Monday, July 31, 2006

After Thirty Two Years... Robert Seth Hayes Denied Parole AGAIN!

Robert Seth Hayes, who has been a political prisoner held by the United States for over thirty years, was recently denied parole for the fifth time. He cannot appear before the parole board again for another two years.

He was refused based on the purely political - as opposed to legal - position that violent offenders should not receive parole… and this regardless of their actual sentence.

What follows is a short statement Seth released regarding this setback:

I remain strong, detached from frustration, and eager to step up the fight to win release. I am truly thankful for all the support everyone has given me. I now request everyone's continued support in the next stage of defense now underway. For my part, I will maintain an open line so everyone will remain updated as I proceed. For now, thank you everyone, please stay firm and involved, and let's keep up the fight for respect and application of justice. It is our duty to demand justice as well as practice justice onto all.

Straight ahead!

Robert Seth' Hayes
July 20, 2006.

i have also been sent the following longer statement, well worth forwarding elsewhere or posting to your own website or putting in your own newsletter, in which Seth reflects back on his life, and one the reasons why he remains behind bars:


And so my journey into the pages of history began with my first step, with my accumulated thoughts of righteousness and unity. As a young man I often found myself dreaming of a utopian society without being aware of what that term meant. I knew I wanted a society free of stress and poverty, crime and police occupation. I'd often observed older people's glances and postures of negativity whenever representatives of authority rode by. Why was that? Why were the police both feared and hated so much? I had no answers then but I saw the impacts nonetheless.

I cherish my growing up because it was never a path of hatred or isolationism. I was not taught to hate white people and nor was that a hidden message amongst my peers. Instead I learned resistance to the class oppressor, the enforcer of racist policies. I saw in my own poor community, a love of family and commitment to joint responsibility for all the people's children by those older than me. That sort of collective living was what inspired me to dream. To dream of a just society, surrounded by people working together with each other.

As I grew older, I carried forth those impressionable remembrances. Of love and compassion and discipline and respect. In those days, people shared food, child caring responsibilities and discipline for everyone else's children. When I grew up everyone was either auntie or uncle so-and-so. These were not titles but badges of respect. Elders gave children a sense of being a loved part of the community. Lessons at their feet taught respect, sharing and duty to pass on good teachings. And then I became older, independent so to speak. I was knew I could make choices and could damn sure make them (that is if my daddy wasn't close by or another who would report me to him). I was coming into my own, thinking about non-traditional things. Like what constituted a family? And what role should the male or female play in terms of authority? Of course I chose the male leadership (what else did I know?) but never as a first choice. Instead it was always a conclusion arrived at, but always it was debatable.

I saw myself as a change maker, and wanted no more brutal cops, no more racist posturing from anyone, no more of being made to feel inferior. I hated how young people like me were made to feel so inadequate. Of being less than important just because one of the enforcers was near. I really hated it when one of the pigs would beat one of us --  we were 8 years old, 10 never more than 12. Many a time we were beaten for being in the wrong neighborhood, or just for being the color we were. It never required an exact reasoning, just the opportunity for the oppressor.

And then Vietnam came and manhood followed, based on the possibility I might never get back home. I grew up through troubled awareness in Vietnam. I learned to kill and avoid being killed and how much others suffered at the hands of the USA. I finally came home with a new mindset, capacities and leadership qualities but I was still grounded in my earlier upbringing.

I was made for the Black Panther party. I felt its call, I called it, and it was my calling card to life. The work they were doing for community empowerment was part of my dream as well.

Joining the party was an invitation to aid and assist all members of my community. The Party focused on blacks as a whole but sought alliances with all races. Doing work to help out was like looking out for a newly acquainted niece or nephew. It felt good to doing these things. My journey through the era of my Black Panther Party days will always resonate with a flood of pleasurable images and work worthy of remembrance. But alas, there came a time when mere demonstration and resistance gave way to greater acts of destruction. From my observations I saw it as a time when the powers that be determined that we as a whole were expendable. There were stories then of members (both women and men) giving themselves up, hands raised high, who were shot down dead in the street by police. With madness and retaliation, both sides saw the necessity of the necessary. The end results were many funerals on both sides. Tragedies of warfare, yet unavoidable.

The journey of a thousand miles found me functioning underground. It was still necessary to feed and clothe the neighborhood residents, as well as to make commitments to protect them. Our works detoured and detained the inevitable, slowing the destruction of our youth and neighborhood by the stronger and more potent drugs then being introduced. I trust that had we not been in the wings, fighting, agitating, struggling and resisting, the numbers of people consumed and destroyed would have been exponentially increased. For those fallen, lost or astray the price was and remains high from that battle. Even today, we are blocked from having a say or impact in rehabilitation. But the struggle goes on, and many more battles demand our attention. There are cries of war heard over there, here, and around the corner. Rumors, actions, with many fallen, broken or no longer living. And yes the war wages continuously, with many now in its ranks wanting its end. Negotiations now the watchword, and no longer saber rattling or deadly, deceitful actions. But the beat goes on, and the struggle continues. And always the cry of the needy, wounded, and oppressed people. And my and our commitment to see to the end of their oppression continues, because our cause is just, righteous and humane.

Brave is the warrior who braves a thousand cuts to unseat the Emperor... So many have died and so many are confined, and so many are marked for destruction. Yet the strugglers march onward, dutifully seeking to add their own contributions. Braving the cuts, the losses, the pain. Marching in step with humanity, and seeking a place in the ranks of those who have aided humanity. It is when the last page of the history of the destructive era is written, and when those who contributed and sacrificed are recalled, and when those whose wounds can finally be closed and be eternally healed, that I will recall your names as I hope you will recall my own. And it is at the bedtimes of our young and before large crowds of well-wishers who cheer that we shall do that. Then in honor and admiration we will sing of our sacrifices and determination.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Brave is the warrior who braves a thousand cuts to unseat the Emperor.

My name is Robert Seth Hayes and I am one of those warrior/soldiers. And like any other struggler, I hope that when I fall, the banner of duty and responsibility passes on to you and that it will be carried forward in the struggle for humanity's victory!

A Luta’ Continua’
(the struggle continues)

Robert Seth Hayes
May 2006

For more information on Robert Seth Hayes, please visit the Seth Hayes Support Committee website.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Charles Gagnon 1939-2005

On November 17th, 2005, Charles Gagnon – a veteran of the revolutionary struggles in Quebec in the 1960s and 70s – passed away.

Gagnon was a critically important figure in the development of revolutionary politics in Quebec. Unfortunately, most non-francophone comrades who were not themselves active in the 60s or 70s probably have no idea who he was.

It was partly because it struck me as such an unusually mature and balanced piece of writing, and partly because i think many anglophone comrades in Quebec are missing out on a lot of the inspirational history of the revolutionary movement in this society, that i first thought of translating the following article.

Then shortly afterwards i heard that Pierre Foglia had actually commented on this article in the newspaper column he writes for La Presse. Not only did Foglia misrepresent what the authors had written – accusing them of calling Gagnon a “traitor” and even “digging him up to put him in front of a firing squad” (!) – but he did so in order to attack the entire far left in Quebec. As if to say “these are the nutbars who still reject capitalism.”

At which point i felt “wow, gotta translate this”… and i did… and then you see i never actually got along to uploading it. Mea culpa!

So here, at last, i am getting around to uploading it.

A disclaimer of sorts before you read on: the following article was written by members of the International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party, a “left communist” organization. The IBRP’s line on reality – which you can check out here – is not my own. The differences should be obvious enough to those who read this blog (i.e. regarding the strategic importance of anti-patriarchal struggle, regarding the importance of anti-colonialism, regarding divisions within the working class), so i won’t go into details here. Except to say that, in regards to what follows, i would perhaps not be so harsh in my appraisal of the Marxist-Leninist movement in Quebec and internationally, nor would i be so quick to generalize the critique of Quebec nationalism into a general critique of any and all national liberation movements.

But then again, i never knew Gagnon, i was not active in the 60s or 70s, i was never a member of an ML group… so i’ll just shut up and let the authors speak for themselves… for not only do they pay their respects to Charles Gagnon, but hopefully they may also provide a glimpse at the realities and complexities of recent revolutionary struggle in Quebec…

Charles Gagnon 1939-2005

An Intense Commitment, A Sincere Revolt – But To What End?

“The Leader of Quebec’s Communists Is Dead” was the headline of Le Devoir on November 19th, 2005. Some might be surprised that a left communist publication [the IBRP’s Notes Internationalistes] would note the death of Charles Gagnon. Most people may have lost track of him some time ago – but it would be wrong to forget him.

