Class and Identity: Against Both/And

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Image credit: Lotta Femminista, via Viewpoint Magazine

I’m sitting in a punk bar in April with an out-of-town socialist. He gets passionate, telling me how disappointing he finds May Day rallies back home – how the local AFL-CIO plays it safe by stumping for Democrats, while other activists demonstrate about immigration, feminism, and “anything besides class.”

“Why can’t this one day be for workers?” he sighs.


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A Jill Stein supporter protests Hillary Clinton during the DNC. Via Wikimedia Commons.

After Hillary Clinton’s failure in November, erstwhile Bernie supporters blamed Clinton’s “identity liberalism” for “abandoning the white working class.” In return, centrist Democrats repeated the accusations they’d made against Sanders during the primaries: supposedly, denouncing Wall Street is only another flavor of the white male reaction that uplifted Trump, and class-based politics means throwing away feminism and anti-racism for the sake of unity with “hillbillies.”

However, the revival of social democracy that Bernie helped catalyze didn’t slow. Often (though not exclusively) through the organizational vehicle of the Democratic Socialists of America and anchored by the audiences of Chapo Trap House and Jacobin, social democracy seems to be edging out “anarcho-liberalism” as the US protest scene’s default ideology.

As it’s grown, its proponents have rebutted the claim that class doesn’t mix with anti-racism and feminism. While criticizing the excesses of the Clintonite politics of representation and “identitarianism” in general, they’ve maintained that they actually oppose racism and sexism more effectively than centrists. After all, their case goes, “universal public goods” and “redistributive social-democratic programs” disproportionately benefit oppressed identity groups because their oppression leaves them poor, unemployed, and uninsured far more often than white straight men. Therefore, the best way to support women and people of color is to avoid divisive, class-effacing privilege analysis. Prioritizing economics doesn’t mean dropping anti-discrimination and anti-bigotry commitments. It’s simply a more effective strategy to pursue them. They agree with the centrists that those are non-negotiable moral imperatives, while disagreeing about how they best can be accomplished.

Overall, they both claim that US progressivism must pick one of their two competing orientations: liberal centrism or social democracy. Identity politics or universalism – which way forward?

Should workers have a holiday to themselves?

But there’s a flaw underlying the clashing-visions narrative. Both worldviews fundamentally misunderstand the nature of race, gender, class, and capitalism – and they do so in precisely the same way.


But in pre-capitalist society the work of each member of the community of serfs was seen to be directed to a purpose: either to the prosperity of the feudal lord or to our survival. To this extent the whole community of serfs was compelled to be co-operative in a unity of unfreedom that involved to the same degree women, children and men, which capitalism had to break. In this sense the unfree individual, the democracy of unfreedom entered into a crisis. The passage from serfdom to free labor power separated the male from the female proletarian and both of them from their children. The unfree patriarch was transformed into the “free” wage earner, and upon the contradictory experience of the sexes and the generations was built a more profound estrangement and therefore a more subversive relation.

Mariarosa Dalla Costa and Selma James

Liberals say that opposing identity oppression means letting class politics go. Social democrats respond that they can walk and chew gum – class-based organizing can and should coexist with a strong anti-discrimination program.

But does either stance square with what race, gender, and privilege materially are?

Under capitalism, most people take part in the work that keeps society running and produces all goods and services. Sometimes that work is paid; sometimes it isn’t. In either case, though, it isn’t controlled by the people who do it. Rather, economic activity is governed by a ruling class of investors and business owners, called capitalists. They accumulate wealth by exploiting the paid and unpaid work carried out by everyone else: the working class, broadly defined. The capitalist class holds power by owning capital (productive property, the objects that workers use to produce goods and services).

The capitalist economy is enormously complex. It requires an elaborate, worldwide division of labor. The ruling class dictates the terms on which that happens. Further, the capitalists know that they don’t actually contribute to the work. Their role boils down to accumulating capital and keeping themselves in charge.

So, when dividing up labor, they hit two targets at once.

There’s nothing in human biology that makes people do extra housework and emotional labor when they’re perceived as women. There’s no law of botany that assigns farm work mostly to immigrants.

But the ruling class has figured out that it can associate different social categories with the expectation and/or requirement that their members will engage in certain types of work. When they do that, the working class itself begins to organically adapt to the capitalist division of labor. The gender role of womanhood, for instance, has unpaid gendered labor built into it. The capitalist class doesn’t send a memo to every individual woman each morning that reads, “Today we need you to clean the kitchen and comfort you boyfriend when he’s upset.” But on the ground, women, not men, are almost always the ones who do that type of work. How does that happen? Well, men have learned a social role that includes having that done for them, and women have learned one that includes doing it. Every time they re-enact those roles, they re-create them; the repeated experience of behaving the way others expect based on gender causes people to internalize those expectations, which then leads them to project them back onto others. The division of labor happens through identity categories, and it plays out in a way that keeps reinforcing them.

Of course, capitalists don’t rely on the working class to keep doing that entirely on its own. They actively intervene in daily life to keep the categories strong. While that does involve the mass media, religious doctrine, and the education system promoting stereotypes and unequal expectations, propaganda is only part of the story. Rather, the ruling class sustains and reinforces identity groups by treating some of them much worse than others. By punishing (legally or socially) those who cross category lines, it keeps the distinctions clear. Racial profiling by police helps keep certain neighborhoods white. When a church excommunicates gays, it ensures that its parishioners’ households are headed by men and produce lots of children.

Additionally, by granting cultural, legal, and material benefits to some identity groups but not others, the ruling class shores up its power. After all, when part of the working class does comparatively better as a result of the division of labor, it’s less likely to unite with the rest of the class to challenge the system overall. That’s how privilege works: it simultaneously emerges from and contributes to the capitalist division of labor, and does so in a way that pits privileged workers against the rest of their class.

That’s not incidental to capitalism, either. When it first emerged, the capital-owning class didn’t want self-sufficient peasant villages. As long as peasants had their land and worked it, they were unwilling to hire themselves out to other people’s businesses. But capitalists need people who own nothing, because such people have no choice but to work for them. So, in the early modern era, the emerging capitalist class created the current working class by enslaving Africans, committing genocide against Indigenous nations to steal their land’s raw materials, and privatizing the land that had once been the European peasant Commons. The categories of gender, race, and nation imposed by that process are the ancestors of today’s identity divisions. Unequal treatment both sustains them and makes them useful to the system.

Privilege is built into class.


Activists must understand the ways that the particular historical experiences of the United States wove race and class together that makes fighting white supremacy central to any revolutionary project. In other words, those who wish to fight against all forms of authoritarianism must understand one crucial fact of American politics—in America authority is colored white.

Roy San Filippo

Race and gender don’t hover out there in the aether, independent of economic reality. If something exists, it exists in the material world. Nothing within the class system is outside the class system. Economics is more than dollars and class is more than tax brackets. Patriarchy, white supremacy, and empire aren’t extraneous features of capitalism. They’re as fundamental to it as selling products on the market. They exist because every day, people make goods and services, keeping society alive according to the division of labor embodied by identity divisions. Combined with unequal treatment, that makes sure the division of labor will still be up and running the next day. Without such a division of labor and disparity of benefits, the working class would not be as productive as the ruling class needs it to be. Without privilege to undermine the basis for class unity, the capitalists would have a revolution on their hands.

My acquaintance in the punk bar, however, didn’t view gender and race as indispensable ingredients of the class system. He wasn’t a bigot, and he supported anti-racism and feminism on moral grounds. Even so, his understanding didn’t root them in the everyday, material life of capitalism. He knew that women workers and immigrant workers are workers, no less than their white male counterparts. But, he still operated with the implicit assumption that capitalism, in general, tries to make workers as interchangeable as possible.

After all, the logic goes, doesn’t capitalism tend to de-skill specialized trades over time in order to drive down those jobs’ wages? In a parallel manner, liberal centrists argue that the market punishes racism and sexism – isn’t it in a company’s self-interest to always hire and promote the most qualified candidate, whatever their identity?

Apart from the skilled trades, the only jobs in which individual qualifications make a substantial difference are professional and white-collar work. Now, it’s true in principle that a less-diverse and less-qualified administrative workforce operates less effectively than one that rewards talent, rather than whiteness and maleness. But a big-box retailer doesn’t need a stocker to have an unusual talent for stacking boxes. The nature of the work is such that most any worker can do it as well as another. For most jobs, unique individual qualifications don’t really make much difference.

As more and more jobs get de-skilled, employers lose the incentive to hire based on applicants’ distinctive qualifications. Over time, specialist knowledge declines as a factor in assigning work. Patriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism don’t. Maintaining those divisions of labor allows companies to exploit non-white, non-Western, and non-male workers at extra-high rates. That then creates downward pressure on privileged workers’ pay. De-skilling doesn’t make the working class less differentiated. It makes it more so.

And every corporation knows that whatever it loses by discriminating against qualified administrators, it makes up a thousandfold by keeping the overall division of labor intact.

Capitalism is a totalizing social system. It’s not just fiscal. Race, nation, and gender are among its components. Without them, it could not function. Had it not imposed them, it would not have been able to come into being. But social democrats and liberals don’t quite grasp that. Instead, they view gender, class, and race as more-or-less independent “vectors of oppression” that might inflect each other when they intersect, but still don’t reduce to any shared underlying cause.

And so, liberals and social democrats end up holding in common the view that class, in principle, is ultimately raceless and genderless. They agree that capitalism and privilege exist, but that opposing one doesn’t require opposing the other. They differ on only one point: social democrats say “both/and” to identity and class, while liberals say “either/or.”

Neither view is adequate. Their shared assumption isn’t true.


White supremacy is a system that grants those defined as “white” special privileges in American society, such as preferred access to the best schools, neighborhoods, jobs, and health care; greater advantages in accumulating wealth; a lesser likelihood of imprisonment; and better treatment by the police and the criminal justice system. In exchange for these privileges, whites agree to police the rest of the population through such means as slavery and segregation in the past and through formally “colorblind” policies and practices today that still serve to maintain white advantage. White supremacy, then, unites one section of the working class with the ruling class against the rest of the working class. This cross-class alliance represents the principle obstacle, strategically speaking, to revolution in the United States. Given the United States’ imperial power, this alliance has global implications.

The central task of a new organization should be to break up this unholy alliance between the ruling class and the white working class by attacking the system of white privilege and the subordination of people of color.

