“No cluttered shelves with hanging altar cloths will ever save us. Nor will any ancient yellow poster of some killer angel explain the stain of sin or let us in on the secret of how Christ forgave us and how at last our cause must win.”
From Christopher Scott Thompson
The fifth in a sequence of surrealist prophecies written using the divinatory technique of automatic writing (with subsequent revision). The theme of the sequence is the collapse of our global civilization due to uncontrollable climate change, leading to a mass rejection of both faith and reason and the re-enchantment of our world among the ruins of our failed creations. Some of the poems in the sequence are set before the Fall and portray the spiritual and emotional dilemma of our current crisis. Some describe the Fall itself, and the strange changes in thought and perception that will be needed if any are to survive a world in which humanity has been radically de-centered. Some describe the world to come, a world newly alive with gods and spirits yet free of all dogma or fixed belief – a world of beauty and strange magic.
The fifth prophecy was inspired by an old CNT-FAI propaganda poster from the Spanish Civil War, and the yearly march in honor of anarchist martyrs every May Day. Respect for our honored dead is not a substitute for building a world.
Public Domain Image From Wikimedia Commons
Outside, the waters of a springtime sky
Plunge screaming from the heights.
And in the stain
That creeps along this poster on my wall
Free Barcelona falls.
And on the rain, I hear dead heroes asking if they lived in vain – if there was no message in their martyrdom, no future hope, but only a longer rope with which to hang ourselves.
To clinging altar cloths, to cluttered shelves,
Our selves attach themselves.
Adore your gods,
But never tell yourself your faith can change the odds.
No cluttered shelves with hanging altar cloths will ever save us. Nor will any ancient yellow poster of some killer angel explain the stain of sin or let us in on the secret of how Christ forgave us and how at last our cause must win.
Our gods are here –
They move within our bodies and the turning of the year.
Our gods are real –
They live in every drop of blood and every spark of wood or steel.
Our dead are dust –
Unless we give them life with every act, in each of us.
Our dead are seeds –
These flowers never bloom with faith
Christopher Scott Thompson
Christopher Scott Thompson is an anarchist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth. Photo by Tam Zech.
Hey! We pay Christopher and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂
The two co-founder of Gods&Radicals have a podcast!
Empires Crumble is a twice-a-month discussion on culture, history, politics, & magic with Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth. Episodes will be posted here on Gods&Radicals as they are released, or you can subscribe by Stitcher, iTunes, or by RSS feed to catch them before they are available here.
Three episodes have already been released:
Episode one: The Security State (69 minutes)
How has the security state changed in the US and Europe in the last 20 years? What were the effects of the Green Scare and the Patriot Act on resistance movements? Why do French radicals still take to the streets to resist their governments while Americans do not? And what can we do about all this?
In this episode, Alley Valkyrie & Rhyd Wildermuth discuss this current crisis of Capitalism, how Trump and other opportunists exploit this crisis (and are much smarter than you think), and how all of this has created the material conditions for civil unrest, fascism, and its socialist opposition.
So, what exactly is Fascism? Is Trump really a Fascist? What about the Alt-Right? Is is possible to be Nationalist and not fascist? What do the actually-existing fascism of the 20th century tell us about what we’re seeing now? And how precise do we really need to be when we’re talking about Fascism?
Rhyd & Alley discuss all this in Episode 3: Fascism…Really? Listen via (iTunes), (Stitcher), (Soundcloud), or in the embedded player below
Future episodes will be posted at Gods&Radicals. You can also follow the Empires Crumble Facebook and Twitter feeds.
A Copa do Mundo terminou, depois de termos politicado incessantemente os atletas e os países que essas equipes representavam. Havia algo suspeitamente conveniente em lembrar do colonialismo francês agora, mas esquecer da corrupção e da opressão da FIFA. Desta forma, podemos ficar colados na T.V. sem perder “pontos de militância”.
O movimento de resistência contra a FIFA em 2013 e 2014 não é coisa do passado. Os pretextos que transformaram movimentos sociais em organizações terroristas são, até hoje, responsáveis pela criminalização do ativismo político no nosso pais. Isso resultou em 23 presos políticos com sentenças entre 5 e 13 anos, alguns ainda sendo processados agora. Pessoas morreram e muitas mais perderam suas casas. Mas o que discutimos é como torcer para o México é uma mensagem anti-Trump, e como a equipe alemã está de alguma forma (simbolicamente) relacionada com a política sobre refugiados de Merkel.
Estamos testemunhando a fachada do estilo estadouniense de Democracia se desintegrando, revelando o fascismo de um Estado Imperializado que encarcera em massa e mata pessoas pobres, negras, trans e mulheres. Além disso, um Estado que usa uma corporação para distrair as massas com esportes nacionalistas, enquanto criminaliza dissidência política.
Anarquistas e Maoistas estão sendo igualmente criminalizados por dissidência capaz de prejudicar a capacidade do governo de funcionar. A OATL (Organização Anarquista Terra e Liberdade) e o MEPR (Movimento Estudantil Popular Revolucionário) foram recentemente colocados como frentes de iniciativas de atos violentos em 2013.
“Membros da OATL e MEPR planejavam lançar coquetéis molotovs e rojões contra a policia durante passeatas contra a copa do mundo” (Folha de Sāo Paulo, 17 de Julho 2018)
Mesmo com todas as nossas divergências ideológicas; particularmente em relação ao uso idolátrico de liderança, e o interesse na reconstrução de um Estado que sustentará a ditadura do proletariado; concordamos que o Estado em qual vivemos agora, e seu sistema eleitoral, deve ser derrubado. A re-centralização de poder econômico e estrutural num Governo comunista não é nem um pouco atraente pra nós anarquistas. E vemos que, apesar de eficiente em curto prazo, o culto de personalidade de líderes não é só contraditório aos nossos princípios de horizontalidade. É também insustentável, já que até agora revoluções morreram com seus lideres.
Nosso terreno comum é a ideia de que a dicotomia entre esquerda e direita no campo eleitoral é reformista/reacionária, e não revolucionária, já que visa representação em, e consequentemente validação do, sistema partidário. Até os candidatos de mais extrema esquerda como Boulos, mesmo com sua retórica de defesa do povo pobre por políticas contra a especulação imobiliária e etc., visa a reconstrução da fé do povo Brasileiro no sistema. Isso só atrasa a revolução. Sabemos que o candidato não vai ganhar, se ganhar não vai fazer o que fala, e se tentar fazer o que fala vai ser impeached, preso, ou morto (como já vimos acontecer tantas vezes antes).
A estratégia de usar a plataforma partidária sustentada pela “Democracia” (Estilo estadounidense) pra divulgar ideias revolucionárias é como transar pela virgindade, validando no processo a própria coisa que estamos tentando invalidar. A necessidade imediata do povo que mais precisa dessa revolução não pode ser saciada com migalhas. É nossa responsabilidade como militantes não criar dependência do próprio Governo que visamos derrubar, e lutar para suprir essas necessidades imediatas como uma comunidade; um Movimento.
“Há apenas a preocupação de se jogar migalha na boca escancarada da fome, talvez para que nos deixem em paz…” – Maria Lacerda de Moura
Do dia 11 a 15 de Julho, estudantes de pedagogia de todo o Brasil se encontraram em União dos Palmares, Alagoas, para discutir métodos de combate aos ataques do Estado contra a educação e os direitos do povo dentro e fora da esfera acadêmica no nosso pais.
Este foi o 38o ENEPe (Encontro Nacional de Estudantes de Pedagogia), e sua 1a edição Marxista-Leninista-Maoista.
A realização deste evento marcante na história da ENEPe não foi possível sem a superação de sérios obstáculos. Houve um rompimento entre estudantes de esquerda, resultando em dois eventos diferentes sendo realizados: este organizado pela ExNEPe (Executiva Nacional de Estudantes de Pedagogia) com presença predominante do MEPR, e outro evento com presença predominante do MEPe (Movimento Estudantil de Pedagogia) e movimentos estundatis ligados à UNE (União Nacional dos Estudantes).
Essa divergência ideológica entre os estudantes “de esquerda” é baseada no partidarismo. O MEPR reivindica a independência política, o boicote ao voto, e a completa rejeição da dependência financeira em, ou campanha de, partidos. Além disso, eles e elas também visam manter esse evento aberto a estudantes de outras áreas e a quem não é estudante.
