Anti-Coal Struggles in Lutzerath, Germany (+ Bad News)

Lutzerath Resists RWE Coal Extraction (+ Bad News)

Anti-Coal Struggles in Lutzerath, Germany

collage of images including a gigantic digger in a Lutzerath coal pit, an anti-coal banner in German and "TFSR 9-25-22 | Lutzerath Resists RWE + Bad News #60"
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First up, we share an interview with Fauv, a radical who recently participated in the anti-coal occupation in the village of Lützerath / Lutzerath (aka the ZAD of Rhineland) in western Germany against the company RWE. We talk about RWE’s push to break resistance at Lutzerath and the currently-calm Hambach Forest, which activists fear will be attacked by RWE and their goons. More info at https://luetzerathlebt.info/en

You can find our past interviews on:

BAD News #60

We’ll also be sharing the September 2022 episode of Bad News from the anarchist and anti-authoritarian A-Radio Network. You’ll hear a short update from the 2022 anti-racist football (aka Soccer for you ignorant yankees out there) tournament by A-Radio Berlin, an update from Free Social Radio 1431 on labor strikes by the Malamatina Winery workers in Thessaloniki and the pre-trial release of three prisoners accused of participation in Anarchist Action Organization, which ramped up arsons this year. Finally, Frequenz-A shares an interview with Feral Crust collective in Manilla, Philippines! Check out more Bad News.

Announcements

Support Russian Antifascist Prisoners

There is an article on Avtonom.Org/En calling for support for the 6 prisoners of the Tyumen Case through a fundraiser to cover legal costs and write them letters. There is more info on the case and how to support them linked in our show notes or at https://avtonom.org/en/news/tyumenskoe-delo-sbor-sredstv

Exposing Fascists: Best Practices

Colorado Springs Anti-Fascists just published a short and thoughtful guide to creating doxxes of people on the far right. You can find it at https://cospringsantifa.noblogs.org/best-practices/

Firefund for Revolutionary Prisoners in Greece

From their fundraising page:

After all these years, of the continuous persecutions and imprisonments, we consider the existence of the Solidarity Fund topical and necessary. Being one more stone in a mosaic being built by the multiform struggles against prisons, which urge us to act against one of the major pillars of the system of oppression and exploitation. Against the crime of incarceration that reproduces class inequalities, fear and submission.

Certain Days Calendar

The 2023 Certain Days Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendars are now available for pre-order. There are ordering details in the show notes, including info on bulk orders.

The Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers across North America and political prisoner Xinachtli (s/n Alvaro Luna Hernandez) in Texas. We were happy to welcome founding members Herman Bell and Robert Seth Hayes (Rest in Power) home from prison in 2018, and founding member David Gilbert home from prison in 2021. We work from an anti-imperialist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer- and trans-liberationist position.

This year features art and writings by Zola, Jeff Monaghan and Andy Crosby, Killjoy, Noelle Hanrahan, Juan Hernandez, Dan Baker, Antiproduct, Upping the Anti, Katy Slininger, David Gilbert, Paul Lacombe, Garrett Felber, Oso Blanco, Mark Tilsen, Terra Poirier, Steve McCain, Lawrence Jenkins, Ed Mead, Windigo Army, Dio Cramer, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Scott Parkin, Seize the Mean and Cindy Barukh Milstein.

Proceeds from the Certain Days 2022 calendar were divided amongst Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), Mutulu Shakur legal support, Sundiata Acoli release fund, Palestinian Youth Movement, Burning Books expansion, Puget Sound Prisoner Support , Coalition to Decarcerate Illinois, Appalachians Against pipelines, Community Resource Initiative- CA, P4W Memorial Collective Prisoners’ Justice Day healing circle, Wet’suwet’en Solidarity Fund 2022, Cascadia Forest Defenders and NorCal Resist. Proceeds from the 2023 calendar will go to some of the same grassroots groups and more.

How to order the Certain Days calendar:

U.S via Burning Books (individual and bulk sales)
burningbooks.com/products/certain-days-the-2023-freedom-for-political-prisoners-calendar

Your group can buy 10 or more for the rate of $10 each and then sell them for $15, keeping the difference for your organization. Many campaigns, infoshops and projects do this as a way of raising funds and spreading awareness about political prisoners.

Use the discount code “BULK” to get 10 or more calendars for $10 each. In order to receive the discount, you must enter the discount code “BULK” at check out.

Canada (1-9 copies) via Left Wing Books
https://leftwingbooks.net/en-us/products/certain-days-freedom-for-political-prisoners-calendar-2023

Canada (bulk. 10+ copies)
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Featured Tracks

  • Children’s Story (instrumental) by Black Star from Black Star Instrumentals
  • Hip Hop (instrumental) by A Kid Called Roots from Hydra Beats 13
  • Take Back The Land by Oi Polloi from Fuiama Catha
  • Farewell To The Crown by Chumbawamba
  • Her Majesty by Chumbawamba (based on The Beatles)

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Transcription

TFSR: Would you introduce yourself for the audience and say a bit about Lutzerath?

Fauv: I am Fauv. Let’s say I am… a tourist… doing my best to make the most of Euro visas! This summer of ‘22, has led me to some places that are part of what is called “ZAD of Rhineland”, so I wanted to share some my knowledge and experience of an ongoing struggle that’s been happening already for years in the Rhineland of Germany, and is likely to be intensifying very soon, perhaps by the time you listen to this interview! In the middle of nowhere west of Dusseldorf, there’s a tiny village called Lutzerath that was being occupied as an environmental defense action, and I recently spent some time there to see what’s going on there.

For starters, let’s say that my account and knowledge of this struggle is limited and in no way I speak on behalf of the occupation, or as one of their media persons. Actually at the time I was there, their media collective didn’t seem very functional (at least for non-Germanic audiences) so that’s one of the reasons why I’m doing this. You may read that this interview is a kind of recollection of everything I heard from reliable, engaged people in the Rhineland occupations and beyond, and there’s aspects I can’t cover to not compromise anyone.

This occupation rose up over the last few years as an opposition to massive coal extraction pit, in addition or as a kind of follow-up to the Hambacher Forest occupation -which is still going- just about 35 kms south. By the way, there’s quite a few other, though much smaller, forest occupations elsewhere in Germany that have sprung up over the last few years, opposing gentrification projects or other kinds of industrial developments. Like the Besch occupation near Trier for instance, and another one in Bodensee. This one’s got more similarities with the better-known former ZAD of Notre-Dame-des-Landes in Brittany, France, in a way that this is a rural area reclaimed in majority by activists and random squatters of differing views, and it’s a typical farm setting with the infrastructure that comes with it.

But it’s hard to talk of Lutzerath without talking about Hambi…

The core of Germany’s industrial complex, and that is to say the industrial center of one of Europe’s biggest industrial Leviathans, is located around 5 or 6 cities at the center of Rhineland, the major ones being Dusseldorf and Köln. This over-developed region has been the home of Rheinmetall, Thyssen-Krupp and other industrial powerhouses, also directly related to the car and military industries. The power source for this massive industry and all its urban infrastructure lies mostly in an area west of these cities where countless nuclear plants and coal mines have formatted the landscape for several decades.

A few years ago, the German government under pressure by environmentalist organizations including the Green Party, decided to stop nuclear energy development altogether. This led to the obvious necessity to look into alternatives to feed the ever-growing energy demands. Coal, already a controversial energy source, had become in parallel the target of opposition, being arguably an ecologically devastating and unsustainable energy source. As a matter of fact, lignite coal is not only a major source of arsenic pollution, but also its extraction means the sheer destruction of vast areas where life used to thrive, be it farm life or the little, remaining wildlife in the previously untouched forests.

Hambacher was one of these old growth forests, and also an ancient commons, dating back to Medieval times, that was privatized in the 1970’s when RWE was given a pass to exploit the area, subduing locals into selling their house or farms, invading and destroying this forest, and leave a gaping hole behind. In the late 2010’s only small portions of this forest was left, a few pouches of green around vast desert a few kilometers across. It was not the first nor the last mega-crater in this region. So, around 2013, a bunch of eco-activists started a legal opposition camp (named the Meadows) by Hambacher Forest, from where gradually tree-sitting houses, forest barricades on the main paths, and later autonomous camps (or “barrios” as they call it) which sprouted at several spots all across the forest. In parallel there were a few clandestine sabotage actions, the boldest being the power cables of a digger being destroyed, and several skirmishes with RWE security. I also heard of a police chopper being zapped with a high power laser pointer.

The struggle culminated in the summer of 2018 where a huge eviction operation by the German police lasted for several weeks, and equally many forest defenders came in to support. Then some forest riots and all that. A ruling was declared by the courts, suspending the eviction attempt without, on the other hand, suspending RWE’s extraction activities. So Hambi since then was in an uneasy stalemate with RWE and the German government. Coal kept being extracted, just not in any part of the forest that people could still occupy, at least for now.

The land destruction is not the only issue… Since the “diggers”, these monstruous, gigantic excavators eat out the earth in a vertical manner, the cliffs of these pits aren’t sloped enough for the waters in the surrounding aquifers to be retained. So in order to prevent the ground waters from flowing into the pits and keeping the machines and workers from doing their operations, a vast array of water pumps is slowly draining the waters from the aquifers, at an area of up to a kilometer roughly. These pumps are found all over the place, around either Hambi and Lutzerath, and in the case of the former, are slowly killing the trees and other plant life by slowly drying up what’s left of the forest. As I heard, some of these pumps got sabotaged, although I don’t know how long ago that was.

RWE is everywhere in this region… they own entire areas, some deserted towns, roads and rails. Trying to make sense of the latest maps of the area West of Dusseldorf and Köln is quite a challenge (more so if you’re trying to find your way to some obscure occupation somewhere into it!), as what you’ll see for instance on any online map is a mess of roads and villages cut off in so many places with vast, mysterious blank spaces. Well they are blank because, really, there is nothing… these are just steeps cliffs falling down a hundred meters into a desert; a kind of peninsula surrounded by this sea of blank about 2/3 around. And the diggers, those gigantic machines of destruction, just keep slowly eating the ground close by.

There’s no knowing on my part of what are the intents or plans of the several groups and individuals occupying this place. The last family of farmers to own a house in the village had their property contract expire on September 1st, and now it is claimed that the whole village will become evictable by October 1st. The latest installment of a monthly music festival is planned for the 23th to the 27th of September (so likely right now as you’re hearing this!), and these seem to be very musically-diverse events with some predominance of electro. Drinks and food are all on donation! The several hangars that previously were used as garages for large farming machinery are now providing great rave party spaces with excellent acoustics, and also a neat skatepark. Meals are being served at least twice daily, and there’s coffee and tea for most of the day. Also there’s plenty of space left to squat, camp around or tree-sit!

So! To anyone near Rhineland who might be interested to take part in a living occupation against this death industry, there is still time, and perhaps this is the best time to come.

TFSR: Thank you for that introduction! I have a few follow-up questions. There is a suspension of gas supplies from Russia because of the war in Ukraine and sanctions against the Russian state. Gazprom cut off deliveries of so-called “natural gas” to many places in the east and center of Europe which will be effecting the winter heating of many people. The quite dirty lignite coal under the soil in Lutzerath is currently being used for manufacturing industries of cars & military vehicles you say, but how much are will the lignite be used to fuel heating for households in Germany due to the lack of Russian gas? In other words, how much of this coal is slated for human survival this winter versus increased production of war machines and fancy cars?

Fauv: That’s a tough one… There’s data by the German market study group AGEB, from 2021, that says 203 Terawatts per hour is consumer by the (primary and secondary) industry, 145 by the trades and services (the tertiary) and 126 Terawatts per hour is consumed by households. So, if you combine all the industries, this makes their consumption to be 348 Terawatts per hour where households take just a bit more than a third of this! But it’s hard to tell which energy sources are really powering up the houses, or are people in more urban areas getting energy from the surplus produced by this energy industry… Heating masses of buildings means a huge energy demand, that keeps increasing. I think the restarting of coal plants has to do with this necessity of providing heating this winter for homes not just for the industry, in support of the “renewable” sources that might just not be enough. If the war keeps going in Ukraine, Germany will require a lot of power in order to keep producing all this hardware for very lucrative war profiting. But this could also likely mean some insane rises in energy bills. The contemporary war industry is running with energy systems dating back to before World War One, that are unsustainable while eating the rural areas like “Langoliers” in that old Stephen King book.

So it’s possible that this industry might be in a more fragile position than it seemed. We’ll see!

TFSR: Would you tell us a little about how the occupation is going?

 

Fauv: I found Lutzerath to be well organized in the typical German activist ways. Maybe a bit too much?

There’s something odd with living in a relic of an older rural life, waiting to be torn down, eventually, or maybe not. It’s being at the physical edge of the apocalypse. So, there’s something to put into question about what is being defended here, or what we’re fighting against, since every time when people from several backgrounds are holding up against one big antagonist -like here RWE- you end up with some strange bedfellows that might totally not be on the same page as you. Here there is a diversity of political leanings, agendas and views, ranging from Christian Leftists to your usual social media anarchoids, then to more eco-anarcho or anticiv-leaning people to the obvious XR activists, and of course some (undefined) randos like me! But this is a very rough portrait and not too relevant as far as you understand that there’s an opening for people of different views to co-occupy the place and support the occupation.

Obviously there are things I cannot say anything about, not only due to security culture but because I just didn’t know everyone there long enough! The vast domination of the German language in communications and organizing doesn’t help much for foreign supporters. But I’ve seen some efforts by some to compensate for this, like trying to make conversations bilingual or translating messages on public billboards. I’m not under the impression that it’s never been as international-friendly as the former ZAD was, and I think Hambacher forest camp tends to have a more international presence, though there’s always a possibility for improvement as anyways this doesn’t seem to be a space monopolized by a particular group as far as I know. Though some groups have monopolized more specific areas. Like for instance the main kitchen space and two houses, at least, were still under Covid masking policies, which reflects the heavy communitarian and socio-sanitary imperatives of socialist-leaning people, though it can make a few people behave like literal cops. For the houses it can be understandable, but there’s something obliquely arbitrary and ill-informed in imposing masks to an outdoor, well-vented kitchen, because “Covid”. It’s my opinion alright…. but especially in times where countries are reopening and most Covid measures are disappearing, this seems rather off. Hopefully they no longer do this stuff. Also there are two clothing-optional outdoors areas, but for the rest of the village everyone’s expected to be dressed. And yes there’s the White dreadlocks controversy that’s present there too! Despite these issues the atmosphere is very welcoming and everyone’s treated as a family member.

So like other ZADs, this is not by default an anarchist occupation, even though there clearly are anarchist elements and sensibilities. But that shouldn’t drive people away. There can be more than one public kitchen, for instance, and there are already common living spaces that don’t seem to care so much about Covid policies.

Here’s an observation of tactical concern: obviously since Lutzerath is surrounded by a coal pit, there is only about 1/3 of the village that can be physically accessed. And then, only through a few small rural roads. Meaning that if there are police and/or security blockades at some point, the village can be cut off quite easily. So logically, wherever there is motivation to defend the occupation, it would have to do with securing openings to the area, or at least to make such kettling by security forces too hard or costly to maintain. This is not like in Hambi where there are many entry/exit points in several directions, along with the fields that can be used in many ways. Obviously barricades have been built at the main entries of Lutzerath and will be defended to some extent, but there most likely will be a serious police raid operation of the whole camp at some point.

Also there’s word coming from an RWE insider who I can’t say more about (told through a long-term occupier who meets this person once in a while) that both occupations against RWE would be targeted more or less at the same time by an eviction operation. This would happen between now and the winter, where if I get it correctly, Lutzerath would be attacked first and then Hambi would be evicted in the meantime, profiting from the land defenders mobilizing to Lutzerath. This is hearsay and can be taken with a grain of salt, but what is certain is that the current context in Europe leans in the direction of a brutal, hasty eviction campaign by the German government, of course supported by the RWE goons.

On the latter, it is an important detail to know, especially for antifacists willing to come support either occupations, that RWE is hiring the fascist Turkish organization Grey Wolves. And in several villages at least those surrounding Hambi, they inhabit houses that were handed over to them by the company. It is known to everyone in any barrio of the Hambi occupation. Not all members of this group are fascists, some did it only to get a job and a house, so not all of them are the enemy. But yes, this is an enemy that can get very dangerous without taking proper defensive and/or deterrent measures. So it’d be great that if there’s more people coming to support the occupation, that this is not seen as separate occupations, but as two or three fronts within a same battle to defend the land and that any of these occupations are equally important to defend. I said “three”, because there is also a much smaller forest defense occupation that grew up somewhere north of Lutzerath. Hambi also provides with a lot more space – including wild forest space – for groups and individuals to come, camp and support the occupation. And like I said it’s more easily accessible, especially for the logistics side of things. It’s worth noting to that regards that those coming should be as autonomous as possible, food-wise. Meaning: bring food and water. This applies to the matter of bringing dogs to the forest, and being accountable for their behavior.

There was also a call last year – reflecting apparent possibilities – to also occupy empty houses in Morsenich, the closest village next to the forest. I haven’t heard much of this, but it can be looked into. More occupations at different places usually means creating a bigger clusterfuck that’s harder to manage for authorities. So I don’t wanna be this “anarcommander”, just telling what the opportunities are and trying to identify where the needs are. There is already a legally-owned activist camp in the south of Morsenich where newcomers can get some help for most matters.

I forgot to say earlier that it’s not the first time Lutzerath is under threat of eviction, that exactly a year ago there was also an eviction being expected. Though this wasn’t exactly the same situation, both locally and more globally. First off, there wasn’t yet a war in Ukraine and a total economic split between NATO countries and Russia.

TFSR: You’ve mentioned the ecological devastation to the local area of digging a huge pit and drying the forests and arsenic poisoning nearby. Can you remind listeners a little more about how destructive lignite coal is, even in comparison to other types of coal? I assume that if RWE is able to get both the mine in Hambacher Forest and the so-called Garzweiler II mine in Lutzerath would cause immeasurable damage to the local environment as well as the climate.

Fauv: Lignite coal is the soft type of coal being burned into boilers for running steam turbines, that produce electricity, including heating houses but also it’s predictable this is the stuff that was used to power up the German metal and chemical industry before nuclear power. Since lignite has got the lowest carbon composition in all types of coal (the softer the lesser the carbon, with hard, black coal having the highest amounts) and holds more humidity than others, it requires a lot more to produce inputs needed for industrial use and massive energy grids, as just like wood, when its wet it demands a lot more efforts to keep burning than well-dried wood. Brown coal has less than half the calorific value than hard black coal, which doesn’t make it the most energy-efficient fuel, but also at the same time the most polluting, relatively. So if we just stick to carbon emissions, they’re much higher for the same megawatts-per-hour ratio than if using hard coal for that reason.

Then there’s also many other pollutants, with high concentrations of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, that are causing smog and respiratory illnesses in human; as well as heavy metals and even a level of radioactivity. The other major one is the release of arsenic when it is burned. If I read correctly, according to research, brown coal due to being alkali holds more arsenic than the acid hard coal, as ashes will leech less arsenic from it than the latter.

By the way, if you wanna see how demented these capitalist “visionaries” are, look at what’s their long term plan for these pits. They wanna transform these deserts into…. lakes.

Yes. So, they are slowly drying up the forests and farmlands around, taking the waters from aquifers away, so that when the coal mines are depleted, or the coal loses its value and gets replaced for good – they’re going to do a nice eco-facelift of the region by filling up these pits with water (from… somewhere?), then develop the real estate around by marketing eco-smart-green towns to sell at high prices to yuppies from the big cities. I heard even Morsenich is planned to have all its houses revalued and resold eventually. This looks like this is the eventual exit plan for RWE owners.

TFSR: On the topic of RWE giving houses to Grey Wolves, most of our audience won’t be familiar with this formation. Can you speak in a little more detail about who Grey Wolves are and how it seems RWE is composing a scenario that will exacerbate at least the appearance of ethnic or nationalist tensions alongside ideas of Germany having ‘national energy independence” from place like Russia? I’m glad that you noted how important it was to realize that not all people re-located there are fascists.

Fauv: The Grey Wolves are a fascist organization that are well-known and active in countries with a large Turkish migrant population (Germany and Austria having the biggest in Europe, afaik) and the Grey Wolves appear to work as a kind of mafia, say, perhaps like what the Sicilian mafia was to Italian migrants in North America. Only these operate with a much more political angle – extremist and brutally racist at that – who’ve been engaged in ethnic murderous violence against Kurdish people, not only in Turkey and Syria but even in Germany. They’re also, of course, anti-feminist and queer/transphobic. What I heard is that their violence isn’t talked about much in the mainstream, as it is violence of a (rather predominant) minority upon other, weaker minorities. They appeared in the 1970’s in Turkey when they committed several mass killings of Kurds, and there’s been several of these episodes of ethnic cleansings later on, like in the 1990’s. They are ultra-nationalists, for a kind of Turkish Islamic State (which Erdogan has pretty much made happen) and they seek to extend Turkish influence abroad as well.

Those I saw around Hambacher were typical conservative, bootlicker types, though not very dangerous unless they’d decide for some reason to mobilize with their organization. They’re the ones found watching from their cars for people coming in and out of the forest. There’s records of petty violence against Hambi activists like beatings, but also equally records of Hambi people attacking their cars, so nowadays they keep a distance from the forest. Any incomers would do well to stay away from the view of those suspicious cars parked in the middle of nowhere. There’s one often parked near the exit of Morsenich to watch the road south of Hambacher forest, which is the most regular watch. But there are others parking in other strategic spots less regularly. But more is known about them by the occupiers than I can tell here.

TFSR: The occupation of the space is obviously very important, but as the local residents are forced to move out, it seems more isolating in the buildup to an upcoming fight for the land. In the struggle for the ZAD in Notre-Dame-de-Landes it was important to bring the fight to the nearby city of Nantes where there were government and corporate offices to target, media to be seen by and more sympathetic people to allow participation of. Can you talk about direct action you’ve heard of in the direct area but also other places and cities in support of the occupation of Lutzerath against the mine?

Fauv: Like said before, there’s been quite a few direct actions during the heydays of Hambacher Forest, though I haven’t heard of many actions surrounding Lutzerath specifically, but there might be some reportbacks of actions from last year in the German media. There was a huge Climate Change mobilization last August in Hamburg where you had systematic blockades of industrial ports in the city. Super well-organized even though mostly symbolic, non-lasting. Likely XR was behind it, though I’m not sure. This action camp and the blockades weren’t directly related to Lutzerath but they concerned the transport of gas (and maybe coal?) by sea routes, given that Hamburg remains the main German port hub for the North Sea and thus the Atlantic, and is much connected to the Rhineland industrial complex.

I also suppose that an eviction operation is an opportunity for doing actions in support elsewhere, at least in Germany but more widely in Europe. But as far as I’ve read, there hasn’t been such widespread solidarity actions to the crazy levels we’ve seen in France at the height of the ZAD struggle. Yet.

TFSR: I recognize that the drive of this conversation is to bring people as soon as possible to Lutzerath, but for those who are too far away, are there ways they can strike at RWE or the German state for facilitating this ecocide? And where can they find more information about how to get involved in the struggle?

Fauv: There’s a few websites for more infos, starting with luetzerathlebt.info, the related social media pages and Germany’s Indymedia. Plus a few articles in English here and there, like a pretty good one from last year on politicalecology.org written by Andrea Brock entitled The Final Showdown. But in Germany you learn about other occupations by word of mouth or by hanging out at some occupation, and reading some agit-prop and zines… whenever they can be read. And I got comic book level of German knowledge, but more like kiddie comics, to the most! So… That’s just how I, as foreigner, have gotten to learn about this struggle. A few people in Hambacher told me about it about the same way I did here. Part of the strength of this movement is that it’s not that dependent on online comms. While most people I’ve seen use cell phones like the rest, it’s more about building ties, friendships and affinity groups in real life, by just hanging out with others, doing shit in general, especially good, helpful, and also fun shit.

Beyond that, there’s a need to go beyond our national enclaves, just as “capital” has become globalized, and borders usually do not avail to flows of lifeless, commodified coal, lithium, oil, big data, etc.

As for how to support such struggle from abroad… well I can point to the obvious that there’s a huge pressure for answering to energy demands in general, as our ever-increasing consumption of data, oil and other related energy keeps demanding more can cause an economic catastrophe. There’s no RWE in Indonesia or Canada or Chile or the US I think, but context is everything?

You gotta look, I think, in what are the most sensitive looked-after money-makers for the powerful billionaire overlords of this society. Nowadays it appears to be lithium, rare earth minerals. And uranium is still very important as the nuclear industry is pushing for a “fresh start.” The most valued commodities are logically those hurting the biggest pockets, at least if that is what you are after… That’s just a distanced assumption on my part! My own interest and intent is out of the question here, I’m just a tourist anyways!

Though the health of the environment is of concern to everyone living on this planet, right?

Sending salutations and praises to all the other few vagabonds out there still living wild and free, despite all these ever-increasing state controls. And big shout out to the Atlanta Forest Occupation!

Wayne Price on Anarchism and Marxist Economics (rebroadcast)

Wayne Price on Anarchism and Marxist Economics (rebroadcast)

Book cover of “The Value of Radical Theory” by Wayne Price with the notes “TFSR 9-18-2022”
Download This Episode

This week we’re re-airing our 2020 conversation with Wayne Price, longtime anarchist, author and then-member of Bronx Climate Justice North and the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council, or MACC, in New York City.

From the original post:

After reading his book, The Value Of Radical Theory: An Anarchist Introduction to Marx’s Critique of Political Economy (AK Press, 2013), I became excited to speak to him about his views on anarchists engaging Marxist economic concepts and some of the historical conflicts and engagements between Marxism and Anarchism. We talk about his political trajectory from a pacifist Anarchist in high school, through Trotskyism and back to anarchy. Wayne talks about common visions of what an anarchist economy might look like, how we might get there, class and intersection of other oppressions, critique of State Capitalism. Wayne sees the oppressed of the world having a chance during this economic freeze to fight against re-imposition of wide-scale capitalist ecocide by building libertarian, anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist and heterogenous future societies in the shell of the old.

You can find his books Anarchism & Socialism: Reformism or Revolution? available from at AKPress.Org and The Abolition Of The State: Anarchist & Marxist Perspectives (AuthorHouse, 2007) or through a fine, independent radical bookstore in your area that could use support. A reminder that AKPress published books, such as “The Value…” can be purchased in e-book format for free from AKPress.org. You can find some of Wayne’s writing at this mirror of AnarchistLibrary, as well as at the site for the Platformist Anarkismo Network, Anarcho-Syndicalist Review, and The Utopian Journal (seemingly out of print).

A transcript of this interview will be available soon at our website

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Featured Track:

  • I’m So Bored with the U.S.A. by The Clash from The Clash

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Transcription

TFSR: I am speaking with Wayne Price, a longtime anarchist author and currently a member of the Bronx Climate Justice North, and Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council or MACC in New York City. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat.

Wayne Price: Oh, you’re welcome, I am delighted for a chance to talk to people.

TFSR: Can you share a bit about the political trajectory, your political development?

WP: I’ve had to change my mind more often than I to admit. I began in high school as an anarchist pacifist. I was a great admirer of Paul Goodman and Dwight Macdonald at the time. I was persuaded of Trotskyism of a radical democratic variety, a wing that rejected Trotsky’s notion that the Soviet Union was somehow socialist or a workers’ state because it’s still nationalized property. And over time, I went through various upheavals and eventually became a revolutionary anarchist as I am today. Although I think that I still am much influenced by libertarian and humanistic tendencies and Marxism. That’s where I am today.

TFSR: I think it’s really interesting how the Revolutionary Socialist League actually transitioned from an unorthodox Trotskyist group into basically an anarchist group before self-abolishing. Is that an okay description of what happened?

WP: Yeah, although we were orthodox in an unorthodox way. That is, we never accepted, as I said, the notion that the Soviet Union had become a workers’ state. The various orthodox Trotskyists believed that this workers’ state that didn’t spread to other countries was not even a workers’ revolution. So that says, we were unorthodox and regarded the Soviet Union correctly as a state capitalist, but we also were motivated by a desire for freedom. We always gave Marx and certainly Lenin and Trotsky the benefit of the doubt, anytime there was a question of whether what they said could be interpreted in a more libertarian democratic fashion or in a more authoritarian fashion. Until we stopped doing that. We were very much influenced by the gay liberation movement and women’s liberation movements. Not just for the content of that, but the very spirit of libertarian perspective. At a certain point, we started thinking that we were interpreting Trotskyism and Leninism and Marxism in a libertarian democratic and humanistic working class fashion, and just about everybody else who was a Trotskyist, not to mention the Leninists and Marxists, interpreted them in a more authoritarian fashion, and in a way that they were good. So we thought, “Gee, is everybody wrong? Is everybody marching in the wrong way except us? Or is it maybe that we’re wrong? Or, perhaps, we’re both right. Maybe there are authoritarian sides, aspects, routing in the ideologies and all the Trotskyists and Leninists around us.” This let us reevaluate and certainly in my case, go back to my anarchist roots. As society generally swung to the right after the end of the 60s and 70s, most of our people that were in the Revolutionary Socialist League dropped out of politics, but a few of us turned in an anarchists direction.

TFSR: When interacting with anarchists, did you find that they would bring up, any of Paul Avrich’s writing, or Maximoff, or Voline, or any of these anarchists that either had been present during the repression of anarchists and the libertarian tendencies in Russia during the revolution or other countries where state socialism or state capitalism had been imposed?

WP: Sure, of course, and we also read some of that stuff. Avrich, who, by coincidence, had been a professor of mine in college. We read his stuff about Russia and started learning more about the Russian Revolution. Going back to reading Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman’s accounts, as well as Voline’s account of the Russian Revolution and the Ukrainian Revolution and Makhno and so forth. And we got to see that we haven’t given Lenin the benefit of the doubt, but in fact that Lenin had created – Lenin wasn’t Stalin, he hadn’t intended to create a totalitarian state – what he created was a one-party police state, he and Trotsky. Nor did they say, “Well, this is something we have to do because of objective conditions, objective circumstances, civil war and so forth,” but rather they came to see it as a principle, the one-party dictatorship. We thought, “This is not what we want. This is not our conception.” And so we started reanalyzing what was it about Lenin and Trotsky that had led to this? If you don’t give them the benefit of the doubt on everything, you start to see also the authoritarian aspects.

TFSR: So you’ve gone through this long trajectory in your personal development over the years and you still believe that there’s a lot to be learned from at least their progenitors, at least from Marx and Engels and their teachings on economic concepts. For instance, the book that you wrote, The Value of Radical Theory, I thought was quite enjoyable and really accessible.

WP: How nice! Flattery will get you anywhere.

TFSR: Can you talk a bit about Marxist economic theory in brief, and what you think a better grasp and engagement among anarchists could bring to our movements and our organizing?

WP: From the beginning, anarchists thought there was something valuable in Marx’s economic analysis. More precisely, his critique of political economy. Starting with Bakunin. Somebody has referred to Bakunin as the first anarcho-Marxist, particularly the historical materialism as a broad analysis of how society functions, and specifically the economic analysis of how capitalism functions, and how capitalism works. And it lays the basis for a working-class orientation, for an understanding of the weaknesses of capitalism and the potentialities of the working class for creating a new society and making revolution. And it shows the positives and negatives of capitalism, what causes prosperity and productivity, and on the other hand, the crises that it’s gonna go through, and crises which we are now living through. We analyzed capitalism as having gone through a period of big prosperity following World War II for various reasons, including the destructiveness of the war, the reorganization of world imperialism, the arms economy, the looting of the environment, trading oil, and so forth as the basis for the economy, but treating it as something cheap and not having to pay for the full costs. We could see that this would come to an end, as it did in the late 70s and a general downturn of the world economy began, with ups and downs. And we’re now living through one example of the crash of the economy, although it doesn’t show itself simply as the economic fracture. The economy is interrelated with other factors, particularly ecological and health, as we see. So I think it’s very valuable to understand how the system works. And there really isn’t an alternative to Marxist economics, except bourgeoise economics. So we regard that as very useful as long as we don’t get lost in various aspects of it that turned into an authoritarian direction.

TFSR: I think that the term late-stage capitalism has always rankled me a little bit as a wishful phrase. But I guess if you think about capitalism as cancer, and if we find ourselves in the world that we live in suffering from its latest stage, then that could mean that it’s terminal for all of us, or maybe as real existing Marxists claim we’re ready for the next dialectical shift of the inevitable end of history. But what can you say about what is coming? In your crystal ball, what do you see coming next, or what do you think we should be digging for?

WP: Well, I don’t have a crystal ball, of course. What’s the phrase… “Marxist economic analysis helps predict nine of the last four recessions.” Tools are no better than the workmen using them. I also don’t like the phrase late-stage, in the sense that it’s often used by the Marxists to say that this is the end of capitalism. And we know that it’s the end of capitalism, and we’re right around the– And partly that was because they were so inspired by the spread of Stalinism, of state capitalism throughout the world and felt that’s gonna keep on spreading until this is over, we don’t know. It’s ridiculous, we can no longer say that socialism is inevitable, that the capitalist system will turn to socialism, before there’s a nuclear war or before climate change disaster hits the world, or before the total collapse of the economy. Nobody can really make that claim now, that would sound absurd. I do think capitalism has a tendency towards its destruction, I think it has reached its limits, in a basic sense, but that doesn’t mean that you can predict it. It’s like saying that we can predict there’s going to be a humongous earthquake in California due to plate tectonics. But do we know when? We don’t even know what century it will happen in? Unfortunately, the greatest immediate threat is climate change. And that’s bearing down upon us like a railroad train coming down on us in the tunnel. But we can’t know exactly what’s gonna happen. The system is very flexible, it has been very able to revive itself before every crash. Lenin once said that there’s no crisis that the capitalist can’t find a way out of. In theory, we don’t know. I expect it to get really much worse. I expect that we’re facing crashes and collapses due to the climate, health, as well as economic collapse, which we’re now seeing. If there’s a revolutionary change, I don’t know how drawn out it is going to be. That’s really impossible to say.

TFSR: Many anarchists avoid painting a clear picture of their visions of alternative economic systems. In fact, many of the most inspirational pictures of anti-authoritarian post-capitalist alternatives that I’ve come across come from science-fiction stories like The Fifth Sacred Thing or Woman on the Edge of Time. Drawing back to reality a bit though, can you paint a picture of what you think an alternative post-capitalist economy that you imagine happening and functioning might look like? What some of the moving parts in it might be? Or how it might relate geographically?

WP: We have some ideas. I expect people to in some way form a federation or association of self-managed industries, workplaces, communities, and coordinate with each other and build democratic planning from below, through voluntary associations. Exactly how, I don’t know because the key part of the vision is that it’s going to be experimental, pluralistic, and decentralized. So people will try out different things, different places, and some places might try to go immediately to full communism. Others might try to use market mechanisms, some areas or regions will be more centralized, others more decentralized. It’ll be an experimental kind of society where people are using intelligence and seeing how it works out. The key thing is that it will be self-governing, self-managed, cooperative, organized by the people from the bottom up, flexible, and spread throughout the whole world. At first, of course, the working people will have to take over. I am not against the notion of saying that workers will take power, I am against the notion of the workers taking state power, that is what will replace the existing state will be the self-organization of the people, of the working class, and all oppressed as they move to build a society which has no division between classes, no specialization of who’s a manager and who’s managed, rulers and the ruled. So, we can think in terms of federations, networks of consumer/producer cooperatives and self-governing communes economically and coordination through councils and assemblies from neighborhood assemblies and workplace councils, replacement of the police and military by a popular militia and armed people coordinating through their councils for so long as is necessary. Something like that. That’s very vague. I know what I’m saying is very brief, but that is basically the vision of a stateless, classless, revolutionary, new society.

TFSR: It seems there’s a pragmatism for materialists of various sorts to be pointing to working people as one of the main groups of people that have agency because of their ability to either put down their tools or immediately block production from occurring. But in an economy currently, where so much of the employment that people engage with is not economic. It’s not producing food, a lot of that’s automated on large farms. It’s not manufacturing, where a lot of that is automated or is so globalized that the production doesn’t occur locally. Do you think that there needs to be a shift in people’s understanding; what’s the working definition of the working class or proletariat that you would use?

WP: 80% of the population lives paycheck to paycheck, takes orders from somebody, and doesn’t give orders to anybody else. True, the industrialized sector in terms of employment has decreased, though it’s hardly gone. Nevertheless, they still produce as much as we ever produced in this country, as you say, partly because of automation. The main point here is that people who don’t work in factories work in service industries. The people who work in Amazon, you won’t call it a factory, but their work is concentrated in large industrial sites, where they’re pushing goods around. That’s not counting such things as– A major thing in the news now is the coronavirus spreading to the meatpacking plants, which are big factories and which are central to the diet of the American people. So yeah, a lot of people work or did work in restaurants in small places. But still, most people work for a living, and they work for a paycheck that either is called a salary or wage. And that’s still true for most people. Even for those who don’t work, the blue-collar or white-collar, or pink-collar for women’s categorized work, that’s still true and hasn’t changed. So we don’t have robots running everything just yet. Meanwhile, on a world scale, as you say, one of the reasons for the decrease in certain industrialized jobs is that jobs are going elsewhere. This is not the end of the working classes. The working class has been restructured. Whereas it used to be that most of the world was peasants, today, most of the world is urban, including the vast expansion of the international working class. That doesn’t counter the working class analysis to say that the growth of the working class throughout the world in China, Vietnam, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Africa and so forth. There is now an international proletariat in a way there hasn’t been before.

That’s not to say that this is the only issue – the exploitation and oppression of the workers – because all issues of oppression are relevant. Just as in the past, in Marx’s or Lenin’s day, they not only preached or mobilized the workers but also said “the peasants” or “oppressed nations.” So today, every issue of oppression and suffering is relevant, that has to be brought into a revolutionary movement, oppression of women, gay, lesbians, bisexual and so forth people, youth and, of course, the issues of ecology – all these issues. Everything is relevant. But part of this is, it’s not a moral thing, that workers are more oppressed than, say, deaf people. If there is a strategic point, who has the power to change things, who has their hands on the means of production and transportation? The state has most of the military power, obviously, although the rank-and-files of the military are sons and daughters of the working class, the workers also can shut things down and start things up again in a different way. So this particular strategic aspect that ties in together with and overlap with every other oppression, it’s not like an African-American woman worker, a postal worker is oppressed a certain number of hours as a worker, a certain number of hours as a Black, and a certain number of hours as a woman. It’s altogether to one ball of wax. Even when she’s not working, she’s depending on the income she gets from her job. So these aren’t separate issues. They’re all interconnected and essential. But the central thing that holds it all together is capitalism and its exploitation because, without the surplus that it squeezes out of the working population, there would be no capitalism, there would be no state, there would be no male oppression, there would be no nothing. So this is, for strategic reasons, a central issue, the class issue.

TFSR: You mentioned ecological destruction as a product of capitalist industrial production. And definitely, a critique of so-called socialist economies was that they were similarly widely polluting, damaging, extractive – or continue to be in the case of China, which still causes half that – and poisoning of human and non-human life. Why would anarchist models of the economy be any different being sprouted from the same soil, even in rejection of liberal capitalism, and same concepts of extraction and looking at the world around us as resources? Are there any more modern anarchist thinkers or tendencies or groups that you feel influenced your thoughts on this?

WP: The point is not the industry as such, the point is capitalism. Capitalism has a drive to accumulate, to quantitative growth, accumulation of value, and surplus value, to reduce everything to the same metric, devalued money, and commodities. And a drive to accumulate, Marx says, “Accumulate, accumulate! That is Moses and the prophets of capitalism.” And that, on one hand, gave it progressive sides, especially in its early days, producing machinery and the possibility of a life of plenty for all. But on the other hand, by definition, it does not fit in, it contradicts the need for an ecologically balanced society, with human beings living in harmony with nature. Under a society of socialist democracy, of anarchy, where the working people run society, they may make mistakes, and they may have areas of conflict with the environment. But there’s nothing inherent in the system that drives it to conflict with the environment. There’s no drive to accumulation, greater quantitative growth, and so forth. So it certainly becomes possible to reorganize the technology and the economy in ways that fit in with the environment. There will be things that have to be produced. Certainly, we will want to bring parts of the so-called third world – Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America – out of the dire poverty, at the same time, the overproduction of commodities, the production that exists in the imperialist countries, the military production – all that will be unnecessary and can be reorganized. We’ll have to reorganize the technology. We start with what we have on the day of the revolution, but then the working people will have to decide how they reorganize. One thing, we want to reorganize it so it’s no longer run from the top down by a minority of capitalists or bureaucrats, how to create a democratic self-managed economy. On the other hand, we want to rebuild the poverty-stricken parts of the world, but we also want to create a technology that fits in with the ecology, that makes a cycle where what we use is recreated. The last thing I’d say is that I don’t regard the so-called socialist countries as socialist, I regard them as state capitalist because the basic drive to accumulation of capital existed even though there were no stocks and bonds, but there was a collective bureaucracy that served as a center for capital accumulation, and using the state for capital accumulation, which exploited the workers in essentially the same way as the workers have been exploited in the West.

TFSR: And it’s interesting to see what the dissolution of those nation-states and economies proper under those terms of being socialist into the post-Soviet era, how much it’s a lot of the same people that run the factories.

WP: They just changed one variety of capitalism to another. That’s right. And we can see also it fell apart in the so-called Soviet bloc, and the same thing in China, although there it was done more deliberately under the control of the so-called Communist Party. They have a Communist Party, they have a People’s Liberation Army, and they have a great deal of government ownership that still exists. Nevertheless, it’s so obvious that it’s now run through the market and through a capitalist system. It was all done without an explicit revolution. If this had really been a socialist society, and it was counterrevolution occurred to capitalism, then we’d have had some great upheavals and revolutions and it didn’t happen in either of these countries.

TFSR: Switching gears a little bit, I’d like to talk a bit about platformism and how it developed, and what it looks like today, particularly in the US. I bring this up because you’ve written for a while for a website called Anarkismo which is a part of a network. And I’m not sure if you affiliate with Black Rose Federation or any other platformist or especifist organization. But I’d like to learn a little bit about what ways forward to that alternative economy do you see coming from this tendency?

WP: From the beginning of anarchism, there’s always been an internal conflict between those who just see themselves as loose individuals and those who see the need for organizing anarchists into a specific grouping, an organization that would raise and fight for a particular program. This goes back to at least Bakunin, who formed the Alliance for Socialist Democracy when he was in the First International. And in fact, that was a major complaint of Marx against Bakunin – the formation of an anarchist grouping inside the organization. And ever since then, there have been those who aim to form an anarchist organization. The question is just how to do it and how decentralized it would be and how federalized it would be. I believe in the need for those revolutionary anarchists who have a general agreement should form themselves into some democratic federation in order to develop their ideas better, in order to coordinate their activities, in order to fight for that particular program. As against, after all, the fact that all the bad guys are organized, the various Stalinists, the Marxist-Leninists, the liberals, the fascists, the reformists – everybody is organized and fighting for their program. And I think anarchists should do that too. Sometimes it’s called pro-organization anarchists or dual organization anarchism. Dual because anarchists should organize themselves, as well as participate in broader organizations and groups like unions and community groups, and anti-war movements. So this was the idea raised by Makhno and Arshinov sometime after the Russian Revolution when some of the anarchists got together and said, “Why were the Bolsheviks able to beat us out and create their system? While anarchists were influential in various ways during the revolution. One of the reasons, if not the only one, was because they had organized themselves and it was important we should be organizing ourselves.” This is a key idea, they wrote something that they call a draft platform for anarchists. So those who agreed with that were known as platformists, other groups have done various arguments about this proposal. But the basic idea of anarchists organizing themselves, those who agree with each other, the revolutionary anarchists who fight for a program is, I think, an essential point of view. It’s, in this country, particularly raised by the Black Rose Federation. Right now I’m retired, so to speak. I’m not a member of any organization, but I generally support their activities. And I think they’re going in the right direction as far as that goes.

TFSR: Love and Rage, which you were a part of, another federation, did it consider itself a cadre organization? And how does the idea of the cadre relate to shared points of unity around a platform?

WP: We never use the word cadre. Partly, if what you mean by cadre is militants, people committed to revolutionary anarchism, then yes. On the other hand, if you mean people who are highly disciplined and top-down organized, then certainly not. We were a loose Federation, somebody wanted to make it even looser and wanted to make a network, we said we wanted to make a federation based on a program. We put out a newspaper regularly, continent-wide, that went from Mexico throughout the United States to Canada. But there were various political disagreements, and it was a very loose grouping. And the problem with anarchists, of course, is theoretical unity. There were disagreements on that, and also the movement started going downhill for a while. And it fell apart. Some people in Love and Rage decided to look in direction of a more centralized and authoritarian perspective, abandoning anarchism for Maoism. We had a faction fighting side about that those of us who objected to that. So it fell apart. But that was after nine years. For nine years, it was successful, at least in having an impact on the scene. So I’m rather proud of that. And the movement continued on after that.

TFSR: I’m sorry for the mischaracterization of cadre, that’s how it had been explained to me by someone that I knew who was affiliated with it at one point, that’s the term that they had used, but maybe they went towards the Maoist direction themselves.

WP: I think that’s somebody’s conclusion looking back on it. I don’t think at the time we used the term.

TFSR: So you said that you’re retired. Was I incorrect in saying that you affiliate with MACC?

WP: Yes. Although MACC is so loose an organization that doesn’t have official membership. So I support it and go to participate in it. Study groups and various discussions and activities.

TFSR: Would you call it a synthesist organization?

WP: I don’t know, the term implies integrating different perspectives, or even trying to. There is no clear MACC ideology or program. If you regard yourself as an anarchist, you should join MACC. I think we would draw the line and say no anarcho-capitalist. Otherwise, it is pretty open. It’s not that there’s a deliberate attempt to synthesize different perspectives. It’s just a de facto, who joins. It’s too grand to call it a synthesis.

TFSR: You mentioned reading groups. What other projects does MACC affiliate with?

WP: They’re involved in this support for immigrants, support for prisoners, support and involvement in at least one labor struggle in the city. That’s off the top of my head right now, trying to help the formation of mutual aid groups to help people in this time of crisis, spreading the ideas and concepts of a rent strike, there are individuals involved in podcast production Rebel Steps. And a bunch of other things. People try to put together a collection of writings on anarchism, it is a propaganda grouping. A wide range of activities.

TFSR: That’s awesome. I was gonna bring up your recent piece about the US presidential elections for the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review entitled “An Election in Hell.” It took a pretty traditionally anarchist stance on electoral participation, which is promoting abstention and, alternatively, direct action. So while many anarchists say that the parties are the same and that participation doesn’t matter, it seems clear that elections deeply affect the people who are most marginalized in our society, whether because of the effects of racialization, gendering, ableism, and neurodivergence, the nation of birth, ethnicity, etcetera and the ways that those lines intersect with class. We also see that the more conservative and reactionary wing of politics in the US, namely the Republicans, is constantly pushing to divest the vote from those groups that I named above in favor of white Christian property-owning straight and cis-men. So it’s not really fair to say that elections don’t have an impact, right? So I’m wondering if you could bring out a little more about your perspective around the impacts of elections, what participation means, and if it really is unwise to just vote for the least threatening possible, potential enemies as in if we got Sanders and or if we got Biden in, they might be easier to push against or organize against than, say, a Trump?

WP: First of all, I need to be clear, I do not tell people not to vote. That’s up to them. What isolated individuals do, whether they vote or not, I really don’t give a damn. The likelihood of your individual vote making an impact isn’t all that much. And I certainly don’t argue with my friends and family and co-workers, when I was working, saying “Don’t vote.” I certainly wouldn’t deny that the Democrats are the lesser of two evils. My argument is really about what should mass groups do, large progressive groupings of the population, let alone mass organizations, what should the unions do? What should the black community as a community do? Other communities of color, Latinx, and organized LGBTQ people? What should the organized environmental movement or the organized women’s movement do? These groups put a lot of money and human effort into campaigning and phone-calling and phone-banking and contacting people. Much of the effort, in fact, is pretty much the basis of the Democratic Party. I would say they are the Democratic Party, except for the fact that Democratic Party does have a membership. But in fact, it’s run by politicians and big donors. I advocate for them that what they do as organizations should be to stop supporting the Democratic party or any electoral party and put their efforts into direct action, mass action, union organizing, community organizing, mass strikes, demonstrations, and civil disobedience.

Most of the progress that this country has made has been done through outside of the electoral system, through non-electoral activities. When you think of the 30s’ labor struggles, mass strikes that brought us the progressive aspects of the New Deal and the unionization, or the civil rights movement with mass civil disobedience, which is a nice way of saying law-breaking and the so-called riots, or the anti-war movement, which was mostly mass demonstrations and college strikes and civil disobedience and virtual mutiny inside the army, and so on throughout history. These are the direction that I think was more useful than elections or Democratic Party in particular which is the place where mass movements go to die. That’s what happens to most mass movements when they get sucked into the Democratic Party to be efficient, and then they’re killed off. It’s one reason why it’s been so hard to build anything right now. I certainly don’t deny that the problem with the strategy of voting and supporting the lesser of two evils is that things just keep on getting more evil. The history of politicians in this country, of presidents has been viewed as one reactionary Republican, who then is defeated by a Democrat who is more or less moderate or liberal or whatnot, who is then followed by another even more reactionary Republican, who’s then defeated by another Democrat then followed by another reactionary Republican. And we’ve now gotten ourselves into this whole system, this whole approach is produced now, the very worst of all. This is not a viable long-term strategy. I agree that elections in the short-term could make a difference, but in the long term, this country is not run by elections. It is not elections that make the final difference. It’s whether or not there’s gonna be a mass movement to fight against the reactionary aspects of society. The Republicans are the cutting edge of the knife of the attack on the working class and oppressed people and black people and women and so forth. But the Democrats are up there on the ballot, they’re up there on the knife also, just behind the Republicans. Did I make myself clear?

TFSR: No, I think that’s perfectly clear. If you have anything else that you want to talk about, I’ve kept talking for a while. I really enjoyed the conversation, but I was gonna ask where people can find your work. Is there a platform that you specifically publish on or where people can follow you?

WP: A lot of my articles have been published on www.anarkismo.net. Some articles are published in the Anarchist Library under Wayne Price. I also write for the Utopian journal, and also for the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review. And I have three books that have been published: one book on the political economy and two other books that can be looked up.

TFSR: Thank you very much. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you about that you’d to mention for the audience or discuss?

WP: I can’t think of off-hand. There are so many topics to talk about. Right now we see the system collapsing, for the moment. We’re in very bad days. If I thought that the system was going to restore itself, and get back into balance, I’d say that the chances of making a revolutionary change are pretty small. But I don’t believe that. I think things may improve, but they’ll collapse even further. It’ll go up and down. But the long-running trend is one catastrophe after another. And the politics of this country have been showing, reflecting the basic crisis, the middle is falling away. So on the one hand, you have fascists marching in the streets, and a president who can’t even bring himself to directly criticize them. And on the left, you have the growth of people calling themselves socialists. Polls are showing that up to about 30 to 40% of the population identifies themselves as being socialist, or pro-socialist. And we saw with Sanders is running a large number of people who were either socialist or at least were willing to vote for somebody who calls themselves socialist. They’re pretty vague about what that means. To the extent that there’s an actually developed program, it’s reformist state socialism, which I think is totally inadequate for the crisis, and at its worst, could lead to state capitalism and oppression. But it shows us a change. There’s an opening for a far-left, for revolutionary anarchist socialists, revolutionary libertarian socialists, and libertarian communists to make a point, to argue for their position and organize. If we put ourselves together, if we have an organization, if we build movements to build a really revolutionary perspective that can make a difference. So there’s hope. There’s great danger, and I have no idea whether this will happen in the time before some terrible collapse or calamity, but there’s certainly hope and there are certain things that open things up in the direction of change. So we should look at that positive side as far as that goes.

TFSR: Yeah, the idea of trying to restart the economy, whatever the hell that means. I don’t think it’s ever really been done from a full stop before, but it seems to open up a lot of possibilities.

WP: That’s right. Yes, I think so. People are reconsidering what they mean and what kind of life they want, how society should be organized. And because most people will try to get back to “normal,” except it’s never going to be another normal. That’s what it means, what Biden says like he’s gonna get rid of Trump and we go back to normal. Of course, it was that very normal that caused many people to be dissatisfied and to be channeled into support for Trump in the first place. But it isn’t going to go back to normal, crises will continue. And that people are looking for alternatives, and it’s very important for revolutionary anarchists to be raising their alternatives, to be talking about the possibility of a different way of living, a different way of human beings relating to each other, a different way of organizing society. That is what gives me hope.

TFSR: If there are people that might think about a UBI [Universal Basic Income] -type idea as being an alternative or as a positive step forward, we’ve seen little bits of this with the small portions of the population that have actually gotten a stimulus check. But even in the name, it says stimulus, it’s meant to be spent in order to get small businesses running. But do you think that a UBI is anything that actually could get passed? It doesn’t seem to sit very well with the revolutionary perspective, does it?

WP: Revolutionaries shouldn’t be against all reforms. A reformist is not somebody who’s for reforms, a reformist is somebody who thinks reforms are sufficient, who thinks that if we just keep on doing reforms that either that’s good enough, or that somehow, by gradually doing reforms, they will evolve into a new society without ever having to make a revolutionary transformation. I am for reform, certainly, the idea of a guaranteed income for everybody is a basic communist concept. For that very reason, I don’t think it would pass in this society, such as it is. We can’t even get universal health passed. Even Biden was not for a universal health plan. But I’m all for it. We certainly call for it, they can barely get past this little inadequate lump sum payment to the population, while they’re putting on vast sums of money for the rich and the big corporations.

TFSR: And all the while the numbers of death in the United States are outpacing everywhere else in the world. We really are the greatest.

WP: We have got the most incompetent government that we’ve had in decades. It’s not inherent to capitalism that such an incompetent government but on the other hand, it is consistent with the history of this country, especially recent history. We’ve gone from Reagan to Bush, who was not the sharpest pencil in the block to this idiot. So that’s been really compounding this disaster.

TFSR: On that happy note. Thank you so much for the chat, I really enjoyed it.

WP: Me too. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.

TFSR: I hope you stay healthy, you and yours.

WP: Stay healthy and happy.

Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories (rebroadcast)

Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories (rebroadcast)

Book cover of "Compañeras: Zapatista Women's Stories" with text "TFSR 09-11-22"
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This week on the show, we re-air Amar’s 2015 interview with Hilary Klein, author/editor of the book Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories, out from Seven Stories Press.

Over the hour, Hilary talks about her 7 years of living in Chiapas and recording the stories and experiences of women there, collecting stories on their behalf. The book covers the Zapatistas experiences before the EZLN uprising of 1994, during that period and after. Discussion address what gender, indigeneity and class looked like and how that’s changed in the Zapatista communities, the state of Chiapas and in Mexico. William and Hilary also explore the effects that the EZLN & La Otra Compaña have had on radicals and anarchists abroad, the origins of the EZLN, some parallels and distinctions between anarchism and Zapatismo and much more.

You’ll find a transcript of this audio available soon at our website. The book is also available for free reading on archive.org. Next week, stay tuned for another rebroadcast, with some new content coming up real soon.

