Review: Steel City Revolt #1

Steel City Revolt #1 (Fall 2008)

48 pages, quarterly

(POG, c/o The Thomas Merton Center, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224)

(Full Disclosure: I was affiliated for a couple years with the group who put out this publication. )

I was unsure what to expect from this project, since I hadn’t been keeping up with POG’s recent activities, membership, or orientation. I recalled some members of the group had wanted to publish some kind of ongoing anarchist periodical for years, but election years can dilute the character of resistance (and make it hard to find reefer). It’s good that this finally came together.

The first issue of Steel City Revolt manages to walk a fine line. The covers and printing are professional enough to be taken seriously outside of radical ghettos, without being so slick that you wonder where that money came from. Good layout and graphics. The content is militant, without being too threatening or scary. A sizable portion of the magazine is composed of personal accounts which are much more readable than the kind of manifesto rhetoric that can only ever hope to preach to the choir, at best. The internal group documents and donation/membership forms are less obtrusive than your average subscription card. Overall, it adheres to a pretty orthodox left/activist anarchism, but pays some lip service to the insurrectionary project with a quote and illustration from the Harper’s stuff on the 1877 uprisings, a Bonanno quote, pretty cool centerfold world map listing various international ruptures occuring between July and September.

Fortunately there are no attempts to redefine anarchism and it’s relationship to presidential elections. The firsthand accounts of  the RNC actions did an especially good job of  capturing the mood of these kinds of events and the interview-style article on US elections was solid, all told, there’s a bare minimum of the kind of diplomatic mollifying that is required to keep liberals from spitting on you, because you disagree with them.

The sadly, largely neglected struggle against I-69, a time-line of anarchist hunger strike from Spain, the RNC 8, and a tribute to two recently slain activists make up some of the outside content. There’s also some features/cultural stuff including movie (which is also a personal account of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle) and book reviews, gift ideas, crafting, the mandatory ascetic recipes, and poetry (although an excerpt from P. Shelly’s “Mask of Anarchy” is erroneously labeled as “The Call to Freedom”, as it is in many places on ‘teh interwebs’. It seems like the sparts objected to the rest of the poem and cut their own favorite piece off and gave it their own title)

One of the things that I found less than thrilling was the “indivdualism” vs “collectivism” false-dichotomy that popped up in the “Get to Know an Anarchist from the Past” feature. An anarchist collective must by definition be composed of anarchist individuals, although some days I have to wonder.  Devoting four pages to business union boilerplate wasn’t entirely unexpected or entirely negative, especially the plain talk on the PAT/ATU situation. The unconditional cheerleading for big labor isn’t limited to POG, but is a shortcoming of left/activist anarchism in general, and won’t likely be solved in a periodical review.

All told, POG has put together a entertaining and informative magazine.While I have my doubts about formal anarchist groups, left activism, and their capacity to attack State and Capital, during periods of low revolutionary actvity, a project like Steel City Revolt proves they can publish a worthwhile periodical. I’m glad to see more time devoted to radically-oriented media as opposed to the futility of trying to get honest treatment from corporate media. I look forward to the next issue.

Greece, Patras, URGENT!! fascists cooperate with the police now‏

There have been confirmed informations about groups of fascists in action with 
police forces at the city of Patras. This is happening now it is not a joke! The 
media speak of  'civilians' who attack anarchists. ---- We know very well the 
concept of 'angry civilians'. Already know faces of fascists from other cities 
(including athens) are seen in patras, walking down the streets accompanied by 
policemen in civilian clothing, attacking and arresting anyone who looks 
suspicious. At least one student is at the hospital stubbed because of them. 
People are reported to hide protesters from these fascist groups who already 
have spotted such houses with protesters hidden in there. They stand outside 
throwing rocks, yelling "come out or we will come in", threatening the owners.
Since the police forces cannot handle the riot situations along greece,
their right hand is being unleashed, the fascists and neonazis.
Please repost this whenever you can!
_________________________________________
A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E
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The “special relationship” between fascist/neo-nazi groups and the State is the same the world over.

