Friday, December 30, 2011

The Fowley, MN security debate

Two good Strib editorial pieces will fill you in here (contra) and here (pro).

I'm approaching from the perspective of a political radical, a heretical marxist, and a security officer when I consider this controversial issue. That's part of my disclaimer.

And part of how my marxism has deviated from all those endlessly arguing, worthless factions is that I don't think "The State" should control everything. And I don't think the market is perfect, either. So there's that.

Personally, I applaud experimentation. Fowley is brave in examining new models of public safety. The finance sector-sponsored recession is making unique demands on our traditional institutions and until we as communities can reclaim our losses (ha! right....), we've got an opportunity to find new ways to operate. I think that's great.

It bugs me when people put their ideology before the well-being of society. It's putting the cart before the horse. Some radical lefties might say, "Worker's patrols can secure the streets." Sure, they could, like they did in the early Soviet Union and Minneapolis 1933 and plenty of other revolutionary situations. But they don't just spring up out of the ground.

I like the security industry. Security professionals can do a lot of things the regular cops just don't have time to do. Why pull out the big guns before you know if a situation warrants it? Traffic stops, parking or curfew violations, barking dogs or loud radios ... let public security handle it, save your cops for the domestic abuses and armed robberies that they're qualified for.

Any number of OWS protesters would probably agree that they'd rather have been monitored by security folks than arbitrarily brutalized by the NYPD or other baton-happy riot goons. You don't need cops at a protest until things get hairy.

Using security officers for routine, low-hazard stuff adds a layer of finesse to civilian law. If it saves over-worked cops from having to work too much overtime, and saves the city from having to pay too much overtime, that's cool. I say, let the community decide what to do about safety and security. If they get some buy-in, they're more likely to view law enforcement as a partner than an oppressor, and that's the way a community ought to run.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blogwatch: Socialism and/or Barbarism

Watch Evan Calder Williams' influential blog Socialism and/or Barbarism "mutate" over the coming months. Must-read stuff for people serious about "making sense" of the world. Or at least conceptions of the world. I look forward to what he has in mind.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions for Radicals

2012: the last year on earth, or at least the last year before a major paradigm change, if you believe the New-Agey whackos, like some of my friends in California. Quackery aside, it's a good opportunity to look at all your cookie-cutter, consumerist New Year's resolutions and think, what can I try something new?

You'd better make some damn good resolutions this year.

Let's face it: we can be really reactionary creatures. A lot of what we do and think is really just a response to our environment and we don't question many of the underlying reasons for what we do. A radical is just a person who digs a little deeper, examines a little closer, looks for innovative ways to approach a rather mundane life.

Many people take on the small potatoes for New Years. They want to lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, read more, take a nice vacation, spend more time with the kids, get a promotion. The problem is, these resolutions are largely the vows of consumers, people's whose mindsets are bogged down in the work-eat-sleep routine of goddamn farm animals.

When the fuck are you going to stop just reacting?

When are you going to stop bleating like a sheep about your little resolutions?

When the fuck are you going to make New Years revolutions?


Well, the problem for most folks, I imagine, and yes even for most wanna-be radicals who are usually too caught up in "activism" to actually ever be effective, is they don't know where to start. A lot of people don't consider themselves "political" - and the people who do are almost entirely all assholes. In America being "political" just means being a dishonest opportunist. We want to get away from that.

So I'm making a list we can start looking at and, shockingly, working with right away. We can, believe it or not, start using existing alternatives to undermine the global power structures and their oppressive narratives. We don't have to waste time "building a movement" from scratch or waiting for social conditions to be "right." Social conditions aren't wrong; our narratives are wrong.

These resolutions will require a lot of unpacking, so to speak, and as you can probably tell I haven't had much internet access lately. So there isn't a lot of reasoning or defense. Fuck it. Endless agonizing and arguing is what brings us to impasses anyway. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Join a credit union. On November 4th, somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000 people in the US switched from a bank to a credit union as part of OWS and Bank Transfer Day. Credit unions keep consumer profits out of irresponsible financial conglomerates and help the local economy. Plus they're more accountable to their members (as opposed to customers!) and we aren't at their mercy when it comes to sneaky fees and outrageous tolls. This site should help you find one near you.

Shop at a co-op. For newby radicals, try finding a grocery co-operative near you and checking out the yummy, locally and sustainably grown foods. Most grocery co-operatives (at least here in the Twin Cities) aren't necessarily worker's co-ops but consumer co-ops (transforming shoppers from consumers to members), which is a good model for holding the institution responsible. There are other kinds of co-ops, too, if you look around; bicycle co-ops are especially valuable to cyclists and will liberate you from a dependency on cookie-cutter sports stores. The knowledge and service found in a bicycle co-op will make you better engaged with your two-wheeled tool.

