Category Archives: Religion

Matthew Lyons on Christian Nationalism(s)

Matthew Lyons on Christian Nationalism(s)

"TFSR 11-20-22 | Matthew Lyons on Christian Nationalism(s)" over a photo of January 6th 2021 participants carrying a picture of Jesus wearing a MAGA hat
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This is a conversation with Matthew Lyons, antifascist researcher, contributor to Three Way Fight Blog and author of, among other books, Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire and contributor to the recent AK Press compilation, No Pasarán: Antifascist Dispatches from a World in Crisis (edited by Shane Burley). For the hour, Matthew talks about Christian Nationalist and theonomic tendencies and movements like New Apostolic Reformation, Dominionism, reactionary Catholicism and Christian Reconstructionism to learn more about how they interrelate or conflict with other far right tendencies in the so-called USA and the ongoing assault on bodily autonomy, abortion access and cis-hetero-patriarchy. More of Matthews work can be found at MatthewNLyons.Net

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We’re hoping to bring you voices from graduate student workers and other workers on strike in the University of California system and possibly beyond for this coming Sunday’s show.

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Phone Zap for Shinewhite

BACKGROUND: Joseph “Shine White” Stewart is a long-time incarcerated writer and organizer who is known, among other things, for promoting interracial unity among black and white prisoners in North Carolina as a way to forward their shared resistance against the prison industrial complex and for encouraging abolitionists on the outside to center prisoners’ demands and resistance in their work.  He has most recently been central to prisoners’ organizing efforts to combat racist CO brutality at Alexander Correctional Institution and the extended lockdown at Bertie Correctional Institution.  As one might imagine, he is no stranger to political repression, and he has been repeatedly transferred, held in solitary confinement for years at a time, and physically brutalized as the system has attempted to silence him.  On November 3, in response to his most recent organizing, Shine White was transferred to Granville Correctional Institution in Butner, NC, where he was placed in restrictive housing.  When he arrived, he was placed in a filthy, unsanitary cell which staff refused to allow him to clean and denied access to his property, including legal paperwork related to pending motions in a lawsuit his is pursuing which he was therefore unable to put in the mail on time.  Staff have even restricted his access to paper.  As of his last contact with Solidarity Beyond the Walls, Shine White is still being housed in unsanitary conditions and still does not have his property.  He has requested that SBW support him by organizing a phone zap on his behalf.

  • NCDPS Division of Prisons Central Region Director Loris Sutton 919-582-6125 (direct office line) OR 919-803-0713 (cell phone) OR 919-838-4053 (Central Region main office line);
  • Standard and Performance Director Cynthia Thornton 919-838-4000 (Division of prisons main office line)

Remember that repeat calls are welcome, as the more calls come in, the more likely it is that our demands on Shine White’s behalf will be met.

WHAT TO SAY: Here is a script you can use if you aren’t sure what to say when you call:“Hello.  I am calling on behalf of Joseph Stewart, OPUS number 0802041.  When he was transferred to Granville CI on November 3, Mr. Stewart was placed in restrictive housing in unsanitary conditions and denied his property, including legal paperwork that needed to be put in the mail no later than November 4.  Both of these are violations of NCDPS policy and procedure.  I am calling to demand that Mr. Stewart be released from restrictive housing, be placed in a clean cell with access to supplies to keep it that way, and that all of his property be returned immediately.”

Support Colombian Uprising Prisoners

There is still repression being felt by those swept up by the state during the 2021 National Strike in Cali, Colombia and there’s a fundraising effort for the Paso del Aguante 6 who are facing up to 50 years in prison for participating in the strike. The Colombia Freedom Collective is happy to announce that Christian Andres Aguilar has been released at 14 months of pre-trail detention, though he’s not out of danger yet. You can learn more about the cases of the Paso del Aguante 6 and how to support their defense efforts at: https://colombiafreedomcollective.org/christian-andres-aguilar-released-after-14-months-of-pretrial-detention/

Bad News #62

Check out the latest episode of Bad News: Angry Voices from Around The World from the International A-Radio Network. This month features two really good interviews you may not have heard from Frequenz-A: a chat with a member of Feminist Anti-War Resistance, a movement against the militarism of the Russian state and the war in Ukraine; a conversation with Berlin-based advocates for Alfredo Cospito, Juan, Anna and Ivan hunger striking in Italy against 41 bis. These are alongside shorter versions of our recent chats on heaters in Albuquerque, updates on Eric King & Oso Blanco’s situations and the struggle against Camp Grayling.

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We are entering a period of recording fury. Patreon supporters will get early access to interviews as we get them edited down, as well as behind the scenes conversations between the producers. Upcoming releases include Mitchell Verter, co-author of the 2005 AK Press book, Dreams of Freedom: A Ricardo Flores Magón Reader speaking around the 100th anniversary of the murder by incarceration by the US state of the Mexican anarchist communist revolutionary, RFM, and discussion of his legacy. Another is a conversation with Rhiannon Firth on her recently published book, Disaster Anarchy: Mutual Aid and Radical Action, out from Pluto Press. You can find our patreon at patreon.com/tfsr

Though we’re releasing some content early to patreon supporters, we won’t be paywalling it permanently. Our fundraising goes to operating costs, equipment, and paying our transcribers. We’ve been transcribing each interview we’ve conducted and making them available as zines on our website for coming up on 2 years now, and going back to transcribe past episodes to boot. This makes these important conversations available for translation, for easier access to folks who are more comfortable reading or for whom English is a second language, as well as getting the content more easily into prisoners, reading groups and passers-by’s hands so as to include more people in the discussion.

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Featured Tracks:

  • Gods and Government by Snog from Dear Valued Customer
  • The Voice of God Is Government by Bad Religion from How Could Hell Be Any Worse?
  • Brazil by Django Reinhardt from Django in Rome

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Transcription

TFSR: I’m speaking with Matthew Lyons, Anti-Fascist researcher, activist, and author of multiple books including Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far Right Challenge to State and Empire. Matthew is also a contributor to the upcoming AK Press collection No Pasarán and is a longtime contributor to the blog threewayfight.blogspot.com. Thank you very much for joining. I really appreciate you having this conversation with me.

Matthew Lyons: Happy to be here. Thank you very much for the invitation.

TFSR: I’ve invited you on mostly to speak about the Christian far right, in particular, which is one of the focuses in your book, which has been behind increasing its sustained attacks around issues of gender, sexual equality, and liberation in the so-called USA, including these ramped up state by state erosion of abortion rights, education around sexuality, “CRT” and other topics, and also the recognition of non-cisgender folks.

In May, you published an article on ThreeWayFight entitled “Abortion, the Christian right, and Anti-Fascism” that rehashes some of the content of your “Theocrats” chapter in Insurgent Supremacists. You began this blog entry with the line “It’s time for anti-fascists to stop treating the Christian right as a secondary threat.” I’d like to take this as a starting point. When you’re talking about the Christian right, or the Christian far right, what tendencies are you talking about? What are some overlaps and distinctions in particular in how they understand patriarchy, gender, and sexuality? Broad brush.

ML: Well, the reason I lead with the comments about the need to stop treating the Christian right as a secondary threat is I think that, on the one hand, a Christian right represents a serious force for right-wing authoritarianism in the United States, but it doesn’t fit into the standard categories that people think about when they talk about fascism or fascistic politics. And so it does tend to get less attention and less of a focus from people who see themselves as anti-fascist.

In very broad terms, when I talk about the Christian right in the US, I’m talking about a constellation of movements or organizations or networks that came together starting in the 1970s and have really had very impressive staying power, and have done a lot of work to build a multi-dimensional movement that includes everything from lobbying groups and thinktanks to, just, very grassroots prayer cells and neighborhood church networks. So it’s very much of a full-scale social movement. In political terms, the Christian right is unified by a broad goal of making their interpretation of Christianity central and dominant to the US. But that certainly means several different things. And I would say that in broad terms, there’s a division within the movement between what you could characterize as “reformist” versus “revolutionary” branches where there’s a majority that wants to bring about certain changes within the existing political systems such as banning abortion, suppressing homosexuality and gender nonconformity, reintroducing prayer in the schools, bringing back Creationism as a supposedly legitimate field of study and things like this. And then, on the other hand, there is a minority faction or current that is very powerful and influential. It says that it’s not possible to bring about our vision of an ethical Christian society within the existing framework so there is a need, they say, to replace the existing framework with what essentially amounts to a theocracy.

This, in contrast to, say, white nationalists who center their political vision on race, the Christian right vision of a theocratic future really puts gender and sexuality at the center, rather than race. And it is very much a patriarchal, heterosexist, and transphobic vision that is pretty scary. They have a romanticized image of the past, of how men and women’s supposedly lived in a harmonious but hierarchical manner, with women very clearly limited to homemaking roles, wife and mother kinds of roles, and sex being defined as something that is for procreation, these standard traditionalist patriarchal ideas. So there are different versions of the theocratic model that they advocate. Some of them are very much based on a centralized big state, while others are actually based on a very decentralized model of state power, which nonetheless is extremely authoritarian and repressive. so it doesn’t necessarily all fit together in terms of people’s preconceptions about what far-right authoritarianism looks like.

TFSR: So it has quite a spectrum. But as you say, the central Crux around which a lot of the political organizing occurs counter-poses to ethno-nationalists who focus on nationalities. This idea that sexual reproduction, the expansion of the Christian population in the country, the pushing out of ideologies or belief systems that they view as standing in counter to that and imposition of the accuracy.

One of the umbrellas that come up throughout your book is Christian Reconstructionism. And at first, I was going to glibly compare this to a vision of The Handmaid’s Tale, but maybe that’s a bit flat. Can you talk about some of the roots of Christian Reconstructionism? Are there analogs with other theocratic or theonomic regimes around the world? And also, what’s Dominionism and how does it relate to Christian Reconstructionism?

ML: Okay, Christian Reconstructionism is a particular ideological current within the Christian right that was founded in the 1960s by R.J. Rushdoony, who was a Presbyterian. In theological terms, it’s rooted in certain versions of Presbyterianism, which is originally a branch of Calvinism. But over the decades, it’s certainly spread and it’s not limited to Presbyterians, in terms of who its activists and leaders have been. In political terms, it is based on the idea that, as I said, we need to replace the existing political system with a full-on theocracy, or they call it theonomy, based on their interpretation of biblical law, and it is a pretty grim interpretation indeed. This would involve disenfranchising women, relegalizing slavery, and making the death penalty punishment for homosexuality or adultery, heresy, and many other crimes. And it is a current that has never been a very large movement in its own right, but it is very influential in terms of helping to shape and guide larger forces within the Christian right.

For example, Pat Robertson, who was a longtime televangelist and founded the Christian Coalition, which was a major force starting in the 1980s. His approach to politics was very much influenced by Christian Reconstructionism. Similarly, Randall Terry founded Operation Rescue, an organization that used civil disobedience tactics in the service of trying to suppress abortion providers and the availability of abortion. He was very much influenced by Christian Reconstructionism. It’s a movement that has been particularly influential in the most violent and terroristic wing of the anti-abortion movement. A number of the leading figures in that movement have themselves been proponents of Christian Reconstructionism. Another person of note is Larry Pratt, who was the longtime head of Gun Owners of America, which has been described as a gun rights organization to the right of the NRA. And Larry Pratt also, somebody who played a significant role in helping to launch the Patriot militia movement in the 1990’s. These are some examples of the ways that the movement has played a larger role.

You also asked about Dominionism. One of the things that Christian Reconstructionism in particular has advocated is the notion that Christians have a duty to God to “take dominion” over society at large and to basically take control over all of the leading institutions of society, from the government to the educational system, the media, and so on. You started to see, in the 70’s and later, this notion of taking Dominion spreading to other forces within the Christian right. That’s where the term Dominionism comes from. There are different versions of that: some people make a distinction between so-called Soft Dominionism and Hard Dominionism, depending on how intensive and how comprehensive your notion of imposing theocratic rule would be. But these are all notions that have become central and defining for the Christian right as a whole in one form or another in Christian Reconstructionism. Certainly, it’s not the only place that they come from, but it’s been one of the major influencing pieces of that picture.

