Philadelphia, 2018: Year in Review

from It’s Going Down

Originally published in the pages of the anarchist magazine, Anathema, what follows is a look back and reflection on anarchist activity in 2018 in the Philadelphia area.

Most of 2018 was a disaster, as the Trump administration carried on with its daily diversions and atrocities against the backdrop of the rapid destruction of the earth, ever-worsening economic downturn and class stratification, and rampant white supremacy, border violence and fascism. Our efforts to fight these worsening conditions seem to us to be both extremely inadequate and to offer a glimpse of what might still be possible. Below we share some of our thoughts on changes in the local anarchist space, some of our critiques and disappointments, and some of our moments of joy and success. This article is written with the intention of initiating reflection and dialogue, and of furthering anarchist struggle; responses and critiques are welcome.

CHANGES

In 2018, we’ve seen the feeling of urgency about Trump’s presidency die down. The rush to get active has slowed and radical struggles have changed as a result. It seems that many liberals have left the streets. At the demonstrations and public meetings, instead of a mix of restless liberals and radicals, we have seen that a diversity of radicals (communists, socialists, anarchists, and others) make up a large part of who is present. The major struggles of 2018 here — anti-fascist counter-demonstrations, Occupy ICE, the prison strike — were spaces opened up by and filled with many different radical actors.

As always, 2018 brought with it social shifts in the anarchist space. Friendships forming and ending, new groups coming together and coming apart, individuals taking on more and less active roles. Some organizational projects are finished, like RAM Philly and Love City Antifa; others have sprouted up (Liberation Project, Friendly Fire, the latest incarnation of the Philadelphia IWW, and the informal pseudo-organization Summer of Rage). Other projects have stayed put, continuing and even expanding their activity during 2018: the North, West, and Solidarity chapters of Philly Food Not Bombs; Radical Education Department; the Philly Anti-Repression Fund; Philly Antifa; as well as this publication, Anathema.

One difference between 2018 and the year before has been that things have felt less frantic — the need to respond to Trump’s election by “doing something” has slipped away like so many liberals from the street. This is not to say that anarchist activity has slowed or stopped; anarchists are still doing their thing, this time with an energy that feels more unhurried.

STRENGTHS

The anarchist space has proved itself to be consistent, communicative, and intense in 2018. Through the major struggles of the year, a range of tactics and approaches were put forth. From doxxing fascists to knocking on doors to spread information in neighborhoods, from sabotage and attack to squatting and occupation, the methods used in the last year have been much more varied than in 2017. This may be due to the diversity of radicals present in and around the anarchist space.

The diversity of tactics and actors has led to a need for communication and clarification, which, although sometimes in an abrasive manner, has been met with publications, conversations, and communiques. The most notable example is the conflict between some anarchists and others at Philly’s Occupy ICE. This feud led to the clarification of anarchists’ positions within the larger radical space, via participation in assemblies, the publication of a controversial zine, the distribution of anarchist literature, and countless face-to-face conversations. Tensions along lines of class, race, and comfort were addressed by anonymous writer(s) Philly Anarchy Jawn, and texts were written by a heterogeneous group that emphasized the role of homeless comrades in the struggle against ICE and policing in general.

This kind of clarification between radicals is important to understanding each other’s struggles. It’s clear that ideas of left unity are not appealing or relevant to all anarchists in Philadelphia, but it seems that mutual understanding and the possibility of collaboration (when our goals line up) is still very much on the table. What will it look like to continue putting forward our analysis and positions? Is it really so bad if we’re not all on the same page about everything? Can we re-imagine discord between radicals as a multiplication of fronts on which to fight the social war? How can we use the diversity of ideas and approaches to struggle as a strength, and work together when our projectualities align?

Beyond Occupy ICE, counter-information initiatives continue to provide a space to encounter and deepen anarchist and anti-authoritarian ideas. The walls in 2018 were not kept blank, and anarchist zine distros, social media accounts, this newspaper, the PHL AntiCap website, conversations more and less public, and the publication of the book Movement for No Society by local anarchists have helped spread and deepen anarchist ideas. What messages are we interested in spreading, and to whom? How can we articulate our ideas in ways that are accessible to our intended audience? How can inter-anarchist communication better sharpen and solidify our ideas?

Public social space was opened up for benefit events more often this year, including for a J20 brunch, a J20 benefit at LAVA, the annual June 11th barbecue, and Running Down the Walls. If these events continued or happened more often, it could serve a number of purposes in building a stronger radical milieu.

Relatedly, anti-repression efforts among anti-authoritarians were strong: J20 resistance defense successfully drew to a close in the spring; the Anti-Repression Fund and other individuals conducted a campaign against the Mural Arts Program’s Frank Rizzo mural that succeeded in driving down the plea deal for a friend who had been charged with most recently vandalizing it; and a coalition of Philly anti-authoritarians got together to help coordinate support for the Vaughn 17 prison rebels as their trials began in the fall in Wilmington, DE.

Philadelphia ABC has been a consistent project that aims to support political prisoners, but has made efforts to do much more. Monthly letter-writing nights not only open space to communicate with prisoners, but also for anarchists, new or not, to run into each other and share a meal. ABC organized Running Down the Walls in August to uplift the struggle of political prisoners, and has also been focused on freeing the Virgin Island 3 by organizing a call-in and write-in campaign. What other long-term anti-prison projects are we interested in creating? How can we bridge the gap between so-called political and social prisoners?