Ruckus Collective

But what difference does this make on the ground? Doesn’t good socialist practice still mean pro-worker economics plus anti-racist, feminist social politics? Whether or not it’s all a unitary system, what is concretely at stake?

If race, gender, and empire are inherent to capitalism, the meaning of “good socialist practice” starts to shift.

If a socialist revolution is to happen, the working class must unite. If the class is to unite, revolutionaries must challenge the material and cultural basis of its disunity. So, every political project the Left undertakes needs to specifically challenge privilege within the working class, not sweep it under the rug to avoid “divisiveness.” If your organizing doesn’t meet that standard, you’re not building class unity. You’re tearing it down. There is no raceless and genderless class politics because there is no raceless and genderless class. So, trying to compartmentalize anti-privilege and anti-capitalist work is implicitly chauvinistic (except when it’s explicitly so!). The Left must reject all politics that doesn’t break down intra-class privilege, even when it comes from “our side.”

The social-democratic revival waxes nostalgic for the postwar welfare state, calling for “universal social goods” with anti-discrimination laws tacked on. Its proponents posit a revival of Scandinavian-style social programs as a bulwark against the populist Right and a viable “long game” anti-capitalist strategy. But welfare nostalgia doesn’t naturally lead towards revolutionary socialism. Due to its backwards-looking frame of reference, it fits more intuitively with welfare chauvinism: the tactic used by far-right leaders, from Marine Le Pen to Richard Spencer, of promising to restore not only the social-democratic redistribution, but also the much harsher identity hierarchies of the pre-70s years. And in practice, even avowedly left-wing social democrats are not immune to welfare-chauvinist temptations. Jeremy Corbyn and Sahra Wagenknecht‘s stated anti-racism hasn’t kept them from demanding immigration restrictions.  Angela Nagle‘s claimed feminism doesn’t stop her from scapegoating trans people for the sins of online call-out culture.

The social-democratic “both/and” doesn’t work. Why should it? It attempts to sidestep the question of privilege within the class, not attack it. Opposing privilege as a matter of class-neutral morality rather than working-class strategy leans, over time, towards chauvinism.


For the consequences of the ending of white supremacy, which can only be ended by mobilizing and raising the consciousness of the entire working class, would extend far beyond the point of spreading out the misery more equitably. The result of such a struggle would be a working class that was class conscious, highly organized, experienced and militant – in short, united – and ready to confront the ruling class as a solid block. The ending of white supremacy does not pose the slightest peril to the real interests of the white workers; it definitely poses a peril to their fancied interests, their counterfeit interest, their white-skin privileges.

Ted Allen and Noel Ignatin (Noel Ignatiev)

Does this mean radicals should take a two-stage approach: anti-discrimination now, socialism later?

Both privileged and specially-oppressed parts of the working class have two sets of interests: long-term and short-term. For non-privileged workers, there’s a long-term interest in abolishing capitalism and a short-term interest in eliminating privilege. Privilege is part of capitalism and specially-oppressed workers stand to benefit straightforwardly from getting rid of the system and all of its parts. Privileged workers, though, are in a bind. They share other workers’ long-term interest in ending capitalism. But in the short term, privilege makes their lives better. So, their long-term and short-term interests contradict each other; they share the former with their entire class, but the latter keeps them from recognizing it. Strategically, the trick is to organize privileged workers around their long-term interests – even though that means opposing their own short-term interests.

Liberal anti-discrimination, however, doesn’t do that. It doesn’t want to. There’s a reason it focuses on academia, middle-class professions, and the coverage of media stars with oppressed backgrounds. That flows naturally from its class basis. It aims to remove the barriers that keep middle-class and upper-class members of oppressed identity groups from enjoying full middle/upper-class success. However, that success consists of exploiting working-class people, including those who share their identities.

Privilege and class aren’t separate. The Left’s work against them can’t afford to be, either.

If May Day is about immigrants and feminism, doesn’t that mean it’s about workers?


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Image Credit: Q-Patrol of Seattle

So how should the Left proceed?

If the unitary view of class and privilege rejects liberal anti-discrimination, it also leads away from standard welfare-statist anti-austerity. Should leftists oppose austerity? They shouldn’t support it, since its implementation (like the welfare state’s before it) is done in a way that strengthens capitalist rule (including by shoring up privilege). But the Left’s goal can’t be a return to the postwar “golden years.” Revolutionaries can’t afford nostalgia.

Rather, directly tackling the basis of class rule (including privilege) can best happen outside the framework of state services and legislation. You can conceptualize it through an anarchist, Marxist, municipalist, or whatever other lens, but in the end, only the dual power strategy‘s institution-building approach allows radicals to confront the capitalist class while challenging the division of labor it imposes.

What does that look like in practice?

Q-Patrol in Seattle, WA claims that gentrification in the gay district is behind the past several years’ sharply-rising hate violence. The influx of wealthy software engineers drives up rent and displaces LGBTQ people (replacing them with sometimes-homophobic tech yuppies). Consequently, the neighborhood’s ability to function as a safe haven declines. Losing that “critical mass” of LGBTQ people makes the area more attractive to straight college students looking for nightlife. So, with more drunk, conservative straight people in the district, increased hate violence isn’t exactly a surprise.

Gay business owners, though, have called for more police in the area to quell attacks. But a greater police presence actually accelerates the process. The people most targeted by homophobic and transphobic assaults are often people of color, unhoused people, and/or sex workers. The police themselves harass and sometimes attack members of those groups. Meanwhile, their ambient presence emboldens the same well-off bigots who are behind the violence in the first place.

Q-Patrol’s solution is a community safety patrol, preventing and intervening in attacks while monitoring the police, Copwatch-style. Q-Patrol therefore resists gentrification (which threatens all working-class people in the area, LGBTQ or straight) by displacing an ostensible function of the police (protecting the community). The institution-building strategy hinges on this kind of function displacement. Capitalist institutions organize different aspects of life in ways that reinforce privilege and the division of labor. If leftists build counter-institutions, people can use them organize those same parts of life in ways that don’t do that.

Because its basic work is preventing hate violence and its roots are directly in the LGBTQ community, Q-Patrol directly challenges straight privilege. However, it does so in a way that simultaneously furthers the interests of the neighborhood’s entire working class, straights included. There’s no “both/and”-ism – it doesn’t artificially pin anti-discrimination onto supposedly raceless and gender-free “class issues.” Instead, its work intrinsically and organically does both at once.

That’s the approach the Left needs. The conflict between social democracy and “identity politics” is a red herring. They share a worldview in which privilege and class exist independently of each other. Because of that, both end up supporting capitalism and privilege, since materially, they are the same system. Neither liberals nor social democrats, though, are interested in attacking that system as the coherent, integrated whole that it actually is. Revolutionaries can’t afford that limited perspective. If May Day isn’t about women and immigrants, then it’s not about class.

The Left must confront the class system itself, challenging the ruling class and its division of labor. Radicals shouldn’t fight one limb of the system in a way that strengthens another. Autonomous working-class politics, based on the dual power strategy of institution-building, has a chance of breaking out of that trap.

Welfare nostalgia doesn’t.


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


The Pre-Sale for A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing has begun!

 

Before The Beginning Were The Waters

From Julian Langer

We are witnessing the destructive power of wild-Being, through the medium of water, as well as wind and fire.

Before the beginning there was the waters. This is the case in a great many mythologies. In Genesis the spirit of Yahweh floats atop the surface of the waters, when the earth was Formless. Before Vishnu commanded Brahma to create the form of the world, Vishnu slept floating upon the waters of the world, wrapped in the coils of a great snake – Vishnu the preserver and Brahma the creator are one being, in the Hindu pantheon, as is Shiva the destroyer.

In the Sumerian Eridu creation story, An, Enill, Enki and Ninhursanga first create the world, for mankind and the animals, before a great flood comes to destroy everything. Zi-ud-sura learns of this and, like Noah in the Abrahamic mythology, builds and ark to save the animals. In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, Ea (the Sumerian Enki) instructs Utnapishtim to demolish his house and build a boat, in preparation of a great flood that the gods are going to bring, to save himself and other living beings.

In Chinese mythology, Nüwa repairs the four pillars, whose collapse brought floods, fire and great beasts that ravaged mankind, bringing about peace. Flood control signals the dawning of civilisation in China, with Yu the Great’s controlling the waters leading to the dawn of agriculture in the region.

The Hopi people, who viewed themselves as descendants of the Spider-Grandmother, believed that Tawa destroyed the Third World in a great flood. The Aztecs believed that the gods destroyed the world in a flood, which had no survivors, and that creation had to start again. Also, the indigenous peoples of the Andaman islands believe that their creation deity Püluga sent a devastating flood, which left only 4 human survivors, but destroyed all the other living beings and their fire – Püluga brought back the flora and fauna, but didn’t return the fire.

In the myths of science and evolutionary theory, first the earth had to be covered in waters before life could flourish. And we all find our earliest biological origins in the depths of those primordial seas of the pre-Cambrian era.

The waters of the world are a primal force of creation and destruction in the world. Within this planetary bioregion, there is no life, in the sense of organic matter, without water. Life is a process of simultaneous creation and destruction.

Wild-Being – the geo-spatial extensive topologies and differential flow of intensities of energy, which surmount to what we call the wild – is this process of boundless life in flux. Heraclitus’s river articulates this in a way that can be immediately drawn from phenomenologically – “no man ever steps into the same river twice, as it is not the same river and he is not the same man”. The rivers flow creates its new body and destroys its old one. The mans life creates its new body and destroys its old one. And with this, the univocality of Being as Becoming if the basis of life/existence/wild-Being.

We are witnessing the destructive power of wild-Being, through the medium of water, as well as wind and fire.

As the biosphere collapses into climate chaos, those energies of wild-Being repressed, sublimated, directed and redirected, harnessed and channelled by civilisation into “order”, through the geometrical quantitative machinery of the technosphere, the violent/destructive explosive shattering of this chaosmic release is vibrating across the body of the earth and is a terrifying force for those unprepared to embrace the wild.

The existential dread of Hurricane Harvey’s violent shattering might have been easily repressed, were it not for the immediate arrival of Irma and Jose’s and Katia’s destructive dances upon the body of the earth.

The Taino indigenous peoples of the Caribbean worshiped a zemi the Spanish invaders called Juraćan, who was their deity of chaos. This deity’s body is the same as the Mayan god Huracan, which is the root of our word hurricane.