TFSR: Another main wing of the Christian far right that you spend some time on and Insurgent Supremacists is the New Apostolic Reformation. Could you talk a little bit about this tendency, and how it relates to other branches of Christianity?

ML: Sure, New Apostolic Reformation is a movement that has different names. It’s been called Kingdom Now, Seven Mountains Theology, and other names. Again, in theological terms, it’s actually rooted in the Pentecostal and charismatic tradition. So, this is a whole subset of Christianity that, among other things, believes in the current-day practice of miracles, such as faith healing and the availability of prophecy to leaders within the movement, who claim to be able to basically give voice to what God has foretold about the future.

So within this broad theological current, there are different political currents, but there have been various right-wing tendencies, among others. And they came together most clearly starting in the 1990s around this concept of an apostolic reformation. And part of what they did is they took some of the Dominionist ideas that came partly from Christian Reconstructionism and combined them with some of the theological and organizational principles from the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions. So the result is something that resembles Christian Reconstructionism in the sense that it is a theocratic movement. It’s a movement that advocates comprehensive control of society and imposition of their version of Christianity on society as a whole. But it’s also quite different in certain ways. One thing, whereas the Christian Reconstructionists advocate a decentralized model of theocracy, the New Apostolic Reformation is very much based on a centralized version. And it’s also been much more effective in galvanizing a mass movement. The numbers are- I haven’t seen what I would call reliable numbers – but one estimate from 2013 places the number of people involved in New Apostolic-associated churches in the United States alone at 3 million people, with millions more in other countries.

It’s also very different in terms of its racial and ethnic composition. Christian Reconstructionism has always been pretty much all-white. But the New Apostolic Movement has a genuinely multiracial and multi-ethnic character, and is also quite international, as I said, with significant branches in Latin America and Asia, Africa. So that’s quite different. And the positions that they’ve taken on issues of race, and also actually issues of gender, have been more sophisticated in a sense. When you look at Christian Reconstructionism, it has tended to either be silent on issues of race, or, in some cases, some of the leaders have embraced, more or less, overtly white supremacist positions, for example, supporting neo-Confederate politics. New Apostolic Reformation has actually taken a very different approach. There are some leaders within the movement who advocate a “colorblind” ideology of basically claiming to just treat everybody as an individual. But others actually advocate confronting and opposing racial injustice, at least, within some context, or at least in words. So, that in itself is very different.

And while Christian Reconstructionism has always been very male-dominated in terms of who is actually seen as having the capacity to be in leadership roles, New Apostolic Reformation from the beginning included women in prominent roles and important leadership roles, and to some degree has been a space where women have been able to speak out against male domination and to challenge misogynistic interpretations of Christianity. And I think it’s important to be careful about this because, to my view, it’s not that these characteristics make New Apostolic Reformation more progressive or somehow less dangerous. Rather, it’s an example of a far-right movement taking elements of progressive or even radical politics and distorting them and harnessing them for goals and purposes that are fundamentally reactionary or right-wing or fascistic. And thereby deflecting a lot of criticism and also channeling some of the frustrations and rebelliousness that people may have… Channeling that into initiatives that end up bolstering hierarchy and bolstering oppression. The New Apostolic Reformation leaders may, in some cases, speak out against racial injustice, but they’re also speaking out against abortion rights, they’re speaking out in favor of transphobic laws and suppression of any gender nonconformity. And they’ve been very outspoken in supporting Donald Trump’s politics and just the whole Make America Great Again approach to politics. So it’s not in any sense a progressive movement but rather something that uses elements of progressive politics in a very dangerous way.

TFSR: Yeah, it, in fact, sounds quite regressive. Jumping back to what you were saying about the occasional cording of racial supremacist perspectives by Christian Reconstructionism. Just to put a point on the position of them working with neo-Confederates at times. Can you talk a little bit about the historical vision that they in particular, but either of the groups, has of not only what the United States or iterations within the United States, such as the Antebellum South? Or what the vision of America was to be as a “City on a Hill” or as an example of a puritanical institution? Because it seems like they’re trying to make what their vision of America being great again is theonomy.

ML: The phrase puritanical is a good one. In the sense that the Puritans, some of the founders of American settler colonialism back in the 17th century, the Puritans were Calvinists, who were theological relatives of the founders of Christian Reconstructionism in the sense of their vision of society being something that was based on certain notions of obedience to God’s law and so on.

As I said, there are different versions of the divisions that these groups have with the Reconstructionists having a very decentralized approach. Basically, their notion is that the theocracy would be exercised through the family, through the church, and through local institutions, primarily, with central governmental institutions, playing much more of a secondary role. Whereas the New Apostolic Reformation, and I think some of the other forces within the Christian right, take much more of a big State approach. And I should mention that the New Apostolic Reformation has also cultivated some pretty active ties with prominent politicians: folks, such as Sarah Palin, former vice presidential candidate; Rick Perry, who was governor of Texas and then was in Trump’s cabinet; Sam Brownback, who was a senator and governor from Kansas; and other folks. So even though they have this comprehensive vision of basically getting rid of the system of government that the US has, they also have done a lot to work with politicians who are involved in the system.

TFSR: So in Insurgent Supremacists, you decided not to cover reactionary Roman Catholicism because it’s not a distinctly US-based movement. But as an ex-Catholic myself, despite a sense of falling numbers of membership in the Church, it seems like there is a rise in right-wing strains, such as those which produce people like Steve Bannon or Amy Coney Barrett, or historically, the trajectory of Father Charles Coughlin and his National Union of Social Justice back in the 1930’s. Do you see any ascendant reactionary Roman Catholicism as one of these other groups that are posing a threat? And do you see in that an influence from a renewed Christian Charismatic Movement? Or does it seem like it’s just the same monster coming back, the same reactionary Catholicism?

ML: Certainly, reactionary Catholicism has played a significant role within the broader Christian right in its current form, all along. And, as you say, there are much older roots. Charles Coughlin, in the 1930s, was one of the most, if not the most influential leaders of what was really a fascist movement at that time in the US. And it was striking that as a Catholic priest, at a time when anti-Catholicism was still a major force within the US and certainly within sectors of the far right. So carrying that forward, during the period of the Cold War, there were many right-wing, Catholic leaders who, in some cases, had ties with right-wing Catholic forces within or in exile from Eastern Europe under the Soviet bloc. So, there is a distinct tradition of right-wing Catholicism, that is being invoked or being built upon by right-wing Catholics today.

One of the things that have been distinctive about the modern Christian right has been its ability to build bridges and alliances between right-wing Protestants and Catholics, in contrast to earlier movements that were often separated and where, as I said, anti-Catholicism was often a major force and was interconnected with anti-immigrant sentiment targeting first Irish Catholics, but then later Italians and other immigrant groups. But the Christian Right has really been successful at setting those and other sectarian divisions aside for political purposes. So you have seen several organizations such as Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, for example, which might be majority Protestant but with a significant Catholic presence within it. And then you’ve also had other organizations which are specifically Catholic, taking, for example, the Human Life International, which has been a leading Catholic anti-abortion group for a number of decades, and others. And it’s interesting, there have been a number of prominent right-wing evangelical Protestants who have actually converted to Catholicism, such as Sam Brownback, who I mentioned earlier, the political leader from Kansas.

I’m interested to learn more about Amy Coney Barrett. I confess that I haven’t really delved into her political history that much, but I know that she comes out of an organization called People of Praise, which is a Catholic charismatic group. Charismatic being a movement within Christianity that cuts across the division between Protestants and Catholics. But People of Praise being specifically a Catholic group within that, and one that I believe has had significant ties with leaders within the New Apostolic Reformation movement. So, I don’t know that it would be accurate to say that Amy Coney Barrett herself is affiliated with New Apostolic Reformation, I’ve never heard that claim made. But there are certainly some at least indirect connections and, I’m sure, some significant resonances between her politics in there. I think there are definitely a number of threads that will be important to explore further.

TFSR: I’d be interested in hearing how you think the concept of liberty is espoused by many of these tendencies that also simultaneously are trying to lead a coordinated movement towards theocracy. For instance, I recall adherence to the right-wing Libertarian Party used to make stances of being socially liberal. This is at least when I was growing up in the 90’s and early 2000’s, around drug use, around sexuality in a way that seemed to set them apart from others on the right. That was something they touted, and they were really proud of that. But it seems like a lot of people in the Libertarian movement have embraced this theocratic vision. If you could talk a little bit about how does the concept – to your understanding – of liberty coincide with implementing God’s will?

ML: Libertarianism is a term that covers a number of different political approaches or different philosophies. But there’s a long-standing, certainly, the several-decades-old relationship between libertarianism and Christian Reconstructionism. Specifically, there were a number of important founding leaders of Christian Reconstructionism, such as R.J. Rushdoony, who I mentioned earlier, and Gary North, another important leader, who were involved in Libertarian organizations early in their careers and in conjunction with the development of Reconstructionist ideology. And I think that the connection there is basically the idea of limited government. The Reconstructionists have been dubbed “Libertarian theocrats,” because they want to impose their theocratic rule through small-scale governmental institutions, as well as non-governmental institutions, such as the family and the church. But at the same time, their notion of liberty is based on the idea that humans must submit themselves to God’s authority in any attempt to develop ideas or lines of thinking that are outside of that… That any such effort is sinful, wrong, and satanic. And so it just really calls into question what are we even talking about when we talk about liberty. But, I’m sure they would argue that it is a liberty, but it’s not a concept of liberty that seems meaningful to me. I’m sure others within the Christian right who would stop short of this very hardline notion of submission to God’s will, but that is a concept that you do see in watered-down versions in other places, too.

TFSR: Another point in Insurgent Supremacists – I really enjoy the construction, the way you put chapters leading one into another to show the relationships between far-right movements – you point out how the patriot movement grew, in part, out of the racial supremacist right and groups such as Posse Comitatus, and later gaining an infusion of Christian fundamentalist perspectives in a uniquely American manner. Can you talk about how the Christian far right relates to current tendencies such as Sovereign Citizens or, more importantly, things like Constitutional Sheriffs? And how does this devolution of civil authority relate to the concept of democracy?

ML: Well, I want to just correct a little bit of what you said there. To me, the Christian Right influence was there from the very beginning in the formation of the Patriot movement. It wasn’t something that came later. The Patriot movement came to prominence in the early to mid-1990’s, with the formation of hundreds of so-called “citizen militias” and related groups around the country that were spurred on by fears that there was a plot by globalist elites who were trying to impose a dictatorship on the United States. And so people needed to rise up and defend themselves against it. And a lot of critics of this movement have emphasized the ways that it carried forward ideas and currents rooted in white nationalism and rooted in neo-Nazi and white supremacist movements of the years that came earlier. And that’s an important part of it. But the Christian Right forces, and specifically Christian Reconstructionists, were also there right from the beginning. Larry Pratt who I mentioned earlier was the leader of Gun Owners of America and an advocate of Reconstructionist ideas about politics. He was advocating the formation of citizen militias in the 1980’s. Well before anybody was talking about, them in the national media. Matthew Trewhella, another Reconstructionist leader, advocated forming citizen militias in the context of the anti-abortion rights movement in early 1990’s. So these were very much present from the beginning as part of the mix that created the patriot movement as a hybrid, a blending of a number of different right-wing currents.

