Radical Beginnings

“… keep going. We are in this together.”

From Niki Ruggiero

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you turn on the news? Or look at social media? Or look out the window? Everything is awful, it’s getting worse, and mainstream liberals keep telling us if we just drive a Prius, or bring our own bags to the store, or “lean in” we can be part of the change we hope to see in the world.

It’s lies. All lies. We cannot buy our way out of this mess. Our individual actions are not to blame for the systemic crumbling of our freedoms and the ravaging of our planet. Large corporations engage in and promote the very things that we are being asked to manage. We are told to reduce/reuse/recycle; corporations continue to make things disposable, unfixable, and wrapped in wasteful packaging. We are told to eat more veggies, but our soil is poisoned, as is our water; food “deserts” are very real; and ingredients companies know are toxic are included in our food. We are told to drive less, but car companies refuse to decrease gas consumption in vehicles, oil companies get massive tax breaks, and few cities are developing true community-wide public transportation systems. And so on.

But we cannot just throw all efforts into the wind and stop giving a fuck. We still have our individual agency. Sure, not all of us can be Rhyd Wildermuth or Dr. Conjure. Where does one begin? If you’re reading Gods & Radicals, you’re likely ten steps ahead of most people. We all started somewhere. One step led us to another and another.

I didn’t always identify as an anti-capitalist. I still don’t feel like I’m doing enough to make positive change in this world. Yet, I look back at my life and I realize that the small steps I took led to bigger steps, and that this is possible for the people in our lives who might not yet identify as radical.

Below are a list of actions and choices that can lead to other steps. Some of these are relevant to some people, some are out of reach for others. Some of us do some of these things out of necessity, for others certain of these items might be life changing. This is not a complete list, but there is no complete list. As we saw with the popularity of Rhyd’s magical article “Garlic Bread of the Revolution,” there is a strong desire among us to begin where we are. Below is an incomplete list of ways to inspire you to begin!

Barter
Read new literature – explore writers from other parts of the world; ask your favorite writers who they read
Use and support libraries
Walk/bike/utilize and support public transportation
Own less stuff
Share tools/start a tool library
Buy what you can locally
Homeschool/Unschool and/or support alternative forms of education in your community

Get healthy and strong, inside and out
Find help for your trauma
Join a mutual support group
Learn to shoot
Learn a martial art

Use cloth menstrual products and/or menstrual cup
Use cloth diapers
Homebirth and/or support midwives
Breastfeed
Babysit for a working family/babysit for meetings so working families can attend
Use cloth toilet paper
Compost
Grow your own food
Support Community Supported Agriculture/utilize or support community gardens
Share land
Share housing
Work for equitable housing
Host a clothing swap
Make your own beauty supplies
Learn first aid
Make your own food
Teach someone to cook

Support artists/crafters/thinkers/organizers
Support trans rights and inclusion
Support Black Lives Matter
Support prison abolition
Support the demilitarization of our police forces
Support indigenous rights and decolonization
Support disability rights

Practice polytheism, Paganism, witchcraft – remember that other religions also have radical communities within them
Cast spells for the overthrow of oppressive systems
Cast spells for liberation
Cast spells for the protection of people on the front lines
Cast spells for the protection of people supporting those on the front lines

Network with other like-minded folk, especially those engaged in projects different from yours
Engage in mutual aid whenever possible
Amplify voices that might not otherwise be heard
Be quiet and listen to voices that are different from your own

Judge less, practice more

If you have, GIVE
If you need, ASK

Many of these things do not look radical at all. Plenty of non-radical people do some of these things. Engage those people, because they are one step closer to being radical than they (or you) might think.

Most important of all: get rid of “all or nothing” thinking and start where you are. For those of you doing a few, some, most, or all of these things: keep going. We are in this together.


Niki Whiting Ruggiero

is a witch, polytheist, and mother of three.


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Lessons From Martial Arts – Part Two

“Fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes.”

From Emma Kathryn

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As many of you may well know, I am a fighter. An actual fighter. I’ve trained in boxing, kickboxing, muay thai with a dash of grappling thrown in for good measure and I’ve had many fights. The truth is I like a good tear up. I know, it’s strange, well, to most people at least, but what can I say other than I’m a strange kind of woman!

I have written on this topic before for this site and you can read that article, the part 1 to this part two here.

So why a part two, you may well ask. As with most topics of interest, they become even more so when discussing them with others (that’s why I think community, or rather solidarity within communities is a good thing, and also why I like the open and honest discourse between people). So I was talking with an occultist friend of mine the other week, and the topic of fighting came up. I think I mentioned how fighting can have practical lessons in witchcraft as well as in life. Anyway, he asked me what it’s like to get hit in the face.

It’s a common question to those who don’t fight, even to those who might train but don’t spar or fight. The idea of putting yourself in that situation, with the full knowledge that the person standing in the opposite corner is going to try to hit you, to hurt you even, is so alien to people. It is a weird scenario to put yourself through, and no matter how well I might try here to explain it, unless you’ve gone through it yourself, it really is hard to comprehend.

I think he was quite surprised with my response, because I told him that getting hit in the head, or even the face doesn’t really hurt. Yes, you might get rocked, or even knocked out, but the actual blow usually doesn’t hurt all that much at the time, thanks to our amazing bodies and adrenaline. The real pain comes when you take a body shot, a punch, or worse, a kick, to the liver or to the floating rib. Oh my goodness that pain!

So why a part two? Well, the answer is that fighting is fighting, whether it’s a physical fist fight or fighting against the power that is, the capitalist state, and the destruction of the wild places  left in the world it creates, sustains and promotes. I honestly believe that my training (over ten years!) and my fighting have given me good insight and experience to extend that fight into other areas.

Stepping into the ring, or even the gym might not suit everyone, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share those lessons I’ve learned in there with others who might put them to good use. I often like to say that we should never choose to stop learning, to stagnate and that there are always new lessons to be learnt.

Start Small

Within the fighting world, when reputable fights are held, opponents are always closely matched where ever possible, including aspects like weight and experience. You’d never put your first time fighter in with a world champion. Why would you? It doesn’t make sense, after all, the aim of the game, or the fight rather, is to win, and it’s the same in real life when it comes to fighting, to resisting, to building that solidarity within your community, whether that’s the physical community where you live, or one you belong to because of some other shared feature.

It’s okay to start small. In fact, you have to.

I’ve written here before about how the state undermines communities so that people become disassociated with those others who are like themselves in some way, and how when that happens, the common feature they share, in this case, the land, is then attacked, usually for profit that will disappear never to be seen by anyone in the community.

In instances such as this, the first step is to get together with your neighbours. Talk and discuss but also laugh, have fun and build those connections, those links, friendships even. That is where true resistance starts, because it won’t work if we don’t stand together.

Just this evening, as the last of the open green community spaces is about to be stolen from this already poor estate where I live, I was talking to my neighbour, laying plans of attack. Attack isn’t always physical, at least not at first. It must start somewhere.

No Fighter is Alone

Before a fight, unless it’s a last-minute replacement, usually due to injury, you have an eight week fight camp. Every fighter will train on a regular basis anyway, three, four, five times a week perhaps, but eight week fight camp is something else. It’s eight weeks of gruelling training, six days a week, sometimes twice a day if you’ve got weight to cut. You’ve got tough pad sessions, sparring, conditioning, road work. It’s not fun (only kinda, in a weird way).

But in all of that, you’ve got your coach. My coach is the best coach! He really is a great guy who goes way over and beyond what’s expected of him for his fighters. Weekends and holidays spent travelling around the country, unpaid, cornering fights (many amateur fights too, amateurs do it for fun, unless you’re really something else, there’s no money for the fighter, and thus, the coach. It is a labour of love!).

It’s your coach who has your back. My coach is one of the old school kinds, but he will beast you and tell you straight when he knows you are slacking or can do better, but he does it for your own good.

Then there’s your team mates, your fellow fighters, your squad. These guys go through it all with you, the pain, the hours in the gym, the strict diets and tight weight cuts. They get it, they understand, and on fight day, when it’s a lot of hanging around going through the weight checks and the medical and the waiting, they are there and you can talk to them knowing that they totally understand what you are going through at that exact moment in time. It’s a kind of solidarity in itself.

In resistance, we are not alone either. Community is the key. Solidarity with those who face the same threat. Building links within your community can start with something as simple as going for a drink with your neighbours (does anyone in the UK remember the time before all the local pubs were shut down? Is it just me wearing the rose glasses of nostalgia that seems to think that something has been lost in the closing of such places, places where people could meet and drink and talk about the shit that affected them?).

I was just talking to my sisters the other day about the games of rounders people from the estate would play on those long summer nights when we were kids. Sometimes they’d start just by a dad taking his kids and their friends on the field for a quick game, but before long there would be about twenty or thirty people , adults and kids, having a great time, all for free. Hopefully, we can revive such traditions, because community links are important.

Every Fighter is Alone

I know, I know. But it’s true as well. Because, as a fighter, no matter how good the team behind you, when you step into that ring, it’s all down to you. Yes, you have your coach in your corner and your friends and family in the crowd cheering you on, but when you get down to the nitty-gritty, you’ve just got yourself to rely on.

In life, no matter the support systems we may have available to us, it is up to us as individuals to decide for ourselves the fight we want to fight. Physical fighting might not be for everyone, but there are other ways to join in the fight against empire, the capitalist empire that crushes all beneath it in the name of profit.

Last week, myself and around seventy others from the estate went to a meeting set up by the council regarding the proposed redevelopment of where I live (an excuse to build houses on the only bit of land left to the community). My neighbour, an elderly woman who’s lived on the estate for god knows how long, stood up to the council, and she uses her power and knowledge as a councilor to fight them wherever she can. Shes’ already responsible for making the council come out and say they will no longer look into the compulsory purchase of those privately owned houses, a minor victory in the scheme of things, but major to those who risked losing their homes.

