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Learning From Ferguson: The Nature of Police, the Role of the Left [Part I]

Counterpunch

December 9, 2014

by Peter Gelderloos

ferguson_ml_140819_23x15_1600

David Carson—St Louis Post-Dispatch/Polaris

A young black person was killed, many people brave enough to take to the streets in the aftermath were injured and arrested, and the only real consequences the police will face will be changes designed to increase their efficiency at spinning the news or handling the crowds, the next time they kill someone. Because amidst all the inane controversies, that is one fact that no one can dispute: the police will kill again, and again, and again. A disproportionate number of their targets will be young people of color and transgender people, but they have also killed older people, like John T. Williams, Bernard Monroe, and John Adams, and white people too. The Right has seized on a couple cases of white youth being killed by cops, like Dillon Taylor or Joseph Jennings, throwing questions of proportion out the window in a crass attempt to claim the police are not racist.

Essentially, the point being made by right-wing pundits is that the cops are killing everybody, so it’s not a problem. The fact that they can make this argument and still retain credibility with a large sector of the population shows how normalized the role of the police is in our society. The true meaning of the evidence used manipulatively by the Right is that the police are a danger to anyone not wearing a business suit.

In a serious debate, however, it would be hard to deny that the police are a racist institution par excellence. They kill young black, latino, and Native people at a disproportionately higher rate than white youth, and the institution itself descended from the patrols created to capture fugitive slaves in the South and police urban immigrants in the North, as masterfully documented in Kristian Williams‘ landmark book, Our Enemies in Blue. What’s more, the criminal justice system that the police play an integral role in, both feeding and defending the prison-industrial complex, grew directly out of the 13th Amendment’s approval of slavery in the case of imprisonment, illuminating the path by which the United States’ advancing economy could leave plantation slavery behind, first with the pairing of sharecropping and chain gangs, and more recently with the pairing of a precarious labor market on the outside and booming prison industries on the inside.

However, though the police do not affect everyone equally, they do affect all of us. Everyone who is not wealthy can be a target for police violence, and anyone who fights for a freer, fairer world puts themselves directly into the cops’ crosshairs. During the Oscar Grant riots in Oakland or the John T. Williams protests in Seattle, many journalists, closely echoed by progressive spokespersons, denounced the white people who took to the streets angered by police killings. With an underhanded racism, they cast “white anarchists” as the ringleaders of the mayhem, silencing the anarchists of color as well as the many young people of color without any visible ideology who were often the most active at taking over the streets or fighting back against the police. If they really cared about racism and police violence, wouldn’t they have portrayed the young people of color as protagonists, rather than mindless stooges of “white anarchists,” or simply erasing their participation entirely? Instead of discrediting the relatively few white people who did take to the streets, shouldn’t the criticisms have been directed at all the white people who stayed home?

However, with the protests after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson, certain entrenched dynamics have started to change. True, the response to the killing of Oscar Grant did spread to other parts of the West Coast, and it was not successfully spun as an issue only affecting black people; but to a far greater degree, the response to the official announcement that the government approved of Michael Brown’s murder spread across the country and included people of all races.

This is a good thing: more people are taking the problem of the police seriously, realizing they need to react, and exploring actions that they can take that will make a difference. The circumstances that forced this necessary step forward are tragic, but they are hardly a surprise to anyone with the slightest sense of history. Police killings and unwavering government support for the cops are an integral part of our society. They are not going away any time soon.

Logically, people would debate: what is to be done? However, this is a debate that mainstream journalists, progressive journalists, protest organizations, and left-wing figureheads have all studiously avoided, maintaining not so much a conspiracy of silence as one of vitriol and marginalization against anyone who challenges their unspoken tenets.

Those tenets are simple: all responses must be peaceful; and the only conceivable goal is piecemeal reform. Within this artificially fixed arena, we are allowed to squabble over all the details we want, from cop-cameras to citizen review boards, but we are never allowed to entertain opinions that transgress those limits. Those who use a wider lens to understand where police violence comes from and what role it plays in our society are ignored. If they are employed as journalists or academics, they have just made a poor career move, and they will quickly be drowned out by the ladder-climbing, cynical hacks who cover up this ongoing tragedy with banal and myopic observations. Those who actually attempt to explore other paths of action and change will be denounced as “thugs,” “criminals,” and “agitators,” FOX and NPR will speak about them in the same terms, police and protest leaders will unite to suppress them.

