Interview/Mexico: Between an institutional crisis and self-management efforts

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Lorcon

We publish the interview of our two colleagues from the Mexican Anarchist Federation, done on August 2016, covering the volatile situation of the country. Evidently, this interview isn’t a thorough report of the complex situation of Mexico, but the main points of these last years are confronted and tackled through an anarchist perspective: structural reforms (particularly in education), the issue of land distribution, drug trade, the indigenous community and gender violence.

R1: Mexico is currently on the verge of a social war due to a rapacious and wild form of capitalism that has corrupted the lives of everybody and all social sectors: in the workplace, education and even in rural areas through the confiscation of land from the farmers, now backed by the law. Similarly, the drug trade controls both the neighbourhoods and the State as a whole, hence why we refer to Mexico as a “Narco-State”. From 2006 until nowadays this system has provoked the death of more than 130.000 people: 130.000 assassinated by hit men, known as “sicarios”. There are now more than 25.000 missing people due to the current state of Mexico: if a drug trafficker wants economic manpower in this country they usually invade a village with a jeep, full of hired assassins, and kidnap people to make them work for them as slaves and if anyone resists they are murdered and buried in a ditch. When the 43 students disappeared from the Rural School of Ayotzinapa we all expressed our solidarity with the families of the missing students, but the real number of missing people wasn’t 43: in total, it was between 25.000 and 30.000.

D: How are you organizing yourselves as an anarchist movement in Mexico? What is the situation in the country?

mess2R2: This system also provokes the systematic assassination of women, directly tied into sex trafficking. This is entirely caused by impunity because nowadays it isn’t legally possible to report a violent friend, father or brother, so lots of women are killed by their own relatives. All of this happens within a context in which the social decomposition of the Mexican state is increasingly creating the destruction of social relationships and collectivism.

R1: Just to give you an idea on what my colleague is saying, this year (from January until April) in a locality of Mexico almost 12.000 women were killed purely due to their gender. These homicides are a sex-based hate crime known now as Femicide.

R2: In such a context, as anarchists we are directly impacting this trend through several methods. For instance, we are working with indigenous communities and certain social sectors not only to associate ourselves with their struggle, but to also position ourselves through our anarchist ideas in the discussion, organization and resistance of certain sectors of the country.

R1: We look for ways to help the indigenous community in their fight against the confiscation and expropriation of land. We have also been involved in meetings organized by indigenous members in defence of the earth and against mining extraction and drug trade. With all these means of communication and meetings we produce counter-information, publish our own newspaper and with the students we discuss problem surrounding the drug trade, dealing with these fundamental questions: who gets richer from this business and which are the sectors in society that suffer the most negative consequences from the drug trade? We also examine the social cynicism and despair generated by the working conditions and we contribute to these fights. In Mexico we call this process “generating tension and exposing the contradictions”. We create political tension, discuss problems with the workers and participate in very specific actions: on the 1st of December 2012 there was an unprecedented clash in the history of Mexico between many protesters and security forces.

In that moment we launched the fighting strategy of the Revolutionary Anarchist Alliance, formed by students, our Federation and anarchist sympathizers. We managed to gather 1000-2000 anarchists for marches against the systematic repression conducted by our government. The police invaded some of the strikers inside their own homes, so they had to end leaving their houses.

R2: A media witch-hunt masterminded through the big means of communication emerged against anarchists: TV, radio and widely diffused national newspapers. This hostility was aimed against anybody opposed to the political parties of the country. Anarchists and people from the non-institutional opposition were persecuted through raids in their houses and received constant death threats if they continued protesting.

R1: We call this media and police violence.

D: Another question: how have you intervened in the teacher’s protests of these past months?