Annoucement

Post-Release Funds for Maumin Khabir

from GoFundMe.com:

SUPPORT FUND FOR NEW AFRIKAN POLITICAL PRISONER ON HOSPICE, MAUMIN KHABIR! (SN MELVIN MAYES). CURRENT GOAL IS $3K FOR ESSENTIAL MEDICINE! Maumin Khabir served a 27 year sentence behind prison walls in North Carolina for a crime he didn’t commit. Declared a terrorist by the U.S. government, Khabir was targeted by RICO laws (a draconian set of laws that target individuals opposed to U.S. ideology) and captured in 1995. Maumin turned down a plea deal that would require him to confess to crimes he did not commit. As a political prisoner, he has remained an organizer, educator, and devote Muslim while on the inside. Maumin is a citizen of the sovereign Republic of New Afrika and his secession from the United States of America is the motivating factor behind the government’s prosecution and has no criminal basis. Maumin asks the court to recognize him as a political prisoner in accordance with the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Protocol 1.

In February, Maumin was granted compassionate release by the courts due to his severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). He is now in the care of people who love him but it is still a very difficult situation. Maumin is on 24hr oxygen and can hardly move and it’s overall difficult to care for him. We are raising funds for to support Maumin’s care, to ensure it is the best it can be right now, and so his family who cares for him can give him a proper burial after he transitions. We ask you to share this link and donate what you can! We need money for medication, medical bills, and hopefully new transportation so Maumin can see loved ones and make appointments. Thank you for your support! Free The Land!

. … . ..

Featured Tracks:

  • Politiks Kills (Prince Fatty Instrumental) by Manu Chao from Politiks Kills single
  • Himno Zapatista (track #20) from Antología Musical Zapatista
  • Por El Suelo by Manu Chao from Clandestino

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: Will you first introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do?

Hillary Klein: Yes. Thank you so much for inviting me to share this time with you and your listeners. My name is Hillary and I currently work at an organization called the Center for Popular Democracy, which is a national network of community based organizations working for racial justice, economic justice, and immigrant rights. I’ve been doing social justice work for a long time, but that included several years that I spent in Chiapas, Mexico, working with Zapatista communities in indigenous villages, and specifically with women’s projects. So I feel like it’s all connected, because whether it’s here in the US or whether it’s abroad, I feel like it’s all one vision of a world of greater justice and greater dignity. The book that I wrote came out of that experience working with women’s cooperatives and women’s projects in the Zapatista communities.

TFSR: So you went to Chiapas through your work?

HK: Not in the sense of for a job. I went to Chiapas was actually in 1997 thinking that I was just going to stay for a couple of weeks or maybe a couple months. So, I was there originally as a human rights observer and as a volunteer on solidarity projects, but it was such a compelling movement and such a fascinating time. I felt like history was kind of unfolding before my eyes. How could I not say and witnessed it or be part of it in some way? So I ended up staying, and I stayed on, and I ended up staying about six years. Much longer than I had expected. So, I was there from 1997 till about 2003. So I’ve been back in the US for a little more than 10 years doing what I consider to be the same work, but it’s not actually like I was working for the same organization or anything.

TFSR: I do want to talk to you more about your time in Chiapas in a later question. But just to lay some solid groundwork for any listeners who are unfamiliar, would you be willing to talk us through some historical bullet points of the Zapatista movement?

HK: Yeah, of course. So the Zapatista movement is also called the EZLN, which is a Spanish acronym for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. It’s primarily a social movement, a very broad grassroots radical social movement in southern Mexico, fighting for indigenous rights for land, but for also for a whole kind of host of broader demands that I think are very universal in the sense of: for dignity, for justice, for equality, for democracy, and has really resonated with people around the world.

So, in addition to being a social movement, it also has a rebel army. They did choose the path of armed struggle. After many years of fighting for change in their own context, out of a sense of desperation, seeing children die from preventable diseases, for example, they chose the path of armed struggle, feeling like they had no option left but to stand up for themselves and force the government to listen. The communities and Chiapas are historically extremely poor, extremely marginalized. That’s really a legacy from colonialism. The history of racism, the history of economic exploitation, all that goes back, more than 500 years. Those legacies are still things that those communities are facing today.

The Zapatista movement comes out of that history of 500 + years of indigenous resistance, it also comes out of the legacy of the Mexican Revolution. So the name Zapatista comes from Zapata. Emiliano Zapata was a hero of the Mexican Revolution who fought for ‘Tierra y Libertad,’ land and freedom. So they very much carried on that banner. But they also recognize that neoliberalism or global capitalism, whichever you want to call it, is kind of the current political and economic system, which reproduces many of those same legacies of inequality, of injustice, and exploitation that began with colonialism.

So, they actually rose up in arms on January 1 1994. That was the same day that NAFTA, which is the North American Free Trade Agreement, went into effect. They chose that day to highlight that relationship with global capitalism, with neoliberalism. So that’s where many of us around the world first heard of the Zapatistas. For myself, speaking personally, it was really an important moment. It came kind of at the tail end of the Cold War. So there was this question in the air for people of my generation, I was 19 at the time in 1994, of what the next wave of social movements would look like after the end of the Cold War. The capitalists were claiming victory, free trade – the market won. So it was really inspiring to see this model of this example of what a new social movement might look like. It’s really inspired people ever since then. So that was 20 + years ago.

After that very brief armed uprising, the Zapatistas have not used their weapons ever since then. They do still have an insurgent army. That’s, I think, an important thing to know about them in terms of their character as a very militant movement. But it’s also in reality, it’s much more of a broad social movement, in terms of its actions, and has become much more known for peaceful mobilizations, for political marches and other actions, for convening civil society. Mexican as well as international civil society, to come together and talk about the different problems that we face different strategies of how we can find solutions collectively and build a world of of greater dignity and justice.

It’s also become very known for its project of indigenous autonomy. So in its own territory, in eastern Chiapas, they’ve developed autonomous governments, their own health care and education systems. They have a whole system of economic cooperatives, which have developed an economy that’s based on cooperation and solidarity, rather than one that’s based on on profit.

TFSR: I was really struck by… because there’s lots of parts in your book, and a lot of its interview based, but I remember reading that the Zapatistas would come down from the mountains posing as teachers, or whoever, and just start talking to people. And it has so much an emphasis on people talking to each other and being like, “why are you so poor? Why don’t you have as much to eat as you need? Why do you need to do all this work?” Trying to get people’s wheels turning.

HK: Definitely. I think that that same concept that you’re pointing out, of dialogue, I think has been really important within the Zapatista movement. But also, when I mentioned convening civil society at the national or international level, I think that same concept of dialogue that you’re describing has really been important in terms of how the Zapatistas have engaged with people around Mexico and around the world. Using that same process of listening to each other, of asking questions that really makes each other think, “Why is this injustice the case? What can we do about it?” And so I think that that’s been one of the ways it’s been so effective for them to spark people responding by organizing in their own contexts around the world.

TFSR: And it seems like those conversations were extremely non coercive, meaning that people were like, “Oh, there’s this meeting where people are talking about it, come to it if you want.”

HK: I think that’s right. So, when I mentioned that 1994 was the Zapatista uprising, the very brief uprising, they had actually been organized in clandestine way for 10 years before that, from 1983 to 1994. 1983 is when the EZLN was formed in the mountains of the jungles of Chiapas. So for the next 10 years, they were doing exactly what you’re describing, talking to people in the villages, asking them questions, encouraging them to organize. There was very strong movements in Chiapas like I mentioned. People turn to armed struggle, because they had already been, many people who became Zapatistas, had been engaged for years and years in campesino movements, for example, or indigenous rights movements, asking for land reform from the government, for example, and really seeing no response.

The Zapatistas often referred to themselves, and have been called, ‘the voice of the voiceless.’ So it’s really the sense of very, very marginalized, kind of forgotten corner of Mexico and people making this decision to take their own destiny into their own hands. So I think when the original core guerrilla nucleus that formed in 1983, began to really reach out for people in the villages. It just was a very fertile moment for people to say, “Yes, it’s time. We need to take this to a whole other level and demand our rights and do that in a determined and courageous way.”

TFSR: I’d love to talk a little bit about your book, which is called ‘*Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories,*’ and it is heavily interview based, drawn from interviews, many of which you conducted yourself, with people who directly experienced working with the EZLN and you mentioned that you lived in Chiapas itself from 1997 to 2003. Would you talk a little bit about more about your time living in Zapatista communities in Chiapas?

HK: Like I mentioned, when I went down there I wasn’t planning to stay for so long. But one of the reasons that I felt like history was kind of unfolding before my eyes… The Zapatistas movement in itself was incredibly inspiring to me at that time. I was so struck by it. But in particular, the role of women has always been crucial. I think this is true for many social movements. This had been my experience, personally, as well as something I had studied was the experience of women within many social movements, where on the one hand, there’s this opportunity, and you are engaged in this whole new way, and at the same time, even within that social movement, women have had to fight for their own rights within that to defend themselves.

So, I have had this kind of long standing interest in women’s participation in radical and revolutionary social movements. So when I got to Chiapas, it was that particular aspect of history, that was unfolding before my eyes were, on the one hand, women have played a critical role in the Zapatista movement from the very beginning, and at the same time, had to push for a lot of changes internally. There was a lot that was still evolving and unfolding. I was very struck by that combination of these amazing, strong, courageous, inspiring women leaders. And also the participation of women within the Zapatista movement was continuing to evolve. That was what compelled me to stay for so much longer.

I got involved with the women’s cooperatives in particular, because it’s an economic space for women to generate resources collectively and invest those resources back into their communities. But because it’s an all-women’s space. There are all women’s collectives, and all men’s collective, that really stems from, because gendered division of labor still exists to a large degree. So women’s collectives tend to be artisan collectives, or vegetable gardens, or chicken raising collectives.

Because they are all-women’s spaces, they’re also really an area where women oftentimes come to voice and come to their own sense of power for the first time. It’s the first time they might be participating outside of the home or learning to speak up. So it’s kind of like a springboard for women’s involvement in other ways in the Zapatista movement.

So that was the kind of work that I was drawn to. This coworker and I developed a project kind of hand in hand with the Zapatista women leaders, their kind of regional representative. So we had sort of an ongoing conversation with them about what might be useful, and what would be helpful for us to do as outsiders, and develop this project of supporting women’s cooperatives and women’s regional organizing in general. So that was what I did for most of the time that I was there in Chiapas.

TFSR: Apart from artisanal stuff and vegetable gardening, and what were some of the projects that the women’s collective did?

HK: They were each organized around whatever different economic activity they decide. This is just one way that women are organized. But in particular, in economic cooperatives, women often talk about how the first step is to get together as a women’s meeting or women’s assembly and decide to form a cooperative, and then decide what type of cooperatives they want to form. So, they might decide, for example, to start a vegetable garden or to start a chicken raising collective and they’ll each contribute something like one peso each to buy seeds and start the vegetable garden, or they each contribute one hen, and then that’s how they start to chicken raising collective.

Some of the ones that are most common… Those ones that we mentioned, the artisan cooperatives, tend to be for outside consumption, so they sell more to an external market. A lot of the other ones are really more geared towards internal consumption. So even as they’re generating resources, with vegetable gardens for example, they’re addressing nourishment in their communities. That’s a big source of health problems, because people have historically had a pretty limited diet. In addition to generating those resources, they’re also producing for local consumption.

Another example of that is sometimes the women open collective stores. Because some of these villages are very isolated, it also allows people in the villages to buy from a local store, instead of having to travel just for basic goods. So, individuals don’t have to travel two or four or six hours to the closest city. The cooperative store does that buying and selling. So it’s making a little bit of money, but it’s also providing that service to the local community. And then the women collectively decide how they want to spend those resources. So they might be responding to emergencies, like if one woman is very sick, they can help her out, or if there’s a political mobilization, or they might decide to invest in the autonomous school.

So, there’s a lot of different ways, but that decision making process also is very important. It’s another way that is very empowering for the women who are involved to be engaged in, “Okay, we’ve generated these resources. Now, what do we want to do with the resources that we’ve generated?”

TFSR: The issue of food is so important, because it seems that so many of the women that you interviewed are indigenous women, and who were born into what I might call, a kind of indentured servitude. Is that completely inaccurate? Food was a very, very restricted resource for people who were subsistence farming to sustain themselves, but they were given for the most part infertile land or lands that just nothing would grow on.

HK: Yeah, absolutely. Some of what we were talking about earlier in terms of the legacies of colonialism have to do exactly with what you’re talking about, where the land that historically had belonged to indigenous peasants, was basically stolen from them. And ever since colonialism has existed, it has been really concentrated in the hands of a very few wealthy families in Chiapas that are basically European descended. Even though there have been some stages of land reform in Mexican history. Some of the biggest fincas, in a lot of parts of Latin America they’re called haciendas, in Chiapas are called fincas, they’re basically large plantations. When we think about the South in the United States, for example, the plantations, that historic cotton picking plantations.That type of economy. Where in Chiapas, they weren’t literally slaves, but like you said, they were basically indentured servants.

So, even though those exact same structures didn’t exist anymore, it looked very similar in terms of the indigenous peasants having either to live and work full time on the fincas, or they have these very small plots of land up kind of on the rocky mountainside where basically nothing grew. So land and the food that they produced was just a huge source of inequity, or manifestation of that inequity, the injustice that people were living with. People actually talk about the hunger months, ‘el tiempo de hambre’, when their corn had run out from one season and they hadn’t harvested the corn from the next season and there’s this kind of gap in between where they just literally didn’t have enough to eat.

So, that’s kind of historically what people were dealing with. It was just so very core to people’s lives and people’s experiences.

TFSR: You mentioned that you came over to Chiapas. Could you speak about writing on this topic from the perspective of a relative outsider? Could you talk about how that influenced your approach?

HK: So at the tail end of the time that I was there, one of the projects that I worked on before I left was an internal document where the women wanted to record their own stories. I think Zapatista women recognize that they’ve been part of something pretty historic, and they wanted to record that for themselves. But they also really wanted to use it as a tool for education for organizing with other women. So I did that project, which was really amazing. You mentioned earlier, that a lot of the books is heavily based on interviews that I did with different women. And so a lot of the interviews were kind of throughout the time that I was there. But a lot of them were particularly from this time period, when I was doing this project with the women that was initially just for themselves. But once we finished it, and they have this product, which was like a popular education manual. It was really geared towards them not only having their own stories documented, but being able to kind of use it to educate and organize other women. They themselves said, “You know what? We actually really want to share these stories with an outside world as well. And how do you feel about doing something like this book, but for an outside audience?”

I tell that whole story, because I feel like your question is coming from this really important place of what is the role of an outsider in writing a book like this. I had spent several years at that point, working very closely with the Zapatistas very much always as an outsider, right? It’s not my community. It’s not my context. But I was very close with the communities at that point. I would not have felt like it was appropriate for me to go and publish this book or share their stories if it hadn’t been specifically a request or a suggestion that came originally from them.

I felt like it was important personally, because in this country so much has been written about the Zapatistas, but very little about women and even less in their own words. So even though it is my book, I felt like my role was much more as a cultural bridge to create a vehicle for women to share their own stories. So the book contains a lot of my own writing, where I introduce the women or I share historical background or some context, but my intention was always to do that as a foundation for an outside audience to be able to then engage with the women’s stories from having the necessary background, but then to hear really directly from them.

So, like you said, the book is very heavily based on these interviews. And that was really the most important thing to me. And so just going back more concretely, to your question, I think that I, as an outsider, did have the ability to kind of create that bridge, especially in an audience in this country, but like I said, very much coming from a commitment to create the space for the women to kind of tell their own stories and people to hear as directly as possible. Because I had been so incredibly touched, and moved, and inspired by all these women that I had worked with over the years. Their stories of transformation, their stories of struggle, their stories of courage had been so meaningful to me, that when they were the ones that suggested that to me, it was such an honor to think of me creating that vehicle for them to share the stories with a broader audience.

TFSR: Yeah, for sure. And speaking as another outsider, it was really amazing to be able to read their experiences in their own words. So I’ve strongly benefited from that. It’s a pretty incredible experience to be able to do that.

HK: I mean, the fact that you have that experience of it makes me feel like I accomplished what I set out to do.

TFSR: It’s amazing that because Zapatismo has, like you said, so many visible female leaders like Comandanta Ramona comes to mind, but there hasn’t been much written about Zapatista women.

HK: Yeah, there has been some stuff written for sure. There is stuff out there, but relative to how much has been written overall about the Zapatista movement, I feel like there was a real gap. What’s been written about Zapatista women I feel like hasn’t been thorough. So, I really felt like it was important to me.

TFSR: Will you speak to the political roots of Zapatismo. It seems to me that there were some strongly Maoist communist and militaristic currents in there. Since this is an anarchist radio show, I feel like I should ask that question to clarify that for the listening audience?

HK: One thing I think that is very fascinating, I think specifically from an anarchist perspective is that Zapatismo is a blend of many different political traditions. Political and also historical and cultural traditions that didn’t come out specifically of an anarchist trajectory, but ends up having a lot in common with anarchism. I think anarchists around the world have really related to the Zapatistas because of some of these core principles that the Zapatistas have come to represent, including not trying to take State power, that they instead believe in kind of creating power from below, creating alternative institutions to the State and having a lot of very horizontal structures. And then all the stuff that we’re talking about, about indigenous autonomy, and having a critique not only of the State, but of the whole political system, and they’ve been very clear that they’re not going to turn into a political party. Which was a path that many Central American guerrilla movements too and eventually converted into political parties.

But in terms of the roots, which you were asking about. So that’s all to say that the end product of Zapatismo has a lot in common with anarchism, but it came from all these very different places and political historical roots. One of the things that I think is so unique, and to the Zapatistas credit, has been their ability to draw the best of different political traditions. We were talking a little bit earlier about the history of the Zapatista movement, there was this core nucleus of Marxist guerrillas that came out of the student movement in the 60’s in the 70’s throughout Mexico. They went down and formed that initial guerrilla nucleus that we were talking about in 1983. But they really began to interact with the Campesino movements, the Indigenous movements in Chiapas at the time, with the Catholic Church, which was very heavily influenced by Liberation Theology, like you said, there was Maoist groups down there at the time. I think what the Zapatistas were able to do, was to blend all that into something that was kind of new and unique, that I would now call Zapatismo that came from these very different political threads.

I think a lot of the more horizontal aspects came from the history of the indigenous communities themselves. The original core of Zapatistas who were not from Chiapas, which we’re only a handful of people really. I mean, numerically speaking, the Zapatista movement is pretty much all indigenous peasants from Chiapas, but there was this original group that came from elsewhere to kind of start, at that time, their vision was much more like the the vision of the Cuban revolution.

In some of the really poetic writing about the Zapatistas themselves and how they’ve described themselves, Marcos, for example, who is a male non-indigenous leader that was the spokesperson for the Zapatista movement for many years. He talks eloquently about that process of indigenization of the Zapatista Army in some ways. So if people are interested, I definitely encourage them to look up some of those writings or descriptions of that process. They are very fascinating.

TFSR: Apparently, I heard that Subcomandante Marcos, who was like the leader of the Zapatista movement, abolished himself as a Subcomandante. Did you hear about that? And is that true?

HK: It is true. It’s funny because he… I don’t mean this to sound dismissive. I feel like everything he does, he sort of has to do with a flourish. So even the way that you describe it as like, “He abolished himself.” He basically, in practical terms, what he was doing was kind of passing off the reins to other, indigenous leaders. Which I think is great. It was time for that to happen.

The indigenous communities had chosen Marcos as their spokesperson, I think they legitimately recognized that he would be able to play the role of reaching out to the world, and he’s a very poetic, very philosophical, charismatic, kind of articulate leader. And at the same time, it feels right that it was time to kind of pass on those reins to the local, indigenous leadership. So it was about a year ago, he said that Marcus had died and reemerged as Galeano. Galeano was the name of a man who was killed about a year ago in an attack against one of the Zapatista communities. And so, he renamed himself Galeano, in honor of the person who had been killed. And at the same time, said that it was time for him to kind of pass this on to other leadership.

So there’s a new Subcomandante, who now has that role. It’s kind of an interesting dual role of military leader and spokesperson. The Subcomandante is not actually the political leader of the EZLN, there’s a political body of leaders, which is kind of chosen by all the different communities. There’s different layers, each community has an assembly, and then each region has an assembly, and they kind of choose their representatives at each of those levels. So, at the highest level is the political comandantes, which is a collective body of leadership, the political leadership of the EZLN. Actually the subcomandante is called subcomandante, because he is under their direct command. So the military leadership is underneath the command of the political leadership.

But because he’s also the spokesperson, it’s the person that people most often kind of associate with the Zapatista movement. Then what we were speaking about earlier, in terms of not hearing from women, part of that is because there has been this one person who has been kind of the most well known leader of the Zapatista movement who also happens to be a man. It’s just that’s like the one, if people have generally heard of one Zapatista, it’s usually Subcomandante Marcos.

TFSR: You write in chapter one of your book that the injustices that people faced were the roots of the Zapatista revolutionary movement. To that end, would you describe general conditions that the women you spoke to faced before the influence of the Zapatistas?

HK: Yeah, definitely. So Comandanta Esther, who was another one of the powerful women Zapatista leaders, she one time spoke before the Mexican Congress in 2001. It was the first time an indigenous woman had ever spoken to the Mexican Congress, which itself is startling. So, she spoke to the Mexican Congress, and she talked about women Chiapas being exploited or oppressed three times over, she said, “first, because we’re poor, second, because we’re indigenous, and third, because we’re women.” I think that really gets at the heart, we were already talking about some of the legacies of colonialism. Indigenous women deal with all of that. They deal with the racism, they deal with the poverty, they deal with economic exploitation, but then they also deal with gender discrimination.

The way you framed it, before the influence of the Zapatista movement, just as sort of an extraordinary level of lack of rights in the sense that they were pretty much confined to their home, couldn’t leave their home without the permission from their husband or their father. From the very time they were girls they were basically told they didn’t have rights, they didn’t have a voice, their role was just to work in the home and to take care of kids. That’s obviously very important, dignified work, raising children and taking care of the home, but it’s not something that I believe women should be limited to.

Then in terms of the family life, women were married very young, oftentimes, against their will. When they were maybe 13 or 14 years old, their father would arrange a marriage for them, basically. Then women oftentimes had 10, 12, sometimes 15 kids, and so had very little control over their own lives, their own bodies, the decisions that impacted their lives. And the realm of public decision making was really dominated by men.

So, the Zapatista women, the older women, this is what their lives were. They oftentimes talk about, the first chapter of the book is called something like ‘stories of our mothers or grandmothers,’ because they oftentimes refer to these as the stories that our mothers, our grandmothers had told us, including the Zapatista women who were still around today. This is what they grew up with, just this really intense level of discrimination and marginalization.

TFSR: I had a thought, because I remember reading an interview with one person, I don’t remember what her name was, but she basically described the difference between societal men’s work and women’s work. She said that, “the men’s work is hard, yes, but people get to take breaks, and we never really get to take breaks. We have our, like you said, our 13 children, two babies on our hip, grinding flour for tortillas, and getting water and cleaning the house and doing all sorts of odd jobs, and also caring for many, many children, and not ever getting to take a break. People often were just ill a lot be from overwork and malnourishment and all that stuff.” So I found that really striking.

HK: Yeah, it’s kind of extraordinary. And, like you said, in terms of the women’s workday, they talk about the kind of double workday that I think women in this country still experience. The expectation that after a day’s work, you come home and women are still largely expected to be the ones doing primary childcare and taking care of the home. But it was to such an extreme degree, like you said, women were basically working nonstop from the moment that they woke up to the moment that they went to bed. Oftentimes would go out to the field and work side by side with the men. So that was, “men’s work” was working in the fields. But then once men were done with that day of work, they would kind of come home and rest, whereas the women would come home and then continue to do all the other work that they were doing, the domestic work and everything else that you were describing.

TFSR: So we’re talking about a lot of like, positive aspects of the EZLN. And there are many, many, many of them. But since it’s an organization that’s run by people, and people are flawed, and all of this stuff, I wanted to bring up a quote that I was struck by on page 95, which goes, “women’s right to own or inherit land has not been staunchly defended by Zapatista authorities in the ways that their equal right to political participation has.” Will you speak about the cultural and social aspects of this dispute?

HK: Yeah, so, when we were talking earlier about how important land is, it’s important to the indigenous communities of Chiapas economically, because it is the source of food and of income. Also as indigenous people, it’s really important to them, culturally, spiritually, this concept of Mother Earth. They don’t think of land as private property. So, the Zapatistas carried out a bunch of land takeovers in 1994 in the same context of the uprising, one of the other actions that they took was these land occupations, and then they redistributed these fincas that we were talking about before, to indigenous peasants, Zapatistas, throughout the state of Chiapas. That made a huge difference in people’s lives. When we were talking earlier, also about the ‘hunger month,’ when people didn’t have enough crops to literally feed themselves throughout the year, people living on this retaken land, this land was much more fertile, they had more access access to more land. That means just a huge difference in people’s lives in terms of their kind of economic livelihood, in terms of their food security, and again, in terms of their identities as indigenous people, it’s culturally, spiritually, just having a territorial base has been super important and to the Zapatista movement in terms of having an area of land where they are experimenting with all these other aspects of society. The society that they’re building. All of that has been very important.

Like I said that they don’t think of land as private property, but it is still divided. So, individuals will work on a particular parcel of land, so they don’t own that land, but that’s their kind of parcel of land to farm on. And the Zapatistas… I think it’s one of the few areas where, like you said in that quote is compared to women’s political participation, the EZLN as an organization has very staunchly defended women’s right to be involved in the movement at all levels, but with the access to land, it hasn’t been. It’s actually one of the few areas that stood out to me, where the EZLN, I believe, could have been more proactive, and hasn’t been. So, they’ve kind of reproduced some of the gendered assumptions that women don’t need access to land in the same way. When they have divided up, for example, the land that they took over, they divided up those individual parcels primarily to men. Then it was up to, it’s mostly individual families to decide, as they pass land on to the next generation, if they would pass it on kind of equally to the sons and daughters, or just to the son.

When we were talking earlier about women fighting for their rights within different social movements. They’ve continued to push and it is kind of an internal debate. I think there’s been a lot of movement around it. A shift has definitely taken place. But I think we haven’t seen as big as a shift there in terms of access to land for women are equally between women and men as we have seen some really pretty incredible shifts and other types of transformations that women have experienced.

I think it’s just a fascinating example that no movement is perfect, none of us as individuals are perfect, and our social movements aren’t perfect either. For me personally, it’s one of the few areas that I think the EZLN could have taken a more proactive stand in terms of the women’s agrarian rights.

TFSR: Yeah, I mean, these kinds of social societal changes happen so slowly and revolutionizing the way that we overthrow misogyny in ourselves and in our communities, I think will be a thing that will last the entirety of humans lasting. However long that may be.

On the on the note of some of the more positive social changes that the EZLN brought about, one of the more striking changes of the organization was a women’s revolutionary law, which was shared publicly after 1994. Will you speak about this law and about its role in Zapatista history.

HK: The women’s revolutionary law was written and passed by the EZLN in 1993 leading up to the Uprising. Then they shared it publicly, like you said, after the Uprising in 1994. It was a very important document, and I’ll talk in a second about some of what it contains. But I think it was very important, both in terms of all the work that went into it, and then all the work that has happened since then to implement it. So there’s this one point in time when it was passed, but also represents, like you were saying a second ago, that change takes time.

Iin the end of the late 80’s and early 90’s, like when we were talking earlier about the clandestine organizing that the EZLN was doing in the communities. One very important aspect of that was, and in particular, oftentimes, it was women insurgents who were talking to women in the different villages, and really sort of instigating that same sense of asking about injustice that we were talking about earlier, women were doing that specifically around women’s rights and around gender discrimination and asking women, “do you think life really has to be like this? How else could life look like?” And so all these women’s assemblies and talks and conversations went into creating the women’s revolutionary law. So, there were the political leaders as well as the military leaders, early women leaders in that time, really carried out the series of conversations. That was what became the women’s revolutionary law. So they drew up all of those proposals into this document that was passed by the political leadership, the comandantes, in 1993. It became a framing document regarding what women’s rights in Zapatista territory are.

So, in terms of what it actually says, it talks about women’s right to participate in the movement at all levels. That gets at their political participation, their leadership in their communities, their ability to be military leaders in the Zapatista rebel army. But it also talks about a very broad range of areas of life. And so it talks about women’s right to health care and education. It talks about women’s right to live free of violence. It talks about about women’s right to decide who to marry and how many children to have. So, it really addresses across both public and private spheres, family life, community life, political life. And in some ways, those rights are very basic, but putting each of them into practice is hugely transformative.

Then once the law was passed, the work that then came to implement it was work of consciousness raising, work of education, work of changing those family norms. I think if you look at each one of the points in the revolutionary women’s law, there has been huge transformation that’s taken place. I think it’s so important that you asked earlier about what were women’s lives like before the Zapatista movement, because that helps give us an understanding of just how extraordinary those transformations were. From that situation that the women describe themselves, their mothers, their grandmothers living in, to what Zapatista women have achieved in really an incredibly short period of time.

On the one hand, I totally agree with what you said a second ago about patriarchy, that it’s something that it takes a huge amount of time to uproot. I can’t really fault the Zapatistas for not having ended patriarchy in the 20 years that they’ve been at it, because I don’t think anywhere in the world, I don’t think there’s been anywhere that patriarchy has been completely uprooted.

TFSR: That’d be such a tall order.

HK: And if there is somewhere out there, and your listeners know of that place, please let me know,

TFSR: You’ll be the first to know, definitely,

HK: That’d be great. Maybe one of you listeners will call and let us know. “This is where patriarchy has been uprooted.”

But there was a huge amount of transformation that took place in this very short time period, in types of changes that I think in many contexts take sort of generations to unfold. The level of women’s political participation, the level of their leadership in the movement, the changes that have taken place in the home, I think those points of the revolutionary law have really, to a large degree been implemented by women choosing if they want to marry at all, and if they do, who they settle down with, how many children they have.

So, there’s a lot of work to be done. But there’s also just a tremendous amount that’s been accomplished. And that I think, is also really at the heart of why I wanted to publish this book, and why I wanted to create that vehicle for women to tell their own stories, because not only are those transformations so incredible, but I think there’s so many lessons to be learned. It is a very different context. What it can look like, what it can mean to accomplish those types of transformations in our own lives,

TFSR: Obviously, the EZLN has had a lot of international effects on people. Will you speak to some of the impacts that this movement has had on radical and anarchist societies and other countries, especially concerning the involvement of women? And to what extent do you see it still having an effect?

HK: Definitely. I do really believe that ever since 1994, the Zapatista movement has been one of the most impactful social movements around the world that has just had a tremendous ripple effect in terms of influencing and inspiring people around the world. And I think there’s some really concrete examples of that and at the same time, I think it’s really hard to measure, but just kind of undeniably out there.

So, one of those really concrete examples is the anti-globalization movement of the late 1990s. So if folks remember or have heard of the protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization, or some of the other mobilizations that were taking place around the world. That really was something, the Zapatistas helped plant the seeds of that movement in some of those gatherings that I was talking about earlier that the Zapatistas have acted kind of as conveners of those conversations.

So they invited people to their territory, and people came throughout Mexico, but really from all over the world. And they really put this call out for anyone who’s been negatively impacted by global capitalism. So whether that’s because you are a student, or a worker, or a housewife, or transgender person, or whatever the case may be. When I was talking earlier about their demands being very universal, but I think it’s also been that type of call to anyone who has been exploited, oppressed, who’s faced injustice, and so many different people from so many different walks of life respond that call. So in the late 90’s, the focus of that was really in the context of neoliberalism and thinking about how can we address that. So the anti-globalization movement of the late 90’s. It wasn’t the only thing, but it was one of the things that really helped plant those seeds.

So, that’s, I think, you know, one concrete example. But besides that, there’s so many different collectives, organizations, groups around the world that have been influenced by the Zapatistas. It’s hard to name or measure that impact. But I do feel like it’s intangible, but undeniable. I think young people today continue to be inspired by the Zapatistas. They’re not in the spotlight in the same way they were kind of 10, 15, 20 years ago. But I continue to hear constantly about different examples of people who are really influenced by the Zapatistas, inspired by them, and then concretely influenced by them.

And in terms of women, I think it has been a really key example of not only having a movement that has strong women leadership, but a movement that’s also been able to evolve. When we were talking earlier about the roots of Zapatismo and I was saying that one of the things that makes the Zapatistas somewhat unique, I think, is their ability to draw from different political traditions and kind of be fluid and adapt. Their approach to gender is an example of that. So even though on the one hand, they were always committed to women’s participation, but there has also been a real evolution of their gender analysis. They would not use the word ‘feminist,’ it’s not the term they would use, but I think they have developed a much more nuanced analysis of gender and really taken on this question of, “What does it look like to uproot patriarchy?” So, yes, it will take time. But there’s been kind of a whole new series of strategies to address patriarchy to really uproot it. I think that that is so inspiring and is something that many of us in different social movements around the world can still really look to as a model that there’s a lot that we’ve won, but there’s a lot more to do.

I think the Zapatistas, and for me, personally, the Zapatista women in particular, but one of the aspects of the Zapatista movement that I think that really resonates is this combination of, on the one hand, being kind of humble enough to know that they don’t have all the answers. So, they have this philosophy of ‘making the road by walking’ and constructing the world of justice and dignity that they want to live in building that step by step, stone by stone. So, I think that humility is really important to know that we don’t have all the answers, nobody has all the answers. But at the same time, having kind of the the chutzpah, having the courage to say, “that’s not going to stop us” from dreaming big and from taking on global capitalism, or from declaring war on the Mexican government. And for women, it’s not going to stop them from you know, asking, “How do we address patriarchy? And how do we take all this stuff on?”

So I think that combination, that humility combined with the courage to dream big, and act on those dreams, is the one kind of thing that I would like to leave your listeners with. I think that message is true in general, but for me, as a woman, I would say, in particular, for women, women engaged in other struggles where it’s all connected, right? Women’s rights are connected to economic justice and social justice and racial justice. And as we fight for all those things in this interconnected way, that’s kind of the message that if there was one thing I would choose that I would like to share what I took away from those years that I spent in Chiapas, and what I kind of hoped to convey in the book, that would be it.

TFSR: Hilary Klein, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us about your book Compañeras: Zapatista Women’s Stories, which is available from Seven Stories Press and I highly, highly recommend it. It’s a really, really good read and I learned a lot from it. Thank you so much for talking with me today.

HK: Oh yeah, it was such a pleasure chatting with you.

Propaganda By The Seed (with Aaron Parker and Tim Holland)

Propaganda By The Seed (with Aaron Parker and Tim Holland)

Logo for PBTS featuring a tree, the words "Propaganda By The Seed" around te exterior with a circle-A in the roots of the tree
Download This Episode

This week on the show, we feature a chat with Aaron Parker of Edgewood Nursery & Tim Holland (aka MC Sole), who together form the Propaganda By The Seed podcast. You can find the podcast on the channel zero network, Libsyn, and a bunch of streaming services. We hope you enjoy this chat as much as Bursts did. We talk about their project of sharing conversations with various farmers, herbalists, propagators, scavengers, historians and cooks about plants, food autonomy, agriculture mutual aid and a host of other, related topics.

You can find a bunch of Sole’s music at his bandcamp. And, if you want to hear past convos we’ve had, you can find a chat Tim & Bursts had (when Bursts was wicked underslept) in 2017 or Amar & Bursts on the “final” Solecast in 2020.

The podcast that Bursts mentioned but never named is “The Strange Case of Starship Iris“. It’s great, you should check it out.

Amy’s Kitchen Labor Issues

For a few articles on the Amy’s Kitchen labor issues, since they closed a factory in San Jose, laying off 300 employees with no notice…:

Mo Evil Foods:

Announcements

Phone / Email Zap for Robert Preacher

Robert Peacher #881627 is a prolific jailhouse lawyer who is incarcerated at Pendleton CF. He has won at least 18 lawsuits against the Indiana DOC since being wrongfully convicted in the late ’90s. In retaliation for his jailhouse lawyering in defense of prisoners’ human rights, Peacher was fed rat poison by guards at Wabash Valley CF. As a result of that experience, Peacher now suffers from PTSD and can’t eat unless his food is delivered by someone he trusts. He has told officials that he can’t trust food delivered by custody officers but will eat food delivered by non-custody staff. He is now 48 days into an involuntary hunger strike and could use some support…

Please call and email IDOC HQ and Pendleton CF Warden Dennis Reagle to demand that Robert Preacher’s (#881627) food be delivered by non-custody staff, so that he can eat without triggering his PTSD!

16 On Hunger Strike at Harnett CI in NC

from ItsGoingDown:

On August 30th, sixteen prisoners housed in the SC-S 24 building of Harnett Correctional, in Lillington, NC went on an indefinite hunger strike. A supporter received the following statement, signed by all sixteen participants, with the request that it posted and spread online to make their grievances known. Stay tuned for future calls to action!

In the meantime, supporters can call the Warden of Harnett CI, Cathy Judge, at 910-893-2751 to express their support and concern for the hunger strike.

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Featured Tracks Include:

  • Keeper of the Ecosystems (instrumental) by Sole from Worlds Not Yet Gone (Black Box Tapes)
  • The Old (w/ Oldeaf) by Sole
  • Flood by Sole and DJ Pain 1 from Nihilismo

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: Would you two please introduce yourselves to the audience with any names, pronouns, locations, and other info you’d like to share?

Tim: Sure, my name is Tim aka Sole, I live in so-called Brunswick, Maine. My pronouns are he/his. Primarily, for my life and by trade, I’m a musician. But I’m also a podcaster. I do a podcast with Aaron called Propaganda by the Seed. I used to do the Solecast, I might do it again. Who knows? I like plants and food, and fuck the police. That’s me.

Aaron: My name is Aaron. I live in Wabanaki territory, so-called Falmouth, Maine. Not too far from Tim. My pronouns are he/him, I do a lot of stuff with plants, mostly seed farming and growing nursery stock. And I make that Propaganda by the Seed podcast with Tim. I am a partner parent, trying to get out into the community and hopefully do some cool stuff there too. And that’s mostly it.

T: He is also an educator. One of my favorite things about Aaron is that the permaculture industrial complex stuff that I really wanted to learn about in Denver was like $1,000, $150 a class. Where Aaron would do those things at the resilience hub for $15, pay what you want, no one turned away. And I was “Wow, that is how this stuff should be.” That’s awesome.

A: Educator/insufferable know-it-all.

TFSR: Well, many of us are suffering through it joyfully. I’m gonna cut that.

Thank you so much both of you for coming on the chat. I really appreciate it. And I really appreciate your podcast, I’ll gush about it in a minute. But I wonder if you could talk about Propaganda by the Seed. Also, Tim, I’ve heard over the years, you levy the cannons or whatever at permaculture as the industrial complex attached to it. I wonder if you could at least partially frame some of what you do with Propaganda by the Seed in terms of being in opposition to a model where people pay a bunch for really specialized knowledge?

T: Yeah, sure. You asked me so I’ll start answering. When I took my permaculture design certificate (PDC) course in 2015 or 2016, it was very expensive. It was a gift from family members chipping in. It really blew my mind in some ways. It changed my life. And I was “Wow, this is so incredible.” I can’t believe how expensive this is, I wish this information was free. And a lot of the information I was really interested in as a vegan, and was these plants like Turkish Rocket, Caucasian Mountain Spinach, Hablitzia, pawpaw – really stuff that isn’t very popular at all, and was really difficult to find information on. And because I had already built up a platform through podcasting and stuff, it was easy to start making podcast episodes with Aaron about all this stuff that you really can’t get good information on, unless you’re deep in the subculture. No nurseries and no people who are doing the work. Information everywhere is in chains and wants to be free. And I feel really keeping this project going. What’s so cool about it is you can plug into it at any time, five years from now, 10 years from now. And it’s a compendium of really great information, mostly from people Aaron knows.

And from my perspective, it started with– When I moved here, I had read about Aaron before. And so when we met and I found out he was an anarchist, and we became friends, and he started coming on the Solecast, doing random perennial vegetable podcasts. It’s crazy to have a comrade who’s one of the leading suppliers of these plants that I’ve been reading about for years, living close by. I pinch myself off to be on the other side of it, six years later, eight years later to be putting out this content for free and also framed by anarchists. A lot of the permaculture stuff is “get a PDC and then become an instructor.” It’s a pyramid scheme. Learn to grow food so that you can get free and share the information and the food and all that with everyone. Those are my motivations behind it really creating the content that I want to see in the world, this is what I want to geek out to. And again, I pinch myself that it’s part of my life, it’s really, really awesome.

A: I’ll hop in and give a little bit on my side. When Tim first showed up at my nursery, I don’t think I’d ever seen anyone so excited about Turkish Rocket. Usually, it’s a plant I have to sell to people and be like “Oh, it’s really cool because this, this, and this,” and Tim was like “Oh, that Turkish Rocket, there’s so much of it. I’m so excited. I’ve been trying to grow this.” And then as we became friends, he was like “We should do this podcast together.” Doing a podcast on plants is something that I had thought about and considered, but probably never would have actually done without someone to work with and someone to get the ball rolling. So I feel we have a really good working relationship on this project where Tim’s got a lot of connections and a lot more experience doing podcast stuff, and I have a lot of deep plant knowledge and connections to plant weirdos.

And it’s really fun to make. It’s a really awesome excuse for us to have a long in-depth conversation about this stuff with people that I might know or people that I have known for a long time. But to really get in deep on a particular subject. And I think something that our podcast offers that I haven’t really found in other podcasts about plants is we really try and go pretty deep and get beyond a 101 level. So there are lots of plant podcasts out there that’ll profile a plant, but it’s 15-20 minutes often, and can be a great introduction. But we tend to get in deep and get some more in-depth information that isn’t always easily found without really digging.

As far as the permaculture stuff, I have two kinds of critiques in my head… I don’t want it totally shit all over permaculture, I think has a place and is not necessarily beyond fixing, I don’t think we need to entirely scrap that word. But I think we need to look at it with a jaundiced eye and say there’s a lot of problems here that need to be addressed and fixed. So, one of them Tim already covered. It is this idea of the permaculture industrial complex, where people tend to go from taking this expensive PDC course and then turning around and becoming teachers and teaching expensive PDC courses without actually having a lot of experience. And I think that can lead to people who take a PDC and think they know how shit works, but don’t have on-the-ground knowledge and an overly rosy idea of what a designed ecosystem can be. And basically think that you can set up a garden that takes care of itself. And that’s completely imaginary as far as I can tell.

T: My yard. I prove that right now, by the way, here.

A: Yeah, one of the better ideas that are in permaculture is that humans are part of nature, and you have to be actively participating in this ecosystem that you’re trying to build. That means often a lot of labor. And that can be very joyful, that can be very fulfilling. I think a lot of people would be excited about being in the garden for a certain amount of time. But that isn’t always a reality under capitalism that you can spend that amount of time on probably unpaid labor. So that’s an issue.

And then there’s also this massive thing of cultural appropriation of indigenous knowledge that basically everything in permaculture, there’s no new ideas, really, it’s a synthesis of traditional techniques from around the world, not from any one place. But taking ideas from all over the world and using them, repackaging them in a commercial way that is often uncredited, often disrespectful, and often out of context to the point that the idea is no longer useful or doesn’t actually work anymore. So that’s a huge conversation that needs to happen and is, in some places, happening in the permaculture world. But it’s still one of the big things that I see as being “oh, permaculture is a bit of a trash fire.” And it’s not something that I think we need to totally walk away from. But if we can’t address the problems that are at the base, then we do need to start over with something else.

TFSR: If I remember correctly, it was developed as a schema by a white person in Australia. It’s a byproduct of settler colonial culture. And everything that exists in here, it’s got troubling roots to it that need to get navigated and need to get worked through.

T: I’m really glad that you brought that up. I think that one of the critiques that I’ve heard levied against permaculture- PDC is a permaculture design certificate?

T: Yes, sorry, for using jargon.

B: The idea that you’re selling someone on this, full, completed, enclosed system, that if they pay their way through it, they’ll get certified and suddenly, they can do anything, I think that, you’ve pointed to the fact that, nothing new is invented. And these are all ideas that are being shared and decontextualized in some ways. One thing that really impresses me about the show – and Tim said, a lot of the guests, Aaron, are your friends or your contacts – is the amount that the guests talk about being in online forums, or in discussion with people that are growing in totally different bioregions and having different experiences, the way that people are pulling knowledge from these different areas, but also in dialogue with people that are engaging with the plants and the natural settings that they’re at, to work with them or change them or challenge them or whatever. I’m amazed. It’s a little portal into a part of the world that I find really fascinating. But I’m also totally on the outside.

T: You know, Bursts, I feel that way about a lot of things but I have the same feeling, when I listened to someone whether they’re talking for a two-and-a-half-hour episode about mulberries, the cornelian cherry episode that we did was an hour and a half. I try to imagine these people being so focused on one plant, how can you afford to do that? How can you spend your whole life or 10 years digging so deep? And then really, they’re doing it mostly as a passion project. This guy Andrew out here has 150 hazelnuts, he’s breeding them. He doesn’t even think of it necessarily as this some money-making thing, it’s something he feels called to do. Anybody who’s deep into some shit that’s a little apart from our direct experience is always awesome, especially when it’s something– It’s that sense of wonder that keeps me coming back, and hearing people talk about all this shit is great, especially pre-internet stuff.

A: What strikes me – and this is something that I’m reminded of in my daily life – is this camaraderie that there is in the perennial agriculture world, where I have not a huge network, but a pretty decent network of folks doing similar work, most of them making their living at this, and there is virtually no sense of competition. So even among several nurseries, we’re freely sharing plant material and resources, and information. In the past 15-20 years I’ve been doing this, only once have I ever asked someone like “Oh, what are the real specifics of how you propagated that plant?” and have someone be like “Well, that’s proprietary information, I’m trying to run a business. I can’t tell you that.” For the most part, people are 100% down to share this information and be like “Yeah, let me get you cuttings of that. Let me give you seeds.” And occasionally it’s “Let me buy some of that from you.” But for the most part, people are like “Oh, let me give this to you. And I know that when you’ve got something cool, you’re gonna share it back with me.” And all these people, I haven’t gotten into “Oh, what are your politics but whether or not they’re into anarchist or anti-capitalist theory, they are, for the most part, living it to some degree, even if they’re, like me, trying to run a business to pay the bills and survive under capitalism. Even if that’s not the way they want to do things. A lot of people love plants, but there is a lot of cooperation that happens. That would seem to be outside of what you would expect in a capitalist system.

TFSR: I have a really crass way of talking about stuff sometimes. And I mean it to be joking and fun and stuff, but it’s like you plant people have toxoplasmosis for plants. And you start doing things, once you get really deep into it, you start reproducing my anthropomorphized version of what I experienced you talking about plants is finding ways to work with each other and running counter to what our society teaches us about that we’re in competition. It’s really inspiring to see people in a way, I think, act in “a more natural way” by being like “Oh, yeah, here, abundance, have some of this. I really love this thing. I want to share this with you.” Do you know what I mean?

T: Yeah. And also we need more of these specific plants that we’re very excited about in the world. Toby Hemingway, one of the prime people behind “permaculture” and food “forestry,” has this talk called Liberation Permaculture, you can find it online. And he was one of the first people I heard– When I read his stuff, it really struck me like “Well, this is some anarchists shit. But why are all the permies so liberal where I live?” So I started talking with other more radical permaculturists and my friend, Steven Polk who teaches at Naropa University, who was on the Solecast a few times, really liked to draw on Peter Kropotkin’s theory of mutual aid as a factor in evolution when talking about permaculture. Because it’s drawing out a lot of those same ideas that you were talking about – cooperation and mutuality and everything. That’s really interesting. There’s a whole field within permaculture called “social permaculture,” where they try to take these ideas of ecosystems through observing nature and try to replicate them with people and social things. And I even I got an email from one of my permaculture teachers back in Denver, from their social permaculture thing and it was a “Decolonize the Workplace” seminar on social permaculture, and I was like “Fuck, man, dude, this is the shit I love you do but, man, I don’t even know how to engage with this shit.” Decolonize the workplace – you mean, burn it down? What are you talking about? Throw some fresh mint in your water cooler?

TFSR: Some cucumber slices… People…

T: But those tensions exist in everything. You got your people who are on the same page, and you got some people that are on another page. Hopefully, we can draw people in the right direction. And when we started doing this, there weren’t a lot of radical resources for this thing. And so that’s another reason why– It’s like the Black Rose Federation idea of throwing up a left pole and having that be a gravitational pull away from the shittier stuff.

TFSR: I’ve told Tim this a bunch of times, but I really love listening to your show. I listened to way too many really political podcasts… Yours is political, but a book, discussions, or whatever else, new stuff. And I feel this tension building up inside of me when I listen to that sometimes. It’s important, but somehow, listening to you two talk with your guests about – maybe it’s the element of this – something this person is really passionate about. And you’re asking really good questions. And I understand maybe 40% of it because I’m not a person who’s put a lot of thought and study into how plants grow, into the biology of it. But I find it really relaxing to listen to and I think that I get stuff, but I can listen to episodes a few times and each time gets a little bit more out of it. So you’re my go-to-happy-space podcast, that and this other sci-fi podcast that I won’t mention right now (“The Strange Case of Starship Iris” -Ed.). Could you talk a little bit about the feedback that you get, because I’m sure that you get people who are into it and already know Aaron’s nursery, they know about Edgewood, or they know Tim from Tim’s music or what have you. So they may come from this large spectrum of knowledge around plant stuff. And probably different intentions of like “Oh, I want to make a little herb garden that can hang out on the balcony of my apartment, if I’m lucky enough to have a balcony or out the window.” Or “I’m sitting in the middle of a field of wild grasses. And I don’t know what to do with this.” Can you talk about some of the feedback that y’all have gotten so far in the show?

A: Sure. I would say we don’t get a ton of feedback. Tim might get some more than I see. But we definitely have a fair amount of listeners who have a surface-level knowledge of plants. And some of the stuff is washing over them. But it’s a pleasant thing to listen to while the world is on fire, and it can be nice to focus on something less traumatic and something growing in a positive direction, let’s say. And then some people are hardcore plant nerds who really appreciate all the super details of this plant or that plant and be like “I thought I knew what was going on with mulberries, and now there’s this whole another layer that we were able to bring out.” Generally, positive reviews, get a fair amount of emails with people asking for “You should do an episode on a such and such obscure plant.”

T: I get more feedback from the more anarcho side, with the more or less planty side, and I get email messages from people who are starting out doing land projects, people wanting to, and absorbing the information the same way. The thing TFSR you said, is that it’s relaxing, and it’s a joyful place to get to live in this person’s world for an hour to three hours, depending on who has to piss and how many times, but it’s not fluff. It’s not you’re listening to stuff that’s useless information. All that information is going in your brain somewhere. And when you go to work that land behind your house, you’re like “I remember this from that podcast, and I’m gonna go back and listen to it.” I get encouraging emails, it’s so cool to hear radicals talking about this stuff and nerding out on this stuff.

TFSR: As a renter, since the late 90s, I have moved from house to house. And since 2005, I have not felt confident enough living in a specific location that it’s felt good to gather plants together and try to grow stuff in the yard, because I figure I’m going to be moving within a year, and I’m probably not going to see any of that stuff come to fruition. And I’ve got scavengey friends, so I know a little bit better in my heart of hearts that you don’t have to own a piece of land, you don’t have to be stable in a place to have a plant move with you, or you have to know a grove of this nutting or fruiting trees to be able to take advantage and get in there with the squirrels and compete for some of those acorns. The acorn chat (PBTS episode Sept 29, 2020 -Ed.) keeps coming back to me, all the ways of processing that and all the ways of the guests that you had– I’m sorry, this is a couple of years ago now but I was going out driving some half hour-hour to go collect acorns where they knew that they were piling up and coming back and processing them over a long period and making a bunch of different delicious sounding foods out of it. It’s stuff, that I hear in the show, it’s inspiring to me. I didn’t mean to make it say as it washes over me, and it doesn’t come into my pores. But I get inspired. And I feel a little more enabled to engage with the things around me in the world when it doesn’t feel like I have to learn everything all at once. And I can approach your project like a compendium.

T: That’s awesome. I love getting those messages from you Bursts, it’s great. That’s the thing with podcasting is that it’s a one-way conversation for the most part because we’re not trying to spend all day on social media blowing that up. We don’t have time for all that. You get feedback when you ask for it. I keep wanting to add this thing at the beginning of the show like “Leave us a message about what you’re doing on your farm” and all this shit, but it’s so many ways to encourage listener participation and feedback, but then at the end of the day, it creates a little more work, and we like to focus on the conversations themselves and have that be the main point of the project.

TFSR: Were there any specific interviews that have stood out to y’all where you’ve learned something that totally surprised you that you were not expecting to hear out of the conversation?

A: Well, actually, I think the next episode (PBTS September 1, 2022) that’s going to come out was one of the ones where I learned the most. It’s on this thing called the Eastern Agricultural Complex, which is a thing that happened 1000s of years ago in eastern North America, or Eastern Turtle Island if you prefer. That area was one of the places where agriculture basically arose independently. So there’s a whole palette of domesticated plants, that, for the most part, have totally fallen out of cultivation. We have an interesting interview that’s going to come out the first week in September. So coming right up here, that gets really into it. So much of that was brand new and totally mind-blowing to me.

TFSR: Who did you talk to?

A: Natalie Mueller? Who is a, she’s an archaeologist, technically an archaeobotanist. But she’s not only studying archaeological sites but also growing out a lot of these plants that have for the most part fallen out of cultivation.

T: Aaron, did we talk about the Dawn Of Everything with her? I feel we must have to.

A: Yeah, a little bit.

T: That gives you an idea of– Aaron didn’t really know her, right?

A: I didn’t know her at all, she was actually mentioned in a different podcast that we recorded, and I was like “Oh, I should follow up with this person.” It took a year and a half, to eventually get around to doing this interview. But then we did. And it was fascinating.

T: For me, I learned so much. My role is really to make dad jokes. It sucks because when you’re sarcastic, you’re sarcastic, but then when you have kids, your sarcasm gets called dad jokes.

The one that stands out in my mind is the one with Mallory O’Donnell (PBTS March 1, 2022). All the stuff that they’re doing with foraged plants in this area, I learned so much from their Instagram. Sometimes you have a conversation with somebody and it’s the right one at the right time. And it keeps rattling around in your brain. Just hearing the way they use things juniper berries and plants that I see around, that are native in this area, that I would never even consider eating, where now it’s I’ll be walking down and be like “Eat a bayberry, eat a juniper berry.” I didn’t know those things were edible until they sent me a wild curry mix that had all that shit and it was so crazy tasting. That’s one of the things that gets me pumped. It’s the idea of new flavors. All we know is brassicas, broccoli, garlic, and salt and there’s so many piney flavors. There’s so much more that I’ve learned from this podcast. But that’s what stands out to me.

And the reason I love that one, in particular, is because it’s thinking of foraging, less about let’s get out there and dig up some vegetables to eat, and more like “How can we get out there and create an awesome cabinet of preserved seeds and saved spices and flavor, and how can you stretch those foraged ingredients throughout the year and enrich everything you eat?” And I love that approach, and I’m sure Aaron knows a million people who do that. But Mallory was one of the first people that I really got to hear, articulate their practice in full. And it made me so jealous, Oh, God, come over. Let’s eat!