As anarchists face a society whose notion of time matches the speed and amnesia of scrolling through a smartphone feed, memory and remembrance begin to feel more and more important. Timelines and chronologies have been published online and as zines, specifically a text on the unfolding of the anti-ICE camps and a zine recording the struggle against gentrification over the last five years. This year saw the death of Pablo Avendano, which had a powerful impact on many radicals. People wrote graffiti, dropped a banner, and organized two bicycle rides to commemorate his life and keep his name in the street and in struggle. Some attacks during Black December (an international call for action and communication in remembrance of dead anarchists) were accompanied by communiques that explicitly reference anarchists internationally who have passed away. How can our sense of memory and time be used to further struggle? How can we avoid the trap of longing for the past while remaining immobilized in the present?

Like 2017, 2018 saw consistent clandestine attacks and sabotage throughout the year, reminding us that breaking the social peace is still possible. Attacks were one way that people were able to practice and deepen their skills, experiment with what does or does not work, and figure out what it will take to fight against domination as this global shitshow gets even worse.

This year, the timing of various attacks has been more lined up with the directions of local events and social struggles. During Occupy ICE, attacks took place against collaborating companies and banks; during the prison strike, prison profiteers like Starbucks and UPS were struck; and in the lead-up to fascist and far-right gatherings, symbols and people involved were attacked.

In the spring, an underground campaign against Amazon, during which most notably an Amazon Treasure Truck was set on fire overnight in the parking lot of a West Philly Amazon warehouse, was probably a major reason that the corporation ultimately decided to place its second headquarters elsewhere. Prior to the campaign, Philadelphia had been within Amazon’s top three choices for HQ2.

In the fall, anti-fascists waged a concerted campaign to stop Keystone United (a state-wide white supremacist bonehead crew) from holding its annual Leif Erikson Day celebration at the Thorfinn Karlsefni statue in Philadelphia. After 30 days of impressively doxxing seemingly everyone who has ever purposely hung out with KU members, including detailed information on the housing, employment and cars of some key regional members, KU members and associates were scared and panicking. When vandals in the night took down the Thorfinn statue itself and threw it in the Schuykill River, the conditions for KU’s event were completely destroyed. This is the first time in recent memory that anti-authoritarians have succeeded in completely preventing a fascist or far-right event from occurring here, rather than from simply disrupting it — this can point us in the direction of further success.

2018 saw some escalation in terms of attacks. Attacks aimed at individuals responsible for domination (a prison guard’s car and a far-right organizers home), attacks using fire (the burning of a cell phone tower and an Amazon truck), and attacks during Black December (against police cars and ATMs) indicated more frequent use of more intense methods than in previous years.

The last year has seen the continuation of many anarchist practices based in time and continuity. May Day, June 11th, International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners in August, the days surrounding Thanksgiving and Columbus Day, Black December, and New Year’s Eve have all been accompanied by intentional anarchic activities. What would it look like to extend this calendar to encompass the whole year? What can we do in the time in between these rituals? How can we continue to maintain them and also extend our activity beyond them?

LESS GOOD STUFF

We still haven’t figured out how to completely prevent or even disrupt major public fascist and far-right demos in Philly. A major effort was made to push back against the Proud Boys’ rally here on November 17th, which got a great turnout for the opposition, but the rally itself still happened as planned. As with the protest against the MAGA march in 2017, counter-demonstrations this year like the anti-Blue Lives Matter march in August have been confrontational, but not pointed. They gave us some valuable practice acting together in the streets, but did not complete their original goal of stopping the right-wing from marching. If we want to make sure the far right does not assert themselves in the streets, we need more people to show up to counter their street presence, and we also need to experiment with new strategies to prevent them from getting there in the first place.

Aside from some Philly anarchists’ ongoing support of local political prisoners and recent support of the Vaughn 17, anarchists still mostly don’t have connections with prisoners in the region. Developing better connections to prisoners would help us have an ear to what’s happening inside, and would enable us to intervene more directly in prison struggles, in addition to supporting actions like the prison strike through outside solidarity actions.

As with almost everything else, we are generally nowhere near in skills, resources, or capacity to effectively take on the energy industry’s ever-growing encroachments on the region’s land and water, much less to move towards destroying forever the infrastructure that makes global capitalism and American settler civilization possible. Daily news reminds us of the massive extinction events, climate catastrophes, and human migration and suffering that is already resulting from climate change. We were glad to see people take up sabotage tactics against pipeline construction this year, as well as blockades against the Mariner East 2 and other pipelines, and we encourage more imagination and exploration of concerted action this year as new infrastructure continues to be built. For more socially oriented anarchists, imagining and spreading resources that could provide new means of survival, to show what else is possible as well as provide in case others do succeed in destroying the current infrastructure, could be a crucial contribution.

The insurrectionary milieu still experiences people moving relatively quickly in and out of activity, as people figure out what they are or are not into, and struggle with fear, life under capitalism, and feelings of exclusion. We would welcome more initiatives that create the feelings of community and acceptance that many of us are looking for. The lack of it is an ongoing issue for people trying to remain active in the scene, and as usual we encourage people who perceive a problem to offer their critique through action – in this case, this could look like helping correct the problem by organizing a potluck, a game, a demo, etc.

Death, illness, and sadness have weighed heavily on the anarchist space this year, and we have found friendship and care to be ever more important, and at times life-saving.

Don’t Want to be Your “Second Pillar”: A Response to RED

from It’s Going Down

What follows is another essay on the ongoing dialog on syndicalism in the 21st Century. This essay in particular is a response to the Radical Education Department from the author of “Crafty Ghosts.”