Know your individual worth, develop your individual skill set, whatever that might be, because it is only by those individuals making those small lonesome acts that the community can then come together in a more organised way.

Keep Your Head

Finally, and perhaps most importantly is the very sound advice to keep your head. Don’t lose your cool because you have a set back, or even a loss. If you lose your head in a fight, it’s bad news. People who don’t fight think that anger in a fight helps, but it doesn’t really. It might spur you on to train harder, perhaps when you fail at something, that kind of anger makes you keep at it, but anger bordering on rage is not good. Once your head goes in a fight, everything goes out the window, the game plan, the advice from your coach, even your own common sense.

I’ve seen it happen, when fighters get so frustrated in a fight that they end up not fighting to the best of their ability and then lose.

The same is true in life, in every aspect of it. In the fight against empire, keep a cool and level head, even when things get hard. The opponent want’s you to get frustrated, to make a mistake , to lose pace and give them the lead.

How many uprisings never happen because those who would take part are too busy arguing amongst themselves on social media? You’ve seen it yourself, I’m sure, people arguing with those who really are not too far removed from themselves, over a word or phrase misused or misunderstood or some other minor miscommunication.

So there you have it, just this fighters tips she’s learnt in the ring and shared in the hope that they will help others too!

Resist beautifully people, in whatever way you can.


Emma Kathryn   

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.

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Outlaw Women

The following article contains descriptions of severe abuse. I do not take the decision to publish this information lightly. The woman who shared her story want’s to denounce the system and believes that exposing this reality is the best way to ensure this abuse ends once and for all. On the other hand, I understand that this information can be emotionally unhealthy for some of our readers, so please consider this trigger warning before continuing, or consider skipping the signaled paragraph.

“if Rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.”

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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Sunday afternoon, 6 people, some of which had never met each other before, are at the beach drinking beer, playing Frescobol and talking. One of the women starts talking about how annoying it is when her neighbors blast music, and how the Law that forbids this behavior should be enough to have these people behave respectfully. A whiter tattooed woman disagrees, saying that the Law isn’t necessary in these situations and does more damage than good. She recites Anarchist slogans comfortably: “The Law does not protect people, it oppresses the vast majority, and is imposed unequally on the population. The Law is only there to protect the interests of the Elite!”. Then a young factory worker, with militant communist affiliations and a cigarette, responds by saying that some laws are important to protect the rights of workers like him.

Then Nina speaks. The more words come out, the more intense her trembling becomes, and the bigger the tears rolling down her face.

The following paragraph bears a Trigger Warning: sexual abuse.

Nina is a mother of three, but her petite young body does not show it. She was 2 months pregnant when she was arrested and raped by police officers. She gave birth in prison and witnessed the abuse of many other women. Every night they worried about who would be next. Some cases were even worse than hers, such as the woman violated with a broom handle who came back bleeding. Even after reporting the incident to the judge and being sent to the doctor for tests, her abusers remain unpunished.

“I feel dirty, like I’m garbage” she said while hugging herself. There are not enough blankets, hugs, and words like “No, they are garbage. They are filthy garbage, not you” to make this trembling go away. She knows all of their names and is not afraid to report it, even if it means putting her life at risk.

She had tuberculosis, and ate horribly: Frozen meat, spoiled food, and lack of water. Officers claimed their budget was 2 thousand Reais per inmate, and Nina affirms that there is absolutely no way this money was actually getting to them. Reporting corruption is important, but it’s also important to stress that focusing on improving the system is pointless. There is no use in asking to be protected by a system that is created and sustained by people whose interests depend on keeping women like her dehumanized and with the lowest level of self-esteem.

When her daughter was molested, she took the law into her own hands, because she knew that the judicial system is not there to protect her rights. It is there to criminalize dissent likely to undermine the Government’s ability to function. Operating outside of the law is the way to combat the injustices perpetrated by the rule of law, to undermine the government’s ability to function (in the interests of the few), and to seize control of our own lives.

There is no better way to sustain rule of law, and the government’s ability to function, than to convince poor people they don’t deserve rights, that they don’t deserve protection. That’s because if rights were ensured to everyone, the Government would have to become something else entirely. It would have to cease to be.

For example, the right wing founder of the NGO Turning Point USA said: “You really think Rosa Parks was a hero? I guess you forgot that she is famous for breaking the law.” You would think that this proud white U.S. American reveres the constitution to such an extent that he believes there is no excuse to break the law, even when for a righteous cause. That’s not the case, because even he broke the law when his NGO endorsed republican politicians and shared personal information of its members with conservative campaigners.

What is the fundamental difference between Rosa Parks breaking the law, and this generic conservative white guy breaking the law? One broke the law in an attempt to undermine the government’s ability to function, and the other broke the law to protect the government’s ability to function. Institutional racism is an indispensable tool to make government function feasible. How? Borders, economic exploitation of “Developing” non-white countries, the for-profit prison system, the unpunished liquidation of the marginalized contingent of the population, and so on. This is the distinction between crimes you can get away with, and crimes you cannot.

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The crime women are most arrested for is drug trafficking. First of all, in Brazil, the line between a user and a trafficker is determined by judges, not by quantity. They claim that otherwise dealers will use this “ceiling” to skirt the law. In practice, this is used to criminalize people who they don’t believe can afford to use without selling: a criminalization of poverty. Our previous Minister of Justice has even admitted that distinguishing between a potential criminal and an innocent citizen is done by “looking at the person’s eyes“, which basically means a wide range of potential for discrimination based on race, class and gender.

Second of all, let’s ask ourselves why trafficking drugs is illegal in the first place. Drug trafficking is considered a danger to public health, like toxic chemicals in food, cosmetics, or air and water pollution. While some industries destroy the planet and our bodies with impunity, “drug” users and low level distributors are doing time in double digits (in a judicial system that not for a moment questions what really leads to addiction).

Volkswagen can cheat on their emission tests and get away with it with a relative slap on the wrist. Why? Because their crime was an attempt to sustain the fragile capitalist economy, which is crucial in keeping the government’s engine running smoothly. A Volkswagen executive has spent less time behind bars than a protester arrested for carrying two bottles of cleaning products (Schmidt got 40 months of supervised release while Rafael Braga got a proper 5 years, and a month in solitary confinement). Drug trafficking, much like protesting, is not there to benefit the government. It is an industry that sustains the sovereignty of the community the government treats as excess contingent.

The sovereignty of the ghetto is a massive threat to the status quo- to the state. Organized crime might be big enough to negotiate with the state, but the massive numbers of people doing time are those who benefit the least from being on either side of the negotiating table.

Nina’s battered self esteem is in the best interest of the government, because were she to have the will and resources to build sovereignty, she would use it to make the system that sought to destroy her and her family obsolete. Does anyone really think that if she suggests ways for the system to improve and says “please” that anyone will comply? Expecting her to beg is only a perpetuation of the abuse. We must cheer her courage to rise and resist, and never again demand obedience.

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Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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Songs of a Forgotten Generation

“They don’t believe in their true powers, or the power of this world; they cannot see a world in a grain of sand, nor heaven in a wild flower. Such things are becoming more and more alien to us.”

From Emma Kathryn

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In every cry of every Man,

In every Infant’s cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear:

Excerpt from London by William Blake

The streets of the inner cities are awash with blood, or so we are told. Only a few weeks ago, the news that London had a higher murder rate than New York City was everywhere here. Although the numbers have been debated, the truth is that this news made headlines in the UK.

What’s the big deal, you may well be thinking. After all, aren’t the two major cities, huge stars on the world stage. Both have similar populations, both upward of eight million (that number is mind-blowing to this northern country bumpkin), though NYC does have a higher population density. But in a country where guns are illegal, you’d like to think that would reduce the number of killings.

Knife crime is devastating inner city areas, and like all other things here in the UK, the problem is magnified in London.

As is so woefully predictable, the government responses have been and are wholly inadequate and dividing, doing next to nothing to help resolve this issue.

Throughout modern history, whenever there has been some kind of civil unrest or some upsurge in crime, governments have always been quick to point the finger of blame away from themselves, and towards ‘soft’ targets. In the fifties it was rock and roll music; the sixties and seventies had the Mods and Rockers;  in the eighties and nineties it was gangsta rap and metal; The noughties saw Eminem and computer games as the devil. Today we have grime, or more specifically drill music.

This, so our politicians would tell us, is the root cause for the current surge in violent crimes and knife crime in our cities.

Grime And Drill Music

Grime music has really exploded on the UK music scene the past few years, moving from a genre that was seen as very much underground to today where many of its artists feature in the top 40, sometimes with top ten hits. Whilst it still remains the voice of the forgotten and of the streets, you’ll now see middle class youths snapping up tickets for shows or driving around in parent bought cars blaring out the likes of Stormzy or Skepta (grime artists who have made it into the mainstream) from  their speakers.

Drill music is a sub-genre of grime, and still very much underground. The lyrics are hard, dealing with themes including violence, drug taking and the harsh realities of hard lives lived amongst the cracks and other forgotten crooks and crannies of the city.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why the government has zoned in on drill music as being the sole cause of these problems. With increasing pressure, the videos that are of the drill genre are being taken down from YouTube, no doubt the first step in censorship of these records.

This in itself may be seen as an attack. What makes grime music unique is that many of its stars have risen to fame, not through the usual means like record companies and talent shows, but through YouTube. Artists such as JME rap about coming from nothing, living on council estates and not being given a chance to progress through the usual channels.

Music, and the opportunities sites such as YouTube present to those young people give them an escape from poverty and the life choices the government say they are trying to prevent.

It is yet another example of how far removed these politicians are from the lives of everyday folks, never mind those that find themselves on the margins of society.

Poverty and Policies

Pity would be no more

If we did not make somebody Poor,

And Mercy no more could be

If all were as happy as we:

– Excerpt from The Human Abstract by William Blake

The problem with the governments plan to reduce knife and violent gang related crime are many, but can all be shepherded under the banner of poverty, or rather the inability of the Home Office and the government to recognise poverty as a major factor.

