Anarchy, Lockdown and Crypto-Eugenics: A critical response from some anarchists in Wales & England

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Mar 152021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

“The Covid19 crisis has presented a challenge to anarchists and others who believe in a fully autonomous and liberated life” – so a recent submission to Montreal Counter-information declares. These words certainly resonate with our experiences. Anarchy in the UK is not just presented with a challenge; it is itself in crisis. Spycops, squatting ban, abusers, Corbynism, TERFs – the list is long, and the virus already found “the scene” in a sorry state. But Covid-19 represents something different, and on this we can agree with the analysis from Montreal. This is also where our agreement ends. In the following text we critique the analysis – we do so as its arguments are similar to those we have heard among friends and even comrades over the past months. Though the epidemic in the UK appears to be waning, its associated tendencies remain. The text calls for serious critiques, and so we offer the following in the spirit of antagonism against the present. We close with some suggested points of unity for anarchists in these times.

“Politicians”, their text begins, “lie”, and big pharma has exploited the pandemic. Maybe we can agree on a little more! In the UK, we were told that the virus was only a flu and to keep working as usual. (At the time of writing, the death count numbers over 125,000.) And we were told of Oxford’s vaccine, a people’s vaccine with no patent or borders (a mask that quickly slipped as the state reverted to vaccine nationalism). But these aren’t the lies they have in mind. Rather, they argue that politicians and the media have craftily overstated the virus’ threat, in a cunning plan to impose lockdowns and reap pharmaceutical profits. (Surely the hand-sanitiser corporations are behind this too..?) Anarchists, we are then told, have believed this powerful lie. Out of an “admirable [!] want to do well by the elderly and infirm”, the state has succeeded in “hacking our hearts and minds”.

This idea, appealing as it might be, is only a pale shadow of the reality. Covid-19’s threat is not a conspiracy, any more than Covid-19 itself. It is not the result of media hype any more than it is the product of Bill Gates’ brain or transmitted from 5G towers. It is the direct consequence of severe ecological destruction and capitalism’s toxic living conditions. Having brought it into existence, it is of course “exploited” by capital and state. As the critic notes, it is unlikely that capitalism will eradicate it, even if certain states claim this as their goal. Instead it is managed, incorporated, capitalised upon. This is at a far more fundamental level than creating profits for some pharmaceutical companies – we are seeing in the colonial core an historic restructure of work and class-composition. Our critic begins to scratch at this surface (they describe lockdowns as “classist”, as if a lack of lockdown would be classless!). Scratch a little deeper, and we see that capitalism faces a familiar contradiction: exploit workers, but ensure there are workers to be exploited tomorrow. Manage the virus, manage production. Like inflation, the death-graph must be regulated – kept just right. Everywhere this paradox is obvious: “stay at home” but “go to work”! Technocrats and managers debate the 2 metre rule just as the 19th century Factory Acts debated the relation of profits, health and cubic-feet per worker.[1]

We can call this capital’s “positive” side. Though each worker is cheap and replaceable, capital needs a body of workers. It can’t have everyone ill at once, and it can’t afford killing off too much of its working population. But it also finds and creates bodies superfluous to capitalist production: disposable bodies, bodies in the colonial margins, old bodies, less or unproductive bodies, bodies that cannot “work”. It’s here that we see capitalism’s eugenic and Malthusian tendency. This tendency, always present, has for the disabled been intensified in recent years, as the numerous lives lost due to benefit cuts demonstrate. Since the beginnings of “public health” in the 19th century, triage systems (a military invention) have ranked bodies in a hierarchy of value, rationing resources under conditions of artificial scarcity. In recent times, do-not-resuscitate notices imposed on Covid-19 patients with learning disabilities were the result of a care algorithm – tech meets “accidental” eugenics.[2] Capitalism itself could accurately be described as an algorithm of crypto-eugenics, always at risk of fascism outright. Like fascism, Covid-19 presents an existential threat to the lives of certain minorities – the proletarian disabled and the elderly in particular – and a slower death to others.[3] And like fascism, liberal democracies allow it to exist, manage it, keep their monster on the leash. At times this management fails: health-care systems collapse, production plummets. At other times, the far-right call for the monster to be set free.

Recognising the pandemic as an existential threat is where “our conversation should begin”. The critic talks of anarchists on the one hand, and the elderly and “infirm” on the other. It’s the anarchist that is agent-subject here, their freedom to act with or without them (the “vulnerable”) in mind. It erases from the beginning elderly anarchists, disability anarchism. Where are they and their freedoms in this imagined revolt? Our critic continues: as free anarchists, we also care for others, we co-operate with “consent” and without “force”. But who’s force, what consent? It’s a simple truth that your right to drink in the pub (that is, the right of the business to re-open) shits on the freedom of those at serious risk, those a few links down the chain of transmission. These chains of transmission are our chains. As anarchists we affirm the violence of liberation. Let us be clear: those that threaten the disabled cannot be consented with. We will find no freedom in frozen morgues.

The critic goes on to downplay the threat of Covid-19, a familiar refrain. Montreal Analysis come Barrington Deceleration – talk about technocrats! They cite statistics on average risks, masking the deadly risks to specific minorities (it won’t be bad for you!). They pit Covid-risks against cancer treatment (we can only afford one or the other!), despite the virus being far more deadly for those fighting cancer. Even were Covid-19 somewhat less risky (look, only 60,000 deaths!), the crypto-eugenic logic remains. In the UK, we must critically analyse recent events – particularly that certain assemblages of the state openly plotted course for “herd immunity” without a vaccine. It’s safe to assume that this Malthusian wet-dream would have led to health-system collapse and perhaps half a million deaths (“acceptable losses”).[4]

Where the critic calls on anarchists to question and critique the Covid-19 threat, we call on anarchists to reflect critically on eugenics as a logic of capital and state. We must also grapple seriously with its nasty history in the anarchist tradition, from Emma Goldman’s writings to sections of primitivist and anti-civ thought. As pandemics become more prevalent and eco-fascisms enter the mainstream, anarchists must fight to ensure nobody is “left behind”.

Finally, our friend attacks the tyranny of lockdown, claiming that as anarchists this should be our aim, and that in failing to do so we have cowardly ceded ground to the far-right. But their target is both abstract and confused. They use the terms curfew, lockdown and closures interchangeably (one of their cited articles even describes mandated mask wearing as “draconian”!) and argue that these measures must be attacked “in principle” as they are imposed without “consent”. We argue that as anarchists there is no state which can be consented to, and that the very notion of a social contract has nothing to do with anarchy. Rather than make vague statements for #freedom in the style of the Tea party right, we must locate and attack the instruments of power and control. “Lockdown” has come to mean a myriad of very contrasting measures – from asking people to stay at home to policed curfews, from enforcing meager workplace health and safety to the breaking of strikes, from closing businesses and schools to violent prison lockdowns (the term’s original meaning), from fining tourists and quarantine hotels to detaining migrants in military camps. It should be obvious which of these as anarchists we must attack, and which we can leave alone – or even fight for.

We must define our targets and recognise our enemies. Free business has nothing to do with our freedom. Simply opposing lockdown “edicts from on high” is as empty as supporting all protest. In the UK we have seen large, rowdy Covid-conspiracy demos led by celebrity anti-Semites, but we have also seen unpolitical gatherings fighting the police – as well as organised demonstrations for black lives. The US presents an even simpler dichotomy. Nothing could be clearer than the difference between the late-Spring business protests against Democratic governors and the Summer’s black uprising against the police. The first stood for the rights of small businesses and merged into the right-wing militia movement. The second exploded anger at the cops, expropriated goods and created temporary autonomous spaces. As anarchists we know where we stand.

Speculative points of unity:

Smash crypto-eugenics, of the right and of the left
Obstruct Covid-conspiracy demos, recognising them as far-right mobs Resist the criminalisation of the pandemic, policing powers, curfews and intensified surveillance
Target the reinforced border regime and “lifeboat fascism”
Organise against the return to unsafe workplaces
Fight the evictions of anarchist spaces and the mass-eviction wave
Further networks of mutual aid and act with dangerous care
Sabotage ecological destruction and animal exploitation, the cause of present and future pandemics
Analyse the changing terrain, refuse the postponement of anarchy

Notes:

  1. “It has been stated over and over again that the English doctors are unanimous in declaring that where the work is continuous, 500 cubic feet is the very least space that should be allowed for each person. … [but were this to happen] [t]he very root of the capitalist mode of production, i.e., the self-expansion of all capital, large or small, by means of the “free” purchase and consumption of labour-power, would be attacked. Factory legislation is therefore brought to a deadlock before these 500 cubic feet of breathing space. The sanitary officers, the industrial inquiry commissioners, the factory inspectors, all harp, over and over again, upon the necessity for those 500 cubic feet, and upon the impossibility of wringing them out of capital. They thus, in fact, declare that consumption [tuberculosis] and other lung diseases among the workpeople are necessary conditions to the existence of capital.” Karl Marx, Das Kapital (Chapter Fifteen: Machinery and Modern Industry, Section 9). If we assume a work-room height of 10 feet, 500 cubic feet would give a base of approximately 7 x 7 feet, 7 feet being a little more than 2 metres.

On the 26 June 2020, England revised its guidance from 2 meters to 1. Whilst “the evidence shows that relative risk may be 2-10 times higher”, “there are severe economic costs to maintaining 2 metre distancing. With a 2 metre rule in place, it is not financially viable for many businesses to operate.” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance/review-of-two-metre-social-distancing-guidance

  1. The linked Guardian article is from February 2021, but concerns regarding do-not-resuscitate forms were raised by medical establishment bodies at the beginning of the UK epidemic. https://www.cqc.org.uk/news/stories/joint-statement-advance-care-planning
  2. “I just need you to recognize that this shit is killing you, too, however much more softly, you stupid motherfucker, you know?” Fred Moten on racism (interview, 2013). Vaccine nationalism is increasingly shifting this to the “postcolonial” elderly and disabled. Other groups of course include certain sections of the workforce (mostly low-paid) and people of colour, the urban poor, the incarcerated, migrants. (We would argue that the existential threat directly applies here to the elderly and disabled, whereas the Covid-regime intensifies existing threats against the latter groups.) A lot could also be said about the privatisation of Covid-risk to the household and the domestic abuse this has further enabled.

