Anarchists Subvert Corporate Media on Day after Election

A decentralized effort by anarchists across the United States resulted in false covers getting placed on tens of thousands of newspapers, replacing the typical election coverage with a scathing critique of capitalism.

On a day when many were celebrating–or at the very least focused on–the election, a decentralized effort by anarchists around the country sent a different message:

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The effort–coordinated through Unconventional Action–resulted in some 30,000 newspapers having false covers placed over them that offered a scathing critique of capitalism. A statement from the group said that:

“Early this morning, many thousands of corporate newspapers in over 20 cities across the United States, including Chapel Hill and Carrboro, were given more accurate front pages. That one wealthy politician will replace another is not news worthy. Capitalism has always won at the polls, and it always will. McCain and Obama’s support for the financial bailout proved this, and ensured that any vote would be a vote for Wall St. The real stories worth telling are those of resistance and struggle, any instance where oppressed people attempt to realize dignity, autonomy, and equality in their daily lives.”

In many of the cities where newspapers were altered, the corporate media covered the action, resulting in a further magnification of the message. It’s a simple action that can be easily reproduced–like reclaiming newspaper boxes–for getting the word out about all sorts of different issues.

Bakunin, An Invention

“Bakunin, An Intervention” is an “interesting” fictional book about the famous anarchist Bakunin.

A while back, I was surfing the net, and following random impulses (as you do). I was looking for interesting reading material when the question popped into my mind: Hey, I wonder if there’s any sort of historical fiction about the life of Bakunin. That would make for some interesting reading.

I did a couple of searches on Amazon, and this is the only thing I came up with. So I decided to give it a try and ordered it.

It is….an interesting book, if nothing else. It’s so full of randomness, it’s a bit difficult to describe succinctly. The cover jacket contains a quotation reading, “This is not just a documentary, not research, nor is it a novel. The quotation which Bienek uses to open the book probably sums the whole book up as well as anything. “The story of this book amounts to this: that the story it was to tell doesn’t get told.”

2008 Jesus Radicals Conference Report Back

Over the past weekend, Christian Anarchists from across the country attended the 2008 Jesus Radicals conference. Among those attending was a local anarchist who wrote this report back.

Mediamouse.org was sent the following report back from a local individual who attended the 2008 Jesus Radicals Conference:

This past weekend, over 90 people met at the St. John Episcopal Church in Columbus, Ohio for the 2008 Jesus Radicals Conference. Jesus Radicals is a Christian anarchist website and organization founded about eight years ago. The conference started Friday afternoon after registration and housing arrangements had been made.

The first event was a Service of Prayer and Protest. The conference participants piled on to the Psalter’s band vegetable oil tour bus and drove to a local defense supply company on the east side of Columbus. Across the street from the entrance of the plant, we held a short liturgy and communion service.

After returning to the church, people could choose between two concurrent sessions: Anarchism and Christianity Primer or Christianity and the Nation-State. I attended the primer that was facilitated by one of the founding members of the Jesus Radicals website. The session included an overview of the Judeo-Christian scriptures focusing on anti-state passages, a brief description of the basic tenants of anarchism, a Christian anarchist response to Romans 13 and on open discussion.

Following a vegan dinner, the opening plenary session was Dorothy Day’s granddaughter describing the life of her grandmother. Dorothy Day was a Catholic convert, radical journalist and dedicated pacifist who established the Catholic Worker newspaper. Dorothy Day lived a life of voluntary poverty and provided housing to the poor through “houses of hospitality,” a movement that continues to this day. The session included an in-depth biography of Dorothy Day and readings of her passages regarding issues of Christianity, social justice and anarchism.

Friday ended with the screening of the movie, A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash. This documentary film interviewed a variety of people connected to the oil industry and Washington D.C. who are fully aware that oil production will peak and the American age of cheap gas will come to an end.

Saturday started with breakfast and two more concurrent sessions: Jesus’ Beatitudes: A Blueprint for Anarchists and Opting Out: Refusing to Vote as Political Resistance. Since I had already decided not to vote in this year’s presidential election, I attended the session on the Beatitudes. The presenter offered an interpretation of the “blessed” statements that describes a process of both individual and social transformation that continually confronts our personal and shared idols.

Immediately following were another two concurrent sessions: Remedying an Unhealthy System of Care and Imagining a Stateless World. I attended the latter. The presenter connected faith, politics, privilege and praxis. He described how privileged radicals could best foster an alternative society through listening to the materially poor in the world and following their directions.

After lunch, two options were again offered: a radical bike tour or an open forum. I had access to a bike and went on the tour of Columbus. Stops included a Sudanese refugee housing and an adjacent abandoned parking lot that is being eyed by developers. We prayed that this land would remain green space and be offered to the Sudanese community for agriculture and recreation. We also biked to one of the Mount Caramel Medical Centers and the Ohio Rehabilitation and Corrections Facility. Spoken words calling for reform along with prayer were offered at each location.

The final plenary session of the conference was a panel of three speakers addressing Christianity, Anarchism and Black Liberation. The first presenter discussed the connection between the Christian abolition movement and its shift towards anarchist thought. The next presenter gave a Black anarchist critique of white privilege, racism and class conflict. They described four tenants that a Christian anarchist movement should include: 1) the movement must be anti-racist, 2) white privilege must be confronted, 3) the movement must be in solidarity with other oppressed peoples, and 4) the Black critique of society must be acknowledged. The final presenter concluded the session by stressing that Christianity, anarchism and Black liberation are not opposed but quite compatible.

This was the first time I had attended a Jesus Radicals conference. I was encouraged to find a wide variety of people subscribing to both Christian and Anarchist beliefs. The conference participants were primarily from the Midwest, but there were people from as far away as Texas, California, Florida and New Mexico. The interaction I had with other people in the conference was challenging, yet inspiring. I had a great time and was reluctant to leave.

