Category Archives: Education

Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System

Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System

"TFSR 11-27-22 | Grad Student Strikes In The University of California System" and image of people at a rally at UC Berkeley in 2020 holding a sign reading "Pay Us Enough To Live Here" with a sabo-cat image (original pic by Jintak Han for DailyBruin.com
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This week, Scott spoke with Rebecca Gross and Robin, Teaching Assistants at University of California Santa Cruz and members of UAW 2865 at the uni, to get informed about the ongoing strike in the UC system for, among other things, a cost of living increase demand for grad student employees and TA’s.

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The strike has extended throughout the UC system and picks up where the wildcat strikes of 2019 at that campus left off before the corona virus pandemic put so many things on hold. Similar strikes occurred earlier this year at Indiana University in Bloomington, are occurring in universities like New School in New York, as well as the system across the UK where the University College Union’s 70,000 members have voted to strike. These labor actions also touch on issues of housing affordability, tuition costs, as well as non-academic staff and employees. Check our show notes for links and social media to learn more or see how you can support or get involved.

Next week…

Next week, we hope to bring you an interview with someone involved in the UCU strikes planned across the so-called UK. Here’s an article sent by a comrade from before the strike votes started.

Sean Swain segment

Just a correction to Sean’s segment on Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, he split with the United Panther Movement and the New Afrikan Black Panther Party (Prison Chapter) to go on to co-found the Revolutionary Intercommunal Black Panther Party of which he’s Minister of Defense. [ 00:57:37 – 01:05:14 ]

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Featured Tracks:

  • To Hell With Poverty by Gang of Four from Another Day Another Dollar EP
  • Fuck Society by Mac Quayle from Mr. Robot, Vol. 1

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Transcription

TFSR: Can you all introduce yourselves with any names and pronouns that you want to use and any affiliations that you have?

Rebecca Gross: Yeah. My name is Rebecca Gross, my pronouns are she/they, and I guess for the purposes of this, I’m a TA at UC Santa Cruz, and I’m also a Head Steward with UAW 2865 for Santa Cruz.

Robin: My name is Robin, I use he/him pronouns. I am a grad worker at UC Santa Cruz. I am currently working as a TA…well, I’m currently on strike, but I have been working as a TA. Yeah, I’m a rank and file member of UAW 2865. And yeah, I guess I’m also a DSA member, if that’s important as well, I don’t know.

TFSR: Cool. Thank you so much for coming and talking with us today. So we’re talking because there’s a strike going on — I think it’s general in the University of California system, not only at Santa Cruz, right? Yeah, so multiple campuses. But maybe we can just start with a little bit of background, what led to the strike? Who’s involved, what kind of workers and what the workers are looking for?

RG: Yeah. So the strike has been building at UC Santa Cruz, specifically, for a long time now. Although this is currently a larger strike than just UC Santa Cruz, the COLA Demand, the Cost Of Living Adjustment Demand, has been brewing at Santa Cruz for three plus years. And back in 2019-2020, we had a wildcat strike that started at UC Santa Cruz.

So when I talk about what we’re demanding, COLA is at the top of the list, because currently our baseline pay is pitiful, it’s $24,000 a year, and that is taxable income. We ended up taking home less than $20,000, after student fees and things like that. We’re asking for $54,000 a year to keep up with inflation and rising rent costs. And the idea is that this would help remove rent burden, and would make it so that grad workers don’t end up spending more than 30% of their wages on rent. And at UC Santa Cruz 54k probably won’t even do that, because Santa Cruz is so expensive, but it will make it so we’re not severely rent burdened. So that’s really what I’m passionate about right now, and why I’m here fighting for this. But Robin, also, you’re an international student, so maybe you also have a different perspective with some of the other demands on the table.

R: Yeah, I mean, just to jump off of that, with the COLA Demand to start out: I think the issue of rent burden is very deeply felt on this campus. I moved here last September, in order to pursue my PhD program and to work here as a TA. I quickly noticed that many of my friends here, particularly, international students, and people coming from further afield, were ending up in these really bad housing situations. In some instances living in the same space as the landlord, and often dealing with, at best, kind of weird living situations, but at worst, even more abusive type scenarios. I had friends who moved out of that situation and ended up living in the Best Western hotel. And this was kind of one of the “solutions” that the university offered to address the housing crisis.

But really it’s not a solution at all because the folks who are living there are still in rent burden, still spending large percentages of their wages on rent, and also not having access to a kitchen. I had one friend from my program, who’s an international student, he moved here from Turkey, and he ended up in the Best Western and was dealing with bedbugs in his room. So, I think this demand, the demand for a cost of living adjustment to increase our wages, such that they’re commensurate with the rise in rental costs here in Santa Cruz, it’s very deeply felt here, but it’s also one that has gone statewide. And I think people on other UC campuses are also feeling a lot of the same crunch that we’re feeling here. I think that’s been really important to how the strike is going to play out, the kind of widespread resonance of that demand, and how the rent burden issue is affecting us all.

TFSR: Yeah, thank you for all that background. And yeah, you think about Santa Cruz and that area and imagine the rents are pretty high. I’m also in academia and whenever I look at contingent jobs, I’m thinking “Will the salary be able to pay my rent?” and it’s obviously even a worse situation for grad students who don’t make even a baseline salary that a one year contract faculty would have.

You know, one thing that just came to mind when you were talking about this is also the connection — I don’t know if you have thoughts on this — but that a lot of these cities now are kind of waging war against unhoused people. And it seems to me this situation that you’re outlining in terms of what students are experiencing is connected to that issue, because I’m imagining certain students are unhoused, living in cars, too. Have you made any kind of connections with people off campus in terms of like work going on to protect unhoused people?

RG: Yeah, I mean, you’re totally right about students experiencing housing and food insecurity and not having, both undergrads as well as grads, deal with this. I can say that a lot of support has come in from the community, because I think that they see this struggle as related to their own. Food Not Bombs, which is huge in Santa Cruz, they are always some of the folks that come out to help us when we need to feed people. People on the picket line will invite other community members from other unions to come speak. Faculty have been very supportive, by and large, because they understand that we can’t afford to live here, and that this could be this is really a pivotal moment, I think the way they see it.

Of course, you have the fringe folks that are like “well, I have to go through it so you should too”, but by and large, I think that this is seen as a community struggle, and one that is dealing with rent burden in California as a whole. And hopefully, once we get our COLA, we can help others get theirs at their workplaces. So, like Robin mentioned, he’s a part of DSA, I’m also a part of DSA, and we’re doing a lot of work in our labor working group to unionize various institutions and make sure that we can share what’s going on at UC Santa Cruz in the COLAs struggle with other members of the community and other workplaces.

R: Yeah, and just to add to that, many of us from UAW 2865 here at Santa Cruz were out there on the picket lines a few weeks ago when the city workers in SEIU went on strike. And that’s really like being reciprocated as well. A number of other unions have come out in support of us, including the bus drivers here in Santa Cruz have refused to cross the picket line. I believe UPS [drivers, as well]. We’ve been trying to link up with other organizations, especially labor organizing, going on in the area to make sure that the COLA isn’t just something that we win as grad workers, but can be something that we sort of help other unions and other movements fight for too.

I could also say that myself and some other people from from our union were out in the past few weeks canvassing for the “empty homes tax”, to try to tax the second and third homes of very rich people that they don’t actually live in these homes, and use that money to try and address the housing crisis and issues of that unhoused people face here in Santa Cruz. So, we’re trying to sort of link up with other movements, struggles, unions, and we’ve seen a lot of that reciprocated, I think, in the past few days, as we’ve gone on strike as well.

TFSR: That’s awesome. Thanks for pointing out all those connections. It’s really interesting to see the solidarity and the ways that you all are moving outside of the campus to do other projects. I imagine also, like you’re saying, if UC does a cost of living adjustment that’s a huge win for all workers, especially in the state, because UC is such a huge employer. But yeah, I guess maybe some more specific questions about the strike, like: how long has the strike been going on? And what has it been like on the picket line? Has there been a lot of repression? And you’ve talked a little bit about the support, but what’s going on there?

RG: Yeah. Well, we’ve officially withheld labor for the last five days. Well, we’ve had a picket Monday through Friday, but the labor itself now has been withheld for I guess, seven. Which is really exciting. This is an open ended strike, which means sometimes when people go on strike, it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna withhold our labor for three days, and then we’ll be back just to give them a piece of our mind, show them what we’re worth”. But we actually are in a real position of power here because we have no plans to go back to work. And it’s really exciting. I’m kind of getting goosebumps just thinking about it. Because this week is a short week because of the holiday on Thursday and Friday, and so we are going to be at the picket Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and plan to go into the long weekend continuing to withhold our labor.

In terms of the length of the strike and where it’s at, there is continuous bargaining happening between the university and the bargaining teams, and it doesn’t seem like a lot of movement has taken place on the university side. They’re not willing to give us an offer of more than 7% increase in our wages, which would be like $250 extra dollars a quarter, it’s ridiculous. That’s not going to pay the rent, you know? So we’re sort of stalled and just going to continue doing what we’ve been doing until they actually start taking our demand seriously. And this is 40,000 people to be clear, that are on strike, because it’s four different units across UAW: we have student researchers, we have the 2865 unit, which is like TAs, grad student instructors, tutors, then we have the postdocs and the academic researchers. So the huge contingent of the university spread really widely.

R: Yeah, to echo what Rebecca was saying, we’ve just been out there for one week now and we really haven’t seen any movement on the administration’s end toward coming up with a more reasonable proposal to address the rent burden issue that we’re facing. And I mean, my thinking is that we need to dig our heels in and prepare for the possibility of a much longer strike, a more sustained strike, in order to actually force the concessions that we need to see to address the rent burden here.

TFSR: What labor are you withholding? And also is the timing strategic in terms of it being towards the end of term?

RG: Yeah, so currently, the labor that’s being withheld is, for me personally as a TA: I’m not teaching my section, I’m not going to the lectures of the class that I TA for, I’m not communicating with my students about course materials, although if they do reach out with a question about the strike, or about when they can come to the picket line to help, I will respond. And I would say it is strategic in terms of when we chose to go on strike. We had a lot of meetings over the summer and through the first part of the quarter, about this potential strike, having a feeling that this is where bargaining was going in terms of a stalemate. We chose mid November, as Robin mentioned, a lot of us were working on things like the empty homes tax, and we didn’t want to be distracted, or anyone else to be distracted by the midterm elections.

And we also wanted to situate this in week eight of the quarter gearing up for this Thanksgiving break that was coming, and then all of a sudden we’re in week 10 after that. And then week 11 is finals week, right? So this gives us, hopefully we’re not too tired by the time finals week comes and there’s still good energy on the picket line feeling like we can still be there, and we can still withhold things like teaching and grades, and for researchers it’s things like not going into their lab, not reporting their research results, similar things for post-doctorate students as well.

R: Yeah, I’m also withholding my labor in terms of not teaching sections, not attending lectures, not doing the readings for the class that I’m TAing for, and not responding to course related questions from students. Again, we’re trying to keep open like a line of communication so that students have information about the strike, they know how things are going, and they know how to come out and support us if they want to do that. And, yeah, I’ve been really happy to see many of my students out on the picket line over the past five days coming out to support us.

TFSR: You know, you’re talking about how you had support from faculty. I’m wondering, in particular, if you’re TAing, what that means in terms of the person teaching the class that you are an assistant for?

RG: Yeah, it’s a good question. And it’s really different for every single individual that is a TA. Like I’m TAing for a lecturer, which means that he’s part of AFT, the adjunct lecturers union at UC statewide. It’s different than…he’s not on a tenure track, and he teaches like eight classes across four different institutions. He has it rough, right? In terms of shared struggles, I see his struggle as mine and I really do think he sees my struggle as his. They have a no strike clause, so he really cannot withhold his labor in terms of teaching classes unless he’s willing to risk a very real possibility of being fired. And so he’s still continuing to teach his classes on Zoom, which he agrees and he knows is indeed crossing the picket line. However, he has agreed to withhold other things. For example, he’s dropped the class attendance policy. So if a student decides that they want to go to the picket, instead of going to the lecture, he’s not going to discipline them or reprimand them for that at all. He’s also not going to pick up my labor of grading, he’s not going to teach my sections. So there are various things that he’s able to do in solidarity with us.

Faculty have it a lot easier, in that they have nothing to worry about if they’re on a tenure track, or they’re tenured. So I think we’ve had pretty widespread support from faculty, they’ve been marching down everyday with a banner. They’ve been there singing songs, they’ve been leading reading workshops on the line and talking about labor. So it’s been great to see them there and to have their support.

And Robin, I know that you are actually a TA for another grad student and an organizer. So how’s that? I don’t know. How’s that for you, Robin?

R: Yeah. So, in my case, the course that I’m TAing is being taught by a graduate student instructor, or GSI, so he’s been on strike with the rest of us, actually. He’s actually one of the core, kind of most involved, organizers in our union here at UCSC. What’s interesting about those positions is that, so essentially when graduate students here at UCSC have completed their coursework and their qualifying exams, we are actually eligible to teach our own courses in certain instances, in certain departments. My department is one of those. However, the pay for doing that is actually, it’s not a whole lot higher than a standard TA salary, but it’s quite a bit more work. So, graduate student instructors, by and large, have been out there with us, alongside us on the picket line.

We’ve seen a lot of support from faculty, as well, as Rebecca was mentioning. I think it will just be important for faculty to understand that the potential for this to go on for a more extended period of time — if the UC continues bargaining in the way that they have and basically stonewalling and ignoring our demands — that would mean a longer and more sustained strike. I’m confident that faculty will understand the reasons why this is happening. It’s not because we want to be on strike forever. It’s because we need to, to make real concessions.

RG: And I’ll just add to that: if they don’t and they go back to teaching their classes — and I’ve heard some rumors that that might happen in my department, the Literature Department — they’re scabs.

TFSR: Classic.

RG: They’re not standing in solidarity with our struggle and that’s a shame. So we’re going to keep organizing our own folks and other grad workers, and hope that we continue to have the faculty support, but in the case they don’t…it’s not our job to organize them. It’s their job to do that amongst themselves. So I hope they continue to withhold their labor as well in solidarity with us, but at this point we’re really just worried about connecting with other grad workers and saying “Hey, how are you feeling? Are you experiencing retaliation? Like, how can we support you? Can you come to the line today? There’s free food here for you. There’s a community here.”

TFSR: I was just joking that literature professors as scabs is classic. I guess one difference that I hear listening to you is that you already have unions. I know at other campuses where people are trying to unionize, the tenure faculty can often be a huge obstacle to that because they don’t see themselves…I mean, there’s like a real caste system between, tenured, tenure track, contingent faculty, postdocs, all the others that you’ve mentioned who are going on strike at your campus. It seems like you’re saying you don’t have to deal with the faculty because you have your own union, and so they can’t really stand in your way, they can only just show support or not. I wonder, though, what kind of talks have you had with people in advance of the strike to prepare for it? For the faculty.

RG: Yeah, well, my department sent out a letter to our faculty as soon as the strike authorization vote went out, saying that everyone who voted, signed this letter, and basically was like “we really want your support, we would really like for you to cancel your classes”. You know, so there was communication channels there. But just recently, this past week, we saw in the STEM {Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics] departments, in STEM division, some faculty members were basically strike busting, sending out emails to grad workers saying “you’re not allowed to be on strike, because part of your duties are your student duties, and this is a student conduct issue”. That’s strike busting, and that’s not lawful. We were able to really organize around that, because we have our union, and because there are protections when you have a union and you’re on strike. So we are definitely in a privileged position on that front, to have the good union lawyers and all of that. But yeah, Robin, what do you think about that question? I feel like that’s my orientation around it.