The UK’s Office for National Statistics estimates disabled people as making up 60% of all Covid-19 deaths (November 2020). Similar to “BAME” deaths, “raised risk is because disabled people are disproportionately exposed to a range of generally disadvantageous circumstances compared with non-disabled people.” https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbydisabilitystatusenglandandwales/24januaryto20november2020#main-points

  1. The ONS estimated that approximately 15% of the population had antibodies to Covid-19 on the 18th of January 2021 (the rate was lower for Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland). On this date the total UK deaths of people who had received a positive test result (a relatively low measure) was approximately 95,000. “Herd immunity” is estimated to require a threshold of at least 60% (the percentage Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance gave in his interview with Sky News on March the 13th, 2020) possibly more. That is, to reach herd immunity without a vaccine, more than four times as many people in the UK would need to have been infected than had in January 2021, making it reasonable to assume four times as many deaths (giving 380,000 as a conservative estimate). This is before considering reinfection, the lack of treatments at the beginning of the pandemic, likely health-system collapse, the higher chance of new variants etc. https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/conditionsanddiseases/articles/coronaviruscovid19infectionsurveyantibodydatafortheuk/3february2021

More evidence has emerged of herd immunity without a vaccine being a pushed for strategy prior to March 23rd, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-54252272

Sex Workers Striking Against Violence

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Mar 142021
 

From la revue Ouvrage

Interview with Cari Mitchell from the English Collective of Prostitutes

By the Sex Work Autonomous Committee, an autonomous political organization of sex workers based in Montreal with the aim of demanding the decriminalization of sex work, and better working conditions in the sex industry more broadly.

Cari Mitchell is a former sex worker and a member of the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), a network of sex workers in the United Kingdom working both outdoors and indoors campaigning for decriminalisation and safety.1

In 2000, the ECP organized a sex workers’ strike that was part of the Global Women’s Strike on International Women’s Day. The Global Women’s Strike is an international network campaigning for recognition and payment for all caring work. A sex/work strike was organized again at that date in 2014 and 2019, on these occasions, with other sex workers’ organizations. We asked Cari Mitchell to share her experience as one of the organizers of the strike.

CATS: Your collective has existed for many years and used many political strategies to obtain rights for sex workers. How did the strike come up as a tactic to obtain decriminilization of sex work? 

C.M.: Our collective which started in 1975 was founded by immigrant sex workers. From the beginning we demanded the abolition of the prostitution laws and for money in women’s hands from governments so we can get out of sex work if and when we want.  It was and still is mostly women that are doing sex work, mostly mothers, mostly single mothers, doing our best to support our families. In the ECP we also fight legal cases against criminal charges such as loitering and soliciting and brothel keeping. Whatever people come to us with, we help them.  We are an organisation of different nationalities, races, ages, sexualities and all genders.

We work closely with other organizations. We are part of the Global Women’s Strike and the campaign for a Care Income Now2. Like other women we want our work of giving birth and raising the next generation to be counted, valued and paid for. And as sex workers we know that if we had that money for the work we are already doing, most of us wouldn’t have gone into prostitution in the first place. We wish that those people who complain about the number of women who have to go into sex work because of poverty and lack of economic alternatives, would instead press the goverment for that money. 

We are based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre in London and work closely with Women Against Rape, which is an anti racist, anti-violence against women organization. We also work with disability organizations – we have a number of women in our own network who have disabilities or who have children with disabilities, which is why they are working to get the money to cover the extra costs of dealing with a disability.  Queer Strike which is part of the LGBTQ movement in the UK are also allies as is Support Not Separation which fights against children being taken from their mothers – which is happening here at frightening rates, the excuse being given that mothers are not protecting children against poverty or domestic violence.  This is so outrageous. We know of sex workers who only started working to support their children and then have had them taken away by social services saying they are unfit mothers!  

We have an international network so we learn from everyone’s experiences. Our sister organization in San Francisco is USPROS (The US PROStitutes Collective) and  EMPOWER is our sister organisation in Thailand – who are involved at the moment in the massive struggle for justice in that country. 

We campaign for decriminalisation along the lines of the law that was introduced in New Zealand in 2003 which has been shown to improve sex workers health and safety.  The law removed consenting sex from the criminal law which means that the police now have to prioritise our safety rather than prosecute.    

Women going on strike to demand recognition for their unwaged and low waged work has quite a long history. In 1975, all the women in Iceland went on strike and the whole country ground to a halt.  It was fantastic! There are photos of thousands of women out in the streets. Newscasters had to have their children with them in the studio while they were reading the news about the women being out on strike!

People have always known that withdrawing our labour is a way of bringing attention to the issues we want to raise. On International Women’s Day in 2000, the Global Women’s Strike was organizing a women’s strike in many countries calling on governments to recognise and value all the unwaged work women are doing in the world.  UN figures at the time showed that women are doing two thirds of the world’s work for just 5% of the income and 1% of the assets.  We were already working with sex workers in Soho, London – one of the most well known red light areas in the country. Sex workers there had been part of our network for decades and we had fought a number of campaigns with them against the local Westminster Council trying to close down flats – trying to gentrify the area. Many of the women working in Soho are migrant women and the police targeted them in particular for raids, arrest and deportation but used as an excuse the claim that women were trafficked and needed saving.  When we spoke with them, sex workers from Soho said they wanted to join the International Women’s Day strike. Women there work in walk-up flats – the clients come and knock on the door and wait.  On the Strike day those doors were closed and Soho sex workers came together with others who worked in different places and ways.  We all joined the Global Women’s Strike. 

So that no-one could be identified, all the people on the march wore masks.  No-one could tell who was a sex worker and who wasn’t, it was a fantastic success and there was a lot of publicity. 

In the ECP we try to bring out the truth about sex work-  about who we are and why we are doing it so people can have more of an understanding.  We talk about the effects of criminalization on our safety and how we are workers just like any other workers, that most of us are supporting families both in the UK and in other countries as well. There are so many migrant sex workers sending money home to countries all over the world. These messages came across in our demands in the Strike in 2000 which was a great leap forward. 

We continued to work with sex workers in Soho as Westminster Council continued to pursue them. Some flats were closed and women were driven out onto the streets. Tragically, one woman was murdered in 2000, shortly after the Strike.  She was very well known within our network, we knew all about her. Her name was Lizzie and she was murdered while working on the street shortly after being forced out of a Soho flat.  No sex worker has ever been murdered while working in a Soho flat.  It is 10 times more dangerous to work outside than it is to work indoors with others.  

The prostitution laws make it unlawful for sex workers to work together for safety, they drive the industry underground and so make us all vulnerable to violence.  Under loitering and soliciting laws – just standing on the street and talking to a client, sex workers can be taken to court and convicted on the word of a single police offier.  Once you have a conviction you have a criminal record under sexual offences and it’s pretty much impossible to get out and get another job.  So you’re stuck. The police now often use civil orders which also force women to move out of areas they are familiar with and into darker side streets. If you work in a group for company and safety your colleagues can take your client’s car registration number when you get in the car and you can make sure he knows this.  But that’s not possible if you have to work by yourself in a dark area to avoid coming to the attention of the police. Where police continue to crackdown, violence and murder of sex workers rises. 

Indoors, it’s not illegal to exchange money for sexual services, but everything you have to do to work with others is against the law. More than one woman working from a premises is a brothel and arranging for people to work together, advertising, paying the rent is all unlawful under brothel keeping legislation.  It is  basically illegal to work safely in this country.  Working together means people can look out for each other and learn from each other not only how to work more safely but also for instance to get the money first, how to deal with clients, how to do the job in the quickest time. One of the problems with continued police crackdowns is that most sex workers in this country are now having to work on their own. 

Things have changed though – years ago sex workers used to be described in the press as vice girls, but that doesn’t happen anymore. The press is much more respectful and the public is much more aware of who sex workers are. They know that a lot of us are mothers, migrants, trans, women of color; they know that we are vulnerable women who have few alternatives to sex work. The strikes have been a really effective contribution towards this change. The more recent International Women’s Day strikes were organized by other sex workers organizations but we were very prominent in them, especially in the 2014 and 2019. We did a lot of organizing to get people out and we were very much out there and they were both a great success. It doesn’t always feel like it but things are moving along.

CATS: Your movement is in favor of decriminalisation and not legalisation. Can you explain why you think this model is the best option for sex workers?

C.M.: Decriminalisation which was won in New Zealand in 2003 has been a verifiable success. It was introduced under health and safety legislation and sex workers there say that they now have more legal and other rights and more protection from violence – they know they will not be prosecuted if they come forward and report violence to the police and under these circumstance violent men are more aware they will not get away with it.  This makes an enormous difference to sex workers safety and is a standard we think should be everywhere.

Legalisation is completely different. It’s state-run prostitution. People have to register with the authorities to work legally and most people are unable to do that.  Legalisation creates a two tier system where if you can afford to be known to be working you’re ok and you can work in the legalised areas or premises – but most of us can’t come out as sex workers.  Who knows what might happen if your child’s school or a social worker or health authorities find out. It’s simply not something most people can do.  In those countries where there is legalisation the prostitution stigma remains, most sex workers don’t register with the authorities and continue to work unlawfully.  In the well known areas where people work outdoors, someone just walking into the area can be identified as a sex worker.  Who can afford that?  Internationally, sex workers are not campaigning for legalisation, we’re campaigning for decriminalisation.  We want all consenting sex to be removed from the criminal law 

CATS: Your strike was part of a broader women strike in the UK and internationally on International Women’s Day to bring attention to labor exploitation in all aspects of women’s lives. How do you think being a sex worker can compare to other feminised labour or unpaid work such as caregiving and cleaning?

C.M.: In lots of ways it’s similar work. Clients come to us not only because they want sex, but also because they want someone who is sympathetic to them, who will listen to them. Maybe it’s for fifteen minutes, maybe it’s for half an hour, maybe it’s an hour, maybe it’s for longer but they want the personal contact, that they are at the center of someone’s attention for that time. 

In fact, one of the women in our network did sex work with a client but  was also working with him as a care worker. She did both jobs with the same person and said it was much more work doing the caring work then it was doing the sex work. 

In 2017, we did a survey which found there were many other jobs that women describe as exploitative and dangerous3. Sex work is one of the most dangerous jobs women do purely because violent man know that they can get away with being violent to us – they know we’re not going to report anything to the authorities because we don’t want to get prosecuted. That’s how it is.  

That survey was really illuminating. We launched it in the House of Commons and it’s been very useful to show there are many other jobs that are described by women as being particularly exploitative and dangerous – that sex work is not uniquely exploitative. 

In sex work, you can earn a bit more money in a bit less time and that’s very important especially if you’re a mother or you’re doing another job, maybe you’re working in a bank or working another way and you’re doing it to top up your low wages. A lot of people are doing that. Also, if you are a migrant, you don’t have access to jobs in this country in the same way at all.  For instance if you’re an asylum seeker you don’t have the right to look for jobs.  A lot of people are living in poverty and suffering discrimination – for instance trans people and women of color face racism and other disrimination all the time in the job market – that’s  why so many people are driven into the sex industry. 

CATS: How is a sex work strike organized concretely? How can you make sure everyone can participate, even the more precarious ones? The whorearchy (the hierarchisation of different types of sex work as some being more respectable such as stripping or camming then full-service sex work, particularly those who work outside) is one of the factors that affects the amount of criminalization someone will experience. Was this an issue while organizing the strike and how can you address this? 