The Radical Education Department, in their response to Nothing to Syndicate, asserts that Occupy, anti-ICE struggles, and anti-racist struggles were “almost always expressing precisely working class concerns”. This is blatantly untrue. ICE detainees generally identify first as migrants. Occupiers rallied in public parks, not workplaces. The unemployment rates in Ferguson were three times higher than the national rates. “Worker” is not an identity these people in revolt took for themselves, it is one that class-reductionist leftists foisted unto them.

RED might think that by spending the first half of their article describing a dynamic interrelationship between class and other identities and oppressive systemss they’ve thrown off the old “class reductionist” millstone, but we can see them pivoting away from those arguments before the conclusion. All their intersectional rhetoric unravels with statements like: “the resurging fascism in the US and beyond is only another step in a dynamic that lies at the very heart of capitalism,” and “we should not see recent uprisings as alternatives to worker struggle, but as channels into which working class radicalism is flowing”.

Since the situationists threw up “never work” tags in May of 68, social uprisings have been increasingly disinterested in letting “working class radicalism” flow through them. Leftitsts, please try to recognize this; people are not your ventriloquist dummies. Many understand their oppression and exploitation in terms that are NOT primarily economic, that do NOT involve identifying as workers, and while their ire may be aimed at the same wealthy elites as you, their relationship with those elites is often NOT mediated by a boss or a workplace hierarchy. Today, people find ourselves relating to our oppressors through police, ICE agents, prison guards, politicians, and, yes, internet aps.

Recognizing that digitization (and more importantly financialisation and precariatization) change people’s relationship with the mode of production is not “repeating the fever-dreams of the ruling class”, it is calling for an updated praxis.

 

Build the Revolution: Anarcho-Syndicalism in the 21st Century

from It’s Going Down

The Radical Education Department (RED) weighs in on the ongoing debate around syndicalism and organizing strategies, arguing that modern variations of syndicalism still offer powerful weapons for autonomous anti-capitalist struggles and movements.

Read and Print PDF HERE

Introduction

Anarchists are debating anarcho-syndicalism once again. If anarcho-syndicalism is a “ghost”—like some critics are claiming—it has proven extremely hard to exorcise. But it is something very different entirely.

The current debate was sparked by “Nothing to Syndicate,” which largely repeats standard criticisms of AS, some of the more recent of which can be seen here and here; see also the summaries here. Then came a critique of “Nothing” (“Aiming at Ghosts”), and then two replies defending the original piece (here and here). The debate has been fairly limited so far. The important first reply to “Nothing,” as well as the defenses that followed, have been wrestling over the details of the original piece. But what’s been missing is a comprehensive response to the original question. What does anarcho-syndicalism offer radicals in the 21st century US?

Some have given this kind of response to critics before, though often in more limited ways (like here). My goal is to go further and deeper. First, I give a systematic historical-materialist analysis of 21st century capitalism in the United States today: its basic drives, structures, and developments. Then I examine the profound limits facing anarchists and their revolutionary allies facing such conditions. (This section tacitly rejects the superficial analysis of the original article.)

And then I offer a vision of what anarcho-syndicalism has to offer. It is far from a ghost. It is a set of inherited, audacious, and sometimes conflicting experiments. Those experiments are still developing. (The ongoing evolution is obvious in more recent syndicalist praxis like green syndicalism and community syndicalism.)

I locate in AS explosive resources for our present—for moving past the fundamental limits of radical organizing today and building revolutionary power to strike at 21st century capital. Defending AS, I explore how its inner resources could be developed to meet the revolutionary needs of the moment.

Anarcho-syndicalism offers badly needed tools for building mass, durable, working-class autonomy inside and outside the workplace for the sake of the revolutionary overthrow of every institution of capitalist control. It is an idea whose time has come again.

Anathema Volume 4 Issue 12

from Anathema

Volume 4 Issue 12 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

Volume 4 Issue 12 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

In this issue:

  • 2018: Year in Review
  • Challenging Infrastructure Beyond the State
  • What Went Down
  • It’s Robbin’ Season
  • Selling Out the Neighborhood
  • From Cyntoia to Bolsonaro
  • Monkey Wrenches and Black Banners
  • Wendy Trevino Poem

On Flexing and Cyberspace: Brief Thoughts on the NYE Noise Demo

Submission

Happy Twenty-Nine Guillotine! As many huddle around the television, all dressed up in their most glitzy and glamorous attire in anticipation of the clock tick tocking to midnight, those rowdy neighborhood anarchists have taken to their own NYE ritual. Instead of popping bottles of champagne, we pop bottle rockets at prisons. This year was no different. A rowdy noise demonstration took place in center city on NYE, full of noisemakers, fireworks and spraypaint. It was quick, well executed, and everyone got away ok! I sincerely hope that those inside were able to hear/see a bit of the show before Philly’s Swinest had to show up and ruin our fun :(. It was a well executed demonstration from rushed start to the final dumpster dive. Some cute tags went up, the demo at the FDC started with a very large fireworks display, followed by many bottle rockets, and once too many cops showed up we made a timely exit. I would like to touch on two observations though and pose some questions pertaining to them.

Firstly, I’m not one to try and tell people what to chant. In my personal opinion, however, the amount of flexing that goes on in Philly’s chant game is pretty corny. There were many “aggressive” chants pertaining to cops. They reminded me of middle school and listening to Leftover Crack. Love the sentiment and if people feel empowered by these chants that’s fantastic, but the degree of flexing in these statements is so extreme. Out in the streets we are most certainly not in a place to be performing these actions, nor are we even armed. Empty threats and talking too much potentially puts you and others around you in danger. Security culture is important, even in our chants. Essentially don’t talk about shit you are gunna do in public and don’t talk about shit you’re not gunna do in public. Sure these chant’s are cute and fun, but are they entirely realistic both in expressing ones desires and current possibilities? Furthermore, are they smart chants to be saying, or could these messages be conveyed in a more secure fashion?