And that is something that has carried through to the current-day version. The Patriot movement has had its ups and downs and had a big upsurge in the 1990’s. It collapsed for a number of years and had another upsurge starting, at least partly in response to the election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States. And it’s continued to be a significant force, since then. But currents within the patriot movement, such as the Sovereign Citizens, which is a particular branch of Patriot ideology that claims that each person can in legal terms be a country unto themselves, and they can declare that they are no longer subject to United States authority. This is very much rooted in the mix of white nationalist and Christian theocratic ideas, along with other right-wing ideas that came out of the gun rights movement, the anti-environmental movement, and the John Birch Society as a Cold War era champion of conspiracist ideology. All these different currents coming together to Sovereign Citizens is one offshoot of that. The Constitutional Sheriffs organization, which was founded about 10 or 12 years ago, has become an important Patriot movement organization. The founder of the constitutional sheriffs, Richard Mack, is actually somebody who worked for Gun Owners of America along with Larry Pratt, so that doesn’t necessarily mean that he had exactly the same views, but I’m sure that they would have had some pretty interesting political discussions there in which Christian Reconstructionist idea has certainly been in the mix. So these are all examples of the interplay that we’ve had between Christian theocratic political currents and other far-right political forces within the patriot movement and in other contexts.

TFSR: You’ve made the point that many of the far-right Christian movements we’ve been talking about often center patriarchy and religion over race as a central crux within it, which distinguishes them from other elements in the US far right. You’ve mentioned also that the New Apostolic Reformation is a much less blanket white movement.

I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about your understanding of how this tendency or how the far-right Christian movements in general, broad brush, deal with immigration in the US. I know that a lot of the anti-Catholic perspectives on the West Coast have been formulated around fears of immigrants from Latin America bringing in Catholicism, for instance, and the social values that they believe are carried with that. Do you see a shift in the way that the Christian far right has been thinking about immigration? And how it relates to the ethno-nationalist tendencies in other parts of the US far right.

ML: Yeah, that’s a good question. It’s been a complicated story. My sense is that for much of its earlier history, the Christian right didn’t really focus on issues of immigration and was not particularly aligned with anti-immigrant scapegoating. So I’m talking about the 1970’s through maybe the 1990’s or so. Certainly, during that time, you did start to see significant anti-immigrant organizing coming back into the fore. It’s been, a recurrent theme in US history. But that was a period when it was starting to be on the upsurge again. Initially, the Christian right was really not playing to that theme. But after some time, I’m not sure exactly when, but sometime in the early 2000’s, that started to shift, and you started to see much more use of anti-immigrant scapegoating by sections of the Christian right because they saw it as something popular with their base or potential support base that they were trying to appeal to. So they saw it as something that would help win support.

At the same time, they’ve also been interested in reaching out to immigrants themselves, in many cases, whether we’re talking about Catholics or evangelicals coming from Latin America, coming from other parts of the world. There are significant groups there that the Christian right has seen as people that they could hope to attract. And in the case of the New Apostolic Reformation, they’ve been pretty successful to a degree at doing that. So that’s the particular section of the Christian right that, as far as I can tell, has really steered clear of anti-immigrant scapegoating themselves. There may be exceptions, but I think that’s generally been the case, which is not to say that their politics have been good around immigrant rights. They’ve been perfectly amenable to working with others within the right, who have pretty odious politics around immigration, but it’s just something that they would not necessarily promote themselves. So, there is this complicated dance that some of these groups have tried to follow, because there are essentially conflicting aims or conflicting demands on them, in terms of how they could build their base or reach out to more people.

TFSR: You did use the term “Christian Fascism” when talking about Coughlin and the movement that he was involved with, and I’ve been hearing that term coming up a lot recently, or Christofascism. One figure that I can think of that would fall into that tendency that I want to mention is the former Ashevillian William Dudley Pelley and his Silver Shirt Movement in the 1930’s-40’s. Is Christian Fascism an apt term to describe any of the groups that you’ve been talking about today in this conversation?

ML: Well, it depends on what we mean by fascism. There’s no general agreement about what Fascism is within the left, let alone more broadly in society. There’s a common-sense notion of fascism that many people have in which white supremacist ideology is a major piece of the picture. So, if that is part of your definition of fascism, then a lot of the Christian right is not going to fit that.

To me, it’s more useful to use the term fascism somewhat more broadly. To me, fascism is an approach to politics that is about mobilizing or trying to mobilize masses of people to, on the one hand, bolster or intensify systems of oppression and social hierarchy, but also to challenge the established political order and the established political elites. So, it has both an oppressive and a rebellious aspect. But to me, it does not necessarily have to center on race. It does not necessarily have to center on intensifying racial oppression and racist ideology directly. I would argue that the section of the Christian right that advocates not just specific changes, such as outlawing abortion or bringing back school prayer but [that] advocates a more comprehensive transformation of society based on an authoritarian political vision: I think it’s appropriate to call that fascist. But we need to be clear about what we mean when we use the term, otherwise, it just becomes this epithet that gets thrown around. So if that concept of fascism makes sense to you, then I would say, use it that way. But if your concept of fascism is more specific to a white nationalist division, then it doesn’t fit most of the Christian Right, except for that limited section of the Christian Right that directly supports white nationalism.

TFSR: So you’ve advocated anti-fascists focusing on the battleground of gender and bodily autonomy as anti-fascists. Notably, Anti Racist Action took that stance from the 1990s onward in defending abortion clinics as another front of liberation struggles.

So in terms of strategy, in terms of anti-fascists approaching theocratic movements, Christian far-right movements, and trying to counter them, I wonder what you think we’re missing in the approach or in these conversations that we’re having about how we can combat the toxic spread of theocracy? Some of the strongest advocates that I’ve met just anecdotally in my life have been people that have escaped from homeschooling situations or from Quiverfull families or what have you. And I think that there’s something there to work with. But I wonder what you have to say as far as the movement goes?

ML: Well, I guess there are a couple broad things I would say about anti-fascist strategy in this context. First off, one is that coming back to the point where we started this conversation, it’s important for anti-fascists not just to treat the Christian Right as a secondary issue, which I think is tied in with this question of what’s the role of race versus other points of issues of social oppression and what does fascism center on. To me, the white nationalist vision of creating an all-white homeland, whether that’s through migration or mass expulsion or genocide, are all horrific visions that need to be combated, no question. At the same time, the political vision that Christian theocrats put forward of a society where everybody is subordinate to their version of Christian ideology, and that is something that comes down with particular severity on women, on queer folks, on trans folks. Even if it is not directly targeting People of Color, that in itself is a horrific vision. It’s something that needs to be combated on its own terms. And not only if it is something that is seen as supporting a white nationalist vision.

So, I think that in terms of just where people on the left and within anti-fascist circles, where people see the major sources of danger and a political threat coming from, it’s important to pay attention to Christian theocratic forces, especially because some of these forces are enormous. I mentioned earlier that it was an estimate of the New Apostolic Reformation having something like 3 million supporters in the United States. Even if that’s off by an order of magnitude, that’s still enormous. And it’s far, far greater than groups such as the Oathkeepers or Constitutional Sheriffs or the Proud Boys, let alone any smaller neo-Nazi groups that are out there. And it’s not just numbers, but it’s also the organization and the funding and the degree of commitment that people in these movements display. So these are serious opponents that we need to contend with.

The other broad point I want to make about anti-fascist strategy is: to me, it’s important to use a two-pronged approach. On the one hand, we need to work with a variety of political forces, with people with a variety of political views to build broad anti-fascist alliances, broad alliances to combat the far right in different contexts, whether that’s in terms of mass protests in the media, different contexts. And also, the other approach is that it is equally necessary to have radical initiatives that are confronting and seeking to change the systemic oppression and exploitation, and institutional violence that’s at the heart of how our society is organized. And these two approaches are sometimes seen as in opposition to each other, or that we need to subordinate one to the other. I think that may be true in specific moments and specific contexts. But overall, they’re both important, and we need to find ways to pursue both of them. The far right is an immediate danger in terms of it’s something that presents an immediate threat to many of us, and to a number of different communities. So, there is that immediacy that’s needed to push against that. But the far right is also rooted in systemic oppression and the social order that gives rise to supremacist ideologies of different kinds. And so, unless we attack that systemic reality, it’s just going to keep coming back.

Another side of it is also, as I mentioned earlier that the far right has this combination of trying to intensify oppression but also rebelling against the status quo, rebelling against the established elites and established institutions. And that means that it’s a political force that feeds on people’s anger at elites, it feeds on people’s sense of being beaten down and disenfranchised. And if the Left wants to present a serious alternative as an oppositional force, it needs to offer an alternative, it needs to offer radical visions that speak to people’s sense of disempowerment and people’s anger, rather than simply take a defensive posture. So I think, again, there are ways that it’s important in specific moments or specific contexts to join together around just holding actions but it would be a real mistake to just put any notion of radical social change on the backburner or say, “Oh, that’s something we can’t really afford to address at this time of a resurgent right.” It would be self-defeating to take that approach of pure defensiveness.

You made the point about refugees from far-right communities or people who’ve been raised in a Christian theocratic context, how do we engage with them? Or how do we provide space for them to take a different path? I certainly think that’s an important question. I don’t know that I have any particular insights into that, except that, as with anyone, it’s important to take seriously the experiences that people have had and let people tell their stories and engage with them in a way that’s based on respect. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that people who’ve just come out of a Quiverfull community have it all figured out. But, let’s listen to what they have to say. And let’s engage with them from the standpoint that people go into these movements for reasons that are human. It’s not that they’re simply brainwashed, or that it’s based on madness or something like that. Right-wing movements attract people because they speak to the needs or desires or fears that people have. And those are very human things. And we have to find other ways to speak to people in human terms that don’t talk down to them, that doesn’t dismiss their realities, but offer a framework that respects all people and is about seeking human liberation, rather than a supremacist vision of the future.

TFSR: Yeah, thank you. It’s a very big subject you’ve been talking about, I’ve had you on for a while. My questions have been a little scattered and trying to pick out a few different angles. But I’m wondering if there’s anything that I didn’t ask about that you want to touch on as we wrap this up?

ML: There probably is, but I’m drawing a blank right now. There probably is, but I’m drawing a blank.

TFSR: Matthew, thank you so much for taking the time to have this conversation and for all the research that you do. How can listeners follow and support your work?

ML: Thanks again for having me on. As you mentioned, I have a book that came out a few years ago, Insurgent Supremacists: The US Far-Right Challenge to State and Empire was published by PM Press and Kersplebedeb Publishing. I contribute regularly to the blog ThreeWayFight, which is threewayfight.blogspot.com. And I have a website, matthewnlyons.net, where people can find listings for my various writings. So thanks again, and I appreciate the good work that you’re doing.

TFSR: Thank you very much.

Feminist Uprising in Iran + Atlanta Radical Bookfair

Feminist Uprising in Iran + Atlanta Radical Bookfair

Image from @loozanar on Instagram, Drawing in black and red of Persian words swirling around Zhina watching over a crowd of people in the streets and a youth holding a giant, burning dandelion
Download This Episode

This week on The Final Straw, we feature two portions.

First up, you’ll hear from Modibo Kadalie and Andrew Zonneveld of On Our Own Authority! Publishing about the upcoming Atlanta Radical Bookfair happening on October 15th at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History.

Then, you’ll hear a recent interview with Aryanam, a member of the Federation of Anarchism Era, an anarchist grouping based in Iran, Afghanistan and the diaspora to speak about the morality police murder of Zhina or Mahsa Amini and the ongoing revolt against the imposition of the hijab and general cruelty of the Islamic Republic regime. More by the Federation can be found at https://asranarshism.com and their fundraiser for comrades in Afghanistan & Iran at https://asranarshism.com/donation/

Image from @loozanar on Instagram, Drawing in black and red of Persian words swirling around Zhina watching over a crowd of people in the streets and a youth holding a giant, burning dandelion

Next week….

