Sunday, December 21, 2008

Greece: further analysis

An overview and analysis of the recent Greek rebellion from, which assesses what has been achieved and what can advance the movement.

In one scene, Molotov cocktails rain down in the night on a police station, their explosive flashes lighting up an otherwise dark street; in another, the national Christmas tree is torched by angry protesters. The current unrest in Greece seems to have taken place under the sign of fire, one that was ignited by the police killing of a teenager in Athens two weeks ago. Beyond the pyrotechnics, however, there has been another kind of conflagration: what started as concentrated rage at the police has assumed the dimensions of a social rebellion, moving beyond the actions of a “violent fringe” to involve large numbers of young people. While undoubtedly having specifically Greek characteristics, this burgeoning movement has attracted attention elsewhere. French officials have expressed worries about a “contagion” spreading to youth in their country. They have even gone so far as to withdraw a plan to reform French secondary education, citing the fear of a possible replay of the Greek events as a reason. There have been solidarity protests in a number of countries, including exemplary actions by Turkish anarchists eager to show their sympathy with their counterparts in Greece.

If the reaction to the police killing had been limited to skirmishes between cops and a few anarchists, however, the Greek events would have literally burned themselves out after a few days. What is interesting about the current situation is precisely how it grew into something larger, expanding from street battles to the occupation of secondary schools and university faculties, and showing not only combativeness but a sense of initiative and imagination, as in the dramatic seizure of television and radio stations by protesters who took control of the microphones and cameras. Viewers of a national NET television channel on December 16 saw the broadcast of a speech by the Greek prime minister interrupted by another emanating from the network studio and showing protesters there holding a banner that said, “Stop watching television. Take to the streets.” A day later, protesters draped large banners over parts of the Parthenon, transforming a tourist site into a forum from which to launch their call for a Europe-wide solidarity action on December 18. On December 18 itself, young demonstrators in Athens wore large bar codes to symbolize their rejection of being treated as objects, as commodities. These gestures were both poetic and to the point, showing the ingenuity of the movement.

As the counterattack against the police turned into a broader offensive at the end of the first week’s clashes, the revolutionary minority at the rebellion’s core—whom the Greek government and media sought to isolate and vilify as “criminals”—found that its anti-state and anti-capitalist message resonated with a generation facing bleak economic prospects. Moreover, as others—mainly, but not only, students—became involved, the rebellion no longer “belonged” to the anarchists, who in any case had never asserted any claim of ownership. Language considered extreme only a few weeks ago had now entered into a larger public discourse where many voices could express themselves. Amidst this polyphony, a kind of dialectics (διαλεκτική, argument or conversation, in the original Greek) was being practiced in the streets and occupied buildings of the country. The uprising had also ceased to be a purely Greek affair, as sizeable numbers of young immigrants—with their own long history of grievances against the police—joined the fray. There were indications of workers joining the movement. Significantly, on December 17, a group of “insurgent workers” occupied the headquarters of the main Greek trade union federation. The occupiers issued a declaration that, among other things, stated the goal of their seizure of the union building:

To open up this space for the first time—as a continuation of the social opening created by the insurrection itself—a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from which we were excluded. (…) We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of
collective “grassroot” resistances is the only way.
Communiqué of the General Assembly of Insurgent Workers, Athens, December 17, 2008

Arrayed against the rebellion have been the forces of the Greek state, abetted in some places by the fascist thugs of the Golden Dawn organization. Also playing their allotted role in counter-insurgency have been the political parties, including the Stalinists of the KKE (Communist Party of Greece), who issued vile calumnies of those fighting the police in the streets. More adroitly, the independent “new left” party SYRIZA (Coalition of the Left and Progress) has sought to position itself—by extending a kind of critical support to the protest movement—so as to be able to co-opt the discontent for its own electoral ends.

If the Greek movement of occupations becomes more generalized, then this rebellion may turn into the most significant revolt in Europe in the past 20 years, eclipsing the kinds of protest waves seen in France in recent years, for example. What makes the Greek uprising especially interesting has been its fluid, shifting character—or to use another good Greek word, its protean nature. It has been part insurrection, part protest movement, part movement of occupations, without being defined by any single category. However, this rebellion will develop further only to the extent that it widens and deepens “the social opening” referred to in the communiqué cited earlier, thereby becoming a truly mass phenomenon and not merely an affair of radical youth. There are signs that this is possible, but it will only happen if the revolt moves from pure negation to affirmation, beyond a necessary and militant No to a daring and visionary Yes. If this doesn’t occur, the movement is likely to devolve into a predictable, albeit interesting, kind of street theater. One of the rebellion’s most popular slogans, spray painted in English, has been “No Control.” In this, one hears an echo of the punk “No Future”; one might find a distant link to the most radical of the Spanish anarchists who proudly called themselves los incontrolados (the uncontrolled ones). And the difference in meaning is crucial: either the movement leads to self-organization, to the prefiguration of new social relationships, as in the Spanish Revolution, or it ends in a kind of nihilism.

By attacking both capital and the state, the Greek insurgents have shown that these are two sides of the same coin, a currency whose denominations are hierarchy, exclusion, and exploitation. They are not seeking another government but another society. Their rebellion has also been a timely reminder that the radical transformation of the world does not depend on the workings of some ineluctable “laws of history.” In addition to the necessary objective conditions, it also requires a decision on the part of large numbers of people to fight back, to make themselves heard, and to make change.

In the Byzantine era, Greek Fire was a devastating weapon made from a mixture of elements whose exact composition was a closely guarded secret. The present rebellion in Greece represents an altogether different kind of fire, one whose fuel derives from conditions found everywhere. Its heat has already torn holes in the shroud enveloping an era of diminished horizons and worsening social conditions. In place of resignation and fatalism, it offers other choices, putting the world in another light.

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but in the end it is still only that: imitation. Trying to blindly replicate the Greek scenario elsewhere is doomed to failure, especially in the U.S., where conditions are quite different. To begin with, the rules of engagement for cops here do not include much tolerance for Molotov cocktails (it is more than likely that American cops would start shooting), nor are there the kinds of “no go areas” (like the Greek universities) in which to shelter from the police.

To emulate the spirit of the Greek rebellion requires little, but yet requires a great deal: audacity and verve, but also creativity and intelligence.

Just as the last pages in the Greek events have not been written, this is an unfinished text.
We hope to expand it in the near future. Comments, additional information, and inquiries would be most welcome:

P.O. Box 61036
Palo Alto, CA 94306

Type rest of the post here

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Greek Workers Occupy Unions

The historic central offices of the General Confederation of Greek Workers in Athens have been occupied by militant workers.

The action forms part of a strategy to counteract the designs of the union bureaucracy to distance its membership from the current revolt, and protest its management and mediation of workers' struggles in Greece. The occupants aim to create a space in which to facilitate a grassroots and self organised workers response to the crisis, and bring the wider working class into the events unfolding on the streets of Greece. Town halls in Athens and Thessaloniki have also been occupied in order to hold general assemblies.

The communique of the "General Assembly of Insurgent Workers" follows below:


We will either determine our history ourselves or let it be determined without us

We, manual workers, employees, jobless, temporary workers, local or migrants, are not passive tv-viewers. Since the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Saturday night we participate in the demonstrations, the clashes with the police, the occupations of the centre or the neighborhoods. Time and again we had to leave work and our daily obligations to take the streets with the students, the university students and the other proletarians in struggle.


-To turn it into a space of free expression and a meeting point of workers.

-To disperse the media-touted myth that the workers were and are absent from the clashes, and that the rage of these days was an affair of some 500 "mask-bearers", "hooligans" or some other fairy tale, while on the tv-screens the workers were presented as victims of the clash, while the capitalist crisis in Greece and Worldwide leads to countless layoffs that the media and their managers deal as a "natural phenomenon".

-To flay and uncover the role of the trade union bureaucracy in the undermining of the insurrection -and not only there. GSEE and the entire trade union mechanism that supports it for decades and decades, undermine the struggles, bargain our labor power for crumblings, perpetuate the system of exploitation and wage slavery. The stance of GSEE last Wednesday is quite telling: GSEE cancelled the programmed strikers' demonstration, stopping short at the organization of a brief gathering in Syntagma Sq., making simultaneously sure that the people will be dispersed in a hurry from the Square, fearing that they might get infected by the virus of insurrection.