A: Yeah, I know lots of foragers and people doing interesting stuff with food preservation, but Mallory definitely is doing some stuff that I had no idea was even out there. Georgian fusion cuisine and all sorts of really interesting stuff using foraged plants and spices. I don’t know anyone else doing that.

TFSR: It was awesome for me to hear, I think on that episode. Just going out and collecting wild seeds, grinding them up and toasting them and making a career out of it, making a paste. And I hadn’t even thought of that either. That blew my mind.

T: Even mustard seeds, until she sent us the curry mix, I’d never really been cooked with my own mustard seeds. I have mustard growing all over my yard that I’ve planted, but I’ve never eaten the seeds. And then afterward, I was like “I’m eating the seeds from now on.” They are so good.

TFSR: Doesn’t have to be one or the other. That’s great.

Tim, in the years that I’ve known you, you’ve also been a food alchemist. And this mixes in with what we’re talking about right now. Trying to find the most healthy and delicious vegan treats that you can and sharing them with others. Food seems to really bring you a lot of joy in the growing and in the making. Now you’ve got a veggie protein company in Maine, right? Can you talk about this and what stuff you’re working on? Are you a factory owner now, like Engels?

T: Yeah… I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 11. And so I’m 45, it’s a long time before veggie burgers. I grew up on pizza and peanut butter. I’ve always been obsessed with food. Because my whole life, as I’m traveling, you couldn’t get a dope vegan meal when you’re driving through the Midwest. So all these years of touring and stuff, food has been my obsession. I’m driving through Italy. Oh, what are they going to have for dinner tonight? Am I gonna have 20 pounds of pasta and zucchini? Is there going to be some protein in there? You get there, and it’s some squat. And I am getting crazy food you’ve never had. Crazy French cooking styles, different. I’ve been picking up all this stuff all the years. Like you say, I love food. If you’ve been to my house, I’ve probably cooked for you. Because that’s what I like to do. And that’s really what drew me to all this stuff.

No, I’m not a factory owner. It’s not something I necessarily wanted to do. I’ve had many things in my back pocket that I’ve tried to do over the years, some things have stuck, some things haven’t, but then when inflation kicked in, with two little kids working part-time as a dad, my income from music isn’t enough anymore. And so I had to do something. I had been talking with a friend for a long time about starting a vegan food company and then when it was time to start it, he bailed or he didn’t have the time. And so I was like “Do I want to do this? Yeah, I do want to do this. I’m still going to do this.” So I went and got all the certifications and all the state stuff and found a kitchen and then I started selling meals to the local health food store. The first week they took 18. The next week, they took 40. Next week they took 60. It keeps going up. And it’s steady and it’s turned into an extra day of work to supplement my income. And that’s good. I need that. And I don’t want to work for someone else, because then you’re getting fucked over at some point, and it’s not worth it.

I’m making vegan meats, I’m really excited about the smoked hams and stuff, and from there I am working on pastrami and bacon. The thing I’m most excited about is vegan cheeses. I’ve tried out various vegan cheese recipes from Miyoko and Pascal Baudar. I’ve combined those things and added my own styles and tried to come up with local vegan cuisine. And that’s been something I’ve been obsessed with since I started doing food forestry stuff. Just creating systems where instead of– I have 26 hazelnut trees in the ground, they’re small, but I would love to be able to produce all my own tofu and cheese from hazelnuts, walnuts, and acorns. I’m interested in that, our whole cuisine of vegan foods is based on West Coast foods that are grown in deserts and they bulldozed a million cashew trees last year. It’s not sustainable to-

TFSR: Or the avocado mafia. In a lot of countries, avocado exports are such a moneymaker. It’s one of these commodities that the avocado oil, the production of it, sort of palm oil in a lot of places, or even sand for concrete in some places. Some mafias control the export of it. Anyway, sorry to interrupt.

T: Yeah, stuff chestnuts, stinging nettles and then all the plants we talk about. And those are more exciting directions to go with vegan cuisine than keep doing the same stuff. So I rent the kitchen, I’m either gonna have to build a kitchen in my barn or find something else because the kitchen I work at is expensive. I don’t have any employees, I’m traumatized by my experience of Anticon Records of forming this collective and having it end in heartbreak. I really do things on my own, for the most part. That’s what I want to have – a small one-person thing where I can show up, make some cheese, make some meats, get them out to stores, I don’t want to run a restaurant. I applied to cook brunch at the local farmers’ market. And so that will be cool also. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m winging it and putting everything into it because I want it to succeed.

TFSR: So, you’re the Proudhon of vegan proteins, the independent producer.

T: I’d like to think of it more of as an Emma Goldman ice cream shop thing. But instead of buying ammunition, I’m buying organic blueberries for my kids.

TFSR: For the children!

You mentioned chestnuts. Are there any protein sources that are outside of the realm of what listeners who do eat vegan protein or make their own that they might not have thought of making out of?

T: Not really. We did an episode on mulberries (PBTS June 11, 2020), and apparently, mulberry leaves are the highest in protein, but I read this article about some senator’s wife being killed by a mulberry leaf. Propaganda by the seed, you know? But I think foraging local nuts, not overlooking what is in– It’s so easy to overlook these things that are “common”, that we see all the time. In actuality, acorns out here, I have ground nuts on the river behind my house, that’s an indigenous root vegetable. That’s 25% protein. It tastes like taro. They’re difficult to dig and process. People have mixed feelings about those, I guess. But acorns – all day. Aaron, are you still eating acorn grits from two years ago?

A: I’m basically out of acorns and it doesn’t look like it’s gonna be mast year around here. So, acorns are more or less out of my diet until the tree has decided to dump a bunch on the ground, and then I’ll start eating them again.

T: Aaron, are there any proteins that you’re excited about that are missing?

A: The ground nut. Pea shrub is one that for a while I was telling people “Oh, you can technically eat the seeds of this shrub, but I don’t know if they’re actually worth it as far as how much they produce.” And then my friend Jack Cortez showed up at an event with a five-gallon bucket half full of them. I was like “Whoa, how did you get all those?” And if you have pea shrubs that are out in the open, they’re producing well, you can lay tarps around them, and give them a shake at the right time of year and all the pods burst and you’d get a not a ton of material, but they’re really tasty seeds. They’re about the size of a French lentil and they taste between a lentil and a walnut. So there’s stuff out there that’s potential. But as far as what you could plant today, it’s all annuals that are really going to provide a lot of protein. It’s soybeans, common beans, and peas that are really producing a ton.

T: With all the pea protein hype, definitely cool to hear that about the Siberian pea shrub. I have one but you were like “It’s not viable for a lot of food.” And so I didn’t plant anymore. But now that makes me want to. The Siberian pea shrub is a perennial shrub that produces little peas, for those who don’t know, it’s very interesting, it’s got thorns and shit. It’s a cool plant.

TFSR: Aaron, can you talk a little bit about the Mt. Joy Orchard? I actually went up to Portland (Maine, Ed.) and was able to take a tour, Tim showed me around, but it was a really cool place. And I wonder about its history and who participates and what it provides, in your view, to the Portland ecosystem.

A: Mt. Joy Orchard is a free-to-pick public orchard in Portland. It’s in a city park. It is sanctioned by the city. They’re cool with it being there. But it’s very much grassroots-organized and maintained with volunteer labor. And it started seven or eight years ago now, with the city throwing some apples into this field. It’s such a steep hill that the field wasn’t really getting used for much. There’s a path that runs through it that people use frequently, but the space was underappreciated. And the city arborist Jeff Tarling, who’s a pretty cool guy, was like “Oh, we should plant some apple trees in there.” So they did, but they couldn’t really have an orchard crew. So they started looking for community partners. And my friend Kristin was like “Oh, I could probably round up a few people to mulch those trees and maybe plant some comfrey. And I was one of the people that she rounded up. So we met as the original group, I think five people. And we’ve looked at the site and we’re like “Wow, this is such a beautiful spot.” We met in the evening and you can look out over the city and see the sunset and it’s a really beautiful piece of land. And we’re like “We shouldn’t do this bare minimum, we should go all out and have this community food forest or integrated orchard or whatever you want to call it.”

So, since then, we’ve basically met once a month-ish through the growing season to plant and maintain an orchard that now has over a hundred trees, over 20 species of woody fruiting plants, and probably 20 to 40 species of perennials, many of them edible, some medicinal, some that are more ornamental. There’s a lot of plants that are there for wildlife. We’ve seen a lot more species show up as far as birds and insects and reptiles and all sorts of wildlife use the space as well. And we have several goals with the project, I would say the most successful one has been to be a model of urban agriculture. So since this orchard was installed and people went and checked it out and go like “Ah, this is really cool. I want this in my neighborhood.” That basic model has been replicated several times in the Portland area, which is really cool to see. Also, obviously providing food directly to the community. A lot of the trees are coming into real production. But for the most part, everything in the orchard gets harvested by passers-by, and people living in the neighborhood. It’s a great project and has been really fun and fulfilling to work on and continues to grow.

There’s an area adjacent to the orchard that has to remain open because it’s a sledding hill. So we’re working on killing a bunch of the turf grass that’s there and replacing it with more of a native meadow-type environment. And that will include a lot of edible and medicinal plants, and hopefully, a much better pollinator habitat than is there now. And we continue to try and build community resources into the orchard. So we’re hoping to start the construction of a community cob oven that would be available to anyone who wants to use it, which is an exciting addition to the orchard.

T: How fun would it be to bake some acorn bread there or something?

A: It’d be amazing, the oven will be almost under the canopy of huge oak trees. So that would be very cool. And I want to tie one more thing together, which you, Bursts, mentioned like not really getting into perennial plants because they’re always moving around and renting. I think projects this can be a way for people who are interested or excited about perennial agriculture to be able to do that without having long-term land access, to do it in this community setting where you can plant a tree that’s going to be there for a long time, and you can come back and you wouldn’t certainly have exclusive access to the fruit of that tree like you would if it was your yard and your tree. But you could have the experience and the interaction of being able to plant a tree and come back in five years.

TFSR: That’s awesome. I’ve seen in different places that I’ve lived middle-class liberal mentality bristle at public space being utilized in many different ways. I could see somebody being like “This darn pesky hillside is drawing in more deer and they’re eating my shrubs.” Or “Someone’s sleeping next to that tree and this needs to be gated off at night” or something. Have you all had to deal with the propertarian element of living within a city and people being NIMBY about the space?

A: Luckily, we haven’t had those issues yet. Knock on wood, there’s a big fucking condo development getting built right next to it. So hopefully, that doesn’t arise. So far, we haven’t had those issues. And I’m really glad that we haven’t because there’s a community garden that’s directly adjacent to Mt. Joy. And it’s amazing how similar and how different that is. So it’s similar and it’s like “Oh, there’s food growing in the city. And that’s really cool and beautiful.” But the community gardens are very much like you rent a little four-by-eight plot, and that’s your space. And people are really protective and onerous about that. And there’s a lot of gross shit that happens. Some people who have a plot there, live in the community, live very close to there, had their fellow community gardeners making very racist assumptions about what they were doing in that space. And it’s gross. And then you have Mt. Joy, where it’s open to the public and inclusive. If you want a peach, you pick a peach, they’re very different mentalities. And I think only one time have I ever had someone who was middle-class liberal, moved to the city, being like “Oh, this place could be really nice if we changed a few things.” And definitely had to push back a bit and be like “No, we do things this for a reason. And we mustn’t push people out by making it “nice.” That guy who’s sleeping on a piece of cardboard over there is as welcome in this space as you are. From my perspective, probably more.

T: I didn’t realize it was that new, Aaron, I thought I’d been around a little longer than that. So I got here when it was a couple of years old. And what I’ve noticed, because I and my kids often go there, when we’re in Portland, every time I’ve noticed that the use of it has really increased a lot. Now if I go there, there’s, it’s very joyful. And it’s pretty middle-class, too. Portland’s an expensive city to live in. It’s hard to be really broke in Portland, Maine. Every time I’m in there, there’s always people in there picking stuff. There’s no food they’re going to waste, that’s for sure. And it’s awesome. Every city needs 10,000 of those.

A: Yeah, and as far as a lot of the people utilizing the space being pretty middle-class, I think that’s one of the areas that we’ve failed on so far. Maybe not a complete failure. But something that needs more work and attention is outreach to immigrant communities. Because there are lots of pretty recent immigrants that live in neighborhoods adjacent to Mt. Joy, who I don’t think are utilizing the space for probably a variety of reasons. But trying to build a space that is welcoming to those folks and do active outreach, so that they can feel welcomed in that space and have a higher level of participation if they want to. It would be awesome.

TFSR: Cool. Was any direct responses to that, Tim?

T: I am trying to be Quakerish here, speaking when the Spirit moves me, or something. No offense, Aaron, I didn’t mean to co-opt your lineage or whatever.

TFSR: Well, that leads into the next question about Quakers. No, I’m kidding. I didn’t have one. I wish I had.

T: Aaron’s family is abolitionist.

TFSR: Oh, that’s awesome. Hell, yeah.

A: Yeah, that’s the cool branch of Quakers. And actually, it’s fascinating starting to look at some of the people working with tree crops in the late 1800s – early 1900s, there were a lot of Quakers, and a lot of the work was done in the public interest. Right up to fairly recent history. There’s a guy from New Hampshire, Elwyn Meader, who was a really interesting plant breeder and I still grow a lot of descendants and selections that he made, who was was a Quaker and felt plant breeding should be done for the community and for the public.

TFSR: So I have to say, I haven’t been vegan in a couple of decades. But I do love a good meatless protein option. A few years back now, we had a blow-up in Ashville at the “No Evil Foods” factory about their terrible labor practices and union busting. And I want to give a shout-out here to the media project Mo Evil Foods, I had a couple of friends that actually worked in the factory from when it started up. And the folks from Mo Evil were involved. It’s a media platform, they were folks that were involved in labor organizing at the space and who eventually got fired for it and have continued to call out the company since. And since that time, they actually closed their food production factory here and moved it somewhere else. But they’d hired an outside PR company that was talking about “how great the product was” and trying to throw the union organizers or anyone with labor concerns under the bus. They were doing all the same union-busting that you see with Amazon or with the nurses union here or with anything else. They’re forcing workers to sit through really long meetings, firing people for BS reasons, if they thought that they were people talking about union stuff. I’m from Northern California, Sonoma County, and there’s this frozen food production company called Amy’s [Kitchen], which they always used to provide lots of food to the food bank. Our Food Not Bombs would use a lot of it. I think their food is delicious. They’ve actually got a couple of fast food places in Sonoma County, as I understand. But I’ve also heard that they’ve shut down some of their production facilities recently, rather than allow them to unionize.

I would love to hear from either of you and tie this back to the podcast about food politics, how those two words can’t be extracted from each other or extricated from the society that we live in with the racist patriarchal settler colonial capitalism underpinnings of it. Go!

A: I don’t have a lot to add to that. We live in a fucked-up society and it is fucked up. Even if there are some good elements of any organization there, those can easily be overwhelmed by the bad aspects. So, you could say the same thing about Planned Parenthood being anti-union, and it’s oh, Planned Parenthood, they do lots of good. But also their union busting. Shit is complicated.

T: For me, it’s another highlight of liberal hypocrisy. If your Whole Foods cheese is produced by prison labor… Is it still organic if it’s grown by fucking drones in a vacuum-sealed greenhouse, where there’s nothing organic happening. And a lot of those tensions or hypocrisies that exist within capitalism, a lot of that is really coming to a head now because of inflation. And at the same time, you have workers really recognizing their power.

But at the same time, being someone who’s producing food now, I am starting to see how much costs. So when I go buy a falafel, and it’s $13 or something, I’m like “This fucking is crazy!” But then, once you’re involved in food production, you realize, all the time that goes into this stuff, there’s a thin profit margin. And places like Amy’s that are based around scale, huge scale. They can’t do that large scale if you have a whole bunch of unionized workers making $35 an hour or something. They can’t exist on that scale if people are being paid that much because then by the time you get that Amy’s potpie in the store, it’s going to be $35. And obviously, people need to organize, but that’s why I always think about this Pete Seeger quote: “the world won’t be saved by big things,” (I don’t think it’s going to be saved anyway) “it’ll be saved by millions of little things.” And that’s why I think small little worker collectives doing the work of Beyond Meat or Amy’s, where people are collaborating, working together, and making things. I think you can actually make a decent income doing that. You don’t have to be a multibillion-dollar organization with 10,000 employees. Part of this capitalist drive is things have to keep getting bigger and better and more and faster and cheaper. 2022 ain’t the year for infinite growth, it’s 2022 should be a period where people are reflecting on the limitations of the Earth, the limitations of our civilization that we’re trapped in, and looking for ways out.

The whole organic food, even with veganism– Is it vegan or is it plant-based? Well, it depends if you give a fuck about animals, as people who say plant-based are usually doing it for health reasons, whereas vegans are a little more political about it. It’s absurd, and my last anecdote response to this is the health food store I’m selling stuff to, I can barely afford to shop there. So I’m selling food there. And I got some kickback about using red dye #30. And people were asking if you’ll make it without the red dye. The Betty Crocker red dye that’s in birthday cakes, one little drop of that. And people are freaking out. It’s like “Do you realize that the water you drink has fucking plastic in it? We live in a toxic environment where we’re drinking antidepressants and lead, who knows what the fuck?” Our bodies are constantly bathing in toxic shit. As Aaron said, it’s fucked up and the best we can do is not be those people and limit their stranglehold on the world by – the same way anarchists do it – providing those alternatives.

TFSR: This episode is brought to you by strychnine from organically grown apples…

Was the concern about the toxicity of the red dye or is it that it’s got some part of production that includes shellfish or something like that?

T: No, some studies say it’s linked to cancer. So when I saw that, and it was pointed out to me, I was like “Alright, good, then I’m not gonna use that anymore.” I actually didn’t know that. But defensively, it still strikes me as hypocritical on some level. I’m new in the food world. So I’m trying to make people happy and make good food.

TFSR: Aaron had mentioned the Eastern Agricultural Complex episode coming up. Are there any other episodes that you’ve got coming up that you’re excited about that listeners can get a sneak preview of?

T: Chestnuts?

A: Chestnuts episode will be in October. Lots of people are excited about chestnuts. Lots of people are talking about chestnuts. And I’m really excited that we got to talk with Dr. Sandra Anagnostakis, who is retired now but has basically spent her entire professional life working on chestnut breeding at the Connecticut USDA Research Station. So she’s got a really deep knowledge of chestnuts and lots of fascinating information.

T: And worthy. I love that one. And we’re about to start recording season 10 of Propaganda by the Seed. So we haven’t even started booking yet. But I’m about to break some news. I want to track down those growers in Indiana who are growing cold-hardy Iranian almonds, would be great to talk to them. They’ve discovered an almond that’s potentially hardy to zone 4. And that would be crazy to be able to grow almonds on the East Coast up here. Do you think we’ll be able to, Aaron?

A: I don’t know. That’s a “maybe” from my point of view. Almonds are a stone fruit. There are Prunus and therefore, brown rot which affects all Prunus crops could be a deal breaker. Hard to say. But also, we’re so at the very beginning of the potential for a culture of growing almonds in the Northeast that it could be an issue that’s solved by breeding work. So if you can find some genetics that helps it resist brown rot, you could build that in at the beginning of a long-term breeding project. So I think it’s certainly possible, whether or not it’s practical without decades of breeding work. You won’t know until you try.

T: I’m gonna have to try.

A: I do know a couple of people who have had at least moderate success with peach almond hybrids.

T: Wow, do they eat the peach and then eat the pit?

A: No, if you’ve ever heard of Hall’s hardy almond, it basically is an almond. The fruit is a leathery husk that’s not human-edible, but it’s technically a peach-almond hybrid. And that’s where the extra cold hardiness comes from.

TFSR: If you could grow almond fruit leather, that’d be dope.

A: [laughs] There’s also another long-term project that I’ve been interested in, which is breeding other stone fruits to have an edible kernel. So people are generally quite familiar with almonds, and some people are even familiar with sweet apricot kernels, which is basically miniature almond that grows inside of an apricot, which is a really cool double harvest. So you get this sweet fleshy fruit on the outside that can be dried or eaten fresh or whatever. And then you break open the stone on the inside, and you get a little almond as a bonus. And according to some old information from the 1800s that I read about 1 in 100 peaches have an edible kernel inside them. So that’s basically the same size as an almond. Basically the same thing. So if you could have the ultimate stone fruit, it might be a peach that produces good peaches is brown rot resistant, and then also has that edible kernel.

T: That would be awesome.

A: I haven’t found one yet.

T: I was reading Forager Chef has this recipe of ground-up cherry pit flour to make a cake. And the same thing, they are almond flavor. It blew my mind, the idea of grinding up cherry pits and making flour. So Bursts, this is what goes on…

TFSR: How do you process that? Are that mortar and pestle? Because I wouldn’t want to put that through a Robot-Coupe-type thing or a Vitamix. And it probably would take a lot of drying, right?

T: The Forager Chef puts it in a dehydrator. I think he said for three days so they get really dried out. And then he blends. I think after three days you could probably blend it. Aaron, what do you think?

A: Hard to say. If you’ve got a burr mill, that’s what I would use. A burr mill is a hand-driven flour mill that uses metal burrs, and metal plates instead of stone. And they can be really cheap. I got a no-name, unbranded one for 20 bucks. And useful also for grinding up acorns, or making masa from corn. Because if you have stone grinding surfaces, which is really nice for flour, but-

TFSR: You can also get bits of the stone or flakes from the mortar and pestle actually getting into your flour mix, as I understand, which can be concerning.

A: Yeah. Some of that’s probably unavoidable, but I wouldn’t be too worried about it.

T: Yeah, it’s probably good for you. Unless it’s uranium or lead.

TFSR: So, I should send back my no-name uranium mortar and pestle.

T: I don’t know if your body can absorb quartz but maybe quartz dust. [laughs]

A: Quartz is really bad if you inhale it, but other than that, it is fine. [laughs]

TFSR: If you’ve made it, it’s delicious.

T: Alright, hey, we’re talking shit here, listeners. Don’t try any of this at home. Like they say, always ask an adult before you eat something.

TFSR: Dad jokes. So, Tim, you’re also known as MC Sole, you introduced yourself earlier. In March, you put out an awesome new album Post-American Studies. And shortly after released No Gods No Master Gardeners 2.0 and released a co-lab called Summer Heat with Alexander Brown that’s going to show up on an upcoming album by that person. A lot of this is available on your Patreon. Just this morning, I’ve relistened to the The Old w/ Oldeaf, which I thought was really cool to see you like “I don’t know who this person is.” They sent me this track and I’ve rapped over it. Do you have anything coming out soon that you’re excited about? Do you get many opportunities to do that thing like the Oldeaf track?

T: I could if I wanted to, I’m a 25-year-old musician. It takes a bit to get me really excited. I’ve been doing this my whole adult life. It’s one of these things where when I’m really inspired to do music, I use whatever I have around me and make art with it. But I’m not a studio dude who’s hanging out, listening to music, and freestyling all day. I’ve always drawn my inspiration from other things like walking around in nature, listening to podcasts, reading books, or whatever.

Honestly, I haven’t really worked on a lot of music lately. This summer has been sandwiches and cheese and meat. But now that it’s starting to get cold again, I’m very excited to work on some music. Me and Pain 1 have a record. I think it’s coming out on Emergency Hearts, I’m not sure. It’s called the Vault 1312. It’s a collection of music that didn’t make it on any of our albums. It’s the stuff people love Sole and Pain 1 for, the hyper-trappy, fuck-the-police militant shit. There’s a whole bunch of those songs that were too much the same to go on any of the other albums. And so we’ve compiled them onto one record and it’s cool. It’s not my new new new record or anything, but people, when they hear it, they are like “Oh, this is the sounds like Deathdrive era.” Those sorts of collections are cool, especially when they’re done well. I’m excited to get the mixes of everything back to Pain 1.

It’s crazy when you make music, me and Pain 1 have been working on music together for eight years now. And we have shit loads of music. I’ve got a ton of beats he’s been sending me from the new stuff, awesome beats, really cool stuff. I’ve got an EP recorded with this dude Televangel, formerly of Blue Sky Black Death. My favorite record from him is called Anthropocene Blues, you can check it out. That’s the vibe I went with on this record. It’s like an emo dad at the end of the world looking back on his life. In some ways, I’m channeling Benny The Butcher and all this Grizelda stuff I’ve been listening to a lot lately, which is really hard New York rap. But one thing he does really well is he tells stories about his past and is clever about it. And finds a way to talk about it. He’s been through and pulled the wisdom out of it in cool ways. So that’s kinda the vibe I went with for that record. I don’t know when any of these records are coming out. None of them are done. I’m starting to get into the cold season where I’m going to start making a ton of music again, I want to pull out my 4-track and make a mixtape of stealing 80’s beats or something and make something fun. It all comes down to time. Right now, the thing is I’m mainly focused on building up this food company. I also got a ton of beats, maybe I’ll put out an instrumental record. I don’t know. I’m a neurotic person who’s constantly trying to keep my demons at bay.

TFSR: That was cool. I didn’t know the Televangel had put out something called Anthropocene Blues. When you said that, I was like “Oh, I know that phrase.” Because that was in this track One Penny that you put out in collaboration with Televangel. That’s awesome. Could you say a little bit about Emergency Hearts?

T: Yeah! scott crow, one of my mentors, friends, and someone I love is a huge inspiration for me as far as theory and stuff. He’s been someone who, over the years, as I’ve been struggling with things or tearing things over in my mind, he’s always really given me the best advice anyone has given me. At least with life activist stuff. We have that connection because he comes from music and really values the role of revolutionary art.

A few years back, at my prodding, scott said he always wanted to make music, I said “Fucking get back to it then, if you want to make music, that’s what’s in you, do it. Who gives a fuck?” And so he got back into music and put together a record label based around the anarcho-industrial scene that he was associated with in the 90s. And it’s a scene I don’t know much about, the bands from that era are Genesis P-Orridge, and people he’s performed with like Skinny Puppy, all these bands that were going around, tabling with animal rights literature at electronic music shows in the 90s. Just hearing that blew my mind because I didn’t know bands like Consolidated and stuff I don’t really know anything about. But it was cool learning “Oh, so punk isn’t the only form of music that has really taken these ideas seriously.” And so he started putting together a record label championing that era, the Austin noise scene or whatever that he felt didn’t really have a home. It wasn’t being curated anywhere and risked being lost. A lot of stuff that’s pre-social media is-

TFSR: Just cassette tape sitting in hot cars…

T: Yeah, if someone’s not doing the work of curation and keeping things alive, this 90s industrial scene that scott is championing, it could be a 20-part Netflix show and everybody becomes Rodriguez. It could have the Rodriguez effect for some of those people. Or not. But regardless, it deserves to be there.

TFSR: Or Death, that Black punk band from Detroit from the late 70s, that was forgotten until one of their children came out, helped to get their music re-released and do a documentary about them. They’re amazing. And they were at this crossroads between Motown, soul music, and rock and roll, and then the beginnings of American punk before it hit either East or West Coast.

T: Oh, wow. I should check that out.

But yeah, scott started branching out and working with rappers and other electronic music, Televangel also works with them. It was at a point where I’ve been really busy as a dad in the last couple of years. And so it’s the opportunity to have some friends working with us and getting behind our music and doing some of that work. It sounds very nice at this stage in my life, to have trusted comrades working with you. It’s so pleasant on a day-to-day basis texting with people you care about when you’re working on something, rather than some company. Or usually, I do it myself, because I typically can do most of this stuff better myself. But when you have somebody who’s doing great and standing with you, it’s awesome. It’s nice to have more hands in the pot.

TFSR: I was going to wrap up with the general “where can people find blah, blah, blah question,” which I will do. But were there any things that I didn’t ask about that you wanted to mention?

A: No, I think we’re pretty thorough.

T: The only thing I wanted to say, is something I’ve been struggling with, and I think needs to be put out there for people who are interested in doing the land projects that I’m doing, or that they see. Aaron was saying earlier, that this is a lot of work, managing an acre with a family or even a small collective is a lot of work. And the idea that you’re gonna get some land somewhere and then destitute capitalism all at once, it doesn’t work that way. It takes years and years and years to learn to get things to come to fruition.

Time is money. We live under capitalism. We don’t want time to be money, but the outside world is there. It’s got its fangs showing at all times. I think people need to be more honest about their resources and their privilege. When they’re putting all this stuff out there, it’s like “Okay, well, that’s a nice land project. How’d you get it? Did you get that with a trust fund? How are you sustaining yourself while you’re on that land?” And these are the things that I am thinking about and when I was reading your questions, I was like “This is what this is something I want to say to other radicals out there.” It’s hard. It’s worth doing. People should do it. This is the way forward, in my opinion, autonomous, collective linked together farms, people building capacity for material, survival, resistance, and struggle. It’s worth doing, but it’s a lot of work. Just be ready for it. Right, Aaron?

A: Yeah, for sure. Let’s be realistic about it. If you want to make a living on the land, grow and stuff, expect to get up early, stay up late, and work really hard. It’s one of those things where you can both be into that and be like “Yeah, that’s what I want to do.” And be like “Fuck work.” Because it is meaningful work that– As long as you’re not doing it to a degree that you’re hurting yourself, which is definitely something that can happen. It can be like “Okay, this is awesome. I’m deeply invested in these plants and this project and feel good about it because it’s not bullshit. It feels real and important.

T: The CrimethInc. definition of work is important, “work is that which is subsumed by capitalism.“ Originally, when I started my food thing I was trying to do it farm-to-table. I was harvesting all the kale and random forest garden stuff. And I was like “Wow, I figured it out. This is the way to do forest gardens and earn income from it without starting a nursery,” which is the other thing I see. I was so excited but I figured it out. And then after doing it for three weeks, I was like “No, I’m not using plants from my garden anymore. It’s destroyed my garden, it’s made it no longer a place of joy. This is for my family, I’d be paying myself $2 an hour to sell this kale in my meals. This is for my family, I’m not selling this, this is to share.” So I had to draw a real distinction there. It’s tangential, but I think these are important things to think about with food and survival and autonomy, there’s no silver bullet to any of this.

TFSR: Yeah, for real. And with the point you said about how are you able to do this, how you were able to pay for that. I guess that’s where the community comes in and matters. It is like “Okay, being real, if you were able to get this piece of land because of the trust fund, or because of white privilege, or because of, obviously, you’re sitting on stolen land if you’re on this continent and you’re not indigenous. I don’t think that necessarily means that somebody has to stop, it means you have to think about where you’re stepping and think about what you’ve got. And think about how this whole work, the whole putting energy into sustaining yourself, there’s nothing unnatural about that. It’s the extractive nature of it that’s the problem. And if you came into this with some privileges and benefits, think about how you can use that to give back.” We’ve got mutual friends who have some property in Maine that grow a ton of food. And they’re always donating that food, working with Wabanaki Rematriation Project, or have been for years sending food back to urban communities living in cities that are attached to Victory Garden type things. You were mentioning before the chat that one of them has been working with Herman Bell on Victory Garden in New York State. I get so much excitement and energy out of seeing people actually giving back and sharing and building community through these and not trying to get their own. And whose definition of autonomy doesn’t mean “I got mine.”

A: Right. For sure.

T: Yeah, and we’re talking about Fire Ant, shout out to Fire Ant prisoners’ support, they’re doing awesome stuff. Huge inspiration. Good friends. Thank you for introducing me to them.

TFSR: Of course.

So where can people find your podcasts, the music, the saplings, the vegan treats and how can they support the work that y’all are doing?

A: Well, you can find Propaganda by the Seed on all major podcast platforms and on the Channel Zero Podcast Network and Patreon, if you care to support us that way. Also, positive reviews and ratings on podcast platforms are a great non-monetary way to support us and tell people about it. So thanks for having us on. You can find my seeds, cuttings, plants, and all that stuff at edgewoodnursery.com and you can also find me and the occasional dump of the unusual plant means on social media @edgewoodnursery on Instagram and Facebook.

T: I love that you stepped in and became a plant meme warrior.

A: I couldn’t leave it all for Poor Proles Almanac [podcast].

T: My stuff, you can go to my Bandcamp. That’s the best place to buy my music sole.bandcamp. You can listen to my stuff on all the evil streaming networks. I’m also on Patreon patreon.com/soleone. I sell seeds also on the Holland Farms Etsy store. But pretty much everything I’m selling you can get cheaper through Aaron’s store.

TFSR: Comrade, your anti-capitalism is base.

T: It’s his job, for me, it’s a fun little extra thing to do in the winter.

TFSR: Well, thank you so much for having this conversation. I really appreciate it and taking time out of your Sunday morning. Keep up the amazing work. You’re inspirational.

T: Thanks, TFSR, you are real good friend. I love you, dude. Thank you for your friendship. Much respect. I am sorry for calling you a dude.

TFSR: Oh, yeah. I’m all for that. I get duded, I’m into it.

A: Thanks for inviting me to this conversation as well. It was great. And in your kind words about our podcasts, that’s always lovely to hear that people are enjoying it. And that it takes the edge off of the stress of the modern world for an hour or two.

TFSR: I want to cry-listen when I feel bad, sometimes.

T: Entropy, the good entropy. Let divines take it all down.

TFSR: Some things are being eaten in a good way.

Free Mutulu Shakur + St-Imier Weekend Libertaire

Free Mutulu Shakur + St-Imier Weekend Libertaire

This week on TFSR, you’ll hear two a conversation about the push to free Dr. Mutulu Shakur from prison and an interview about the 150th anniversary of the Jura Federation gathering in St-Imier, Switzerland. The first portion of this episode will be in a stand-alone zine available soon, the second will sit beside an interview with Robert Graham about his book on the history of the split in the 1st International and the beginnings of the anarchist movement, hopefully in early October.

Button featuring Mutulu Shakur reading "Compassionate Release | Free Dr. Mutulu Shakur", image of the Weekend Libertaire poster from St-Imier + "TFSR 8-28-22"
Download This Episode

First up, Watani Tyehimba of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a supporter and comrade of New Afrikan political prisoner Dr Mutulu Shakur speaking about Dr. Shakur’s life, activism and the struggle for his release since he’s been diagnosed with serious bone cancer.

Then, you’ll hear portions of the latest episode of Bad News, the monthly podcast from the anarchist and anti-authoritarian radio and podcast network, A-Radio. The segments included are an interview by A-Radio Berlin with an organizer of this July’s Weekend Libertaire on the 150th anniversary of the 1872 Anti-authoritarian International of Working People that happened in July in St-Imier, Switzerland. We hope to have an in depth conversation on the split in the International and the early days of the anarchist movement to share in the near future. You’ll also hear a shoutout for the International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners, August 23-30th. You can hear more from this and other episodes of BAD News at a-radio-network.org or linked in our show notes. Finally, we’ll be finishing up this episode with Sean Swain’s weekly segment. Enjoy!

We hope to be releasing an interview with Tim (aka Sole) and Aaron from the Propaganda By The Seed podcast next week. Patreon supporters can keep an eye out for the release a few days early.

Support Update

Speaking of Patreon, a big thanks to the folks who’ve been supporting this project on patreon and to the 10 new supporters this month! It’s fantastic and we’re almost at our base of sustainability for the zine program. If you want to support for as low as $2 a month, check out Patreon.com/TFSR. And you can find other methods of supporting us through merch purchases or through one time or recurring donations at tfsr.wtf/support. Non monetary ways to support us include reaching out for comment or show suggestions via snail mail or email, rating & reviewing us on google, apple etc, resposting our content on social media, sharing in real life with people. More info on that at tfsr.wtf. Or, the crème del a crème, getting our content on a local radio station so strangers will hear the content of these chats irl. More about that at tfsr.wtf/radio. Thanks so much!

. … . ..

Featured Tracks:

  • Flowers and Fire by Blitz from Second Empire Justice
  • Juniper (remix of Y La Bamba) by Filastine from Loot
  • + tracks yet unknown from Bad News (to be posted soon)

. … . ..

Transcription

Watani Tyehimba

The Final Straw Radio: Would you please introduce yourself with any name, gender, pronouns, location or affiliations that you feel will help listeners understand a bit about you?

Watani Tyehimba: Sure. My name is Watani Tyehimba. I’m a founding member of the New Afrikan People’s Organization and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. I run an investigative and protective services company in Decatur, Georgia, we primarily focus on our high profile capital cases, as well as human rights and political prisoner cases. And that’s, for the most part, what we do. I was a part of Mutulu — and still am — a part of Mutulu Shakur’s legal team. I was there from the beginning from 1986 until…well, currently. So that’s who I am.

TFSR: Awesome. Thanks a lot for being willing to have this conversation, I really appreciate it. So we’re here to speak about Dr. Mutulu Shakur, a political prisoner of war and conscious citizen of the Republic of New Afrika, held by the US government since 1986. Would you please tell us a bit about the man, where he grew up, his family and development and how did he come to political organizing?

WT: Sure. Of course that’s a story that’s going to take longer than an hour, but we’re gonna do all that within this one hour.

So Mutulu was born in August 8th 1950 in Baltimore, Maryland. He was born to a legally blind mother, which means that his first confrontation with the state was trying to help her negotiate through those systems. He didn’t know his father, so he grew up without a biological father, but he had two surrogate father figures. One was Salandeen Shakur. Salandeen Shakur is the father of Zayd Malik Shakur, who was killed on a New Jersey State turnpike when Assata Shakur was wounded with her hands in the air and Sundiata Acoli was arrested. Salandeen was a member of RAM, Revolutionary Action Movement, friends with Malcolm X was part of the Muslim Mosque Inc., the Organization of Afro-American Unity, as a Muslim Pan-Africanist.

His other surrogate father figure would be Herman Ferguson. Herman Ferguson is out of Queens, New York, a member of RAM, Muslmin Mosque Inc. also, Organization Afro-American Unity, and was assistant school principal and was involved in the struggle of Ocean Hills of Brownsville, which was talking about the independence of schools in New York area. Eventually, Herman became a school principal.

Mutulu got involved with this work at the age of 15. In 1965 he worked on a campaign to defend Herman Ferguson. Like I said, Herman was the first Black assistant school principal in New York. And in 1968, the Ocean Hill Brownsville strike, those are the things that got Mutulu involved in a struggle. But in Queens, New York, you had a lot of people that was involved in the movement at that particular time.

In 1968 Mutulu Shakur basically followed his surrogate father, Herman Ferguson, when he joined the Republic of New Afrika, they were founding members of the Republic of New Afrika. Which, March 31st 1968 in Detroit, Michigan, they held a conference that included Black organizations from all over the country, from Marxist to Nationalists, over 500 different organizations, and Mutulu was a part of that. He was a minister of defense to the New Afrika from the New York area, Eastern Regional Minister of Interior. He was a soldier in the Black Legion, as well as the New Afrikan security forces. And one of the things I want to say about his role as a soldier: March 29th 1969, at an anniversary of the founding of the Republic of New Africa, they came under attack by Detroit police, several rounds was fired in there, Mutulu was one of the occupants in there who actually utilized his body to protect Iyaluua Ferguson and Herman Ferguson who were members that he was responsible for. And so I’m not sure if I ramblWT:ed on too much [starts laughing] for the question. Apologize. [laughs harder]

TFSR: No not at all. No, that’s great. I know it can be kind of hard with video off to gauge someone.

WT: Right! [both laugh.]

TFSR: No, that’s great. And thanks for noting that attack, because that attack was something that the United States government used to ramp up its repression of the New Afrikan Movement. And I’m wondering if you could — you mentioned that he was involved in this and at the founding of The Republic of New Afrika — could you talk about the New Afrikan Independence Movement, some of the groups that were involved in it, and some of its predecessors and goals of the movement? Again, big question, short amount of time.

WT: Yeah. Yeah, big question. So The New Afrikan Independence Movement, like I said, came into fruition in March at a Black Government Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in 1968. But it falls in the tradition of Africans that have been enslaved in this country that are struggling for self determination, and so the only difference was that they put the name New Afrika. In fact, Queen Mother Moore I should say that, Queen Mother Moore gave the name “New Afrika” — to be similar I guess to New York or New Mexico — to basically talk about identifying ourselves with Africa, but at the same time, recognize that we are a new land and new territory, and that we are a combination of many different nations coming together that struggle against common oppression in how to get out of that oppression.

So, there was a Declaration of Independence that was signed in 1968 with several members, I think you asked what organizations? I think that for the Yoruba Temple Obaba Oseijeman [Adefumi] was involved. US organization, Karenga was involved; Amiri Baraka, they were the ministers of culture; you had at that time was called H. Rap Brown, Jamil Al-Amin; you had members like Imari and Giadi Obadele, who came from the Malcolm X Society; and also formation called GOAL, Group On Advanced Leadership, and I can’t remember any of the organizations that were involved with that particular time. But the whole objective is to talk about creating a space where Afrikans in this nation, in this territory, could set up a sovereign territory. Basically, five states that were identified as a South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana as being those areas where Afrikan people have historically lived, we’ve buried our relatives there, we shed blood in that land, and that’s the land that we said we want to carve out as an independent New Afrikan nation. So I think that’s a nutshell.

TFSR: And I think that a difference you mentioned — there’s new New Mexico, there’s New York — I think a difference, as I understand, in the determination to create a territorialization of a place where Black folks have sovereignty, or New Afrikan folks have sovereignty, was also a recognition that this was on stolen land. And I really appreciate that, if you could speak a little bit, just to that, that intentionality and sort of that communication with Indigenous folks.

WT: Sure. We recognize that, you know, the United States came as a result of settlers, you know, we recognize settler colonialism. We were kidnapped and brought here, but we have a historical working relationship with the Native population. You can reference the Seminole Nation and Seminole wars in ongoing relationship with Native Americans. We totally recognize that. And even though international law says you must identify a territory, and so they identified those five states we talked about, but clearly they will be negotiated with Native Americans. In other words in the final analysis Native Americans would have veto powers over whatever landmass that we would talk about.

TFSR: And just to correct myself, I said “Native people” as if excluding New Afrikan folks from that, so apologies.

WT: Not a problem.

TFSR: So as a member of and co-founder, as I understand, of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and as I understand, Malcolm X giving a lot of impetus to organizers around the movement…like yeah, anyway, sorry, I just had a brain fart. [laughing]

WT: Not a problem. “Why Malcolm X?” Is that the question?

TFSR: Well, that’s a part of it, though, but the whole “free the land” is a quote that gets referenced over and over again, and any anti-colonial freedom fighter in history could have said that thing and it would be just as legitimate. But yeah, I guess, if you could tie in Malcolm… or Dr. Shabazz’, influenced on this, and also talk about like, where the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement came from and what y’all do.

WT: Okay, that’s, once again… answers to the questions would be very long, but I’m gonna attempt to do it. So one is that: we recognize Malcolm X as being an icon. But Malcolm X was also working with the Revolutionary Action Movement, RAM, which Muhammad Ahmad — Max Stanford at that particular time — Muhammad Ahmad was one of the founders of. And many of the members of RAM actually joined Malcolm in the Organization Afro-American Unity, as well as the Muslim Mosque Inc. And so Malcolm was the foundational person that we looked at, along with Queen Mother Moore and Robert Williams, as our, what we call our Political Legacy.

So many of the young radical New Afrikans had come together around 1978 and began to work in coalition’s, we worked in the National Black Human Rights Coalition, we were part of the National Task Force of COINTELPRO Litigation and Research. And so many of us worked in those various formations, and we surfaced in 1984 as a New Afrikan People’s Organization, with like I said, Queen Mother Moore, Malcolm X, and Robert Williams being those shoulders that we stand on.

So the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement is the mass association of the New Afrikan People’s Organization. Basically, we have a formation that talks about the organizing around self determination, we have six basic principles. So first one is human rights, so we basically actively support everyone’s right, as a human being, towards self determination and being free. The second one is we demand reparations. We promote self determination. We oppose genocide. And we demand the release of our activists who have been targeted, and some of them become political prisoners or prisoners of war. And our final one is the end of sexism oppression. So those are our six basic principles that the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement espouses.

TFSR: Awesome. Thank you. So stepping back — and this isn’t stepping too far back from Dr. Shakur’s case, because you brought up COINTELPRO — but can you talk about the FBI’s war on freedom struggles in the so called USA, including COINTELPRO, like as far as what we know about it, the RNA cases and how they developed in that period?

WT: Well, COINTELPRO is an acronym by the FBI was basically a domestic counterintelligence program. And we found out about COINTELPRO in 1971, when there was a break-in in Media, Pennsylvania, some antimperialist white left[ists] broke in and they leaked information to the media. That’s how he was able to determine COINTELPRO existed — that word was in there — what we realize it’s been around since 1956, for the period that covers ‘56-’71, but it wasn’t always called COINTELPRO. In fact, Marcus Garvey was a victim of what would have been called COINTELPRO at that particular time. J. Edgar Hoover, as you know, spanned many different generations and so Hoover was there for Garvey wells for the New Afrikan Independence Movement.

It’s intent was to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit or otherwise neutralize (paricularly) young people in our movement. One of the goals of COINTELPRO was to make sure that we didn’t unite with youth in our movement and also make sure that we didn’t have any respectability among the masses of our people. So, many of the people that have been involved in struggle have been targeted. You know, often I watch movies, and for context, there is a series called Boardwalk Empire. And in that particular series they have a person playing J. Edgar Hoover and he talks about Marcus Garvey. He says “Garvey is who we really need to be focused on, as opposed to looking at the bootleggers such as John Kennedy,” JFK’s father, who was a bootlegger. So, they made a clear distinction that the political, particular Black political, people were more dangerous than these criminals over here. And so, there was always an attempt to criminalize our movement, in order to justify incarceration for our people. That’s how they end up becoming political prisoners, because they are targeted for their politics, however they then use trumped up charges to criminalize them and send them to prison. And in fact, what it does is criminalize our movement.

TFSR: And one of the more famous quotes from Hoover about, you know, that’s wrapped up in the COINTELPRO is his fear of the rising of a Black Messiah that would undermine the white supremacist order of the United States, not he doesn’t use “white supremacist order,” but he does use the phrase Black Messiah.

WT: He does use “Black Messiah”, and he begins to name people. He, in fact Max Stanford is one of the people you mentioned, that’s Muhammad Ahmad. In fact, in 1967, he said Muhammad Ahmad was one of the most dangerous people in America. That forced Max to go underground from 67′ and he was arrested in 72.

But yes, Hoover did target those individuals. He did talk about the Black Messiah, he says that Elijah Muhammad could have that role at that particular time, King. So this was after the assassination of Malcolm X, because he said there was a void, and many people was trying to fill that void. But we recognized after the assassination of Malcolm that, you know, cutting off the head of a formation was dangerous for us. And so we develop a model called collective leadership. So we wouldn’t just have one person being the person that’s considered to be a leader.

TFSR: That makes a lot of sense, as an anarchist I appreciate that.

WT: Ok, alright [laughs]. I appreciate you appreciating it as an anarchist. [Bursts and Watani both laugh]

TFSR: So, while he was living in New York, Dr. Shakur was developing and using his knowledge of acupuncture to treat victims of opioid addiction. Can you share a bit about what you know on this and his legacy of harm reduction treatment that’s still being applied to this day?

WT: Sure. So, Mutulu Shakur worked at Lincoln Detox People’s Program from 1971 to 1978. He initially came there to teach political education classes, it was along with the Young Lords Party, Black Panther Party, Republic of New Afrika. And one of the things that got Mutulu involved in that was his children were involved in an accident, and it was an exposure to acupuncture that really piqued his interest and caused him to begin training. He went to China in, I believe it was 1976. Eventually, he graduated from the Quebec Acupuncture Association in 1976, with a doctorate in acupuncture. And what he was doing with this was taking the skills he learned in acupuncture to go back and fight the heroin addiction that was taking place, particularly on the East Coast at that particular time they were using methadone as a drug to treat the heroin addiction. Which, methadone, called a maintenance drug, was more addictive than heroin. And all it did was kept people on the program.

And so developing a holistic nonchemical approach like acupuncture, clearly took money out of the major pharmaceutical companies, they didn’t particularly care for that. And so that also targeted Mutulu Shakur as well as Lincoln Detox Hospital, because they were taking money out of their pockets. It was more of a holistic way, in fact, Mutulu’s whole, I guess, introduction to acupuncture — and I shouldn’t just say Mutulu, cause Mutulu Shakur and Dr. Richard Delaney are cofounders of the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America — and their whole intent was to make sure that they detox people using nonchemical methods. That has been a model that’s been utilized throughout the country that day.

TFSR: And, like, I’m sure that there was a sense of just a love of other people that was… I mean anyone who gets into any sort of medical or health care for other people is giving up a lot of themselves and giving a lot of, you know, a lot of appreciation and love for other people’s health, a lot of their time a lot of their energy.

WT: Yes.

TFSR: Can you talk a little bit about his view of the politics of attempting to undermine opioid addiction among his communities and the communities they lived in?

WT: Sure, well, I guess the politics or the impetus, like I said, I believe starts with the mother. And he sees, you know, how she has to try to negotiate these systems and how difficult it is. And so the politics flows from that. He sees that oppressed and poor people get the worst treatment. He wants to level the playing field, and anyone that knows Mutulu knows that he cuts across every class, every race, doesn’t make a difference: if people need assistance, Mutulu is here to assist. And acupuncture was a way of him doing that, bringing that whole method of trying to help people there. And we know that we have survival programs or programs that help people, it runs, you know, sometimes head on into the people who want to keep us oppressed, the people want to keep us in these environments where we have poor medical care, and so Mutulu’s whole plan was to change that paradigm.

TFSR: Has he been able to continue working with people around health care issues while he’s been inside of prison?

WT: Sure he has. Clearly he’s not been able to utilize needles from acupuncture, but he uses acupressure, he uses all the knowledge he has. There are numerous testimonies from many people that talks about things he did for them while incarcerated. In fact, one testimony that a young man gave talks about Mutulu really treating this person that was, I guess was overdosing off of drugs inside of prison. Mutulu treated him. The person was a part of the Aryan Brotherhood, which would seem to be a total contradiction to, you know, working with him. But out of a humanitarian position, Mutulu saw here’s an individual that needs his help. And that’s what he did.

TFSR: Would you talk about the specifics of his incarceration, the case against him?

WT: He’s charged in a RICO statute, that was eight counts of Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO conspiracy, as my memory serves: armored truck and bank expropriations; 1979 liberation of Assata Shakur; aid in foreign government; in October 20th 1981 attempted Brink’s armored truck expropriation in Nyack, New York where two cops and one Brink’s guard was killed.

TFSR: Can you talk a little bit about the context of the struggle for the Republic of New Afrika and Assata Shakur was a participant in the Black Liberation Army, was pretty high up in it. What’s known about, sort of, the actions that he was accused of participating in, his stance is that he was innocent and not a participant in those, is that right?

WT: Well, I think…Mutulu has been an activist, like I said, since he was 15 years old. In fact when we went to trial, the COINTELPRO documents were brought into trial, and Judge Haight acknowledged that Mutulu was a victim of that, of COINTELPRO. In fact… I’m gonna see if I can pull up a statement that Judge Haight made, he says this in his sentencing statement. He says “it is said that Dr. Shakur was illegally pursued by federal law enforcement officers. That is undoubtedly true. The Freedom of Information Act documents received the evidence at trial, so the rights of Dr. Shakur, rights that he and others share, were violated by the COINTELPRO program.” And so people were aware that we were victims of these things. In fact, after the judge read that, he sentenced him to 60 years with a recommendation of no parole.

So they acknowledged that Mutulu, one, was not…there was no physical evidence that puts Mutulu there. There was no eyewitnesses that were put in there. What they have is a testimony of a paid FBI informant, Tyrone Ryson, who acknowledged and admitted that he’s a shooter. The government knows Mutulu didn’t kill anybody, didn’t shoot anyone. But they did a negotiated plea with him, for him to give them false information around Mutulu, as a mastermind. Mutulu has no criminal history, you know? His first incarceration was this, when he was arrested in 1986. And he’s been in prison for 36 years.

TFSR: And so to my understanding, a few years ago, he was actually up for release, right?

WT: In the federal system you have, after 45 years or life sentence, 30 years you have what they call a “mandatory parole”. So Mutulu had a 60 year sentence — which we will still treat as a life sentence — and so 30 years is a mandatory parole, that was 2016. His mandatory parole was denied, in fact they said mandatory doesn’t necessarily mean mandatory. They denied his parole, and they said that he would possibly reoffend and that he was still influential. It should be noted that every person there was a part of the conspiracy with Mutulu is out of prison or either deceased. Marilyn Buck is deceased, but everybody else is out of prison. Mutulu is the last one there and is the only New Afrikan that is still left inside.

And you said before that he didn’t have a prior criminal record. So it’s questionable what they’re basing that on, right?

No criminal history. And so we’ve seen people come out with a hell of a criminal history, with all kinds of bodies on them, violence inside, but Mutulu has no violence inside. He’s had parole recommendation by former warden, former assistant warden, numerous staff in the BOP support his parole and has a great relationship with them. And so we recognize that keeping him there is not coming from the BOP staff, but is coming from above from that. It’s the parole commission right now that has denied the parole, but I’m not sure who’s pulling those strings. But I think if we talk about COINTELPRO, we have to look at the reality that they have targeted certain individuals, and even though the United States would not acknowledge that they have political prisoners, Mutulu is being housed and kept as a political prisoner. The only reason he’s in prison today is because of his politics.

TFSR: I remember some years ago, it’s probably 2015 or 2016, hearing some of the letters that were able to get accessed — this was from one of Jalil Muntaqim’s support people went through and read some of the letters that had been made available through Freedom of Information or through some sort of Sunshine Act, and the content of those letters was terribly racist. And a lot of the letters were attributed to people, or people claimed who had been writing them, that they had been law enforcement, that they had been prison guards, that they had been some part of the like, you know, the prison state that is the United States beforehand and had this invested view that Black political prisoners in particular, not be released out to the public. And I don’t know if that’s the case, in this instance, if you all have had any clear documentation come up and that sort of thing. But it seems like the amount of leeway that parole boards are given and the sort of, you know, question of “okay, well, who gets drawn to do these sorts of jobs? What are their politics? And how much sway do they have after the fact with these institutions that can be based on just personal hatreds that they have?” I wonder if you have anything that you could say about the parole process?

WT: Yeah, I mean, one parole process right now — because we have old law and new law. Mutulu was one of the last people of the old law, I think after 1986 they went to a different system, where they took parole away. In the new federal system you just do a certain amount of time, whereas with Mutulu’s case you had parole as an option. There are only three people, I believe, left on the parole commission, so even when we appeal, we appealing to the same people that came and did the interview or either, you know, a reviewing. And so they’re supposed to actually have phased out the whole parole system, so that’s part of the struggle we’re in right now.

Even under Trump’s First Step Act that they’re saying that old law prisoners do not qualify for compassionate release, or a sentence reduction under the First Step Act. And that’s part of our dilemma now. A few ways Mutulu could be released is: Biden could give clemency; the original sentencing Judge, Judge Haight, could go ahead and do a senstence reduction, which basically we call “compassionate release”, but Judge Haight has refused to do that. There’s now a motion in front of him that’s pending as he’s reviewing it, and so we still don’t have a final thing, but he’s already in 2020, I believe, he refused. And then recently, when we submitted, he asked for the government to totally prepare their case and make an argument for why they want to keep Mutulu in prison. So Judge Haight hasn’t come up with a final decision yet.

