Friday, October 30, 2009

Class, Nation, and Health: with some thoughts about H1N1, and building movement capacity

What follows is a rough version of a talk i gave at Montreal's Native Friendship Center, at the Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving organized by Frigo Vert last night. Many of the articles and documents referenced here are also referenced on the new Kersplebedeb H1N1 page.

I’m here to say just a few words about health inequalities, with particular attention to this new flu, the H1N1 or swine flu, and some concerns around it.

The flu is something I became interested in earlier this year, when my husband caught it and became very sick. He spent two months in the hospital, most of that time on a ventilator in a medically-induced coma, and he probably would have died if not for the fact that he received excellent medical care.

People say that you have to already have a serious health condition to be at risk from H1N1, but my husband’s only relevant health problems were very mild asthma and the fact that he gets migraines. In fact, they’re saying now that a quarter of the people who have died of H1N1 were in perfect health beforehand.

Now luckily my husband didn’t die, though his seven weeks in the ICU did make me realize some things. For one, it gave me an appreciation of the fact that even though not many people were dying of the flu, an unknown number of people were getting very very sick, and it was only the fact that there were enough ventilators and ICU beds that allowed them to survive. (The clearest figure i could find about this was that for every H1N1 death, there were four people critically ill with the virus who had to be kept alive in an ICU.)

And that got me thinking about health inequalities, and how they might play out with the flu.

By “health inequality”, I don’t mean the fact that some of us are more healthy than others, or that some of us see the doctor more often. I don’t even mean just the fact that some of us have more ready access to medical care, though that's getting closer. What I’m talking about is not an individual thing, but a collective phenomenon. The fact that different groups of people face different obstacles and challenges to being healthy. That the family you were raised in, the neighbourhood you grew up in, the job you end up doing and the place where you end up living as an adult, these factors all affect your chances of getting particular illnesses, they affect how readily you’ll have access to treatment if you do get sick, and as a bottom line, these things all affect how long you’re likely to live.

That’s what I mean by health inequality.

Health inequality is normally the result of some other kind of inequality. It’s not just caused by bad luck or genetics. More often than not, it is a result of financial inequality, unequal power relations, your position in society.

There are many useful ways of looking at this, but two that i find particularly helpful are class and nation.

Class and Life Expectancy: Some Examples from Montreal

If you go out this door, walk down to St-Catherine street and then take a left and walk for an hour, you’ll end up in Hochelaga Maisonneuve, Montreal’s working-class east end. Folks there have a life expectancy in their low to mid-seventies. In fact, bucking the general trend in most countries, the life expectancy for older residents of the neighbourhood actually went down between 1998 and 2008. (By life expectancy we don't mean how old most people are dying now - that's referred to as the "average age of death" and is usually significantly younger. Life expectancy is capitalism's forecast as to how old people born today are likely to live - indeed, the fact that there continue to be such discrepancies in life expectancy is a stark indicator that the 21st century is not intended to be any more egalitarian than the last one was.)

If on the other hand, you were to go out this door, walk down to St Catherine street and take a right, and walk for about an hour, you’d be in Westmount, one of the wealthiest neighbourhoods in all of Canada. The folks there, just to use the same measure, have a life expectancy in their eighties.

Now what makes a life expectancy? Lots of things, for instance: how common violence is in your community, what kind of food people eat (and what kind is sold at your local supermarket), what opportunities you have for physical exercise, how stressful or dangerous your job is likely to be, and of course how likely you are to get sick with various diseases due to poor sanitation or overcrowding or pollution.

The thing about these various factors, is they all follow the same contours of wealth and political power. When I was doing a bit of research for this talk, I came across a page hidden like a needle in a haystack on the Quebec government website, in which Montreal was divided up into different neighbourhoods and each neighbourhood was listed along with the prevalence of various diseases, various "quality of life" indicators, and also average annual income. These statistics are not completely honest, engaging in a bit of demographic gerrymandering, by including a few blocks where people are poor into the wealthier neighbourhoods, and including a few middle class blocks in with the working-class neighbourhoods, to dilute the impact of the numbers - but even so, a predictable pattern emerges. The same neighbourhoods – places like Hochelaga Maisonneuve, St-Henri, Montreal North –
suffer from higher rates of various health problems, and the same places enjoy better than average health, and those are the wealthier and safer areas. (Although lacking the health information, similar socio-economic statistics can be found on this City of Montreal web page.)

It makes sense, after all, this is one of the big reasons people want to be middle class, or upper class, the fact that they can then afford a healthier and longer and safer and more pleasant life, not only for themselves but for their children, too.

This all is one way of thinking about heath inequality.

National Disparities Within Canada

If class is one useful way to look at injustice, another important concept is nation. The two aren’t the same, but they’re closely related.

Different nations, different peoples, live inside what is called Canada, experiencing very different living conditions, and obviously this leads to differences in health. We may live just down the block from each other, but for all that many of us effectively live in different countries.

Again, to use life expectancy as a bottom line, folks in Westmount might be expected to live into their eighties, folks in Hochelaga Maisonneuve into their mid- seventies, well Indigenous people in Canada, on average, have a life expectancy in their low seventies (high sixties for men, mid-seventies for women). That's all the Indigenous folks counted as such by Statistics Canada, including those who have "made it", including those in communities with more resources: a national average just slightly below that of the poorest of Montreal's neighbourhoods.

Canadian colonialism and genocide create this discrepancy - the Indigenous life expectancy results from different health issues and trends than what is found in the settler community. We're not just talking a little more of this disease or slightly less of that vitamin, but tragically high death rates amongst young people, often due to violence and various forms of substance abuse (See pages S54-S55 of the Revue Canadienne de Santé Publique Vol. 96, Supplément 2). That’s a direct result of genocide, Canada's long term assault on the ability of subject nations to reproduce and maintain themselves in a healthy way.

Looking at Communities

Now these statistics are just that, statistics. They’re all about averages and generalities, they deal with large numbers of people, millions in fact. For that reason, while they're useful as an initial tool, they can also trick you into missing some important details. Just as it's misleading to talk in broad generalities about “Canada” without specifying the different classes and nations here, it’s also misleading to talk in generalities about neighbourhoods or broad national categories like “Quebecois” or “settler” or “Indigenous” without keeping in mind that not everyone in these categories is dealing with the same situation. Definitely not all settler communities are the same, definitely not all immigrant communities are the same, definitely not all Indigenous communities are the same. Ignoring this has real political consequences that can screw us up.

Now a community may be geographic, like Hochelaga Maisonneuve or St. Henri or Kanesetake, but it may be more amorphous than that. Not all communities are found on maps, not all communities have a longitude and a latitude. We may not normally think of them as communities, but in terms of health, your job may provide a community, for instance a factory may be a community. A school may be a community. If you're a sex worker, then that may be a community. And if you’re living on the street that’s a particular community, if you’re living at the Y, or staying at a shelter, then that’s a particular community. If you’re in prison, then you'd better believe it: in terms of your health, that's a distinct community.

Locked Up or On the Street

This does not diminish the importance of nations and classes. On the contrary: if you check out these situations, or if you’re forced to live in them, you see that in fact they’re not separate. In fact, it is in specific communities that nations and classes exist in their sharpest, most intense, form. Like on the street: in Hamilton, Ontario, for instance, where Indigenous people represent 2% of the city’s population, but 20% of the homeless population. Or Edmonton, where Indigenous people make up 43% of the homeless population, though only 6% of those who have homes. (Aboriginal Housing Background Paper, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation November 2004)

Or take a look at Canadian prisons and penitentiaries: Indigenous people are locked up over six times as often as anyone else in Canada. A few years back they did a "snapshot" study of all the prisons, penitentiaries and jails in Canada, to see exactly who was locked up: in Saskatchewan Indigenous people were imprisoned at almost ten times the overall provincial rate; they were 76 per cent of that province’s prisoner population. In Manitoba, 61 per cent of prisoners were Indigenous; in Alberta, it was over 35 per cent. (Racial Profiling in Canada, p. 81, quoted in Sketchy Thoughts)

So when we’re talking about communities, even when we don’t mean actual geographic communities that you can find on a map, even when we’re talking about something like being on the street or in prison, it should be clear that we’re still talking about something that has very clear class and national characteristics. Not everyone has an equal chance of ending up in these situations, not everyone has an equal chance of getting out of them.

In terms of health, in terms of well-being, if you’re in a particularly oppressed community, your reality will be a lot more intense than what you see in the broad reassuring national statistics. To give an example: 1 in 125 people in Canada is thought to have Hepatitis C, a potentially fatal illness. According to a study carried out in 2004, the rate is almost one in four (23.6%) for prisoners in the federal system. To give another example: Canada-wide, just over one in a thousand (0.13%) people were HIV positive in 2004, but almost one in twenty women in prison (4.7%) had the virus. (Moulton, Donalee. "Canadian inmates unhealthy and high risk." CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2004) Similar kinds of discrepancies exist if you’re talking about tuberculosis or many other serious health problems.