For more information and copies of this year and past year sessions, go to: Jesusradicals.com

– A Grand Rapids Christian Anarchist

Crimethinc Convergence Report Back

A few weeks ago, the annual Crimethinc Convergence was held in Waldo, Wisconsin. Some anarchists from Grand Rapids attended and share the following thoughts on it.

This report comes from some Grand Rapids area anarchists that attended the annual Crimethinc convergence:

Several weeks ago, over 150 anarchists gathered in Waldo, Wisconsin for the 2008 Crimethinc Convergence. The Convergence took place on the edge of town, in a privately owned field bordered on three sides by woods and just off of a rarely trafficked road. Some came from as far away as South Africa and Germany, while others came from the United States and Canada to attend the sixth annual gathering of the Ex-Workers Collective. After carpooling from the meet-up point in Milwaukee, most folks set up their tents and began introducing themselves to new arrivals. By late afternoon, a storm had descended upon the campers, complete with sheets of heavy rain and tumultuous wind at 70 mph.

Day two began with an opening circle in which everyone met around the fire pit to lay down the ground rules for respect of the site and respect for each other, as well as a run-through of the workshops scheduled for the day. Once discussion broke, many campers hurried back to their tents to build make-shift clotheslines to dry everything that had gotten wet the night before. By the time the sun came out, folks had eaten breakfast served by the volunteer crew at the designated kitchen tent and were on their way to the workshops.

Workshops were held every day and ranged from a variety of issues and topics, including participatory workshops on spokescouncils, police tactics and blockades; resource sharing workshops such as small town organizing, creating your own media, shoplifting techniques, and DIY sexual health; report-back style workshops that served to inform folks about the organizing around the most recent G8 summit, South African anarchist resistance to racism, and workshops concerning plugging into actions and updates on organizing against the construction of the NAFTA superhighway I-69 in Indiana, the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Denver and the Twin Cities respectively, the 2010 Olympics that are scheduled to be held on stolen native land in Vancouver, and the 2010 G8 summit north of Toronto.

Throughout the Convergence, tents were set up for specific things like arts and crafts, a zine library, childcare, medical needs, and a prisoner writing station. These tents were operated by volunteers and allowed for individuals with specific needs and interests to take part in the week’s events.

Every evening there were events and games near the campfire. One night there was a Cabaret in which everyone was encouraged to participate. Some played instruments and sang, some formed dance troupes, a couple performed poetry and a few told jokes. There were puppet shows, burlesque acts, and juggling. The only glitch to the Cabaret was a poorly thought-out dance that was culturally insensitive–but the issue was quickly and appropriately addressed and brought about healthy discussion on white privilege and cultural appropriation. Following the Cabaret there was a performance by a hip-hop artist that spun poetic lyrics condemning sexism, racism, police brutality and capitalism. After the scheduled events of the evening came to a close, about 30 or so people participated in an interactive lesson on consent–they played consensual spin-the-bottle.

The last full day of the Convergence was intended primarily for caucuses. The white privilege caucus and the anarchist people of color (APOC) caucus met as planned through most of the afternoon. The APOC caucus discussed the problem of radical spaces- including the Convergence–of being predominantly white-dominated spaces, while the white privilege caucus talked about what white radicals could do to be more inclusive and conscious of race dynamics. There were also a significant number of folks who chose not to attend either caucus–many citing that while they felt that they often benefited from white privilege, they did not identify as white and their cultural experiences were such that they felt that they could not contribute to the white privilege caucus. Several of these people also stated that they would feel uncomfortable attending the APOC caucus.

There were other caucuses that were suggested, but unfortunately never took place. Such caucuses included the women’s caucus, queer caucus, and working class caucus, and respectively, the auxiliaries for male privilege, hetero privilege, and class privilege. The fact that such discussions failed to take place reflects the constant struggle for space that continues to be an issue even amongst the radical community.

The final night in Waldo, more than 60 people left the site to take part in a home demonstration some 20 miles out, at the residence of an engineer working for the company Earth Tech. Earth Tech is a company that has been involved in developing and financing transportation projects such as I-69, and because of the engineer’s role in the company, as well as his proximity to the Convergence space, the action was carried out at his home in Grafton, Wisconsin. Protesters held banners and chanted things like “Stop I-69,” and “You can put our friends in Jail, but we will drive the final nail!” Flyers were handed out to his neighbors and other passer-bys and were generally well perceived. After the action, folks returned to the camp site where there was a brief re-cap followed by a midnight naked swim in the nearby lake.

The next couple of hours consisted of cleaning the campsite, goodbyes, and the last minute rush to find a ride home. Unfortunately, there was not adequate time or space to discuss in a large group or breakout small groups what worked, what didn’t work, and how the next convergence can be bigger and better (or at least better).

One of the questions organizers should ask themselves is how can to open these convergences to become more empowering to marginalized groups of people, and raise the consciousness of those in positions of privilege. One way to do this is create the space and time for these caucuses, but also encourage and emphasize that it’s important as radicals to understand and discuss the internalized racism, sexism, homophobia, class struggle, and other forms of systematic oppression so it doesn’t continue to manifest itself in our communities.

These convergences serve as a living model of how people can work collectively to create the kind of world they want on a smaller scale. They show us how we can come together as a community, share with each other, care for each other and bring new ideas to our communities. Some ideas for the next convergence is more interaction with the community in which the convergence takes place in. Whether it be a parade, gardening, music, free childcare, sharing food, etc it seems that as a group of anarchists in one area we could create something WITH the community at large.

Folks from Grand Rapids have high hopes for the convergence next year and hope to see more people from the area ready and motivated to create radical social change in West Michigan.