Secondly, I would like to touch on the ever present monster in our modern lives that is the smartphone. Scouring the interwebs I saw photos that were taken at the demonstration last night. None of them were of people doing anything, however, does insta really have to know about this tonight? One can’t come back tomorrow or another time to catch a shot of the tags? Taking your smart phone to the demo and taking photographs at the thing poses a risk for yourself and other individuals. It can definitively place you at the demo via location data and track the march route. If police were to get a hold of someones phone, they could find cameras on the march route and the footage on those may potentially catch people a case. Furthermore, your microphone is always on, recording everything that you say and that is said around you…see the previous paragraph. Another thing with taking photographs, the image files have data encoded into them when you take them. This data includes the time, date, and location the photograph was taken and data pertaining to what phone took the image. These images can then potentially be synced with icloud or google photos where these companies now presumably have some sort of record of the photographs. I guess what I am trying to say is that a lot can go wrong with bringing your phone to the demo and using it. It’s typically a better idea to leave it at home, or if you must bring it, password protect everything, encrypt your SD card, uninstall any apps that have a profile linked to you, turn off location data, and turn it off. Your friends don’t need to know what you’re up to for social media clout, it’s actually better if they don’t.

None of these ideas are meant to be proposed in a fashion asserting that anyone did anything “wrong”. These are just a few points that I think could be beneficial for people to think about and talk with their respective affinity groups about. Stay safe and stay smart so we can continue to be dangerous in the streets together.

Love and Solidarity to those locked up for daring to take on law and order!
Till all prisoners are free and all prisons are ash!
Go Birds!
Be Crime Do Gay (Come up with a fresh catch phrase 2k19)

Report from New Year’s Eve Noise Demo

Submission

A call was made for an anti-prison solidarity noise demo on NYE. When we arrived to the meetup there were scattered crews huddled in the rain, around 20 or 30 people in all. A short announcement was made explaining the route and dispersal for the march, supplies to share, and the legal number.
The march began by taking the street. There was a banner that read “Total Freedom Against All Authority”, drums, black flags, fireworks, leaflets, shakers, graffiti, and rowdy voices showing disdain for prison and police.
Once at the prison more fireworks were shot and we made a bunch of noise. Cops showed up surprisingly fast compared to other years. But the march left the prison as the plan was to leave once police presence was significant. We marched against traffic until we turned into an alley, where a dumpster was thrown to block the way. Everyone dispersed.

What we liked
We liked keeping this New Year’s Eve anti-prison tradition alive. We were happy with the turnout despite the weather. People came prepared with their own objectives and the tools to carry them out. We liked that the bloc stayed together and kept it tight once the cops arrived. We liked that we didn’t wait around to get fucked up by the police. We’re glad that the planning and promotion were kept offline. We thought overall that the demo went smooth. This demo opened our eyes to the potential of short flash mob type actions and left us wondering what something like this would look like with a different intensity.

What we didn’t like
Because of its shortness we regret not seeing the prisoners. That was our biggest disappointment because the intention behind the demo was to have an interaction with the prisoners. It’s difficult to navigate how long to stick around while maintaining an intensity that feels honest and defiant without making it easier for the cops to arrest us. Two more take aways were: we could have done more to make our banner less flimsy, and that we wonder if this particular demo is becoming predictable to the police. Lastly the unfortunate timing of a park ranger meant we couldn’t have more time for discussion before the march began.

We hope that other people at the march share their reports, thoughts, criticisms, and feelings and we can create an open dialogue around actions.

For the blackest December
No prisons
No borders
Fuck law and order
Happy New Year!

Ten Lessons from the Yellow Vests

from It’s Going Down

The Radical Education Department presents 10 lessons from the Yellow Vest movement which has exploded out of France in the last month.

by Étienne Dolet

As has happened so often in the history of social movements and revolutions, actually existing history has once again outstripped the ready-made concepts and theories that we have for understanding it. The “yellow vests movement,” which was sparked earlier this fall but clearly has much deeper roots, has left many bewildered by the lack of party or union alignments on the part of the participants, the combination of extreme left and extreme right elements, its remarkable resilience and growth since November, and its ongoing creativity and dynamism in the face of massive state repression. The anonymous collective of political activists who are involved in the movement have struck out to conquer new territory, beyond the well-trodden paths of recent social movements, while also taking inspiration from or reawakening the deep history of revolutionary struggles. This has included the use of blockades and days of action instead of major public occupations, the development of the practices of “savage” protests and active strikes, the mobilization of bait-and-switch techniques to confuse the repressive state apparatus, the targeted use of anti-state and anti-property violence, and the call for lasting structural changes in modes of governance rather than a set of circumscribed demands.

The lessons that follow are the result of the collective work undertaken by RED – Radical Education Department to learn from the movement, try and contribute to its growth as an anti-capitalist insurgency, and ideally help it develop as a global movement against the pseudo-democracies that serve as increasingly thin cover for top-down class warfare.

I. Learn and Participate—Don’t Admonish and Preach

All too often, when a “new” social movement emerges, activists and intellectuals on the sidelines watch it with a suspicious eye as they compare it to their operative theory of social transformation or their personal checklist for what a movement is supposed to be. Once they have categorized and judged it according to their pre-established principles, they then begin to preach to those around them about how the movement “isn’t X enough,” “should do Y,” and, in general, would be better served to follow the blueprint established by the person judging from the sidelines.