Prisoners are one such group, people without good housing are another. A study that just came out this week in the British Medical Journal tells us that in Canada, if you're a woman living in a rooming house at age 25, your life expectancy is less than fifty years of age. If you’re a man living on the street at age 25, your overall life expectancy is less than forty. Less than half the national average. (Hwang, Stephen W., Mortality among residents of shelters, rooming houses, and hotels in Canada: 11 year follow-up study, BMJ 2009;339:b4036)

Understand it: nations and classes find their lived reality in communities. Communities with their own vulnerabilities and peculiarities, their own cultures, their own realities. This is important when thinking about health crises, because when disaster strikes, it will normally strike first in a specific community. Partly because germs and pollutants are distributed that way, and partly because social power and wealth are distributed that way. When there's an outbreak of some disease, most communities will probably be mildly affected, if at all. Oftentimes, there will even be big differences within various oppressed and colonized peoples, as only certain subgroups are made to bear the brunt of whatever capitalism is dishing up this season. (At least at first.)

So we have this obscene situation, that as a society, we’re often moaning about possible disasters that aren’t very likely at all, while people around us are actually living the disaster, or living the crisis, right now before our eyes. But most people choose not to see it.

It’s important to keep this in mind, because if you yourself are in a community struck by disaster, then these big reassuring statistics can make you feel like what's happening to you is exceptional and aberrant, perhaps even your fault or your community's fault. But in reality while it may be exceptional, it is also intrinsic to the system, and more often than not your personal hell has been noted and deemed acceptable by those who claim to be in charge.

On the other hand, if you are lucky enough to not be in the line of fire, then those statistics, by lumping people and communities together in these big categories, can give you a false sense that nothing anywhere is really all that bad. Those cases where people are in a serious crisis, where diseases like tuberculosis and Hepatitis C are not only common but are the norm, those situations end up being hidden, camouflaged by the large numbers of cases where people are managing to hold it all together.

H1N1: Parsing Opinions

This new flu, the "swine flu" or H1N1, it's an easy topic to spin bullshit about, and a lot of people are spinning bullshit about it. It’s easy to spin bullshit because this is a new strain of the flu, and it hasn’t been around during a flu season yet, and so no one can really know how serious it will be. According to some people the flu will wipe everyone out, according to some people it’s harmless but the vaccine will kill you – and all these folks seem to contradict themselves and rely on junk science, but they get a hearing because most of us know we can’t trust the government, and we’re often scientifically illiterate ourselves. If you’re bored, you can make up any old end-of-the-world fantasy story, and someone out there is likely to believe you. (If you don't believe me, just try it.)

But just because we don’t know something, that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk intelligently. Just because any crazy idea will get a hearing, doesn’t mean that it’s pointless to try and be logical and reasonable in seeing what might come.

Within the sane range of opinion, there’s two ways of looking at H1N1, and at what is likely to occur. One way is to point out that most people do not get very sick from it. Only 90 people in Canada have died so far from H1N1, while the regular flu kills thousands every year. This is an important point. According to this view, it's not so much a pandemic as a scamdemic, a fabricated excuse for some big pharmaceutical companies to boost their profits.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that the regular flu normally kills hardly anyone in the summertime or spring, and that’s when H1N1’s deaths have occurred so far. To compare the regular flu's winter toll with that of H1N1 over the summer is to make certain assumptions that contradict what years of epidemiology tell us about when flu infections - and serious illnesses, and deaths - will spike.

The bottom line is we just don’t know how serious or how mild the flu will be this winter, and winter is when the vast majority of flu deaths normally occur.

In the meantime though, we do have the experience of the H1N1 this spring. Then the virus played itself out much like other illnesses: people in less wealthy and more oppressed communities were more prone to catching it, and thus formed a larger proportion of those who got very sick. There was a good article in the Globe and Mail a little while back, in the science section, which made exactly this point; its title was “Influenza has a cure: affluence”.

To give one example of how this worked, in June, 14% of people with H1N1 showing up at emergency rooms all across Quebec were showing up at just one hospital, the Montreal Jewish General. This may in part be because it’s just a better hospital and more proficient at diagnosing people, but it may also have something to do with the fact that it’s located in the middle of Cote-des-Neiges, one of the more heavily immigrant neighbourhoods in Montreal. While Cote-des-Neiges is a mixed class neighbourhood, it does contain pockets of real poverty, bad living conditions, and overcrowding. (This statistic, of 14%, was discussed at an information seminar about H1N1 at the Jewish General in June. i am unaware of it having been published to date.)

But there’s something important to grasp beyond the general fact that the flu will be more prevalent in less wealthy neighbourhoods. Like I was saying, no matter what the picture painted by broad statistics, when you look at the specifics you’re going to always find certain communities dealing with much worse situations.

That is precisely what we saw this spring, in a number of communities, where H1N1 became something much much worse. When it became so widespread that a tipping point was reached. To speak in dialectics, one could say the quantitative – the numbers of people sick - became qualitative, meaning it changed the nature of the entire situation. Local resources were overwhelmed, and the crisis entered a different phase. In Garden Hill, St. Theresa’s Point, Sandy Lake – all Indigenous communities – the flu pandemic got completely out of control, local nursing stations were unable to support people’s needs, and over a hundred people had to be medi-vacced to intensive care units in Winnipeg hospitals. Several people died.

Tipping points are like dominos, when one occurs it always risks setting off the next. In terms of what happened this summer, this almost did happen, as ICUs in Winnipeg filled up with critically ill H1N1 patients and there was a real fear that there would not be enough ventilators. Had that occurred (thankfully it didn't) many more people would have died.

While Garden Hill, St. Theresa's Point and Sandy Lake were the only places we know of where things escalated to that level, Indigenous people across Canada were suffering disproportionately from the flu. According to the way the government measures these things, Indigenous people make up less than 4% of the Canadian population – but this summer by the same measure Indigenous people made up 25% of those who got critically ill from H1N1. In Manitoba, where Indigenous people make up roughly 10% of the population, this summer at one point they were over 60% of those who found themselves on ventilators, struggling for life in ICUs.

Nor is it only Indigenous people. Compared to most places, Canada is a fairly “white” country, but according to a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, less than 50% of those who became critically ill with H1N1 in Canada this summer were white; the majority were people of color. It’s perhaps also worth noting that that same report found that almost 70% of those who got critically ill were women, which shows this disease has a gender profile that hasn’t been given enough attention.

We may not be able to predict the future, but given what we do know, we can make some reasonable guesses about the flu this winter. It is clear that the incidence of disease will not be random, and that not all communities will fare the same. No matter what the broad, general, abstract “Canadian” experience this winter, it is guaranteed that in some specific communities the situation will be much much worst. Those hardest hit will almost certainly be Indigenous communities, immigrant communities, working class communities.

A Suggestion to My Comrades

At the height of the outbreak in Garden Hill this spring, Grand Chief David Harper asked Health Canada to set up a field hospital in the community, an idea that the government rejected.

Since then, the Assembly of First Nations asked the federal government to send flu kits to Indigenous households across the country – Health Canada didn't see the point, so instead the AFN had to raise money on its own from the provinces and the private sector.

Just a couple of weeks ago Grand Chief Harper was quoted in the newspaper again, saying “By now, we would have liked to have field hospitals set up so our people don’t have to wait to be airlifted to Winnipeg for treatment.”

This is a reasonable request: for months now everyone from local healthcare providers to the World Health Organization has been saying that if a major crisis occurs in Canada, if a tipping point is reached, if the quantitative becomes qualitative, it will most likely happen in one of the many remote and impoverished Indigenous communities. But the government isn't worried.

So it begs a question for me – which of our movements have things like this on the radar? Which of our movements is poised to respond to a request for a field hospital, or any kind of useful emergency intervention? It reminds me of the ice storm back in 1998, when the whole city of Montreal was paralyzed, many without electricity for weeks, and the army was sent in. Many people were relieved to see the soldiers, we felt we needed rescuing. Why couldn’t any of our movements have played that role?

And why does this question seem silly to some of us? As if the ability to respond to a crisis, the ability to serve the people when the people really need serving, as if all of that was beyond the scope of our responsibilities.

Some of us have the skills, and i know many of us would love to see these capacities developed, but the question is a collective one, not an individual one. We need to explicitly decide as a movement that that’s where we’re going. We need autonomous structures, separate from (and ideally hidden from) the state, in which those with medical skills can frame their work, even if they may be operating within a hospital or a community health organization. We need to become scientifically literate, so that we don’t fall for the latest ridiculous conspiracy theory. Even if not everyone has the interest or the proclivity to get a grasp on "hard sciences", as a movement we need to value that kind of thinking, to appropriate it, to make it our own.

Most importantly, we need to think in terms of filling the role that the state plays, dealing not only with healthcare, but also with everything from garbage disposal to sewage treatment to conflict resolution. If we claim to be against the state, then that becomes our job. If we fail at it, if we fail to do a better job than what's being done now, then even if we do someday drive out the state, even if we do establish no-go areas, sooner or later it will be the people themselves who will demand the enemy's return.

H1N1 may or may not play itself out as a disaster this winter. I certainly don’t believe it will be some Canada-wide cataclysm, but I think it’s likely that in certain specific areas it will be a serious problem, and some people will suffer. If tipping points are reached, if the surge capacity of particular communities is overwhelmed, it won't be pretty. I can tell you from personal experience that the disease can be horrendous.

We know the Harper government is ideologically predisposed to letting poor people die. We know capitalism and colonialism will only make the situation worst. Knowing this, I would argue that our movements have a responsibility to think beyond zines and blogs and lobbying, that we have a responsibility to start doing what we can to build our capacity to offer real help to people whenever and wherever a crisis does occur.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"I plead guilty, I'm a racist." -- Jason Kenney

From pals at No One Is Illegal-Montreal:

Jason Kenney confronted and disrupted in Montreal

October 23, 2009 -- Migrant justice activists and organizers, with their McGill allies, confronted and disrupted Jason Kenney -- Canada’s Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism -- before and during a closed function with Conservative McGill.