These hurricanes exist outside of the repressive order of civilisation, as a destructive chaosmic release, a wild reaction to the excretive effects of this culture’s violating/violent technological means of consumption.

The destruction the floods in America, South East Asia and Europe we have recently witnessed, either directly or through the hyper-real spectacle of contemporary media, are points of chaosmic release from order, where the flow of wild-Being becomes released, allowing for the potential return to the wild – outside of both order and chaos. They shatter the perceived safety of the technosphere, revealing our existential nakedness immersed in the world.

Today, as I write this in the British countryside, the gale-force winds of the tail end of the aforementioned three hurricanes are battering these islands in the North Sea. This obviously pales in comparison to the force of their immediate bodies, but the winds still roar like a raging beast, furious in the face of its abuser. Their free dances upon the earth, stretching across an entire ocean, bring to my mind Anaximander’s notion of a boundless cosmology called apeiron, which flows uninhibited by any-Thing. This is made clear by the destruction produced by Hurricane Harvey’s winds, with houses left in ruins.

Apeiron was intended to signify all 4 of the classical elements – fire, water, wind and earth.

The destructive force of the earth has been revealed, yet again, in the form of the earthquake in Mexico. In the Greek pantheon, Poseidon is the god of the sea and earthquakes, known for his vengeful wrath and being easily offended. So in a world where fishless oceans by 2050 is a likely possibility, due to the toxifying and polluting excretions of this culture, and where hydraulic fracking and geo-engineering undermine the body of the earth (directly bringing about their own earthquakes), the earthquake appears to be a medium of destructive release for the vengeful energies of wild-Being.

Fire is often viewed as a basically destructive force upon the world – this is probably predominantly due to civilised-man only using fire for fundamentally violent purposes. But those of us familiar with fire ecology, wild or rewilded, know that fire has its creative aspect to it, in ecological terms. And we know that the wild-fires destruction leads to the creative regrowth of forests, in the cosmic flow of wild-Being. Most of us will know the intimate, immediate, beautiful warmth fire creates through the flickering dances of its flames, in a directly phenomenological sense.

But like the wrath of the recent hurricanes and earthquake, the recent wildfires in North America and Greenland bring our focus onto its more destructive aspects. Fueled by the conditioned produced by climate change and agricultural production, the intensity of these fires and their destructive fury is a force, whose wild release undermines the ordering of civilisation, in chaosmic release of wild-Being’s flow. The existential dread produced from their wild fury is drawn from the awareness that fire will burn through most means of technological mediation and leave bare naked flesh burnt and scarred, in its indiscriminate dances upon the earth.

The eco-extremist movement, whose liberation theology and anti-anarchist anti-politics has upset and displeased many in eco-radical and anarchist milieus, revere and worship Wild Nature, and seek to emulate storms and hurricanes and wildfires through their methodology of indiscriminate attack. And while there is much to find ugly in and criticise the eco-extremist movement for – especially the infamous group ITS – there is a certain poetic beauty in this desire to embrace their being extensions of wild-Being, through emulating Wild Nature – though they often appear (certainly to my mind) to miss that destruction is creation, and that what is wild is alive.

Naturism, paganism, rewilding through prim/wild-craft skills, sexual/erotic exploration, activist actions, guerrilla ontology and many other forms of praxis that those of us within eco-radical milieus, whatever ideological/semiolinguistic lexicon we choose to embrace, stems from the energetic fury of a wildfire inside the very core of our being and Being, and a desire to relinquish that which civilisation uses to repress our wildness. And in these practices, we need to find this unequivocal unity in destruction and creation in what it is we are doing.

I wrote in my previous piece for this site, and have done so in my book and on my personal blog, of iconoclasm. Now in once sense, this is intended to signify the material body of the onto-theology of the technosphere – civilisation. But I am also intending to signify the praxis of destroying icons of mythology, in the sense meant by great iconoclasts, like Renzo Novatore and Bruno Filippi.

So why then have I drawn from the icons of so many pantheons within this text and others?

Because when the fox, lion, bear, shark, tiger, badger, orca, wolf, crocodile, racoon, boar, eagle or whatever other example you care for, devours what it destroys, it creates its-self, in its immediate body, and creates the world it is an extension of, through the excretions of their flesh. This is not only true of carnivores, as herbivores, like rhinos, actively create life through the destruction of their consumption.

So as I consume these icons, I devour their bodies, to attempt to create something living.

And as I leave you at the end of this piece, I wish to conclude with this poem Gates of Ys by pagan anarchist writer Christopher Scott Thompson –

Half a nation drowned by water,
Half consumed by fire.
Those who profit, smug with laughter,
Fear no prophet calling “Liar!”.

Ash comes floating from the heavens,
Storms come rolling in.
Preachers close the doors of churches,
Calmly fold their hands, and grin.

We who listened, we who bargained,
Now praise God in sheer despair.
Gods like fire and wind and water
Do not heed such prayers.

Sorcerers of coal and oil,
We invoked, they came.
Never mind the prayers and praises,
Last-ditch rages, guilt and blame.

Gods as deaf as us have gathered:
Storm and flame and wind.
Now the gates of Ys are opened.
Now the ocean rushes in.


Julian Langer

Writer of Feral Consciousness: Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods, blogger at Eco-Revolt, and has been published on a number of other sites. Eco-anarchist and guerilla ontologist philosopher. Lover of woods, deer, badgers and other wild beings. Musician and activist.


The Pre-Sale for A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing has begun!

Notes on Rojava

An opinion piece on the problematic aspects of the Rojava hype.
By Mirna Wabi-Sabi

The biggest hipster hype engine, Vice, has called Rojava “the most feminist revolution the world has ever witnessed” (1). Variations of this statement were widespread through radical media for over a year. We must be cautious with the media because it has the power to advertise political ideas that justify Western terrorism (11) and imperialism. We fall for it because it’s a story we want to hear: a force against ISIL that caters to the radical neoliberal audience. But we can, without realizing, be promoting the rise of islamophobia as a pretext for further Western military intervention in the Middle East.

Claiming Rojava represents a feminist oasis in the Middle East implies anti-feminism in its surroundings. This is islamophobic rhetoric. Carne Ross, writing for Vice, even went on to write that Rojava represents “the right of self-defense against all anti-woman practices and ideas, including those of traditional society, not just the extreme violence of Daesh” (1).

What kind of feminism are we talking about here? One where “women become worthy of respect as long as they turn into men of arms and sacrifice themselves on the battlefield” (5), just as American women become executives and earn almost the same as their male peers? It’s a kind of feminism that perpetuates islamophobic stereotypes, that fetishizes images of Kurdish women with guns (7), that justifies foreign military occupation, and the violent destabilization of a region by the West. We don’t see a real Rojava, we see a reflection of our own reactionary feminism.

Vice gives a glimpse of something no one wants to see when it states that the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces “currently enjoys US and allied military support”, while the “US and indeed Western governments are involved in a grotesque contradiction in which they permit NATO “partner” Turkey to attack the SDF”. Then they quickly distract the audience with another article called “We Need to Talk About Simon Cowell’s Jeans” (8)…

There must be another way to prevent Turkey and ISIL from crushing Rojava, other than to “loosen counterterrorism rules” (13), to deploy American forces to the region (4),  and to bomb civilians (12). Perhaps an alternative is to use NATO to rebuke Turkey’s actions, as opposed to using it for air-base access (14), or to stop selling billions of US dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia (15). We’ve been adding fuel to fire, thinking only conflagration could defeat ISIL.

Last year, Rojava had its own temporary embassy inside Oslo’s parliament, helping the city build its reputation as the ‘peace capital of the world’ (16). We should be able to support Rojava and Kurds in general, but are we able to show solidarity without making it about ourselves? Turning people into tourist attractions and tokens is not an act of solidarity. And when we engage in political propaganda, whose interests are we promoting?

After seeing islamophobic and racist speeches by politicians in the Netherlands about how Turkey will never join the EU (2), I can’t help but think that maybe the Kurds are being made into what Western Europe wanted the Turkish to be (10)(17). We haven’t stopped endorsing what the West wants, and manufacturing an ideological supply for our own demands.

We can still learn how to make better political affiliations, be critical towards the media, and continue to share information about this even if it contradicts things we’ve said before. If we are serious about anarchism and feminism, it’s important to focus on the anti-woman practices and oppression proliferated from your own communities.

We need to start listening to people like Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, the 22-year-old poet who said: “If you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one who’s not human” (6). Rojava isn’t the only place worthy of attention just because they have proven their humanity to us.

Yes, we support Kurdish autonomy and independence. Even though we respect everything they have done, fought and died for, we must also fight islamophobia in general with every bit of energy we’ve got. Let’s not forget and let it happen never again (18).

References:

1- https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/43dmgm/the-most-feminist-revolution-the-world-has-ever-witnessed

2- http://www.reuters.com/article/us-netherlands-turkey-wilders/dutch-far-right-leader-wilders-tells-turks-you-will-never-join-eu-idUSKBN0TN1UM20151204

4-http://www.thedailybeast.com/us-troops-18-miles-from-isis-capital

5-http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/08/rojava-libertarian-myth-scrutiny-160804083743648.html

6-http://www.huffpostbrasil.com/entry/suhaiymah-manzoor-khan-slam-poet_us_595d26c9e4b0da2c7326cf5c

7-http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-37337908?SThisFB

8-https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/ywweax/we-need-to-talk-about-simon-cowells-jeans

10- http://www.newsweek.com/turkeys-syria-intervention-sign-weakness-not-strength-501516

11- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-civilian-deaths-syria-iraq-middle-east-a7649486.html

12- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/22/world/middleeast/syria-us-airstrike.html

13- https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/12/us/politics/trump-loosen-counterterrorism-rules.html

14-https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2015/07/economist-explains-21

15- http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/saudi-arabia-arms-sales-theresa-may-britain-extremist-funding-poll-public-a7843061.html

16- http://www.e-flux.com/announcements/78967/oslo-architecture-triennale-2016after-belonging/

17- Hamid Dabashi, Brown Skin, White Masks. New York and London: Pluto Press, 2011.

18- https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/davidnovak637850.html


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Mirna is an intersectional feminist and decolonial activist.

Risāla fī sh-sharq wa l-gharb, or Risāla on the East and West

“the false divide between the mental territories of East and West is a divide which serves only to justify the machinations of political and religious leaders who go cheap for power. It can be decimated, thus making it much harder for us to be manipulated and controlled.”