We readily agree with Karl Marx’s statement, Nihil humanum alienum est Nothing human is foreign to us. Gagnon was an important figure in the Canadian social movement for over twenty years, and so it is worth retracing his political itinerary. We are all the more interested in doing so for once upon a time some of us followed this same path.

Furthermore, we don’t want to leave the last word to the (big and little) bourgeois press, which was generally quite uncharitable and unforgiving in the various obituaries they devoted to Gagnon. Without a doubt, the nationalists wanted to make him pay one last time for all his criticisms – no matter how inadequate – of the Quebecois nationalist movement, indeed of all national liberation movements.

Gagnon was a leading member of the Front de Libération du Québec, and later General Secretary of the Canadian Marxist-Leninist organization En Lutte!, of the Maoist variety of Stalinism – so Gagnon, at least in his public life, was very far removed from the political positions we defend. We are talking here about Charles Gagnon’s public life, for after En Lutte! dissolved he seemed to retreat into a life where personal disillusionment and the need for distance combined, and generally won out over any ideas of once again intervening into current events.

Our critique of Charles Gagnon is political, not personal. It is intended to analyze ideas rather than the man, no matter how noble his intentions may have been. Karl Marx, in his famous preface to the Critique of Political Economy pointed out that you cannot judge a man based on what he thinks of himself. Our political tendency has already stated its skepticism elsewhere as to the role of this or that individual in history. In Le Bordiguisme et la Gauche italienne, we wrote: “First of all, how can we size up the work of a militant from the revolutionary vanguard, evaluate the contributions he made to general, economic or historical theoretical problems, or those that relate more directly to political practice and tactics? We believe such judgments should be considered as impersonally as possible, even when they are in fact extremely personal. In this way the revolutionary, whoever they happen to be and in whatever period they happen to have made their contribution, is always working with material provided by the historical experience of the class. They take up elements that others before them were able to develop to a certain point, as determined at the time by the level of development and experience of the class subjected to the objective conditions and necessities at that point in the history of capitalism.”

Born into a large and poor family in the Bic, Charles Gagnon pursued his classical studies at the Rimouski Seminary in the 1950s. In the early 1960s he enrolled in the University of Montreal’s Faculté des Lettres where he was active in student groups and briefly collaborated on Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s magazine Cité Libre.

In 1963 he met Pierre Vallières, with whom he would work so closely (we remember the Vallières-Gagnon Committees) in various left nationalist projects. These included Révolution Québecoise, Parti Pris, the Mouvement de liberation populaire and the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) in 1966 [1]. That same year he was arrested along with Vallières in New York City (they were trying to establish a multi-national liberation front) and the two were extradited to Quebec in January 1967, where they were held for an extended period of time in Bordeaux prison. It was there that Gagnon wrote Feu sur l’Amérique – Une proposition pour la révolution nord-américaine. Released in February 1970 after spending 41 months behind bars and being acquitted of charges of murder, he was once again imprisoned during the 1970 October Crisis and was finally released on June 16th 1971.

This was the beginning of a new chapter in his life.

The first sign of this new stage was a very public break with his comrade and friend Pierre Valllières, who in 1971 had published L’urgence de choisir and joined the Parti Québecois. The usual explanation for this break between the two longtime comrades is that Gagnon understandably refused to follow Vallières into the PQ. But this explanation conveniently forgets the fact that they in fact parted company before that, following differences regarding the armed activities of the FLQ, which Vallières would support right up until his spectacular conversion to the PQ (2).

Gagnon responded to Vallières’ PQ turn with a small unimposing work of forty pages, Pour le parti prolétarien, published on October 29th 1972. This document was widely distributed and discussed in activist circles. We remember that when we first read it we were struck by the following paragraph, which represented a real break with what we had believed before, and with anything we could have expected from the Charles Gagnon of the FLQ period:

“Already our history shows us that the ‘nation of nationalists’ is a very deceptive idea. In nationalist party programmes and during election campaigns, the ‘nation’ refers to everyone: firefighters, workers, politicians, police, judges, businessmen, housewives and the unemployed, everyone except the Jews and the English! But as soon as they win, come the first important conflict, we see the ‘national’ State sending the ‘national’ police to attack the ‘national’ workers, all of which is legally sanctioned by the ‘national’ judges. The ‘national’ housewives and their children go without and the ‘national’ businessmen, whether or not they are Jewish or English, maintain their profits while the ‘national’ banks make money hand over fist…” (3)

At the time it was as if someone had removed a blindfold from our eyes. At last we could see! That said, when we read this pamphlet again thirty four years later, we were struck by how the whole document remained stuck in the trendy lefty nationalism and third-worldism of the time. Unfortunately, things have not really changed in that regard. This manifesto would become a founding document of the “Marxist-Leninist” movement in Quebec, which at its height was one of the strongest in the western world, along with those in Norway, Portugal, Belgium and Spain. (4)

An Équipe du Journal (EDJ) formed around this document, and on May 1st 1973, the first issue of the newspaper En Lutte! appeared in French. Later in September that year the EDJ began publishing this newspaper every two weeks, distributing it across Quebec. From that point on En Lutte! was affiliated with the Comité de solidarité aux luttes ouvrières (which was involved in the very heavy and frequent proletarian struggles of that time) and with the Atelier Ouvrier, which was mainly made up of workers from the shoe industry, and which notably produced a particularly insightful critique of the role of collective agreements and trade unionism.

In November 1974 the group En Lutte! held its first congress; it was built around the document “Créons l’organization marxiste-léniniste de lutte pour le parti” [translation: “Create the Marxist-Leninist Organization of Struggle for the Party”] (5), which was published in supplement #29 of the newspaper. The initial critique of trade unionism was rejected as was the Quebec national liberation struggle. The organization was decidedly “Marxist-Leninist” and “anti-revisionist”.

En Lutte! was the product of an entire generation of rebels, not just in Quebec but around the world, who were rising up to fight against all forms of oppression and exploitation, and who were disgusted by what they knew about the gulag in the USSR and the Eastern Bloc. Nevertheless, they swallowed whole the belief that the socialist project might be renewed by Maoism and the “youth” movement. We know what came next. Barely ten years later, En Lutte! joined dozens of other “new communist movement” organizations around the world who were blown away one after another like so many straw houses.

This phenomenon would be worth analyzing in and of itself, and our group will soon publish a critical analysis of Maoism, which is enjoying a mild comeback in North America and still remains strong in Asia (so much so that the prestigious Financial Times has recently devoted an article to the subject).

All of which is to say that after a promising start, En Lutte! was repeatedly shaken by one atrocious Chinese foreign policy decision after another, and this while Mao was still alive, the Sino-Albanian split which spread throughout the “Marxist-Leninist” movement, the war between the “socialist” countries of China and Vietnam, the horrific news of what happened in Cambodia, etc.

Monique Simard, a former trade unionist and failed politician who has recycled herself as a film-maker, has tried to explain the failure of En Lutte! and the Workers Communist Party (see note 4) as proof that these organizations had fulfilled their underhanded  “anti-nationalist” function during the 1980 referendum [on Quebec sovereignty – translator] and could now disappear (see Il était une fois… le Québec rouge). Such ignorance and conspiracy mongering leaves us speechless… but nevertheless, it is true that in Quebec, the position in favour of spoiling the ballot in the referendum did help to provoke the group’s liquidation.

Today many former “MLs” have become big-shots in various nationalist organizations. Gagnon never did. In fact, both his desire “to be a very bad nationalist” and the fact that he never supported Canadian federalism (regardless of the lies spread by the bourgeois press) probably contributed to his professional difficulties later on.

As En Lutte! was nearing its end, Gagnon carried out theoretical work and produced critical articles of a rather high caliber, displaying a relatively independent line of thought given his ideological affiliations at the time. In June 1982, at its fourth convention, En Lutte! voted to dissolve, and Charles Gagnon never quite got over this. His deep bitterness regarding this period was as much the result of friendships ruined and betrayed during the intense internal struggle, as by the ideological and organizational disarray that followed so many years of hard work and sacrifice.

The following years were marked by a certain isolation. Certainly, the last period of his life was difficult on a human level. While he only sporadically intervened politically, we think it is worth pointing out that these interventions remained critical of capitalism. And yet his writings became more and more vague, and increasingly he referred to imprecise humanist concepts and/or appealed to non-class entities such as “youth.” Indeed, he became something of a Shakespearean character, losing himself in his thoughts all the while nurturing the desire to once again get involved. It was as if he was waiting for us to call him back to action.