Rage Into The Machine

An overlooked irony in the 2008 US presidential race was that armed-struggler turned professor, Bill Ayers, was now a cog in the same Chicago political machine that empowered his former arch-nemesis (and friend of his father), Richard M.Daley with goons to chase and beat Ayers and the other dissenters outside of the 1968 DNC. This fact was not relevant to the McCain campaign, and would likely been unhealthy for the red-baiting of Obama which was pretty much all the GOP had to run on, after eight years of sloppy, sloppy power.

I’m writing from Pittsburgh and the Chicago machine is scary to me and that should tell you something. Didn’t the governor try to sell a congressional seat on ebay or something?

I hadn’t considered it at the time but all the criticisms of a “reasonable”, corporate friendly, Chicago power politician as a “socialist”, “radical black-liberation theologian” ,”Marxist”  who wanted to “redistribute wealth” etc. weren’t just amusing, but dangerous, as they caused oppressed people and leftists to rally around him yet, gave Obama many opportunities to prove that he could keep the “rabble in check,” and that his loyalty to power was greater than to the masses.

I’ve never been too impressed with 1960s US student radicals, partly because I saw where many of them ended up, and partly because the shit happening in the rest of the world was so much more awesome. I’m sure it also has something to do with the anti-intellectualism that was so prevalent in working-class neighborhoods and families. Higher education was a “waste of time” when steel jobs paid more than many jobs which required a degree.

It’s often remarked that half of the Weatherman Underground are in prison and the other half are college professors. An exception is another “Days of Rage” participant turned registered lobbyist and Obama fundraiser, Marylin Katz, who is also a flack-catcher for various Chicago agencies, including their storied police department‘s community policing initiative as well as about a dozen other agencies.

I’m not sure what role Ms. Katz had in managing the rest of the irrelevant aging new lefties, who spun Obama’s candidacy to legitimacy amongst those who profess to have radical politics. Long-time sycophant Tom Hayden continues to enrich himself promoting the progressive personality du jour. I guess the Democrats finally noticed the successful GOP strategy of the past 25 years that involves appealing to the ideological base to win the center. What remains to be seen is whether the Dems will continue their policy of screwing their base or will they actually make some concessions? The business unions have continued to unconditionally support the Dems despite their horrible track record on labor issues.

What lesson can modern radicals take from all of this? If you’re selling out, make sure you’re compensated for it and a system that can recuperate (sub)urban guerrillas can find a place for anyone who is interested. Still, I wonder what Shortshanks would think of his former opponents’ places at his table?

Raising the Price


Updates on infoshop news (1)and the Occupied London blog

On the night of December 6, 2008, our comrade, Alexandros Grigoropoulos, was murdered by terrorists employed by the Greek State. Such violence, a byproduct of the State’s defense of class society, is nothing new, but a defining aspect of governments, escalated by the recent flickering of the capitalist picture show. What makes Alexandros different than the thousands who lose their lives every day to fuel the global corpse/cash machine is not his age, as market forces (their words, not ours) do not respect identity, but his clarity of vision which allowed him to see the beast for what it is, and his decision to act on his own behalf, with his comrades, and directly engage the same forces which beat, shoot, starve, kill, maim, and poison all of us to increase profits and control. This system and its ancestors have been fueled with our blood long before oil, but it still needs more. Now, his loved ones are raising the price. They are raising the price for the same reason that the bosses do. Because they can.

As his family and comrades prepare for his funeral, sparks from fires in the streets of Greece are spreading and igniting in the area of western Asia called “Europe”. Anarchists in Germany (1) and England (1) (2) are rising, and the rest of Europe will likely follow suit. Words of solidarity often precede acts of resistance. The spark has crossed the Atlantic and landed in NYC and others are taking notice.

A general strike has been called for tomorrow, so give yourself the day off and put your money away. If you have to go to work or school, I’m sure you’ll think of something. We don’t need any martyrs or prisoners, so be intelligent. Think of where you live and what you can get likely get away with.