R1: We have just created an “autonomous group of teachers”. With the new education reform a new law devoted to the evaluation of the teaching staff has been introduced. This evaluative law is an idea, a mandate from the organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organization of entrepreneurs that demands that the government must evaluate its own teachers in order to certify the professional quality. What the government refers to as “quality education” to us means privatization: one the one hand you fire one and a half million teachers, permanently taking away all their rights, and on the other hand you replace them as temporary workers. With the new educational law the intervention from external and economic figures has been planned: it is a reform that steers towards privatization. The educational reform belongs to something known as “structural reforms”. The current government, guided by Enrique Peneñeto, has started organizing and promoting structural reforms that were mandates, dictated by international financial organisms like the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Mexican government started this with the “Pact for Mexico”, a pact between the political and economic class. The economic class can count on the support of Parliament members from left, centre and right-wing groups to ensure that there will be no opposition so that they can quickly pass all the structural reforms. They also passed a new work-related law in which the worker is stripped of all his guarantees and rights achieved through the Mexican revolution. There will be a healthcare reform after this educational one, there have already been financial reforms and an energy reform that has led to the privatization of all the energy industry. Particularly, on the educational reforms we have identified crucial problems: All educational workers, teachers and academics will stop being permanent workers and become workers with temporary contracts through “academic certifications” or “educative quality”. The government promised that there would be a wage increase for teachers, which was another lie.

R2: The educational law represents a severe restriction of worker’s rights disguised as a reform of the education sector, so that public opinion or people that don’t belong to this particular sector endorse it and discredit all the current teacher mobilizations. It is a pejorative reform of work conditions because workers at schools will have to lose all their rights from this supposed evaluation that will certify the quality of teachers. It supposedly defends the children’s rights towards education and providing a quality education, without ever defining this quality education.

Therefore, “Quality” is a word used to translate through capitalistic-industrial terms the educational matter and such evaluations are completely anti-pedagogical: 12 hours where you have to answer to questions on a series of laws, which you need to memorize to obtain a good assessment, instead of actual pedagogical topics used in the classes. Furthermore, this evaluation is unfair because, by standardizing the exam, it doesn’t take into account the enormous differences between rural and indigenous schools and so-called “superior schools” coursed by the rich. Another extremely negative aspect of the “educational reform” is that through it the state removes the financing of education by transforming schools into private institutions, thus forcing families to fully pay for everything. In the education system of Mexico only 1% of the internal product was invested, now not even that, and many people are unaware of this. We have informed workers and families about this particular factor and contributed, through whatever means possible, to create a movement that nowadays seeks to oppose this reform: in different places, states and cities of the republic, families are occupying schools with teachers and many representatives of the local community.

R1: Let’s say that the first factor is work. The Mexican government has sent their spokespersons to reassure teachers, telling them that they would only be evaluated to guarantee the quality of education. However, 80% of the teachers realized that this law reduces education into another commodity and deprives workers of their rights and autonomy.

D.: What is the relationship between the anarchist movement in Mexico and indigenous movements?

R1: We could say that this relationship is limited, in the sense that only some organizations are working with the indigenous communities. From 15 years the Anarchist Federation of Mexico and the Autonomous Collective have been carrying out work with indigenous communities and villages, especially in the area of Oaxaca. How do we do this? We have organized this through different ways, taking part in workshops with young people, women and farmers. In these workshops we all learn from each other respectively. It is like a self-sufficient training collective; everything is learnt, especially regarding agricultural matters. These indigenous communities then bring all the information that they have learnt into their own communities and share it.

For instance, in Oaxaca, which is a big region with 500 indigenous villages, it is very difficult to move an entire community to the city to attend a meeting. Hence, delegations come to the city meetings we arrange and then coordinate workshops in each of their communities. The second thing we do is express our solidarity and support with their demands for respect of their traditions and participate in their fights for the implementation of an organizational indigenous autonomy. For instance, in the coast, where they enslaved for many years the indigenous communities of the region, our comrades through the Zapatista Alliance have taken the land from the German owners and have collectivized it (70.000 hectares). Some tourist businesses were interested in acquiring it because we are referring to an area that is an hour and a half away from Puerto Escondido, a popular tourist destination. However our comrades refused because these are hectares that belong to indigenous communities. There are already indigenous groups that are working autonomously in the agro-alimentary sector: agricultural production and poultry companies where workers are organizing theirselves autonomously and the earned money is equally distributed between them. We are contributing in whatever ways possible to these events and we are constantly learning.