At least 50 protesters, in an action called by No One Is Illegal-Montreal, were able to surround Kenney in the Arts Building as he tried to enter the private event. For about one-minute, Kenney was asked about the report in today’s Toronto Star that a Mexican woman, who twice tried to apply for refugee status to Canada, was found murdered in Mexico (article is linked below). Kenney brushed off the question and didn’t answer.

Kenney was also asked explicitly about his party’s blocking of a refugee appeals division, and again he didn’t answer.

When Kenney was told by a member of No One Is Illegal that his policies scapegoat migrants and pander to racists, Kenney replied (with a hint of sarcasm): “I plead guilty, I’m a racist.” At that point, Kenney’s handlers and security pushed through protesters to get Kenney inside the venue.

For the next hour and more, protesters chanted and made noise to disrupt the event from outside. The protest was partially a teach-in as demonstrators gave speeches about Kenney’s track-record, highlighting in particular:

- the murder in Mexico of Grise, a woman who twice tried to claim refugee status in Canada but was refused
- the Conservatives continued refusal to implement a refugee appeals division;
- the recent treatment of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained in British Columbia;
- Kenney’s introduction of visas for Mexicans and Czechs while falsely misrepresenting their refugee claims as bogus;
- Kenney’s role in US-style mass raids on migrant workers in Ontario this past April;
- Kenney’s unapologetic defense of Israeli war crimes in Gaza and Lebanon;
- Kenney’s attack on free speech by preventing the entry of George Galloway into Canada;
- Kenney’s involvement in cutting the funding of the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF);
- Kenney’s proposed changes to the status of migrant workers, which makes their situation more precarious;
- the trend under Kenney and the Conservatives to push migrants into temporary worker categories;
- Kenney's defense of Conservative policies justifying rendition to torture and security certificates;
- the lifting of the moratorium on deportations to Burundi, Rwanda and Liberia, while making it harder for other migrants to make refugee claims;
- Kenney’s record of comments that pander to racists, by inaccurately portraying migrants as abusive of the immigration and refugee system.
- and more (!).

Members of Solidarity Across Borders, active in support work with local migrants facing removal, also spoke to the day-to-day reality of deportation and detention in Montreal, citing examples of local individuals and families fighting for status, in defiance of removal orders.

At one point, two members of Conservative McGill – Gregory Harris and Derek Beigleman -- began chanting “We love Kenney, we love Kenney.” Protesters stayed silent for at least a minute, and then asked the Conservatives about their view on the murder of Grise, as well as Conservative immigration and refugee policies that allowed the tragedy to happen. The two Conservatives laughed throughout the narration of Grise’s deportation and eventual death.

During the picket, protesters also spoke in solidarity with No One Is Illegal Vancouver’s picket today demanding the release of Sri Lankan migrants who are currently detained after arriving in Canada last Sunday, as well as this evening’s migrant justice assembly by No One Is Illegal-Toronto.

No borders, no nations, stop the deportations!
-- No One Is Illegal-Montreal

The Toronto Star article about the murder of Grise is linked HERE.

A quick selection of photos of the picket (not including, unfortunately, the surrounding of Kenney by protesters before he entered the venue) is available HERE.

Gord Hill to the Pigs: "Like I give a fuck about going to Babylon..."

The following from out west, via Mostly Water:

The JIG is up! Gord Hill Threatened with Rendition by Olympic Cops

By Gord Hill; October 20, 2009 - Vancouver Media Co-op

[Note: See also Statement by Gord Hill Regarding Visits by Olympic Police Agents.]

Occupied Coast Salish Territory

Yo Weeksus,

I, Gord Hill, am proud to announce yet another encounter with the Olympic police as a result of my 'controversial' statement to CBC News and my views on sabotage. This evening (Tuesday, October 20, 2009), at around 9:30 PM, I was approached by plainclothes officers of the Incredibly Stupid Unit (Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit). I can now confirm that they are, in fact, incredibly stupid.

I was walking westbound on Pender to Columbia Street in the Downtown Eastside, when I saw two males loitering around the corner. One look at their sad faces told me they were pigs. As I waited for the light at the crosswalk (jaywalking being illegal...) they approached me, with one flashing his badge and announcing he was an RCMP officer with 'JIG' (Joint Intelligence Group). He said he wanted a couple of minutes to talk to me and I said no. I crossed the street & began walking north on Columbia to Hastings, with the RCMP agent walking alongside me, the other cop, who said not a word, to our right rear (about 4 feet behind).

The RCMP agent walking with me, a white male in his 50s, maintained a rambling monologue about how my statements to CBC on Oct 13 (the power lines scenario) had hurt a lot of people, about how some of his friends were aboriginals, that he sympathized with my cause about helping the homeless, etc. He told me that from this day until the Olympics, every time I looked over my right shoulder he would be there.

What was most interesting were his comments regarding my attempted entry into the United Snakes of Amerikkka on Oct 17; the RCMP agent told me that because of my statement to CBC I would never again be allowed entry into the US, that their national security would arrest me and put me in a far, far away place, so far away it would be beyond my mind (or something along those lines).

I take this as implying the practice of rendition, where prisoners in US custody (including Canadian citizens) have been transferred to other countries and tortured (i.e., Mahar Arar). It seems odd for an RCMP agent to be delivering such a threat on behalf of another country's security apparatus (but that's how the pigs roll these days, I guess).

As we turned onto Hastings the cop continued his rambling. When we approached a group of Natives I announced that the men walking with me were Olympic cops who were harassing me because I defend the land and the people. The cops immediately stopped and two more plainclothes officers approached from behind (total: four cops). One of the Native women started yelling at the cops, telling them I had the right to an opinion. The cops withdrew & began walking eastbound on Hastings.

As usual, I played it cool, because I believe in the old saying “Love your enemy, for they are the instruments of your destiny.” And like I give a fuck about going to Babylon...

Resist the Olympic Police State!
No Olympics on Stolen Native Land!


Gord Hill, Kwakwak'wakw

Check out: *

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

October 29: Anti-Colonial Thanksgiving

Next Thursday in Montreal. Click on the image to see the full-size PDF.

Films, Speakers & Feast!

Thursday October 29th
6pm @ The Native Friendship Centre
2001 St. Laurent Blvd. (Metro St. Laurent)
Free: Event, Food and Childcare.
Wheelchair Accessible Space.

Speaker: Tracey Deer
Film: Club Native
In Club Native, Deer looks deeply into the history and present-day reality of Aboriginal identity. With moving stories from a range of characters from her Kahnawake Reserve - characters on both sides of the critical blood-quantum line - she reveals the divisive legacy of more than a hundred years of discriminatory and sexist government policy and reveals the lingering “blood quantum” ideals, snobby attitudes and outright racism that threaten to destroy the fabric of her community. Tracey Deer will present her film and be available for discussion/questions after.
Speaker: Billie Pierre NYM/OG

Film: A Quiet Struggle
Update on Indigenous organizing focussed on the resistance to tourism and development as it’s related to the Winter 2010 Olympics in BC.

Speaker: Karl Kersplebedeb
Brief talk about medical apartheid and the politics of the H1N1 epidemic’s effect on low-income communities.

Missing Justice is a grassroots solidarity collective based in Montreal that works to eliminate violence and discrimination against Indigenous women living in Quebec. Our goals are to raise public awareness and create a safer environment for Indigenous women by tackling issues of systemic racism, sexism, classism and negligence that are present in the media, the justice system and police forces. We recognize that the causes of racialized and sexualized violence are linked to Canada’s colonial policies of the past and present.

Presented by:

le frigo vert
2130 rue mackay

Monday, October 19, 2009

[October 28+29] McGill Used Book Fair

The best english-language used bookfair in Montreal is just nine days away - tens of thousands of books for just a loony or a toony each (mostly):

Annual McGill Book Fair
Wednesday, October 28, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Thursday, October 29, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Redpath Hall, on the east side of McTavish Street, one block north of Sherbrooke

Sunday, October 18, 2009

[October 24] Beyond Prisons, Toward Community Strategies: Supporting work within and against prisons


Next Saturday in Montreal, definitely worth checking out:

The Prisoner Correspondence Project, Action Santé Travesti(e)s et Transsexuel(le)s du Québec (ASTTeQ), and the 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy present:

Beyond Prisons, Toward Community Strategies:

Supporting work within and against prisons

Saturday October 24th from 4pm to 6pm
at the Comité Social Centre-Sud at 1710 Beaudry (metro Beaudry)



  • Gisele Dias - Prisoner HIV/AIDS Support Action Network (PASAN), Toronto
  • Peter Collins - HIV/AIDS activist and prisoner at Bath Institution, Ontario
  • Amazon Contreraz - jailhouse lawyer, trans activist and prisoner at Corcoran, California
  • Sadie Ryanne - DC Trans Coalition (DCTC), Washington DC
  • Farah Abdill - community organizer, Montreal

Beyond Prisons, Toward Community Strategies will be an afternoon of community organizations and individuals coming together to discuss the ways we can expand our existing models of support and service provision, as prisoners, exprisoners and allies, and work towards a broader movement to end our reliance on prisons.