From Slippery Elm

The poet is a master of Time. A petrified magician with proleptic eyes and analeptic feet who stands so still and moves so slow they can appear inanimate, yet hip to that secret by which the clay pots of Story and Discourse are filled with breath and made to spin. Story, the series of events in the order in which they really unfold. Discourse, the order in which those events are narrated. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. Discourse, can make the end the middle and the beginning the end as it sees fit.

The poet has an intimate relationship with Time; by metonymy, therefore, she or he is also a witch, or in other words, a Minister of Fate. Truly in poems and tales there is a sign, and in them one sees expressed in the diminutive the same notes and time signatures to which dance the stars and all things. What better way to learn about concepts like Zeno’s 7th Paradox, the Laws of Relative Motion, Entropy, or Gravity, than by contemplating the structure of a poem or tale. Edgar Allen Poe celebrated Metaphor and Simile, because, as he asserted, they are the very laws of the universe. Indeed, the laws of the universe are naught but poetry. Listen close. I mean that in the best sense of the words…

Thanks to Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, science has found a way to express a face of what our witches and magicians have always known. Time slithers, folds in on itself, bites its tail, and can give light to fractals and spirals of ineffable complexity. The understanding that there is more to Time than meets the clock has become quite commonplace. What is less common is the realization that like her sister Time, Space is also relative. This might be difficult for some people to grasp, as Space arguably appears more tangible than Time, but truly, Space might prove to be the more relative of the two.

Let us consider cosmogony, and that erotic ecstatic moment that astronomers came to term the Big Bang. This is somewhat of a misnomer; a more accurate term might be the Big Expansion. Astronomers who work in the field of cosmogony believe that rather than a big explosion giving birth to the universe, all the fabric of what would come to be the universe as we know it was condensed into a small and incomprehensibly compact point. This point—or seed, as some might choose to view it—did not explode, rather, it unravelled and continues to unravel even now.

Think of what happens when a leaf of paper crumpled into a dense ball is subsequently unravelled. This makes us ponder, if everything that was was ‘condensed’ in that seed, what could it expand into? Would there not be a something, or maybe a nothing, outside of that seed? The truth is, it would not have expanded into a something, or even a nothing, as in the time of that seed the idea of an outside did not exist.

Consider the North pole. When one is standing on the North pole, the idea of ‘North’ ceases to exist, as any which way one may step, any which way the wind may blow, leads to the East, West, or South.

And so the Rose of Winds sheds its petals. There is no North, East, South, or West without a subject. We see this in the Sun that rises in Japan as it sets in Samoa. In the way the Incas traced their constellations; not stars upon a depth of black but black shapes on a depth of stars. In pop culture drawings that contain optical illusions and allusions to Freud. In the word for China in Mandarin—Zhonggou—not Eastern Kingdom, but Middle Kingdom. In the profoundest of oceans where up can be down and down up. In the underworld where, per D.H. Lawrence, darkness is awake upon the dark. In the underworld, that, per Jake Stratton-Kent, projects its deepest asphodel meadows upon the starry sky, where souls descend into earthly grottoes only to emerge refreshed or fatigued from craters on the Moon, where the stars of heaven strike the lowliest plants and whisper them: grow.

The ancients knew this; the geography of their myths witnessing more than one Mt. Olympus pick up its skirts, pull up its roots, and travel for leagues across land and sea.

Let us remember that the same spatial subjectivity applies when we speak of the cardinal directions in terms of political entities. East and West do not refer to fixed territories with fixed characteristics. This is demonstrated by the way in which Native Americans and First Nations were until fairly recently commonly referred to as Indians, or in how Australia is considered part of the West.

When one writes about the supposed clash of civilizations, one is writing about an Orient and an Occident of the mind. Edward Said famously wrote everyone who writes about the Orient must locate himself vis a vis the Orient. Frequently, the Orient is taken to be the world of Islam and the Occident is Europe and her offshoot, the USA. It is important to make this distinction between the world of Islam and the so-called Far East, which ‘Western’ culture tends to perceive as less of a threat to and less of a direct ‘antithesis’ of itself, due to its distance and due to the fact Far Eastern civilizations are not so much derived from Abrahamic religions. In contrast, Islam is Christianity’s first cousin. Familiar, but seemingly unassimilable, similar but not exactly the same, where the West sees its own face reflected in a mirror of alterity. Let’s not forget that in the lands that would become Europe, Islam was not initially viewed as a separate religion, but as a Christian heresy.

The terms East and West have always been evocative of a dichotomy, of a history defined by wars and the inevitable clash of two opposing opposites. Of course, this is not the truth. What is considered Occidental today is in grand proportion made up of ‘Oriental DNA’ and vice versa. These mental territories have always been heterogenous, subjective, and permeable; the borders thought to define them, both mental and physical, have never been able to keep much of anything or anyone out or in. We see this in Al-Andalus during different periods, in Frederick II’s Sicily, in Saladin’s Egypt and Syria, among many other places, where by a trick of the light and an anachronistic ‘multiculturalism’ that was by no means utopian, the medieval becomes the post-modern.

As this is a risāla—which is to say, a letter, an epistle—and not a treatise, I am unable to enumerate for a Western audience the innumerable ways in which the ‘West’ is indebted to the ‘East’ and the other way around. If in doubt, I urge you do some research yourself, and assure you that, simply put, Europe would be without many of its most positive contributions and best-loved hallmarks were it not for classical Islamic civilization, which in turn found the kindling for its own growth and innovation thanks to the cultural legacy left behind by the Greeks, who in turn were profoundly influenced by the cultures that surrounded them and with whom they interpenetrated.

The terms East and West only serve to make thinking less complex, more black and white, more economical, and to serve as justification for colonialism, the seizing of wealth and resources abroad, for the control and oppression of populations at home; in short, for religious and political leaders who go cheap for power. In this sense, in one way or another, all of us are ‘victims of a map’.

The borders that delimit the East and West and the territories that each of these compose are also subjective from ‘Islamic’ perspectives. Less so than cardinal directions, these tend to be thought of as the dār al-islām—or, the house (territory) of Islam—and the dār al-kufr, or the house (territory) of disbelief. The dār al-kufr is also sometimes known as dār al-ḥarb, or house of war. An important concept that serves as the mercury or mediating agent between these two entities is hijra, or emigration as a religious duty. In its earliest context, dār al-islām refers to the city Medina, where, we are told, Muhammed and his companions were given shelter from their persecutors. Here, dār al-kufr refers to Mecca, where the idolaters are still in control, and hijra to the emigration that the Muslims in Mecca are obliged to make to join their companions in Medina.

Here we also see the relation between the term hijra and the term jihād in that Muslim men were expected to emigrate in order to join the ‘holy’ struggle against the disbelievers who threatened them. As Islam spread throughout the Arabian peninsula and the Muslims conquered new territories, the borders between the dār al-islām and the dār al-kufr were continuously renegotiated. These borders become blurred, and the meanings of the terms become mutable and fluid, as we see hijra also being used to denote a Muslim who lives surrounded by disbelievers, but cuts off all connections with them without actually uprooting themselves and emigrating; to a Bedouin who leaves behind their nomadic life and adopts the sedentary life of an urban centre; or to some members of the nascent Muslim community who emigrated voluntarily to Abyssinia. Posteriorly, the verses of the Qur’ān used in discussions of whether or not the hijra is obligatory, are often Sura VIII (Al-Anfāl) verse 72 and Sura IV (Al-Nisā’) verses 97-100. Some consider these verses to have proceeded from the same period discussed above, when the Muslims were a minority community surrounded by hostilities. Whatever the case, throughout the centuries and to this day, different traditions of Islam and different schools of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) have given these terms their own interpretations. For the khawārij (s. khārijī) the term dār al-kufr encompassed territories controlled and inhabited by Muslims, but specifically non-khārijī Muslims. In ṣūfī thought, hijra can imply an emigration from evil to good, from ignorance to light, or from forbidden practices to the path of God. In this case, to emigrate does not necessarily imply a physical journey. From a shāfi’ī perspective, as long as there is one Muslim in a territory denominated dār al-kufr, this territory becomes dār al-islām, allowing this Muslim to remain living there without obligations to emigrate. The shāfi’ī school of jurisprudence also identifies another sphere, called the dar al-ṣulḥ, in which disbelievers have signed a treaty with the Muslims, and are therefore permitted to retain their properties in exchange for paying a special tax. But from a ḥanafī perspective, this type of sphere would still be termed dār al-islām due to it being governed by Muslims.

As we can see, the borders between the different types of territory are grey, something which has given rise to several questions for the jurists to solve when treating specific cases. For example, that of the moriscos in the Iberian Peninsula. What happens when a Muslim is living in a land previously denominated dār al-islām but has been conquered by disbelievers? Must they abandon their former home and emigrate? Some jurists assert that yes, in these cases, emigration is the only option. Others would argue that they are permitted to stay if, in spite of not being able to profess Islam publicly, they lived their religion in their hearts and intentions (another example of the dār al-islām being interpreted as an interior space). Its worth mentioning that in some moments throughout the history of Islam the old, weak, women and children have been exempted from the obligation to make hijra when caught on the wrong side of the the fence. In addition to all these interpretations, for many sunnis, the dār al-islām is a territory governed by a Muslim, or a territory which, although Muslims are not in charge, they are permitted to freely practice their religion. Other jurists, such as al-Wansharīsī, have asserted that Muslims are obliged to emigrate at all costs from a land denominated dār al-kufr to one denominated dār al-islām even if the first is a just society and the second is not. The fear of these jurists is that Muslim women would marry non-Muslim men, or that Muslims would adopt foreign languages and customs such as foreign styles of dress, and that these would inevitably lead them into apostasy. This is a fascinating concept: that identity must be preserved at all costs, even if this means forfeiting justice for injustice.

The concept of hijra has also been subject to shifting interpretations in the context of European colonialism. One thing that almost all the cases have in common from Nigeria to India is the role that the concept of hijra has played in the rhetoric of the Muslim leaders fighting against the Europeans on the one hand, and in that of the Europeans themselves after having made conquests. In the first case, the concept of hijra was used by Muslim leaders to compel their coreligionists who lived in areas recently conquered by the Europeans, to emigrate to the dār al-islām—here defined as the territories that they themselves controlled—in order to fortify their troops and bases. In the second case, we see how the European colonialists requested that a muftī from Mecca issue new fatāwā (s. fatwā) regarding the concept of hijra under non-Muslim governors if these permitted them to continue freely practising their religion. Such was the tactic used by the French in Algeria whose colonial agenda was disrupted by the Algerian population emigrating en masse to other countries such as Morocco or Syria. In India the concepts of hijra and jihād became complicated when for some, Muslims were not obliged to fight against the English or emigrate from territories that these had conquered, as they were seen as a salvation for the Muslims in their struggle against the Hindus!