C.M.: We’ve been going for a long time and have a really big network around the country – as well as internationally.  We’re in touch with people who work outdoors and indoors in many different places and we invited everyone to come to join the 2000 Strike. The organizing meetings were with people who were not only working in Soho but in other places as well.  We sat down and made sure that everybody was able to put forward their suggestions. We were very careful to make sure everybody knew that they would not be public on the day, they would not be recognisable and would be able to take part  without compromising their security in any way.  That they were not going to be identified because everyone would be wearing masks. 

People who worked in many different ways including strippers and people working online took part.  We were really determined not to be divided.  We are all affected by the laws in some way, however we work, but it was very important to us to make sure that people knew we start with the situation of people who work on the street who are most up against the law, are most stigmatised and therefore most vulnerable to the police and to other violence.  So people knew we were not going to have any slagging off of anyone about the way they worked, that’s just not on the agenda. We are all doing it for the money because we need that money and we choose to work in different ways, whichever way fits our lives the best.  I think that’s one of the reasons why we were successful in organizing the 2000 strike and the subsequent ones. Because people knew that we’re not going to be divided against each other.

CATS: Here in Montreal and Canada, most unions and mainstream feminist organizations are still in favor of the Nordic model. How was it organizing a sex work strike within a bigger feminist movement? How did you find alliance in the left and the feminist movement?

C.M.: Feminists who take a moral stand against prostitution have always been around, but back in 2000, they were not really interested in coming out against us and neither were the unions. Since then Nordic model has been more of an issue and we take every opportunity we can to address it – like going to trade union conferences, speaking out when we’re interviewed with feminists in the press. When you point out that criminalizing clients is going to increase the stigma and drive everybody underground so undermining safety, it’s obvious why we’re against it. Every country where the Nordic model has come in has shown an increase in violence against sex workers. Those women who call themselves feminists and are pressing for the Nordic model are in fact the biggest obstacle to getting decriminalization.  If they would go to the government and say ‘Well, we don’t think women should be in prostitution, but we think that women should have money in their hands so they don’t have to do it’, that would be great !  But they don’t – they take a moral standpoint against prostitution and often make a career out of opposing it as politicians or journalists or academics.  At the 2000 International Women’s Strike, there were thousands and thousands of women marching. There was the odd group of feminists standing on the edges with some odd placards, but they were never in a position to counter what sex workers were saying publicly. 

Women’s safety is something that the government shouldn’t be able to argue about.  We have here a prestigious government committee which spent a year doing an enormous piece of research into prostitution and in 2016 recommended that it be decriminalized, both outdoors and indoors.  Also, crucially that prostitution records be wiped clean so that sex workers can get other jobs. It also recomended prostitution not be conflated with trafficking. But their recommendations were not taken up – the government saying it needed more research which just meant more money in academic’s hands. But even those academics who did do further research were not able to come up with the kind of counter report they had so wanted to produce.  

The laws have to change and they will change.  A divorcee used to be called a “scarlet woman” but not nowadays- things are changed, there has been a women’s movement and decriminalization will happen because sex workers are a key part of that international women’s movement. 

CATS: The criticism of borders and the way they are almost always excluded in the trafficking discourse seems to be a big part of your campaign. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

C.M.: We have a lot of immigrant women in our network and a lot of them are seeking asylum, running from other countries and trying to survive. Under UK legislation, people making claims for asylum have to live off of 37 pounds a week4, a pittance!  So in order to survive and maybe to send some money home, sex work is one of the options people have. 

We also know from our experience not only in Soho but also in cities around the country that the police target migrant sex workers under the guise of saving women from traffickers. We have made it a priority to counter that.  For instance, in Soho, women say ‘look we are not being forced, we are working here because we need to survive and to send money home to our family. Every penny we earn, we send it home to our family’. The only force sex workers are under is the force is not having enough money to survive without doing it.

The best research has shown that less than 6% of migrant sex workers are trafficked. So when we speak publicly we make sure that we counter the publicity that police get when they raid. And it’s clear that these raids don’t have anything to do with saving any women from trafficking but to aid the immigration agenda of the government – which is to deport as many migrant people as possible. Women who are picked up are often sent to immigration centers and deported against their will. Terrible.

CATS: Now what do you think are the next steps for the sex workers movement in the UK? How does COVID impact the way you mobilize?

C.M.: I’m sure it is the same in your country, but COVID has exacerbated everything. At first, everybody did try to stop working. People were and still are in this horrendous dilemma of either stopping working so you’re not making your family vulnerable to the virus – but then you’ve got no money to feed them. And you can’t pay your landlord if you work indoors.  Or you can decide to continue working and have a bit of money  but then you have to be very very careful with clients – and the police may come after you.   

People who have continued working have taken very careful precautions with clients. During the lockdown, most people have basically stopped because they feared their neighbors or the police or other authorities are going to catch up with them in some way, they will get in trouble with the law and then you have another whole story to deal with.   

Some sex worker organizations were doing a great job of raising money for sex workers who were unable to continue working, and we helped distribute that money around to people in our network who needed it. But we decided that as that good work was going on, we would focus on pressing the government to recognize sex workers as workers, to demand an amnesty from arrests, and to demand that sex workers are able to easily access emergency payments. But the government hasn’t done one single thing to enable sex workers to get that money. We made sure with our public campaigning that this point was very prominent and it did bring together some members of parliament.  We asked everyone on our mailing list to write to their local MP and press them to raise these matters in parliament, and some MPs did do that. The government got back saying ‘Well people can access a benefit called Universal Credit’ which is a benefit that is very hard to access, takes ages to get to you, and isn’t enough to live on.  People in general are much more aware about these very low benefits – so many people in this country are having to rely on them one way or another in order to survive right now. 

The pandemic has clarified a lot of issues, starting with how much caring work women are doing, making sure people in communities have enough food, that they are okay. It also clarified the brutality of the government. For example in care homes, elderly people were not protected from the virus at all. They sent people who were positive with the virus from hospitals and into care homes so then of course, hundreds and thousands of elderly people died. But the government was happy – they haven’t got to pay their pension!  The government recently announced that billions of pounds are going to the military, so we know that they have the money.  They have had to organize a furlough system whereby people get 80% of their salaries if they are temporarily laid off. So we know that the money is there and we know that they have been lying to us when they say there is no money. It is very clear now they didn’t organize to make sure hospital and care home workers had all the protection they needed.  It’s the same with sex workers, they don’t really care if we live or die.  I think people have even more scepticism about the government than before. 

Governments want to keep criminalisation of sex work because they want to keep us all divided, they want to divide us into good girls and bad girls. But we refuse that in the same way that we refuse to be divided as sex workers depending on the different ways we work. In New Zealand, decriminalization hasn’t resulted in an enormous increase of people doing sex work because that depends on the financial situation in the country. It’s just that you are not criminalized for earning money in that way.  Governments have to contend with the international sex worker movement and based on safety and rights, we will win.

1 You can learn more about the ECP at https://prostitutescollective.net/

2 Care Income now is an international campaign led by the Global Women Strike that advocates for a care income for all those, of every gender, who care for people, the urban and rural environment, and the natural world. For more info: https://globalwomenstrike.net/open-letter-to-governments-a-care-income-now/

3 The report of the survey – What’s A Nice Girl Doing In A Job Like This: a comparison between sex work and other jobs commonly done by women, can be found on ECP’s website: https://prostitutescollective.net/

4 Equivalent to 64$ CAD

Fighting to End the Criminalization of Sex Workers’ Bodies Since 1995

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Mar 032021
 

From COBP

Stella, l’amie de Maimie:
Fighting to end the criminalization of sex workers’ bodies since 1995

Sex working bodies are criminalized, surveilled, stigmatized, and discriminated against daily. Some people respect and revere our bodies, while others vilify and reduce us to the parts of bodies. Anti-sex work prohibitionists and law enforcement attempt to control us for using our bodies for pleasure, economic empowerment, and our advancement in society. Even though our bodies are only one of the many working tools we use in the context of our sex work, the stigma around sex work leads to social control and criminalization of our work and our lives. It results in discriminatory health, public, legal, and social services for sex workers, compromising our health and safety.

The criminalization – and ultimate prohibition of sex workers, clients, third parties, and advertising – introduced through The Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (née Bill C-36) implemented in December 2014 impacts sex workers first and foremost – it displaces sex workers from habitual workplaces forcing sex workers to work in unknown areas and without safety mechanisms, it criminalizes communication necessary for consent in sex work, and fosters fear of arrest in clients whereby they do not share important information to sex workers. These “end demand” models are often described as “decriminalizing sex workers and criminalizing clients” – this is a lie. Limited understanding of “end demand” models means that their proponents are unaware of the ways in which this regime still criminalizes sex workers and put sex workers at risk.

Since 1995, sex workers in Montreal have been fighting for sex work law reform – the removal of criminal and immigration laws against sex work, as a first step to respecting sex workers’ rights. Decriminalizing sex workers, clients, and the people we live and work with is primordial to respecting sex workers Charter rights to safety and security. This echoes not only the Supreme Court decision in Bedford, but major international human rights research conducted by Amnesty International, UNAIDS, Human Rights Watch, and the World Health Organization, who all call for the total decriminalization of sex work. Decriminalization is only a first step: members of our community who occupy public space – particularly those who are Indigenous, Black, trans, who use drugs, who are living in homelessness — will continue to be harassed, surveilled, and policed. Ending unwanted and unsolicited visits from police in our lives is long overdue.

We continue our struggle to end the policing of our lives and our work, and we stand in solidarity with communities to defund police towards a police free society.

We invite sex workers working to contact us for non-judgemental advice and support, and ways to protect yourself during a time of increased surveillance, police repression, and general sentiments of prohibition.

http://www.chezstella.org

Rattachements: an enemy text

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Mar 022021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

The original French version of this text can be found here.

In early 2020, a truly awful text entitled “Re-attachments: Toward an ecology of presence” (or Rattachments: Pour une écologie de la présence, in the original French version) was published out of Quebec, signed by a collective called “Dispositions.” Anchored in appelist thought, this text combines out-of-context linguistic mysticism with certain thinly disguised conservative ideas and also defends tendentious neocolonial and capitalist positions – all with an altogether astonishing narcissism. Up until this point, we’ve kept our critiques of this text to the private sphere, as it did not seem worth the effort of critique on our part. Unfortunately, the fact that the text is circulating once again a year after its publication, and been translated into English, compels us to react. Though we developed our critique specifically in response to Rattachements, it could easily also apply to an American text that inspired it, Inhabit (itself now also translated into French and distributed in Quebec). Citations follow the order of the text, but are not precisely referenced, as the printed version of the text is not paginated.

After hurriedly presenting the current crisis, both human and ecological, Rattachements proposes that we transcend the paralyzing binary permeating the environmental movement: “activist environmentalism” and “individualist environmentalism.” One might expect a strategic proposal to replace this binary: to the contrary, the authors claim that to operate within the terrain of values, to determine the “orientation of [an] action,” falls within “activism” and that it is therefore of no interest. From the get-go, it seems that an esoteric immanence sprinkled with belief in the future (a hope counterbalanced later in the text) stands in for political strategy: for the authors, it would be sufficient, according to the authors, to “[know] that all the components for a magical life are already there waiting for us — understanding that we are acting in the long term.”