R: Yeah. I want to emphasize the faculty within my department have been really supportive so far and have been canceling their lectures and refusing to cross the picket line, and have written letters in support of our demands, in solidarity with us. Yeah, I mean, our focus is definitely on what we can do as grad workers, and getting people out to the picket line, talking to people who are on strike, talking to people who for whatever reason are still working and trying to convince them to join us. That’s sort of been our focus and so far, the response for faculty, I think, has been really good. I think that will continue.

TFSR: The obstruction from STEM is another classic thing I’ve heard in terms of unionizing struggles. But I was wondering, with that kind of argument that they made to the students — maybe you haven’t had to deal with this, because you already have the union — but one of the issues that I think comes up when you’re talking about grad student striking, and even faculty, is the kind of mythology or the cultural ideas about student that that is not work that it’s something different than than labor that can be withheld. That you all are following a vocation that you’ve made the deal to live an impoverished life or something [laughs] so that you can read books all day. I mean, have you had to deal with any of that kind of baggage in the discourse around the strike?

RG: You know, I think it’s really rare if that does happen. I’ve heard a couple folks that sort of reinforced what I call the “hazing model”, which is just the “we all had to do it, so you should, too”. But as Robin mentioned, and to reiterate this, the faculty support, by and large, is huge and it’s there. And also the lecturers support, the adjunct support. In the case of the adjuncts, when you say, “Hey, once we get our COLA, let’s help get you one. Let’s negotiate, let’s help you all go on strike”. The AFT contract last year was in the works of renegotiating and they took a less than great deal at the 11th hour. And when I talked to other lecturers, I’m like, “you know, you shouldn’t have had to deal with that as a grad worker, that sucks. No one should have to deal with being rent burdened and struggling.” So let’s help change that, at any level of someone’s career.

And in the case of the faculty, they’ve been really supportive. These few people that are doing this strike busting stuff… Like we had a huge March and rally and picket in response to that on Friday afternoon. I would say probably 350 to 400 people were marching through the streets and then it culminated in a blockade for a little while that was very peaceful and a great rally down at the base of campus. That’s the energy we need to bring to show them that’s not acceptable behavior. We have more bodies on the ground then than they have, entirely.

R: So I guess in terms of perceptions around intellectual labor versus other kinds of labor, I think we’ve seen a lot of support from, for instance, people involved in the Starbucks unionizing campaigns. Obviously, as I mentioned, from the bus drivers, and from people in the city workers union, who saw us come up to their picket, and now they’ve come up to ours as well to show their solidarity. I think my perception is, yeah, okay, some people may have these ideas about what it is that academic workers do, but by and large, I think other workers in different sectors, different fields, understand that a victory for us will only benefit them as well. And that it’s one struggle.

This sort of question of STEM departments and getting them more involved: I think, compared to — I wasn’t here yet for it — but compared to the Wildcat strike back in 2019-2020, our STEM departments have done fantastic work to get themselves a lot more organized, especially with the formation of Student Researchers United across the UC. Research positions in certain STEM departments that previously would not have been under a union now are with Student Researchers United. I think a lot of the divisions that may have previously existed or unevenness between STEM and Humanities and Social Science departments, some of that has broken down. And we’ve managed to do a better job of organizing across different fields and different different types of work as well.

TFSR: That’s really good to hear. I want to ask maybe a little bit more about the previous strike. But before that, I did have another question about how you’re connecting with other workers on campus who are not professors or students, like the facilities workers, the people in the cafeteria, or even administration?

RG: Yeah, I believe that the folks that are custodial workers and working in food services on campus… there’s a couple tricky things there. One, I think some of them are represented by AFSCME [American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees], and I think might have a no strike clause. This is something I would love to double check with some folks after this meeting and just make sure that I’m correct about that. The other thing is that student workers that work in places like cafes, and cafeterias on campus, they actually are not unionized and have not been allowed to be unionized. So that’s really challenging in terms of enabling them to feel like they can stop work, because, as we’ve already said, they’re also experiencing things like food and housing insecurity, and these exorbitantly high tuition costs. So that’s a challenge. And I don’t believe we’ve been able to effectively organize, getting solidarity strikes from folks that work in cafes and cafeterias.

However, we have succeeded in getting all of the Metro buses that normally go through campus to stop doing that loop. So they essentially get to our picket, they take a left, they go up the road, and then they turn around and go back down toward downtown, instead of going through our campus. So that’s a huge disruption. We also have prevented UPS from going on to campus and sending deliveries during the picket hours. And the last thing we’ve been recently working on is getting construction halted on our campus, and that’s huge. So that’s really an exciting development. I’m trying to think of other kinds of spheres of campus activity, but those three ways have been really, really primary ways we’ve shut it down thus far. Robin, did I miss anything there?

R: I’m not sure if I know enough, honestly, on this question to speak on it. Sorry about that.

TFSR: That’s cool. That was great.

So yeah, I mean, going back to the Wildcat strike in 2019-2020, that was really inspiring and amazing to hear about. And then the pandemic kind of hit and everything seemed to sort of come to a halt. That also was a strike, maybe it’s because it was Wildcat — I don’t know if you have information about it — but it had a lot of violent repression from cops. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the relationship between your action now and what happened before? I mean, you’ve talked a little bit maybe about some of the lessons you’ve learned, but maybe what’s going on, what’s different? Because it seems like you aren’t facing the same kind of repression, at least now.

RG: Yeah. Robin, do you want to take this one first?

R: Sure. Yeah. So I wasn’t here yet for the Wildcat strike — I started my program the year after — but my understanding is that that action really set the tone for demands that are now just more familiar to us all. I think the language of “rent burden”, this kind of understanding that we shouldn’t be spending half of our wages or even a third of our monthly wages on rent, that this is not a sustainable situation, the cost of living adjustment or COLA demand, I think the Wildcat strike was really seminal in creating awareness of these issues, and setting the tone for a statewide strike on all the UC campuses.

I think, from what I’ve heard from organizers who were involved in the Wildcat, is that essentially things just happened very quickly and almost kind of organically in a sense. A small handful of people had been launching a campaign, throughout the fall quarter around the rent burden issue, and all of a sudden the language really connected with people, and the COLA demand really took off. And basically they were getting emails from people that they didn’t even know saying, “we need to withhold our grades”. People were turning up to union meetings and saying, “we need to take action, we need to go on strike now.” What I think is really great is that the organizers who were involved in it reacted to that, they seized the moment and they realized that the time was ripe to withhold labor to go on a strike.

At the same time this time around we just had much more time for preparation and organization. We’ve coordinated it across many different campuses. That gives us a lot more power because it’s not just UC Santa Cruz, it’s across the UC. We have certain legal protections that we didn’t have last time around because it’s a union endorsed strike. That gives us a bit of an advantage and just talking to other workers and addressing concerns that people might have, particularly international students or students who are otherwise more vulnerable. think that action, which is really just kind of a classic instance of workers self organizing at a moment of heightened intensity, and something that just happened very quickly, has really set the tone for what we’re trying to do now. Which I think can be a longer, more sustained strike, involving not just withholding grades — which was the big thing last time around — but withholding all of our labor. I think this time around, we’ve got an even better chance of actually winning a COLA.

RG: Yeah, I agree with everything Robins said and I’ll just add that, in terms of the police presence, it’s been really great to not see the police get lined up in their SWAT gear, which is terrifying and really scary, particularly, as Robin mentioned, for folks that are undocumented, for Black and Brown folks in the community, for undergrads that are just there in solidarity with us. And we’re hoping to really keep it that way. I understand there’s a lot of folks that are really excited about prospects of physically shutting campus down, and that’s fair, and that’s exciting and I’ve been there too. However, because this is such a long, sustained effort, and we’re hoping to be on the line for for as long as it takes to get this cost of living adjustment, we don’t need people that are brutalized by the cops, we don’t need folks going and having to spend their energy doing jail support. We will be there, we will be there if we have to. But if we can avoid it and use another tactic to contribute to our strategy I think that’s really important right now.

Something I’ll also say, this is the cops strategy too. It looked really bad for them last time when they were photographed brutalizing people. So this is, I think, a concerted effort and strategy on the UCs end and on the cops and to not do that right now, and that could change at any moment. So we’re prepared for that to change. We really hope it doesn’t.

TFSR: Yeah, I mean, it’s always the cops decision to escalate it to violence. Not like, yeah that would be the strategy to try to pull the cups out, because that doesn’t really help anyone. In terms of that strike, in relation to this, were there gains that were made? And how do you think the pandemic affected that, and also since it’s ongoing, your current strike action?

R: I know that we won a small housing stipend last time around, so nothing in the order of magnitude that would actually address rent burden. Basically the administration just throwing us a little bone hoping that that would kind of deflate some of the energy that was arising at the time. I’m not sure if I know the timeline well enough to speak to exactly the impact that the pandemic had the last time around…

RG: My understanding is that the pandemic seems to be one of the things that shut down the strike. I don’t know, I think energy was probably also dwindling outside of that. I think it’s exhausting to be on an unsanctioned strike for a month plus, but at the same time, definitely the pandemic, I think organizers were starting to even get sick, not necessarily with COVID, because we didn’t know COVID was around, but people were getting bad flu’s at the end, in early February, which definitely could have been COVID, [sickness was] starting to go around even within the picket. So, my understanding is COLA happens, strike happens, and then COVID starts. But things did come out of it: we also have five year job security, and I don’t think that was across the board in every single department and last time. When I signed my contract, I’m in my second year of my program. I have five years of employment no matter what. Which is fantastic. And that came out of some of the discourse from the Wildcat as well.

R: I mean, I think the biggest thing that came out of it, certainly we did see some small wins, but the biggest thing that came out of it was networks of organization and struggle that were activated that time. Especially bringing students who they weren’t involved in labor organizing, or an activism before, kind of into the fold. Many of those same networks have persisted up till today. That’s been huge for us this time around.

On the question of the pandemic, I wanted to add one thing: I think something important that we’ve learned also, is that in the times of COVID, the picket line is not merely like a physical thing, right? So we are asking people to cancel their lectures, their sections completely, and not to just move on to Zoom, because we moved on to Zoom for a pretty extended period with the pandemic, and we know that the university can still run on Zoom. So thinking of the picket line as not just a physical thing, that’s one important lesson that we’ve probably learned.

TFSR: Yeah, it’s interesting. When I was at NYU, at one point, there was a strike that faculty, to try to stand in solidarity, would just have their classes off-campus. At that time the strikers said that was okay by them, but then looking back thought that that was not really a good decision. So, it’s interesting to hear that with Zoom, too. I mean first of all, it’s labor, but also, like you said, the university knows now that it can function perfectly fine virtually. So it doesn’t it’s not as much of a disruption.

RG: Right.

R: Absolutely. Yeah.

TFSR: We’ve talked a little bit about the tactic of withholding grades, I was talking to someone about that strike who was involved. And they said that that was really powerful. I wonder if you had thoughts on why you think that is. They were talking about it in terms of accreditation and what the university is actually bestowing on students, but I don’t know if you have thoughts on that, and how that fits into your overall strategy.

RG: Well, I will say that this time around there’s been, as Robin alluded to, so much planning, getting ready for this, and each day there’s so much organization that goes into it. So, we haven’t, to be completely honest, we’re not there yet. We’re not necessarily thinking this time around about withholding grades specifically, although I’m sure that in the coming weeks we will be talking about this. But from what I’ve heard about the Wildcat and what that did, it really also linked undergraduate tuition dollars with grades. And that’s not a great look for a higher ed institution to basically just be passing out grades and it really links grades as this commodity that undergrads are paying for.

So, I think from a theoretical point of view was really powerful. But in terms of like the material disruption, undergrads oftentimes need those grades for various things, right? Things that the university stipulates. So things like financial aid, and sure, me saying that could seem like it’s a huge disruption for undergrads — obviously that’s not our intention — but when undergrads come to me, and they say, “I need this grade, because I need to be able to get financial aid for next quarter. I need to say that I passed all my classes last quarter”, I’m like, “I hear you, I’m with you, I’ll help you figure this out. But really this is the university that is preventing you from getting your financial aid because you’re not receiving a grade. They want you to think it’s me that’s causing this problem, but it’s them”. So I think it also produces a tool for us to align with our undergrads and disrupt their business as usual, and say, “Hey, this is disruptive. This is rough. This is difficult. How can we work together to get the university to budge and give us what we need to be able to work and teach here?” So, I think that that’s where a lot of this power lies.

Also, as you mentioned, Scott, I think there is some stuff about the UC receiving certain funding and certain grants, and this making its way into certain end of the year reports and things like that, to clout “oh, we had this many students that passed with flying colors”, whatever. But I think of it more in terms of the ability to connect with undergrads and show them that we’re in the same struggle and this disrupting them is part of our need to collectively disrupt the university at large.

R: Yeah, I would add that, in many ways, I think we, as academic workers, believe in the university’s mission much more than the university itself does. I’m speaking in terms of the administration here. Part of what we’re fighting for is to have more time to dedicate to each individual student, to fostering productive spaces for discussion and that would mean things like smaller class sizes, more personal attention from TA’s toward students. I mean these are all things that we can’t do very well when many of us are worried about getting evicted, or having to choose between paying rent and eating well, or healthcare. And I think we increasingly see this kind of commoditized, or neoliberal model of the university as this product where you pay tuition and then you get grades, right? And I think it’s actually us as academic workers who are on the frontlines of fighting against that, and fighting to provide a much better model of public education for our students.

That being said, we’re gonna see how much the university actually cares about that, through this strike. I mean, it may be the case that they’re okay with sections not being taught. It might be that we have to take this all the way to the end of the quarter, and to the extra leverage that we’ll get from withholding grades. As Rebecca was saying, we don’t know if it’s going to go that far. But we’re ready for it if that’s what has to happen.

TFSR: Yeah. Thanks, both of you, for that. I like the way that you outlined it, Rebecca, in terms of this is a place of potential solidarity between undergrads and graduate students, but clearly the university would try to pin it on the graduate students and say “deal with them, they’re the ones who are harming you”, without at all referencing the way that they allocate their funds not towards supporting the people. I think the way that you describe that, Robin, too, in terms of the time that you have to give to the labor is completely used up by just trying to survive [laughs in an exasperated way]. Anyway, I don’t know why I’m waxing on that, I have a lot I could talk to you about [laughs], but I want to ask you just a couple more questions.

There’s other actions going on other campuses right now. I know New School, I think part time faculty are striking there. I know people in the UK are about to strike. And there’s other unionization struggles on different campuses that I’ve been in touch with people, just wondering what connections you all have to people outside the UC system, if there’s any strategizing or collaboration that’s going on that you can mention.

RG: I haven’t personally been part of these conversations, but I know that last year, or two years ago I guess, when Columbia workers were on strike, there were a lot of discussions happening between folks that were here at Santa Cruz during the Wildcat and folks at Columbia strategizing and sharing stories and experiences and strategies. And then coming out of the Columbia strikes they have now shared their experiences and strategies and what worked and what didn’t work with us. So that’s been great. Also, over the summer, we did like a strike school series. So we had big Zoom rooms with panels of folks talking about their experience. We talked to the West Virginia teachers Wildcat strike that happened…I forget the year to be honest, I have to check that but…I don’t remember.

TFSR: Yeah I’m blanking on that too. Was it before COVID or during COVID?

RG: It was before, I think it was before.

TFSR: It was like 2019 probably.

RG: Had to be around then. And I mean, hearing their stories was super inspiring. So there have been these conversations with folks at different unions, at different institutions all across the country. Other organizers at Santa Cruz have really spearheaded that project. So I can, if you would like more info on that, Scott, I’m also happy to drop a line to some of those folks and ask if they can talk to you about that more.

TFSR: Yeah, I mean, that’s cool to get as many voices in.

R: We had, throughout the summer especially, a few different Zoom calls with different labor organizing projects. The Columbia people and the West Virginia teachers, and I think there was maybe one or two more as well.

TFSR: I know that UC had a pretty strong Cops Off Campus campaign, has that connected at all to the labor strike?

RG: Um, I think it’s huge. First of all, it’s one of our demands.

TFSR: Oh ok.