In the last text published while he was alive, he wrote nostalgically about his years of activism: “I knew why I was getting up early and why I was going to bed late. I was happy to be with my comrades. Together we were going somewhere, we knew where we were going and we knew why.” (6)

Retreating back in himself, relatively isolated from the social struggles which had initially fed his own revolt, his political thought and commitment, Charles Gagnon reminds us of the figure of Antaeus from Greek mythology. Antaeus was the son of Poseidon, god of the sea, and Gaia, the Mother Earth. He was a great warrior who was invincible as long as he was touching the earth, through which his mother Gaia could magnify his strength. Yet Hercules guessed this secret source of strength, and in one decisive battle managed to lift him up from the ground, at which point he could break his bones, keeping him suspended until he died.

Similarly, Charles, who had not been broken by years in prison or by the public and personal difficulties he encountered while playing such an important public role for so many years, was finally defeated politically by his self-imposed isolation. Cut off from the struggles and from contact with the proletarians with whom he had been able to communicate with so easily and “organically” (7), he gradually lost the thread of the relatively promising theoretical work (8) he had undertaken in the period leading up to En Lutte!’s dissolution. At that time he was taking stock of things and trying to understand the failure of twentieth century socialism, with the aim of surpassing it, of an aufheben (9) of his previous leftist and Stalinist positions. Even though we had recently renewed a discussion about trade unionism with Charles, we have no idea how he came to his theoretical deconstruction/confusion. Marx often speaks of the “false appearance of things.” In Capital he writes that “A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very complex thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” Just think how complex a human being is!

Especially an exceptional human being like Charles…

When En Lutte! dissolved many of his old comrades openly renounced Marxism (10), but for some of us theoretical reflection and ongoing participation in workers’ struggles led – with more than a few detours and false starts – to Left Communism and the International Bureau for a Revolutionary Party. Those of us who chose this difficult path will remember Charles fondly as a deeply human and sincere human being and activist, but one who sadly did not fare as well as we would have hoped when faced with all the difficulties of the communist struggle.

Of the times we shared with him, we will try and remember his “moments of truth,” while at the same time pursuing his struggle for a proletarian party in different ways. It will not be the party of a mere Québecois or Canadian revolution, but an international and internationalist party of a global workers’ revolution. It is this revolution, and only this revolution, that will be able to save the world from the environmental and social decay caused by a system based on production-for-profit, and which will be able to replace it by a system of production based on social usefulness and sharing.

Goodbye Charles!

Réal Jodoin
Richard St-Pierre

(1) In a 1986 interview with the magazine Révoltes, Charles explained: “I was a member of the FLQ in 1966. I insist on this distinction because the first FLQ groups, from 1963, were much more nationalist that those of 1966, for whom social questions were more important. The group I was a part of mainly carried out actions in workers’ conflicts like Lagrenade and Dominion Textile.”

(2) We are especially grateful for this self-criticism, as it certainly prevented the needless loss of human life, repression and imprisonment. Gagnon’s reputation and the certainty that this new position had nothing to do with fear or backing down definitely helped to put an end to these sterile and hopeless “years of the gun”.

(3) Pour le parti prolétarian, October 1972, Third Edition, En lutte!, page 25.

(4) Prior to this there had been Jack Scott’s Progressive Workers Movement on the West coast, the Canadian Party of Labour (close to the U.S. Progressive Labor Party) and also Hardial Bains’ series of organizational hallucinations (of which the CPCML remains today). Nevertheless, it was Gagnon’s text that caught “public opinion”. Even if he would later lead an even larger organization, the Workers Communist Party (the official Chinese Communist Party franchise in Canada), Roger Rashi would never enjoy the credibility of Gagnon.

(5) Many similar texts were written by various groups at the time. Some would join En Lutte!, others would go on to form the Canadian Communist League (Marxist-Leninist) which would later call itself the Workers Communist Party. This organization would be the servile Canadian franchise of Chinese Stalinism and its “Three Worlds Theory”.

(6) Il etait une fois… Conte a l’adresse de la jeunesse de mon pays, in the Bulletin d’histoire politique, Lux, vol. 13 #1, page 56. []

(7) One of the authors of this article can recall a memorable meeting with several dozen miners of the Normétal Mining Corporation as well as similar exchanges in the “country and western” bars of Abitibi.

(8) The documents he worked on at this time, no matter how inadequate they may have been, nevertheless broke with the boring truisms, the moralistic preaching and the formulaic catch-phrases that were being churned out by the other supposed leaders of the world proletariat (Klonsky, Jurquet, Dinucci, Aust, Hill, Palacios, Rashi, Bains, Avakian, etc.) We can already hear our local Maoists raising their voices in defense of Avakian. In a few months we will answer them with a political argument against Maoism. Indeed, the text Pour une appréciation juste de la question de Staline which appeared in Arsenal #5 has given us an opportunity to identify and deal with the different issues now more than ever.

(9) A German word which does not really have a French (or English?) equivalent. It more or less means “to conserve/to suppress” and Hegel used it to describe a dialectical process whereby a superior form of thought succeeds an inferior one, while retaining the “moments of truth” of the latter.

(10) Needless to say, we are merely using the word “Marxism” for the sake of readability here. The Stalinism and Maoism of En Lutte! ruled out any possibility of that organization ever actually being Marxist. Amongst those former members who completely abandoned the class struggle, several have found comfortable homes in the business world (and not modest ones either…), while others can today be found in the Québec Solidaire reformist recuperation racket or in the highest levels of the trade union bureaucracy. It is to Charles’ great honour that he never wanted or would have been able to find a place in that world. Yet most of the “ex-MLs” never did compromise themselves in such business or political opportunism. Our own experience and contacts lead us to believe that a majority are still willing to get involved and fight during the next wave of anti-capitalist struggle.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Thoughts on Yesterday's Montreal Demonstration Against Israeli Aggression

At least two thousand people – possible many more than that – came out to protest Israeli aggression, marching through the drizzling rain in downtown Montreal yesterday. Media reports than “1,000” were there are bullshit, but i can’t be sure exactly how many there were, as this was the most densely packed demo i have ever been at – and like any densely packed material, it flowed slowly through the streets…

The demonstration was mainly made up of members of Montreal’s Arab communities, but not completely so – there were also many of the regulars from the anarchist scene, the Maoist RCP-OC had members interspersed in the crowd, and i noticed a few Trots, albeit without any of their regular calling cards (i.e. not a copy of The Militant or Socialist Worker to be found). But this was clearly a protest grounded in the Arab immigrant communities, i assume especially the Lebanese, as the latter form by far the largest Arab community in Montreal.

The level of politics seemed to toggle between anti-war sloganeering and nationalism, all with an obvious anti-zionist spin. There were so many flags – mainly Lebanese, some Palestinian, but also a number of Fleur-de-Lys and Maple Leafs – and most signs being the kind that simply called for an end to the killing, some taking a more direct aim at Israel, with signs like “Shame on You” or “End Israeli Apartheid”.

This makes sense given why people are out marching. This is not an abstract “maybe there’ll be a war” like the metropolitan peace movements in the 80s were protesting, nor is this a protest against somebody else’s predicament, like the various demonstrations against the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The majority of these people were out protesting the destruction of their homeland, of the land where many still have family and friends, and they were protesting this while it was actually going on. In such a context falling back on simple “Stop the Violence” type sentiments makes sense.

As for nationalism – well, isn’t the appeal obvious when a country is being bombed so viciously? Children are being killed because they are Lebanese – so the defiant desire to (as one woman’s sign read) “Rally To Our Flag, Our Nation, Our Glory” isn’t tough to figure out.

Furthermore, people should notice that racist politicians and radio talk show hosts have already being playing the “real Canadian” card, implying that “dual citizen” Canadians are somehow less deserving of rights or respect than their pure bred neighbours. We heard this most disgustingly in bipartisan remarks made as Canada bungled its evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon. In what could be a situation of literal life or death, with an estimated 40,000 Canadians in Lebanon, MP Garth Turner has argued that evacuees should be separated out depending on if they share Lebanese citizenship, with only the “pure” Canadians being the ones who should be saved, or at least the ones who should be saved first. (Of course, this is avoiding he truly painful fact that either evacuation amount to saving “our” citizens so that Israel can safely murder anyone who is left without causing too much of a diplomatic kerfuffle.)

So in a situation where people are not only under attack in Lebanon, but also face racist discrimination here in Canada – all the more reason why nationalist sentiments should come to the fore. While i don’t support it, i don’t necessarily oppose it, or at least not in the form i saw it expressing itself yesterday.

car flies canadian, quebecois, lebanese and palestinian flags at yesterday's demo

What is more problematic, though again very understandable in a sad kind of way, was the Canadian and Quebecois nationalism in evidence. I’m talking about the ones saying Harper has “betrayed” us, or that Canada should not turn its back on its past as noble peacekeeper, or the Quebec and Canadian flags … in other words the wrapping oneself in imperialist flags insisting that the “real Canadian” or “real Quebecois” national interests and values lie with the Lebanese victims of imperialism.