To complicate things further, in contemporary times the term dār al-kufr has been applied to some Muslim governments by certain fundamentalist groups in order to legitimize their struggle against these, as has been the case in Egypt, Indonesia, or Pakistan. The term hijra has also been interpreted in contemporary times by authors such as Ibn al-Ṣiddiq as the emigration a Muslim might make to Europe or the USA for economic reasons. According to Ibn al-Ṣiddiq, Muslims would be permitted to remain in the dār al-kufr as long as they had intentions to work or study there.

The liminal herm that marks the grey boundary between terms such as East or West, or dār al-islām and dār al-kufr can also be seized by artists and activists who see the extremist proponents of each of these ‘poles’ not as the defenders of their respective civilizations or religions locked in an inevitable and holy struggle, but as a single party of despicable greedy and violent villains who have sold this world at the cost of the world to come. The world to come not in the Qur’anic sense of an eschatological paradise, or in the ‘Western’ sense of a Las Vegas (Jerusalem) in the Sky, but as the world that will be inherited by future generations, among which, ironically, the children of these same villains will be counted.

The ways towards this are manifold but one extremely powerful starting point for people who find themselves on the Western side of the divide is to make an earnest effort to learn Arabic. There are truly so many practical benefits in doing this, not least of which is that learning new languages re-wires your brain; in this sense the false divide between the mental territories of East and West, a divide which serves only to justify the machinations of political and religious leaders who go cheap for power can be decimated, thus making it much harder for us to be manipulated and controlled.

Our exploration of spatial relativity also applies to concepts such as the hinterland, the global sertão, to urban human habitats and wild nature. Borders and limits writhe and fork like snakes and lighting and can be reinterpreted to good effect in all manner of rewilding or regenerative permacultural initiatives. With this sort of manipulation and redefinition of space, both one’s own spatiality and that of one’s surrounding environments, we leave the realm of the poet and enter the realm of the dancer. The poet is a master of Time, the dancer a master of Space. This is why the marriage of poet and dancer signifies an end for Time and Space.

 


Slippery Elm

Slippery Elm’s poetry and prose in English and Spanish have appeared in dozens of journals and anthologies in both Europe and North America. He has performed as a part of flamenco groups in Europe, Africa, and North America, in courtly settings, as well as in the streets, by hearth corner, and under leaf. He is the editor and translator of the poetry anthology Your Death Full of Flowers and the author of two pocket poetry books. He compliments his poetry and dance by studying Arabic and Hebrew philologies.


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When is Paganism not Paganism?

From Emma Porter: “what Capitalism tries to hide from the seeker, is that Paganism is free.”

When it’s paganism with a small p, that’s when.

What can that possibly mean? Well, let me try and explain. Recently in a well known pagan fb group (at least well known in good old Blighty), I stumbled upon a discussion on what Paganism means to the individual in terms of deity and beliefs. I was struck by a response that seemed to be quite popular, and it was along the lines of having atheist beliefs but living the pagan lifestyle.

This is when paganism is not Paganism, at least to me. Is this what our spirituality has become? A lifestyle choice? Online debates about the reality of deity? Oh no, hell no!

Surely as Pagans, the Earth, nature herself, is sacred. You can feel it, can’t you, when you’re outside in the wild with the wind in your face, the rain on your skin, the heat of the sun or the cold of the snow. Surely this is the very essence of Paganism, our connection to and our own place in this, the web of life. “A pagan lifestyle” without any of this is empty and meaningless.

I would like to think that the contributor to said Facebook discussion simply meant that her path does not necessarily revolve around the worship of deity. Worship of and to deity is a personal choice, a personal belief, and I do believe that one can truly have a meaningful Pagan practice without deity, literal Gods and Goddesses.

But what if this isn’t what she meant, and indeed she meant what she said? What is a pagan lifestyle without the spiritual side?

I love the idea of a witchcraft shop that sells herbs, parchment, inks and the like;however, most of the shops I have encountered have been massive disappointments, selling the usual array of crystals, candles, synthetic incense and angel ornaments. This is what I think of when I think of paganism as a lifestyle without the spirituality.

And what’s wrong with that? you may well ask. Well nothing….if you just so happen to like the smell of incense, even if it’s just chemicals and perfume, or the shine of crystals, mined from the earth. There’s nothing wrong with that if that’s what you like (well there is, but that’s another article for another day). But it is not Paganism. Do not be fooled.

This is the work of a system that seeks to keep us dulled down, that seeks to keep us busy with mindless, empty, cheap shit that has no practical or spiritual purpose. When mothers and fathers have to work full time jobs and still ends cannot be met, here, have some cheap shit to take your mind off your own slavery, slavery to a system that many within it, even those at the bottom, defend.

We Pagans are not exempt from this lie either, are not exempt from the self delusions that enable this lie. We’ve all fell for it, at the beginning, when we first start out on the Pagan path. It’s a difficult pitfall to avoid, when you’re new and everything seems so beautiful and shiny. But then you take home your crystal, your incense, and display them and burn them, but what then? Nothing, that’s what, and after a while you see that these trinkets, whilst look the part, add nothing at all to your practise.

And so you head back out to the New Age shop or market stall and you buy something else in the hope that it might make you feel more of a Pagan. And so it goes on and on, in a cycle, until you are ready to break that cycle. Some never do, and some don’t want to, they are happy with their illusions.

What the system, what Capitalism tries to hide from the seeker, is that Paganism is free. You do not have to spend a penny. However capitalism serves the lazy pagan. Why go out and connect with the earth when you can buy this or that to make you feel more pagany? It makes the person with the most money, able to buy the biggest pentacle ring or necklace or crystal seem holier than thou, more genuine and authentic. It is everywhere in pagan culture. Look how much fellow seekers charge for their works. The poor are often priced out.

This isn’t to say that Pagans must give up money, or give freely their own works and endeavours – I’m all for a fair wage for a fair day’s work, but as someone for who, especially in the past when my own children were young, has nothing left at the end of every month, thirty pounds for a working or for supplies is unheard of, a luxury to be dreamed about but never realised. What about those in that situation? Are they to be left out, forgotten? Is their belief and spirituality less than someone who can afford all of the trappings? Yes, if the pagan lifestyle is empty of spirituality, another prospect for capitalism to take people’s hard earned cash for things made in China for as cheaply as possible.

Pagans can no longer afford to be lazy if we want our spirituality to mean something. This earth is our home, and so our paganism must be nature-centred. It is simply not enough to say that we are a part of this universe and that the universe returns to us what we send out, as a well known New Age book seems to think. It is not enough to be grateful, not today when this precious earth of our, when our Mother Nature, whom we worship as Pagans, is under constant attack. Untold damage is wreaked on this earth in the name of capitalism, in the quest for newer and more efficient ways to separate the people from their hard earned money.

I too have been guilty of this. It is a relatively new aspect to my craft, environmental activism. Don’t get me wrong, I’m big on recycling and reusing and reducing my waste and carbon footprint and the like, but it isn’t enough. There’s more I need to do, but I’ve started, and that’s the important part, the hard part, finding your voice, your confidence to speak out against injustices perpetrated by the strong against the week.

Part of what prompted me to act is the fracking of local beauty spots and countryside, but that’s not all. I’m tired of feeling helpless as I watch the destruction of the very nature I worship, all for the sake of profit, profit that benefits the few and leaves the many grateful for whatever scraps they are thrown. Everyday, that part of myself grows stronger, more self assured and confident, and it will for you too. Taking the first step, the first real step, is hard, but each successive step becomes easier.

We Pagans must act, and our actions must serve and protect nature. The alternative is paganism as a lifestyle, and that isn’t worth a damn.


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 magick, of course!


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White Privilege in Dutch Anarchism

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi, on race, colonialism, and identity

Author’s note: “De Pinkster Land Dagen (Pentecost days in dutch) started in 1927 by young anarchists from the Netherlands. In 1933, they bought a potato field from which they made a camping site, and where they organize a drug/alcohol free Anarchist festival every year.”

At Pinkster Land Dagen 2017, University of Color gave a workshop on white privilege and “post”-colonial identity as an attempt to start a conversation about decolonizing anarchism. The workshop and talk was difficult and many of the responses were problematic to many different degrees. We don’t believe this was due to a few loose cannons in the audience, but more likely illustrated the systemic problems in these circles that we aimed to tackle with the workshop.

This attempt requires a tremendous amount of emotional labour on the part of the UoC members, and here we would like to outline why.

