Pennsylvania Halts Construction of Mariner East 2 Pipeline

from Unicorn Riot

Harrisburg, PA – On January 3, Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued an Administrative Order halting all construction of the Mariner East 2 Pipeline. The natural gas liquids pipeline is being constructed by Sunoco Logistics, who in 2017 completed their corporate merger with Energy Transfer Partners. The pipeline begins at fracking fields in Scio, Ohio and crosses southern Pennsylvania to reach its terminus at refineries in Marcus Hook near Philadelphia, where the natural gas liquids will be exported by ship for use in the European plastics industry.

The decision by the DEP, which has historically sided overwhelmingly with oil and gas interests, comes after over 100 spills of drilling slurry have plagued construction along the pipeline route. Bentonite clay leaked from Mariner East 2 drill sites has damaged numerous streams and natural areas and tainted drinking water in private homes and public schools.

Horizontal directional drilling by Sunoco has also led to the “development of an expanding sinkhole that currently threatens at least two private homes and is within 100 feet of Amtrak’s Keystone Line”, according to PA State Senator Andy Dinniman.  

State regulators cited a long series of “egregious and willful violations” committed by the pipeline operator while constructing Mariner East 2. The DEP website’s Compliance and Enforcement section for Mariner East 2 shows 33 Notices of Violation sent between May 9, 2017 and January 8, 2018 regarding drilling incidents in over 12 counties.

The order from the Pennsylvania DEP essentially freezes all construction along the pipeline route, with specific exceptions allowing anti-erosion measures at pipeline dig sites as well as maintenance of horizontal directional drill (HDD) equipment.

Last summer, Unicorn Riot visited Camp White Pine, a direct action encampment using tree-sits and other tactics to obstruct the pipeline route. After they were served with notice, Sunoco had seized a portion of their forest land under eminent domain, Ellen Gerhart and her daughter Elise decided to invite supporters to live on the easement and have erected several complex aerial blockades.

In summer 2017, we also traveled to Chester County, outside Philadelphia, where drilling by Sunoco contractors for Mariner East 2 had damaged local water tables, destroying and polluting local aquifers and private wells. We heard from affected residents, as well as members of neighborhood-based Safety Coalitions working to address safety concerns posed by Mariner East 2.

While driving through Chester County, we also discovered Sunoco was conducting horizontal directional drilling within feet of dozens of homes in an apartment complex, exposing residents to extreme drilling noise and toxic fumes from an open waste pit.

Open pit for storing Mariner East 2 drilling waste at Whiteland Apartments

While the legal shutdown of virtually all construction along the pipeline route has been hailed as a victory by many activists, others have also pointed out that the order does not stop the pipeline entirely, and merely points out issues Sunoco must address in order to proceed.

Anathema Volume 3 Issue 10

from Anathema

Volume 3 Issue 10 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

Volume 3 Issue 10 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

In this issue:

  • What Went Down
  • Flash Mobs
  • Portrait of a Neo-Nazi
  • Rail and Energy Infrastructure in Philly
  • Gas Plant Greenlit in Nicetown
  • Updates on Local Repression
  • Black December
  • John Raines
  • Signals of Disorder
  • Against Morality
  • World News
  • Poem by Eric King

The Insurrectionary Campus: A Strategy Proposal

from It’s Going Down

Someone stands on a table and yells, “This is now occupied.” And that’s how it begins.

– Q. Libet, Pre-Occupied: The Logic of Occupation.

Introduction

We know by now that fascists are targeting universities as recruiting sites and as places to make ideologies of racial, gender, and economic domination respectable (see this and this). Both liberals and conservatives are rushing to ensure that universities give fascists protected, well-funded platforms. What is the task of Antifa on college campuses? How can we be effective in combating the “fascist creep?

Antifa’s powerful disruptions of fascist speakers help point the way. But that essential tactic has limits. It is often defensive, which leaves the university waiting for its next fascist cooption. What if the university could be more than a site to be defended? Can the struggle for campuses be not just reactive but transformative – wrenching universities out of the hands of fascists and liberals to make them sites of revolutionary power? We’ve seen glimpses of this possibility in the insurrections at the New School in 2008, at NYU in 2009, and throughout the wave of campus occupations in California in 2009 and 2010 -themselves reminders of the earthquake of student and worker struggle in May 68.

As a member of the Radical Education Department, part of the on-campus Antifa struggle, I offer the following: a strategy proposal for the experimental, insurrectionary seizing of campuses away from fascists and liberals. This insurrectionary approach could not only help create campuses entirely hostile to resurgent fascism; they could also help put powerful tools in the hands of radical left movements as they coordinate, expand, and develop, especially during key moments of social upheaval.