RG: We’re bargaining for cops off campus.

TFSR: That’s great.

RG: I don’t think I’ve been in any of the Zoom sessions where this has been addressed, and that means one of two things: either I just haven’t been there, or the UC has not been addressing it.

TFSR: Likely.

RG: It could be a combination of both. So this is something we’re bargaining for. And I mean, I see it as huge, because when people ask me things like “well, where’s the COLA money?” I’m like, “it’s going to the cops”. And elsewhere, but if we are to effectively get cops off campus, that budget could easily be redistributed to to give grad workers COLAs.

R: Yeah, just to add to that, I think sometimes in their dealings with us the administration wants to separate out these different kinds of demands. Not that there’s been any movement on the wages thing, either, but to dismiss things like cops off campus, or disability demands around COVID as like “activist demands”, which I think is really quite patronizing actually. And, on our end, I think, as Rebecca was pointing out, we view these things as interconnected. Money that could be spent toward graduate workers and giving us living wages is being directed toward things like campus policing instead. So I think it’s important to keep emphasizing those interconnections even as the line of the administration is to try and separate these things out, sometimes.

TFSR: Yeah, that’s interesting there to make that distinction between a “labor” demand and an “activist” demand.

My last question is just what can people do to support you, from other places, or any ways to connect or plugin if there’s ways that people can help?

RG: Yeah, yeah. I will send you a link to post to the Statewide Hardship Fund, which is going to be something that people are able to apply for if they’re really in a hard place. If our wages get docked and people need a little extra, we do have a strike fund and we do have strike pay from UAW, which is really fantastic that our union has that. But for folks with children or folks that have medical expenses, things like this, we have the hardship fund, so I can send that link over. But in general, I think just finding ways to put pressure on the University. I’m a fan of taking to Twitter, taking to Instagram, you can follow us [on Twitter and Instagram] @PayUsMoreUCSC. And the statewide campaign at @FairUCNow [TikTok]. I think that’s what I would say, is just keep an eye on the campaign.

R: I would encourage people in the community to turn up to the picket line and just come talk to us. Talk to people about their living situations, about our demands, about what is exciting us, what is keeping us out here day after day. And I would encourage people to also talk to their neighbors, their friends, their community, about the strike. Raise awareness and think about what organizations you’re in, what networks you’re in, and can you talk to coworkers, for instance, or people in maybe a community organization, get a letter of solidarity out, that sort of thing would be huge. I would encourage people to just start where they are and try to build some support from there. Yeah, I hope to see people join us out on the picket line, and I’m really looking forward to talking to anyone who comes out.

TFSR: Awesome. Thanks so much for taking the time and maybe, hopefully we can get an update with some really good news about what’s going on. So, yeah, power to you all. Anything that you want to say in closing?

RG: I don’t think so. Just really thank you so much for taking the time and for covering this, having the support from folks with platforms is huge. And I just really appreciate you offering to do this.

TFSR: Of course. Yeah. And we’ll link to all this stuff in the show notes when we post this and yeah, thank you so much.

R: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks so much.

Islam and Anarchism with Mohamed Abdou

Islam and Anarchism with Mohamed Abdou

Book cover of "Islam and Anarchism" featuring Arabic writing and the words "TFSR 10-02-2022"
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This week, Scott spoke with Mohamed Abdou, a North African-Egyptian Muslim anarchist activist-scholar who is currently a Visiting Scholar at Cornell University and an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the American University of Cairo. Mohamed is the author of the recent book, Islam and Anarchism: Relationships and Resonances published by Pluto Press in 2022.

For nearly 2 hours, Scott and Mohamed speak about Mohamed’s experience of the Tahrir Square uprising of 2011 and the western media coverage of it, current unrest in Iran, Orientalism, decolonial education, Islam, Settler Colonialism, anarchism and a lot more.

You can follow Mohamed on Twitter at @minuetInGMinor or on facebook at @MohammadAbdou2020

Upcoming

Stay tuned next week for a chat with the organizers of the 2022 Atlanta Radical Bookfair and another surprise topic. For patreon supporters, pretty soon we should be sharing early releases of conversations with Robert Graham about his 2015 book “We Don’t Fear Anarchy, We Invoke It” and with Matthew Lyons on far right christian movements and other chats. More on how to support us at tfsr.wtf/support.

Announcements

And now a few brief announcements

Asheville Survival Program Benefit

For listeners in the Asheville area, you’re invited to an outdoor Movie Night benefit for Asheville Survival Program halloweeny season double feature on Saturday October 8th at 6pm at the Static Age River Spot. There’ll be food, music and merch. To find out more sbout the venue, you can contact Asheville Survival via their email or social media, found at linktr.ee/avlsurvival

Atlanta Radical Bookfair

If you’re in the southeast of Turtle Island, consider visiting so-called Atlanta on Saturday, October 15th where from noon to 6pm you’ll find the Atlanta Radical Bookfair at The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History in Georgia. There’ll be speakers and many tables, including us!

Hurricane Ian Relief

If you want to offer support to folks in Florida around Hurricane Ian, one place to start could be with Central Florida Mutual Aid. They have tons of ways to plug in remotely or on the ground for what is likely to be a long and arduous cleanup and repair effort. You can learn more about them at linktr.ee/CFLMutualAid

Also, Firestorm books is collecting donations of emergency goods at their storefront in Asheville.

A image of text that reads: MUTUAL AID DISASTER RELIEF: A grass-roots donation drive to help families affected by Hurricane lan in Florida. EMERGENCY RELIEF DRIVE - Critically Needed Supplies CLEANUP: • heavy duty storage totes • heavy duty tarps • gas and gas cans glasses • generators • roofing nails • wire brushes • trash bags • brooms • mops • crowbars/prybars/hammers • chainsaws • moisture sensors • dehumidifiers • box fans • 5 gal buckets • respirators and n-95 cartridges • 2x4s • bleach PERSONAL NEEDS: • baby formula • coolers • dollar store water • gatorade • sweets/candies/comfort items/kids snacks • laundry detergent • washboards • mosquito spray • toilet paper • solar charging items and battery banks • apple cider vinegar • diapers • baby wipes To donate supplies, drop them at Firestorm Books 610 Haywood Rd. Asheville, NC anytime the bookstore is open For more information on how you can help, visit mutualaiddisasterrelief.org

Prisons in the Wake of Ian

We’ve regrettably missed the opportunity to promote the phone zap campaigns to raise awareness of prisoners in the path of Hurricane Ian before the storm hit, but suggest that folk check out FightToxicPrisons.Wordpress.Com to learn more about efforts to press public officials to heed the calls to protect prisoners during storms like this rather than follow the path of inertia and cheapness that leads to unnecessary deaths of folks behind bars.

#ShutDownADOC2022

There is currently a prison strike within the Alabama Department of Urgent Phone Zap On 9/29, Robert Earl Council (aka Kinetic Justice) was assaulted by guards and placed in solitary confinement at Limestone Correctional Facility as retaliation for his exposing the ADOC and participating in the Alabama prison strike Call Warden William Streeter at (256) 233-4600 Call Commisioner John Hamm at (334) 353-3883 -DEMAND Robert Earl Council be released from solitary -DEMAND no more retaliation -DEMAND all prisoner demands be met #shutdownADOC2022 UTIONSCorrections known by the hashtag #ShutDown ADOC2022. Campaigners have organized a call-in campaign to demand an end to retaliation against Kinetic Justice (s/n Robert Earl Council) who has been assaulted by guards on September 29th and placed in solitary confinement as well as retaliation of any prisoners participating, Kinetic’s release from solitary and the meeting of prisoners demands. Supporters are asking folks to call Warden William Streeter at (256) 233-4600 or Commissioner John Hamm at (334) 353-3883. You can find a recent interview with Kinetic at Unicorn Riot, as well as more on the prison strike at UnicornRiot.Ninja

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Featured Tracks:

Abortion, Family, Queerness and Private Property with Sophie Lewis

Abortion, Family, Queerness and Private Property with Sophie Lewis

Sophie Lewis and text "Abortion, Family, Queerness and Private Property with Sophie Lewis | TFSR 07-10-22"
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This week, Scott and William talk to Sophie Lewis, author of Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family and the soon-to-be-released Abolish The Family A Manifest for Care and Liberation (out in October, 2022) about the current political moment that is characterized by attacks on trans people and peoples reproductive abilities. They also talk through what creates this moment, where trans people come into the target of State power being weaponized by the far right, as well as the connections among these attacks against LGBT education, access to transition, access to abortion and critical race theory. Also discussed are some limitations of a legalization framework around abortion, as opposed to a decriminalization, the limits of liberalism (particularly liberal feminism), and also the ways that certain strains of feminism contribute to an anti-trans discourse. Finally, there is chat about how to approach people needing support people who need access to healthcare, whether it be transition or abortion, outside of the hands of the state.

You can find Sophie on twitter at @ReproUtopoia and support her on Patreon at Patreon.com/ReproUtopia. You can find a children’s book Sophie co-translated called Communism For Kids or a compilation she contributed to on the ecological crisis called Hope Against Hope.

Opposing Torture

[01:11:19 – 01:17:44]

In Sean’s segment, he mentions his new book, Opposing Torture, available from LittleBlackCart.Com

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Transcription

Amar: Thank you so much, Sophie, for coming onto the show. I’m super excited that you’re here. Would you, just to get us started, introduce yourself with your name, correct gender pronouns, if you wish, and speak a bit about what you do and what your interests are?

Sophie Lewis: Thanks so much for having me on. My name is Sophie Lewis, I’m a they/she pronouns person. I am a writer living in Philadelphia since 2017. I also teach courses on critical theory online at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. And I’m also a recovering or ex-academic. I’ve got British and German dual nationality, but I grew up in France. I’m very placeless in my background, and I’m trying to make Philly home in a meaningful way. I recently heard someone say that “small C communists” are just anarchists that went to Grad School. I felt read to filth by that, I’m not gonna lie. I am interested in anti-work theory, unorthodox Marxisms, and critical utopianism. I’m interested in trans, disability, and health liberation frameworks. I’m interested in reproductive justice. And I’m interested in the destruction of properterian kinship. And I share with my beautiful partner Vicky Osterweil – who I believe is a friend of your show – a strong interest in film and literature. I’ve never seen a dumb heteronormative reality TV show I don’t want to wax theoretical about.

Amar: That’s beautiful.

Scott: Thank you so much for coming on. I’m so excited to talk to you. Your views and analysis on things are always super insightful and helpful to me. So I’m really glad that you’re willing to come to talk to us.

Amar: I know that we are going to ask for another interview with you about your work on abolishing the nuclear family unit, as we know about, but would you speak a little bit about some of your past work, as well as some influences that you have or inspirations you had when writing or conceptualizing those works?

Sophie: Yes, great. My work in the past is varied. It’s funny, the thing that some people nowadays associate with me the most, i.e. more so than my book that you mentioned, is my essay “My Octopus Girlfriend”, which is to say, I got in trouble on social media a couple of years ago for my feelings concerning the queerness of octopuses. And we can talk about that another time if you want. But I do think it’s interesting to bring this up, partly because my more-than-human commitments and my commitments to the erotic do seem to be one of the reasons why there are plenty of people in the so-called normie left, at least online, who consider me in this moment of red-brown triangulation in so many words a degenerate.

But anyhow, in 2019– I guess… Full Surrogacy Now was published by Verso Books in 2019, and that book loosely represented my Ph.D., which was in geography, and what the hell is geography anyway? At the University of Manchester in England, I think geography is a place for all the odds and ends and ragtag misfits of academia and humanities disciplines to end up if they want to be abolitionists or anarchists or Marxists. Anyway, it’s called Full Surrogacy Now: Feminism Against Family, and to be honest, I don’t think Verso Books or I expected anyone to read it. And things did turn out differently. It’s not a book, as they finally understood around the time that the paperback came out two years later, about the service or arrangement commonly known as surrogacy, so much as it is a family abolitionist manifesto for gestators. But that part about family abolition was a cause of much interest and so in October, I have a clarifying follow-up about that part of the politics, coming out. It’s very short. It’s called Abolish the Family: A Manifesto for Care and Liberation, also with Verso or Salvage editions. I clarify this family abolition component. And especially, I extend its anti-racist dimensions a lot more. So I’m excited to talk to you about that in a future episode.

In general, I write a lot about reproduction and critical utopianism, which is why my handle is reproutopia. Although I guess once upon a time, I thought that that would be some professional handle. Whereas my rabble-rousing one would remain @lasofa or whatever, but I just can’t I can’t split myself that way. I just can’t do it, which is probably one of the reasons why I don’t have a job. Sometimes, I think I’m not even sure I believe in reproduction. Because maybe there’s no such thing. Maybe there’s only cogenerative coproduction, but you get the idea. I write against private property, I write against biogenetic property, I write against eugenics, I hope, and against patriarchal motherhood, the private nuclear household, and the privatization of care.

You might be interested to hear that I cut my teeth politically doing climate justice, direct action, and anti-austerity student stuff while I was an undergrad between 2007 and 2011, I was hanging out with anarchists and anarcha-feminists in the UK. And after that point, I was quite traumatized by getting beaten up by riot cops in Copenhagen where we were mobilizing for climate justice at COP 15. And I became really unable to think about climate individually or write about it. Instead, I’m part of a collective called Out of the Woods – which is not very active right now – but which published a book called Hope Against Hope: Writings on Ecological Crisis with Common Notions Press. And basically, it’s only when I’m being with them that I can bear to think about ecocide head-on.

You also asked about my influences. I’d say my big theoretic influences include decolonial and ecological sex radicals like Kim TallBear and Angela Willey. And then obviously family abolitionists, like the inventor of the word feminism Charles Fourier, the 19th century French Socialist Utopian and the left Bolshevik Alexandra Kollontai, and then sex worker liberationists femi babylon and Amber Hollibaugh, and anti-work philosophers like Kathi Weeks and Tiffany Lethabo King, problematic faves like Shulamith Firestone, and the early Donna Haraway, I’m just listing all my favorites. So the insurgent social reproduction theorists, basically, I’m thinking Francis Beal of the Third World Women’s Alliance, or the Black women of Wages for Housework, Wages Due Lesbians in the 70’s. I do visit the 70’s quite a lot. And at this point, I’ve written a ton of essays for magazines and journals, since I’m trying to earn my living as a freelancer. Albeit I wouldn’t be making ends meet if I didn’t also teach. And I wouldn’t be making ends meet if 250 people didn’t kindly patronize me. I get $1,000 a month on Patreon. That’s my only dependable source of income. Thank you to people who do that.

Amar: That’s lovely. And will probably ask you how people can support you on Patreon at the end of the show, or if you want to say it now.

Sophie: Oh, bless you. Yeah, it’s patreon.com/reproutopia. I appreciate it.

Amar: Hell yeah! You said you draw a lot from the 70s. And I think the 70s just gave us so much emergent thought crafting. I listened to an interview that you gave on This is Hell, that podcast in which you mentioned a friend of the show, the novel Woman on the Edge of Time, which I was really sparked by and very interested to– Maybe we’ll save that as a teaser for our discussion on Abolishing the Family and such topics.

Scott: I’m really excited about the way that you’re picking up on some of those legacies from the radical movements then, and one of the things that you just said that maybe could roll into the discussion and something that we can talk about is your intervention seems to be within what is called, in feminism, social reproduction theory. But I like how you were backing away from that term and talking about cogenerative. When we talk about social reproduction, we get caught in reproducing the same over and over again. And I really think about how the things that we do right now maybe can stop that endless repetition. But it does seem to be what is on the hook right now – what kind of world is being reproduced? Can we end that? And is it going to be ended in a good way or a really scary way?

Sophie: Yes, absolutely. Pretty much agree.