Inner city areas, especially council and social housing estates are rife with poverty – let’s face it, people don’t live here out of choice, not in cramped houses that are often neglected by landlords. I’ve written before about the Grenfel Tower, a council owned block of flats and the state of those homes and the faults that led to such devastation.

The people who live in places such as these are often at the bottom of society, especially in a society that places wealth and the ownership of objects above all else. It doesn’t matter that many of the residents of council estates, including those in the cities, are often decent people trying to make the best of bad situations, that they are decent human beings. Because they cannot afford to own or privately rent their homes, they are somehow seen as less.

The children who grow up in such places are often the ridicule of their peers at school. Their parents cannot afford the latest this or that, meaningless shit in the grand scheme of things. They learn early on that, in the words of KRS 1, to stay on course they have to roll with force. As a working class, council estate girl, I can certainly confirm this. It means that to progress, to get on, you need to be willing to be hard if and when the time comes. You have to stick up for yourself.

Of course, most of us don’t end up in gang related violence, so it is not poverty alone.

It is here that the policies of successive governments come into play. These policies, along with the hardship and challenges that poverty brings combine, mingle and interweave until we are left with the hot mess that we have now.

Services are ever being cut every where you look. The town where we live has been identified as a growth spot by the government, and construction is already underway to increase the number of homes by the hundreds, though the plans are that the population of the town will increase by thousands over ten years. Despite this, the local hospital is forever being downgraded – against the wishes of the residents – so much so that it no longer has an accident and emergency department, and seemingly every week there are reports of this or that service are no longer available.

It’s not only hospitals, it’s all services that might otherwise provide a lifeline for those vulnerable youths,  services like children centres and youth clubs; affordable sports facilities and equipment. I could go on but you get the picture. Despite the government telling us that services don’t suffer when the money gets taken away, we all know that’s not true.

Even the subject of cuts is not an easy one to tackle. For example, the cuts also affect issues surrounding money, whether that be benefits or free childcare. When the Tory party came into power in the UK, a main tacit of their campaign was ‘to make work pay’. Sounds alright, don’t you think? Many people did, even those working class folks who slaved away all week and still struggled to survive, all the while yet the next man, who chooses not to work can live a life of relative comfort. Of course ‘make work pay’ really meant to make not working, life on benefits, become unbearable.

And the real problem here of course, is that the government weren’t fair. For example, bedroom tax was applied to those deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council house, despite the lack of smaller council properties. Even where I live, the largest council estate in my town, there are only a handful of two bedroom properties within a sea of three bedroom houses.

Those with genuine disabilities, those whom you would like to see looked after and given help were deemed suitable to work, people with cancer, ex-servicemen with severe battle related injuries, and many others were let down by the system. People died or committed suicide, and Atos, the company responsible for enforcing these government checks to determine a person’s ability to work, called the Work Capability Assessment have come under fire in recent years.

Unaffordable childcare and lack of resources, combined with poverty often means that today, both parents (if both are still at home), or the single parent must work full-time to make ends meet. Those at the bottom cannot afford to be picky, especially those with little or no experience, education or training, must take jobs that take them away from the home for eight or more hours a day. Shift work is a particular struggle. Ultimately, what we are left with is a generation of latchkey kids. Children and teenagers who are left to their own devices. There’s no youth clubs, or sports facilities, and if there are, they can’t afford to use them.

As the mother of two teenage sons, I can tell you how difficult it is to parent them. It’s at this time they are beginning to find their independence, and it is at this time that they can fall into friendship groups or experiences that you know are not in their best interests.

So imagine how easy it is for those youths who come from troubled homes and backgrounds to fall into gang life. They find a family with those others, somewhere where they feel they belong. It doesn’t matter, or they can’t see that they are being used, often by older, more organised career type criminals, because for the first time they are no longer powerless, they are no longer poor and can afford to buy the things that society sees as markers of success.

To say that all of these problems are caused by music is ignorant. By doing so, the government can deny any responsibility for the violence that stalks the city streets. Instead they talk about police powers of Stop and Search which then fans the flames of racism and call outs between differing ethnic groups.

Divide. Separate. Conquer.

The Erosion of Us

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.’

Excerpt from Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

We have forgotten ourselves.

Centuries of conditioning under this Capitalist system has led to the erosion of ourselves. We’ve forgotten that we are the stuff of stars. We’ve been led to believe that we are separate from everything else, that we are apart from nature itself.

We’ve been lied to.

The problems faced in this world, not only my countries knife crime problem, stem from the separation of us from the land and from ourselves.

I know I bang on and on (and on, some might say, wink, wink), about the land and it’s importance to us  not only  as a species but also spiritually, but it’s because it’s true. I feel it in the very fibre of my being, and if you feel it too, you’ll know what I mean. It would take an essay in itself to describe it.

People kill one another, thinking that the next person is their enemy when in fact they are killing  themselves. These youths and young men that wage war on the streets see themselves as soldiers, but the war they are waging is against themselves. Their enemy is them, another young, angry man who only wants to make his way in the world but the world has conspired against him,  and so  they fight, but not their real enemies, not, poverty,  nor abuse, or even the very systems that oppress them, but one another.

They don’t believe in their true powers, or the power of this world; they cannot see a world in a grain of sand, nor heaven in a wild flower. Such things are becoming more and more alien to us.

Until we start to recognise the reality of our forced separation from the land, then these issues will not be resolved, but instead will intensify.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!

You can follow Emma on Facebook


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The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

The following essay is adapted from Rhyd Wildermuth’s speech, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire,” to be republished as part of his next collection, Our Time of Springs, Our Time of Flames (August, 2018)


The Empire under which we all suffer, under whom we are all ruled, was born upon the factory floor and upon the witch’s stake.

Industrialised capitalism started in England around 1760. Before then, almost everything humans used was made by humans with human effort, without the input of petroleum. So, in the early 1700’s, any clothing you wore and any food you ate was made or grown completely without fossil fuels.

The first coal-fired factories were built in cities swollen with refugees from the surrounding areas. Those people had just lost all access to land and the means to support themselves because of laws called the Enclosure Acts. No longer could they raise animals and plants from the earth with their own two feet firmly planted on the ground; now, their only option was to stand on wood and stone factory floors for 14 hours a day making things for other people.

Humans are hard to control. Humans don’t like working all day for someone else. They have to eat, and piss, and shit, and rest. Many women bleed every moon, sometimes they get pregnant and have to care for their children.

But Coal doesn’t tire. Coal doesn’t show up to work late after a night of drinking or fucking. Coal doesn’t need a rest, doesn’t get menstrual cramps, doesn’t daydream about how life can be better. Coal also doesn’t demand wages.

So the great ‘revolution’ of industrialisation was the slow replacement of human labor with black carbon labor from the earth. In the Americas, the people called Black were also used to replace waged labor. In both cases, the rich tried to find a low-cost, easily-managed, fully-predictable means to gain wealth.

Slaves revolt, though, and kill their masters. Coal and oil blacken the cities and skies with soot, but burned through filters, the carbon becomes invisible, escapes quietly into the atmosphere, warming the earth at such imperceptible rates that it could be ignored until recently.

What could not be ignored was the tendency of humans to revolt against their masters, be they slaves or peasants, workers or servants. Humans don’t make very good machines, we are unpredictable, tire easily, and anyway would rather be creating art or eating, then doing monotonous work for little pay.

The same era which saw the birth of industrialised capitalism also saw the birth of all modern forms of government and control. The modern city, the nation-state, so-called Democracy, representative government, prisons resembling factories resembling schools which resemble prisons. It also saw the birth of the modern police and the political order under which we now live.

But what is Empire?

By Empire I mean America, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean Capitalism, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean colonization. I mean industrialisation. I mean the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. I mean the carbon in the air and the worker in the factory. I mean all the newly extinct species and all the dying forests. I mean the corporations which own the internet and the corporations who profit from the computers and smartphones you read this on.

By Empire, I mean the foreign wars. I mean an Arab woman cradling the corpse of her decapitated daughter and shaking her fist at the gay Black dude from Los Angeles who only joined the Army to get money to support his mother.

By Empire, I mean the Mexican child screaming as her father is taken away by an ICE agent whose grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe.

By Empire, I mean the Black father mourning his son killed by a cop whose ancestors sold themselves into indentured servitude rather than starve to death during the famine in Ireland.

By Empire, I mean the intersectional feminist writing essays about the exploitation of women and children on a computer made through the exploitation of Asian women and African children.

And by Empire I mean the Arab man who massacres gays in a nightclub to retaliate for atrocities none of those people committed.

By Empire, I mean the single white mother driving her disabled kid to a doctor’s appointment over roads lain by migrant workers who are about to get deported.

By Empire I mean the civitas and the polis. I mean civilization and the police, the laws and logic, the political order, the thou shalt nots and the prisons where you go when you refuse to listen.

But more than anything, I mean the Empire in each of you and the Empire in me.

I mean all that was once wild and raw and sacred in us that is now ground into machine-parts and mechanical obedience.

By Empire I mean you, and by Empire I mean me.

And finally, by Empire I mean this thing that is crumbling around us, gasping for air, begging us to keep it alive.

The Empire that is crumbling around us was born on the factory floors and the witch’s stake, and both were assaults on the human body.

Silvia Federici said it, in her essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body:

Capitalism was born from the separation of people from the land and its first task was to make work independent of the seasons and to lengthen the workday beyond the limits of our endurance…. What we have not always seen is what the separation from the land and nature has meant for our body, which has been pauperized and stripped of the powers that pre-capitalist populations attributed to it.

If the first task of Capitalism was to separate us from land and nature, they have more than succeeded. One need only look at the vastly artificial surroundings we all live in, the devices we use to speak with each other, the manufactured foods and synthetic medicines. Can you walk outside your home and find something edible growing by the pavement? Do you know which birds share your neighborhood with you? Can you point to where precisely the sun will rise tomorrow morning without a compass? Without looking outside tonight or at the internet, which phase is the moon in?