-To open up this space for the first time -as a continuation of the social opening created by the insurrection itself-, a space that has been built by our contributions, a space from which we were excluded. For all these years we trusted our fate on saviours of every kind, and we end up losing our dignity. As workers we have to start assuming our responsibilities, and to stop assigning our hopes to wise leaders or "able" representatives. We have to acquire a voice of our own, to meet up, to talk, to decide, and to act. Against the generalized attack we endure. The creation of collective "grassroot" resistances is the only way.

-To propagate the idea of self-organization and solidarity in working places, struggle committees and collective grassroot procedures, abolishing the bureaucrat trade unionists.

All these years we gulp the misery, the pandering, the violence in work. We became accustomed to counting the crippled and our dead - the so-called "labor accidents". We became accustomed to ingore the migrants -our class brothers- getting killed. We are tired living with the anxiety of securing a wage, revenue stamps, and a pension that now feels like a distant dream.

As we struggle not to abandon our life in the hands of the bosses and the trade union representatives, likewise we will not abandon no arrested insurgent in the hands of the state and the juridical mechanism.


Wendesday, 17 December 2008, 18:00

General Assembly of Insurgent Workers

A banner handing from the facade of the building reads

From labor "accidents"
to the murders in cold blood
State - Capital kill

No persecution
Immediate release
of the arrested


Workers' self-organization
will become the bosses' grave

General Assembly of Insurgent Workers


Insurrection in Greece — the real story

Text from the ground in Greece, which highlights the fact that the current news angle is a false one — that this is more than 'gangs' looting or protesting, and in actual fact the natural result of the capitalist system and the economic crash. This action has actually been building all year, in the universities and in the workplace...

WE DESTROY THE PRESENT BECAUSE WE COME FROM THE FUTURE - statement of proletarians from the occupied ASOEE

"Τhe first dawning light comes out of the deepest darkness"

Up until the Saturday night of 06/12/08 we could say that "jusqu' ici tout va bien", watching everyone's personal fall into the desert of the capitalist system. Then the crash came, and the destructive madness seized large parts of the youth of the country. At first, like so many times in history, it was the actions that did the talking. First the cop gun talked, shouting in the crudest manner the repulsion of Authority of every kind toward the phenomenon of life. The blood of a teenager was spilt, and immediately another cry instantly transmitted from Exarchia to the economic center of the metropolis and other big cities, a cry made out of collapsing glass and flames, transforming banks and malls into a raging cloud with the inscription: REVENGE.

Two days later the christmas centers of the cities looked as if they had been the targets of war bombing, while the already crisis-ridden economy took another deadly blow in its heart by hordes of "hooligans" looting commodities. "The Varkiza Treaty is broken, we are at war again". We are talking about the return of class struggle to the foreground, we are talking about the solution to the crisis: For us. And we're only getting started. Let's go…

We are part of the revolt of life against the daily death the existing social relations impose on us. With the destructive power that was latent in us we realize a wild (but contradictory) attack on the institution of private property. We occupy the streets, we breath freely despite the tear gas, attacking the most despiteful image of ourselves: the image of ourselves as the bosses' slaves, that in its most extreme, most repugnant form is the cop. We erect a steadfast barricade against the loathsome normality of the cycle of production and distribution. In the current conjunction, nothing is more important than consolidating this barricade against the class enemy. Even if we retreat under the pressure of the (para-) state scum and the insufficiency of the barricade, we all know that nothing will ever be the same in our lives.

We also position ourselves in the historical conjunction of the recomposition of a new class subject, that carries from long ago the promise of assuming the role of the gravedigger of the capitalist system. We believe that the proletariat was never a class because of its position, on the contrary, it constitutes itself as a class for itself on the ground of the clash with the bosses, first acting and only later gaining consciousness of its actions. The recomposition is taking place by groups of subjects that become aware that they have no control over their own lives, from groups that have been -or are getting- squeezed on the bottom of the barrel, and are now entering a contradictionary trajectory toward unification.

Wage work has always been a blackmail. Nowdays this holds even more, as the number of workers that are employed only circumstancially and precariously in sectors which, while necessary for the reproduction of capitalist domination have no social usefulness whatsoever, is also growing. In these sectors, class struggles, exiled from the field of self-management of production, move into the field of the generalized blocking and sabotage. Simultaneously, the automatization of production and the abandonment of the politics of full employment create whole reserve armies of jobless proletarians who are pushed to the fringes of society and resort to insecured labor or turn to crime economy in order to survive. Jobless, precarious workers, highschool and university students destined to become future wage slaves, migrant workers of the first and second generation that daily live the marginalization and the repression constituted along with radical workers' minorities the community of the insurgents of December, a community based on the common condition of alienation and exploitation that defines a society based on commodity-work. Let's remind ourselves that the eve of this feast-day was celebrated from those even lower, from those who have lost every joy in the places of torment of democracy, from the prisoners of the greek prisons.

The owners of the commodity labor-power who had it invested in the stock exchange of social security and in the hope of seeing their offspring exiting this condition through social ascension, continue to observe the insurrectionary party without taking part, but also without calling the police to dissolve it. Along with the substitution of social security with police security and the collapse of the stock market of class movability, many workers, under the burden of the collapsing universe of petit-bourgeois ideology and the state hybris, are moving toward a (socially important) moral justification of the youth outbreak, but without yet joining the attack against this murderous world.

They kept on dragging their corpse on three-month litanies of the professional unionists and on defending a sad sectional defeatism against the raging class aggressiveness that is rapidly coming to the fore. These two worlds met up on Monday, 8/12, on the streets, and the entire country caught on fire. The world of the sectional defeatism took the streets to defend the democratic right of the separated roles of the citizen, the worker, the consumer, to participate in demonstrations without getting shot at. Nearby, not that far away, the world of class aggresiveness took the streets in the form of small organized "gangs" that break, burn, loot, smash the pavements to throw stones onto the murderers. The first world (atleast as expressed in the politics of the professional unionists) was so scared by the presence of the second, that on Wednesday, 10/12, attempted to demonstrate without the annoying presence of the "riff-raff". The dilemma regarding how to be on the streets was already layed in: Either with the democratic safety of the citizen, or with the clash solidarity of the group, the aggressive block, the march that defends everyone's existence with sharp attacks and barricades.

The December events ("Dekemvriana") of 2008 in Greece are the latest link in a series of insurrections that are sweeping through the capitalist world. In its decadent phase, capitalist society neither can, nor does it aim at gaining the consent of the exploited through the integration of partial demands. All that remains is is repression. With the restructuring that began in the mid-seventies (to repel the proletarian mutiny that is known as "movement-68"), capital faced the following contradiction: while it had the ability to create a human mass of passive tv-viewers and commodity-consumers, it had to simultaneously refuse them (by lowering their wages) the possibility of buying these commodities. From this point of view, the looting of a mall in Stadiou str. by people who are daily sharing the promises of a false consumer happiness, while being refused the means to realize these promises, shouldn't come out as a surprise.

The insurrection of December didn't put out any concrete demands, exactly because the participating subjects daily experience, and therefore know the denial of the ruling class to meet any such demand. The wisperings of the left, that initially demanded the removal of the government were replaced by a mute terror and a desperate attempt to relieve the uncontrollable insurrectionary wave. The absence of any reformist demand whatsoever reflects an underground (but still unconscious) disposition toward a radical subversion and surpassing of the existing commodity relations and the creation of qualitatively now ones.

Everything begins and matures in violence – but nothing stops there. The destructive violence that unleashed in the events of December caused the blocking of the capitalist normality in the center of the metropolis, a necessary yet insufficient condition for the transforming of the insurrection into an attempt for social liberation. The destabilation of capitalist society is impossible without paralysing the economy – that is, without disrupting the function of the centers of production and distribution, through sabotage, occupations, strikes. The absence of a positive, creative proposal for a different form of organizing the social relations was –up until now– more than self-evident. Nevertheless, the insurrection of December must be understood within the historical context of an enlivement process of class struggle that takes place on the international level.

A series of struggle practices – some have surfaced in elementary form in many countries where significant class conflicts took place recently – propose and realize in a germinal level the human community that abolishes and creatively transcends the alienated commodity relations: occupied schools can be used as regrouping centers to reclaim the streets and the public space in general; public anti-lessons organized within the context of the recent movement of precarious workers/students in Italy, putting knowledge under the service of the forming community; collective appropriations of supermarkets and bookstores, and the collective life in the occupation as a self-fullfilment of the demands for free feeding, housing, books; the radical contestation of the property relations, cooperation instead of personal appropriation (and sometimes reselling) of the appropriated commodities; neighborhood assemblies linking up, starting from the local issues, prefiguring thus a society where decisions are taken and are executed without the mediation of any separated power whatsoever (sf. Oaxaca); free transportations with the public transportation, the déménages (invading into employment agencies and throwing all their stuff into the street) as were systematically made during the anti-CPE movement in France. These (and countless others, that can be born out of the personal and collective intelligence) are the practises that can enrich and fertilize the powers of negation, so that through the turmoil of insurrection, the free, communist society will start to take shape.