Scott: Maybe you can transition to the point of our current discussion, though, I’m excited for the future one. It is thinking about what’s happening at this moment socially, and legislatively, with ramping up attacks on trans people and reproductive self-determination. Why do you think this is happening right now? What created the conditions for trans people to be under the target, youth, in particular, is weaponized by the far right, and why is this the moment that finally we’re seeing the culmination of decades of work against abortion?

Sophie: Really great opening question, albeit quite difficult, I’ll do my best. And thinking about the process of hollowing out of the political center that we’ve been seeing, I think, for some time. And the hollowing out of the center creates conditions in which marginalized groups can be flung sacrificially under the bus. This is complicated, but it seems to me that because of the extraordinary success of Black Lives Matter the establishment wants to– it’s not that they ever had to choose one or the other or their white supremacy isn’t still part of the DNA of every political maneuver by the ruling class in this country… But I think there is a pivot towards the sex panic specifically. And again, just to be clear, it’s always racialized at the same time, but I think the marginalized group to be scapegoated and panicked morally about is– You can think about Hillary Clinton’s “Black thugs.”

I think currently, the same people are worried very much about these two figures, the predatory trans woman and the mutilated child. And there are other reasons: the crisis of care throws up these specters. The end-of-empire panic about futurity expresses itself via demographic anxieties, right? On the far-right, it’s replacement theory and white genocide. That same anxiety is across the political spectrum. And that demographic anxiety about the survival of America as a settler colony enacts itself on the bodies of children whose fertility becomes fetishized.

What else? Capitalism needs to discipline the non-reproductive and the inadequately or incorrectly reproductive. I’m not doing a great job and just throwing out phenomena that I think are relevant. We are living inside the legacies of the pedophile industrial complex of the 80’s. The really significant reconstruction of the political landscape in the US around the carceralist figure of the innocent child, the figure to be protected at all costs on the basis of a-sexuality and, weirdly, fertility. This is the part that I think people don’t get enough about the figure of the cisgender or cissexual child that everybody wants to save right now. It’s creepy. It’s an avatar of fertility, that child, it is an avatar of the future.

In your notes to me before we began this talk, you mentioned Lee Edelman’s book, which is justly criticized for its slightly nuanced opposition to the maternal or the reproductive or whatever. But Lee Edelman’s book, No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive talks about the “fascism of the baby’s face”, or the way in which all Politics requires this figure of the child to transmit and defer and displace any possible transformation into the future. I’ve been trying to think about whether that’s all that’s going on. Very specifically, in a time of demographic crisis and weird replacement-theory type panic, weirdly, it’s literally the genitals and the reproductive organs of literal cisgender children that become spectral-ly present at the front and center of so much political discourse. How’s that? What do you think?

Amar: It is just deeply creepy. As you said, when it’s broken down that way, when we’re fixating so heavily on the reproductive capability of, in some cases, literal babies, infants, and it just reminds me of the very profound extent to which cisheteronormative society just really thinks about children as property, which is codified into law too. It’s just very disturbing and creepy.

Scott: I was just thinking, it’s interesting, in my studies of gay Liberation stuff from the 70’s, reading Guy Hocquenghem, he’s saying that the price for a certain gay man to get some rights and acceptance in society would basically necessitate the casting out of figures of the trans woman and the pedophile. And he had this prescient view of it in the very beginning of gay liberation, and I feel we’re seeing the combination of it. But the way that as people, the three of us raised in this pedophile industrial complex, it’s always very strange to me… How it creates this weird situation, where children are unnecessarily sexualized, and all these moments where things don’t need to be fraught or weird at all. And people are worried about this stuff. And it’s actually, to me, always ends up pointing to the family as this really creepy scenario where there are parents obsessing over their children?

Sophie: Yes, absolutely. There’s so much to say, I’m just worried that if I jump on your points about parental rights, we’ll rhizomatically follow who knows what kinds of paths. The very fundamentally racial character of the institution of parenthood should probably be noted, at least in passing. This goes back to elemental Black feminist theorizing around how Black gestators under chattel slavery in the United States were cast out from the domain of dyadic cisgender, precisely because they could not be inscribed in the social order as mothers. They were not the mothers in the sense of motherhood, the institution of property, really, of parental ownership over the product of their gestational labor. And that casting out from parentality also meant an ungendering of enslaved racialized Black “flesh.” To quote Hortense Spillers who actually uses that language of “ungendered flesh”. And this is still deeply relevant, the eugenic entanglements of all mainstream discourse about who should and should not reproduce in the United States today. It’s interesting to think about the intersections between that almost racializing definition of proper and improper parents. And there’s a contradiction that we’re seeing right now, the very same politicians who advocate parental rights, when it comes to things white parents on school boards banning “critical race theory” or anti-racist materials, they then willingly embrace separating trans kids from their parents. Anyway, I’ll pause there.

Scott: That’s a great transition. And this is something we wanted to talk about. It was really important that you brought up that racialized history of the property and also of the gendering and ungendering according to your racial positionality of parenthood. This is one of the things – that’s linking the current fascist agenda. You brought up critical race theory, we’re seeing all attacks against any education around queerness in whatever form, the access to transition, or care around transition, for youth in particular, but it’s also extending to adults, and then abortion more recently. And this idea of parental rights seems to be one of the organizing ideas. So if there’s more that you wanted to say around that, I’d be interested just because it feels like such a strange invocation. Also, drag shows as a particular focus. The youth drag shows is something that people are getting really worked up about right now.

Sophie: Yeah, as you say, these links are among the prongs of attack. It is a successful and well-organized banning of anti-racism and queerness appearing in school spaces. Who is the congressman who was brandishing just a couple of days ago Anti-racist Baby, the infants’ book? There’s a real obsession with the idea of the infant, even not the child, but literally the neonate learning about America’s history in school. And there’s a criminalization, as you say, at the same time, of trans-affirming childcare and abortion, of gestational labor stoppages – as I would also encourage us to reframe them, or at least also think of them as. All of these, as you say, can be linked directly to the project of parental rights. And they reflect specifically a vision of patriarchal familist authority that cannot be disentangled from whiteness and from a totally triumphalist flattened ahistoricism – a version of history that is entirely made up.

We need to pay more attention to the way that this Republican-allied Christo-fascist series of maneuvers going on all these fronts that you mentioned are part of a project to reinstall the supremacy of the family. I was reading a dialogue between Andrea Long Chu and Paisley Currah in Jewish Currents today. They were right to highlight together the Christo-fascist series of associations, which in a way– I almost want to say they’re right, it’s annoying to have to constantly almost want to say that our very worst enemies understand the material stakes of the private nuclear households’ links to all of these historical forms of domination: from enslavement and colonialism to patriarchy and so on. They understand that better than the liberal establishment, they understand the stakes. Andrea Long Chu and Paisley Currah we’re talking about the line of connection in their minds, the Christo-fascists’ minds, between abortion which disrupts the family and things like marriage equality or whatever, and the specter of trans freaks molesting YOUR kids in public bathrooms. They are linked in our enemies’ minds. They are all assaults on the– Angela Metropulos is another theorist I’m thinking of, who I am, unfortunately, not as acquainted with as I would like. But I think her theorization of this is probably more and more needed right now, as Christo-fascism spirals into more and more power in a way on this territory. She talks about the oikos and how capital and settler colonialism discipline this sphere by very violent attacks. On improper bodily pleasures that fall with outside of the domain of productivity and reproductivity. That’s why all of these different fronts at the same time, although they are insufficiently linked in the mainstream conversation.

Amar: Absolutely. When you were talking and using the very correct framework of Cristo-fascism to politically frame the dominant shift that’s going on right now, I couldn’t really help but think about how The Handmaid’s Tale is used to describe this and the shortcomings of that analysis. Do you have any ideas about that?

Sophie: It’s actually interesting because you probably know that I had for several years a real bee in my bonnet about The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood’s fertility apocalypse, or sterility apocalypse rather. But I want to actually say but, I’m beginning to think that I might have almost gone a tiny bit too far, there might have been an element of overreach in my annoyance, because Angela Metropulos pulled me up a little bit on this, because I’m broadly speaking, and I’m also not the first to say it, but beginning in about 2017, I began to lose my temper. The Handmaid mania of liberal feminism. And so I actually wrote several pieces, and there’s a bit in the very beginning of Full Surrogacy Now where I expressed this distemper about the bizarre psychic under tow of handmaid mania. I say provocatively that it’s a utopia, not a dystopia in a sense because what all the people cosplaying as handmaids in Gilead are unconsciously acting out is a desire for this world where women herd has been flattened back into pure gestationality. And wouldn’t that be nice because then you wouldn’t have class-conscious or decolonial or trans or Black feminists critiquing you all the time? Because as the op-eds kept saying, “We are literally living in Gilead.” If that were true, then you would be, as a cis pregnant white woman like Elizabeth Moss in the Hulu adaptation, the very most oppressed subject of America, right?

And it’s like “Okay, that actually happened. It happened to enslaved Black women, forced surrogacy is not made up.” And to some extent, Margaret Atwood was constantly saying that everything in her dystopias has happened before, but that’s very much not how it’s taken up. It’s not taken up as an anti-racist consciousness. It’s not taken up in a way that connects to reproductive justice struggles or centers the reproductive justice concerns of organizers from the South. But the thing that really is still number one, as enemy in women’s lives, is capitalism. It’s not theocratic fascists with guns. I feel now that Angela might have been right that there’s no need to downplay the danger of the Christo-fascists in order to criticize the de-racialized slave narrative that is The Handmaid’s Tale.

Scott: I love the way that you analyze that, but I see what you’re saying. Going back to the family, we’re in the last however many decades in a place where people are living perhaps less and less – and what I mean by people is people typically within the dominant form, in the more represented white suburban situations are living less than less – in that typical nuclear family. And yet, the idea of the family hasn’t really been knocked down as a controlling image, especially within TV, sitcoms, even if it’s a work show, it’s a family structure, right? It’s everywhere, but we’re not living in those things. And likewise, with the issues around abortion, there’s this idea that we’re progressing away from these really oppressive things. And I feel even for leftists and anarchists, there’s a blind spot or an unwillingness to let go of the roots of our society that we live in, that is structuring all this oppression that we’re living in now, because of this faith in a progress, that we’ve made some strides away from the thing.

The Christian fascist thing really points out to me, that what we’re seeing right now is a minority group taking power. The system that is in place that ostensibly holds checks against them, the people who are inhabiting those positions are completely unwilling to check them. They’re letting it happen. All the people, the president, they’re not doing anything. So on one level, Christian fascism seems ridiculous, but we’re literally seeing these peoples seize power, and no one is really doing anything about it. I can see also why that’s utopian to be “Oh, we finally understand what woman is, it’s reproduction” or whatever. Maybe you have some thoughts about the progress narrative and the way that facts are negating that.

Sophie: I think you’re absolutely right. The liberal mainstream is almost capable of noticing or saying that there’s a civil war right around the corner, but they literally do not intend to fight in it. It is so cognitively maddening. It’s almost as though that liberal establishment doesn’t intend to do a single thing, just as it didn’t in order to defend abortion because it imagined that its Republican dancing partners would play fair against all evidence to the contrary. Progressive narratives are an epistemic canker, it’s so difficult to completely get rid of, even when one knows better. We’re just swimming in this idea of “history as progress,” and you can never overstate the importance of unthinking it, unpicking it.

It almost gives me hope that there is so much rage right now against the Democrats and their non-response to the striking down of Roe. What could be done is to frame the fight back in terms of very much politics, not ethics – mass gestational labor power, prole power, not individual personal freedom, in a sense, and not individual tragedies, and also, not these terrible spectacular rising tactics that some pro-choicers are using right now, where they’re brandishing blood-stained white pants and coat hangers, and talking about “we won’t go back” and insisting that “thousands will die and backstreet abortions”. Why is that the imaginary, it’s not actually helpful? We are actually in a historically different era. They can surveil and police and incarcerate, and we need to get really good at organizing against that and de-arresting people and blocking their ability to charge people. We need to get really good at evading and operating undercover.

But it’s also really important to think about the time we are in and the future we could build, rather than– I feel we won’t go back imagining that the reproductive status quo ante was okay. Abortions are overwhelmingly safe today. Regardless of whether or not they’re legal. I feel that there’s this bizarre attachment to a Margaret Atwood-flavored catastrophe. We’re literally going to all die because of the abortions themselves. But no, actually, that’s not what’s primarily going to happen. It’s much worse in a sense. I’m not saying incarceration is worse than death. But the real story that this is is a prison abolition story. Yet again, this is an abolitionist lesson. The problem of abortion being criminalized, is an over-criminalization problem, it’s a prison industrial complex problem. It’s a police abolition problem. I’m not sure that really links to your progress narrative point, but it links it to one of the big movements that have swept the “national conversation” in recent years, which is “one thing has to change, which is everything”. It’s not a question of making little meliorative steps towards a better world.

Scott: That’s really important what you said, I just wanted to pick up on it. The way that these laws are being crafted, that is increasing surveillance, increasing criminalization, increasing the possibilities of incarceration, so there’s increased state power there, which is maybe also why the liberals and Democrats in power are not so against it because it’s a boon for the State. But then the other thing that I’m thinking about is how all these laws are deputizing citizens to be informants. That also, to me, speaks to the nascent fascism, which leads to vigilante groups or paramilitary formations of people seeking out who’s doing this, or crossing state lines to track people down? So, I just thought that was really important that you brought up the way that the criminalization aspect of it works. And it shifts the focus around the liberal reaction of performing grief around something that’s not actually live for them at the moment, too. I just wanted to pull that out.

On the other side of the progress narrative, there’s the long-running anarchist or anarchistic critiques of legalizing abortion because of the way that incorporated the grassroots formations of caring for gestators and childbirth and ending childbirth outside of professionalization, or outside of institutionalization dominated by men, in particular, patriarchal power structures. So I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about any of that. Or what we can learn from that perspective now in response to this, which feels so upsetting, but maybe there’s other avenues of response?

Sophie: You’re absolutely right. The fact is so much of Turtle Island has been operating in a post-Roe reality for so long. I don’t know how much that is really real to people. We’ve been post-Roe in a combined and uneven way for some time. This is the zombie lag of it becoming law. People understand, in the places where it’s been de facto post-Roe for years and years, that abortion care happens outside of professional structures and independently of experts. And there is also quite a wide understanding that Roe absolutely sucked in the first place, even before the Hyde Amendment gutted it, and even before the Casey ruling gutted it still further, Roe vs Wade absolutely sucked. And to the extent that it even legalized abortion, which we have to say isn’t even really clear that it did that, it legalized a woman’s or a family’s right to have a private conversation with a health care provider or whatever.

But we have to ask ourselves, “What good is legalization and why do we want that?” You call it an anarchist critique of the legalizing of abortion. It absolutely is that. It is also actually a critique that used to be quite common across the board in the 70’s and the 60’s. They achieved this pyrrhic victory of Roe in 1973. What if we want laws off our bodies, and indeed an end to all laws, rather than laws that legalized anything we might do without laboring uteri, and what if we want the repeal of all abortion laws, not just the bad ones? In terms of the mainstream conversation, for sure, this perspective has been pretty widely lost over the last four decades. But it’s not really just a post-Roe critique, it was actually primarily a pre-Roe critique. I like to call it “gestational decrim”? They used to say, “Off our backs.” The idea is that we get the state completely off and out of our flesh, not just its punitive functions, but also its supposedly benign regulatory functions. And the term gestational decrim is basically something I floated. I don’t know if it’s gonna take off. But it’s an analogy to the sex work liberation movements call for decrim, as you well know. Comrades have tirelessly made the distinction between partial legalization and regulation, the so-called Nordic model, which is terrible for workers, and full decriminalization.

Amar: On the topic of operating sublegally, there, as many listeners probably know, is a group called Jane’s Revenge that is seemingly attempting to destabilize pro-life or forced birth infrastructures. Could you talk about that a little bit? Just talk about what’s been in the news, and also some of your thoughts on how it’s been received and how we might think about it in a more productive way.