The terrorists who murdered our comrade are the same the world over. They will defend the illusions of  the markets and democracy with the same fervor that they would defend their families or homes. Capitalism routinely involves the shooting of young people, whether by the State or other young people engaged in competeive markets.  May the bosses of Greece, the land of the agora and what is often referred to as democracy, fear for the failure of their projects, with the bosses across the globe, at a time when popular faith in market fundamentalism has been weakened. Let resistance follow the example set by comrades in Greece, the birthplace of the alleged western civilization and the example of comrades in Chicago. Self-managed revolt and re-appropriation are more likely to be the path to freedom, and not messianic politicans or recuperated institutions. We can’t afford to buy back our lives, so start stealing.

Paredolia? I Hardly Know Ya

I was getting pretty burnt out on the nominally monotheistic superimposition of humanity’s longtime practice of observing the winter solstice. Wow, that looks so liberal.  The music is horrible, and there are really only a few songs. The marketing alchemists have done such an amazing  job of transmuting human decency into gold and they seem to start mining our hearts earlier and earlier every year. Expending a ridiculous amount of resources in the winter seems pretty counter-intuitive, but most cultures have done it or do it, except Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Love can make one generally less bitter, and age can sometimes impart wisdom, especially in the choosing of battles. Christmas is invulnerable under current US realities, so I meekly go with the flow, the tide being inescapable. Being no fan of winter, I’ll celebrate anything that means the days are getting longer. My new favorite seasonal mainstay though, is the “War On Christmas“.

Right-wing culture warriors and pundits can be hilarious, since their whole shtick is based on removing as much context as they can, from the subject. The refusal to acknowledge the role of the US in fattening Saddam Hussein and what would be come al Qaeda, is a good example. Like all alleged attacks on Christianity in the US, the removal of the reality that the dominant culture in the US is both Christian and Consumer leads me to wonder if their “War on Christmas” is the classical right-wing anti-Semitism bubbling to the surface.  Some of them want the world to end and need the IDF’s help to do a little urban renewal on the Temple Mount among other things and the antagonism between state of Israel and its Arab neighbors appeals to the 21st century Crusader mentality. Another removal of context takes place, when criticism of Israeli policy is labeled as anti-Semitism.

Bill O'Reilly-Going French On Us?

Bill O'Reilly-Going French On Us?

With the economy in a downturn, the “War on Christmas” rhetoric has been sadly but not mysteriously turned down. We even witnessed a good old timey human scarifice to Mammon. There’s still tons of crap you can buy, to make people squirm, and O’Reilly is generously donating a strange bumper sticker with the purchase of his latest book. The ire is pretty much squarely focused on one toy, a talking baby doll that allegedly exhorts toddlers to convert to Islam with it’s baby babble.

A few years ago, there was a movie released with electronic voice phenomena (EVP) at the center of the plot. EVP refers to people who think that dead people are communicating with them though radio and TV static and the like. I’ve also seen a talk show with some of these cases on it, and the sounds were definitely creepy, but much like the backwards masking conspiracies of my childhood, I just couldn’t hear the words they alleged that the static was “using”. It’s the same with the doll, which allegedly says “Islam is the light”.I couldn’t hear it and neither could some audio expert.

I’m not sure when it was released, but an  review of the toy from earlier this year makes no reference to the conspiracy, but as soon as the tinfoil hat types decided the jihadis at Mattel were converting their children, the comments section began to fill up with this sectarian hysteria. Like many conspiracies popular amongst the right-wing, it doesn’t stand if you return it to the big picture. Why would a big US toy company try to convert its customers (and future customers) to religion that has proven to be hostile to US style consumer capitalism? Why would Mattel possibly think no one would notice and make a fuss? How could such a secret be kept with the kinds of communication technology most in the US have access to?

Were I a sociology grad student, I’d be all over this one. It could be neat to track the epidemiology of a pareidolia, a big, new word I learned today. This century has been quite a disappointment.