We do everything within our reach not to abandon the occupations and the streets, because we don't want to go home. We get miserable and unhappy with the "realistic" thought that sooner or later we will have to return to normality. We get full of joy with the thought that we are in the beginning of a historical process of enlivenment of class struggle, and that if we want to, if we fight for it, if we believe in it, it can lead us out of the crisis, into the revolutionary getaway from the system.

Proletarians from the occupied ASOEE

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Housing for all?

It is hard to think that a council which recently spent close to $17 million purchasing four poperties throughout Christchurch has the audacity to reconsider a city-wide social housing scheme essential to those in most need. Mayor Bob Parker stated in The Star last week that because of the Christchurch City Councils' loss in court over its proposed 24% rent increase that "this is now the time for the council to reconsider it's future in social housing." According to the council, such an increase was needed to make sure those currently in council housing would foot the bill for ongoing improvements to their standard of living — however the previously consulted increase of 2.5% (Monday 17th March) had become 24% without due consultation, giving tenants, residents and ratepayers only 2-3 days warning of the proposed rates. This process was deamed inadequate and the propsed rate increase was forced to be put on hold. It seems the council's answer to this decision and therefore the problem of making sure people have somewhere to live is the increase in rent, or a complete pull-out of the scheme.

The fact that the council is seemingly unwilling to explore alternative ways to fund a social housing scheme, while at the same time embracing retail development and suburban gentrification at the price of $17m, should come as no suprise to those living in Christchurch. Nor is it no suprise that those very people marginalised and misplaced by the capitalist system are the same ones forced to pay for it's discrepencies — while those privileged enough to own two houses themselves are the same few with the power to end such a scheme of social nature. Alas, such are ways of an illogical and unjust economic system.

There are alternative models which could solve this 'problem'. The council could simply divert funds away from retail aquisitions into the housing scheme — however, this would involve a rather radical change in the thinking and priority that currently prevails in the CCC, and more importantly, Bob Parker. A middle ground could also be found, involving exploration and co-operation between tenants, the council and industry in finding a way to uphold the universal human right of housing for all. Both these options would at least solve issues in the short term. But if the problem is more than a rent increase and actually a symptom of the current capitalist system itself — a system where class divides our lives and our dwellings, where anything short of community and workplace self-management is submission and servitude, where profit always, always, comes before people — then any short term fix is simply a band-aid solution, when what we really need is some serious social surgery.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

1968 — A year of Revolution?

There was something in the air in 1968. A wave of revolt spread around the world. In France, workers and students famously almost brought down the government. Occupations, strikes, riots and mass protests occurred in the USA, Czechoslovakia (the Prague Spring), Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Pakistan and elsewhere. In Vietnam, the Tet offensive was launched.

This mood of rebellion spread to New Zealand. A major workplace revolt occurred against the nil wage order issued by the Arbitration Court. A worker-student protest, legend has it, almost ‘stormed’ parliament. Major—and successful—protests were held against a proposed US military installation called Omega. The Peace, Power, and Politics counter-conference was held against the Vietnam War and SEATO. And there was much other activity too.

1968 symbolised the hope of a new generation that they could radically change the old establishment. In New Zealand, it led to a blossoming of struggle by workers, students, Maori, women, Pacific people, environmentalists and others. Whether 1968 was a year of revolution remains a matter of debate. Come along and discuss it.


At the Loaves and Fishes Hall, Wellington Cathedral, Hill Street, Thorndon (opposite Parliament), Wellington.
Organised by the Labour History Project (formerly the Trade Union History Project). Read more for the programme.


12.30pm – Registration

1pm – What happened in 1968? Including a French perspective on the events in France, May-June 1968

1.30 – The movement against the nil wage order (Peter Franks) and Union matters in 1968, Wellington and National (Ken Douglas)

2.30 – Film and television footage from 1968 in NZ

3.10 – Afternoon tea

3.30 – The worker-student alliance in NZ and the ‘storming’ of parliament (Toby Boraman)

4.00 – The Resistance Bookshops in NZ (Pat Bolster and Graeme Whimp)

4.30 – Barry Lee (Auckland Progressive Youth Movement) remembers 1968

5.00 – The Year that Shaped a Generation (documentary)

6.00 – LHP Christmas party – celebrate like its 1968 again! (BYO and please bring a plate too!) All welcome.

Fees: $15 waged, $10 unwaged (including students)
Afternoon tea will be provided.

Prior registration will be appreciated: please pay by cheque or direct credit. Registration at the door is welcome by cheque or cash. Credit card facilities are NOT available.
Please make cheques out to the ‘Trade Union History Project’. Include your name and address, and send to:–
The Treasurer, TUHP/LHP, P O Box 27425, Wellington
Or credit to TUHP bank account:–

For further information,


Great video on printmaking, or, how prints are made from woodcuts and linocuts. Have a wee peek at where they say they are from...

Taken from Justseeds

Monday, November 24, 2008

Hamilton bus drivers locked out for planning to offer passengers free fares.

The Hamilton bus company Go Bus has locked out 50 drivers after they took strike action for 24 hours, and were planning a fare strike on return to work.

Fare strikes have seldom been used in New Zealand, but they are a creative form of industrial action that can build public support while putting direct economic pressure on the company. This means that no passengers were to be charged for riding the bus during the strike period.

Today the law says that any alteration to normal work is a strike, so that rubs out any 'creative' work practices.

The company imposed a lockout once it heard a fare strike was likely and has kept the workers locked out despite the drivers withdrawing their notice of a fare strike. The drivers are paid $13.50 an hour and are seeking an increase to $16 an hour.

The drivers’ pay is well below a living wage. The Council of Trade Unions is advocating a minimum wage of $16.30, as that is two-thirds of the average wage.

Support the locked out bus drivers: gather at the Transport Centre in Hamilton at 9.30am Monday 24 November.

More media releases here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Labour History Project Christchurch

"The struggle of people against power is the same as the struggle of remembering against forgetting".

The Labour History Project is a nationwide group of people keen to promote Aotearoa's vibrant and often militant working class roots. They do things like publish books, put on events and seminars (such as the recent Blackball '08 celebration), workshops, and other events.

Currently, the Trade Union History Project is going through some structural changes, including a name change (the 'Labour History Project') — to take into account regional or thematic branches, womens movements, and the workers and communities not represented by Trade Unions.

This re-structure has opened the way towards forming a Christchurch based group.

A Christchurch based group could do a number of things — from promoting our past and present radical histories (specifically Christchurch, such as the 1932 Tramways’ Strike — or nationwide events), raise class awareness, connect with workers and communities, put on local events such as book releases, film nights, stalls etc — and basically celebrate everyday, working people.

It could be as low key or full on as people wanted it to be, and as a TUHP member you could do as much or as little as you wanted.

If you think you might have the slightest of interest in becoming a member, or even just to check things out, there is a mailing list set up to keep people informed on the Chritschurch group and its formation.

To sign on, simply go to the following link and subscribe. This means you can receive further info, take part in online discussion, be informed of physical group meetings, and get involved.

Subscribe here:

Or you can email the list at:
labourhistorychch (at)

Or you can email Jared at:
garage.collective (at)

TUHP can be found online at


Type rest of the post here

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The emperor has new clothes

Another interesting election critique from the ICC:
The deafening propaganda blitz of the electoral campaign has finally come an end after almost two years. The ruling class media mouthpieces tell us that this has been the most important election in American history, demonstrating yet again the power of "democracy." This propaganda holds that not only do we have an African American president for the first time in American history, but also, above all, the Obama victory embodies the desire for change.

We are told that the "people have spoken," and that "Washington has listened," thanks to the "wondrous" workings of the ballot box. We are even told that America has now overcome racism and has become a land of true brotherhood.

So now Obama is president. But what does it mean? Obama promised to deliver change, but this promise was nothing but ideological sophistry. The whole campaign was a hypocritical lie, that captured the hopes of a population, and above all of a working class increasingly fed up with misery and war, but still unclear as to its own role in society and as yet unable to dispel the ruling class's mystifications.