Sophie: I wish I had every single fact about Jane’s Revenge at my fingertips. I’m just gonna talk in generalities in the aftermath of the Supreme Court leak striking down Roe, a shadowy anarchist network calling itself Jane’s Revenge was reported on a lot, striking via graffiti actions, and allegedly, also a Molotov cocktail, some windows smashing. The graffiti tag that was used in various locales, and as you mentioned, the targets, Jane’s Revenge was targeting Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which are fake abortion clinics that are funded by the far-right to psychologically guilt and dissuade people from getting abortion care. There was reporting on Jane’s Revenge that their tag was “If Abortions Aren’t Safe, Then Neither Are You.” I have to say I love it. It makes a huge difference if you have a cervix. The terrain of symbolic solidarity is actually quite significant.

There is this extreme minority capture of this issue that makes out, this thing that really everyone supports, actually, the majority of people in America totally like abortion. If you’re into electoral politics, which I’m not, but when you campaign about abortion, it’s quite cheering, it’s actually one of the few things that are fun and uplifting to go knocking on people’s doors about because everyone likes abortion. And that is not present in the symbolic sphere. So when someone breaks a CPC window, or– I live in Philadelphia, I was driving around and saw a big billboard in the aftermath of the leak that just said “Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania”, which might seem a small thing, but when you have a cervix and you’re walking around in the aftermath of a ruling like that, something has shifted. Even if you know that concretely, not that much has shifted for many people, it’s symbolic violence that renders you less than a person. And it is a great act of love to let people know that the violence they are meting out against gestators is hated and will not be tolerated.

My opinion is not really the point so much, I would just say that anyone calling themselves a feminist or leftist could maybe, at the very minimum, not do the right-wing’s job for them and go out of their way to write op-eds condemning Jane’s Revenge, as Judith Levine did in The Intercept. And I was extremely, extremely angry about that. I couldn’t understand why it was necessary of all things at this moment. I don’t know if she’s noticed. I don’t mean to single out Judith Levine. Of course, she’s not the only one. She’s a leftist feminist. A lot of feminists have been condemning Jane’s Revenge for some reason. And it makes me despair a little bit.

Yeah. Facebook, or Meta ruled that Jane’s Revenge was a tier-one terrorist organization. And so any posts expressing neutral or positive sentiments about the actions of Jane’s Revenge will be deleted from Facebook? Apparently, there’s no one on that list of tier-one terrorist organizations other than al Qaeda. It’s actually absurd. And earlier this month, Axios reported that assaults directed at abortion clinic staff and patients increased 128% compared with 2020. There are 4,000 names on the dangerous individuals and organizations list and only 2 are associated with anti-abortion terrorism. But as we know, it’s the supposed pro-life camp that has bombed and murdered people for 40 years. It just seems extremely strange to back up the casting of Jane’s Revenge as terrorists when they are some of the few brave, symbolic actors in solidarity with all the people who have had their bodily autonomy stripped from them by the Supreme Court.

Scott: Yeah, it’s so interesting, because the liberal or even leftists, like the Judith Levine piece are like, “Militancy is great. Violence isn’t good.” But you read the pieces that the people who are calling themselves Jane’s Revenge put out, they are very explicit and clear in their definitions of violence, and what they’re responding to, which you mentioned, is this campaign of literal physical violence against people? Not! They’re targeting empty buildings. It’s property again, right? It’s how it comes back into it. They’re not doing the same thing. Other than the people who are continuing to do abortion care, as they had been doing in, as you also rightly mentioned, that places where Roe didn’t really matter, those people who can’t be very public about the work that they’re doing, Jane’s Revenge is maybe the only visible effective, perhaps, action that’s being taken. Besides the futile protests against buildings or whatever that people do. Also, it’s really exciting because it’s reproducible and anonymous, right? It’s a meme or whatever.

Amar: I love it. To approach all of this with an eye to hypocrisy is to maybe participate in an exercise of driving yourself up the wall. But the hypocrisy of somebody approaching these actions with hand-wringing about violence is pretty backward and very establishment and harmful and also boring.

There’s so much to say about abortion and there’s so much to talk about with how people’s rights are being war-of-attritioned away and how much of those rights actually truly didn’t exist. It was no walk in the park to get an abortion before, a month ago, it was actually quite difficult and more so for folk who live in trigger states and folk who live in chronically unresourced or deresourced places. I would actually really love to hear about your take on the whole groomer discourse that is being levied at trans people specifically, but gay people more generally. Do you have any thoughts about that? And how does that tie into these moments that we’re collectively experiencing?

Sophie: I suppose I already covered some of my thoughts about the weaponized innocence of the figure of the Child. And I suppose this links to the way that– None of this can actually adequately be tackled, including in progressive or socialist, or whatever liberal frames of trans solidarity or allyship, without actually going as far, getting as deep as the principle of youth or child liberation, or youth or child sovereignty. Which is totally lost, it was totally successfully destroyed by the 80’s and by the pedophile industrial complex being built. It’s just off the map more or less, apart from on the fringes of radical movements and, of course, there are wonderful things that are going on. There’s the Purple Thistle, a youth-led community center in Vancouver, carla bergman is an anarchist, reproductive justice militant, and zine archivist who has a book coming out with AK Press called Listen To Kids. There exists consciousness about the importance of actually countering the property logic around kids and including or better than including children in the political process, but it’s just completely fringe. I don’t think that we can actually successfully counter the entire narrative about groomers without actually advocating for something like children and youth liberation. Because groomers are just an outgrowth of the properterian fantasy that, as you mentioned, really weirdly sexualizes the children within the tiny little bubble of the private nuclear household based on eodipal kinship, which is a very strange sexual structure between parents and children, which pretends that it is asexual and projects all of its strange hyper fixated sexuality onto this predatory other.

And it requires children to be literally art canvases, pieces of inheritance, who do not have desires, who do not have sexualities above all, who cannot make friends across generations, and who cannot dictate or negotiate their own boundaries visa vie each other or elders or whatever, and who will be irrevocably harmed by the company of a drag queen. It’s just so boring and so endless, there’s an endless well of this in our culture right now. And I’ve obviously been called a groomer because anyone who talks about queer theory in the public sphere will be called a groomer and a pedophile by TERFs and Gender-Criticals and fascists, etc. And it’s terrifying, right? It’s really terrifying. The left has not got a great strategy worked out about how to be effective in defense against that and how to actually do solidarity with people being targeted by the pedophile industrial complex. I’d love to see more conversations about that.

Scott: Going back to the 70’s, which keeps coming up for us, we’re rehashing on the left the same splintering moments of those radical movements of the women’s movement and gay liberation. They came together in certain areas around abortion and around cisgayness and then splintered around transness. And then the way that it’s reformulating now where supposed radical feminists are taking sides with fascists and right-wingers is a really weird echo or return to that moment. But I wonder what you think about– With groomer, going back to the reproduction of the same and trying to reproduce something else, the threat of the trans child seems to me to be this idea that a kid has some autonomy to refuse the discipline and wages of gender that are forced upon them. And so in a way the groomers are pointing back at– Noah Zazanis wrote about this, too, that cis people are the most effectively groomed people. They’re the ones who do the thing that they’re made to do, and trans people are actually refusing grooming. But I wonder what you think about this, the threat that gay and trans people play is that wherever reproduction we have to do of our community is not sexual reproduction. It’s a different way of forming ourselves and our community. What do you think about the threat of transition and also the strange posthistory of anti-trans feminism?

Sophie: There are different things there. But perhaps, I don’t know what the listenership tends to know and not know. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just state the obvious – or not for some people – about the strange interrelation. I do think it’s important to disambiguate TERFs and Gender-Criticals and simple garden transphobes because sometimes when people hear these conversations from a position of relative unfamiliarity, there can be a real reaction against the seeming conflation of these things. It’s important to state that the State is waging war on trans people, both adult and children, and it’s polarized around the racialized, sex working figure of the trans woman of color, and then the figure of the potentially transed, seduced, groomed, potentially infertile trans child. And this war is being waged primarily in the United Kingdom, but increasingly in the United States and elsewhere. And many actors in this mobilization, which brings together secular right-wingers, Christo-fascists, and sadly, some people who are nominally on the left claim no connection with feminism. That’s maybe obvious, right? However, there is also this presence in their ranks, and even sometimes at their home, especially in the UK. There’s a significant number of self-identified radical feminists. That’s what TERF means – trans-exclusionary radical feminist. This was a terminology brought about by someone who was cis rather than trans. The TERFs don’t like being called TERFs, although it’s very obviously a neutral descriptor. They pitch trans people’s existence itself against the interests of womanhood, and they sometimes link this to a global patriarchal pharma capitalist conspiracy, which supposedly drives the phenomenon of transness. And this links up very beautifully with anti-semitic understandings of the world.

I sometimes think the only real difference between a gender-critical, which is another word for the general anti-trans component within feminism – not all of whom would call themselves radical feminists, so TERF is a specific subset of Gender-Critical – but sometimes the difference between a feminist transphobe, and a Christo-fascist woman, a Trad Wife who hates trans people, is the particular flavor vibe or orientation of their wounded attachment to a suffering-based definition of femaleness. So it’s like do they relate psychically to their own femaleness in a tragic way, which is the feminist transphobes way – we will be females, bleeding and dying in childbirth forever, it’s what makes us sisters – or in a triumphal way, which is the Trad Wife belief, which is really, really inherent, you can hear it, sometimes they say out loud, but the most beautiful thing a woman can do for America is die in childbirth.

And in practice, the links between the feminist transphobes and the anti-feminist transphobes are very well-documented, I can definitely recommend the podcast Blood and TERF, which monitors these relationships. That’s a podcast from the UK, the Heritage Foundation and funding bodies that are even to the right of them have sponsored British radical feminists traveling, advocating, and lecturing for over a decade at this point. I wrote in, of all places, the New York Times who asked me to write about this and explain TERFism’s ideological roots. Why is TERFism so big in the UK? Alas, it was in 2019. Now, it seems it’s a globally known phenomenon because of JK Rowling’s uptake of it. In my opinion, its ideological roots are in eugenic feminism, including specifically colonial English women’s feminist efforts to impose a certain hygiene in India and Africa about a century ago.

But you asked me also about the good news of this confrontation today. There is a real need on the part of capitalist order today to de-fang that disruptive potential that you named in trans kids and to contain the possibilities of trans insurrection within what Nat Raha callsTtrans Liberalism. And it’s really working. There is a spilling over, there is a recognition that there’s refusals of reproductive and productivity type training of that cis heteronormative grooming that Noah Zazanis talks about. The links between that active refusal and all the other issues that we’ve been talking about in terms of work carcerality, the private character of care, the foreclosure of the future in white national reproduction, and so on. When I’m feeling optimistic, there is an insurgency of feminism against cisness taking place. Emma Heaney talks about feminism against cisness. And she turns the history of feminism on its head and historicizes the moment when it became cis, which it was not, to begin with. And the long-standing and currently very potentially powerful insurgency of feminists of all genders against cisness threatens the social order by potentially decommodifying, deprivatizing, and reorienting away from production and reproduction all of the means of collective life-making.

And the question we can ask ourselves, this is from Kay Gabriel, what would it mean for gender to function as a source of disalienated pleasure rather than as an accumulation strategy? And the proliferation of the means of transition doesn’t necessarily but potentially contains a whispered invitation towards exploring that question.

Scott: I love what you just said. That, in my mind, could be a really good last thing to say.

Sophie: We’ve been talking for ages. I’ve taken up so much of your evening. Actually, sometimes it’s good to just quit while you’re ahead. I feel you’re right. Maybe that’s a nice note to end on. We can always think about everything we wish we said and note it down so that our next podcast can potentially– It’s lovely!

Amar: I love it.

Sophie: It’s a real pleasure speaking to you two. It really is.

Amar: The feeling is super, super mutual. I might just ask in closing, is there anything, a notion that you would leave listeners with or parting words that you would say to them?

Sophie: That’s a lovely question. I feel everyone has seen this quote, but it makes me happy when it circulates in times of despair. And it’s that quote from Ursula Le Guin about how the power of capitalism seems immutable, but so did the power of kings under feudalism. When I’m feeling up optimistic right now, I’m realizing that the center cannot hold, there is no center anymore. There is a very real sense in which – and this is very scary – masses of our siblings and neighbors are coming to grips for the first time with the fact that we take care of ourselves, the state does not take care of us, and maybe that provides an opening.

Amar: Indeed, I love that so much. Thank you so much for those words and that provocation that’s really important to keep in mind always, but perhaps especially now.

Building Working Class History

Building Working Class History

book cover for 'Working Class History'
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This week, I spoke with John from the Working Class History collective and host of their WCH podcast. We spoke about the new book, “Working Class History: Everyday Acts of Resistance“, that WCH has published through PM Press, their archives, methodology, the project of popularizing working class, movement and human-sized history and a bunch more. [00:05:53]

More info on Working Class History at their website, WorkingClassHistory.Com, in their podcast and on twitter, instagram and facebook in a growing number of languages.

If you thirst for more conversation with John, you’re in luck as Firestorm Books will be hosting a presentation with him about the book on February 25 from 7-8:30pm eastern or UTC – 5. You can find out more at Firestorm.Coop/Calendar.

A transcription, downloadable pdf and imposed zine should be up in about a week here!

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As an update on our transcription project, we’ve sent our first batch of zines to patreon subscribers over $10. Much thanks to everyone who is contributing at whatever level. We are still $75 short of covering our minimums for the transcription and podcasting fees, so if you think you can become a sustainer consider visiting patreon.com/TFSR. If you don’t like patreon, we can receive ongoing donations from liberapay or paypal, as well as one-time donations via paypal and have merch for sale in our big cartel store.

If you don’t have cash but want to help out our project, that’s great! Reach out with show ideas, tell some friends in meet space or on social media, rep our content, print out some zines and send them into prisoners, rate us on podcasting sites, translate our work, or if you have a community radio station in your area you want to hear us on, get in touch and we’ll help you. We have some notes on our site under the broadcasting tab as well, for our weekly, 58 minute FCC friendly episodes.

Letters for Sean Swain

Our comrades continues to be denied access to regular communication with the outside by the Department of Corrections in Ohio as well as Virginia where he’s being held. It’s also notable that his website is currently down. Sean has a complaint pending before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission for the torture he suffered at the hands of the state of Ohio. He is also collecting support letters for his bid for clemency. You can find more details on instagram by following Swainiac1969, SwainRocks.Org, our Swain tab or by checking out the script up at https://cutt.ly/Hkph3KY.

Thanks to Linda from Subversion1312 for reading this week’s Sean script. [01:18:02]

BAD News #42

The latest episode of BAD News: Angry Voices from around the world by the A-Radio network has just been released. You can find find past BadNews episodes at the A-Radio site. This month, you’ll hear calls for support for the evicted ROG squat in Ljubljana, Slovenia, prisoner and prisoner solidarity updates from Greece, excerpts from a discussion of Russian anarchists about the current protests across that country and Alexei Nawalny, and a short piece highlighting the 100th anniversary of the death of Piotr Kropotkin.

NoDAPL Grand Jury for Steve Martinez

From fedbook

FREE OUR COMRADE & RELATIVE STEVE MARTINEZ! Thank you for the birthday wishes, let’s use this energy to Free & Support Steve! He resisted a Grand Jury for the second time in regards to alleged events from the NO DAPL struggle in Standing Rock, is currently NOT cooperating with authorities, & is awaiting federal extradition! Steve needs our support! Steve helped save our friend Sophia Wilansky’s arm from gettin blown off by military weapons, & he is a solid & brave Indigenous warrior! We are asking our comrades to call the jail to DEMAND they release Steve who is wrongfully in custody at: 701-255-3113, & PLEASE WRITE STEVE in Burleigh Morton Cty Jail at:
Steve Martinez
Po Box 2499
Bismarck, ND
58502

money orders can also be sent to him in his name at that address, as well as to his government name above on jail.atm.com

Loren Reed

We’re sharing a short rap by imprisoned indigenous, emo man, Loren Reed. Loren is facing years in prison for poorly chosen words in a private message on facebook during last summer’s uprising. We’ve mentioned his situation before. You can learn more by following Tucson Anti-Repression Crew and you can hear a great interview on Loren’s case done by fellow CZN member, the ItsGoingDown podcast. You can donate to his support by cashapp’ing TARC ($TucsonARC) or paypal’ing to paypal.me/prisonsupport, don’t forget a note saying “For Loren”.