An Open Letter to the “Anarchists” Who Voted for Obama

In a future revolutionary period, the most subtle and most dangerous defenders of capitalism will not be the people shouting pro-capitalist and pro-statist slogans, but those who have understood the possible point of a total rupture. Far from eulogizing TV commercials and social submission, they will propose to change life… but, to that end, call for building a true democratic power first. If they succeed in dominating the situation, the creation of this new political form will use up people’s energy, fritter away radical aspirations and, with the means becoming the end, will once again turn revolution into an ideology. Against them, and of course against overtly capitalist reaction, the proletarians’ only path to success will be the multiplication of concrete communist initiatives, which will naturally often be denounced as anti-democratic or even as.. “fascist”. The struggle to establish places and moments for deliberation and decision, making possible the autonomy of the movement, will prove inseparable from practical measures aimed at changing life.
-Gilles Dauvé: When Insurrections Die (Part 2)

Beloved and respected friends and comrades,

I’ve been putting this off for a little while, because it pertains to those who I “know” only digitally, and those of you whom I know and care for, which is little different than my normal motives for procrastinating. I’m also having difficulty coming to any kind of conclusive conclusion. Sometimes I feel like that straight-edge teen I used to be. The one who had to ignore my friend’s personal habits, if I wanted the friends I had. I’ve since exchanged abstinence for abstention, but the moral highlands get lonely. We all have moments, every day, when our words and actions are not explicitly anarchist ones. That’s no real contradiction. Theory’s theory,  and reality is reality. I lack the formal education to decide at what point (or which actions) we rack up enough ‘un-anarchist’ points to get the discount on gas or free coffee or purged from the Movement.

The recent US national election saw many of you anarchists (outside of the title, I’ll refrain from using quotation marks or “self-described” out of respect) publicly endorse and proudly vote for Barack Obama. I was unaware of the existence of modern anarchists in the US in August of 1999, but when I look back, I can find no evidence of any radical fanfare when Franklin Raines became CEO of Fannie Mae.

Looking back, It seems that anarchist involvement in US political conventions seems to be a baby-boomer contribution. I’m unaware of any anarchist actions at the political party conventions before 1968. Other than the tactical lack of Republican mobs in the street, we seem to harbor a soft spot for the Democrats. Maybe later we can figure that one out and we can also discuss why we even protest the political conventions?

This election, many people who identify as anarchists, saw no contradiction in voting. Some of you weren’t even the “hold your nose and vote” types. Some anarchists seem  proud of themselves, their country, and their candidate, for the moment, but that’s a moment too long. The reasons you gave us were pretty much the same reasons that people who vote democratic tend to give, plus some debatable notions that democratic administrations allow room for social movements to flourish (like they’re mountain lions) and murky stuff about solidarity. Which you may remember is the flipside of my past endorsements of “the worse of two evils”, because “an increase in open repression, privation, and alienation would push our beloved homogeneous masses to open mutiny” and that “republican policies can hasten the end of US empire quicker than the democrats can”. But I was less than half-serious and never actually went through with it. I didn’t have much internet access before the election, so I was unaware of this backslide into electoral superstition.

The  memory escapes me, but I am unaware of democrats nurturing radical social movements, I remember many armed right wing, “partiot”  groups, who are in favor of Jesus, if they don’t consider themselves Jesus. This time around, they can protect us from the UN and the Federal Reserve and al Qaeda in Idaho.  Dubya just didn’t deploy the black helicopters like Clinton did. Conspiracy kingpin, Alex Jones, should be able to afford an island soon. This is good news for the State security apparatus, because the similarities in views, structure, goals, and appearance between the FBI and the theocratic militias is much easier than these years of tormenting Muslims.

Anarchist voters also had to be pretty certain that Obama would govern from the center-right, in the manner expected of a modern US president, because if he was the “marxist” that right-wing radio still maintain he his, the repression against anarchists would likely be swift and brutal, if the 20th century is any indicator. The 21st century hasn’t proven to be much better.

Some of us knew that the campus radicals were easy prey for the democrats. The rise in anarchist votes in the last two elections seems to be reflective of the recent increase in youth turnout, overall, but many comrades who should have known better, “signed their social contract” last week. It’s not hard to see where material conditions become more of a concern as the acceptable age for youthful rebellion in the US is left behind. Add a few kids to that mix, and anything that has an outside chance to make material conditions even slightly less miserable must seem like a real good idea. Besides, who doesn’t crave some legitimacy every now and again and the pressure exerted by the people around you can be great? I also have the luxury of not being canvassed all day by co-workers.