But I think the question was about the parole commission, the parole commission basically is outdated. And the biases I think that’s one of the things you said, right?

TFSR: Yeah.

WT: Yeah. Clearly, there’s some biases but I think that one of the things we found is the entire 36 years Mutulu’s has been incarcerated, that once the staff actually knows him, he’s the best person to deal with. He stopped violence on the compound. He’s the person that they go to when they want to get things done, you know? And so he would be the model prisoner. Somebody you would want to release back to society because he helps to keep down violence and keep things going.

TFSR: You’ve mentioned he didn’t have a prior history of incarceration — which I mean, that’s great, a lot of people that go into prison aren’t bad people also, right? And then also, since he’s been on the inside, he’s been a peacemaker. He’s been providing his medical services to other people, across lines with people like someone from Aryan Brotherhood or whatever.

But yeah, so can you also talk about some other parts…he does have family on the outside, he’s got a couple of generations now. And I wonder if you could talk about his his family a little bit and, and sort of, if you have an insight into what he’s said of the experience, or his family has said about the experience, of having to visit Dr. Shakur behind bars, and, you know, having their lives pass with those walls in between?

WT: Sure. I guess it would be like any family, really. It’s always, you know, when a person does time the family does time with them. And so even if they’re not going to visit, it’s the phone calls, it’s putting the money on the books, it’s all those things that are involved. And unfortunately, he has grandchildren that have only seen him inside, you know? They weren’t even born when he was initially incarcerated. His youngest child Chinua you know, well actually he saw him them inside, but also you have Nzingha, you have Sekyiwa, and so you have young children — they’re not young now, they were young when he went inside — and so majority their life has been dealing with their father behind the walls. And that’s always a tough thing to do. Because how do you, you know, when you go to make the visit, the difficult thing is when it’s time to go home, they have to go one way and you have to go another way.

You know and the inhumanity, I guess, how they deal with [visits], they allow you to touch in the beginning of the visit and at the end. They keep you separated in the chairs. It’s just such an inhumane situation, the way they treat the prisons there. You know it’s similar to slavery, they’re strip searched coming into the visit, they’re stripped leaving the visit, you know, all the humanity is taken away.

TFSR: Yeah. It would be kind of remiss if we didn’t bring up Tupac Shakur in this conversation since Dr. Shakur was his stepfather. Is that right?

WT: Yes. And we often just use the term “father” as opposed to “stepfather” but yes, that will be accurate. Tupac was one of our youth leaders as well, he was the chair of our New Afrikan Panthers. I managed Tupac from 1992 to 1994, so he’s a part of our whole overall family and as much of his music pushed out politics when he was doing positive things. Pac is a Gemini so you had two cats in there, [both laugh] so you had some positive you had some of the other stuff. But that’s still you know, the holistic person.

TFSR: Yeah, yeah, that’s people. This is a, you know, as another example of someone who it’s amazing to see intergenerationality of this sort of thing, involved in political movements and it’s a shame that he was denied such easy access to his father during that period.

WT: Right. Yeah. Yes. I mean, in fact with FOIA we found that Tupac was targeted as well, you know, so COINTELPRO didn’t end with Mutulu.

TFSR: Begs the question of “what are they doing now?” [laughs]

WT: Well, now they’re keeping the man in there till he dies. I mean, I think if we look at his present condition he’s in a Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, but he’s going back and forth to the hospital all the time. Even though it’s a medical facility has to go outside. He’s caught COVID three times while being incarcerated. That was one of the reasons we filed for compassionate release. He’s had bone marrow cancer. He’s had stem cell replacement, it didn’t necessarily take. Just in May, I believe, they gave Mutulu six months to live, so his condition is dire right now. We need all the support we can, we want. You know, congressional support, anybody, if there’s somebody with some kind of influence to talk to the Congressional people, or those people that are on the parole Commission, or even Biden.

So that’s where we are right now, we’re really trying to get as much support for Mutulu as possible. I think the main thing would be is to allow him to come home and live out his last days was among his family. I think, unfortunately, what they do with many of our political prisoners and prisoners of war, they keep them in there until they die, or until, when they’re released, they only have a few months to live outside. I think Marilyn Buck only lived a few weeks, that was one of Mutulu’s codefendants. Forgot how long Russell Shoatz lived. But you know, these are things we’re looking at, you know, we just look at how long they keep our people in there, and then you just compare that to the criminal. If you just look at that criminal, they’re on the streets in 10 years. The political prisoners are the people who are targeted with their politics and, given these crimes, do longer time in the worst conditions.

TFSR: That says it right there. Mr. Tyehimba, you mentioned getting congressional support, getting any sort of support, can you talk about what the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement right now is coordinating alongside of — I know that there’s also a push by his family also — but can you talk about sort of the initiatives that you’re pushing in terms of getting Dr. Shakur out.

WT: We have reached out to congressional people, in fact, we have a letter writing campaign or calling campaign they’re doing it now. Some of them have gotten on board, we’re getting other people involved. We have some high profile clergy, they participate in a demonstration on Mutulu’s birthday on August 8, in DC. We have ongoing weekly events where we’re talking about Mutulu where we’re trying to get people involved, having various activities. There’s a documentary called Dope is Death, which focuses on Mutulu, so that’s one of the vehicles that we utilize. We just showed this film called Black August Hip-Hop Project, Mutulu was highlighted in that. We just showed that this past weekend at the Pan African Film Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. And so we utilize every vehicle we can to get the word out about Mutulu Shakur.

TFSR: And where can, just in sort of wrapping up now, we’re definitely below the hour-

WT: Oh okay! I went too fast [laughs].

TFSR: No! You were concise. But how can people find out more about the organization you work with and also around this initiative to get Dr. Shakur free.

WT: Sure. Family and Friends of Dr. Mutulu Shakur has a website called MutuluShakur.com, as well as the Malcolm X Grassroots Movements mxgm.org. Those are two websites that you can go to, to get information on Mutulu Shakur, particularly MutuluShakur.com is going to have all the latest medical, as well as the legal updates regarding him. And ways of support is also financial as well as getting the word out.

TFSR: Thank you again, Mr. Tyehimba for having this conversation, for taking the time and for all the work that you do.

WT: Okay, I hope I hit everything that you asked me to.

TFSR: Absolutely. Was there anything that I didn’t ask about that you did want to touch on since we do have some extra time?

WT: Well, I think that it’s important for people to recognize that Mutulu is a victim, he’s a victim of COINTELPRO, and he’s also acknowledged his participation in the conspiracy. In other words, Mutulu’s done his time. If he’s supposed to do 30 years on this, he’s done his 30 year, let him come home. That’s one of the things, you know, he’s not trying to say “let’s relitigate this whole trial”. It’s just “let’s just deal with the reality where we are right now”. And so if the system is going to work the way it’s supposed to then Mutulu should have been home in 2016. I would argue that he should have never been in, there but you know, when you when they deal with RICO, and for the audience to understand is that being a part of the conspiracy doesn’t mean that you actually did anything that was a part of a conspiracy. And they use RICO to go after the mob, you remember when they couldn’t get mob bosses so they brought in RICO. And so RICO has been utilized for the mob, it’s also been utilized for the progressive movement. Particularly if they’re tryna target people and they can’t find any kind of criminal charges — and that’s generally what happens. So if you can’t find a criminal charge, and you can give em a RICO conspiracy.

TFSR: Yeah, not only do they get to indict a ham sandwich, as it were, but also they get to claim a bunch of — I mean, maybe not in this case, I don’t know if they took a lot of needles from BAANA or what have you — but, you know, they can also acquire cars or people’s houses or whatever, as saying that “it’s a means towards a criminal and that we can’t prove but we have a pretty good idea”.

WT: Yeah, I’m not sure what they took from BAANA. Peter Middleton was one of the people in BAANA also, that they used as a FBI informant. Peter Middleton was somebody that Mutulu had saved, you know, from drugs, and taught him acupuncture and became a doctor of acupuncture. But they also utilize Peter Middleton on their behalf because the way they turn people is by getting them in a compromising position. Unfortunately, Peter Middleton was also dealing with drugs, so he was under the influence of drugs, he was dealing with them and I think the FBI utilized that as a way to compromise it.

TFSR: Yeah, I know that during the Green Scare that was how one of the major breaks in the eco-activists, like the Earth Liberation Front cases that came up in the early 2000s, was through at least one individual who was compromised because of drug use.

WT: Yes. So people so so it was Tyrone Ryson and Peter Middleton was the two primary people the government used to target Mutulu. Basically what they’re saying is he was a kingpin, you know, he was a shotcaller. Not that he was a participant in any of the activities, but I think Tyrone Ryson may have actually said Mutulu was there. There’s no other independent witnesses and no physical evidence that put Mutulu there, and I’m talking about the 1981 Brink’s expropriation attempt, where the two cops and one security guard was killed.

TFSR: Well, again, thanks a lot for the chat and I’ll be sure to put links to what you had mentioned, as well as we’re going to put out a transcript afterwards, so if it’s easier for folks to read through this content and be able to go back and footnote it and reference it, then that will be available for them. It’s been a real pleasure talking to you.

WT: Okay, so I’m here. Alright. Appreciate it.

St-Imier

*Thanks to A-Radio Berlin for the audio & transcription

A-Radio Berlin: The Weekend Libertaire, an anarchist meeting, took place from July 29th to 31th, 2022 in St-Imier, Switzerland. We spoke with a comrade on the spot who helped organize the gathering.

Can you introduce yourself first? Where are you organized?

Chris Zumbrunn: Yes, hello. I’m Chris Zumbrunn. I’m with the Decentralised Collective. It’s local here in St. Imier, where the event took place. A place where we work on projects for the transformation of society, in the direction we would like it to go, of course. And I was part of the organising group that organised the event.

A-R B: St. Imier as a location was not chosen at random. Can you tell us a little about the background of St. Imier and its history?

CZ: Yes, it was actually a special date this year, the 150th anniversary of the meeting in St. Imier in 1872. That was after Marx had successfully managed in the First International to kick the anti-authoritarians, or at least part of the anti-authoritarians, including the Jura Federation and Bakunin amongst others out of the International. They then organised a meeting with the anti-authoritarians and those sections that sympathised with them in St. Imier 150 years ago. So, one basic approach was the idea that we organise this to commemorate this anniversary and to see where we are and where we are going with the anti-authoritarian and anarchist structures.

A-R B: Ten years ago, in 2012, there was a very big meeting for the 140th anniversary. Were you there too and can you tell us what it was like back then?

CZ: Yes, I was also part of the organising group at that time. We had an event that was much bigger than the one we had last weekend. That was 4,000 people spread over the whole time. Last weekend there were 600 people, so that made quite a difference. Otherwise it was very similar, with conference contributions, lots of programming, concerts and so on but very similar in concept.

A-R B: And there was also a Kitchen For All and a bookfair, if I remember correctly …

CZ: Yes.

A-R B: What kind of standing do you have there that made all of this possible? How are you anchored there [in St. Imier]?

CZ: It’s not that there are big anarchist structures in our region, but there is a difference in that there is a certain openness towards anarchist structures. From that point of view, the cooperation with the authorities here, at the municipal level, is pretty good. It’s no problem to organise that [event]. And I can already say that we have quite good support from the local groups with whom we have to coordinate, also with regard to the canton of Bern, the state, which is far away from the local structures here. The local authorities almost help us a bit to shield ourselves from these state structures. So the cooperation is good.

A-R B: Ok, the meeting was actually planned for this year, so 10 years after 2012 for the 150th anniversary. You had to postpone it. How did that happen and what was that like for you?

CZ: We just decided, after all the Corona stuff. Also because the situation in different countries with the entry restrictions if you are not vaccinated, and so on. It‘s still difficult for some. It wasn‘t very predictable how it would be this summer [so it made sense] to postpone the [large] meeting to next year and organize only a small, local meeting this year. The idea is to have an international meeting next year. But now, last weekend, there was still quite an international participation. Though not comparable to 2012, of course.

A-R B: No, of course. I suppose that if someone wants to travel from – let’s say – South America, you really need very long-term planning, travel arrangements, but also visa matters etc.

What was the summary of the meeting at the weekend?

CZ: We haven’t done the collective summary yet. There will be a meeting in a few days where we will do that. My impression was that it was a good meeting. It was an advantage as an organizing group that we could prepare ourselves in this group and gain experience in organizing this smaller weekend and thus be able to function better as a group for next year, when it will be more or less serious and we want to organize the larger meeting. But it was good – with about 30-40 workshops, social programming, book fair, concerts spread over three or four days.

A-R B: Very nice, so also a kind of practical trial run for next year …

CZ: Exactly.

A-R B: … where probably many more people will come. As Anarchist Radio, we are of course also interested in the experience you had with this. You have now had an experiment with radio. Can you say a few words about that?

CZ: Also in 2012, there was Radio Libertaire [from Paris], which was on site and broadcasted live from a small studio that was set up. This weekend there was a smaller radio from French-speaking Switzerland, Libreradio, which did live broadcasts in French during the event.

A-R B: You’re already working, or maybe you’re taking a break… But at some point the work for 2023 will start again. How is the organizing group set up? Is it just local people? Do you have working groups? Can people perhaps also join?

CZ: So it’s a group of people here from the region around St. Imier, but also from other cities in Switzerland and from international groups. At the moment, it was mainly from Italian groups, some of which have already participated this year, although it was a local event. It is definitely open. New groups can come in addition. And there is definitely the intention that, especially from an international perspective, additional groups from other countries would join in and help organise the event. We are open to that. So you can get in touch and say that you would like to be part of the structuring and planning.

A-R B: I read on the website that you also support and promote a concept of organizing things in advance in a decentralised way …?

CZ: Yes, this event last weekend was actually organized in this sense, as a preparatory event for next year. And I think that we will also do additional events here, meetings, workshops, spread over the next year. Over this period, these 12 months, [we hope to] use the time to do preliminary work, so to speak, and to think things through and develop things that can then flow into the structures of the meeting in July 2023, and so achieve that we can achieve good results, really practical results, next year. And the idea would be that others can also do this, that other groups that want to co-organize, for example, can also organize smaller events in their local context, where they are, that are preparatory for what we want to achieve next year.

A-R B: Is there any idea from your side of what your expectation is, what this meeting could bring next year, maybe also in the face of the current international situation?

CZ: That is not yet fixed. I have an idea, which has also been partly discussed with people in the group, which is already there now, but which is basically still open and open to discussion. So, my thought would be that we approach it wanting to be as open as possible to groups that are fundamentally anti-authoritarian in structure, that fundamentally want to manifest an anti-authoritarian reality, that are on the fringes of what they themselves see as anarchist, or are also seen by anarchist groups today as being on the fringes or even outside of what would be considered anarchist. We would like these groups to be there, to have these different positions represented, to have such perspectives, uhh …

A-R B: … stimulate each other …

CZ: Yes, exactly, and that in this way a strengthening of movements, collectives and groups that manifest an anti-authoritarian future, happens.

A-R B: People will probably want to find out about the meeting. What possibilities are there?

CZ: There is the website anarchy2023.org, anarchy2023.org. And there is also a link to a separate website where you can make suggestions for workshops or films that can be shown. So, you can also make suggestions from home and get involved in the programme that can be developed, even if you don’t want to be directly involved in the organising group..

A-R B: Finally, is there anything you want to say that we haven’t talked about so far?

CZ: Yes, of course I hope that next year many of you will come and we can see each other and discuss where anarchism comes from and where it is going – and then do it.

A-R B: Wonderful, thank you so much for the interview.

CZ: Ok, thank you!

The Post-Internet Far Right and Ecofascism with 12 Rules for WHAT podcast

The Post-Internet Far Right and Ecofascism with 12 Rules for WHAT

Book covers of "The Rise of Ecofascism" and Post-Internet Far Right" and text "The Post-Inernet Far Right & Ecofascism with 12 Rules for WHAT | TFSR 8-21-22"
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This week, our guests are Sam and Alex (not their real names). Sam was until recently the co-host of the 12 Rules for What podcast and is the co-author with Alex of their two books, The Post Internet Far Right and The Rise of Ecofascism. Sam is now focusing on writing at Collapsology Sub-Stack and the Collapse Podcast, and you can support Alex’s ongoing work with 12 Rules for WHAT podcast via their patreon or check out the podcast via Apple Podcasts or Channel Zero Network. We talk about fascism, ecological trends on the far right, Patriotic Alternative, Patriot Front, grifters, the Tories and antifascist activism. Oh, and a lot more.

Next week…

Next week’s show will feature an interview with a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement about the case of Dr. Mutulu Shakur and his struggle for compassionate release despite being 7 years past his date for release eligibility and his diagnosis of bone marrow cancer.

Announcements

Shinewhite Phone Zap

Anti-racist, communist prisoner held in North Carolina, James “Shinewhite” Stewart, is facing severe repression and deprivation at Maury C.I. where he was recently transferred; he’s been in solitary since he was transferred, denied food and his blood pressure medicine, and had various pieces of property and correspondence stolen, as well as mail tampered with. He is asking people to make urgent calls and emails to Secretary Eddie M. Buffaloe of the NC Department of Public Safety in order to demand SW’s transfer out of state (called “interstate compact”) to West Virginia:

Shinewhite wanted to share that his politics have evolved in such a way that they no longer align with the Revolutionary Intercommunal White Panther Organization (RIWPO), so he’s stepping down from his role as National Spokesperson for the organization. However, Shinewhite still believes deeply in Intercommunalism and the liberatory vision of the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party (RIBPP).

Indonesian Anarchist Paralegal Fund

Anarchist Black Cross in Indonesia, Palang Hitam, is fundraising for their paralegal trainings for anarchists and anti-authoritarians. You can learn more and contribute at Firefund.Net/PalangHitam

BAD News: Angry Voices from Around The World

A new episode of the A-Radio Network’s monthly, English-language podcast, BAD News. This month it includes an interview with Greek Anarchafeminist group “Salomé”, a chat with an organizer of the Weekend Libertaire in St-Imier (Switzerland) on the 150th anniversary of the first anti-authoritarian International, and a call for solidarity with anarchist prisoners. Give a listen!

Bodily Autonomy Rally in the South East of Turtle Island

There’s a rally next Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Justice AA Birch building in Nashville to protest the abortion ban in TN. Others in the area, keep an ear out for demonstrations in South Carolina despite the overturning of the 6 week abortion ban, and because of the 20 week abortion ban now in effect in North Carolina. More on the latter two pieces of news and ways to support folks seeking abortions at linktr.ee/CarolinaAbortionFund

Firestorm Benefit Concert

There’s a benefit party & queer country show at the Odditorium on Wednesday, August 31 for Firestorm’s building purchase, right across the street from the venue. It runs from 6pm to 10pm and you can find out more by checking out their social media.

Blue Ridge ABC Letter Writing Event

We’ve been forgetting to announce, but on Sunday, Sept 4th at West Asheville Park from 3-5pm you can find Blue Ridge ABC writing to prisoners. They’ll provide a list of political prisoners with upcoming birthdays or facing repression who could use some words of support, plus paper, pens and addresses. Come down, meet some folks and send some love behind bars.

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Featured Track:

  • Bella Ciao by Nana Mouskouri from Revolutionary Songs of the World
  • Bella Ciao by Redska from the Bella Ciao 7″
  • Bella Ciao by Leslie Fish from It’s Sister Jenny’s Turn to Throw the Bomb

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourselves for the audience with any names, preferred pronouns, or other information about yourself that you care to share?

Sam: Yes, my name is Sam Moore, I use he/him pronouns. Someone recently asked me if I had other identifying information, but this name is, of course, a pseudonym. This is not my real name. So I guess the information that we have about ourselves, both of us, we were, until very recently the the co-hosts of a podcast called 12 Rules For WHAT, and the author of two books, Post Internet Far Right and The Rise of Eco Fascism. I’ll let Alex say if he wants to dox himself any further than that.

Alex: I’m Alex, and I use he/him pronouns. I am also the co author of those two books. I’m still a host of 12 Rules For What We are both anti-fascist activists and researchers as well.

TFSR: I’m excited to have you all on the show. I’ve been an avid listener of your podcast. Since you joined the Channel Zero Network of anarchists podcasts, regular listeners to our show may be familiar with your amazing jungle, but for folks who aren’t familiar with the 12 Rules For WHAT podcast, as the shared project that the books are coming out of, can you speak a bit? Give a brief rundown on the project, its scope, and its goals moving forward from here?

Sam: So maybe I could do the history, because I’ve now left the project as of about two weeks ago. I’ll just say what it was when I was involved. Alex can tell you all about what it will become when it becomes its full self in the future.

So starting in 2018, there was a notable absence in the UK anti-fascist movement of understanding of the far right and the different ways in which it had been shifting and moving and changing and adapting to the conditions of the internet, and adapting to the kind of different social forces that were at play on the far right in the UK at that time. It’s quite a peculiar time, for the far right in some ways. Through the Cameron period, so that’s from 2010 to 2016 when David Cameron was the Prime Minister, there had been a large Street movement called the EDL. Which started actually before that. But the basic idea of the EDL, the English Defense League, was obviously far right, but also quite a quite complex movement. It was often accused of being fascist, I think a lot of people felt it was an apt subscription. I don’t think it was necessarily, retrospectively, but I think it was a pretty decent description at the time. It’s politics were militantly Islamophobic. Hatred of Muslims was it’s ruling idea.

However, in 2017, and 2018, there was a kind of a shift. So the EDL started to decline, it has not become the kind of the the most important figure or component of the UK far right and it was replaced, partially because of it’s very charismatic leader, Tony Robinson, left to do other things and became a news grifter or what he described as a ‘citizen journalist.’ He got into various legal troubles, and there was a movement around him being released from prison where he was put for obvious breaches of contempt of court and various other kinds of problems he ran into. That meant that the EDL, which was the clear defined center of gravity on the UK far right side started to dissolve.

It’s also true that on the parliamentary wing of the far right, or not parliamentary because they weren’t in Parliament, but the more electoral wing of the far right – UKIP, Brexit, and so on, had basically won. There was this kind of contestation of what Brexit was supposed to now mean and that meant that all kinds of other things were being pulled into the orbit of the far right, and lots of different kinds of things were at play at once.

So 12 Rules For WHAT, just to get to the very long end of that history, intended to understand this conjuncture. The histories that co-informed it, the ways in which the far right had changed its political forms, the way in which it changed the way it organized over the previous 10 years, the rise of the internet and so on, to get away from the stereotypes of the far right that people have held, which is the all that they are all Neo Nazis, (which is not true), or that they’re all just conservatives, (which is also not true). We needed to differentiate, to pull those things apart, and to see what we could do then, as anti-fascists, in order to counter them.

Alex: I would also say that having a broader audience was was a good thing that we got, but we would mainly try to talk to the anti-fascist movement as it was in the UK. Because of the kind of misunderstandings or misconceptions about how the far right was currently constituting or constituting at the time, there was kind of a failure to act in a way that would properly oppose those forces as anti-fascist needed to oppose them. So, from the start, we also had discussions about anti fascism, about movements, and how you build movements as well. There was two components to it. It was talking about the far right, but also about anti fascism, which oftentimes goes really un-interrogated as a form of political activity and we wanted to discuss that.

TFSR: Now moving forward, are you continuing in the same trajectory now that Sam has left the show?

Alex: Yeah! I think we did some really, really good stuff. I want to continue doing good stuff. I don’t really have radically different positions from Sam. We agree. I think you kind of have to agree to write the kind of books we did. There’s not gonna be a massive diversion.

Sam: If people are looking for gossip about the collapse of 12 Rules, I’m afraid there’s very little. All there is is a sense from me that we had completed the project, to some extent, that we set out to do. I think, if you read our two books, there’s a really quite good account of the far right in those books in scholarly areas. The one thing everyone agrees on at an academic conference, is there must be another academic conference. But I also think that you can get to the end of something. I think, for my part, I got to the end of that. I’m sure Alex will produce things that I could never have conceived of. But nevertheless, I feel I’ve come to the end of the exploration of the far right. That’s kind of it, I suppose.

Alex: I suppose there’s the difference there, because I still care about the far right. I think it’s important to oppose whereas, Sam has moved on to…

TFSR: Oh yeah he has gone social fascist! [laughs]

Alex: He was always a Nazi! Just never exposed himself till now. [laughs]

I was just reflecting on that a bit more seriously, I was thinking about, “was it worth doing on my own?” I was 50/50 about whether to carry on with it, and I kind of got persuaded by a few people in the anti-fascist movement who describe it as like a ‘movement resource.’ I think it has value in itself of being a reflective space for anti-fascists in the UK and elsewhere, as well.

TFSR: Sam, you mentioned that you’re not going to be working on the podcast anymore. I wonder if you wanted to shout out your other podcast and the newsletter that you’re moving along with (Collapse) and maybe introduce listeners who haven’t heard it, to what it is, and also tell us what the hell a substack is?

Sam: So I was mentioning that part of the interesting thing about the far right in 2018, was they had won Brexit, but they didn’t know what Brexit meant. Of course, there’s this wonderfully surreal answer from Theresa May, who is the prime minister from 2016 to about 2018 or 2019 perhaps, when she says, “Brexit means Brexit,” which is just beautifully circular. To be clear we didn’t know what Brexit was supposed to be. So there was this sense that across the political spectrum, and including on the far right, lots of people were trying to work out what they thought they meant by Brexit, and therefore impose something on it.

It seems to me that the basic political fact of the rest of our lives will be climate change, right? That will entail not only hotter summers, like we’re currently going through the UK. We now have a summer which is a new thing for the UK. But also it will entail possibly social collapse, something quite slow, but nevertheless, quite sustained. A fairly likely interpretation of what might happen. So that event will happen. But it will also, just like Brexit, require someone to give it some meaning, require someone to articulate what that collapse is, what its story is, what are we supposed to do now, and so on.

It seemed to me that the prudent thing, or the long range strategic thing for the left, is to consider what left wing politics would be, given that basic fact, given the need for extraordinary levels of solidarity over the next century internationally. But also given the need to re articulate a politics that doesn’t contain some sort of brilliant utopia where everything is saved, where everything is transformed. Our politics, essentially, is without a future, but nevertheless, is hopeful in some other sense. If that sounds like a contradiction in terms, if it sounds like I don’t have the specifics worked out, that’s because I don’t.

So the project is to try and find our way to political theory adequate to our moment of collapse, without simply saying, “everything is different now.” And without saying, “everything is the same as it always was,” and we can just carry on as if the left was in the 20th century or the 19th century or like we’re all heading towards the sunny uplands of the future forever. These are not the facts. That’s the project of thinking about collapse now, I think.

TFSR: I think you’ve definitely set yourself up with a very large project that will keep you busy for a long time. That’s really fascinating, though. I’ve been cutting back on podcasts, actually, so I just only now just got around to listening to the first episode. tIt was the introduction that was in the 12 Rules stream. It was really interesting. So I’m looking forward to that.

As you’ve mentioned, you’ve published two books over the last two years, Post Internet Far Right from Dog Section Press, 2021, as well as The Rise of Eco Fascism from Polity Press 2022. First up, congratulations to both of you on this. That’s awesome.

Alex: Thank you.

TFSR: Yeah. So, Post Internet Far Right… I might call it PIFR from here on out. I was afraid if I called it Piffer, you’d give me a weird look. So I’m going to call it PIFR.

Alex: Some people call it Piffer.

Sam: Pif is a piece of genuine UK slang, which you can use. So maybe I’ll tell you what that means afterwards. [laughs]

TFSR: Please take some time to think up what it means. So PIFR kind of felt like a theme park ride, if you don’t mind me saying, it was a sort of a ‘not so fun house,’ the reader passes through on a boat as monsters pop up along the way, a presentation of relationally of organizations, events and modalities, but also taking place on a timeline. That seems kind of like an appropriate approach to setting the development and stage of important questions of how to counter the far right while attempting to avoid the pitfalls of writing 1,000 Page academic treatise or homogenizing all the subject matters by saying, “everyone’s fascist that we don’t like.” I do want to note that while I made that little crappy metaphor of the monster house, I don’t mean to say..

Sam: It’s a great metaphor!

TFSR: Thank you very much. You can use it, if you want to. Second edition, you can put that on the back of it. I don’t mean to say that the approach was a menagerie of freaks, to use a phrase (I’m paraphrasing) that you’ve said on the show before, the focus on individual instances, or events, or people personalities, that tend to draw a lot of shallow recognition and attention from people, but more as like a mapping of an ecosystem of relationships.

So first up, I’m wondering if you can talk a bit about this approach to writing your book, how you sort of created this wending path to take the readers on and share your definitions of terms like ‘far right’ and ‘fascist,’ why is it important to be clear about your language when talking about our enemies?

Alex: Well, I think the structure of the book is quite deliberate. We start off with a chapter on feelings, the very kind of blobby feelings you get when you’re online and depressed, or online and angry. We kind of expand out from that very individual, very singular point of reference inside someone’s head and their individual feelings, out to ultimately eco fascism and the end of the world.

In that gap, we kind of trace their journey of expanding far right variation, basically. We wanted to do that, because oftentimes people see these different scales on a level on their own. There’s no connecting them together, there’s no understanding how someone could be radicalized and what that could mean and how that radicalization then transfers to more real world “political action.” Oftentimes, it’s the neo Nazi teenager who commits a mass atrocity is sprung up out of these very pat reasons for radicalization. Like he was bullied or he saw some bad memes and then went bad.

We wanted to understand how someone can go through a process and oftentimes, it’s a very short process as well. There is this idea of the pipeline and we wanted to introduce other kinds of mechanisms in which people could become fascist, or members of the far right, or Nazis or whatever. So also talk about ruptures, we talk about breaks in people’s political thinking and political activity, just as much as a slow, steady pipeline, which we think has been the ‘go to’ easy answer for a lot of these questions.

Sam: I think that the arguments of the book, is the structure of the book. They are the same thing. So it is a winding path, but I think it’s supposed to be also an ascent through a collection of ways, as Alex was saying, I think is really good phrase, “blobby feelings.” There’s a certain sense of numinous things gliding inside you. If you ever just sat for a long time, or even just like a short while and just thought about the kind of various things that are going on inside you, which I recommend doing, they are indeterminate, they are vague, they are inexpressive. So politics can’t just rely on them kind of being fully formed. I think we send the book that it has to make them march. The purpose of the infrastructure of the far right that we explore through the first few chapters after the feelings, is the things that would would make these feelings politicized essentially, which will make them able to reproduce themselves, will provide a community in which they live, will provide a means by which they can be disseminated throughout the world, and so on.

So those are all the kinds of different aspects of that, and that loops through action on the streets in the classical fascist mode, it loops through online communities, it loops through joining organizations, most prominently right now in the UK – Patriotic Alternative, most common in the US perhaps – Patriot Front, but also the Proud Boys and other things like that. So there are there are all kinds of ways in which these feelings are reproduced, remade, politicized, articulated, drawn out and so on.

On this thing about the precision of terminology, far right and fascism. In that book we actually don’t give a good definition of either. We do note that there are gradations, I should say the definition of Eco fascism are absent. It’s not that we shirked that, we delayed it for another book. So the the need for a precise terminology, is not because the world is full of precise objects, which are easily categorized and easily found and easily kind of put in their place. The reason for precise terminology is strategic. The need for that is so that you can do something with the object.

I’m trying to think of the right metaphor. So on a coastal wall, a wall next to the sea. You get these measurements like, “This is how far the tide was up. This how far the tide is up,” and they have numbers on them. But political politics isn’t like that. You can’t say, “oh, this person is this radical. Seven out of 10 radical. This person is nine out of 10 radical. This person is 10 out of 10 radical, you really need to be worried.” This is not possible, partially, because the coastal wall itself is going up and down. Like it’s kind of sinking, kind of moving up or down all the time, there are warps in the wall and the way the measurement works, so it doesn’t quite work. But at least what the precision of the terminology gives you a sense of how the dynamics of the sea are changing or something. This metaphor is really torturous. It’s making your metaphor about the funhouse seem exceptionally crystal clear, although I think it’s a really good metaphor, actually, I really do like it.

So the idea is that it’s not that the world is precise, the world is very messy, and there’s a need to like strategize about the world in order to bring it into its clarity. Not because the clarity pre exists and is out there, and you just kind of go and find it. But because politics is a matter of making clear making distinctions and organizing the world in a certain kind of way. And that requires you to think in a certain kind of strategic way as well.

Alex: Also a kind of trap, quickly before we get into our actual definition, which Sam is gonna give because I can’t remember what we actually wrote… The point of being very definitely clear and defined is oftentimes a tendency on the radical left within anti-fascist movements, and indeed, even wider society, is the way to label something as a bad thing that we must reject wholeheartedly is to is to label it a fascist thing. This is really tricky, because then you start kind of merging lots of different things together into one label, which is very unusable imposing an opposing all different kinds of stuff.

Oftentimes people talk about the transphobes, TERFS, being fascists. It’s like, “okay, we can acknowledge the relationships that transphobic radical feminists have with the Christian Evangelical right wing groups in America and the UK, we can acknowledge those alliances without putting these people who self identify as feminists in with people who definitely don’t self identify as feminists. This is obviously not a defense of transphobia or transphobes. It’s to acknowledge that there are things that are not fascist which are also awful and should be opposed and fought against and worked against as well.

So, oftentimes, in certain kinds of more liberal strains of anti fascism as well, the kind of mass terror of the border, or the mass terror of the prison system, or of policing in general, is kind of put into the realm of acceptability. Because it’s non fascist, and it’s not. The border isn’t fascist, it’s part of the ongoing mechanisms of neoliberal capitalism. You know, it’s the norm. It’s not a fascist thing. It’s a liberal capitalist thing.

So, to draw in all of the other stuff into our critiques, we need to be very clear about what they are and what they aren’t. We’ve said, and this has been a big theme for the show is, “where is the biggest harm, societal harm, being caused on the broad spectrum of the right?” You can look at something like Atomwaffen, they did murders, but they kind of merely murdered each other. The biggest threat on the right comes from Border Force, or the Republican Party, or the overthrow of Roe V Wade and the abolition of abortion in half the states of America. So that’s where we need to acknowledge that that stuff is not necessarily fascist, but also that it should be vehemently opposed.

Sam: One thing Alex said that’s kind of the danger of the thing I was mentioning before about the strategy, is you get into the same kind of traps that Alex is talking about when you pursue that notion of strategic too far. Because then what you do is you decide that whatever you aren’t capable of opposing must be fascism. So, if you’re really good at setting the discourse on Twitter, if that’s what you got as a movement, then you’re gonna decide that the things you need to oppose our part of the discourse on Twitter. And if you’re really good at opposing street movements, then you’re going to decide the thing you need to oppose is street movements, or if you have a legal apparatus, you’re going to decide that thing you need to oppose is the legal apparatus.

In some sense, although I’ve argued in favor of a strict strategic-ness, or the use of a political strategy to guide definitions, at the same time, it is essential that we don’t simply just decide that whatever we happen to have, must be the right answer, because the far right is always changing. You’re gonna build capacity to oppose one part of it, it’s going to change, and then you’re going to be stuck opposing an iteration of it, because that was in the past. There are some really key examples of this in the UK in particular, I don’t want to open old wounds with the audience, maybe I won’t go into that.

TFSR: Anti fascism in the United States’ conception and the way that it could be adopted by a lot of people who were liberals and who were radical leftists, and who are radical centrists is because they can point to this one historical example where, in the 1940’s the US sent military across the ocean and then they fought against this absolute evil above all other evils. So, either something equates with that absolute evil, or it doesn’t. It also puts us in the same boat, as it were, as the institution that was continuing to impose Jim Crow at that period of time in the US South and supporting redlining in northern states and such.

Sam: I think it gets through like a conception of the global far right. It’s important, particularly now, thinking about the way in which, for example, the government of Modi, and the government of Bolsonaro, and the erstwhile government of Trump in America, and various other far right movements around the world, how do they all intersect? How do they kind of how to tactics flow between them? How can you make linkages? That was as true for the historical things you’re talking about? Right? There’s an interesting book, I’m not going to affirm it totally, but an interesting book called Hitler’s American Model, which looks at the way in which certain aspects of race law in the US were implemented by the Nazis, to the extent that some of the Nazis, even quite seedier Nazis, at some points regard the US having gone too far, which is, of course, not historically how it’s borne out. It will not be correct to equate Jim Crow with the Holocaust.

TFSR: But the Reservation system, the use of smallpox blankets…

Sam: So most of the time, most of the things they draw directly, are actually about the policing of Black Americans, rather than than the Reservation system and so on. Because when the Nazis are doing this in 1930’s, they regard the indigenous population as essentially a kind of vanished thing, it’s always in terminal and inevitable decline, a kind of defeated race. It’s interesting that to some extent, actually, the indigenous peoples of America are treated as a kind of a warning for Germans of what will befall them if they do not fight for their racial superiority. They will be crushed, as they see Indigenous Americans as having been. There is a whole complex history there about the way in which they understand again, this question of political events. Then their interpretation, their meaning comes later, this whole question about how they understand the genocide of the Americas as both a glorious achievement of the white people, and also simultaneously as a warning of what will befall them.

TFSR: That whole holding yourself as a discriminated or oppressed population simultaneous to viewing yourself as being Superman and elite and whatever, I’d like to get back to that in an upcoming question.

Pivoting a little bit. So technology and online sociality have shaped how the far right organizes, as well as everyone else in society, in some surface ways what it looks like. Alex set a challenge in its 2019 episode of Dissident Island, unless I’m getting that wrong, in the wake of the Christchurch shooting for anti-fascists to understand the new spheres of radicalization that were visiblalized by that tragedy for a lot of us. I feel like PIFR was meant to be a tool to further that challenge and as more and more interaction is occurring online, especially through the COVID pandemic, and with new platforms, there’s a continual need to grow and learn that terrain.

I’m wondering if you can talk a little bit about some of the shifts in anti-fascist activism, how you feel the movements have done ala the far right and fash and counter organizing online? Are there any projects you know that are working on the cutting edge, delving into challenging the spread of fashy ideas in virtual or augmented reality?

Alex: Do you want to go first? I went first last time.

Sam: How well did we sculpt the internet? Or how well do we understand the internet in that book? Well, the book is, is now one year old, which means that is written two years ago. Therefore the internet has changed immeasurably since that. There’s always this sense that one is kind of discussing something that has happened a long time ago in the past when trying to talk about the dynamics of internet spaces.

One thing that’s happened in particular, is the uneven distribution of things like discord servers, I just need to be really concrete about it, the far right are using discord servers more than they were when I first started writing the book, but they’re also using discord servers less than they were at the peak of the book, because Discord had a clampdown on its terms or conditions. To actually impose them, as opposed to being kind of more or less laissez faire. Telegram continues to be an important workplace where far right meet.

But I think we shouldn’t get too focused on exactly what the interface is supposed to tell us about the far right in general. What is that supposed to inform us about? I think we described in the book. We talked about a realm of affordances. There’s kind of a sense in which, and affordances is like… it’s a thing and an object, or a thing in the environment that presents itself to you as an opportunity for you to do something. So for example, I’m holding out a mug. But it’s so obvious that the way I’m holding the mug is the wrong way to hold the mug. Right, the handle is here. I’m supposed to hold the mug by the handle. This mug has been designed to have an affordance that I can choose to pick up or not. But as you can see, I’m holding it the wrong way.

And that’s important, because in some ways, the way the internet is designed, is as a collection of affordances for action, right? Like the ‘Share’ button looms very large, it’s like, “Please share this thing.” There’s a there’s a consistent vocabulary across websites, and across designs of operating systems to make everything very easy to use. It’s like you’re kind of in an environment where the whole of the thing, everything around you, is this big handle offering itself to you. So, this space is extremely designed and nevertheless, it’s totally possible like it is with a mug, to use it wrong, and to use it against the grain.

I think there’s been excess, at least in the liberal press, about the kind of determinism of technology over far right politics. I can think of some really heinous articles. For example, the article in Rolling Stone about 4chan, which declares that 4chan… the posts are displayed according to an arcane logic, impossible to work out for mere mortals. “Guys, they are in chronological order. The top post is the most recent one, and then it goes down.” It’s not that hard to work out. So, this mystification of the internet that I think happens in lots of the press, and we will try to cut through that. You’re on the internet, you know what it’s like on the internet. Then you read an article, you’re like, “That’s not what it’s like to be on the internet.”

So how does the far right use the internet now? I couldn’t tell you, because I stopped doing this stuff some time ago, but Alex did not. So he can tell you.

Alex: Okay, so how well has the anti-fascist movement done countering the far right online? I think it’s a tricky question to answer because how do you define successful opposition online? One kind of marker of success, of course is deplatforming. So like a certain prominent far right account is taken down, there is cause for celebration, people will move on to the next one. The internet is a mechanism for disseminating information, people dox people, it’s shared widely, there is some kind of regulatory pressure on that person to stop being a fascist or stop being a Nazi, or stop being on the far right, and things like this.

I think what we need to acknowledge is the fact that the internet is owned by these giant companies, and these very rich people, it’s something we can’t ever get away from. So we’ve always talked about just on its own, appealing to our internet masters to delete certain fascists or reject people from from their platforms… That can only be one tiny, tiny part of what we need to do. Ultimately, in my opinion, the way anti fascism is successful is building movements offline, street movements, investigatory collectives, whatever, in order to bring opposition into the real world.

In terms of doxing, it is really useful to be able to spread awareness about a particular individual or a particular organizer, I think we do need to be careful. I think this is a particularly American anti-fascist movement phenomenon of because basically doxing any member of any far right organization as a thing that must happen. The problem with that is that it has some kind of disciplinary function, some of those people who are adopted will stop being fascists. But if there’s a doxing without consequence, then it starts to lose a lot of its power as well. What you end up creating is a movement of out and proud Nazis who don’t mind being very fascist in their public lives, online, wherever. Then you have a problem, which needs to be opposed in a different way.

So basically, I’m just coming back to the fact that it’s quite difficult to measure a successful online opposition. Because the internet is ever changing and ever moving around.

Sam: The sense in which you can kind of like push things, it’s kind of a system with lots of water in it or something. You squeeze one part of it and the water just flows somewhere else, you can’t compress the water, you can’t get rid of it. That’s a bit pessimistic, maybe, as a metaphor.

I should say that in addition to… I am less skeptical than Alex of the utility and power of large card companies to moderate things on their platforms. After the Christchurch shooting, there was a thing called the Christchurch call, which was begun by the government of New Zealand and France, signed on to by Facebook, Google, all kinds of big internet companies. They’ve done a relatively good job at removing some extremist content. Definitely, like the more kind of terroristic and neo Nazi elements of things have been pretty effectively removed because of that. That is a serious victory. I am, of course, also slightly worried about the kind of the creeping States that kind of comes and does your anti fascism for you.

Of course, in Europe, we have models of anti-fascist states that are constitutionality anti-fascist, Germany is the most obvious example. It is illegal to be fascist in Germany. The German police enforce that law very strictly. It’s not easy to be to be a neo Nazi in Germany for very good reasons. I don’t think the German state employees that law upon the left, as far as I’m aware, I don’t think there’s ever been the kind of example of that happening.

I mean, this is something particular about Germany, that other countries wouldn’t do as do as well. But I’m less terrified of the powers of the States and giving them more capacity to organize civil society. Why am I saying this? Maybe I don’t believe any of that. But I said it now. So I’m going to stick with it.

TFSR: Out of pure stubbornness. While it may be difficult to be a fash, like an out and out fash, in the way that people aren’t marching around Germany for the most part flying Nazi flags. However, you’ve had this ongoing crisis where it turns out that members of security forces have been participating in secret telegram groups and organizing among themselves, or then you’ve got people that are flying some old preexisting German flag in replacement of the Nazi flag, and it technically doesn’t check that mark on the box and showing up at QANON events until somebody can write that into law than the government’s unable to respond to it in that way.

I guess what I’m wondering also, in addition to what you all have said is not so much and as it’s been pointed out, you compress the thing and then the water comes out in different places. It seems like the building of the skill set of being able to address the changes as they occur by trying to look for innovation on far right uses of the internet, not just looking at new platforms, and not Just breaking encryption or actually just finding weaknesses and code to get the contents of whatever Discord or Rocket Chat is happening. I wonder if there’s any groups that you’re aware of online, or networks that are public that have been pretty good about keeping an eye on developments and far right applications of technology for organizing? It’s okay if you don’t.

Alex: I would say that the leaks that have come and been published by people like Unicorn Riot, for example, has been really useful to researchers. There is a there is a contingent of antifascist online who have the ability to breach some of these platforms, or at least get into these spaces like Discord. That has proved very useful, like the leaking of the Iron March forum, all the messages, all the DMS, all the profiles, has been materially useful to investigators in the UK, for example. Researching stuff that had come out past National Action, after that was proscribed.

As a society, we still haven’t particularly worked out how to… people share around privacy manuals and how to be secure online, but the mass of people have no understanding of how to do that, there is still an ever increasing trove of information out there if you know how to find it. That is materially useful to anti-fascist movements, and it has been. There’s a group of which I am peripherally involved with in the UK called Red Flare, who have made use of this information quite a lot.

Sam: In providing investigations for the Times, and other newspapers in the UK, as well as publishing their research.

TFSR: Unless anyone had anything else to say I was gonna move on to the next question.

Sam: I was just going to say about the German case right? So there’s the thing called, I’m going to horribly mispronounce this. Reichsbürgerbewegung. It means Reich People’s Movements, or Reich Citizens Movements, in general. And it’s essentially a German Q Anon. The main way in which things like fascist and Nazi sentiment get channeled, because they are definitely there in German society, I’m not denying that there’s a problem with neo Nazis. But the way in which they get channeled is not much more peculiar, much more conspiratorial, much more syncretic movements, like Q Anon in the US, right? There’s no part of US politics more well stated, and this is true for UK as well, than. “we don’t like Hitler.” Hitler is the ultimate enemy even for much of the US far right. Because what justifies the US’s place in the world is the moral authority it gets from crushing nazism. It crushes fascism, it’s capitalist, it’s not fascist, it’s not communist. It defeats both these enemies. That’s what gives the US it’s right to hegemony. It’s a right by conquest of the global order.

The UK, although it’s not hegemonic in the same way as the US nevertheless, also thinks about the right very deeply. Therefore, there’s a need to not express fascism in terms of like sieg heiling, and Roman salutes, and doing silly walks in the streets. There’s a need to kind of express it in these different peculiar ways. That’s obviously much more acute and much more concrete in Germany. Where waving a swastika in the street will not only get you proscribed like it will in the UK, or punched in the head like it would in the US, but will also get you arrested, thrown in jail.

TFSR: I will say I was warned not to wear my RAF shirt when I was in Germany, because apparently it is illegal to wear symbols of the RAF, which is interesting, but definitely not the same scale as what you’re talking about with swastikas. That’s a good point. I appreciate that.

A major contradiction in far right thought often is a simultaneous uplifting of the capital “I” individual as a downtrodden elite, as well as the subsumption of that individual to a leader who represents the greatest possibilities of the collective. This is kind of adjacent to the ‘to many fears in the reich’ problem. This brings us to the topic of grifters and influencers. I feel like looking back to the position of the alt right, generally as an umbrella, it’s street power and media presence. There was an amazing groundswell of talking heads and swarms of neck beards and trads ready to show up in the streets during the heady days of 2016 through 2019. Where are those influencers and swarms now, have they retreated to walled gardens online or been successfully de-radicalized and re radicalized towards an anti racist position? And I wonder if you have any anecdotes that you want to share?

Alex: I think these things are again, fairly hard to track. Obviously the the alt right collapsed quite spectacularly. What we’ve seen in its place has become these massively fragmented subcultures, and micro movements in between the bigger things that still remain, for example, the followers of Nick Fuentes, the proud boys would be another example of that. And, of course, ultimately Q Anon.

It’s not clear that the alt right morphed into Q Anon. I think Q Anon comes from a different place, really. It’s not made up for the same demographics. But what we think is going to happen is these kind of fragmentary bits and pieces of online far right subcultures and online far right activity, are going to kind of reform themselves in some form. We are beginning to see those kind of moves happening behind the activity, for example, January 6, we had an episode on it at the time. You can see some of those movements coming in behind it and going forward in defense of it, and in defense of Trump’s actions in the run up and on the day of January 6, you can see formations occurring.

Most importantly, we’ve seen the capitulation of the Republican Party too much, much more extreme explicit far right movements and ideas than they ever were in the Trump era. Trump kind of opened the door in many respects to these things. There was a general kind of acceptance of the of the “crazies” in order to give their sclerotic party some kind of vitality. But what we’re seeing is that is those kinds of people, now I’m being more institutionalized within the party, and much more open and explicit relationships as well.

So the the kind of danger of this is, the alt right, it was always difficult to work out, when it did kind of materialize in the streets, it was always quite chaotic, always quite incoherent in many ways. You saw that in Charlottesville, where there was a lots of people there, but it was all very cacophonous. The danger, of course, is if these online movements are adopted by the Republican Party, it seems increasingly that it is, these forms, these very extreme forms of politics and very reactionary form of politics will be given an institutional form. We can expect to see much bigger, much more consequential changes in government in the US because of it.

Sam: Yeah, that’s also my sense of how things have moved. A shift from this micro influencer model, where people are often directly monetizing through being on different platforms where they share adverts, or through super chats. This kind of thing. Directly monetizing their capacity to talk to a camera on far right in the period of 2015 to 2018, or there abouts. Then the decline of that economy, there’s a recession, essentially, in demand for this, and there’s a consolidation around a few very key influences.

The other really important part here is the rise in America of Tucker Carlson, and the kind of the increasing centrality of Tucker Carlson to the American media landscape. Because Tucker Carlson, unlike, say, Bill O’Reilly before him, will say the kind of more or less extreme things that the US right were saying amongst themselves, and the far right were saying amongst themselves with these micro influencers. But he’ll do it in a way it’s much more slick, sarcastic. He’s much better at interviewing people than anyone else is, he knows much more than other people. And he has an extremely clearly defined political worldview. He’s not incoherent. He’s not difficult to listen to. Whenever something embarrassing happens on his show. It’s to the embarrassment of the other person on the show. He’s very good at not embarrassing himself. In this kind of existence, Tucker Carlson on TV, these micro influencers just can’t compete. In the same way as the local bookstore can’t compete with Amazon. It’s the same dynamics. So Carlson is Amazon. He’s just taking all your all your demand. There’s a sense in which I think that’s really one of the important parts of it.

Also, Carlson allows for direct connection between the movement and its institutional structure. You can just ring up the Supreme Court Justices. There’s a connection which no one on the far right was able to do. Richard Spencer, does not have Clarence Thomas’s phone number, obviously, but Tucker Carlson does, right? It maps together these different parts of the far right.

There’s also a kind of a sense in which that seems much more palatable to the right wing party, to donors and so on, which is where the kind of the motor of this stuff comes from. I would assume that those big funders, who fund lots of US far right, are breathing a sigh of relief that Richard Spencer is no longer the force he was, or many people on the alt right are no longer the force they were. There’s a sense of almost relief, because everything is kind of coming back into the institutional setting of being kind of therefore much better coordinated amongst its various parts, which is why the far right as an institutional force, is having so many victories in the US right now, even as the far right as a movement is splitting up and going in different directions and kind of not cohering in the same kind of way was maybe even last year, or like maybe five years ago.

TFSR: So you kind of talked about this in a recent episode of your podcast, or the last episode that, for instance, Sam, you were a part of about how this is not the approach in the UK that the Conservative Party, the Tories, have towards holding power and towards pulling in folks from the extreme? Can you talk a little bit about that difference?

Sam: Yeah, so the Conservative Party is an attempt to respond… It’s a flexible political organization with a very long history, which responds to the task it has, which is to govern British capitalism. British capitalism is not US capitalism, but they have important key functional differences in their position to in the global economy. The UK is a financial superpower. But it’s not important as a military power. It’s not important as a manufacturing power. It’s kind of important as a cultural power. Like it has very famous institutions, the BBC, NHS, the Royal Family, it has things that it can export around the world, it’s kind of institutional forms. It’s not for nothing that a lot of the post colonial constitutions, when people are kind of hunting around for a constitution to base their system on, they go for the US one, or the UK, one the French one. Those are normally the three models that are employed.

The UK is a big cultural empire, but mostly it’s a financial empire. It’s just a global financial power. So the task of managing that does not necessarily include questions of the relationship between the UK and it’s military as a kind of heroic and unimpeachable guarantor of collective security. We don’t have that relationship to the military in the UK. People walk around with their army uniforms in near where I live, but no one stops them and thanks them for their service. Whereas the US is the global hegemon, whose function is to make the US stay in that position by forcing everyone else to buy dollars in order to buy oil. It guarantees that people will buy it oil and trade oil by threatening to militarily intervene globally. Everyone else funds its military by keeping the dollar more powerful and stronger than it would otherwise be. That’s the position for US.

In that position, you can well imagine that being really intensely nativist in your politics, valorizing the military as a particularly impressive unimpeachable and valiant dimension of life, valorizing conquest and domination and violence, these are all integral parts of what American capitalism does on a global scale. There’s not necessarily a surprise that those things come out in the politics.

The other thing to say is that the UK was a colonial power, but the US is still a colonial situation. Still colonization going on in the US. It’s a live aspect. The unreconciled, the unfinished process of colonization, is the other kind of thing that informs the US, which doesn’t inform the UK. It isn’t there as much. Obviously, the UK is a colonial power, but in regards in its self conception, colonization is having kind of ended in 1948 when we gave back India. That’s kind of the way in which the UK likes to imagine itself as a colonial power. I think that’s true. Alex is grimacing. I think that’s the way the UK likes to imagine it’s relation to colonialism.

Alex: The thing about the Tories is that they have an ability to absorb the far right political positions and energies without actually inviting the far right into them necessarily all that much. And so you see it in various different waves of the far right activity in the UK. For example, the National Front, that was built in the late 1970’s and was completely kind of absorbed by Thatcherism and Thatcher in a way. It wasn’t as if Thatcher took on these far right elements into her party, it’s that she took on their positions and stole their energy and built Thatcherism and neoliberalism as it is along with people in the US.

In the same way, the sting that was taken out of the EDL, and these movements in the 2010’s was the very explicit institutionalization of what Theresa May called “the hostile environment” to migrants, to refugees, and to asylum seekers. We’re gonna make this a hostile environment to anyone who’s coming into the country. That was basically an adoption of far right politics without adopting the far right.

You can see the kind of ingraining of that within the modern contemporary Conservative Party in things like the the policy of deportations to Rwanda, which is very unclear whether that’s ever going to happen, whether they’re actually going to go through with it, but was another one of these moves of creeping authoritarianism explicitly geared against the kind of hippie lefties, Extinction Rebellion, and the disruptive elements of various movements, and a clamping down on those things. Most importantly, clamping down on unapproved by the State migration. I don’t really know how to say it, un-official migration.

TFSR: In some ways, that description kind of makes me think of the way that the Democratic Party in the US relates to the progressive politics. It’s sort of absorbing and identifying itself with those causes, maybe absorbing individuals, and then shifting them into neoliberal politics that they already had going on. But it appears in some ways to be the party of labor, the party of immigrants, the party of multiculturalism, or whatever, or feminism, at the same time.