That is how free speech works in a democracy. Fix the terms of the debate, distract the masses with fierce polemics between two acceptable “opposites” that are so close they are almost touching, encourage them to take part, and either ignore or criminalize anyone who stakes an independent position, especially one that throws into question the fundamental tenets that are naturalized and reinforced by both sides in the official debate. Noam Chomsky was one of several dissidents to reveal this dynamic during the Vietnam War and demonstrate the unanimity of hawk and dove positions in media debates. The media follow the same rules today. In that earlier crisis, the fundamental tenet was that the US government has the right to project its power, militarily or otherwise, across the entire planet. In the current crisis, the unquestionable dogma is that the police have a right to exist, that the police as an institution are an apt instrument to protect us and serve us, and therefore they are a legitimate presence on our streets and in our neighborhoods.

In this debate, the Right claim that the police are working just fine, while the Left claim that changes are needed to get them working better. Both of them are united in preserving the role of police and keeping real people—neighborhoods, communities, and all the individuals affected by police—from becoming the protagonists in the conflicts that affect us. Similarly, we frequently hear leftists claim that “the prisons aren’t working,” exhibiting a willful ignorance as to the actual purpose of prisons. Sadly, for all their distortions and manipulations, the Right is being more honest. The police and the prisons both are working just fine. As per their design, they are working against us.

On the Left, we find a tragic mixture of the unconscionably cynical with the hopelessly naïve. No serious person can claim that any of their proposed reforms will make a real difference; and in fact most have already been tried. Racial sensitivity training only makes the cops better at hiding their racism. It certainly doesn’t touch the underlying hierarchies that police serve to protect. Civilian oversight, at the very best, can lead to a few “bad apples” being forced to resign, and they have rarely even reached that level of potency. No matter; bureaucracies have always know how to make individual personnel expendable so as to protect the greater power structure, and no government in the world has given oversight boards more power than the institutions they are supposed to monitor, not when those institutions are vital to the smooth functioning of authority.

As for cameras, they would only increase the power of police by augmenting the intrusion of government surveillance into our lives. The murders of Eric Garner and Oscar Grant were caught on tape, and nothing changed. The fact of the matter is, the vast majority of murders carried out by cops are perfectly legal. How can this come as a surprise? The same people who benefit from police violence are the ones writing the laws or getting the lawmakers elected. The only real victim of cop-cameras would be people who choose to defend themselves against cops, an action that, no matter how justified, is never legal. If the cops wore cameras, anyone who raised their hand against them would be caught on tape. But the reformers aren’t thinking about self-defense, are they?

And this is the crux of the issue. The question of self-defense against the police is one that we are not allowed to consider, yet it is the only one that makes sense. The police do not exist to protect society from generalized cannibalism and mayhem, as in some paranoid Batman fantasy. They exist to protect the haves from the have-nots, to maintain the State’s monopoly on violence, and to make up for our atrophied capacity for conflict resolution, another of the many prerogatives the State has stolen from us (whether it’s a lack of the ability to knock on our neighbor’s door when they play their music too loud or to draw on a wider network of family and community ties to deal with an abusive relationship).

We can ignore the antagonistic relationship that the police have with anyone who is not trying or not able to make it to the highest tiers of society, but what we cannot do is reform that relationship away. This is why it is necessary to talk about self-defense against the police.

But we are not dealing with a open debate between two equal positions, reform or fight back. First of all, this is because the reformers consistently join in with all the dominant institutions, including the bloody-handed cops they claim to oppose, to silence, marginalize, criminalize, or demonize anyone who chooses to fight back against the police. They do not engage in debate because they could only lose; instead they make use of all the lies, distortions, and the generalized amnesia perpetuated by the media specifically to avoid a debate.

Secondly, the reformers are parasites. They would not exist without those who fight back. No one outside their respective communities would ever have heard about Oscar Grant or Michael Brown were it not for the rioters. The recent nationwide protests were only possible because folks in Ferguson were setting fires, looting, throwing rocks and molotovs, and shooting at cops for ten days in August.

If the reformers were sincere, they would thank those who took to the streets for bringing the problem to the country’s attention, then respectfully differ on the chosen tactics and goals, laying out a historical case for why peaceful tactics and reformist goals are better suited for achieving a real change. But this couldn’t be further from their actual M.O. From parasitic celebrities like Jesse Jackson to an alphabet soup of NGOs, the leftists fly in, put themselves at the head of something they did not start, and work hand in hand with the police to try and calm things down. These professional activists don’t have a program of their own; they are just professional fire extinguishers. And in the case of Ferguson, they are the government’s most valuable tool. Because it wasn’t the police or even the National Guard who succeeded in putting an end to the rioting, but these professional activists.

