In the present period few terms or ideas have been as slandered, distorted, diminished, or degraded as radical or radicalism. This is perhaps not too surprising given that this is a period of expanding struggles against state and capital, oppression and exploitation, in numerous global contexts. In such contexts, the issue of radicalism, of effective means to overcome power (or stifle resistance) become pressing. The stakes are high, possibilities for real alternatives being posed and opposed. In such contexts activists and academics must not only adequately understand radicalism, but defend (and advance) radical approaches to social change and social justice.
Heavily armed officers, weapons drawn, move across a bridge draped with a banner reading “No war for oil” and “We are the 99%." One corner of the banner sports the A anarchist symbol. Shortly after, they capture their targets: protesters. This scene may be all too familiar to protesters. But it’s actually a staged police training put on by Urban Shield, a SWAT team training program and weapons expo that has taken place in the Bay Area for the past seven years. This year, as last, Urban Shield’s weapon show takes place in the Oakland Marriot Convention Center in downtown Oakland, CA, September 4-8.
A scene from an Urban Shield training in 2012. Photo Credit: http://YouTube.com screenshot
After a month-long moratorium, water shut-offs in Detroit have started again this week, leaving indebted households across the city with no access to running water. Part of the emergency measures to respond to Detroit's bankruptcy, over 46,000 shut-off notices were issued in May 2014, with over 17,000 homes having their water supply halted between May and July.
Politics, if we take politics to mean the shaping and discussion of issues, concerns and laws that foster the common good, is no longer the business of our traditional political institutions. These institutions, including the two major political parties, the courts and the press, are not democratic. They are used to crush any vestiges of civic life that calls, as a traditional democracy does, on its citizens to share among all its members the benefits, sacrifices and risks of a nation.
A week ago I responded to a call for experienced street medics to come to Ferguson, Missouri to provide emergency first aid at the spectacular protests that have captured the imagination of the whole country and beyond. In addition to that mission of directly providing care, I’ve had two objectives: teach protesters how to stay safe and take care of each other in the streets when the cops get extra nasty, and to train locals to take over the provision of street first aid and health & safety trainings.
What happened to Mike Brown is a tragedy that can’t be put into words. A less spoken tragedy is that it’s the day to day reality for so many of us–especially those of us who are young, who are people of color, who don’t fit the cops’ idea of an acceptable, law abiding citizen. How often do the police kill someone? In St. Louis, it seems like almost every month. We often don’t do anything about it, or feel like we can. The last few days have been different.
I’m a child of the “awareness generation,” the one who grew up learning to reduce, reuse and recycle. I remember first learning about global warming and climate change in high school in the 90s. Back then it was called the Greenhouse Gas Effect. Most of my early environmental knowledge came from classroom videos about acid rain, slash-and-burn logging in the Amazon and the hole in the ozone layer. There was also the slogan “think globally, act locally” plastered across my Social Studies 11 class wall. Those of us who cared two cents about anything believed in that mantra religiously, even though by that point almost everything around us—the school supplies, the clothes on our backs, even the food in our stomachs—came from across an ocean.
The Left is not an organism, it is an ecosystem. An organism can operate intentionally and in unison only inasmuch as it is under the dominion of a subject. The Left is not composed in this way, and could not be without an overarching disciplinary apparatus – that is, without mirroring the control mechanisms of bourgeois society.
You occasionally read a totally mind bending book that opens up a whole new world for you. The Failure of Nonviolence by Peter Gelderloos is one of them, owing to its unique evidence-based perspective on both “nonviolent” and “violent” resistance. It differs from Gelderloos’s 2007 How Nonviolence Protects the State in its heavy emphasis on indigenous, minority, and working class resistance. A major feature of the new book is an extensive catalog of “combative” rebellions that the corporate elite has whitewashed out of history.
A year ago, on February 28, 2013, at an event titled "Patriarchy and the Movement," I watched as a friend of mine attempted to pose several questions based on her experience trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing.
The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University today announced its acquisition of the papers of Italian writer and activist Gianfranco Sanguinetti, a key figure in the Situationist International avant-garde protest movement in the 1960s and 1970s.
On November 6 I was able to attend a speech given by ex--Weather Underground Organization (WUO) cadre and educator Bill Ayers in Berkeley. The WUO was one of many urban guerrilla groups that emerged from the New Left in the 1960s and '70s, though one of the more prominent because of its membership's leadership in the 100,000 strong Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the length of it's campaign against the U$ government and its racism both here, in Vietnam and elsewhere especially in Latin America. After getting on to the complimentary seats list on behalf of Slingshot, I grabbed a stack of 100 copies of the paper from the Long Haul Infoshop and meandered to the Hillside Club. The usual gauntlet of beady--eyed sectarians distributing pamphlets to the masses outside was sparse. A couple Spartacists who for a change didn't hassle me for not taking up exactly their line and someone from KPFA, the local Pacifica station that this was a benefit for and I were it compared to the Commie alphabet soup I'm used to from places like Chicago and Cleveland.
The response to my previous article has been overwhelming and humbling; indeed, the various social media responses left me with vertigo as I looked down mile-long threads. To everyone who shared the piece, who added their experiences to its abstractions, who disagreed thoughtfully and respectfully, who vowed to speak up more often, I thank you.
The wages of rage in our communities, and the often aimless, unchecked anger striking both within and without have created a climate of toxicity and fear that not only undermine our highest ideals, but also corrode the comforts of community for the very people who most need it. One of the most leaden wages of that culture of rage is, indeed, fear. I have been praised for my voice by many in this community and called “brave” by more people than I can name, count, or thank; and yet sitting in my My Documents folder is a number of articles, some finished, others not, that are “on ice.”
Adam Eidinger’s most recent arrest was on Oct. 10, 2013, the 10th day of the federal government’s shutdown. It began with a trip in a van. He was in the back, and Alexis Baden-Mayer was driving. They were arguing. Baden-Mayer and Eidinger used to be married, and Eidinger had told me a few days before that there was no person he’d rather be arrested with than his ex-wife.