yeah, you’re not. You can’t. That’s not your fault. But it doesn’t mean you’re helpless.
First, figure out what it would look like for you to resist it; not to single-handedly bring it down, but to resist it - to show your opposition, to withdraw, to refuse to participate, to register your defiance, to slow it or obstruct it or denounce it. Whatever that looks like in your context. And then next - I’m also willing to get whatever that bullshit is, you’re not the only one who recognizes it as bullshit. The trick is to find those people, and to help them break through all the layers of conditioning and fear and complacency and hopelessness that lead us to think we can’t or shouldn’t do anything to resist. There’s no simple formula for how to do that, and a lot of modern consumer society is specifically structured to prevent us from connecting on that level. But you can do it. When you put yourself out there, make yourself visible, show your defiance, refuse to hide or apologize for what you believe, call it like you see it - people see that and they’re drawn to it. American society feels depressingly fake to most of us, and people are drawn to realness. They may not be on the same page as you, but the more you learn, the more you talk to others, and the more confident you get in your beliefs, the more likely you are to find people who’ll wanna grow with you and challenge and be challenged by you.
So… I don’t know if any of this is helpful. But we wanna send you all our love and support. As the saying goes, the secret is to really begin. Fucking GO FOR IT, and don’t give up! You are definitely not alone, and you’re on the right side of history. Let us know how we can help - and let us know how it goes!
Alanis: In the mean time, we posted links to most of the things we mentioned on our website. We also threw up some info by and about anarchist people of color and writings about black anarchism, in case those are also of interest. We’re really thrilled to hear that you’ve connected to the podcast, and we hope you’ll keep in touch and keep sharing your ideas.
Clara: OK! Next, we’ve got a correction and update from a listener overseas about the situation in Rojava and the Turkey military’s war on the YPG/YPJ.
Alanis: Greetings from cold and dark Europe,
First of all let me thank you for the amazing work you all have been and keep doing. I just have a small correction to your podcast number 50 (congrats to the anniversary, by the way). You made reference to “open warfare between the YPG and Turkish-backed militias.” Sadly, it is much, much more severe than that. The Turkish operation “Euphrates Shield” includes not just Islamist rebels with Turkish artillery and air support, but also Turkish tanks and special forces on the ground, directly fighting against the YPG/J and its allied Free Syrian Army units. It looks much more like this is a Turkish invasion with the “Turkish-backed militias” just acting as cannon fodder to advance besides Turkish tanks.
This is likely the most serious existential threat Rojava has faced until now, which says a lot of a group fighting ISIS. With Turkey’s nationalistic colonial regime turning openly neo-fascist in the last months, Erdogan has vowed to “exterminate” the YPJ/G and its so-called “Terrorcorridor” at the Turkish border. And one just has to look into northern Kurdistan and its cities which have been reduced to rubble after months long 24/7 curfews and artillery bombardment of residential areas that he means it. How that looks can be best seen in a picture of the city of Nusaybin from occupied northern Kurdistan.
Clara: We’ve got a link to this picture posted on our website; it’s a depressing sight. Our listener continues:
Alanis: Turkey’s invasion, supported by the loud cheers of a nationalistic mob, is an existential threat to the YPG/J, which lack a supply of anti-tank missiles and have to rely on the black market and smuggling routes for their entire weapons supply. While they seem to have been able to acquire a handful of them, it is nowhere near enough to even resist a Turkish invasion not to mention actually holding them back. Without them, they have no way to counter Turkish tanks; attempting to fight them is just a suicide mission.
You mentioned the problem of Rojava being “allied” with the US. While surrounded with deeply hostile neighbors who are opposed to their very existence, they can’t be picky when it comes to accepting support. And sadly, it is not an alliance, as the complete lack of weapon supplies shows. While the US has no problem supplying Islamists and jihadists with everything, the YPJ/G have received nothing meaningful since a few air drops in the battle of Kobane in 2014 for fear of angering the Turkish regime. The only thing that prevents an all-out invasion by Turkey at the moment is that the US government has deployed soldiers at the border with Turkey and Turkish-occupied territory. It got so bad that the special forces had to raise US flags at their positions to get incoming Turkish fire to stop. While there is now talk by Obama about starting to arm the YPJ/G, he is still just talking about small arms and not urgently needed heavy weaponry.