Their cynicism goes beyond the parasitical, backstabbing relationship they have with those who actually risk themselves fighting to eject police from their neighborhoods, and beyond their racist portrayal of local people of color who are at the frontlines of the fight as either “thugs” or the unwitting pawns of outside agitators. They will even go so far as to use the families of those murdered by police; in fact at this point it seems to be part of their playbook.

If the family calls for peaceful protest, as did the families of John T. Williams or Michael Brown, they lay it down like the law, and marginalize anyone who tries to respond in a more combative manner, maligning them as being disrespectful to the victim, heartless agitators who are taking advantage of tragedy in order to sow chaos. Yet families are not the only ones with a right to respond to police murders. How many of us would want our parents to write our epitaph? How many of us would trust our friends more than our families to know what we would have wanted, if we were killed? Though friendship is not a relationship recognized by law, the friends of a victim have also been directly affected, and they should have a say in what’s the appropriate response. In fact, friends and peers have played an important role in many of the anti-police riots in the last few years, though their participation has been largely hidden by the media and the pacifists alike.

It doesn’t end there. Neighbors and witnesses are also traumatized by a police murder; they also have an undeniable need to respond to outrage and reassert control over their environment, a control that walking in a peaceful protest flanked by cops cannot give. And if we are not dealing with an isolated murder but a systematic problem, as is the case with police killings, then everyone is affected and everyone has a need to respond.

It shouldn’t be necessary to point out that this affects all of us. But the pacifying, paralyzing discourse of the reformers specifically breaks down solidarity. Instead of encouraging us all to feel harm done to another as harm done to ourselves, we are all supposed to take a backseat to “what the family wants.” The level of hypocrisy is infuriating when you realize that the peace-preaching professional activists don’t give a shit for the family of Michael Brown or anyone else murdered by the cops. Family members are just pawns in their agendas.

When Durham teenager, Jesus “Chuy” Huerta was shot to death in the back of a police car one year ago, his family rebuffed the police department’s hollow gestures of reconciliation, and they did not denounce the people who fought with cops in anger over the killing. It’s not a coincidence that local leftists were suddenly silent about what the family wanted. And after the non-indictment, when Michael Brown’s stepfather Louis Head urged a crowd to “burn this motherfucker down!”, how many reformers decided to actually follow his lead? Instead, they have all scrambled over themselves to prove he did not mean it, broadcasting an apology he issued about a week later, a reconciliation that might have been aided by the fact that Head was facing a criminal investigation and had already been demonized in the media for a reaction that, in Ferguson at least, was common sense for thousands of people.

This is a fine example of opinions we are not allowed to hold, and how the legal system, the media, and the Left all work together to punish and erase such opinions. It was a triumph for this triumvirate of social control that most of the protests around the country were tame, legal affairs that successfully quenched people’s anger, but fires, riots, and highway blockades from Oakland to Boston indicate that that control is finally starting to slip. For it to fully fall away, we need to understand the true role of the legal system and the media, and realize the full hypocrisy of the Left.

It is an alarming but historical moment when the Right speaks more truthfully than the Left. While the reformers were talking about bad apples and sensitivity training, cops in Missouri hit the nail on the head when they began distributing and wearing bracelets that said, “We Are All Darren Wilson.

Even leftists who did not openly condemn the rioting fell into a tried and true holding pattern. The only way they could make the rioting palatable was to talk about police brutality against protesters. In fact, for much of the riots, police in Ferguson were remarkably restrained. It became commonplace for protesters to shoot at police with handguns, and in November, assault rifles even made an appearance, yet the cops did not shoot back.

This is an important step forward. In the face of a police institution that has carte blanche to kill, people are beginning to value their own lives over the laws of the elite. Yet for the reformers who cannot conceive of fully opposing any of the existing institutions, this narrative makes no sense. Normal people can only be victims, never protagonists. And criticizing the police means not talking about those moments when cops are actually scared for their lives and do not act with total impunity. The lack of strategic thinking is startling.