Who exactly the authors are addressing in this text is not specified, although it is indicated in the negative at the beginning of Section II. An assertion – reeking of class condescension – that poses the question of how one might “speak about ‘nature’ to the subjects formed by the metropolis.” The tone seems to connote genuine sorrow for the dispossessed urban poor, but nothing is said about how their dispossession should be overcome or how people so deprived might reconnect with nature, other than by buying land in the country. In effect, the authors insist on a reconnection to nature that is nothing but the privilege of the wealthy. So, to the poor dispossessed: so sad, but there is no ‘redemption through presence’ for you in Rattachements.

Elsewhere in the text, the authors correctly observe that the state seeks to capture the totality of struggles in defense of the earth and will pass off just about any green policy as progress towards our collective well-being, but they refrain from mentioning any of the myriad anticapitalist, radical ecological, and decolonial groups and collectives that struggle against the state without being captured by it. The authors render invisible the totality of existing radical movements in order to underscore the supposedly exceptional nature of their thinking and the inspired brilliance of their practices. In expressing regret at this supposed absence, this text intentionally obscures the practices of millions of people struggling around the world. As the real and existing radical movement is ignored by the authors, they propose the following in order to bring about change: “It is a question of defending forms of life from that which denies their possibility. It is about fighting and defeating the enemy (whose many forms lurk both within, and outside of us).” We do not know which forms of existence must be saved nor which enemies must be fought. An ellipsis would suffice, according to the authors. Capitalism? Colonialism? These terms are virtually absent from the text. A particular mention of settler colonialism (a few pages before the middle) is certainly relevant here, affirming that settler colonialism continues its policy of the extermination of Indigenous communities in Quebec and Canada, although the authoritative tone employed to express this (rare) interesting idea contrasts strangely with the subjectivism of the rest of the text.

While Rattachements claimed from the outset to break with traditional politics (indicated by their disdain for “activist environmentalism” as well as for strategy), a new perspective is put forward near the middle of the text that stands in direct contradiction with its presentist politics. Indeed, after having advocated a sort of mystical return to the self, encouraged a search for “the components for a magical life”, after having ignored social and collective problems, the authors contradict themselves in stressing that politics is the art of conflict, and that acting (politically) against “the economy” (why not capitalism?) implies “a real territoriality — a presence, a reattachment” … and thus “the possibility of concrete conflictuality.” Let’s be generous and assume ‘being present’ is a necessary prerequisite to ‘being in conflict.’ But beyond that, nowhere is it explained how a mystical presence in the world would become, by force of words, a real conflictual presence. Is it even possible to theorize political conflict without collective organizing (in the social and class sense), without strategy, without naming the (capitalist) enemy, etc? The presence that is advocated here is totally individualistic and devoid of political content. Note once again that only this signifier “presence” (in oneself, in nature) serves as political content from the beginning of the text to the place where we find ourselves. It is thus unfortunate to see that the authors, in attempting to integrate some bad Carl Schmitt as regurgitated by French appelistes, don’t even manage to pose a real political contradiction.

For sure, beyond mystical presence in and of itself, the whole notion of re-attachment ignores the question of the settler colonialism that founded the Americas. It seems a single mention of this colonization passes for serious reflection on the subject and, especially, suffices for drawing political consequences from it. Indeed, in the second part of the text, the authors incessantly speak of inhabiting, territories to inhabit, areas to (re)take, and so on: themes that are just new deployments of colonization, under a different name. Let’s say it plainly: if the authors of the text are claiming that territories are ‘rightfully due to them,’ it is because they have totally internalized the values of the white colonial bourgeoisie, the only social class that speaks of its right to vast open spaces and various territories, and for whom a simple affirmation of their existence constitutes politics.

The authors insolently take advantage of this to reject the collective responsibility that descendants of settlers bear. Recognizing this collective responsibility is necessary if we want to think through a real decolonial politics, but this is of no importance to the authors: they fear that such a recognition leads only to a “sacrificial politics.” The chain from cause to effect – from the acceptance of our collective responsibility in the genocidal colonial process to the issue of sacrifice – is not made explicit in the text. Rather, it seems that by refusing to carry this shared responsibility, they are trying to make their desires in unceded territories more palatable: to reappropriate territories, to build houses there, to cultivate the land, to be able to own property, to celebrate freely with friends, to be “present” and to place themselves beyond reproach. And to prevent others from discovering their secret: that such practices are nothing other than a new coloniality and a vague hedonism. This neo-colonial mentality at work was showcased at length in the excellent text Another Word for Settle: A Response to Rattachements and Inhabit. This text shows clearly the profound flaws of these two appelist texts.

For the Dispositions collective, not wanting to talk about collective crimes Western societies and individuals have perpetuated right up until the present day is just another way of absolving themselves of their political responsibilities. After having (very poorly) discussed political conflict near the middle of the text, the authors quickly circled back to their personalist leitmotif. Under the pretext of not wanting to guilt individuals (because guilt paralyzes political action), they refuse to name systemic problems. The simple solution would be to take aim at capitalism, the state, and its structures – this would also designate a clear enemy and create political conflict. In refusing to do so, the authors are instead unilaterally wagering that their self-absolution leads to inaction, or even to compulsory inaction. As a result, the authors fall into a wilfully naive relativism about responsibility, according to which there are neither ‘guilty nor victims.’ Starting from immanentism and personalism as politics, the text struggled with the issue of politics before reaching a conclusion that is liberal, apolitical, individualistic and contrary to any social revolutionary spirit.

Is pessimism the fundamental affect of the times? For the authors, perhaps. Although one wonders if this affirmation is not simply serving to justify anew the duty of inaction, the right to avoid struggle, the refusal of strategy. Another way of justifying that in these difficult times, it is better to be in love with oneself, which is truly in step with the times. But now the situation is reversed: never short of contradictions, the authors affirm now that we must “[become] responsible.” Nice words from those who are not ‘guilty’ but rather ‘pessimists.’ Is this really a contradiction? Not totally, since the responsibility posited by the authors is individual (towards oneself and one’s friends) and concerns the relations the individual maintains with others and with nature. Historical, political, and economic responsibility are cast aside. What is needed is to be responsible towards yourself and your neighbours. Doesn’t that just remind you of the “individualist environmentalism” decried at the beginning of the text! Or simply liberal individualism. Of course, for those who are not crushed by social and economic structures, it is easy to take on responsibility ‘towards’ oneself, with an aura of stoic saintliness. It is different for peoples and individuals who organize themselves and fight against colonialism, imperialism and capitalism; but it has long since been understood that Rattachements was not going to speak of the wretched of the earth, obsessed as it is with the spiritual reconnection of the white colonial petty-bourgeoisie to the world that surrounds them.

How do the authors propose getting past the initial dichotomy of the text? How should we conceptualize political conflict? “To make ecology truly political, we must ask the following question: what makes it possible for this or that community to live a fulfilling life, to increase its happiness?” Fairly weak as a grand political statement for the current era. Fighting capitalism? Organizing a new, self-managed world? Absolutely not: it seems that developing happiness and well-being in one’s own little corner of the world is enough to change the world and make revolution. This promise of happiness ‘in one’s own surroundings’ is the same as that of liberalism and capitalism, and is in no way in contradiction with social structures. Most members of the middle and upper classes can aspire to such happiness, without ever challenging the system of production and consumption that destroys millions of lives.

What is really at work here is the willingness to tend to your own garden and come to believe there is something inherently revolutionary about that. If you need more proof that the so-called politics invoked by the author are nothing more than the most banal ideas of our time: we should care for our relations, our collective apartments, our shared houses and our political meetings. Apart from the distasteful touch of ‘ownership,’ there is only a desire to get along well with your friends. No politics. Just: ‘I want things to go well with my housemates and with my crew.’ As in the whole text, no political, social or collective problems are raised. The authors admit that it is because they feel “so dreadfully inert” that they wish to reconnect with presence. Their condition seems to stem from simple depression, not a political call.

Some dubious references are brought up at the beginning of Part III: a mythical peasant life is invoked in a gesture that is both backward-looking and confused, experiences of the Zapatista struggling for self-determination are referenced (even though these experiences stand in direct contradiction to the reoccupation of territories by the descendants of colonizers, at the heart of the authors’ project), and finally they emphasize the autonomy of the Kanienʼkehá꞉ka, as if indigenous peoples were not specifically subjected to a colonial regime of non-autonomy in so-called Canada. It’s clear that these figures serve only to give the text a decolonial veneer, although the veneer is cracking due to the ‘back to the land and good rural life’ aspects of the text – an approach that is quite simply conservative and colonial. The authors again feel the need to insult those who engage in activism: they are making a “lazy self-sacrifice.” Why? Because they do not adhere to the bourgeois presentism and individualism of the authors? Coming from those who prefer to drop out and party on stolen territories with their clique, the insult is a particularly low blow.

In critiquing the pacifist strategies and tactics employed by certain environmental groups, the authors don’t hesitate to lump all activists together in the same boat. They counterpose to activism “the need for ecstatic forms of life,” the only form of “real organization” according to the authors. This is absurd nonsense: the text asks its readers to not only spit on activists, but also to favour the murky (and once again, mystical) idea of ecstasy over collective struggle, organization, and, yes, even sometimes sacrifice. On one hand, it should be noted that throughout the text the authors conflate activism, reformism, sacrifice and “absence from the world,” concealing various radical and social practices of struggle and proposing no solution other than their presentism and their retreat in “the commune” (a term that is out of place in this text). On the other hand, the authors seem unperturbed by the idea that “ecstasy” can be reserved for those whose class conditions – notably, economic – allow them to treat themselves to such a good “ecstatic” time. Would the authors dare to demand that night-shift warehouse workers in the Saint-Laurent industrial park not struggle against their employer, but ‘choose’ ecstatic life instead? Would they dare to submit their ‘ideas about ecstasy’ to those incarcerated in Leclerc? The narcissism and classism of the text peak right around here. How could you think for one second that for the truly oppressed, a choice exists between struggle (a bad sacrificial choice according to Dispositions) and the life of ecstasy (which one can choose deliberately if we wish to). This is how 200 years of revolutionary materialist reflections and practices go up in smoke.

And this ecstatic life, what does it look like? One must fight, steal, travel. And most importantly, “[find] money, [acquire] buildings and land to put in common. [Watch] life flourish.” In sum, fun pursuits for having a good time in the present, and capitalist pursuits for real life, for the future. We can’t help but observe that this ‘strategic’ paragraph of the text (the authors are clearly ignorant of the meaning of this word) only deals with festive and individual activities, as well as investments and classically economic activities (liberal and capitalist). If buying land and forming a cooperative on it is deemed to be revolutionary (or a strategy!), the authors will need to learn that it is not: buying a parcel of land and forming a cooperative on it is an economic action belonging to the capitalist regime and made possible by it, accessible only to the global middle and upper classes due to the costs of investment. It is also, in the context of North America’s foundational settler colonialism, an action that generally serves to perpetuate colonialism. Obviously, it can be useful for revolutionary movements to possess infrastructures, spaces, etc. But this possession, legal and capitalistic, is never revolutionary in itself, and even less so when it is used personally or for one’s small group.

