Relaunch and Recommended Readings

Insureccoinpopularya

Machete 408 is back serving you up with a new series of postings after a summer hiatus. A continuing state of joblessness and downgrading to a slower internet connection both put a bit of a damper on the political juices that went into the blog. But despite these, there’s a nice backlog of recently published pieces that I hope Machete 408 readers will check out. Below is a collage of recommended and recently published articles and commentaries.

Did anyone notice a coup happening somewhere? Writing on the recent coup in Honduras, Jose Antonio Gutierrez of Ireland’s Worker Solidarity Movement (WSM) as well as the Frente de estudiantes Libertarios (FeL) in Chile, provides analysis with “Coup in Honduras: The Return of Guerillas or the Tactics of Attrition?.” Also is a piece on the potential of the recent popular uprising in Iran in response to stolen elections. “The Iranian Election, A ‘Legacy of Martyred Flowers’” is by Farah, an Iranian whom is also a member of the WSM. Both pieces appear on the Anarkismo international anarchist news and publishing site and Farah’s is followed by a lively debate in the comments section.

Looking at a global trend is “Workers Creating Hope: Factory Occupations and Self-Management” by Shawn Hattingh from Monthly Review Zine, which gives a brief overview of the growing factory and workplace occupations around the globe. The piece concludes, “The actions of these workers [involved in occupations] are inspirational. It seems likely that more and more workers will begin adopting and adapting the idea of factory occupations as a viable way to save jobs and reclaim the dignity that bosses have tried to take away from them. Perhaps what we are also seeing through the occupations, takeovers, and self-management is a glimpse of what a post-capitalist world, created by the workers and the poor themselves, would look like.”

Justice for Oscar Grant: A Lost Opportunity? On the movement and political analysis tip is the Advance the Struggle blog, founded earlier this year and written by Bay Area writers influenced by various strains of Marxism. Of interest are several pieces debating the movement that surrounded the killing of Black, 22 year old Oakland resident, Oscar Grant at a BART station on New Years Day 2009. Included is three pieces. “Unfinished Acts” is an insurrectionary anarchist piece created in the format of a composite narrative play; “Justice for Oscar Grant: A Missed Opportunity?” is a solid piece with excellent critical analysis of both the role of the RCP and the non-profit dominated CAPE coalition that led much of the community response; and “Bring the Struggle, Advance the Ruckus” a response to “Missed Opportunity” by Oakland members of the revolutionary group Bring The Ruckus is also worthwhile as well. I won’t link the pieces individually, instead you should go to their blog and find them.

For all those in the labor movement disillusioned with the lack of passage of EFCA (suprise, suprise) is the article “Introducing the Employee Liberation Act” by Daniel Gross of the IWW. There is much to be critical about of the EFCA (See the Machete 408 piece on EFCA here), but what Gross provides us with is a total rethinking of what ails the labor movement and what changes in the legal arena might actually allow for advances by workers instead of card check recognition. Its a bit of a wish list, but what he proposes is a three pronged bill that would: 1) Make discrimination against organizing in the workplace on par with federal civil rights protections around race and gender discrimination. This would make worker rights a recognized civil right as it should; 2) End the second class, modern Jim Crow status of undocumented immigrants in workplace across the US; and 3) Eliminate legal barriers and restrictions on strikes, which would unleash worker’s most powerful weapons against the power of bosses: that of solidarity and the ability to bring profits to a halt.

On an uplifting note is an AK Press blog picture report on the 2nd Annual LA Southern California Anarchist Conference, with nice shots of the jewlery, cultural and publishing vendors, as well as some of the performers and presenters for the event.

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Finally, on the anarchist political organization theory front we have the long awaited English translation of “Huerta Grande” by a good comrade at The Left Winger blog. The 1972 piece is considered a seminal theoretical text of the Federación Anarquista Uruguaya (FAU), which played a leading role in spawning the especifist current within the South American anarchist movement. Also be sure to read this “quick and dirty rought history piece” on the FAU for background and context.