As far as governments go, the US is infamous for being particularly heavy handed and unrestrained in obliterating resistance. It militarizes its cops, it metes out sentences far longer than what would be considered just in most other countries, and it does not deign to engage in the balances of compromise and social peace like the social democracies do. To surpass the brutality with which the US government liquidated the black and Native liberation movements in the ’60s and ’70s, you’d have to look to Iran or China. Yet now, in Ferguson, and in many other cities this past November, the cops and their masters were scared enough that when people began rioting, looting, taking guns to protests, and shutting down highways, the authorities did not respond with a police riot or a military clampdown. To a great extent, their hands were tied.

Why? What were they afraid of?

It certainly wasn’t a peaceful protest or a little bad media coverage.

Answering this question more fully, and putting the answers into practice, is the second step towards ending police violence once and for all.

 

 

[Peter Gelderloos is a former prisoner who has participated in Copwatch and other initiatives to surveille the police or push them out of our neighborhoods. He is the author of several books, including The Failure of Nonviolence.]

 

The Point of Protest

A Culture of Imbeciles

Black Panther Party - 1960s

Photo: The legendary Bobby Seale speaks at Free Huey rally in Defermery Park (named by the Panthers Bobby Hutton Park) in West Oakland. “But government intimidation was nothing new. Named “the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States,” by FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover, the Black Panther Party for Self Defense stood at the vanguard of the most powerful movement for social change in America before being systemically destroyed by the United States government.” [Source]

 

Activism for social change — on whatever subject — relies on the sequential formula for success Research, Education, Organizing, Action. Social forums, convergences, marches and other forms of protest fall under the Education category.

Organizing for social change follows up on the awareness generated by educational events, and includes discussions of strategy and tactics that might be employed in applying the research used in educational venues. Once a plan is developed by organizers, educators and researchers, resources can be secured to implement the plan, using established social networks in mobilizing actions that accomplish the goals and objectives agreed on.

Action for social change might include engaging with a political party to elect candidates favorable to the plan, diplomacy with governing officials, and sponsoring initiatives and referendums that enact, modify or repeal public laws and policies. Other actions might include civil disobedience that confronts unjust laws and policies, as well as sabotage and armed insurrection under extreme social situations.

Protest is thus an interim step between research and organizing, not an end, but a means of generating awareness. Once awareness has been generated on a topic (as it was long ago on Climate Change), protest has outlived its usefulness, and organizing must get underway. Otherwise, protest becomes a form of entertainment, a spectacle, a means of amusement that achieves nothing important.

When protest is hijacked by covert agent provocateurs (i.e. Avaaz and 350), it becomes counterproductive, dissipating the energy of social networks, that should be applied to political organizing that leads to effective action. Protests that do nothing but make participants feel good are self-indulgent exercises; when these exercises become habitual, protest as self-expression becomes a form of psychological self-therapy, which should not be confused with political engagement.

FLASHBACK | Untimely Meditations for Silencing the Drum Circles

 libcom.org

June 14, 2011

by Miguel Amorós

A critique of the “new protests” of the Occupy type, depicting this phenomenon as the expression of a reformist “false civil opposition” led by the “impostors” of the civil society movement in the name of a “citizenry” that is a “fantasy” concocted to serve as a “surrogate subject” (replacing “the people”) which is to be “exercised” and “educated” “in these protests … which spread like a new fashion among the middle class youths who form its ranks”.

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When the excesses of domination generate protests whose reality is certified by the media, an illusion of consciousness is produced, an apparent awakening that seems to herald the reappearance of the social question and the return of the subject destined to play the leading role in a new historical transformation. By noting, however, the trivial and frivolous nature of the main demands of the protests, and by listening to the insipid refrains of progressive ideologies, all our doubts are dispelled with respect to what has really returned by way of this permitted protest, which is nothing but the corpse of the subject. The social question has not yet been profoundly addressed, while all the dead who stand guard over the ideologies stashed away in the cupboard come out for a walk. Despite any truthful content that it may possess, a protest that floats in stagnant waters together with the putrid remnants of other pseudo-revolts from the past is not the most likely place for a reformulation of a project for real change. Even if it should provide itself with horizontal mechanisms for decision-making, even if it takes the form of an assembly, those who speak in these protests are for the most part impostors or the apprentices of impostors. Reason senses its impotence in the face of the avalanche of platitudes extracted from the garbage dump of history, and confirms that capitalist domination—the system—has not yielded an inch, and that instead, by manipulating its victims, it has created a false civil opposition with which it can douse the fires of the rebellion. It could not have been otherwise. The working class was irremediably defeated thirty years ago and in its place all we have are the leftovers that minoritarian trade unionism cannot and never will be able to revive, coexisting with a juvenile ghetto of militants and inveterate resisters, reduced in numbers and partially immobilized. Not the kind of material with which one could reinitiate what Hegel called “the hard work of the intelligence” that could enlighten the new generations, who, when they have to take hold of the concept, will fall flat on their faces.