Para muitos, o boicote ao voto significa uma brecha para a direita se fortalecer, ou até mesmo uma direita disfarçada. Os da MEPe, que não estavam a bordo com os posicionamentos da MEPR, não só fizeram seu próprio evento em outra data e local, mas também sabotaram a iniciativa de organização e promoção do evento de seus semelhantes. Cartazes promovendo a 38o ENEPe em União dos Palmares foram removidos ou danificados de alguma forma pelo país inteiro.
Nos palcos do primeiro dia, 11 de Julho, houve uma fala de forte crítica Marxista ao PT, introduções das delegações de cada região, fala da LCP (Liga de Camponeses Pobres), apresentação de dança do Quilombo, poesia, teatro, e até rock. Os espaços entre cada foram preenchidos por palavras de ordem e punhos levantados. “Resistir, lutar, pra cultura popular”, entre muitas outras.
A grande maioria das aproximadamente 400 pessoas presentes, tiveram que superar múltiplos obstáculos financeiros e burocráticos, além da sabotagem de outros alunos, para comparecer no evento aquela semana. Portanto, a presença de cada um, de cada região, segurava o peso da dedicação à militância, e o entusiasmo de uma juventude com fé na revolução.
Na mesa do 2o dia afirmaram que a independência do eleitoralismo é essencial na luta pela gratuidade educacional. A formação pedagógica ainda visa o treinamento de mão de obra barata, e Lula não foi melhor que FHC no combate a isso; cotas e bolsas só atrasam a revolução. Enquanto as reitorias agem como o Estado dentro da universidade, não ha como a universidade enfrentar o Estado. O papel do pedagogo e da pedagoga é fundamental pra formação da sociedade, e não deverá ser usado para servir um Estado.
A logística do evento foi discutida com todos e todas presentes. A comida, a limpeza, o transporte e a convivência em geral. Considerando que foi um evento realizado com completa autonomia financeira, sem apoio de partidos ou outras instituições, houve um processo de adaptação para os que não estavam acostumados.
Uma proposta essencial que foi aplicada durante o evento foi a criação de creches nas universidades. A creche representa a luta de inclusão da mulher na esfera política, acadêmica e profissional, com apoio da comunidade como um todo. Portando, a presença de crianças e bebês foi responsabilidade de todos e todas nós, e também simbólico para a estruturação de um movimento revolucionário onde esse papel não poderá ser só da mãe.
No último dia do encontro, o MFP (Movimento Feminino Popular) se apresentou como Marxista-Leninista-Maoista, abraçando a causa das mulheres que são alunas, professoras, operárias e camponesas, e afirmando que a mulher latifundiária é inimiga. O Movimento visa combater o trabalho doméstico não pago, a servitude de empregadas domesticas às suas empregadoras burguesas, e a ideia de que existe alguma diferença inata ente homens e mulheres.
A monogamia da família tradicional também deve ser combatida, pois nasceu com o conceito de propriedade privada para assegurar a transferência de bens por herança. Afirmaram também que não existe a cultura do estupro, existe o Patriarcado e o Capitalismo. Portanto, não se destrói a cultura do estupro com leis, se destrói o patriarcado capitalista com a revolução. O problema não é o homem, é o Estado. E acima de tudo, o propósito da organização é “despertar a fúria revolucionaria nas mulheres.”
Uma camarada da ExNEPe, Tarsila Pereira, foi proibida de comparecer a aulas como ouvinte na UFAL (Universidade Federal de Alagoas), por militar e promover este evento. A tentativa de abaixo assinado pra expulsar Tarsila acabou virando um abaixo assinado pra ela ficar, e o professor se recusou a expulsa-lá, falando que ele não é polícia, e na aula dele entra quem quer aprender. Felizmente, o processo que visava “restaurar a paz” nas salas de aula falhou, e hoje ela é uma aluna matriculada.
Sexta-feira, dia 13 de Julho, em Maceió, foi realizada uma manifestação em defesa de Tarsila na UFAL; contra o fascismo que infiltra a academia Brasileira; contra a intervenção militar e o oportunismo da Escola Sem Partido; contra a privatização das universidades e a regularização da profissão de pedagogos e pedagogas; e contra o imperialismo genocida no Oriente Médio.
Depois da manifestação, a organização do evento mostrou de forma impactante como a Cultura Popular é resistência. Uma apresentação de dança típica Alagoana abriu uma série de apresentações culturais de cada delegação presente. Ficou claro que “cada região é um País”, como falou uma das alunas assistindo. Foi emocionante presenciar como extrema diversidade pode sim significar uma completa união e solidariedade. Diversas danças, músicas, histórias, e linguagens foram apresentadas, destacando como a hegemonia violentamente invisibiliza expressões culturas belas e valiosas no Brasil.
Sábado, dia 14 de Julho, participantes foram divididos em três grupos, um deles destinado ao museu do Quilombo dos Palmares. A viajem no ônibus escolar amarelo foi uma celebração, ele ainda estava enfeitado da festa junina, e todos alternavam entre cantar techno brega e palavras de ordem. Na Serra da Barriga, região do Zumbi dos Palmares, chacoalhávamos na estrada de terra, subindo e descendo montanhas de mata baixa, com ocasionais coqueiros sendo saudados por urubus.
Foi inevitável sentir o poder daquele espaço, mesmo que agora esteja estruturado um pouco como um parque temático. Cada passo parecia levantar uma memória centenária combativa, como se fosse uma poeira que ao invés de ofuscar, tornava ainda mais nítido nosso propósito politico. A vista do alto a serra chegava quase a nos colocar no corpo dos homens e mulheres que se estabeleceram lá 400 anos atras, e na consciência estratégica de poder ver inimigos de longe sem ser visto.
No fim da visita, muitos de nós até nadamos na pequena lagoa verde pastel onde quilombolas “alimentavam suas almas”.
Quando voltamos pra universidade em União dos Palmares, assistimos apresentações de trabalhos, dos quais alguns seriam premiados. Um deles abordava a importância de educação sexual na escola, pra alunos entre 11 e 15 anos de idade. Interesses das crianças giravam em torno dos temas de masturbação, puberdade e menstruação. A apresentadora mostrou que sexo ainda é um tabu entre professores e reitorias, e a importância de derrubar esse tabu e abordar esse tema é de extrema urgência, quando se vê como é comum a gravidez de meninas de 13 a 15 anos e idade.
A importância da História foi enfatizada quando reconhecemos que o Brasil tem um problema de memória. Um trabalho sobre a Guerrilha do Araguaia trouxe pra mesa de debate a perpetuação da violência, décadas depois da batalha, quando crimes da resistência são judicialmente equiparados com os dos opressores. Trouxe também o tema das particularidades femininas na tortura durante a ditadura, e a questão do uso do termo “ditadura” em si, como um termo usado pela democracia burguesa pra defender suas políticas ditatoriais contemporâneas.
Em geral, houve muita repetição de termos como “pós-modernista”, “oportunista”, “imobilista” e Marxismo cientifico, sem finas definições e contextualizações. Isso alienou certos alunos que não se reivindicam Marxistas, e deu pouca abertura pra participantes apresentarem divergências. Até as votações finais foram bizarramente homogêneas, talvez não só porque houve consensus, mas também porque ir contra seria intimidador.
Para o burguês e pequeno burguês, a inacessibilidade é o charme. Com eles e elas não há diálogo, há combate. Combater a ideia de que ”uma mentira falada mil vezes vira verdade” (Goebbels) significa também reconhecer que existe diferentes perspectivas sobre a realidade, e não só uma verdade que pertence aos socialistas científicos. Ocasionais falhas em reconhecer isso resultou em certas infelizes falas, como uma sobre o misticismo de comunidades “primitivas”, e abordagens superficiais e desnecessárias do materialismo dialético.
Mesmo assim, foi afirmado que a ciência que vemos hoje na academia serve o Capital. O conhecimento científico do povo, seja ele indígena, negro ou camponês, é apropriado pelas classes dominantes e patenteado. Temos que trazer a ciência de volta para o povo, preservando a educação tradicional indígena, por exemplo. Para uma das palestrantes, o problema “do índio” é o problema de classe, e não da supremacia branca; É uma luta pela terra e pela sobrevivência. Seria interessante a presença de mais grupos Indígenas e Quilombolas nos próximos eventos, tanto que foi decidido que o tema do 23o FoNEPe (Fórum Nacional de Entidades de Pedagogia) será “educação que sirva o povo indígena, camponês e Quilombola”, ano que vem em Juazeiro.