The presenters–made up of prisoners, ex-prisoners, and allies–will introduce their current projects, which include gay and trans prisoner support, HIV prevention, advocacy for prisoner self-determination, and local initiatives to support folks inside prisons. How can we confront the violence of prison expansion, deepening rates of in-prison HIV transmission, medical negligence and isolation? Through these discussions, we hope to forge coalitions between different community groups and strengthen the day to day struggles both within and against prisons.

whisper translation, childcare, and metro/bus fare available • wheelchair accessible

For directions, information about accessibilty, or if there are other ways we can support your attendance, please contact us at
514-848-2424 x 7431 *

Vous pouvez aussi lire ceci en français ici.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

2010 Slingshots AVAILABLE NOW!

By far the most popular way for anarchists to stay organized, the Slingshot 2010 organizers are here, complete with mini-calendar, daybook planner, address book section, international radical contact list, and nifty "what happened on this day" notes scattered throughout. The artwork, as ever, is wonderful in a chaotic punk rock way.

The pocket version "classic" is a 176 page pocket planner (4.25 inches x 5.5 inches) with radical dates for every day of the year, space to write your phone numbers, a contact list of radical groups around the globe, menstrual calendar, info on police repression, extra note pages, plus much more. Slingshot has a tough layflat binding and a laminated cover, and comes in 22 cover colors printed with either black or silver ink (depending on how dark the paper stock is) - if you have a preference indicate it when ordering, we'll do our best to accomodate. It costs $8.00 US.

The large-size version is bound with a spiral wire binding and is twice the size of the "classic" pocket organizer (5.5 inches x 8.5 inches) with twice as much space to write all the events in your life. It is 160 pages. It has similar contents to the classic: radical dates for every day of the year, space to write your phone numbers, a contact list of radical groups around the globe, menstrual calendar, info on police repression, extra note pages, plus much more. You get a little bonus stuff in the spiral version. The covers are laminated with heavy duty 3 mil glossy plastic to help it survive the year, and comes in 17 cover colors printed with either black or silver ink (depending on how dark the paper stock is) - if you have a preference indicate it when ordering, we'll do our best to accomodate. It costs $13.50 US.

Monday, October 12, 2009

October 16th, @ the Maison Norman Bethune: A Look at the Red Army Faction

click the image to download the flier

The Friday at the Maison Norman Bethune, a talk by yours truly about the Red Army Faction, and about the book i co-published earlier this year, Projectiles for the People, the first volume the The Red Army Faction: A Documentary History.

The talk will be in French, and is scheduled to start at 7pm (though probably not on the dot).

The Maison Norman Bethune is located at 1918 Frontenac, pretty much right across the street from Frontenac metro.

Details at the Maison Norman Bethune website:

HRC: Quit Leaving Queers Out

Although i think the problem is deeper than an establishment organization "leaving queers out", it brought a smile to my face this morning to read that the HRC had been graffittied by some self-styled "Queers Against Assimilation" last night.

The HRC, or Human Rights Campaign, is the largest LGBT lobby group in the united states, and made the news when prez Obama addressed their fundraiser (live on CNN) Saturday night. While many might think of the HRC as a force opposed to homophobia, within the queer liberation movement the organization has come to symbolize the shift from oppositional activism to lobbying, and the related mainstreaming of gay america.

Which is a pretty typical movement dynamic.

The HRC and its chosen issues - gay marriage, "don't ask don't tell" and hate crimes legislation - are all part and parcel of the retreat from radicalism that activism around sexual issues has undergone over the past fifteen years. Pretty much since the Clinton presidency - he being the first president to address the HRC, incidentally.

In part this is co-optation, in part it's betrayal, but mostly it's just the result of unprecedented success around many of the demands of the movement of the 80s. Most of the demands of that period were oriented towards acquiring certain minimum legal protections, greater medical resources devoted to HIV/AIDS, and more positive representation in popular culture. While the movement was radical in its methods - think ACT UP, Queer Nation, etc. - its main goals were reformist, and they have largely been met, or else the Democrats have indicated that they are working on it and we'll get there soon...

That these victories are inadequate goes without saying: in large swathes of america it remains dangerous and potentially very nervewracking to be "out" - but for people with the financial means and cultural assets to integrate into their chosen liberal middle class enclave, things really never have been better.

That's why i wonder about the slogan "Quit leaving queers behind" - to be "queer" normally refers to something cultural or sexual, but i think for it to make sense here it has to be taken to also have a class dimension. In this sense "queers" are those on the street, in prison, in jesusland or in the hood, and perhaps not able or at least as likely not wanting to move to "safer" (saw through that lie!) quarters. It's not the normal use of the word "queer", but it's the way a militant segment of the movement is using it.

Here's the "communique" from Queers Against Assimilation, who carried out the paint job, courtesy of Bash Back! News:

Communique from the Forgotton:

Human Rights Campaign HQ Glamdalized By Queers Against Assimilation

HRC headquarters was rocked by an act of glamdalism last night by a crew of radical queer and allied folks armed with pink and black paint and glitter grenades. Beside the front entrance and the inscribed mission statement now reads a tag, “Quit leaving queers behind.”

The HRC is not a democratic or inclusive institution, especially for the people who they claim to represent. Just like society today, the HRC is run by a few wealthy elites who are in bed with corporate sponsors who proliferate militarism, heteronormativity, and capitalist exploitation. The sweatshops (Nike), war crimes (Lockheed Martin), assaults on working class people (Bank of America, Deloitte, Chase Bank, Citi Group, Wachovia Bank) and patriarchy (American Apparel) caused by their sponsors is a hypocrisy for an organization with “human rights” in their name.

The queer liberation movement has been misrepresented and co-opted by the HRC. The HRC marginalizes us into a limited struggle for aspiring homosexual elites to regain the privilege that they’ve lost and climb the social ladder towards becoming bourgeoisie.

Last night, Obama spoke at the HRC fundraising gala and currently the HRC website declares, “President Obama underlines his unwavering support for LGBT Americans.” The vast amount of organizing resources the HRC wastes on their false alliance with the Democratic party leaves radical queers on the margins to fend for themselves. Our struggle has always had to resist the repression of conservative tendencies in government and society to gain liberation in our lives.

The gourmet affair was sponsored by 48 corporations including giants Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and Wachovia Bank. At $250 dollars a plate the HRC served our movement a rich, white, heternormative atmosphere that purposefully excludes working class queer folks.

REMEMBER THE STONEWALL RIOTS! On the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, pigs raided a queer bar in Texas, arrested and beat our friends, and we looked towards politicians and lawyers to protect us. This mentality is what keeps the money flowing to the HRC and their pet Democrats, and keeps our fists in our pockets.

Most of all we disagree that collective liberation will be granted by the state or its institutions like prisons, marriage, and the military. We need to escalate our struggle, or it will collapse.

~~Love and Solidarity~~

Comrades at G20

Because life is better as a music video.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

FTM Teacher Fired: "the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender"

above: Jan Butterman

From, this report on transphobia in Alberta:

When Alberta substitute teacher Jan Buterman told his public school board employer that he had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder, their response was to treat it as a medical issue and file the appropriate paperwork. It did not affect his employment with them in any other way.

So Buterman expected a similar response from the Greater St Albert Catholic school board, where he was employed from March to June 2008. Soon after he told the Catholic school board that his treatment would involve transitioning from female to male, he was fired.

"Since you made a personal choice to change your gender, which is contrary to Catholic teachings, we have had to remove you from the substitute teacher list," wrote deputy superintendent Steve Bayus in an Oct 2008 letter to Buterman. The reason for this decision, which Bayus cites in his letter, is that "the teaching of the Catholic Church is that persons cannot change their gender. One's gender is considered what God created us to be."

Buterman met the response with shock. "It's very difficult to put into words how you feel when you're given something like this, it's pretty overwhelming," he tells "It blindsided me quite honestly."

On Oct 1, 2009, Buterman filed a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission against the Greater St Albert Catholic school board. "I do respect people's right to believe things and this is no different," he says. "I do not respect that they have a right to use that belief as a reason to prevent me from being employed, when their belief has nothing to do with my treatment protocols and that is not, to me, an issue that an employer should be speaking to."

Buterman is supported by the Alberta Teachers' Association and is represented by their lawyers, who fully expect the Human Rights Commission to accept his complaint, a process that takes about 10 business days.

While Buterman considers his firing to be in violation of the standards and policies that Alberta schools must follow, he is also seeking clarification. "I really do, at the end of the day, want clarification if people like me are not in fact accorded the same equality as other people in Canada, I think we would like to know if we're not."

This is not the first time that Edmonton, Alberta has acted as ground zero for minority rights. In 1991, Delwin Vriend was fired from King's College in Edmonton for being gay. He tried to file a complaint with the Alberta Human Rights Commission, but they refused to hear it because the province's human rights legislation didn't protect citizens from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Vriend took Alberta to the Supreme Court of Canada, which ruled in 1998 that provinces could not exclude gays and lesbians from human rights legislation.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Antifascism and Violence

These thoughts are provoked by a number of recent incidents: the assault on Sofia Papazoglou in Greece, bricks thrown through the windows of anti-racists in Bridgeland, Alberta, threats from Blood and Honour boneheads against Barricade Books in Australia, an autonomist youth center burned down by neo-nazis in Germany, as well as the successful dwarfing of a four-person (!) neo-nazi "rally" in the Twin Cities ... the list goes on. i don't think it's so much a sign of an upsurge in actual activity - though the combination of a Democrat in the whitest house and the economic crisis has pushed public discourse to the right in the u.s. - as it is a random upsurge in what's been coming into my email inbox.

Still, worth commenting on.