But it’s useless to rail against this disconnection. What separates us from the land and nature is not a current assault in an ongoing struggle: the war was won by them long ago. We are an occupied people, often occupying occupied land cleared long before any of us were born.

If that war was lost, though, the other war is still on going. Says Federici again:

Mechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits.

Capitalism has needed us to act like machines so we can fit into the system as mere, fully-interchangeable cogs. Many of use don’t fit, though: be it our bodies themselves or our failure to conform, the process of turning us into machines is never fully complete.

Those of us who gum up the gears aren’t welcome in the factory, but Empire has a place for us too.

Empire was born on the factory floor, and it was also born on the witch’s stake. Failure to file down your rough bits, refusal to conform to the will of the political order, and worst of all encouraging others to do the same will land you at best in jail, or riddled with mental-illnesses that were non-existent in pre-capitalist lands, suffocated with a crushed trachea for daring to sell loose cigarettes or bleeding to death in the street for looking non-white when the polis tried to enforce its will.

There are countless technological distractions and institutions which have helped us forget our bodies: the masturbatory fantasies of video games and pornography, the medicalisation of any bodily refusal to be a good worker. Gyms look like factories for a reason, for it’s in the mills and on the mechanical looms where we first lost the meaning of muscle and blood. And then there is clock time, our smartphones and alarm clocks, schools which teach kids to move from class to class to prepare them to move from task to task.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our body because it is the land and the body which tells you this is all wrong. The land screams as species go extinct, forests die, icecaps melt. Your body screams when you treat it as a machine.

Your body tells you this is all wrong. Starting from the body, you know you tire faster when you are doing meaningless work. You know the food on offer to you at the supermarkets is empty, you know that the air you breathe is often toxic. You know sitting for eight hours staring at a screen hurts more than just your eyes, that standing behind a counter slinging coffee to exhausted people makes you a poorly-paid drug dealer.

All that knowledge is what capitalism needs you not to know.

All those feelings are what Empire fears you’ll feel.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies for another reason.

Your body is always in contact with something else, something outside yourself. Your feet, the lowest part of you, the easiest part to ignore until they hurt, they connect to the entire world-soul. Taking your shoes off, standing on the grass or the sand or stone, you become no longer a machine but a body again, part of something always bigger than yourself, with a different logic, a more intuitive time, a deeper truth.

Your feet on the earth, you cannot be disconnected from the earth and the seasons, because you are also the earth and its seasons. Work in summer is not work in winter, the time of your waking and the cycles of your sleeping follow a different rhythm fully separate from the time of money-making, the time of machines.

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

If Empire was born on the factory floor and on the witch’s stake, it spread into every last bit of our existence, making subjects out of each one of us. While Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies, Empire needed us to become passive subjects of the political order.

Passivity is not receptivity. As a gay man I can assure you, more action goes into receptive sex than merely closing your eyes and thinking about the Empire. I suspect most women would concur.

Receptivity opens us to the world of senses, of feelings, of meaning. You are being receptive now, taking my words into you, playing with them, weaving their meaning into the tapestry of you. But passivity makes you a victim, a mere tool in the hands of the powerful. Passivity is consumption, selection between lifestyle options, an identity defined not by what you do but by what you choose. Did you vote Democrat or Republican? Drink Coke or Pepsi? Use an iPhone or Android?

Passivity reduces will to mere consumer preference. No longer will to power but a mere checkbox on a ballot or a selection on a screen. No longer desire and suffering but mere distractions to dull the fatigue of work and the anxiety of alienation.

You cannot force someone to become passive except by long applications of torture. But there is another route, a slower one, by which you can conquer the will of others by telling them not ‘thou shalt not’ but ‘thou cannot.’ Like the God of Eden’s lies to the woman in the garden, we are told we cannot survive without capitalism, cannot be safe without police, cannot find meaning outside of waged work, cannot find love without cosmetics.

And so what we did not lose on the factory floor we lost with the death of witches. Not only the women with herbs and poison roots, not only the crones bearing stories from times before private property, not only the maidens urging worship in temples of wild lust, not only the mothers feeding us from their bodies. Not only them, but also them: the women who reminded us an entire world can be made not from city and machine but forest and dirt.

Not only them, but also the heretics, the mad, the dreamers, the rebels. The men dressed like women tearing down fences along with women drest like men, refusing the enclosure of the sacred commons and the seizure of land for the profit of the few. The indigenous elders gunned down by settlers, the traditional healers dead in the hulls of slave ships. All of them taught what Empire needed us to forget: the earth knows what the computer never will, that the body bleeds a liquid more powerful than petroleum.

With them gone, we started to believe we can-not. We cannot heal ourselves without pharmaceuticals, we cannot feed ourselves without factory farms. We cannot make our own clothes, cannot craft our own homes. We must now suckle at the toxic teat of the Market while it slaps us with an invisible hand.

We started to believe we cannot resist.

But in the screaming defiance of the immolated witches was a reminder: we can refuse to submit, even in death.

It took centuries to shape us into what we are now, passive sniveling subjects of Empire and Capital. Though this may seem long, we lived outside Empire much longer. Capitalism is new and short-lived, compared even to Feudalism. It differs only in its full permeation of all our existence, and it is for this reason I call it Empire.

It is also collapsing.

The climate change caused by Capitalism cannot be stopped any longer, and its effects already cause famines and resource wars throughout the world. Between 30,000 and 140,000 species go extinct every year now; at the beginning of the 1800’s, this number was no more than 1000 yearly. Cities are beginning to flood, water tables depleting, while the oil-wells which makes the entire Empire run are going dry. Climate change will increase the refugee crises currently fueling the nationalist parties in Europe and the US, and whether they are fleeing from resource wars or unmanned drone bombers, they are undoubtedly the first quakes of Empire’s impending collapse.

Empires always pompously declare themselves eternal. The British swore the sun would never set on them, the third reich was supposed to last 1000 years. Western Democratic Capitalist Empire declared itself ‘the end of history’ in the 1990’s, but of course Fukuyama’s prediction sealed its fate.

Empires have always tried to cheat death and this one is no different. But the crone that stands on the other side of death’s door revealed her trump card, and now few can deny what this means.

Some still cling to the vain hope that Donald Trump is merely an unfortunate set-back to the progress of civilization. But reversing civil protections, installing fascist theorists in positions of power, rattling the chains of other world leaders, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out—these are not mere reversals of Empire’s progress, they are Empire trying to save itself.

Consider this wall between the US and Mexico. See past the obvious racism of such a thing and its absurd cost to what’s lurking beneath the political veneer. Consider the impending flood of climate refugees: remember your geography, look at a map displaying where the major destruction will occur first, and suddenly Trump’s idea isn’t mere xenophobic delusion.

The increase in surveillance powers, the militarization of police forces, the dismantling of the courts and the rights they are sworn to protect, the stoking of fascist flames: these are not just the actions of a psychopath, but of an engineer shoring up the ruins of Empire.

The same is happening everywhere else in the world. The capitalists know we are remembering to resist again, and so they are raising again the stakes, piling faggots beneath them, waiting for our next sign of revolt.

To accept what is around us now, to call such things “good” and “necessary,” is to laugh in the faces of the screaming witches who died so this Empire could arise. To chase after like mongrel dogs the trinkets and crumbs the capitalists throw down to us on the floor–the “rights” and “freedoms” and all the glossy junk cluttering store shelves–is to jeer at the sorrow and sufferings of our ancestors hauled to work in chains or prodded into mills by the terror of starvation.

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

To fight Empire is to stare in the face of our own deaths and laugh, knowing the worst that might happen is Empire might burn us, too.

But to the witches who risked the stake to avoid forever the factory floor, the insurrectionists who risked bullets to forever avoid submission, and any who risked the rage of Empire for the possibility that Empire might fall, the choice was an easy one.

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals Press and a co-editor of godsandradicals.org.


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The Socialist Case Against Medicare for All

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Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nursing assistants often resent their clients.

I worked in assisted living. My co-workers would complain about residents who blew up if they got breakfast at 8:10 instead of 8 – never mind that each of us had 8 or 9 other residents also demanding breakfast at 8. Sometimes, they did worse than chew us out. For most people, getting hit by clients from time to time isn’t “just part of the job.” For CNAs, it is.

However, the residents who lashed out had cause to feel isolated and powerless. Social programming for long-term care residents is inadequate in many facilities (if it’s offered at all). Facility life is profoundly lonely; worse, facilities rarely treat their clients as adults with a right to dignity and bodily autonomy. And, of course, plenty of them don’t even meet their residents’ bare physical needs.

Was that the CNAs’ fault? We did the best we could under conditions not of our making. But, frustrated residents still took out their grievances on us, the only representatives of the facility with whom they had any regular contact. It made sense for them to blame us for their situation, just as it made sense for us to blame them for mistreating us.

But management decided how the place was run. They created a situation in which mutual scapegoating was a logical decision for both CNAs and residents. Meanwhile, the company could cut costs and accumulate profit, at the expense of clients and workers both.

Residents and their families were rarely the ones who paid. Assisted living costs thousands of dollars per month; few can afford it out-of-pocket. So, most residents at most facilities are there only because their health insurance covers it. If insurance doesn’t pay, the resident doesn’t stay.

That gives management an incentive to keep residents healthy enough to live for a long time, but never so healthy that they need a less intensive level of care (since that would mean less billable treatment). From a patient’s point of view, the best-case outcome is to recover enough to require less intensive care. But for the facility, the best case is that the resident never stops having more health problems to treat, so insurance never runs out.


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Source: DSA for Medicare for All

At its 2017 convention, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) declared Medicare for All (M4A) its highest priority.