This fosters dangerous illusions.

Canada is a nation founded on settlerism and invasion, just like Israel. Anti-zionists are fond of describing Israeli policies as “apartheid”, pointing out the similarities with the draconian racial controls which existed in South Africa until 1991, but what some may forget is that South Africa itself was merely perfecting and sharpening the lessons learned from the colonial experience around the world, including Canada, which had its own “pass laws” for Indians – indeed, in 1902 a South African delegation visited this country to study these laws…

Nor is this ancient history. Check out the situation at Grassy Narrows. Check out the struggle people have had to wage outside of Caledonia, at Six Nations. This is the country where indigenous women comprise 2% of the population, but 46% of those in maximum security prisons. This is the country tuberculosis rated 17 times higher amongst indigenous people than settlers.

This is the country which claims the maple leaf, and this is the flag some people are holding up in opposition to the Israeli flag, as the “good country” which should be standing up against “the bad one”.

As radical leftists, what we have to point out is that Harper’s tacit support for Israel is not an aberration, nor is it a “scandal” or a “betrayal” – it is merely the logical and consistent expression of his right-wing politics on the world stage.

Opposing a progressive “Canadian” or “Quebecois” nationalism to zionism also muddies the waters as to what the latter is, and why we should oppose it. Unlike those who hold that zionism is “worst than the nazis” or “the most racist ideology ever” – opinions which are as ahistorical as they are anti-semitic – zionism is in fact nothing more or less than the ideology of turning the Jewish people into a new colonialist nation.

In this zionism is certainly racist, and certainly reactionary, and certainly must be opposed 100% - but it is also certainly in the same category as Canadian nationalism or American nationalism. Or even certain varieties of Quebecois nationalism. The idea that a group of people – call it a nation or an ethnic group or whatever – should take a piece of land, subjugate those who live there or force them to flee, and found a new nation on the bones of its victims is not one which was thought up by Theodor Herzl – he was merely trying to apply the lessons of European world conquest to his own people, hoping for a Jewish colonial State in the same way that England and France and Belgium and the other Euro-powers had set up “their” colonial states.

Opposing zionism while embracing Canadianism is a defensive move by a community which is currently under attack from the former, and realizes it may be able to defend itself with the latter. This is what i call “protective politics”, where people adopt symbols or claim values out of desperation, because they realize that this may be what it takes to save some lives.

However, embracing one form of colonialist nationalism in order to oppose another makes no sense as a political line for the left. For us, we must try to push the level of struggle beyond anti-zionism to anti-canadianism, to a more general and explicit and radical anti-colonialism.

For instance, rather than adopting the highly dubious “Star of David equals Swastika” imagery which was visible in some sections of the demonstration, i think it would make more sense to put forward a “Down with Canada – Down with Israel” or some such. (This is of course leaving out the stupid ambiguity of such imagery in general – for the Star of David is the symbol for all Jews, including those who are anti-zionist…)

The linkage of zionism with nazism is really just a way of saying “fuck you” to Israel’s most vocal supporters, most of whom are Jews and will obviously get upset by this amalgamation. But on a political level it does nothing to clarify the nature of this conflict or our reasons for opposing the zionist settler state – which should be because it is colonialist. It makes much more sense to connect our opposition to Israeli crimes to our opposition to Canadian crimes against the First Nations.

About which i guess i could write more, but this post is getting long enough… so you’ll have to wait til some other day…

Saturday, July 22, 2006

U.S. Rushes Bombs to Israel

From the morning newspaper:

The Bush administration is rushing a delivery of precision-guided bombs to Israel, which requested the expedited shipment last week after beginning its air campaign against Hezbollah targets in Lebanon, U.S. officials said yesterday.

What a moving display of international cooperation – like aiding like in their shared passion for slaughter.

Friday, July 21, 2006

A Classy Look at Neighbourhoods in Montreal (courtesy of the RCP-OC)

A while back i was at some event or demo or something and got a flyer from the Red Youth Front (Front Rouge des Jeunes), an affiliate of the Revolutionary Communist Party (Organizing Committee), a local Maoist group. (NOTE: the RCP-OC is not the same as the American RCP, for those who keep track of such things).

Anyways, said piece of paper came home with me, got put in one pile of similar papers, shuffled back and forth across m office for who-knows-how-long, until finally today i read it while (trying to) clean up this mess!

All of which is to say: it’s a nice little flier, an explanation of the slogan (provided at the bottom) that “it is right to revolt!”

A list of statistics if you will. Here they go (translation provided by yours truly):

A Look at Life In the Working Class Neighbourhoods

A Look at Life in the Bourgeois Neighbourhoods

Average Revenue
Hochelaga: $28 193
Montreal-North: $35 233
Parc-Extension: $27 877

Average Revenue
Outremont: $90 613
Westmount: $142 604
Town of Mount Royal: $116 271

Life Expectency
Centre-Sud: 71,6 years
Pointe St-Charles: 73,9 years

Life Expectancy
Hampstead: 82,0 years
Westmount: 82.1 years

Average Value of an Apartment
Saint Henri: $120 539

Average Value of a House
Westmount: $553 775

Deaths Caused by Respiratory Illnesses
Montreal-East & Pointe-aux-Trembles: 133

Deaths Caused by Respiratory Illnesses
West Island: 66

Percentage of Single Parent Households
Saint-Michel: 39,8%
Hochelaga: 51,1%

Percentage of Single Parent Households
Pierrefonds: 21,1%
West Island:  16,2%

Rate of Suicide (per 100,000)
Petite-Patrie: 20,6
Centre-Sud: 42,0

Rate of Suicide (per 100,000)
West Island: 6,2
Hampstead: 6,9

Unemployment Rate
Pointe-St-Charles: 15,3%
Parc-Extension: 20,8%

Unemployment Rate
Pierrefonds: 6,3%
Westmount: 5,5%

Dropout Rate
Hochelaga: 49%

Dropout Rate
Westmount: 2%

Violent Crime Rate (per 1000)
Saint Henri: 24,6

Violent Crime Rate (per 1000)
West Island: 4,6

Of course such a list still relies on several bourgeois patriarchal assumptions – about who is in a “household”, about what gets reported in the ways of “violent crime” – which serve as ideological gerrymandering the same way many of Montreal’s communities have actually been gerrymandered in order to diminish working class power… but nevertheless it’s a nice little list. Still more useful than useless.

It would be nice to have gender factored into it. Ditto with nationality. I don’t know if the RCP-OC would do so – like most leftists i imagine they consider the former to be tantamount to dark matter, and like many of the better leftists in Quebec nationality gets only cursory attention methinks from a desire to not inadvertently give solace to the nationalists… but still, one can hope.

Or maybe someone else can go better?

July Update: New Radical Literature and More from Kersplebedeb

Just to let you all know - as well as blogging, there's some new stuff i've been up to in relation to my distro, Kersplebedeb.

As many of you will know, we traveled to Baltimore recently for the Mid-Atlantic Radical bookfair held in that city in early July. Predictably, there were a lot of other people there with great stuff... but more on that later... first... a new title of my own...

People's War... Women's War? two texts by Comrade Parvati of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) with commentary by Butch Lee. A look at women's role in the Nepalese Revolution, and the relationship of women to Maoism and revolution in general. The two main texts in this pamphlet are reprints of essays by Comrade Parvati, one of the few women in the central committee of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). In her interview with People's March, and her essay The Question of Women's Leadership in People's War in Nepal, Parvati is refreshingly critical and honest in her appraisal of the role of women in the CPN(M)'s peasant guerilla army, drawing conclusions regarding the connections between patriarchy and the defeat and degeneration of past communist revolutions, and the centrality of women to any successful communist revolution. Commenting on these texts, North American Amazon theorist Butch Lee examines the mixed record of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism in regards to women's liberation, the role of women in armed struggle, and the role of armed struggle in winning and defending freedom and autonomy for women and children.
70 pages - $4.00 US

to download a flyer about this pamphlet <click here!
to read the introduction to this pamphlet click here!

IMO, Butch Lee is one of the most important radical strategists today; she writes from a revolutionary Amazon perspective - for more of her writings click here!