As well, we have a recent translation of South American Anarchist philosopher Angel Cappelletti (1927-1995) posted on the AK Press Blog “Revolution by the Book.” Cappelletti was born in Argentina and spent the later half of his life in Venezuela, becoming a key intellectual figure in the libertarian left, authoring several works on philosophy, anarchism and Latin America. Supporters have recently created a Spanish language archive site of his work. And last but not least is another piece from Jose Antonio Gutierrez, who again offers us some worthwhile thoughts, but this time on strategy and the role of anarchist organization with his Considerations About the Anarchist Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The essence of the Platform is how to build an organisation that unites like-minded anarchists based on concrete proposals and tactics – that is, a “political organisation” as opposed to what is a purely ideological group. In this tradition, it is perfectly fair that we ask ourselves how many of our organisations, leaving aside any pretensions, have actually managed to reach the level of development of a political organisation. At present, the majority of these groupings are only propaganda groups. The principle difference between a political organisation and a propaganda group is not its number of militants nor its level of militancy, nor even the political insertion of its members. The principle difference is the simple answer to the question: what can we offer the people? While propaganda groups can not offer more than a political and ideological vision and, in the best cases, a few slogans, the revolutionary political organisation can offer a course of action; a programme; a tactical line; a strategy; short-, medium- and long-term objectives.

Latin American Anarchism

 juntoscreando.jpg picture by adam_freedom

 A street mural by a Chilean anarchist cultural/muralist group (Read an interview with them in Spanish here).

  There’s a rich history and tradition of anarchism in Latin America that is still largely waiting to be translated and brought to the attention of the left and others who focus on the region. Below is a review by Chuck Morse of negations.net (also staff with AK Press) of three Spanish language works on the history of Latin American Anarchism by authors from the region. While none of the books reviewed are comprehensive treatments by any means, each work has a strong focus on the heavy role that anarchists played in the labor movement of Latin American countries as well as the tranformative cultural impact that anarchists had as well. You can also check out the Latin American Archives of negations.net, with .PDF of over 50 issues of several anarchist publications from 1917 to 1940 including Alborada, Hombre de America, La Humanidad, Nervio, Prometeo, and Suplemento Quincenal La Protesta.

2018 Update: A newly translated work has been published “Anarchism in Latin America” by AK Press, read the introduction to the book HERE.

Latin American Anarchism

(From The New Formulation, February, 2003)

Review by Chuck Morse (original link)

Cronica Anarquista de la Subversion Olvidada by Oscar Ortiz
and Contribución a una Historia del Anarquismo en América Latina by Luis Vitale
Santiago, Chile: Ediciones Espíritu Libertario, 2002

Anarquismo y Anarcosindicalismo en América Latina
By Alfredo Gómez
Paris: Ruedo ibérico, 1980

Anarquistas en América Latina
By David Viñas
Mexico City: Editorial Katun, 1983

– – –

There are important reasons for anarchists in English-speaking parts of North America to study the history of Latin American anarchism.

One reason is political. We need to form principled, collaborative relationships with our Latin American comrades to fight global capitalism globally and, to do so, we obviously need be able to identify our real comrades among the countless groups in the region that make claims upon our solidarity. Should we “defend the Cuban Revolution” or toast Lula’s social democratic victory in Brazil? Should we adopt the Zapatista ski-mask as our emblem or devoutly align ourselves with small anarchist groups? A genuine confrontation with these questions requires a deep appreciation of the history of Latin American opposition and certainly the anarchist movement has played a significant role in this history.

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Especifismo, Social Insertion and Recent Anarchist Organization

Workermeeting.gif picture by adam_freedom

  A new edition of the “Especifismo Reader: Anarchist Organization and Praxis” has been made publically available. Topping 120 pages, the updated reader includes several newly translated pieces such as the short political statement “Who We Are, What We Want, The Path We Follow” by Coletivo Comunista Anarquismo in Brazil, the article “Anarchist Advances in Uruguay and Brazil” and the “Interview with the Rio de Janeiro Federation” not included in the first edition of the reader,  as well as several excellent though yet to be translated pieces in Spanish. The next steps for this reader are the inclusion of several more pieces by Latin American anarchists and a organization in Mexico, as well as a section of articles called “Towards a North American Especifismo,” with pieces written by North American anarchists influences by the Especifismo Latin American Anarchist tradition. 