  • This is not a philosophical discussion about subjects we read in books. It’s about the pain we are still feeling now, and struggle with every day. Books can help white people learn about this, and for people of color to find the vocabulary to express and process this pain. If you are a white man and you don’t listen to women of color on issues of racism and sexism, don’t be surprised when they choose not to listen to you. If you think you understand racism better than people of color then you are exercising white privilege, white supremacy and reproducing colonizer’s attitudes.
  • If white people are hurt or offended when they are called ‘white’ this is called White Fragility. This means that they experience the issue of ‘race’ so rarely, that when they are confronted with this statement, the situation itself is the worst version of discrimination they have faced. People of color are confronted with this so often that if they reacted extravagantly every time someone pointed out their race, they literally would not be able to do anything else in life. It would also probably lead to arrest or death.. One person calling you white is not the same as a whole world, institutions, governments, policies, armies, physical violence, history and so on constantly labeling you and controlling your life. Color-blindness is an offensive exercise of white privilege and does not help people of color, or lead to the eradication of racism. Denying the problem because you get to does not lead to solving the problem for those who actually suffer from it.
  • There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’. Calling someone white is not a racist act, it’s only a statement of a fact, the fact that there is Institutionalized racism, there has been for hundreds of years, and white people just do not experience it. It’s called white privilege and this is not a racist statement. Racism is not discrimination based on skin color, it’s systematic institutionalized oppression of people of color and the ‘global south’ since the genocide of our people and our culture by western European entities.
  • Equating colonial violence in Latin America to the Dutch struggle between Catholics and Protestants: Don’t. Color blindness/white privilege at play again.
  • Equating culture to nation states: Culture is something people in colonized countries had to fight to preserve in-spite of European nation states. We are proud of our culture and we fight to preserve it, it does not mean we are proud of our Government. It’s also problematic that the anarchists that present this argument don’t acknowledge the existence of the anarchist culture they so cherish.
  • What’s wrong with white European men leading indigenous, feminist, and other Latin American movements? Everything. Indeed white men can be aware of the issues, but they also need to be aware of how much space they take, and to allow the space for people to speak for themselves. We don’t want to need the validation of white European men because this is just another exercise of colonial attitudes. Even with the best intentions, white dutch anarchist men acting like they know better around people from the ‘global south’ creates an incredibly unsafe environment for people of color. They can try, but they just don’t understand what it’s like for immigrants of color, and how we often feel like we need to ask permission to be somewhere, or to say or do something.
  • If you are a white person and you truly feel like you know better than a person of color when it comes to racism, or you know better how to communicate ideas on the subject… stop and think ‘Where is this feeling coming from?’ ‘Where is it rooted?’ ‘Is it valid?’. It’s coming from entitlement, which comes from being a white European. It’s rooted in white supremacy, it’s not valid and it can create an unsafe environment for people of color. For instance, it is very problematic when Dutch people try to educate a Brazilian woman on Brazilian ‘post´-colonial identity.
  • As a white dutch anarchist it’s important to realize that disagreeing with a person of color doesn’t just mean philosophical differences with any other fellow comrade, but a very real and practical exercise of racial power. Because white dutch anarchists have the access to resources, spaces and history in the Netherlands. These disagreements lead to alienation and series of racial micro-agressions that make it virtually impossible for people of color to stay in a white dutch anarchist space without feeling subjugated.
  • For instance: Tone policing. ‘We agree (in theory) with what you are saying but we don’t like how you are saying it’. That is to say: you are probably right because I’ve read it in a book, but I don’t like it that you are so emotional about it because it’s not ‘gezellig’ or respectful to us. The thing is that of course we are emotional about it because we are still suffering and our wounds are still open. Many white people are willfully ignorant to this because it’s in their best interest to maintain the [racist] status quo, while also maintaining the “not racist” label.

Decolonization and Identity

Almost every time I tell someone they are white or Dutch, they respond defensively with: “But you are kind of white too”, or “you’re not black,” or the best one “How would you feel if I called you Latina or Brazilian?” It’s laughable and worrying that they take such a statement as an attack. Yes, I am Latin American, and I am Brazilian. No, I am not black. That doesn’t change the fact that they are white and Dutch.

I think they do this because they think that me labeling them what they are and pointing out their privileges implies I don’t have privileges and therefore I’m better. It’s actually the opposite, I point out their privileges because I see them in myself.

This wrong assumption is a serious aggression to people of color because Western Europeans have always felt comfortable labeling others while remaining neutral, and this has been paramount to the persistence of white supremacy. It’s also very telling of how unusual and repulsive it is to them to feel subjugated based on their skin color or nationality, which people of color are way too used to. Having to admit they cannot be the objective voice of reason on a subject for once is incredibly painful to people suffering from white fragility. And when it comes to racism and decoloniality, they are not the voice of reason that should lead the movement. For once they will not be the center of attention, and we do not want a seat at their table.

I’m an incredibly privileged person, and I’m always trying to deal with this privilege carefully, critically and consciously. It’s tricky to recognize when you are being treated differently or being discriminated against, because you can’t switch passports or skin color freely. Sometimes we don’t see the micro-agressions and oppression because we know nothing else. This leads to a lot of gaslighting, paranoia and many even believe black people are collectively suffering from post traumatic slavery syndrome.

Ironically, I learned a lot about what it is like to be Brazilian/Latina, and be treated as such, only after I became European. At borders, at clubs, with partners, with other Brazilians, it completely changed. Traveling was so much easier, at borders I felt confidence and entitlement as opposed to anxiety and fear. Strange white men didn’t flirt with me as aggressively or asked me to dance and shake my ass.

After 10 years outside of Brazil my skin became lighter due to less sun and my hair straighter due to less humidity, which also made clear the difference between being treated as a white girl or a Latina. People were inclined to think I was in Europe to study as opposed to ‘work,’ both implying I was in Europe to ‘better’ myself, and implicitly expecting gratitude from me. Brazilians started talking to me as if I lived like a princess and knew nothing of the turmoil and struggle of Brazilian life. I was always fierce and political as a kid, but the European passport in particular was a radicalizing turn of events.

The alienation from all sides pushed me to take the issue of Identity and belonging very seriously. White Western European people have lived sheltered from these kinds of experiences so they haven’t had the unavoidable motivation to explore their whiteness. So, white people, take this into consideration because a revolution is coming and you need to decide, you are either with us or against us. “decolonization is always a violent phenomenon” (Fanon)

I’ve never felt safe in this space (PL and the Dutch white-anarchist-activist scene). Even though it’s wonderful that so many people to some degree acknowledge the problem of white supremacy, and want to make this community safer, it’s been an uphill battle for me in the last 7 years and I’m tired of it.

It’s great that people see the need for these kinds of discussions and aim for diversity in the community. However, it’s not great to rely on people of color to do the work for you, and we hope white anarchists find ways to address and solve this problem themselves.

References: Angela Davis, Audre Lorde, Gloria Wekker, bell hooks, Frantz Fanon, Paulo Freire and Maria Lacerda de Moura.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Intersectional feminist and decolonial activist

Child Soldier

From Sable Aradia


 

A boy’s father has spent his life fighting for a cause he believes in.  Despite the fact that he lives far away in another country, he sends aid in the form of money to the cause overseas.  Eventually the father packs up the whole family and moves back to his homeland to fight for that cause.

The boy, eight years old, has never once seen that homeland, though he’s been told about it his whole life.  Once he gets there he is forced to live a life in hiding, moving from place to place.  At one point he is required to disguise himself as a girl in a culture that is repressive to women.  He sees his father intermittently, if at all, but is desperate to make a connection with him.

In the meantime his father, who is in prison for suspected activities with fringe radical groups, is hospitalized for a hunger strike.  Later he is released due to lack of evidence of wrongdoing.

Eventually the boy is old enough to join the cause.  Desperate to be noticed by his father, he is taken along by a militant group as a translator.  During that time he starts training in the use of firearms and other weaponry.  He is fourteen years old.

While he is in a house with several full-grown men, and at least one woman and a child, soldiers from a foreign country set up a perimeter.  It is part of a series of huts with a granary and a stone wall in the desert.  There are weapons on the property.  Is it a militant’s complex?  Perhaps it is.  The foreign soldiers seem to think so.

The soldiers bang on the door of the gate.  The men inside tell the soldiers that they are villagers, but the soldiers demand to search the house regardless of their affiliation.  They tell them to go away.

45 minutes later the support arrives.  Now the house is surrounded by fifty foreign soldiers and a hundred locals.  One goes to demand their surrender and is stopped by gunfire.  One of the men in the group that the boy is with opens fire.

The woman and the small child flee while the firestorm is going on.  The foreign soldiers are shooting at the people in the complex.  The people in the complex are shooting at the soldiers.  Now the boy, age fifteen, is caught in this conflict, and he knows that regardless of what the men he was with were doing or why they were there, now they are shooting at him.

The bloodbath is catastrophic.  The militants in the compound manage to wound some of the foreign soldiers with grenades, but the soldiers call for medevac.  Apaches show up and strafe the area, then take their wounded away.  Then a pair of Warthogs arrive and blast everything into glass with several 500 lb bombs.

More troops arrive.  Now there are a hundred foreign soldiers on the ground.  Everything is burning.  All the people the boy knows are screaming.  Some are on fire.  Some are watching their blood pour out onto the ground.  Some are missing limbs.  Some have no face left.  He is one of two survivors of the air strike.

The foreign soldiers come in.  A grenade is thrown.  Most duck, but it lands near the rear of the group and goes off.  A Special Operations soldier serving that day as an (armed) combat medic is fatally wounded in the explosion.

The troops move across the field and see a man with two chest wounds and a holstered pistol reaching for an AK-47.  A special forces soldier with a classified identity shoots him in the head and kills him.  When the dust clears, the special forces soldier sees the boy crouched, facing away from the action, and shoots him twice in the back.

He lives, and this is confirmed by the soldiers when they do their sweep.  He is given on site medical attention and flown out, though he begs the soldiers to finish the job.

The boy is allowed to recover.  They learn his identity, and that despite being attached to this militant group, he is a citizen of one of the foreign country’s most important allies.

In the meantime a garbled version of events begins to erupt.  Another soldier on the scene has a different story about shooting the boy three times in the chest, while he was reaching for a grenade.

This is almost certainly not an intentional falsehood.  Those who have been in a life-threatening situation know that under those conditions it is easy to make a mistake.  It is almost impossible to remember all the specific details when people are screaming and dying around you, especially if you have caused any of those wounds!  Humans are not designed to kill each other.  It messes us up.

But people are angry because a soldier died.  And so they believe one soldier’s version of events over the other’s, though medical evidence suggests otherwise.

The boy is denied important surgery for damage to his eyes in order to force him to confess information.  The allied government begins to get involved in his case.  They are put off, denied, and not informed of the information they request, because the foreign government has reason to believe that the boy knows quite a lot about the force they are fighting, and they mean to get that information by whatever means necessary.

Then members of his own government collude in the interrogation!  Theoretically there to defend him, his own government betrays him.  They work to coerce a confession. that he has murdered a soldier unlawfully, by promising to bring him home.

And when he has recovered in part from his wounds, they send him to a prison for terrorists that is notorious for torture and abuse of its prisoners, despite his government’s requests, first, that they not do so, and then, that they are told when it happens.  He is fifteen.

What happens to him there?  I have no urge to repeat it because it is horrific by anyone’s standards.  We can say three things for a fact:

One is that evidence is indeed found that show that the boy was actively involved in terrorist acts.  He wired a detonator cord.  He says at one point during his captivity that he intended to fight because he was told that the soldier were making a war to kill all the people of his faith.

The second is that the boy is tortured, repeatedly, and by a lot of different people.  The worst of them, the one that everyone claims he is lying about, is convicted of abusing detainees to extract confessions when another of his charges dies from the abuse.  I have no desire to repeat it, but because this, sadly, is a true story, you can read about it here.

The third thing we know is that he is told that if he confesses to throwing the grenade that killed the (armed) combat medic, he will get to go home.  Back to his original home, the allied nation of the foreign soldiers who have him, the place where he was born.  A place that by now must seem like a myth, or a distant dream.