Join a co-op. The real benefits come to members: profit sharing, voting rights, sharing passions with other enthusiasts. Instead of mindlessly wandering the big-box stores like a zombie, buying all your "needs" off a list like you've been programmed, roll up your sleeves and get involved in how your community institutions run. This is a great introduction to local economics - the kind that actually matter to communities and individuals.

"Co-Op City" in New York. Housing cooperatives could be really helpful in this economy....

Start a co-op.
For the truly radical. Identify a need in your community, even (or especially) one provided by big corporations. Get some friends and neighbors interested. Provide that good or service for one another and the community. All you'll need is a charter and some by-laws, maybe some start-up funds, and a lot of grit, determination, and willingness to learn. Find some resources here and here. It may seem ambitious, but co-operatives will need to form the backbone of future sustainable and democratic societies.

Start a garden. Go all-out. As a species, we've been digging in the dirt our entire history. Urban living has wrecked that for a lot of folks. Don't let it. Even if you live in the city, in an apartment or other shared living space, get your hands on some green. Herbs and other expensive meal components can be grown on a window-sill and the savings can add up. Even better, if you're really radical you can take up window-farming and make the most out whatever space you've got. Try container gardening, too. Sneak some potted plants into the common areas of your buildings - more green, living plants are proven to make more enjoyable living spaces, decreasing stress and making even the dumpiest shithole a more pleasing habitat. If you've got an actual yard, cultivate it. Share your bounty with neighbors and take the excesses to farmer's markets. Nothing undermines the greed of capitalism like sharing. Just ask Napster.

Compost. Goes hand-in-hand with gardening, and lessens your carbon footprint too. Don't rely on industrial fertilizers that wreck the global soil system. Read up on the best ways to recycle nature's materials. You might surprise yourself with how much of your waste is actually compostable and keep useful waste out of those god-awful landfills where they benefit no one and nothing.
Support a local political party. One important lesson of the Occupy movement that doesn't seem to get much discussion is how local politicians have tipped their hand. They're as in the pocket of global capital as much as our federal "representatives." Don't think third-parties and local elections are without consequence; in fact, it might just be the only way we can make some real fucking change around here. Take the local, and then state, offices in cities and important districts out of the hands of the mass parties and see how that changes the dialogue. It'll be important to have allies in office when OWS takes to the streets again next year. Plus the most influential economic policies actually happen on the state and local levels. Find someone sympathetic to your political beliefs locally, or there's always the Green Party, which could certainly use some energy and a swift kick in the pants.

This post inspired by some of the most radical thinkers in American history.

Yeah, localism. Yeah, individualism. Maybe middle-class aspirations. Or maybe working class aspirations, with the platform of historical inclusion in the middle-class. But it's movement and it's direction and that's what we need in 2012, not rebuilding the wheel or waiting for a Leninist Superman. Only dirty hands are worthy of the black and red!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