Next week we hope to share with you an interview about the case of the Pendleton 2, two Black prisoners still suffering punishment in the Indiana Department of Corrections for standing up to defend their lives and that of a jailhouse lawyer in the face of a racist, Ku Klux Klan -affiliated corrections officer gang known as the Sons of Light in 1985. To learn more, check out related episodes of Kiteline Radio or the recent documentary by TheKingTrill on youtube, both linked in our show notes, or by visiting linktr.ee/freedomcampaign

Announcements

Solidarity with Striking Alabama Prisoners

If you’re in the southeast, there is a Break Every Chain demonstration outside of the Alabama State Capital, 600 Dexter Avenue in Montgomery on Friday, October 14th at 9am in support of striking prisoners across the Alabama Dept of Corrections. You can find more info at www.bothsidesofthewall.com or by emailing contact@bothsidesofthewall.com

Certain Days Calendars Out

Also, the Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendars are back from the printers. You can find out how to order one for someone behind bars, for your self or place a bulk order for distribution at certaindays.org

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Featured Tracks:

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Transcription

Atlanta Radical Bookfair

TFSR: Would you please introduce yourselves to the audience with any names, gender pronouns, affiliations, or any information that will help the audience have a context for who they’re hearing from right now?

Modibo: I am Modibo Kadalie, you can refer to me with the standard pronouns. I’m glad to say that I was the actual first speaker at the first Atlanta Radical Book Fair back in 2016. That distinguishes me. (laughs)

Andrew: I’m Andrew Zonneveld, also he/him pronouns. I am one of the co-founders of the Atlanta Radical Book Fair. We were away for a couple of years for obvious reasons and making our comeback this year.

TFSR: Awesome. Well, can you tell us a bit about the book fair? You mentioned that the first one was in 2016. How did it come about? Why is it called the radical book fair instead of an anarchist book fair or some other term?

A: Modibo and I co-founded On Our Own Authority! Publishing in 2012. And since that time, the beginning at that time, I had become acquainted with what I call the anarchist book fair circuit, where, as a radical publisher, you get familiar with it, there’s this wonderful proliferation of these anarchists book fairs all across North America and into Europe, as far as I know, and probably elsewhere.

So, in the first couple of years of On Our Own Authority! Publishing, I went to anarchist book fairs in North Carolina, New Orleans, New York, and a couple places in Canada – Montreal, and Toronto. Modibo and I just got back from the Halifax Anarchist Book Fair. But I began to notice some things that made these book fairs really successful and some things that I thought were trends in the book fairs that weren’t the best for community engagement. I also said “I can’t believe we haven’t ever done this in Atlanta,” because anarchist book fairs are pretty damn fun. There’s a lot of great radical publishers there, and usually a lot of community organizations, speakers, sharing ideas, and stuff like that. But we wanted to make sure that when we did it in Atlanta, it’d be something special, that it will be something that reflected the community, something that was inviting and available to a large number of people.

The reason why we called it a radical book fair, as opposed to an anarchist book fair ,was that Modibo and I had never been involved in exclusively anarchist publishing. Because I do consider myself an anarchist, but I’ve always thought that there’s a lot of anarchism that happens that doesn’t necessarily use the label of anarchism. So, I wanted to make sure that we didn’t hold an event that was purely for one counter-cultural scene, that this was something that was going to be inviting to people who, broadly, thought that capitalism and the State power were fucking up the earth and that we want to do something about it. At the same time, I and the co-founders of the book fair also wanted to exercise caution and some of the more toxic left organizations that might be kicking around. This space also wasn’t really for them. So it is curated. It’s not that anything goes broad left thing. But we wanted it to reflect the community. And radical ideas in the South, and definitely in Atlanta, has never been entirely encompassed or represented by people who strictly identify themselves as anarchists.

That being said, in the first year, we had a bit of an issue trying to figure out what our venue was going to be because Modibo and I had been working with Morris at the Auburn Avenue Research Library for a really long time already. But during that year, they were in the middle of a remodel. The Auburn Avenue research library is an African-American History Research Library and Archive. And their programming division is run by a guy named Morris Gardner. And Morris is just an absolute pillar of the literary community in Atlanta. Basically, through his programming, he was able to get funded by the city government, I want to say it was a $10-million renovation for the Auburn Avenue Library, it was incredible. And what they’ve transformed that space into is just this gorgeous event space with multiple art galleries, meeting rooms, and a big event hall, auditorium. Morris at first didn’t think that he was going to be able to open up for the book fair. We were considering a bunch of other venues and the venue that we actually had booked, ended up canceling on us last minute. But as luck would have it, Morris was like “Hey, I think we’re going to be able to open” and we were the first event in the newly remodeled Auburn Avenue Research Library in 2016. And we’ve been holding it there ever since., except for 2020 and 2021. So this will be the fifth time that we’ve done it. And we’re really excited to be back at the Auburn Avenue Research Library, and I was very grateful to Morris and the staff there for making it possible.

M: I just want to add, during the time when the Auburn Avenue Research Library was being renovated, it really expanded, it became something else. We were having our events in various other venues around the city, which Morris helped us get, not during COVID, but during the time when they were renovating. So we weathered that storm. I really don’t know how we did that pod. But we came through and we have a base of people who look forward to the radical book fair every year. It’s a cross-section of people. And it’s not one scene. Looking at the way it has evolved, it has been part of the activist community too. And I think that was because of the founding committee who wanted to create this book fair, they didn’t want to look at the book fair as being separate from the activism in the community. That’s one of its strengths. This particular book fair is going to have some people who are active in the forest movement and trying to stop the police from building a police academy in a natural space in the Atlanta area. And in the past, it was designed to highlight certain lesser-known social motions in Atlanta to counteract the petit bourgeoisie, for instance, Atlanta’s garbage workers strike, and “the bat patrol”, all of these things were integrated into the event planning at the Research Library. Other stuff was just literary stuff, but these were heavy-duty, movement-oriented books that were being published about these things and people who are active in these particular movements. That’s what gave it the strength to endure.

TFSR: That’s awesome. I was only there for the book fair in 2018 or 2019, but I really appreciated what you’re talking about – “the bat patrols” and the sanitation worker strikes. These historical events are being brought in and people with the experience of having been there talking about those things. And at the same time, like you said, with Stop Cops City, you’ve got younger people that are actively engaged in activism simultaneously, really bringing together a multi-generational space. I think that’s super important.

M: Keeping the petty-bourgeois heads out, too, since they think they’re radicals or some shit…

TFSR: …and the authoritarian leftists.

A: I’ll say it because I’m assuming that they probably don’t listen to your podcast because of how they are. Maybe they do. Every year as the book fair approaches, one or two of those organizations reach out to us and ask if they can get a table. We say that we’re full. We do get quite complete because the tabling space is limited in the library. And that creates some barriers because not everybody that we want to have there can come.

M: I think the anarchist book fairs can do that in their name. But since we just call ourselves a radical book fair, we can do it in the policy sessions.

A: That’s one drawback of having a broader name. You have to find other ways to make sure the content represents the values of the collective.

M: But in the long run, though, I think it serves to bring in people who hadn’t really– It doesn’t exclude anybody who hadn’t had the experience of having somebody who calls himself an anarchist outline some things that should be done and some books that should be read. Because I remember that was a big problem in my early development, people just condemn people for being anarchists and they never even read them. “They’re just anarchists, fuck them!”

TFSR: Are we expecting any dramatic expositions that the San Francisco Bay Area Anarchists Book Fair has cyclically where they get to overturn tables of racists, Leninists, or nationalists that show up?

A: I don’t think you can expect any such drama. It’s usually a pretty happy and inviting occasion.

M: I wasn’t aware of what was going on, but it sure is good to know.

TFSR: Yeah, there are some funny videos, I’ll send them to you later.

Can you all give examples of what the visitors are likely to see and experience this year? What tables they might find or what presentations are scheduled? I don’t know if it’s been announced yet.

A: We’re gonna have a variety of different radical publishers and booksellers on the scene this year, some of them – if you’ve been to the Atlanta Radical Book Fair before – you might have encountered AK Press, PM Press, local feminist bookstore Charis Books that is I think the oldest continuously operating feminist bookstore in the country, Firestorm Books is coming down from Ashville, Rebel Hearts Publishing is going to be there. The Final Straw Radio is going to be there. And so is WRFG, our local left-wing radio station. I’m leaving people out. Atlanta Vintage Books will be there.

M: What about the folks from Baltimore?

A: No, I don’t think anybody from Baltimore is coming down. But we’re also going to have Unity and Struggle from New York and On Our Own Authority! Publishing will be there. That gets almost everyone. Oh, and in terms of panels, I guess I should probably talk about that.

We have three panels and a keynote address. The first panel, please excuse me if the order of the day gets changed before the actual event, but we have a panel called Riots, Looting and the Movement for Black Lives. Actually, that’s the subtitle, the actual title is “Big Brick Energy.” So we’re gonna have a panel of speakers reflecting on these massive urban rebellions that have taken place over the last couple of years and drawing some interesting conclusions from that. We have a panel on Land Back and Abolition featuring our esteemed guest Modibo Kadalie and a couple of people from the Stop Cop City movement. We also have a panel on critical race theory and the don’t-say-gay policy in Florida. That’s called the Fight for Youth’s Autonomy. Those would be the three panels of the day. And then we are closing our day with a keynote address by William C. Anderson, who is the author of the Nation on No Map. William C. Anderson is, if you’re not familiar, a black anarchist, writer, and thinker whose work has been published in just a million places. He is on his second book with AK press. And William is also on the book fair collective, so you’ll likely be seeing him around all day in some capacity.

TFSR: That’s awesome. That’s a lot to look forward to. Modibo, did you have anything to add?

M: Everybody’s invited. Just come here with a spirit of positivity. And let’s have some fellowship and some face-to-face conversation about the future of the world. How about that?

TFSR: Sounds good. So, you mentioned how the pandemic– Responsibly for you, thank you for taking precautions and taking that into account. The pandemic isn’t over. Even though the boosters have done an amazing job of dampening the damage that it’s done. Can you talk a bit about the precautions that are being taken around COVID-19 and safety for this indoor event?

A: Thank you very much for asking that question. Because I would have really kicked myself, if I had gotten off this program and didn’t mention: “Everybody, please wear your mask when you come to the Auburn Avenue Research Library.” It is an indoor venue, although the ceilings are really high, so it’s really good circulation in there. And there’s usually plenty of elbow room, you shouldn’t have too much problem putting some distance between you and people who you’re just meeting for the first time. But we are asking that everybody who comes to wear their mask. Masks will be available at the entrance, we’re going to have people handing out masks to everybody who comes in. That’s a big part of what makes it possible for us to do this year. So we would appreciate everybody being cool about that and not giving us anti-mask bullshit or something like that.

M: And some sense of social distances in the auditorium itself.

A: Yes, we’re asking people to make sure that they leave some space in the auditorium and not crowd too much. Usually, there’s a lot of seating there. So that should be quite doable. And when you get there, there’s also auditorium seating on a balcony above. So if the floor level is looking a little too crowded for you, you can go to the balcony. And there’s usually no one seated up there. We’re just asking people to do some social distancing and wear their mask. And masks will be provided if you forget yours at home.

TFSR: It’s some pretty cool content that you’ve mentioned that you’re going to be providing for anyone who starts to feel a tickle in their throat or a little bit too far away to get there, or they find it difficult to travel for whatever reason, a lot of book fairs – London, Montreal, Victoria – during COVID have done a really good job of recording and presenting, documenting the stuff for later consumption. And I’ve seen videos from past Atlanta Radical Book Fairs up online. Are people who can’t make it to the actual event going to be able to enjoy some of the discussions?

A: Yeah, that’s the idea. We do our best to record all the events at the Atlanta Radical Book Fair. The way that we’re able to do that is through a lot of the technology that came on board at the Auburn Avenue Research Library during the remodel. The only problem is that sometimes the library itself, cause it’s a public library in Atlanta where they’re constantly trying to cut funding to such things, sometimes they don’t have enough staff to handle so much stuff throughout the day that we throw their way at the book fair. So I tried to be on top of making sure every panel gets recorded. We have missed some in the past. But our goal is to make sure that each panel gets recorded and that everybody who can’t make it… Because if you’re feeling a little sick, you should definitely stay home. So if you can’t make it, you should be able to see those events online in some form.