Daniel Alan Baker

In the run-up to the January 20th presidential inauguration, the far right around the US was threatening large, armed and violent rallies at US state capitols across the country. Daniel Alan Baker, a US army vet, former YPG volunteer combat medic, yoga instructor and leftist activist called for people to counter what could have been seen as the deadly sequel to January 6th events in DC. He was pre-emptively arrested by the FBI and is currently being held at Tallahassee’s Federal Detention Center. Like Loren Reed, he is facing years in prison for statements made on social media. For more information, check out this article in Jacobin Magazine, or a great chat with supporters of Daniel’s from CZN member-show Coffee With Comrades. Updates can be found at Instagram by following GuerillaGalleryTLH.

A-Radio Network Live Show

Join the A-Radio Network on Saturday, February 13th of 2021 from 14:00 till at least 20:00 o‘clock central European time, that’s 8am to 2pm eastern or New York time for our 6th transnational live broadcast of anti-authoritarian and anarchist radios from deep within where anarchy reigns.

Since 2016 this is an important part of our yearly gathering of the A Radio network. Due to the pandemic and strong restrictions given by Governments all over the world, this year’s gathering was forced online. But don’t worry, against all odds we will nonetheless join together online on February 14th to broadcast an international show full of interesting contributions and discussions with/from comrades based in different parts all over the world. And you, dear listeners are also invited!

So far, our topics will include international experiences of: prison resistance; anarchy in the time of covid; Far Rightwing threats; and experiences organizing mutual aid!

The show will be carried by (a) transnational and militant spirit which hopefully is highly infectious. We promise our bad anarchist jokes aren’t lethal.

You will find a more detailed schedule, a player for the show and a link to the livestream soon on www.a-radio-network.org and if you’d like to participate, you can also reach out to member projects that can be found on that same site!

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Musical tracks in this episode:

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Transcription

 

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourself with your name pronouns and any projects you affiliate with for the purpose of this conversation?

WCH: Hi, I’m WCH:, he, and I’m the host of the Working Class History podcast.

TFSR: Would you tell us a bit about the Working Class History project, how it got started, who was involved, and why you started it?

WCH: Basically it came out of some discussions that I have with some friends a few years ago. We’d been involved in lots of different activist groups over the years and publishing projects, and involved in different campaigns. Myself, I spent most of my time organizing at work. And social media, it’s obviously a really powerful tool, and we were thinking about how could we try and put out information—radical sort of information—on social media in a way that would go viral. And we’d also got very interested in reading about the history and learning about past struggles, because the more we did organizing ourselves and were involved in social movements and such, the more it gets a bit sort of frustrating on one level seeing in general, mainstream society, that there’s so little connection that most people have—especially people of our generation and younger—have with mass working class oppositional counterculture which used to exist. Especially in the UK, where I’m from. Most of us we don’t have that organic link with the past anymore where there’d be generations of union families in certain communities. We wanted to think how can we try and not bring that back immediately, but draw that link with the past and at the same time on the (you want to call it the Left or whatever or the workers movement or whatever term you call for it) thinking that so many people get involved in stuff each new generation gets involved in stuff, and they repeat the mistakes of the people that came before them. So all sorts of thinking about how can we try and learn from these struggles in the past and try and help get these lessons to new generations of workers and activists that crop up every generation. And then we thought people seem to like anniversaries, so let’s do that. We started doing that on social media. And we were hoping that it would be viral and it was a lot more successful than we thought, in that. Because I guess for people who are, like, a bit lefty or whatever, seeing a post on social media about something happened on this day, it gives them an opportunity to share something with friends, colleagues in a way that doesn’t seem random, because it is about something that happened today. So now I’m not just lecturing all my work colleagues and family about the Paris Commune of 1871 or whatever, it’s like, “Oh, this is a historical thing that happened today, this is interesting and you might find it interesting, too.” And I think it worked in that way. Because it does give an organic and nice way of sharing information without being a bit fun and without being preachy, or lecture-y, or whatever. So that’s where it came out of, and then as the project’s got bigger we just started trying to do other things like a podcast to look into a bit more detail. Because sometimes we get comments on the on post being like, “Oh, this doesn’t have a lot of background in it, or this should really have a bit more detail.” It’s a social media post. It’s not a PhD thesis or something. We recognize that. We wanted to look into stuff into a bit more detail so we can do it in a podcast. And for people who don’t like looking at stuff online and want to have more of a reference work, we’ve done a book now.

TFSR: I’d like to talk about the book. One thing that you described in there is not a thing that I’ve ever experienced growing up in, I guess, middle class community in the United States, is a knowledge or an expectation or an experience of what a multi-generational working class feeling is. I have tons of friends growing up who were working class. But I think that a thing that you’re describing and that your project is building towards is a little bit different and a little bit something that I’d love to hear if you have any more like insights into how it’s been described to you the sort of like edges that you’ve danced around in trying to create it and what a working class culture in the UK where you grew up, for instance, felt like. What delineates that from just the experience of people who are poor and working and trying to get by?

WCH: I grew up in the southeast of England which is one of the places where the erosion of sense of working class identity has really been very successful especially with policies brought in by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and onwards. The major industries where workers were best organized and most militant were systematically divided up and then defeated one after another, first with the mine workers, then with the print workers, also around the same time period steel workers, and shipping workers were defeated as well, and then later dock workers. So that was one side of it. And then another side of it was around housing, where social housing was attacked and instead ‘Right to Buy’ was introduced, which gave working class people the ability to buy their own council house, which was—especially in the southeast of England where I’m from—massively successful at converting what was a relatively large group of working class people who mostly were Labor voters and identified in that line of things. It was very successful at turning that collective sense of identity into a massive atomized individuals who can do better for them. Because buying your own council house was a move which did help those individual people who did it significantly. And that was the area that I sort of grew up in amongst a lot of people where that had happened. So their families had bought their own home and then had a sense of themselves as very middle class, mostly conservative individuals striving to do the best for themselves that they could. I’m one of the people from that generation that had no connection with these working class oppositional cultures that I just learned about later when I got into lefty ideas and radical politics.

TFSR: Would you mind talking a bit about the book that y’all just published through PM Press and sort of the process that you went through of compiling it? And what do you hope, as a project, that this book will spark or will bring out and people

WCH: The idea for the book came out of our discussions with our publishers, PM Press, who are a great independent, radical publisher, and who contacted us to see if we’d be interested in doing a book, because we hadn’t really thought about it. We were doing social media posts, and then a podcast, and we’d been involved in some print publishing in the past, but it was a huge amount of work and that put us off the whole-put us off the whole thing. PM talked us into it. And we were excited to do it because on a personal level, like, I love books. Books are great and doing one is great. Even, say, for people who follow us on social media, because of the large amount of other people are putting up posts and algorithms, people won’t see everything that we put out most the time only a fraction of a percent see anything that we put out. And also, because of algorithms, certain posts get much more prominent than others. So especially things that are more about countries where more of our followers live, like the US, that stuff gets a lot more engagement and then a lot more people see it. So people who even do follow us on social media might get a very narrow view of the historical events that we have in our archive. And also, of course, a whole bunch of stuff there aren’t photos of. And in this book we do have a lot of photos, we’ve got over 100 photos. We’ve also been able to feature a lot of stories from our archive where there are no images that exist, so we can’t put them on social media.

We wanted to put something out for people who enjoy consuming content in a different medium. And also to have more as a reference that you can flip through without having to look at a screen or whatever. And it was exciting to be able to think of putting together in terms of a whole, creating as a whole thing. So taking a random selection of everything that we post over a whole year, instead of what we normally do, which is every day we post a couple of things. It was good to think “we’ve got 366 days out of the year and these are the countries that we’ve got events about and we want to feature them the biggest amount of countries and have the most diverse range of stories possible with respect to gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation, race, ethnicity,” and that sort of thing. And with the idea of the book being as diverse as our classes—we acknowledge in the introduction to the book that we have made a lot of efforts in this regard but we still have a long way to go due to the nature of the bias of the sources available to us, which are disproportionately about white guys in more developed Western countries. Most of our research over the past few years has been trying to find out and uncover stories about different parts of the world. But even that is tricky because of language stuff and even knowing what you can Google and such. So, while we’ve still got a way to go, we are still pleased at the range of different types of stories that we feature.

TFSR: It’s quite the tome. And it’s been remarked upon before, like, how much of it—so like, two events out of every date out of the year, including the February 29—which, “thank you” from leap your babies. And I appreciate the fact that there’s an index in the back because there’s a thing to be said about the way that we think about information and that we categorize it if your main impetus is, like, “what is the day today?” “What else has happened on this registered day in history?” That can be, in some happy ways, a bit lackadaisical. You’re not going to be flipping from one page to the next and saying, “Well, then what happened after the workers rose up or after the Soviet tanks came in or after, like, the British military massacred people in Kenya?” It’s interesting to just sort of get these little bite-sized morsels of history. And it seems to invite the reader to embark on a journey of research on their own afterwards, and sort of build the context for themselves as to why this is like important—build an understanding and maybe build wider networks with folks that were more directly affected by those historical events.

WCH: Yeah, that’s what we hope it will do. Like, we list all the sources that we use for each of the posts in the back. So that we do hope that if people see something that is interesting to them, they will go and look into it further. Because in our stories, we don’t try and tell people what they should take from them or what they should think because of them. We don’t want to tell people what to think or anything like that. Obviously we have a perspective, there’s a reason that we’ve put these stories in here. We want people to be able to read these stories and then look into them further if they want and figure out for themselves what the relevance is for them, their lives, and any struggles that they’re involved in.

TFSR: Class has a lot of meanings when it comes from different voices. And we’ve talked a little bit about your experience and basically with how class had been experienced by some people in the part of the world that you had grown up in. Can you talk a bit, for the purpose of this project, which I think was started by people in various parts of the world and not just in, like, the UK, for instance. Can you talk about the standards you used to determine something in the book or in the social media posts or in the podcast, or someone that falls within the parameters of what working class is? And why is it important to view it as a position of agency?

WCH: I think there’s so many different ways that you can talk about class. And they all have some validity. But for us, what’s important is we don’t use it as a system for classifying individuals. Our interest in it is as a political tool which is, how can we best understand society? And how can we then use that understanding in order to change it? And we think that class is a really essential tool in understanding that, especially living as we do in capitalist society. So capitalist society is based on the dispossession of the majority of the world’s population. We are dispossessed of means of production. So land, factories, workplaces, etc., we’re dispossessed of that. So that either by enclosures in European countries, and by colonialism pretty much everywhere else, were dispossessed of that, and therefore, we have to work for a wage for people who do own the means of production, who do own land, factories, blah, blah, blah. And that’s the defining feature of capitalist society. And that’s our broad understanding of class and how we use it. The defining feature of working class for us is this dispossession and then the requirement to either work for another or if you can scrape by on state benefits, if your government provides benefits, or petty crime, or whatever else you have to do. Some people use it—and I think in everyday parlance in the UK, it’s much more of a cultural thing. So what class someone says they have is often more to do with someone’s accent than anything else. The kind of British version of Donald Trump, the guy who hosts the Apprentice TV show, he’s, uh— I don’t know, if he’s a—he’s probably not a billionaire. He’s a very rich business owner called Alan Sugar. He sees himself as working class because his background is—that’s his background and that’s like his accent. And he can think that and that’s, that’s fine. That’s one sort of interpretation of it, but for our perspective, he’s an employer. And his wealth is from exploiting the people that have to work for him because we don’t own businesses.

So obviously in the US there’s even different —there’s all kinds of different ways we’ll have a talk about class. Like, in the US, unions mostly talk about the middle class, talk about being middle class. Because of struggles over the past 100 plus years, a good number of people in blue collar jobs have been able to improve their conditions to the point where they can have a decent standard of living because of the struggles they’ve had. So that there’s a lot of union talk in the US of unions defending the middle class, blah, blah, blah, which is funny, really, especially from a UK perspective where middle class normally means kind of like posh people that like films with subtitles and stuff. So we use it as, not about classifying individuals, but about understanding and changing society. So for example, in our archive we have stories about Oscar Wilde, the author and poet and libertarian socialist. And sometimes people will say things like, “He wasn’t working class.” And it’s like, yeah, fair enough. But his political ideas and the kind of world that he wanted to create was one in which working class people were in control of society and were really able to make the most of our lives and live vibrant, free, beautiful lives. That’s the thing that interests us the most, that for us is the key thing.

TFSR: There are examples in the book that do not take place directly within the framework of the means of production and employment—you point to the intersections between the dispossession and the wielding of state, religious, or social power against populations that are marginalized, whether by ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, place of birth. Can you can you talk a little bit about that widening too of the framework of working class? Because I’m sure there’s some people that are some pretty strict Marxists or workerists out there who are of the perspective that, “Well, that’s all fine and good, but that is not working class.”

WCH: And that was one of the reasons that we specifically chose the name that we did, as opposed to something more populist like “People’s History” ala Howard Zinn, a historian who is a big influence on us. Because those vulgar— want to call themselves Marxists or workerists or whatever, are a problem. People who, while they talk progressive talk about overhauling society and building a new type of world, what they often mean in a lot of ways is that they mean that for white male factory worker-type people, and everyone else like women, or Black people, or Indigenous peoples should pretty much be quiet and stop being “divisive” until the revolution, and then all the other problems can be sorted out and hunky dory. And we think that is pretty terrible, in short, not only from a moral perspective, but also it’s completely counterproductive. And it’s a misunderstanding of what class is. While these people may often criticize what they see as identity politics, which is, in most cases, just people in oppressed groups fighting for their own self-interests. They, in fact, are adopting a crude identity politics of their own on the identity of being working class, which they normally also see as excluding other types of identities. And class doesn’t exclude other identities, it overlaps and intersects with all other identities. Obviously, most trans people are working class, most other LGBT people are working class, and the vast majority of the world’s working class are people of color. And they’re located primarily in the global south. And every other type of oppression and exploitation overlaps and intersects with class. For example, things like abortion: wherever you are in the world, whatever the laws are, generally, if you’re rich, you can get an abortion if you need one. Whereas if you are poor, you may not be able to get one, even if it’s nominally legal where you are.

So things like abortion rights are inherently part of a class conflict, class struggle. Abortion rights is just one example—all other types of oppression, racism, homophobia, transphobia, all that sort of thing is very much linked to class, and any single part of our class, fighting for our own interests, benefits all of us because these workerist-type people who would say that struggles of women workers against the pay gap is a section— is a sectional thing, not in the interest of a class of a whole, say, they don’t have that same perspective when workers in one industry go on strike, or one employer go on strike for a pay increase, because they rightly recognized in that case that a victory for one group is a victory for all. And it’s exactly the same with different sections of the working class divided up by any other arbitrary characteristic.

Things like the super-exploitation of migrant workers, or particularly oppressed racial groups, the low pay for black workers in many countries, fighting against that specific racism, exploitation, raises the bar for everyone. So there’s not the constant race to the bottom, in terms of paying conditions where employers can use us to undercut one another. So we thought that was really important to get across. And also point to, historically, that often it has been the most oppressed and the most underpaid workers who have been at the forefront of organizing for better pay and conditions. Not like some populist lefty is trying to say about migrant workers being used to undercut good union jobs or what have you. But more often than not, migrant workers are really at the forefront of workers struggle fighting for better paying conditions and have been. And through history, whether it’s people like agricultural laborers in the United States, or whether it’s people like cleaners in London, England right now, leading so many struggles. Obviously, historically, in the US, women textile workers were often forgotten about. But women textile workers were the first group of workers who properly organized in factories and took strike action. And in the (US) South, black agricultural workers and workers in industries like logging and mining were central and leading in organizing and fighting for better paying conditions, which benefited everyone, including white male workers who often tried to exclude women or black people from their unions.