The only concrete proposal in the text is therefore to abandon political struggles in favour of the self (family or nucleus of friends), and then to adopt capitalist life practices that allow individual enjoyment for those who can afford it. We find here the melting-pot that we named at the beginning of the text: the conservatism of bourgeois values, neocolonialism, capitalism, individualism and hedonism; we are entitled to assume that this is what is meant by finding “all the components of a magical life.”

Neocolonialism and conservatism are taken yet a little further, in the very fashionable vein of ‘back to the land.’ It thus becomes important to gather “what our aunt taught us about plum trees, how to sharpen our wood carving knives, how to can ten bushels of tomatoes.” We must find ourselves in “the commune” (again, a term out of place in this text), meaning in the country house bought with our friends, to perform these highly symbolic actions. The authors teach us that such actions are even capable of “definitively suspending the progress of the catastrophe.” It’s heavy with retrograde values as well as totally apolitical actions that are simply a matter of daily life. In short, nothing very ecstatic. Finally, we don’t need to judge the ecstasy of others: rather, we can judge that living with a few people in the countryside, while unburdening ourselves of our political responsibilities, does not in any way augur well for a revolutionary organization or political triumph. It is hard to see how such a project would distinguish itself from the myriad individual and apolitical initiatives trying to establish rural settlements (increasingly popular due to anxieties provoked by the ecological crisis) or worse, from green entrepreneurship (the famous organic permaculture farm). If these “autonomous” initiatives were really able to bring about the overthrow of current capitalist and colonial structures, Val-David would long since be a commune liberated from the market and from all oppression.

The last two pages condense various hallmarks of Rattachements: no structural analysis, no material analysis, the domination of our times considered primarily subjectively, a call to mystical presentism (return to oneself, to real life, to the world), a so-called politics that ignores all actual living conditions, etc. The climax of this colonial, capitalist, narcissistic and mystical text: “To make oneself both perceptible and open to perceiving. Affect and power, orientation and magnitude. It is not a question of fighting on ‘two fronts’, but of the practical elaboration of the double meaning of “presence” and “sensible.” The text thus closes its long litany of contradictions with a sentence that means absolutely nothing.

***

This long critique may seem repetitive and sometimes confusing. It nevertheless simply follows the thread of a long text called Rattachements, itself confused, full of contradictions, not fulfilling its promises. The text is meant to be a reflection on the present time and a proposal for revolutionary action, but in our opinion it is nothing more than a long display of neo-colonial, bourgeois, capitalist and narcissistic values. There are many absurdities, many contradictions, a vulgar personalism and nothing useful for current revolutionaries. Those who don’t think the text is so terrible should take the trouble to reread it carefully: it is terrible, it is an enemy. We know that the people behind this text are not enemies, but we cannot be complacent in the face of what they have written and distributed.

In the end, their text proposes yet another enviro-capitalist and individualist ‘alternative’: the very type of practice that diverts the vital force of political action and that contributes to the catastrophe under the pretext of ‘personal action.’ The lines of argument of Rattachements are contrary to the social and political understanding we need, contrary to the collective organization necessary to fight against the capitalist system. We believe that a different analysis and politics are needed: a politics made by and for activists and the oppressed which must lead us towards a self-managed world; not a politics of little narcissists living their best life in the countryside. Individualistic desertion will not save us and cannot guide our actions in the times to come. As long as Rattachements circulates, it is our duty to criticize it harshly.

Anarchist Reorientation in the Time of COVID

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Jan 282021
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

Originally published March 20, 2020

The situation changes quickly. Along with everyone else, I follow it avidly and share updates, watch our lives change from day to day, get bogged down in uncertainty. It can feel like there is only a single crisis whose facts are objective, allowing only one single path, one that involves separation, enclosure, obedience, control. The state and its appendages become the only ones legitimate to act, and the mainstream media narrative with the mass fear it produces swamps our ability for independent action.

Some anarchists though have pointed out that there are two crises playing out in parallel — one is a pandemic that is spreading rapdily and causing serious harm and even death for thousands. The other is crisis management strategy imposed by the the state. The state claims to be acting in the interest of everyone’s health — it wants us to see its response as objective and inevitable.

But its crisis management is also a way of determining what conditions will be like when the crisis resolves, letting it pick winners and losers along predictable lines. Recognizing the inequality baked into these supposedly neutral measures means acknowledging that certain people being asked to pay a much higher cost than others for what the powerful are claiming as a collective good. I want to recover some autonomy and freedom of action in this moment, and to do this, we need to break free of the narrative we are given.

When we let the state control the narrative, the questions that are asked about this moment, we also let them control the answers. If we want a different outcome than the powerful are preparing, we need to be able to ask a different question.

We mistrust the mainstream narrative on so many things, and are usually mindful of the powerful’s ability to shape the narrative to make the actions they want to take seem inevitable. Here in Canada, the exaggeration and lies about the impacts of #shutdowncanada rail blockades was a deliberate play to lay the groundwork for a violent return to normal. We can understand the benefits of an infection-control protocol while being critical of the ways the state is using this moment for its own ends. Even if we assess the situation ourselves and accept certain reccomendations the state is also pushing, we don’t have to adopt the state’s project as our own. There is a big difference between following orders and thinking independently to reach similar conclusions.

When we are actually carrying out own project, it becomes easier to make an independent assessment of the situation, parsing the torrent of information and reccomendations for ourselves and asking what is actually suitable for our goals and priorities. For instance, giving up our ability to have demonstrations while we still need to go work retail jobs seems like a bad call for any liberatory project. Or recognizing the need for a rent strike while also fear mongering about any way of talking to our neighbours.

Giving up on struggle while still accomodating the economy is very far from addressing our own goals, but it flows from the state’s goal of managing the crisis to limit economic harm and prevent challenges to its legitimacy. It’s not that the state set out to quash dissent, that is probably just a byproduct. But if we have a different starting point — build autonomy rather than protect the economy — we will likely strike different balances about what is appropriate.

For me, a starting point is that my project as an anarchist is to create the conditions for free and meaningful lives, not just ones that are as long as possible. I want to listen to smart advice without ceding my agency, and I want to respect the autonomy of others — rather than a moral code to enforce, our virus measures should be based on agreements and boundaries, like any other consent practice. We communicate about the measures we choose, we come to agreements, and where agreements aren’t possible, we set boundaries that are self-enforceable and don’t rely on coercion. We look at the ways access to medical care, class, race, gender, geography, and of course health affect the impact of both the virus and the state’s response and try to see that as a basis for solidarity.

A big part of the state’s narrative is unity — the idea that we need to come together as a society around a singular good that is for everyone. People like feeling like they’re part of a big group effort and like having the sense of contributing through their own small actions — the same kinds of phenomenons that make rebellious social movements possible also enable these moments of mass obedience. We can begin rejecting it by reminding ourselves that the interests of the rich and powerful are fundamentally at odds with our own. Even in a situation where they could get sicken or die too (unlike the opioid crisis or the AIDS epidemic before it), their response to the crisis is unlikely to meet our needs and may even intensify exploitation.

The presumed subject of most of the measures like self-isolation and social distancing is middle-class — they imagine a person whose job can easily be worked from home or who has access to paid vacation or sick days (or, in the worst case, savings), a person with a spacious home, a personal vehicle, without very many close, intimate relationships, with money to spend on childcare and leisure activities. Everyone is asked to accept a level of discomfort, but that increases the further away our lives are from looking like that unstated ideal and compounds the unequal risk of the worst consequences of the virus. One response to this inequality has been to call on the state to do forms of redistribution, by expanding employment insurance benefits, or by providing loans or payment deferrals. Many of these measure boil down to producing new forms of debt for people who are in need, which recalls the outcome of the 2008 financial crash, where everyone shared in absorbing the losses of the rich while the poor were left out to dry.

I have no interest in becoming an advocate for what the state should do and I certainly don’t think this is a tipping point for the adoption of more socialistic measures. The central issue to me is whether or not we want the state to have the abiltiy to shut everything down, regardless of what we think of the justifications it invokes for doing so.

The #shutdowncanada blockades were considered unacceptable, though they were barely a fraction as disruptive as the measures the state pulled out just a week later, making clear that it’s not the level of disruption that was unacceptable, but rather who is a legitimate actor. Similarly, the government of Ontario repeated constantly the unacceptable burden striking teachers were placing on families with their handful of days of action, just before closing schools for three weeks — again, the problem is that they were workers and not a government or boss. The closure of borders to people but not goods intensifies the nationalist project already underway across the world, and the economic nature of these seemingly moral measures will become more plain once the virus peaks and the calls shift towards ‘go shopping, for the economy’.

The state is producing legitimacy for its actions by situating them as simply following expert reccomendations, and many leftists echo this logic by calling for experts to be put directly in control of the response to the virus. Both of these are advocating for technocracy, rule by experts. We have seen this in parts of Europe, where economic experts are appointed to head governments to implement ‘neutral’ and ‘objective’ austerity measures. Calls to surrender our own agency and to have faith in experts are already common on the left, especially in the climate change movement, and extending that to the virus crisis is a small leap.

It’s not that I don’t want to hear from experts or don’t want there to be individuals with deep knowledge in specific fields — it’s that I think the way problems are framed already anticipate their solution. The response to the virus in China gives us a vision of what technocracy and authoritarianism are capable of. The virus slows to a stop, and the checkpoints, lockdowns, facial recognition technology, and mobilized labour can be turned to other ends. If you don’t want this answer, you’d better ask a different question.

So much of social life had already been captured by screens and this crisis is accelerating it — how do we fight alienation in this moment? How do we address the mass panic being pushed by the media, and the anxiety and isolation that comes with it?

How do we take back agency? Mutual aid and autonomous health projects are one idea, but are there ways we can go on the offensive? Can we undermine the ability of the powerful to decide whose lives are worth preserving? Can we go beyond support to challenge property relations? Like maybe building towards looting and expropriations, or extorting bosses rather than begging not to be fired for being sick?

How are we preparing to avoid curfews or travel restrictions, even cross closed borders, should we consider it appropriate to do so? This will certainly involve setting our own standards for safety and necessity, not just accepting the state’s guidelines.

How do we push forward other anarchist engagements? Specifically, our hostility to prison in all its forms seems very relevant here. How do we centre and target prison in this moment? How about borders? And should the police get involved to enforce various state measures, how do we delegitimate them and limit their power?

How do we target the way power is concentrating and restructuring itself around us? What interests are poised to “win” at the virus and how do we undermine them (think investment opportunities, but also new laws and increased powers). What infrastructure of control is being put in place? Who are the profiteers and how can we hurt them? How do we prepare for what comes next and plan for the window of possibility that might exist in between the worst of the virus and a return to economic normalcy?