To make this proposal, I first frame it in the context of current American antiauthoritarian organizing.  Then I analyze the crises shaking the university system, which reveal powerful possibilities and resources for radical action in and against that system.  Finally, I chart some potential tactics by which to seize the means of intellectual production.

1. The University Struggle in Context

The horizontal, directly democratic struggles that surged after 2007 achieved important gains like reviving large-scale radical politics and producing a new generation of militant, antiauthoritarian organizers. The collapse of Occupy in the US, 15-M in Spain, and beyond in 2011 and 2012, however, reveals an important limit within the radical left today.

The kind of prefigurative organizing that stood at the heart of Occupy and related uprisings has been a crucial way of coping with the collapse of the revolutionary social movements of the 1960s and 1970s. In the absence of those larger, more powerful, and more coordinated struggles, prefigurative politics played an experimental role. Occupy’s emphasis on consensus, for example, made it possible to tentatively construct mass movements by not forcing any group to commit itself to a particular program, thus bringing together a wide range of groups and interests.

Despite its important role, larger prefigurative struggles are often unstable. Within Occupy’s coalitions, revolution-minded anarchists were constantly hounded by pious liberals wringing their hands in terror over the possibility of a broken window. After the state swept Occupy clear of the squares they were squatting, it was no surprise that the coalitions often scattered.

Movements like Occupy, then, highlight a central question for the antiauthoritarian left.  How are we to create revolutionary, mass, and durable movements capable of eventually overthrowing capitalism and social domination?

In this context, the question of the university becomes: how can campus struggles add to the construction of those kinds of movements? In particular, how can we help lay the infrastructure for mass, federated action during the next wave of revolutionary struggle?

2. Crisis and Possibility in the University

The university is undergoing a series of fundamental crises within which we can spot possibilities for revolutionary struggle. What follows is only a brief sketch of those crises and possibilities.

A. Crisis of “Expert Knowledge”

Because it is the place where society’s experts and managers are trained, the university plays an important role in determining what counts as “real” knowledge – which is why the media often turn to professors to comment on current events. Strangely, the university is rejecting this role. Professors and administrators are not only refusing to judge the fascist ideology of racial and gender inferiority as right or wrong; they are also asserting that fascists have a right to free university endorsement, massive funds for protection and promotion, and highly publicized platforms to spread their ideologies.

But Antifa’s challenge to fascists on campus reveals an important opportunity. The struggle over university platforms suggests that they could increasingly become the conscious target of seizure and control by radicals. Those platforms are ready-made bullhorns by which to cultivate revolutionary theory and culture able to reach far greater numbers than many other outlets. One can imagine, for example, anarchists increasingly and actively (rather than reactively) seizing podiums at high-profile university events – hijacking and subverting media coverage with minimal effort.

B. Crisis of the Disillusioned Student

Traditionally, the university has been seen as a basic tool for social mobility – and so a justification for capital’s brutal inequalities. But the possibility of social climbing now looks increasingly ridiculous in light of ballooning of student debt and an economy geared towards “flexible,” part-time labor.

We have already seen some of the effects of this disillusionment: the underemployed recent graduate is often the engine driving movements like the Global Justice Movement, 15-M, and Occupy.  The question was already asked by Research and Destroy in 2009: what is the point of college, other than disciplining us to manage a failing society?

The university, then, contains a highly disillusioned group – precisely what lures fascists on campus – and yet one that clearly can be radicalized for antiauthoritarian struggle. In this university crisis, the left could accelerate disillusionment and radicalization.

C. Crisis of the Disillusioned Worker

The vast majority of classes are now taught by contingent faculty – teachers without job security who often also lack benefits and receive poverty wages. Drives to unionize contingent faculty have begun, but a more radical possibility can be found here.

The precarious teacher is facing plummeting job prospects; the hope for tenure is now almost completely gone for most. But their precarity organically connects these teachers to the other disillusioned workers at the heart of so many recent uprisings, positioning it to bridge on-campus and off-campus struggles.

The college campus, then, is home to extremely volatile ingredients – disillusioned teachers students, alongside also exploited cooks, servers, and janitors. And those ingredients are combined in a place that also offers the potential for a platform through which to spread radical political organizations and ideas. If these could be properly combined, they could make the campus a thoroughly radical, even explosive, center.

3. Further Possibilities

But a college campus also has particular kinds of resources that, even beyond its volatile elements, make it an important target for radical seizure.

Communication

If a central job for radicals is assembling mass, revolutionary struggles, then one key element will be access to technological hubs for coordination and federation. We saw the importance of these kinds of hubs in N30. The radical overtaking of Seattle in 1999 was coordinated via Independent Media Centers – websites that communicated tactics and ideas. But in Seattle, activists managed those sites through physical IMCs – rooms full of computers and other resources (food, water, shelter) that made coordination and communication much easier and faster and that strengthened the sense of community and solidarity. We saw the importance of these centers in Seattle from the fact that police targeted them to choke off the uprising.