In Solidarity,

– Some Grand Rapids Anarchists

New Paper on the RNC and DNC Protests Released

A new newspaper outlining plans and strategies for this summer’s protests against the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC) has been released. It’s a follow-up to an earlier newspapers that contained a draft of the plans and a comprehensive critique of representative democracy.

Unconventional Action, a network of anarchists and anti-authoritarians organizing to crash this summer’s Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC), has released a new publication outlining the strategies and plans for the upcoming protests. The paper is a follow-up to two earlier newspapers–Unconventional Strategies that outlined early plans for the conventions and False Hope Vs. Real Change that presented a radical critique of the electoral process. Thousands of copies of those two newspapers have been distributed across the United States.

For information on organizing against the conventions in Michigan, visit the websites of Unconventional Michigan or ACTIVATE.

In the Middle of a Whirlwind: 2008 Convention Protests, Movement and Movements

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A new one-off online publication called “In the Middle of a Whirlwind: 2008 Convention Protests, Movement and Movements” has been released. The publication explores radical anti-authoritarian organizing in the United States across a variety of issues with the immediate focus being the upcoming mobilizations against the Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC). Through a series of interviews with groups organizing against the conventions and articles by people involved in radical movements across the United States, “In the Middle of a Whirlwind” provides an inspiring look at where we are at, where we have been, and where we need to go.

Here are links to interviews with groups organizing against the conventions:

* RNC Welcoming Committee

* Recreate 68

* Unconventional Action

There are also a number of articles offering examples of solid radical organizing. Some of the ones we particularly really liked were:

* The Precarious Economy and Its Discontents: Struggling Against the Corporate Chains Through Workplace Organizing

* Liberal Mayors & Liberal Funders: A Case of Racism, Classism, and Ideological Warfare

* A Look at Resistance to Interstate 69 (I-69): Past, Present, and Future

* Media and Activism: Creating and Maintaining Effective Movement Media

* Getting to know your city and the social movements that call it home

* Anti-Authoritarian Organizing in Practice

* Philly’s Pissed & Philly Stands Up: Collected Materials

Moreover, the publication encourages people to become involved beyond simply reading the interviews and articles asking “will you join us in the middle of a whirlwind?” To that end, they encourage readers to:

* Communicate with the coordinators and contributors.

* Utilize materials contained within Whirlwinds in your own organizing.

* Participate in our discussion forums to critique or dialog around Whirlwinds contributions (forthcoming).

* Host or attend one of the many “Of Friends and Whirlwinds” events.

* Make a contribution toward the effort and sign up on the email list.

* Distribute this announcement and “Will you join us in the middle of a whirlwind?” posters and postcards; available at your local radical infoshop and from Team Colors.

* Create an affinity group to prepare for the upcoming convention protests this summer.

* Inquire into, research, investigate, document, organize around and amplify the winds – refusals, struggles, activities – circulating through your everyday lives and communities.

A Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman

Click on the image to purchase this book through Amazon.com. Purchases help support MediaMouse.org.

Outside the United States, social movements of the left have used a variety of creative techniques–posters, puppet shows, songs, and art–as popular education tools to convey their collective goals and aspirations. Unfortunately, for much of the left in the United States, we have tended to focus our efforts on producing lengthy books and dense articles that are read by only a small number of people already sympathetic, thereby limiting the left’s outreach. Sharon Rudahl’s Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman is an important piece of popular education–taking Goldman’s autobiography, reducing it from its 1,000 pages and illustrating it. Rudahl’s work, by virtue of its accessibility, should help people learn more about Goldman–one of the more inspirational figures from anarchist and left history.

Emma Goldman’s story should be common knowledge, but unfortunately, she is rarely mentioned in mainstream history books used in high school and college classes. While those books might mention her in relation to anarchists–usually involving bomb throwing–they often fail to convey her dedication to her ideals. Turning to anarchism after the Haymarket incident in the 1880s, Goldman spent years advocating anarchism, organizing, publishing, writing, and agitating for a better world. She toured the country numerous times lecturing on topics ranging from anarchism to theatre and gained a reputation as the United States’ “most dangerous woman.” She served time in prison for her beliefs and actions and was ultimately deported from the United States for organizing against World War I. Once deported, she went to her native Russia and was an early critic of the Bolshevik revolution. She continued to write and be active on the left until her death in 1940.

Emma Goldman’s story is one that should be inspirational to us all. She dedicated her life to the struggle for a more justice world and linked a variety of issues–women’s liberation, free speech, antiwar organizing, and access to birth control–under the common banner of anarchism. While the climate in which Emma Goldman organized is considerably different than the present, we continue to see the harsh effects of capitalism. There have been some improvements in the past 100 or so years that have moderated or hidden capitalism’s harshest aspects, but in many ways Emma Goldman’s critique remains vivid today. A Dangerous Woman presents Emma Goldman’s life and work in a new and exciting way and hopefully it will inspire more people to take action in their own lives.

Sharon Rudahl, Dangerous Woman: The Graphic Biography of Emma Goldman, (The New Press, 2007).

Several Midwest Radical Events Planned for this Spring and Summer

Over the next several months, an unprecedented number of events are happening in the Midwest region designed to facilitate stronger radical organizing. Here’s an early list of what is planned…

Over the next several months, there are an unprecedented number of gatherings, protests, and other radical events planned for the Midwest. Along with the Republican National Convention (RNC) protests scheduled for the Twin Cities, it will be a very busy spring and summer for radicals. Moreover, many of the events offer us an opportunity to network and build relationships that can exist far beyond the events of this summer. Since the details of these events are still being formalized, we encourage people to check the websites linked for more information on each event:

Radical Trans and Queer Anti-RNC Convergence: April 5-6, Chicago – According to Bash Back!, the group facilitating the convergence there will be workshops and strategizing for the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC) and Democratic National Convention (DNC) protests this summer. The group writes “we are anticipating that the Convergence will play an essential role in action planning and give us a solid grip on the presence Radical Queers and TransFolk will have at the Conventions this summer. By organizing against the conventions we hope to pave the way for a long lasting network of radical Transfolk, Queers and Anarcha-Feminists.”