Agents of Repression, by Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall. The now classic account of the FBI's secret war against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, under the auspiced of COINTELPRO. While State repression is just one part of what did in the revolutionary movements of the 60s and 70s, it did constitute a critical piece of the puzzle. And this book is probably the best and most thorough examination out there, unapologetically partisan and painfully detailed.
509 pages
$22.00 US / $25.00 Cdn

Hot Lead Is Medicine: Thoughts on Whiteness, privilege and violence, by Texas F. Slim. Clearly written from the "anti-civilization"/insurrectional wing of anarchism, this snappy little pamphlet is nevertheless a cut above most anarchist discussions of violence and revolution. Grounding himself in his own experience, Texas examines the meaning and limits of violence, arguing that a truly revolutionary movement must go further than the merely symbolic riot, instead developing a thoroughgoing practice based on a politics of survival. i blogged a lengthy review of this pamphlet which you can read here.
12 pages
$1.00 US / $1.25 Cdn

How Non-Violence Protects the State, by Peter Gelderloos. Argued from an anarchist perspective, the author of this book takes on various arguments in favour of doctrinaire non-violence, dismantling them one at a time. Gelderloos is not arguing that everyone should abandon non-violent tactics, but is intent on showing how a "Non-Violence Only" strategy props up not only the State, but a variety of other mechanisms of oppression as well, with chapters like "Non-Violence is Racist", "Non-Violence is Patriarchal" and "Non-Violence is Delusional". While respectful and logical, he pulls no punches (pardon the metaphor!) in exposing the bad politics, privilege, dishonesty and complacency that crops up from time to time in this debate.
181 pages perfect bound
$8.00 US / $10.00 Cdn

Blood and Fire CD, Son of Nun. Seventeen tracks of great radical hip hop, from Baltimore's own Son of Nun. Includes "Free Palestine" - voted best song on NPR's Open Mic. A schoolteacher, organizer, and poet, s.o.n. blew my socks off on our recent trip to Baltimore, when he got the whole club full of anarchists moving to his songs attacking racism and imperialism (and also, if you listen, sexism and homophobia) head on. Definitely worth listening to!
$10.00 US / $12.00 Cdn

States of Abuse CD, Entartete Kunst. A 19-track compilation of political hip hop and electronic music from around the world. According to one reviewer, "Well-produced beats of many flavors (global and domestic) offer something for everyone, from Mid East-flavored instrumental tracks with political soundbites to grimy UK underground riddims to conscious French hip-hop to homegrown Amerikkkans brandishing the scariest weapon of all – language." Anarchist with a beat!
$12.00 US / $ 14.00 Cdn

3 Black Panthers & the Last Slave Plantation, narrated by Mumia Abu-Jamal. This DVD tells the story of three members of the Black Panther Party known collectively as the Angola Three, who were politicized through contact with members of the Black Panther Party while inside prison, and in 1971 formed one of the only recognized prison Panther chapters. Under conditions of segregation, racism, and repression, they organized other prisoners to build a movement for their rights; an astonishing feat given Angola Prison’s history of repression. The focus of 3 Black Panthers and the L. S. P. is on the hidden facts and cover-ups that have surrounded and clouded their cases since the 1970s. In addition, the movie explores the political climate of the 1960s and 70s that produced political prisoners in America, situating the Angola 3 within the political unrest of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements that emerged within prison walls in America.
Having just watched this DVD last night, i can tell you that what most impressed me was the way that the producers were able to deconstruct the way in which these three men were framed - not an easy thing to do when dealing with a "crime" allegedly committed behind prison walls. Not to mention the kind of vertigo one gets when seeing so many interviews with so many revolutionaries who paid such heavy prices for their commitment to the struggle... definitely worth watching and showing to your friends!
109 minutes - $15.00 US


As always, the best way to order any of this stuff (or anything else from the Kersplebedeb website) is to email me at

Wholesale rates are of course available.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

[Reclamation Site] July 18th Update from Hazel Hill

The latest update from Hazel Hill at the Reclamation site:

Good Evening from Grand River!

I hope everyone is well and in good spirits tonight.  Just to qualm the nerves of everyone, the group travelling back from Grassy Narrows have all arrived home safe and sound.  there was a bit of trouble with a few of our people being charged, some have to report back for court dates, however, to squash the gossip, Neecha is well, looks great, and while i didn't get to talk to her personally today, i have been assured by her travelling companions that alot of the gossip out there right now is NOT factual, and that it is very personal to her and when i get a chance to speak directly to her, if she has an update, i will forward it.  But just to let everyone know they are doing good, and glad to be home.  I'm not sure of all what is being said, but i can assure you that to my knowledge they have not been beaten, and they arrived back home early this morning smiling, happy,  a bit tired, but they all were looking good.  

   Buffy Saint-Marie stopped by this past Friday before her performance in Hamilton Ont. to show her support of the reclamation, and to say hi to everyone at the site.  It was a short but good visit.  A friend of mine and I got to go and see her show later on that night and her music and her message is very strong and powerful.  i was very honoured to have been able to see her perform.  We kind of teased a bit that my earliest memories were that of her on Sesame Street and this was my first time seeing her live, so i was thrilled to be there.  It is obvious that Buffy's life has been dedicated to making music and writing songs that echoe the actions of not only things like this reclamation, but also the injustices against PEACE throughout the world.   Her support of the Haudenesonne Confederacy, and the Onkwehonweh people's struggle is very deep and respectful.  Nya Weh to Buffy for her support, but also for sharing her music and message to the world as that is one way to educate about our struggle.

   Education is one of the goals of the people on the site at present and is also one of the conditions that the Clanmothers put on the table for negotiations.  It is time that Canada began educating its people as to the truth not only of the Six Nations, but of all the Onkwehonweh people and the real history of how Canada was established, and exactly who's money and resources have been building this country.  Perhaps the truth will help those people understand that it is not our people who are a drain on their society, and it is not their tax dollars that keep us, it is their tax dollars that keep feeding the lies of the crown and the building of its false empire.  Currently at the site, we have a number of people working directly with supporters from Caledonia and they are working hard at trying to educate people as to the history of the Six Nations as well as Caledonia.  One goal that we have been talking about is to get an information building going directly on the site that will serve as an education facility.  An education in peace, maybe even have great law teachings that will help spread that message of peace.  I don't know.  Maybe some of you have good ideas that you'd like to share. In the meantime, CommUNITY Friends meet regularly to share ideas and concerns.  this helps squash some of the rumours from the citizen alliance group, and it also shows the willingness of people from both of our communities to work at rebuilding relationships rather than allowing the rumour mill to fester the racism and ignorance of a few.    

Everything at the site has been quiet.  There is a bit of concern with the upcoming court date scheduled by Justice Marshall to deal with his "contempt of court" orders, and it is really unknown as to what it is that he is going to suggest, but the people on the site remain strong and unified and the position has not changed.  We are on the land until the title has been returned to Six Nations.  so far, that has not been done.  the negotiating team took this past week off, so they will begin talks again this Thursday.  Hopefully, now that the front gate is opened and clear, and people are feeling a bit more like they did when we first started the reclamation in February, things will continue on in a steady pace without interruptions.  Many people have been stopping by again and asking questions, and seeing for themselves that the people at the land reclamation are not there to harm anyone.  They have only seen what the media has shown, and that by no means can capture the full message in the few seconds that it portrays, even IF they are honestly trying!  The people that have stopped are always glad that they did and that they leave with a better understanding as to the truth of our history as well as why we are in this situation. They see for themselves that we are sitting there in a peaceful and symbolic way of making our position clear to the crown/canada, and that hopefully,  it will be the last time our people have to go through anything like this.  the message to Canada is that it must now deal with the issue of our land and the trust that they have never been accountable for, it must honour our treaties, accept responsibility for its own abuses against our people, deal with the theft of our land and resources, and begin righting the wrongs in an acceptable time frame.  The lands claim process designed by the government through the department of indian affairs is a scam.  The whole process is designed not to protect our interest in the land, but to continue to sell land that they deem "surplus crown land"  (meaning any land that belongs to our people that they want or can use/sell) and no where in that process is it ever intended to return land, they only want to get out the cheque book and usually that is AFTER development. This is no longer acceptable and must be stopped!  Our people are connected to the earth, not to the dollar; and it is time the Crown realized that as well.  

   You know, its hard to explain what is happening when there isn't alot going on.  As I write I'm smiling thinking about the people at the site, and how they've been enduring the heat trying to stay cool.  I got to the site Saturday afternoon with a couple of women from the Cultural Survival magazine and i was barely out of the van when i was drenched with water from our helpers.  I laughed because the two women who were with me hightailed it to the kitchen where they knew they wouldn't get soaked.  It wasn't just water balloons either, they had pitchers of water and were having fun.  There was no mercy for anyone, we all got hit, but there was lots of laughs.  it kinda gives you an idea of what the atmosphere is like around there right now anyway.  It is peaceful, it's family, it's fun.  Hopefully, things will stay that way.  That is our intent anyway.  So, i'm gonna leave you with those good thoughts tonight.  Keep smiling!