I think that many of the anarchists who are concerned with building a mass movement of some sort, may have been more susceptible to voting. It’s likely some anti-authoritarians wanted to be on the winning team for a change, because there was that kind of group energy and momentum swirling around the Obama campaign, if you were willing to ignore the structure and aims. The business unions may have made voters out of some the anarchists who are there to radicalize the union. Which is telling, as far as the notion of changing the system from within is concerned, as if that one needed another debunking.

We tend to run with a pretty iconoclastic bunch, so it’s easy to forget, but hard to discount the effect that endorsements by some of the leading lights of mainstream anti-authoritarian academia must had. Bill Ayers probably gave Obama some radical credibility. Or was it radical chic? The republicans simply couldn’t grasp the political reality that people like Ayers are big-money liberal fund-raising props, like their wounded troops and police widows. Liberals love proxy violence and armed-struggle; so long as it is from another time or place, as sure as conservatives love US military and police violence. Zapatistas and Sandinistas and aging bombers are venerated money magnets, but break a window at a present day demo or hit a nazi with a stick and their American Exceptionalism is triggered. They’re incensed.

Like christmas, it’s not easy to avoid being sucked into the campaign reality grid, considering the resources expended on sucking us in. Avoiding Obama’s gravitational pull wasn’t easy, either. I guess even I’d seem pretty attractive if I spent $650 million of someone elses money to do so. I love politics as a spectator sport, though and this cycle was particularly entertaining, but I still don’t have a favorite team. Having lived through seven presidents, it wasn’t hard to figure out that the pendulum would favor a democrat this time around. McCain’s dementia-influenced health care plan which I sill can’t comprehend, was a far cry from the Wall Street sanctioned Obama proposal. When the reality that capitalism is just a game we all agree to play wounded the markets, there was no way Obama could lose. It was almost shocking to be reminded that the democrats were ever skilled at the game of elections.

US elections have also proven to be of extra dubious legitimacy lately, and electronic touchscreens have done little to make the results seem more valid. The participation of people I care about does nothing validate that process for me either. The fraud, intimidation, disenfranchisement, and other irregularities make the powerball seem like a better idea.

Does anyone really believe that the aircraft carrier of State can make a quick 180 degree turn, no matter how cool the captain seems? That’s why there are so many bizarre laws still left on the books, it’s not easy to put these things back into the box, Pandora. The State ensures its existence by passing laws, not repealing them. The issues that separate the US parties are meant to stay unresolved, or all they have to differ on is semantics and the parties would go out of business. Abortion & firearms seem to be the defining ones, and both are here to stay. The need to be armed and voluntary eugenics will never go out of style, as long as this system exists. The firearms manufacturers love democratic presidents, who become amazing gun salesmen through hysteria generated by lobbyists and pundits. Dubya was quite the Planned Parenthood fundraiser. Issues that unite the parties include; staying in Iraq, also known as supporting the troops, and as much surveillance as is technologically and near-economically feasible, which is pretty much just not mentioned by politicians or the media, at all. Obama, as you may recall is a-ok with domestic suveillance, and the “War on Terror®” is the replacement for the cold war. I don’t know which of the “changes” you “believed in” but they apparently weren’t in white house staffers, since 37 of the 41 appointed so far were ex-Clinton lackies. Can we look forward to more “workfare”, humanitarian airstrikes, and extra cops, fresh back from Iraq? Elected democrats are often called upon to prove how ‘tough’ they are on certain issues, typically these are mostly things like “Crime”, “Communism/Terrorism,most-isms”, “Drugs” and ocassionally “Poverty” or “Illiteracy”. The last two aren’t as much a priority, because they seldom involve explosions.