Finding Our Roots Anarchist Conference: April 18-20, Chicago, Illinois – The second “Finding Our Roots” conference will focus on “Anarchist Organizing in the Midwest” as a follow-up to last year’s focus on theory.

I-69 Resistance: Ongoing, Indiana – With construction started on I-69, a controversial highway project in Indiana, there will be a series of ongoing actions aimed at impeding the construction of I-69.

pReNC 5.3: May 3, Twin Cities, Minnesota – The RNC Welcoming Committee is hosting a follow-up meeting to the “pReNC” held last August to continue planning for the RNC protests. “Organized groups that have established plans, affinity groups, and concrete ideas are particularly encouraged to send representatives.”

2008 Great Lakes Anarchist Gathering: June 6-8, Toledo, Ohio – “We’ll be building on the progress made over the last year and a half in bringing the Midwest/Great Lakes region anarchist communities together and strengthening the Midwest Action Network. It will also be a good chance to make solidify MAN’s plans for the upcoming RNC.” Details are being planned, visit the linked website for more information.

CrimethInc Convergence: July 16-20, Milwaukee, Wisconsin – The annual CrimethInc gathering will take place in Milwaukee and will offer anarchists and radicals a variety of opportunities for networking and skill-sharing. Reports from the 2006 and 2007 convergences offer more information on what to expect at the convergence.

People’s Networking Convention: August 15-17, Madison, Wisconsin – The People’s Networking Convention, or the PNC, will provide a space for discussion and debate of non-elections based organizing. The event aims to create an atmosphere of support and collaboration in our efforts against the government’s domination and the injustices that come with an exploitative economy. It will be an opportunity for face-to-face dialogue and discussion related to grassroots democracy in our communities. Speakers invited include Howard Zinn, Derrick Jensen, bell hooks, Starhawk, and Ward Churchill.

RNC Protests: September 1-4, Twin Cities: Massive protests are planned for the RNC, including an effort to shutdown the Convention on its opening day.

Report-Back from NCOR

Over the weekend, folks involved with Media Mouse attended the 2008 National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) in Washington DC. The conference–which was the 11th annual–brings together individuals and groups to learn from each other and to build stronger movements for left/radical social change.

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Over the weekend, folks involved with Media Mouse attended the 2008 National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR) in Washington DC. The conference–which was the 11th annual–brings together individuals and groups to learn from each other and to build stronger movements for left/radical social change:

“NCOR is an annual event that brings together activists from a variety of issues, struggles, ideologies and backgrounds for a weekend of learning and reflecting on the state of progressive movements occurring locally, nationally and worldwide. Through diverse workshops, panel discussions, skillshares, tabling, and the creation of an open and safe space, NCOR seeks to promote organized action amongst participants against the injustices and inequalities that we confront in our daily lives and in the world.”

Further, in summarizing the activities of the left over the past year the NCOR collective stated:

“Throughout the past year, resistance has thrived in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in our relationships. Oppressed communities organized cooperatively to subvert the systems that only serve the needs of a privileged few.

In both South Central LA and Washington DC, community resistance movements stood between developers’ bulldozers and our public lands. Students organized for youth liberation, community power, and their own education. The struggle for dignity in the workplace took many forms, with organized resistance spreading in New York warehouses and Florida fields. Miners on both sides of the border suffered the tragic consequences of an un- organized workplace. The racist legal system exposed itself this year: we couldn’t save Sean Bell, but we saved Kenneth Foster, and thousands marched through the streets of Jena, LA, to save six youths there. Homophobic courts punished queer self-defense against violent bigots in New Jersey, and transfolk in Philadelphia led marches against the brutal murder of Erika Keels. US resistance movements joined forces in Atlanta at the first ever US Social Forum, and a pro-democracy movement in Burma against the military junta caught the attention of the world.”

While there are always way more workshops and discussions than we can attend at NCOR, we found those that we attended to inspirational and offered a variety of ways in which we can make projects here in West Michigan more successful. In order to share some of what we learned, we decided to prepare brief summaries of the workshops that we attended and some of the key issues that were raised in them. The workshops we attended were:

Visions of Anarchism in the 21st Century – This workshop featured two panelists, Cindy Milstein who is involved with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference, and Black Sheep Books and Brian, who is involved in a variety of publishing projects, Really Really Free Markets, and a books to prisoners project. In the workshop, the two talked about where they thought the anarchist movement was at and where it is going.

Milstein said that while the anarchist movement has been quite visible in the past ten years, there are several things that the movement needs to improve on if it is going to maintain and expand its presence. She said that while existing infrastructure is connecting anarchists, it is starting to stagnate and needs to be expanded and improved. However, she cautioned against developing infrastructure for its own sake and said that projects need to be undertaken in response to community needs. She also spoke of a need to relay what has and has not worked in the past and suggested mentoring as a way to convey that knowledge. Finally, she said that there is a need to develop “substantive solidarity” where projects and collectives assist each other rather than simply “networking.”

Brian began his comments by telling the audience that anarchists are notoriously bad at predicting the future direction of the movement. That said, he offered up some ideas that would help anarchism move forward. He stressed the importance of working explicitly as “anarchists” and demonstrating the values and benefits of decentralized organizing. He further argued that it is critical to consider what is happening with those who just are exposed to anarchism, as that is where the excitement and energy is often located. He said that subcultures–such as punk rock–would continue to be fertile ground for recruiting but that anarchists must be aware of getting too caught up in subcultures and must also think of ways to connect subcultures. Echoing Cindy Milstein’s comments, he said that organizations and projects will need to serve needs in order to be worth pursuing. Finally, he said that anarchists should avoid organization and confrontation for their own sake as they can drain resources if not done effectively.