A group that you’ve mentioned frequently on the show is Patriotic Alternative in the UK. I wonder if you’d say a few words about where you see this group today and why you consider it to be a growing threat? In the US context, I know it’s not your fishbowl, as it is mine, but we do take up a lot of space. So I know you’re educated on what’s going on the side of the pond. Where do you pin groups like Patriot Front in terms of level of threat as a street fascist group?

Alex: Patriotic Alternative, for people who don’t know, it’s a UK fascist… They kind of danced around the term but they are pretty a fascist organization founded by a guy called Mark Collette, who had a extensive career in the British National Party, which was the last mass fascist, far right party, electoral party, before they collapsed in 2010. What makes them a particular threat, is that at the moment, they’re entirely uninterested in building street demonstrations, ie building through through things that are easily opposed by anti-fascists.

This is a break with the classic tactic of building UK far right parties and movements, which is this kind of approach that’s called ‘March and Build.’ So you have a march you bring people into the march, it’s vital, it’s exciting, they want to go to the next March. This is a classic case of the EDL, where they kind of toured the country building these big marches. Then the idea is you grow your organization on the back of these things. The problem with that, of course, is that these situations become targets of anti-fascists, and once enough anti-fascist power has been built up or an organization’s happened, they are opposed to the point where they’re either smashed as got happened in a couple of instances in confrontations in Dover, which was hours of running street battles which resulted in about 50 members of the far right and fascists being sent to prison for kind of quite extensive prison sentences. About two or three anti-fascists receiving the same thing. There’s obviously an unbalanced there and ultimately, those instances destroyed that movement that was growing in Dover.

What Patriotic Alternative is focusing on is what they call ‘white community building.’ So it’s very private event, their politics are explicitly very racist. They talk about the extinction of white people in the UK, they talk about the need to deport non white people. It’s very much a racial politics. But what they actually do apart from the leafleting and whatever is going on hikes or doing fitness activities and fitness clubs or these private, very difficult to oppose things which is meant to build this white community. They have a director of white owned and white friendly businesses. There’s a tea company, there’s various different things. The idea is to build this kind of separatism, at least in the short term.

Colette, the leader of Patriotic Alternative, his history and his kind of political training is in these confrontational marches. It feels like he’s found a way to build a base of power both in number of activists that are actively organizing for Patriotic Alternative, without the opposition that goes along with it. I think that there’s a real danger there, because they’re quite hard to impose without having an extra level of information about their activities, their private schedules, for example. You don’t get this stuff, usually. So, there’s a danger that anti-fascist don’t try to oppose them, because it’s very difficult to, and therefore, this kind of group is allowed to build itself essentially, unimpeded.

What we do know is that, that kind of form of organizing has created a level of… I don’t want to use the term softness, because it implies a kind of macho thing. But, there’s a kind of fragility to the activists, because they haven’t faced regular confrontation or because they’re not hardened street fighters, like the UK far right scene has traditionally been, it means that when they do get opposed, it’s actually fairly effective.

There was a there was an incident in in Kent a couple of years ago, in which a PA hike walk was very severely disrupted. And it took about two years for that group to get itself together again, and reconstitute itself. Because there wasn’t that same level of resilience. In the 80’s, when we had bands like screwdriver, the lead singer of screwdriver was regularly having his window smashed, was regularly getting beaten up on the street, and was continuing to be a neo Nazi singer and organizing and organizing Blood and Honor and all this kind of stuff. He had it as part of his life style. You can’t say the same thing about PA today. So one thing that has been successful has been these investigations that’s been happening about them as well. The way the media has turned to them in recent months, there was a quite interesting documentary about them on Channel Four and things like this. So I think the increased attention will draw more anti-fascists into opposing them. But yeah, I’m gonna stop.

TFSR: So the final chapter of PIFR share some challenges to antifascist organizers including the scope of our work and our vision as well as our breakout of subculture and into coalition’s. For those of us who are trying to do this work, can you break down some of the pitfalls and weak spots that that the book talks about? Or that you’ve come across that you want to share? Where do you see some room for improvement? Give us some tekmil?

Sam: So I guess there are two things I want to say. One is that we make a distinction in the book, sliding scale perhaps, between minimum and maximum anti-fascism. Minimum anti Fascism is the the actually fairly recent practice of anti fascism, which is that you find the people who are doing the sieg heils, or waving the swastikas, and you trying to stop them from organizing politically. There’s no political content to that in the sense that you don’t try and oppose them discursively, you don’t try like argue with them. You just try and stop them from organizing. And you do that against people who everyone would agree, possibly even them, that they are fascists or Neo Nazis or whatever. You oppose those groups. That’s minimum anti fascism.

Then there’s maximum anti fascism. Maximum anti-fascism, at its fullest extent, is just whatever it takes to stop the conditions for fascist organizing happening at all. Right? So at the very limit of that, that means like transitioning to a non capitalist society that doesn’t revolve around personal domination as a whole. Right? As you can see, there’s a lot of stuff in the middle, between these two things. I’m not saying that minimum anti-fascism is good, or that like maximum anti-fascism is good. I’m just saying that there are attempts that represent totally different poles of a total artifact of strategy. And we’re always moving between these two poles.

I think a lot of the mistakes in anti-fascist movement have been down to an attempt to basically to fixate on one of these two ends of the spectrum. It’s only anti fascism, if you’re opposing people who are actually fascist, actual neo Nazis operating in the streets, or it’s only anti-fascism if you’re doing the deep work of transforming the whole of society so that fascism is not even possible anymore.

I think there are there there are arguments in favor of both. Maximum anti-fascism is of course, much more difficult project in some ways, because it is essentially the same as the left as a scale, but there are lots of kinds of other medium anti-fascisms. Minimized. Fascism is much more physically risky, much less politically risky. There’s a kind of a trade off here between the different kind of aspects of doing that work. So that’s the general framework in which I think it’d be useful to think about the way in which anti-fascism is done as a strategic thing and obviously there is lots more in the book on that.

The other thing that I think is a kind of a big pitfall about anti-fascism, in general, is that anti-fascism has a kind of an uneven rhythm. I think I say sometimes that it’s like a third or fourth order consequence of financial crises, which are by their nature are predictable, right? There is a big financial crisis in capitalism. This becomes a crisis of unemployment, or crisis in the economy more generally, and then there are far right responses that mediate that crisis and try and turn it something else. To mediate fury about the declining conditions of life, and try to get to blame Muslims, or blame on the whoever it is. Then anti-fascism responds to that.

Because of that, because you can’t predict the sequence of things that aren’t actually responding to, you get into situations where there are long periods of time, where there’s just not a very clear far right threat. So at least in the UK, what’s been happening, what’s happened in the past, is that people have said, “Okay, well, we’re anti-fascists. There must be something for us to oppose. Let’s find some fascists.” And not in some ways, waiting for there to be some fascists. So you end up kind of conjuring people, boogeyman, for you to oppose. Conjuring people who you might regard as not particularly fascists, like Alex talked about before, people who are bad in lots of ways, but are not adequately opposed by the kind of tactics that anti-fascism has got useful for it or was able to use. So you simply having the proverbial hammer and trying to find some proverbial nails to engage with because it’s an uneven rhythm, that there’s this problem with it. I think the solution to this problem is to not regard anti-fascism as an identity. You shouldn’t think of yourself as an anti-fascist, you should see yourself as someone who is temporarily fulfilling the role of being anti-fascist.

Of course, the counter argument, there’s something it’s always kind of kept in tension with is that there are specific skills that certain people who are involved in minimum anti-fascism need. Certain practices they need to be good at, certain ways of keeping information secure, certain ways of organizing together, certain physical training even, certain ways of coordinating on the street you need to be good at. But somehow we need to get good at those things without thinking, “okay, that means that I am the anti-fascist and that means that I know exactly what fascism is, and that means I know exactly when it’s gone and when it hasn’t. I know exactly how to oppose it. I’m the expert and everyone should follow my lead.” Because then we end up with this kind of peculiar subcultural authoritarianism. And I think we’ve all encountered that in the past and know its risks.

Alex: Considering coalition building, as well. There’s often a danger that anti-fascists come in to build these coalitions and then expect them to be kind of permanent things that have longevity, instead of recognizing that a bunch of organizations and networks that are dedicated liberatory politics, have their own politics and their own activism that they’re doing all the time anyway. They’re campaigning around housing and racial justice, and whatever. You can’t turn everything into anti-fascism. Anti-fascism should be ultimately opening up space for the liberatory in movements to be able to do good stuff, and to be defensive of attacks on them, but also just recognize when you need to fade back.

A counter to that, again, is that there is a benefit… We critique subcultural politics, I think you need to critique it. You need to be building out beyond all the time. But there is a use in having these kinds of anti-fascist bands, or anti-fascist red gyms, or training groups or whatever. There is a use to having that connection to it, to an ongoing history of resistance and struggle, and to lose connection with that history, or to not understand your anti-fascist history, is to lose some of that generational knowledge, and lose some of that generational kind of meaning. The Spanish Civil War. The resistance in the Spanish Civil war has meaning to anti-fascist today, and rightly so. So we shouldn’t let all that aside. I think we’re both kind of teasing out these tensions. You can’t go one way or the other, you’ve got to find your happy place in that tension, I think.

TFSR: It seems like find a happy place and that position is going to shift as needs be and so be flexible enough to be able to find what makes sense for the moment on that spectrum.

One thing that I’ve heard about in the UK, mostly over the show more than any other source, has been the concept of proscription. I don’t know if that’s just the illegalization of a group or what the legal consequences of that are. Combat 18 or I don’t know if BNP, British National Party, or like these other groups who are examples of groups that have been proscribed. I wonder what the consequences are of being in a group that’s proscribed. And also, in your view dealing with the government… We’ve had recently, a number of charges brought against in the United States context, Proud Boys in relation to the January 6th. I think anti-fascists here have various views on how that feels. I mean, fuck around and find out. If you try to overthrow the US government, there’s going to be consequences from the US government. I’m sure that there’s some liberal people who call themselves anti-fascists who are promoting this sort of approach, or people who, after January 6, we’re using their resources of research tools, in order to feed information specifically to the FBI or to law enforcement.

I kind of wonder, just what your thoughts are, in terms of the concept of the three way fight, that not only is the government not our friend, fascists are not our friend, and that as anti-fascists, or as people that are doing anti-fascist work, it’s questionable about whether or not it’s a positive when the government is able to gain the upper hand and say, “look, we’ve done the anti-fascist thing we are antifascists. Join the NSA.”

Alex: So I’ll take the proscription part, and maybe you can take the next bit.

Okay, so proscription is one of the most repressive instruments that the UK State has available to it. It’s not even a matter of passing a law or anything, it’s a decision of the Home Secretary, under consultation of civil servants, but ultimately, it’s on her to proscribe groups. Proscription brings along a number of criminal offenses. It becomes a crime to be a member of the organization. Basically it becomes a crime for that organization to continue existing. Also, the crime carries a sentence of years in prison, up to 10 years in prison.

What we’ve seen how that works in practice, is after National Action got proscribed, which was the first far right group organization in the UK, to be to be proscribed, is that were people going to prison for being members of National Action after proscription for around four years. Four years in prison is a very significant sanction. It also becomes a crime to speak positively in public, or materially support, morally support, that group, that banned organization in public, to publicly declare your moral support, or to raise money for them as well. It’s also a becomes a crime to found a new organization, that’s basically the old organization under another name or made up of the same members.

Obviously, this is a very terrifying power that is available and its ability obviously rests on basically one person because, it’s the Home Secretary, and it’s something, of course, that you would never have in the US. The First Amendment is sacrosanct in regards to the these forms of political organizing. Now, obviously, there’s many other techniques and instruments that are available to the US, and indeed, the UK, in which you can effectively make the leaders of political organizations, to heavily discourage them of continuing or even take them out completely. You could see some of the tactics of the FBI opposing the civil rights movement, there’s all kinds of very illegal or very repressive things that happened there. Later, with the Black Lives Matter movement as well, you’ve seen the similar kind of repression from State police and from the FBI as well. So that’s proscription.

Going back to Patriotic Alternative, they’ve been really desperate to keep the tent of National Action away from them, and keep that kind of proscription talk away from them as well. They’ve done that to some that success. The question to anti-facsists is, “do you want to try and provoke that instrument being used?” Do you want to highlight and publicize links to National Action which could attract a proscription order. I would say the most desirable way to oppose is a mass movement anti fascism that can oppose them physically and ideologically in the communities in which they’re working. But oftentimes there’s a misconception of how the State operates, it’s kind of seen as an anti-fascist thing. As an instrument that can be used. So the problem the problem is, of course, the first point is that of course, the State can ban radical left groups just as much. If it has the justification, if it has the kind of way laid out for it, considering the circumstances.

TFSR: I just looked it up really quickly. I was like, “I’ve never heard of the proscription of left wing groups,” but I was just like, “Was the Irish National Liberation Army a proscribed group?” At least Wikipedia tells me, ‘Yes.’ So it’s not a tool that’s only wielded against the far right, right?

Alex: The case of Ireland is separate, it’s specific as well. A lot of the proscription orders that have taking place in the island of Britain are modeled on the island of Ireland, the stuff that was happening there, but they are distinct. That kind of politics and that history is distinct in the UK.

Sam: Yeah, there are all kinds of legal instruments that are used in Northern Ireland, that are different in quite marked ways. It’s completely different from the mainland. I think what we’ve been consistently doing for the answers to the last three or four questions actually, has been articulating a feel of tensions. On the one hand, this, but also on the other hand, this. There’s a sense in which there are not particularly good or easy answers. I have contradictory thoughts, as you can imagine about proscription as an instrument wielded by the State. I think it is actually not impossible that it would be done in the US, because the explicit justification of in the UK is not that they said bad things. It’s that they advocated for terrorism and in the US advocating violence is not protected speech. That’s not covered in the First Amendment, if you threaten someone directly, you can be arrested for that, as far as I understand.

TFSR: But there is no list of domestic terrorist organizations, for instance, that’s usually the framing. So it would be it would be framed within as opposed to an ideological argument around like criminal specific activity, prosecuted as criminal activity.

Sam: This is what’s really interesting about the Canadian case. So in Canada, they proscribed three organizations at the same time Atomwaffen, The Base, and the Proud Boys. Just when we came on we were talking about the differences there…

TFSR: Is that because they’re all run by the FBI. Sorry, okay. [laughs]

Alex: You are not the first person to make that joke. [laughs]

Sam: We were talking before we came on, I was just confused with eight different organizations. Atomwaffen, had maybe 50 members at its height, something like that. Of those, six committed some sort of murder. That’s a very high rate of murder. The Base had maybe slightly more members, it was a supposedly international network, but overwhelmingly based in the US, but with members in the UK and Sweden and Canada and Russia as well, where it turned out that the leader was staying for reasons that are completely unconnected from the the shadowy world of spooks and had nothing to do with the the decline of the Soviet Union or the CIA. Nothing to it! Then the Proud Boys, which is a western chauvinists drinking club, essentially, that had been responsible for an immense amount of political violence in the streets, but who, to my knowledge, have never committed terroristic murders.

Of course, we can argue about the definition of terrorism as a category. I think it’s a fact that the category ‘terrorism’ is a mark of the distinction that is made between politics proper and violence in politics. Right. They tend to police that boundary. Proper politics is discursive, people talk about things, they argue heatedly. Terrorism is when there is indiscriminate killing of innocent people, right?

That’s not a stable boundary and the proud boys by kind of wandering around on that boundary, have made it much more difficult for these kinds of proscription legislation in Canada to be enacted clearly. But I think it’s still kind of peculiar, because I think really what is aimed at is not violence, but a certain kind of unacceptable politics. A politics of extremity, and undoubtedly Atomwaffen had that politics of extremity. Atomwaffen’s organizing principle was that it was the most extreme organization on the far right. That was its advertising.

TFSR: One of their main organizers called himself ‘Rape.’ Yeah.

Sam: Whereas the proud boys didn’t have that. I think there’s a complicated thing about who gets proscribed. If I was going to say that proscription shouldn’t be used or should be abandoned as a measure, it would be about that level of political inarticulacy, or political misunderstanding on the part of the Canadian State, which I would assume the Home Secretary of Canada is no less well informed the Home Secretary of the UK. I don’t know who the Home Secretary of Canada is. It’s not of interest to me. It would be on the basis of that kind of, obviously wrong decision. But I would seriously question the use of proscription.

TFSR: As for your second book, The Rise of Eco Fascism. What do you mean by the term eco fascism? And what is far right ecologism? How do they relate? And are there any contemporary examples you think are especially informative for the audience?

Sam: So I think we promised earlier, or as Alex promised earlier, that there will be a definition of fascism. So we’re now getting into that. But first of all, we have to answer another question. Which is the question of what is far right politics? I think far right politics is basically, again, in this kind of unclear zone at the edges of liberalism. Far right politics is a collection, like all politics are, I think, a collection of suggestions and practices for reproducing social roles and relations that utilize tactics that are unacceptably brutal for liberalism. Liberalism won’t accept the far right as part of itself. But nevertheless, the far right is a necessary part of the reproduction of liberalism as a whole. Right. So liberal states need their violent border regimes, they need, to some extent, far right movements to scare the left, they need ways for the anger of politics to be articulated, the anger and the daily humiliation of the working class produces in politics. They need some of that to go. And so the far right is a useful aspect of liberalism.

Fascism is something quite peculiar within that more general category of the far right, in that it seeks to unify different parts of the political forms, that the far right kind of contains. So I would say there are basically broad three broad political forms. There’s electoral politics, or like politics of the government. There’s politics of movements. And there’s the politics of violence, or extrajudicial violence in particular. Obviously, governments contain violence, movements contain violence to some extent as well. This tripartite separation is not some sort of eternal law of how politics works. But it’s specific to the history of neoliberal capitalism in particular.

So the fact that movements can’t get themselves heard in government, or can’t transform the practice of governance, which we’ve seen in the US with Bernie Sanders and so on, or the movements version of the Labour Party that we have for Jeremy Corbyn. The fact that there is no relationship between the politics of movements and the policies of the government is a split that is produced by neoliberalism deliberately. The fact there is a split between movements and terroristic violence, the split that proscription legislation tries to police, that is a product largely of the Second World War, and the kind of horror that fascism represented for liberalism.

And so, what has happened since the Second World War is the security state has become much, much, much, much, much more powerful. There are no movements that are able to physically overwhelm the power of a national police force. Obviously, you had this kind of weird exception, January 6th, in the US, it was very quickly stamped out. Now the FBI, which is extraordinarily well equipped, an extraordinary surveillance state and so on, is now coming down very hard on those people who dared to defy its kind of capacity to organize the structure of violence in society. To have that monopoly on violence that defines the contemporary state.

So, there’s a split between these three different parts. Fascism is a political product that attempts to unify their interests to make governments work with terrorists, or what I’m now describing as terrorists, but extrajudicial violence in general, to work with movements, and it’s kind of the unification of these three parts. Now, the way it does that, is by presenting a notion of the unified nation, the whole nation state and that is mediated through ideas of nature and the natural law, but also physical natural landscapes. And it’s that the we describe as eco fashion.

What we describe in the book is far right ecologism, which can be for many different parts. You can have a governmental far right ecologism, you have a movement far right ecologism, you have a terroristic far right ecologism. But it’s when these three things come together as a political unity. When you get governments that are not doing the kind of reflexive thing that contemporary foreign governments do. We just say, “Oh, these terrorists, it’s terrible. It’s horrible. He was crazy. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” “He was on the left,” as the Kellyanne Conway wanted to frame the Christchurch shooter, equating environmentalism with the left. As of course, the US far right is frequently equated fascism with the left. It being a movement with some form of collectivity.

So that’s what eco fascism is, it’s a coordination of these three elements, mediated through a notion of the natural whole. The danger of it, over the period that we’re looking at in the future, 50 years or so, is these three parts of the political separation of neoliberalism will start to recur here and become coherent together. That’s the real kind of terror that I think lies in the notion of ecofascism. All that’s to say, there aren’t particularly good examples right now. Because we’re looking at an emergent political formation, rather than pointing at people who have eco fascist views. Because as we’ve kind of repeatedly tried to get across, the important thing is not to believe, the important thing is what will people able to enact upon the world. That means that the question of politics is not just who is saying the wrong thing or who has the wrong beliefs. But how does the whole structure of society shift and change and fall under the sway of the control of real eco fascist movements, and that is not happening yet.

Alex: Just to build off what what Sam was saying about eco fascism, you have to think about this in the context of the climate crisis, and the increasingly worsening conditions of life that are going to happen, that’re already happening and are going to continue to happen in the next few decades, basically for the rest of both our lives and all of our lives. One of the responses to this increasingly desperate situation that we’re all facing, people in the global south are facing it now and gonna face it much worse. People in the West are going to face it too. In America, there are certain areas that are increasingly becoming completely uninhabitable. You see what’s happening in Texas with the power grid, which fails in cold, and fails in heat. You see what’s happening in Arizona with the water levels, it’s and incredibly dire situation for an area in which millions of people live. The answer is that in these deficit situations, we need to turn to some form of far right, authoritarian environmentalism, in order to make the changes that we need to happen, make him on a top down state level. The only way to do that is some kind of increasingly eco fascist state structure or state intervention.

There’s many problems with this. One is the obvious one, it’s that kind of authoritarianism that comes along with a whole bunch of repressive actions, oppression, the kind of exclusion of people based on their race and the intensification of misogyny and all these things are attendant to this ramping authoritarianism, which we must oppose, and which we probably will be left entirely unequipped to opposed if these authoritarian state instruments are reinstituted and re justified. In the UK, there’s this tendency of the Tories to, every time there’s some kind of thing in the news or thing protesting that they don’t like, they’ll immediately come out with a new law that will will ban it.

So the example for that is Extinction Rebellion, and the groups that came out of them, who used the tactic of locking on to various things, to lock their bodies on to various bits of infrastructure and roadways, and to be as difficult to remove as possible. And that’s not a crime, locking your body to another piece of infrastructure is not the crime, but they brought in a law that has made it a crime and has a prison sentence attached to it. If these kinds of authoritarian instruments are instituted, it means that those kinds of movements that we need, these movements of liberation, are made harder and harder and harder and harder.

The other problem with specifically eco fascist politics is that it only operates on a national scale. Of course, we’re not operating on a national scale, we can’t do that this is a global crisis. For example, the Rassemblement National in France, talk about protecting the French landscape, a kind of green nationalism. What they mean by that is to export their environmental degradation out of France, and to preserve France in some bubble of Western landscapes and all this kind of stuff. And this is obviously inadequate in so many different ways.

TFSR: Yeah. Without a fundamental rejection of capitalism, for instance, whether or not you’re arguing national borders or not, you’re absolutely ignoring one of the essential things that has been contributing and creating the scenario that has put us in the situation that we’re in right now.

Alex: Yeah, I also feel like that for these neoliberal governments and states, the situation will have to get so dire to attract the authoritarian response. But it’s going to be too late in my opinion. You can just see it now with the way people talk about the cost of living crisis in the UK, and the global instability in the oil price, and the war in Ukraine. It seems to me that every answer to a global crisis is to drill for more oil. Russia is this oppressive, authoritarian, imperialist power, we need to increase our national overlooks, and we need to convince Saudi Arabia to drill more oil for us. You know, this kind of stuff. In the UK, the government has started to revive the North Sea oil projects and fracking, shale gas drilling in America as a response, as a kind of thing. We need energy independence, we need UK energy independence, when obviously, once you’ve got that infrastructure in place, capitalism is going to extract as much profit out of it as it can before they have to decommission it. So the the key thing is stopping these projects from happening.

TFSR: Once it’s extracted, it’s gonna get used.

Well, since I have had you on for a very long time. I want to go to my guilty pleasure question of the last one. It may not be a guilty pleasure, it may be like perfectly reasonable question. Is that okay?

Alex: Oh, yeah. I’m interested to hear what your guilty pleasure is.

TFSR: Well, yeah. So I came out of an anti-civilization green anarchist position at a certain point, but I have always felt like I’ve had an allergic reaction to the misanthropy in it. So, this is sort of me reacting in my older age, as I continue to see the misanthropy perpetuated. An element of anti-fascist organizing that I find really important, is working to shift hegemony in contested spaces, which you talk a little bit about in that latter book. It feels like in these contested spaces, we have an immediate agency in pushing hegemonic cultural values. And it’s also spaces where we have the most in common with other participants, or a lot in common with other participants, and so have the leverage to change people’s minds and hearts. I’ve been a bit disturbed by the resurgence and uplifting of Ted Kaczynski in recent years among some anarchists, and this goes back. I mean, he’s identified himself as an anarchist in the past. Green anarchists magazine, the US had a dialogue with them for a while. Crimethinc put out stickers, saying, “Uncle Ted for president,” or something like that in 2000, some edge Lord thing. There was a recent TV show about him… anyway. You’ve alluded a few times in the letter-book with headings like far right ecologism and its future and referenced eco extremist acolytes, ITS or Individuales Teniendo al Salvaje in Mexico, that you list as an example of a climate collapse cult.

One can find themes in Kaczynski’s writings, including in his manifesto, warning of the mitigation of natural scarcity through technology, leading to the weakening of the essence of humans. Also essentialist ideas around gender, sexuality and disability, a post left position embraced by Anders Brevik in his manifesto and other places, by other dastardly people. Misanthropy and concerns about overpopulation mixed in with nativism can be encountered in the writings of Edward Abbey, as you all noted in an earlier chapter of the Eco fascism book, and the early founders of Earth First such as Dave Foreman, notably. While the adherence of these sorts of ideas are quite fringy in the general population, and they’re very few in number. So are anarchists and other libertarian Marxists or like other people that I consider to be comrades? Can you talk a bit about contested spaces? And if you can, a little bit about Uncle Ted?

Alex: Okay, I can see why this is the guilty pleasure.

TFSR: It’s a very long question.

Alex: So this is a really interesting point because what we’ve been talking about for the most part in this interview is not how reactionary, I think we can kind of label the people who coalesce around Ted K as reactionary, in many respects, or are leading to reaction positions. We’ve talked about these kind of reactionary influences in society at large. We talked about borders, we talk about these movements in the left opposing the right. We didn’t speak much about within these spaces, that are our own spaces, what what we can do in them.

I think Kaczynski and the manifest in particular has a really interesting place within both far right and far left discourses. Of course, there’s a far right online subculture, which I don’t know if you’re familiar with called ‘Pine Tree Twitter,’ which actively valorizes Kaczynski and his writing. If you read some of what Pine Tree Twitter writes about, there is an overlap between kind of misanthropic valorization of nature above all else, valuation of wilderness above all else, for example, and the kind of generalized misanthropy against the modern world and the modern human with all his or her comforts and this kind of thing. It’s not something that in the spaces I’ve been a part of in the UK that I’ve particularly encountered. There’s an anarchist bookshop in London, which I am a part of, and there is kind of a generally agreed that certain kind of anti civ writers, not all, but certain particular anti civ writers are not acceptable to have in the shop and this kind of thing.

I think, going forward, a lot of the purchase of Kaczynski’s writing is carried by the violence he carried out. It’s carried out by the bombings and the kind of mystique that surrounded him. I saw that TV show about him, and the investigation to him too. It’s that TV show that kind of translated within, into kind of radical spaces. If Kaczynski had not done those killings, done those bombings, those writings would not have had the same widespread influence that they did have.

So, I think it’s hard because a lot of the anti civ types… I would be very persnickety about definitions again. I don’t think they are fascist and I don’t think they should be opposed using anti-fascist tactics. I think what we need is a way of explaining collapse, explaining civilization, and explaining alternatives to that civilization. So anti civ has ultimately the right ideas in the right direction of travel, I suppose, in that this civilization can’t continue as it is because it is destroying the planet.

But the question is, one, what tactics are opened up in opposing that? What is acceptable to do to other human beings and what isn’t acceptable to do to other human beings? And, two, what kind of world do we want to build? Is it a world built on the exclusion of people who need certain things within civilization in order to live? Now, the obviously the go-to here is people who rely on certain medications that have been produced in contemporary capitalism, but also trans people, for example, as well. A certain anti civ responses to declare trans people unpersons, freaks of contemporary society, who will either cease to exist once this civilization collapses, or will need to be eliminated in some form, societally. Similarly, for people with disabilities, the same thing applies. These people are left aside. That’s one path.

The other path is one of extending and strengthening and kind of all encompassing solidarity with every person who lives in this world as it is now, and how we can transition, together, into some kind of new world, whatever that is. There’s obviously massive discussions about how we get there, and what that looks like. But I think the key thing is, and what we talk about in the conclusion of the book is, the key thing here is solidarity. You need to have solidarity with everyone, all different kinds of people with their experiences and their relationships to the world and their identities within that world as well.

Was that adequate?

TFSR: That’s great. We solved the problem! [laughs] This is going to be in the in the show notes. But would you mind saying a few places where people can find the books, find the 12 Rules project online, social media, whatever, to engage with ya’ll?

Alex: The books, one is available from Polity Press, the Eco Fascism book, and I believe that has now had an American release. So it’s available to purchase domestically in America. The first book Post Internet Far Right, is from Dog Section Press. I don’t think that book does have American distribution, which is a shame but what I’ll do is I’ll check with the publisher and see what they say about it, because I think I’m sure there must be some distro. There should be anyway.

Online we have a Twitter @12RulesForWhat which we put out our episodes on and we have a Patreon if people want to support but you obviously don’t have to, we run book clubs through there and it’s open to subscribers. But also if you want to just get in on joining and discussing the book, you can DM us and we’ll get you in and it’s not a big deal. We have the patreon to pay our RSS fees or whatever it is. We’re not trying to make a particular career out of podcasting, necessarily. And you can follow Sam’s new project on his substack and it’s called collapsology.substack.com. Its a newsletter and he writes it every Thursday.

As for what we’ve got coming up next we’re going to have another episode on Patriotic Alternative and fascist fitness as a kind of historical trend on a contemporary trend. And we’re going to have a conversation was about Q Anon in America and transphobia and LGBTQ-phobia, homophobia. It’ll be coming out very soon as well.

TFSR: That’s awesome. I really look forward to it, and Alex, thanks a lot for having the conversation.

Alex: Thanks. Thanks Bursts!

Adventure Capitalism with Raymond Craib

Adventure Capitalism with Raymond Craib

book cover of "Adventure Capitalism"
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This week on The Final Straw, Professor Raymond Craib talks about his book, “Adventure Capitalism: A History of Libertarian Exit, from the Era of Decolonization to the Digital Age” out recently from PM Press. We talk about capitalist fundamentalists attempting to create free market utopias, right wing so-called Libertarians, Ayn Rand, neoliberalism and the oxymoronic tendency known as “anarcho-capitalism” at the center of the recent HBO Max series called “The Anarchists”.

A quick note: the book on the Republic of New Afrika that Bursts mentioned was Free The Land by Edward Onaci. There was an interesting interview on Millenials Are Killing Capitalism podcast with the author last year.

Stay tuned next week for our interview with Sam & Alex of the antifascist podcast, 12 Rules for WHAT about their podcast and their two books, “Post Internet Far Right” or PIFR, and “The Rise of Ecofascism”. Patreon supporters can get this episode a few days early alongside other gifts. Check out that and other ways to support us at tfsr.wtf/support

Announcement

Eric King at Florence ADX

After a few weeks of being in transit, Eric has arrived at what is expected to be his final prison before release: USP Florence ADX, the Supermax prison of the Bureau of Prisons. He just arrived yesterday and not much is known about any communication restrictions but please shoot Eric a letter to let him know you care.

Eric King #27090-045
USP Florence ADMAX
PO Box 8500

Florence, CO 81226

As we know more about any restrictions or mail rules, they will be shared.

ADX is a controversial prison with most cells being one person only and everyone being on 24 lockdown. The US sends people with high-profile and serious cases here to bury them and is often in the media whenever someone gets sent there like El Chapo or people involved with the 911 attacks. There have been countless lawsuits since ADX was established in the 1990s. It is a BOP facility so one can expect all of the things that happen at any facility with the added cruelty of long term isolated confinement.

Keep up on his support page, SupportEricKing.Org

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Featured Track:

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Transcription

TFSR: Do you please introduce yourself with any name, preferred gender pronouns, and other information that you’d like to introduce yourself to the audience?

Raymond Craib: Sure. My name is Raymond Craib, my pronouns are he/him, and I teach in the Department of History at Cornell University.

TFSR: Cool, I just finished reading your most recent book, Adventure Capitalism, and I really appreciated how much you covered and your treatment of history and the ideas presented in it. I have to admit being slightly entertained reading some of the snipings between Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard, representing ideological strains that have deep impacts to this day in capitalist idealists, and also a lot of differences between the ideas. To set the stage, could you talk about some of these arguments, these thinkers, and what they believed, and if any specific tendencies are around today that you think people might be familiar with that would be representative?

RC: Yeah, sure. And thank you for having me. I appreciate the invitation. Thank you also for reading the book. So there’s a lot of these folks in the mid-20th century who I think, for lack of a better word, I call them US market libertarians because I’m trying to distinguish them from the classical notion of libertarian, which is anarchist, these people are hyper-capitalist. And they’re minimalist in terms of their ideas about government, which, essentially, we shouldn’t mistake as small government, it just means minimalist in the range of its functions. They still want a police force, they still want a military, they still want a judiciary to protect property rights, they want to be protected from fraud, and they want to be protected from physical violence. So that’s not a small state manifesto. It’s just a state that has a limited range of functions. Now, what those functions were is where I think people like Rothbard, Rand, Friedman – you could also probably throw in Robert Nozick here as a philosophical standard bearer for these folks. But Rothbard, if you look at a spectrum, I would put Rothbard in the 1960s and 1970s at the very far end of the libertarian spectrum in terms of– He wanted to do away with national defense, he wanted it to become completely privatized, and driven as a private for-profit entity, he made strange bedfellows at times because he was so adamantly anti-statist. And so at times, you could see him picking up on the rhetoric of certain sectors of the new left who were opposed to the Vietnam War and the like. So, Rothbard, a godfather of US-style libertarianism like this, was at the extreme end of the spectrum. And he changed over time by the 1980’s and the 1990’s. He allied himself with Pat Buchanan, began to advocate for brutal police repression, and became a Paleo-Conservative. But in the 60’s and 70’s, he was probably the most – for lack of a better word – purist in terms of his market libertarian positions.

Rand, I guess you could probably slot in between Rothbard and Friedman, if you were looking at a spectrum. It’s hard to talk about her in some ways, she’s very influential today. I can say more about that in just a second. But, she was, essentially, a Russian emigre, her family had been persecuted under the Bolsheviks – well, they’d been expropriated. And so they came to the United States, and she lived in New York City, but she also lived in Southern California. She was deeply influenced by the culture of Hollywood. It’s a myth about Ayn Rand being a product of what happened to her in Russia. But I think Corey Robin and other writers have made a very compelling case that she was also strongly influenced by the world of Southern California and Hollywood and a developing Orange County and so forth. And so Rand would not call herself a libertarian. She refused it. Her famous phrase, perhaps it might be apocryphal, I’ve constantly looked to see if I could find this quote, and it’s been an I haven’t been in had any success, but she said, “You have to have a state who’s going to jail the communists.” And so she was, again, a minimalist statist, she wanted, essentially, for the state to exist to protect capitalists, protect them from fraud, protect them from direct violence, protect them from the masses. She was worried about the masses and the idea of demagoguery. She had strong disagreements with Murray Rothbard. He saw in Rand and the coterie of people that she had around her what he called “a perfect engine for totalitarianism.” He really saw her as a charismatic, totalitarian, dogmatic figure. So, these are very strong differences of opinion, but Rand is right in the middle of that spectrum.

Someone like Milton Friedman was deeply influenced by a couple of people who also influenced Rand and Rothbard. These are members of what’s known as the Austrian School of libertarian economics, or Austrian School of Economics: Friedrich von Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises, amongst others. Friedman was influenced by them and became part of the University of Chicago economics department. Friedman made a little more space for the role of the state: he and someone like Hayek were willing to accommodate state intervention in things like welfare programs, or certain subsidies to the population at large or business. And so they occupied a space on the libertarian spectrum that would be in some ways – I guess, these terms get problematic – but you might say a little bit closer to how we think about neoliberalism, which is not an anti-state program. It’s a state-generated program. It’s an alliance between capitalists and the state. And so here’s Friedman, this character who’s a little less dogmatic, a little less idealistic in his sensibility and a little more pragmatic. But so you have this spectrum. And these three figures are very, very influential, they remain influential. Rand is extremely influential in the culture of Silicon Valley today, this tech utopian world. And if you look at characters such as Peter Thiel, one of the co-founders of PayPal, an early investor in Facebook, a strange supporter of Donald Trump, and also one of the owners of Palantir, which is the largest surveillance private surveillance operation, affiliated with the US government. Thiel is a big Rand fan, Musk, Bezos, all of these guys, the founder of Whole Foods (John Mackey), a lot of them are very Randian in this way. The Libertarian Party certainly was influenced by Ayn Rand and remains influenced by her. Ron Paul, his son, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, I don’t know what it is about Pauls, but they all seem to be connected to Rand. So she’s had this resurgence over the years and of course she was Greenspan’s (the head of the Federal Reserve for many years under Clinton and the early Bush years) mentor. And Greenspan was right inside her inner circle and swallowed Randian objectivist economics and libertarian theories wholeheartedly and essentially had to issue a mia culpa in 2008 when everything collapsed.

Friedman is also still very influential today. He was the architect of the radical privatization of Chile’s economy under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. The ideas of Friedman and the faith in free enterprise were embedded in words in the 1980 Chilean constitution that was foisted upon the population by the military dictatorship. So “Free Enterprise” would be the only acceptable model for the economy in Chile, and that’s now finally being overturned. That constitution is being now rewritten with the enormous revolutionary transformations that have taken place in Chile over the past few years. Friedman’s son, David Friedman is a very well-known anarcho-capitalist, his grandson Patri Friedman, is also very much linked up with a lot of the projects that I talked about – seasteading Future Cities Inc. Free Private Cities in Central America, and the like. And a lot of this is connected to cultural emancipation or “lifestyle” emancipation if you wanted to use the critique of Hakeem Bay. Burning Man, polyamory, this idea that Burning Man in some ways might be a model for a future society. These are the three of the central figures, and in the background of all of their minds was not only a notion of private enterprise and market transactions being a pathway to individual freedom, but also a way to avoid the trappings of totalitarianism that they associated with Nazism, communism, socialism, they made no distinction between these things. All of those were considered to be totalitarianism, even though of course, it was communism that ultimately defeated fascism.

TFSR: Just a quick note on the critique of Ayn Rand as a totalitarian or whatever the term was that Rothbard had tossed that way. For any listeners that haven’t seen it. There’s a very entertaining and interesting documentary series called All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace that talks about the cult of personality that Rand developed around herself, which was referenced also in the footnotes of the book, which I appreciated seeing.

RC: That’s right. Adam Curtis, it’s a wonderful three-part documentary. The first part is about Rand and her influence on Silicon Valley.

TFSR: Where you left that description of those thinkers and their trajectories lead perfectly to the question that I was going to ask after that. A central figure in your book is Michael Oliver, I’d like for you to talk about this man. As a Lithuanian Jew who lost most of his family to the Nazis, who barely survived the Shoah, himself, and who claimed that his sister was killed by occupying Soviets… Oliver moves to the USA after World War II and is, in understandable ways, allergic to totalitarian states and the destabilization that he sees coming from masses that have been whipped up to do the bidding of these totalitarian states and demagogues. How did he end up alongside white supremacists or CIA-adjacent weapon smugglers and attempting a staged coup in a decolonizing South Pacific Island?

RC: Yeah, Oliver is a central figure in the book, at least for much of it. And it’s a very compelling story that is both deeply painful and tragic. And at the same time, a story of the 20th century in some ways. He was born Moses Olitzky in 1928. You can imagine, he’s basically about 14 when things get terrible for him in Lithuania. His sister is taken away by Soviet troops and then when the Nazis come, his family is killed and he ends up in different concentration camps in Poland and is rescued by Japanese-American troops in 1945. So, he comes to the United States, to Nevada, and he becomes fairly successful. He’s in the US Air Force for a little bit of time, and he’s working in electronics. But he becomes a successful land developer and coin dealer and he sees in the 1960s a lot of things that raise fears for him about just the way the world can turn on a dime. And what’s difficult to read is that he sees these movements and he identifies his concern with totalitarianism and what he calls “Stormtrooper tactics” and things like this with movements that are essentially movements of people themselves trying to achieve some form of emancipation. So, you think about things like the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, and gay rights… there are a lot of movements in the 1960s that are developing and the language that Oliver uses is a language that seems to indicate that he’s identifying resistance movements on the part of these social movements as where totalitarianism is threatening to come from and where demagoguery might be appealing. He doesn’t talk about things like the John Birchers, the KKK, the Christian Nationalists, or the movements on the right that were developing quite strongly, they have been strong in the 1950s, and they’d grown with Barry Goldwater’s run for the presidency that ended unsuccessfully in 1964. And so there is something there that is troubling and unsettling to have to come to terms with in how he’s identifying where the problems are going to come from, in his mind.

His first project is in the South Pacific, many libertarians, he is trying to develop a new country. He realizes that you can find territory to buy but you’ll have a hard time purchasing sovereignty. In other words, territorial sovereignty in which you can hive off and make your own country your utterly private estate in some form or another. And so he looks at the open ocean. This was not uncommon at the time, other people did this, Ernest Hemingway’s younger brother, there’s another man by the name of Werner Stiefel whose family had fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, he was a pharmaceutical engineer. There’s an array of people who tried this, and they saw – somewhat incorrectly – the high seas as places where they can establish themselves. And it just wasn’t the case. And there are a lot of legal questions around this, also engineering questions and so forth. But he tried in the South Pacific to build an island with the support of several different wealthy figures.

I want to point out here, it’s very important: Oliver is the front figure and much of this and he put himself out there, he did interviews with Reason magazine, he did interviews with People magazine, he published his book A New Constitution for a New Country in 1968. So he made himself a focal point, but he had substantial backing from very wealthy people, Willard Garvey, who was a wheat magnate based in Wichita Falls, Kansas, who also built low-income housing in places like Peru and elsewhere around the world and had connections with the Foster Dulles brothers, in the CIA and elsewhere. He had a big argument about Make Every Man a Capitalist instead of Make Every Man a Communist, and the way to do that was through home ownership, something that’s now come back to bite us if you look at the housing market these days. John Templeton from the Templeton Foundation, if you listen to NPR, you’ll hear the reference to the Templeton Foundation. That’s the same John Templeton was an investor specialist. Seth Atwood was a horologist watch collector, but also a yachtsman. They were an array of people involved in these projects. But Oliver was the frontman. And so the project in the Southwest Pacific to build an island didn’t go very well. But then subsequently, the next project was this effort to essentially back a group of people on the islands of Abaco, which are part of the Bahamas. And this is in 1973. These are islands Abaco, in particular, these are islands that were settled by loyalists to the British after the American Revolution. They fled, and they went to Abaco and settled there. And this includes not only white loyalists, but also Black, and also formerly enslaved people who the white loyalists brought with them.

And they, at least the secessionist movement on Abaco, did not want to be part of an independent Bahamas. There’s several reasons why this might have been the case. But clearly, race is one of them. Many people involved in this movement were very clear that they did not want to be governed by a predominantly black political party, the party of Walter Pindling, who was going to become the first prime minister of an independent Bahamas. And also concerns about communist influences, left-wing influences, the language around communism and decolonization, and so forth. This is something that comes back in other projects that I look at. So, Oliver attached himself to a group of people who were supporting the secessionists. And this included a Wild West figure Mitchell Livingstone WerBell III. His family was originally from Russia, he claimed that his father had been the head of the horse brigade for the Tsar. I don’t know if that’s true or not. But WerBell was in the OSS, which was the precursor to the CIA. He was in Southeast Asia with the E. Howard Hunt who went on to become a Watergate plumber was also involved in the overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala in 1954. Lucien Conien was a French-American paratrooper and the point man for the Kennedy administration’s assassination of Diem in South Vietnam in 1963. And an array of other people… John Singlaub, who went on to a very prominent career in the US Army but also had pretty sketchy attachments to the World Anti-Communist League and things like this that have some proto-fascist tendencies, to say the least. So these were the characters WerBell was involved with and he became a PR man for a while in Atlanta which is where he was originally from and then in the 1960’s, you could find him in various places. He was in the Dominican Republic in 1964, right before a coup d’etat, he was working with Guatemala at various points in time in the 1960’s. He was creating silencers, sound suppressors for some of the deadliest weapons of the era, the Gordon Ingram MAC-10, in particular, which also had a very prominent role in many films in Hollywood. And WerBell also reportedly had many connections to the CIA and it’s very, very difficult to determine the truth and the fiction behind many of these claims. WerBell was an enormous ego and self-promoter. The CIA has not responded or never complied with my Freedom of Information Act requests, I have six or seven outstanding requests with them going back to 2013, so it’s 10 years now. The FBI did comply, and I have quite a bit of information from the FBI. So, WerBell was one of these individuals who was essentially helping to run this operation, to create essentially a private country in Abaco by supporting the secessionist movement in Abaco. And somehow Oliver was linked up with him. When they originally met, I’m not sure. But in 1974, they were clearly connected, because the two of them ran a meeting of eight people total in Washington DC in which they basically hashed out what was going on in the project.

The last figure I’ll just mention here is Andrew St. George, who was a journalist who covered that meeting in 1974 in Washington DC. St. George, both in his archival materials, which I’ve gone through quite closely– And also I’ve had conversations with at least one of his sons. St. George is quite an interesting figure as well. He had covered Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in the mountains in 1958 before they overthrew Batista and the Cuban Revolution. He actually was close friends with Che and St. George was critical to the recuperation of Che’s body from Bolivia after his assassination later in the 1960s. So, St. George is quite interesting. And St. George had real concerns about Michael Oliver and about Michael Oliver’s political affiliations and connections with people who he was operating with. It’s extremely difficult to discern the depth of connection that Oliver had with people outside of and within WerBell’s orbit. But what we do know is that they worked together over at least a year, if not more, to try to bring the Abaco secession and new country movement to fruition. And it essentially fell apart because many of the individuals who were advocating for Abaco to not be part of the Bahamas were hoping that Abaco would remain part of the Crown, part of the United Kingdom. That’s what they ultimately wanted. And when that didn’t come through, many of them were clear that they did not want armed insurrection, and to be part of this new country project that would look a lot like, frankly, Freeport on Grand Bahama, which was this early, quasi-sovereign, tax-free, free zone, a free port. They call it Freeport, and they didn’t want that. And so, at that point, things fell apart. WerBell was being investigated by Congress and the FBI, and his name popped up repeatedly in the JFK assassination files. It became quite messy, and things fell apart. And the FBI was investigating quite intensively at that point.

TFSR: His story is so complicated that I mixed up a few of the elements there by asking that question about the South Pacific because there was Minerva, there was Vanuatu, and three different attempts at creating a free island or at least occupying and settling and creating “free” commerce or “free” enterprise-ruled space, allegedly. [laughs]

RC: Vanuatu was his last one, after the Abaco experiment fell through, he then turned his attention to the New Hebrides for five years from 1975 to 1980. And that ended with a rebellion that Oliver and his allies in an organization known as the Phoenix Foundation helped foment, essentially. I should mention them briefly. One of the things I did was I went to Vanuatu and I was very fortunate to have some good support from folks there, many of whom remember the Santo rebellion in 1980 and got me access to the files of the person who had been head of British Special Branch there by the name of Gordon Haynes. And so I got access to his archives. He died, I think, in 2015. And these were embargoed until after his death. But clearly, Haynes made the standard British imperial moves: he was in parts of Africa; and then when those decolonized, and the British left, he moved to the Solomon Islands; and they moved from the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu and so forth. He was a civil servant. But Haynes, essentially his job from 1970 to 1980 in Vanuatu was tracking American libertarian speculators, real estate speculators, and libertarians who were trying to do various projects there. So this included Michael Oliver included a real estate speculator from Hawaii by the name of Eugene Peacock, and several other individuals as well. Clearly, his files show me that the core of his job was tracking these folks.

TFSR: God, that must have been boring, the most mayonnaise people.

But by presenting context on the history of colonialism, which is a thing that I really appreciate about the story that you tell, and about extraction and crony capitalism (as if there were any other kind) in these areas of the world that mostly white men have tried to impose their land grabs on. If that’s possible, you kind of undo the erasure of the concept of Terra Nullius, which, as you show, often harkens romantically back to the mystique of settler colonialism, as it beckons adventurous citizen-consumers to forge their new destinies. And for all their talk of voluntary association, there’s no note of the violence inherent to exclusionary property. So would you talk about the settler imaginary in the US and right-wing libertarianism and these neo-primitive accumulation schemes?

RC: Sure. Thank you for that question. Every once in a while, before the book came out, I read some shorter pieces about this, and a number of people who are “fellow travelers” with these projects wrote me and wondered why I was calling them right-wing and, I was trying to explain to them because it was the primitive accumulation property paradigm, that’s the issue here. It’s not about whether or not you support the Republican party or something, this silly, narrow bandwidth that American politics suffers from. So the primitive accumulation and property question is key. Even to step back and look at the project of building an island in the Southwest Pacific, Oliver’s first project, the Ocean Life Research Foundation, which he created to raise money and the idea was to go to these reefs called the Minerva reefs that sit south of Tonga and Fiji, in between Tonga and Fiji, up to the north, and in New Zealand in the South. And the whole premise here was that these were free for the taking, that you could just go and take these things, and that they weren’t under anybody’s jurisdiction. This was an era in which things like the exclusive economic zone and the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea hadn’t been totally hashed out. And so there was a lot of lack of clarity about this. And there’s a lack of clarity simply about also when you say that the high seas of the oceans are a Commons for all of mankind, what does that mean? Is it a free for all? Does it mean you can create an artificial island? Not create an artificial island? Can you have a floating island versus an anchored island? These questions were up in the air. But many people took this to just mean that these were places that they could just go and colonize.

And the problem – and what I try to explore in close detail in all of the chapters – in the case of the Minerva reefs is these were places of seasonal use by fishermen, lobstermen, crab men, and others from places like Tonga and Fiji. These were places where there had been terrible shipwrecks, including in 1962, in which three Tongan passengers on the ship carrying Tongan boxers and others to Sydney crashed and they were there for three months. And three of them died and were buried on the reefs. These are places of mourning. These are places of history. These are places of poetry. These are not just spaces for anybody to just waltz in from afar and lay claim to and colonize. And so I try to take very seriously how archipelagic peoples, Oceanian peoples think about the ocean, not from a continentalist perspective and not from a proprietarian perspective, but certainly from a perspective of the meaning of history, of use value, and the like. And certainly, these are not places where someone else can just come in and print a property paradigm in the way that the Libertarians tried to do. This has come back, of course, in more recent cases like the Seasteaders, And I can talk about the Seasteaders in a few minutes further when I get to some of the more contemporary projects.

And so I tried to do this, and in all three of the examinations of the projects that Oliver was involved in the 1970’s, I wanted to take very seriously the social histories of the places where these projects unfolded. There’s a lot of writing about these projects is nudge, nudge, wink, wink, isn’t this funny, let’s yok it up. Look at this wacky stuff. I find that problematic, I think we need to make an effort to understand Michael Oliver and the people who funded him where they were coming from, but I also think we need to really understand the places, why they selected the places they selected, and how those populations essentially experienced these projects and the terrible consequences in instances. We’re talking in a place like Vanuatu of a rebellion, in which significant numbers of people were displaced, and a couple of people died. Or you talk about the case of Tonga and the Minerva reefs, or the Bahamas, these are the things that put enormous strain on governments, who are trying to deal with the process of overthrowing colonial rule. And so I wanted to take very seriously the histories of these places, how people understood property, land, the ocean, their own histories, colonialism, and the like. And so you take the case of the New Hebrides, for example, the land was a huge issue there. Anti-colonial politics ultimately arose around the question of land in the 1960’s. And it’s a very intricate process that unfolds there. And I don’t want to go into a lot of detail about it. But I do want to say the upshot of the anti-colonial politics of the 1960s, the process of decolonization in the 1970’s is that with the independence of Vanuatu in 1980, all land comes under the control of native indigenous Vanuatu inhabitants and that land cannot be sold. It can be leased, and it has to be leased according to the agreement by the customary owners of that land. But that’s embedded in the Constitution and it comes out of an understanding of the land, but also it comes out of the context of 70 years of colonial rule in which increasing encroachment into the interior, increasing destruction of the forest in order to raise cattle had unfolded. And so I really wanted to pay attention to different ways of thinking about land, property, history, and use that don’t fit this narrowly defined property paradigm that tends to hold sway amongst the libertarian Exeters.

TFSR: It’s not surprising at all, having read some history. But one part of the struggles that you talk about in Vanuatu, with the Ni-Vanuatu, and you do mention there’s a broad brush painting by reactionaries for the most part around the world and often Colons or settler colonizers in various decolonizing areas where there is the conflation of communism with decolonization. Or, in a lot of these instances, like in the Bahamas, the fear of black majority parties taking control. And at least one of the major trajectories in the independence struggle among Ni-Vanuatu was a party of people that had, among other things, been engaging with this decolonial thread throughout the world, interacting with not only black power movements in the United States but also in decolonizing Africa. And I thought that was really fascinating.

And I didn’t really have a question so much in relation to this as much as last night, when I was thinking about this, I was remembering this book on the Republic of New Africa [Free The Land by Edward Onaci] that I had read through not that long ago, and it was talking about the borderlessness– That project when it was territorializing itself for a period in the so-called US South still wanted to have a decolonial relationship with indigenous people who’s stolen land that people had been re-territorialized on to as their ancestors had. But that’s placing decolonization within this web of relationships… And you could see, that they were deeply influenced by the teachings of Malcolm X and many others, and the concepts that land and freedom are the two central things that decolonization struggles need to struggle with. Just thinking about the influence of some of those same teachers and movements and thinkers and individuals in Vanuatu was pretty inspiring for you to mention the book.

RC: Yes, thank you. There’s been some really remarkable work in recent years that I relied upon and drew from. So there were two political movements in Vanuatu that initially were allied, for lack of a better word. One was the Nagriamel movement of Chief Paul Bullock and Chief Jimmy Stevens. Jimmy Stevens and the Nagriamel were allying with Michael Oliver, and they’re the ones who are supported by Oliver in the Phoenix Foundation in their efforts to secede in the Santo rebellion in 1980. The other party was the New Hebrides National Party, which renamed itself the Vanua’aku Pati, the Land Rises Up Party. And there’s been some really wonderful writing in recent years on Black Power in the Pacific and its relationship to decolonization more broadly. Quito Swan has written two really fabulous books on this, Tracey Banivanua Mar, Robbie Shilliam… there’s really this flourishing of literature that’s looking much more closely at these relationships globally and not solely looking at the places that tend to dominate the literature.

You’re right, what’s quite interesting in the case of Vanuatu is that there’s an internal conflict, there’s an internal conflict between the mostly Anglophone Vanua’aku Pati, and the Nagriamel movement which is mostly in the northern islands of the archipelago. And over time, they come into conflict increasingly with each other, and I try to go through why and how that happens. And why somebody like Jimmy Stevens in the Nagriamel anti-colonial movement, who was a very adamant anti-colonialist in the 1960’s, why he would end up allying with Oliver in the Phoenix Foundation, and he would articulate an argument about: instead of an independent nation called Vanuatu, there should be a Confederation. And this was not unusual. All West African anti-colonial intellectuals also suggested similar things, that nation-state status wasn’t the only option for decolonization. And so this was something that Stevens was fairly adamant about, but in the process of doing this, to bring his dreams to fruition (and he also had his own political aspirations) he ended up allying himself with these other characters. And things didn’t go well, the Santo rebellion was put down, Jimmy Stevens was arrested and sentenced to prison for a long time, and some of his closest allies were sentenced to prison and ended up dying. One from tetanus, right after entering the prison. The after-effects were quite intense.