Even with the Turkish invasion, Rojava’s forces are the only faction capable of retaking the ISIS capital of Raqqa. So until Raqqa is taken, the US needs Rojava and will remain as a possible source of supplies and support. This is the only realistic chance they have to acquire heavy weaponry to deter and counter a Turkish invasion. Without wanting to sound theatrical, there is no going back for them; it’s do or die. When Turkey invades, their brutal Islamist rebel puppets will be put in charge; at that point, a brutal dictator and despot like Assad might be the better choice.
Turkey is openly sabotaging the US plans to end ISIS and aligns with Islamist groups deeply hostile to the US. I know what a disgusting piece of realpolitik this is, but if you or anyone you know would find the time to write to your local representative to talk about the FSA units in the SDF and their fight against ISIS and the Islamist terrorists Turkey is supporting this might be worth the few minutes. Dropping that they are Al Qaeda-aligned might help in the time of the 9/11 anniversary. Some Dempublican should be interested in profiling themselves as fighting Islamist terrorism and ISIS. Because sadly, I don’t see a viable plan to crowd fund the acquisition of anti-tank missiles.
After all these depressing thoughts, I wish you all the best in the heart of the beast. May you find the strength to keep on going and surviving the capitalist hellhole. As losing you would we a deeply felt loss for people around the globe who are dreaming and working for another world. You are an inspiration to a lot of us. Cheers.
Clara: Well, first of all, we’re extremely grateful to you for the very kind words - it’s really helpful for us to know that there are folks out there listening and even feeling moved by the show. We will do our best to keep cranking ’em out.
In response to your updates on the situation of warfare in Rojava, there’s a lot to say. We’re horrified to hear about Turkey’s escalation of warfare against the YPG/J, their opportunism in bringing along particularly brutal subsidiary forces, and the serious military challenges facing the Kurdish militias against an infinitely more well-armed enemy.
Alanis: And exactly why is Turkey so much better-armed than Rojava? Because of the United States. Here’s our old pal Noam Chomsky filling us in on some of the back story. He’s just been talking about how, at the time of this recording in 2001, the South American nation of Colombia had shot up to become the number one recipient of US military aid (excluding Israel and Egypt, which were in a category of their own).
Noam Chomsky: Who was in the lead before Colombia? That’s interesting, too. In the lead before Colombia was Turkey. Turkey is a US ally and strategic outpost, so it’s been getting a lot of US military aid and trainings since the end of the Second world war. but it remained more or less steady until 1984; in 1984 it shot up, military aid and training to Turkey went way up in 1984, stayed high, increased through the 1990s; it peaked in 1997. In 1997, Turkey got more military aid than the entire period 1950 to 1984. This had nothing to do with the Cold War, nothing to do with the Russians; they’re in fact disappearing at this time. What it had to do with is that in 1984, the Turkish military launched a major counterinsurgency effort against the Kurds, 15 million people or so in southeastern Turkey who live in extreme conditions of repression. So in 1984, the Turkish military launched a huge counterinsurgency campaign, US military aid shot up. The atrocities peaked under Clinton in the 1990s - as I say, 1997 was the peak year - the military aid went down in 1998, and Colombia took first place in 1999, because the Turkish military campaign had pretty much succeeded - at the cost of 2–3 million refugees, just in the 1990s, about 3500 villages destroyed. For comparison, during the NATO bombing, 500 villages were destroyed in Kosovo, so seven times Kosovo under NATO bombing; tens of thousands of people killed, every kind of torture and monstrosity you can think of. But it kind of worked. So the counterinsurgency campaign wound down, US military aid and training was no longer needed - this is high tech aid; this is jet planes, tanks, napalm, so on - and therefore Colombia could move into first place.
Clara: Thanks, Noam. I looked up some stats from the US State Department, and if I’m reading them right, US military aid to Turkey stopped after 2009, and has been at zero since 2010. Of course, who knows what’s done on and off the books. Incidentally, Israel and Egypt are still numbers one and two by a long shot, but the next runners up these days are Jordan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
Anyway, point being: even if the flow of direct military support has slackened recently, the reason why Turkey has such a large and strong military is a direct consequence of US funding of an anti-Kurdish counter-insurgency campaign. Of course, we know that the resurgence of Kurdish resistance in recent years shows that Chomsky’s assessment that the Turkish campaign against the Kurds “kind of worked” was premature. But we mention this background to show how US military meddling in this conflict has a long history and has almost always supported Turkish military forces against the Kurds.