TAMPthatACTION! Alternative Womyn’s Health – Brooke Parker, one of the workshop’s presenters, exposed the realities of menstruation that are often portrayed as being dirty or unnatural in the media and tampon industry. She is also a Tampaction organizer. Tampaction is a national, youth led effort to replace unhealthy, unsustainable alternatives and positive attitudes towards menstruation, menstruators’ bodies, and the environment.

She and two other organizers discussed all of the myths associated with tampons and menstruation. While the workshop explored the dangers to women’s health of using tampons, it also revealed who owns the “feminine hygiene” industry. While non-menstruating men are profiting from women’s periods, they are also selling women harmful chemical-filled (dioxin and pesticide) products that are designed to unnaturally sanitize and portray menstruation as something to feel dirty and shameful about.

This workshop provided “do it yourself” alternatives to mainstream tampons and pads and gynecological health, as well as direction for all women and non-menstruating allies to demand a change in the patriarchal medical system, media, and industry on this issue. More info can be found at seac.org/tampons/environmentaljustice

Anarchist Revolutionary Strategy: Getting Free – In this workshop, James Herod–a veteran of the New Left and anarchist projects–attempted to outline an anarchist strategy that is relevant for the present. Herod said that with the failure of political ideologies such as Conservatism, Liberalism, Socialism, and Social Democracy there is an opportunity for anarchists to make significant gains. Unfortunately, much of his presentation was scattered and not particularly well argued. While he was quite willing to label a variety of strategies from demonstrations to single-issue campaigns as being unsuccessful, he failed to offer a clear alternative model for organizing. Moreover, his goal of a “stateless society” run by a combination of neighborhood assemblies, project (or workplace) assemblies, household assemblies (200 people) and an association of neighborhood assemblies was not clearly developed or explained.

Crashing the Conventions: An Interactive Presentation and Discussion about the Upcoming DNC and RNC Resistance – This session was convened by Unconventional Action, a group organizing protests and resistance against the upcoming Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC). The group has been organizing for about two years and is based on the DISSENT Network in Europe.

Organizers from Unconventional Denver spoke first about plans to protest the DNC when it is in Denver from August 24 to 28. The direct action plans are available elsewhere on Mediamouse.org, so it seems more appropriate to highlight why they are asking that people come to Denver to protest the DNC. The presenters said that the DNC is seen by many activists in Denver as a major part of the city’s gentrification and is being used to accelerate preexisting racist and classist development and displacement practices. As such, resisting the DNC is part of an overall strategy for resisting gentrification in Denver. The DNC is also being used to increase police repression with the installation of new surveillance cameras and acquisition of weaponry that will be used against the population in the years to come. The group also argued that disrupting the DNC will show the power of grassroots movement and send shockwaves throughout the country to those who have issues with the Democrats. Finally, in terms of anarchist strategy, they argued that the DNC is critical because anarchists need to show that the Democrats are still supportive of an unacceptable status quo.

The RNC Welcoming Committee, based in the Twin Cities where the RNC will be held from September 1 to 4, presented next. Mediamouse.org has reported extensively on local and national <a href="http://www.mediamouse.org/features/100307organ.php"organizing against the RNC and as such we will just highlight some items that we have not mentioned before. The Welcoming Committee argued that large-scale mobilizations like the RNC offer an opportunity to build capacity, recruit new members, offer inspiration, and renew our energy. With the flurry of activity around the RNC already, it seems that these goals are well on their way towards becoming reality. The group discussed some recent developments pertaining to the police, telling the audience that the police have promised that there will be no fenced in zones, that protestors will be allowed “within sight and sound” of the convention center, that they will not be deployed in riot gear, and that “non-violent” protestors will be cited and released within four hours. Of course, there is every reason to be skeptical of the police, but on the surface, they seem to be taking a significantly different approach than police at the RNC in 2004.

Lessons Learned from the New Left Era – Michael Albert, a longtime activist who helped found Z Net and South End Press, and who was active in SDS, spoke about what radicals can learn from the movements of the 1960s. He began by explaining that there are profound differences between now and then. In the early 1960s, problems were largely believed to be individual–nobody thought of poverty or racism as being institutional or systemic. Moreover, as the 1960s progressed, there were a series of revelations when people said, “they are lying to us” or “there is a crime against us” that motivated action. Albert argued that while these revelations were needed in the 1960s, many on the left are still acting as if that is needed. However, Albert said that everyone already knows how bad everything is and that simply stating this repeatedly will not get people involved. Instead, he argued that the left needs to articulate an alternative. He said that right now this is difficult because much of the left thinks–deep down–that they cannot win, and as such, make no effort to act strategically. Consequently, there is little talk about vision or how to win, a fact that essentially makes organizing seem like a hopeless endeavor to those outside the left.

Albert also argued that because the 1960s generation has failed to explain what was done, why it was done, and how it did and did not work, many of the same mistakes are being repeated. He said that the antiwar movement in the US can exemplify the failures of the left. That movement put millions on the street before the war but now can only turn out 100,000 people. Albert simply asked, “Who’s fucking up here?” He said that in the 1960s the left was able to organize in the counter-culture and as such did not have to organize in the larger society. While there is no counter-culture to organize within now, the left is still not organizing within society and is marginalizing itself by excluding large sectors of the population because they watch sports, go to movies, or watch television. In rejecting this behavior, Albert argues that many leftists lose their capacity to relate to the population and instead develop an elitist attitude that sees the majority of the population with contempt.

