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Field Notes From an Archipelago: A Review of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press, 2014), edited by Alexander Reid Ross, by Will Munger

A land and water grab is happening in the canyons and plateaus where I live in rural Utah. Several Canadian corporations backed by transnational investors are moving in to extract tar sands and oil shale on public lands. These outfits are the spear tips of a host of operators who are trying to strip mine the world’s dirtiest oil in the headwaters of the Colorado River, one of North America’s most endangered rivers.

In a region already hit by more than a decade of drought, the mining corporations are drilling deep into underground aquifers to pump water for their processing operations. At the ranch where I work, the springs in the canyon downstream from the initial mine are drying up. The ranching family is one of the first to be impacted by the mine, but there are bigger implications, as waste discharged from the mines will impact more than 30 million people who rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation.

And then there are the climate change consequences. According to industry backers, there are more potential fossil fuels in the Green River formation that stretches across Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado than the Alberta tar sands. If the infrastructure for these types of megaprojects is completed, there is an almost certainty of being locked in a path toward catastrophic climate change.

imagesWith these stunning contradictions in mind, and with all legal options exhausted, local people and climate justice rebels took matters into their own hands in the summer of 2014 by establishing a resistance camp on the mine lease in order to halt mining operations. Amidst a summer of blockades, police repression, and the stresses of day-to-day rural resistance, it’s been a challenge to maintain a global perspective. It’s clear that our fight is being driven by capital and technical knowledge generated through the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands. It’s also clear that there are financiers intending to export these mining operations around the world using corporations deeply tied to the military industrial complex.

But what are the strategic and tactical implications as to how we should carry out our struggle? What are our relationships and responsibilities to other communities fighting exploitative land grabs around the world? How can we use our collective power to fundamentally transform the political and economic structures that facilitate this ecocidal rush?

While thinking through these questions, I came across a copy of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab. This compilation is billed as an “illustrative field guide to the way people power responds to the global land grab.” It ranges from pieces written by voices new to me, like Yangtze River Delta Earth First!, to long time writers and movement elders, like Grace Lee Boggs, Max Rameau, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, and Silvia Federici.

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Class and Health: Community Acupuncture, by Paul Messersmith-Glavin

This piece originally appeared in the Care issue of Perspectives (Vol.13, N.2).  That issue is available from AK Press here.

The Community Acupuncture movement began over ten years ago and now includes a couple hundred clinics across the US. Community Acupuncture seeks to address class inequalities in health care by making acupuncture available to working class and poor people who cannot otherwise afford health care. Clinics typically charge a sliding scale of between $15 and $35 for a treatment, the equivalent of a co-pay if one is fortunate enough to have health insurance.

Clinical studies have shown acupuncture to be effective in treating a wide variety of health issues, from chronic allergies, to stress and anxiety, to back and neck pain, to name a few. It can address both chronic nagging problems, and acute conditions. It’s effective in resolving any problem short of broken bones or cancer, and in those cases it serves as an excellent complement to Western medicine.

In China, acupuncture and herbs are established parts of the health care system, with entire hospitals dedicated to these practices. Those suffering from cancer, for instance, will receive both chemotherapy and herbal IVs to help offset the negative effects of chemo and assist the patient’s immune system.

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China has socialized medicine, so an acupuncture treatment costs the equivalent of a couple of dollars. This is in stark contrast with the $65-125 price tag some “boutique” acupuncturists charge in the US, a cost that is well beyond the means of most working class or poor people. Somehow when acupuncture started developing in the US in the 1970s, it adopted a model of massage therapy, done in a private room, at a high cost. This is not how acupuncture is generally practiced in China.

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Read an excerpt of the new IAS/AK Press book, Angels with Dirty Faces!

Our comrades at AK Press, with whom we just published Walidah Imarisha’s Angels with Dirty Faces:  Three Stories of Crime, Prison, and Redemption, have posted an excerpt. 

Check it out here!

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“In This World but Not Necessarily of It:” The Trajectories of Antiauthoritarian Movements. A Review of Chris Dixon’s Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements, by Craig Fortier

This review of Chris Dixon’s Another Politics appears in the current issue of Perspectives, available here from AK Press.