Developing our own read on the situation, along with our own goals and practices, is not a small job. It will take the exchange of texts, experiments in action, and communication about the results. It will take broadening our sense of inside-outside to include enough people to be able to organize. It will involve still acting in the public space and refusing to retreat to online space.  Combined with measures to deal with the virus, the intense fear and pressure to conform coming from many who would normally be our allies makes even finding space to discuss the crises on different terms a challenge. But if we actually want to challenge the ability of the powerful to shape the response to the virus for their own interests, we need to start by taking back the ability to ask our own questions.

Conditions are different everywhere, but all states are watching each other and following each others’ lead, and we would do well to look to anarchists in other places dealing with conditions that may soon become our own. So I’ll leave you with this quote from anarchists in France, where a mandatory lockdown has been in place all week, enforced with dramatic police violence:

And so yes, let’s avoid too much collectivity in our activities and unnecessary meetings, we will maintain a safe distance, but fuck the confinement measures, we’ll evade your police patroles as much as we can, it’s out of the question that we support repression or restrictions of our rights! To all the poor, marginal, and rebellious, show solidarity and engage in mutual aid to maintain activities necessary for survival, avoid the arrests and fines and continue expressing ourselves politically.

From “Against Mass Confinement” (“Contre le confinement généralisé“). Published in French on Indymedia Nantes

Poster: Fire to the Cybernetic Prison

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Sep 172020
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

PDF – Print (11 x 17)

Poster text:

Fire to the Cybernetic Prison

It’s never too late to resist

Artificial Intelligence
AI labs, recipients of several $100M in government funding, are working to put “machine learning” algorithms in the service of a long list of industries. Under an “ethical” facade, some applications will simply allow well-placed capitalists to further enrich themselves. Others aim to reinforce repression, whether detecting shoplifters at the supermarket with automated video surveillance, developing facial recognition tools that work even on partly covered faces, or “predicting” crime or the probability of a prisoner re-offending.

5g Wireless Networking
The unprecedented bandwidth of 5G technology enables the deployment of AI on the scale of a city in real time. Every movement becomes trackable thanks to thousands of cameras integrated into a centralized surveillance apparatus. This vision is already in practice in more than one European “smart city”. Countless sensors dotting public spaces, in businesses, cars and public transit, and worn on our bodies aim to make every action the object of calculation, prediction and control, all under an eco-friendly label. By its pervasiveness, a web of algorithms is made invisible and therefore impossible to resist.

Robotics and Automation
Self-driving cars. Robotized warehouses. Cashierless stores. Delivery robots that call the cops when they are attacked. An infrastructure is being deployed that will change the world of work and our living environment permanently. We don’t mourn the disappearance of back-breaking and boring jobs. A dehumanizing pace is imposed on the remaining workers, who must keep up with the machines and productivity software or be shown the door. Meanwhile, what measures of social control and what exploitative schemes await the new excluded masses of an age of technological unemployment?

Life in Front of a Screen
Possibilities for authentic relations between humans and with our surroundings are increasingly erased in service of a virtual hyper- connectivity. Understanding, discovery, and the search for meaning are reduced to production of data. Attention deficit, memory problems, loss of emotional skills and imagination, disrupted sleep, musculo-skeletal pain, anxiety, loneliness, depression: the symptoms of addiction to online technologies are worsening as the proportion of the population that has spent their entire lives immersed in touch screens grows.

For free and full lives, open to the unknown

Be the outage in their network!

Soyons la panne dans leur réseau !

On the Insurrection in the U.S.A: An Interview with Anarchists/Abolitionists

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Jun 242020
 

Anonymous submission to MTL Counter-info

The following is an interview intended for an international and revolutionary audience. It includes questions from the Greek anarchist radio project RadioFragmata regarding the insurrection against white supremacy happening in the USA. The interview is with members of RAM (Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement) and anonymous anarchists from the USA. It is intended to help explain the circumstances and events happening in the USA.

“Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they’ve always made me glad.” – Malcolm X

What is happening in the USA right now, and how is it different from other recent uprisings that have happened in response to police violence such as Ferguson, MO in 2014? Is there a different feeling in the streets?

This uprising in the US is mainly different in its fury and its magnitude. Other moments, like Ferguson or the LA riots in 1992 were significant and laid the groundwork for this moment, but today we are seeing a movement that is radically different in a lot of ways.

The youth in the streets are very knowledgeable about abolitionist politics. The youth have dismissed patience and hope for reform, focusing only on immediate and direct action. A lot more people also seem to realize that reformism is a dead end this time around. The level of intensity is extraordinarily significant. The fact that people burned down a police precinct in Minneapolis, chased the police out running for their lives, and continued as the military was called in, is unprecedented. The other fact that the majority of the country supported burning down a police station and the plague of pacifism has lost its foothold on protest, has really reshaped the type of dialogue we are used to in the states. Support of insurrection and riot from unexpected groups and individuals is shocking at times to the say the least. Predatory fence riders are essentially being forced to come down and pick a side. Are you a racist, or are you an anti-racist?

The intensity of revolt that began this time in Minneapolis, has since spread across the country like a wild fire. The wide-spread level of generalized revolt, the intensity of the resistance, and a complete loss of faith in reform and patience in the system is unlike anything I have ever seen in my lifetime.

How are anarchists and/or anti-fascists in the states showing solidarity during this insurrection? And what suggestions do you have for anarchists and/or anti-fascists around the world to show solidarity from afar?

Anarchists and antifascists have participated from the beginning of these rebellions. The movement has explicitly focused on policing, prisons and its appendages for quite some time now. So this moment of rebellion is very special for us.

But we should be clear; this wasn’t an uprising sparked by anarchists. The rebellion is driven by black youth who are tired of being dehumanized and murdered. Anti-black violence and white supremacy is the cornerstone of US political, economic and social life. It is so entrenched that reform is impossible. We as anarchists have long held this position and have fought and organized to destroy this situation, but we are just one of many political tendencies that have been taking part in this insurrection.

Around the world the most important thing for anarchists to do is to intensify political and economic pressure on the US and contribute to local tensions and resistance against police. Target anything and everything that makes the United States function and powerful, while further generalizing and empowering the discontent that inspired the uprising to begin with; targeting local racism, the police, and other appendages of domination and exploitation. The US is incredibly weak now and the weaker it gets the better it is for us here and for people around the world in general. Additionally, any act of solidarity gives strength to those of us in the streets. Solidarity is strongest in a shared attack that knows no borders!

How is it that some people claim to support the rebellion in the USA but backtrack due to so-called “violence”?

In the US, the concept of “non-violence” as practiced by Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader in the 1960’s, is held up and celebrated, in hindsight, as the perfect expression of activism. By extension, protest is seen as an expression of activism. Thus, all legitimate and supposedly “effective” protest should bare a lot of resemblance to these principles of non-violent protest which are reported in history for single-handedly achieving civil rights in America. In reality, the situation was much more complicated and frequent insurrections in major cities also played a very big role in the state passing new laws that abolished formal/legal segregation in the southern US (Jim Crow; only to eventually readapt methods of oppression). Nevertheless, the official narrative gives non-violence all the credit. Furthermore, the narrative is that every protest must be to advance a legal cause, not a revolutionary movement. Sometimes even revolutionary sounding rhetoric (Such as Killer Mike of Run the Jewels, known democrat and son of a police officer using deceptive language to denounce protesters following attacks on CNN headquarters and the police) is used when talking about changing laws or achieving other basic reforms. Any American action in the streets that is truly revolutionary or is violent is generally considered illegitimate, because of the aforementioned beliefs about what legitimate struggle looks like that is culturally very powerful. This is another reason why the events that have happened are so inspiring because they totally reject this logic and this narrative. The degree to which the uprising spread to such a diverse array of cities shows how widespread the dissatisfaction with this narrative has become. A partial explanation is that the people acted before any formal leaders had a chance to try to assert themselves as representatives of the movement. The truly organic nature of the movement has been its strength from the beginning and what has allowed it to break free from what otherwise would have been protests carefully orchestrated by professional activists and politicians.

People are conditioned from a young age to seek faith in the theater of democratic politics. Violence is the negation of such a faith. Violence is a demonstration of self-determination, it demonstrates a desire to seek a world beyond the present.

We are taught that we have rights, but rights are choices that can be taken away, as they are set by a social contract that is maintained by authority. Rights are nonsense, deceptive options that are used to instill the fear that lies at the basis of today’s social peace. You have your rights, your freedom(S), and if you behave according to the laws of the box that contain these choices, you will not go to prison. Rights are imaginary, and typically only assumed to have validity by the included and beneficiaries of a stratified society. This is a very important thing to remember when judging the voice of a proclaimed ally contesting political violence or self-defense.

Violence and physical revolt recognizes a rigged playing field. It demonstrates a will to go further, a desire that can not be controlled by a system that can at any moment take away such rights. The voices that take an issue with violence are speaking a language of faith in the justice and politics of a system responsible for inspiring revolutionary violence to begin with. These voices will encourage you to plea, to wait, and to hope.

Activists, liberals, and so-called allies supporting from the bench are quick to denounce violence because they have faith in the options the current theater of politics present for change. They want to re-appropriate the existing powers, as oppose to demolish them. In some cases they are also afraid, and instead of humbly recognizing their fear of being punished for courageous risk and resistance, they huddle like cowards behind various critiques of violence.

On the other hand you can wonder why we grow up learning about Martin Luther King and Ghandi, rather then such historical figures of the same time and place such as Malcolm X or Bhagat Singh. The right, the powerful, or the systematic and calculated methods of self-preservation by capitalist society will always denounce revolutionary violence and insurrection. This is simply because this type of resistance is what they fear, this type of resistance threatens their status, and the system that maintains it.

Violence is a neutral subject. Two people can be holding a gun, and it be a totally different situation. One person (Patrick Crusius) can hold a gun in order to murder immigrants and people of color at random in El Paso, Texas, while another person (Chrystul Kizer) can hold a gun to kill a man who raped and trafficked them.

One may say we are only discussing George Floyd because he was fortunate enough to have had his lynching caught on tape. However this is not why we are still discussing George Floyd. People are tortured and murdered across the United States every single day. And in many cases it is caught on video. But the real reason we are still talking about George Floyd after his death, is because this particular incident sparked a generalized revolt of what I would consider a positive type of violence that the police could not control.

Has the coronavirus played a role in the current insurrection?

The coronavirus definitely played a role in the rebellion. There are several main factors here. The economic fallout has left millions of people helpless. There are millions without work in the US. Having a job in the US also does not mean escaping poverty. The unemployment rate does not truly reflect the percentage of people struggling to survive; those working jobs that do not cover their day to day expenses are considered to be employed. The level of precariousness is enormous. Then you have an entire country stuck inside and restless, particularly the youth.