And of course, the Libertarians, just like the British and the French, went home, they went home free people. It’s a troubling history, in that respect. But it also points toward the complications on the ground, there’s an enormous amount of, again, going back to how sometimes these projects are written about, they allied or ignored the agency of local actors, who are complicated and complex and make all strange decisions and predictable and unpredictable decisions. But oftentimes, they’re ignored, and they shouldn’t be ignored. And unfortunately, those things are being repeated in contemporary writing about Libertarian projects in places like Honduras and Tahiti and even in Chile, there’s been a couple of efforts to put together some of these things. Incessantly, they’re invariably named after John Gault and Ayn Rand or Fort Gault this, John Gault that… and it’s depressingly predictable. But again, the local commentators, the critics of these projects make the same mistake that the generators of these projects make, which is that they’re clueless about the local context.

TFSR: Could you talk a bit about if we consider the international movements for creating spaces – physical, terrestrial, oceanic, in Space, digital, whatever – to create autonomy among– Not to make it too big because you cover a lot of stuff in the book, and even just touching on all the different tendencies and ways that people are trying to experiment with this. Can you talk a little bit about where this venture capitalism or Exiter strategy is now and maybe some of the movers and shakers like Peter Thiel… ? And how has the supposed model of individualism that Oliver and a lot of this early adherence to this thing were presenting, how has that shifted into elitist sovereignty ideas?

RC: Sure. I’ll start with the last point you just made, Oliver embraced this Ayn-Rand, hypercapitalist, individualist, what she called “Objectivist”, philosophy. I think, ultimately, due to his experience and because of his fears about totalitarianism, he called it a moral experiment. If he wanted to avoid taxes or make a lot of money, tax havens were a dime a dozen, he had the money to hire attorneys to help them hide his money. It wasn’t about that. He called it a “moral experiment” and he believed very profoundly in it. I think it was a mistaken set of beliefs. But he believed in those quite profoundly, and it was his concern about totalitarianism and demagoguery and states and their repressive nature that drove him. The contemporary projects are different, you see the projects that Oliver was involved in a lot of these, many different versions of these were experimented with in the 60’s and 70’s, and you start to see them fade away in the 80’s. And I think you see them fade away, in part, because a lot of people that previously might have been interested in them become less interested in them. After all, they can really socially secede in the United States under Reagan, and also in England with Thatcher. The real intensification of the neoliberal revolution began in the late 1970’s, it really takes grip in the 1980’s and the 1990’s. And so you see a lot of people who were more base in their motives in terms of taxation and things like this didn’t need to territorially secede. They could increasingly live in gated communities outside of Atlanta, they could go to the exurbs, and so on. Their tax rates were going down. So, you don’t really see projects like this, there are a few, but I mentioned one of them, which is quite amusing. But I won’t go into it for now for the interest of time, but they’re really not many of them.

They come back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. And really, with the growth of digital life and the internet. And so then you really begin to see this reemergence of interest in stuff like this. I don’t talk about some of the more extreme versions or futuristic versions of this transforming your consciousness into digital code and embedding yourself into a computer that out-survives your corpse… Even the outer space stuff takes an enormous number of people on planet Earth to keep one person alive in outer space. I don’t think that stuff is going to happen anytime soon. But in the spirit of Peter Thiel, he essentially says as much in an interview that he did with the Cato Institute, in which he says, “You have cyberspace, you have outer space, and you have the ocean. And really the more practical mediate possibility for exit is the ocean. The outer space and cyberspace are far-off in some respects.”

So I look at a couple of these projects, more contemporary projects that have really come out of the Silicon Valley digital, what a couple of writers in the 1990’s called the “California ideology”, which weds the commune hippie culture with yuppie entrepreneurial culture. And they call it the “California Ideology”. And this shows up also in the documentary you mentioned by Adam Curtis All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace. Even the title is taken from a combination of this tech digital yuppie meets commune culture from Richard Brautigan. And so, I look at two projects in particular that I think are illustrative of projects these days. One is Seasteading, which is an effort that started in 2008 with the creation of the Seasteading Institute, and the idea is to build private floating platforms on the high seas where people can basically select if they want to attach their platforms and make communities or they want to separate it. Patri Friedman, Milton Friedman’s grandson was the first director of the Seasteading Institute. He’s quite closely involved in this. The logo for some of the affiliated groups with the Seasteading Institute is Burning Man on the high seas, so it gives you a sense of the influences here, it’s Burning Man meets the open ocean.

And then the other project I look at is what is called Free Private Cities in Honduras, which build off of charter cities. The idea behind charter cities came out of the thinking of Paul Romer, who was an economist at Stanford, then chief economist at the World Bank for a brief time, and is now at NYU. Romer’s idea was essentially that traditional aid as we know it has just never done what it was intended to do, it’s constantly been a failure. He’s not necessarily wrong about that but I don’t think the result, the conclusion that he comes to is problematic. His idea was with charter cities, that places that were struggling could seed a portion of their sovereign territory, and then an international group of governments or investors would come in and assert control over that territory and build essentially a nostalgic version of Hong Kong as it ever was. Hong Kong has this mythical life in people’s minds about what it was like. And so the idea would be to create a charter city, an open city, it wouldn’t be gated, and you could opt in or opt out as you wished. This is very problematic because the whole idea of easy opt-in and opt-out is just also mythological. There’s a whole array of constraints here, and Romer himself admitted that there would have to be some immigration control. And so again, you’re back to the same question, which is these idealized versions of opt-in and opt-out are not realizable at some level. And so then you start talking about “how those controls are going to be put into place, who’s gonna use them and have them.” But the charter city would have its own judiciary, would have its own arbitration boards, it would have its own constitution, its own police force, and its own labor laws. And these were things that would not be able to be overturned by the voters of the country where the charter city was situated.

It started off in Madagascar, it didn’t get very far because of a coup. And then there was a coup in Honduras. And that’s where Romer set up shop after 2009. He was a big fan at first. But he learned very quickly that it’s difficult to do transparent business with an illegal coup regime. And things got messy quickly, he withdrew around 2014-2015 entirely from the projects. They’ve now morphed into something known as Free Private Cities. It hasn’t gone forward on much of the Honduran mainland at this point. But there is one that seems to be going forward on the island of Roatan, one of the bay islands off the coast of Honduras. It’s a similar idea, but it’s less about opt-in opt-out, it’s really about buy-in, these are more gated communities. Again, they do have their own arbitration boards, and, in theory, their own police, their own judiciary. Very few, if any articles of the Honduran Constitution would apply. It’s not clear if that by voter determination nationally, would voter decisions apply inside these free private cities. So there are a lot of questions that are up in the air, even more so now that there’s been a recent election in Honduras, and the candidate who was elected has promised to roll back these projects. The array of people involved in these projects is quite interesting. You have the usual crowd of tech libertarians, Friedman a little bit, Michael Strong, who calls himself a radical social entrepreneur, he’s got a name for himself. He also issues his own laws and corollaries to his own laws.

TFSR: He is a leftist, right? [joke]

RC: I don’t know what he is, he calls himself a leftist and then says that capitalism is going to save the world. He has a very funny shtick. Some of these threads are quite fascinating to pursue and you wonder how they end up where they end up.

But you also have a host of figures who were involved in Ronald Reagan’s Central America office as well, and it gives you again, a sense of the real Noir, ugly underpinnings here. Not just the libertarian ideology, which I find deeply problematic. But also, folks who were deeply involved in policy-making of a government that fomented civil wars and backed coup d’etats and led to the deaths of tens of thousands, if not more of people, and have also forcibly put people on the move from the societies in which they want to live and where they want to vote, and where they want to raise their children – Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador. And of course, these are folks who are going to make their way to the US border and be forcibly separated from their children and detained in cages and called names, and persecuted and killed… The cast of characters is not pretty. And then you’ve also got people involved in Brexit in the UK and long histories of advocating that the state is nothing more than a protection racket. And so, the best thing to do is buy-in, and let’s go back to feudal monarchy. This is the Neo Reactionary movement, NRX, which also has a following.

TFSR: I found it really refreshing. I only saw the little bit of it that you put into the book, but Romer’s disillusionment with the Free City idea and the honesty right there saying, “Well, if this is being set up in such a way that there’s going to be no transfer of power or democratic approach for the majority of people that are affected by the choices that are made here.” I don’t hear this thing from capitalist idealists very frequently saying, “Well, why would I want myself, my children or my grandchildren to be living in this?” It comes out to be neofeudalism, as you point out. That moment of clarity was priceless right there.

RC: I tried to give them credit, but he withdrew. I found that surprising that he was surprised that that happened. I was a little sharp in my tone because I took umbrage at the New York Times glowing interview in which, the Times reporter said something like “Romer saw something that should be obvious to all academics, but isn’t.” And it went into this great praise of Romer. And I was like, “Well, if you’ve paid more attention to academics, you would know maybe that you’re setting yourself up for a real problem if you’re doing business with a coup regime in Honduras,” which would have been obvious, if you’d read some history of Central America and US involvement there. But you’re right. Romer said, “Look, I don’t want to support a place where I wouldn’t want my grandchildren growing up.” I may not agree with the nostalgic vision he has about Hong Kong and the idea of charter cities. I don’t agree at all. But on the other hand, I think it’s important that understanding that as being distinct from going all in with this illegality and a willingness to make excuses and do business all oftentimes hid behind a smarmy, self-righteous we’re-going-to-make-the-world-a-better-place-and-make-a-lot-of-money-at-the-same-time rhetoric, which I find totally disingenuous, delusional, and quite offensive. So, I think Romer was serious. It didn’t end well. But for the people who are ongoing in these projects, it’s a little like the Anarchapulco stuff on HBO Max…

TFSR: Which I was about to ask about.

Before going into that, by talking about these extranational zones of exchange or shifts in sovereignty to private ownership and charters and the citizen-consumer model that, as you say, you can opt in if you can pay for it. But it desubjectivizes all of the other individuals who maybe lived there or might want to participate and maybe don’t have $50,000 to put upfront or whatever. Or a lot of these schemes try to avoid the discomfort of having to be around class conflict by shipping in their labor and then shipping them back out. Because who wants to live next to dirty people who clean your toilets? Their hands are dirty, how’d they get that way?

Speaking of dirty people, though. Our conversation is happening briefly after the release of a couple – now three, I’m one behind – episodes of a series on HBO Plus called The Anarchists featuring interviews with participants in a so-called “anarcho-capitalist” gathering in a place they like to call Anarchapulco. So what have you thought so far of what you’ve seen, and I wonder if you have observations about the appropriation of the term ‘anarchist’ and ‘libertarian’ and whatever the hell these people are?

And if you wouldn’t mind just referencing for the audience the conscious efforts by Rothbard and others to actively appropriate the terms ‘anarchist’ and ‘libertarian’ towards right, pro-capitalist, minarchists or whatever?

RC: Sure. I mentioned that Ayn Rand totally rejected the term ‘libertarian,’ and she also rejected the term ‘anarchist.’ Milton Friedman, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything in writing where he embraced anything akin to the term ‘anarchist’ either. Rothbard is one, there were a number of other people. There was a brief flurry in the late 60’s and early 70’s, in which the word ‘anarchism’ or ‘anarchist’ and ‘anarchy’– Which I always find interesting, I teach a class on the history of anarchism. And despite my insistence that students say ‘anarchism,’ the desire for them to say ‘anarchy’ all the time, I’ve always found quite fascinating. I started to keep a log book about it, just because I thought it’s fascinating that they just insist that that’s the term they need to use. I just can’t imagine there’s a philosophical basis to anything here. But the late 60’s and early 70’s was a moment in which Rothbard, also Gordon Tullock, James Buchanan whose figures are very prominent in Nancy MacLeans book Democracy in Chains, people who’ve gone on to found the Public Choice School, George Mason University, or someone else that I talked about briefly, Tyler Cowen. Recently in a book review he called me “a defective thinker.”

TFSR: Congratulations!

RC: Thank you. We’re hoping it will be on the cover of the second edition of the book. So, they did use the language of anarchism and theories of anarchy, they use the term ‘anarchy’ more frequently than ‘anarchism.’ But there was this brief moment where they appropriated the term and didn’t use ‘Libertarian,’ and instead use this term ‘anarchy.’ And it’s interesting, I didn’t delve into it in much detail, but I suspect it’s something that came out of a desire to connect with the efflorescence of, the dynamicism of youth culture at the time, amongst other things, and then faded over time. I try very hard in my book to distinguish between the people that I look at who I call Market Libertarians. I really don’t like the term anarcho-capitalists, it just puts two things together that don’t belong together, I strongly feel that the tradition of anarchism is an anti-capitalist and anti-state tradition. And in fact, I tend to accentuate the anti-capitalist side of it more so than the anti-statist side of it. So, I tried very hard to just use the term market libertarian, you could say market authoritarian for some of these folks, if you wanted to, I think there’s a case to be made.

TFSR: That’s where the sovereignty lies [for them]. It seems like that’s the authority.

RC: Yeah, exactly. And one that’s radically unequal. The disequilibrium is substantial. I noted a certain point in the book that the language of freedom is everywhere with the market libertarians, but the language of equality is not. And there’s two ways to think about this. One is that for classical liberals, freedom in the market is, in their theory, at least, going to gradually lead to a certain form of equality for everybody, it’s a sequential argument. So you start with freedom in the market, and you get to social equality, which anybody who’s not a liberal doesn’t agree with. But there were others who, like the late Murray Rothbard who said “equality doesn’t matter.” “Equality is a totalitarian ideology.” And so it wasn’t even about equality. And then, for socialists and communists, and others these are things that happen that have to happen simultaneously, you have to have equality and freedom together. They’re mutually reinforcing.

So, that was the language of anarchism. It is interesting to me, watching the documentary, how committed the subjects of the documentary are to calling themselves anarchists. They’re very adamant that they call themselves anarchists. I think I’ve only heard the word ‘libertarian’ come up once or twice, which is quite fascinating. And I’m not exactly sure why that’s the case. This Anarchapulco conference that’s been covered in the documentary started, I think, in 2016-2017. And it really took off in 2018. But in 2017, I went to an event in San Francisco, a conference created by an organization called the Startup Societies Foundation. And this is very much along the same lines. Their slogan is “Don’t Argue – Build.” It’s that Libertarianism that embraces the market and also says that politics is a pain in the ass because everybody’s arguing about things when you should just be out there building. And my response is “Okay, you got a multimillion-dollar home. Let’s not argue, I’m just going to build a giant billboard in front of your windows. How’s that?” They’ll be the first one to say, “You got to talk about zoning, you got to talk about wastewater treatment,” all these things have to be talked about in the community. That means politics, that means arguments. And so it’s just so unbelievably naive and silly and strange slogan.

But anyways, The Startup Society Foundation had this thing in 2017, it was a little mini version of this an Anarchapulco to some degree. A lot of it was people attempting to sell people on their latest thing related to blockchain or a new cryptocurrency, they wanted to do an initial coin offering or something like this. And then you had about 40% of the time were speakers, “thought leaders” pontificating about this or that. Including this fairly prominent guy from Stanford based in Silicon Valley, Balaji Srinivasen who just released a book called The Network State. His premise for Exit is a little bit different, it’s interesting to follow the logic through, he’s very much on the Market Libertarian side of things. I haven’t read the book, but as he presented it in 2017, part of the idea was that you get like-minded people together and you come up with a whole set of criteria about what your ideal place would look like, yearly average temperature, laws around whatever, taxation rates, closeness to an airport. And that you pump all of this algorithmically into this machine and it’ll turn out places that most closely fulfill their requirements. And then you and your friends who’ve got money get together and go to the space and set yourself up, and then negotiate better terms with the state wherever you are at because you’re bringing in your money. I’m not sure if this is what he gets into in The Network State, his most recent thing, but he talked a little bit about this in 2017.

So, there’s this array of these market libertarian gatherings where there’s a range of people, not all of them with a lot of money, but many of them with a good chunk of money, trying to create something that they see that is different. But it is interesting and strange that they use the language of anarchists. And I think it’s quite revealing, actually, and it does go back a little bit to what we saw in the late 60’s and early 70’s. That the language has a certain secondary meaning that they’re drawing from. It’s not pure political confusion. A lot of it is political confusion and a lack of historical understanding of anarchism, but also some of it is a-

TFSR: Marketing, if you will?

RC: Exactly. This is a marketing scheme.

TFSR: There was a point in the book where you talked about the shift in language around Libertarianism and pointing to the social conservatism that started developing at a certain point in the United States, the adoption of the term in relation to some of those rich – and I am sure in a lot of cases whites-only – enclaves outside of Atlanta that Newt Gingrich came out of similar to behind the Orange Curtain in California. I would imagine there’s probably a lot of people, having watched a couple of his episodes, that are positioning themselves as anarchists because it’s edgy and it’s in contradiction to the social mores that are imposed by the Evangelical-inflected Libertarianism and sovereign sheriff movement, constitutional sheriffs, and all this devolution of government – things that are being pushed by some in the US.

RC: I think that’s exactly right.

TFSR: What are you working on now? Where can people find your stuff?

Before that, I want to ask the question about “leftist” approaches towards sovereignty and exit.

RC: I’ll just say the latter part very quickly. I don’t use the language of “Exit” to talk about some of the left approaches. I end up using the word ‘exile’ that I draw from Andrej Grubacic and Dennis O’Hara’s Living at the Edges of Capitalism. They have a section on the Zapatistas, the Cossacks, and solitary confinement prisoners. It’s a book about mutual aid and exile. They use the term ‘exile.’ I found it very useful to make that distinction. Because there is a tendency– I get this question a lot, which is what about the Zapatistas? What about Rojava? It’s important to not equate form and content. It’s easy to say, “Oh, look, these are similar forms, they’re against the nation-state. They’re trying to create something different, autonomous territories. But my response to that is, first of all, we can’t equate a “green eco-village” capitalism with runaway slave communities or something like this. I just think that’s really problematic to equate those things. Perhaps, the more important point here is that the exit communities increasingly to me don’t appear to be a form of exile or exit, they appear to me to be a new instantiation of the state and an effort to increasingly privatize the state, new forms of primitive accumulation, new ways of resource capture. I just don’t see them as comparable at all to something like the Zapatista communities of southern Mexico, which are built on solidarity rather than individuality. They’re built on cooperation and mutual aid rather than competition, they see themselves as having to have in some form or relationship with the Mexican state. They’re not an utter rejection of the Mexican state. But they see themselves as having to have some relationship with that state, they actually invest in the promise of the Mexican Revolution in Article 27 from the Mexican Constitution on the Ejidos and agrarian reform. But at the same time, they’re trying to create something that is autonomous and unique in its own right, but you don’t have to have money to opt in. It’s just an entirely different structure. These things have to be distinguished pretty substantially. I see the exit projects as actually much more mainstream than they would like to see themselves.

And I disagree, actually, there’s been a couple of people who have reviewed the book and suggested that I focus on these outlier projects that are unusual and wacky and exceptions. I guess I didn’t get my point across because what I was trying to demonstrate by the end of the book is that in fact, these things are actually quite mundane, quite mainstream, and this is why if you want to understand them, you don’t need to read Peter Thiel or Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos and I would hasten to say you probably should read but don’t need to read William Gibson and Neal Stephenson and Ursula Le Guin, you can read J.G. Ballard, read his trilogy Cocaine Nights, Supercon, and High Rise to get a sense of what the future looks like in these communities.

TFSR: Yeah. Or in these instances, too, rather than talking to the people that are paid to fly into this hotel to give a presentation on whatever high-minded ideals they might have about changing the world, talking about the opportunities there with projects like Zapatista communities or what was the ZAD and Notre-Dam-des-Landes in France, or Unist’ot’en or the resistance at Standing Rock, either the creation of these autonomous, the opening up of space moments that are ideally more than just a TAZ ala Hakeem Bay, but oftentimes, what is meant to be not only a reimagining of the existent relationships around property, sovereignty, belonging, ecology, but they’re often an act of decolonization and removal of the imposition of the settler state, depending on where these are taking place.

There’s room for those of us on the left to think in terms of taking space, if we approach things honestly, from this perspective of solidarity and engagement, where it’s not me taking it from this blank slate that’s presented in front of me. Or those people that are like “let’s build some more factories here and call it Cancer Alley” or whatever. As long as we actively start engaging as folks from a colonizer country with populations and with landscapes that exist in a place, we can have a responsible way that, in the creation or recreation of these spaces, undoes some of the trauma that’s already happened and builds a path forward. That’s way more utopian and way more realistic than the crap that Thiel’s spouting.

RC: Yeah. You take something like the projects that I look at, but you can also look at the folks in the Anarchapulco, the HBO show, and I try to reference this in the book… When you come down to it, when you get past the glossy handout and the investment prospectus and all the other stuff, when you get past the glitter, it’s not Thomas Moore that you’re getting, it’s JW Marriott. It’s timeshare-sovereignty, that’s essentially what you’re getting in the end. And that’s why I’m saying it’s ultimately mundane and very mainstream in certain ways and reproduces all of these property and settler colonial relationships.

I have a very harsh critique in the book of the Seasteading book, Joe Cork and Patri Friedman did this book on seasteading. It’s just filled with the most fairy-tale version of history. There is hardly any mention of dispossession, violence, or anything like this. It’s like they read Lynn Cheney’s picture book Patriotic Primer for children and turned it into a history lesson. It’s really quite appalling. That’s the distinction I try to make in the book at various points in time.

The question about where people can learn more about what I’m doing. I’ve worked in Chile for many years, and I’ve been trying to get back there, but the pandemic has made research there difficult. In the meantime, I’ve been doing a couple of things. I’m working on an essay called “Selfish Determination,” which tries to go into a little bit more detail about how libertarians in the 50’s and 60s, especially in the 60’s, use the language of self-determination. There’s a UN resolution 1514 that was passed in the early 1960’s about the independence of colonized peoples and self-determination. I’m interested in the way in which they take up the idea of self-determination but appropriated for selfish determination just to give them their Ayn Rand credit. And then, a good friend of mine, Geoffroy de Laforcad, has written a lot on anarchism and has been involved in anarchist movements for many years in Buenos Aires and elsewhere. He’s from Marseille originally and teaches in Norfolk State. Geoffroy and I have been slowly working on a broader global history of things like exit and exile going back to the early 19th century. And this goes to your question about thinking about exile, Left projects of autonomy and things like this. We want to try to actually make those distinctions analytically and historically more evident and rich. So he and I are starting to write something together.

TFSR: That’s awesome. I look forward to checking it out for sure.

Well, thank you so much for having this conversation and for publishing this book. It’s sadly always timely. But not just because of HBO Plus, but yeah, I really appreciate it. I hope the listeners get a chance to read it and check it out. And thanks again for taking the time to have this conversation also.

RC: Yeah, thank you too. I was really grateful for the invitation and I really enjoyed the conversation. Thanks so much.

Fighting Back Against Displacement In Greece

Fighting Back Against Displacement In Greece

Drawing of a turtle with a park on its shell, with text in Greek "Ο λόφος του Στρέφη ελεύθερος θα μείνει!" translating to "Strefi Hill will stay Free!" in English
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This week, we spoke with Alex, an anarchist squatter in the Athenian neighborhood of Exarchia. They talk about repression by the New Democracy party, struggles against green washing wind turbines around rural Greece, the fires raging through the country, resistance to rape culture, fighting against the building of a metro station in Exarchia and the privatization of public spaces like Strefi Hill, police presence at Universities, anarcho-tourism and the hunger strike of anarchist prisoner Giannis Michialidas.

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August 23-30th is the International Week of Solidarity with Anarchist Prisoners. The site https://Solidarity.International has suggestions of ways to get involved, a poster for this year, and place to contact to announce or share your action or event.

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On Earth Day 2022, affiliates of Reject Raytheon AVL performed a rally, march and direct action at the Bent Creek River Park to block traffic and protest the building of a factory by Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of aerospace war drone and fighter plan component manufacturer, Raytheon. You can support folks as they attend court at 9am on August 31st the Buncombe County courthouse, room 1A for trespassing charges. And you can learn more about the struggle to push back the murder machine manufacturer Raytheon locally at RejectRaytheonAVL.com

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Featured Track:

  • Αυτό Το Σύστημα [Διάβρωση Cover] by Γεμάτος Αράχνες, ρε Φίλε! from their 2021 split with Βελζεβούλ Τα μη χειρότερα

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Transcription:

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself to the audience with whatever name, preferred pronouns, location, political position, or however you feel will help give the audience a sense of of who they’re listening to.

Alex: Hi, my name is Alex. I use they pronouns. I live in Athens, Greece. I’m a squatter, and I’m involved in anarchist and social movements in the neighborhood.

TFSR: So first up, Greece, like many other places in southern Europe has faced terrible fires this year, a growing pattern alongside a terrible heatwave. I hope that you’ve been doing okay with this. I would like, if you could, to talk about climate change and your views on the role of capitalism in this. Have you seen mutual aid projects work to navigate the high temperatures and dangerous air quality where you’re at?

Alex: In the center of Athens, we don’t experience fires right now. It’s mostly in the mountains around Athens and in different parts of Greece and the islands. But this year, the fires, even if they’re very big, the media are trying a bit to not show them so much because they want to hide all these very big catastrophes. Last year, it was very important with the fires in Evia Island, which burned a huge amount of forests, like almost the 1/3 of the island. It’s the second biggest island in Greece. So, it’s big.

The fires here has to do a lot with capitalistic projects and money, they want to use the burned land for different kinds of businesses. They really don’t care about any laws or any natural environment issues. There are a lot of ecological struggles in Greece, against the wind turbines or against the mining in different parts of Greece. And of course, it’s a big plan. I think they’re experimenting with different capitalistic ways of how they will control and how they will use all of this burned land. Because we are speaking about a lot of burned land in Evia Island.

It’s unclear how exactly they want to use all of this land, but for sure we know because of the local people, is that when the fire starts, the states don’t want to put it out. This is a big scandal. The state is letting this fires burn everything and destroy people’s land. It’s really crazy how it’s happening. I don’t know what more specific, maybe you would like to hear about all the situation.

There is a lot of mutual aid for needs of the people, or for rescuing animals, or for taking out the fires, more self organized. We can see that the people in Evia, or in other places and in villages and communities, they put out the fire themselves. The States don’t care. Firefighters have very precise [orders], they tell them not to take out the fire. I don’t know if you want something more specific?

TFSR: Yeah. Is the land all private parcels of property? Or is it State property that once it is held by the State and then once it’s destroyed, the state says, “well, we can’t use this for anything. Let’s sell it.” So kind of a primitive accumulation option? How does the disaster capitalism of this fire sale thing actually work out for the State.

Also, people may be surprised to hear critiques of wind turbines. Could you share some of the concerns around those that people have?

Alex: Yes, they land it can be private property of people that live by agricultural work. In Greece still, in the smaller towns or in the villages, people live by growing stuff or by the forest. They live by the forest with different ways that they use forest material to live out of it. In a kind of old fashioned way, let’s say. So with destroying big forests, the State destroys natural environment, animals, and also the way that people can survive and live off it. So the people are pushed either to go to the cities, because they cannot live anymore in a village in a more natural environment or in more communal environment, or they are pushed to work in the next businesses that are going to these areas to take profit out of it. It’s not very clear what exactly they want to do. For example, they want to make maybe some more touristic areas out of burned land, some alternative tourism, some wind turbines, or some industries. It’s a lot of options what they want to do out of this land. It‘s too new, it’s very fresh, these catastrophes, to know exactly.

A lot of big businesses and construction businesses are involved in all this situation. They call it the ‘new forest,’ they want to make new kinds of forests like less wild, more controlled, more open for tourists that cannot go to a real forest. So it’s a lot of experiment, I would say, between the Greek State and very big, private companies. So we will see how it will turn out.

About wind turbines, I know that I have heard from other comrades around the world that this is not really a thing in other countries to struggle against. But here, it’s really, really strong struggles against the wind turbines. You can see small islands that get full of them, and it’s really bad for the local inhabitants. You can see places in Greece that it’s maybe a small village and on top of the mountain and just next to it, you see a lot of wind turbines that of course, maybe the energy they are producing is not even going back to the local residents. So there’s really not any pro’s for them.

Also, the struggles against wind turbines are usually by local people. They don’t want to see the nature around the villages and get totally destroyed. They don’t want the animals to get kicked out. They don’t want the birds to be hurt by the wind turbines. They don’t want these very big companies to get profit and get full money off of their backs and destroy the natural place. I think they’re a more ecological movement in Greece. I think the opinion is that wind turbines… it’s like greenwashing, let’s say. It’s not a real innovation. It’s not something that is helping our class. It’s doing more damage than good, and it’s used for profit and for saying, “Ah look, we do something good!” But they destroy the lives of the locals.

And also with the wind turbines, the places that they decide to put them is places where people live. And also really natural forests. For example, there was there was a lot of natural places in Greece that with a new law of the government, they are not being protected anymore from the State. So, amazing natural treasures are not protected anymore, and they will be used for profits. For example, you can see the local struggles in the Tinos Island or Andros Island. It’s really amazing how the people there resist and self organize and how heavy are the repressions they also get.

I don’t know. I think it’s very interesting and I think there are also links in English for people to to read more good analysis on this. topic from the people In the fight against it.

TFSR: So you’re involved in the squatting movement in the Athens neighborhood of Exarchia, as I understand. Many listeners will be at least passingly familiar with the context there. But for those who aren’t, can you give a brief rundown of the legacy of counter-cultural and anti authoritarian struggles in that neighborhood through the dictatorship, it’s importance in the rebellion since December 2008, in the wake of the murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, and increasing neoliberal austerity since?

Alex: This neighborhood, Exarchia neighborhood, is in the center of Athens. It has always been kind of center of political struggle, of a wide political spectrum. It has been a political place even before the dictatorship, but it’s too old to analyze this. The thing is that this neighborhood is situated between universities. So it always has been placed with a lot of young people and artists and more cultured people, not really a full working class neighborhood. It’s a lie to say that it’s always been the working class neighborhood.

On the 17th of November 1973, there was a big revolt at the Polytechnic University that is in in this neighborhood, where the students and workers revolted against the dictatorship here. This was a really, really, really big event of the recent Greek history, with a lot of deaths of students from the military, and a big fight for… let’s say, democracy or a lot of things that are more free. A lot of rights of the people were won, back then, after the fall of the dictatorship.

Polytechnic University has always been a center of struggle for the anarchist movement and leftist movements, a center of riots, a center of organizing, a very lively space of every day, very strong political activities. A lot of other events have happened there, repression, also another murder in ’85, another 15 year old comrade from cops.

Anyway, this neighborhood has always been somehow a center of counterculture, of ideas, of the first squatting movement in Greece in the 80’s and 90’s. A lot of things can be said, and in 2008, there was the murder of the 15 year old anarchists and student, Alexis Grigoropoulos in the neighborhood from cops. After this, a very big insurrection broke out that started the same night and continued for almost a month, in Athens and in all of Greece. In every city, there was revolt, riots and squatting of public spaces and protesting for it.

It turned out that people were protesting for everything that was repressing them at this time. We can say that this murder was a spark to to start this flame of the people. And yes, Athens and Greece had very big movements also after 2008, 2012, and 2013 with austerity measures. 2008 played a very big role also for people to organize. You can see that a lot of self organized spaces or groups or political things were started then, and have stayed until now.

But for sure Exarchia neighborhood has been through a lot of phases. It’s also very important not to romanticize it. It’s very important to give a clear image of this neighborhood and not to make it sound like the place of anarchy or the place of utopia. Of course, it’s a place with capitalism. It’s a place with commercial relations. It’s a place with bourgeois people. It’s a lot of things. We should not romanticize it as a neighborhood.

TFSR: That seems really important that you focus on not romanticizing it and on the commercialism. I know that a few travel guides published in English, when they’re talking about Athens have a section specifically on Exarchia about how experimental and how weird and exciting Exarchia is, “You should come and visit and go to these hostels and go to these restaurants and cafes and what have you.” Not unlike Christiania up in Northern Europe. Tourism seems like an issue there. Yeah?

Alex: Yes, right. Now we have a huge issue with tourism. In the past, it was more alternative tourism, or like “anarcho-tourism.” Where people would come with the idea of, “Ah so nice, because graffiti is everywhere and I can smoke weed here or whatever, and see some riots!” Which was bad. But now we talk about a whole different new level of tourism. It’s really, really commercial. The capital has really invested money in Exarchia. You can see a lot of Airbnbs everywhere popping up. A lot of people get kicked out of their houses. I think the local population has been, about half of it has left, people cannot pay rent anymore, or whole apartment buildings where people have been kicked out. So they can use all of it as a hotel or as a hostel. And big investors are coming to the neighborhood.

A lot of new shops are opening, fancy ones, more hipster, they’re more expensive. It’s a really, really big issue, the issue of gentrification of the neighborhood. It’s bad by itself, this process of gentrifying in every neighborhood of the world. But here, one more reason why it’s so bad, because it’s destroying the main place of political organization. It’s not only kicking out some people. Gentrification is used as a tool to stop any political action or any resistance from the locals for all the new projects that they want to build in this neighborhood.

TFSR: You spoke about some of the history of resistance in the neighborhood and now discussing how it continues to act as a sort of core for activity around Athens. I wonder if you could talk about the situation of social spaces, and non legalized housing and squatting around the neighborhood today? What sort of spaces do you see? Who lives there? What social needs are provided for and how are they coordinated? I’m hoping to also hear not just about squats, but also social spaces like Strefi Hill.

Alex: Yes, I don’t want to let you down, but there’s not really a squatting movement in Athens anymore in the center. Of course, there are squats. Not only in Exarchia, in the whole of Athens, and probably there are more than a lot of other places in the world. They’re also fully illegal, I mean that you don’t do any process to have a squatting house or a political house, squatting, whatever. But really the New Democracy government when it came to power, one of the first things they did is to evict a lot of squats. So the this way of organizing through big open squats is not existing anymore. I mean, there are squats. There are squats in a lot of different neighborhoods where people are organized there, but it’s not so big as it used to be.

In the Exarchia there are a few squats left and housing squats, not public ones. But I would say it’s not the main place of organizing. There are also social centers and social places where people can go and organize. And the main tool of organizing was Polytechnic University. The anarchist movement is working here by doing a lot of open assemblies for different topics. So you need a big open public space where everybody can gather, or that can gather from 50 to 200 people, for example. So universities, always were helping in this. But now the historical Polytechnic University is kind of taken out of our hands. We kind of lost it. We had a huge building there that was the center of of these open assemblies and all this organizing. They have completely taken out from us. It’s hard to gather there, you gather there only on the outside, not in a building.

The square of Exarchia is also a public space where people can meet. The local cafes can also be place for organizing, and then the Hill, the parks, the public spaces. For example, now, because the universities are closed for the summer, all the assemblies are taking place in Strefi Hill, because it’s a big place, it has a very big open amphitheater. People can meet there and organize from there.

I don’t know what else more specifically.

TFSR: Yeah, in these assemblies that you’re talking about, it’s not a part of political culture in the United States where we’re based out of, to have large assemblies. My understanding is that there is a history and a continuity of neighborhood assemblies or assemblies that come together in order to discuss or debate specific issues and take action in those areas. How much is that sort of an actual thing in Athens political organizing, is it that people from the whole neighborhood come out, or just interested parties, or just a political group?

Alex: It depends on the issue, and on the time. It depends on a lot of factors. But this open assembly mindset is kind of a tool of the anarchist movement. Historically, people had this need to gather together after some political event, or some oppression. After an eviction of a squat, after some big event that happens, people always have the feeling and the will to meet all together and organize. That gives the chance also to new people and young comrades to join, without having to meet anyone. You can know anyone and join there and get organized.

Yes, this was also a thing of neighborhoods and the more mass movements in Athens. To me, it’s a very important way to organize. It’s basically what we do, even if we have an assembly of 15 or 20 people, we would call it openly so anyone can join. For example, when the attack on Strefi Hill happened, when the plans of gentrifying the hill started, the first assembly we did was with 300 people… locals from the neighborhood, leftists, anarchists, from some left political parties, some from more anarchist people, or people from other neighborhoods. It depends what happens. If there is a big event people would gather. Like last week we did an assembly of about 120 people because of the attack on the Exarchia neighborhood.

TFSR: So within the wider project of gentrification in, for instance, Exarchia, it seems like Strefi is important because it’s a wide open space with an amphitheater, as you say, where people can meet for this purpose or simply to enjoy themselves, be in assembly or just to gather in small groups or picnic or whatever. But can you talk about the projects that are slated for Strefi Hill specifically and what threatens to to damage that spot?

Alex: It’s a very nice hill. It has different parts for different kinds of people. It has a basketball [court] for kids. The whole neighborhood gathers there with their kids with their dogs. It has an open rooftop for people to see the view of Athens and have a beer, it has an amphitheater, it has a playground, it has a taverna, a local restaurant, and different spots for people to hang out. It’s also a place where homeless people can sleep at night. It’s very used, it’s a very lively place, people can do concerts there, theater, do assemblies, do movie projections, they can do whatever they like.

It’s also a natural place. There are turtles, a lot of different kinds of birds, cats, a lot of trees. So it combines a lot of nice things. It has been used for organizing, but it has been used also to attack. I would like to say that also, it’s also a strategical point. It’s at the top of Exarchia, it is the hill of Exarchia, so strategically, it’s a very good position.

The hill, of course, like a lot of other public spaces in Greece, are always left out by the municipality. They don’t pick up the trash, they don’t fix broken lights, they leave it without water, they close the water of the hill. They neglect it with the purpose to go and say, “Ah, look at the hill, the hill is so fucked we have to renew it.” But in reality, they left it like that and we pick up the trash and we fix everything.

The plan of the gentrifying the hill, it’s made by a huge investment company that will ‘adopt’ the hill. That’s what they say. So the plans of gentrifying it is not only made from the municipality of Athens, but is together with private companies that have a lot of business around Exarchia. They sell and buy huge buildings, they take profit out of it. So it’s like a mafia of the mayor, together with these companies and businesses to destroy the place and then take money.

The way that they want to destroy it, they want to make the hill, not a free white space, but a place that can be more familiar with tourists, they will cut trees and plants and will put new ones, but not local ones. They want to put cement or other bad material around to make it more, they say ‘accessible,’ but in reality, it will be accessible for good shoes and high heels of tourists. It’s a big plan with a lot of different things that they want to destroy on the hill. We know, it’s very simple to understand that is a bullshit plan.

In the beginning, they wanted to close it also and put cameras and guards. They say they will not do it, they took it back. But of course they can do it in a few years, we don’t know. And we have seen how they are gentrifying and doing the same work, that they want to do in Strefi, they do it in some other places and we see the result. It’s really not a sustainable result. It’s not the result we want. We don’t want to destroy the whole hill in order for them to just make money out of it. It will change completely the way that the hill looks, the way that the hill behaves. They will put lights that are from the bottom to the top, like a lot of lights that will create light pollution and will annoy the the animals.

TFSR: It will also make it difficult for homeless people to be able to sleep, with all the cameras and the lights and everything, right?

Alex: Of course. They want also to make an expensive bar there and expensive restaurants. It’s a lot of things that we are opposing. Also, we don’t accept anything that is coming from this private company, even if they say it’s for our own good.

TFSR: Can you talk about the metro station that’s slated for Exarchia? I know in the past when I’ve visited, usually I’ve taken a train to the Polytechnic and then walked or taken a bus or something to get over to Exarchia. I’m sure there’s other ways to get there. But if I was ever going to like K*VOX or something like that. It seems like a massive project to have to open up the street, and dig out a huge space, remove whatever happened to be there, and then put in a huge metro station connected to the other stations. It sounds like the project would not only bring a lot of tourists and business to the newly envisioned Exarchia neighborhood. But in the meantime, it would just further dig out the heart of the neighborhood.

Alex: Exactly. Yes. The plan is to make a new metro line in Athens. Magically it’s passing from a lot of vital free public spaces of Athens. A lot of squares in different neighborhoods, working class neighborhoods, where migrants or people that cannot afford to go to a bar, they hang out in in the squares, and the new metro line is taking over all this public space. And it will last, they say 8 years, we know that in Greek time 8 years is at least 10.

All the other metro stations from this new metro line has started to be built. But in Exarchia it hasn’t started yet, because of the resistance of the locals from political groups. It’s a very small square and the metro stations in Greece are very big. I don’t know how it can fit. I think it’s nonsense. You cannot fit the this big metro station in this place. They will have to remove 70 trees to make this. Yes, kill 70 trees, and it will not be possible to bring back trees like that, because of the way that they will have built it with cement and stuff. It will be noise in the heart of the neighborhood for 10 years. We will not have this vital space in the middle of the neighborhood. We know that this is not made for the needs of the people to move, it’s made only to destroy the political characteristics of the neighborhood and to bring commercialization and tourism. We think that if the metro station comes, it will be a disaster really. Because it also means that cops will be more and more in the neighborhood.

I just want to mention what happened the last few days. Because now we’re in a very, very tense situation. Any day the Metro will start to be built. They publicly said that during August, the metro station and the gentrification of Strefi Hill will start. Since Monday, we were guarding the square with 60 people. Tuesday and yesterday, these two days, a huge army of all kinds of cops came at 7 in the morning in Strefi Hill and brought with them, some of the responsible people of the municipality and from the companies to start the seeing what the hill looks and what they will gentrify and stuff like that. And in order to bring these 10 people to see the hill they brought an army of cops and they didn’t allow anyone to enter the hill in the morning. But we managed to bring some people to be inside the hill and to yell at them and to tell them all our political arguments and we went with them and the cops we did the big turn of all the heel while they were trying to work and we would annoy them and complain and resist. I can also send you some videos of these things that happened the last days.

Today they didn’t come, not in the hill or in the square. It’s really bad for them what they do also, it’s not acceptable to bring an army of cops and close and a hill during very high heat. People should be able to go somewhere. And every day, we have a lot of events in the hill or in the square. We do a lot of assemblies and actions and we take care of the hill. We try to resist. Even in August. August is a dead month in Athens, everybody’s away on the islands. So that’s why they came now because they know that people will not be here to resist.

TFSR: Just because it’s so hot, right? Like people take the opportunity to get away to places that are cooler, because in a city like that at this time of the year in the Mediterranean, it’s just boiling, I would imagine. Yeah?

Alex: Yes. And everybody in the summer goes to islands for vacation. That’s how it is and they know that. So, they try to attack now. They don’t do it in a time where the whole neighborhood will be here or the schools will be open. In a few days, everything will be a ghost town. Athens will be it ghost town in one week. That’s why they are doing it now.

So, these days, we are organizing a lot. Last week, it was a very tense week, there was two demos in Exarchia neighborhood. One against a rape incident that happened, and the other one was for the defense of the neighborhood. In both demos, again, an army of cops came and settled everywhere in every street of the neighborhood, and didn’t let us protest. We tried to do a demo and break the cops [line] in the feminist demo. But they attacked us two times. So like it’s crazy, they didn’t let a neighborhood demo against a rape incident to happen. They attacked feminists that were doing that. It’s crazy. The next day also, they didn’t let us demonstrate. That’s their new tactic. So, the repression has been high in the last weeks. And also with the hunger strike of anarchist comrade Giannis Michailidas.

TFSR: I definitely want to ask about Giannis, who as I understand, put a stall or at least paused the hunger strike at a very rough time, his body was unable to digest water at that point from what I was hearing. But just while we’re on the other subject, before we get to Giannis, with the anti rape demonstration, was the focus of it against a specific person that’s alleged to have committed the rape? Or was it more like, “there’s patriarchy in the society, we are demonstrating against it, let’s all be strong and denounce and stop rapes from happening,” what was the framing of it?

Alex: There was an attempt of rape in the neighborhood, an attempt of rape in a small street of the neighborhood during the day, combined with stealing and attacking. And as we heard, there are other incidents in the same street of attempts of rape and attacking, probably from the same person. So, that was what the demonstration was about. Some groups, they were combining this incident with the mafia issue in Exarchia, because the guy that did the attack in the attempted rape, he’s dealing with them or something like that in a shop by the square. So some of the groups have this thought that mafia-style or this business of selling weed or other drugs in the square can create patriarchical dynamics. For some protesters, this was also a reason to protest, and not only the rape attempt.

For me, rapists are a many. It’s beyond that [instance]. I mean, there are anarchists rapists, there are family rapists, it’s beyond that. To me, patriarchy is everywhere, and we should be against it in every kind of situation. But yes, it was more specific about this incident in the neighborhood. Patriarchy is really a big issue in Greece. In the last three days, there were three femicides. It’s a huge issue and the cops stopped feminist people from demonstrating against these three femicides!

It’s a very big issue that rapists that are also part of the New Democracy. They are friends of New Democracy, there are people with high positions in the government. They’re also pedo-rapists that have very high positions in the system of Greece. Recently a lot of them are released and are free. So this makes us very angry. It really kills us and we try to protest against this justice system that is constantly supporting rapists.

TFSR: So when you say that they were released, these were people that were affiliated with the New Democracy regime who were incarcerated, and who were known to be rapists, who New Democracy has released, right?

Alex: Yes. Or, for example, the murderer of Alexis Grigoropoulos got released and the murderers of Zackie Oh, the drag queen activist, their murderers were…

TFSR: Murder in the jewelry shop?

Alex: yes. They also got released. Some rapists that were in very high economical positions were also released, some actors too. This guy, the pedo-rapist, was the responsible of the National Theatre in Greece.

TFSR: Like the head of it? Wow.

Alex: Yes, the head of it.

TFSR: That’s a lot of power.

Alex: Yes.

TFSR: I’d like to also speak about the police in universities under New Democracy, but because you brought up the subject of of Giannis Michailidas, can you speak a bit about his case? He is tied in with a lot of the things that you’ve already spoken about, including the uprisings of 2008 and its aftermath. If you could talk about his hunger strike and how he is now that would be great.

Alex: Yes. So Giannis has been imprisoned around 8 or 9 years. He has also escaped from prison for around one and a half year, but then was arrested again in 2019 or 20. He has been accused of robberies and has been arrested also in the past for a lot of anarchist actions, for ecological struggles, for a lot of issues. I would say that he is, to me, a really strong and important comrade, with his feats and his power, and that he never gave up. Even when he escaped, he continued the struggle and has done really, really important things.

So, legally he should have been allowed to get released from jail because he has done the three fifths of his jail time. It has been also a lot of months that this could have been possible, but they don’t let him go. Legally he has done a lot of steps and for this separate procedure to go on, but they constantly are negative to his demand. So he decided as the last weapon to use his body to try to win this struggle, not only for him, but also for the other political prisoners and the other prisoners that are in bad situations in the Greek prison. He did this hunger strike in order to try to move the movements and act more actively in all the social political and other strategies.

The hunger strike was 67 days. During these days, there were a lot of actions, a lot of demos, a lot of attacks, a lot of interventions in political issues. It’s a big struggle, a lot of things were going on. We were waiting for the final decision of the court, this last stage that could decide on him and on the 66th day, the decision came out and it was negative. So this was really enraging for a big part of the society. Also, if you put together the story of all these rapists, and murderers that get released so quickly and so easily, at the same time that this comrade is dying because of the hunger strike, it’s even more enraging to see that the justice system is really corrupted.

The last days, he was really bad situation, even though the movement was growing stronger and stronger, and the struggle was finally getting more attention because the media was really trying to hide it for a long time. There was big demos and cops were attacking our demos and but there was pay back for them. In more and more social parts of the society and more people were taking a clear position to support the Giannis Michailidas, but I think the whole movements were a bit too late. All this support should have started kind of earlier, because his situation of health was really turning very bad.

TFSR: So he was denied release, or he is being denied release so far, under an argument by the judge that is like ‘preventative custody,’ right? Because they he will go back and do the same things that put them into prison in the first place. But they are fine releasing people who have a history of rape, as if robbing a bank versus raping someone are comparable things somehow.

In terms of the wider movement and activating the political bases and movements. Last year, there was the hunger strike that actually lasted for 66 days, also of Dimitris Koufodinas, which also brought huge amounts of people out into the streets, right? So there’s this kind of political culture in Greece, where people support their prisoners in a very active way, in a way that I find really inspiring and have not seen in a very long time in the United States. That’s that’s too bad that it didn’t it didn’t get the people out there when they needed to be. He’s just putting it on pause for the moment, but maybe will recommence it?

Alex: Yes. I don’t really know what this can mean. Because in his announcement, there was some vague parts where he said that he cannot really explain why he stopped, or puts on pause, the hunger strike. So I guess we will see, we will find out. But yeah, he said it’s on pause. I don’t know what this means, or pause until when? I don’t know. But I think for sure, it means that the struggle for his liberation is not over.

TFSR: So would you speak about the position of police in relation to universities, the role of these spaces for debate? You’ve already sort of talked about how the Polytechnic and closing the building was annoying, to the least, to assemblies that would have been using the space who now have to do it outside. But allowing police onto campuses is a relatively new technique that the government has been taking that has sort of been off of the books for a number of decades because of the memories of the dictatorship and the murders in Exarchia, and elsewhere.

Can you talk a bit about the role of the university as a public space, not just as a private space that people who pay to go to it like a private university in the United States would experience and what are the motivations of New Democracy in this?

Alex: Yes, the universities in Greece are public. There are also some private ones, but they don’t have this same situation, let’s say. So public universities are also kind of accessible for a lot of people to attend. There are a lot of student rights that have been won through the very strong movements, after the fall of dictatorship. One of the rights that we had, is called the ‘university asylum’. It’s a law that is not allowing the presence of police inside the universities. Of course, this law has been changed a lot of times, it’s complicated, I don’t even know how to explain all of the changes that has happened all these years. All this to say that the cops were entering, but only sometimes, like in extreme times, let’s say, something very bad…

TFSR: Like someone’s being attacked, or something like that? “I need to go in and resolve this,” sort of thing?

Alex: Not really. This not enough. It’s a political decision to put cops to stop something in a university. But in general, universities were used the for attacking the cops. They are a place that cops couldn’t enter. So you could use them as a place to attack the cops, or to hide, or to start the riots from there, or to squat. The university movements have been also very huge in the past. There have been great movements, like in 2006 or 2007. So the Greek University, it’s a very political space. The leftist more communist and Leninist people and political parties, they also have big power and influence in the universities. Every university has a lot of leftists, people from the communist party, and I would say at least one squatted place for more self organized and more anarchist ideas.

The main events, the assemblies, the parties, the raves, the concerts, the events, festivals, everything would take space there. In almost all of the universities in Athens and Thessaloniki, of course, and in every city that there is some movement or some students, the universities are active. So, it is a very public space. The university campuses, some of them are very big, and people just go there and play and have fun or people of the neighborhoods are also using these big campuses. It’s a very social and public space.

So, the asylum, I would say it’s a social contract. If the society’s opinion would allow cops to enter, the cops would enter. All these years a lot of times cops have entered the universities. But they would say it’s the shame for them to enter. It’s not good politically for the government.

But the propaganda also from the Syriza government was very tense against the criminality of the universities, against the rioters that destroy everything, and “they squat the university all the time”, and “the university is not normal,” that there is criminality and drug dealing and a lot of things. So, the Syriza government created this image of how bad the Greek University is, so when New Democracy came to power, the first thing they did was to stop the law for university asylum law. Of course, this, as I said before, has a lot to do with social acceptance. It’s not that the cops in Athens enter the university all the time, I would say this year they entered the Athens universities around three times, maybe four times? But in Thessaloniki it is way, way more tense. The second biggest city in Greece.

The government is planning for a ‘university police,’ a special police force that will be only in the universities and to guard them. There hasn’t yet been any big struggles against it, it hasn’t yet been made. Also, the law says stuff about cameras and to check your ID before you enter the university. All this goes together with a kind of privatization of the public education, which has a lot of parts in it, and contains a lot of money for the government to make the universities like a business. So, basically, they want to stop the resistance and the organizing that happens in universities for the students and for the rest of the movements. They want to stop it in any possible way.

TFSR: It’s worth noting that Syriza was a ‘center left party’ that was touted by a lot of progressives and leftists in the West. And also that New Democracy, was just sort of a reformulation of a lot of the leadership that was around during the dictatorship and that ruled for a long time after the fall of the dictatorship, right?

Alex: Yes, Syriza was a left wing government that popped out because of the mass movements that emerged in Greece. But of course, we don’t have any hope in this government, of course. It was very bad in a lot of ways, and they did a lot of repression to squats, to people, and to migrants. It’s very important to note that the leftist government doesn’t mean ‘haven’ or ‘utopia.’

TFSR: So, how can anarchists and anti authoritarian anti-capitalists support the resistance to gentrification in Exarchia from far away? Because definitely for the city that I live in, the struggles look different, but a lot of the components are similar in terms of AirBnB, or VRBO, or further privatization or monetization of of spaces and the pressure that those put on the government here to make the town less about the people that live here, but more for the investors and for the people that are here for a weekend to get drunk and crazy. So there’s a lot of commonalities. Maybe there’s ways that people in solidarity can strike locally and help support the struggle in Exarchia? For those people that are traveling, are there better ways for them to visit Athens or Exarchia? Or what would be a better approach than just trying to get a hotel room or an AirBnB?

Alex: I would say that, maybe I’m a bit harsh, but if somebody wants to come to Exarchia or Athens for a week, not to come, really. If people don’t want to come to join the struggle and be here with us, I don’t see a reason for them to come. We’re really open to international comrades. We have a lot of international comrades that are staying in Athens. It’s not about localism or some sort of hatred towards other people. It’s really that if you come here for a week, for a weekend, people usually, even if they have good will, they don’t have other solutions other than to stay in AirBnBs or hostels and or to pay expensive shit.

I don’t know. It’s kind of weird because sometimes we feel like we’re in a zoo. A lot of people are just coming here to see us, they don’t participate, they are just curious, and they just are watching us do all this stuff. It’s kind of an amusement for a lot of people, what we do, and we really try to explain that it’s not fun. It’s not amusement, you should not be curious to watch what we do here. If you want, you can come and join our struggle here and contact the local assemblies. Somebody can host you, somebody can find a way people want to support the struggle. There are ways for people to come and join. But if people just want to come and have fun, we don’t like this.

So to me, if you’re abroad, a good tactic is to say to your friends, “Don’t go there, if you don’t go there to struggle. Don’t go there to consume. Don’t go there to participate in the Greek industry of tourism.”

TFSR: Yeah! Okay. Alex, was there anything that I didn’t ask about or anything else that you want to mention?

Alex: I just want to mention that now it’s really a high point of resistance. In August, I think we will see a lot of things, bad and good. Repression, but also a lot of fight back. From September, I don’t know how Exarchia will look like, what will be happening. People can follow our media and get informed. Of course, we are open to exchange ideas with other people on gentrification or to connect struggles around the world because, of course, this thing that happens here is it’s happening everywhere, as you said before. And also with the Atlanta forest occupation, I think it was very important to learn about it in the defense of our hill, and we can find a lot of common things and get empowered from this struggle.