Alanis: That said, we know there’s a brutal realpolitik at work on the ground for the YPG/J. It sounds true that at present, only the US’s military support, whether as a source of weapons or at least a shield against Turkish military aggression, is holding off full-on warfare that Turkey and its zombie militias would almost certainly win. As our listener pointed out, the upcoming assault on the ISIS capital at Raqqa is really key within these calculations. According to a recent article on kurdishquestion.com, “Hanifa Hussein, a senior Kurdish official and member of the Democratic Society Movement, said that the Kurds are ready to take part in the proposed anti-ISIS operation. ‘But first we need to make sure that our federal project would be accepted by Washington and coalition members, the YPG forces would receive arms directly, and the Kurds would be officially invited to the Geneva peace talks.’” So everybody knows this is a major point of Kurdish leverage, and it looks like they’re using it to the best of their ability.
Clara: That said, I don’t think that the question of Rojava’s survival is going to be settled first and foremost on the battlefield. Even with an abundance of anti-tank missiles, the YPG/J could probably only fight Turkish forces to a standstill. I’m no expert, but I’d imagine that it’s going to take international support of military and other forms, diplomatic pressure, and concerted campaigns to undermine Turkish state power to protect Rojava in the long term, and probably even the short term.
Alanis: Given that, I’m not sure I’d support your suggestion that we write to US politicians who want to earn anti-terrorist points urging them to vote to send anti-tank missiles to the Syrian Defense Forces. Of course, contacting representatives neither supports anarchist values nor is it an arena in which we can really wield much influence; though on a certain level, of course, any tool in the toolbox. But what really makes me uncomfortable about that strategy is the idea of appealing to anti-Islamic hysteria - which, you may have noticed from the popularity of a certain wingnut in the US presidential campaign, is a major force in US politics today. If the US sends missiles to Kurdish militias, but in doing so strengthens the discourses that target Muslims domestically and around the world, are we showing “solidarity” for one oppressed group at the expense of another?
Clara: On a certain level the question is academic in this particular case, given that my elected representatives don’t give a flying fuck what I think, or even the collected listeners of the Ex-Worker podcast. But it opens up some broader questions about the politics of alliances, whether in Rojava or here in the US. My goal as an anarchist is to always act in a way that spreads power horizontally, that contests hierarchy of all kinds, and that resists the notion of freedom as a zero-sum game - that is, the idea that we can only get freer by making others less, rather than more, free. So even if I am aiming to put pressure on a politician, rather than appealing to the popular anti-Islamic sentiment in the US, I’d want to promote Kurdish autonomy and resistance against all tyrants. We can do that in demos outside Turkish embassies and consulates, boycotts of Turkish goods or disruptions of companies and industries that do business with the Turkish military, and direct solidarity of other kinds with Rojava.
Alanis: Remember that as soon as the way in which a conflict is decided becomes military, we’ve already lost. The most egregious example of this recently was in Ukraine; by redefining the aspirations of the uprising from freedom to nationalism, and the tactics from mass popular resistance to pro- and anti-Russian militias fighting each other, the revolutionary potential of that upheaval was lost. However admirable the YPG/J are in their resistance to ISIS as well as Turkey, I don’t ever want to lose sight of the fact that what’s actually important is what they’re defending: a broad social revolution that’s transforming the organization of everyday society into ever less hierarchical forms. It’s up to us around the world, though especially in Turkey and in countries like the US that play a role in the conflict, to undertake mass agitation in defense of Rojava and to undermine the various forces of authority that threaten it. I don’t claim to have the answers about how to do this, and far be it from me to judge how the Kurds fight their war of self-defense. But that’s my perspective as an anarchist over here.
Clara: And finally, we also received this message from listener Tea, commenting on our discussion of solidarity and martyrdom in Rojava in the last episode.
Alanis: Podcasting Comrades,
This might just be the result of a misunderstanding related to English not being my native language, but the word “showing solidarity” gives a weird idea of what I think solidarity is, or should be, especially regarding international struggles. Solidarity should not be a empty show of support, but a form of help that is material in nature. Solidarity is something that you can hold in your hand. I would recommend the book “Turning Money into Rebellion” by Gabriel Kuhn on the subject; even though the subject of the book is Danish communists there is still a lot for us to learn from their actions.