This Year's Gift To Myself

Most of my comrades support the 2nd Amendment and are thus tolerant of my frequent firearm purchasing binges. They know I can't pass up a good deal. Even if it isn't exactly practical, like two years ago when I ordered five thousand 62 gr 5.56mm bullets for my reloading bench. Turns out the box was so big it would not fit inside of my components safe. My solution was perfectly logical to other shooters- go to the range and shoot as much stored 5.56mm ammo I had so I could reload the brass with my huge stash of 5.56mm bullets. Thus the fewer the bullets, the smaller the box I need to store them in. Ergo, the new box will fit in the safe. I'm still working on that solution...
This holiday season was no exception. After two months on the front lines of The War On Christmas with my fellow Far Left conspirators, sabotaging Santa's sleigh and sodomizing various barnyard animals in nativity displays, I decided I deserved to treat myself. I was combing the local gun shops, seeing nothing special on the shelves. What? Yet another variation of the M1911? Yawn.
Elbowing my way through crowds of little bald macho dudes showing off in front of their leather faced fiftysomething girlfriends at the Glock display, I made my way towards the much less crowded surplus firearm section of the store. There were a couple of aging and overweight militia types, decked out in the latest digital camo fashion, hauling crates of ancient Mosin- Nagant rifles over to the register. I breezed past them, classifying them as Mostly Harmless.
I ignored the various overpriced AKs, ARs, H-Ks, etc. and headed for the used handgun section. Now I am sort of on the fence when it comes to the great semi- auto vs. revolver debate, but when it comes down to it there is something old- school sexy about a revolver. Sam Spade, Elliot Ness, or any other detective from the classic film noir period of the 1940s and 50s carried revolvers. Then there is the whole Zen of swinging out the cylinder and dropping another six rounds into the chambers. Hollywood has tried to make slapping a magazine ( the ignorant refer to them as " clips" ) into the butt of a semi- automatic look sexy but the hero usually squinches up his face when doing it, and appears to be in the process of pinching a loaf. It ain't the same, baby.
So back to the used revolver display. I see a Webley in pretty decent shape, and priced accordingly. Numerous Colt Police Specials- nice, but again priced well above the $500 dollar mark. I want a deal, dammit.
So then I come across some Taurus revolvers, Model of 82. Brazilian police surplus, caliber .38 Special. Holy crap, these poor guns look like they have been run over by a tank. The bluing on the barrels are worn down by holster wear. The grips looked like a bored dog had been gnawing on them. But they were priced accordingly: $ 169.00. This required a closer look.
I called the clerk over and asked to handle one of the revolvers. With one in my hand I checked the bore, the cylinder, and tested out the hammer. Everything checked out. I had to have it and bought it.
Other guys were putting layways on $1,000.00 + M1911s, the latest 9mms with 30 round magazines ( again, don't call them " clips", dummy ), or Berettas tricked out with a dozen " tacticool" items. Me, I paid in cash and walked out the door with my ugly duckling. I was shooting it on the same day I first saw it.
How did my beat up Model 82 do? It exceeded my expectations in every category. The chewed up grips fitted my hand nicely. The Model 82 is well balanced and solidly built, so its a little heavy for a revolver in .38 Special. But that keeps recoil minimal, so its a plus. The trigger pull is a little mushy, but no big deal. Double action firing is remarkably smooth. At 7 yards, three shot groups easily stayed within 2".
All in all, this was a great deal. And nothing gives me more holiday cheer than a good deal.
Merry Christmas, Comrades!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Experience At D12 Seattle

The following is a requested re- post of a reply a comrade made to this article:

I was at the Seattle port action. I think that there is a lot of truth in this article about the role unions play, and the role of management in major actions such as this. I feel the article fails to differentiate between self- appointed managers ( approved by either individual groups or no one ) and that managers that were elected/ approved by GA's for specific roles ( such as peace and safety ). It is important for revolutionaries to note that whenever you have an action as large as this there will be some sort of management system on some kind of level. The real question should be what role those managers have, what is the LIMIT TO THEIR AUTHORITY, and what is their mission statement. Those managers who attempted to co- opt, or limit the scope of the shut down failed, but I think those are the managers that the article is targeting.
This brings me to an interesting point that I would really like to discuss. We are now observing and analyzing the polarity of this struggle- and that is not necessarily a bad thing, or a new thing. The polarity of this struggle is primarily between the reformists, and the revolutionaries. The hard- line reformists on the one hand work for the bourgeoisie ( ruling class ), while the hard- line revolutionaries work against capital and for the proletariat ( working class ). Now here is the issue- we have a highly decentralized collective of revolutionary networks in America. Revolutionary Anarchists ( because some self- described anarchists are reformists or lifestyle-ists ) don't work with Marxists ( except when they are concerned with immediate survival ), and Marxists don't work with each other ( ISO, FSP, SA, RCP, CVO, non- aligned, etc. ). This sectarianism on the revolutionary front weakens it, and allows the reformists to use divide and conquer strategies to throw a wedge between those who know what is going on, and the undecided workers. This also weakens the revolutionary pole, which aids the reformists in the information war ( bringing undecided workers to their side ).
I felt the greatest strength of the port shutdown in Seattle was that revolutionaries came together to shutdown Gate 18 ( where the shit went down at ). The reformist liberals stayed in the safer yellow and green zones. We created a 5' barricade, and adjusted that barricade to meet our needs against the cops. While many of us were pepper sprayed and hit by bicycles, we were able to limit that police violence through our collective cooperation. This is really important because the Seattle protesters that came to shut down the ports were not a very large group ( considering the scope of the work ). Overcoming sectarianism is what allowed the revolutionary left to maintain that shutdown- and I have never seen the cops so frightened in my life.
Now which pole do the Trade Union Bureaucrats ( TUBS ) belong to? They belong to the reformist pole. They have a history of funneling the vote of their membership into the Democratic Party. Does that mean unions are worthless institutions? Hardly. Many of the key infrastructure on the coastlines and in the north are maintained and run by union workers. The hard truth of the matter is that they will be integral to the success of any revolution in America. I am against the notion of alienating the unions and working without them- however I do think it is important that we recognize the difference between union bureaucrats and union rank- and- file. Anarchists, in my opinion, have had trouble with this differentiation, and as a union member, it bothers me. I feel that this is a critical part of understanding where unions are why they are there. The institutions  have become reformist because of the points laid out in the article regarding Taft- Hartley, but also because the TUBS have become comfortable in their positions. They are the reason that unions have moved away from the paradigm of class struggle and into a paradigm of capital- labor cooperation. I am not as pessimistic about unions, and I think we should be trying to provide outreach to their rank- and- file, but we should ignore the reformist protest of their leadership. The TUBS will plea that we ignored a democratic union, but many unions are democratic at only a local level.
Differentiating the rank- and- file and the TUBS is critical! There were many union members at the shut down who supported it wholeheartedly!
I feel the article did a great job outlining the importance of the non- union workers, but also did a great job of  explaining why we must hold our ground and not give in during major direct actions such as D12 regardless of who wants to cross.
Sectarianism Is A Cancer.