No fim as despedidas foram calorosas, já que durante a semana cultivamos imenso carinho uns pelos outros. Havia espaço pra autocrítica e crescimento, e o potencial socio-politico do evento é inegável. Estamos todos e todas animadas pro próximo ENEPe (39o) que acontecerá em Guarulhos, com o tema de “defesa da escola pública, contra a privatização e fechamento de escolas públicas”.
“Se você paga,
não é mercadoria”
editora do site Gods&Radicals, escritora e professora.
The Common Ground Between Anarchists and Maoists
The World Cup ended, after we incessantly politicized athletes and the countries those teams were representing. There was something suspiciously convenient about remembering French colonialism now, but forgetting FIFA’s corruption and oppression. This way we can stay glued to the T.V. without losing any “woke points”.
Brazil’s uprising against FIFA in 2013 and 2014 is not a thing of the past. The pretexts that turned social movements into terrorist organizations are to this day responsible for the criminalization of political activism. This resulted in 23 political prisoners with sentences between 5 and 13 years, some still being prosecuted now. People have died, and many more lost their homes. But what we talk about is how cheering for Mexico is an anti-Trump statement, and that the German team is somehow related (symbolically) to Merkel’s refugee policy.
We are witnessing the facade of U.S. American style Democracy crumbing down, revealing the Fascism of an Imperialized State that mass incarcerates and kills poor people of color, trans people, and women. Moreover, a State that uses a corporation to distract the masses with nationalistic sports, while it criminalizes political dissent.
Brazilian Anarchists and Maoists are both being criminalized for dissent that could undermine the government’s ability to function. The OATL (Anarchist Organization of Land and Liberty) and the MEPR (Popular Revolutionary Student Movement) have recently been denominated initiators of violent protest acts in 2013.
“OATL and MEPR members planned to launch Molotov cocktails and other flaming objects at the police during marches against the world cup” – (Folha de São Paulo, July 17th 2018)
Even with all our ideological differences; particularly in relation to the idolatrous use of leadership, and the interest in rebuilding a state that will sustain the dictatorship of the proletariat; we agree that the state we live in now, and its electoral system, must be overthrown. The re-centralization of economic and structural power in a communist government is not at all attractive to us anarchists. And we see that, although efficient in the short run, the personality cult of leaders is not only contradictory to our principles of horizontality. It is also unsustainable, since up to now revolutions have died with their leaders.
Our common ground is the idea that the dichotomy between left and right in the electoral field is reformist / reactionary rather than revolutionary, since it seeks representation in, and consequently validation of, the system. Even the most far-left candidates like Guilherme Boulos (PSOL), with his rhetoric of defending the poor with policies against real estate speculation and so on, aim at rebuilding the faith of the Brazilian people in the system. This only slows down the revolution. We know that the candidate will not win, if he wins he will not do what he says, and if he tries to do what he says he will be impeached, imprisoned, or killed (as we have seen so many times before).
The strategy of using the partisan platform supported by the U.S. American Style Democracy to spread revolutionary ideas is like fucking for virginity, validating in the process the very thing we are trying to invalidate. The immediate needs of the people who most need this revolution can not be satiated with crumbs. It is our responsibility as militants to not create dependence on the very Government we aim to overthrow, and strive to meet these immediate needs as a community; a Movement.
“There is only the concern of throwing crumbs at the gaping mouth of hunger, perhaps so that they leave us alone …” (Maria Lacerda de Moura)
From 11 to 15 July, pedagogy students from all over Brazil met at União dos Palmares, Alagoas, to discuss methods of combating State attacks against education, and the rights of the people inside and outside the academic sphere in our country.
This was the 38th ENEPe (National Meeting of Students of Pedagogy), and its 1st Marxist-Leninist-Maoist edition.
The realization of this groundbreaking event in the history of ENEPe was not possible without overcoming serious obstacles. There was a rupture between leftist students, resulting in two different events being held: this one organized by ExNEPe (National Executive of Students of Pedagogy) with predominant presence of the MEPR, and another event with predominant presence of MEPe (Student Movement of Pedagogy) and student movements linked to UNE (National Union of Students).
This ideological divergence among “leftist” students is based on partisanship. The MEPR claims political independence, a vote boycott, and a complete rejection of financial dependence on, or campaigning for, political parties. In addition, they also aim to keep this event open to students from other academic fields and to non-students.
For many, the boycott of the vote means a breach for the right to strengthen, or even a right in disguise (like blaming 3rd party voters for Trump). Those of the MEPe, who were not on board with MEPR rhetoric, not only made their own event at another date and place, but also sabotaged the initiative and promotion of their peers’ event. Posters promoting the 38th ENEPe in União dos Palmares were removed or damaged in some way throughout the country.
The vast majority of the approximately 400 people present had to overcome multiple financial and bureaucratic obstacles, as well as the sabotage of other students, to attend the event that week. Therefore, the presence of each one, from each region, held the weight of dedication to militancy, and the enthusiasm of a youth with faith in the revolution.
On the last day of the meeting, the MFP (Popular Women’s Movement) presented itself as a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, embracing the cause of women who are students, teachers, workers and peasants, and stating that the landowning (bourgois) woman is an enemy. The Movement aims to combat unpaid domestic work, the servitude of maids to their bourgeois employers, and the idea that there is some innate difference between men and women.
We must also overcome the monogamy of traditional families, because it was born with the concept of private property to ensure the transfer of assets by inheritance. They also affirmed that there is no rape culture, there is the Patriarchy and Capitalism. Therefore, one does not destroy rape culture with laws, one destroys capitalist patriarchy with a revolution. The problem is not the man, it is the State. And above all, the purpose of the organization is “to awaken revolutionary fury in women.”
The event showed beautifully how Popular Culture is resistance. A typical Alagoan dance performance opened a series of cultural presentations of each delegation present. It became clear that “each Brazilian region is a Country”, as one of the students observed. It was exciting to witness how extreme diversity can mean full union and solidarity. Several dances, songs, stories, and languages were presented, highlighting how the hegemony violently invisibilizes valuable cultural expressions in Brazil (we are much more than just Rio and São Paulo).
On Saturday, July 14th, participants were divided into three groups, one of them destined to the historical site of Quilombo dos Palmares. This is the most famous settlement of runaway enslaved Africans in resistance to Portuguese and Dutch occupation. The trip in the yellow school bus was a celebration, everyone alternated between singing tacky songs and chanting political slogans. In Serra da Barriga, in the region of Zumbi dos Palmares (the a most famous abolitionist leader of the Quilombo), we rattled on the dirt road, up and down mountains of low vegetation, with occasional coconut trees being greeted by vultures.
It was inevitable to feel the power of that land, even though it is now structured somewhat like a theme park. Each step seemed to lift a centuries-old combative memory, as if it were dust that instead of obfuscating, made our political purpose even clearer. The sight from above the mountain almost placed us in the bodies of the men and women who settled there 400 years ago, and in the strategic awareness of being able to see enemies from afar without being seen.
At the end of the visit, many of us swam in the small pastel green lagoon where Quilombolas “fed their souls”.
When we returned to the university in União dos Palmares, we attended presentations of works, some of which would later be awarded. One of them addressed the importance of sex education in schools for students between 11 and 15 years of age. The interests of the children revolved around the themes of masturbation, puberty and menstruation. The presenter showed that sex is still a taboo between teachers and principals. When we see how common it is for 13 to 15 year old girls to become pregnant, the importance of overcoming this taboo and addressing this issue is revealed as undeniably urgent.
The importance of history was emphasized when we recognized that Brazil has a memory problem. A presentation on the Araguaia Guerrilla discussed the perpetuation of violence, decades after the battle, when the crimes of the resistance are judicially equated with those of the oppressors. She also brought up the subject of female particularities when it comes to the practice of torture during the Brazilian “dictatorship” (Military regime of 1964-1985), and the question of using the term “dictatorship” as it is used by the bourgeois democracy to defend its contemporary dictatorial policies.
In general, there was a lot of repetition of terms such as “postmodernist,” “opportunistic,” “immobilist,” and scientific Marxism, without refined definitions and contextualizations. This alienated certain students who did not identify as Marxist, and gave little opening for participants to disagree. Even the final votes were bizarrely homogeneous, perhaps not only because there was consensus, but also because going against the group would be intimidating.
For the bourgeoisie and petit bourgeoisie, inaccessibility is the charm. With them there is no dialogue, there is combat. Fighting the idea that “a lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” (Goebbels) also means recognizing that there are different perspectives on reality, and not just a truth that belongs to scientific socialists. Occasional failures to recognize this have resulted in certain unfortunate affirmations, such as one on the mysticism of “primitive” communities, and superficial and unnecessary approaches towards dialectical materialism.