There is an entire media industry developed around this blueprint model of peremptory assessment, which stretches from prominent pundits and intellectuals weighing in on current events based on their rote theories to activist groups deciding once and for all that they are simply for or against a particular movement based on how it does or does not conform to their theories or checklists. In most cases, neither of these groups takes the all-important leap from a politics in the third person to a politics in the first person by getting directly involved in order to make the movement into what they think it ought to be.

What if we began the other way around? What if our reaction to social movements was to study and learn from them, to the point of having our mechanical reflexes and tried-and-true ideas called into question? What if our first question was: How can I contribute to the parts of these movements that connect to my own politics, while also learning from them and engaging with them? What are the multiple tendencies at play, and where might they develop beyond the present moment? What if we began, in short, from a radically materialist point of view instead of the rampant idealism of the mightier-than-thou bourgeois intelligentsia and the self-importance of activists who “know how it’s done”?

II. Social Movements Are Not Singular

Social movements are, by their very nature, plural phenomena. There are numerous agents and forces at work, which far surpass any simple calculations, or reductions to blanket statements such as “this movement is X.” In short, there is never simply “a movement.” Instead, there are competing contingents, a struggle of forces and multiple fronts. While it can be useful, as a form of pragmatic shorthand, to refer for instance to “the yellow vests movement,” we need to begin by recognizing that this expression is a placeholder for an extremely complex series of movements.

In the case of the yellow vests, this is particularly important because they do not share a single political agenda or come from a common political party or union. This has been used to vilify the movement because there are right-wing, including extreme right-wing, elements involved. Purists denigrate anyone who would dare to participate when there is such a mishmash of political positions. However, this is one of the complicated aspects of popular working-class movements like this one. While there is clearly a common enemy—the neoliberal state and its persistent decimation of the lives of working-class people—there is not a shared agenda regarding the precise model for a new political order.

Instead of being used as a facile moral justification for withdrawing in horror before the remarkable stupidity of the masses or the vile presence of fascists who are presented as moral monsters rather than subjects of the system in place, this should instead be seen as a real challenge and opportunity to mobilize the radical educational tools of the extreme Left to help teach people about the real material sources of their oppression. The anti-populism of the intellectual and political purists will lead nowhere but to the moral grandstanding of those intent on ostentatiously parading their theoretical and ethical superiority to the ignorant masses, while actually demonstrating, above all, their own profound ignorance regarding how collective education works under capitalism’s ideological state apparatuses. Given the nature of the propagandist system within which we live, it should come as absolutely no surprise that there are so many people who correctly identify the source of their problems in the elite ruling class but have been duped into embracing faulty solutions.

III. Some Advantages to Days of Action, “Savage” Protests and Blockades over Occupations

Parting ways with the now well-established model of occupying public spaces, the yellow vests have conserved their energy and momentum over time by instead focusing on regularly programmed days of actions. Every Saturday since November 17th, they have organized national protests that have flooded the streets, often giving birth to “savage” marches (manifestations sauvages) that do not follow programmed itineraries but overwhelm the state through multiple and disparate direct actions. Simultaneously, there have been ongoing flash blockades at undisclosed times that choke or liberate particular sites of passage within the transportation industry. These have included blocking major highways and round-points, but the movement has also taken over or burned down tollbooths to allow drivers through without paying, thereby cutting off funds to the state.

While occupations can be important for building sites of solidarity, creating coalitional networks, developing collective education, and fostering public visibility for a particular cause, they can also drain resources, allow for easy targeting and manipulation, and stagnate over time. Programmed days of action mixed with intermittent blockades and flash mobs can both confuse the state and conserve resources for a long-term battle. Unlike the Nuit debout movement in spring 2016, which established and maintained public occupations like so many recent social movements, the yellow vests have undertaken an important shift in tactics, and it is arguable that this has already paid off in certain ways.

IV. Active Strikes Multiply Political Agency

Some of the workers on strike have not simply refused to go to their job, but they have used their time off to actively coordinate direct actions against the state. Instead of a traditional strike, which is often coordinated in France with a large public march, an active strike is one in which workers participate in blockades, flash mobs, and other direct actions in order to multiply their political agency and maximize their impact.

In a certain sense, active strikes bring together two forms of radical struggle into a powerful concoction that surpasses the power of each of them independently. The traditional workplace action of a strike is fused with the standard tactics of social movements, such as protests and direct actions, thereby connecting two types of struggle and maximizing the power of both.

V. Media Has Power

Since the media is largely controlled by the corporatocracy and—at least in France—the state, the “history” of the yellow vests movement is largely being written by its enemies. In one of the more flagrant cases, the TV channel France 3 doctored a photograph of one of the protests to erase “dégage” from a sign reading “Macron dégage! (Macron Get Out!).” This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg, but it clearly demonstrates the media apparatus’ profound complicity with the state and their corporate backers.

This points, moreover, to the dire need to continue to develop networks of alternative media that provide a bottom-up account of radical social movements. Sites like Révolution Permanente, Wikipedia, and Mediapart are providing some of the more reliable coverage in French, along with Enough Is Enough, CrimethInc., and IGD in English. But these platforms could have greater visibility and support, and be part of a larger network of resources to help educate and agitate for revolutionary social transformation. They are an essential part of the anti-capitalist toolkit, and we need to continue to build autonomous but federated activist media platforms that can inform the public by developing the counter-narratives necessary for the coordination of mass revolutionary movements.