In all the spectacular new protests, two shared features are always present: first, a large number of suspect allies who, from the mainstream media, ponder, reexamine and justify the protest that has been so properly diluted, from which its radical offshoots have been safely trimmed. Second, an obsessive desire to not look for enemies, not in the forces of order, not in the parties, not in the state, and not in the economy itself, since all their proposals, whether maximum or minimum, however strange they may sound, fit within the system (in addition, it is the system that decides to incorporate them). Hence the sickly pacifism, and its obverse, the ludic-festive side, the ambiguous attitude toward elections and the preference for measures that give more power to the state or enhance economic development (more capitalism), traits that define a specific ideology, the civil society ideology, the precise reflection of a way of thinking in a vacuum that easily sets down roots in the fertile soil of inconsequential dissent. At least one thing must be made clear: the protest of the civil society movement does not question the system, it does not pursue the subversion of the established order, nor does it seek to replace it. What it wants is to participate, since it does not propose a way of life (and of producing) that is radically opposed to the prevailing system. Its program, when it is set forth, does not go beyond reforms intended to clear the way for institutionalized collaboration and sharing the consequences of the economic crisis with the ruling class in a more equitable manner. It is a simple appeal for civic values addressed to domination. It does not at all propose to change the condition of the voting, car-driving and indebted wage labor force, but rather to preserve it—if possible—with stable jobs, electoral reforms and decent wages. The proletarian condition survives, but dissimulated under the alleged condition of the citizenry. The struggle for its abolition is no longer a bitter clash between classes for control over and management of social space as it was in times past, but the peaceful exercise of a political right within the bounds of an accessible and neutral state.

Does the “citizenry” really exist? Is it a new class? In order to answer these questions we will have to acknowledge an undeniable fact: that neither the remnant industrial proletariat nor its contemporary heirs, the masses of wage workers, are intrinsically revolutionary, objectively or subjectively. The principal productive force is knowledge, not manual labor; furthermore, on the side of the subject, the struggles waged merely for improved conditions and higher wages are not destroying capitalism, but modernizing it thanks to the labor bureaucracy that they have generated. The trade union and political apparatuses dissolve class consciousness and facilitate integration and submission. In addition, the expansion of production is fundamentally destructive, which is why the workers cannot ignore the consequences of their own labor and much less seek to self-manage it. The working class has come to the end of its historical role, which was linked to a stage of capitalist development that is now over, and its current successors can only condemn the function they perform in the system and assert the need to separate from it, but without consciousness and without morality this is not possible. The end of the proletariat as a class leaves the terrain of the social struggle abandoned, without a subject, at the mercy of the intermediate classes that the system itself is fragmenting, dispersing and excluding just as it is doing to the working classes, in whose ranks the old revolutionary theory of the proletariat is not re-emerging, but instead the modern civil society ideology, brandished as an anti-radical weapon and tool for cooptation by all those little parties, groupuscules, networks and office-seekers who swarm in the protests of postmodernity, infiltrating them, banalizing them and corrupting them. Just as was the case when there was a class struggle, when leftism contributed to the modernization of the trade union and political organizations of capitalism, only then it did so in the name of the proletariat while today it does so in the name of a fantasy, the “citizenry”. This resort to the citizenry, that is, to all the subjects of the state, is purely rhetorical, as was the appeal to the “people” in times gone by. The citizenry does not exist; it is an unreal entity that inhabits the progressive mind and serves as a surrogate subject, one that can apply to everyone. Despite its non-existence, it can be found everywhere: from the discourse of power it has passed to the militant language of the street. It has proven to be most useful to those who, like the leftists, are attempting to make themselves visible and influential with the protests of the new generations by infecting them with populist ideology, manipulative sectarianism and a long-suffering workerism, in order to cause the present-day radicals-in-formation to become like them or to be disgusted and give up. They do not often succeed in the former, which is why the system itself helps them out with its enormous virtual means, issuing obscure appeals and initiating self-contained processes that, by providing the participants with one or two days of tolerated glory in the park, gives them the feeling that they are in charge, as in Tahrir Square or at the Sorbonne in 1968. The operation can get out of control, but what can the system fear from the kinds of behavior tailored to the “education for the citizenry” that are promoted in these protests, and which spread like a new fashion among the middle class youths who form its ranks. How can a movement be energized by off-the-rack hedonism, fanatical non-violence, spirited gestures, crippling consensus, the playful banging of pots and pans, and communication by means of Twitter? This kind of behavior is presented as the innovative practice of freedom, despite the fact that this kind of freedom is abundant in slave societies and is hardly of any use for assaulting the Winter Palace. But who wants, and worse yet, who is capable of assaulting a center of power today? The only thing these protests are asking for is dialogue and participation.