TFSR: So I’ll totally admit that I haven’t read the book cover to cover and the intro says that I don’t have to so I can just pick it up whenever and say, like, I wonder what happened on June 15. But I am looking forward to continually reading portions as the days passed. I’m noticing a libertarian bent to the stories that are told, for example, I haven’t seen any acts of state by so-called worker states represented as working class events in the book. Could you talk about that a little bit?

WCH: Yeah, well, our approach is summed up in our slogan which is on the back of the book and on our social media accounts, and that’s, “history is not made by kings, politicians, or a few rich individuals, it’s made by all of us.” So that’s the perspective we’re coming from. So the act of politicians and governments isn’t particularly interesting to us because we’re believers in the principle that the emancipation of the working class is the task of the working class itself. And that was one of the rules of the First International —the first big international socialist organization. And that’s our view of things, that the thing that drives history is not the actions of governments, politicians, or the powerful, it’s the everyday actions, often really small and unnoticeable, by millions, hundreds of millions, billions of us. So that’s what we focus on.

Although we do feature some events which have been done in our name. That have been done by governments which call themselves representatives of the working class. Because we think that as well as learning from successful struggles in the past, we should also learn from our mistakes where terrible crimes have been committed in the name of the working class. So some of the things we include are things like the Soviet Union re-criminalizing homosexuality, which was decriminalized during the 1917 revolution and then in the 1930s was re-criminalized. And that led to the huge numbers of gay and bisexual men being sent to the gulags, to labor camps, to suffer horribly. And that was done in the name of the working class and fighting fascism. We think it’s important to remind ourselves of these things that while those of us who say we want a new world, our ideas are beautiful ideas in a lot of ways. And that we want to create a great world where there’s a lot more happiness and joy than we have now, and a lot less suffering. It’s important to bear in mind that having these lofty ideas in our heads doesn’t always mean that that’s how they work out in practice. And we should be constantly vigilant not to think that the ends justify the means when it comes to certain things.

TFSR: You talked about the limitations of the project in the introduction, such as the limit to two events represented for each day. You also mentioned where you’re starting from, the types of events that you’re aware of, linguistic factors that determine the scope of what you could include. But can you talk about this work in your project in the social media, or in the archives, the work of translating your social media posts on the days of history? Or if you’ve had success through translation to bringing histories that were formerly out of your reach into that wider fold of your project?

WCH: Can I check? Do you mean translating stuff from other languages into English? Or do you mean vice versa?

TFSR: Into English is what I meant, to bring it to your existing audiences. But also, I would imagine that there’s a give and take when it comes to the fact that you’re now doing translations into Arabic and other languages and it seems like you’re trying to expand that framework. Is that right?

WCH: We are very fortunate in that a number of people have got in touch and have launched sister pages, essentially, of Working Class History in other languages. So at the moment there’s WCH sister pages in Arabic, Farsi, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Norwegian, Swedish, and the latest one is Romanian, which is really cool and really exciting to see. Some of those groups also are researching their own events and writing up their own history more about their part of the world. So the Farsi page has a lot of stuff about Iranian radical history, which is really fascinating. And the Arabic page as well about the Middle East. And that’s great, because that’s teaching us a bunch of stuff that we didn’t know. And the Portuguese lot as well are writing a load of great stuff, not just about Portugal but about—especially about struggles in former colonies like Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, and Bissau. So that’s really great for us. And in terms of us finding out things because, as I said, when we first started the social media page, we got a few radical history calendar-type-things and went through and wrote some stuff up, but the ones that we found were massively US and Western Europe and male-centric.

So like I said, the majority of the time we spent looking up new things have been to try and diversify that and correct the bias and imbalance that was in it right from the beginning. And for doing that—not that I want to give any big corporations any praise—but I love Google Translate so much. It’s such an amazing tool that it can do pretty decent, pass-able translations from so many languages into English. So we do use that a fair bit to find out about things. The problem with it being that if writing about something is only available in a language that you don’t speak, you wouldn’t even necessarily know to look something up there unless you had knowledge of it in the first place, which you might not have if it wasn’t in English, if you see what I mean. So it’s a bit—it’s a bit chicken and egg. Basically, when we find out about something in a country or a place that we haven’t heard of, we can use that as an entry point and then read things about it and use Google Translate. And then that references other things which we can then look up. We go down rabbit holes. It’s quite a fun way to—like, nerdy, but a fun way to spend an afternoon like going down a rabbit hole. I did that recently just reading up various things about struggles by Japanese students and things in the 1960s and 70s. I’m sure that there’s lots of stuff that has been written about kinds of stuff by people in academia at some point or by students at different universities or whatever. That’s not the background that we at WCH come from. We wouldn’t even know if any of that stuff exists because most stuff that’s written for academia is then just never heard from again by anyone outside of it, which is a shame I think.

TFSR: Or it’s just behind a paywall so you have to have the JSTOR—shout out to Aaron Schwartz, but most people don’t have that sort of access.

WCH: Exactly. So problems remain where, in the availability of information around the world, but at least on a positive, things do seem to be getting better in that regard. And I think a lot of the time just driven by ordinary people researching stuff and writing it up and then sharing on social media, and then you can find out about it, look into more and what have you, and find more kinds of things that have been digitized around the place. And the more of everything that’s made available online and translated, eventually, the more that we get to find out about all of it. But so it is exciting seeing new things get to get digitized and put online. Yeah, it’s a slow process.

TFSR: Like off topic a little bit, but to the Google Translate thing? Yeah, Google is a terrible company in its application. But also, like, six years ago I was in Istanbul and I remember—like, I don’t speak any Turkish—but I remember sitting in a cafe and one of the workers came up to talk to me because I was sitting in reading, and they asked me what I was reading in Turkish. And I was like, showed them my phone and, like, typed in to Google Translate to translate into Turkish, like, “I don’t speak Turkish, sorry.” And they just put up their phone and they were like, “Okay, well, I was wondering what you were reading—” We just had this conversation showing screens to each other and eventually got to see this, like, barista’s artwork that they wanted to show me that they had drawn and it was just neat to be able to have this conversation that would have been excluded if not for the fact that we had this intermediary technology standing between us. It’s Utopic if not for the fact that it’s owned by a terrible Skynet corporation that is trying to control all the library books.

WCH: I guess you could say at least their business model is more to let people use stuff for free and then just make money off our data in private information, rather than—don’t know if it’s better or worse. Certainly we can make use of it more than, like, the other companies that buy up historical images and then their model is to try and own all the images and then make people pay to use them. Those terrible, terrible things. Capitalism is like, it’s bad?

TFSR: It’s like it’s enclosing everything. So have you considered making a Working Class History page in Esperanto?

WCH: If someone would like to take that on and do that they are very welcome to.

TFSR: Very diplomatic.

WCH: We’ve got a bunch of stuff about that. Esperanto has a really exciting and interesting radical history. And, sadly, a guy that we are planning on doing an interview about him—a guy called Eduardo Vivancos, just died a few days ago, aged 100. He was a guy who, he fought in the Spanish Civil War in the Durutti Column Militia and survived the war, obviously, but he was also a very prominent Esperantist who wrote and did a lot of stuff spreading anarchist and working class ideas in Esperanto, and was able to communicate with lots of people in China and Japan, in particular, at that time. So I think certainly that Esperanto was a really exciting Utopian project at the time. It has a really interesting history.

TFSR: It’s really easy to point to the limitations of it being such a Euro-centric language and what have you. Like, it’s definitely an imperfect thing, but the approach and the desire to have some sort of universal tongue among peoples, it’s a really beautiful idea. A universal tongue that’s not distinctly just English or German or French or Spanish or whatever else. I know that Radio Libertaire in Paris has a weekly Esperanto show that tries to teach listeners how to speak it, which I think is pretty cool to see that still alive. I don’t know.

WCH: Just you saying that and I think that is—the idea is really cool and really Utopian. But what popped into my mind as well is also—also recently what is also about things like Indigenous languages. And so many languages are dying out. I say “dying.” Have been eradicated essentially by colonialism and neocolonialism, particularly with the spread of English. So it is heartening to see, it seems like there’s been a real like growth in interest in trying to—particularly by indigenous peoples—to re-popularize things like indigenous languages and other languages are dying out, which I think is also really important because on the flip side of universal communication there’s also that, like, because of how our brains work, so much of the language we speak shapes how we can imagine things and how our minds work and having languages die is—those whole ways of thinking die out along with them and which is really sad.

TFSR: So in the US, the last national regime was pushing a program of patriotic education, attempting to reform and shape the inculcation of public school students away from influences of critical race theory and projects like the New York Times 1619 projects, as well as “People’s History” ala Howard Zinn, who you mentioned before. States in the US have, with various levels of success, attempted to bar ethnic studies programs and to ban books like Zinn’s. Can you talk about the approach of “People’s History,” which you mentioned as being—or at least in name, at least a bit populist—and it’s maybe like, Zinn’s work or Studs Terkel or other documentarians of working class experiences, how it’s, like, influenced y’all in working class history and why you think the reactionaries find it so threatening, like that sort of approach to popular history?

WCH: Some of the stuff especially being pushed by the last government was extremely worrying with their very blatant attempts to rewrite history, especially for, like, right wing people who like to complain about Black Lives Matter activists trying to rewrite history by removing some statues, and they actually try to rewrite history by making a lot of shit up and lying about it. It’s ironic at the least, especially as it’s also so completely nonsensical that—yeah it is good that there has been a real growth recently in more people-based history, more grassroots history, more Black history, more Indigenous history more history told from the perspective of Black people, Indigenous peoples, and so on. And that is great, and that so many people are out there doing that. But at the same time, that idea in the right wing that these ideas are, like, Marxist indoctrination of schoolchildren is predominant in any public education system is to such a complete joke that. I mean, it’s obviously not funny because it’s extremely disturbed. The fact that a lot of educational institutions pay at least a bit of lip service to teaching about slavery or the civil rights movement, I think a lot of teachers and educators are doing really great work. In a lot of ways, the way that history is still taught for the most part is still very much top down, Euro-centric, colonial, blah, blah, blah.

So anyway, that’s a bit of an aside. People like Howard Zinn was really a big influence. Reading his book for the first time was very exciting. And I think on a personal level, I don’t think I really realized it at the time— I read “War and Peace” as a teenager by like Leo Tolstoy who was an anarchist, but I also didn’t realize that at the time. And intersperse—because the books about the sort of war and all these countesses and counts and whatever. And it’s really fucking long. For anyone who has or hasn’t read or whatever, interspersed through this really long story is a kind an essay about the nature of history. And the thrust of it being that, like, history is not—obviously Napoleon or whatever is a great man of history, but Napoleon is not what has made this history happen. What’s far more important is the infinitesimally small actions of tens of millions of people every single day that goes to create what history is. And I think when I read that, at the time, I thought that was a bit random that this essay was in here amongst all this sort of stories of aristocratic love and intrigue and everything. That actually stuck with me way more than the rest of the book. I think that probably had a real impact on how I think about things later. So obviously it did have an influence on me personally and on WCH in general.

And for reactionaries, yeah, it is threatening because the idea that we as ordinary people have the power to make history and change society is the most threatening thing for the people who are in power now. Because what is in their interests is the fatalistic idea which I think—I don’t know about most people, but probably most people have at least at some time—is that things are the way they are because that’s the way they have to be, and there’s nothing we can do about it. And things will never change, blah, blah, blah. Which is obviously what people thought under Feudalism that the divine right of kings was something which could never be—which was, it was in the natural order of things and it could never be question never be changed. But then when people realize that, actually—Ursula LeGuin was a legendary anarchist, feminist scifi author, who sadly died a couple of years ago, said, I can’t be the exact words, I am paraphrasing. It’s not the right quote, so don’t quote me on it. “Any society that’s made by humans, however, can be changed by humans” which is, of course, true.

TFSR: I think there is some truth to the argument that they’re rewriting history. Like when we push different narratives, it doesn’t mean that people are making up facts. But history is a narrative that—or a series of narratives that we choose to accept or that are accepted by institutions and that shape the way that we view ourselves and we view the society in which we live. And a fundamental shift in that way of adopting, funnily this view that two pacifist at least anarchist-adjacent individuals like Tolstoy and Zinn had of the world… I wouldn’t call it Cultural Marxism like a lot of people on the right do. I think that it does pose a threat to the way that the world is constructed. And we can think outside of the Feudal bounds that we’re stuck in now even.

WCH: Yes. Yes, I concur.

TFSR: Along those lines there is the rewriting of history. But this isn’t even necessarily part of it, this is a byproduct of the fact that people are rethinking their relationship to historical figures who are in primacy in the historical framework—the historiographies that most of us have grown up in the US under in mainstream society. It’s been the history of great men, to paraphrase Gang of Four.

And the breaking down of that, the rethinking of these public figures who do have statues around, whether it be Christopher Columbus, or Thomas Jefferson, or General Robert E. Lee, or Conquistadors or missionaries on the west coast—they’re not even just in the West Coast of the United States. Cecil Rhodes, or whoever—like, statues have been toppled. Statues were at the center of Unite the Tight number one in Charlottesville in 2017, August 12. It was a fight over statues and public representation. And similarly, throughout the United States south there have been the toppling of other statues and monuments, either to individuals or to symbolic ideas of the southern soldier, like, facing north ready to, like, fight back the siege and re-impose—continually impose white supremacy. Symbols like this mean a lot to people. Enough for people to fight over or to like struggle to destroy to build something else. Like, I’d be interested in hearing how Working Class History members felt during this last couple of years, but in particular, this summer during the uprising that took place in so many places around the world.

WCH: It was an exciting time. Not to play down obviously, it came out of horrific events the brutal on-camera murders of unarmed Black men around the US—not to downplay the horror of it. The upsurge in Black-led, self-organized protest and militancy, not just around the US, but that also had an impact, partly because of US cultural dominance of the planet in large part, that also saw similar protests breakout all over the world, and as well as parallel movements in Nigeria—again about police brutality by the colonial era police force. So on the one hand, there was the Black Lives Matter movement. And then at the same time, from our perspective, it looked like a real surge of interest from people in radical history, people’s history, the history of past movements and colonialism and social movements. We had a massive growth in new followers and interactions with our content that was unprecedented, which was exciting for us as a history project, but then also seeing how many of the kinds of discussions happening were about history and the nature of history and the telling of it was interesting and inspiring as well.

Talking about the negative impacts of colonialism that’s not something which I can recall being on the public agenda in my lifetime which is tremendously significant. And then seeing the physical manifestations of that top down—bourgeois if you want to call it right wing, colonialist, capitalist history in the statues of right wing, rich, enslaving, genocidal monuments have been built to these—I think (that) these statues that—they say what our civilization is supposed to be about. That’s what we acknowledge and revere is wealth, genocide, racism, colonialism, and all that. And seeing those symbols being toppled, or damaged, or just graffitied and denigrated. And my favorite one was the Colston statue in Bristol, of an enslaver in Bristol, just being thrown in the river. Chefs kiss! That was really sort of inspiring to see.

Then for some people on the right to complain about, oh, this is rewriting history. These things are happening because people have studied history and a lot of cases, their bodies and their selves, they’ve experienced and lived this history through their ancestors, the trauma and they’ve possessed that and they know their history and the history has been studied and it’s being talked about and this is happening because of the actual history of things. The statute is not the history, the statue is a piece of metal put up by some rich person. This is being done by people who actually know the history, not just whoever Tucker Carlson or some other right wing [beep] spews out about whatever—and especially because so many of these statues as well were erected in in the US south were erected by pro-Confederate, pro-slavery groups like the Daughters of the Confederacy, literally in an effort to rewrite history and change the narrative about what the Civil War was about. About state’s rights as opposed to the enslavement of human beings. So, it’s an interesting time to be a People’s Historian.