In love, light and peace,

Yesterday's Montreal Rally Against Israeli Aggression

I don’t think i had ever seen as many Lebanese flags as at yesterday’s rally against Israeli aggression in downtown Montreal.

More than 500 – perhaps as many as a thousand, i can’t be sure because of how the crowd was spread – showed up to protest the ongoing carnage. Men, women and children, mostly Arab, listened to speeches and stood up to show their horror at what is happening in Lebanon today.

It was moving, upsetting, walking through the crowd, taking in that the signs – and also, it seems, the mood – was not so much anger (which i’m sure was there too, and is of course justified) as horror. Horror at what is being done, so quickly, and so brutally, to an entire population.

Some signs, which might normally make me sneer but in this context were all the more moving, read “I Am Ashamed to be a Human Being”, “We All Eat The Same Falafel”, and many many with photos of dead or maimed children, begging that attacks “stop targeting the innocent”.

Not that there was any visible policing of signs – there were one or two more militant placards which i spotted – my take is rather that the people there were simply representative of the mainstream of the Lebanese-Canadian community in Montreal.

There are 150,000 Lebanese-Canadians living in or around Montreal – in fact half of Canada’s Lebanese population lives here – and these people are obviously subject to all the contradictions of being a Third World immigrant community in a western imperialist country. The news reports for the past couple of days have all been highlighting Canadian efforts to rescues Canadians in Lebanon – several cruise ships have been hired for this purpose, and Israel has promised these Canadians safe passage – while yesterday both Conservative and Liberal MPs tried to score cheap racist points by suggesting that “real Canadians” be given priority, as those with dual citizenship caught in the carnage are not mere “accidental” (read: innocent, white) tourists. The whole issue is of course anything but academic as several Montrealers have already been killed in Lebanon.

And yet – as an immigrant community in a country which is lurching to the right – there are whole layers of what i call “protective politics” going on, the feeling that it’s important to prove one’s worth as a “real Canadian” even as the real Canada is complicit in the ongoing imperial slaughter in the Middle East. So of course the demo started with a stirring rendition of the national anthem, and yes you could see the odd maple leaf interspersed with the cedar tree flags. To me this is not so much deplorable as sad, the fact that people feel a need to reassure the butchers that they too are loyal members of the Canadian settler-nation.

Oh yeah, and the sentiment expressed by those signs saying “Harper Has Betrayed Lebanese Canadians”… really? Has he? To betray someone, you have to be on their side initially, you have to switch directions. Hasn’t this fucker always been clear about where he stands? (Oh yeah, and as to the other bourgeois mis-leaders who may be pretending sympathy… if they’re really upset about this there’s an easy solution: stop supporting the Tories. Harper only has a minority, and the moment the NDP, Liberals and Bloc decide it’s worth their while he’ll be out – it ain’t my idea of “how to change the government”, but seeing as these cretins always insist it’s the way their system “works” why don’t we see some action?)

There is a local anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian group which has been trying to build grassroots connections between Montreal and Beirut activist groups. Tadamon! has a regularly updated blog, with reports from members in Lebanon right now.

Actions against Israeli Aggression happening later this week:

1. SOLIDARITY CHAIN (info-picket with images of the atrocities) prior to US fireworks Wednesday, 19 July, gathering at 8pm Place Jacques Cartier, Vieux Montréal
Called by: Association des jeunes libanais musulmans Contact: Youssef Hariri, tel. 514 887-7156,

2. FRIDAY VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Friday, 21 July, 12pm to 1pm NW corner of Peel and René-Levesque Called by: Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)
**Also, SPHR is planning a rally on this day; details to be confirmed. Contact (PAJU): Daniel Saykaly, tel. 514 961 3928, Contact (SPHR): Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146,

3. 24-hour VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Starting after the PAJU vigil, continuing until the rally the following day. Corner of Peel and René-LévèsqueCalled by: Various groups Contact: Aaron Lakoff, tel 514 985 2085,

4. INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION in solidarity with people in Lebanon and Gaza Saturday, 22 July, 2pm Gather at corner of Peel and René-Lévèsque
Called by: Canadian Muslim Forum Contact: Mohamed Kamel, tel 514 863 9202,

5. RELIEF EFFORT FUND-RAISING As increasing numbers are displaced and wounded and civilian infrastructure is destroyed, there will be a huge need for well-directed funds to provide basic survival to people in Lebanon and Gaza. A crisis working group, Relief Center - Spears, has formed in Beirut to support refugees coming into the city: We will be fund-raising to help with the relief effort and possibly others (to be confirmed).
Contact: Lara di Tomaso, 514 695 0319,

6. CALL-IN DAYS and FLYERS To let the government know that many people are outraged by their support for Israeli war crimes, one or more call-in days will be organised. In addition, flyers will be distributed at all events, urging people to call in to PM Stephan Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Contact: Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146, nasser.abukhdeir@mcgill.caAssociation des jeunes libanais musulmans Canadian Muslim Forum Coalition against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees International Solidarity Movement MontrealMembers of the Lebanese Diaspora Members of the Palestinian Diaspora Palestinian And Jewish Unity (PAJU) Parole Arabe Presence musulmane Montréal (PMM) Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Tadamon! Montreal Voices of Conscience

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

[Review] Hot Lead is Medicine

My only love affair was to be knowledge that I had blood on my hands and I wanted it to be some confused, afraid cop. Because tonight, we weren’t in the Denver I called home. We weren’t at the permitted feel-good-fest where we’d watch ourselves on the 9-o-clock news. Tonight the minority, the out-side agitators, would be the sign holders. Tonight we were falling a little further and embracing our rage. On the eve of March 20th 2003, we didn’t march for peace.

It turns out that Texas Slim, the author of the above words, never did bash a cop that night, but the experience recounted above nevertheless marked, pushed, and led them to grow and think in important and promising ways about what it does and will mean to “do the right thing” in this world of ours. Concluding early on that “entering into the world of revolutionary violence may be the most compassionate thing someone can do.”

Texas – who describes themself as a “white (queer, genderqueer with male privilege) service class worker” – put these thoughts on violence and revolution to paper in a snappy little pamphlet, Hot Lead is Medicine; Thoughts on Whiteness, privilege and violence. I met them briefly at the Mid-Atlantic Radical Bookfair a couple of weeks ago, checked out Hot Lead… (and many other titles they were distributing under the moniker “Institute for Experimental Freedom”) and was impressed in the way that only a pleasant surprise can impress me.

You see, Texas is clearly from the “insurrectional”, “anti-civilization” end of the anarchist spectrum, a place i often associate with self-styled post-leftists, meaning… well… shall we say “people i disagree with”?

In my experience the loudest of these anarchists commonly embody a nauseating combination of arrogance and tunnel-vision, ignoring or dismissing or simply lying about those struggles and experiences which contradict their worldview. They so often end up reminding me of the “cool kids” in high school, the ones who insisted they were more “in the know” than anybody else and as a result were often the most clueless.

Take the most significant events of the twentieth century: the anti-colonial revolutions, the women’s liberation movement, the Soviet experiment, the Nazi Holocaust… you name it and some ideologues seem to have the most wacked out weird explanations/evaluations of these events (or “non-events”, as some of them insist) which are not only completely disconnected from reality, but which are often so abstract and arcane that it is difficult to tie them into any present-day struggles, or the real lives of radicals or would-be revolutionaries today.

Which is probably why Hot Lead… gets so much right, where so many others get it all wrong.

Unlike so many whose theories and decrees seem disconnected from anybody’s real life, Texas explains exactly where their journey started, what their beginning point was:

What radicalized me, forced me to conceptualize my survival and recognize that I am oppressed and exploited was my experience in alcoholism/addiction and recovery. When I started going to programs it became abundantly clear that there were corporations – an entire business made from addicting people to poison. Even killing them. When I heard about sweatshops and ‘globalization’ it was really easy to see a connection there. Corporations, businessmen, the rich, all make money off of harming people (the earth, and non-human animals.) The last conclusion I made through alcoholism/addiction was more personal and haunting. The proto-community we were all a part of was not homogenous and we weren’t all in it together. There were rich kids and there were poor kids. When rich kids relapsed, they continued being able to afford their coke habit if they don’t get caught. Whereas, poor folk relapse, go to jail, OD and die or commit suicide. I lost three close friends from my entering the programs at age fourteen till when I was around eighteen. I recognized myself as part of the latter positionality, and saw similar experiences with addiction/alcoholism through-out all of my family. I got mad. I got class-jealousy. I got class-hatred. I got the kind of mad some people call class-war.

Now if you’re part of the anarchist scene, i’m betting you’ll agree that the above paragraph is not typical, either of the post-lefty crowd or of the organizational groups like NEFAC etc. What’s striking and unusual about it is the power that comes from grounding one’s politics in one’s personal experiences, in one’s own life. Something which should be commonplace, but is so rare as to be striking.