We are immersed in a harsh process of adaptation to the crisis implemented by the state in accordance with the directives proclaimed by “the markets”, a violent adjustment process that leaves victims everywhere in its wake: workers, retirees, civil servants, immigrants and … the déclassé youth. If the majority is just barely getting by, the youth, at any rate—almost half of whom are unemployed—has a bleak future ahead of it, and this is why they are protesting, but not against the system that has marginalized them, but against those whom they consider responsible, the politicians who govern, the trade unionists who remain quiescent and the bankers who speculate. These protests mark the beginning of a confused era where one-third of civil society is mobilizing in one way or another outside of the institutions, although not against them. They do not feel that they are properly represented in a democracy that “is not a democracy”, since its population does not participate in it, and that is why they want to reform it. They do not want to destroy separate power, but to separate the constituted powers. For the precarious middle class that is claiming as its own the bourgeois concept of democracy, Montesquieu never died, but we should recall that Franco is not dead either, and that the democracy that “cost so much to attain” and that claims that it is derived from the reconversion agreed to by the political-repressive apparatus of the dictatorship, built up its power from the innards and sewers of the state.

The protests take place in an environment that is considered to be almost natural by those who participate in them: the urban environment. The latter, however, is a space that was created and organized by capital, in such a way as to foster the molding and development of its world. The metropolises and the conurbations are the basic elements of the space of the commodity, a neutralized and monitored stage scenery that functions as a factory, where direct communication, and therefore consciousness and revolt, are almost impossible. Any real revolt must fight to free this space from the signs of power and open it up to a process of discovery that favors the decolonization of everyday life; it must be a revolt against urban society. The social question is essentially an urban question, which is why the rejection of capitalism also implies the rejection of the conurbation, its ideal vessel. The turning point in the consumerist and political training program could take place in those monitored dormitories called neighborhoods, if the assemblies that are formed during the crisis become counter-institutions from which the metropolitan urban model can be criticized and an alternative can be designed that is in harmony with the land. In the assemblies of neighborhood representatives an autonomous subject can emerge, a new class that will resist the civil society problematic that comes from the squares and parks by proposing and implementing plans concerning the urban question (neighborhood autonomy, logistical problems, real contact with the countryside, the occupation of public spaces, recovery of artisanal knowledge, anti-consumerism, the struggle against urban planning and infrastructure projects, etc.). Nothing of this kind has arisen from the protests, which seem to be pleased to breathe the polluted air of the urban environment, a portion of which has become the citizens’ agora, a place where civil society vacuities have carte blanche. This happens because the mentality of the middle class is in charge in these mobilizations and its representatives hold the initiative. This is why the social crisis has only been manifested as a political crisis, a crisis of the political system, a political moment in the prescriptions of civil society.

The ideology of the civil society movement is the ideology that is best adapted to the conurbation, since public space is not really necessary for reproducing the kind of formal and symbolic space in which a semblance of debate is represented, just something that looks like a public space. For a real debate to take place, a real public space must exist, a community of struggle, but a community of this type—a collective subject—is completely contrary to a citizens’ assembly, a mercurial aggregation of crippled individualities that imitates the gestures of direct discussion without finally moving in the required direction, since it cautiously avoids all risks by refusing to engage in combat. Its battles are just a lot of noise and its heroism is nothing more than a pose. A community of struggle—a historical social force—can only be formed on the basis of a conscious will for separation, an effort of desertion that is the offspring of a total opposition to the capitalist system or, which amounts to the same thing, the profound questioning of the industrial way of life, that is, a rupture with urban society. Youth unemployment or budget cuts; the starting point does not matter since, if tempers are hot enough, it all leads to the same place; the essential point is the achievement of enough autonomy to shift the flow of debate out of the established channels and towards the fundamental question—freedom—without “responsible” mediators or vigilant tutors. And this can only be achieved by moving away from the party of domination and initiating a long and arduous struggle against it.