VI. Demand Restructuring, Not Single Issues

There has recently been an increasing consensus around a central issue on the part of the yellow vests, which has been described as the demand including all other demands: the RIC (référendum d’initiative citoyenne) or the Citizen Initiated Referendum. Aimed at giving real political power to the people, it would inscribe within the constitution the possibility of public referenda that could establish or abolish laws, and remove elected officials from office. Instead of simply relying on piecemeal concessions from the government, such as the dismal increase in the minimum wage promised by Macron, the RIC would allow the movement to restructure the governmental power dynamic and—at least in principle—accomplish all of its popular demands over time.

There is the concern, of course, that such a demand, if the government were to concede—which seems extremely unlikely unless it secures ample protections against the voice of the people—would help shore up a reformist agenda within the confines of capitalist pseudo-democracy. While this threat is an important one, the RIC could also potentially help build confidence in people power, begin to shift the structural power dynamic, and eventually be a step toward a more revolutionary transformation.

VII. Build Power between Movements

The mass media narrative regarding social movements is rooted in the logic of “divide and conquer.” It separates them from their deep historical roots and cuts them off from their expansive geographic connections. The yellow vests movement is, however, only the latest act in an ongoing civil war between the elite ruling classes and the oppressed masses. It is a continuation of the movement referred to as Nuit debout and the massive uprisings and occupations on the 50th anniversary of May 68. While there are, of course, certain differences between each of these moments and their precise conjunctures, they are all largely responding to capitalism’s unrelenting war on workers.

This points to the crucial importance of building power between “movements” and developing organizations and cross-political alliances that are ready and able to step up and fill the void when things go down. Although the mass media tends to focus on the immediate “success” or “failure” of a circumscribed social movement, which it describes in the singular, we would be better served to recognize that whatever happens at a precise moment in time is rooted in a deep history of organizing. Everything that is done “between movements,” including the development of political organizations, movement infrastructure, revolutionary coalitions, and media platforms, is essential to what will happen when things kick off. It is this behind-the-scenes, long-term work that has the potential to have the most significant consequences in the long run.

VIII. Escalation through Political Imagination

Political imagination can play an important role in moving movements forward, and we should never be held back by what has been done or what seems possible. This has obviously been one of the key lessons from the yellow vests.

At this point in the conflict, we should ask: How could we imagine increasing the pressure put on the neoliberal state? What about seizing important sites of power, ranging from the Sorbonne to the National Assembly, and transforming them into popular assemblies for public displays of power, and then relinquishing them in the middle of the night to seize others and outstrip the resources of the riot police? Why not re-enact key moments of the French Revolution, for instance, by taking over the Jeu de Paume museum and re-performing the Tennis Court Oath (Serment du Jeu de Paume) and declaring the end of the neoliberal state? Why not take control of one or several of the major TV channels and announce the death of the Macron regime? Isn’t it time to organize councils and declare autonomous communes across France? Given that the state has recently decided on new “emergency measures,” it clearly feels that the people are closing in and that things like this could happen.

The internationalization of the movement is another key form of potential escalation, and it has already begun. What acts of solidarity and intensification might we be able to participate in that could help the movement grow and expand its attack on the foundations of capitalism?

IX. The State Will Stop at Nothing

As we know from history, the state will stop at absolutely nothing to maintain its power and secure the interests of the ruling class. It has unleashed an inordinate amount of violence on the citizenry, which it portrays in the media as justified, of course, and this will likely only intensify over time. This has included forming a black bloc of undercover cops to commit acts of violence that could then be blamed on the protestors. We can learn from these types of tactics—if we didn’t know it already—that our enemies have no moral compass and will indiscriminately harm or kill anyone in their way. We should never underestimate their ruthlessness.

X. The State Will Work the Calendar, but So Can We!

The state is very well versed in delay tactics and knows how to work the calendar. In the case of Nuit debout and the May 68 anniversary protests, it mixed together a powerful cocktail of brutal repression, stalling techniques, and cat-and-mouse games with an eye to the approaching summer vacations, when many of the protestors would be free from work or studies and—it was presumed—the occupations would dwindle. In the case of the Occupy movement in the United States, the approaching winter was fundamental to the timing of state repression and illegal evictions. In France right now, impeding vacations are combined with an approaching winter.

Will this, along with a few minor concessions, be sufficient to quell the most recent uprisings and usher in a peaceful new year for the corporate ruling class? Or will the common concerns of working-class people find new tactics and rejuvenate old ones in order to shift what some now consider to be the common course of history, according to which uprisings lead to peak moments and then dissipate? Could the tactic of targeted days of struggle by generalized to time flare ups in the coming weeks or months that will take the government to its knees, perhaps by reworking the calendar to the advantage of the activists, thereby surprising the state once again? Can movements abroad take up these tactics in a meaningful way and connect to the yellow vests movement in a global network of intermittent active strikes, blockades, and savage protests, thereby internationalizing them like the Occupy movement but with a new and evolving set of tactics? For those of us living outside of France, how can we connect to the movement and develop its momentum into an international force to be reckoned with?

No one can tell for sure, of course, where things are headed, and this is one more reason to learn from what is going on and struggle to find ways of contributing to the intensification of a global war against capitalism. Nothing is at stake but a world full of workers and a planet teetering on the edge.

Report from End of the Year Critical Mass Ride on December 14.