Even so, it was stated that the science we see today in the academy serves the Capital. Scientific knowledge of the people, be it indigenous, black or peasant, is appropriated by the ruling class and patented. We have to bring science back to the people, by preserving traditional indigenous education, for example. To one of the speakers, the “Indigenous problem” is a class problem, not a white supremacy problem; It is a struggle for land and survival. It would be interesting to have more Indigenous and Quilombola groups in the coming events, so much so that it was decided that the theme of the 23rd FoNEPe (National Forum of Pedagogical Entities) will be “education that serves indigenous, peasant and Quilombola communities”, next year in Juazeiro, Bahia.
At the end, the farewells were warm, since during the week we cultivated great affection for each other. There was room for self-criticism and growth, and the socio-political potential of the event is undeniable. We are all excited about the next ENEPe (39th) that will take place in Guarulhos, São Paulo, with the theme “defending the public school against privatization.”
is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality and anti-capitalism.
Shortly after Trump’s election, I’m in a mass meeting. Several hundred people have gathered to establish a new organization meant to channel outrage into sustainable direct action, mutual aid, and radical municipalist politics. People are talking – expressing not only their fears about ICE and healthcare, but also their hope that our work can create something better. Several of them say it’s important to acknowledge “the people who’ve been doing this good and important work all along” (that is, established activists and nonprofit staffers).
No one asks why, if their work is so good, it didn’t keep Donald Trump out of office. No one asks what, exactly, that work is meant to accomplish – or, if its goals are worth supporting, how it envisions achieving them.
If you start nailing boards together without a plan, will that get you a house?
When you build a house, there’s a very specific goal: the physical structure needs to match the architect’s blueprint. The design’s details, in turn, depend on the concrete conditions, both current (e.g. available land and budget) and future (e.g. the number of people meant to live there). Then, the construction process itself is structured by clearly-defined intermediate goals and benchmarks. You first lay a foundation, then erect a frame, then install plumbing and wiring, and so on.
That’s strategy. You don’t begin with the notion that you want some vague, indeterminate kind of house. You have a concrete ultimate goal in the blueprint, with definite intermediate goals along the way. Now, unexpected disruptions might make you change your plan; what if you lose half your budget, say, or find an archeological site? But, that doesn’t mean you throw the blueprint away. It means you revise it in response to changing conditions, because without the plan you can’t carry out the work. Strategizing means figuring out not only where you want to go, but how, precisely, you intend to get there.
First, you set your ultimate goal, whether it’s building a house or social revolution. Once you’ve analyzed your conditions and resources, you put together a series of intermediate goals. You don’t pick them haphazardly – each of them has to set you up to advance to the next while, simultaneously, making you more capable of eventually reaching the end goal. Particular tactical decisions work the same way, but on a smaller scale. Is a tactic good? Well, is it the best way to achieve your next intermediate goal (while building up your overall capacity)?
To build a house’s frame, you first have to lay a foundation. To install the wiring and plumbing, you first have to build the frame. You might be excited about the carpentry and unhappy about mixing concrete and waiting for it to set, but if you skip the foundation the frame won’t survive. Does that make carpentry ineffective? Of course not – as long as you use it in the right context.
What makes Nazi-punching, Black Blocs, or mutual aid any different? Is your immediate goal to disrupt an alt-right event? If so, a Black Bloc might be a sensible tactic, but showing up with bags of groceries probably isn’t. But if you’re trying to establish a positive presence in a neighborhood with high food insecurity, groceries are going to work a lot better than hanging out on the sidewalk waiting for Richard Spencer to walk by.
When the Left debates tactics in the abstract, it sacrifices evaluating them strategically. You might decide that having plenty of outlets is what you want most in a house. Does that mean you can go ahead and install them before you’ve built the walls? When radicals draw lines of demarcation based on individual tactics, then supporting mutual aid (or antifa, or union work, etc) effectively stands in for a more holistic strategic analysis.
But what tactic is effective outside the right strategic context? Mutual aid without a larger political project is charity; it doesn’t build power. Antifa separated from mass work is self-isolating catharsis politics. Outlets only work when they’re wired into a wall.
US leftists tend to think in moralistic, rather than strategic, terms. To be clear, “moralistic” doesn’t mean wanting to be ethical. Rather, it’s the impulse to reduce every political question to an abstract, absolute, and non-contextual value judgment. Is it Good or is it Problematic to smash a Starbucks window or change people’s brake lights for free?
But when you isolate a tactic from its strategic context, it loses its meaning. No tactic is good or bad in itself. What counts is its ability to accomplish a particular goal in a particular situation.
Counter-strategic moralizing generally comes in three flavors:
Inherent good. Every group has a limited number of person-hours and a finite amount of money. How should it choose what to do with them? “Inherent good” moralizers don’t ask what is most likely to bring a social revolution closer – instead, they look at whatever idea is in front of them and try to evaluate it in a vacuum. If it seems good in the short term, they’ll do it, whether or not it builds towards a long-term goal. Often, they’re “pragmatic” reformers, social democrats/Berniecrats, or Alinsky-style “community organizers” (for whom organizing is itself the point, never mind towards what end!).
Representation. This means asking not “how does this fit into our strategy,” but “who is getting credit for it?” Whether in the form of identity liberalism or straightforward sectarianism, it reflects the career aspirations of media figures, academics, and professional-activist NGO staffers who need political credibility to enhance their personal brands.
Catharsis. “Catharsis moralizers” chase the feeling of mass politics (whether it’s real or not). They’re drawn to emotionally-intense peak experiences, street demonstrations above all. Often, they’re “alphabet soup” sect-Marxists, riot-porn anarchists, or the protest scene’s radical fringe in general.
Communist theory discusses objective conditions and subjective conditions. A political group can’t control the objective conditions – is the economy in a boom or a bust? What’s the relative strength of other social forces? Objective conditions are the environment within which a political actor moves.
Subjective conditions, though, are under the group’s control – how good is its strategy? How effective are its tactics? Is it correctly analyzing the objective conditions and acting accordingly?
When both objective and subjective conditions are good, a movement can succeed. Otherwise, it fails.
But, the subjective conditions are caught in a negative feedback loop. Because of counter-strategic moralizing, revolutionaries aren’t able to strategize how to make their movement a meaningful presence in working-class life. That, in turn, keeps socialists disconnected from the working class at large – and without that living connection, there’s nothing to force revolutionaries away from moralizing. It’s like having the supplies and equipment to build a house, but never having learned how to use the tools.
If capitalist realism is so seamless, and if current forms of resistance are so hopeless and impotent, where can an effective challenge come from? A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalist realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism’s ostensible ‘realism’ turns out to be nothing of the sort.
Mark Fisher talks about “capitalist realism” – the sneaking sense that even if socialism would be a better system than capitalism, it’s never actually going to happen. Not here. Not really. Capitalism seems like it’s built into the real world, as natural as the rhythm of the seasons, not like something contingent, fragile, and temporary. Mass socialism (rather than hobbyist socialism, fringe socialism) does not currently exist in the US. So, the prospect of a revolution – a literal, overthrow-the-government working-class uprising – holds a place in the radical psyche similar to that of the Second Coming for mainline Protestants. It may be an article of faith, but it’s comfortably hypothetical. It isn’t actually meant to leave the indeterminate but distant future (and “after the revolution…” is how you start a joke).
So, why strategize for revolution? Capitalism is not, of course, a law of nature. It’s loose and limited in ways that “capitalist realism” can’t admit. Socialist revolution is possible; it’s happened before and it will happen again. But, contemporary leftists haven’t gotten to learn through practice that the working class can organize towards a revolutionary goal, creating institutions, parties, and a culture of solidarity and struggle. And without that, socialism is just an idea in their heads, not a living reality straining to come into being.
Before 2008, socialism was marginal because the objective conditions prevented a revival of the mass revolutionary movement. That was true for decades – and from that context, there emerged the subjective conditions that still define the Left. Why is organized leftism so disproportionately academic and middle-class? Well, academics manipulate ideas for a living, but don’t have to translate them into social realities. Of course they and their students gravitated towards Marxism. Before 2008, who else would have? Since then, though, the objective conditions have changed. Mass socialism is possible again.