Then on the questions on martyrs in Rojava. One of the few collaborations between Kurdish and Palestinian organizations such as the PFLP was in the early days of PKK they got a bunch of money and training from the PFLP as a part of communist solidarity. One of the tactics that they got from the Palestinians was how to deal with martyrs.
In love and rage, Tea
Clara: Hey Tea, thanks for writing. To your second point first: thanks for telling us about this history of how early collaborations between Palestinian and Kurdish national liberation groups influenced this conception of martyrs that we’re seeing in the YPG/YPJ these days. That doesn’t surprise me, I guess, because while I didn’t quite put my finger on it last time, I think my discomfort with the language of martyrdom partly stems from the way that it seems nationalistic - putting someone’s death to work for a project of nation-building. As an anarchist I’m opposed to all nationalism, and if I’m gonna die for something, I want my death to help build a world without nations and borders. Still, I’m not trying to criticize the Kurdish struggle from my North American armchair when it seems clear that our visions of liberation overlap quite a bit. I think the question Jerry posed in the last episode about whether Ravachol or Durutti or Brad Will are martyrs is actually interesting, and unresolved. They are anarchists who died in struggle, who we remember and commemorate. But we don’t idealize them, or try to leverage their deaths opportunistically to build nations, or turn them into two dimensional cardboard cut-outs of revolutionary virtue rather than complex and multifaceted and contradictory human beings. Those are the things that come to mind for me when I think of martyrs or martyrdom.
Alanis: That, and the very Christian notion of glorifying sacrifice as a virtue in itself in this masochistic way (like not a fun, hot, consensual way). That’s different from praising commitment and dedication, which are awesome and important. But my ideal isn’t a world, or a revolutionary movement, in which we’re all sacrificing ourselves. I dream of a world based in pleasure and play and voluntary association and horizontally shared responsibility, not full of grim exceptional heroes who take one for the team.
Clara: Which is not to say that we should abandon revolutionary activity if it’s not fun and easy. Far from it. But that we should be motivated to pursue it out of passion, not duty - which is as much a practical as an ethical approach. Because nothing makes me less excited to do something than being told I have to - especially when my boss isn’t an actual person, but an abstraction like “the rev” or something.
The point is that “the rev” shouldn’t be an abstraction. It should be a better way to live in the here and now as well as a pathway to taking apart all hierarchy.
Alanis: Should be, sure. But I doubt you’ll find an anarchist on this earth who’s felt that way all the time.
Clara: Fair enough. Maybe there are moments when we need to tap into our inner martyr. But I don’t want to get stuck there. If anyone remembers me after I die, I want to be remembered for being playful and passionate, and being a lifelong revolutionary because I found it the most joyful way to live.
Alanis: Hear, hear.
Clara: Anyway - on to Tea’s first point, about solidarity. I’m glad you brought this up, because this is a tension or a strategic question that’s worth addressing. We’ve spent a lot of time trumpeting the importance of solidarity. But what precisely is it, in practical terms? There’s solidarity of the variety that Tea advocates, or that Rojava Solidarity NYC practices - sending literal physical stuff and money over to people and movements who need it. Then there’s the category of the “solidarity action,” which gets a little vague. In some cases, it’s fairly concrete; if the ELF sabotages the equipment at a pipeline construction site so that those fuckers are less able to build the Dakota Access Pipeline, then that’s a form of tangible, concrete support, even if its negative (in the sense of subtracting from enemies) rather than positive (adding to friends). Then there are solidarity actions that have been requested by people, like when September 9th organizers in prisons asked folks to do noise demos outside their facilities. That may be less concrete support, but it builds trust and relationship by responding directly to a request.
Alanis: And in the case of prison demos specifically, it can materially help folks inside by bringing attention to a facility or a prisoner that reduces the likelihood of institutional violence to our comrades.
Clara: True. So actions like these, even if they don’t fit the definition suggested by Tea of being something they can hold in their hand, still qualify as solidarity in a meaningful sense. But as we get further into symbolic territory, it becomes less clear. When we’re talking about a banner drop, or some graffiti, or a random act of sabotage or property destruction that has symbolic but not really material consequences, should we still understand these as forms of “solidarity”?