He is lied to.  He does not get to go home.  When one member of the allied nation’s diplomatic efforts fail to return the boy, that member resigns in disgust.

A long saga begins.  More torture and deprivation in prison.  Legal challenges, lawsuits, demands for the right of habeas corpus.  There are even sham tribunals to rival the darkest horror story you’ve ever heard of a fascist dictatorship.  Nothing moves the foreign nation who has him, and nothing moves his home nation to intervene for him; not even Amnesty International and the UN Council on Human Rights.

At last he is sent back to a prison in his home country when he finally pleads guilty, after another year in this horrible prison.  There he is locked up in a maximum security prison.  It is a distinct improvement.

Pleas to treat him as a child soldier, or as a juvenile offender, fall on deaf ears, and he is forced to serve the totality of an adult’s sentence, though he was fifteen years old at the time of the battle, when he may (or may not have) thrown a grenade at a man trying to kill him who had just firebombed everyone and everything around him.

His case comes up for bail.  It is denied.  When it is granted two years later, the government of his own country appeals it.  Only an election, and a change of governmental party, prevents the second appeal from going through, because they drop it.  At last, though under tight supervision, a very damaged young man is finally free.

It has been thirteen years since the battle.  He is 31 years old.

This, my friends, is the true story of Omar Khadr.  This is not a leftist spin on the story; these are the absolute facts, as far as I was able to check, filtered through human decency and empathy.

You’re probably heard his name again in the news recently.  Canada’s Supreme Court found that the Canadian government, on helping to obtain his confession and being a party to the horrific events that befell this poor man, had violated his rights according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which we hold as sacred as America holds its Constitution.  They found that Canada had acted against the Geneva Convention and international law.  They granted a sum of money to Mr. Khadr for his suffering.

He has lost his eye and his childhood and gained decades of nightmares.  It is not enough.  It is not enough.

But even after all that, there are those who would deny him even this.  People are now trying to demand that they be allowed to sue him for that money that he was awarded as a (lame) apology for taking away the rights that EVERY HUMAN BEING is guaranteed in international law.

To those people I say: Shame on you!  Whether he was an “enemy combatant” or not, Omar Khadr has paid more than enough for the crime of throwing a grenade at someone who was trying to kill him.  And you conveniently forget, HE WAS FIFTEEN YEARS OLD.  He was a CHILD SOLDIER.

We rehabilitate child soldiers.  We don’t go on torturing them.  And because we have all so terribly failed this Canadian boy, who has become a man in a prison camp because of our callousness and neglect, I believe that anyone who wanted a piece of anything of his has absolutely forfeited the right.

Regardless of what he’s done, he’s one of ours.  What he was involved in was horrible; what happened to him proved that the other side wasn’t the “good guys” either.

He says he’s sorry.  I believe him.

The Canadian government has said that it is sorry in the only way it can.

Now the rest of you: if you can’t say you’re sorry, as you would if you had even a shred of human decency, then leave him alone and let him get on with what’s left of his life, as best he can.


Sable Aradia

I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I own a dog and am owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.

 


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Catharsis Is Counter-Revolutionary

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“Catharsis politics isn’t just unhelpful. It’s actively destructive.”

Political critique from Sophia Burns

1920px-2015-05-01_no_expo_281730798443629
Black Bloc demonstrators. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

This summer, my lover and I sat under a tree at Gay Pride. Behind us, we heard a speaker from the Dyke March stage.

She talked about privilege – how the experience of having cisgender privilege, white privilege, and abled privilege gives people “faulty brain wiring,” making its bearers biologically dangerous to people of color, disabled people, and trans people. She declared that dykes ought to stand for justice – and the way to do that is to “sit with our discomfort,” because “fixing our brain wiring” is each individual’s responsibility. She rounded it out by declaring her own marginalized identity as a dyke, affirming her pride and calling for unspecified “revolutionary social justice reforms.”

Meanwhile, my lover told me about an acquaintance of hers who makes it to every big protest downtown. This person always joins the Black Bloc, always picks a fight with the cops, always needlessly endangers not only themselves, but also their friends. Being in the middle of a fight makes them feel in the middle of the anti-fascist movement.

The US has no mass revolutionary Left. Those of us who want to build one have to push against not only external opposition from the government and capitalism, but also the obstacles that we have imposed on ourselves. While the social justice speaker and the reckless antifa went about it in different ways, ultimately both made the same mistake: they treated leftism as a method of individual catharsis, not collective power. Catharsis politics is one of the central self-limiting features of the current Left.

Each of these examples illustrates a different flavor of catharsis politics. Let’s call one of them affirmation catharsis and the other combat catharsis.


When liberals insist that the point of protest is to “have your voice be heard,” they are actually describing the fascist mode of political participation. To be satisfied with “feeling heard” in and of itself, as the goal of political activity, without pointing that expression toward building real material power, is to be a contented fascist subject.

Willie Osterweil

Ostensibly, though, these two approaches don’t share much. One of them says that self-care by individual oppressed people is revolutionary. The other says that revolution means violence: resisting cops and alt-rightists with fists and sticks, not words. They certainly aren’t fans of each other. So where’s the common thread? What unites the sit-with-discomfort crowd with the masked-up street fighters?

The details of the self-images they project aren’t very similar. However, that’s almost beside the point, since both do reduce politics to the projection of a self-image. It’s a way they express the kind of person they want to be. They do so in public, with an audience, because that’s how they get their peers’ validation. As a rule, neither has a coherent strategy for social change. Affirmation catharsis celebrates fabulousness while combat catharsis tries for militant cool, but at the root they’re variations on the same individualistic theme.

There’s a material reason for that. After all, what are the class interests of most catharsis politics practitioners? Aspiring non-profit managers, academics, and media figures lean towards affirmation catharsis because they must out-compete each other for a limited quantity of specialized jobs and public attention. Student radicals, who believe in revolution but lack connections with working-class communities, want to “do something real” and find their outlet in combat catharsis.

For the first time in decades, a mass US Left is trying to be born. The two strands of catharsis politics are strangling it.


The culture of anti-oppression politics lends itself to the creation and maintenance of insular activist circles. A so-called “radical community” — consisting of collective houses, activist spaces, book-fairs, etc. — premised on anti-oppression politics fashions itself as a refuge from the oppressive relations and interactions of the outside world. This notion of “community”, along with anti-oppression politics’ intense focus on individual and micro personal interactions, disciplined by “call-outs” and privilege checking, allows for the politicization of a range of trivial lifestyle choices. This leads to a bizarre process in which everything from bicycles to gardens to knitting are accepted as radical activity.

Common Cause

But what’s actually wrong with catharsis? Shouldn’t radicals express who we are and who we want to be? Why not celebrate our survival in a hostile society and affirm our values? Isn’t it a way to center the most marginalized, fight oppression, and practice revolutionary self-love?

Stafford Beer, who helped developed cybernetics (the study of complex systems), had a saying: “The purpose of a system is what it does.” Whether it’s a computer program, a government agency, or whatever else, what something was originally intended to do doesn’t matter. To understand something, you can’t write off “side effects” and “unintended consequences.” You have to take its effects as a whole. Treat a thing as it actually is, not as what it was originally meant to be. When examining catharsis politics (and political ideas in general), remember this.

Catharsis politics is what it is in practice, not what it theoretically could be. And in practice, decades of “anti-oppression” affirmation catharsis and affinity-group combat catharsis have completely failed. They haven’t grown a meaningful revolutionary movement in the US. They’ve just created an insular and hostile subculture that doesn’t win anything much deeper than corporate re-branding or the cancellation of individual Nazi rallies.

From Jon Stewart on down, catharsis politics means substituting the feeling of mass politics for the reality. Affirmation catharsis allows progressive-minded individuals to scratch the political itch merely by clicking “share.” Further, it replaces work towards the liberation of the oppressed with support for the media presence and careers of aspiring professional activists who can claim a marginalized background. It isn’t just unhelpful. It actively disrupts revolutionary work by channeling people away from the kind of organizing that builds collective power. Instead, it offers a basically passive, consumerist approach to politics. Why do you think there’s always talk of “leadership” from people who don’t do any mass work, or any politics at all that doesn’t involve self-promotion? To uplift someone’s voice, all you have to do is sit there and listen. No need to build revolutionary institutions that can actually get people free. At the end of the day, you end up with de-politicized politics, where “doing the work” means visibly consuming “progressive” media, and (in the words of the popular site Everyday Feminismradical activism means you “publish, reblog, or share” articles to “signal-boost the voices of others.”

Conversely, combat catharsis puts real-world action front and center. But, it does so in a way that falls into the same individualism as affirmation catharsis. It takes the adrenaline-filled moment of street confrontation and substitutes that for revolutionary politics itself. Mass work, as with affirmation catharsis, gets derided or ignored. Small affinity groups replace participatory-democratic institutions. The fetish for violence (rather than the willingness to use force only when it strategically makes sense – and it often doesn’t) flows from a particular leftist flavor of patriarchy. “Radical” and “publicly confrontational” get collapsed into one, and the necessary, everyday work of maintaining and reproducing basic social existence usually falls to activist women. The larger division of labor that underpins capitalism’s gender system finds itself re-created by a nominally anti-capitalist scene.

And, above all, combat catharsis does not engage positively with anyone who doesn’t already share its values. The defining image is an individual activist trying to be heroic. It rarely leads to the growth of roots in working-class communities or further collective action. After all, the work of building alternative institutions of people’s power is slow, unsexy, and patient. It rarely has the fireworks of a fistfight with Proud Boys. It’s about cultivating relationships, listening, organizing resources, and serving the people – in short, much of it is work that’s considered feminine. While this approach to revolutionary politics does involve confrontation when confrontation makes sense, it’s never for its own sake. Strategically speaking, confrontation and construction complement each other. Without its counterpart, each will degenerate. Combat catharsis is what happens when confrontation is severed from mutual aid, service, and community-oriented mass work. Combat catharsis will never change the world. It will always, however, offer instant gratification and radical chic.


Activist networking is what might be called lifestyle activism…These individuals are not particularly concerned with effectiveness, because for then it is more of a hobby, an identity, or a “safe space” for like-minded people to discuss common interests without having to engage with working class people with their warts and all.