TFSR: Cool. Well, awesome. I was just gonna ask the last question about how folks can find out more and get involved? Did y’all have any other comments you wanted to make or reminders for folks or surprises?

M: I just wanted to say something about these book fairs. These book fairs are really widespread. And they’re catching on in communities that have bookstores. They usually start off as a collective of people, voluntarily coming together and beginning to read, sometimes it started off as reading groups, and reading clubs, then they cluster around a bookstore with a certain literature in it. And then they usually end up being active around someplace like a housing cooperative or around the homeless in the community and that draws them closer together, and you bring more and more people involved. I’m very encouraged by what we’ve seen in the places we’ve visited, because it’s getting some steam, getting some motion, and people understand these questions better. In the past, there has been some confusion about what anarchism is and what the state is, what the role of a centralized state and wars are, and what violence is. All these questions are being clarified. So, I’m very encouraged by this process that’s unfolding right in front of our eyes.

TFSR: It’s also awesome that, in my experience, too, these sorts of events that bring people together offer new life and new ideas and new discourse, because this is a long-term culture-building project that isn’t just going to end once everyone reads the right pamphlet. Andrew, what were you gonna say?

A: Well, I think that was really well said. Culture-building and community-building and publicly engaging, I think, are also really important. Inviting people who are just walking by to come through and think critically about shit going on in their community and in the world around them. That’s something I think that we really have strived hard to do at the Atlanta Radical Book Fair. And we really have to thank everybody who’s ever organized an anarchist book fair before us, because I’ve never really thought that this was something that I would do. And here I am six years after the first one is still doing it. It really shows that you can do something that people enjoy and people will take find value in it if you just give it a shot.

Every anarchist book fair that I’ve been to is really exemplifying that. So everybody who’s out there doing it, keep doing it. If you live in a small town, you’re like “I don’t know, if we’re gonna ever have an anarchist book fair,” just do it anyway, because somebody will probably come and that probably be me, probably Modibo, too! We literally just got back from Halifax, Nova Scotia. And it was, in my view, one of the best anarchists book fairs I’ve ever been to. The community was just so wonderful, so welcoming, you could tell that this was an effort that was organized by people who are neighbors, who know each other, and the entire community come out. We saw and met a lot of people, shook a lot of hands, and used a lot of hand sanitizer…

M: And it was in a public library, too, just want to amplify it. You can learn so much from one another but we have to be open to venues like this. Active people, because in Halifax anarchist book fair, they were activist people that came together with their literature and with their books and with their summation of what they’ve learned. That’s what it is there for: we can all learn from one another and from what’s going on in the past, so we can enrich our own understanding of the future.

A: Yeah, and I think what you said about the venues is really important. In some book fairs that you go to, people assume that the place that they’re going to have to do this is sometimes at somebody’s house or in this DIY punk venue or something like that, which is all fine and good. But oftentimes we forget that there are these publicly facing, available buildings that we can make use of. And sometimes the people who work there are all about it, you just gotta ask.

M: It seemed like they were waiting for us up in Canada, didn’t they?. Like “where have you been, welcome back!”

A: Whether it’s a public library, a community center, art museum. Modibo and I did events at the Hammonds House Museum several times. Nowadays in New Orleans one, when I first did that, when I went to New Orleans for the New Orleans Anarchists BookFair in 2014, nobody came because it was in a music venue during the day. Nobody came, except for maybe 10 local anarchists. It was all white people, and it was in New Orleans, which is very weird. But then at some point, they switched to a public library. And it’s a really cool event. It changed, it engaged a lot more people, they had a lot more vendors and everybody had a much more engaging and fulfilling experience. If those spaces are available to you where you live, you can absolutely make an effort to organize something there and it is really just a great experience.

M: Everybody, stay in touch with one another, so we can keep on learning about these things.

TFSR: Yeah, it’s definitely a thing from the uprising in 2020 that I regret is that we were able to have outdoor events in our community here. But there were so many people that I didn’t get a chance to meet because public spaces of interaction with less masking, not necessarily my whole face covered, were just not available and that’s something that I’ve missed.

M: There’s a struggle for these public spaces going on because the state is trying to isolate them and cut them off and put all kinds of shit in there, and you can’t even access. The public spaces have to be defended. That’s really what the anti-police movement in the (Atlanta) Forest there is all about. We need to claim these places with books, singing, dancing, with conversations, in any way we can. We need to keep them wide open.

TFSR: How can folks find out more? How to get there? The physical list once it gets published? What’s the website? How do they get in touch with you to talk about planning their own book fair and get some ideas?

A: Well, the website is atlantaradicalbookfair.com, we are all over social media. Our most followed social media account is our Instagram account. You can email us through the website there. So if you have any questions, feel free to reach out. We’re looking forward to seeing people and doing our best.

M: The library is in the heart of the historic black community on Auburn Avenue. I think it’s all been in Cortland, right down the corner. So it is centrally located, it’s a public library. It’s called Auburn Avenue Research Library. I think you can just Google the address and come up.

A: The address is 101 Auburn Avenue.

M: Yeah, that’s nice and easy – 101 Auburn Avenue. It is the street where… I’m glad they didn’t name that one Martin Luther King Drive (laughs). But Auburn Avenue is a place of great historical notes for the whole area.

TFSR: Easy to find. Well, Andrew and Modibo, thank you so much for this conversation.

M: It’s been a pleasure. I always like to talk to people who are interested in trying to figure out where the hell we going in this world.

TFSR: It’s always a pleasure. Thank you too.

A: Alright, take it easy.

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Feminist Uprising in Iran

TFSR: I’m very pleased to have Aryanam, a member of the Federation of Anarchism Era, back onto the show to share perspectives of the Federation about the unrest in Iran since the police murder of Zhina Amini. Would you please introduce yourself to the audience?

Aryanam: Hello, my name is Aryanam. I’m a member of the Federation of Anarchism Era. Thank you very much for having me again.

TFSR: It’s my pleasure. Thanks for coming back on.

People, and women in particular, living under the Islamic Republic of Iran have grabbed headlines due to widespread revolts following the September 16 morality police murder of Zhina or Mahsa Amini for allegedly allowing a wisp of hair to escape her hijab. But I’ve also heard that it was about her jeans being too tight in the view of the pigs. Can you describe what we know of what happened and the protests that have erupted?

And if you could, explain why there are two names? I’ve heard Zhina Amini as well as Mahsa Amini. It gets a little confusing, I think.

A: Mahsa Amini is her legal name which is recorded on her birth certificate. But among her family and friends, she was better known as Zhina which actually means “life” in the Kurdish language. Because of the discrimination that Kurdish people face, they don’t put their Kurdish names on legal document if they have can help it. They use Persian name. Mahsa is Persian, but she was known as Zhina among her family and friends. From now on I would call her Zhina.

So, Zhina came to Tehran with her family from her hometown Saqqez to visit some relatives and family. At the Shahid Haghani Expressway in Tehran, she was with her brother, and they were approached by the guidance patrol, or morality police, and she got arrested because of her improper hijab. There is a picture of her before she gets arrested and her hijab was no problem, but we are talking about the police and they can do whatever with impunity, so she got arrested. Her brother protested her arrest saying that they are not from Tehran, they are new here and they should not arrest her. But the morality police said that it would only be a one-hour briefing class, and she will be released after that. But, as we know, after a few hours her family found her in the hospital in a coma. We know what happened in the police van and the police station because of all the eyewitnesses, all the other women who were arrested and saw what happened. When she got into the [police] van, there was an altercation between the detained women and police saying that they shouldn’t be arrested. Zhina was one of the people who were protesting, and the police wanted to shut the detainees up so they started beating the women inside the van. One of the eye witnesses mentioned that the police hit Zhina’s head against the van wall really hard.

After that, they arrived at the police station and Zhina was not well. She didn’t have color in her face, she was unsteady. This is a place where she fell down based on CCTV footage. The police chose that specific station, to not beat her again. Once again at the police station, she kept saying to the police that she didn’t feel well, and then she fell down unconscious. Then she came to [consciousness] but the police were like “No, you’re faking it. We know all these tricks that you guys are playing.” The other women noticed that it was serious, so they started protesting and demanded help for Zhina. But the police started beating them up again to make them stop. They beat Zhina one more time. This time Zhina went unconscious for the last time, she did not recover after that. The police knew that situation and they started humping her chest and raising her leg and massaging it thinking that she just went unconscious.

In an hour or so, they got an ambulance and took her to the Kasra Hospital. But before they did that they made sure to get all the evidence that the detainee women might have from their cell phones, they might have taken pictures. The police made sure they confiscate all of it. They threatened all the detainee woman’s witnessing what happened to force them to silence. Once they moved her to the Kasra Hospital, we have another eyewitness who actually told her story to a friend who retold that story on Twitter. So Zhina came to the hospital. When she arrived at the hospital, she was unconscious, she was beaten. They moved her to the special care unit and she was kept in a coma for two days and then declared dead. The police threatened the doctors, the nurses, and hospital employees to stay silent and lie to the parents about the cause of death. The clinic that admitted Zhina released a post on Instagram saying that she had heavy brain trauma. They threatened the hospital to stay silent and lie to the parents. They wanted to spin the story as a heart attack, heart failure, and brain stroke. But hacktivists managed to get access to medical data of Zhina and from that, we know that she died because of heavy brain injury and brain edema from internal bleeding. She was in a coma for a few days.

The day she got admitted into the hospital, her brother was smart enough to contact news agencies to cover the story. And the story was already on Twitter and Persian social media on September 14, and it kept circulating. But since she was in a coma, there was hope that she would recover, people didn’t have the whole story of why she got admitted to the hospital. She was declared dead two days later on September 16, in a few hours, there was a protest at the hospital. The police managed to scatter the protests with tear gas and pepper sprays and by arresting and beating the protesters. The actual protest started in Saqqez. But the police started playing all the tricks they could to make whatever was going to happen as small as possible. They had Zhina’s body, and instead of taking it to Sanandaj directly, from where they could drive it to Saqqez, her hometown, they brought it to Tabriz, which is in a different province, it’s in Azerbaijani province, while Sanandaj and Saqqez are in the Kurdistan province. Then they started driving with her body and stopped in the middle of the road to throw off the protesters. They gave the wrong cemetery location to avoid the protesters and they wanted to bury her body at five o’clock in the morning so they cannot gather and the funeral is small or non-existent. But her family resisted all the pressure that they were receiving from the government and they wanted to have a proper funeral.

So the crowd managed to gather and that’s when the first chants started with “Marg bar dictator,” which means “Death to dictators” and the other one was “Jin Jiyan Azadi,” which is Kurdish for “Woman, life, freedom.” This slogan has been with the Kurdish people for a long time. It started with Öcalan, with the feminist ideals that Öcalan was proposing to the PKK, that the women struggle within that party, they managed to win with Öcalan’s support, and they managed to turn the PKK into a more feminist organization. And after that “Jin Jiyan Azadi” became a prominent slogan within Rojava. This is a slogan that has been in the social media and satellite TV for the Kurdish people, so it was in the back of their minds. So “Jin Jiyan Azadi” was, especially in this situation where a woman was killed because of just hijab, was chanted as a counter, including “Marg bar dictator” (Death to dictators). Women started to remove their headscarves with the support and encouragement of men right at the funeral. And from there, protesters spread to other Kurdish cities including Sanandaj. On September 18-19, the uprising spread to Tehran, Rasht, Esfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Ilam… On September 20th, it went even further, to Sari, Tabriz, Qom, Kerman, Hamedan, and Kish.