The main thing that sets antifascist work apart is the question of violence. This question is in the background of all our movements, but in the case of antifascism it is front and center right from the get-go. This automatically brings with it the question of how to relate to the state. The state claims a semi-monopoly on violence, so the antifascist terrain leads to a very quick polarization around this question.

Normally when we act we do so with an idea of how we will be allowed to act, and how our opponents will react, which is conditioned by our awareness of the state's monopoly on violence. If police overstep their bounds during a protest, then we protest that - and publicizing and exposing police brutality has in fact become a major axis of activism, especially in the era of the cellphone camera. Likewise, there are certain things that we allow ourselves to do in a lax manner, because we know they are "protected" by law - be it "free speech" or "freedom of assembly" or whatnot.

When we act naughty in other struggles, breaking some petty laws, we do so with a certain advantage, in that it is in the state's interest to not escalate matters at this moment. This may be a sign of our weakness, but in this case (perhaps perversely) weakness has its advantages.

Antifascism is a case apart because we are going up against people who have a plan of their own, and who often are often more willing to put themselves in danger for their beliefs than some of our own allies. Furthermore, many people are attracted to the far right because they feel that it provides a serious challenge to the status quo, and that it's more "for real" than the radical left.

When we oppose the far right we have to be ready to match its escalation and beat it back. We cannot assume that we can spraypaint or trash their hang-outs but that they will leave ours alone. As we organize against them, they will organize against us. We cannot assume that we will be able to choose the time or place or level of confrontation, or that it will happen on our timetable.

Everything i listed in the preceding paragraph also goes for our conflict with the state, of course. However, the difference is that most of the time the state's priority is maintaining hegemony, keeping up appearances, and for that reason it is in its interest to tolerate a certain level of dissent. This is not an eternal truth, and of necessity if we do our work right the struggle with the state will eventually become militarized, but in the meantime it is easy to become lazy and take the leeway the state gives (some of) us for granted.

With the fascists, the opposite hold true. Showing themselves to be a force worth reckoning with is necessary for them to win recruits. Whereas the state maintains its hegemony by denying or posing as outside of social conflict, fascists gain credibility amongst their target base by instigating and taking the lead in confrontation.

Today, when fascists are posed in opposition to some aspects of neocolonialism, there are possibilities for them to benefit from both positive and negative engagements with the state. When antifascists ally themselves with the state against the far right, they almost always hand a propaganda victory to all parties involved - except themselves.

Which is why maintaining independence from the state, and autonomy from liberal antifascists, is a priority for radicals engaged on this terrain.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

What In the Hell... Responding to Hammerquist on Leninism

A response to Don Hammerquist's Lenin, Leninism and some Leftovers, by Nate from What In the Hell blog:

[What In the Hell] … did I think of Hamerquist’s piece on Lenin?
Download as PDFI took a whole mess of notes on Don Hamerquist’s recent essay on Lenin and contemporary radical organization. Then I beat those notes into a slightly less jumbled thing, trying to work out what I think is going on in the piece and what I think of it.

The essay is doing a lot.

I’m convinced by a very weak version of Hamerquist’s historical argument to take Lenin and the early 20th century Russian experience more seriously. I think I ought to know more about all of that than I do, and the same goes for anyone who is like me, because of Lenin’s historical importance. I’m sympathetic to a weak version of the political argument to take Lenin seriously - Lenin accomplish impressive things, thus radicals should try to learn from him. But I’m not convinced of a strong version of either argument - I’ve got no sense of the relative importance of Lenin and the Russian experience in relation to other historical moments, and no sense of the importance of Lenin in relation to other people who’ve built organizations and so on (though I can’t think of any other examples along these lines, except the little bits of stuff I’ve read by the WSM in Ireland the FdCA in Italy, smaller organizations with less world historical importance I admit). There’s more in the essay, a lot more, a lot of which I appreciate - the criticisms of Lenin, for instance, and of the USSR and so forth, but as an anarchist those parts don’t have much force for me. The Lenin stuff faces at least two directions, trying to get people reject Lenin to take him more seriously and trying to get people who think they take Lenin seriously to have a more critical and nuanced Leninism. I’m in the first camp, so the latter stuff is a bit of a non sequitur for me. That’s it for me and the piece in relation to Lenin. The real force of the piece for me is elsewhere than the Lenin question (as either historical or political issue, or both).

I’m open to a project that the piece suggests a few times but doesn’t develop, though I’m only partly open. It refers to “necessary discussions and joint initiatives within and between circles that should be able to move ahead” among the left today, as part of “the development of a working political and intellectual framework for the distressingly small cadre of radicals that are committed to liberatory working class revolution.” I agree that we need “the collective political practice necessary to test and evaluate alternative strategic initiatives.” The problem is who is “we” and who ought to be. The piece suggests someone or some people “self-conscioulsy bring together social anarchists and those Marxists and Leninists that could live with the lower case ‘m’ and ‘l’.” I’m open to that, depending on the terms of the bringing together. I think more dialog is good, and more comradely and respectful relationships despite differences. At the level of political unity and real organization, however, I’m pessimistic about the prospects for this. This is in part becase of some disconnects I have with the piece, and in part because I’m pessimistic about the level of political agreement needed for practical collaboration.

I have two main disconnects with the piece. One of these is a strong disagreement, the other a milder one. I’ll cover that first. As far as I can tell, Hamerquist is still for the seizure of state power. If I’m wrong, then great. If I’m right, then I don’t agree, and I think this will set some limits to the collaboration that Don seems to want, limits that I’m okay with but may be short of what he wants, I don’t know. I don’t have a strong argument here, I admit, I just don’t buy seizing the state as emancipatory project. Don says that “The real test of whether a seizure of power has initiated a trajectory towards socialism is whether working class and popular self organization and self rule is expanding.” This includes “the essential requirement that there be significant concrete steps toward replacing the administration of people with the administration of things.” I think a common anarchist assumption is that no seizure of power could in the long run meet this test. That’s a hypothetical, I don’t know how to prove it. I could imagine a philosophical argument along the lines of “the state is a form of alienation akin to what Marx described and what’s more it’s a contagious and inertial one that resists withering away” but I’m already bored by the prospect of trying to make an argument like that, and it’d be cheap as well. For now all I’ll say is that I think the seizure of the state as key piece in a project of liberation is a hypothetical as is “seizing the state is incompatible with all projects of real liberation.” I don’t know how to assess these against each other and I’m pessimistic about the prospects of fruitful discussion that could do so.

The other disconnect is about insurrection. I’m not sure what to make of this issue, or how to discuss it. This is I think one of the key political issues in the piece and that Hamerquist wants to discuss. He refers to “rapid, but temporary and reversible shifts in political potentials in epistemological break situations, particularly those with insurrectionary possibilities.” I’m of two minds here. On the one hand, this doesn’t speak to me at all. On the other, it does. I’ll start with the disconnect and come back to the other version of this later.

One of the biggest problems that the piece is concerned with is the relationship between insurrections and organizations (between spontaneous and willed activity?), but it only partially engages with this issue. It more seems to just say “This is a problem that needs to be dealt with” than saying much on how to deal with the problem, or giving examples of way this has been dealt with in the past. The main engine for changing people (as far as I can see) articulated in the piece is insurrection. I don’t think this is because Hamerquist thinks that’s all that changes people, I think it’s a matter of scale - those things will change more people more, if organizations are around to capitalize on them.

This is one of the biggest disconnects for me in the piece, the issue of insurrection, the scope of the implied stuff the piece can imagine. Maybe this is just me being conservative or maybe limits of my experience but smaller scale fights seem hard enough (perhaps I’m a crypto-gradualist) and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced the large sort of tectonic shifts that the piece seems to suggest are possible and which communists need to be prepared to take advantage of. I’ve not read much about previous insurrections and attempts to respond to them, and those that I’ve heard others talk about seem frankly over-rated to me. I might not be being fair here, though, as my in my head I’m equating all this insurrection talk with spontaneism and with struggle chasing - there’s an upsurge so we lefties rush to get there; for every new development there’s the new question “how do we radicals relate to it?” Of course that’s valid, but with the little I know about about examples I’m interested in of big conflagrations it seems to me there’s often some long term behind the scenes stuff that happens. I’m much, much more interested in - and think that our class has much greater need of - that sort of work than in the “how do we as radicals relate to this?”, a question tied in my experience to often relatively short term (say, 6-12 months at the longest) stints of doing political work. A lot of conflicts with management (successful ones that add to the ability to fight management better in the future) involve a lot of planning and preparation prior to the beginning of the conflict (think of the work that goes into preparing for a boxing match vs the time of the match itself). I’m more interested in that preparation to fight management kind of work than I am in the “the strike is on, we need an emergency flying squad meeting” kind of work.

As I think I said, maybe I misunderstand Don on insurrection, maybe it’s not spontaneism or anything like that. Even if it’s not, I’m pretty sure I *do* understand him right in that the insurrection stuff involves ideas of big groups of workers changing their minds at once. I can’t rule out that possibility but I’m deeply pessimistic about it. I don’t have anything like Don’s breadth and depth of experience or knowledge of history, but I feel like I’ve never experienced anything like what he’s describing or intimating in the stuff on insurrection, the ““rapid, but temporary and reversible shifts in political potentials in epistemological break situations” involving a great many people. I’m tempted again to formulate a hypothetical principle with regard to my gut level impulses and my trust… this principle would refer back to Don’s communists from the Manifesto, the ones who represent the future of the class or as I put it the ones oriented toward the class for itself (perhaps belonging to the proto- class for itself?), it would go like this: communists can count only on growth that they (we?) create through communists’ efforts; furthermore, individual conversation and relationship building between existing communists and noncommunists is key to this process; thus there is a rate of growth to expect which would be a function of the number of communists, the time they put in, and the degree of efficacy they have, working with noncommunists patiently and as individuals, and there’s a level of time required to work on noncommunists to move them in the way they need to be moved. Expectations about change above that level or outside the scope of these efforts can’t be eliminated, but can’t be proven. Don might say that this principle (I haven’t committed to it, it’s a hypothetical) would abandon the idea that the class enacts its own emancipation. I don’t think that’d be true, though, as the communists in question are working class ones, creating new working class communists.