 

Translated from the Spanish original in March 2013.
Spanish original available online at: http://reflexionrevuelta.wordpress.com/2011/06/15/miquel-amoros-pensamientos-intempestivos-al-acabar-de-sonar-el-tambor/

 

Reaction to the World Social Forum in Tunis

Reaction to the World Social Forum in Tunis

Above photo: Indians at the World Social Forum in Belem Brazil, January 28, 2009, discus the rights of indigenous peoples. Photo by Andre Penner / AP.

wsf2

April 5, 2013

By Tomaso Ferando

“Like a post-modern Tro­jan horse, cor­por­ate power has entered the core of the anti-globalization fort­ress and has placed its sol­diers, includ­ing a couple of mem­bers of indi­gen­ous com­munit­ies of the Amazon, to dis­sem­in­ate its word and sup­port its com­mit­ment toward a respons­ible exploit­a­tion of nature and the people. How­ever, and more dra­mat­ic­ally than in the story coun­ted by Homer, it all happened with the full aware­ness of the organ­iz­a­tion, and, even more sadly, with the silent acquit­tance of the rest of the anti-global col­lectiv­ity, which has not raised a fin­ger against the cor­por­at­iz­a­tion of the WSF and refused to organ­ize sym­bolic actions of protest.”
Never Idle: Gord Hill on Indigenous Resistance in Canada

Never Idle: Gord Hill on Indigenous Resistance in Canada

March 18, 2013

[A condensed version of this article appeared in the March 2013 issue of The Portland Radicle.]

Radicle: Could you explain how indigenous power is apportioned in Canada and the Assembly of First Nations?

Gord Hill: The AFN is comprised of all the band council chiefs. We refer to them as the “Indian Act chiefs” because the Indian Act is federal legislation that was introduced in 1876 and it was through this act that the Canadian government imposed the reservation system and the band council system and status, like who is a Native. That’s the main thing about the Indian Act, so since then they imposed these band councils and chiefs onto all the reserves. The Assembly of First Nations was established in the early 1980s and it’s a national organization of these Indian Act chiefs. They’re basically a lobby group with the government. They’re a political organization of the Indian Act chiefs.

WATCH: SOFT POWER | The Partnering of Western NGOS and the US Military

WATCH: SOFT POWER | The Partnering of Western NGOS and the US Military

Image: 3P Human Security’ is working to develop guidance documents to deconflict between local and international NGOs and other civil society groups to the challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, top US military and political under a new Department of Defense Directive that puts stabilization on par with war-fighting. | 3P organized a March 2010 roundtable hosted by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars between global peacebuilding civil society organizations and US government and military personnel. This report details an agenda for future discussions. | 3P organized a March 2010 roundtable hosted by Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars between global peacebuilding civil society organizations and US government and military personnel. | 3P worked with the University of Notre Dame to plan a three day discussion between global practitioners and NGOs in peacebuilding and development to discuss their relationship with military personnel in their countries, hosted by the Kroc Center for International Peace Studies at University of Notre Dame.

March 5, 2013

by Forrest Palmer & Cory Morningstar – WKOG

 

It seems to me that somewhere along the line that people don’t have a clear understanding of the role and the unique nature of NGOs. And not surprisingly so considering what’s going on in Iraq at the moment. On one side we have US Military personnel parading in certain times in civilian clothes, driving white 4×4’s and even driving civilian vehicles. We have civilian “aid workers” wearing Department of Defense ID’s surrounded by armed security guards. The media meanwhile refer to soldiers and armed security personnel killed in action as humanitarians, and NGOs themselves in some cases request and accept military escorts or contracts from the Department of Defense. – Denis Dragovic, International Rescue Committee, 2004

 

In response to the challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, top US military and political leaders call for strengthened civilian capacities and more effective civil-military cooperation. US military personnel increasingly conduct humanitarian, development and peacebuilding activities to achieve stabilization effects under a new Department of Defense Directive that puts stabilization on par with war-fighting. Military leaders list “building civil society” and “local ownership” in their strategies and seek NGOs as “implementing partners.” – Civil Society – Military Dialogue, 3P Human Security

Chief Spence Calls for Indian Act Chiefs to “Take Control” of Grassroots Movement

“An uncomfortable analysis, but one we must carry over to other struggles.” -d.
December 30, 2012

by Zig Zag,

Warrior Publications

During a Dec 30 press conference on her 20th day of hunger striking, Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence called on other Indian Act chiefs to take control of the grassroots movement, stating in a written text (read out by one of her aides):  “First Nations leadership needs to take charge and control of the situation on behalf of the grassroots movement.”