Between Now and Utopia: Understanding Capitalism – This workshop, conducted by Peter Staudenmaier of the Institute for Social Ecology, focused on helping radicals understand capitalism. He outlined “six major building blocks” of capitalism–commodity production, markets, private property, wage labor, accumulation, and alienated social relationships. While it is beyond the scope of this article to delve into each of those topics, Staudenmaier argued that it is essential for radicals to understand capitalism in order to be able to better argue against it and articulate an alternative. He reminded the audience that when it comes to private property, radicals reject the ownership of things such as food production, not personal property like socks and shoes. He also noted that as a system, capitalism conveys the idea that it is the only option which is an obstacle that critics on the left need to overcome.

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded: A Discussion on Money and the Movement – This panel featured Andrea Smith of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Rachel Herzing of Critical Resistance, and Max Uhlenbeck of Left Turn talking about nonprofits and their role in social change movements. While much of what they said was similar to material contained in The Revolution Will Not Be Fundedthat was reviewed recently by Mediamouse.org, there were several points that are of interest to progressives and radicals.

Andrea Smith talked about how many nonprofits and radicals see foundation grants as “gifts” when in reality the money already belongs to the people in that it was generated based on exploitation and is coming to nonprofits via grants because it was put in tax shelters. She said that receiving funding from foundations is problematic because it distances people from their base and causes nonprofits not to look to their base to raise money. As such, there is no reason to grow the base and consequently many in nonprofits focus on administrative rather than organizing skills. She also argued that because of required grant reports that often reward exaggeration, many nonprofits either repeat their own or others failed programs based on flawed assessments of grant projects. Rachel Herzing spoke about how her group is working to wean themselves off foundation money. She said that this is made easier by never being afraid to pass the hat or talk about money. Finally, Max Uhlenbeck talked briefly about Left Turn magazine and its decision not to take foundation grants. He said that they have come up with a number of creative ways to raise money after making the decision to fund themselves.

Decolonizing Your Mind: Indigenous Lessons on Freedom – Naomi Archer (Iladurarrak) – teacher of Indigenous European culture and founder of Four Directions Solidarity Network, adopted member of Cante Tenza, longtime human rights and global justice activist- opened the workshop with challenging questions to the primarily Caucasian audience. She asked if people still know how to speak with the Earth and the animals; if we still speak our indigenous language; and what has attributed to us losing these things. She went on to explain that people are hungry for the origins they have lost, so they take them from others. Archer asked the audience that if there are individuals who have taken the initiative to trace their roots and decolonize themselves, what good is it if you are not sharing this and informing others.

Canupa Gluba Mani or Duane Martin Sr. (Ogallala Lakota) – leader of Cante Tenza; the Strongheart Warrior Society and Civil Rights Movement of Pine Ridge Reservation; Wounded Knee 73′; Red Cloud Building Takeover (2000); leader of White Clay Blockade; Lakota Freedom Delegate (2007) – lead the majority of the workshop by intertwining stories from his childhood of the polarization he felt from constantly choosing between mainstream colonized culture and his traditional Indigenous upbringing, and ongoing devastation felt by Native American Indian reservations, particularly the Pine Ridge Reservation located in South Dakota.

In the later half of his talk, he discussed an array of questions regarding patriotism to colonized America. He asked why people were so proud of a colonial history filled with the genocide of Indigenous peoples when all they [Native Americans] did was offer everything to Europeans. Lastly, he encouraged us all to look deep down into our hearts and question why we would want to further this brutality through modern colonization and to let freedom be our drive.

NEAN-MAN Consulta Reportback

This is the most recent report-back on organizing against the Republican National Convention (RNC). Media Mouse continues to be impressed with the level of organization and discussion going into these protests and are optimistic about the prospects of shutting down the convention.

The following report back is being republished here because it in part involves planning here in the Midwest against the upcoming Republican National Convention (RNC) protests in Minneapolis/St. Paul. As we have said for months, we remain impressed with how plans are developing not only for large-scale protests against the RNC, but for the possibility of shutting it down. In a previous post, we reflected on how planning for the RNC could rekindle the energy of the anti-globalization movement that provided the initial inspiration for the formation of Media Mouse. Moreover, we covered the RNC protests in 2004 and believe that the current plans are significantly better than what was undertaken in 2004.

For folks in Michigan who are interested in organizing against the RNC, please contact ACTIVATE (Grand Rapids SDS). They have made organizing against the RNC-DNC one of their priorities for the year and can do presentations to interested organizations on the current state of organizing.

“Report Back from NEAN-MAN Consulta: Feb. 16-18 in Pittsburgh, PA:

From February 16-18, 50 anarchists representing 12 groups in the Northeast Anarchist Network (NEAN) and Midwest Action Network (MAN) met in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the weekend, we discussed and strategized how to aid our individual, group, and network-wide efforts to shut down the Republican National Convention (RNC) in September, as well as how to strengthen collaboration between the Northeast and Midwest. While not an official decision-making body for either network, or the attending groups, it was an important opportunity to further our planning and build the personal and organizational relationships necessary for the long fight ahead. The RNC Welcoming Committee was present to provide logistical information and present the strategic framework.

Note: Much of the report is based on incomplete notes. With no verbatim record we apologize for any errors, omissions, or oversights in how or what is reported. We tried our best! The planning for the RNC is still at an early stage, and thus it was difficult to get particularly in-depth on many issues. Our hope is that this report will help other groups organizing consultas and RNC-related gatherings, and assist groups in identifying and addressing tactical and strategic questions. Out of respect for the fact different people and groups may find different information useful we have erred on providing as exhaustive an account as is practical. To avoid complete duplication of already existing information we highly recommend people check out the RNC Welcoming Committee (RNC-WC) website at http://www.nornc.org as it includes most of the info they presented in Pittsburgh.