I’m wandering. In short, I don’t trust there to be meaningful seismic shifts among the class in itself. Don will probably say I’m not even engaging then with the problem he’s after, and am a gradualist. Maybe so. Short of evidence that I’m wrong, I’ll stick with my pessimism for now. I suspect that a lot this is simply generational. I was born in the late 70s, I came of age really in the early 00s. My frame of reference is smaller and I’ve just never lived through anything that I can think of at all approaching an insurrection, a potential one, or a general offensive by the working class.

All of that said, there is a way in which I like very much what Don says about insurrection, but in a way that I think makes it no longer about insurrection. I’ll get back to this.

The parts of the piece that most spoke to me are the discussions of democracy and participation, and of the “general principles for the relationship of communists to the mass struggles of working people.” (Oh, and the stuff on workplace activity. I agree with that stuff entirely and so have nothing to say on it except that I wish it was longer and that more people would read it and take on that perspective.)

Hamerquist makes what are to my mind really good points about democracy and participation. He points a view that tends to see “greater democratic participation as the answer to most problems without fully appreciating its limitations and the resulting importance that revolutionaries collectively formulate and advance their own positions and confront the underlying issues in their own name.” He writes later that “[m]ost episodes of mass and class struggle include elements of a struggle for ‘better terms’ within capitalism, for reforms, as well as at least an implicit struggle against the capitalist system. Clearly moments occur in mass struggles when participatory majorities tacitly or explicitly acknowledge their subordination in exchange for selective concessions and a circumscribed security.” Hamerquist notes that radicals are usually in the numerical minority most of the time. He agrees with anarchists that there can be no “substitute for the actual change in the collective understanding of what is and what is possible” on the part of large groups of people. This can only occur “through the experience of active resistance to the power of capital and from the construction out of this resistance of a popular alternative.” He says that “The introduction of notions of general ‘objective’ interests of some broader social group in so situations can sometimes be helpful or even necessary, but it is no substitute for decisions that the actual participants in the struggle can recognize as their own.”

I think it’s important that “recognize as their own” is not the same as “make for themselves.” He says “Participatory majorities” in this sense are not necessarily numerical majorities. He adds that “even in early stages of struggle formally democratic procedures within it will not always promote the expansion and intensification of the struggle.” I think that is absolutely correct. In at least some contexts “a democratic and participatory approach will result in decisions that will not move the struggle forward, at least not in the opinion of the revolutionary grouping. So there may be moments in a struggle when a confrontation with democratically expressed ‘common sense’ is important.” Some of the time formal democracy can “substitute lowest common denominator approaches that accept the logic of capital for much less comfortable and less popular initiatives that might challenge this logic.” He points out that this does not “mean that revolutionary groups should always urge the fight forward.” There are times when digging in an holding ground is the better move for the long range than always pressing onward. We should be aware that “waves of enthusiasm can promote tactics that are not sustainable and objectives that are not attainable,” which “can result in significant and predictable setbacks.” It is possible that there can be “militant majorities that do not properly calculate the gaps and unevenness between what they are willing to do at a given moment and what they and others, possibly not so directly involved, will support over time.” This means “there will be (and have been) points where it may be necessary and important to retrench, to consolidate advances and accept necessary losses, even while additional victories still seem attainable to many participants in the movement. It will be certainly be unpopular, but it may be right to question or even challenge a militant majority under such conditions.”

About those general principles for communists in mass struggles, these are tied to the issue of democratic participation. It seems to me that at least some of the issue here is about what the class is that we orient to. That sounds clunky, of course. What I mean is, I think this is about how we work out our relationship to the class in itself and the class for itself. We have to work with and deal with people where we find them and be able to build relationships with people. We have to take people as we find them. At the same time, as radicals we can’t leave people as we find them. Our goal has to be to make people different. (I’ve tried to address this a bit in some blog posts occasionally, trying to think in my limited way about - and hopefully in a way that helps me be a bit better in - my limited experiences with doing some of this stuff, and have gotten a bit of feedback.)

That goal can sit uncomfortably with our democratic sensibilities. One version of a democratic sensibility involves consent - people affected by a decision should get to make the decision. That’s a sound principle. Like many sound principles, it has its limits. This issue of making people different is one area where we can see such a limit. How can someone consent to being made different? There are some ways, I suppose, but … if someone is not yet who they could and should be, and who they could and should be is a lot better than who they are, then, really, they’re not qualified to make the decision not to achieve their potential. (I had a much loved family member try to commit suicide once. That family member simply was not qualified to make the decision to die. Period, end of discussion.) I’m tempted to posit a hypothetical principle here, an inverse proportion between the change needed and the ability of the person needing the change to consent to it - people who most need their views changed are least qualified to consent to having their views changed. This is true for the class as well - we don’t ask the class in itself to give permission to the class for itself to come out and play.

I think this is the same issue, I’m not entirely sure. I’ve been in situations working with people who I see are formally my equal (they get a vote, they get equal rights, etc) but who I don’t see as substantive equals. Let’s say me and another comrade work together and we have a lot of experience with workplace struggle and revolutionary ideas. Let’s say we work with a group of people who have varying levels of experience less than we do (and people with more too, what the hell). There’s a balance to be struck with less experienced people. There is a sort of managed transparency, so to speak. If a first effort by a comrade and coworker is absolutely useless or counterproductive I think it’s still important to find a way to say something constructive, for the sake of developing that person or at the very least to help them really take the criticism on board. This means a conscious effort to find ways to sincerely express a silver lining along with criticisms. There are also discussions that have to happen sometimes, something like - “how do we get this comrade to be less socially awkward?” “maybe the issue is lack of confidence” “that could be, let’s push the comrade to speak publicly a few times, to feel less shy” “do you think they’ll succeed?” “At first? No. But if we have a plan to deal with the aftermath and give the right feedback, then yes, eventually.” This kind of thing has to be approached in a circuitous fashion and not directly through democratic means.

As Hamerquist puts it, there is an “unevenness in consciousness and development in the working class.” He see this as something he has in common with Tom Wetzel (I think Tom is quite good on this point, leadership development and so forth, and the need to recognize and actively take steps to work against informal hierarchies based on what people walked in the door with). For Don this is why there’s a “need for an organized minority to motivate and consolidate organizing projects that advance and expand the general struggle.” The piece says that this requires “a degree of ‘representation’ of the interests and potentials of social groups that are not organized and politically unified by a revolutionary organization that hopefully is.” I agree. But I don’t see what we gain by calling this representation. To be totally honest I wonder if this is partly a sort of, well, I don’t want to call it a trick but I can’t think of a better word. It wonder if this is an attempt to square democratic impulses with the discomfort of the fact that in some instances full transparency and democracy would be a mistake.

It’s on this stuff about the class for itself and about participation that I find that Hamerquist’s remarks about insurrection do resonate with me very much. At the end of the piece he states that “The development of mass revolutionary sentiment is not an extended and uniform process, but the result of sharp breaks and new normals that produce a strata of revolutionaries today that may not even have been the reformists of yesterday. These are not people who are discovered through a process of patiently arguing and convincing, but people who create and discover themselves through the unexpected leaps in perception and self conception that happen in actions, fights, struggles.” The “revolutionary organization should work to precipitate” this kind of occurence, he argues. At a large scope, I’m pessimistic, as I said. But at a smaller scope - a much smaller one, one so small that Don may be annoyed that I connect it with his remarks on insurrection - this describes exactly my orientation toward mass work.

People are not made communists head first, at least not all are and those who are made head first often have to have their feet and guts and hearts catch up. Many people are made communists first below the neck, and their ideas catch up. I think in saying that, in a way I’m agreeing with some of what Don is saying: “people (…) create and discover themselves through the unexpected leaps in perception and self conception that happen in actions, fights, struggles.” Personally, I think even more so when one is in the fight because one has a direct/material/economic stake in it, and deep human ties to people who have such a stake in it. There is a heat that is generated by struggles, and the closeness of a struggle to the heart of one’s social position/social existence, the higher one’s potential to experience this heat. Standing in solidarity with someone else’s workplace action is great and transformative. Taking action on one’s own job can be even more so - at least the first few times anyway. I say this because it seems to me relevant to what I mentioned before and only clumsily articulated, about the difference between relating to struggles that are happening vs the slow work of building struggles (on this, I find the term social insertion really annoying, as an aside), and because I’ve known radicals who put lots of time into various conflicts where others risk a great deal, which is great and necessary, but who aren’t themselves in conflicts facing at all analogous risks. (The working class radical movement I’d like to see is one mainly of people facing such risks connecting up with each other.) Maybe I’m just being moralistic.