And what do we get when real life and honesty form the ground on which we stand? Quickly class politics are at the fore, though not at all restricted to “point of production” or even place of employment. Perhaps outside the bounds of bourgeois economics, but spelling life and death just the same.


The impending socialist revolution of the 60s/70s was snuffed not merely because of COINTELPRO nor the fact that only a handful of white radicals attempted a conversation about the possibility of snuffing at all, but rather, the inability of the white radical consciousness to think in terms of survival; organize under that assumption and build (white, anti-white) communities of revolutionary struggle.

Sorry – i hope i didn’t give anyone the impression that Hot Lead… was a personal zine. Though it may be written in an informal style, and starts in an almost-stream-of-consciousness way, it’s got some important political points to make…

Texas starts the discussion by looking at violence, and its almost complete absence from the white left. They quite correctly describe the “riot” as the way that many may feel they are breaking with the corrupt and privileged First World, but point out that this break is often as illusionary as the white activist “riot” is exaggerated – with property damage being as close as it ever really gets to being violent.

Violence – real violence, not simple property damage – is described as a psychic barrier separating those who are “in” from those who are “out”. In one of the few high-falutin’ phrases they permit themself, Texas states that “structural violence sometimes manifested in physical brutality does shape the experience of many white wimmin, queers, and poor folk, but it is at the exact point of this violence that, from here on shapes the experience and develops an ontology of Other.”

Not sure if i agree or not – but it certainly seems to be a promising line of thought. For although representations of violence may loom large in popular culture – and equally so in certain sectors of the anarchist milieu – actual violence which you can’t escape, which targets you because of who you are, which is endemic to your life, which is “real” not “spectacular”… this is something that all kinds of official and unofficial social mechanisms work real hard to keep focused on certain (classes of) people and far away from others.

Could it be that this tells as much about class as what’s in your bank account? Or at least that we shouldn’t look at one without thinking about the other?

Like i said: a promising line of thought…

But violence in and of itself is just the entry point from which Texas takes on the question of how to engage in revolutionary struggle. They point out that the critical question for white radicals is not “violence or non-violence”, but rather the question of what is motivating the struggle itself, arguing that “the only way an actual revolutionary struggle can be conceived is through a politics of survival.” The rest of Hot Lead… is concerned with what this means for white leftists, the vast majority of whom live lives of privilege, blinded to the fact our survival may ever even be at issue.

This thing about survival being the basis for revolutionary struggle strikes me as dead on. Not abstract survival, not even necessarily survival of some greater collectivity, but one’s own survival, one’s own existence and experience. It’s only in grounding oneself in this way, and forging ties with others who are similarly grounded, that there is likely to be any solid foundation for the battles to come.

If it is difficult, even highly statistically improbable, that people from certain privileged groups will be able to grasp issues of their own survival… well, that’s just another way of looking at Texas’ observation that it is our inability to deal with violence which often pushes white radicals to back down from revolutionary struggle… and that’s just another way of saying class counts. So nothing surprising there.

In a certain way it’s the logical complement to the observations about violence above. Or as a friend once explained it to be when we were discussing who would or would not be attracted to militant anti-fascism, “It has a lot to do with whether or not you’ve had your head kicked in.” Not an absolute truth by any stretch, but undeniably a factor.

Referring to J. Sakai’s Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat, Texas agrees that “the white working-class – or service class – is less defined by it’s class consciousness and more by it’s identity with a Settler Nation,” and this makes white privilege key in making “a discussion about authentic revolutionary struggle almost impossible for white folk to have in a meaningful way.” Yet Texas insists that they find hope in “the John Browns of history”, suggesting that global capitalism has led to important changes which make a discussion about survival and class consciousness “more probable.”

Texas writes that “For the privileged body that can conceptualize survival, there is a self-interest in change that would eradicate privilege. Why? Because it would be a part of my liberation from capitalism.” (italics in original)

This is the way in which survival politics can lead even the privileged to revolutionary consciousness, to side with the most oppressed, because it is in their liberation that everyone’s liberation can be found. In the words of an unnamed indigenous woman, popular with many on the left, “If you have come to help me, please go home. But if you have come because your liberation is somehow bound with mine, then we may work together.”

To me this focus on survival is a critically important insight, yet i fear things are not quite so smooth and clear-cut as Hot Lead… may suggest. For this question of survival does not automatically lead to revolutionary consciousness, indeed it can also lead to reaction….

…and this other side of the equation needs to be stated, for at the moment it is dominant. Namely that many people – and the higher you move up the food chain, the more this is true – prefer to bet that their survival is bound with the system, not with the oppressed. Just take a look at the sad love affair the unofficial leadership of the queer, Jewish, and feminist “communities” are angling for with the ruling class, and you’ll see what i mean.

But there are other, anti-system possibilities, some of which are even worst: like the Nazis of the past some people are tying their distorted idea of survival to a nightmare vision of a new, even more oppressive order.

So as global capitalism shuffles the cards and many white folk worry that the next hand may be rigged against them, it is not a given that a “discussion about survival and class consciousness” becomes “more probable.” In fact, today in North America even when white guys give up on “the system” guaranteeing their survival, they are more likely to gravitate towards the final solutions of the far right than the revolutionary left.

That this is partly the fault of the left – which is overwhelmingly privileged, confused, and alienating – may be true, but it is also undeniably a part of the legacy of whiteness and patriarchy in North America. Indeed, “survival” itself for many white folks is a distorted concept, having as much to do with keeping faggots away from their children and getting evolution out of the schools as it does with putting food on the table. And this is so even in some households which are materially struggling.

Even though it is a short little thing, i think Hot Lead… would have benefited from some discussion of this. It is a question that is very relevant – indeed, coming from roughly the same political perspective, we can see that some anarchists went so far as to seek an embrace with the right-wing militia movement in the 90s (see James Murray’s Chiapas and Montana, which has been distributed along with Hot Lead…, and was adequately refuted by Ken Tengu here).

This is a tightrope that white radicals have a long tradition of diving off of – how to be a revolutionary (not just a supporter of other people’s revolutions), how to organize in our own communities… while tearing up the foundations of racism and sexism and homophobia which our communities are built upon. Made all the more difficult because when many of us think “our communities”, we think of people who in truth we have nothing in common with…

Texas’ strategy seems to be to keep “anti-white” politics front and center while insisting on a politics of actual survival, defined (if perhaps simplistically) as something that is always necessarily bound up with violence. This does make some sense, especially in North America, but i would argue that an explicit anti-sexist and pro-queer position is also necessary, as there are increasing numbers of men around the world and also in our own societies who are dreaming up ideas of their own “survival” and “liberation” which involve retrenching and reinforcing gender and sexual oppression.

Indeed, with women as a group being continually forced into the role of shock absorbers for the world of men, absorbing the violence, frustration, boredom and exploitation that overflows as the male cup runneth over, opposing patriarchal relations seems be of critical importance for any kind of project of liberation. Even more so as the main pole of anti-imperialist resistance globally is currently right-wing Islam, which is both deeply sexist and homophobic. So opposing patriarchy is a “make it or break it” kind of thing…

But this criticism should be kept in perspective: Hot Lead is Medicine is a good piece of writing, which is already in a whole different ballpark than most anarchist stuff (and i mean that in a nice way!). It tries to answer questions many of us are still afraid to ask.

As Texas Slim concludes:

We need a praxis of revolt that settles for nothing short of a new collective survival here-and-now and consequent collective liberation for all. Through inter-generational, radical labor organizing (outside and perhaps against unions), rent strikes, political squats and land occupations, food distribution, re-learning wild skills, anti-addiction programs, radical media, home schooling networks, childcare programs, counter-economics, riots/bombings and revolutionary/insurgent violence (to name a few specifics), we will survive and the world, recognized in it’s totality – domination culture, will end.

Now wouldn’t that be nice…


Hot Lead Is Medicine; Thoughts on Whiteness, privilege and violence is a snappy 12-page pamphlet, now available from Kersplebedeb for $1.00 US plus postage (normally $2.00 to the United States). Email for more details!

Or else to order via Paypal just click here:

Monday, July 17, 2006

Coordinated Montreal Response to Israeli Aggression (17 to 22 July 2006)

Montreal-based organisations and individuals have come together to coordinate our responses to calls for solidarity from our brothers and sisters in Lebanon and Gaza, currently living under a vicious military offensive by Israel which has killed hundreds and destroyed civilian infrastructure, with devastating consequences.

While the Canadian government is, outrageously, supporting Israel's war crimes, members of the Lebanese and Palestinian diaspora in Montreal and those who stand in solidarity with them are taking the following actions in support of the people of Gaza and Lebanon.