So, how can the Left break out of its self-isolating feedback loop? It begins with dropping conventional activism and finding ways to build institutions that can weave into working and unemployed people’s daily lives. It begins with taking on small projects that win credibility and expand capacity (then using that expanded credibility and capacity to take on larger and more daring projects, repeating the cycle and growing a base). It begins with strategy.
An article that explores the culture of fear as a tool for establishing the Power of a capitalist, neocolonial, and genocidal governmental system.
From Mirna Wabi-Sabi
“Just as the Indian was branded a savage beast to justify his exploitation, so those who have sought social guerrillas, or terrorists, or drug dealers, or whatever the current term of art may be.” (Piero Gleijeses, as cited by Noam Chomsky)
The culture of fear has been part of Brazilian life for many years, most recently exemplified by the dictatorial military regime of the 1960-80s. To generate this fear in the population, the State used terrorist tactics to impose its control, such as censorship, murder, physical and psychological torture. State terrorism is vastly recorded as a phenomenon of governments that have formed from revolutionary factions. What is recorded is only a fraction of reality, and the little recorded is an interpretation of a small fraction of the population: a white elite.
Chomsky is an example of a white intellectual elite who succeeded in elevating the theories of Latin Americans on the topic of “genocidal and dictatorial democracy” (1996). In the same way Sartre helped elevate Fanon’s work, so we can not ignore our reliance on white people to inscribe Other thinkers in history. With or without recognition and records, State terrorism still exists today, and it’s not motivated by revolutionary interests, but instead by the reactionary interests of the elites and the preservation of the status quo.
The CIA’s supposedly secret 1969 document, The Situation in Brazil, describes the continuity of US political manipulation and praises the economic development brought about by the military dictatorship. All the men concurring describe the preliminary symptoms of the insurgency as “sporadic urban terrorism” executed by “disorganized” and “weak” “revolutionary fanatics”. At the same time, the opposition being “demoralized” through “censorship” and “oppression” is only considered an effective strategy to prevent the rise of a symbol of resistance.
Today in the United States, the categorization of ‘terrorism’ is somewhat recognized as inconsistent and racist: Arabs “are,” and white people are not. Nevertheless, being black and angry has been criminalized by so-called “Black Identity Extremists” being labeled terrorists. It’s necessary to recognize terrorist acts of the State in order to avoid racist inconsistencies such as ‘black people’ and ‘Arabs’ ‘terrorize,’ while the government and the police don’t (a clear example of institutionalized racism). To dissect this racist double standard we can look at the media as an instrument of cultural manipulation, and at what the motivation behind this manipulation is.
When the media reports, it also records history and influences opinions. There is an excess of sensationalist reports of crimes committed by poor black people, which generates widespread anxiety. The streets of Salvador are soaked with fear and remain empty at night, a desolation which in turn leads to more danger, and this way a vicious cycle is sustained.
“Today in Salvador from 8:00 p.m. it’s rare to find people strolling around in most of the neighborhoods.” (Report of a local from Salvador)
The motivation behind sensationalism is not only grabbing and expanding an audience, it is also feeding the culture of fear. This culture of fear creates a pretext for military police violence, for the racist devaluation of black lives, and consequently for the genocide of black people in poor communities. The “excess contingent” that does not benefit the capitalist system can be exterminated under the pretext of protecting the supposedly peaceful and non-criminal bourgeois white life.
The unstated and unrecorded reports are the ones from those who are devalued for not benefiting the system. The culture of fear itself has great pro-system power, it institutionalizes social control, street dynamics, product sales, and urban development. Most parts of Salvador seem to have been built for cars since many people are afraid to walk the streets. Shopping Malls, fashion, security, and segregation are profitable industries that rely on fear, they were created to benefit the bourgeoisie, and they symbolize the rebranding of apartheid.
Why do white people hide in fear and fail to rupture with this system, while others are mass murdered? White innocence is not really naive, it’s deliberate. Because in this deliberate innocence we can preserve our advantage while at the same time not be considered a racist. Which is an extremely cruel thing to do, because we destroy with one hand what we build with the other.
It hurts to recognize the violence to which we are accessories, but it hurts more for the foremost recipients of this violence. We have to see the problem clearly in order to begin solving it, and those who seek genocide as a solution to the failure of capitalism will undoubtedly be our enemies.
Considering that the Brazilian government deploys military forces to attack its own people, the so-called Nation this war aims to protect is not only white but also male. Women in particular are afraid to walk alone on the streets after sunset. Women are even afraid to drive their cars alone. They disguise themselves as men with caps, the wealthier women hire male drivers, and many just don’t go out at all. Needing men to protect women from other men is not a solution to patriarchal violence, it’s a perpetuation of it.
Trans women are not even safe at hospitals (TW: transphobic violence), much less on the streets. Even though there has been steady growth of empowering media representation, and a strong protective community, Brazil has had horrific records of transphobic violence.
Whenever a black child is murdered by the military police, they leave mothers and other family members completely devastated and hopeless. Their endless pain is exacerbated by the impunity, and by the continuous presence of the police in their communities and around other black children.
State terrorism affects all women; white, black, trans, rich or poor, though some more than others. I believe that acknowledging the urgency of this problem and coming together to solve it will finally lead to changes in this world. Coming together means listening to the voices of the silenced, not enabling oppression whenever you can with small daily acts of resistance, denouncing the army, opposing borders, and not waiting for ready-made solutions. It’s best to devise your own strategies which are most effective in your own context, because if you want a boss telling you what you need to do then maybe this is the moment to reevaluate what anarchy means to you. In the words of Tina Fey in Bossypants:
“When people say, “You really, really must” do something, it means you don’t really have to. No one ever says, “You really, really must deliver the baby during labor.” When it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.”
PS: Brazil is not the only country being lead by genocidal white men right now, so I hope you don’t finish this article feeling sorry for a ‘developing nation’. We are all connected and we are all responsible
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article was published in Portuguese in the first edition of the Salvador based anarchist magazine Enemy of the Queen.
Mirna is an intersectional feminist and decolonial activist from Brazil currently investigating Indigenous heritage. She publishes zines (Something Printed for Reading), and organizes educational events (DIY Workshop).
Mirna is our new co-editor, and we rely on reader donations to pay her and our writers. If our work inspires you, could you please consider helping us continue? Thanks, and resist beautifully!
“Because revolutions don’t only spread like wildfire, they spread like forests and especially trees. An old tree puts out many seeds that become saplings that become trees of their own. And then those trees put out more seeds, more saplings, more trees, and next thing you know the world is a forest again.”
A brief tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin, from Rhyd Wildermuth
“To die was merely to go on in another direction.”
Ursula K. Le Guin has died. Or returned. Or really, she’s merely gone off in another direction.
There will be a thousand tributes and remembrances to her. You should read them all, even if you’ve never read her work. Especially if you’ve never read her work. Because you’ve no doubt noticed all the really cool inspiring mystical/anarcho/revolutionary sorts you know are all in tears right now, like they’re mourning their favorite grandmother.
Because we are.
Ursula K. Le Guin was like a grandmother, but also like a tree. Trees can be grandmothers, you know, and they often are. Because trees don’t just grow and die, they do lots of other stuff in their very long lives. They shade the ground, shelter and feed small animals and birds. The leaves they drop compost into more soil, while their twigs and branches get gathered for nests. And their roots, oh those roots. They hold the earth together around them, even long after the tree itself has died.
But what trees also do in their long lives is make more trees. Unlike humans who make more humans, trees scatter their children everywhere. The wind shakes their branches and more trees happen thousands of feet away. A bird plays in their branches and then flies miles away and more trees happen there, too. And then those trees that happen from that first tree live long lives, shelter and feed animals, hold the earth together, and then also make more trees happen.
Le Guin was like a tree. When I first saw her at a reading in the crammed back room of a bookstore, I didn’t just see a woman there, nor did my companions.
“She’s like an ancient tree” one of my friends whispered. “It’s like a tree lived for a thousand years and decided to walk around and write and tell us stuff.”
My friend was right. And also wrong, because she was a human. But actually what’s the difference? Because trees and humans aren’t so different, and the truth of the matter is not for science and logic to decide but for art.
“I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth. The only truth I can understand or express is, logically defined, a lie.”
Le Guin was a grandmother tree and not a grandmother tree. Or maybe great-grandmother tree and not great-grandmother tree, because who knows yet how many generations of other trees happened because of her? So many ideas happened because she happened, so many worlds.
Many of the tributes to her will be about how she inspired the fiction of many others (ahem–wizard school, a matter she herself shrugged off and laughed about, because ideas didn’t belong to people anymore than trees belonged to their grandmothers who themselves were grandchildren).