TFSR: Some of the stuff that happened over the summer really, like, reminiscent of that, like—and this is like an old, I don’t know how old it is, like the two examples I can think of are—as flawed as the invasion of Iraq was, it’s very flawed—as much as I wish that it had not happened—like, the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein was a pretty powerful public image. At least, I’m not sure how much it was organic and how much it was put together by the invading forces—or the like decapitation of the statue of Stalin in Budapest in 1956. That’s a, there’s some really cool photos of that. But people like their symbols and also people like destroying their symbols.

WCH: And also all the right wing hysteria about them is like absolute nonsense. Like I don’t know if it was seen over here in the US, but in the UK there was this right wing counter protest to Black Lives Matter that happened by these mostly fascists, and mostly fascist Nazi racist types. And from having been crying about, “Oh, they defaced he statue of Churchill,” or whatever. Obviously you can say a lot of bad things about Churchill or whatever. But also, Churchill did—was involved in a big war against Nazis. So I’m not really sure that he is your boy as much as you think. I mean, yeah, he was a racist, genocidal anti-Semite pro-fascist, whatever. So they had this big protest but they got caught on camera like pissing on statues because they’re just drunk Muppets pissing on the statues that a couple of weeks before they were like, “Oh, look at these thugs,” crying like Churchill was a racist on [inaudible] or whatever. Being like, “Oh, that’s outrageous,” and then they just go piss on them. So, how real is the outrage, huh?

TFSR: Yeah. Yeah, here, I don’t know. There was—I remember seeing footage of like a certain neighborhood in Philadelphia where just a bunch of Italian American people were out in this park defending a statue of Columbus because they were afraid that someone that Antifa was gonna come and topple it or something.

WCH: (There) could be a few less statues of Christopher Columbus and some more statues of like Sacco and Vanzetti and Carlo Tresca and if you want to tie in American statues.

TFSR: Yeah totally. A statue the Galleani. I would appreciate that more than, like, a statute of Frank Rizzo. I think they took that one down at least but it was like a racist reactionary. Police Chief in—

WCH: Yeah, in Philly. I think that got blown up at least once or twice didn’t it?

TFSR:

I don’t know about that. The—maybe? The ones that I remember being—or the one that I remember being blown up that was to the police was the—

WCH: Haymarket one.

TFSR: Yeah, the Haymarket one. I think that’s great. That’s maybe the best thing the Weather Underground ever did.

WCH: Yeah, it was similar to a statue of Margaret Thatcher was decapitated by a man with a cricket bat when it was unveiled in England a few years ago that was a fun day.

TFSR: That’s awesome. Back to the interview…

WCH: Yep. Yep. Yeah.

TFSR: So I’ve been a fan of the Working Class History podcast for a while now. Would you talk about the work there and what you choose to cover in it? And do you have any favorite episodes that stand out?

WCH: Well, as I said, we started doing the podcast to try and look some more into some of these stories, and in particular, capture the voices of participants who took part in some of these movements and struggles, to learn from their experiences. We’ve been doing that for a while now. And in terms of what we choose to cover, we’ve got a massive list of episodes that we want to work on. It’s like 160 episodes or something and constantly growing. What we’re trying to do right now is prioritize producing episodes about social movements where the participants are at risk of, because of age, not being able to— And sadly a couple of people that we had lined up to interview about things have died recently before we were able to speak with them. So we’re trying to do a fair bit of stuff about struggles in the 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s right now, for the most part. Again, as with the rest of project, we tried to have a diverse selection of different types of stories and movements.

We’ve got a couple of series that we’re working through. They’re kind of intermittent series on themed things. We’ve pretty much wrapped up now our series about the Vietnam War where we had a lot of episodes about that, including possibly—I don’t know if it’s my favorite one, but certainly one of—it’s a miniseries about the Columbia Eagle Mutiny where we speak with a guy called Alvin Glatkowski. He was a merchant sailor during the Vietnam War. He was working on a ship with a friend of his, called Clyde McKay, that was carrying 10,000 tons of napalm to be used by US forces in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He and Clyde hijacked a ship at gunpoint and sailed it to Cambodia, which was neutral, and his story is incredible. He hadn’t been recorded telling that story before. Hearing him tell it and then being able to put it out was something that personally I’m really proud of. And it’s a great story and a crazy story as well. So that’s a favorite, for sure.

Also, on the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion in New York, where LGBT people rose up against police harassment, was able to get in touch with few people who participated in the rebellion and were involved in the organizing afterwards, where people set up the Gay Liberation Front, which revolutionized the LGBT rights movement. That was really inspiring to talk to these people as well.

Another occasional series we’ve got is about the British Empire. And we did an episode on the—it was quite timely actually because it was while a recent wave of riots were happening in Hong Kong. I met with a bunch of people who were involved in the Hong Kong riots in 1967 against British occupation, British colonialism. And that was super interesting because I knew almost nothing about that before starting doing the research for that episode. So it was super interesting just to learn about their experiences growing up in British colonial Hong Kong. Especially because it’s always spoken about quite widely is an example of British colonialism done well, and getting to the meat of that. Because up until these riots took place, Hong Kong was a trading post, obviously, but also had a large number of super-exploited factory workers working in like really appalling conditions, making things like—the factory where it was started was a plastic flower factory, and things like that. And it was these riots in 1967 that were successful in substantially changing the nature of British colonialism in the country from a more openly violent and repressive, racist colonialism to, I guess you call it, I don’t know, a more kind of—more friendly Hillary Clinton-style of colonialism, if you want to call it that. So even these examples, people choose of colonialist capitalism being not so bad or what have you, it’s not due to any—it’s not due to the benevolence or the generosity of the oppressors or exploiters or the business owners or whatever. It was due to the self-organized struggle of the workers and the people in the area. So that was really interesting chatting to them as well. And also, in that one of the people I was talking … During the riots there was like a really high profile murder of a right wing talk show personality and that murder was a notorious unsolved murder in Hong Kong history. One of the participants in the interview basically told me who did it. Enough time had passed. And not the name of the person, because obviously they have descendants who could essentially the reasons behind it. I’m kind of a true crime buff, like in my personal life—it doesn’t accord with my political views at all. Other than that I do—

TFSR: Everybody gets their your guilty pleasures, that’s fine.

WCH: No, exactly. And a lot of stuff I listen to is about miscarriages of justice and stuff like that. There’s too many. A really great chat I had as well was a guy called Tariq Mehmood who is a member of the Asian Youth movements in Britain, who fought against racism in the 70s and 80s. Those are the first ones that jump into my mind right now. I’m sure I’m forgetting… I could keep going but I won’t.

TFSR: I know y’all had taken a break at some point. And so I dropped off and restarted it. But the ones for me that really stuck out—and I had to like do a little searching because it’s been a while—are the anti-Zionism movement in Israel I thought was a really fascinating multi-part episode. There was the League of Revolutionary Black Workers in Detroit, and sort of contextualizing that. And just the Angry Brigade episode I thought was really fascinating to hear voices affiliated with that. And the Grunwick Strike in 1976 I had no context for, that just sort of, like, opened up a lot of conversation for me of experience of, like, workers struggle in the UK among immigrant populations. And there’s just a lot in each of those discussions. And it’s really easy to talk about the context that you can grab out of that that explains where we’re at right now. It explains little snippets of these struggles that people have had that resonate with experiences that others have had. I really enjoyed those ones.

WCH: Cool, thanks. Some of those early ones, apologies for anyone who listen. The quality of them isn’t so great, but we have got better since then from a quality point of view as we’ve learned. And there was a reason that we did the Grumwick Strike episode first. Because we thought that was important just from the things that we’ve spoken about today, because that was an example where this was a group of—they were East African Asian women workers who self-organized a massive and militant struggle that lasted two years. And were unfortunately defeated in the end because the forces against them were just too powerful. Up until that point, the British trade union movement was chauvinist, essentially. The overarching thrust of the movement was towards excluding Black and Asian—Asian, meaning South Asian, primarily anyway—workers and trying to protect privileged conditions for their white members, as opposed to organizing all workers and fighting collectively for better conditions. And the women in the Grumwick Strike pretty successfully exploded that (myth). Obviously there’s still that chauvinist, nationalist current within the work, but it’s much more minor now. Worrying it seems to be getting a bit bigger with—it’s unclear how really it is, and maybe more Twitter-type personalities, villains like Paul Embry who are trying to resurrect this pro-nationalist idea of a traditional working class of white blokes—as opposed to workers uniting together in our class interests. That strike really successfully changed the general atmosphere of the workers movement in a way that made working people stronger, because of course we’re stronger when we’re united fighting against employers, when we’re not fighting amongst ourselves over scraps.

TFSR: So are you all seeking more help with the project? You’ve talked about sister pages coming up and translation work. If you are looking for more help in providing historical insights or translation work, I guess, like video editing, what sort of ways can people participate?

WCH:

There’s all kinds of ways people can help out. The primary things that we need help with at the moment are things around fact checking research and translation. So if anyone is up for helping with that, that would be amazing. Just get in touch. Email us on info@workingclasshistory.com.

TFSR: And where can listeners find out more about your work and grab the book?

WCH: Well, you can follow us on social media, just search whatever platform you’re on for Working Class History. You can listen to our podcast on every major podcast app like Apple, Spotify, whatever, just search Working Class History. There’s links to all of our information on our website, workingclasshistory.com. And you can get the book on our online store, which is at shop.workingclasshistory.com. And all of our work is funded through our readers and listeners on Patreon where you can also get the book for free depending on your patron level and access exclusive content at patreon.com/workingclasshistory.

TFSR: John, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you Thanks a lot for taking the time.

WCH: It was really fun, thanks for having me. And I hope that for the theme music for this you can get the rights to a Gang of Four “Not Great Men,” because I think that would be very appropriate.

Guest Interview: Eli Meyerhoff on his book ‘Beyond Education’, Battling Recuperation, and Operating on the Margins

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This week we are presenting a special guest interview, done by Scott who is an anarchist academic and regular listener, with Eli Meyerhoff about his book “Beyond Education: Radical Studying for Another World”. In this book, Meyerhoff “traces how key elements of education emerged from histories of struggles in opposition to alternative modes of study bound up with different modes of world-making. Taking inspiration from Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, and Indigenous resurgence projects, he charts a new course for movements within, against, and beyond the university as we know it.” and this quote is from the University of Minnesota webpage, who also published his book.

I found this interview really thought provoking and well crafted, it brought up a lot of issues I hadn’t really thought of in such terms, specifically about the historical and colonial construction of what we think of today as education. In this interview, Scott and Eli talk about his book, the vast terrain that the book covers, experiences in academia when one is operating as politically radical, and some alternatives to education that we can see and experience in the world around us.

Eli Meyerhoff can be found at elimeyerhoff.com, the Abolition University at abolition.university, and the Abolition Journal at abolitionjournal.org for more info on the conference happening in may 2020.

To read the intro to Beyond Education for free, head on over to this UM link.

If you are a listener and want to submit an interview for broadcast, just get in touch with us by emailing thefinalstrawradio@riseup.net and we can walk you thru the process!

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Music for this episode by:

LSD – School’s For Fools

Suburban Studs – I Hate School

An interview with a member of Koko Lepo – an autonomous youth collective in Belgrade -, an update on AntiFenix, and words from Sean Swain

Koko Lepo – Belgrade, Serbia

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This week we feature an interview with Freddy, who is a member of the autonomous youth collective in Belgrade, Serbia known as Koko Lepo. We speak about the origins of the collective as growing out of a self organized kindergarten primarily for Roma children, about solidarity between anarchists and Roma people in Belgrade, about some history of the region, and about the complex nature of solidarity itself.

 

It should be mentioned though, that due to a very unfortunate technical error, we lost the final 13 or so minutes of this interview, many apologies both to you – dear listeners – and to our guest. Just to give you a broad picture of what we talked about, we touched a bit more on the complex nature of actual solidarity, and made the point that sometimes so called “real” solidarity can look somewhat ordinary or boring. We also spoke more about the tour that Freddy just concluded with a stop in Asheville, and about challenges that the various audiences brought to the talks he did, in particular the question of race, racism, and ally complexes. Our guest brought up the point that there have been various conversations about this topic in the US that have not happened – or have not happened in the same way – as they have in Belgrade. He was particularly excited to engage with American audiences about this issue, and said a lot of really cool and poignant things which we are unfortunately unable to share with you. Though if you would like to write to this project you can email them at kokolepo(aat)riseup.net and get in touch with them on facebook by searching kokolepoav

However, all of this perhaps gives us the opportunity to share more in depth than we may originally have been able some of the musical projects that our guest recommended. It also bears mentioning that mutual aid in the form of money donations most often happen for this project in the form of music shows, punk, metal, hardcore, or other varieties. If you feel so moved to, please feel free to make a solidarity show in your town!

The first project we’ll share is a Roma language hip hop project called Lord Kastro with Djelem Djelem. The next is a track from a hardcore project called Katma, the singer of which is one of the co-founders of the original kindergarten. The third is another track from Gipsy Mafia (an antifa Roma hip hop group, a track from which opened up the show as well) with “Ava Kari”.

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Announcements

Operation Fénix

Here is an update from comrades in Czech Republic:

On Friday 5-27-2016 in Pankrác remand prison anarchist Martin Ignacák accused of terrorism went on hunger strike. He did this because on 4-29-2016 the City court in Prague ruled in favour of his release from remand and the state’s attorney appealed this decision to the High court in Prague. On friday 5-27-2016 the High court in Prague extended the remand. Therefore the anarchist has decided to protest by going on hunger strike and has stopped taking in nutrition and liquids. This type of hunger strike threatens the life of the hunger striker after a week.

During the year long investigation of the preparation of a supposed terrorist attack the imprisoned anarchist has exhausted all legal options, to achieve objective procedure of the respective organs active in the criminal proceedings. None of them were taken into account. This is why he now chose this radical form of expression, to draw attention to this manipulated police case. “I consider the approach of the investigators and the police to be very problematic, it is a threat to the freedom of every human being, a threat to freedom of speech, a threat to activism that tries to lead to a better world , and this doesn’t just involve anarchists.”

Martin has been prosecuted in the so called Fénix case since April 2015, in which 5 people altogether were accused of the preparation and the failure to notify of a terrorist attack on a train. Martin is the only one who has been in remand prison this whole time and his detention has now been extended after the intervention of the state’s attorney. As a reason for the extension of remand the state’s attorney used the testimony of a police agent who infiltrated the anarchist movement in 2014. From his testimony the state’s attorney drew the conclusion that Martin might attempt to escape to Spain. Another reason, according to him, was that Martin “is connected to the so called Sít revolucních bunek/ The Network of Revolutionary Cells (SRB) and therefore also to similar organizations abroad.” The police spoke about SRB when they began Fénix and provided information to the media.” Any connections between the 5 attacks ascribed to SRB and all the detained and accused have been refuted. The investigators themselves have ruled it out” says Martin.

At the moment Martin is the second longest detained prisoner in the Pankrác remand prison. For 13 months he has been living there under conditions that negatively affect his psychological and physical state. For example he has been refused food free of animal products, which means he practically doesn’t have access to hot food. Friends, who have come to visit him have been mentioned by name in the indictment. Police from the Department for combating organized crime have started to collect information on Martin’s sister, only because she tries to support her brother in whichever way she can.

For Martin parole would mean that after 13 long months he would again see his friends, family, nature, that he wouldn’t be exposed to emotional deprivation and physical hardship.

Update Sunday, May 29th: Martin’s sister Pavla B. joined her brother in the protest and this morning she has started hunger strike herself as well.

For more information follow https://antifenix.noblogs.org/

Our past interviews on AntiFenix can be found here: https://thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org/?s=antifenix

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