The Northeast Anarchist Network: www.neanarchist.net

A regional, horizontal organizing network in the Northeast, striving to link those committed to anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, and anti-oppressive struggles, NEAN recently celebrated its 1st birthday. Following general assemblies in Amherst, Syracuse, Boston, and New York City the network will next gather March 21-23 in Ithaca, NY. NEAN is also in the process of publishing a quarterly newspaper, the Nor’Easter. Articles, art and poetry can be submitted to noreaster-submissions@neanarchist.net. Calendar item can be sent there as well (subject line “Calendar”). NEAN groups are currently engaged in a number of projects including a traveling skill-share program, an anti-election offensive to discredit “representative” democracy, an international solidarity campaign, the Lakota struggle, and the possibility of putting together an action camp.

The Midwest Action Network: www.midwest.azone.org

Is a very loose network and resource sharing tool, 2-3 years in the making through an off and on process of Midwest groups trying to make and maintain contact. It originated first as an E-mail list, then added a website as a way for groups to cross promote and stay in touch. They held a Midwest anarchist gathering in 2006 and 2007 and will again this year June 6-8 in Toledo, Ohio. Right now there is a loose and open membership as they continue to work out how to structure the network, and it’s hoped the lead up to RNC organizing will help this process along.

Points of general agreement from the gathering

Through discussion, we found agreement on the following points:

-We are in complete support of the three-tier strategy as articulated by the RNC-WC:

1: Blockade the Xcel center, meeting site of the RNC, with a ring of blockades

2: Immobilize the delegates’ transport, like hotels and buses

3: Blockade the bridges between Minneapolis and St. Paul.

– We advocate to the movement, and the RNC-WC, a siege strategy for the protests in order to trap delegates inside, in case the blockades fail to stop the meetings from starting, or to surround and attempt to occupy the Xcel center itself in the case of unqualified success in shutting it down. We do not view this as a plan B, rather a logical continuation of the already announced strategy.

– There is large interest within our two networks about further coordination and collaboration at the RNC. This could take the form of anything from NEAN-MAN clusters working together to blockade a specific area or it could be as simple as making sure we are able to communicate during the events. There are various concerns about how any coordination would work or what form it would take, and it was the collective view that the planning within groups and networks has not developed to the point where we can discuss this more specifically. We encourage the RNC-WC to make suggestions about how clusters can most effectively participate.

– In recognition that our movement and its goals are often misrepresented, especially by the corporate media, and that our vision is sometimes not sufficiently articulated we believe there is value in promoting direct democracy and anarchism in our messaging as a viable alternative to the existing political system.

More info on the gathering:

Where is our organizing at?

The gathering provided a snapshot of where planning is at in different cities, what questions and concerns people have, and how we might move towards a more effective resistance. We gathered information in a variety of ways; meetings at the gathering itself, anonymous surveys of attendees before the gathering started, and individual discussions with the RNC-WC and other attendees.

In summary: almost everyone present was aware of, and planned to participate in, the RNC-WC’s three-tier strategy to shut down the meetings. There is an honest feeling that an actual shutdown of the meetings on the first day IS possible. At the gathering there were a significant number of people who plan to get to the Twin Cities early and a small number who plan to stay after the protests end. With six months to go, few groups have formed clusters or affinity groups, a bunch of groups have recently started forming affinity groups or clusters, and a few people didn’t plan on going with any organized group.

*Note* The sections below are a compilation of general brainstorms, representing individual views and opinions, not a list of any agreed upon or debated points.

What does “shutdown” mean and what is success?

The meetings not taking place, keeping delegates out, a lack of quorum, an empty arena, a state of emergency in the city. Creating a financial disincentive for cities to host these types of conventions. Having a massive turnout of locals, learning from local struggles to help us inform our local organizing, better and more organizing happening after the convention, not viewing it as an isolated event but rather one in a long series of struggles. Showing society that we reject what’s going on inside and that we, and you, can do something about it.

What is failure/defeat?

A repeat of some previous convention aftermaths (Boston ’04) where local momentum is killed after the convention finishes. A bunch of people show up right before the convention, fuck shit up, and leave town right afterwards, leaving locals with all the responsibility and accountability to explain what happened and why. People viewing community aspects as less sexy than street confrontation and avoiding it. Our actions result in state repression on already marginalized or repressed communities that don’t want that and/or aren’t prepared for it. An inability to communicate with each other, conflicts with other marches, ending up in the wrong place or side of things, decision-making problems or results that don’t reflect our values. Substance abuse. An inability to take advantage of our victories, underestimating ourselves, a lack of vision!

What questions do people have?

Pre-event:

Folks are looking at a lot of the logistical necessities before the event: how to get people to the Twin Cities (planes, trains, buses, automobiles), how to coordinate and house those arriving early and/or staying late. Another priority is how best to fundraise to support the RNC-WC and build up legal defense resources. Also, how can we involve groups that can’t make it to the protests? Lead Up/Preparation? We need to learn about security culture and expect/prepare for repression. When the FBI visits homes/workplaces and targets individuals, we need to turn it from “FBI vs. Individual” to “FBI vs. Movement” and we need to go on the offensive. Let’s maintain good contact with National Lawyers Guild and progressive lawyers locally. We’ve got to make sure affinity groups aren’t completely dependent on others for medical, legal, and other forms of support.

Our movement’s internal communications:

Multiple times, in differing ways, the question of how we can communicate and coordinate during the protests was raised. It’s clear that an overall communications strategy is needed for the protests that is able to address: how clusters can securely coordinate, how to keep people appraised of happenings spread across a large area, and how to decide and announce a change in strategy during the protests (how will we know if the blockades are succeeding or have been breached?).