Alanis: I’m not sure. But I do want to say that regardless of how we categorize them, these kinds of actions are certainly good things to do. Just because something isn’t technically a form of solidarity according to some definition shouldn’t discourage us from doing them.
Clara: Sure, true enough. But a more precise understanding of solidarity as material aid, something we can hold in our hand, might encourage us to rethink our priorities. If a prisoner calls for solidarity, does it make more sense to hold a small fundraiser or to break a couple of bank windows? Depends on what that prisoner calls for, I suppose, but I lean towards thinking that a fair proportion of what gets called “solidarity” in our North American context doesn’t really have much to do with the person or campaign or reference point it’s supposedly showing solidarity with. And outside of a context in which certain tactics are really proliferating widely and generalizing, it’s doubtful that some of these repetitive small actions have any discernible effect on anything. Certainly not to poo poo anything that folks are doing to rupture the social peace or whatever. But is it possible that the endless parade of spray-painted messages and banner drops and broken windows are less a reflection of what’s useful solidarity, and more a reflection of our limited skillset or range of interests?
Alanis: I see what you’re saying. But let’s think of it from a different angle. What should be on our tactical agenda for solidarity action should depend on the context we’re operating in. So if we’re based in northern and western Europe, where there’s considerable social peace and lots of money lying around, it probably makes a lot of sense to frame “solidarity” in terms of transferring physical resources to other places. If we’re based in Syria, or Nigeria, or Bolivia, international solidarity might very possibly need to look like something different. And of course the country we’re in isn’t the only or even the primary determining factor. Part of the logic of underground groups such as the Weather Underground and the George Jackson Brigade and such were that white people, who have an ability to operate unmarked in white supremacist society that black folks don’t have, should be taking higher risk actions like bank expropriations to raise solidarity funds for black community organizing. So that decision was made at least in part due to an evaluation of the positions and capacities of the individual folks taking part in a solidarity effort - plus the fact that many folks at the time really thought that revolution in the US might be imminent, and thus that underground armed struggle guerrilla groups made strategic sense.
Contrast this with the prison letters of Luciano “Tortuga” Pitronello, an anarchist former political prisoner in Chile. He went on a brief hunger strike as a gesture of solidarity, and in one of his letters that appears in the collection “To the Indomitable Hearts”, which we reviewed in Episode 5, he discusses his rationale for this approach. On a certain level, the notion that refusing to eat could constitute an act of solidarity seems pretty illogical, especially within the framework Tea proposes of solidarity as physical material support. Still, it reflects the way that solidarity has to be understood within its specific context. One Thanksgiving Day in Walpole and three other prisons in the early 1970s, prisoners collectively refused to eat their Thanksgiving dinner to protest and bring awareness to hunger and poverty in the US. These are examples of how even folks with absolutely no way to possibly offer material support can still use any tactics available to them to craft a gesture of solidarity.
Clara: Bringing this back to our North American context today, I think it’s worth opening a larger conversation among anarchists about what we understand solidarity to be. We should be asking each other what we want to see and what we have to offer, evaluating what’s effective or strategic or powerful, and figuring out how we can all take part in these international exchanges regardless of whether we have considerable access to resources or we’re in solitary confinement. I think we have a ton to learn from prisoners about how to manage to show meaningful solidarity even in the most extreme conditions of restriction and privation. We certainly can learn from historical examples like the Danish bank robbers Tea mentioned, or armed struggle groups in the US such as the Weather Underground or George Jackson Brigade, or lone militants like Oso Blanco.
Alanis: On the flip side, there are also critical conversations to have about how certain forms of material support - I’m thinking here of projects like Food Not Bombs or No More Deaths in the Arizona borderlands, or even some migrant solidarity initiatives in which anarchists have participated in Europe - can be seen either as meaningful political solidarity or as simply providing charity or services. To be clear, the latter isn’t a bad thing, but presumably it’s doesn’t have the same transformative radical potential that we aspire to create. It’s all fine and good as a slogan, but what actually is the difference between solidarity and charity on a concrete level?
I’m definitely not trying to do the annoying thing where we wag our finger at our fellow American anarchists for not being militant enough. It’s inspiring to see the passion and creativity with which we’ve tried various experiments with solidarity over these past months and years. I just want us to take the time to think about what’s really helpful, what nourishes us and the people we’re trying to support.