Black people in the US have died of the coronavirus at at a rate three times higher than white americans due to a consistent lack of access to quality healthcare. There was a huge lack of testing in poor communities, but this is intentional. People have little access to healthcare in general, and quality medical assistance is reserved for more affluent communities. People in working class communities continued working and taking public transportation during the pandemic in order to survive. This made the virus spread in more extreme ways, but particularly to marginalized communities.

Quarantine also highlighted divisions and privileges in society. The rich were able to escape dense cities and isolate in luxury. People who lost their jobs and were offered scraps by the government as huge companies and the rich received unprecedented bailouts. The richest few had their wealth increase by over half a trillion dollars, while everyone else was home wondering about the next week, the next bill, or the next meal.

Poor people, Black and brown people, native people, and the excluded demographics of the United States took a massive hit from the virus. There was no pretending anymore about whose life matters and whose didn’t as the state contained oppressed peoples inside petri-dish like virus-filled prisons and immigrant detention centers — acceptable death zones populated by capitalism’s expendables. Furthermore, the workers who were deemed essential during the pandemic to keep society functioning were among the least rewarded and most exploited in society prior (Nurses, agricultural workers, grocery store workers, and so on). This allowed people to realize the absurd logic of capitalism and begin asking questions that many Americans have never even considered. Instead of raises and protection, these workers were only greeted with patronizing praise from the rich and powerful as “heroes”, while such petty appreciation is obviously insulting when someone is risking death and the spread of the virus to their loved ones. People’s eyes were open to a point that no deception offered by the supposed american dream could distract people from the nightmare that is most american’s everyday life.

When the Trump administration also began noticing that non-white and lower class demographics were being affected by the coronavirus at much higher rates then his almost exclusively white fan base, he and his media apparatus began a blatantly racist push to re-open the economy and as Trump put it: “let the virus wash through”.

So due to these systemic, structural reasons the Black community was by far one of the most affected by the coronavirus in the country. On top of all that, when the state demanded people begin social distancing the police immediately began terrorizing Black communities for not following orders. Even as the country was in lockdown, police found a way to keep the numbers of people murdered by them as high as they were in recent years. And with people being home, many had all day to view videos of police murder and torture in the streets as they happened.

The coronavirus became a formula that helped to turn the country into a powder keg.

Is race the only issue driving this uprising?

The insurrection is predominantly about white supremacy, policing, and the prison system (13th is a quality film on this subject). Heinous murder of Black youth is the norm in the United States, and people finally had enough.

Class also plays a fundamental role in the uprising, as it does in all capitalist societies. However, this uprising was totally driven by the Black working class which has a very different character than the activist movement in the US which is often from bourgeois backgrounds and approaches politics as a hobby as opposed to indispensable struggle. Due to this reality the character of the original uprising was pretty open to whoever wanted to participate, and acted without fear of judgment by the racist morality of the status quo.

It should also come as no surprise that while the unemployment rate has skyrocketed to levels not seen since the great depression, people are now fighting back against the system. If the movement can retain this working class ferocity and fluidity the potential for revolutionary change is greater than it’s been in a lifetime.

What are some of the origins of white supremacy in the USA?

The origins of white supremacy in the US are the origins of the country itself. The US was founded as a white supremacist project explicitly. Built on the backs of the enslaved African population and the genocide of the indigenous, the US established itself as the model nation for white power. In its early laws they claimed Black people were only three fifths of a human and were viewed as property until 1865. After that the government did everything in its power to ensure the foundations of slavery remained, transferring the process from plantations to the prison industrial complex.

But this process started with early European expansion around the world. The US, in actuality, is a project built from European thought and politics. Both continents are historically entangled with extreme racial regimes and mass slaughter and genocide. Additionally, the status of economic and political power maintained on both continents come at the expense of historical colonialism that has come to define the global mapping of the 1st and 3rd worlds today.

What does it mean to be against white supremacy? Are there elements of reverse racism in this struggle?

First off, reverse-racism is not a thing. It is an oxymoron.

Racism isn’t simple prejudice but a system of oppression and because there is no racialized system of oppression that whites are subject to, they cannot be victims of racism.

“White” in American society is an established demographic that has some pre-existing advantages on its own. For example, while many white people in America suffer due to poverty, there are still inherent advantages to being white. One great example is the ability to go jogging at night without being seen as fleeing a crime.

The ruling class has determined throughout history that there is to be a calculated delegation of suffering. The notion of the savage, the inferior non-gentile /dark skinned populations of the world established by European conquest is a critical origin as to the demographics chosen to suffer in the world today. Approaches and language used by oppressing/ruling populations have been modernized and adapted, but the foundation remains the same. White means to be included, to have a better seat in the stadium without condition.

While overall Black people in the United States have a 250% higher chance of being murdered by police (that’s according to official numbers, the real number is likely higher overall, and varies by region and level of diversity), many of those murdered are also poor white people. The ruling class does not spare the excluded white population, and having a critique of white supremacy does not forfeit a recognition of white people suffering under capitalism. But it is essential that we recognize that a contempt for being white is a frustration with the race that has been chosen by this system as included and defended. White people are included and defended, at the expense of, and from, so-called inferior non-white demographics. While the oblivious or racist make claims of reverse-racism, others have recognized the same gestures of frustration against white supremacy as logical contempt.

There are some Black separatist groups* that exist, but their calls for separation stem from a desperation to escape the relentless infliction of misery that comes not from a diverse society, but a diverse society that has been stratified based on race and ethnicity. Such a desperate call for Black power through segregation comes from the experience of knowing a diverse society that has one race delegated to reign supreme.

Across the United States, as diverse as it is, and regardless of its deceptive civil rights acts, people remain brutally segregated. Whether by class or race, the United States presents some of the most intense close-proximity segregation in the world. Look at New York City for example, where you have some of the poorest parts of the country and wealthiest neighborhoods in the world existing side-by-side, separated by the beast of the police and their judicial system. Many non-white communities do not even interact with white people in daily life unless it is white police invading their neighborhoods and maintaining their poverty. In no way at all am I ignoring the plight of white working class communities, but there are volatile disparities that scream back at those claiming “all lives matter” with an acid that will seal their racist lips. Two and a half million people are in prison in the United States, many innocent, many white, and many poor. In no way do we dismiss the poor white people, but in a country roughly 13% Black, and a prison population almost 40% percent Black, the gaslighting efforts behind claims of reverse-racism or “all lives mattering” are mathematically invalid.

What is falsely deemed “reverse-racism” is actually an understandable frustration with a demographic that has power due to the suffering of another demographic. You can be white and despise what it means to be white in the world today.

There have been instances in past riots, such as the 1992 Los Angeles riots, of whites being randomly attacked for simply being white. While this was in the minority of overall inspiring events that happened, they were one unfortunate result of an explosive situation. This is not something that has been present in the current uprising. The current uprising has been remarkably diverse right from the beginning in all its expressions and despite the participation of millions, there has been no real serious examples of inter-racial violence occurring. On the contrary, at least prior to the involvement of false leaders, there has been a remarkable sense of unity, even in spite of individual disagreements on strategy and tactics and people coming from different political backgrounds. Serious objections to violence, looting, etc. have almost exclusively come from outsiders who have not been on the streets and from some of the peaceful protesters now filling the streets, following a narrative the media has handed them about what “legitimate” protest looks like. Many of those peaceful protestors are now being subject to widespread police violence, which will hopefully radicalize many of them. In this way, the system is helping make our points for us to these newer more peaceful demonstrators.

* Many Europeans appear at times to fetishize any semblance of the original Black Panther Party, especially in the form of using images of the New Black Panther Party posing with weapons to proclaim solidarity with black struggle. It is important to note that the New Black Panther Party is not the same as the old Black Panther Party or the Black Liberation Army. It has been rejected by almost all surviving members of the original Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army, including those still serving time in prison for their actions. The New Black Panther Party is a viciously authoritarian, antisemitic, pro-segregation, and anti-gay organization. The guns they carry are all legally owned firearms in the USA.

How do anarchists in the states find solidarity with people who are not formally anarchist?

We do not have the numbers to function with blinders on. Additionally the sincerity of rage and passion for freedom that come from experience can outweigh the alleged enlightenment of any theoretical understanding. We also live in an intensely diverse society, and have to challenge ourselves to break out of the insular thinking of classical anarchist organizing.

In the states we must adapt to the circumstances we face, and challenge ourselves to focus on deeper elements of tension and discontent, that transcend the superficiality of political identity.

We find our solidarity standing horizontally with a discontent of experience. When the streets escalates resistance we look to board ship . Anarchists in the states seek a solidarity of shared enemy and shared frustration. Maybe those we seek to fight alongside do not have recite the same rhetoric or proclaim the same ideology, but our priority is to seek the hand of those that share our rage with this system and act accordingly.

Is looting something perceived as revolutionary? Do you support the looting politically? Do you take issue with the judgments of liberals regarding the ethics of looting?

No I don’t take issue with looting. Nor do I show any respect to the morality that lies at the foundation of capitalist society. To take issue with looting implies a non-issue with the status quo needed in order to “appropriately” purchase products.

Let me put it this way: the wealthy of New York City looted stores across the city in order to be prepared for lockdown and quarantine as the Coronavirus Pandemic loomed. Generally speaking, it was only in some small stores in very poor neighborhoods that some home essentials for quarantine could be sparsely found. Many poor people are unable to purchase in bulk, as most work paycheck to paycheck and the notion of investment of any kind, even an investment into the coming days of a quarantine, is not an option.

Stores across NYC were emptied of toilet paper, disinfectants, personal protective equipment, food, and whatever the rich could get their hands on. The rich “legally” looted the stores, and hoarded safety. They did this on their terms; the same terms that define purchasing power within capitalism. The terms that calculate and delegate suffering.

Looting is an act of defying these terms. It is an act that exposes the fragility of these terms that the police and justice system exist to maintain and enforce.

No product accounted for by global capitalism can be measured against an everyday life of suffering with origins in formal slavery. To denounce looting in the context of a social insurrection gives praise to the notion of purchasing in accordance with the terms defined by the ruling class’s putrid morality.

Looting in the context of a social uprising, in most cases threatens the reification of the ‘sacred’ purchase; essentially breaking the barriers we are conditioned to accept that exist between poverty and life. However, looting and the social violence of an insurrection is not always perfect. There have been some small businesses burned in Minneapolis for example that certainly didn’t deserve compared to other available targets. As Alfredo Bonanno has said, insurrection “is a blow of the tiger’s claws that rips and does not distinguish. Of course, an organized minority is not the insurgent people. So it distinguishes. It has to distinguish.”

As far as I’m concerned, to take issue with looting (especially if it targets big businesses and exclusive commodities) is to advocate for purchasing. It resembles a voice that comes from a position of privilege; the privilege to not feel desperate. It also stems from a position that is concerned with the judgment of the included and benefited in this society.