Submission

I want to go over how the ride went and open a dialogue on the possibilities of bike demonstrations. Even though the demonstration was publicly called for, the location was not immediately posted online, police did not come to the starting location. The starting time of ride at 5PM was an excellent choice because the bikes could easily move through rush hour traffic and avoided a police tail for the entire ride. Police arrived at the end when people were gathered in the street blocking traffic for around 45 minutes. Some of the riders carried black and red flags, flares, or music. The colorful, loud, crowd drew attention in a way that wasn’t seen as threatening by most people on the street, which allowed for paint and flare throwing to take place in a setting without a hostile crowd. The ride went through multiple neighborhoods, disrupting traffic without sacrificing mobility. Chants against capital, and in memory of Pablo, an anarchist killed by a car while making food deliveries were shouted during the ride. During the ride I attempted to thrown paint balls at two symbols of capital. One against a Bank of America failed, the other was against a new luxury housing building. The former failed because I tried to thrown the paint ball from a moving bicycle, while the latter succeeded, that time I stopped and then threw. Throwing accurately from a moving bicycle is a lot harder than stopping for a moment and throwing. I don’t want to make the ride seem more confrontational than it was, most people in attendance were focused on making noise, slowing traffic, and bringing the memory of people killed by cars to the street.

Demonstrations on bikes seem underused among Philly anarchists and have potential for festive and offensive uses. An advantage of the bicycle demonstration is speed, it’s likely that police will not catch up with a demonstration moving through congested traffic faster than a car can. This can allow for offensive actions to be carried out across a large area without as much risk as a demonstration that marches. Using bikes brings up questions that aren’t addressing when marching on foot. The practice of anonymity is complicated when bicycles enter the picture, not everyone has extra anonymous bikes ready to use and potentially abandon. How can a bike be made nondescript?

Carrying the memory of the dead as a weapon
Furthering anarchist dialogue and action

Anathema Volume 4 Issue 11

from Anathema

Volume 4 Issue 11 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

Volume 4 Issue 11 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

In this issue:

  • Cash Bail
  • Yellow Vests From Afar
  • Brosnan Security In Chico
  • Welcome To The Future
  • Revolutionary Letter #18
  • On Splitting
  • N17 Report
  • Black December
  • Phones & Security Culture

Philly Police Harass Jewish Cops: Lawsuit

from Unicorn Riot

Philadelphia, PA – A new federal lawsuit alleges that a culture of anti-Semitic and racist harassment has been allowed to thrive at the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD).

Court filings submitted on behalf of two Jewish officers claim that the police department and the City of Philadelphia tolerate supervisors who have “created a racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-Jewish environment at their employment at the PPD.” Unknown PPD officers are also believed to be behind graffiti of Nazi symbols and slogans found on a Jewish cop’s locker and inscribed on his patrol car, incidents the lawsuit asserts were never looked into properly.

The primary complaint in the lawsuit was filed on November 19, 2018 on behalf of Stacey Gonzalez and Pavel Reznik, both Philadelphia Police officers and practicing Jews. The lawsuit primarily focuses on conduct by Corporal Karen Church of Philadelphia’s 9th district, who is “known for making racist remarks toward non-white and non-Christian officers” according to a sworn Internal Affairs statement by Officer Gonzalez.

The lawsuit also names the City of Philadelphia and the PPD as defendants, claiming that city administrators essentially signed off on anti-Semitic conduct inside PPD by failing to address the issue when officers brought it to their attention. 10 unknown officers, or John Does, are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Corporal Karen Church commented to Officer Gonzales, “Why doesn’t the United States just take a missile and blow up Israel?” Another officer, Sergeant Oneeka Noble, is accused of making anti-Semitic remarks towards Gonzalez during preparations for a Memorial Day barbecue, reportedly telling her “Stacey, don’t bring in no motherfucking Kosher shit“.

Other incidents mentioned in the complaint were events reported by Pavel Reznik, a Russian Jewish police officer who is also party to the lawsuit.  Included along with the complaint are photographs being used as evidence exhibits in the case. The photos show Reznik’s police locker with ‘SS’ bolts scratched into it along with the German word ‘Totenkopf’.

Nazi graffiti on the locker of Jewish Philadelphia Police Officer Pavel Reznik

The locker graffiti, which seems to clearly target Reznik as a Jew, is a clear reference to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. ‘SS’ stands for ‘Schutzstaffel’, the name of an elite Nazi German paramilitary unit created by Adolf Hitler. ‘Totenkopf’ is a German word for “skull” or the “death’s head” symbol which was used by SS units assigned to concentration camps. The ‘Totenkopf’ symbol is still popular today among neo-Nazis and white supremacists.

Another photo included as evidence in the lawsuit shows Reznik’s PPD patrol vehicle with a Star of David and the phrase ‘Hebrew Hammer’ inscribed in the grime that had built up on the side of the car.

A Star of David and the words “Hebrew Hammer” drawn in dust on Philadelphia Police Officer Pavel Reznik’s patrol car

According to the lawsuit, neither of the incidents of clearly anti-Semitic vandalism targeting Officer Reznik were properly investigated by the department.

Reznik wrote in his sworn statement that since he first joined the police academy in 2006, he had become aware that PPD “discriminates heavily against Jews” and claims that officers often made anti-Semitic comments around him such as “We’re just getting ‘Jewed out’.” One exchange is alleged to have taken place in which an officer made a comment about Jewish food and another officer responded, in a joking tone, “Don’t be racist,” to which Officer Marcus O’Shannesy reportedly replied “It’s not racism, it is anti-Semitism.” According to the lawsuit, another police officer named Dougherty also chimed in, saying “Jews can’t cook for shit, their Chanukah food sucks“.