The real victor in this election was not the fictitious "Joe Blow" of middle America, not the African Americans who are part of the US working class, but rather the ruling class. It is clear that more of the same and worse will be dished out to the workers, increasing the weight of misery. Obama was not a "peace" candidate. His criticism of Bush was that the latter got bogged down in Iraq, spread the troops too thinly, and left American imperialism incapable of responding adequately to future challenges to its dominance. Obama plans to send more troops to Afghanistan and to be ready to strike back against threats to America's imperialist interests. He was fiercely critical of the Bush administration's inability to respond to the Russian invasion of Georgia last summer. Such a peace-nik, is he!

During the presidential debates, Obama explained that he supports strengthening education in America, because an educated workforce is vital to a strong economy and no country can remain a dominant militant power without a strong economy. In other words, he sees education spending as pre-condition for imperialist domination. Such idealism!

For the ruling class this election has been a success almost beyond its wildest dreams.

It has managed to rejuvenate electoralism and the democratic myth, which has taken so many hits since 2000, especially amongst the younger generation, and left so many people disenchanted with the "system".

The post-election euphoria - the literal dancing in the streets that greeted Obama's victory - is testimony to the extent of this political victory. The impact of the election is comparable to the ideological victory that occurred immediately after 9/11. Back then the bourgeoisie benefited from a surge of nationalist hysteria, binding the working class to the bourgeois state. Today, hope in democracy and faith in a charismatic leader, binds large sectors of the population to the state.

Within the black population the weight of this euphoria is particularly strong; there is now a widespread belief that the oppressed minority has now been empowered. The bourgeois media even celebrates America's overcoming of racism, a ridiculous claim if ever there was one. Almost overnight, the black population in the US has gone from being one of the most alienated, disenchanted sectors of the population, to one that is firmly behind the state, through the persona of the new president-elect.

On the international level, the bourgeoisie has benefited almost immediately from a successful distancing of the new administration from the failures of the Bush regime on imperialist policy and the opening up of opportunities to reestablish American political authority, credibility, and leadership in the international arena.

On the level of economic policy, the new Obama admnistration's ability to carry out necessary state capitalist measures to shore up the system of oppression and exploitation will be unsurpassed. Its rhetoric will be that of providing "relief", whereas what will be provided is the highest debt in US history, and a trillion dollar budget deficit, which is placed on the back of future generations of the working class. Local and state governments are already planning to slash social services and programs because of the economic crisis, at the same time that Obama advocates yet more "bailouts" for major corporations and banks and insurance companies, to be financed out of the sweat of the working class.

Almost startled by its own success, aware that it will not and cannot deliver the changes promised in the campaign, the ruling class is already developing a rhetoric that will help "temper the enthusiasm". We have already heard things like "Obama can only try to straighten Bush's crooked policy" "There's a legacy of mistakes." "Change will not come immediately", "sacrifice will be needed."

Monday, November 17, 2008


I just watched the classic documentary 'Wobblies' for the first time, which was great because it's near impossible to find here in Otautahi. Ironically, it was free on the internet! Anyway, the doco is filled with great stories of protest, the history of the International Workers of the World (Wobblies), and a hell of a lot of song, which inspired me to download the 'Little Red Song Book' (again, free on the internet).

Here's one of the songs from the 'Little Red Song Book', called 'Workingmen, Unite!' (sorry for the sexism implied).

Conditions they are bad,
And some of you are sad;
You cannot see your enemy,
The class that lives in luxury,
You workingmen are poor,
Will be for evermore,
As long as you permit the few
To guide your destiny.

Shall we still be slaves and work for wages?
It is outrageous --has been for ages;
This earth by right belongs to toilers,
And not to spoilers of liberty.

The master class is small,
But they have lots of "gall."
When we unite to gain our right,
If they resist we'll use our might;
There is no middle ground,
This fight must be one round.
To victory, for liberty,
Our class is marching on!

Workingmen, unite!
We must put up a fight,
To make us free from slavery
And capitalistic tyranny;
This fight is not in vain,
We've got a world to gain.
Will you be a fool, a capitalist tool,
And serve your enemy?

For more songs check out the link above.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Knowledge in action

The Radical Activism Visual Archive is a great collection of radical posters, zines, books covers and more. The site encourages people to upload and share work from all around the world, across a wide range of issues.

I really like the image above — its a nice play on the theme, a good use of typography (both as the image itself, and the information below) and uses one colour really successfully.

Check it out and more visual work at Radical Archive.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

'Black Tuesday' — Waihi Nov. 12, 1912

The above poster is from a series I'm undertaking on radical history, specifically New Zealand events. I was asked by Justseeds, a radical co-op in the US to contribute to their People's History Project, and I decided to concentrate on Waihi. However, we decided it was kind of negative and that victories by labour/radical movements are often overlooked, so I think I may do a new poster on the 8 hour work day and NZ. Not sure yet…

The text on the poster reads:
AOTEAROA / NEW ZEALAND On Black Tuesday — November 12th, 1912 — the New Zealand Police and their ‘organised thugs’ stormed the Miners Workers Union Hall, stronghold of Waihi unionists on strike against the existence of a rival union, believed by many to have been assisted by the Waihi Gold Mining Company. Frederick George Evans was beaten to the ground by a policeman and left to die in the local police cell — resulting in New Zealand’s first official death during an industrial dispute and effectively ending the Waihi Strike. Loyal unionists, women and children were then rounded up and driven out of Waihi by ‘scabs’ while police looked on and did nothing.

For more info on the Waihi Strike, check out the following books and sites:
"The Red and The Gold" by Stanley Roche
"The Red Feds" by Erik Olssen
The Tragic Story of the Waihi Strike" by NZ Federation of Labour

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nov. 11 and the Haymarket Affair

On this day, November 11, 1887 Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer were hanged for their alleged part in the 'Haymarket Affair', widely acknowledged as one of the most unjust court actions in American history.

From Anarchist FAQ.
The history of Mayday is closely linked with the anarchist movement and the struggles of working people for a better world. Indeed, it originated with the execution of four anarchists in Chicago in 1886 for organising workers in the fight for the eight-hour day. Thus May Day is a product of "anarchy in action" -- of the struggle of working people using direct action in labour unions to change the world.

It began in the 1880s in the USA. In 1884, the Federation of Organised Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada (created in 1881, it changed its name in 1886 to the American Federation of Labor) passed a resolution which asserted that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's work from and after May 1, 1886, and that we recommend to labour organisations throughout this district that they so direct their laws as to conform to this resolution." A call for strikes on May 1st, 1886 was made in support of this demand.

In Chicago the anarchists were the main force in the union movement, and partially as a result of their presence, the unions translated this call into strikes on May 1st. The anarchists thought that the eight hour day could only be won through direct action and solidarity. They considered that struggles for reforms, like the eight hour day, were not enough in themselves. They viewed them as only one battle in an ongoing class war that would only end by social revolution and the creation of a free society. It was with these ideas that they organised and fought.

In Chicago alone, 400 000 workers went out and the threat of strike action ensured that more than 45 000 were granted a shorter working day without striking. On May 3, 1886, police fired into a crowd of pickets at the McCormick Harvester Machine Company, killing at least one striker, seriously wounding five or six others, and injuring an undetermined number. Anarchists called for a mass meeting the next day in Haymarket Square to protest the brutality. According to the Mayor, "nothing had occurred yet, or looked likely to occur to require interference." However, as the meeting was breaking up a column of 180 police arrived and ordered the meeting to end. At this moment a bomb was thrown into the police ranks, who opened fire on the crowd. How many civilians were wounded or killed by the police was never exactly ascertained.

A reign of terror swept over Chicago. Meeting halls, union offices, printing shops and private homes were raided (usually without warrants). Such raids into working-class areas allowed the police to round up all known anarchists and other socialists. Many suspects were beaten up and some bribed. "Make the raids first and look up the law afterwards" was the public statement of J. Grinnell, the States Attorney, when a question was raised about search warrants. ["Editor's Introduction", The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs, p. 7]

Eight anarchists were put on trial for accessory to murder. No pretence was made that any of the accused had carried out or even planned the bomb. Instead the jury were told "Law is on trial. Anarchy is on trial. These men have been selected, picked out by the Grand Jury, and indicted because they were leaders. They are no more guilty than the thousands who follow them. Gentlemen of the jury; convict these men, make examples of them, hang them and you save our institutions, our society." [Op. Cit., p. 8] The jury was selected by a special bailiff, nominated by the State's Attorney and was composed of businessmen and a relative of one of the cops killed. The defence was not allowed to present evidence that the special bailiff had publicly claimed "I am managing this case and I know what I am about. These fellows are going to be hanged as certain as death." [Ibid.] Not surprisingly, the accused were convicted. Seven were sentenced to death, one to 15 years' imprisonment.