Single-payer healthcare has long been a leftist and liberal priority. While Democrats tend to view M4A as an end in itself, socialists approach it as a springboard to a fully-nationalized, UK-style system. As Timothy Faust wrote in Jacobin:

In other words, a single-payer program is not the goal. Single-payer on its own cannot be the goal. Single-payer does not solve the biggest sin of commodified health care: that taking care of sick people isn’t profitable, and any profit-driven insurance system thus disregards the most vulnerable.

Single-payer alone does not solve these problems. But it gives us a fighting chance to square up against them.

Further, given that Bernie Sanders made it a key campaign promise, many leftists view M4A as the ideal “winning issue.” What could be better than a “universal public good” that enjoys majority support in the polls and already gets significant media coverage?

So, is there a leftist critique of M4A to be made? What socialist would oppose universal healthcare?

M4A, though, isn’t universal healthcare access in the abstract. Medicare is a specific program. M4A calls for it to be expanded in specific ways. M4A is not the general principle of a right to healthcare. It’s a concrete policy proposal and should be evaluated as such, just as criticizing a particular play doesn’t mean condemning the theatre in general. In critiquing M4A, I am not attacking the principle of universal healthcare. Rather, I am arguing that this particular reform campaign is flawed to the point that socialists shouldn’t take part in it.


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Source: DSA for Medicare for All

Neither lack of access nor commodification is US healthcare’s deepest problem.

It’s more than how it’s paid for or to whom it belongs. The issue is in its bones: how people get diagnosed, how treatments get prescribed, and how care gets delivered. US healthcare serves two primary purposes: it keeps workers healthy enough to go to work, and it warehouses disabled people as cheaply and expeditiously as possible. Those imperatives aren’t simply imposed by individual corporations. After all, the process of diagnosis, prescription, and treatment works no differently in a state-owned or nonprofit clinic than in a private one. When the process itself artificially pits patients and workers against each other, neither more comprehensive insurance nor nationalization deals with the root cause. It’s not about who gets healthcare. It’s not even about who owns healthcare. It’s about what healthcare is for.

Why else is long-term eldercare is so often institutionalized neglect (or worse), even if it’s state-run – especially if it’s state-run? Why else is inpatient psychiatric care rife with organized physical, emotional, and chemical violence? M4A demands greater access to something that, in certain situations, is actively harmful. For instance, a former EMT in Washington recently told me:

Many of the psychiatric facilities our ambulance visited were understaffed, filthy, and frequently spared little regard for patients’ wellbeing. Staff members often referred to patients with contempt and disgust (sometimes within their hearing). I observed that patients’ medical needs were often neglected for days at a time, which was frequently the reason for our visits. On multiple occasions I had reason to suspect that facilities were manipulating their documentation in order to maintain patients’ involuntary commitment status. (I only had limited interactions in my capacity as an EMT because we were only there when they called us.)

In those cases, the only way out of institutional abuse is for someone’s insurance to run out. What happens when M4A guarantees it never will?

Now, DSA’s fifth M4A demand – “job training/placement assistance for people currently employed by the private health insurance industry” – already looks beyond simply expanding insurance access. However, nothing in the campaign even implicitly critiques the process of healthcare provision itself.

If M4A requires a jobs program, shouldn’t it also require that people in long-term care and people with mental health diagnoses get the right to refuse unwanted treatment? After all, other categories of patients have the legal right to decline care, even if that means the patient’s death. A psychiatric diagnosis, however, means that police can detain a person and physically force them to receive treatment against their will – and at least a quarter of police shooting victims have a mental health condition, while involuntary psychiatric commitment rates exhibit a racial bias.

Shouldn’t M4A demand an end to abusive and eugenicist practices? For instance, guaranteed coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis isn’t a good thing for autistic minors – ABA applies physically and emotionally punitive techniques developed for anti-gay conversion therapy to suppress common autistic mannerisms, such as hand-flapping and avoiding eye contact.

Shouldn’t M4A call for healthcare workers and patients to exercise control over their facilities, rather than bureaucratic managers (either private or state-sector)?

Instead, M4A demands universal healthcare without those reforms. Sure, some individual supporters of M4A support them as well. But, M4A the campaign does not make reference to them. Neither DSA nor any other M4A organization is pushing for them, even in a non-M4A context. They aren’t part of the M4A package. Even if M4A is the first step on the road to a national healthcare system, that doesn’t address the issue – every one of these problems is embedded in government-run and nonprofit healthcare facilities, not just for-profit ones.

Is a “winning issue” so worth pursuing that there’s no need to address the key contradictions it contains (except with a jobs guarantee)? Socialism depends on leadership across differences, not lowest-common-denominator single-issue coalitions.

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The state isn’t neutral.

Every state belongs to a class. In medieval Europe, the state belonged to aristocratic landowners. In ancient Rome, it belonged to slave-owning patricians.

The US government belongs to the capitalists – that is, the owners of the physical and organizational machinery that workers use to create goods and services.

It doesn’t belong to them because politicians are corrupt. This isn’t a matter of “money in politics” – it’s the way the state itself is set up. No matter who holds office, the structure of the state means that it can’t help but enforce capitalist class rule. From the day-to-day activities of municipal civil servants to the highest levels of the Executive Branch, everything the government does in some way contributes to that task. It makes sure that contracts are enforced, infrastructure carries goods and services, markets operate smoothly, threats to private property are neutralized, and – above all – that workers keep going to work every day. The state uses force to defend the “public order” of capitalism; in practice, that also means white supremacy, empire, and patriarchy. It regulates businesses to protect the business class’s long-term stability. It runs social services to keep the working class healthy enough to be exploited. It allows radicals to participate in elections to pre-empt their inclination to build revolutionary institutions of their own. It grants concessions to movement demands to de-fang their revolutionary potential and coax them into patronage politics.

This is an inherently capitalist state. Changing that would mean completely redesigning and restructuring it, bottom to top, from the Constitution to common law to the bureaucracy. In other words, it would have to be smashed. A new system would have to be built in its place.

Revolutionary socialism, both Marxist and anarchist, begins by recognizing that. Government socialism begins by denying it. Government socialists, like conservatives and liberals, treat the government as a “public sphere.” Supposedly, it does (or at least could) belong to “the people” in general, not just the ruling class. It can act in the “general interest.” Socialism, therefore, just means more government! State universities are socialist. Roads and sewers are socialist. Parks are socialist. According to a few government socialists, the NSA, the NYPD, and the United States Marines are, too. And “universal public good” redistributive programs – like an expanded Medicare – are the most socialist things of all.

The problem, of course, is that the institutional machinery of the US government can’t be divorced from its role in defending white supremacy, imperialism, and the ruling class. To expand that machinery, even if it does some good in some people’s lives, necessarily strengthens those things.


It is one thing to set up a day care centre the way we want it, and demand that the State pay for it. It is quite another thing to deliver our children to the State and ask the State to control them, discipline them, teach them to honour the American flag not for five hours, but for fifteen or twenty-four hours. It is one thing to organise communally the way we want to eat (by ourselves, in groups, etc.) and then ask the State to pay for it, and it is the opposite thing to ask the State to organise our meals. In one case we regain some control over our lives, in the other we extend the State’s control over us.

Silvia Federici

Until the government disbanded it in 1954, the Communist Party ran a group called the International Workers Order. The IWO provided its nearly 200,000 members with health, dental, and life insurance, and its 19,000 branches ran clinics and summer camps of their own (all in addition to a wealth of cultural and educational activities). The Communists built it all during the Great Depression, when working-class people had far fewer resources than they do now. A generation later, the Black Panther Party and its allies followed the IWO’s lead, establishing clinics and social services of their own.

The state didn’t establish the IWO. It didn’t run the Panthers’ clinics. Revolutionaries created those services themselves. They operated them on their own terms, under their own control.

The point of socialism is mass power, in every sphere of life. It’s not a bigger federal government.


Therefore, we repeat, state ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism – if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials – but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism.

Schemes of state and municipal ownership, if unaccompanied by this co-operative principle, are but schemes for the perfectioning of the mechanism of capitalist government-schemes to make the capitalist regime respectable and efficient for the purposes of the capitalist

James Connolly

Don’t campaign for M4A.

Address healthcare like any other issue: organize the workers in that industry. Use mutual-aid programs to grow revolutionary capacity. Government socialists claim that for something on the scale of healthcare, mutual aid just isn’t a workable approach. But even setting aside the IWO and other counter-examples, mutual aid is still more workable than M4A.

M4A can’t happen without a Democrat in the White House, a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in Congress, and (most of all) those Democrats’ willingness to actually make it policy. Now, all of the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls recently co-sponsored an M4A bill. That’s only symbolic. It’s red meat for primary voters, but they don’t intend it to ever actually lead to policy. It’s no different than the millionaires’ tax that the New Jersey Democrats supported in opposition, but oppose now that they’re in power.

DSA has the numbers (if not the will) to launch an IWO-style mutual-aid health program. But do they think they’ll be able to win over the federal leadership of the Democratic Party – the same people who made sure that the most popular politician in the country lost his primary fight to one of the least popular, who couldn’t even stomach Keith Ellison as DNC chair, and who just spent eight years in office administering war and neoliberalism? What do they think the Democratic Party is?

 

The US working class doesn’t yet exist as what Marx called a “class-for-itself” – it isn’t an autonomous political force in its own right, organized through its own base of institutions and capable of contesting for social power against other classes. The most important job for revolutionaries right now is to help it become a class-for-itself. Government-socialist and left-populist reforms can’t do that. Organizing the unorganized, building up the institutions through which an independent base can exist, can.

That won’t come from Medicare for All.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism

The Police Aren’t Here For You

“The police are an increasingly militarized arm of an increasingly fascist state, hired thugs for capitalist oligarchs, the modern-day version of slave catchers, a terrorist organization. When I came to see this, then abolishing the police didn’t seem so crazy anymore.”

From John Halstead

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Don’t you feel safe now?