College campuses offer massive, free access to computers and the internet that could be communication hubs for radical struggles on and off campus. One valid ID and password could given an entire movement that access. More than this, some grad students and faculty are given unlimited free printing privileges – and again, only one person with that privilege could print an entire movement’s flyers, posters, zines, and papers for distribution.

But colleges also have libraries – and within them, mountains of information on past movements’ tactics, strategies, and ideas. College libraries are waiting to become part of a radical research center for ideas and histories that could feed directly into movements.

Spatial infrastructure

At the same time, radicals need centralized, reliable spaces for meeting, relaxing, sharing ideas, planning actions, and so on. This often means renting or squatting spaces across an entire city-scape, and those spaces are often available only on a temporary or unpredictable basis.

A college campus has a glut of unoccupied spaces ready to be used: halls, dorm lounges, library rooms or floors, theaters, and so on. On urban campuses, those spaces are not only relatively concentrated within one (often fairly central) part of a city, but also can be available more predictably.

4. Seize the Means: A Tactical Sketch

So what does it mean to seize the university through insurrection – to take hold of these possibilities and resources?

First, seizing the university means building radical, antiauthoritarian campus “cultures.” On the one hand, this entails what RED calls “guerilla education” – radical forms of education outside, beyond, and against the classroom that spread militancy and push a campus’s “common sense” far left.  On the other hand, this means creating, multiplying, and federating radical groups on campus that are intolerant to fascism and willing to act in solidarity with radical struggles on and off campus.  The Filler Collective, the Radical Education Department, anti-racist organizing, the Campus Antifascist Network, and radical struggles in solidarity with Palestine are examples of this work.  The aim is to become a kind of disease, infecting other groups with leftist ideas while recruiting their most radical members.  This is to “solidify” the radical left, as a pamphlet from the 2008 New School occupation puts it, creating zones of radical antiauthoritarianism on campus that spread and connect.

But it is not enough to aim for a radical leftist culture. Those cultures can become simply alternative spaces that leave the college basically untouched. What’s needed, I suggest, is an emphasis on direct, radical action. The Filler Collective, discussing a Pitt occupation, writes:

I sure as hell wasn’t radicalized after hitting up some student group’s meeting. I’m here because I’m still chasing the high from that first punk show in a squat house basement, that first queer potluck, that first renegade warehouse party, that first unpermitted protest, that first smashed Starbucks window. […]

Last November, a student-led march ended with a brief occupation of the Litchfield Towers dormitory lobby […]  That night ended with radical questions circulating beyond our countercultural bubble for the first time in recent memory: Do the Pitt Police really have the right to beat the students they’re supposed to protect? Wait, don’t we pay to use that building? Well shit, do the police even have the right to dictate how students use our campus in the first place?

Insurrectionary actions reveal undreamt-of revolutionary possibilities. Without them, potential radicals remain stuck in a world with no alternatives.

In this way, overt tactics should be rooted in central, covert, insurrectionary tactics that take Antifa as a model.  What I have in mind here, however, is not defensive but offensive, essentially devoid of protest: experimental seizures of resources and of symbolic spaces that show that the university can–and must–be in the autonomous control of radical leftist movements.

Occupations are a key example. In 2008 New School students overtook the cafeteria and study center; in 2013, students seized the president’s office at Cooper Union; at the National Autonomous University in Mexico, a building has been occupied by radicals for 17 years; and in the recent past, in hundreds of universities across central and eastern Europe–students gather in the auditoriums of occupied buildings, holding general assemblies, discussing modalities of self-determination.”  Such occupations are often reactions–to tuition hikes, e.g. – but they could become powerful offensive weapons.

Occupations should not be the limit of our imagination. Reclaim the Streets was genius in its guerilla actions, temporarily but radically overtaking and transforming roads, highways, and intersections. The same tactic could apply in a president’s office or at a campus event–perhaps making them unpredictable places to issue revolutionary communiques.

By creating offensive, radical campuses, we could create schools where no one would dream of inviting a fascist ideologue. More than this, campus insurrections are practice for the next revolutionary moments, when we’ll be ready to take hold of the university’s and society’s resources in order to put them at the service of broader struggles. In the words of Research and Destroy, “We seek to push the university struggle to its limits. […] [W]e seek to channel the anger of the dispossessed students and workers into a declaration of war.”

The insurrectionary campus: not just defending against fascism, but making the university a tool of social revolution.