D.: Are there any self-organized groups against drug cartels, even if they aren’t strictly anarchist?

R1: At this moment we have Mexican people affected by an economic and political system, purposefully imposed by the ruling class, which has inflicted tears and blood through a government of death. However this suffering and pain is now transforming into anger. Mexico is angry, thus all forms of self-organizational fights have spread, directed towards those at the “top”. Many people are mad not only because of all the liberticidal reforms that have taken place in the country, but also because ever since 2006 there have been 130.000 homicides connected to drug cartels and we have almost 30.000 missing people. Some groups formed by our comrades, workers and indigenous members in the area of Guerrero have responded to these massacres by creating a community police: armed groups opposed to drug trafficking cartels, trying to guarantee the security in villages.

R2: Yes, in some regions people organize theirselves that way because the military and police are strictly connected to the drug trafficking cartel.

R1: In Mexico it is well-known that the Narco-State rules the country.
To give you a specific example of this, the 43 “missing” students of the rural school of Ayotzinapa, discussed everywhere in the media, were arrested by tmess4he police and killed later on by hit men of a cartel group, known as “Los Rojos”. The same state of the government has links with the drug trade: the government of the city of Veracruz has notorious connections with the cartel members of the group Los Zetas. Indeed, drug trafficking groups are ruling Mexico and many people know that even the military are deeply involved with cartels. In fact, as a way to not invest training their own members, the cartels prefer recruiting labourers directly from military schools in order to have members that know how to handle weapons and expand their turnover.

In particular, there have been two indigenous villages that were the first to arm and organize theirselves to fight against the government and the cartels, military, police and armed groups connected to the drug trafficking trade. Our comrades were there and resisted. It was a process of self-defence that has claimed many lives but continues, it resists. This trend has spread across many self-defence groups and many people nowadays begin to understand that it is important to oppose with weapons a criminal government comprised by drug traffickers and their accomplices.

Many villages have started arming theirselves, activating many strong movements of self-defence against cartels in the country. There is a self-defence coordination and this has started spreading across many villages, on the internet you can even find many videos. When the police and other institutional representatives of the drug trade arrive into a town where there is a clear disagreement between the community and the municipal president, the self-defence forces must confront the hit-men that are waiting for them, a confrontation is unavoidable. Wherever they manage to regain control, these groups of self-defence promote a new self-government system in which the local population are encouraged to organize theirselves in order to guarantee the safety of the villages from the violence and oppression of the cartels. When this happens the Mexican government sends in their military to fight against these self-defence groups instead of targeting actual drug traffickers.

D.: From what you have said, it is evident to see that in Mexico the government is the drug trafficking trade. This dismantles the whole argument of characters like Saviano that, in Italy, with the book “Zero Zero Zero”, have spread the idea that the drug trade is fought with more state-intervention, with more government action. This is also an idea diffused in the Anglo-Saxon world.

R2: The extension of the self-defence movement has started to resemble some of the revolution processes that the country had previously known with events like Morelos’ campaign (Mexican war of independence) or the advance of the Zapatistas during the era of the revolution: arm, arrive in a village, take a village, arm the population, teach it self-defence methods and then go into another village and repeat the same process.

What the Mexican government does is kill and attempt to split and divide the movement into two: this is what happens to some of the self-defence groups that are offered military support from the government, entrusting it legally to the defence of some of these villages, like in Michoacan. Meanwhile, those that continue fighting suffer attacks or are imprisoned in high security prisons, like in the case of dott. Mireles, one of the promoters of this disseminated campaign of defence. Firstly, they tried to kill him in an assassination attempt and then they imprisoned him in a high security prison.

As anarchists we participate as much as we can in this resistance movement that, not having a specific political ideology, possesses many libertarian features and fights with courage against the political, economic and military system that dominates and oppresses Mexico.