People Currently Without Power

November 22, 2012

Kasama

This makes a simple, basic radical assertion — that we need to promote and explain at every turn.

At the same time it is surprisingly controversial — certainly among the non-political and liberal who have illusions about this system. But also among leftists for another reasons: because some people confuse relative privilege with actual power.

MUST WATCH: Dr Steve Best – The Paralysis of Pacifism

 

WKOG: An excellent lecture by Dr Steven Best. Not to be missed.

“The desire for a nonviolent and cooperative world is the healthiest of all psychological manifestations. This is the overarching principle of liberation and revolution. Undoubtedly, it seems the highest order of contradiction that, in order to achieve nonviolence, we must first break with it in overcoming its root causes. Therein lies our only hope.” — Ward Churchill, Pacifism as Pathology

 

Conference: “The Paralysis of Pacifism: In Defense of Militant Direct Action and “Violence” for Animal Liberation” held by Prof. Steve Best in ex slaughterhouse of Aprilia – Italy – 06 September 2012.

Prof. Steve Best is a writer, speaker, public intellectual, and activist. Steven Best engages animal rights, species extinction, ecological crisis, biotechnology, liberation politics, terrorism, mass media and culture, globalization, and capitalist domination. He is Associate Professor of Humanities and Philosophy at the University of Texas, El Paso.

This conference has been organized by “Per Animalia Veritas” which is an organization that promotes antispecism as a radical revolution for a renewed cruelty-free and vegan society through militant activism.

To subscribe to Steve Best’s blog visit: http://drstevebest.wordpress.com/

Words Without Action Are Meaningless

August 16, 2012

by Camille Marino

If we are not willing to act, our words are meaningless. At the close of 2009, I was struggling with this idea. I did not know if I was prepared to act or in what capacity, nor did I know how much risk I was willing to assume. Now I am reconciled. Everything pales next to any liberations in which I may have participated. And I now know precisely what I am willing to risk for Animal Liberation. There’s no fear left. Reconciling these issues within myself has afforded me a new level of confidence and dedication. I am republishing my original essay now — admittedly, crude in its style & presentation — to afford other activists an opportunity to hold the same mirror up to themselves and find resolution. -Camille

Let’s face facts: After decades of environmental struggles, we are nevertheless losing ground in the battle to preserve species, ecosystems, and wilderness. Increasingly, calls for moderation, compromise, and the slow march through institutions can be seen as treacherous and grotesquely inadequate. In the midst of predatory global capitalism and biological meltdown,‘reasonableness’ and ‘moderation’ seem to be entirely unreasonable and immoderate, as ‘extreme’ and ‘radical’ actions appear simply as necessary and appropriate.” (Dr. Steven Best, Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of The Earth)

by Camille Marino (originally published Dec. 28, 2009)

Negotiation is Over has a new tagline: “Words Without Actions Are Meaningless.” I heard this statement recently, uttered by true revolutionaries who were willing to die for their values. Empathizing with the struggle of the oppressed is insufficient; we must be willing to die for their freedom… otherwise we need to find a hobby. These ideas resonated with me. They are the lens through which my own inadequacies become magnified and glaring. Animal terrorists demand an equal and opposite response from animal liberationists and, thus far, I have not — we have not — delivered. The extreme violence systematically visited upon nonhumans cannot be addressed with moderation and civility.

We have no revolution. We have no movement. We have welfarists and pacifists — equally complicit in the holocaust by virtue of their unconscionable tolerance, timidity, and tacit approval; “abolitionists” who have co-opted a term, eradicated the spirit of revolution, and armed themselves with spatulas and aprons. And here I am, as culpable as the weakest activist, but naked with no rationalizations to defend myself. I know that vegan cupcakes do nothing for the animals confined in bloody misery. I understand that sadists will not become decent human beings if we simply ask them nicely enough. So if I do nothing to stop the abusers, then I am guilty. And if we as a movement fail to take decisive action, then everyone shares this guilt. If the innocent could defend themselves, their tormentors would be dead. Animals are terrorized, mutilated, and murdered on an incomprehensible scale and with exquisite precision in far greater numbers than the humans who succumbed to the Rwandan death squads and the RUF in Sierra Leone combined. Yet we do nothing.

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