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Posts tagged ‘Perspectives’

Beyond the Crisis

The world is on fire.

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It has been, for quite some time. If you’ve done any organizing, you’ve felt it—that sense of racing about, extinguishing this flare up or that, spending precious energy and resources surviving the immediate emergency and hoping the future will somehow save itself. If you’ve watched the news, you’ve felt it—disbelief combined with the raw hilarity of the media circus; just when it seems things couldn’t get worse, or more frightening, or more absurd, they do. If you’ve ever worked three jobs to keep your family afloat, you’ve felt it. If you’ve listened to climate scientists, or survived a hurricane, or watched helplessly as an unseasonable forest fire tore through a landscape you loved, you’ve felt it—the rising certainty that we have waited too long, that global temperatures are edging toward tipping points from which we will never return. We are burning.

Western culture has been historically preoccupied with apocalypse, from Judeo-Christian threats of the End Times to doomsday cults. Every generation has imagined themselves living at the edge of history. The anticipation and dread permeate aspects of our puritanical, militaristic, consumeristic culture, yet they offer little in the way of seeing beyond times of crisis. In fact, it seems ever clearer that capitalism thrives on crisis—that capitalism is crisis. At this point, could we tell the difference between the “the end is near” and “the end is here?”

What if the apocalypse has already arrived, having crept up incrementally while we were waiting for a big announcement? What if this is what it looks like to be in the thick of things, the “interesting times” of the proverbial curse? Why are we not in the streets, then, in our thousands and our millions? Why haven’t we taken over our workplaces and neighborhoods and said, Enough! Are we simply resigned, cynical, nihilistic? Overwhelmed and preoccupied with financial survival? Distracted? Do we even think things can ever radically change for the better, much less in time?

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An Anarchism of the Working-Class: A Review of Whither Anarchism?, by Kristian Williams (To the Point/AK Press, 2018), Reviewed by Miriam Pickens

whither_anarchismI appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place.  This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces.  Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.

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Beyond Anti-fascism, But Not Without It, update

Thank you to those who have responded to the Beyond Anti-fascism, But Not Without It statement/call put out by the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal collective. Clearly there are many people pursuing this conversation in a variety of networks. Stay tuned for pieces coming from Perspectives on the Institute for Anarchist Studies website and in our 2018 Beyond the Crisis print issue.  

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“The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

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What Happened in Portland on May Day?

This May Day in Portland, Oregon about 1,500 people rallied and marched against capitalism, racism, and colonialism, including immigrant families, undocumented folks, people with disabilities, and working families with kids.  It was International Workers Day, which commemorates the Haymarket affair, which took place in Chicago, in 1886, and is also known as May Day. May Day commemorates anarchist organizers murdered by the State for agitating for an eight-hour work day on the way to a truly free society, and is an avowal to continue their work.

Portland organizers had a permit for the march. There was a sizable black bloc at the back, also a large contingent of people turned out by the Black Rose Anarchist Federation with red and black flags, members and supporters of the Burgerville Workers’ Union, and a contingent of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). (Mental Health Care Providers Unite! have a nice description of the day available here. )

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Critique and Renewal: The Institute for Anarchist Studies at Twenty, by Chuck Morse

I played a pivotal role in the early history of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS). I conceived of it, drafted all the founding documents, selected the initial Board of Directors, led early fundraising campaigns, and anchored it as a whole. Although I have had little to do with the IAS since leaving it in 2005, my years with the organization were an important—and positive—experience for me. I appreciate that Perspectives editors asked me to share my reflections on the occasion of the group’s twentieth anniversary.

When we were first getting started, I often thought about the IAS’s future. I assumed that the years ahead would be riven by crisis but also contain opportunities for radical social change; the challenge was to create an organization that could navigate those fissures while pushing toward substantive revolutionary alternatives. Although it should have been obvious to me, I never realized that one day I would wrestle with the IAS’s past. However, after two decades, those of us linked to the project now have the obligation to make sense of its history.

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“Beauty is in the Streets,” Paris, 1968.

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To Destroy Domination in All Its Forms: Anarcha-Feminist Theory, Organization and Action 1970-1978, by Julia Tanenbaum

This essay appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, available from AK Press here!

As anarchists look for genealogies of principles and praxis in a variety of social movements, from the anarcho-pacifists who spoke out against World War II to anarchists who joined the Black Power movement, so too should they look for their feminist foremothers, not only in the early 20th century anarchist movement but in the radical women’s movement of the 1970s. Many radical feminists shared anarchist goals such as ending domination, hierarchy, capitalism, gender roles, and interpersonal violence, and utilized and influenced the key anarchist organizational structure of the small leaderless affinity group.  They grappled with the questions of how to balance autonomy and egalitarianism and create nonhierarchical organizations that also promoted personal growth and leadership. In 1974 Lynne Farrow wrote, “Feminism practices what anarchism preaches.”1

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CrimethInc. Reviews Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

Alanis, who does the podcast for CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective, with her partner in crime Clara, did a really thoughtful review of the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (n.28) in their most recent broadcast.  We excerpt it below, and provide links to the broadcast, the full transcript of the show, and to CrimethInc.’s website as well.  Thanks comrades!

Perspectives on Anarchist Theory’s recent issue tackled the theme of “Justice” – quite a can of worms for the contemporary anarchist! The journal opens with a reflection on the theme written by the editorial collective, and quickly sets a thoughtful and inquisitive tone as it explores different dimensions of what justice might mean to anarchists in political, economic, ecological, and intra-movement or community contexts. It uses a series of rhetorical questions to prompt readers to examine our thoughts and values relating to justice without authority and the practical challenges posed by social oppression and reliance on state structures. While I sharply disagreed with their partial defense of certain principles of the US’s adversarial legal system, overall I found the introduction to be highly thought-provoking, and an excellent lens through which to read the forthcoming pieces.

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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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“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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