An international campaign resulted in two of the death sentences being commuted to life, but the world wide protest did not stop the US state. Of the remaining five, one (Louis Lingg) cheated the executioner and killed himself on the eve of the execution. The remaining four (Albert Parsons, August Spies, George Engel and Adolph Fischer) were hanged on November 11th 1887. They are known in Labour history as the Haymarket Martyrs. Between 150,000 and 500,000 lined the route taken by the funeral cortege and between 10,000 to 25,000 were estimated to have watched the burial.

In 1889, the American delegation attending the International Socialist congress in Paris proposed that May 1st be adopted as a workers' holiday. This was to commemorate working class struggle and the "Martyrdom of the Chicago Eight". Since then Mayday has became a day for international solidarity. In 1893, the new Governor of Illinois made official what the working class in Chicago and across the world knew all along and pardoned the Martyrs because of their obvious innocence and because "the trial was not fair".

The authorities had believed at the time of the trial that such persecution would break the back of the labour movement. They were wrong. In the words of August Spies when he addressed the court after he had been sentenced to die:

"If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labour movement . . . the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and want, expect salvation -- if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread on a spark, but there and there, behind you -- and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out." [Op. Cit., pp. 8-9]

At the time and in the years to come, this defiance of the state and capitalism was to win thousands to anarchism, particularly in the US itself. Since the Haymarket event, anarchists have celebrated May Day (on the 1st of May -- the reformist unions and labour parties moved its marches to the first Sunday of the month). We do so to show our solidarity with other working class people across the world, to celebrate past and present struggles, to show our power and remind the ruling class of their vulnerability. As Nestor Makhno put it:

"That day those American workers attempted, by organising themselves, to give expression to their protest against the iniquitous order of the State and Capital of the propertied . . .
"The workers of Chicago . . . had gathered to resolve, in common, the problems of their lives and their struggles. . .

"Today too . . . the toilers . . . regard the first of May as the occasion of a get-together when they will concern themselves with their own affairs and consider the matter of their emancipation." [The Struggle Against the State and Other Essays, pp. 59-60]

Anarchists stay true to the origins of May Day and celebrate its birth in the direct action of the oppressed. Oppression and exploitation breed resistance and, for anarchists, May Day is an international symbol of that resistance and power -- a power expressed in the last words of August Spies, chiselled in stone on the monument to the Haymarket martyrs in Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago:

"The day will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you are throttling today."

Monday, November 10, 2008

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

There seems to be quite a lot of genuine excitement in the English language media following the election of Barack Obama. Various commentators are talking about it as if it signifies real change within America and even the world, rather than just the end of another of America’s four yearly electoral circuses.

If one were to believe the media it, would appear that after eight long years of Bush America has undergone a real transformation, the first Black President, and a commitment to real radical change.
It sounds like it is too good to be true. Obviously it is.

So what can we expect from the new regime in the US. Let’s look at foreign policy first. Of course, it is possible to look back at the last Democratic Government in the US, that of Bill Clinton. This was a government that fired cruise missiles almost indiscriminately at its enemies. From factories producing medical goods in Sudan to residential areas in Iraq, not forgetting to fire a few at Afghanistan in-between. We call also mention the two air bombardment campaigns in ex-Yugoslavia, which was referred to at the time as Humanitarian bombing. We could also point to his continuation of US sanctions against Iraq, which according to UNICEF caused the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children, the fact that he was the first to introduce the ideological basis of Bush’s terror campaign. It was Clinton who first used the terms ‘state sponsor of terrorism’ and 'rogue state'. There was also the little matter of an invasion of Haiti…

But let’s not damn Obama on the past record of his party in Government. Let’s allow the man to speak for himself. In April 2007 in his first major foreign policy speech, Obama stated that "We must lead by building a 21st century military.... I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines.” One would wonder what he wants nearly 100,000 new soldiers for. Well, when he was asked on Fox News last month about the possibility of bombing Iran he stated that he “would never take a military option off the table.” He also wants to put an extra 10,000 troops into Afghanistan where he said that President Bush had ‘responded correctly’ in fighting the ‘good war’, a ‘good war in which between 20,000 and 60,000 civilians have been killed. He also believes that Pakistan is “the right battlefield the war on terrorism”, and has threatened to attack it.

To be honest all this puts him right at the centre of the Democratic tradition from Kennedy and Johnson in Vietnam via Clinton in Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq.

And what does he offer to the working class in the US? One of the things that was clear about the election campaign was that despite the background of the deepening crisis neither of the candidates had any proposals to deal with the crisis. This is because neither of them had any answers to offer. Nor are there any answers to offer. All that the politicians can hope to do is to bring in austerity measure to attack working class living standards. The first rule of the crisis is always that the ruling class will try to make the working class pay the cost of it. For all his words about ‘workers rights’, he must still implement austerity programmes. There can be no difference between the results of the economic programmes of different parties. Indeed generally there is no difference between the actual programmes.

So what Obama offers is more war abroad, and more attacks against the working class at home. Everything must change so it can stay exactly the same: meet the new boss, same as the old boss.


RIP Steve Luke

Steve Luke, an Otautahi / Christchurch based anarchist, has tragically passed away. He was 52 years old.

Steve first got involved in anarchist politics and activism in the 1970s while at Massey University in Palmerston North. In more recent times, he has been a welcome presence at Otautahi / Christchurch protests and meetings, and has in the past year been involved in groups and projects like the Otautahi / Christchurch October 15th Solidarity group, the Otautahi Social Centre and the Otautahi Men’s Hui.

Steve had a car crash on Tuesday. He suffered broken ribs, collarbone, deep cut, concussion / fit, fluid on the lung and bruising. The hospital discharged him after less than 20 hours. He was at home with his cats and frequent visits from friends, but sadly and tragically he died Friday night. A friend found him Saturday morning.

Steve was a great talker…at pot lucks and parties you could easily start chatting politics with him and, before you knew it, it would be a bottle of wine and 2 hours later.

He will be sorely missed…

Yesterday we had a really nice wake with friends and family — a really wide diversity of people shows the amazing work Steve had been apart of.

Steve was a driving force in a lot of groups, as well as much needed conflict resolution. I know myself and everyone in Otautahi will miss him a great deal.

Indymedia discussion and Otautahi organaising won't ever be the same without you Steve.

More commemorations about Steve can be found at indymedia.

Friday, November 7, 2008

EnageMedia: alternative video and documentaries

I was put onto this site by a friend, and I am super glad I was!

EngageMedia is a video sharing site focusing on social justice and environmental issues in South East Asia, Australia and the Pacific. It is a space for critical documentary, fiction, artistic and experimental works that challenge the dominance of the mainstream media.

The growth of digital distribution tools mean distributing video online has become a viable option for artists and activists looking for ways to get their work out there. Huge potential exists within these new technologies to bypass the control of big media conglomerates and create our own distribution channels.

EngageMedia aims to demystify and provide access to these new technologies, create an online archive of independent video productions using open content licenses and form a peer network of video makers, educators and screening organisations.

Fittingly, the 16min movie above is about the lack of independent news and media in Aotearoa, made by Auckland Indymedia. It examines who owns the main newspapers and radio in New Zealand, and shows that our media is not as objective as many believe. Sit back and watch, or check out the website where this and many other films live at EngageMedia.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Against domination

From Martha A. Ackelsberg's Free Women of Spain, a great book on feminism, anarchism, and the history of Mujeres Libres in the Spanish Revolution.

Domination in all its forms — whether exercised by governments, religious institutions, or through economic relations — is for anarchists the source of all social evil. While anarchism shares with socialist traditions a radical critique of economic domination and an insistence on the need for a fundamental economic restructuring of society on a more egalitarian basis, it goes beyond Marxist socialism in developing an independent critique of the state, hierarchy, and of authority relations in general. While socialist have traced the roots of all domination to the division of labour in the economy, anarchists have insisted that power has its own logic and will not be abolished through attention to economic relations alone.

Anarchism aims to abolish hierarchy and structured relations of domination and subordination in society. It also aims to create a society based on equality, mutuality, and reprocity in which each person is valued and respected as an individual. This social vision is combined with a theory of social change that insists on means must be consistent with ends, that people cannot be directed into a future society but must create it themselves, thereby recognising their own abilities and capacities. In both its vision of the ideal society and its theory on how that society must be achieved, anarchism has much to offer...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Satire on the anniversary of Parihaka

Wellington Police are becoming concerned by reports of a number of land thefts occurring around the Upper and Lower North Island and South Island over the last one and a half centuries.