It was one of those meetings where the room we booked was far too large for the number of people who actually showed up. It was the type of meeting where you rearrange the chairs to form a small circle in a corner so that the disappointing turnout feels less deflating. Myself and three other members of No One Is Illegal-Toronto huddled to discuss two fledgling campaigns we were involved in. The first was the awkwardly named “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”1 campaign that hoped to mobilize toward a municipal policy that would bar city staff from asking for immigration identification or reporting someone’s immigration status to the authorities. The second was our anti-deportation direct action casework, which evolved from a model developed by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty to fight welfare bureaucracy. We had faced a soul-sucking defeat earlier that year following the deportation of beloved community activist Queen Nzinga, who was arrested by Toronto police at a bake sale during International Women’s Day. It was mid-summer 2005, and the day-to-day grind of organizing had taken its toll on our collective energies. Without the bulk of the group’s members, we decided to not have any discussions about nuts and bolts of organizing upcoming events or actions and instead have a more general conversation about the direction of our collective. 9780520279025It was in that discussion that I first became aware of what Chris Dixon (2014) explains, in his book Another Politics: Talking Across Today’s Transformative Movements, is a fundamental principle underlying the antiauthoritarian current in today’s social movements: we were trying to figure out how to work “in the space between our transformative aspirations and actually existing social realties” (8). We saw in those campaigns two very different yet interconnected desires – the prefigurative aspirations of a world where people had the freedom to move and the freedom to stay, and the struggle to dismantle the state, capitalism, and the white supremacist settler colonial logics that undergird Canada’s immigration laws.

 

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Beyond Absolutes: Justice for All, by Megan Petrucelli

Anarchism outlines egalitarian ways of relating. We are encouraged to denounce systems of domination and control in favor of structures of interaction that promote liberation, collectivism, acceptance of differences, and meeting the needs of all. In anarchism, there is an emphasis on inclusivity, listening to the voices of those marginalized populations who have been oppressed, demonized, and ignored. However, this promotion of belonging is limited and generally not extended to those who do not behave in ways that are aligned with the values we wish to uphold.

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Breaking the Chains of Command: Anarchist Veterans of the US Military, by Brad Thomson

This piece appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, N. 28, on Justice available from AK Press here. Brad received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to assist in the completion of this piece.

“War is the health of the State” – Randolph Bourne, written during WW I

“Mutiny is the conscience of war” – Common trench graffiti during WW I

Introduction

War and military occupation are among the most overwhelming demonstrations of state power. Rooted in an anti-state analysis, the anarchist position on geopolitical power struggles between nation-states is unequivocal opposition, especially in reference to international interventions by the US military.

The logical conclusion might be that anarchists should categorically oppose the individuals who are part of the institution of the US military: the troops. Similarly, it may follow that those people who make up the military and veterans would be among the most hostile toward anarchist ideals and action.

However, through my involvement in anti-war movements and anarchist circles over the last ten years, I have encountered a surprising number of anarchists opposed to the US military who are themselves US veterans. For many of them, their experience as GIs (“Government Issue,” a nickname commenting on the fact that service members are treated as government property) played a significant role in forming and developing their anti-authoritarian and anarchist analysis. What follows is based on interviews with a number of anarchists and anti-authoritarians who also happen to be military veterans.

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(Chicago, 2012: US military Vets throw their medals back during anti-NATO protests. This is Jacob George, a vet who I had hoped to interview as part of the project, who later took his own life.)

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Lexicon Recordings!

In an effort to make our Lexicon series more accessible, we have posted recordings of the essays on each pamphlet’s page.  From the Lexicon page, click on a cover to hear the recording of that pamphlet or to download a printable booklet pdf.gender

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Writing Grant Deadline: January 15th, 2016

Since the inception of the Institute for Anarchist Studies in 1996, the grant program has been a central project. By awarding grants to radical writers and translators around the world — many of whom work without the support of academic institutions, and are connected in important ways to the movements about which they write — the IAS has tried to support the development of the theoretical tools necessary for critiquing the systems of domination in which we are enmeshed as well as developing alternatives in order to maximize freedom, justice, and dignity.

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The IAS grants thousands of dollars annually to writers and translators treating themes of significance to the development of contemporary anarchist theory and practice. Projects are awarded between $250 and $1,000 in our yearly funding round. Applications are due on January 15, 2016, by midnight EST; late applications will not be accepted. The IAS also provides editorial assistance to grant recipients, who commit to completing their projects in the six months following their award. Moreover, the IAS publishes many of the finished essays in its print and/or online journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, or in some cases, as part of its Anarchist Interventions book series, among other publishing projects.

Our next deadline is: January 15, 2016, by midnight EST.

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Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin by Janet Biehl,  Review by Chuck Morse

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Murray Bookchin was a pivotal, polarizing figure in the post-WWII history of anarchism. He put ecology and democracy on the anarchist agenda in a way that was as novel as it is enduring. As a polemicist, he spent decades at the center of crucial debates about history, strategy, and foundational ideals. Even his critics must acknowledge that he made major contributions to the growth and clarification of the anarchist perspective.

Something shifted in the movement when he died in 2006. For the preceding fifty years, his writings had been a point of reference through which we could clarify our views, even when we disagreed with them, whereas now that he was gone we had to make sense of him. Who was he and how had he lived? These are compelling questions for those who had worked with him and for anyone who wants to understand contemporary anarchism.

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Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, N. 27 on Strategy

Order this issue, or
Download the PDF.

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Contents:

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