  One of the key concepts of the Latin American Anarchist tradition of especifismo is “social insertion.” I admit there is a bit of a funny sound to it, but this is the concept they use to define the relation to mass struggles and movements. To them anarchist involvement in the social struggles must be firmly rooted, argues for anarchist values rather the conversion of movements to “anarchism itself” or a specific political line, and which aims to build popular power (horizontal power and “of the base” I think are similar concepts from Latin American traditions that readers might also be familar with).  

  My friend Nate of What the hell…?  blog takes up the topic with a response/reflection piece after reading several pieces by written by especifist groups as well as my own piece included in the reader above,  “Especifismo: The Anarchist Praxis of Building Popular Movements and Revolutionary Organization in Latin America.” With heaps of comradely respect I feel Nate is missing some of the arguements and the context for the discussion on especifismo and in some part I think he is perhaps pointing out sections of the writings that are unclear and can lend themselves to misinterpretation. Check out his thoughts and my response and I encourage folks to leave comments on his page with their own.

  In fact, Nate is on a bit of a roll as of late. Here’s another discussion posting on contemporary anarchist politics with Nate’s review and comments on the mission statements and points of unity of current anarchist organizations in North America. Even better is that it includes links if you would like to read more. Next, is his piece discussing the importance of mass organizing work, along with a draft an article where he hopes to better lay out his perspectives on this. Finally, he writes reviews/quick responses  to several of the Furious Five Revolutionary Collective, a 2003-2005 Anarchist-Communist collective based out of San Jose, CA that was influenced by the ideas and writings of the Latin American Especifist anarchists. Their writings are archived on this blog

What Would a Relevant Anarchist Politics Look Like?

ArgentinaMayDay.jpg picture by adam_freedom Workers and popular organizations connected to the anarchist movement rally on May Day 2009 in a public square in Argentina.

  What would an anarchist politics look like that spoke to the needs of today’s realities and to today’s movements? How can revolutionaries apply the values of anarchism to an understanding of building mass movements from below, an understanding of power, a vision of a future society with the understanding of the organization needed to reach it, coupled with a strong analysis of race, patriarchy, gender and issues of queer liberation?

 OvertownMiami.jpg picture by adam_freedom Miami Autonomy & Solidarity (MAS, pronounced like the word “más” in Spanish) is a small organization of revolutionaries based out of the fourth largest metropolitan areas in the US. While Miami is a hub of international trade and finance, it’s also the third poorest city in the US and with a majority immigrant and people of color population (nearly 60% were born outside the US). Much like the US/Mexico border, Miami is a city where the third and first world grate against each other. Interestingly, similar to the rest of the US South, the city lacks much of an established left as would other large metropolitan areas such as New York, Boston, Chicago and the Bay Area.

The organization has been in a process of formation, study and debate for over a year prior to announcing themselves publicly in mid-May 2009. While there are certainly a number of well spoken and excellent individual thinkers in the anarchist milieu, MAS’s Points of Unity below represents one of the best collectively written organizational statements of anarchist politics in North America to this date in my opinion. A recommended read.

2018 Update: In 2013 Miami Autonomy and Solidarity merged into what became Black Rose Anarchist Federation

Miami Autonomy & Solidarity Points of Unity

  Miami Autonomy & Solidarity is an organization of people whom have come together for the purpose of developing a revolutionary organization that works within social movements, as well as on the revolutionary level with the ultimate goal of contributing to an autonomous popular class movement of the oppressed that will overthrow capitalism and the state, as well as ending all forms of oppression.  

Role of the Specific Revolutionary Organization

Our specific revolutionary organization is a group founded on and working towards theoretical and strategic unity, as well as tactical coordination amongst its members. These organizational principles serve to strengthen our efficiency and effectiveness in developing our ideas and strategies within the broader working class movement. It must be stated that the need for such a group arises out of the practical struggles of the working class to transform itself into a revolutionary class capable of overthrowing capitalism and the state; as well as building society along egalitarian, self-managed, and directly democratic lines.