Most victims have been Maori. Perpetrators are an organised group of mostly Caucasian criminals. In recent years a faction of the gang under the control of gang boss ‘Helen’ Clark has moved its attention to the seabed and foreshore and water. The suspects have international links with a criminal association known as “The British Government”, allegedly connected with the theft of English, Scottish, Irish, African, American, Indian and other lands over a lengthy period.

Gang associates frequent areas around Lambton Quay and Thorndon. Patched members of the gang have a headquarters on Victoria Street. Some suspects are known to, and are, the police.

Investigations are continuing and police hope to make arrests shortly. In the meantime, those owning land should take sensible precautions and keep it out of sight when people of European ethnicity are around.

Igor Blimey
Very Well Organised Crime Unit
Wellington Police Station

(Facts, grammar and spelling corrected by Sam Buchanan)

Lifted from Aotearoa Indymedia.

Parihaka remebered today

On 5 November 5 1881 a force of almost 1,600 Armed Constabulary and volunteers, led by Native Minister John Bryce, invaded Parihaka. The Maori inhabitants, numbering about 2,000, put up no resistance. Instead they greeted Bryce and his men with bread and song. They were read the Riot Act, dispersed and Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested. The soldiers then systematically wrecked the settlement, and Maori tradition speaks of brutality and rape.

Parihaka became a centre of peaceful resistance and a rallying point for many Maori. Parihaka was led by Te Whiti and his relative and fellow prophet Tohu Kakahi. The main focus of Maori discontent was land confiscation and the government's failure to set aside promised reserves.

In 1879 the government began to survey 16,000 acres of the confiscated Waimate Plain without setting aside Maori reserves. In response, Maori, led by Te Whiti and Tohu, began ploughing land occupied by settlers. Arrests followed, but the pace of protest continued to grow. Parihaka became a symbol for many Maori, and its people received food and other supplies from many tribes throughout the country – including those as far away as the Chatham Islands.

On 5 November 5 1881 a force of almost 1,600 Armed Constabulary and volunteers, led by Native Minister John Bryce, invaded Parihaka. The Maori inhabitants, numbering about 2,000, put up no resistance. Instead they greeted Bryce and his men with bread and song. They were dispersed and Te Whiti and Tohu were arrested. The soldiers then systematically wrecked the settlement, and Maori tradition speaks of brutality and rape.

Te Whiti was charged with 'wickedly, maliciously, and seditiously contriving and intending to disturb the peace'. Held without trial, he was not released until 1883, when he returned to the ruined Parihaka settlement. Te Whiti and Tohu continued to lead peaceful Maori protest, and Te Whiti was imprisoned again for six months in 1886. In 1892 the West Coast Settlement Reserves Act brought in a system of renewable leases to settlers on over 200,000 acres of Maori land. Maori persisted with the ploughing campaigns in protest at the Act. In 1897, 92 Maori were arrested for ploughing in protest at delays in resolving the grievances over the Native Trustee's management of these leases.

Te Whiti and Tohu died in 1907 within a few months of each other. The white albatross feather, which Te Whiti’s followers adopted as a symbol protecting the mana of the Parihaka settlement, remains an enduring emblem among Te ati Awa.

A more in depth history can be found at

Monday, November 3, 2008

Guy Fawkes, Liberation and Terrorism — A few thoughts

November 5th blasts once again onto the calender with annual fireworks displays, renewed calls for fire bans and of course, those terrible Warehouse ads for cheap exploding goods. And while most of us have a vague understanding of the occasion's history (something about a guy ages ago who got caught trying to blow up parliament) — it is the symbolism and interpretations of Guy Fawkes, the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, and revolutionary acts in general which I find quite interesting. Throw in the recent motion picture ('V for Vendetta' — which managed to totally ruin a great anarchist graphic novel by Alan Moore) and the images get even muddier.

So, what I want to explore is not so much the history of November 5th, but how Guy Fawkes has been used symbolically by radical movements, the implications of that imagery, and what that means for revolutionary acts. It is by no way comprehensive and it's not meant to be — it's simply a collection of recent readings I've come across, as well as some of my own thoughts.

The cloaked assasin, holding a bomb, ready to destroy, demonic, masked, criminal — it's an image readily associated with anarchism, the propaganda of the deed, and the definition of 'anarchy'. Guy Fawkes reincarnate, ready to sweep away opressive government in one foul and violent swoop — it's something the majority of anarchists would rather not be associated with. Yet, it's unavoidably a part of our political past, and is still embraced by factions within the wider revolutionary movement.

The imagery of Guy Fawkes (including the above poster) has often been used by anarchist groups. The Scottish Socialist Party even revived the classic anarchist poster in order to give themelves some kind of libertarian credibility, distancing itself from Bolshevik tradition (while, unfortunately embracing the failed politics of social democracy). So, does the image of Guy Fawkes properly represent libertarian ideas — or on the contrary, detract from the constructive elements of anarchism and place emphasis on insurrectional ideas, or 'the propaganda of the deed'?

The period of 'propaganda of the deed' around the turn of last century, managed to cause more damage to anarchist ideas and it's relation to the working class than the actual bombs did to their respective targets. Instead of inspiring the masses into general revolt, anarchist insurrectionists were easliy painted with the 'chaos' brush of the ruling class and by those who supported them — the media. And while most anarchist thinkers of the time, such as Emma Goldman and Errico Malatesta quickly realised the errors of these methods, the remanants still linger today.

So what are the errors, if any, of this method? Should anarchists embrace the distorted imagery of Guy Fawkes — libertarian, revolutionary, insurrectionist? ...Terrorist?

Around the world the word “terrorism” is used indiscriminately by the state, politicians and police, with the intention of arousing hostility to any ounce of resistance or preparedness for armed defence against their own terroristic acts. The accepted definition of terrorism is 'distinguished by the systematic use of violence against people for political ends'. Within this definition a distinction can be made between attacks on the public and those on individuals in power, without implying approval in either case. Clearly attacks on the innocent are worse than those on people guilty of some crime.

One must also be careful to differentiate between terrorism and the damaging of property. Although it is clear that intimidatory activity and property damage are not usually as serious as terrorism, anarchists should recognise the ease with which a preparedness for such activities can lead to worse consequences. This is not to argue that revolutionaries should have a reverent attitude to private property — merely that they should see that there is a vast difference between, say, the destruction of a nuclear facility building site by a mass occupation and the blowing up of that site by a few individuals.

Just as the rulers prefer the word “terrorist”, terrorists prefer the description “urban guerrilla”, as it lends them a rather romantic air. The only problem with a movement grounded in this approach of 'guerrilla strategy', is that emphasis is placed on destroying the current order first and foremost, often with thought on what would replace it being a hazy or a secondary event. It essentially fetishises the collapse of will in the ruling class to produce the social crisis out of which revolution occurs, often whether the majority favours it or not.

Any reading of guerrilla strategists reveals that it [guerrilla-ism] is a philosophy of impatience, of vanguardism, and of minority will. There are problems with this approach on many grounds, the most obvious one being the link bewteen means and ends — the historical fact being that the means we chose to employ in our struggle for radical change, more often than not, becomes the ends.

While a collapse of will in the ruling class is surely a vital element in any revolution, unless a mass movement with democratic structures of organising is in place beforehand, then an elite could take power. It is fractured thinking to identify the essence of revolution as illegality or as armed confrontation with the repressive instruments of the state. This totally obscures the essence of our objection to the current system, which is not simply disgust with state violence — the uses of gaol, brutality, torture, murder etc. — but with hierarchical relationships among people, with competition instead of co-operation. The “very act of taking up arms” may defy the law but it says nothing about what is being fought for.

The essence of revolution is not armed confrontation with the state, but the nature of the movement which backs it up, — and this will depend on the kinds of relationships and ideas amongst people in the groups, community councils, workers councils, etc. that emerge in the social conflict.

The job for revolutionaries is not to take up the gun, but to engage in the long, hard work of publicising an understanding of this society, as well as self-emancipation and direct action. We should build a movement which links the many problems and issues people face with the need for revolutionary change, which attacks all the pseudo-solutions — both individual and social — offered within this society; which also seeks to demystify those solutions offered by the authoritarian left and instead to place the total emphasis on the need for self-activity and self-organisation on the part of those people willing to take up issues. We need to present constructive ideas about a socialism based on equality and freedom, self-management and direct action, federalism and anarchism.