Yes, and I really hope we can win and we can spread some solidarity, to your struggles and to other struggles around the globe.

TFSR: Awesome. Thank you very much for taking the time to have this conversation. Yeah, of course.

Alex: Thank you so much. I hope you have a good day!

TFSR: Thanks, you too.

Hil Malatino on Being Trans in this Moment

Hil Malatino on Being Trans in this Moment

"Hil Malatino on Being Trans in this Moment | TFSR 07-31-22" featuring a picture of Hil
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This week we are presenting Scott’s interview with Hil Malatino, who is a current professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Philosophy at Penn State University. They are also the author of three books, Trans Care, Queer Embodiment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience, and Side Affects: On Being Trans and Feeling Bad. Scott and Hil speak on many themes which are found in his books, plus lots more topics!

  • Transcript
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  • Zine (Imposed PDF) – pending

Hil Malatino’s work:

A couple of annoucements…

Giannis Michailidis Suspends Hunger Strike

Anarchist prisoner of the Greek State, Giannis Michailidis, has been on hunger strike since May 23 to demand his release from prison after serving over 8 years in prison and experiencing added cruelties for refusing to bow to the cruelty of the state. There are rumors that the Greek state is betting on Giannis’ death and a public reaction by refusing police vacations in the first half of August. Sympathetic comrades are invited to show resistance at sites related to the Greek state world wide, including embassies and consulates worldwide. You can follow and share solidarity with the hashtags: #free_michailidis #Michailidis_Hungerstrike #antireport

You can read an update at EnoughIsEnough14.org

Shinewhite Needs Help

Joseph “Shinewhite” Stewart, a White Panther affiliate of the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party incarcerated in North Carolina, has been denied his property since his recent transfer to Maury Correctional Institution and his supporters are asking for help pressuring the administration into easing off this activist.

Maury CI: Phone: 252-653-5501

We believe the warden’s email to be brett.simmons@ncdps.gov

NCDPS commissioner’s email is todd.ishee@ncdps.gov, though it’s suggested you reach out to acting commissioner brandeshawn.harris@ncdps.gov

An example script:

“Hello,

I am writing with regards to Joseph Stewart #0802041. Upon being transferred to Maury Correctional, the majority of Mr. Stewart’s property was confiscated without good reason, including books and legal papers. I wish to demand that Mr. Stewart’s belongings are returned to him in full immediately. Please be aware that outside observers are monitoring the situation closely, and that any further victimization of Mr. Stewart or other prisoners at Maury will have immediate consequences for the NC DPS, including, but not limited to, negative media publicity and potential legal action.”

Fundraising for TFSR

Our recent interviews with the Anarchist Communist Combat Organization in Russia and Assembly.Org.UA in Ukraine were recently translated into German + Czech and German + Spanish, respectively, thanks to the transcripts being easily available for all online. But as I mentioned a couple of weeks back, we’re not quite hitting our fundraising minimums to carry the transcription project forward.

So we’ve made a few changes to our patreon that are pretty exciting. Here’s a rundown. There is now a $3 tier that allows the patron access to occasional behind-the-scenes content like the hosts discussing upcoming episodes or subjects we’re researching. And every support tier $5 and above will have access to that plus occasional early releases of content. But don’t fret, non-patrons, we won’t be releasing episodes that are patreon-only. Our audience will get access to each weekly episode as it always has. Anyway, check out patreon.com/tfsr for more details or tfsr.wtf/support for other ways to chip in to cover our transcription and other costs. And thanks for listening and supporting as you can.

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Transcription

TFSR: This week we’re presenting Scott’s interview with Hil Malatino, who is a current Professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies and philosophy at Penn State University. They are also the author of three books, “Trans Care”; “Queer Embodiment: Monstrosity, Medical Violence, and Intersex Experience”; and “Side Affects: On Being Trans and Feeling Bad.” Scott and Hil speak on many themes, which are found in his books, plus lots more topics.

Hil Matatino: So I’m Hil Malatino, I use he/him and also they/them pronouns. And I’m currently assistant professor of Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Philosophy at Penn State University.

Scott: Well, I’m really excited to talk to you, specifically about the two books that you published in the last couple of years, “Trans Care”, and most recently, “Side Affects: On Being Trans and Feeling Bad”. I think both of these books really make helpful contributions to understanding trans experience collectively. So I want to talk about those books and also, I’m imagining, since it’s such a terrible moment of trans antagonism and state violence, that we might bring some of that stuff into the discussion also.

But just to start out, I see your work fitting within current trans thought about the experience of transition over against the kind of like neoliberal identity politics that thinks of transness as an individual identity. Can you talk a bit about the factors that individualize transness, and then, sort of, your vision of like alternative, collective or social ways we might understand trans experience?

HM: Absolutely. A lot of my thinking about the importance of de-individuating the way we understand transition is routed through my research and trans medical archive specifically. So I’ve approached those archives with an eye towards communal resistance and intervention in relation to medical gatekeeping. And there’s a real rich history — going back for probably as long as there has been such a thing as, like, a medical etiology of transness — of communal resistance to the gatekeeping that informs the diagnosis and the proposed treatment protocols for transness.

So what I’ve realized doing that archival work over the course of the last, probably over a decade, in fits and starts, is that the ability to transition, and the ability to transition outside of really rigid, Eurocentric, bourgeois, white and gendered norms, has been enabled through the protestations of trans collectives and communities. And that is in really considerable tension with the historic strict medical model of transsexuality, and the trans treatment protocol that’s been attached to that. That, you know, historically recommended that folks go deep stealth, relocate, start lives and new. And then later on, if not emphasizing what we now call “stealthness”, they tended to, I think, really hyper-individuate the process of transition, where it was the sort of journey or rebirth that was undertaken by discrete and really atomized subjects, who were considered at least in the medical literature — and there are probably lots of reasons for this — any absence of communities that that enable those transitions.

So it just seemed like there was a, on the one hand: this history of trans collective resistance to medical gatekeeping that, I think, on the ground, in very real ways, has made transition possible for so many people. And then [on the other hand:] this medical narrative of what transition is about, and how one accesses it, that is very hyper individual. So I just have seen those histories’ intentions, and I think in terms of trans experience and all its diversity, the former, this more collective understanding of how transitions happen, just seems more true, more accurate, to people’s experiences.

S: Yeah, and one of the things you talked about in terms of medical interface that new trans people seeking hormones or surgeries, or whatever, faces…like, there’s the one hand of trans people being kind of diagnosed with some kind of mental disorder, but also this makes us be seen as consumers of healthcare. And I wonder if you have any thoughts on that, like, the way that the medical industry kind of receives trans people. And then also how you see those medical narratives being taken on by trans people themselves a kind of transnormative way,

HM: I think it’s really important to think about trans healthcare in relationship to the broader US healthcare system. And to the extent that trans subjects are interpolated as just consumers or, you know, patient customers of medical services…I think, to some extent, everybody is in the United States because of the way that our healthcare system has developed along this pretty strictly for profit model. So that’s the first thing I want to say, right? My argument about trans folks as consumers, being positioned as consumers of medical services by the healthcare industry, or the medical industrial complex, might, in some respects, be specific to the US, or at least a sort of unique to the United States, or maybe intensified in the United States in ways that might not be elsewhere.

But I think what we see with the history of trans healthcare is that for profit medical systems, spawning transition related procedures, is sort of like, niche markets for particular medical practitioners to exploit. And this has been specifically the case with different surgical practices and remains the case, is surgeons develop innovations, or some surgeons have better outcomes than others, and are then able to market those better outcomes in ways that enable them to to increase their prices, right? I mean, so there’s this phenomenon of trans surgical procedures becoming a specialized niche in the medical community. And I think making some surgeons a lot of money, right? Surgeons with long wait lists that are relatively well known within trans communities for having good outcomes. And, yeah, I mean, it raises a lot of questions for me about how people access transition and the sort of lack of, really, radically democratic access to medical transition.

So it seems, it has seemed — maybe it still seems I think it does still seem to me — accessing medical transition becomes the sort of quest to marshal as many financial resources as possible so that one can receive decent treatment. And I think that that gets internalized in maybe unpredictable ways. But I think when folks begin to think about embarking upon transition, the stress and anxiety that attends it has a lot to do with how financially inaccessible, many transition related procedures, have been and remain. I’m rambling a bit, but I think that speaks a little bit to what you’re asking.

S: Yeah, and I mean in the beginning of Side Affects, you start reframing the idea of transition, and one of the things you look at is a kind of normative narrative that’s presented, particularly on social media, by trans people themselves. It’s like a goal-oriented understanding of transition, and you talk about how that doesn’t actually reflect most trans people’s access to hormones, for example, which can be intermittent, depending on health insurance and the area that you live in. So in response to this, you start talking about a different kind of understanding of transition that doesn’t have a specific endpoint maybe, and you call this “interregnum”. I thought this was a really cool idea of rethinking transition outside of medical definitions, cis expectations, and these these transnormative narratives. So I wonder if you could kind of unpack that concept and what you hope it would bring to trans people for understanding our own position and our own experiences?

HM: Yeah, absolutely. There’s this critique of transnormativity in “Side Affects”, and it’s in some of my other work as well, doesn’t come from me specifically. It’s not something that I came up with, it’s actually drawn from the work of trans-of-color scholars. I’m thinking specifically of Riley Snorton and Jin Haritaworn but also others who have really named the way that there’s a certain sort of trafficking in these goal-oriented transition narratives that are predicated, to a certain degree, of economic privilege, of maybe geographic privilege, that’s something we can think about, right? The fact that some people are located in areas where trans affirming care is easily accessible, or more easily accessible, and some people aren’t, right? And also, of course, questions of racial stratification that inform economic access to medical transition. And then just questions of desire, right? I mean, the very different kinds of desires that some folks have or don’t have for specific forms of medical and hormonal transition.

That’s why I critique transnormative narratives. And I think it’s also important to point out that when one is beginning to access information about how to surgically and hormonally transition, those are the narratives that one is sort of inundated with immediately, right? [chuckles] Those are the ones that, like, you know, the “trans influencers” that are easiest to find are the ones that traffic in those narratives. And that’s all good, and well for them. I have no bone to pick with them, but I think the social media landscape that folks encounter as they begin to think about transition is so steeped in transnormativity, that it’s really important to point to it and say “this is not the only possibility for how to navigate transition.”

The other thing that I wanted to mention that just really has informed my thinking about this — and I say this because I’m very mindful of the fact that you are in North Carolina, and I’ve spent years in East Tennessee, and in those — in southern Appalachia access to medical technologies of transition was very, very difficult to come by in a way that it’s just not if you live in the Northeast or in a major metropolitan coastal city. That meant that most of the trans folks that I knew in southern Appalachia had intermittent relationships to hormone use, had real difficulty finding trans affirming primary care physicians, and also many of us, myself included, had specific trans exclusions on our insurance coverage, and could not afford to pay for medical transition out of pocket.

My critique of transnormativity is rooted in that real experiential reality of myself and so many other trans folks I knew, not being able to access medical technologies of transition that we desired because of real structural gatekeeping. It just seems like, if structural change is on the horizon — for some of us in terms of what a “radical trans politics” might work towards — it’s important to keep pointing to the specific structural phenomenon that still gate keep transition, even if there are way more trans affirming medical practitioners and then than there used to be.

So this idea of “the interregnum”, which my partner is a medievalist, and a queer medievalist, so a very weird and delightful medievalist [Scott and Hil both laugh] but they’ve teased me about using the term “interregnum” because they’re very familiar with it as a medievalist, and of course the way I use it is not that. But the idea of “the interregnum” in historical literature names the space that occurs between the rise and consolidation of state forms. So I’m like an old, I don’t know, I’ve been reading Deleuze and Guattari for a long time since I was, I want to say, a baby, since I was like a teenager, and in my early 20s. And it seems to me that this emphasis on the space of possibility that exists between sort of sedimented state forms, spoke to the distinction that they made between the molar and the molecular.

So I started thinking — and I don’t want to, like, we don’t have to go into D and G for a long time [Hil laughs] — but I just thought like, “oh, there’s something about the interregnum that could be a space of possibility that has something to do with more molecular forms of becoming, they don’t have to do with the realization of like a stable gendered state, but instead put emphasis on questions of process and becoming in relationship to transition.” That just seemed to me like a more capacious way of understanding transition, than this journey from, you know, a beginning point towards an endpoint. And I also don’t really know about the temporality of that. Like, I don’t know when transition started for me and I don’t know if it’s ever going to really end, you know, and that’s personal. But I also have so many friends who I think would say something very similar, about transition.

S: I love all that you were saying. And there’s even sometimes a retroactive aspect of transition, where you look back from your present lens and kind of reinterpret experiences that are from earlier times, from a different vantage point and be like “Oh, that makes a different kind of sense to me now than it did then, when I didn’t have maybe the language to talk about it.”

I like that you brought up desire, I’m thinking in this recent essay I read by Kadji Amin, he kind of defines trans people as people who desire transition, and I thought that was a helpful way of thinking about it. Because putting it in relation to desire, and then that kind of process — but it’s interesting, with that sort of social media landscape that you talk about, a lot of trans people have this common experience of like, being inundated with these images, and then sort of thinking like “am I trans enough, am I trans in the right way?” And I’m thinking about how this era for young people, there’s way more information about transition and access to it, and sharing of resources that I didn’t have as a kid. Like I didn’t even have any understanding of this until I was already an adult. And I think that’s great and I think that’s why we see this uptick of trans people — which is like posing a real threat to society — but then there’s also this weird kind of way that you can do this sort of internalized gatekeeping. And also maybe re-emphasize that kind of atomized or individualized version of it. Because I know young people transitioning without trans community in their real life at all.

So I wonder if, I don’t know, I’m not sure if this is really a question, but I’m wondering if you have thoughts about this kind of current landscape and how it’s different for young trans people? And like, what are some of the dangers of that, and what are the positive aspects of it?

HM: I wonder, I have so many questions about what it’s like to be a young trans person in this particular historical moment. It’s hard for me, you know, I can’t speak for that positionality, I came of age in the 90’s [laughs]. So that’s the landscape I’m familiar with. I think that trans folks, or prototrans folks — or maybe we can think about this just in relationship to folks that are, like, gender and sexually non normative more broadly — I feel like we often find each other even if we don’t really know that that’s what we’re seeking out or finding when we’re young. That may not necessarily be conscious, right, but it tends to happen. And I think that that’s probably still the case, right? I would wager. So even if there are trans youth that are navigating or thinking about transition, in the absence of a community that they might be able to point to and say “this is a trans community”, or “this is my trans community”, I think it’s very likely that folks are connecting with other sorts of weird kids, teenagers, who are trans affirming, even if they’re not necessarily cognizant of the fact that they are right. There’s something that happens with youth that are non normative, where there are collectives and affinities and friendships that are built that are ultimately really sustaining, that may not look like a “community” that are still really imperative.

So I think that, while it’s absolutely true that it’s important to think about how to marshal community support for trans youth — especially in relationship to wave after wave of trans antagonistic attacks on the possibilities of youth to transition — I think the other thing that I’ve been trying to hold in my mind to balance that grim reality is the fact that friendships are always possible and are sustaining even in the context of really, really brutal forms of structural violence and gatekeeping. There’s something about affinity and solidarity that is possible within friendship that’s not necessarily possible in the context of “Community”, with a capital C. Like there’s something looser there that I think is actually more capacious.

So the other thing I want to say, is that my colleague Erin Heidt-Forsythe and I have started — we’re at the very beginnings of undertaking work on fertility preservation and trans youth, researching the medical apparatus that is attempting to ensure or make possible fertility preservation for trans youth — and something that we learned in the context of beginning that work was that at certain clinics in progressive cities that are working with trans youth, there’s been this phenomenon of bringing in trans elders or trans adults to talk to trans youth about possibilities for family making, reproduction, kin making. And on the one hand, I think like, “Oh, that’s really wonderful” because I would have loved to have a trans elder to talk to you about like reproductive capacity and family building when I was young.

But on the other hand, the fact that that’s happening through this space of the clinic, and specifically with an eye towards getting patients to consider paying for gamete freezing, right? It’s like, “oh, that’s, this is not the way I would like to see that happen”. So I feel like having some sort of more robust way to have trans youth and have intergenerational trans dialogues, and support networks exist, would be very welcome, especially if it happened outside of institutions that had some sort of profit motive informing how they operate.

S: Yeah, that’s really interesting. The thing about finding ways to preserve fertility for the future is — it’s interesting because I see that sort of coming up more for younger trans people than it did for trans people coming of age in the 90’s and early 2000’s, which, in a way, I don’t know, if that’s like reaffirming some kind of normativity, but certainly, as you’re pointing out, is helpful to different industries raising money and kind of reaping benefits from trans people as consumers. Whether or not it is, that’s separate from the desires that trans people have to have kids, which I think is great. Yeah, that was really interesting.

I wonder, since you brought up C. Riley Snorton, I had a question that I had sort of geared towards the end, but I kind of wanted to bring it in now. Just thinking about these dominant narratives of transness, there’s simultaneously a kind of heavy racialization that we see of transness in the media, when it comes to spectacles of violence, right? Like the image of the Black trans woman as the victim of some kind of violence. But then I think there’s also, perhaps, a kind of “whitening” of transness, and you talk about this relationship of transit and whiteness in specific community spaces of healing, at the end of Side Affects. In psychedelic healing communities, is where you’re looking, and how sort of a white trans logic can reproduce forms of white supremacy under the guise of liberation and escape from that structure. So I would love to hear you talk a little bit about how transness gets whitened in the media or in sort of, perhaps, unconscious white supremacist logics for trans people who are trying to be antiracist. And how we might rethink transness from a kind of decolonial, or Black feminist lens, as you were mentioning before.

HM: It’s so complicated, this nexus. And the last chapter of Side Affects is just the very beginning of my attempt to work through these questions of race, coloniality and healing practice. I want to start responding to this by situating myself, because I think that’s really imperative. So, you know, white, settler born in upstate New York in the foothills of the Adirondacks, grew up in South Florida, and mentored by decolonial feminist philosopher Maria Lugones. So she very much informs my thinking about all of these questions, and is always in the background of whatever I happen to say on this topic. But I also want to mention that both of my parents were pretty committed to New Age spiritualities, or what I understood as forms of New Age spirituality. My mother was a student of Buddhism for most of her adult life. And my father is a musician and just an unrepentant lifelong stoner who grew up reading out loud to me from magazines about extraterrestrial life forms, and I think they took like an aura reading class together at the local community college when I was a kid. So I’ve always, in some ways, been steeped in forms of very, very white New Age spirituality that were sort of like hippie or post hippy, really from day one, right? That was always part of my domestic space growing up.

It became something that I argued with my family about as I as I got older, and specifically as I read more Black feminist and decolonial work. And the arguments started off being about appropriation, about questions of appropriation of spiritual traditions that are not white Eurocentric ones, right? But then there’s also a real strong pagan throughline in thinking about the forms of New Age spirituality that I saw my parents and many other white leftist, sort of post 1960’s leftists, taking up. And I have questions about that too, because there’s this way in which it seems like the turn towards a kind of, maybe like a precolonial paganism is a way of imagining a cultural space that is sort of untainted by chattel slavery and by settler colonialality.

So it went beyond questions of appropriation for me, and I began to think about how this desire to recuperate things like Taro, on the part of white leftist and white queers and white trans folks, had to do with wanting to find a form of spiritual practice that is more pure, or less tainted by the violence of settler colonialality, and Christendom that comes along with that. On the one hand, I understand that recuperative desire. But on the other hand, if you look at some of the, specifically trans related material that has been published, that tarries with this really heteroclite ensemble of spiritual practices, there is this like, really troubling world historical narrative that emerges from it, that has to do with — and this is the case study that I talked about in the last chapter of the book — specifically a group that was based in western North Carolina in the late 90’s, and early 2000’s. And in their newsletters, and in their writings, you see, the development of this attempt to recuperate like a matriarchal goddess culture that was affirmative have multiple forms of embodiment, that was sort of prebinary gender and is being recuperated in a way that enables us to become like post binary gender.

There’s also an evolutionary narrative that gets tied to that, where trans folks are this “avant garde”, or I don’t know, new radical evolutionary phenomenon that’s going to usher in this — I wish I had the language in front of me of how this collective put it — but like a New World Order of peace and prosperity and tranquility, that is no longer informed by the violence of binary gender and the patriarchal logic that informs that. And that, it’s a “just so” story, and it also enables folks who are pulling on these spiritual threads, to not think about their implication and current forms of racial colonial violence.

So that’s, I don’t know, I’m rambling. I know, I could go on about this for a long time. I encountered that material beginning when I was a teenager and I was trying to come into some kind of spiritual practice my own that helped me deal with questions of queerness and transness. I just was initially and am still like “what the fuck is going on here?” I don’t know. Why am I drawn to it, while at the same time finding certain aspects of it really repellent?

S: I mean, it seems like there’s a particularly white version of a search for authenticity that kind of uses either a Black cultural expression or other kind of Indigenous cultural expression as its form. Which is totally ingrained within a kind of colonial logic, and the way that you show that in the book, like just looking at the makeup of the spaces, right? That they’re talking about all this stuff and then everyone in the room is white. And so they’re not actually threatened in any way out of their comfort zone of an all white space, and they can say whatever they want without really any repercussions. But I think it’s interesting, because this does really connect with current social media trans, queer landscape, which is totally inundated with different versions of what we call “woo” [outlandishly spiritual or supernatural]. And I think there’s really beautiful things and really troubling things there, too.

HM: I was just thinking about the legacy of that. If you look at queer movements that have tarried with questions of spirituality in the US specifically, I think one go to example is the radical fairies but if you look at the history of radical fairy spaces, they’re overwhelmingly white and traffic in so many troubling appropriations of different kinds of Indigenous belief systems

S: Right.

HM: Yeah. So what’s happening currently in the spaces of social media, around discourses on spirituality, I understand is very much connected to this post 1960’s legacy of queer and trans spiritual searching that always partakes of these really troubling settler logics and appropriations.

S: Right. And I think what I see a lot in current thinking and writing by trans people, is sort of grappling with this moment where we’re past the quote, unquote “tipping point” where there’s way more visibility and representation of transness that is perhaps allowing more people to transition, but one of the maybe unintended consequences of that is this sort of “fad” of being nonbinary, or like claiming nonbinaryness, or using they/them pronouns, but not really engaging in any kind of transition or troubling of the gender structure. So, I don’t know, it’s almost like trans people who maybe previously wanted this Big Tent idea, or trying to rethink what being trans means when you have that phenomenon of maybe not even really associating with any kind of material practice anymore, right? Just being like, “I’m nonbinary, and yet I dress the same as a man or woman is imagined to dress” or whatever. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that, that current moment of thinking, like, something became sort of popular in a way. Oh, yeah! And just the idea that if we say “we’re nonbinary”, we’re doing something against the colonial gender system, even though, what does it do?

HM: Yeah, this is another Nexus that is so complicated, because I think immediately of the fact that this move to identify as non binary but not necessarily change anything in terms of your gender presentation, and not access hormones, or different forms of medical transition. On the one hand, I see how it can become sort of understood as faddish, but on the other hand, I’ve known so many people for whom that move was the beginning of a much longer process of transition too. So it’s like who am I to parse out whether, you know, something really troubling and faddish is happening, or whether this is just the beginning of a much longer process? And maybe if it is “trendy” in certain sort of radical, queer spaces, to be nonbinary to be a “they/them”, even though one appears entirely binary in most other respects, I want to think that it’s possible that that’s opening up more trans affirming space than it is shutting down trans affirming space.

So I don’t know, my tendency is to be really generous about that. And I also think that questions of solidarity and affinity are way more important than questions of identity. Always. So it doesn’t matter to me how somebody identifies in terms of the relationship to transness, if they understand themselves as trans in a nonmedically transitioning, nonhormonally transitioning sort of they/them way, or if they don’t and if they very much embrace a sort of transsexual understanding of their transition, what matters more to me is the political work that they are doing, and the pedagogical work maybe that they are doing and how they comport themselves in spaces of community and collectivity. That seems more imperative.

S: You know maybe like 10-15 years ago gender queer was like the preliminary stage to trans transition. And now it’s nonbinary. It could serve as a gateway for someone to…we’ve used the word “proto trans” before too, right? It’s like: that might be how you find other people, right? That gives you a sort of idea of how things could go. I think going from that, I want to talk about some of the more mundane, and also granular, experiences of tranness that you discuss in the book. One of the things, actually in Side Affects and in Trans Care, you talk about “misrecognition” or “unrecognition” as a fundamental experience of transness, negotiating how we’re perceived, whether it’s from people we don’t know, or people we do know, and you talk about this as sort of a relational model of gender. Because this takes us away from identity, right? Like I’m trans, or whatever, I can say that, but transness happens in between people, and the other person can give us whatever gender we end up with, whether that’s right or wrong. And you talk, from personal experience, in this really interesting way about a kind of nonbinary moment of misrecognition as being part of your own experience. I really liked that. So I just wanted to hear you talk about the moment of encounter as gendering but also these visions that you have for building other ways of seeing and witnessing each other, particularly among trans people.

HM: Yeah. I talk about the, the nonbinary form of recognition, which I think is also a form of misecognition and that’s what makes it interesting. By talking, I think I use the phrase “pronomial stammering”, so I was just thinking about those instances where you’re encountering somebody, they assign one pronoun to you, and then you say something back to them and then they assign another pronoun to you, or apologize because they think they got it wrong the first time and now they’re attempting to get it right. Those moments, in my biography — because I did actually identify for a long time is nonbinary and genderqueer and use they/them pronouns, this is also probably part of why I’m so generous with folks who find themselves inhabiting that space, because I was there for years, in large part because of gatekeeping around medical transition.

So it was easier to be a they/them if I couldn’t pay for hormones and top surgery in social spaces than it was to insist on he/him in those spaces of recognition. So I say that because in those moments of pronomial stammering that just felt like they were dramatizing what always happened in terms of the way that gender recognition had circulated in my life. So there was something that was truer about the stammering than just the assignation of a pronoun that was then never second guessed felt. So it just felt like it more authentically registered the realities of having a sort of complicated, or loud, gender.

The other bit that’s informed my thinking about misrecognition has to do with the fact that even if one comes to inhabit a space where they’re relatively consistently gendered, socially — and personally, I’m in the space where I get he/him’d almost all the time as I go about my daily life — the memory of that history of misrecognition is something that that I always carry with me. So even in moments of being consistently gendered in the way that I desire to be gendered, I am very acutely aware of how precarious that gendering has been historically and I also relate to every moment of gendering as something that is contingent, and in some respects still surprising, honestly, even if I could probably rely on it now. And I don’t think that’s the way that cis people experience pronouns, right? Like, there’s something very specifically trans about that. So, a lot of my thinking about misrecognition is coming from this place of trying to think about what it means to have become habituated to systematic misrecognition over the course of one’s life. And how that plays out just in terms of how we trust, who we trust, how we navigate social space.

S: Yeah. Building off of that trans people will sort of set themselves their own version of the real life test, by being correctly recognized or “pronouned” by a stranger, right? But you want to focus more on how we, as trans people, can create other ways of seeing and receiving each other, perceiving each other, supporting each other, that kind of operates in a different register. And one of the places that you’re really working in Side Affects is through this idea of T4T, which you talk about as a strategic or contingent separatism, and it’s where a lot of transition happens, where survival work and support happens, where trans world building happens. So I wonder if you could talk about that term T4T, and then what the way that you want to use it to think about what trans people are doing?

HM: Yeah. So the term, as far as I know — and this is the account that I’ve given in my writing on T4T — the term comes from Craigslist personals. So there were like the M4M, W4W, M4W, M4T and then T4T was just one of the iterations of that cognate. So folks seeking to hook up with folks of various gendered experiences have this option of being a trans person looking for another trans person. And then it was taken up within trans cultural production as a way of naming this contingent kind of trans separatism. And I’m thinking specifically about Torrey Peters novella Infect Your Friends and Loved Ones, where there’s a T4T tattoo that is a really important part of the plot, and T4T relationships that are central, like that whole book is just comprised of T4T relationships that are fraught and ambivalent and complicated. Non-utopic, definitively.

So T4T became a way of naming the kind of complex affinities and solidarities that circulate amongst trans folks, but also the way that trans folks are producing spaces with one another, that make the survival of social misrecognition possible. So part of the way that I think about this — although I don’t think I’ve written about it expressly, has to do with Marie Lagunas’ concept of world traveling, and actually Talia Mae Bettcher who is a brilliant trans thinker and philosopher has been writing specifically about world traveling in relationship to trans experience, so I want to mention her work here — but say that this idea of world traveling that comes from the scholarship of Maria Lagunas, has to do with not packing up your suitcase and actually moving literally around the globe, but this idea that on a day to day basis, we move between very different worlds of sense. And we are known very differently in those different worlds. So in the domestic space of my home, or when hanging out with close friends of mine, the forms of recognition that circulate there are very different from the forms of recognition that circulate when I enter a classroom or when I enter a faculty meeting or some sort of like academic DEI meeting — [Hil cracking up] your eyes got big when I said “DEI meeting” and I felt that. Yeah, spaces I happen to find myself in that are deeply troubling spaces.

So yeah, so those are all different worlds, right? And the sense that folks are able to make, and the kinds of recognition that are possible, are going to be very different from one of those worlds to another one of those worlds. But the phenomenon of world traveling between worlds, where we feel as if we are seen and witnessed and received in ways that are much more affirming, is what makes our ability to travel to more hostile worlds of sense, possible.

S: Yeah, that’s interesting. I was thinking about that too, with the various experiences related to me by trans people who, during the initial lockdown of pandemic, were thinking about what their gender is like when they’re alone or in that space, and people just being like “oh, when I’m just alone I don’t even think, it doesn’t really matter, I don’t think about it a lot”. But this space was also a space where a lot of people who didn’t identify as trans before found the place to transition, which is interesting. Like potentially an absence of other trans people to affirm that. So that was helpful for me just thinking about those spaces.

And just kind of relating that back to one of the moments that you analyze in the book, you talk about this idea — and maybe this gets to the way that trans people tend to find each other — you talk about this idea of “trans intercorporeality”. Specifically you’re looking at this moment in Casey Plett’s novel Little Fish where there’s a trans woman sex worker whose client is maybe someone who will eventually become a trans woman too, or be out as a trans woman, and the extra sort of work that that the character is doing for that person. But I really want to understand more about this intercorporeality that you’re talking about, sort of how we co-produce our bodies together. Could you explain a little bit what you mean by that?

HM: So I was thinking really specifically about spaces of sexuality and desire when I was writing about that, although I think the intercorporeality is a phenomenon that is not necessarily erotic or sexual. But I was just thinking about how common it is for folks to have really affirming experiences around questions of gender in the context of sexual contexts before maybe ever actually taking steps towards surgical hormonal transition. The reason I talked about that scene in Casey Plett’s work — on top of it just being a beautiful and really, really moving scene, and also a kind of traumatizing scene, as well, because of what happens both during and after that encounter. I won’t spoil the book, but I’ll just say you should read Little Fish, in part because of the scene because it’s amazing, and poignant and hard — so I wanted to write about that scene, but I wanted to write about that scene in large part because it gets at this phenomenon of being brought into being, through a sexual contact, by somebody who just intuitively or intimately understands how you want your body to be related to, in relationship to questions of gender, that has nothing to do with how your body is actually aesthetically or visually manifesting, but it has to do with the way that it’s touched in the language people use to refer to both the body sort of holistically, but also specific body parts.

I think that there’s a “transing” that is possible in those spaces, or a kind of recognition that’s possible in those spaces, that actually does really recalibrate one’s sense of embodiment, one’s inhabitation of the body in the absence of questions of hormones and surgery. That has something to do with witnessing and touch and gesture and recognition that I think actually can manifest trans embodiment in the spaces where it happens. And that’s a very different understanding of what makes a body trans or not trans, I think, but it also seems very, I don’t know, just phenomenologically true. That happens.

S: That’s interesting the way that you put it. I hadn’t really thought that way about it but it makes me think about, one of the things I think about a lot is the limitations of our framework of consent in negotiating sexual encounters or whatever, and how you might not be able to, in that moment, say — like, the moment that you’re analyzing in your book from Casey Plett is a moment where maybe that person is not really able to say these things about their desire, but the other person can recognize it without that language, right? And that for me kind of questions that idea of this verbal consent model, because you don’t always have the language. You can’t rely on the other person all the time in a sexual encounter to know these things, right? But this is like a special kind of circumstance where something happens outside of being able to talk about it. So yeah, I don’t know, I hadn’t thought about it that way. That’s really interesting.

HM: I think it also happens in friendships, too. I mean, I imagine — and this is maybe again retrospectively imbuing meaning — but I just think about all of the friends I had as a kid and as a teenager, and they were of multiple assigned genders, but when I think about my dynamics with them, we were all just like rowdy little boys with each other. Yeah, and I mean, that was the space of intercorporeality that we produced, and how we navigated and inhabited our bodies in those spaces. So it happens there too, right? Just in this whole economy of gesture and relation, where there can be real intimate kinds of knowingness that exceed questions of gender norms or gender categories that become phenomenologically really fundamental, even if they’re not done justice by language, right? There’s a complexity that exceeds languages in those interactions that I find really important to think about, which is part of why I think trans phenomenology is a subspecialization, is so interesting.

S: And that’s sort of what I was talking about when I was saying there’s that retroactive aspect of transness. But like when I use that word to understand myself, I could go back and be like, “all these things fall in place in a certain way that like I couldn’t put together before, but now I can,” and then you can start saying, “this was the logic underlying that I was unconsciously seeking out something and other people could see it without also having to say it, because there wasn’t a space for it”. Yeah, I love that way that you were talking about that.

But okay, also thinking about the T4T kind of community among trans people: one thing that I think is super important that you talk about is not idealizing our understanding of trans people, but when we talk about this, insisting on complexity. You say trans people can and do trigger each other frequently, like our trauma’s kind of play out among ourselves beyond our control often. There’s also the “horizontal hostility” that we see in trans communities, that’s a phrase that you use, just thinking about how people kind of go after each other. I want to hear you talk about why we need to deidealize and wade into this sort of mess of transcollectivity and what that brings us. You mentioned a kind of “non-utopian” from the Torrey Peters work, so maybe you could talk about that, too, because you’re saying that transness isn’t redemptive in itself?

HM: Absolutely not. No, no. I think the best shot we have at building communities of resistance, that are resilient and effective, lies in getting to know one another deeply. Part of getting to know one another deeply is really leaning into and learning about the ways that we are fundamentally different from one another, and the kinds of antagonisms that crosscut and compromise our ability to really be present and supportive with one another. I think the only way to do that is by granting that there are these antagonisms that circulate within trans communities. There’s no reason why I am necessarily going to be friends with somebody by virtue of the fact that they are trans and I happen to be trans, right. But we do have maybe something shared in the form of a political horizon we’re working towards.

So I think it’s real important to grant that solidarity can happen in the context of antagonism, and also that working through those forms of antagonism and horizontal hostility and mutually resonant triggering is, in a way, a kind of imperative political work, because it’s what deepens coalitions, it’s what deepens affinities. I mean, that’s part of why I talk about T4T in that way. But I also think that it’s just really important to think about how folks are positioned very differently structurally, and that shapes the kinds of resources that people do or don’t have to marshal, in the context of mutual aid work, in the context of building trans-affirming cultural spaces. I just think it’s important to pay attention to that. Which is related, to go back to an earlier conversation, to why I think it’s important to talk about transnormativity. Not trying to demonize anybody who understands their transition, and their gender and their embodiment, along more normative lines, but I just think it’s important to point to the fact that there are like, I don’t know, deep structural considerations that inform that psychic, emotional, effective and libidinal economy and understanding of selfhood.

S: In the context of care in particular, and burnout, in your books, you look at the way that we can get seduced by the romance of community — and this is something we’ve been invoking throughout this conversation, like there’s a transcollectivity and trans community, but when you talk about it, you’re like, actually, it’s complicated it’s messy. You take this term from Rupert Raj, of “gender labor” and how trans people are always doing this kind of gender labor for each other, whether it’s in an official position, like Rupert Raj had at certain points, or unofficially like in our friendships. So I wonder maybe transitioning a little bit to the idea of care and this “gender labor” and the experience of trans burnout, can you talk a little bit about how you understand that and the kind of promise of community.

HM: I was talking recently with an NPR affiliate interview that I did with a show that’s based in Dallas, Texas. It was a good conversation, but it was maybe the first time I’ve done an in depth interview with somebody who wasn’t trans. [both laughing] So that was very new to me. Not only that, but somebody who was like a very, I don’t know, normative white woman who was, you know, a radio show person? I don’t know. I think you get what I’m saying.

S: Yeah.

HM: Like, it was a weird situation for me, because I was like, “these are not the people I’m normally in dialogue with, this is odd.” But she had this kind of epiphany in the middle of the conversation, where she was like, “it just occurs to me how much mental and emotional space is freed up by not having to think about gender all the time. Like, I never realized that that was a privilege I had.” I just laughed bitterly. I was like, “oh, yeah, no, that’s for sure”. Like, imagine. When I think about what else would be possible in my life if I hadn’t had to fucking think about this shit all the time and work on this, and engage in voluntary gender labor or gender work, what else I would have done? I don’t know, because that’s not what I did. That’s not what I felt called to do or had to do.

But there’s a truth to that, and that means that I think sometimes you just hit peak gender exhaustion [cracking up] and maybe the last thing some of us want to do in those moments is be around people who remind us of that, or be around people who are similarly sort of suffering from that peak gender exhaustion. Or maybe you want to be around those folks, but just not talk about it. And part of why you want to be around those folks is because you can be with them and not talk about, just have it tacitly understood that it is exhausting.

I think that horizontal hostility within trans communities is in large part, underwritten by or maybe directly shaped by, the exhaustion that comes along with having to do this kind of work all the time. The emotional labor of managing people’s reactions to your gender, as you present it in the world, the work of attempting to carve out spaces that are affirming in the context of your work life, or your domestic life, or the social spaces that you inhabit. So I think that folks are really exhausted, folks are really burnout, and it does mitigate, or ameliorate, possibilities for political resistance when folks are at capacity all the time. I think, it seems to me like that’s a reality for trans folks in the US at this moment.

S: That made me think about a potential parallel I see in anarchist spaces. Where the older, maybe not in the years, but the people who’ve been doing it longer, trying to figure out how to get people in. So I see the parallel with anarchism and transness because in the last number of years, moments of radicalization has brought people into anarchist organizing, like the George Floyd Uprisings, going back to Trump, etc. And then also more trans access to knowledge about transness that’s brought more people into transitioning, and you can see how new people undertake this. You can look back and be like “they’re on this stage of the journey”. So there could be sort of frustration. And it’s another form of gatekeeping when you look back and try to narrativize someone else’s incoming. But this is also this place where there’s a lot of people coming in, you want to welcome that and you might not have the capacity for it. I don’t know. Yeah, I don’t know if I have a question. It just made me think about that parallel a little bit for radical organizing, or anarchists organizing and transitioning. Maybe it’s just because of my age, too. I’m just like, “oh, the young people are in this place” and like, you get to the place where you can think about it in a different way, maybe after you get knocked down a few times.

HM: Totally. I think there’s also a growing preoccupation with making these forms of work sustainable over the long term, and I mean for transness, forms of trans living, sustainable over the long term. And I think that’s where intergenerational connection and dialogue and communities of support become really imperative. So folks aren’t having to reinvent the wheel either in terms of tactics, like organizing tactics, or in terms of just understanding how to access resources and build collective resilience. And wealth is not the word I want to use, but structures of sustainability that enable life to go on. I think I was not concerned with that when I was in my my teens and 20s, particularly, but now that I’m approaching 40, I’m like, “oh, yeah, if we’re in it for the long haul, we need to figure out how to build the long haul, together without intensifying the forms of burnout and exhaustion that are already so rife.”

S: Right. I mean, for the people on the older side of that spectrum — also, there’s that desire to be sort of stable and maybe have some comfort or rest, whatever comfort you can from a horrible space and moment that disinclined you to continue the processes of organizing, or even just like helping shepherd younger people through their experiences. Yeah, it’s another one of the kind of seductions I guess of normativity too, right? Though, I think with that being less and less available to people we’ll see a shift. It’s weird in this moment to be like, “everything is really under attack and yet I, currently, right now, am safe, and not personally under attack.” Like, that kind of weird dissonance.

HM: Yeah. And then the divide between youth and adults in terms of what will happen legislatively, legally, in terms of access to technologies of transition. I have big question marks about how that’s going to transform the transpolitical landscape in the coming years. I’m thinking specifically about there’s like a feature on Chase Strangio that came out a few weeks ago, where — you know Chase Strangio is known for being like the trans lawyer, doing all these like high profile civil litigation cases, or civil liberties cases — and he says in this interview, you know, “extra legal networks of care are going to become increasingly imperative for trans people, because of the way that legal networks that provide trans affirming care are going to just be consistently chipped away at given the structure of the court system in the US.” I don’t know, ever since I read that profile — which is a great profile — but ever since I read it I’ve had that just sort of spinning around in my head, and thinking about how to build for that now. What can we do now to make sure that those networks of care and mutual aid are as robust as they can be when we really are going to need to access them?

S: That’s interesting to hear that coming from him too, because of the work that he does. This is something I’ve been thinking about, and maybe if you have more thoughts on it, the fact of these policy measures, and just legislative attacks, or executive orders, or whatever, that are specifically targeting trans people, trans youth…my fear is that that narrows a radical trans politics into just countering the state on the state’s playing field. Which the abortion situation shows us doesn’t work, right? Because whatever gains Roe v Wade made for abortion, were just reversible whenever, at the whim of the state. And there’s nothing this political system is going to do to protect that. So that’s my fear, like if we just go to counter the state and be like, “we assert our rights as trans people,” then we narrow those radical horizons. I wonder if you have thoughts about sort of, I don’t know, maybe this is where your idea of the infrapolitics of care comes in too, and thinking of care as a form of self defense. Yeah, I don’t know, I’ll just turn it to you. If you have ideas about how to respond to this moment.

HM: There’s a real southern specificity to my thinking about this. Having grown up in Florida, and then lived in Georgia, in Tennessee, and then Indiana, which is not the South, but is just north of Kentucky, right, and now living in Pennsylvania, which is not the South, but just north of West Virginia, and still in Appalachia, I think a lot about — both in relationship to questions of abortion access and reproductive justice more broadly, and also in relationship to questions of accessing transformative care — how for folks in these spaces that are not sort of coastal cities, coastal megalopolises there have had to be long standing networks of care and mutual aid, that facilitated access to reproductive care, and that facilitated access to transition for folks. So if you live in a state where if you work for either a private company that is not trans affirming, or public institution that is explicitly trans exclusionary, like is the case for so many people in the southeastern US, although not exclusively there, then your access to medical care has always relied on things like crowdfunding, or marshaling broader community resources or the resources of friends and loved ones who are willing to help you pay for specific surgeries or for access to hormones that you might be paying entirely out of pocket for.

I’m also thinking about things like abortion doulas in the southeast and the necessity of doing abortion doula work. Those networks already exist in spaces that have not had easy access to transition, to reproductive technologies historically, and I think that that’s where we need to look for lessons about how to organize in the future. I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but I’m just gonna let it stay there for right now. I think it’s really imperative right now to look at the people who have been doing this extra legal organizing for a very long time, because their work has served multiply marginalized and structurally disenfranchised communities, and think like, “Okay, well, how do we replicate this? How do we learn from this? How do we not reinvent the wheel?” And actually tap the wisdom that I don’t know is already there?

S: Yeah, I think that’s a really important point and it points to the sort of risks of the legalization avenue, which then is sort of one of the main logics of the state. They incorporate things so then you become dependent on them for access to them, and then we lose the sort of those traditions of, you know, community care that were there before and the memory of them too.

HM: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s why the South is so interesting. because those are spaces where it’s unnecessary to maintain those networks. Because even though Roe v. Wade happened 50 years ago, the ability to determine one’s, how do I want to put it, basically the ability to decide how and when one has kids, has never been easy to access for folks in the South. The gains of Roe v. Wade have been chipped away at from the moment that it passed in the 70s in southeastern states. Rhose networks already exist there. And now’s the time, I think, to invest in them more heavily. Also for folks who are not in spaces where these networks have had to, of necessity exist, to think about how they can be replicated in spaces where they might be newly necessary or necessary again, in a way they haven’t been for decades.

S: So I was really taken with your discussion of envy in Side Affects. You’re really careful to say that we need to think of it not necessarily as a moral or personal failing, which is how it’s often presented, but that it’s an index of injustice that frames our political relationship to our own desires. And I really like this quote that you say, that “envy might be an incipient revolutionary consciousness”. And then the other thing that’s really compelling to me is this idea that envy could be an alternative to dysphoria as grounding, the affect and experience of tranness. So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about, just giving us a taste of your discussion of bad affects, like your understanding of envy, and what role it plays in our daily lives, but also the political horizons?

HM: Yeah, I mean, with envy, I think that chapter started just because I became really preoccupied with: why was it that I’d been told, and I think a lot of people are told, that it’s bad to want? Just bad to want, full stop. But also for trans folks, it’s bad to want the things we want in terms of our embodiment, and in terms of the way that we’re known in the world. And that has been the sort of motor of such intense guilt and shame for me personally, and I think probably for other folks, that it became really important to think about why I might want to reject it. And why it might be important to actually say, “No, I don’t need to feel bad for the forms of envy and the forms of desire that are tied to that envy, that have informed the way that I live in what I desire. Maybe it’s okay to embrace them, and what would happen if I did embrace them?” That’s related to dysphoria, because dysphoria — and the way that I understand it, and there are probably other ways to understand dysphoria, I’m not saying mine is the only way or the exclusively right way — but the way that I have understood dysphoria is a term that indexes feeling really particularly not great about the gender you’ve got, and then wanting, wanting desperately to change it. But the emphasis lies on, I don’t know, this individual experience of just being like, “I don’t want the body that I’m in, I don’t want to be in this body any longer.” Envy to me seems more promising because it’s like, actually about what we desire, what we want, not about the feeling of just being dysphoric and feeling terrible about that. Conversations about desire are way more compelling to me than conversations about dysphoria [laughs]. So I felt like if we embraced envy, and then thought, why is it that we’ve been told that we need to feel bad for wanting the things that we want? What would it mean to reject that, and instead, say, “it’s fine to desire the things that we desire, and actually, the problem is that they’re structurally foreclosed. Not that we desire them.”

S: You use the example from Lou Sullivan, in the journals, writing about, I think, Paul and Ringo from the Beatles — that’s such a sort of formative trans experience of being like, “am…do I want…am I attracted to this person? Do I want to be this person? Is it both of those things?” Which I think is really a way more expansive understanding of what gets labeled as “dysphoria” that feels like, when you talk about that way, it feels horrible, but then you’re like, “oh, it’s this question of desire that I can’t fully understand.” That’s like, to me, like, I don’t know, more joyous in some way.

HM: Yeah. I mean, to insist on the ability to explore and experiment with that desire seems really, really promising in a way that embracing dysphoria conceptually just doesn’t. I think I’ve been very mad about the ways in which the ability to experiment with certain kinds of desires has been structurally foreclosed. Talking about envy as an indicator of structural injustice opens up a space to think about how the struggle might be…how do I want to put it? This is tricky for me to sort of wrap my brain around, this is just a sign that I’m still thinking about envy, and I don’t have it all figured out, but if we understand certain forms of envy to be indicators of structural injustice, then the emphasis is on what needs to transform structurally, what we can do to transform structures that make the experimentation with certain kinds of desires impractical or impossible.

S: I mean, I think this is why I really like your use of transition as this unending process of becoming. Because with envy, it can be this mobile desire, where dysphoria is like, “oh, there’s a cure to that and cure to that is to become this other gender that’s stable,” but the envy maybe keeps shifting. Which is true for a lot of trans people I know, their experience of how they inhabit their body and gender changes over time. It’s not like they’ve landed there. Then in terms of the way you frame it “the index of an injustice,” I try to think a lot about like luxury from a sort of radical or anticapitalist perspective. It’s like, we deserve it and we want it. We want what we want, and we deserve what we want. So the way you frame it just gels with that kind of idea for me.

Maybe to use this as transition to an ending question from my anarchist perspective, too, because I think transition is an unending process, to me, also parallels my understanding of anarchism, which is not a goal but a sort of way of relating to relationships in the world. I hold on to this horizon of gender abolition, which maybe seems like an endpoint, because thinking of the current gender regime that we live under, as a production of, as we’ve discussed, from the beginning, racial capitalism and colonialism, settler colonialism. There’s a way that you talk about it in the book that I feel like we can see this idea of gender abolition, running the risk of a kind of idealization of some “genderless utopia”, and also maybe losing the sort of daily life experience of what it means to be trans in this current regime. So I just wonder what your thoughts are on gender abolition and how it might fit into radical trans politics.

HM: Yeah, this has become complicated in recent days, because I found out that some TERF’s are using the phrase “gender abolition” in ways that, like anarchist trans people have not understood. So using it to just mean the abolition of the concept of gender in favor of this defensive, dimorphic biological sex. I want to be very clear from the outset that the TERF uptake of the phrase “gender abolition” is very, very real to me and that has me wondering about whether it’s a phrase I still want to utilize, like to wrest it back from them, or not. I just want to mention that, I haven’t come out one way or the other on that. I will say that, you know, gender abolition has always been — I think this is a horizon that I share with you — it’s always been something that I’ve thought about, that I’ve maybe wanted, that I’ve maybe lusted after, politically and otherwise. How I understand it, it’s not that folks would cease to have gender, or that there wouldn’t be a multiplicity of genders that were were recognized socially and were legible in terms of the way that we interacted with one another, but really, rather that binary gender at the level of institutions, at the level of social structures was abolished. So we wouldn’t have gendered forms of ID, we wouldn’t have gender segregated spaces that make circulating socially very impracticable for gender nonconforming folks and trans folks. So these sorts of things, right, like abolishing gender at the structural and institutional level, no longer using it as a litmus in the context of surveillance and monitoring populations. What would that open up? I think what it would open up is probably a much greater ease of moving through the world for many people.

Anecdotally, and you probably have been aware of this too, every time there is an architectural shift to make bathrooms, single stall and non gendered/gender neutral, everybody wants to use those bathrooms because they’re just fucking better spaces [both laugh]. So to me, that’s one small instance of a gender abolitionist project that actually ends up being much better for everyone regardless of how they identify. I think on a broader scale, forms of gender abolition structurally and institutionally will just produce more and more of those kinds of spaces.

The other thing I want to say just sort of maybe jokingly, I would be really, really happy to never use a men’s room again in my life [Hil cracks up]. Yeah, I mean, it’s terrible [Scott laughs] I don’t know, like, what are cis men doing? It’s awful [they both crack up]. For that reason, too, I would love to see gender abolished structurally institutionally.

S: No. Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, you’re talking structurally and institutionally, but it also is refracted in — I don’t know, I think about just watching kids and the sort of policing of gender that kids are sort of deputized to do. I don’t even think they know what they’re doing and they’re suffering at the same time. That’s a place where gender abolition, I could see it really having a clear material effect, where that work doesn’t have to be done. Like anyone can play any way that they want in whatever moment without having to be like, “you shouldn’t be doing that, because you’re a boy or a girl.”

HM: I mean, again, it’s like just opening up these spaces of experimentation and spaces where desires are possible, and can be manifested. I think that’s where I would like to see us go. And that’s what gender abolition has always kind of named for me. And maybe we want to use another term now, or in the future. But I still think that project is absolutely imperative.

S: Well, yeah, thank you so much. I think that’s a good place to sort of leave it. I’m really grateful for your time and the work that you’re doing. And thanks for sharing your ideas. Is there any place that you want to direct listeners to get access to your work or your ideas?

HM: Yeah, so Trans Care was published open access so that’s available online through Manifold for anybody who wants to read it. As for the books, so I’ve got three books out, my first book, Queer Eembodiment: Monstrosity, Medical violence and Intersex Experience; then Trans Care; and now Side Affects: On Being Trans and Feeling Bad. So buy them at your local radical bookstore and if you don’t have a radical one, just an independent one [chuckles].

S: Yeah. Well, thank you so much for talking with me today.

HM: Yeah, no it was so great. It was so great to connect to and we should totally keep in touch in the future.

Abolition in the Philippines with The Dinner Party and family

Abolition in the Philippines with The Dinner Party and family

[00:09:34 – 01:43:24]

"Abolitionism & Anarchy in the Philippines } TFSR 24-07-22" featuring logos for Abolisyon, The Dinner Party, PaglayaPup and Cavite Mutual Aid
Download This Episode

This week we’re sharing an interview that we conducted with anarchists and abolitionists mostly in and around Manila, the capital of the Philippines. You’ll hear from K, Honey, Adrienne, Castle, Magsalin and R. During the chat they share about their projects, discussions of abolitionism in the Philippines, decolonization discourse, informal organizing, accountability and challenging patriarchal dynamics in the traditional left and more.

Collectives Participating:

Other Links of note:

References relevant to what was discussed in the podcast

Kevin Rashid Johnson Update

[01:43:44 – end]

You’ll hear Kevin Rashid Johnson of the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party talk about the continued denial of medical treatment at Nottoway CI in Virginia and thanking supporters who have been calling in. You can find details on how to continue the call-in campaign in the July 17th episode.

Sean Swain on Mass Shootings

[00:01:14 – 00:09:34]

Sean talks about the uselessness of police in mass shootings, basically.

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Featured Track:

  • Abolish Work by The (International) Noise Conspiracy from The First Conspiracy

. … . ..

Transcription

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself with names, preferred gender pronouns, and location information you’d like to share? And it may also be helpful for you to mention your political perspectives and what projects you’re involved with. We can go into a little more detail after an intro if you want or you can just roll right into what your projects do.

K: Okay, I can start by introducing myself. I go by K, she/her pronouns. I’m from the Philippines, and I’m part of Abolisyon.

Adrienne: I guess it’s my turn next. I’m Adrienne, I use they/she pronouns. I’m also from Abolisyon, but I’m also with The Dinner Party. I’ll be speaking on behalf of everyone in The Dinner Party today, I guess.

Honey: I’ll go next. Hi, my name is Honey. I’m also part of Abolisyon, I am Filipina, but I’m currently in occupied Hohokam and O’odham land which is known to be modern-day Phoenix, Arizona. But I’ll be going back to the Philippines by next month.

Castle: I think I can go next. I go by Castle and he/they pronouns. I’m part of Paglaya and also Project Kapwa. But I also converse with people in The Dinner Party and Abolisyon.

Magsalin: Okay, so that leaves me. Hi, I’m Magsalin from Abolisyon as well. A bit of a writer, aspiring at least.

TFSR: Cool. It’s very nice to meet you all. I use he/him pronouns. Thank you all for being here.

You’ve mentioned Abolisyon, The Dinner Party, Paglaya, Project Kapwa. Could you talk a little bit about each of these projects in turn, the work you do, and how the projects came to be?

Magsalin: Abolisyon was started out as a working group in 2020. But later the team held an educational discussion on what if there were no policing persons, and from that developed a core group of people to expound upon abolitionist organizing here in the Philippines. And from there, it’s been growing a little. I like the growth so far. We’ve made some headway and actually getting abolitionist ideas – defunding police, restorative justice, these things out there. I’m pretty happy with what you’ve done so far. But we could still do more. Honey was actually one of the speakers at that event. So that’s why I think I’ve always looked up to Honey as a role model.