I can’t pretend to begin to have anything even resembling a clue, as far as how many of us the US consider themselves to be anarchists. I’d prefer to be wrong, but it can’t be too many. There’s probably a bigger Fiero owners club. In fact, I doubt that if every anti-authoritarian moved to a sparsely populated US state; all of us put together would not be enough to change the outcome of a US election. The math is what makes any argument for voting moot. I thought we knew our votes didn’t count? Had former 1960’s bomber John McCain won the election would that have jogged your collective memories? Would so many have admitted to voting? The folks who took a sabbatical from practicing anarchist theory and voted were not even a factor. Had you all remained proper abstentionists, like a big chunk of the population who don’t consider themselves anarchists, I wouldn’t be wasting a week on this one post.

Once again, it made little difference to the election whether anarchists participated or not, so I guess it shouldn’t matter to me?  I don’t know why I feel a little betrayed, though. Maybe it’s just knowledge of the loss of a shared affinity? After the passage of a little time, I have to question the election as a great historical event. Whites in the US have accepted Tiger Woods as the greatest at an activity that brown-skinned people have traditionally had sense enough to avoid, like skydiving. For 35 years I’ve listened to the blue-collar bigots in my family and neighborhood profess their admiration for Muhammad Ali, a physically dangerous black man with legitimately radical views, who practiced Islam.  As long as our celebreties are attractive enough, race can be easily overlooked.

I guess I didn’t campaign too vigorously against this election, out of guilt, which I imagine is what led you to endorse, campaign, and vote for Obama, and why you are still proud of your vote.

Parts of this will be addressed later, but something had to be said.

Love,

yinsurgent

“Joe the Plumber” & The American (Pipe) Dream

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
-Jay Gould, Robber Baron

The 15 minutes of fame awarded to republican mascot, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber”, confirms what I have long considered to be the single greatest psychological problem afflicting working people in the US. Not the taste for mass-produced,  country “music” that is pumped from Nashville into large motor vehicles and  suburban and rural homes like sewage, but that steady journey to a mirage of an oasis, in this social desert. Mr. Wurzelbacher embodies the economic Stockholm syndrome of working people confusing their desires with those of the elites.

A lesser evil was the form that some of the corporate media/liberal blogger attacks against Mr. Wurzelbacher took. Not having internet access, at the time, I missed out on some of the more entertaining, but sadly untrue rumors such as the ones where his dad was Charles Keating’s (of McCain’s “pre-maverick” days) son-in-law. There’s no way I wouldn’t have bitten on that one. I fully comprehend that he volunteered to be a partisan combatant and should not have been surprised when bureaucrats in Ohio and elsewhere ran his numbers. The media focus on his back taxes and inability to complete a specialized training program and obtain professional licensing, portrayed being working poor as a moral failing, since millions of us have been in those kinds of situations. The liberal strategy of combating phony populism with genuine elitism seems somewhat misguided.

Why such a “great american”  who is connected to an astrofturf pseudo-union would choose to lie and associate himself with something as “marxist” as trade union (on myspace and facebook) is beyond me, especially when said trade union had given the member dues to the opposition candidate. Personally,  I’d no sooner pretend to be a member of plumbers union than a motorcycle “club”.

Like many people in the US, Wurzelbacher suffers from the delusion of cross-class mobility. Some people are willing to suffer any indignity, not just higher taxes in the here-and-now and allow the wealthy to get away with anything, in anticipation of a massive rise in personal income, like lottery winners and Bill Gates and Michael Jordan and Metallica and they can’t bear the thought of their dream wedding, hypothetical fortune being overtaxed. It’s Stockholm syndrome. How many people toil their lives away under the mistaken impression that they will one day buy the business they work for? I have about the same chance of buying that plumbing company as he does. Is it just another version of “being rewarded in heaven” or an economic Rapture? If a corporate entity is large enough, even the working poor who toil for it can buy stock in the company they work for. It is regarded as great privilege to possess a speck of a symbolic representation of the means of production. You become a gambler, although a less than insignificant one, and your low wages and paltry benefits and even your layoff, should it be deemed necessary, are all fixes implemented to benefit and improve the odds, for you, the shareholder. Your 401(k) depends on large groups of other workers and the planet itself being done even worse than you are.

Even in the US, these market fundamentalist, folk traditions often exact an even higher toll than mere degradation and wholesale boredom and they are not without their martyrs. Some people work themselves to death much faster than others in pursuit of the “American (sic) Dream”.