Anathema Volume 3 Issue 9

from Anathema

Volume 3 Issue 9 (PDF for printing 11 x 17)

Volume 3 Issue 9 (PDF for reading 8.5 x 11)

In this issue:

  • What Went Down
  • Letter From Michael Kimble
  • 5 Points Against Waiting For The Next Big Demo
  • Price Of Amazon
  • J20 Updates
  • Vaughn Prison Rebels Indicted
  • World News
  • Panopticon Consumes Bike Trail
  • Philly Vegan Awards
  • Raccoon Obituary

The Revolutionary University: Remembering “Communiqué from an Absent Future”

from Radical Education Department

Recently, Antifa’s presence on campus–militantly battling fascistic speakers and influences–has given rise to key questions.  How can we continue to radicalize the university?  How can we turn it into an engine for revolutionary experimentation and coordination on a mass scale?

To answer these questions, one of the most important things we can do is to retrieve from the past the revolutionary ideas and practices that can help show us the radical possibilities housed within the present moment.

The university has long been the site of radical dreams and experiments.  Well before Antifa’s front-and-center organizing against the fascism of the Trump regime and its lackeys, France’s universities erupted in May ’68; the German student group SDS (Sozialistischer Deutscher Studentenbund) aimed to transform West German universities into “laboratories” for a revolutionary council democracy[1], and universities played a key role in the downfall of the apartheid regime in South Africa.

“Communiqué from an Absent Future” belongs to this radical tradition.  Written by Research and Destroy in 2009, it offers a devastating critique of the neoliberalized university that is the hallmark of American higher education today.  The university is being gutted; but if the university was always a factory to produce disciplined managers and workers, R&D notes that that role has only become more blatant and more intolerable in the midst of a financial meltdown in which the compensatory promise of upward mobility is evaporating.

But the “Communiqué” also offers a powerful vision of the possibilities contained in the university system’s crisis.  It argues not for that system’s reform–it is not part of a struggle to make the university “great again”–but its transformation.

“Though we denounce the privatization of the university and its authoritarian system of governance, we do not seek structural reforms. We demand not a free university but a free society. A free university in the midst of a capitalist society is like a reading room in a prison; it serves only as a distraction from the misery of daily life. Instead we seek to channel the anger of the dispossessed students and workers into a declaration of war.

We must begin by preventing the university from functioning. We must interrupt the normal flow of bodies and things and bring work and class to a halt. We will blockade, occupy, and take what’s ours. Rather than viewing such disruptions as obstacles to dialogue and mutual understanding, we see them as what we have to say, as how we are to be understood. This is the only meaningful position to take when crises lay bare the opposing interests at the foundation of society.  […]

The university struggle is one among many, one sector where a new cycle of refusal and insurrection has begun – in workplaces, neighborhoods, and slums. All of our futures are linked, and so our movement will have to join with these others, bre[a]ching the walls of the university compounds and spilling into the streets. […]

[W]e call on students and workers to organize themselves across trade lines. We urge undergraduates, teaching assistants, lecturers, faculty, service workers, and staff to begin meeting together to discuss their situation. The more we begin talking to one another and finding our common interests, the more difficult it becomes for the administration to pit us against each other in a hopeless competition for dwindling resources. The recent struggles at NYU and the New School suffered from the absence of these deep bonds, and if there is a lesson to be learned from them it is that we must build dense networks of solidarity based upon the recognition of a shared enemy. These networks not only make us resistant to recuperation and neutralization, but also allow us to establish new kinds of collective bonds. These bonds are the real basis of our struggle.

We’ll see you at the barricades.

Under the right conditions, disillusioned students, exploited contingent as well as sympathetic tenured faculty, and campus workers can combine with radical results.  These forces can, and must, connect with others’ struggles as well if they are to become revolutionary.

Read the full “Communiqué” here.

Frackville Prison’s Systemic Water Crisis

from The Campaign to Fight Toxic Prisons

Bryant-In-Prison.jpg
Bryant Arroyo, prisoner and “jailhouse environmentalist” at Pennsylvania’s SCI-Frackville.

by Bryant Arroyo / FightToxicPrisons.org

On September 19, 21, 24 and 27, 2017, we prisoners at Pennsylvania’s SCI-Frackville facility experienced four incidences with respect to the crisis of drinking toxic water. While this was not the first indication of chronic water problems at the prison, it seemed an indication that things were going from bad to worse. This round of tainted water was coupled with bouts of diarrhea, vomiting, sore throats, and dizziness by an overwhelming majority of the prisoner population exposed to this contamination. This cannot be construed as an isolated incident.

Frackville water notice
This notice appeared at the prison in August 2017, notifying prisoners of a water problem at SCI-Frackville

The SCI-Frackville staff passed out bottled spring water after the inmate population had been subjected to drinking the toxic contaminated water for hours without ever being notified via intercom or by memo to refrain from consuming the tap water. This is as insidious, as it gets!