There are so many significant cities here, they are all major cities. Something significant here is Qom and Mashhad are the ideological strongholds of the regime. Mashhad is where the eighth Imam of the Shia sect is buried, Imam Reza. Qom is where all the major mullahs train, that’s where they come from, but they were one of the first cities that joined the uprising. And Tabriz was another amazing one. In the first few days, a lot of people from Tabriz didn’t want to join because people were chanting “Jin Jiyan Azadi,” that’s the slogan of PKK, the terrorists (they were following the line of Turkey). So there was a surprise that Tabriz rose as fast as they did. And it was a very pleasant surprise.

By now, all 31 provinces, and more than 100 cities have risen up. And 100 is just an underestimate, I just don’t have the number at the moment. Oshnavieh was a city that got liberated, but unfortunately, it got retaken the following day. The regime used drones thanks to the technology that the US gave them. They had tested those on Baluchistan during previous uprisings, they used it on Oshnavieh and on the stronghold of the Kurdish democratic parties. So Oshnavieh fell into the hands of the regime again, but the uprising is still ongoing. The universities have started a massive strike. By now, at least 110 universities went on strike. The Sharif University of Technology, which is well-known worldwide, went on strike and was brutally suppressed. The police surrounded the University and started shooting at the students and arresting them. They closed down the university for the next few days so the protests cannot happen and so they can erase any evidence of human rights violations. But after the strike, the arrests of students continued. Also, high school students and even younger students are joining the protest. We are seeing 15-17-year-olds are joining the strike. There was one video that high school students throwing their Principal out of the high school.

TFSR: That video was amazing.

A: Yes. They kept saying “beesharaf”, which means “scoundrel,” “without honor.” The universities are getting brutally suppressed, at one university at least there was one dead student, many injured and many arrested, over 100 were arrested in one university. But the uprising is still going on. This is the third week of the protest. It’s been 21 days since the start of the uprising, and this is the longest uprising in the last few years in Iran.

TFSR: Yeah, that’s amazing. Part of me just thinks of how embedded the secret police and security state are in parts of Iranian society, how many levels of policing there are, and how frequently people are getting stopped. I mean, I live in the United States, there’s a lot of policing here too. But it’s so brave that people of all these different generations, especially the youth, would be rising up and refusing to take the shit anymore. When you said that Oshnavieh had been liberated briefly but retaken by the regime, was it just the government was kicked out for a day or two by the population or by a specific group?

A: Oshnavieh is a city in the Kurdistan province near the border, but they managed to take control of all the government buildings, and they threw out all the police and all the regime forces. But that night, there was a military unit from Tabriz that headed towards, and the government used drones to strike all the government buildings, all the possible gathering places for the people. A few people died just because of that. The city was suppressed again.

TFSR: That’s incredible and it’s amazing how widespread, as you say, this has been. Getting back to Zhina’s case, what the morality police or the guidance patrol is, what do they do and what is your impression of how people generally think of them?

A: Guidance patrol is an organization that was established in 2005. But it succeeded an older organization, the Islamic Religious Police, and they have one goal – enforcing the Islamic code of conduct. This is not limited to the women’s Islamic dress code, it is controlling the relationship of the people in all ways possible. The boyfriends and girlfriends cannot be seen together in public. You can only be seen with the opposite gender if they are part of your family, if they are mahram, an Islamic word meaning a member of your family, marrying whom is haram – taboo or forbidden. So you can be together with a member of your family. But, again, this is a patriarchal society in which you need to have either a brother, even a younger brother or younger cousin, or a father, so you don’t get harassed by the regime or other people when you’re going about doing your business as a woman. That’s one of the reasons that Kiarash, Zhina’s brother was with her, because this is how it is expected to be. Unfortunately, as part of the patriarchal society, you cannot be alone. In the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship, if they are seen together, the police harass either both of them or the woman. So people have to play different tricks to circumvent the guidance patrol.

But guidance patrol does a lot of things like harassing transgender or queer people because of lack of gender conformity, they can do everything with impunity. They even monitor men’s attire. Back in Rafsanjani’s presidency, which was from 1989 to 1997, even men could not wear short-sleeve clothing in public. Now, if men are wearing clothing coded as western or whatever guidance patrol sees as improper clothing for men, they get into the same problem as women. Not as bad as women because men can resist more, since it’s a patriarchal society, they are more lenient to men. They would be sent to do 40 hours of the briefing class, and there is not as much beating. But for women, there is much beating to make them stop.

Also, they monitor what people buy, and there are cases when people had to return newly bought goods, such as clothing, bags, shoes, whatever that morality police finds improper for the Islamic code of conduct. As I said, they can do anything with impunity, as long as they can frame it as an issue of the Islamic trust code or Islamic code of conduct in public. As you might expect, the majority of people in Iran hate the guidance patrol. Putting it more concretely, there was an independent survey done by Gaman in 2020. 58% of the people in that survey do not believe in the hijab at all. Of those that believe in hijab, 76% are against compulsory hijab. Only 15% of the people in the survey were for legal obligation and compulsory hijab. There is no family, no individual in Iran that has not experienced the harassment of the guidance police, didn’t have a family member or a relative being harassed or arrested by them. Unless they are part of this regime, they are a religious and patriarchal family that enforces hijab strictly, before even the guidance patrol gets the chance to enforce it for them. So that 15% that are for compulsory hijab, they already enforce it on their family members and are part of the conservative, religious and patriarchal family unit. People pretty much hate this unit called morality police or guidance patrol. And they join in burning down, flipping over the cars, or hitting the police whenever they get the chance.

TFSR: Is Zhina’s killing totally out of the ordinary? Did they just go too far and the family was able to follow up so it didn’t get covered up? Is it a semi-normal thing or was this just an act of brutality that was totally out of the ordinary for how the morality police are?

A: Women experience police brutality similar to Mahsa’s case every single day in Iran. They get pressured, some get raped, some get killed by the police, and the regime managed to silence the family by getting forced confession from them to say something positive about the regime and why their child was wrong. It happens every single day. Before this event happened, there was a video of a woman in Raj being thrown out of the morality patrol’s van, there were multiple videos of morality police beating a woman and forcing her into a van or beating them down. This is normal. This happens every day. The only reason that they failed in Mahsa’s case was that the family resisted the intimidation and refused the pressure. They allowed the large gathering, and Kurdish people were behind them in the funeral and it sparked. Morality police have always been brutal.

But in the last few months, it had been more brutal because of what I believe to be a reaction to the women’s popular grassroots activism. In Iran, some businesses enforce the hijab as well. So what the women of Iran did was blacklist the businesses that do that. They didn’t have any leader, they just gathered the listings saying, “We don’t go to this business. This business just keeps harassing us for a hijab, or being with our boyfriend or girlfriend.” Transgender people of Iran joined as well saying that “these businesses harass them for their gender nonconformity.” The businesses were like, “Oh, you’re shutting our businesses by blacklisting us, don’t do that, we are good people.” But right then the cases of morality police brutality started increasing or it became more visible (to be more honest). People are becoming more aware of what’s happening. The cases of people taking a video of the morality police van, recording the brutality of police inflicting on a woman are being videotaped everywhere. So there was a tipping point. Mahsa’s death, unfortunately, was a tipping point. As they say, her name, the slogan that we use is “Mahsa, you’re not dead, your name became a symbol.” So although being Kurdish in Tehran had a significant effect on how the police treated Zhina but it’s happening all across the country, unfortunately.

TFSR: As you say, the awareness is happening all across the country. You mentioned before, when I asked about the two names, that the regime is generally unfriendly to Kurdish people as a minority. Is that because of a Persian supremacist perspective? Is it because they view any break from what they consider to be the norm, to be a sectarian grouping? Is it because of separatist groups in the Kurdistan region? What do you understand to be the motivating factor for the state to repress Kurds or Baluchi or other minorities?

A: The regime is using Persian supremacy for sure, but their motivation is to keep their hegemony. And their cultural hegemony is rooted in the Persian language and Persian culture. The Kurdish people, the Baluchi people, the Arab people, and the people of Sistan, the Afghani people, are breaking the hegemony. They are outside the hegemony that the regime wants to project. So, it’s not just the people of Kurdistan. The people of Kurdistan are prominent because they can resist, they have organizations, but the regime keeps the people in the periphery poor. For example, people in Baluchistan are getting massacred right now. The number of deaths right now in Baluchistan is at least 91 people. Those are the ones who have birth certificates, a lot of Baluchi people do not have birth certificates. So it is easier to cause genocide when the people do not legally exist. That’s how they do it, it is a colonial and genocidal tactic. And they do that all over the periphery in Iran, which is Kurdish, Baluchi, Gilak, people of northern Iran, which in northern Raj, Sistan… It is a way to have control.

TFSR: In your view, is there an underlying philosophical movement that people are being motivated through their resistance to the morality police at this point? Is there an idea spreading? Or is it just the existent dignity of human beings to not live under omnipresent attack and surveillance that’s motivating a lot of the uprising?

A: People in every uprising have a dialogue with each other. In the uprising in 2017, they ended the conversation about reformism. They started the conversation about overthrowing the regime. Before that, in 1997 when Hatami became the president of the Islamic Republic, he brought reforms into the government, which gave a lot of hope to the people who believed that things can get better through reforms. Before then, it was Rafsanjani’s presidency. So Hatami relaxed some rules about hijab, about Islamic code of conduct, and just gave some breathing room to the people. That helped the regime for 20 years, they could play that reformism game for 20 years, until 2017 when people were done with reformism, their slogans were like “Reformers, this is the end!” In 2019, that continued but it became more radical, and the conversation about overthrowing the government through armed means started happening. And thru the Uprising of the Thirsty, the uprising of Baluchistan, through Uprising of the Hungry, the bread riots that happened this year, every time we are advancing and moving the position to “fuck the police.”

First, we’ve been like “Screw the reformers, we cannot survive through reform. We need to get rid of this government.” People believed in voting, for example, in 2009, it was the Green Movement in Iran, and the main slogan of the people was “Where is my vote?”, people were still believing in the vote. In 2017, that went away, they were not talking about votes that much. They were some small groups, but in 2019, more radical conversations started saying “Marg bar setamgar, che Shah bashe che Rahbar”, which means “Death to the oppressor, be it the Shah or the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic”. So these slogans became more prominent. In 2021, which was the Uprising of the Thirsty, that conversation went forward, and became more radical, until this year 2022, in which the conversation from the beginning was “Death to the dictator”, “Death to the oppressor, be it Shah or leader”, it was against the police. This is a way that people kept going forward and using their previous experience from the last uprising to inform the current action.

TFSR: Thank you. So there have been a lot of videos that have come out of girls and women mobbing authoritarian men, dancing in the streets, and people burning their hijabs. Can you talk about how the word has spread during the uprisings and if any digital tech or social media, in particular, have aided, and maybe a little bit about internet shutdowns too?

A: Yes, the internet had a major effect on the advance of the uprising. As I said, the news of Zhina’s death was spread the moment that she was admitted into the hospital, hashtags were used, and people were learning about it. So, the majority of the population on social media was already aware of Zhina’s situation, they were just not going to act because she was in a coma. One thing worth mentioning is that the majority of the people protesting right now in the uprising were born in 1380 [Islamic calendar]. We call them the 80s, which is generation Z. They were born around 2000. And the oldest of them are about 21 years old, the same age as Zhina. A good section of them is from 17 to 20 years old that are on the street fighting the regime.

So they are very savvy with the internet and social media. And one thing that we are noticing recently in this protest is that the people of Iran are doing an amazing job, they are taking security culture very seriously. This is the first time that we are noticing that majority, if not all the videos that are coming out, are taken from the back of the head or taken with a low angle so that people cannot be identified by their faces. And this is another thing that people learned through the continued protests throughout the last few years – to protect themselves and their friends and fellow people fighting against the regime, they need to take the security culture seriously, and they are doing that correctly. It is really hard to see people without a mask protesting. They are covering their face as much as they can. If they’re not, before posting a video, people are blurring faces. People were using the internet to inform each other of what was happening, where to gather, what to do, what to get and keep motivating each other like that.