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“Get out Aguirre, Murderer”

Translated by Pietro Casati (pietrokuyath@gmail.com) for Theory Without Borders (https://theorywithoutborders.wordpress.com/)

Taken from newspaper Umanità Nova, year 96, number 28: http://www.umanitanova.org/2016/09/23/tra-crisi-istituzionale-e-spinte-autogestionarie/

Stories of Libertarian education

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Circle in the woods – Italy

Silvia Antonelli

Whilst Trieste votes and tries to imagine itself after the elections, I decide to find and give voices to that desired reality, sometimes small, sometimes big, that has been largely disseminated through the territory and which is based upon modalities of self-sufficiency and shared experiences. In reality I don’t even travel that far: I arrive in Longera, a small village outside of the city.

I find the community of Casalonjer. Here I am welcomed into their garden; and sitting down they tell me about their experience. Together, harmoniously, their words design the idea of a future they have in mind; an ideal future that remains well planted into the reality of their daily lives. It is Anna who speaks first and explains how the group, which now has six people, has changed over the years: “The group has changed throughout the course of time depending on the people that come and stay with us. We define ourselves as an intentional community, to distinguish ourselves, for instance, from student groups that live together. What characterizes us is the presence of specific projects and methodologies that help everyone stay together. In each community it is understood that the crucial bond is developed through relationships. How can we communicate properly? This is a question that risks undermining not only the communities but also all social places where people live together.

The community , other than examining practical and efficient relationships based on sharing, develops and works towards the realization of numerous projects. Their name choice suggests immediately the intentions and the vision that nourish their community: “Our name unites two different languages for several reasons, as the community of Longera is bilingual and also because we have many diverse cultures. The house and family are concepts that we feel the most connected with. Ours is more inclusive compared to the traditional mononuclear family. Our house is a roof under which anybody can gather.”

Other than activities entirely based on of communal living and sharing of knowledge, from 2012 Casalonjer has started the project Circle in the woods, a pioneering activity in Trieste. “A group of us began a couple of years ago a pathway involving children and parents in order to develop and expand libertarian pedagogy. We then reunited to start this project and the first question that we asked ourselves was how were our own experiences in state schools. Through this brainstorming session all of us relived memories and traumas. From these entirely negative school memories we identified a series of common situations and scenarios that we didn’t want our children to ever experience. Arguing over what we didn’t want our children to encounter in state schools, we made a list of the things that we intended to propose in order to develop a libertarian education.”

The improvements and alternatives towards the harmful aspects of the traditional school system has been developed throughout time and has been enriched by the contribution of everyone from our community. In fact, multiple perspectives have structured a critical, precise and reasoned evaluation. This allowed them to shape and plan the specific traits of their project. “The term “public school” should be abolished because, in fact, public schools don’t exist. What exists, instead, are state schools that, as such, constantly pursue their own goals: growing a compliant personality. When children starts school (when they are six years old) in a short amount of time their enthusiasm and joy in regards to the exploration of knowledge is turned off instead of being reactivated. Everything belonging to children’s natural curiosity eventually becomes extinct, hence why learning new things is seen by children as a tedious imposition in state schools.

The essential task of state schools doesn’t aim towards expanding the knowledge of students. Its only goal is to specialize competences in order so that these children can become useful for the capitalist system. This is why children are trained from such a young age to have precise rhythms and timetables in state schools. Someone constantly tells them what to do and what not to do. These are a series of mechanisms and regulations that don’t belong to children and aren’t healthy for their development.

These dynamics emerge already from nurseries and kindergartens through an entire series of intermissions that constitute the natural evolution of the child’s processes and these structures are approved and inserted inside a pre-established scheme. This is also seen through an organizational perspective: when an adult is responsible for only 25 children it is inevitable that assembly line situations will be created. The atmosphere in which we move is legalistic due to our constitution, as within it lies the right of education for children and the obligation of the parents to guarantee this. Therefore, there is no obligation to attend a state school. There is, however, an obligation from the parents or the educative figure to guarantee that the child can learn. The reality that we live in has distorted this principle: the obligations of the adults are now transformed into their rights of delegating their own children to somebody else far away from home for a lot of hours, and the right of the children to grow from their own knowledge freely, following their own predispositions, becomes another obligation: you have to go to school, you have to do homework and then, in the end, you will also be judged on whether you have behaved well or not.”