The lawsuit alleges that Reznik faced further retaliation related to his religion. He was reportedly told “That’s some bullshit, no need for you to go home early… what are you, special?” when he asked to be able to attend a Jewish police officer’s honor guard event. He was also denied time-off requests while his wife was pregnant, and made to work shifts while other other officers lower in rank than himself were getting their time-off requests granted.

According to the suit, Reznik has stopped requesting time off to celebrate Jewish holidays because he assumes his requests will be denied and he will face retaliation.

Reznik said he was also subject to harassment based on his Russian nationality and other officers seeing him as an immigrant. He claims that while enrolled at the police academy, a superior told him “I must break you; we must destroy your country” in a mock Russian accent. Reznik also maintains that another officer frequently made derogatory comments about “all the benefits immigrants get, without doing any work“.

In addition to specific anti-Semitic remarks and acts of harassment, Corporal Karen Church and other PPD officials are accused of retaliating against Jewish officers by subjecting them to “unwarranted and disproportionate warnings and punishments … wherein discrimination was exhibited“. Punishments against Jewish cops complaining about anti-Semitism reportedly included being made to stay late while non-Jews were allowed to leave, and being prevented from taking time off for Jewish holidays. “There are always courtesies given to Christians to worship their holidays and leave early, but the rest of us are nailed to the directive when it comes to our holidays,” Gonzalez said in a sworn statement.

After Gonzalez complained about Corporal Church’s “bomb Israel” comment, Church retaliated by making her stay late while other officers were allowed to go home, the suit claims. Church is further alleged to have taken disciplinary action against Gonzalez for leaving work to prepare for Yom Kippur, while non-Jewish officers were said to be running similar holiday errands around the same time and were not disciplined. Church is also said to have refused to let Gonzalez work any half-days during the Jewish holiday, despite allowing Christian cops to take half-days during Christmas and Thanksgiving.

“…PPD supervisors directed discriminatory and prejudicial acts towards Jewish police officers and would intimidate these police officers by insulting them, requiring them to perform additional work not asked of other officers, (mainly white Christian officers) and precluded them from taking adequate time off for religions holidays, gatherings, and other Jewish religions expressions.” – Gonzalez & Reznik’s complaint

According to Officer Stacey Gonzalez’s sworn statement to PPD internal affairs, she believes the racist and anti-Semitic conduct by Corporal Church was knowingly tolerated by police higher-ups, including former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey:

If you know this person has a history of making derogatory comments, you are protecting her if you don’t take any action against [her] She even stated out of her mouth she was protected by someone on the second or third floor …” – Officer Stacey Gonzalez Internal Affairs interview

In her statement to PPD Internal Affairs, Officer Gonzalez also claimed that the Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which often negotiates on behalf of officers with grievances, discouraged her from speaking out about her allegations of anti-Jewish discrimination:

“…the FOP (Mike Trask and Roosevelt Poplar) said they weren’t going to have anything to do with it. They said to take it to your people … They stated they didn’t want anything to do with my complaints regarding the Christian holidays.” – Officer Stacey Gonzalez Internal Affairs interview

John McNesby of the Philly FOP, speaking to the Philadelphia Inquirer, claimed that the police union was not involved in, or aware of, the lawsuit about anti-Semitism in the department:

This is the first I’m being made aware of this … To my knowledge they’ve never contacted [the union] or requested any assistance, which would be their first line of defense … but they took the path that they did, and it’s under litigation and I guess they’ll figure it out on that level.” – John McNesby, President, Philadelphia Fraternal Order of Police

Corporal Karen Church, as well as several other PPD officers named in the new anti-Semitism lawsuit, have all been named in previous litigation over discrimination and workplace harassment in Philly’s police department.

Karen Church and Sergeant Robert Deblasis were both sued in 2011 by Robin Middleton, an African-American Philadelphia Police Officer and Christian Baptist, who said that she was harassed by Church and Deblasis on the basis of both her race and religion. Middleton’s lawsuit claimed that Church, with Deblasis’ knowledge and approval, prevented her from being able to attend religious services. Middleton also claimed that Deblasis routinely called her “the Blessed One” and would make the “sign of the cross” gestures towards her at work. Middleton also alleged that Deblasis and Church retaliated against her for her complaints about this harassment; when she became injured on the job, they refused to provide her with either an injury report or a hospital referral.

Deblasis had also been named in a previous lawsuit that claimed he harassed PPD officers for their involvement in interracial relationships. The new lawsuit contains a statement from Officer Gonzalez to PPD Internal Affairs in which Gonzales claims another officer overheard Deblasis using the phrase “the ‘N’ word” to refer to a black person.

This fresh scandal tying Philadelphia’s police to anti-Semitism and Nazi imagery comes just two years after an uproar involving an officer sporting a Nazi tattoo while on the job. During the 2016 Democratic National Convention, which was hosted in Philadelphia, pictures emerged of Officer Ian Hans Lichterman sporting a forearm tattoo with a Nazi German eagle design under the word “fatherland“.

McNesby & the Philly FOP defended the Nazi tattoo as “not a big deal” at the time, while the police department declined to discipline Lichterman, saying no policies had been violated. The department has since instituted a new tattoo policy and Lichterman was never fired, but ended up leaving PPD to take a new job as a federal police officer guarding the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Former Ian Hans Lichterman sports a Nazi tattoo while assigned to protests outside the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo Source: Evan Parish Matthews/Facebook

Read the full text of the complaint in Officers Gonzalez & Reznik’s lawsuit (with Internal Affairs interview transcripts) below or click here to download the PDF.