Through our specific revolutionary organization we seek to contribute to the theoretical development of revolutionary social struggles. We engage in the creation of media that communicates the views and political line of the organization, and we directly participate in struggles based on a common strategic program and coordinated activity. The political organization helps keep a historical memory of struggle and ongoing organizational strategic assessments of struggle in mass movements . We strive to retain experiences of success and failures in order to strengthen the social struggle.

However, unlike some political parties that try to use social movements as a tool to develop their own power, our organization’s relation to the social movement’s is reversed: our organization is a tool of our members and sympathizers within the social movement used to contribute towards the power of the social movements through the development of the autonomous consciousness, capacity, and solidarity of these movements.   We never seek to dominate, impose upon, manipulate, command or control the movements we’re a part of.  Rather we seek to participate as equals within the struggle, offering our ideas and methods as short and long term proposals for the movements towards liberation.  Continue reading

Where there’s smoke… Anarchism after the RNC

smoke_2.jpg picture by adam_freedom

  An anonymous and well written reflection piece that begins with a critical look at the Republican National Convention protests in Minneapolis/St. Paul in late 2008, draws lessons from the autonomia and the Italian radical left on the 1970’s, and then looking at the current political juncture of massive economic crisis asks how we can we build a meaningful revolutionary movement today and from where can we take inspiration? Looking at the organizing traditions of Latin American Anarchists, the writer concludes: “It’s time for a regroupment. The time has come to build new organizations based on a commitment to participation in mass social struggles as Anarchists. Only within popular movements do we have the power to build a new world.” Give it a read, you will be inspired.

 

Where there’s smoke….
Anarchism after the RNC

I.
We’ve got the numbers, they’ve got the guns..
Our chants reverberated under the St. Paul skyway. The 2008 RNC protests were underway, the culmination of two years of anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing materializing before our eyes. For once, we were many, and they were few… or maybe not. With 3500 cops and an uncounted number of National Guardsmen and Secret Service agents on the streets, this time they had both the guns and the numbers.

Overwhelming force was only one element of the state’s repression strategy. The main hub of direct action coordination– the RNC Welcoming Committee– had been infiltrated by at least one undercover cop and two paid informants almost a year prior. On Friday night, the hammer came down with a raid on the St. Paul Convergence Center. Cops busted in the doors with guns drawn, forcing about 100 people to the ground, zip-tying them, and then photographing everyone and taking IDs. What a start to the weekend…

The next morning, I got a call from a friend alerting me that the cops were raiding anarchist houses across south Minneapolis. Eventually, four houses had been raided, and eight members of the Welcoming Committee jailed.

Over the next week, over 800 people would be arrested in conjunction with the protests. Many would be injured by rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tear gas, pepper spray, and other weaponry. The state imposed a high cost on expressing dissent.

II.
The Strategy of Tension
Such a brutal reaction might lead us to believe that ‘we must be doing something right.’ After all, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, right? We must really pose a threat. Why else would the FBI and lord knows what other agencies put so many resources into crushing our protest?

No doubt, the prospect of a major political convention being delayed or cancelled due to protest activity would be extremely embarrassing for the ruling elites. However, we must also be aware of the way that the capitalist class uses threats to the existing order to legitimize the violence with which it maintains its hold on the planet. The experiences of the Italian left in the 1970s provide valuable historical lessons for today’s radical movements. Continue reading

May 1: International Worker’s Day – Día Internacional de los Trabajadores

haymarket-square-front.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Yet again May Day quickly approaches.  Since 2006 the immigrant rights marches- made up of millions of undocumented migrant workers along with their supporters, families and children- has brought back May 1st to its original roots in the US. But many are still unaware of its origins in US labor history and the impact this commemorative day still has internationally- such as you can still walk into neighborhoods in Mexico and find streets such as “Calle Los Mártires de Chicago” (Martyrs of Chicago Street).

  Below is a short, pamphlet length piece I edited on the origins and radical history of May Day. For an in depth look you might try Paul Avrich’s classic “The Haymarket Tragedy” and AK Press offers a listing of books they carry on the subject here.  -AW

 What is May Day and why is it called International Workers Day?