You can’t blow up a social relationship. The total collapse of this society would provide no guarantee about what replaced it. Unless a majority of people had the ideas and organisation sufficient for the creation of an alternative society, we would see the old world reassert itself because it is what people would be used to, what they believed in, what existed unchallenged in their own personalities.

Proponents of terrorism and guerrilla-ism are to be opposed because their actions are vanguardist and authoritarian, because their ideas, to the extent that they are substantial, are often wrong or unrelated to the results of their actions (especially when
they call themselves libertarians or anarchists), because terrorism cannot be justified, and finally because their actions produce either repression with nothing in return or an authoritarian regime.

From what's been noted above, a few points can be made about some methods of insurrection — 1) that means determine ends - the use of horrifying means guarantees horrifying ends; 2) that urban guerrilla-ism almost always leads to repression and little else — which makes it very difficult to engage in constructive political work such as organising and education; 3) that “successful” urban guerrillaism inevitably leads to authoritarian solutions; 4) that these results are determined by the nature of guerrilla-ism. Guerrilla-ism relies upon the capitalist media for much of its impact, which often provides the corporate-controlled media with a perfect opportunity to frighten the public into the “protective” arms of the State. To put it another way, guerrillas attempt to act for the people — attempting to substitute individual acts for mass actions — thus perpetuating the division between leaders and followers (in this case, spectators).

While personally, I think we should reject terrorism, propaganda of the deed, and guerrilla-ism, it should be emphasised that this does not imply political passivity. I am not arguing against the many forms of direct action that form an essential part of any mass movement for fundamental social change — examples of such direct action which include wildcat strikes, factory occupations and civil disobedience. Neither should we discount the quieter but equally essential efforts of those doing educational, community and workplace agitation. Finally, it should be noted that this text doesn't embrace pacifism — situations may arise in which armed self-defence of the gains of a mass, radical and social revolution becomes necessary.

So, until the image of Guy Fawkes (or characters like him) are distanced from the constructive and libertarian ideas of anarchism, unfortunately for us, the paint may never dry...

Note — some parts of this text was freely paraphrased from 'You Can't Blow Up a Social Relationship' which originally was an Australian zine, reprinted by Zabalaza Books.

Another Emma Goldman poster!

Nicolas Lampert
If Voting Changed Anything

"This print was made for the Art of Democracy show and comments on the election by ignoring the hype of two pro-corporate, pro-government, and pro-war candidates and instead considers the logic and the legacy of Emma Goldman and others who envisioned real change and democracy existing outside the realm of the ballot box."

1 color silkscreen
19" x 25"


What is Anarchism?

The fact that most of us have to work for someone else everyday just to earn a living is pretty weird. We are born, schooled (if we’re lucky), and then we get to work all our lives, slaving for a wage and for a decent existence. Then, the little ‘lesuire time’ we get costs us too, both in monetary terms, and mentally — we are either escaping work, delaying work, or killing time until we have to go back to work. Work is never far from ones mind.

And that's just individual problems! Think about larger, social issues — even things here in NZ — the latest string of factories closing with massive job losses, firms like ANZ shipping work off overseas, petrol and food prices rising all the time, more crime, housing problems, and poverty. Likewise, around the world there are millions in massive poverty, yet there’s enough food to feed us all 3 TIMES OVER. Workers in sweatshops earning $2 a day while others don’t even need to work at all. Not to mention war, sexism, racism, genocide, torture, violence, and the ever growing environmental and economic crisis.

This life we live is a natural product of a system known as CAPITALISM, a system that exploites, pillages and destroys — and is based on principles of greed, profit, expansion and competition. It’s the cause of our current ills in society, yet most continue to accept it as normal.

So? It works for me...
If by working you mean slaving for a wage all your life, then yes, it’s working. Because while you and I work for a wage, as does the majority of the world, a tiny few really get to enjoy and control life. 40% of the world’s population has access to 3% of the worlds revenue. This means that while most of us work in factories, malls, shops — any workplace where there’s a boss — someone else, not us, is benefiting from our labour, while we have no real say on where and how the money from the stuff we make gets used.

So what happens with that money? As workers we get a little back in wages (not much), and some of it covers materials and costs, but the rest, as profit, goes into the pockets of the company owner and its shareholders, who didn’t do any work but get the bigger share.

This is the nature of the Capitalist system all over the world, and it is made to seem normal to us. This is because if we don’t think its messed up, that small elite of people get to keep benefiting, in both PROFIT and DECISION MAKING, and not us.

Capitalism is enforced physically by the government — the laws they make, and the police who enforce those laws — while the media, news, advertising and the education system make us think its ok. These institutions are known as THE STATE. So really there are two problems with this system, CAPITALISM and THE STATE, which are interconnected and working together to make sure we don’t kick up a stink about it all. However, there are alternatives to this system, which require (now more than ever) our collective attention.

Anarchists believe that most problems in life exist because a minority get to tell others what to do, that ANY POWER EXPLOITS, as does any kind of HIERARCHY. It would be better if you and I made the decisions that directly effected us, and not someone else. That way we wouldn’t need a state or government telling us what to do, and we could get rid of Capitalism and share out goods and profits for the benefit of us all.

This is often countered by some as advocating ‘chaos’. In fact, Anarchism is not about disorder at all, but order. Its all about organising differently to what we do now. It’s against rulers, not rules. The reason it is made out to be ‘extremist’ or ‘chaotic’ is because those in power want to stay that way (politicians, bosses, corporations). They realise that the practical, logical ideas of Anarchism threaten their positions of power, because Anarchism means we wouldn’t need them at all.

Put simply, it’s about deciding for ourselves how best to run our community and our workplace — without any kind of boss telling us how — and that the PERSONAL is POLITICAL. It means working together to figure out stuff that directly effects us, because we should all get a say in how we work and how we live. It means SELF-MANAGEMENT — we do it in most aspects of our own lives already. This could be expanded to all aspects of life, on a personal as well as a broader level.

“But we need leaders!” Don't we?
No one has the right to manage or control another! For example, put a group of people in a room with a task to do. Logically they would go about it together, all sharing the problem, figuring out who is good at what, who can’t do something, and get it done. Vary rarely would they choose one person to make all the decisions, and then let that person tell everyone else what to do, with a limited window of opportunity every four years to object. No one has the right to dominion over another, yet isn’t this how society currently works?

“Without Police and the Government there would be crime!”
Think about what the police actually do. They hardly ever prevent crime, but respond after it’s happened. Most crime is based on greed — wanting something people don’t have, or because a large section of our society is poor and desperate. If we had everything we needed it would be logical that most crime would dissapear. Therefore crime is actually a PRODUCT of capitalism. In fact, the worst kind of crime — war, torture, genocide — are committed by GOVERNMENTS, not us. All police really do as an institution is protect the state and their interests.

Sadly, all of this takes place under the political system we call ‘Democracy’. Yet when we vote, all we get to do is choose between options given to us, whether it’s the prime minister, a political party, or their policy. But they always make the options we have to choose between, not us. Its like saying you can choose, but only between Pepsi or Cola.

Real democracy is DIRECT, by you and me. That’s when we decide what the choices are, and what should be done — at home and at work. Real change (not reform) has happened because people themselves took action, acting together as a strong, united group. Workers rights, ending Segregation, Land rights, Womens rights — all achieved by people like you through DIRECT ACTION, not political parties. Voting changes absolutely nothing. Until the system itself changes, nothing will truly change.

Anarchism is based on the idea of the federation and association of free individuals. This means when we need to decide on things which are bigger than just our immediate areas, we would involve other groups who are effected also. Obviously we can’t all go, so we could send a couple of us as our 'delegates'. These people want the best for us, because they are us, they are from our groups and want the same things as us (unlike politicians). They are not permanent or seperate, but rotating members of the group. If they didn’t do a good job, or mis-represented us, we could recall and replace them at any time.

Our delagates have NO power to decree at all, meaning all decisions are made democratically by all, with equal input for all, for the benefit of all. Our delegates merely administer the decisions made earlier as a group.

This same idea works in greater society from the bottom-up, so communities, workplaces, industries — any group — all FREELY ASSOCIATE together to help each other out. Think of society as many circles overlapping, and decision making from the periphial to the centre — rather than the traditional ‘pyramid’ image we’ve been constructed to adhere to. It can be done locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally, between all aspects of life.

For more on Anarchism please download my free zine Rivet.

CRASH! A look at today's financial crisis in plain english...