“In England, a century of strong government has developed what O. Henry called the stern and rugged fear of the police to a point where any public protest seems an indecency. But in France everyone can remember a certain amount of civil disturbance, and even the workmen in the bistros talk of la revolution—meaning the next revolution, not the last one. The highly socialised modern mind, which makes a kind of composite god out of the rich, the government, the police and the larger newspapers, has not been developed—at least not yet.”

— George Orwell (1932)

On a cool Saturday morning in September, about 75 people gathered in the parking lot of the Hoosier Prairie Nature Preserve, situated in a mostly White, mixed-income neighborhood in Northwest Indiana. There were people of all ages. Parents with children, some in strollers. Retirees and students. Self-described activists and people who had never been to a protest before. There were some people of color, but we were a mostly White group. Several people were drawing on the blacktop with sidewalk chalk, messages about climate change and pollution.

A police officer on an ATV passed by on the road. Overhead, the sheriff’s helicopter circled.

“Are they here for us?” someone asked, looking up at the helicopter.

“They’re not here for you,” my friend responded. “They’re here for you.”

We laughed nervously, as the double entendre sank in.

The reason for the gathering was a pipeline walk organized by a local chapter of 350.org. It was not a protest, per se, but an educational walk. Ten kilometers, starting at the terminal of Enbridge Line 6A in Griffith, Indiana, and walking north toward the BP refinery in Whiting, Indiana, the largest tar sands refinery in the country.

The Enbridge terminal sat adjacent to the nature preserve that we were standing on, about a quarter mile away. The massive petroleum storage tanks were visible through the trees in the distance. The pipeline carrying tar sands oil ran directly under our feet, directly under the nature preserve.

When we left the preserve, we followed the path of the pipeline, marked by high-pressure pipeline markers, by people’s yards, two elementary schools (including the one my son attended), a high school, a municipal playground. We walked over several waterways. Throughout the walk, the police were as ubiquitous as the pipeline markers.

The goal of the walk was to draw attention to the existence of the pipelines in such close proximity to our everyday lives, and to activate people who might not come to a more confrontational event. No one carried any signs, and no one shouted protest chants. We stayed on the sidewalks. I think we were as non-threating as any group that size can be.

And yet, all the while, the helicopter circled above. Everywhere the police presence was visible: on foot, in police cars, on ATVs, in ominous black vans. At least four different police agencies were present. It was hard to estimate the numbers, but there must have been one police officer for every two walkers. All of that for fewer than a hundred people walking on the sidewalks in a suburban neighborhood. The size of the police presence was all the more remarkable for the fact that the organizers of the walk had met with the police prior to the event, explained it was a non-confrontational, educational event, and even provided a map of the route.

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Hey kids! Did you know that Officer Dugan is a corporate tool?

Throughout the walk, the police were courteous and obliging. They helped us negotiate the more dangerous road crossings. And some of the walkers expressed gratitude and even relief at the presence of the police. But for many of us, their presence was oppressive.

We couldn’t help but feel that they were not really there for our safety. Did we really believe they were there to help us cross the street? No, they were there because we were assembled in close proximity to a piece of major fossil fuel infrastructure. They were there to protect Enbridge and BP.

I also couldn’t escape the suspicion that they were also there to intimidate us, to remind us of their power. None of the officers acted aggressively toward us. (The press was present.)  But the sheer number of armed state actors in our vicinity had a psychological impact. And I don’t think it was unintended.

Growing up White, I had always believed that the police were there for me, to protect me. With the exception of some minor adolescent law breaking, the most I ever had to worry about from the police was getting a speeding ticket. And I never really had to worry about getting shot by the police when I was pulled over.

But as I got involved in street activism, I found myself in a more confrontational relationship with the police. And I began to see that the police are not there to protect me, at least not principally. They are there to protect the social order. As long as I was playing my part in that order, I was protected by the police. But as soon as I stepped just a little bit outside of that order (by exercising Constitutionally-guaranteed rights to assemble and speak), it became apparent that they weren’t there for me; indeed, they never had been.

For most people of color, LGBT folk, and other underprivileged persons, I’m sure this isn’t any revelation.

About a year before the pipeline walk, I was marching with Black Lives Matter activists in Chicago. They were calling for the “abolition”–a word chosen deliberately–of the police (as well as prisons). As I walked in solidarity with BLM, I wrestled with my emotions. I have to admit that the idea of abolishing the police sent an instinctual tremor or terror through my being.

I understood rationally that, rather than making Black and Brown communities in Chicago safer, the Chicago Police Department actually make them less safe. And so abolishing the police makes perfect sense. The police may make most White people feel safer, but the fact is that they do so by carrying on a campaign of terror against Black and Brown people. I understood that rationally, but when marchers called for the abolishment of the police, my socialization as a White person kicked in, and I couldn’t help wonder, “Who would protect me?”

Several months later, I drove into the small airport in Gary, Indiana for a protest against ICE deportations being conducted at that airport. I had been to a previous protest at the airport and there had been just one police officer present. On that prior occasion, a group of frustrated protesters had broken off from the main group, opened an unlocked gate, and walked out onto the runaway. That single police officer had remained calm as organizers talked to their fellow protesters and convinced them to return to the main body of the protest. There were no threats of arrest and only a minimal expression of police authority.

So this time, when I arrived at the airport, I was surprised to find a large contingent of police in SWAT gear herding us into a fenced-in area. I had volunteered to be the police liaison for the event, so it was my job to find out what in the hell was going on. The officer in charge brusquely informed me that we were being put in a pen “for our own safety”. He claimed that they had received reports of the possibility of counter-protesters (who never showed up, of course). I was also informed that no one was allowed to enter the airport building (which was usually open to the public), even to use the restroom, and if we left our designated area, we would be arrested.

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In other words, let us “protect” you, or we will arrest you.

When the buses with the windows covered up, carrying undocumented immigrants who were shackled hand and foot, drove into the airport, there was no ambiguity in my mind about the reason for the presence of the police. They were not there to protect us from counter-protesters, real or imagined. They were there to protect the system, an unjust system which, at that moment, was deporting people who had committed no major crimes, and which included parents with children, tax-paying workers and business owners, and even veterans.

None of this will come as a surprise to those educated about the origin of the police as a means of quashing protest by urban workers. Or to those who have noted the connection between the role of the antebellum police in catching runaway slaves and their role today in systematically enslaving people of color in a for-profit prison system. None of this will come as a surprise who have noted the coincidence of peak oil and the militarization of the police. Or to those who have observed how the practice of ticketing people for minor violations is used to redistribute wealth from poor communities and communities of color to the state (and hence to the wealthy).

None of this should come as surprise to those who have been paying attention to the growing body of video documentation of police violently assaulting and murdering people of color. And, of course, none of those will come as a surprise to people of color or many poor people, who have always been on the business end of the police baton.

“The police are simply the hired enemies of this population. They are present to keep the Negro in his place and to protect white business interests, and they have no other function.”

James Baldwin (1966)

But it did come as a surprise to me. I’m White and economically privileged, and so its perhaps not too suprising that, all my life, I have thought that the police were protecting me. But my recent encounters with the police helped me see that that what they have really been protecting is the gilded cage I live in. I’m protected because I’ve stayed in the cage. But if I so much as rattled the bars of my cage, the police revealed themselves for what they are: an increasingly militarized arm of an increasingly fascist state, hired thugs for capitalist oligarchs, the modern-day version of slave catchers, a terrorist organization.

The more I realized this, the more the calls for abolishing the police made sense. I’m now convinced that imagining a world without police means is part and parcel of imagining a just society.

“To a population domesticated from the moment it fell out of the womb such a question seem ludicrous. All our lives we’ve been told cops, judges, and prisons are the pinnacles of civilization, needed to keep our innate savagery in check. …

“We do not need cops and we do not need prisons. We cling to these institutions not because they are necessary but because we can’t imagine a world without them.”

Dr. Bones

“But who would protect me?” the old voice still comes. But now, there is another voice as well, with new questions: “Do the police really protect you now? From whom? Why do you think you need to be protected? Where does that belief come from? Who taught it to you? What unspoken assumptions is it based on?”

Recently, my Unitarian church invited the local police department to give an active shooter training to the congregation. The officers began the training by playing a 911 recording made from inside Columbine High School during the 1999 massacre. There was no pedagogical function. They didn’t refer to the calls once throughout the presentaton. As far as I could see, the only purpose of playing the recording was to make us afraid … and thus, more dependent on the police themselves. The police could not justify their existence, or the violence they perpetrate on us, without our continued fear of a world without them.

But the fact is the police don’t make us safer. For most White people, they only provide the illusion of safety. And for most people of color, not even that. About 90% of police time spent penalizing infractions of administrative regulations. As David Graeber has observed, the police are essentially bureaucrats with guns. Of the remaining 10% of their time, during which they are responding to violent crime, they are largely ineffectual, or worse.

I guess this is for our own good?

Crime is a natural and predictable result of inequality and injustice. If we really want to reduce crime, we should invest in full employment, universal healthcare (including mental health), free university education, and comprehensive sex education (including education about consent), and we should decriminalize drug use. These things would be far more effective in reducing violent crime than the police. But when we call for these things, the response we get is more police.

I’m not suggesting that abolishing the police is a simple answer. Imagining a world without police requires unlearning a lot of conscious and conscious beliefs. For one thing, it means White people like me unlearning the fear of Black people. The mystique of the police is sustained, in part, by racist stereotypes of the Black male “thug” or “super predator”, stereotypes which have historical antecedents dating back to the times of slavery.

Imagining a world without police also means unlearning capitalist ways of relating to other people.  As William Anderson has written,

“To end capitalism, we have to end capitalism both within and around us. When we liberate our relationships from patterns of thought that replicate the inequalities built into our social systems, a great love can exist that gives us a new feeling of freedom.”

This means learning how to relate to each other on the basis of cooperation, rather than competition. It means building community, spending time with people, and getting to know them. It means and taking responsibility for our communities, rather than abdicating that responsibility to the state. And, of course, it means finding ways to reintegrate those who violate community norms, rather than just warehouse or punish them.