May 1st, International Worker’s Day, commemorates the historic struggle of working people throughout the world, and is recognized in every country except the United States and Canada. This is despite the fact that the holiday began in the 1880’s in the United States, with the fight for an eight-hour work day led by immigrant workers. The recent historic marches and protests for immigrant rights, which began with “El Gran Paro Americano 2006,” have brought back into our memories May 1 as an important day of struggle. Although the history of the day has largely been forgotten in the United States, it is still actively remembered and celebrated today by workers, unionists and oppressed peoples all over the world. In fact you can still walk through neighborhoods in Mexico and find streets such as Calle Los Martires de Chicago in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, commemorating the leaders of the eight-hour day movement who were imprisoned and executed.

It is not surprising that the government, business leaders, mainstream union leaders, and the media would want to hide the true history of May Day, portraying it as a “communist” holiday celebrated only in the Soviet Union. In its attempt to erase the history and significance of May Day, the United States government declared May 1st to be “Law Day,” and gave us instead Labor Day—a holiday devoid of any historical significance other than a three weekend holiday at the end of the summer. Continue reading

Thinking about hegemony

Hegemony.jpg picture by adam_freedom  Today a friend handed back to me a long borrowed copy of Arif Dirlik’s Anarchism and the Chinese Revolution (University of California Press, 1991). Full of nuggets and insights, the work is composed of several essays discussing the influence and role of anarchism from about 1900 to 1930; a period of tremendous social upheaval in China. During this period anarchism occupied center stage in the radical left and had a wide impact in the themes and discourse of the left as a whole; which is only being slowly acknowledged in history and by those in the contemporary left.

  The role of culture and ideas and the role they have in either supporting or resisting oppression is widely seen as crucial for most revolutionaries today. But this wasn’t always the case up until a few decades ago as the writings of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) became wider known. In this passage from Dirlik’s conclusion, he takes up the question of hegemony and the important place it held within Chinese anarchist discourse, as well as their particular stance on the matter, which differs from Gramsci. The anarchist writer Dirlik quotes, Italian Anarchist Errico Malatesta (18531932), wrote the excerpted piece from Anarchy in 1891, the year of Gramsci’s birth.

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The Workplace Papers

The Workplace Papers

  From the Sojourner Truth Organization 

workplacepapers.jpg picture by adam_freedom

 

  The Workplace Papers are a collection of articles and reflection pieces assembled by members of the Sojourner Truth Organization involved in workplace struggles during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. Although coming out of the new communist milieu of the early 1970’s, the organization took up a number of unorthodox and critical positions around race, workplace organizing and revolutionary organization that have today become influential discussion points among those those on the left influenced by anarchism and by some members of the radical IWW union. 

  With the Workplace Papers (click the graphic above to open a pdf) STO took a position similar to the early IWW of building independent worker organization and rejected the approach held by most of those on the left of  reforming existing unions. While ultimately unable to build any form of permanent organization, their members published workplace bulletins and were influential in contributing to a number of wildcat strikes and short lived committees in various factories and meat packing plants around Chicago. Well worth the read are there reflective discussions of worker consciousness and organizing around workplace issues, as they are one of the few revolutionary groups during this time (and sadly still to this day) to understand and take up Antonio Gramsci’s ideas of dual consciousness.

  Another gem to be found in the Papers is the piece, “A Golden Bridge: A New Look at William F. Foster, the Great Steel Strike and the ‘Boring-From-Within’ Controversy” by Noel Ignatin. William Foster was a labor organizer and anarchist who started with the IWW during the early 1910’s until he became convinced that labor radicals should leave independent structures such as the IWW and seek to “bore from within” and revolutionize the mainstream, conservative unions. Failing to convince more than a handful, he left the IWW to apply his own strategy and became an organizer with reactionary AFL craft unions in attempting to organize the meat packing and steel industry in Chicago. Following this, Foster published several accounts of his organizing efforts and joined the US Communist Party, becoming an influential leader and later seen as upholding the ‘golden era’ of CP influence in labor unions. Most of the new left communist organizations as well as the Trotskyist tradition, despite their critical views of the CP, still uphold this golden era as well. Ignatin breaks this legacy down around race and its actual accomplishments, offering a critical and revisionist look at the legacy of Foster and the ‘boring-from-within’ strategy.