==> TO GET INVOLVED: contact details are listed with each of the initiatives below.

==> ADDITIONAL INITIATIVES: As we become aware of further plans, they will be posted at along with updates from Lebanon; please email to have an event or appeal or update posted.

1. PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION against the Aggression against Lebanon Tuesday, 18 July, 5pm Dorchester Square, at 1155 Metcalfe (corner of Metcalfe and René-Lévèsque) Called by: University Lebanese Association. Contact: Wissam Moussa, tel. 514 586 4415,

2. SOLIDARITY CHAIN (info-picket with images of the atrocities) prior to US fireworks Wednesday, 19 July, gathering at 8pm Place Jacques Cartier, Vieux Montréal

Called by: Association des jeunes libanais musulmans Contact: Youssef Hariri, tel. 514 887-7156,

3. FRIDAY VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Friday, 21 July, 12pm to 1pm NW corner of Peel and René-Levesque Called by: Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU)

**Also, SPHR is planning a rally on this day; details to be confirmed. Contact (PAJU): Daniel Saykaly, tel. 514 961 3928, Contact (SPHR): Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146,

4. 24-hour VIGIL at ISRAELI CONSULATE Starting after the PAJU vigil, continuing until the rally the following day. Corner of Peel and René-Lévèsque

Called by: Various groups Contact: Aaron Lakoff, tel 514 985 2085,

5. INTERNATIONAL DAY OF ACTION in solidarity with people in Lebanon and Gaza Saturday, 22 July, 2pm Gather at corner of Peel and René-Lévèsque

Called by: Canadian Muslim Forum Contact: Mohamed Kamel, tel 514 863 9202,

6. RELIEF EFFORT FUND-RAISING As increasing numbers are displaced and wounded and civilian infrastructure is destroyed, there will be a huge need for well-directed funds to provide basic survival to people in Lebanon and Gaza. A crisis working group, Relief Center - Spears, has formed in Beirut to support refugees coming into the city: We will be fund-raising to help with the relief effort and possibly others (to be confirmed).

Contact: Lara di Tomaso, 514 695 0319,

7. CALL-IN DAYS and FLYERS To let the government know that many people are outraged by their support for Israeli war crimes, one or more call-in days will be organised. In addition, flyers will be distributed at all events, urging people to call in to PM Stephan Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay. Contact: Nasser Abukhdeir, tel 514 991 5146,

Association des jeunes libanais musulmans Canadian Muslim Forum Coalition against the Deportation of Palestinian Refugees International Solidarity Movement Montreal

Members of the Lebanese Diaspora Members of the Palestinian Diaspora Palestinian And Jewish Unity (PAJU) Parole Arabe Presence musulmane Montréal (PMM) Solidarity with Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Tadamon! Montreal Voices of Conscience

More on OPP Raid on Grassy Narrows

The following regarding repression at Grassy Narrows from Peace, Earth and Justice News:

Ontario Police Raid Earth Justice Gathering and Grassy Narrows Blockade:  17 arrests reported
Zoe Blunt
Rainforest Action Network July 16, 2006

  The latest reports say more than fifty police officers have blocked the roads leading to and from the camp. Police set up a highway checkpoint yesterday and began arresting native and non-native people involved in Thursday’s action.

The barricade on the Trans-Canada Highway Thursday included activists locked down to cement barrels and a Weyerhaueser logging truck, and one who perched at the top of a 10-meter tripod. The protests succeeded in blocking logging trucks from operations in Grassy Narrows for most of the day and evening. Police made no arrests at the time and did not attempt to remove the barricade, which was dismantled voluntarily around 10 pm Thursday.

The camp is in a remote location in Northern Ontario and communications have been difficult

An anonymous report on states that police are trying to arrest specific individuals, but they are citing and releasing any non native protestors they find “trying to screen out the organizers and the ones that did the direct action stuff.”

A press release from Rainforest Action Network and Forest Ethics says police are singling out indigenous activists for special treatment. “White arrestees have been cited and released on mischief charges, while Natives and other people of colour have been taken to jail and interrogated before release and charged.”

Six Nations warriors involved in a standoff over development on traditional territory near Caledonia, Ontario traveled to Grassy Narrows at the invitation of the Anishinabe Nation. Now they find themselves targeted by Ontario police.

Brian Skye is a citizen of the Cayuga Nation Wolf Clan of the Six Nations Confederacy and one of those invited to the Earth Justice Gathering: He accuses police of “entering the Grassy Narrows reserve without permission, violating the community's sovereignty and legal juridiction over their reserve lands.”

Skye adds that “Grassy Narrows Band councilors seized an OPP police cruiser over jurisdictional issues and later released it.”

"The act of war perpetrated by the OPP in taking members of our delegation hostage and holding them ransom (bail) is an act of terrorism on the First Nations peoples of North America. The ramifications of this aggressive, violent instigation will be reciprocated swiftly and justly, as it is the obligation of all First Nations to do so.”


More about Thursday’s action:

Background about Grassy Narrows and Rainforest Action Network:

Six Nations Warriors Arrested in Grassy Narrows

Last Thursday, July 13th, people from Grassy Narrows First Nation were joined by members of a number of environmental groups in escalating their blockade – targeting the Trans-Canada Highway for one day. (For more information of the Grassy Narrows blockade see my post earlier today.) They were able to keep the road closed with a number of people holding banners, by erecting a 10-metre tripod in the middle of the roadway with a woman suspended from it and chaining themselves to barrels. They also commandeered a transport logging truck with one protester laying underneath, chained to its axle, for the majority of the day.

“We’re here to draw attention to the fact that Grassy Narrows has held a blockade that’s been ignored by the government,” said Leah Henderson of the Rainforest Action Network to the Kenora Daily Miner. “We think it was time to give some attention to the Grassy Narrows struggle.”

“The clear-cutting of the land is an attack on our people,” said Roberta Keesick, a Grassy Narrows blockader who is also a trapper, in a press release. “Weyerhaeuser and the McGuinty government don’t want us on the land, they want us out of the way so they can take the resources. We can’t allow them to carry on with this cultural genocide.”

The police did not move on the TransCanada blockade on the 13th. Instead they waited until Friday and then raided the Grassy Narrows blockade site.

What follows is a press release from Grassy Narrows regarding this police aggression:

Six Nations Warriors Arrested in Grassy Narrows
OPP violate native jurisdiction over reserve lands in a aggressive action

OPP officers raided Grassy Narrows blockade site yesterday arresting Six Nations people who had come to participate in a gathering as guests of the Grassy Narrows community. 5 six nations people were detained, 4 were charged. The OPP are targeting 6 nations people and people of colour.

Police cruisers also entered the Grassy Narrows reserve without permission, violating the community's sovereignty and legal jurisdiction over their reserve lands. Grassy Narrows Band councilors seized an OPP police cruiser over jurisdictional issues and later released it.  The Six Nations delegation had come to meet with the community of Grassy Narrows and participate in the Earth Justice Gathering-an opportunity for First Nations and supporters to meet, and strategize about protecting the Boreal Forest and Indigenous sovereignty.

"It is hoped that the safety and security of all First Nations people is first and foremost in the mind of the Canadian Government and their agencies..." said Brian Skye a citizen of the Cayuga Nation Wolf Clan of the Six Nations Confederacy, and a member of the delegation that was invited to Grassy Narrows Earth Justice.." For if anyone is put under further duress, injured, or if a fatality is caused, they must take responsibility fo their acts of racism, colonialism and genocide."

"The act of war perpetrated by the OPP in taking members of our delegation hostage and holding them ransom (bail) is an act of terrorism on the First Nations peoples of North America. The ramifications of this aggressive, violent instigation will be reciprocated swiftly and justly, as it is the obligation of all First Nations to do so.

"Traditionally the Six Nations have an historical agreement that we stand with our arms linked together with the Anishinabe Nations, as they are our neighbors, understanding that they are linked with their neighbors. Because of the attacks perpetrated upon our people this unity across North America which has held for centuries is being reaffirmed."

"This is a clear act of police intimidation -an attempt to suppress legitimate dissent and stifle the growing movement for indigenous rights through force without addressing the serious grievances at the root of this issue, nor their political implications, " said David Sone, an organizer for the Rainforest Action Network. " arresting Native people as they assert their rights is a clear act of racism. The government must deal with the root issue of fundamental human rights in a honorable way, on a Nation to Nation basis, not with force. Police should not be used to suppress the inherent rights First Nations or to interfere in legitimate political disputes.

contacts: Judy da Silva ( 807-925-9941
Messages can be left  at: 647-883-5983

For more information and updates see the Friends of Grassy Narrows website.