SCI-Frackville’s administration, is acutely aware of the toxic water contamination crisis and have adopted an in-house patterned practice of intentionally failing to notify the inmate population via announcements and or by posting memos to refrain from tap water, until prisoners discover it for themselves through the above-mentioned health effects.

In general, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) knows it has a water crisis on it hands. The top agencies like the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and EPA know about this open-secret and have conspired to deliberately ignore most, if not all, of the prisoners’ official complaints. DEP has received four drinking water violations from the EPA. But the underlying problem is money, money, and more money.

Earlier this year, federal officials warned DEP that it lacked the staffing and resources to enforce safe drinking water standards. That could be grounds for taking away their role as the primary regulator of water standards, and would cost the state millions of dollars in federal funding.

In a letter dated December 30, 2016, EPA Water Protection Division Director Jon Capacasa stated, “Pennsylvania’s drinking water program failed to meet the federal requirement for onsite review of of water system operations and maintenance capability, also known as a sanitary survey.” He added, “Not completing sanitary survey inspections in a timely manner can have serious public health implications.”

One example in the City of Pittsburgh led to the closure of nearly two dozen schools and a boil-water order for 100,000 people. State environmental regulators had discovered low chlorine levels, after testing the city’s water as part of an ongoing investigation into its water treatment system. The city has also been having issues with elevated lead levels. The EPA also told DEP that the department’s lack of staff has caused the number of unaddressed Safe Drinking Water Act violations to go from 4,298 to 7,922, almost doubling in the past five years.

This leaves us with 43 inspectors employed, but, to meet the EPA mandates, we need at the least 85 full-time inspectors. That means Pennsylvania inspectors have double the workload, and this has resulted in some systems not being inspected. Logically, the larger systems get routine inspections, and systems that have chronic problems get inspected, but smaller and rural system like ours may not be because we are the minority that society doesn’t care about. Persona non grata!

To top it off, Frackville is in Schuylkill County, near a cancer cluster of the rare disease known as Polycythemia Vera (PV). While there is not definitive research on PV, it is believed to be environmental in origin and could be water borne. There’s no telling how many of us may have contracted the mysterious disease caused by drinking this toxic-contaminated water for years without being medically diagnosed and treated for this disease.

The DOC refuses to test the inmate population, in spite of the on-going water crisis. What would happen, if the inmate population would discover that they have contracted the disease PV?! Obviously, this wouldn’t be economically feasible for the DOC medical department to pay the cost to treat all inmates who have been discovered to have ill-gotten the water borne disease.

Many Pennsylvania tax-payers would be surprised to know that our infrastructure is older than Flint, Michigan’s toxic water crisis. Something is very wrong in our own backyard and the legislative body wants to keep a tight lid on it. But how long can this secret be contained before we experience an outbreak of the worst kind.

Silence, no more, it is time to speak. I could not stress the sense of urgency enough. We need to take action by notifying our Pennsylvania State Legislatures and make them accountable to the tax-paying citizens and highlight the necessary attention about Pennsylvania’s water crisis to assist those of us who are cornered and forced to drink toxic, contaminated water across the State Prisons.

If you want to obtain a goal you’ve never obtained, you have to transcend by doing something you’ve never done before. Let’s not procrastinate, unify in solidarity, take action before further contamination becomes inevitable. There’s no logic to action afterwards, if we could have avoided the unnecessary catastrophe, in the first place.

Let’s govern ourselves in the right direction by contacting and filing complaints to our legislative body, DEP, EPA, and their higher-ups, etc. In the mountains of rejection we have faced from these agencies as prisoners, your action could be our yes; our affirmation that, though we may be buried in these walls, we are still alive.

—————–

After initially receiving this article from Bryant, this update came in: On Oct 26, 2017, at or about 8 p.m., Frackville shut down the Schuylkill County Water Municipality’s water source and switched over to this facilities water preserve tank. Staff here, indicated the Schuylkill Municipality was conducting a purge to the repaired pipelines, etc.

Then on Oct. 27, a or about 11 a.m., Frackville’s staff passed out individual gallons of spring water due to the dirty, toxic, contaminated water flowing from our preserve tank water supply. Here we go again!

More about the author, Bryant Arroyo, can be found on PrisonRadio.org. Additional sources for this article came from State Impact (A reporting project of  NPR member stations) and the Washington Post.

100 Year Anniversary: Origins & Legacy of the Russian Revolution

from Facebook

A Libertarian Socialist Perspective

Activist historian John Kalwaic will discuss the Russian Revolution on its 100th anniversary. The discussion will begin with some historical context of the origins of Tsarism and serfdom. This talk will cover origins of Russian revolutionary ferment in the empire, the pogroms, industrialization, labor strife and peasant revolts.