As Chicago activist, Mariame Kaba, has said,

“Abolition is not about changing one thing. It’s about changing everything, together.”


John Halstead

halsteadJohn Halstead is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is one of the founders of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which works to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment”. He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and here at Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also edited the anthology, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. He is also a Shaper of the Earthseed community which can be found at GodisChange.org.


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The Apocalypse Will Be Brought To You by Car, Not Truck

“Cars are bourgeois and trucks are proletarian.” An analysis of the truck-driver’s strike and diesel crisis in Brazil.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

You can hear this article read by the author here:

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Cars

In high school, I failed an economics class. Now, 11 years later, I look back at that situation as symbolic of the capitalist indoctrination in the public school system.

The assignment was to develop a business plan. It was 2007, so most students came up with online businesses that could maximize profits by not having storefront rent draining money.

My idea was a bike sharing system integrated with the metro, where people paid a small fee monthly or yearly for unlimited access. The goal was to make cars obsolete, improve personal health and urban life standards (by minimizing all kinds of pollution, and death).

The class voted against the plan because it would definitely not be profitable. In fact, it might drain money with people breaking or stealing bikes. What I didn’t know at the time was that I wasn’t in an economics class, I was in a Capitalist economics class, because in “America” there was no other type.

Unlike everything else in high school, I actually got invested in this project. Public transport was awesome to me. Taking the bus alone made me feel free, in control, and in harmony with my surroundings. The metro pulsates through the city, and gives life to the urban organism. Adding public bikes to the mix would be next level awesomeness (I even made a cheesy youtube video).

Cars, on the other hand, are the embodiment of capitalism, and its sickening properties. Those that make us forget that we are a part of a community, of nature, and trick us into believing it’s possible (and desirable) to be at the driver’s seat of personal property, crushing everything on the way (the planet and everything on it). Even people’s temperament gets toxic in traffic.

Six years after receiving my memorable failing grade, my mom sent me a picture of herself on a Citi Bike (in New York) with the caption “Look, your idea”. Now these bike stations are in several major cities, I’ve just signed up to the one in the city where I live for 3 dollars a month.

A community owned not-for-profit initiative sounds pretty anti-capitalist, so how come are they all sporting Bank logos?

Because, as activists of React or Die have put it, we’ve become minimally content with symbolic gestures of generosity by Capitalists and the State; pacifying and trapping those with the slightest inclination for dissatisfaction with the system.

“We do not trade our pains as cheap merchandise from the colonial period, we do not bargain for crumbs.” –Winnie Mandela Tribute

There is a difference between smashing a capitalist state, and helping capitalist institutions improve. This here might be a third option. Neither revolution nor reform: revitalization. Or what urbanists call: make-up (in this case for tourists).

If we were to paint these Bank Bikes white (covering the logos) and keep them always unlocked, they would be outlawed and reduced to a teenage vandal art project (Provos).

I took this picture yesterday at the supermarket near my house in Salvador, Brazil.

Trucks

This week, the streets had the post-apocalyptic vibe you would expect from any tasteful Sci-fi pilot. The grim atmosphere of scarcity, and the controlled anxiety of people becoming aware that things have not yet turned into the Walking Dead- but might next week.

Lines for gas are growing around the few places that still have it, people praying at gas stations, some flights are not taking off, there are almost no fresh vegetables at supermarkets, the few street markets left are 7 times more expensive than usual, the T.V. is fuming with sensational stories about medicine not arriving at hospitals, people who “might” die and right-wing propaganda…

Indignation is widespread. While the left blames Temer’s failure at managing inflation and protecting people from Petrobras’ price fluctuation, the right blames the truck-drivers for not prioritizing the people who need food and medicine over their own “profits”. Of course the truck-drivers that get no wage readjustments based on the outrageous price spike are pissed, and so is anyone else who just wants to drive to work.

A place like Brazil, with such abundance of food and oil resources, not having enough for its own people reveals the catastrophic potential of the global Capitalist system. The middle class can’t imagine going to work by bus or bike, and had to be reminded of how supermarkets are stocked and the true power of workers.

These workers on strike are not representing any political party, no grand scheme coordinated by politicians on election year. This is a fairly mild wake up call, reminding us of how fragile the (in)balance of power is, and how our relationship with foreign markets is not in the best interest of the masses.

“A good pricing policy for fossil fuels should have two focuses. First, encourage biomass fuels and discourage fossil. Second, make a division between individual fuel and cargo fuel and public transportation, discouraging the former.” Caio Almendra

Unfortunately, individual fuel is still a priority in many people’s minds, and most of the the upper and middle classes have not learned to respect truck-drivers. Things will have to get a lot worse before we wake up to the reality of our daily exploitation and submission to foreign currency.

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Anti-development

“Development” is often reduced to road building. The higher the number and quality of roads, the more advanced and modern a place is; meaning, car and cash flows go hand in hand. This is not only an issue of class struggle and Capitalism, it’s about White Supremacy as well. We must not underestimate the affect this aspect of Capitalist development has on Indigenous and Quilombist communities.

Our Western lifestyle and backward politics make their way of life virtually impossible. Roads in particular play a major part in suffocating Indigenous and Quilombist land.

A leading figure of the Quilombo Quingoma told me she hates it when massive groups of motorcycles and random cars drive through their territory, and that paving roads is not good for their horses. Suburban “development” surrounding their land is directly connected to their lack of agency towards the preservation of the forest, and therefore the resources they need for autonomy.

Colonialism (and capitalism) have lead to the Western belief that being of the land is “less developed” than being on the land. The concept of ownership lead us to stop seeing ourselves as a part of our environment, to becoming people on or in property. That’s why the American dream is reduced to owning land of your own, and by doing that earning true freedom (meritocracy).

The tribal concept predates this capitalist concept, and it’s no surprise that after so many years of racism in the field of anthropology, that the term has had the derogatory connotation of underdevelopment.

The “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” shows well the ways in which the tone of anthropological research of tribal behavior is deeply problematic (Eurocentric). The Othering of Navies shows our inability to look at ourselves as ritualistic, and utterly nonsensical in our own behavior.

“While much of the [Nacirema] people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity.” -Horace Miner

The way we deal with our property is savage. The way we treat each other is horrific. Honestly, we have enough ways to kill, torture and enslave to make anthropophagy look honorable and humane. Still, somehow an incredible amount of people have the audacity to look at Natives as underdeveloped, just because their lives don’t revolve around screens, cars and money the way ours do.

If there is one thing we can do, in this seemingly helpless situation, is to unlearn what has been taught to us about order and progress, and learn what it really means to be a “developing” Nation.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

1527654533485_photois site editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.


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To Spite The Face: a review of Insurgent Supremacists by Matthew N. Lyons

Reviewed in this essay: Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, by Matthew N. Lyons (Published by PM Press)

Anti-fascism in the United States has two deep problems, neither of which can easily be unraveled. The first problem, which is the foundation of the second, is that it cannot accurately identify precisely who or what a fascist actually is.

This first problem can best be shown from a rather amusing conversation I recently encountered regarding myself and Gods&Radicals Press (where I am the managing editor). It turns out, according to some deeply wise Twitter commentators, that I’m a fascist, or possibly a proto-fascist, or an anarcho-nationalist with white-nationalist leanings.

Their evidence? A recent essay regarding the commons, an essay critiquing racial and gender essentialism, and an anti-imperialist essay.

While it’s tempting to dismiss such a conversation and laugh about the general absurdity of American social media “call outs,” their error points to something much more endemic than mere ignorance or poor reading skills. The essays selectively cited do indeed contain some ideas that could be mistaken as fascist, but not because the ideas themselves are fascist. For instance: the essay on reclaiming the commons from an anti-colonial perspective mentions the word “land” a lot. Some fascists also wish to reclaim land. Likewise, the essay against imperialism shares with some fascist tendencies a disgust for the occupation of peoples by the military. And my critique of social justice essentialism criticizes non-Marxist “feminist” reduction of men to their bodies and genitals.

That is, what the commentators were looking for were signs of fascist ideology, ticking off boxes on a checklist of fascist traits. But unfortunately, opposition to fascism is not as easy as completing a Buzzfeed quiz or reading an Everyday Feminism listicle.

In this error they are hardly alone. American antifascist organizing has faced a much larger difficulty identifying precisely who’s a fascist, or even whether any particular idea is indicative of fascist ideology. This problem leads to all sorts of practical problems, particularly when it comes to organizing against groups and theorists on the far-right who don’t fit into traditional stereotypes of fascism.

Two examples should suffice to show the problem here. First of all, Jack Donovan and the group to which he belongs, The Wolves of Vinland, cannot easily be classified as fascist according to popularly-accepted metrics. Donovan is specifically anti-imperialist, criticizes capitalism and anti-globalisation, rejects racism, and is homosexual. In addition, The Wolves of Vinland might be better described as a Pagan body-cult than a “Fascist counter-cultural tribe” , particularly because they not only do they not participate in demonstrations and have rejected alliances with alt-right groups, but have absolutely no interest in seizing political power or taking control of the state. So any litmus strip we might apply to either Donovan or the Wolves of Vinland in order to determine whether they are fascist will come back completely clean.

Likewise, fascists are at least according to popular understanding supposed to be anti-Black, anti-gay, and most definitely anti-Semitic. So that makes encountering the occasionally violent ideas of Milo Yiannopolous quite difficult: he is homosexual, has a Black man as a lover, and also happens to be Jewish. That is, he isn’t anti-Black, nor anti-gay, nor precisely anti-semitic, yet we still generally see his ideas as fascist.

This nebulous nature of Fascism also means that many leftists find themselves considered fascist because of their adherence to ideas which appear (at least at first glance) to be of fascist provenance. For instance, the anarchist publisher Little Black Cart and its publications have been repeatedly identified as fascist by other anarchists because of their anti-civilizationist and eco-extremist tendencies, both of which appear (under a glance no more attentive than what is needed for a Teen Vogue article) to be identical to some white-nationalist positions.