Right now, with the shutdown of the Internet, in some cities, people are using a small paper notice on every house, saying “Let’s gather up here.” In some other places, people have gathered in the neighborhood, they already organized themselves in the neighborhood, they know each other, they do talk, they organize themselves, and they set up a meeting time at a certain place. They do it through that or they get each other’s phone numbers because the cell phones are still working. But once in a while, the internet comes in and people can use it to get news and information. WhatsApp, Instagram, Telegram, and Session are filtered, people need to use a proxy to use the Session app, which is another good app for anonymous communication. Signal got shut down, and people were using Signal. But people found other ways, some people are just going out every day at 5pm on the streets, and they find other people protesting and start taking action. They form their own solidarity groups and keep their speaking habit every day. So, this is not like during previous protests and uprisings when the government shut down the internet and could basically shut down the protests.

TFSR: Oh, that’s interesting. I was thinking, “Oh, in the past, when we spoke and you talked about how a lot of people don’t bother organizing online because of the surveillance and the internet getting shut down.” But then I started thinking about the videos being everywhere. That makes perfect sense. But I’m so glad to hear that people have been taking the security of themselves and the people around them seriously. And I’ve noticed that about the videos that a lot of them are from behind or at a low angle. Super smart.

A: Yes. They keep mentioning to the protesters that they need to film from the back and wear a mask. We are glad it happens everywhere, not only in the bigger cities, they learn from their previous experiences. They saw people getting arrested after the protests. So many Arab activists were arrested after the Uprising of the Thirsty because their videos were released in public and people could see their faces. We are really glad that it’s going forward.

TFSR: You’ve mentioned before in past conversations how in Afghanistan, when the Taliban was able to regain control, some men would come out in solidarity with women but also be repressed, maybe not. They would face different repression. Everybody hates the morality cops in Iran but they suffer different consequences often. Have you witnessed or has the Federation expressed witnessing a lot of people crossing the imposed gender lines in these protests, in terms of coming out and supporting and standing with people that are forced to wear the hijab or people who are policed in their body differently? Is it mostly just femme-presenting people that are out there? Or has this shifted conversation of solidarity in the streets or within families to common hatred of the imposition of patriarchal gender?

A: Oh, it definitely moved the conversation toward rejecting the patriarchal ruling of hijab. There were a lot of older women that came out in support of the uprising. They burned their own scars, and some of them were like, “We go old, our time is over, you guys fight on. You’re doing your job.” They are supporting. There was a video of a senior woman in the metro sitting and not wearing a hijab. Another older man was trying to enforce hijabs, saying “Why are you not wearing hijab, are you not ashamed of yourself?” And the woman answered his question really well with a very sharp word, when the man got up, she got up and started beating him for trying to enforce hijab on someone he has no business forcing hijab on her, and people were really supportive. People’s awareness about hijab and patriarchal and religious norms is increasing not just among young people, but all across the family strata.

Whenever women remove their scarves, before they would get harassed by men, now they are getting encouraged and supported by men. This is something that didn’t happen before. Before, there were women’s protests about compulsory hijab. Women would individually go to the streets and removed their headscarves, but they were not getting support from the people around them, and the morality police took them. But this case is different. People are supporting the actions of women, they are at the forefront of the uprising and are getting support from the men most of the time.

There are always some patriarchal men… some who have started a new slogan to basically go against Woman Life, Freedom. Their horrible slogan is “Men, Nation, Prosperity.” An example that comes to mind in the US is “Black Lives Matter” when it was countered by “All Lives Matter,” but unfortunately, some people are chanting it right now, but it is counter-revolutionary, and it counters the ideals set out by this uprising.

TFSR: According to the Iran Human Rights NGO based in Norway, there have been at least 150 killings so far that they’ve been able to record during demonstrations and hundreds detained. Among those killed was a 16-year-old woman, Nika Shakarami, who disappeared on September 27 and was found dead from what appeared to be bludgeoned wounds and their allegations of her body being snatched by the state for a private burial. I don’t know if you can talk about Nika’s situation, I was seeing some videos up on the Federation of Anarchism Era’s social media earlier. And you’ve covered how widespread the demonstrations are, the drone strikes in certain instances, and another government repression, but if you could talk a little bit about if the repression has been successful in your view of dampening people’s resistance, or if people have continued to endure despite it.

A: The number of deaths grossly exceeds 100. 100 deaths were just in the city of Zahedan in Sistan and Baluchistan Province. And that’s just counted deaths. As I said earlier, a large section of Baluchi people do not have birth certificates and their identity is not known. So their deaths will not be counted in the official record. Nobody knows, as if they do not exist and that their deaths don’t count. This is the same in the other major cities. If in Zahedan we had 100 deaths, we can see that throughout three weeks, there are at least 100 dead in Tehran and other major cities. One hundred deaths are grossly underestimated.

Another point, as I was saying earlier, the majority of the protesters are from Generation Z. They are 16-22 years old and coming out on the street fighting the regime. Nika Shararami was a 16-year-old girl who was one of the protesters. She went out to protest with a water bottle and a bag with her birth certificate for identification. She mentioned that she was followed by the police a few minutes before her disappearance. The CCTV showed that she did not go to her relatives’ house, because she knew that she was getting followed, she was trying to get them off the trail. She didn’t want to go straight to her aunt’s house and cause trouble there. So she went to the empty construction area. On that same night, her Telegram account and her Instagram account were deleted and her cell phone was turned off. 10 days later, her family did not get any news from her. They went to the police, they went everywhere – to the hospitals, to the morgue, everywhere to find out anything about her. After 10 days, they got a call from the police saying they should come and identify her body. She, again, had a bad head injury caused by police batons. The police claimed that she fell from the high ground and died. But this is police, so they fabricated that they possibly threw her body down. Who knows what they did in 10 days before calling her parents? She’s not the only 16-year-old that was killed in this uprising. We don’t have a count, but many 16-year-olds like her were killed by the police in the last few weeks.

In her case, the police were so scared about causing another spark in the uprising that they stole her body from the funeral house and they buried it in a village surrounding Khorramabad where her family lived. In the dead of night without the consent and knowledge of the parents. The news started getting out. The mother started talking about their circumstances of Nika’s of death. And today, the police forced a false confession from her, she had to repeat what the police wanted her to tell. In a forced confession from her uncle, we can hear the interrogator. Like a quiet voice was saying, “Talk, talk now. Talk now, dammit.” So the uncle had to say whatever they were feeding him. And he was audible in the video. They didn’t know they had accidentally released it like that. So they threatened and intimidated the family. I think her uncle might be in prison right now, and I can’t confirm that, but that’s the story. That’s how they do it to Nika’s family. They couldn’t do it to Mahsa, but they did it to Nika and to many other 16-year-olds whose names we might not know. They just intimidated and threatened the family into silence.

TFSR: Have you witnessed much solidarity from other places in the region in terms of the uprising against the regime’s brutality and the imposition of the hijab?

A: Yes, absolutely. There was solidarity across the region, amazing solidarity from the women of Afghanistan. They showed their solidarity with the people of Iran for the cause of Zhina and for the cause of freedom for women and the cause of women. And one of their slogans was “Bread, work, freedom,” which is one of the slogans that was also chanted in Iran. Maybe it was in Raj, where there is a video in which people were chanting “Bread, work, freedom” alongside with “Woman, life, freedom,” But there was a bombing that we believe to be caused by Taliban in the Kaaj education center that had the main women’s section and it is in the Hazara ethnicity neighborhood. A suicide bombing happened in the women’s section of the Education Center, and many women were killed in this bombing. That caused a new wave of solidarity. Some of their slogans include “Bread, work, freedom,” and “Death to Taliban, whether it’s Kabul or Tehran.” The other one is “Stop Hazara genocide”. Since this is part of the campaign against the Hazara people, and also against women and women’s autonomy, and the right to education. The women in Afghanistan, across Herat, Bamyan, Kabul, and many other cities started protesting and chanting “Stop Hazara genocide,” “Education is our right,” and “Death to enemies of knowledge.” Everything that goes on in Afghanistan and Iran is basically the same. Taliban is just a younger sibling of the Islamic Republic.

Also in Iran, the government used ambulances to covertly move the detained protesters. Taliban did the same thing in Afghanistan. So Taliban is just copying Iran in all its ways to suppress the people. We also saw amazing protests in Iraq and Lebanon. In Iraq, there were protests in solidarity with the uprising, and also against the intervention of Iran in Iraq’s politics, which we are very grateful for and we hope to see more. This is how we see solidarity. Each of us is acting with our own goals and tactics but at the same time, we are strengthening the movement in our surrounding area. We are acting in solidarity. The people of Lebanon also had a demonstration in solidarity with the uprising for Zhina Amini. We are very grateful and hope to see more.

TFSR: Media in the USA and the West are presenting this revolt as feminist, and the West frequently uses symbols of the hijab, for instance, as a dog whistle for Islamophobia and Orientalism. The part that isn’t said out loud is the idea that there should be regime change and the imposition of a neoliberal “democracy” installed in Iran. But I wonder if you could talk a little bit about what you’ve seen of Western media presentations of what’s going on, where they get it right, and where they get it wrong…

A: First of all, I want to touch on the word Islamophobia. I don’t think that we have a good anarchist critique of religion at all. So far, I saw two reactions. One reaction was, as you said, the West trying to explain this as something that people are rising against backward ways of the region, which use Islam as a code word, which doesn’t mean the culture and, like you said, Orientalism. The other one is that Islam is not the problem, it is just the Islamic Republic, it is just this regime or that regime, there is no compulsion in Islam, which is, I’m sorry, a really ridiculous statement. The vast majority of the Islamic religion, and also the rest of religions are about enforcing the sacred taboos about society and what the consequences would be if we obey or do not obey. I’m from a federation that does not accept the religious tendency of anarchism because we see religion as another mode of power that forces people into obedience. That’s another tool in the masters’ hands to make people obey.

While capitalism is doing that by interfering by sabotaging the production and consumption relations of human beings, religion does lead to sabotaging human everyday relations by using sacredness as property. This was mentioned by Graeber in The Dawn of Everything, that the sacred is the oldest form of property that we observe in human society so far. They have sacred knowledge that only the clergy class can know, which is intellectual property. There are sacred grounds or tools or a base that are all part of the property which is monopolized by the clergy class. These are things that people get enslaved by and forced to obey things against their interests. The problem is the institution of the religion, not the way the religion acts.

As Graeber mentioned– I am using Graeber because it was really instrumental in my thinking about this. He said that capitalism is not natural. It is a social construct that we reproduce every single day. The same is true about religion. Religion is a social construct that is something that we reproduce every day. We decide what religion is and how we conduct ourselves. We decide every day that we obey instead of revolting against these institutions, we are reproducing these oppressive systems. We are not the right-wing fascists who blame the people for failures of capitalism. We are not fascists that are blaming the poor and disfranchised for the problems. They are the victims of this system. We look at the problem systematically: capitalism as a system problem, not the individuals entrapped and enslaved in it. The same is true about religion. The institution of religion is the problem, not the people being entrapped and enslaved by it. We have comrades in Afghanistan giving examples that when the Communist Party took over Afghanistan, they took the land from the Khan, the landlord in the feudal system, and gave it to the people living in it, the serfs. But the serfs, because of their religious upbringing, resisted the fact they could have autonomy and produce and consume as they will, and they saw that as haram and even prayed that land that was given to them as haram.