But what shouldn’t be under-stated is how much she inspired those of us who learned fiction could tell the truth, and truth could be completely fiction, and the difference didn’t matter nearly as much as people like to think.
For a long time as a writer she fought the demands of literary critics and the publishing industry to define her books according to a marketing category. Science Fiction. Fantasy. Why were both different from fiction in general? They were all beautiful lies telling the truth; some had imaginary dragons, some had imaginary people, but it was all imaginary.
And of course if it was all imaginary, yet we also found truth in it, then what does imaginary actually mean? And who decides?
Well–we decide. That was always her point anyway, wasn’t it? That was her point about capitalism as well (because she was as anti-capitalist as they get, though you might not always notice from the big-name tributes). And about anarchism (yeah, she was one of those too). And really her point about love, and gender, and everything.
We decide. We make the world. But sometimes people get in the way, particularly greedy people who profit off others’ suffering. And so we have to stop them, but without imagining that stopping them will make every problem go away:
There would not be slums like this, if the Revolution prevailed. But there would be misery. There would always be misery, waste, cruelty. She had never pretended to be changing the human condition, to be Mama taking tragedy away from the children so they won’t hurt themselves. Anything but. So long as people were free to choose, if they chose to drink flybane and live in sewers, it was their business. Just so long as it wasn’t the business of Business, the source of profit and the means of power for other people.
Le Guin never coddled us as she led us through the worlds she created, never tried to make the paths through forests clean of debris. The truth was beautiful and messy, beautiful because it was messy, messy because it was beautiful. The Dispossessed, more than any other work, made sure we knew just what liberation looks like, as did her short story about the founder of the world that book speaks of:
“What is an anarchist? One who, choosing, accepts the responsibility of choice.”
Most of the best quotes are from that short story, most of these quotes are, too. And here’s where I start to cry while I type. Because sometimes a thought would come into my head: there will be a day without Ursula K. Le Guin. It’s a funny thought to have, one I’d have quite often. And it turns out I am not the only one, either–so many of my friends have said the same thing.
It’s because of that story. But also because grandmother trees will not always be around, even if the forest that rose up around them continues to grow. I’m part of that forest, and so are you. So is this site and publisher, so are quite a few others.
And it’s that story (gods I’m crying) that maybe made us think about how one day she would go in another direction. But also we would still be around, and that would mean something and so would her passing.
That story, The Day Before The Revolution, tells the last day of the woman who changed a world. And of course Le Guin changed a world already, but maybe is about to change it even more. How she already changed it will take thousands of tributes (and again, read them all). How she is maybe about to change the world even more, well–I think we will see very soon.
She was and wasn’t a grandmother tree. She wasn’t Odo, the mother of the revolution, but maybe she also was. Because revolutions don’t only spread like wildfire, they spread like forests and especially trees. An old tree puts out many seeds that become saplings that become trees of their own. And then those trees put out more seeds, more saplings, more trees, and next thing you know the world is a forest again.
“Tomorrow? Oh, I won’t be here tomorrow,” she said brusquely. Whoever had asked her smiled, another one laughed, though Amai glanced round at her with a puzzled look. They went on talking and shouting. The Revolution. What on earth had made her say that? What a thing to say on the eve of the Revolution, even if it was true.”
If you’ve never read Ursula K. Le Guin, here’s a short list of recommendations on where to start.
Changing Planes: a really accessible collection of short stories about other worlds all threaded together. Some of them will make you cry.
The Wizard of Earthsea: the first of her Earthsea books, a gorgeous story that doubles as an ethics manual for magic.
The Birthday of the World: Another collection of short stories. Again, some will make you cry.
The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas, The Day Before The Revolution, and The Dispossessed: these three pieces (the first two are short stories, the last is a novel) outline maybe the best theory of anarchism ever written.
Gifts/Voices/Powers (“Annals of the Western Shore”): three ‘young adult’ novels that I really wish had been around when I was a teenager.
The Left Hand of Darkness: one of the many novels that takes place in her “Hainish Cycle.” Explores what would happen if sex was only something you did, never something you were.
Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.
Now, some of that can’t yet be helped. After barely existing for decades, the Left has re-emerged into an environment dominated by neoliberalism. But ultimately, external conditions don’t excuse its failure. Yes, the rules of the game are stacked against it. You can curse that fact all day and all night, but in the end, leftists have not adapted to a situation that they know will remain hostile. Sure, they’re hampered by unfriendly conditions – but the Left’s internal problems are what prevent it from meeting that challenge. Unless revolutionaries change their political practice, they will remain what they are now: visible and ineffective.
But what can radicals do differently?
Your ideas do not entitle you to be taken seriously.
Socialists know their theory and they know their Russian history. So what? That by itself does no one any good. Nobody owes you a hearing – the people you want to organize don’t owe you a single thing.
This isn’t about branding. Should radicals say “communism,” “socialism,” or a euphemism like “economic democracy?” Should they drop 20th-century leftist iconography? Who cares? The issue isn’t which symbols the Left uses. Rather, it’s the way radical organizing so rarely commits to specific communities, stays for the long haul, builds up useful institutions, and lays the groundwork to expand them.
Sure, it’s better to have compelling rhetoric than not; neither talking down to people nor academic obscurantism does leftists any favors. The dichotomy between impenetrable theory-speak and over-simplified sloganeering both proceeds from and reinforces the distance between most socialists and the constituencies they seek. Those are bad habits not only of speech, but also of thought. If you don’t talk like a human being to people, it doesn’t matter if what you’re saying is true. It ends up irrelevant to real life, and it makes you sound like a jackass.
In the end, though, language and presentation aren’t the root issues. Your ideology isn’t necessarily what you believe. It’s what you’ve internalized through practice. If that mostly consists of debating on Facebook and reading articles, then your language and thought patterns will reflect that. Intentionally or not, you learn to think and speak in the way that works best for what you’re actually doing. Similarly, if most of your activism involves going to protests with liberals, then you’ll learn to be concerned with how to make radical ideas sound good to moderate ears. Why wouldn’t you bend over backwards to avoid scary words like “communism?” (Of course, that does mean other activists will think you’ve got something to hide. They aren’t fools – if you aren’t quite saying what you mean, then people will treat you accordingly. Trying to dodge the stigma attached to radicalism rather than confronting it just comes off as dishonest.)
That said, though, revolutionary leftism does still carry a lot of stigma. Most people’s default attitude towards it is skepticism. But if innovative rhetoric isn’t enough to push past that, what is?
What does get taken seriously?
You have to deliver results. You have to prove that when you act on your ideas, your community’s life gets better. You have credibility only to the extent that when you organize a project, it gives people more power and a better conditions in a concrete, tangible, material way. If you put that off until after the revolution (or after your socialist candidate wins), your revolution will never arrive. No one will support you besides a few political hobbyists – and why should they?
Are your ideas insightful and true? Prove it. If you can’t deliver, your ideas are wrong. No one will or should listen to your arguments unless you show, in practice, that they mean something (no matter how hostile the external conditions).
In Washington State, Tacoma Clinic Defense believes that anti-abortion fundamentalists should not be allowed to picket in front of clinics. Its participants began claiming that when anti-choicers are marginalized and isolated, life improves for the whole community. So, they went out to prove it: they physically placed themselves in front of the protesters at reproductive health clinics. By providing a calm, positive, and visible pro-choice presence, they functioned as a “lightning rod,” drawing the anti-choicers’ attention away from their intended targets. They did so every time the fundamentalists showed up – and, over time, the picketers got demoralized. Fewer and fewer of them turned out, and those who did became less bold. Now, after several years of attrition, the fundamentalists no longer come to the clinics at all. They’ve been reduced to holding small, silent prayer circles several blocks away, out of sight of the patients. People respect Tacoma Clinic Defense and its ideas – it got results. It went into the field and proved its ideas true.
How many socialist groups can say the same?
And a lot of people will tell you, by the way, Well, the people don’t have any theory, they need some theory. They need some theory even if they don’t have any practice. And the Black Panther Party tells you that if a man tells you that he’s the type of man who has you buying candy bars and eating the wrapping and throwing the candy away, he’d have you walking East when you’re supposed to be walking West. Its true. If you listen to what the pig says, you be walkin’ outside when the sun is shining with your umbrella over your head. And when it’s raining you’ll be goin’ outside leaving your umbrella inside. That’s right. You gotta get it together. I’m saying that’s what they have you doing.