Similarly, those who use the works of clearly leftist philosophers such as Max Stirner or even Slavoj Zizek are often painted with a fascist brush because of the similarities between both philosophers’ rejection of Liberal Democratic capitalism and the European Nouvelle Droit’s rejections of the same regime.

This inability to distinguish between right-wing (and fascist) critiques of Liberal Democracy leads to the second and more intractable problem within American Anti-fascism. That problem? By mis-identifying Marxist and other far-left opposition to Liberal Democracy as fascist, antifascists end up siding with Capitalist interests and becoming defenders of Liberal Democracy. That is, in an attempt to fight off white supremacists and other far right challenges to the state, antifascists can enable the state to continue its oppression against the very people antifascists claim to defend.

The Revolutionary Right

Thus Matthew N Lyons’ forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, is a deeply needed work.

In the title itself, Lyons begins to unravel inherited, popular misconceptions about the entire political constellation in which we (often clumsily) attempt to locate fascism. Generally (at least within liberal and “progressive” anti-fascist currents), the far right is not considered a threat to Empire, but to be the political foundation of Empire itself. But while to speak of an anti-imperialist far-right seems oxymoronic, Lyons provides an almost overwhelming onslaught of detail as to how much of the Far Right is predicated on a critique of and opposition to liberal democratic imperialism.

Opposition to global capitalism and the international governance organizations which protect it, fierce criticism (sometimes backed by weapons) of oppressive policing and surveillance apparatuses, and moral reprehension at imperialist US foreign policy in the Middle East have all been parts of many movements within the Far Right in the United States. For instance, consider the following words:

When a U.S. plane or cruise missile is used to bring destruction to a foreign people, this nation rewards the bombers with applause and praise. What a convenient way to absolve these killers of any responsibility for the destruction they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, the morality of killing is not so superficial. The truth is, the use of a truck, a plane or a missile for the delivery of a weapon of mass destruction does not alter the nature of the act itself.

These are weapons of mass destruction — and the method of delivery matters little to those on the receiving end of such weapons.

Whether you wish to admit it or not, when you approve, morally, of the bombing of foreign targets by the U.S. military, you are approving of acts morally equivalent to the bombing in Oklahoma City …

These words by Timothy McVeigh (the far-right bomber of a federal building In Oklahoma City that killed 168 people, many of them children) might just as easily have been written by indigenous resistance leaders, the Black Panthers, or other leftist revolutionary groups in the United States. Or as I note in an essay about him,  many of Jack Donovan’s critiques of the police state and of liberal democracy could just as easily have been written by those same groups.

Unlike those leftist revolutionary groups and also unlike Jack Donovan, Timothy McVeigh was a white nationalist, expressing fondness for the white supremacist book The Turner Diaries, as well as selling copies of it at gun shows. And so there is where someone like McVeigh fits into our preconceived notions of what makes a fascist…except as Lyons points out in his book, white supremacist ideas are not a clear indicator of fascism, either.

That difficulty of pinning down precisely what makes someone on the far right a fascist might otherwise plague such a book as his, but Lyons wisely dispenses with the question altogether until the very end (a previously-published essay included as appendix). Rather than attempt to build a catalogue of fascist ideologies and movements in the United States, he instead details all the Far Right movements which intersect with this slippery category.

The first part of Insurgent Supremacists provide a detailed sketch of five ideological movements (Neo-Nazis, Christian Dominionists/Theocrats, The Alt-Right, the Patriot movements, and the LaRouche Network), and at least for the first four groups, readers with only a surface understanding of Right-wing ideology may find themselves surprised to learn how thoroughly different each ideology is from the others. While crossovers absolutely exist, many of the adherents of each group would be just as likely to vehemently oppose the other groups as to claim them as fellow travelers.

In the second section, Lyons then looks at each group again through the lens of their views on gender & sexuality, decentralization, and anti-imperialism, and here again the average anti-fascist may find their original analysis uncomfortably complicated by what Lyons details. Particularly of interest are the problems of anti-imperialism and decentralization (anti-federalist– or in some cases even anti-government–positions ), both of which are critiques autonomous Marxists and anarchists share with many on the far right (albeit for different reasons).

The third section, however, is the most useful and unfortunately the most short. In it, Lyons discusses the complicated relationship that police and the FBI have had with far right groups, as well as the influence the Liberal political structures (especially the Democratic Party) has had on creating the conditions for the rise of these groups as well as increasing police oppression of society at large in the name of fighting them. Returning to McVeigh’s bombing, Lyons points out:

The Clinton administration also used the Oklahoma City bombing to help win passage of the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which loosened restrictions on the wiretapping and other surveillance of alleged “terrorists,” expanded the use of secret evidence to deport non- citizens (which means that the defendants have no opportunity to see the evidence being used against them), and, in the words of legal journalist Lincoln Caplan, “gutted the federal writ of habeas corpus, which a federal court can use to order the release of someone wrongly imprisoned.” The law made the death penalty more “effective” by making it much more difficult for death row inmates to appeal their sentences, even though a notoriously high proportion of death sentences have been shown to have serious flaws.” (174)

Antifascist Alliances with the Capitalist State

In fact, it’s Lyons’ consistent (but understated) criticism of liberal politics throughout his discussion of the Far Right that makes Insurgent Supremacists most useful. Lyons runs directly counter to most popular antifascist thought by insisting that the Far Right is not made up of idiots without political sensibilities or actual grievances. People like McVeigh were absolutely right to be incensed about the government’s slaughter of innocents in Waco or at Ruby Ridge, just as many of those who supported Trump in the recent election had absolutely legitimate grievances against the Democratic Party’s destructive hyper-capitalist economic policies and imperialist expansionary foreign policy positions.

Of course, such a position runs counter not only to the received wisdom of many antifascists, but stands directly in opposition to Liberal dismissals of the Right as merely ignorant or hateful.   Accepting this Liberal position is how antifascists have gotten to the place they’re in now, finding themselves continuously pulled toward the Democratic Party’s “centrist” positions and thus unable to distinguish a leftist from a fascist.

This is not merely an unfortunate problem of mis-identification, however. As in the case of McVeigh, Lyons points out that antifascism and opposition to far right ideologies have historically sometimes served to increase State violence and power.

Many people think of growing state repression as a trend toward fascism. But these events of the 1930s and ’40s highlight the fact that antifascism can itself serve as a rationale for increasing repression, as Don Hamerquist has pointed out: “when did this country outlaw strikes, ban seditious organizing and speech, intern substantial populations in concentration camps, and develop a totalitarian mobilization of economic, social, and cultural resources for military goals? Obviously it was during WWII, the period of the official capitalist mobilization against fascism, barbarism and for ‘civilization.’” (166)

The particular difficulty here, which Lyons touches on occasionally, is that the political interests of Capital are able to manipulate opposition to far right ideologies, particularly through the Democratic Party. And here many looking for easier answers will likely either dismiss or take offense at his discussion about whether or not Trump (or the US government in general) is fascist or in “process” of becoming fascist.

Each of these claims that the U.S. government or public officials are driving us toward fascism represents a misuse of the term, one that blurs the line between fascism and the more repressive, racist, and militaristic sides of the United States’ liberal- pluralist political system (181)

In particular, Lyons critiques the dogmatic approach to Trump of Alexander Reid Ross (an antifascist writer I’ve criticized before for mis-identifying leftist opposition to capitalism as fascist or fascist-adjacent):

Radical journalist Alexander Reid Ross argued that we should look at fascism “as a ‘process’ rather than an ‘outcome’,” and that “Trumpism” was “part of a process of ‘fascist creep,’ meaning a radicalization of conservative ideology that increasingly includes fascist membership while deploying fascist ideology, strategy, and tactics.” This approach rightly emphasized that many political initiatives occupy a gray area between fascist and conservative politics and that the political character of such initiatives can change over time. But Ross simply assumed that Trump’s campaign—unlike previous right- wing populist candidates such as George Wallace and Pat Buchanan—had an inherent tendency to move toward fascism and would not be co- opted by the established political system. (197)

But then, if Trump isn’t fascist and if many of the implementations of oppressive (and often explicitly racist) policies and powers of the United States isn’t fascist either, than what exactly is fascism? In an appendix of the book, Lyons discusses the difficulty of defining fascism and looks at others’ attempts to do so before coming up with a definition that will satisfy very few:

Fascism is a revolutionary form of right- wing populism, inspired by a totalitarian vision of collective rebirth, that challenges capitalist political and cultural power while promoting economic and social hierarchy.

This definition will be unsatisfactory to most because of what it doesn’t explicitly include (white supremacy, misogyny) as well as what it does include (a challenge to capitalist political and cultural power).  With such a definition we are forced to question almost everything we think we know about fascism’s traits, and find none of our checklists or listicles make sense anymore.

That’s a good thing, but with a caveat. Because the culture of constant reaction within America, especially via the reductionist forms of internet “discourse,” makes it very likely that capitalists and the government which serves their interest will continue to summon antifascists to their defense. While the challenge fascism presents to capitalist power is not our challenge, we must avoid making façile concessions to the Liberal Democratic state out of fear that the fascists might win. As Lyons points out in the case of the House UnAmerican Activities Committe during the middle of the last century (which was originally set up to prosecute fascists!), supporting (or even celebrating) government repression of the far right always empowers the state to then turn its weapons on the left.

Antifascists can and must oppose both the capitalist liberal democratic state as well as fascists, and must do so always at the same time. To make alliances with the state against the Far Right which threatens it will also lead the left to abandon their own challenge to the state, cutting off our nose to spite the face.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd Wildermuth is a co-founder of Gods&Radicals and one of its co-editors. He is currently teaching a course on Marxism, and currently lives in Bretagne. Follow his dispatches from other shores here.


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