Anyway, about struggles transforming people… one thing I learned from the STO’s writings is that it’s a mistake (one I used to make) to just leave it to the struggle to change people. Struggle is a necessary raw material, but not a sufficient one. Radicals have to relate to nonradical people who experience struggles, to make sure the right lessons happen (for the radicals too). It also seems to me that at levels much smaller in scale than insurrection, we can create these situations. We can build walkouts and other job actions and strikes. We build them in terms and conditions not of our choosing, but we can build them. I’ve seen this at an admittedly micro scale within my involvement in the IWW. This to my mind is what radicals should be doing, at least in work with people my and younger generations and the strata I’m familiar with.


I just realized a key mistake I made. I don’t know if I disagree with Don on insurrection or not, I think I don’t, I think I misread the piece. I took the insurrection talk not only as a political point but as a … for lack of a better word, a conjunctural point, like such a thing might be on the agenda quite soon. I don’t know if Don actually makes any such claim about the timing of all this. The pessimism I referred to in my reply is my pessimism about *when* something like that could happen, I think it’s a long ways off, but I mistakenly make it sound like I’m pessimistic about it happening at all. I think that makes a difference for the issue of gradualism, I joked that I may be a crypto-gradualist. That still may be the case, but I’m not a gradualist in principle - which would mean for something like “the change we want can happen slowly over time, slow change over time is sufficient” - I just think that situations along the lines Don describes or implies are a long way off. Thus, slow change over time is our likely best possibility for a while but is not itself going to be sufficient for the sorts of changes we want.

Newport 63: With God on Our Side

I can't sing "John Johanna" cause it's his story and his people's story - I gotta sing "With God On My Side" because it's my story and my people's story -
- Bob Dylan

The "social patriotism" that had inspired activists in the first half of the sixties came to seem naive or worse, and the radical analysis and uncompromising contempt of songs like "With God on Our Side" more truthful, politically and emotionally.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Using the Master's Tools: From Flash-Mobs to G20 Tweets

It was several years after the net existed before i got an email address, and in that i was not alone. i remember the opinion of many activists, that the web was a silly fad, a distraction, a toy for privileged people that could not be used in the struggle. We thought it was silly when Love and Rage ran an article about this newfangled technology that we should integrate into our praxis, and sad when some comrades stopped producing their newsletter to focus more on their website.

Nor were all the criticisms moot; there's truth in the sticker on my monitor, "the internet is ruining my subculture." Or as Le Tigre tell us, "I'll meet you in the street / Get off the Internet / Destroy the right wing."

Today we live in the era of countless radical blogs and websites, but fewer, nor more, serious radical magazines and newspapers than there were thirty years ago. Indeed, the literary leftovers not consumed by the web tend towards zinedom, a format in which there is only so much you are expected to say and do. Not to mention the fact that the internet's thorough absorption into imperialist culture makes yesterday's watchwords for secure communications and clandestine activity seem less realistic and likely than revolution itself.

Technology is a byproduct of history, of people facing certain challenges, building on distinct possibilities, and seizing the chance to do something in a new way. Why? Simply because the social conditions of their time and place make this new way seem better. This may be a mistake, the choice is often made by one group in pursuit of its own interests and at the expense of everyone else's, but it's not always - or even normally - the result of a conspiracy to impose the (often unforeseeable) social conditions that new techniques bring in their wake.

And that is one key to this process: that the social ramifications of new technologies are often unpredictable. Not only because life unfolds in unknowable ways, but also because every new factor in the social equation is grasped at, fought for, gerry-rigged and retro-fitted, all based on the competing claims and visions of classes, peoples, and subcultures who can only guess at the relationship between what they like, what they want, what they need. (Much like the rest of us.)

Check out, for instance, this recent article from Germany, about a trade union organizing flash-mobs to disrupt business as usual at a shopping center where pay negotiations had stalled. Using the internet to summon people at quick notice, the flash-mob forms and does its business and can be gone before your opponent knows what hit them; in this case several hundred people filling up their shopping carts and then leaving them in the aisles.

It is clear to all involved what is at stake here, as different classes attempt to establish the legal status of this form of struggle, which is really just an Alinskyesque kind of social disruption with a 21st century twist. The legality of flash-mobs in industrial actions is headed to the constitutional court, with the Spiegel article explaining that "Business owners have also suggested that individuals who are not actually union members might participate in the flash mobs -- the idea might appeal to extremists or trouble makers, they said."

See also in this regard the following youtube interviews with Elliot Madison and his lawyer Martin Skolar. Madison in the NYC anarchist whose home was raided by the FBI earlier this week, after he was arrested during the Pittsburgh G20 mobilization for using twitter - the online microblogging service - to keep demonstrators informed about the danger of police violence. The tactics that the Obama administration lauds when engaged in by Iranian protesters are now being criminalized on the streets of amerika.

This is an important case, because what is being targeted is not twitter (which probably cooperated with police) or just the G20 mobilizations, but the ability to protest more intelligently, to raise our capacities above the low level that they have been kept at for decades.

In case the videos don't play - youtube is often really slow i find - you can also read the transcript on the Democracy Now! website. Also check out Twitter Revolution.

ELF-style Bombers in Mexico?

From today's Counterpunch, this report on a recent spate of ELF-style anarchist bombings in Mexico:

Wave of Anarchist Bombings Strikes Mexico


Mexico City

An unprecedented wave of anarchist bombings here and in provincial capitals has Mexican security forces on red alert. Beginning September 1st, bombs have gone off once or twice a week regularly as clockwork, taking out windows and ATMs at five banks, torching two auto showrooms and several U.S. fast-food franchises plus an upscale boutique in the chic Polanco district of this conflictive capital. In each case, the Anarchist "A" has been spray-painted on nearby walls along with slogans supporting animal liberation demands to stop prison construction, and calls for the demise of capitalism.

The serial bombings are the first to strike Mexico City since November 2006 when radicals took out a chunk of the nation's highest electoral tribunal, blew a foreign-owned bank, and scorched an auditorium in the scrupulously-guarded compound of the once and future ruling PRI party. The 2006 attacks came in the wake of a fraud-marred presidential election and federal police suppression of a popular uprising in the southern state of Oaxaca and were claimed by five armed groups, most prominently the Democratic Revolutionary Tendency, a split-off from the Marxist-Leninist Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) which itself bombed a Sears outlet in Oaxaca City in 2006 and PEMEX pipelines in central Mexico in 2007.

Anarchist cells that claim to have perpetrated the recent explosions take pains to distance themselves from the Marxist bombers.

In vindicating a September 25th blast at a Banamex branch in the rural Milpa Alta delegation (borough) of Mexico City during which the rebels claim a half million pesos were immolated, "The Subversive Alliance For The Liberation Of The Earth, The Animals, & The Humans" (in that order) charged that the U.S.-owned bank promoted "torture, destruction, and slavery. "Our motives are to stop these bastards and let them know that we are not playing games."

Bank video cameras captured the images of three hooded and black-clad young bombers. On October 1st, 22 year-old Ramses Villareal, a student activist, was arrested by federal police and charged with "terrorism" in connection with bombings at several of the banks. He was released the next day after violent protests by young anarchists in Mexico City.

The September 25th Banamex blast was not the first time the bank has been targeted by "terrorist" bombs. In August 2001, heavy duty fireworks broke out windows in a "cristalazo" at three southern Mexico City branches to protest the sale of Banamex, Mexico's oldest bank, to Citigroup, the New York-based banking group that has been so devastated by the financial melt-down that it recently put Banamex back up for sale.

The 2001 bombing was attributed to the little-known Armed Revolutionary Front of the People (FARP.) Three brothers, students at the UNAM, and the sons of EPR founder Francisco Cerezo (not his real name) were subsequently imprisoned on "terrorism" charges - the attacks took place just days before the terrorist assaults on New York and Washington purportedly carried out by Osama Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda group. The Cerezo brothers were imprisoned for eight years and have only recently been released from federal lockup.

The September bombings and associated property damage also singled out Mexico City and Guadalajara offices of the European bio-tech titan Novartis that, along with Monsanto, bears responsibility for spreading genetically modified seed throughout Mexico's corn-growing belt and contaminating native species of maiz. Auto showrooms in the two cities were also on the business end of Molotov cocktails September 18th and 26th - seven luxury automobiles including a Hummer were torched at Auto Nova in Guadalajara.

An Internet page documenting the Guadalajara bombing included communiqués from Jeffrey Luers AKA "Free", who is serving ten years in Oregon for burning up 21 SUVs on a Portland lot. "Free" is accused by the FBI of being an associate of the Earth Liberation Front, eco-"terrorists" that the U.S. Justice Department has elevated to the top of the Terrorist Hit Parade, alongside Bin Laden. The initials "ELF" were reportedly spray-painted on the burnt-out showroom walls.

Messages from the bombers were posted to the Total Liberation website ( that is dedicated to "the dissolution of civilization" and serves as an international bulletin board for notices of similar sabotage by anarchist cells around the world such as the U.S. "Burn Down The Jails!", Latin American autonomous cells of the Animal Liberation Front - an ELF offshoot, and the Greek anarchist movement that ravaged Athens this summer.

"Our fire illuminates the night!" waxed poetic one anonymous Mexican anarchist interviewed on the Total Liberation site. "We have lost all fear of spending the rest of our days in prison", perhaps a reference to the Cerezo brothers and Ramsis Villareal. Groups claiming bombings and other successful acts of sabotage take fanciful names infused with poetry, bravado, and black humor: "Luddites Against the Domestication of Wildlife", "Espana Signus Francescos" (thought to be a reference to San Francisco of Assisi, the patron saint of animals), and "Autonomous Cells of the Immediate Revolution - Praxides G. Guerrero."