The main focus will be on anti-war sentiments, and how they fueled the 1917 February Revolution and the October Bolshevik Coup. This part of the talk will talk about how horizontal movements emerged and later dissipated or repressed. It will go through the Russian Civil War discussing Red, White and Anarchist Partisans and how Russian was both a victim and perpetrator of imperialism. This part will also present the echo of the revolution around the world.

Then we will turn to the legacy of the Revolution such as Stalin Modernization, World War II, Cold War, anti-colonial movements and the break up of the CCCP and eventually the rise of modern Russia.

[November 4 from 7pm to 9pm at Wooden Shoe Books 704 South St]

Why RED, Why Now?

from Radical Education Department

The Radical Education Department organically grew out of our orchestrated direct action campaign, as Nova Resistance, against the over-funded and over-securitized lecture by racist eugenicist Charles Murray at Villanova University in the spring of 2017 (click here to read a recent post about this action). However, its roots, for some of us, stretch back further to our activities at Occupy Philly, as well as our collective publishing of Occupy Philly: Machete. In what follows, I reflect on why we decided to launch RED in the summer of 2017.

I have always strongly believed in the importance of collective organizing and institution-building in order to maximize our agency by working with others to construct platforms for the future. In my various experiences organizing and founding alternative institutions, however, I have also come to learn that many projects never get off of the ground because they are all too quickly ensnared in the bramble of petty debate. This can include such things as individuals being more invested in their subjective preoccupations than in collective action or—particularly in intellectual circles—the sophistication Olympics, in which pedantic posturing and problematization exercise their domineering, disheartening and imperial rule over anything practical, tactical or productive. When a group of us came together so seamlessly to contest the promotion of white supremacist misogyny and top-down class warfare on a conservative college campus, it struck me that we had the baseline of shared convictions that would allow us to move ahead productively with other projects.

Indeed, once we started sharing ideas, I became convinced that our modus operandi of diagonal or transversal organization was a powerful practical solution to other models I had encountered. In my experience, if the verticalism of a top-down chain of command can smother important ideas from below, the horizontalism à la Occupy can sometimes foster an endless plethora of ideas with little or no direction. Our decision to organize diagonally—by which I refer to our conviction, for instance, that a RED endeavor be defined as anything that at least two members agree on—meant that we could do away with a single leader without bottoming out in obligatory consensus. This form of organizing, which overlaps with some of what I had been trying to thematize in my writings and interviews on the Nuit Debout movement in France, has meant that we can work very efficiently and autonomously without needing to constantly meet to debate our next steps. It is an enormous boon, in this regard, that we are all on the same wavelength and trust one another due to our years of intermittently organizing together.

Since we are all currently involved with institutions of higher education, it made sense for us to do everything that we can where we are. The focus on education, however, I think we all understand in the broadest possible sense of the term (like the ancient Greek notion of paideia): it is the collective process of forging a collectivity, by mutually fashioning its thoughts, feelings, representations, values and worldviews. Moreover, since we are the bearers of myriad university credentials, I was very drawn to the idea that we could mobilize them in the name of radical social transformation. Instead of the anti-capitalist Left being affiliated by the propaganda machine with destitute, dirty and drug-induced dropouts, RED—whose most powerful symbol to date is a radical “dressed to teach” à la JPS confronting Murray—can send a very strong message about why we should all be on the hard Left. For if we spend years seriously studying the history of the modern world while cultivating intellectual autonomy from the ideological incarceration within capitalist thought factories, we will reach the same conclusion: another world is necessary!

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This focus on education goes hand-in-hand with community building and the development of an autonomous pedagogical platform. In fact, in many ways, I understand RED as a collective process of self-education. In sharing our views with one another and a broader community, providing feedback on one another’s projects, creatively brainstorming together, and so forth, we are collectively teaching one another through the direct action of productive theoretical and practical exchange. Rather than trying to make RED into an advertizing campaign that simply garners as many votes as possible like a political party, I take it that we have founded an organization in the best sense of the term: an autonomous collective invested in self-education in order to foster a process of group social transformation. An organization, we might say, “takes the long way around” in the sense that it is invested in a deep and long process of autonomous pedagogical metamorphosis rather than in the “quick return” of a political party that multiplies its followers as hastily as possible through thoughtless banner-waving and public relations campaigns.

There are also important conjunctural elements that contributed to the founding of RED. One of these is the paltry response of liberals—who exercise an unmerited monopoly over the term “the Left” in the United States—to the election of a white supremacist trust fund baby to the White House. One of the ways in which the system of pseudo-democracy works is by corralling the administered masses into camps and determining their struggles for them. In the U.S., this tussle is defined as one between liberals and conservatives, and there is very little inquiry into why these are purportedly the only two options. a940f459123e56cc06516f89f8bf3196This is particularly important because both of these camps are defenders of imperial capitalism, and the major difference is in their public relations campaigns. If liberals want to keep the gloves on and conservatives take them off, they both agree that the world should continue to be unremittingly pummeled by top-down global class warfare.