The current capitalist crisis can often be confused and distorted by the use of language totally foreign to most working people. Of course, this is to keep those in the know, in the know — while the rest of us are left to clean up their mess!

You’ll here a lot of terms thrown about in the media — bank guarantees, liquidity and solvency, credit, ‘bubbles’, bailouts etc. These are economic terms which try to shield the huge mess capitalism is in at the moment. We should look past the jargon and remember throughout this crisis, that the mess the economy is currently in is not an isolated incident, but the result of the capitalist system and all it’s inherent failings. In fact, this type of crisis is nothing new, only in an uncharted form.

So, what’s really going on?

The current crisis has deep roots. Some are in the inherent dynamics of capitalism, others in the particular form current capitalism has taken (neo-liberalism). More specifically, it’s about the crash of the shadow banking system — the part of the economy which is not regulated by financial laws or the state. The shadow banking system is about the same size as the regulated banking system (which is our banks, loans, credit etc), and has grown by the trillions (!!!) in the last 10 years or so. It’s basically a way for banks, corporations and other financial institutions to make more money outside of state regulations — a free and invisible market. And it was great for a while — corporations and the elite were getting richer and richer, lining their pockets with our cash — until the bubble burst, proving the theory that neo-liberalism, capitalism, and the free market would NOT continue to sort itself out.

To look at the crash of the shadow banking system, we have to look at the regular banking system and how it all works within capitalism.

The Banking System
When we put our money into the bank, the bank only keeps a fraction of it in reserve. The rest of our money is actually lent out by the bank as credit or loans. So, if we all went into the bank and asked for our money back, they wouldn’t have it.

This is how a bank makes its money — not by gaining more accounts, or by people making re-payments — but by banks constantly creating more loans and credit. So when we ask for loans from the bank, we are actually borrowing from other peoples accounts and debts, which for the bank, has an element of risk. Because of these risks, when you get a loan, the bank decides how dodgy you are (credit rating, liabilities etc) and gives you a risk factor rating.

Technically, a bank has regulated limits on how much risk it can take on board, and this effects how many loans it can give out to people. So, once it’s reached its maximum risk limit, it can’t give out anymore loans and therefore can’t make anymore credit or money. This is where shadow banking comes in.

Shadow banking allows banks and other financial institutions to continue trading after reaching their regulated limits. What happens is banks can sell their risks onto other financial companies, who, for a price, agree to manage that risk for them. These are called credit derivatives, and allow banks to keep their risk ratings down, their books balanced, and their loans flowing. It worked out to be profitable for both parties, and quickly grew as a new, invisible, and untapped market as another way for capitalists to get even richer.

The flipside of this is that the debt and risk gets spread around these corporations, making global links amongst firms, banks and nations — the individual banks’ risks suddenly becomes a huge collective risk, all linked together. All good, until part of the chain goes bust and brings everyone down with it, including our major banks. This is basically what is happening today.

With the crisis in the finance markets rumbling on, it is hard to make any specific comments on it all, as it is sure to become outdated. What is clear, as stated above, is its roots lie in the nature of financial capital and capitalism — its tendency to generate market ‘bubbles,’ as resources are poured into specific markets (such as housing) in an attempt to make more and more money. Using our money, the system and those who benefit from it (bankers, investors, corporations, governments) gamble with huge risk, dancing dangerously between dollars and debt.

Needless to say, the most serious consequences of this risk and when it all goes wrong are usually suffered by working people — who can lose our jobs, health and even our lives — depending on how the gambled risks of the wealthy turn out in an unstable, illogical financial world. In short, it is blatant class robbery which usually fixes the problems they made. As such, it is one thing to gamble your own income on a risky decision, but quite another when that decision can ruin the lives of millions of others. Such is the power capitalism gives to a small few, while the rest of us are forced sell our labour and work for our incomes, just to live day to day!

What about New Zealand?
Bank guarantees (ie bailouts) have just been announced in Aotearoa by the government in an attempt to tell us that our banking system and our deposits are safe, and that the government will pump 150 billion of dollars into our banks if needed. So, where will that money come from? In short, from you and me. Costs will be passed on to us via raised fees and taxes, cuts in our wages — in short, forcing us to clean up a mess we did not create. If proof is needed on just how illogical and unjust the capitalist system is, then we needent look far...

What Now?
With the panics in the finance markets, now is an ideal time for looking at alternative ways of living. Anarchists argue that running an economy based on allowing the few to control, gamble and profit from the labour of the many is not only immoral, it does not work.

We need a society which is not based on bribing the rich to ensure investment and economic development. We need, as anarchists have long argued, an economy in which those who do the work control both it and its product. Capitalism needs to be ended, not propped-up by government regulation and bank guarantees. Any solution to the current panics will be paid for by the working class and the elite will, as always, benefit from the sacrifices of the many. If we remain quiet then any bailout to financial institutions will reflect the interests of big business, no strings attached. If we remain quiet then the costs of recovery will be inflicted on us in the shape of rising unemployment, lower wages, higher taxes. If we remain quiet, then neo-liberalism will shrug off this crisis like the previous ones and continue privatising the gains while socialising the losses and costs.

Our task as workers is to raise our voices and engage in direct action. Attempts to cut wages must be resisted, as we did not create this crisis and because it will make it worse. Attempts to close workplaces must be meet by occupations. Attempts to evict families from their homes must be stopped. We need to socialise the means of life, not have them run by a few capitalists or state/socialist bureaucrats. To do that, we need to organise in our communities and our workplaces, building horizontal forms of equal, direct democracy, and build an alternative to a system in crisis — one based on solidarity, mutual aid, libertarian socialism, and freedom.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Oral historian Studs Terkel dies at age 96

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, radio host and activist Studs Terkel died in his Chicago, Illinois, home Friday at the age of 96.

"He could often be found behind a tape recorder talking to the people who would eventually become the basis for his books. Terkel became famous, if not synonymous with oral histories, for his ability to cast a light on the working class.

"Oral history preceded the written word," Terkel told CNN in 2000. "Oral history is having people tell their own stories and bringing it forth.

"That's what history's about: the oral history of the unknowns that make the wheel go 'round. And that's what I'm interested in."

Pulitzer Prize-winning author, radio host and activist Studs Terkel died in his Chicago, Illinois, home Friday at the age of 96.

Terkel had grown frail since the publication last year of his memoir, "Touch and Go," said Gordon Mayer, vice president of the Community Media Workshop, which Terkel had supported.

"I'm still in touch, but I'm ready to go," he said last year at his last public appearance with the workshop, a nonprofit that recognizes Chicago reporters who take risks in covering the city.

"My dad led a long, full, eventful -- sometimes tempestuous -- satisfying life," his son Dan said in a statement.

"The last time I saw him, he was up, about, and mad as hell about the Cubs," workshop President Thom Clark said in the statement.

Terkel, known for his portrayal of ordinary people young and old, rich and poor, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for his remembrances of World War II, "The Good War." Remebering the legacy of Studs Terkel

Terkel was born in New York but moved to Chicago, where his parents ran a small hotel. Terkel would sit in the hotel lobby watching droves of people arguing, fighting, ranting and telling stories.

"That hotel was far more of an education to me than the University of Chicago was," Studs told CNN in 2000.

It seems that beginning would pave the way for Terkel's love of passing on people's oral histories. He could often be found behind a tape recorder talking to the people who would eventually become the basis for his books. Terkel became famous, if not synonymous with oral histories, for his ability to cast a light on the working class.

"Oral history preceded the written word," Terkel told CNN in 2000. "Oral history is having people tell their own stories and bringing it forth.

"That's what history's about: the oral history of the unknowns that make the wheel go 'round. And that's what I'm interested in."

In an interview with Lou Waters on CNN in 1995, Terkel spoke about his book "Coming of Age," which explored the lives of people who have been "scrappers" all of their lives. Inside the book are the stories of people between the ages of 70 and 95, a group he called "the truth tellers."

"Who are the best historians? Who are the storytellers?" Terkel asked. "Who lived through the Great Depression of the '30s, World War II that changed the whole psyche and map of the world, a Cold War, Joe McCarthy, Vietnam, the '60s, that's so often put down today and I think was an exhilarating and hopeful period, and, of course, the computer and technology. Who are the best ones to tell the story? Those who've borne witness to it. And they're our storytellers."

After Terkel's wife died in 1999, he began working on a book about death, eventually called "Will the Circle Be Unbroken? Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith."

"It's about life," Terkel said in 2000 when asked about the project. "How can one talk about life without saying sometime it's going to end? It makes the value of life all the more precious."