Clara: One last thing I want to add here is that on top of material support, one of the key components of solidarity as I see it is about building relationships. If a person or group issues a call for solidarity, and a bunch of us go hang a banner or do a small demo, or me and the one other anarchist in my town spray-paint something with a message of support, these things might not make any material difference to the focus of our solidarity. But it does build a relationship, even if it’s anonymous; as a gesture of care, it helps cultivate a sense of collectivity and mutual support, which is both emotionally meaningful and also a basis for ongoing relationships and dialogues through action that can expand over years. We’ve mentioned this before, but initiatives like the Phoenix Project, an international insurrectionary dialogue conducted via actions and communiques, really seem more like building a sense of family affiliation than an expression of solidarity in a conventional sense. But these actions ripple out in ways we can’t anticipate or quantify. And more focused solidarity efforts that have little material impact but communicate care can keep folks’ spirits up, maintain relationships and a build sense of collective momentum that can snowball and mobilize other people. So I don’t want to neglect that dimension of things, even if it’s less immediately palpable than material solidarity.
Alanis: So what do y’all think? What is solidarity, and what should we in the US be doing to show it? Keep the conversation going; hit us up by email at podcast at crimethinc dot com.
THE CHOPPING BLOCK
Clara: On the Chopping Block this episode, we’ve decided to take a look at a book from a genre we very rarely review on the Ex-Worker: namely, fiction. This time we’ll examine a novel, originally published in 1971, written by the Italian poet, novelist, and artist Nanni Balestrini: Vogliamo tutto, or We Want Everything.
Alanis: Nanni Balestrini is most widely known by English-speaking radicals for his novel The Unseen, which documents the rise and fall of the autonomist and armed struggle movements in 1970s Italy. Vogliamo tutto chronicles a period in Italy that took place before the years in which The Unseen was set: the Hot Autumn of 1969. The novel blends fiction and fact; although it documents a historical struggle, the characters and their actions are synthesized from Balestrini’s personal experiences along with those of workers, students, and others active during that incendiary season.
While Balestrini doesn’t explicitly identify as an anarchist, he was strongly aligned with the anti-authoritarian Autonomia movement in Italy. Autonomia developed out of the changing industrial landscape in Italy; whereas factory workers formerly adopted communist politics rooted in taking ownership of their workplaces, the Autonomist movement was influenced by the French Situationists and their rejection of the identity of worker. A bit of historical and economic context will help us situate the novel in the conditions that led up to the Hot Autumn in which it takes place.
In the 1950s, the Italian government implemented an economic development program called Cassa del Mezzogiorno, ostensibly intended to provide public funding for infrastructure in the Southern region of the country. As a result of this program, previously rural areas started to become more modern and urbanized, which raised the cost of living. Consequently, many families could no longer depend upon their land alone to provide them with what they needed to survive. While these government programs lasted, many of these newly vulnerable folks could find work as manual laborers to help build roads, bridges, or irrigation systems. But these jobs had largely dried up by the 1960s, leading to a scarcity of employment.
At the same time that unemployment was rising in the South, the North of Italy was booming, with automotive and industrial jobs readily available. Of course, these types of jobs only required piecemeal labor. Workers no longer needed to be artisans with specialized skills, but merely cogs in a machine, performing the same repetitive task day after day. This created a precarious situation for the factory worker, who could be fired and replaced at any time since there were so many other hands available to do the job.
As the narrator of the book is coming of age in the late 1960s, his family convinces him to move to Northern Italy to pursue a factory job, since staying in his rural Southern village would surely lead to poverty as the cost of living continues to increase. While training at his first job, he sees workers striking, but when he tries to join them, he’s immediately threatened with firing by the boss. It doesn’t take him long to learn what life is like working in a factory.
Our narrator floats from one factory job to another as his contracts run out. At these jobs he gains a distaste for authority and bosses. He learns that through challenging the bosses he can actually gain the upper hand, as he relates in a number of exciting stories. In one case, he shows up late to work and mouths off, leading his boss to threaten to fire him without pay and call the cops. He calls their bluff and ends up collecting a month’s pay without working. In another similar situation, he pretends to injure his finger and is told he’ll be fired if he goes to the infirmary and they don’t give him sick leave. Not only does he craftily gain six days sick leave with pay, but he’s able to have this extended by another six days by being indignant.