Back to my experience at Gate 18, which should be a subject on the minds of every revolutionary who participated in the shutdown. Sectarianism is destroying the revolutionary left, and only serves the bourgeoisie. We need to build bridges between the revolutionary sects on both ends of the Marxist- Anarchist aisle. Currently the strategy for Anarchists and these various Marxist groups is to build walls against each other. The Anarchists are building a wall, and the ISO, SA, RCP, etc are building walls. This strategy is " whoever builds the highest, strongest wall will be the victor of the revolution !" Unfortunately history has shown that this strategy is a bust, and that it allows the bourgeoisie to easily rip us apart. All of these groups have been failures for the past fifty years in creating a revolution ( I am using fifty years because of McCarthyism ). All sectarianism has created is a handful of weak cargo cults who think they are better than each other.
How Do We Overcome Sectarianism?

cultish dogma and open that up for a debate and discussion. There are a ton of unanswered questions of previous revolutions that every group has tried to answer but failed. No one has the answer to everything regarding a revolution, and my evidence is the fifty years of failure in the United States. I have meet individuals in every organization that wish to address the problem of sectarianism. We need to network with these individuals so that we can overcome our differences. We also need to be willing to have our dogma and theory poked and prodded at so that we can improve upon it. This will not be pretty- it will be ugly, it will hurt feelings, and it will smash egos. It will also likely destroy or radically change many of these sects since their survival relies on secrecy, avoidance of criticism, internalized discussion, dogma, and a blockade of debate and communication with other revolutionaries. As revolutionaries, we will have to re- visit the age old debates of the State, democracy, consensus, bureaucracy, management, and the shortcomings of the Russian Revolution.
I have created a Facebook page to help build this network here:

I hope that you all will build the networking sites needed or Facebook pages to network revolutionaries in your respective districts.
I consider Anarchists and Marxists as comrades and i am open to any comments, discourse, concerns, suggestions, questions, or proposals. Please use the FB page so that we may get started.
I also recommend a review of Ben Seattle's strong polemics regarding sectarianism and Party building.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Presidential Selection of 2012

No, that is not a typo in the title. That is a more accurate description of our current political process, particularly of the presidential contest, than the sappy bullshit about our Republic you hear Ken Burns or other amateur historians spouting. The candidates are selected for us by the elite and then we chose between the Democratic and Republican wings of the Property Party.
Whether the GOP finally decides on Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney is a small matter ( the other contenders having been displaced by the inevitable winnowing process as big money throws its weight behind those candidates who can talk right- wing crazy on cue but who won't actually rock the boat too much ). Never in the history of American politics have the two parties been closer in their ideologies. Contrary to what the few remaining true believers in Obama think, bombs do not magically stop killing people just because the guy in the White House as a ( D ) after his last name. The very same liberal democrats who took to the streets to protest Bush's War suddenly fell silent on the subject once their hero assumed power. And Obama's political foes in the GOP do not question the President's drone campaign in Central Asia on moral grounds, but in terms of how much more tons of high explosives those drones would drop if they were President.
Civil rights? The Obama administration took over the continuing erosion of the rule of law from that of George W. Bush without missing a beat. The National Defense Authorization Act now makes it legal for the U.S. Military to arrest American citizens overseas or in their own homeland. Goodbye, Posse Comitatus Act. Again, the GOP candidates do not criticize the actual destruction of our rights as U.S. citizens. Their complaint is that the President is not throwing more people in jail.
Both the President and the Republican candidates agree on the fact that Capital must be dominant over Labor. Again, it is a matter of degree. The Democrat must make promises to organized labor and throw a few scraps to the workers now and then. Of course the promises to the Unions can be ignored until the next election cycle comes up ( remember the Employee Free Choice Act ? ) and workers can be distracted by minor cuts in payroll taxes while our Democratic President quietly praises indentured servitude programs like Georgia Works. The Republican candidates have it easier- they do not have to pretend they are a friend of the working class. Their solution to unemployment is to build more prisons.
" Why am I voting for Obama? Two words: Newt Gingrich ( or Mitt Romney )." With President Obama sounding like Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich sounding like, well, Newt Gingrich, even the standard shitty reason of Democrat diehards to vote for their idol falls flat. More and more people are waking up to the fact that the Two- Party system is a pretty crappy form of representative government that is unresponsive to the needs of 99% of its citizens.
The rallying cry of America's workers for the upcoming Occupy campaigns in the spring should be simple: We Deserve Better.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nationalism, Political Parties, and Team Sports