So religion is not just a branch of capitalism, it is another tree in the poisonous garden that is authoritarianism. In the world we live in, we have to get rid of all of them, or we cannot be free. We cannot live in this world that is created on death. But it is not just regarding the West and a dog whistle, and is not something new. It is not something that only the West does. The Iranian right-wing fascists use Islam as a way to be racist toward Arabs. They blame Arabs after 1400 years for the problems they are having now. So this is not new. But the only way that you can differentiate them is by who’s blaming the people, who’s blaming the individual who’s blaming the system. The anarchist way is to blame the system, blame all the authoritarian systems in the world, which is all the religions, including Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism. Graeber, in Debt: The First 5000 Years, mentions Hinduism and consequently, Buddhism using karma, which is basically a threat for the people to pay their debt, or they’re going to become a slave in their future lives. That’s how they enforce the proto-capitalist way of life. We know that the principle “You always have to pay your debt” is something essential in capitalism. It has been something that was enforced by religion, it was always first introduced by religion, and capitalism used that from religion. Even before Christianity, even before the birth of capitalism, this has been taking place.

So yeah, the Western media uses the current uprising as a dog whistle that they want liberal democracy. It’s liberal democracy, what they did in Afghanistan. We saw what they did with the hypocrisy of inviting the Taliban to Oslo to have a conversation with them. The West stayed silent in the pleas of the women of Afghanistan being suppressed and killed every single day by the Taliban. It was funny when we heard the chanting Jin, Jiyan, Azadi in the EU Parliament. When they listed PKK, whose leader is Öcalan, who basically invented the Jin, Jiyan, Azadi,, basically, which was popularized by PKK and was considered a terrorist slogan of the PKK. Now they are saying it out loud, like all the previous experiences did not happen. What happened to the liberal democracy, when Turkey part of NATO attacked Rojava, the place where Jin, Jiyan, Azadi was chanted every day. It was popularized with Rojava. That’s where the rest of the world heard Jin, Jiyan, Azadi. The liberal democracy failed Rojava, and now they want to help the Iranian people? I don’t think so. It is very hypocritical and disgusting, to be honest.

TFSR: I assume that you can’t see the future. But do you have a sense that this uprising in Iran against the regime will cause enough cracks to be able to sustain itself that something more permanent can come, like an actual overthrow of the regime or this has seemed like another stepping stone in that direction?

A: Yes. The uprising is still going. The regime is doing everything it can to suppress it. People are still protesting, the regime came with tanks and water cannons. Oh, I wanted to add one more thing that I just remembered when I mentioned water canons, regarding the previous question. The water cannons that the Islamic Republic used were possibly bought from Austria or Germany. These same water cannons, the anti-riot water cannons were sold to Chile during the protests and uprising, and now they are being used in Iran. Some of the pellet guns and ammunition are produced locally, but others are purchased from either China or some European countries. They’re still selling to Iran. Just wanted to mention it.

So the regime is doing everything it can to suppress the uprising. They are brutal in Zahedan, in Baluchistan, and there was a very brutal suppression in Kurdistan, in Saqqez and Sanandaj. But people are still taking the streets. Right now, a very visible section of protesters are the university students and high school students, even the middle school students, the 14-15-year-olds who are going on a strike or protesting. People either arranged by themselves where to meet and organize either through their neighborhood or by meeting each other in the protests and exchanging details. It became a habit to come out every single day at a certain time and see what was happening. If there is a significant number of people coming out, we’re going to have a good protest that day.

As I was saying earlier, in every single protest, every single operation we are advancing the dialogue. First, we were finished with reformism, we started going toward overthrowing the government, then it became more radical. This time it became much more radical. Never before have we had this much anger towards the police. This time people did not have any requests from the government, one of their slogans is “No more protests. This is the beginning of a revolution.” People are not asking the government to do something for them, they want it gone. From the very beginning, it was like that. In the Uprising of the Thirsty, Uprising of the Hungry, in the November 2019 uprising, people were coming out because of the hard, economic problems they faced. And in the beginning, it was just to ease those sufferings for themselves, but this time, there was no request for the government to do something because the government is not going to cancel the Islamic code of conduct, it is not gonna get rid of hijab. Sometime in the beginning of the uprising, people were chanting “Voluntary hijab,” but that went away quickly, that didn’t stay. It would direct the movement, the uprising toward the reformist place, and the regime could control the movement. But people realize that and they stopped that completely. All the slogans are against the regime. And it is for Woman, life, freedom.

If we cannot overthrow this regime this time, it’s only because we are not armed. And one of the slogans that people are chanting all across Iran was “Woe the day we get armed!” So people realize that we need to get armed to overthrow the regime. And the problem is that the regime is armed to the teeth. And we need some sort of organization to attack, to get guns and arm ourselves. Nobody else can do about ourselves. Right now, the regime is trying to give free reigns to the militia, to the Basij, the government sanctioned militia to suppress the university student movements. If you could take over a university there might be guns that we can get and start moving there. The military bases are harder to get but the police stations have been taken over and burned down in multiple cities all across the country. So, the only problem we have is that we don’t have arms. Once we get over that, this regime will fall. And after that, our problem will be stopping other forces to take over this revolution and steal it from us, like the Islamic Republic stole the 1979 revolution from us.

TFSR: Yeah, or like the Bolsheviks stole the Russian Revolution in 1917.

A: Yes, exactly.

TFSR: Well, Aryanam, thank you so much for having this conversation. I really appreciate the insights. How can people follow the work of the Federation of Anarchism Era and support the project and the folks that are in Iran and elsewhere?

A: People can follow us on Twitter, Instagram, and Telegram. Also on our website asranarchism.com. I believe you both provide links to them. We’re doing your fundraising at the moment for both our comrades in Afghanistan and the uprising in Iran. I did not mention this during this interview, but it has been mentioned on our social media that we have lost at least one comrade from our federation and many were arrested and injured. We are trying to support them as much as we can. We will be very grateful for people’s support and solidarity. Thank you very much for having me and hope we talk when we win this revolution.

TFSR: I hope that it will happen soon.

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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Featuerd Tracks:

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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.

Ecology + Anti-Capitalism in Rojava: Paul Z. Simons part 3 of 3

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This week we start off with a dispatch from Sean Swain, read by William. Sean is an anarchist prisoner we’ve featured commentary from over the past 2 years. Sean Swain has been under media block for the past few months, so his commentary here has been sparse. In this segment he addresses his media silencing and his bid for presidency of the U.S. in 2016. More of Sean’s writings at seanswain.org

Paul Z. Simons on Rojava, pt3

For the meat of the episode, we feature part three of Bursts conversation with Paul Z. Simons about his experience of the Rojava Revolution going on in northern Syria. The Rojava Revolution began in 2012, as an outgrowth from the insurgency of the PKK and other Kurdish groups in Turkey that’s been locked in an off-and-on civil war for 30 years. Paul, a post-left anarchist from the U.S. talks about his experiences in Rojava in October of this year of their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, feminism revolution.

The Rojava Revolution has been described as anti-state, anti-capitalist, feminist and ecological, however in the conversations Bursts has had on what’s gone on in Rojava with students of it, little has come out in terms of how the Rojava experiment has been ecological or anti-capitalist. So, in this conversation Paul and Bursts spoke about Paul’s understanding of economic models, property rights, modes of exchange in Rojava as well as discussions of it’s war-time and long-view approaches towards ecology in Rojava.

The first two parts of this interview can be found here.

Playlist can be found here

Paul Z. Simons on the Dispaches from Rojava (part 2 of 3): Form, Function, Gender & Martyr culture in the Rojava Revolution

Paul Z. Simons on Rojava, pt 2

http://anarchistnews.org/content/report-back-rojava-revolution
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This episode features part two of Bursts conversation Paul Z. Simons on his recent trip to the northern, autonomous regions of Syria known as Rojava. In this conversation Paul shares his experiences of gender, feminism, power distribution and infrastructure in Rojava and his thoughts as a post-left anarchist of experiencing what he’d consider a social revolution. Paul is an editor of the Modern Slavery Magazine, where his writings can be found here and William’s interview with him last year can be found HERE. You can find weblinks and more context on the page for our prior conversations on Rojava with Paul.

The audio from part one of the conversation can be found here. To hear part three before it airs, check it out here.

Announcements

Sean Swain

Sean Swain is having a very hard time right now and could really use to be reminded that he is not alone. If you haven’t written to Sean in a while or haven’t heard back from him due to the ODRC messing with his mail or cutting off his other methods of communication, now would be a great time to flood him with letters, cards, photos, drawings, books, zines, anything.

In particular, now would be a good moment to remind Sean that he matters to you, that you are glad he is alive, and that you see him as contributing to the world in a way that matters to you. Every once in a while we all need a loving kick to the head to get us back on track and feeling ready to continue fighting. Now is that moment for Sean. So send him a kick; he deserves it.

Write to Sean at:
Sean Swain #243-205
Warren Correctional Inst.
P.O. Box 120
Lebanon, Ohio 45036

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Paul Z. Simons on the Dispaches from Rojava; part 1 of 3

Paul Z. Simons pt 1

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In 2012, a power vacuum formed in parts of northern Syria as a result of the civil war. These areas, part of the lands inhabited by Kurdish peoples,soon became a testing ground for an implementation of an anti-state communalism influenced in part by an American former Anarchist turned Communalist named Murray Bookchin. Bookchin’s thought helped to shape the ideas of Abdullah Ocalan, ideological leader of the Kurdish Worker’s Party, PKK, in neighboring Turkey. The people participating in what’s been branded The Rojava Revolution are organizing administration and defense based from the neighborhood councils. Popular militias are attempting to fight external enemies like the Syrian military of Bashar Al-Asaad and ISIL/Daesh as well as the internal structures which hold in most societies such as patriarchy, class division and xenophobia. Anarchists, anti-capitalists of all stripes from around the world, feminists, ecologists… these peoples and more around the world are among those engaging with the 3-year-runnning experiment of Rojava.

This week’s episode features the first of three segments of conversation with Paul Z Simons,a post-left anarchist and co-editor of Modern Slavery Magazine. Paul, writing under the name El Errante, documented his recent tripto the Rojava region in Northern Syria. This first episode will not be followed up immediately by another episode on the subject, however we are making the second and third episodes content availablealongside of this one online. If you’re in a hurry to hear the complete conversation on his observations of institutions and organizing On The Ground in Rojava, follow this link for part II and this link for part III. These segments will make their way into radio versions in the near future.

Bursts and Paul talk about Democratic Confederalism, gender, ecology, international intervention, religion, ethnicity, anti-capitalism, competing tendencies, holding tensions, international fighters and much much more

To follow the links that our guest mentioned in this interview, just click these websites below!

http://kurdishquestion.com/
http://rojavaplan.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tev-Dem

To see more of Paul Z. Simon’s work, you can visit this website

Next week on The Final Straw, you’ll hear a conversation with an anarchist in Spain about recent and continued repressions of anarchists in that country. Updates on that situation can be found at https://efectopandora.wordpress.com/category/english/ and for past episodes of The Final Straw check here.

Announcement:

At Grand Valley Institute for Women (GVI), a federal prison in Kitchener, Ontario there has been a recent crackdown against LBTQ2+ prisoners and/or prisoners in relationships amongst themselves. Intimate relationships between prisoners are being attacked by a clique of guards acting without apparent direction or oversight from the Corrections Canada administration. We need your support with a call-in campaign to end these practices.

Harassment of prisoners includes throwing them in solitary as punishment for being in a relationship, threatening them with transfers to remote parts of the country, separating partners by placing them in different parts of the prison, and laying spurious institutional charges that can lead to being locked in the maximum security unit.

Most troublingly, guards have been using physical intimidation and invasions of personal space to harass prisoners who speak up against these practices.

The prisoners have been organizing in response to these attacks, but have faced increasing repression for their efforts.

Outside support right now can make a major difference in putting a check on the repression of prisoner relationships and dissent among prisoners.

To protest this treatment, it’s asked that people call Grand Valley Institute for Women at (519) 894-2011. For more guidance about how to conduct this phone call and for updates on this situation you can visit the website https://gviwatch.wordpress.com/

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