The novel picks up even more in the second half. The narrator takes a job at the Fiat factory in Turin and becomes politicized. As he explains, before Fiat he considered himself a “qualunquista,” someone who is apathetic towards politics because he or she is only concerned about their individual well-being. As the work at Fiat begins, he notices students demonstrating outside. The confusion he experiences over this is worth citing, as it not only exemplifies the initial divide between workers and students, but also the general stance of the workers with regards to factory labor. He says:
“This seemed a bit strange. I asked myself, Why is this, they’re free to sleep around and enjoy themselves. They come to the gates of a factory, which is the most disgusting thing there is: a factory, which really is the most absurd and disgusting thing there is. They come out the front here, what are they doing? This fact made me a little curious. Then in the end I thought they were crazy, dickheads, missionaries, and I didn’t take any interest in what they said.”
In the end, whether out of curiosity or boredom, he does end up venturing to a student meeting one evening. There he learns about union strikes and demands and meets with other politicized workers. He takes part in a few small strikes occurring on different lines in the Fiat factory. Initially these have little effect, and at various points, the union even tries to prevent the strikes because it wants to coordinate them for later in the year. This tension between the workers and unions builds as the workers continue their strikes over the objections of the unions, which begin collaborating with the bosses to agree on wages that are nowhere near meeting the workers’ demands.
By May, the strikes have built to the point of causing a complete halt in the production of cars at the Fiat factory. Tensions mount through the summer, and by the time autumn rolls around, the energy has spilled out of the factory and into the streets, with waves of riots taking place throughout the city. In the exhilarating last chapter, workers and students fight the police and Carabinieri, with little kids throwing rocks, old ladies handing out bandanas, and neighbors alerting everyone to the police’s movements.
So while the Hot Autumn in Italy never took up the banner of anarchy, we can’t ignore the anarchist influences and values within the Italian upheavals of late 1969. The workers involved in the struggle wholly rejected the notion of taking pride in being a worker. They worked for a wage to survive, not because they cared one bit for some heroic proletarian identity or the Communist goal of taking over the factories to self-manage. And speaking of Communists, the workers who struck and rioted did so in defiance of the Italian Communist Party, who felt the workers were being irresponsible and would create repression - as if there’s a way to challenge the existence of the state without leading to attempts at repression! Essentially, these struggles were anti-work, anti-Party, and anti-union. As one of the slogans loudly proclaimed, “We want everything – all the wealth, all the power, and no work.”
Though the novel’s story ends here, the struggles in Italy continued throughout the 1970s. While the Autonomist movement and worker’s struggles continued to a degree, some of this momentum also led to Marxist-Leninist armed struggle groups like the Red Brigades and Prima Linea. While we can debate the efficacy of armed struggle and urban guerrillas, Marxist-Leninist politics should always be challenged by anarchists and all those desiring a free world without the state.
We Want Everything is an amazing book, well worth reading for the history, the lessons learned, and the sheer intensity of Balestrini’s writing. For anyone who has taken part in a street battle, there’s a familiar energy and urgency to the situation. And for those who have yet to do so, this is a story to indulge in to keep the dream alive.
Clara: We Want Everything was recently released in a new English translation by Telephone Publishing out of Australia, and then in another edition by Verso this summer, with an introduction by Rachel Kushner. We’ve got links posted on our website.
Clara: And last but never least, we want to share some prisoner birthdays.
Alanis: Since we didn’t get out an episode last month, we want to share some folks who’re locked up across the US whose birthdays came last month. Even if it’s a little late, be sure to drop them a line, look up info on their cases, and see what you can do to show solidarity.
Clara: On the 3rd of October, Justin Solondz, an Earth Liberation Front prisoner targeted in Operation Backfire for an arson at the University of Washington;
Alanis:Also on the 3rd, Skelly, or Joshua Stafford, of the Cleveland Four, framed in a fake FBI bomb plot in 2012;
Clara: On October 4th, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, formerly H. Rap Brown, civil rights activist and former Black Panther;
Alanis: On October 6th, David Gilbert, lifelong revolutionary from SDS, the Weather Underground and the Black Liberation Army;
Clara: And also Michael Davis Africa of the MOVE 9, a member of the Philadelphia-based black eco-revolutionary group, framed for the murder of a cop in 1979;
Alanis: On the 8th, Malik Smith of the Virgin Islands Five, framed for murder for his participation in the anti-colonial independence movement in the Virgin Islands.