  Background on STO: If you would to learn more about the organization and the discussions their legacy is still creating, I recommend checking out  the blog STO: Notes Towards A History and this digital archive of their pamphlets and writings (where you can find the Workplace Papers article in text form). Both are maintained by Michael Staudenmaier, who is working on a book around the group’s history and legacy. Here is a snippet from his writing posted in the STO Wikipedia entry:

The Sojourner Truth Organization was founded in Chicago at the end of 1969, partly by people who had been involved with the Revolutionary Youth Movement II faction of the recently crumbled Students for a Democratic Society. The group largely turned its back on the student milieu, and instead focused its efforts on what has been variously called “industrial concentration” or “(point of) production work.” This focus dominated the group’s first several years, until the mid-1970’s. During this time, the bulk of the membership (close to 50 people at some points) was employed full-time in a variety of factories throughout the Chicago area. In this context, the group agitated for what it called mass revolutionary independent workers’ organizations, built alliances with black and Latino revolutionaries in workplaces, and struggled around a variety of campaigns that reflected the group’s strategic orientation of placing the struggle against white supremacy front and center. Since STO was the first post-new left group in Chicago to emphasize production work, it was able to tap into and relate to a strikingly broad range of workplace struggles, wildcat strikes, and independent organizing efforts. Some of the best stories told by former members focus on these experiences. Still, the failure to build any sort of lasting momentum (much less a mass organization) caused STO to reflect critically on the limitations of industrial concentration as the group had practiced it throughout the early 1970’s.

“Insurgent Worker” Newletter, July 1973 iw4coversml.jpg picture by adam_freedom

Election Statement: Looking For Democracy In All The Wrong Places

Below is a statement released right before the election day in November 2008. I think it provides some useful perspective on how radicals, or regular people for that matter, would react to the election of Obama. –AW

 

10/28/08 – Amanecer Election Statement
http://amanecerblog.wordpress.com/

Looking for Democracy In All The Wrong Places

An Anarchist Perspective on the 2008 Elections

 

 

FLoridarecount.jpg picture by adam_freedom

 

  With the 2008 election around the corner, and with Obama ahead in the polls, many people who normally counsel “not getting your hopes up” are sounding hopeful and excited about the possibility that the Republicans might be kicked out of the White House.  New voter registrations from youth, people of color, and low income folks are coming in by the millions. These new voters believe that this election means something, and that electing Obama will help make their lives better. These hopes include everything from saving us all from the economic crisis to bringing universal health care to ending the war in Iraq.  At the very least, he seems to be a smarter bet than McCain.

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Anarchism and Radical Governments

How should anarchists relate to revolutionary or left-wing populist governments? Should they denounce them out of hand? Should they join in the movement? What are the traps to avoid? This is an important question as radicalized populations are creating movements which give rise to alleged progressive governments. As capitalism goes into ever-deeper crisis we can expect more of these movements to develop. 

  The below article from the international anarchist news site Anarkismo.net asks some good questions and is a good first step towards getting to an answer. The author, Larry Gambone, charactorizes anarchist reaction to radical governments into largely two camps. The first, where anarchists essentially give up their own political organization and values to dissolve themselves into participating and joining the radical government or party, which he called liquidationism. The second, is a stance of sectarianism, whereby ararchists become ‘side line snipers’ of sorts and alienate themselves from the participants of social movement who are supportive of enacted reforms.

  This is a stepping point I think. Perhaps this article better speaks to the situation in Latin America, but let’s look at the campaign and election of Obama in the US. Of course a key difference is that while Latin American leaders such as Chavez in Venezuela and Morales in Bolivia both profess a support for socialism, Obama is a difference story. While his style and rhetoric have provoked a deep sense of connection with many facing the brunt of the economic collapse and those disillusioned with the Bush administration, his glittering words of hope and change stand in contrast to what looks to be his comittment to a more populist flavored continuation of Clinton administration neo-liberalism.

 While the many usual suspects on the left (some anarchists included) have surely taken a sectarian stance of derision and attacks on Obama, other aspects of the left haven’t quite taken a stance or approach that could be call liquidationism entirely…. (more to come)

  For folks looking to learn more about the debate around Hugo Chavez and Venezuela specifically, you can find a number of articles I assembled here.

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