Media, messaging, and other external communication issues:

To what degree, if at all, should we care about what the corporate media says? Varying opinions. Let’s put anti-election forward as one message, we want: direct democracy, control of our lives, workplaces, homes, popular neighborhood assemblies. We can let people know why we’re there instead of just “fuck the elections.” Let’s make leaflets to hand out beforehand telling folks where coverage will be so they are not left listening just to the unfriendly corporate press, make our own newspaper during the convention, maybe a live feed/web blogging from the barricades (in the tripod!), let’s work with contacts at home to get them the rough info so they can package and disseminate it ASAP, let’s stay positive, let’s try well-constructed communiques and press releases. Maybe call for a global day of action, wildcat actions, actions in other cities.

Tactical and strategic issues, questions:

The most pressing question is how the three-tier strategy translates from a fairly abstract idea into reality. How do we figure out who is blockading where, how are people gathering or reaching their intersections, etc?

Also mentioned:

How soon will we know the exact security perimeter?

How do we take advantage of the space a tactical victory would open up?

What if the perimeter is so large that blockading is not practical?

What if they bring delegates and workers in before we get there?

What times will we deploy (the RNC is supposed to “go live” at 7pm)?

What is the “exit strategy” so there is a way to extricate the blockades?

How does this particular protest fit into the larger movement?

Good for getting folks involved afterwards, publicity, only one battle in overall struggle, keep momentum going, capacity building (confidence, motivation, solidarity, inspiring), change the playing field, show that we are a force to be reckoned with, shift from protesting Republicans to total rejection of two party system, working for the future, being taken seriously as a movement, and what does that mean? A mass movement that people can see, show them/us what democracy looks like.

What if there is a partial failure of the strategy? If blockades go up but are compromised?

Depends on perimeter, varies upon numbers, storm the Center, get as close as possible and on camera, siege and trap delegates in, concentrate people at entrances, figure out a way to signal the change from blockade to siege, Skyway backup blockades, St. Paul website has maps of Skyways, etc.

Diversity of tactics/ close proximity coordination:

There was also a recognition that while some types of blockades simply need people to actualize, the type of static blockades capable of holding a space for a significant period of time generally depend on supplies. With the police/city likely to remove most movable items (construction equipment, newspaper boxes, dumpsters) there are more limited options and a need for getting supplies to where they’re needed. Unbolting may be a possibility. And having mobile and static tactics complement each other is critical.

Building solidarity with – and exercising accountability to – the public and especially marginalized communities:

The RNC-WC is going door-to-door and holding town hall meetings, awesome. They are also compiling a list of places demonstrators should stay away from disrupting. Let’s try not to bring more police and harassment into communities already experiencing the brunt of police violence. We can recognize that there is no “us vs. them” while still understanding the way privilege and organizing dynamics challenge the movement.

Post-event:

We could get back together afterward and figure out how to improve in the future/ evaluate.

Blockades brainstorm:

What does a blockade look like? Puppet shows, street theater, vehicle blockades, burning stuff, dumpsters, tripods, free stuff people find on Craigslist to blockade with, fake funeral/wedding procession, skill share, free school class, web blockade at intersection, black bloc, moving blockade, reclaim the streets party, setting up our own movement checkpoints, re-enactments, tactical frivolity, clown blockade, staged vehicle collisions, armored dance party on bridge, suspensions on bridge, phony construction blockade (not people, just signs), naked folks (maybe pictures of politicians on genitals), bike bloc, shiny distraction glittery bloc, giant puppets, use of distractions (smoke), shields, banners, floats, occupy buildings and rooftops, lots of bouncy balls, etc.

Some things network groups are doing to get ready for the RNC:

Holding an art show fundraiser, acquiring communication equipment, sharing knowledge of past conventions, holding an anarchist formal dance as a fundraiser, hosting the RNC-WC on its tour, holding Unconventional Action meetings, focus more on networking and communicating with other groups, putting on trainings (medical, know your rights, direct action, etc.)

———–

How the gathering was organized: an after-event assessment

Facilitators and structure:

Structuring and facilitating a large gathering presents multiple challenges: soliciting agenda items when people often don’t let you know until soon before the gathering that they’re attending, structuring the agenda to ensure attendees get what they want out of the gathering (when most of the input on goals is vague – “networking” and “information sharing/gathering”), different groups using different hand signals and being accustomed to different styles of discussion, etc.

During each session, we used two facilitators, a minute-taker, and a stack-taker. This was helpful by not overwhelming individuals and providing a clear delineation of who was in what role. We went over the hand signals to get everyone on the same page and strenuously stressed the correct use of direct response as a “clarification/critical info needed to proceed” tool rather than a way for people to jump in front of others to engage in one-on-one debates. Facilitators took an active role in checking in with the group, soliciting comments on how to proceed, and throwing out ideas to spur discussion, but did not usually participate personally in the actual discussions. Our intention was also to try and ensure a small number of voices did not dominate during the discussions, something we were slightly less successful with. Based on past gatherings, we were more prepared for lots of people wanting to talk. However, during some of the sessions, a handful of people predominated the discussions and there were multiple times and sections during which there was silence or a small stack. This is something we’d definitely look at more before hosting a similar gathering.

Overall, we felt the gathering was productive in sharing information, brainstorming, and building personal/organizational relationships, which will be critical in forming multiple clusters and organizing in the future. What didn’t and couldn’t happen at this gathering was a resolution of some serious framework questions that are making it difficult for already-formed affinity groups and clusters to progress in their planning. We have no doubt those discussion will happen and we look forward to where things go from here.

In Solidarity and with hope,

Pittsburgh Organizing Group

http://www.organizepittsburgh.org&#8221;