Since the Obama Administration has continued renditions (and has since the new administration was barely a month old), CIA black ops secret prisons (there's one in Somalia now), the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, wars public and secret throughout the globe, GPS tracking of American citizens, and all the other worst abuses of the Bush Administration, dedicated Democrat Party loyalists have been forced to either abandon their team or give in to their baser impulses and change their ideology to support their team. In other words, many Democrats, in Congress and in the public at large, have rediscovered their inner neoconservative. But don't tell them this. See, "neoconservative" is a word associated with the Enemy, their opposing Team, and as such is an object of hatred.

In George Orwell's 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", he wrote of nationalists:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

To put it more simply, it's not the action that matters, but the team that does the action. Political parties in our binary political system are as meaningless as a college football team, and the rivalries between groups are identical in their pointlessness.

If you live in a college town, like Columbus Ohio or Oklahoma City, you see this mindless fanaticism from team fans (short for fanatic) all the time. In "Buckeye" country, the blue and gold of their Michigan rivals are hated and reviled. It's only scarlet and gray here, thank you very much! Both teams just play football. Big fucking deal, right? And yet, there's a sense of moral righteousness in one team's support, and their opposition to the other team. People will be genuinely outraged if you wear the wrong colors. Fights may even start. For what?

The Democrat and Republican parties, especially over the last couple decades, have been different in word, but not significantly different in deed. During the 8 years of Bush, these deeds were associated with Republicans, and neo-conservatives. Those are on the opposing team, so members of the Democrat team opposed it. Now the Obama administration continues and expands what the Bush administration did. But the current administration is a Democrat administration, so for a member or supporter of the Democrat team they must oppose anything that challenges the Democrat administration, and they must support anything done by the Democrat administration. If it was a Republican administration, as members of the Democrat team they would oppose it.

You can see this in how members of the Republican team opposed Democrat military intervention in Libya. Obama has been a conservative in nearly all his actions, has been since the beginning, and yet the "conservative" team members still complain, and the "liberal" team members still support him. Not because of the actions themselves, but because of the team undertaking those actions. The actions don't objectively matter, what matters is Team. If you try to explain this to a member of the Republican/conservative team, or to a member of the Democrat/liberal team, they will just shut down. Or they will get very angry. They hate to have this sort of thing pointed out to them. Objective thought is impossible. Team is all.

For a related comparison, look at the reaction to that coach at Penn State, who covered up the rape of children, and was forced to resign. There were riots, not because children were being raped (which I would consider an excellent reason to riot), but because the coach that turned a blind eye to it was being forced to resign. All the anger and hatred of the fan(atic)s was directed not at the rightful target (child rapists and their defenders) but at the people in the media and at the college who dared to reveal this and demand accountability for it. Classic nationalism, it is not the objectionable act they oppose, but the revelation of that objectionable act and the associated discredit it brings upon the object of their worship.

With college teams, their coaches are looked at as being the team. Attacks on the coach are attacks on the Team. With national politics, the president is looked at as being the embodiment of the team, the political party. A verbal attack on the president and his actions is considered an attack on the Team, and this cannot be allowed to stand by the team's supporters.

If we can't get past our slavery to team politics in our country, we'll never be able to make any progess. Instead we'll continue dancing like puppets on the strings of the people who control both parties. They're able to do whatever they want, and the team supporters back it or oppose it depending on which team is committing the actions this year.