Looting can be beautiful and sad at the same time. I understand also the concerns regarding the materialistic elements of some types of looting, but I don’t think this outweighs the broader revolutionary implications. I am sad to see a small business owned by a struggling family be scooped up by the vacuum of rage that is a riot, but on the other hand I smile seeing poor people sporting fashion symbols of the rich and shopping at Wal-Mart without a wallet.

As an anarchist, with a limited voice in the world of politics, I refuse to even for a second, consider denouncing an uprising due to looting.

There are plenty of voices on the right and in power that believe in the sanctity of the purchase, and use such a belief to demonize, divide, and degrade an insurrection. These are well funded voices that are preserved by this society in order to support the genocidal normalcy that inspired an insurrection in the first place. If you use your voice to degrade or demean gestures of self-determination and rebellion you can not sincerely claim to be an accomplice to an uprising. Those in power protecting the status quo will use their well-funded media apparatus to demonize and divide the insurrection; the so called participants/supporters should not.

If you take moral issue with looting it may be important to look within your own claim to support an uprising against white supremacy, capitalism, and the state. Because you are asserting a logic that rewards institutional looting, domination, and exploitation, and looks to punish or be cautious of any grassroots efforts of revenge and/or self-preservation.

A very eloquent defense of looting in the context of a Black uprising was put forth by the situationists as early as 1965 and is as relevant as ever:

“The looting of the Watts district was the most direct realization of the distorted principle: ‘To each according to their false needs’ — needs determined and produced by the economic system which the very act of looting rejects. But once the vaunted abundance is taken at face value and directly seized, instead of being eternally pursued in the rat-race of alienated labor and increasing unmet social needs, real desires begin to be expressed in festive celebration, in playful self-assertion, in the potlatch of destruction.
[…]
Looting is a natural response to the unnatural and inhuman society of commodity abundance. It instantly undermines the commodity as such, and it also exposes what the commodity ultimately implies: the army, the police and the other specialized detachments of the state’s monopoly of armed violence. What is a policeman? He is the active servant of the commodity, the man in complete submission to the commodity, whose job it is to ensure that a given product of human labor remains a commodity, with the magical property of having to be paid for, instead of becoming a mere refrigerator or rifle — a passive, inanimate object, subject to anyone who comes along to make use of it. In rejecting the humiliation of being subject to police, the blacks are at the same time rejecting the humiliation of being subject to commodities.”

– Situationist International, “The Decline and Fall of the Spectacle-Commodity Economy”, 1965

Why are there so many accusations of conspiracy theories behind the protests, and also this claim of outside agitators?

The US is an odd country. The prevalence of conspiracy theories is shocking. People who are often for the status quo often believe really outlandish theories here. In many ways this is indicative of the rapid decline of the US as a power. Its population is now so tremendously misinformed they often don’t know very basic facts. For instance, there’s a growing, and sizable group of people that believe climate change is fake, antifa is funded by George Soros, and the world is flat.

Furthermore, people are so detached and so fixated on their devices they have a hard time believing anything is ever real. So whenever anything happens many people think it’s fake. However the state also understands how to leverage this. Over 150 cities/towns had protest activity. The government claims outside agitators have launched the rebellion even though it makes literally no sense. Historically the government has always said this about Black liberation movements. Part of it is racist. The state believes, or wants people to believe, that Black people are incapable of doing anything without a white hand. And on the other side, if it is “outsiders” then the state can argue the movement is illegitimate.

Following the first and second world wars, a relentless terror campaign by the FBI to eradicate the left, anarchists, and anyone challenging the status quo went into full effect. This lead to future generations of apolitical people knowing nothing more then democrat versus republican. Periods of political resurgence appear throughout history since this period (Anti-war movement in the 60s, armed struggle groups in the 70s, anti-globalization movement in the 90s, and so on), however most people in America are not taught to be political the way most are in rest of the world. Generally we are taught to be culturally liberal or conservative, and embrace political variations of the right wing. Most jump into prescribed political narratives that don’t challenge much of anything. So the appealing shock and awe of conspiracy theories is fairly understandable, and sadly these help keep people divided and distracted, fixated on trees as opposed to the forest.

In europe these kind of extended riots go hand in hand with big strikes. Are there big strong unions (maybe leftist some of them) during this period that could start a big strike?

The U.S. unions have generally been coopted by a right wing mentality and barely resemble their radical roots. Of course wildcat strikes of transportation could considerably damage the powers that be, but the country was already at a sort of surreal standstill due to the quarantine, with very few working at all, and only “essential” U.S. infrastructure being used.

Some gestures of solidarity were made by bus workers refusing to drive demonstrators to prison for example, but generally unions and wildcat strikes are very rare and equally unlikely in the USA. In a consumer economy with most industry automated, the few manual jobs are usually done by the most exploited of immigrants, and if they were done by union labor, such jobs typically end up being exported to a country where labor is cheaper. However, what did happen leading up to this was massive coordinated rent strikes due to massive unemployment, and huge networks of mutual aid being built across the country. Whether coincidence like the virus itself, or a precursor of organizing towards general revolt, any wild cat strike in the complicated economy of the USA is typically done on an organic social level as opposed to throughcoordinated union effort.

Will Trump’s declaration to recognize anarchists and anti-fascists as a terrorist organization lead to increased repression? What type of support can you anticipate being needed in the near future, or now?

Trump’s threat to label anarchists and antifa as terrorists will almost certainly increase repression here. In many ways it is a sign of political weakness and desperation. Trump, Barr and the rest of the clowns in office know perfectly well anarchists are not solely responsible for these uprisings. But they can’t say “we have been killing and destroying Black people for decades so they rightfully rose up in rebellion.” They need a scapegoat.

The state and media are desperate to recuperate and restructure the response and narrative of the demonstrations. However recuperating an insurrection that is de-centralized, spontaneous, and organic is quite hard without an imaginary boogeyman to place all the blame on. We are not surprised by this response, nor is it the first time anarchists have been considered public enemy #1 in the united states.

So the likelihood the movement will come under attack is very high. But none of us are afraid. None of us are surprised. Everyone has realized that the US is weak and can only rule by terror. Once people are no longer afraid the regime’s power substantially weakens. The greatest support we can ask for is to continuously attack the U.S. Keep attacking until this wretched empire is a thing of the past.

Over ten thousand people have been arrested that we know of. We also know that in the streets you not only have local police forces, but you have ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement), the FBI, and various other agencies tracking, surveilling, and in terrogating arrested demonstrators. Already you have people facing long-term prison sentences for throwing malfunctioned molotovs under the charge of attempted murder. Even prior to all this we have a long term anarchist prisoner serving 10 plus years for throwing a non-functioning molotov cocktail at a federal building.

Trump and his “law and order” response is a call for a counter-revolutionary and state repression campaign that is as unprecedented as the insurrection that has been sweeping the streets of america.

Sadly liberal activists and media have been part of the attempt to cast out anarchists and anti-fascists. Blaming violence on so-called white provocateurs, posting information online about suspected rioters and evenliberal activists tackling demonstrators who commit property damage and turning them over to the police are among the disgusting things happening as reformist groups begin to co-opt the dialogue.

Instead of recognizing the solidarity in the actions of anarchists and anti-fascists participating horizontally in the riots, many of the middle and upper class politically-correct world, as well as liberal Black leaders pandering to the white mainstream, degrade the courageous violence against the police by dismissing it as “political opportunism by white agitators.” Regardless of this absurd claim that falls in line with other liberal conspiracy theories, we all know that anarchists and anti-fascists play a much less significant role in the severity of resistance then informally political Black, brown, and working class people simply fed up with the misery of everyday american life. As anarchists we do however dismiss the accusations of coopting Black struggles, and will forever take a stance as accomplices to an insurrection against white supremacy, as opposed to allies supporting from the safety of computers and ballot boxes.

So much is happening, so much is expected to continue happening, and information at the moment is overwhelming. However we are including with this text a list below of bail funds, anti-repression groups, and frequently updated websites regarding the on-going uprising.

Bail Funds – Huge compilation of bail funds and support groups created during and used for the current uprising.

Abolition Media Worldwide

Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement (RAM)

NYC Anarchist Black Cross

Call for International Solidarity: Storm Their Fragile Bastions of Power

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Jun 032020
 

From Revolutionary Abolitionist Movement

Revolutionary greetings from the insurrection sweeping throughout the occupied territories of the so-called United States of America. We are asking comrades across the world for immediate and unrelenting acts of solidarity against the United States.

In the past few days, we have accumulated experiences that amount to decades of learning. In doing exactly what we previously thought was impossible, we have exposed this country for what it truly is: nothing more than a fragile paper tiger. Tearing at its massive technological police state, the black people of America have demonstrated that they will from hereon refuse to ever be intimidated by a power structure upheld by white terror and violence.

In its desperation, the State is now propagating the falsehood that this rebellion is being led by white outside agitators. We’ve all heard these lies before, most prominently in their history books, where they trot out fictional narratives about how Lincoln freed the slaves. This is nothing other than a more recent installment of an old paternalistic trick by the white supremacist establishment to deny black people the intelligence, the spirit, and the autonomous will to direct their own rebellion and free themselves. As the history of this miserable nation repeats itself once again, what has become clearly evident is that black people have been and will continue to be the only revolutionary force that is capable of toppling the oppressive status quo.

Everywhere the pigs have lost their will to fight. Their eyes, which only yesterday were windows to empty hatred and contempt, now display stultifying self-doubt and cowardice. For once, their behavior portrays their weakness as every step they take back is marked by hesitation.

Whether on the domestic or international front, we can see the Man’s backs up against the wall and so it is the time to be at our most tenacious. We cannot give him an inch to squirm wherever he has put pilfering uncalloused hands. This means that we are calling for all revolutionaries around the world to swarm with antagonistic actions and flood the streets with public demonstations.

Together, if we keep pushing, this land of chattel slavery, indigenous genocide, and foreign imperial aggression can finally be wiped out so that it will only be remembered as one of the more ugly chapters in human history. In turn, each step ushers in the freedom and the solidarity that crowds out the space of our once silent and unheard screams.

All power to the black insurgency!

Storm their vulnerable bastions of power!

Revolution now and always!

City Redecorated for May Day!

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May 022020
 

From the CLAC

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Seen at Hochelaga/Viau overpass :
“We are confined but did not forget… Anticapitalist May Day
Your batons and prisons
Your pipelines
Your healthcare cuts”

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Banner drop in Rouyn-Noranda:
“The power is austere”

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Seen this morning on A20 highway near L’Isle-Verte, between Trois-Pistoles and Rivière-du-Loup
“May Day: support to the underpaid workers. Despised yesterday, on the front line today !”

The IWW put together my photos of more banners on their Facebook page.

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A banner that reads: Anticapitalist May Day. Confined & revolted

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Action from the “No housing, no quarantine” collective for MayDay. In front of the office of the Régie du logement.

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May Day communiqué from the red committee


Other actions:
CORPIQ offices flooded for May Day

 

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Visibility action taken from the following Facebook page.