The historically obscure Guerrero was the first anarchist to fall in the landmark 1910-1919 Mexican revolution whose centennial will be marked in 2010. Praxides G. Guerrero was felled by a "bala ciega" (literally "blind bullet") during a guerrilla raid on Janus Chihuahua in May 1910, six months before Francisco Madero officially called for the overthrow of dictator Porfirio Diaz in November of that year to launch the Mexican revolution.

Only 28 years old on the day of his death, Guerrero was a young partisan of anarchist superstars Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magon. "Praxides translated the theory of anarchism into practical action," writes anarchist historian Dave Poole. In a recent e-mail, John Mason Hart, author of the definitive study "Anarchism & The Mexican Working Class", concluded that if Guerrero had survived, the Mexican revolution would have looked more like the contemporary neo-Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas than the fratricidal bucket of blood it became.

As a writer, Praxides G. Guerrero's prose has all the impact of an anarchist bomb. In "Blow!", the revolutionary imagines himself as the wind: "I steal into palaces and factories, I blow through prisons and caress the infancy prostituted by Justice, I force my way into army barracks and see in them an academy of assassination, I am the breath of the revolution…"

It hardly seems a coincidence that modern-day anarchists struck in September, "the patriotic month" when Mexicans celebrate the declaration of their independence from Spain in 1810, the bicentennial of which, along with the centennial of the Mexican Revolution, is on deck in 2010. President Felipe Calderon has budgeted billions of pesos to mark the twin centennials even as Mexico is mired in a bottomless recession that has driven millions of workers into the streets. Ironically, the Calderon government has reportedly contracted a Hollywood production outfit with the very anarchist brand-name "Autonomy" for $60,000,000 USD to mount centennial "spectaculars" - in 2008, "Autonomy" staged the spectacular pageant that opened the Beijing Olympics.

In invoking Praxides G. Guerrero's hallowed name, anarchist bombers appear to be celebrating the vital role their ideological forbearers played in the Mexican revolution, the first great uprising of the landless in the Americas and an immediate precursor of the Russian revolution.

Anarchism in Mexico dates back to the first days of the republic when in 1824, North American followers of the Welsh utopian socialist Robert Owen unsuccessfully sought to establish colonies along the border in Chihuahua. In the 1860s, anarchism doing business as "mutualism" (i.e. working class solidarity) took root in the burgeoning Mexican labor movement - mutualism's most significant representation was the House of The World Worker (Casa de Obrero Mundial") that flourished during the early days of the revolution.

As the Mexican revolution crested at the turn into the 20th century, anarchism gained an early foothold. Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magon's newspaper "Regeneracion" ("Regeneration") was passed from hand to hand and widely read by those who sought the dictator's overthrow. Repeatedly imprisoned by Porfirio Diaz, Ricardo and Enrique fled to the U.S. where they clandestinely continued to publish "Regeneracion." The anarchist duo was pursued by both Diaz's agents and U.S. immigration authorities and forced to flee from city to city (San Antonio, Los Angeles, S. Louis.) Imprisoned for violating the 1917 version of the Patriot Act, Ricardo Flores Magon died in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary in 1922 under mysterious circumstances that suggest he was strangled by prison guards for flying a Mexican flag in his cell. A century after the Mexican revolution, a handful of campesino organizations in the Flores Magones' native state of Oaxaca continue to incorporate the brothers' names in their struggles.

During their ill-fated sojourn north of the border, the Magones forged links to U.S. anarchists. The IWW - the Industrial Workers of the World or Wobblies - which preached anarchism on the street corners of the American west, are said to have been the organizing force behind the miners' strike in the great Cananea copper pit in Sonora during which a score of workers were massacred by the Arizona Rangers - Cananea is considered the seedbed of the Mexican labor movement. The celebrated Chicago anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre contributed to Regeneracion and raised bail money for the Flores Magones. In 1911, Joe Hill, the renowned Wobbly organizer and bard, rode with the Magonistas in a failed expedition to liberate Baja California.

Despite their margination from the revolutionary mainstream, Magonistas fought in the armies of Emiliano Zapata, Francisco Villa, and Venustiano Carranza although they were often singled out as troublemakers and executed by revolutionary firing squads.

The anarchist flame in Mexico would never have survived without the solidarity of Spanish exiles. Spanish anarchists played a critical role in the formation of the House of the World Worker and after the Spanish Civil War (1936-9) anarchist fighters and thinkers were offered sanctuary from Franco's fascist hordes in Mexico. Spanish anarchists founded the Social Reconstruction Library in downtown Mexico City, an invaluable repository of anarchist archives.

The Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas in 1994 signaled the second coming of Mexican anarchism. The EZLN's rejection of dependence on the "mal gobierno" (bad government) and its insistence on collective action and the creation of autonomous zones in the southeast of that highly-indigenous state inspired collectives of young anarchists, often clustered around the National Autonomous University or UNAM. Anarchist activists spurred the 1999-2000 strike against a tuition hike at the National University. Ski-masked, so-called "ultras" with tags like "El Mosh", "El Gato", and "The Devil" drove the student struggle to sectarian excess and a clampdown by the federal police that resulted in 700 arrests.

The uproar at the 1999 Seattle conclave of the World Trade Organization was the first explosion of the anti-globalization movement in which anarchists would play a pivotal role. Black clad youth basked in the media spotlight in Seattle but property damage against franchise chains like Niketown by the self-named "Black Bloc" purportedly animated by the writings of U.S. anarchist guru John Zerzan, offended mainstream anti-globalization groups like Global Exchange whose founder, Medea Benjamin called for their arrest. The Seattle uprising was first plotted at a 1996 anti-globalization forum staged by the Zapatistas on the fringes of the Lacandon jungle.

The death of Black Blocker Carlo Giuliani under the guns of the police at the 2001 Genoa Italy G-8 summit had deep scratch in the Zapatista zone where a clinic has been named for the anarchist martyr at Oventic, the rebels' most public outpost - the Giuliani family has contributed an ambulance.

Mexican black blockers went into action at the 2003 WTO fiasco in the luxury port of Cancun. Armed with Molotov cocktails, shopping carts filled with rocks, and home-made battering rams, the anarchos threatened to storm police barricades but spontaneous peace-making by indigenous women protestors helped avoid bloodshed and the black-clad militants decided to burn down a local pizza parlor instead.

Bloodshed was on the agenda at a 2004 Ibero-American summit in Guadalajara when then Governor Francisco Ramirez Acuna (now president of the lower house of the Mexican congress) unleashed his robocops on an anti-globalization rally. Young anarchists were beaten into the sidewalk like so many baby harp seals and dragged off to gaol where police torture continued for weeks. Several block blockers were held for nearly a year despite the outcry from the international human rights community.

Anarchist collectives in Mexico City are not universally unruly. La Karakola, a collective that swears allegiance to Zapatismo and non-violence, would just as soon dance as toss rocks at the cops. Anarcho "squats" take over abandoned buildings - the "okupas" modeled on those run by Barcelona activists pop up in unlikely neighborhoods such as the squat house under the towering Torre Mayor, an 88-story skyscraper on swanky Reforma boulevard.

Punky anarchist fashion - black clothes, studded leather jackets, piercings, exotic hairstyles, and a written language in which "k's" replace "c's", is popular with dissident big city youth and on display Saturday mornings at the Chopo Bazaar and evenings at the Alicia Forum where punk meets anarchism. But most anarcho "fashionistas" are not bombers - it's a struggle to slip a ski mask over a Mohawk.

2006 seems to be the year that anarcho fury at the destruction of the planet took wings - the earliest postings on the Total Liberation page date from then. The first actions were little publicized and dismissed by police and the media as vandalism - destruction of pay phones installed by Telmex, owned by tycoon Carlos Slim, the richest man in Latin America, is a popular sport. Sabotage peaked in 2008 when 129 actions were recorded, most of them non-violent such as the liberation of slaughter house-bound chickens and the reconfiguration of bull ring signage transforming the Toluca Plaza de Torros into a "Plaza of Torturers."

One exception was the torching of a leather expo in Leon Guanajuato, the shoe and boot capital of Mexico. On October 2nd, the 40th anniversary of the 1968 student massacre, fast food franchises were Molotov-ed in the capital's old quarter and 13 anarchists arrested. Fake bombs were subsequently planted at MacDonald's, KTC, and Burger King in ten provincial cities.

The September wave of bombings was a defiant step upwards but not by much - the "bombs" were primitively fashioned from butane tanks used by plumbers to solder pipes and detonated by bottle rockets. All bombings occurred during early morning hours to avoid human casualties although some stray dogs and cats may have been singed.

Despite the lack of lethal intent, the bombings have riveted the attentions of numerous security forces, particularly the CISEN, Mexico's lead intelligence agency which is reportedly spread thin trying to keep tabs on plans by clandestine guerrilla bands ranging from the Zapatistas to the EPR to foment armed uprising during the 100th birthday party of the Mexican revolution to which all Mexicans, regardless of ideological persuasion, have been invited.
John Ross' monstrous "El Monstruo - Dread & Redemption In Mexico City" will hit the streets in November (to read raving reviews from the likes of Mike Davis and Jeremy Scahill go to Ross will be traveling Gringolandia much of 2009-2010 with "El Monstruo" and his new Haymarket title "Iraqigirl", the diary of a teenager growing up under U.S. occupation. If you have a venue for presentations he would like to talk to you at