Honey: Thank you, Magsalin. We organize Abolisyon coming from that online discussion that we had. And we do a lot of things in Abolisyon. We don’t want to be confined to very specific kinds of organizing, because that’s something that we are trying to challenge within our group. We do survivor support, we do harm reduction and mutual aid, and we do a lot on transformative justice and accountability. We are trying to do a lot more on prisoner support. We’re trying to work on that because it’s hard to navigate it with our current political climate here in the Philippines. We are also trying to engage with other organizations and projects to engage them in abolitionist ideas and organizing. Anyone else want to add in?

Adrienne: The Dinner Party grew around Abolisyon and other adjacent and parallel projects with people who were similar or sharing different spaces and getting to know each in these related spaces together. We pulled everyone into just a random group chat and were like “Hey, maybe we should have a name for ourselves.” And then, we found one of these tweets that were targeting the affinity group we were in, and then they started saying, “We shouldn’t be too fluffy with our politics.” And they started saying things like “The revolution isn’t a dinner party.” But then we were “Why shouldn’t that be?” That’s how we got our name. The Dinner Party isn’t necessarily the collective, it’s an umbrella for different collective efforts like Abolisyon, Paglaya, and Project Kapwa, but it’s this space where we all come together and gather and just talk and share ideas and find interest, inspiration from each other’s different projects and efforts, whether it’s political or personal.

TFSR: This is pointing towards a question that I was going to ask later. But I’m curious about the genealogy of the term Abolition in the Philippines. It has a pretty specific historical context within the US coming from the movement to abolish slavery and then developing through a critique of the 13th amendment in the US Bill of Rights that said that slavery was abolished, except for when someone was convicted of a crime. And there’s a racialized and class element to who gets convicted of the crimes in the United States at least. And I would imagine, it’s pretty common in a lot of countries. But I wonder what abolitionist discourse is, how that trajectory developed in the Philippines, and how it looks different to your understandings from how it is in the US.

Magsalin: Basically, the name of Abolisyon is rooted in the black radical tradition, it’s very clear we borrow from and pay homage to it in a sense by the name itself. Other abolitionist groups probably have friendlier names, but we just thought that Abolisyon is declaring, with an exclamation marK: Abolisyon now!

Adrienne: While we’re very conscious about the difference in context, obviously, in Philippine history, we also had a context of slavery. But the context is so different, it’s more related to class than race or different ethnolinguistic groups or anything. So it’s that consciousness as well. I think we are also there when we practice and when we talk about abolition because it’s really a very Western concept that we’re working with, but we’re also trying to adopt a lot of ideas so that it really fits in our context in the Philippines better.

TFSR: Okay, thanks for that. I personally find a lot of inspiration that that philosophical and action-oriented heritage has found its way and expression in so many different contexts. And necessarily, in each of these different contexts, whether it be the Philippines or be abolitionist work in South Africa, or in Chile, or wherever people are implementing that terminology, there’s a lot of commonalities that even despite the different histories, you can say, we have these generalized sources of incarceration, we have these structures of policing, they may have a different history or slightly different scent to them, but they all stink in the same way. So I think that’s a really interesting point for me.

Would anyone from Paglaya or Project Kapwa want to speak a little bit about what those projects are, who’s involved in them, and what your goals are? Unless somebody wants to react directly to what I just said.

Magsalin: I’d like to react directly to what you said. It’s interesting to note that Alex Vitale, for example, noted that the model the American colonial government used in the Philippines was directly transplanted and used to suppress proletarians in Philadelphia. So it’s very clear how policing was brought to the Philippines as a colonial concept and then through the machinations of imperialism, this was transplanted and used against those in the core, the proletarians in the core. So that’s very interesting, very important to know that little thing.

Honey: I think it’s important to mention as well, that there are other organizing spaces or tendencies, specifically, the leftist movement, the National Democratic Movement, who do have a different meaning for abolition. They do want to abolish police and prisons, but they want to replace them with something else that represents their group, so they want to replace them with what they call the People’s Court and People’s Police. That’s different from what we do because we want to totally abolish carceral systems and with them, and their meaning of abolition is just abolishing the current power structures and replacing them with theirs.

TFSR: Is that party – one that we’re going to be addressing when we talk about interrelations between other leftist formations – would you say that that organization is on the left of a just an authoritarian strain that is wanting to just grab the government basically and implement it and by renaming stuff People’s this and People’s that it suddenly becomes a dictatorship of the proletariat type thing?

Honey: Yes, definitely.

Adrienne: There’s been a lot of antipolice sentiments in the past couple of years because of the pandemic and how it’s been utilized. One of the things we see a lot online is sentiments about abolishing the police but replacing it with people’s police or people’s defense or something similar to community police. But then for Abolisyon, it’s always been the question of why does it have to be the police? Why does it have to replicate these kinds of dynamics, and not just that, but even in the current relations, that are present in leftist spaces that are dominating our spaces now, it’s really clear now that their dynamics, the way they relate with one another, a lot of different movements and different organizations don’t really align with their ideologies are still very similar to the dynamics of policing. We in Abolisyon want to abolish such structures.

TFSR: I don’t know if anyone else had had commentary on that because that says a lot. And that seems like a pretty common struggle that we see here is that there are organizations that are “Yeah, all cops are bastards, except for the ones that we’re gonna hire and put in doing the job.”

Magsalin: Yeah, actually, it’s so wonderful, what we’re trying to do here. In our engagement with the leftists, we try to tell them how carcerality manifests in the left and how socialism is actually anti-carceral. Because socialism is about the abolition of classes, police and prisons are actually things that reinforce classes. So obviously, police and prisons can’t be instruments for a classless society. This is very hard because there’s a lot of resistance to the idea. But we’ve been trying to explain to them.

TFSR: There are some pretty clear questions that people pretty naturally have socialized into whatever system that you’re socialized into: you see harm exist in the society around you and between people in your community. And if the answer that’s given to how do we resolve issues of harm, how do we keep ourselves safe, and our neighbors safe and our family safe. It’s pretty easy these days to just say – if you haven’t done some thinking – “The solution is for this arbitrary third party to come in and be a giver of justice and balance the scales between the issues or resolve the issue by removing someone who’s been causing harm from the situation.” So there’s a lack of imagination on the part of those folks.

Do they react pretty well when you offer a picture of how the carceral system and policing operate within their society? Or do people point to “existing socialism” in other countries and say, “That’s a model that actually resolves this issue, their prisons, and their police work well”?

K: Yeah, that’s one of the things that we have to confront when we talk about these things. They do cite a lot of experiments with socialism and communism. But at the same time, when you try to point out how these things failed, or eventually will fail, or whatever issues are existing now, they will be saying, “Oh, but this country isn’t actually socialist or communist.” So they flip-flop in different ways. It’s very much a lot of dynamics is cherry-picking with what arguments work for them, depending on what context. And one of the reasons for that and the difficulty with really bringing these conversations to bigger spaces and engaging with them in a deeper and more meaningful way is because there’s really a struggle and issue with the lack of political imagination that exists in the Philippines. So a lot of the concepts and ideas we have about participating politically, getting involved, and talking to people are very much skewed towards just showing political will. It’s really a numbers game in a way, as well as just hammering people in with a lot of jargon that comes from leftist spaces, and not really much attention to how we prefigure politics and the future that we want in our current practices. In my personal experience as well.

In the different threads and sectors of the left here, you will see that they will be talking about socialist futures that are economies destroying and abolishing the patriarchy within their personal relationships, the dynamics are so fucked-up that they actually cause more harm than they do good in their immediate spaces. So there are a lot of predators and abusers and harassers that are loose, and they get excused in these spaces, because they’ll say, “Oh, these people are really good organizers and speakers, so we can’t just kick them out.” That forces a lot of survivors of abuse and harm to just lie low, go underground, or maybe totally drop off the space together. When we talk about Abolisyon and the future that we want to work on together, not just in Abolisyon, but even in The Dinner Party and maybe even Paglaya and Project Kapwa. It’s really not just about that distant future, but really trying to bring these ideas into our direct personal relationships in our immediate spaces. Because otherwise, they wouldn’t mean anything, if they’re not things that we can actually act on right now in the present moment. It’s just that these are building blocks for us. But for the mainstream left here, or for a lot of the leftist spaces, they would think that we’re talking about something that’s too idealistic. If it’s not too idealistic, it’s too soft, too fluffy. It’s not really political, because you’re just talking about relationships and the personal, but for us, it’s like why can’t these be arenas and spaces and battles in which we actually try to bring in and live these ideas that we already have and we already talked about a lot?

TFSR: Yeah. Castle, do you want to talk about the projects that you’re involved in?

Castle: Yeah, you were talking about accountability and how community organizers do organizing work in our spaces. Basically, Paglaya means ‘to liberate’ or ‘liberation’ in English. It was founded by a group of people deciding and realizing that we should go beyond common structures and hierarchies within our organizing spaces. So we are a group of people who were advocates, and we are still advocates of students’ rights and welfare, we were focusing on having strong legislation or even laws that would protect and uphold our student’s rights and welfare as students in the university setting. We realized that we should organize beyond legislation, and we’ve reformed.

We were empowered even more when our group was discussing what Magsalin wrote, actually. It was a paper discussing liberatory politics and anarchism in the archipelago Philippines. So we were ostracized in the mainstream organization movement in both our university and on the national level of organizing because as anarchists and the norm of organizing right now in the context of the Philippines, we are seen as the irrational number in organizing spaces. We often say that we should drop out of colleges and universities because it’s basically it’s what anarchists should do, but Paglaya is a university-based anarchist organization that explores, imbibes and prefigures anarchist practices. So it also hopes and organizes for and with autonomy, consent, direct actions, and free association. So within our spaces, we decided for collective total liberation and the cultivation of libertarian tendencies. I feel like that’s how Paglaya is and how we identify as members of Paglaya. It was just a network of people realizing that we should go beyond–

In the Philippines, when you say ‘progressive,’ that’s the right way to do it. If you’re a progressive individual, the politics that you’re in and the practices that you live by are the best things that you can do to contribute and to live as an individual. So we realize that, as individuals, especially in the university setup, we should go beyond progressiveness. And we should go beyond the established structure of organizing because we were ostracized by the seniors, by people who are part of the higher levels, by fourth-year college students, by well-known organizers in our spaces, because we were exploring, and it was dangerous because we do not have leaders to guide us in these organizing moments of our lives. So that’s Paglaya.

Talking about Project Kapwa, it’s one of us Paglaya members practicing and experimenting with how mutual aid goes. Fun fact about it actually: in the university set up, we have this one specific professor who did not attend one of our classes, so we just decided that we should reach out and explore, as proactive individuals in our university, we should try and encourage them, we should do our own activity and projects. That’s Project Kapwa. It is basically our channel and medium of practicing and prefiguring a society wherein mutual aid is mainstream, we live by mutual aid in terms of not just exercising but really espousing the society that we want when we are in crisis when we are struggling with different– Especially in the Philippines, since it’s an archipelago, we are really indifferent natural disasters and everything. So Project Kapwa and Paglaya are basically our new bodies of exploring and experimenting with anarchism and prefiguration.

TFSR: You mentioned Paglaya being limited within the realm of people relating as students and people wanting to drop out or get out. I don’t know how long or how institutionalized that project has been going, but if there’s room for it to bridge to the outside… Because having a space for libertarian-minded students seems important, even if the people that are in the group maybe are not wanting to be in the school space anymore. I don’t know if there’s room for a bridge to organizations or groupings outside of the student realm.

Castle: Actually, right now, because we were really attacked by both the administration and the student organizations within our university, we decided to structure it in a way that’s acceptable inside the university. But right now as our organization and our network are really growing, and we are learning anarchism and prefiguration, we are currently deciding on and talking about how we can destructure it and disorganize the network, to really go beyond the norm of organization of “When you are a student, you should focus on the student movement, you should focus on student organizing” because that’s how we were conditioned in the mainstream organizing of the left in the Philippines, that you should be part of the masses and be aligned with a specific strand of politics.

So right now, we are actively discussing and learning how we can destructure and disorganize Paglaya so that he can go on a more local setup and at the same time on an individual level, not just really organizing for being part of this membership, but like as people. We were talking within Abolisyon, TDP, and other anarchist spaces that rather than membership, we should build and work together within our societies and communities. So that’s how we see Paglaya right now in terms of the question that you asked.

TFSR: What does Kapwa mean in English?

Adrienne: Probably it is not a directly translatable Tagalog word, but I guess the closest word that was mentioned in the chat is fellow, ‘kapwa’ refers to an other, but it’s this other that isn’t necessarily a stranger, but someone you still actively care about and treat as part of your community. So it’s something like that.

Castle: I can add on that as well. Actually, Project Kapwa was our envision, a project where we want to espouse the mutual aid aspect of the key tenet of anarchism. So, Kapwa, for us, is really someone who is your equal, equal with potential and equal with the knowledge that you have. Because in our spaces right now, in the context of the Philippines, you’re not considered as a Kapwa by part of the movement if you are not organized, and if you are not part of the membership. You’re not considered a fellow activist, even if you’re ranting on Twitter, if you demanding accountability on different platforms of social media, and different platforms on ground and online, you’re not part of our spaces. Especially on a political and theoretical level, if you’re not knowledgeable about such stuff. So, Project Kapwa really wants to acknowledge that issue. And at the same time, practice that. Even if you do not know these things on an academic level, you’re still part and you are still capable and able enough to be part of this community and organize mutual aid.

TFSR: Yeah, that totally makes a lot of sense. I think there’s a lot of jargon that activists can sometimes bring up and gatekeep others. That’s a really good approach – recognizing that a lot of the anarchisms that I’ve interacted through throughout my life… Sometimes it’s based on a lot of studies, but a lot of the practices are based on things that people normally do in community with each other and mutual respect as opposed to having a degree or being able to quote some dead bald or bearded guy. So I really think that’s a pretty cool approach. Was anyone wanting to speak about Cevite Mutual Aid?

Honey: I am part of Cevite Mutual Aid. I invited someone from our group to actually speak but they were unable to attend, after all. I don’t want to be taking that space because I’ll be speaking for Abolisyon.

Basically, Cevite Mutual Aid started before Abolisyon, it’s a mix of people. They’re not necessarily anarchists, but there are a couple of people from the anarcho-punk community. So basically what we do is mutual aid stuff. It’s somehow related to Food Not Bombs in Cevite. It’s basically not the same, most people from that group as well. Cevite Mutual Aid, there is already an established community for Food Not Bombs in Cevite, so it’s very easy for us to do food pantries or food distribution projects.

But also, since I’m in the US, I’m able to do fundraising and send some money over there to help with our projects. Another thing that we do with Cevite Mutual Aid is that we support the medical needs of people in our community. We’re basically the group that does the fundraising for them and distribute that money to them. But also we do a bit of survivor support. There are a lot of things that we do based on what people within the group are capable of– the same with Abolisyon. We call it a mutual aid group because that’s the main thing that we do in Cevite Mutual Aid.

TFSR: The Philippines being an archipelago and being a series of islands that are, surely, very culturally distinct – a distinction with the fauna and the flora across all these islands. And I’m sure that power is dispersed differently, whether someone’s in one of the major cities or in the countryside. Are you all based in the same location? Are there certain cities that you have in common?

Magsalin: We live in what’s called the National Capital Region, it’s a national core, which is an imperial core, but for a country. So this national core actually has a name, which is Imperial Manila, where Filipinos can see Manila as an imperial capital, where the peripheries always have to follow the rule of a very distant president very far away. And so this notion of core-periphery relations is something deeply felt by Filipinos. And yeah, we live in the core.

K: I do want to mention, though, that we do have members, people associated with our collective that live outside of the National Capital Region, but I think the majority of us live in NCR or have had a lot of experience within the National Capital Region.

Adrienne: That doesn’t mean by any means that the experience is monolithic because I live in a part of the National Capital Region or Metro Manila, as we call it, that’s a bit newer. It’s like a young city. And so a lot of the experiences I have in the periphery of the imperial core are a mix of urban realities with a more rural pace. So even within Metro Manila, because of the local governments, because municipal governments are Barangays. Even experiences within the core are very different. Different levels of poverty, different levels of government responsibility, and action or inaction. In Metro Manila, we have a joke about some cities being called the Soviet East because the cities in the East have a better functioning and more responsive government compared to the rest of Metro Manila. But even then, we still live in the core. And it’s just a difference between how competent people in government are not necessarily how much better they are at their job.

TFSR: Sometimes less competency is a better thing.

Honey: I think Castle and me are from the south. Specifically, I am from Cevite, I don’t know how to describe that place, but people used to refer to it as a Florida of the Philippines.

TFSR: That means a lot of things to a lot of different people.

I wonder if you would share a little bit about your understanding of the introduction of the theory of anarchism into the Philippines. Obviously, there’s a lot of really important discussion about whether the theory is the important thing or it is a way that Western philosophers were able to point to commonalities among communities and urges towards equality or tendencies towards equality and commonality in those communities. So the Circle A or capital A or whatever maybe isn’t the important thing but I wonder as an organized movement or project, if you could talk a little bit about anarchism in the Philippines and how it’s been suppressed in the past by communist parties, the church, the state in different ways at different times, and how did you all get involved in that tendency, or in autonomous anti-capitalism, if that’s more your jam?

Magsalin: Anarchist tendencies only emerged in the past 30 years in the Philippines. A long time ago during the American colonial period. In the first decade of the 20th century, there was anarchist literature spreading around the country brought home by the first Filipino socialist Isabelo de los Reyes. But this never really resulted in a coherent tendency. It didn’t ever become an anarchist tendency. They were just anarchist-inflected.

And later, because of the success of the Soviet Union and the revolution in Russia, they were absorbed into the old Communist Party in 1930. Then fast forward decades later, on the eve of the Marcos dictatorship, there’s this one historian suggests that the Samahang Demokratiko ng Kabataan Mendiola, or the Association of Democratic Youths of Mendiola (which is the place) was an organization. And they commandeered a fire truck and rammed it into the Presidential Palace, which is pretty cool, but it’s difficult to tell if they were actually anarchists. I haven’t been able to find surviving literature from the period, so it’s still up in the air. But if they were, Paglaya is the first anarchist organization in 50 years, which is something. But they eventually were absorbed into the Communist Party, the new one, CPP, and they disappeared. That brings us to the 90s, where punk rock brought new anarchism to the Philippines that developed into a punk anarchist milieu that moved around Food Not Bombs.

Later on, we emerged in the last decade, I suppose. So that’s us, the latest wave. And we represent something hopefully new, not just new to the left, but also new to the anarchist scene because the anarchist scene here was what you call “manarchist.” “Manarchist” meaning is man plus anarchist – very patriarchal, very insular, very navel-gazing. So we’re hoping to introduce some new articulation that reaches out to more people, not just very niche circles. As a first impression, it’s very clear that the government suppresses the National Democratic Movement, which is a tendency that emerged in the new Communist Party of the Philippines. But they’re not all actually affiliated with Communist Party. Anyway, this tendency is the one that is most heavily suppressed by the government. And not only that, but the tendency inside the Communist Party also suppresses other leftists. 20 years ago, they started an assassination campaign against a Marxist Leninist & Social Democrats. And just last year, they bombed the Labor leader with “Centro.” And that was bad. They apologized, but they never were transparent why these things happen. We don’t actually know why he was killed. So this is the same Communist Party that thirty years ago murdered hundreds of their own country. So these people definitely can’t be trusted.

Honey: I think it’s very important as well to mention that for me personally, I think that a lot of people got into anarchism because of the anarcho-punk scene, because that’s my entry point, listening to music and then reading zines, such as Profane Existence, Slug & Lettuce, Slingshot, Maximum Rock’n’Roll. So more of my politicization is into zine readings and exchanging zines with people from abroad. From my experience as well, a lot of people from anarcho-punk spaces have been organizing long before like Food Not Bombs, mutual aid initiatives, and Really, Really Free Markets. Because there’s a very rich zine culture before in the Philippines, I think that’s where most of the anarchists in the Philippines’ entry point is, the hardcore punk scene as well.

Adrienne: To add a bit to what Magsalin was talking about a while ago. So, for a bit of context, I worked for someone who used to be intimately involved with the CPP. So my boss used to be involved there. One of the things that I learned from there was really how much of the leftist politics of what we would call the peak of the mainstream left here is really also super personalistic. It can get really petty. There are issues about money that have literally led to people being kicked out of the Party and then not being able to come back to the country because they’re blacklisted, and they couldn’t access any direct route back to the Philippines, etc.

And I think one of the conditions that they were talking about wanting to do for this was really acknowledging the bridges that happen and trying to help the families of the comrades who died back on their feet, like giving financial assistance to them. And so the leadership of the CPP rejected that, they didn’t want to get involved in it. They’re still like a stalemate. So you get a sense of how petty and not even ideological all these struggles and battles within the left are. But at the same time, it’s not just on the leadership level, because of the structure and that dynamic that’s going on in the party, it cascades and gets replicated even in the personal lives and interactions of a lot of the members of the mass organizations.

I came from a very different background, I came into anarchism by way of feminism. I really only got roped into it, because my professor who was also starting his journey into anarchism just pulled me in and said, “Okay, read all of this stuff that I’m reading.” For me, it felt like a natural progression in that direction. Because for me, a lot of the things that I believe in and identify as a feminist for are things that are common in anarchism, a lot of it is about really equalizing a lot of the vertical and hierarchical power dynamics and relationships, and really talking about how it’s not just about liberating people from the patriarchy, from gender oppression, and suppression and gender struggle, but also about a lot of how the intersections of class and gender, and ethnolinguistic background or race, religion, etc. are things that we have to collectively address and not just reduced into the issue of class. I got radicalized in the university, and I wanted to join the left. But then I found a lot of people who said that they had really negative experiences, not to discourage me, but just to give me a context of what I wanted to get into. So in my experience, a lot of these people would talk about how harmful the dynamics have been. And the organizations really focus a lot on class, the left here is very class reductionist. They would rant about anything that doesn’t relate to class as identity politics and dismiss it as a bad thing as if identity wasn’t an integral part of your humanity. And so for me, it was a constant and ongoing question of what is it really that we are experiencing? Why does it have to be reduced to class when we know that a lot of the things that we struggle against aren’t really things that will go away when capitalism goes away?

Just a bit of background: I’m a sociology graduate. So those are the questions that kept me up at night and helped me not get into a lot of mass organizing and mass organizations or groups really, because I felt like they weren’t really sufficient in addressing a lot of the fundamental inequalities that we struggle with, especially in the Philippines.

Magsalin: I’d like to point out that our milieu is not just an anarchist, but an anarchist abolitionist milieu, because we do have people who don’t identify as anarchists, but they are abolitionists. And I think that’s important because after all, the Invisible Committee said, “It is not up to the rebel to learn to speak anarchist. It is up to the anarchists to become polyglot.”

Honey: I’ve mentioned before that my politicization and my entry point with anarchy stems from the anarcho-punk scene. This is one of the issues as well that we have within our anarchist abolitionist milieu. Because we have a joke, where since people’s politicization are different, there is this division between anarchists in the Philippines where there are people who are anarcho-punk whose entry point is more on the music scene. And then some people are more into the academy. And so, from my experience, being involved in the anarcho-punk community, there is this fear of people from this space from engaging with people from the academy because of a lot of barriers with language. People from the anarcho-punk scene don’t like discussing theories a lot, but I think it’s important as well. And it’s crucial to challenge ourselves when we’re replicating harmful systems or harmful behaviors.

One of the challenges and one of the questions that we have within our group is how we are going to be more engaging with people whose entry point to anarchism, or whose politicization with anarchism is different from us. Say, for example, Cevite Mutual Aid, what I mentioned before, a lot of people from that group are from the anarcho-punk scene, and we would like to be able to engage them more with projects from Abolisyon, though we’re already doing that. We’re already supporting each other with our projects and initiatives. But we want more of an engagement, talking, discussions on how we’re going to apply our politics in our personal lives, how are we going to organize better that’s different from the normal organizing dynamics that there are, from the leftist spaces. If Adrienne would like to discuss more what The Dinner Party would like to do with this challenge…

Adrienne: Yeah. As mentioned a while ago, not only the existing left spaces, but even anarchist spaces here don’t really focus on how immediate actually in every day a lot of the political ideas we talk about can be. In The Dinner Party, we tend to focus a lot on this everyday aspect, particularly on relational politics, and building relationships with each other. Because we think that the harm and oppression that exists not only on a state level but on a very general structural level gets replicated a lot in our personal relationships because that’s how socialization works. That’s how these structures were supposed to sustain themselves, maintain themselves, perpetuate and survive. They have to really embed and incorporate themselves in the everyday lives of these individual people – of us. Even we, as people who identify as radicals, are also implicated and required to do the personal work of actually asking what does a better future look like? What does an anarchist Utopia look like for us?

The things that we’ve mentioned and seen in our spaces is that the politics that they talk about, that they preach about isn’t really something that they live. But for The Dinner Party, we find that it’s urgent, and it’s actually more concrete and doable when we start talking about the practicality of our politics existing in our personal relationships. Because when we talk about politics, it is something that we have to confront in our everyday lives. It means that it’s not just that the personal is political. It’s also that the political is personal. And therefore, it’s something that we have to really actively and consciously live in and live through. And one of the most immediate and certain ways to do that is in our personal relationships, in our friendships, in our families, in our romantic relationships, like the idea that the revolution starts at home. It’s not just some motto, or like some sappy thing that radicals say, it’s an actual truth. Because unless we look at how we replicate inequalities and violence and harm interpersonal relationships and change it, we’re not going to be any good radicals, we’re not going to be any good activists, we’re just saying, we’re just hypocrites, basically, because we don’t actually live and act on the politics that we talk about. Talk about it and keep on preaching to other people about it. For me, it’s not just abolition of the state, it’s not just a revolution in the streets. It’s actually a revolution that involves every single aspect of our humanity, of our personal life. So for me, it’s that thing that if you don’t struggle with the change, if you don’t struggle with your politics, if it’s not difficult for you, maybe you’re not doing it right.

K: I really resonate a lot with what Adrienne said. Just to give context, I’m actually one of those people who don’t identify as an anarchist, but I’m still part of Abolisyon, and I also engage with The Dinner Party. And I really appreciate spaces like these because I don’t feel forced to have to identify as an anarchist. Although I do feel like I have anarchist leanings, I do feel like I resonate with anarchist values, but being in this space, I don’t feel like I’m forced to be an anarchist to engage with them. It’s a very welcoming space. And I feel like I learned so much from them.

Personally, I’ve never had any experience in mainstream political organizing spaces, even though I did graduate from the university, I don’t think any form of like politicization and radicalization came from that. For me, it came from being exposed to Twitter. Initially, my view of mainstream organizing came from Twitter, particularly Philippine Leftist Twitter, and I did always get the feeling and notion that to be a legitimate organizer, you had to join specific rallies, or you had to be part of a mass organization. And this was something that wasn’t really possible for me because I have multiple health conditions, I can’t even work at a regular corporate job because I get sick very often. So imagine joining a mass organization where there’s a lot of work involved, I thought that was out of the question for me. So luckily, I was able to find this space. When I realized how organizing works in this space, at first, I was a bit shocked, because it really wasn’t the same organizing that I saw on Twitter. But I really appreciate that because to me, organizing was work.

And when I first got to Abolisyon, I did volunteer for a project, but I was unable to follow through with it because I got sick. And because I was dealing with a lot of personal things. However, it wasn’t taken against me at all. What I like about organizing in Abolisyon is that they really take into account what happens to each person personally. So there’s no forcing, meaning that you can engage with whatever level you’re comfortable with. If you have to take a break, it’s really not a problem at all. And this was really so different from what I saw, from the feeling I got from mainstream political organizing spaces.

Honey: One of the things that the leftist spaces, organizers in general use against anarchists or anarchism to devalue our efforts is to say that we need to measure our productivity when it comes to organizing. That’s a thing that we’re very critical about in Abolisyon, we don’t want to replicate those dynamics. I’ve been part of the National Democratic Movement for quite some time, but I’m already into anarchism during that time. I think I’m just looking for a space where I can organize because there aren’t that many organizing spaces that are focused on anarchism, or that are organized by anarchists. I’ve experienced that the dynamics in the leftist space is that they’re measuring your productivity when it comes to organizing the same way that capitalism measures you and I have a joke where at least under capitalism, I can take these off, I can file for PTO, and that’s something that you cannot do in the leftist organizing spaces because they’re gonna gaslight you. Someone else experienced it, but I’ve heard someone was told that “the revolution will continue even without you.” And that’s not a good thing to say to someone who might want to take some time to take care of themselves. Not only self-care, but it’s also supposed to be collective care, it is supposed to be caring for that person as part of your collective.

This is one thing that we’re very critical of in Abolisyon. We don’t want to be replicating those dynamics. What we do in Abolisyon is that there will be a time that we’re really going to be full of energy, when it comes to doing projects and organizing, everyone is high, the chat is nonstop, and even at night, it seems like people are not slipping and just like putting in their ideas. But then there will be a time that people will be dealing with their personal struggles, with their personal issues or whatnot. And we aren’t going to ask much from that person, like say, “Hey, why are you not doing this? Why are you not doing that? Why did you stop organizing?” We’re more like “What we can do to support you, to make it easier for you? Not necessarily because we want you to go back into organizing with us. But because we want to support you in your struggles. It’s us embodying or living by example, that this is what anarchists do, this is mutual aid, these are the systems of care that we want to nurture, we want to create in our communities. That’s a very good dynamic that I’m really proud of in Abolisyon, and that we in other spaces that we’re creating, that we have established, like The Dinner Party, that’s the same dynamics that we have there. Castle’s project as well, that’s the dynamics that they have adopted. And so I think, because of that small effort, as other leftist organizers see our efforts, we have created systems of care not only in our spaces but in a larger space that we aspire to engage with our organizing or other communities that it’s not really part of our circle, but we want to engage with.

Castle: I just want to add to all of your frustrations with the mainstream left in the Philippines, especially on a personal level. I’ve organized with and worked with national organizations. It’s really damaging and harmful, realizing how they organize. And it’s really helpful and healing to realize that there are spaces like The Dinner Party and Abolisyon. They do not pressure you really. The Dinner Party, when they organize you – we are having a reading thing right now on joyful militancy – they don’t pressure you on reading on chapters one and two before moving forward. But in the mainstream left, you have to go through this process of learning, but you are not allowed to engage with the conversation if you’re not yet finished with chapters one and two.

That’s the general theme of how organizing happens right now with the left in the Philippines, you have to go through a series of training and educational discussions. With The Dinner Party, it’s really an open discussion of regardless of the level of learning and knowledge that you have, it’s open and really joyful, at the same time really accepting to the availability that you have, physically, mentally, in everything – in all aspects. It acknowledged you’re human and your being involved with other activities, not just in this discussion and such.

Honey: We are living by that article from Nadia from Crimethinc titled “Your politics are boring as fuck.” We would like to make sure that the way that we’re engaging with each other is the same way that we’re gonna engage with people who were not involved in any organizing or radical spaces. How are we going to talk to them? Is it the same way that we’re going to talk to each other? How are we going to treat each other as well? It’s like witnessing how our group is growing. We’re not necessarily everyone anarchists, there are abolitionists and other people as well, who are still in the National Democratic Movement, or who have left a space or movement engaging with us, that that’s like a very big win for us. Other leftist organizing spaces might see us as something small, doesn’t really matter. But yeah, for us, it’s a very big win. Very important.

Castle: I was thinking of discussing the culture of harm and violence inside radical spaces we have and the lack of accountability within the spaces. I feel like we should discuss it right now. In The Dinner Party and Abolisyon, I really learned a lot with them, along with them, how these things really impact our lives. I’m just new to this whole thing. In the radical spaces that we have right now in the Philippines, there’s really a lack of accountability, especially if you are running with a Party. The accountability is shrugged off your elbow, we have slang in the Philippines, “you are elbowed” when you demand accountability, because they have leadership and experience within these organizing spaces, even if they’re considered radical, they’re considered leaders, basically. So these are the tendencies that we should really look into and explore unlearning because the harm and the violence towards survivors in organizing spaces is not really acknowledged enough.

TFSR: It feels like when I’ve been in organizations, or in milieus where there are these informal hierarchies that I mentioned before, or where there’s an ongoing abusive style of relationship or communication or whatever, if a thing continues on for a while, it becomes more and more difficult to address it in a comrade-to-comrade manner. I wonder if that is a thing that you all have talked about is an informal – I know this is a Maoist term – crit-self-crit. How do you work on creating community spaces where there’s room for people to take each other aside, just informally and say, “Hey, check-in! How are you doing? You blew up at me during the meeting and discussion. Is there anything you need?” Room for feedback in that way. Does that undermine the building up of abusive formal or informal hierarchies?

Adrienne: This is why it’s particularly important that our political core and political base in our work really starts in relationships within The Dinner Party and our general milieu. Because when we talk about situations where the harm comes in or where someone gets hurt, or when there’s something that we really need to talk about, those personal relationships tend to be what eases and helps facilitate those conversations of confronting and holding each other accountable. For example, when we have an issue where someone made someone else feel uncomfortable, it’s really about talking with each other, bringing up that, “Maybe, am I crazy, or did this sentence or did this interaction come across like this to you as well?” When you get that validation – just because a lot of us have also experienced a lot of manipulation and abuse and trauma in our life, so we really need to have that survivor support, interaction going on as well. When we establish that thing that “Okay, this is how this is what happened, it is what you felt in that interaction,” we get to really talk with each other, and bring these issues up without feeling like we’re being attacked. Because when we talk about this thing or that thing, we’re talking and we’re coming from a place of love and care for this person.

It’s not difficult, because we just don’t have a strictly professional relationship with each other, we just don’t treat each other as comrades in the way the left typically uses it. We’re friends. And because we’re friends, we care about each other, and we want each other to be better. And we want to reduce the harm that we meet out on each other. And so it’s really a mutual work of trying to live our politics in better ways with each other. In such a way that we can hold each other accountable, and, therefore, bake politics into our personal relationships and make our personal relationships that space of prefiguring these politics that we really want to do and show the people that we can do without really having to resort to hierarchical structures and organizations.

Honey: We want to have this relationship with each other within our organizing spaces. It’s easier for us to call in each other, and address if we’re having issues because I do have experience being in the older anarchist milieu, and we are trying to stay away from that group. That’s why we call ourselves the newer anarchist milieu. I see the dynamics and differences in both groups. With the older ones, you’re not really into accountability or transformative justice. How do you resolve conflicts within your group? It’s more of replicating the same systems that we have right now, the 60’s thing. And so the question is how are you going to address conflicts or issues within your group, even if the state is gone if you’re replicating the same systems? This is something that we want to do differently within Abolisyon, within The Dinner Party.

And it’s funny because I think a couple of days ago, we had what we call a Kamustahan session with our reading group, which is for reading The Joyful Militancy. Kamustahan session is more of a check-in session that we have with each other where we just talk about anything too personal for other people to talk about, or to talk about in the organizing spaces. What I’ve seen from this is that a lot of cis men within a group are comfortable enough to share their experiences and admit that “Hey, with this experience of mine, I fucked up, I was sexist, I was misogynistic. And I’d like to do better, how can I? How can we do better? What else can we do?” And so from the previous Kamustahan session that we had, we came up with this idea of how about we create a workgroup or a space specifically for assessment within the group, to talk about how they can do better when it comes to being accountable, calling in each other instead of relying on women or non-men within our groups to call them in and do so much emotional labor for them to understand what their issues are. And how they can call in, or address these issues outside our space, with people who are not really politically involved at all? How are they going to do it?

Most of our discussions, we will have so much political discussion, but we – me and other non-men in the group – like pointing out domestic labor or about emotional labor that women and non-cis men does within a group and how we would like to distribute that labor because that is necessary. That should be like everyone’s work. At this time, it’s mostly women and non-cis-men doing survivors support, and how do we want to distribute that labor and want everyone to engage? We’re trying to create– Maybe we can have a discussion, we can have a workshop so people will know what to do. And then from that, we can extend that outside space.

Adrienne: Just to add to that as well, going beyond our spaces, I really noticed that what’s resonant with people who are political here, but hate the current state of politics and the left, or don’t want to get involved with the mass organizations, is really this whole message and focus on the relational and personal aspects of politics. That’s somehow one thing that I consistently notice from a lot of people. They would resonate with a lot of anarchists or abolitionist ideas. But it’s particularly because of how personal and focused on improving personal relationships these ideas are that they tend towards that direction.

So I think there’s really this existing critique, although maybe something that people can’t verbalize as well yet that there’s something really wrong with the political state of the Philippines, whether it be because of the state or the left. And so when you talk to people, or when you hear about their complaints, and how they struggle with participating politically, it’s really that focus, on the one hand, we know that the status shit fucking sucks, but at the same time, the left isn’t doing any better. So what space is there for us? We’re trying to nurture and incubate this space and help people find ways to express themselves and be able to create their own versions of our comfortable and safe spaces. So that it’s not just us, it doesn’t become like a centralized dynamic again, but it’s something that people can do with their own friendship groups, or with their own affinity groups, or with their own spaces. And, therefore, decentralize this idea that politics has to be a strict and formal organization.

TFSR: So the Philippines has obviously had a very long history of colonization and neo-colonial dictatorships that suppress popular movements and social welfare for the sake of extractivism. I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how that trend has been coming out from under the Duterte presidency, including during the early days of COVID. And what you see coming out of a new Marcos era, since the son of the dictator was just elected again. I wonder not only if you could talk a little bit about these dynamics nationally, but also about how you see your communities and how you see other interesting parts of what might be considered like leftist movements engaging around the concept of decolonization, whether it be in support of ecological struggles against extractivism, or around challenging or troubling historical hegemonies? Or language, cosmology or centralizing certain ethnicities in the archipelago?

It’s a big question. You’re welcome.

Adrienne: One of the things that we fell in and I talked about earlier, when we were discussing this question is that there’s really a particular historical context that the Philippines is also coming from. Because the archipelago, even before colonization, has really been deeply embedded in trading networks, especially because it’s an archipelago, it’s the middle of the ocean. There’s really no monolithic identity for it from the get-go. But at the same time, because it’s so accessible and has been so embedded in trade networks, the question of indigeneity is just not something that we can apply as easily as more landlocked discourse and dialogue might zoom in or how these dialogues might work. So for example, in my particular context, I am technically Filipino Chinese, I have Chinese blood. But I’m so divorced from the Chinese side of my family that I don’t really know what goes on there anymore. And I identify really more with a postcolonial or more neocolonial context of the Philippines and the identity aspects of it.

This isn’t just my reality, this is the reality of a lot of people who identify as Filipinos because you can’t really distill the identity of a lot of us into who’s indigenous and who’s not. Because from the very beginning, even before we were colonized, there have been intermarriages that have mixed and mingled with different cultures, backgrounds, and heritages. There have been intermarriages, for example, in the Taosug ethnolinguistic group and Chinese traders because they were really a hotspot for Chinese trading, even before Spain got to anywhere in the Philippines. Just talking about the colonization and equating it to indigeneity is such a difficult thing for us too, or for me personally to process and to understand, because the whole question is “who gets to be indigenous and who doesn’t?” How do we trace this heritage when a lot of us are really mixed blood? A lot of us are either children of people who came from colonizers or just people who came from trade intermarriages and stuff like that. And so I think, with the conversation on decolonization, there’s a particular context we’re coming from and that we want to center and that it cannot be reduced or simplified into a ground zero situation where we go back to the very roots, where we go back to talking about precolonial histories and identities because that’s just not the reality for many of us. So many people will be displaced, and so many people will be forced into situations or relationships of harm because it’s not discourse and reality that applies.

For me, when we talk about decolonization, it’s really more about talking about confronting “Okay, we’ve been colonized three times for over 300 years. And because we’ve been colonized in that way and our identity is basically not something you can cut off, or untangle from all of this history, cultural, transcultural, intercultural influences, and backgrounds. It means that when we decolonize, we actually have to face and confront head-on these realities because if by decolonization we mean going back to the pre-colonial, we mean going back to the indigenous, that’s just a simplification of wanting to go back to a non-existent time and point in our history, where our personal and political histories were not linked to one another.”

Magsalin can expand on this a bit better but I just think that the colonial discourse in the Philippines or in our archipelago is not going to be the same as the decolonial discourse that exists in other parts of the world.

TFSR: Is there discourse around decolonization going on in terms of people’s communities, and relationships with the rest of the world culturally? We’re all speaking English. That was brought up jokingly in the beginning, I find it very useful because my Spanish is poor, and that’s the only language other than English that I can speak any of. I value the fact that you all are willing to speak in English but I just wanted to touch on that general framework. Sorry to be long-winded.

Magsalin: We don’t speak Spanish because funnily enough, the Spanish never taught Spanish to us during the Spanish colonization period, although they did during the last few years of the colony, by then was still too late. So many people around Latin America who talk to us ask, “Why don’t you speak Spanish?”

We’re not really indigenous, but we are what Benedict Anderson would call Creole because they don’t exactly exist in settler colonies. After all, we were forcibly separated from our land and our traditions. Therefore, we are not colonized. As Creoles, we are creolanized. There are still indigenous peoples in the Philippines. So when in contact with indigenous peoples, creoles become settler-colonists. This is true in the sense of Turtle Island’s ideas of decolonization, so “land back” is quite applicable here. So the decolonization in this regard is the Creole respect for indigenous lands, the cessation of colonial logic indigenous people and lands, recognizing indigenous stewardship, all this.

But outside of the settler colonial zones, what is exactly Creole decolonization? If we are speaking of Creole decolonization as the transfer of sovereignty from a colonial overlord to a Creole state. In the Philippines, this was the United States giving the Philippines formally its independence. But we don’t really recognize it, because the new Creole state continues to reproduce many colonial institutions and features: centralized state apparatus, the police, the prisons. Before colonization, there was no state, the police didn’t exist, and prison didn’t exist. So Creole decolonization is really the replacement of one colonizer head with a Creole head. So with all the institutions of colonization still in place.

This project of decolonization is incomplete as long as they have state apparatus and settler colonialism, the Creoles and other colonizing patterns exist, the archipelago, the so-called Philippines, is not decolonized by virtue of having Filipinos in charge of the state, especially if we see colonization as the explicit process of state-building. In this sense, decolonization for Creoles – that’s us in Metro Manila – is the undoing of the state, the undoing of wage labor, undoing of the police and prisons. The colonization imposed these things upon us, so decolonization should mean doing away with these things. That doesn’t mean, however, that the decolonization is to return to an Eden before the colonization. This is impossible because we can never go back. Rather than decolonization is the recognition of these institutions of colonization. These institutions aren’t permanent features, aren’t inevitable features of society, and thus, there could be a future without these institutions, without the state, without the police, prisons, wage labor, without capitalism, all these things that colonizers brought over here, and the colonization continues to this day. So this thing isn’t really well understood by the left. National Democrats believe in Stalin’s theory of national democracy. National democracy is the idea that there should be a bourgeois revolution before a socialist revolution. This idea still reproduces wage labor, because you still have capital, you still have the building of productive forces, using capitalism, using wage labor, and you still have the state, you still have police and prisons. And we probably might even have gulags because after all, the Communist Party did kill all those people. The vision of the left doesn’t really take decolonization into its own terms, in terms of actually undoing what colonization did to us.

Adrienne: I want to respond more to the context that Bursts was talking about with this question on decolonization. So currently, the state has been taking up this project of devolving its powers in a way. They’ve been talking about federalism for a few years now, quite a long time, actually. And, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there are Barangays in the Philippines. Barangays are basically smaller communities, I guess they’re religious circles in a way, but the more local version of this. So there are local governments, Barangays, etc. that really govern and have authority within their very small localities. So the state has been trying to devolve its powers to the Barangays, the city governments, and local governments, so that things don’t get stuck in the central anymore, so that the national doesn’t have to do every single thing that happens in the local.

I would like to raise the idea that the federalism project that the state is trying to accomplish and the devolution of powers that’s going on is something parallel to what anarchist ideas and abolitionist ideas would talk about, which means putting the power in the hands of the people who really know their context better, the people who actually live in that situation. However, there’s still this presence of authority, basically, of leaders who are making decisions for people without really understanding what’s going on in their personal lives, and what they actually need. Not to mention the fact that politics in the Philippines really focuses a lot on not only personality politics, but really a Padrino culture, which is basically getting close and cozy with people in power, and that whoever is friends with that person, they get positions, they get more resources, etc. There’s already an approximation at really giving power back to the people. But it still doesn’t do away with this whole idea that there has to be a figurehead, there has to be someone who’s running and calling the shots and stuff like that. I think with a project of decolonization, well, there’s one focus, or one reality, one attempt, at least, in the local about really giving the power back to the people, it still does not trust the people to be able and capable of doing politics themselves. Things are still patriarchal in that sense that there has to be a father, there has to be a leader, there has to be this figure who’s running things because people tend to get infantilized, they’re so treated like they don’t really know what politics means, what managing resources actually looks like.

To me, the decolonization project in the Philippines in that aspect doesn’t really have to jump through a lot of hoops in that sense, because even with the presence of governments, even with the presence of Barangays, people are already living life outside of the grasp of the state. They’re already trying to make ends meet on their own. They’re already trying to settle their own conflicts on their own. They’re already trying to get people out of trouble on their own. The presence of that devolution of powers existing parallel to people, already existing in the cracks of the Empire is what we refer to it in The Dinner Party. There are already such huge opportunities for people to be able to govern their lives and to really self-determine on their own. It’s really just a matter of getting people to believe in their own capacity and their own agency. And for me, that decolonization project is really bringing the power and not just giving it to the people but also making the people realize that they have had this power all along. So I hope that somehow addresses that more concrete and current framing of the question on decolonization.

R: Just to put everything into context, back in December last year Duterte signed an amendment to a law that allows 100% ownership of common carrier industries like mining, railways, and other big projects, as opposed to the 40% capacity that was instituted back in 1987. And during the election campaign, one of the big business-oriented platforms that Bongbong Marcos had is to allow, “sustainable mining” to operate in the country. So as far as foreign intervention and extractivism in the Philippines, we can only see that expansion in the future.

TFSR: Yeah, that was a helpful contextualization.

K: What I wanted to bring up was in connection with what Adrienne mentioned, and also relating to what we brought up in the beginning about the genealogy of abolitionism in the Philippines. Because earlier, Adrienne mentioned about people already trying to solve conflicts on their own outside of the state. And I just wanted to uplift the fact that in terms of Abolisyon, it’s not just about us as people who identify as abolitionists. Even without the jargon of abolition, and transformative justice, a lot of Filipinos already engage with ideas of abolition and transformative justice in their own ways. Since, for example, the War on Drugs affected poor Filipino families very disproportionately, a lot of people choose not to engage with the police, because they feel like it’s going to be more harmful to them. Indigenous people (IPs) fight against militarization and the like. So I just wanted to uplift that even if there are people who don’t identify as abolitionists, there are people who are already practicing ideas related to abolition and transformative justice.

R: Hi. I’m just going to try to build up from what has been established here, from this entire discussion. One of the main problems that we’ve had with the left and others is that despite their unwavering optimism, there’s still this insistence on taking politics seriously and taking it romantically. I’ve seen this in liberals, despite their pretenses of hope and positivity, there’s still this latent undercurrent of “this is the most important election of our lives, we have to do this, or we have to fight for some weird reason.” And it’s definitely draining, at least speaking personally. So the fact that people take themselves seriously, there’s this insistence, at least towards the people in themselves to burn out because the people think that these things matter too much, there’s a lot of pretenses towards this higher ideal, just because these things are in abstract bigger than themselves.

But this is one of the things that The Dinner Party wants to address – that in the first place, it’s not necessarily that we don’t want to have any pretenses towards something bigger than ourselves. Because in one sense, it’s a drain for people within this particular movement. And also, it’s a tired trope within our own society. So, in one way, I hope for The Dinner Party to have some – not a focus on politics in the sense of identities, campaigns, or ideologies, or at least the theatrics of it – but more focusing instead on the personal aspects of it, in which way we want to befriend people. We just want to have fun in general. You want politics to be less about the issues in the abstract, but rather about making it more like everyday life.

Castle: Basically the dictatorship of Duterte, now the threat of the Marcos dictatorship is really… Before Marcos was even pronounced as the president we were really scared because we know our history. We know our roots in the Marcos era. So we were really active in organizing in the university before the elections. But we are often attacked under the Duterte dictatorship because of how proactive we are in such spaces.

And I’m just going to share right now how Project Kapwa started from an initiative inside the university with Paglaya. We started from an initiative where we ideated from practicing mutual aid for animals inside the university. And from there we were somehow ostracized, because we were beyond our jurisdiction, at the same time beyond the orders of the university. So we realized that what’s the point of having spaces like these, but not being able to organize them? They also said, “Why are you focusing on animals? It’s the beginning of the pandemic? Why are you doing actions for animals?” So we’re checking on the people and how they would be receptive to mutual aid actions inside the university. So from there, Project Kapwa came to be so. Right now we’re focusing on local community action, building conversations within the community. I feel like it’s very threatening right now. Because we’re going against the structure of how authoritarian the current administration is within the dictatorship right now and the implications of the prior administration of Duterte.

If you can support Project Kapwa through PayPal, it would be really helpful, especially to organizers within the community that we are in right now. It’s @terreynera.

Honey: I’d like to add as well. I think what Castle – correct me if I’m wrong – is trying to say is the tendency with other leftist organizing spaces is that they tend to be class-reductionist, they tend to force people, especially in organizing spaces to feel like there’s only one important issue that should be addressed. So for example, the issue of Marcos being voted as the president, instead of seeing our struggles to be interlinked, or to be intersectional with each other, which I think is the reason why they’ve been questioning Castle as to why your group is doing support for animals instead of people struggling… Just looking into what’s the more important issue to be addressed, instead of changing that mindset and thinking that all our struggles, again, are connected, interconnected. And there are ways to address our struggles together instead of just focusing on one issue.

Magsalin: Jumping off from what Honey said, this concept that our struggles are interlinked is an important idea in our minds. We call it “our struggle’s in building,” this idea that not only that our struggles are already interconnected, especially how, for example, Cambridge Analytica not only got Trump into power but also got Duterte and Marcos into power. So we see how these sites of struggles – the United States and the Philippines – are connected to Cambridge Analytica. But these sites of struggles are connected in the sense that the Empire connects them. But those people in the sites of struggle do not necessarily connect their site of struggle to one another. That’s why we say that we should actively intervene in struggles together.

Another example, in terms of intersectionality, in terms of physical sites of struggle, men are oppressed by the patriarchy, and their liberation is ultimately tied up with the liberation of women, queer people, and trans people. Our challenge then is, again, to go back to the Invisible Committee, “it is not up to the rebel to learn to speak anarchist. It is up to the anarchists to become polyglot.” It’s up to us to speak all these languages of struggle to one another and link them together in some sort of common tale. And this is also what we’re been trying to do in Abolisyon. This is the last example. What do people who use drugs, sex workers, and incarcerated people have in common? Well, not much in the at first sight, but through the framework for abolition, these sites of struggles can be connected to one another, to actually resist policing in a way that combines all the sides of struggles together.

Adrienne: I just would like to emphasize everything that has been said by Castle and Magsalin about what we are really doing and aspiring to do in our spaces in Abolisyon and The Dinner Party, Cevite Mutual Aid, and the projects that Castle is involved with. Because again, the tendency with leftist organizing spaces is that they always separate what is political from what’s personal. They do not see that a lot of our personal issues have something to do with how we fight the system, with how we fight this state, and with how we fight systems of oppression. And without addressing those personal issues, we’re unable to really address these larger issues that we have.

As you’ve mentioned earlier, the leftist groups do have this concept of self-crit. I think that’s their attempt at accountability and transformative justice. But as Adrienne mentioned before, with our experiences with the leftist spaces here in the Philippines, they tend to focus more on not holding the person accountable because they’re very good organizers, instead of saying that that person can be a very good organizer, but there is still an opportunity to hold them accountable. And it’s possible to do, this is something that we can work on, instead of just shutting down survivors, shutting down people that have been harmed. Because most of the people that got engaged with our spaces have this similar experience where someone from their collective or their group has been harmful, and they try to address that issue within their collective, and the collective has been dismissive about it. And that’s something that I would like to emphasize that is very important with Abolisyon, The Dinner Party, and other spaces of our engagement: we’re really big into accountability and transformative justice, because we believe that without those, we’re just basically being hypocrites with our politics.

TFSR: If one doesn’t have an alternative to carcerality or the idea that someone can be thrown away to make the rest of society better, understanding that we have to work through these problems without just either sending in a third party with guns to deal with it… Yeah, we’re definitely losing a thing. And that topic of how do we address harmful activity? How do we point to someone’s activity being harmful, and that person not necessarily being a bad person, but having bad patterns? That if they want other people to work with them they should work through and that maybe somebody has space to work with them. And it’s not the responsibility of the person most directly harmed to do that work. Those are topics that I’ve heard coming up over the last 30 years that I’ve been involved in activism. I just don’t think that there’s one answer that’s a solution for everyone. But I think that that is super important to work through. I don’t know if that’s what you’re talking about, too.

Honey: Yes, yes, definitely agree with that.

TFSR: Well, thank you all for having this conversation, for staying up so late where you’re at, I really appreciate it. I do want to leave it open. If there are any subjects that you’re really burning, like “We didn’t get to this, and I really want to talk about it,” then I totally have space and energy for it. I understand if folks want to wrap up. Assuming that there isn’t something that someone wants to jump in with, I’d like to hear about where people who are outside can find the projects that you and Castle were kind enough to leave with, like a PayPal link for Paglaya. But if you have either writings that you think are important that have been produced inside of your milieus or ways that people on the outside can support or start to engage, either from the diaspora…

Magsalin: We’ve really been trying to expand abolitionism to other countries in Southeast Asia. So, if you’re from Southeast Asia, try to connect with us.

TFSR: Get a website or an email address?

Adrienne: I think one of the things that I want to bring attention to is the feminist struggle in leftist spaces and even especially anarchist spaces. It’s really been one of the biggest problems we’ve been confronting. The abuse and the harassment, the misogyny and trans misogyny, homophobia is just really, really bad. One of the things that I really wanted to do is to link up with different whether anarcho-feminists or just people who identify as feminists, wanting to link up and talk about our common struggle and political spaces as still being really violently affected by the patriarchy in the left. I would love to talk to more people and find out how we might be able to move through this together. So they can tweet us at @DinnerPartyPH.

Magsalin: Cempaka Collective is currently underground. But if they do resurface again, you should definitely reach out to them and interview them. They do really good work in Malaysia.

In Indonesia, Anti-feminist Feminists Club really does interesting work with anarcho-feminism.

TFSR: Well, thank you all so much for being a part of this conversation. I’ve really enjoyed meeting you. And again, thanks a lot for having a talk at this hour in English with me. I’ve learned a lot and I hope that we can keep in touch.

Adrienne: Thank you so much for your time and for giving us the space. It’s really a lot and I am really glad to be able to share this space with you and every one of my friends.

Honey: Thank you so much for the opportunity, for this space, and for sharing it with us. We really appreciate it. We were so excited and so excited up to now, I think because the possible connections or network of people we can connect with after the interview is a good opportunity.