In blindly accepting a marketing campaign intent on defining “resistance” as “opposition to Trump,” liberals swallow—hook, line and sinker—the bait tendered to them by pseudo-democratic administered reality. They thereby contribute to the perpetuation of the very system that produced this trust fund baby and so many others that are intent on advancing the same basic project (the imperial record of the Clintonites, which includes Obama, has been well documented for anyone interested in examining it).

Meanwhile, any position to the left of liberalism is violently subjected to the reductio ad Stalinum, as if opposing an economic and political system that is fast destroying the conditions of possibility of life on planet Earth was a form of bloodthirsty terrorism. This “blackmail of the Gulag” also eradicates—or, at least, attempts to—the memory of any radical leftism irreducible to Stalinism, like the anarchist international, egalitarian Soviet social projects, the varieties of anti-colonial struggle, autonomous indigenous movements, radical ecological politics, and so forth. Unfortunately, however, the inter-generational assault on the academy, marked by the red and black purges of the McCarthy era (that have never really ended), has assured that the university serves its function of ideological social reproduction by being dominated by conservatives and liberals with little or no awareness of these histories.

In this setting, it has been particularly important for RED to launch a frontal assault on the ideological pillars of liberalism, insofar as they usually function in perfect harmony with the conservative perpetuation or intensification of global structures of oppression. Along with the sword of direct action, then, we have taken up the pen of intellectual guerilla warfare to systematically dismantle the pervasive but misguided practico-theoretical framework surrounding issues like free speech, direct action, violence and antifascism.

We are fully aware of the fact that pro-capitalist—and usually jingoist—liberalism has much broader support in the university and the mass media, which inevitably restricts our audience. Politics, however, is not a popularity contest or an advertising campaign, despite what we are taught to believe. It is most fundamentally about how a collectivity forges its own reality. And we, at RED, are invested in qualitative transformation, not simply in a numbers game that is another one of the baiting mechanisms of administered pseudo-democracy. Rather than reducing politics to pandering to the ideological masses, in order to guarantee that they get what the system tells them that they want, it should be about qualitative collective education and social transformation.

I think that I can safely speak for all of us at RED when I say that we are not simply opposed to the latest trust fund baby in the white house. What we reject is the system that produced him, and so many others, and will continue to produce them if it is not dismantled. As the etymology of the adjective “radical” suggests, the Radical Education Department seeks to go to the root of the current crises and take power into our own hands, rather than remaining within the comforting illusion that we just need to elect different members of the ruling class to administer reality to us.

CrimethInc.: From Democracy to Freedom

from Facebook

Democracy is the most universal political ideal of our day. George Bush invoked it to justify invading Iraq; Obama congratulated the rebels of Tahrir Square for bringing it to Egypt; Occupy Wall Street claimed to have distilled its pure form. From the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the autonomous region of Rojava, practically every government and popular movement calls itself democratic.

And yet it was democracy that brought Donald Trump to power, not to mention Adolf Hitler.

What is democracy, precisely? How can we defend ourselves against democratically-elected tyrants? Is there a difference between government and self-determination, and are there other ways to describe what we are doing together when we make decisions? Drawing on the latest book from the CrimethInc. collective, the presenters will explore these questions and more. Join us for a lively discussion!

crimethinc.com/democracy

[October 27 7PM to 9PM at Wooden Shoe Books 704 South St]

Antifa on a Conservative Campus: Possibilities

from Radical Education Department

Recently, we’ve seen powerful Antifa actions on college campuses like Berkeley and the University of Virginia striking back against emboldened white supremacists and fascists. We’ve also seen how crucial Antifa is on college campuses after neo-Nazis like Richard Spencer proclaimed they are targeting colleges as recruiting-grounds.

But what if you’re on a conservative or even reactionary campus?  This situation poses special challenges for Antifa.  It may be difficult to find anything beyond a small group willing to mobilize against fascism and its roots in the white supremacy, misogyny, and imperialism central to capitalist society.  And activists confront not only widespread apathy,  but also the real possibility of backlash from both administrators and many other students and faculty. The threat to contingent faculty is especially great. The situation can seem hopeless.

Still, there is great value in cultivating a radical Antifa presence on conservative campuses.  In this post, I point out that importance by drawing on my own experiences as part of a small Antifa group on a conservative campus.  And I start to assemble a list of other, further radical possibilities beyond those we explored.  I hope, then, this reflection could be helpful to people in similar situations.