Now, what do WE do? We say that the Breakfast For Children program is a socialistic program. It teaches the people basically that by practice, we thought up and let them practice that theory and inspect that theory. What’s more important? You learn something just like everybody else.
Why do so many working-class people align with Protestant fundamentalism?
Christian Right churches give them reasons to join. Their safety net often out-competes the government’s; they offer food and clothing and shelter, community, existential purpose, social support, help with childcare and elder care, and even mental health services (through pastoral counseling and 12-step groups). That’s how the Christian Right has gotten such a massive and well-organized base. Its network of parallel institutions allows it to wield disproportionate power. In Texas, for instance, the Christian Right dominates state politics – but only 31% of Texans are evangelical Protestants! There is power in a base of autonomous institutions.
The revolutionary Left doesn’t offer much competition. Why not learn from the enemy? Radicals can prove through practice that they can build programs that not only improve people’s material conditions, but also operate according to participatory democracy (which Christian Right churches do not). If that alternative was there, how many more poor and working people might become radical? Most people don’t choose to become socialists because socialism isn’t offering them anything they need. It’s perfectly reasonable to reject an ideology that talks big but isn’t actually improving your life.
If you want support, build something that works.
Nothing better defines Trump’s appeal, nor Obama’s before it, than a feeling of finally being heard. Though Trump made some memorable campaign promises (the wall, the travel ban, etc.), he offered participation in an affect — despair where Obama once offered “hope” — more than he appealed with plausible political proposals. And the liberal reaction to the Trump presidency continues in this political mode. 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.
Ideas come from social practice. Whether or not you’re conscious of it, your worldview is made of the lessons your practice has taught you. For instance, most working-class people reject electoral politics not due to revolutionary theory, but because it’s shown itself to be useless – no matter which politicians win, things keep getting worse. Until revolutionaries start delivering actual results, the class they want to organize will not embrace their ideas, either. All the rhetoric in the world means nothing if it can’t help feed your kids.
The approach most US leftists take isn’t working. However, a few groups have found success by taking a different approach:
The nondenominational radicals of Philly Socialists have brought hundreds into their organization and its larger projects. Their free food service, ESL classes, and tenants union materially improve people’s lives and offer the experience of participatory democracy, albeit on a restricted scale.
In the 60s and 70s, the communists of the Black Panther Party and its counterparts (the Young Lords, the Young Patriots, Rising Up Angry, and others) attracted thousands of participants. Their Breakfast for Schoolchildren programs, Freedom Schools, health clinics, and armed patrols against police racism fed people, treated people, educated their children, and reduced the danger of police brutality.
Don’t believe it when people say that there could never be a mass revolutionary movement in the US. It won’t be easy to create one. The Left will be struggling every step of the way, since larger political conditions do make a difference. But so do conditions within the Left. The US Left may not succeed. But, if it adopts a strategy of institution-building through confrontation, construction, and deep organizing, then it will, at least, stand a chance.
For Pagans, witches, and druids, this is Beltane, a celebration of the beginning of summer observed almost continuously in much of the European world for centuries.
For Marxists, Anarchists, and revolutionaries of all sorts, it is international workers’ day, a commemoration of the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago which birthed a modern uprising against Capitalism and the police state.
Pagans and witches dance, light bonfires and drink mead today, or those of them who don’t have to go to work.
Anarchists and rebels march, throw bricks and molotovs today in hopes of making a world where no one must ever go to work.
For decades, the leaders and philosophers of both groups have eyed the other with suspicion, derision, and even hatred. Wiccan and Dianic elders cautioned their followers never to pursue much more than an esoteric path towards making the world they wished to see. Likewise, Communist and Anarchist theorists have belittled those in their groups who read Tarot or refused to believe that the natural world was little more than raw material substance exploited by the market.
Sure, there were always the heretics in each camp, the self-taught witches who burned incense at shrines the night before joining an anti-war march; the Latino Black Bloc members who’d give offerings to Santa Meuerta before masking up to stand against police oppression. Little could be spoken of these acts without facing ridicule or worse, but witches and anarchists aren’t know for caring much what others think.
Certainly, both sides had their reasons for suspicion. Many of the theorists who first iterated the political framework for anarchism and communism hailed from European countries, where the struggle against capitalism and authority was often slowed and even stopped by established Protestant and Catholic leaders deeply in the pockets of rulers, merchants, and landlords. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, spent much of his time writing primers and giving sermons to indoctrinate the poor into submission to their bosses in the name of submission to God. Martin Luther and John Calvin both ordered the massacre of rebellious peasants, and in the Americas, slavery and colonial subjugation derived its moral justification from opportunistic priests and ministers eager to partake in the spoils of Empire.
Such virulent opposition to religious thought obviously ran counter to the spiritual projects of modern Pagan thinkers. While some (including many of the founders of modern Druidry) where themselves leftists and sought to fight industrial capitalism through a return to nature veneration, they were not taken seriously by their non-Pagan leftist comrades. To make things more complicated, however, many of the founders of modern Pagan traditions (Gerald Gardner, for instance) were themselves deeply invested in the systems of exploitation which anarchists sought to end.
Another reason for Pagans to fear political engagement through their spirituality came from within. Germanic reconstructionist movements such as Heathenry and Asatru began as overtly political–and deeply racist–movements: as they became more and more popular within the military and with young white males, many elders likely saw that taking a leftist, anti-racist, and anti-imperialist position in public could cost them the apparent unity they needed to convince governments and non-Pagans to take them seriously.
While each side had their reasons for opposing the other, they each also ignored their own contradictions. Pagans of any sort who claim to venerate nature have no easy way to square these proclaimed beliefs with acceptance of capitalist and industrialist destruction of the planet. Druids who claim to worship forests yet do not fight the systems of profit which are destroying forests all over the world become hypocrites at best. Likewise, the anarchist or communist who claims to be anti-imperialist whilst insisting belief in spirits or gods is ‘primitive’ is merely replicating the same colonial subjugation of indigenous beliefs which European empires perfected.
Despite these obvious contradictions, few efforts were ever made to embody both realities, let alone plant seeds of conversation at the crossroads where Paganism and Anti-Capitalism intersect for a future forest in which both could thrive.
That is, until now.
Of Land and People, Tree and Fist
On the first of May, 2015, Gods&Radicals began, bearing a banner of tree and fist. We are not the first to hold aloft the standard of the land and the people against the soldiers of Profit and Oppression, only another front in the struggle enjoined everywhere on the earth. Holding in our hands the threads of anarchist, Marxist, anti-colonialist, druidic, feminist, occult, environmentalist, and esoteric thought, we began a dance around a center constantly plaiting, constantly weaving in fierce celebration of all that makes the world beautiful and all that we refuse to let be taken from us.
The forests are dying, but we join those who refuse to let them be killed. Water and air are being poisoned, but we hold in our own hands poison which can stop those who have done so. The poor and dispossessed of the world are ground in the works of Empire’s machines, but like the saboteurs of old we know how simple it can be to stop those gears from turning forever.
We know the power of mead and molotov, the beauty of ancient forest and shattered window, the sacred celebration of spiral dance and protest march. We speak in the quiet whispers of conspiracy and graveyard, swim in the currents of tumultuous ocean and political dissent, read the future in the bones of animals and the pale faces of politicians.
We know our human and non-human comrades die daily on the bloody altars of finance and war, and we also know we are no comrades to them at all if we do not rise up with sharpened blades and whetted minds against the priest and police who preside over such foul sacrifice.
It is the first of May. Beltane to some, a day a resistance to others, and both to us.
May the scent of hawthorne blossom and tear gas be the incense we offer to the earth, the laughter of children around maypoles and the chants against police be the melodies which wake the summer, may the light from burning bonfires and barricades greet the strengthening sun, and may this be the Beltane upon which we look back and smile, remembering what new world we woke with our endless dance.
Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch, and shirtless selfies occasionally seen on his FB. and also his Instagram
A Reflection On Walter Benjamin & Alejandro Jodorowsky, from Jesse Brent
Today, more often than not, people who have heard of Kabbalah associate the mystical branch of Judaism with celebrities like Madonna, Britney Spears and Ashton Kutcher. Like other forms of mysticism, Kabbalah has been co-opted by capitalists and marketed as a new age fad for rich people (especially by the opportunistic charlatans of the Kabbalah Centre). However, this capitalist bastardization is a direct contradiction of the essential message of Kabbalah.