Tim Horras

In both cases, individual activists do not look beyond themselves. They do the minimum to feel like good people in the short term, but it never leads to more. There’s no coherent analysis of how society works, no goal for how it should be different, and no strategy for how to get there. The purpose of a system is what it does. Catharsis politics does not move us towards liberation.

Now, from the perspective of neoliberal politicians and corporate investors, that’s just fine. The Left focuses on itself and the powerful are comfortably unthreatened. But from the point of view of the working class – and that probably includes you – it’s poison. Politics isn’t made of individuals. It’s made of classes. Political change doesn’t come from feeling individually validated. It comes from collective action and organization within the working class. That means creating new institutions that meet our needs and defend against oppression.

Right now, there are plenty of opportunities for catharsis politics. But they aren’t compatible with genuine revolutionary organizing. If you ignore any strategy that reaches beyond yourself, you won’t end up with collective power. And inasmuch as it allows people to satisfy their desire to be political without actually doing much, catharsis politics isn’t just unhelpful. It’s actively destructive.


To defeat Trump and the neo-Confederates we have to develop a strategic “Build and Fight; Fight and Build” program. This program must address the imperative need to build economic and political power from the ground up – amongst workers, the underemployed, unemployed and structurally unemployable on the community, county, state and national levels.

Both dimensions of our Build and Fight program we believe must have offensive and defensive dimensions to them.

Ungovernable2017 Call to Action

Very little of the US Left practices the strategy of institution-building. Most of the groups that do only formed within the last few years. However, one of the few that began that work decades ago – Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi (which spun off from the revolutionary Black nationalist Malcolm X Grassroots Movement) – has developed an impressive network of community farms, co-ops, cultural institutions, and direct-democratic People’s Assemblies. Three decades of institution-building have made them a near-hegemonic force in Jackson, MS’s working-class, Black majority. This year, for the second time, a member of Cooperation Jackson (Chokwe Antar Lumumba, son of the deceased mayor and Cooperation Jackson member Chokwe Lumumba) was elected mayor. More recently, Philly Socialists – a city-level group founded by 2 people only 6 years ago – currently has a triple-digit membership with hundreds more active in its tenants’ union, food garden, ESL classes, and other programs.

The strategy is called Dual Power (because it aims to create a second political power structure, in opposition to the capitalist one) or base-building (because it emphasizes working towards a broad base of community support and involvement). It gets consistent, concrete results. And right now, that can’t be said of most of the US Left.

Revolutionaries need patience and humility. Feeling validated is fine, but it’s not political. If anyone says otherwise, they’re selling you something. Catharsis politics has been tried for many years. It isn’t working. So let’s acknowledge that, move on, and leave the social justice subculture behind. If we ever want liberation, the Left must start the protracted work of building institutions instead.


Sophia Burns is a communist and devotional polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her financially on Patreon.


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Safe Spaces

From Patacelsus

I walk into the freezer, my breath a visible ghost as microscopic moisture droplets freeze and refract light. The Piezo igniter clacks in protest and the flame hisses into life, dulling to a tiny conversational flame, at the ready. The weight of the tank on my back…

Safe Spaces, they come in all different volumes, structures, and purposes. They can exist in the physical and in the mind. They protect women and children from harm. Some, like the Women’s Resource Center to End Domestic Violence in Atlanta, Georgia are a network of safe-houses designed to give women a place to get away from their abusers and start a new life. Some are tents, designated as safe spaces for women, dug into the mud on the Northern border of Greece to provide Syrian women a place where they can be alone with other women in safety. Some, like Safe Space London, are just trying to help women that are most vulnerable not die. These safe spaces are crucial, the only defense for the women and children caught in that dark calculus of Capitalism and the State, the tragedies born of mankind’s self immolation. Safe spaces like these are all around the world, and it still isn’t enough.

Crucial and life saving as they are, these are not the only safe spaces that exist. There are many safe spaces on the internet. There is one big safe space that you probably weren’t aware of, which is fine, the people in it aren’t aware they are in it either. It is so massive that generations have lived in it without even seeing its limit. We’ll get to that.

 

Safe Spaces are coming under propaganda fire from the right. And it is easy for them to do, as many fascists, right wingers, conservatives, etc, love employing complaints about their free speech being impinged when they find themselves faced with a situation in which they must endure consequences for that speech they claim to hold so dear. When meeting that brick wall of consequence is when you hear them rage the loudest. The love of “free” speech is also the first thing dropped when they have power and control over whatever.

Remember this: for them, free speech is a lever, nothing more. It is the places that ideas and their dissemination that have the focus of these jokers, and for good reason, to control what is said is part of controlling the narrative. Control the narrative and you have a lever with which to control a nation. Controlling these safe spaces won’t bring that alone, but it is one more front line that they are on the attack. Those fascists need all the leverage they can get.

They have plenty of ammunition though, because the internet is full of people that, unfortunately, are either so damaged or so plainly stupid that they can’t see they’ve gone off the deep end (I know that’s a lot from someone who is a cis-white male who calls himself a sorcerer, we’ll get to that too, I promise). From would be revolutionaries that can’t form a coherent thought, let alone fight the state, to non-white professors advocating racism as the solution to racism, the internet has it all right along with the safe spaces for it. For every safe space actually helping someone, it seems there are ten that exist as the personal echo chamber of someone that is at best simply not helping.

The safe spaces of the internet are the weakest point and therefore the most attacked by fascist, the Capitalist, and the perpetually bored sadist. The worst of the worst are flouted as the “norm” for “liberal’s” and “radical’s” safe spaces, all the better to deter the ignorant. This attack seems to have two prongs. One prong is the establishment of “conservative” safe spaces for university students, like the one at University of Wisconsin, Madison. What this “conservative” safe space is really for is to push back against what is seen as a source for leftist thought (this isn’t the only one or the first one, they are popping up like maggots!). The other prong is a propaganda push by right wing owned media organizations, Fox news, the personal propaganda engine of the Cock brothers, or however you spell it (I never miss a dick joke, no siree!), and the lesser known Sinclair Broadcasting Group, recently made the hate darling of liberals everywhere by the comedian John Oliver.

Sinclair has been buying up tiny local news organizations and forcing them to insert syndicated conservative commentary. Part of that commentary has been an attack on safe spaces, by simultaneously conflating them all with the most cringe-worthy of internet safe spaces and lambasting them as housing for the “snowflakes”, the reference to Fight Club gone out of control. In fact, it was Oliver’s report that featured a clip that caused me to write this. The clip is of a pasty overweight “commentator” encouraging “snowflakes” to come out of their “safe space”. I found this to be the height of irony.

The reason I found this to be the height of irony is because that man, his owners, in fact, all of the conservative, right wing, fascist lot, have been living in a safe space their whole lives. Their parents lived in that safe space, their grandparents did, down through the generations. I promised and now I deliver: the giant safe space I spoke of is called being white. It stands adjacent to being male safe space and being rich safe space. The three overlap. They fill so much volume on this planet that most don’t even realize they are even inside it.

Every day, these spokesmen for “conservatism” (more like conserve-atavism) go to battle against the safe space, unaware that they would drown in a biblical deluge if the irony were to suddenly transmute to water. In a land where a white policeman can shoot a man in the back, his act of cowardice caught on film, and can still go free, where neighborhoods are pulled out from a population in poverty, their collective geo-psycho-historical space pulled out from under them to serve the gentry, where it is still so common for a man to beat the shit out of his wife that there are rescues for women in every large and several small cities all across the Western world, let alone America, these ridiculous loony tunes mother fuckers think safe spaces are the biggest problem. And in a weird fun-house mirror way, they are right, just not like they think.

It is the three safe spaces of being white, being male, and being rich that are the actual problem. The need being filled by all other safe spaces flows from the existence of these three safe spaces, the inevitable equation balancing that occurs organically in a world where there is still a glimmer of hope. So naturally these pieces of shit want to stomp on it.

As a white male I think I speak with some experience on this. Sorcerer, bah! How much? How much of anything good in my life was there, is there, simply because of a role of genetic dice and the calculus of historical forces? I’ll never know, you can only grok something like that while standing outside of its context. Yes, I have traveled, it doesn’t help to leave the West. It follows you, everywhere. Can I ever truly leave this gilded and personal black iron prison, never knowing what I’ve earned and what’s been handed to me? But enough of my problems, back to the issue at hand.

There are forces that want to see safe spaces go the way of the dodo. For whatever reason, a woman fleeing a man beating the shit out of her is a serious threat to these, I don’t know, can you still call people like that human, let alone men? Yeah, unfortunately, none of this is beyond the possible for the human, let alone male, and it is a threat, to power, their power. The power that comes built into the safe spaces called being white, male, and rich. And these safe spaces are not healthy, for the mind or spirit.

If you don’t believe me, look at what all the armchair fascists write from the safety of the big three safe spaces, located right behind the other side of a computer screen. Garbage. Falsehoods strung together by flawed logic in an attempt to poison the world with trash thinking. It is how you get someone who looks like they rolled snake eyes in that same genetic lottery somehow proclaiming themselves the pinnacle of evolution. It’s how you get lifestyle retailers selling jade pussy eggs for three times what you could find literally anywhere else on the internet with one google search. It is how you get a reality TV show host, swindler, and sexual assaulter as president.

Come out of the fucking safe space they say? I say lead the way out yourself you fucks, I’m right behind you! You precious fucking snowflakes, deeply threatened by the possibility that one day you will be living in a world where cops can’t just murder a black man! A world in which women don’t have to keep living with a man that is a mortal threat to her! A world in which a shitty racist asshole gets ostracized for being a shitty racist asshole! Yes, say what you will, just don’t think anyone will suck your dick afterwards! Oh no! A world in which being born doesn’t condemn you to poverty or randomly reward the lucky few with a lifetime of wealth and ease! Ohhhhhh Noooooo! Its getting pretty hot in here, so flee you fucking snowflakes, the revolution is coming, and we are armed with flamethrowers!

If there is a lesson here, it is that long term exposure to a safe space can fuck your mind up. Most of the people actually in need of a safe space don’t want to stay there. They want to rebuild their lives and get on with the business of living. It is the people that refuse to leave the safe spaces that are the source of the problems and who are a danger to others and themselves. They are the source of the inevitable casualties of the problems caused by the largest of safe spaces, who then become the poster children of the right’s fight against any other safe space that is not the big three safe spaces, which are themselves the foundation stones that Western civilization is built upon. Oh yeah, I forgot the trigger warning, if you are white, male, or rich, this article may trigger you.


Patacelsus

mal1A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.


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