1. Some background: Villanova and the Charles Murray Action

Villanova University is a notoriously conservative school.  Many students in its overwhelmingly white and upper-class student body vocally support the Trump administration (with “Make America Great Again” signs and parties, for example; check out this endorsement of Trump in the college paper).  It was in this context that white supremacist physical violence erupted on campus.  Two of my own students of color mentioned to me the fear they felt for their safety on campus.

Villanova has also been openly hostile to progressive activism.  For instance, one contingent faculty-person in our group–Nova Resistance–was explicitly threatened with being fired for another, very benign and non-disruptive, organizing project on campus.  In recent years, Villanova administrators rescinded a speaking invitation to a queer activist.

We formed Nova Resistance to disrupt an invited talk by the white supremacist, anti-worker, and misogynist pseudo-intellectual Charles Murray in March 2017.  In the lead-up to the event, two of us had tried to create a large faculty and student action; they were either ignored or met with anemic, sanctimonious arguments for “free speech” or “boycotting.”

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In the days prior, one of us hung very simple posters across campus to call for resistance.  We distributed it by slipping it secretly inside the student newspaper and taping it across many campus buildings.  Nova Resistance officially met for the first time only hours before the event began.  Members made signs, and made a plan for the action.  Some of us were very new to more disruptive, small-group tactics.

By the day of the talk, we were only a handful of activists, with at least one person coming from off-campus.  The event was heavily guarded many hours before.  A police helicopter circled overhead; campus swarmed with armed police carrying many thousands of dollars of military-style equipment; there were numerous conspicuous undercover cops; and so on.  The talk was to be held in a secure basement location on campus with very limited seating–obviously chosen because it is the building that houses campus security.  Moreover, we discovered that, in addition to campus police, the university paid some $15,000 to hire the police force from Radnor township.  Clearly, administrators were spooked by the ghost of Middlebury.

Four made it into the crowded event, while a few others remained outside to prepare for a protest and teach-in after our eventual ejection.  As soon as Murray took the stage, two from Nova Resistance stormed the front of the event, blocking the projector screen with a banner. The plan was for the two to stage a silent action during the event while a banner and signs were held to under-cut the talk.  Others were to create an increasing disruption of ridiculous noises, cheers, heckling, etc., all as a way of interrupting and hopefully halting the talk.

Almost immediately, the two of us who were standing at the front were accosted by belligerent audience-members.  One person in the reserved seats in the front row–neither security nor a talk organizer–grabbed the shirt of one of us and seemed nearly on the verge of punching him. The talk’s faculty organizer, as well as an unaffiliated, liberal  professor, approached the two Nova Resistance members at the front, trying to convince them to cease the disruption.  Another member of our direct action team went to the front of the room with the other two.

Fairly quickly amid these confrontations, one of the three activists at the front began more disruptively yelling about Murray’s fascistic ideology, the school’s implication in it, and so on (departing from the group’s plan of silence).  However, the activists refused to engage directly with the attempts at heckling or negotiation and instead resolutely stated that they refused to have their university provide a podium for a reactionary eugenicist, racist, misogynist hack. After around 15-20 minutes of this, campus security threatened to arrest the activists if they did not allow themselves to be escorted out of the event.  They chose the latter option in order to re-consolidate outside. One member filmed the encounters and eventually posted them on our social media outlets.

Outside we rapidly escalated.  One of us brought a megaphone.  Using this, we organized an impromptu, direct-action “teach-in” immediately outside of the windows of the Murray talk.  The crowd that formed around us was perhaps 40-50 strong and fairly receptive–unusual for Villanova’s campus–though the crowd was largely passive.  We screamed and chanted (“No Murray!  No KKK!  No fascist USA!” etc.) into the open windows of the event with the megaphone, creating additional disruptions, although the windows were rather quickly closed.  The police then confronted us, telling us we had to cut the megaphone (on threat, apparently, of arrest).  We continued without amplification for a while, and then left. Members of Nova Resistance were approached by local news outlets for interviews and quotes.

We were not ready for the next steps.  We had no statement prepared and hadn’t set up any social media outlets to post videos or analysis or to garner more support and visibility.  Later that day we whipped up a Facebook page and began posting media, and within a few days we submitted an article for the school newspaper and created a manifesto-style statement, posting them as well.  But our lag left us without a voice at a time when our actions were being interpreted and either supported or condemned without our own voice helping to shape the narrative.

(It should also be noted that the school newspaper, The Villanovan, warped the statement they ran without consulting us, toning down and pacifying our language.)

Nova Resistance then began to meet regularly, renaming itself the Radical Education Department (RED).  We reframed our task beyond Villanova as the creation of a radical left think-tank developing Antifa practices across college campuses.  We used the visibility and experience from the event to inform a number of articles in left popular media (for example, this, this, and this).