In Kabbale: Vie Mystique et Magie, a book about the history of Kabbalah in Morocco, Haïm Zafrani argues that Kabbalah is revolutionary because it treats the sacred text of the bible with “total liberty”, directly opposing orthodox readings of the bible. Moreover, Zafrani demonstrates the anti-aristocratic and egalitarian spirit of Kabbalah, quoting from the Zohar, the preeminent Kabbalistic text: “Take your money and distribute it to the poor and to the orphans.”
In fact, there is a strong affinity between the mysticism of Kabbalah and the revolutionary politics of anarchism, demonstrated in the works of the philosopher Walter Benjamin and director Alejandro Jodorowsky. Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History and Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain are startlingly relevant for our current moment and the conflict between fascism.
Walter Benjamin was a German Jewish philosopher who committed suicide in 1940 on the French-Spanish border, while attempting to escape from the Nazis. Theses was his last major work before killing himself, and it offers some of the best advice that has ever been written on confronting fascism. Benjamin writes, “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “emergency situation” in which we live is the rule. We must arrive at a concept of history which corresponds to this. Then it will become clear that the task before us is the introduction of a real state of emergency; and our position in the struggle against Fascism will thereby improve.” Rather than call for a return to the liberal norm, Benjamin recognized that any effective response to fascism must radically overthrow the edifices of bourgeois respectability on which fascism grows and flourishes.
In one of the most famous passages from Theses on the Philosophy of History, Benjamin uses a painting by Klee called Angelus Novus to write about what he calls the Angel of History, who “sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet.” This catastrophe is “that which we call progress.” Benjamin thus fundamentally calls into question all of “Western civilization,” which the Nazis saw themselves as the inheritors and indeed the culmination of.
Benjamin is pointing out that the rise of fascism and the Holocaust is not an anomaly, but part of a long chain of oppression, as “progress,” a term that has always been used to justify capitalism, depends on exploitation, slavery, and colonialism. Directly preceding this passage, Benjamin quotes from his friend, Gerhard Scholem, a scholar of Kabbalah. In an article called “Walter Benjamin, the Kabbalah, and Secularism,” Kam Shapiro argues that through Scholem, Kabbalistic mysticism became a profound influence on Benjamin’s philosophy, both in terms of form and content. In fact, Kabbalah, surrealism, and anarchism were all significant influences on Benjamin’s philosophy. Despite being more often associated with Marxism, Benjamin expressed a great respect and admiration for anarchist philosophy. In an essay from 1929 called Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of the European Intelligentsia, Benjamin writes, “Since Bakunin, Europe has lacked a radical concept of freedom.”
“Benjamin is perhaps unique in that he covers all the bases, he engages in various dimensions of anarchism in such a way that they all correspond. These elements work together to give us a model for anarchism that is, to use his own words once again, “useless for the purposes of fascism.” This is a model that cannot be coopted because it engages only in failure, only in the certainty that human actors are radically on their own and must make their political and legal judgments accordingly.”
These three influences on Benjamin’s writing style and philosophy–Jewish mysticism, surrealism, and anarchism–converge in their rejection of Enlightenment values of so-called “rationality” and “progress.” Unlike fascists who exalted mythical ideas of national pride and culture, Benjamin used anarchist and Kabbalist ideas as a basis for rejecting “tradition” in favor of an avant-garde form of humanism. As Shapiro writes, “Benjamin not only contemplated the dissolution of cultural traditions but also undertook to reassemble their fragments in new configurations. He also suggested that modern subjects might learn to take part in collective acts of assembly, generating new habits and meanings. He explicitly set this task against the cultural restoration promised by the Nazis.”
Surrealism, mysticism and anarchism also converge in the work of Alejandro Jodorowsky, a Chilean-French director of Jewish descent, who, in proper anarchist style, sparked a full-scale riot when his debut film, Fando y Lis premiered at the 1968 Acapulco film festival. Jodorowsky is an avowed anarchist, who is quoted by Ben Cobb in the book Anarchy and Alchemy, as saying, “The slogan of anarchy is ‘Neither God Nor Master.’ But I only apply this to the external world. In the depths of my spirit, I have made anarchy my ‘Internal God and Master.’” In his autobiographical film The Dance of Reality from 2013, Jodorowsky’s youngest son Adán plays a character called Anarchist.
Jodorowsky’s third film The Holy Mountain, which premiered at Cannes in 1973, is an astonishing masterpiece that features many direct references to Kabbalah, as well as other forms of mysticism, such as tarot and alchemy. In an interview with Ilan Stevens, Jodorowsky says that he was initiated by Kabblah experts after first studying tarot and learning about the 19th century French occultist Eliphas Levi, who practiced both tarot and Kabbalah.
Like Benjamin, Jodorowsky used mysticism and surrealism to comment on fascism, which he saw as inextricably linked to the history of colonization. In one classic scene from Holy Mountain, the “Great Toad and Chameleon Circus” performs “The Conquest of Mexico.” One of the circus ringleaders wears a bow tie and top hat with a swastika on it. The performance takes place on an elaborate model of Aztec pyramids with horned lizards dressed in bright Aztec clothing. They are bombarded by giant toads, dressed in silver armor and brown robes like Spanish conquistadors and monks. The invasion turns into a bloodbath, as huge streams of blood flow down the pyramids, which are eventually blown into pieces. The scene begins with the sound of pan flutes and transitions, as the toad conquistadors invade, into a Nazi marching song.
Jodorowsky connects fascism not only to colonialism, but to modern capitalism, organized religion, and state power. The title of The Holy Mountain refers to a mythical mountain, to which the most powerful people from each planet set off to in order to find the secret of eternal life. One of the mountains Jodorowsky references when he introduces the Holy Mountain is the “Kabbalistic mountain of San Juan de la Cruz,” a reference to Ascent of Mount Carmel, the spiritual treatise by Saint John of the Cross, a Christian Kabbalist from a converso (descendants of Spanish Jews who converted to Christianity) family. Among the planetary representatives is Axon (Richard Rutowsky), the chief of police of Neptune, who castrates his followers, collecting their testicles in a collection of 1000 jars. After castrating one boy, he hands him “the holy book” and tells him to “learn to believe in me.” Axon’s scene culminates in his police force attacking student protesters, with colored scarves and birds flying out of bullet wounds.
Jodorowsky represents the brutal inhumanity of capitalist logic through the character of Lut (Luis Lomelí), an architect from Pluto. Lut remarks, “A man doesn’t need a home, all he needs is a shelter. If we can sell him on the idea of a shelter, we can make millions. A worker will come here only to sleep; he won’t need electricity or water. He won’t have to cook; we’ll condition him to eat at the factory.” Jodorowsky also connects capitalism to authoritarian state power through Berg (Nicky Nichols), financial adviser to the president on the planet Uranus. Berg reports to the president: “to save the country’s economy, we must eliminate four million citizens in the next five years.”
Ultimately, Jodorowsky presents an anarchistic message in opposition to fascism. Jodorowsky’s own character, The Alchemist, who has organized the journey to the Holy Mountain, reveals this message to The Thief (played by Horacio Salinas), a character who accompanies the more powerful characters on their journey to the Holy Mountain. Earlier in the film, The Alchemist tells The Thief about these powerful characters: “They are thieves like you, but on another level.” As the film concludes, Jodorowsky tells The Thief to leave behind the quest for eternal life and instead return with the two characters who have devotedly followed him on the journey, a prostitute (Ana de Sade) and an ape: “Forget the summits, reach eternity through love. Return to your country. I leave you my tower and my alchemical rooms. This is your family and your people. Change the world.” Rather than turning his shit into gold (as the Alchemist teaches the Thief how to do earlier in the movie) or seeking eternal life, Jodorowsky is telling The Thief and viewers of The Holy Mountain to change the brutality, oppression, and coldheartedness of the capitalist, statist world that surrounds them–which he connects to both the legacy of colonialism and the ever-present danger of fascism.
In the era of Trump, Benjamin’s Theses on the Philosophy of History and Jodorowsky’s Holy Mountain are quite relevant for their powerful reflections on the destructive force of fascism and its connection to colonialism and capitalism. Unlike the Kabbalah peddled by the phony capitalists of the Kabbalah Centre, Kabbalah, as it is represented by Benjamin and Jodorowsky, provides a mystical view of the universe that directly opposes orthodoxy, inequality, and injustice. This makes Kabbalah a natural companion to anarchism and opponent to capitalism and fascism.
Jesse Brent is a writer and radio/podcast producer, who lives in Brooklyn. He is currently working on a master’s thesis on cultural hybridity and liberatory politics in contemporary Moroccan music.