Clara: And two former Black Panther and Black Liberation Army revolutionaries, Robert ‘Seth’ Hayes on the 15th and Jalil Muntaqim on the 18th, two of the longest held political prisoners in the US today.
Alanis: And on October 31st, Edward Goodman Africa from the MOVE 9.
Clara: Drop these folks a line to wish them a happy birthday and thank them for staying strong. It makes a difference.
Alanis: For consistent updates about political prisoners and prisoners of war in the US, keep an eye on the New York City Anarchist Black Cross website, which keeps their finger on the pulse of radical prisoner struggles. It’s at nycabc.wordpress.com.
Clara: And that’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. Stay tuned - in upcoming episodes we’ll have coverage from the Standing Rock occupation, updates from anarchists in the Caucasus region, discussions of anti-fascism, and lots more.
Alanis: Check out crimethinc.com/podcast for a full transcript and more info and link about everything we’ve talked about today, and to download all fifty of our previous episodes.
Clara: Thanks for listening! And as our anarchist ancestors told us around the campfires and burning barricades of old: DON’T ROCK THE VOTE, VOTE WITH ROCKS!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
Our discussion of the 2016 Presidential election and its likely aftermath centered around After the Election, the Reaction, the recently published text from the CrimethInc. blog. It also included clips from Wavy Gravy, George Carlin, the Las Vegas Trump/Clinton debate, Trump’s advisor Roger Stone, and Public Enemy.
On the Chopping Block, we reviewed Vogliamo Tutto, or We Want Everything, by Nanni Balestrini.
In our listener feedback discussions, we mentioned a wide range of less-risky ways to get involved, including organizing Really Really Free Markets, helping start a Solidarity Network, researching polluters and prison profiteers like CCA, the Geo Group, Enbridge, and VINCI, learning about electronic security and encryption and how to beat surveillance, screening video from SubMedia, raising money for political prisoners, solidarity groups in Rojava, or the occupation resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline, and lots more.
We also referred to writings by anarchist people of color and writings about black anarchism, such as the work of Ashanti Alston, Black Anarchism: A Reader, Anarchism and the Black Revolution by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin, Anarchy Can’t Fight Alone and other writings by Kuwasi Balagoon, African Anarchism by Sam Mbah](https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/march–2012-interview-with-sam-mbah), Anarchist People of Color (APOC), and the zine Our Culture, Our Resistance.
In our discussion of Turkey and Rojava, we mentioned this grim picture of the city of Nusaybin from occupied northern Kurdistan. The Noam Chomsky excerpt came from the 2001 CD “An American Addiction.”
In our discussion of solidarity, we referred to Gabriel Kuhn’s book Turning Money into Rebellion on solidarity-motivated Danish communist bank robbers - also check out the interview with Gabriel about the book on the Stand Up Fight Back podcast (their website is down, but you can find it via iTunes). We also mentioned our discussion of radical martyrs and martyrdom in Episode 50, Rojava Solidarity NYC, the Weather Underground, the George Jackson Brigade, Luciano “Tortuga” Pitronello’s prison letters - we reviewed them in Episode 5, and interviewed Tortuga in Episode 30 - Oso Blanco, and the Phoenix Project.
Prisoner birthdays last month:
Justin Solondz #98291–011
FCI Oakdale I
Post Office Box 5000
Oakdale, Louisiana 71463
Joshua Stafford #57976–060
P.O. BOX 24550
Tucson, AZ 85734
Please address card/letter to Skelly, envelope to Joshua Stafford
Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin #99974–555
Post Office Box 24550
Tuscon, Arizona 85734
David Gilbert #83-A–6158
Auburn Correctional Facility
Post Office Box 618
Auburn, New York 13021
Michael Davis Africa #AM–4973
Post Office Box 244
Graterford, Pennsylvania 19426–0244
Seguro Correctional Center
1252 East Arica Road
Eloy, Arizona 85131
Please address card/letter to Malik, envelope to Meral Smith
Robert Seth Hayes #74-A–2280 Sullivan Correctional Facility
P.O. Box 116
Fallsburg, NY 12733–0116
Anthony J. Bottom #77A4283
P.O. Box 149
Attica, NY 14011–0149
Please address card/letter to Jalil, envelope to Anthony Bottom
Edward Goodman Africa #AM–4974
301 Morea Road
Frackville, PA 17932