The first steps in Circle in the woods have been started through this critical analysis. Initially the project, which originated from the exigency to provide children an alternative education route than that found in most state schools, is structured thanks to the commitment of the parents. The Kindergarten is initially itinerant: in summer the children are in parks and in winter the parents provide their own houses.

“From this situation an idea in regards to space was born that we decided to bring and which references the Nordic model of Kindergarten in the woods: the children live and study outside, even in winter; even when it rains. We provide them with instruments to face the diverse climatic conditions – we also have a closed heated place – and nature becomes the teacher. They play and learn through nature, using also several materials for artistic activities. It is a project that functions thanks to the collaboration of families, friends and supporters. All roles are fundamentally different but they work in conjunction harmoniously.”

Currently there are seven children, divided into two age groups. In a couple of years they will enter school age and then, the parents and people from Circle in the Woods, want them to be ready for libertarian school.

This is a structure where adults, children and teenagers collaborate on the same path of exploring of the world and increasing the knowledge of each individual in perfect harmony with the group. The center of the learning process is found through the child, his aptitudes, talents and curiosities. It is a school capable of “growing responsible adults” because this factor can emphasize the focus of the individual. Due to this the decisions from the Circle in the woods are always taken trough assembly dynamics where adults and children discuss together as equals all the difficulties and possibilities that they face. “Adults are an instrument”, specifies Aldo, “useful when children want to expand their curiosity and knowledge on certain topics. The adult is well regarded in this society and is capable of satisfying the requirements and demands of children by creating specific channels.”

They recount the continuous and constructive comparisons with other experiences of libertarian education present in Italy. They explain how spontaneous learning enriches global knowledge, which doesn’t stop in some predetermined notions and instead embraces multiple experiences and contexts. The preparations behind libertarian schools are many and the goal is big: dissolve traditional education schemes that guide the individual, from a young age, to follow strict oppressive paths that go against the attitudes of children. Hence, the process of learning can return to its original intended goal and become a joyous experience that takes into account the different talents and personalities of each subject.

Umanita Nova

Cerchio nel bosco

Translated by Pietro Casati

 

Energy and the Industrial Revolution

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Lorcon

The first industrial revolution was founded thanks to the availability of coal, which started an efficient system in which the wide availability of this resource allowed high extraction rates: one of the first large engine applications was the drive of pumps, which allowed coal mines to remain dry. From there onwards the step from primitive mechanization to extraction was brief. Essentially, the bigger the quantity of coal extracted signified greater speed of fuel extraction.

This efficient method was interrupted during the late half of the 20th century, with the exhaustion of most coal mines in Western Europe and the introduction of a much cheaper fuel alternative: oil. Hence, the second industrial revolution was enhanced by the value of petroleum oil, which had a higher calorific potency in comparison to coal.

However petroleum extraction fields, along with natural gas, are much less widespread in comparison to coal, creating a growing dependency on infrastructure: gas, pipe lines, oil tanks and gas carriers. We are referring to more complex infrastructures than that of coal and with bigger geopolitical implications: it is sufficient to think that the Sykes-Picot treaty guaranteed logistical secure lines for the supply petroleum extracted from Syria and Iraq and their importation.

Western colonial rulers desire for geographical territories was originated from the necessity to control one of the most important commodities in the world (oil). Similarly, logistical lines for the energy supplies during the Second World War were extremely important: what would have happened if Hitler’s Germany, instead of launching an attack on the USSR, had launched an attack onto the rich petroleum reserves in Mesopotamia? And what would have happened if the German state, instead of launching an offensive battle in Stalingrad, would have taken control of the Russian Caucasus area? In the Second World War the importance of energy logistic supplies became one of the main focal points of the conflict. The total war imposed extremely long logistical lines, with all the problems that the military entails: the need for fossil fuel energy.

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These strong strategical motivators were the basis for the three wars in the Middle East that took place during and also after the Second World War. England, to secure their primary points of petroleum and to guarantee a supply route to the URSS in the event of collapse on the Caucasian front, repeatedly occupied Syria (formally governed by Vichy), then it invaded Iraq and the newly formed kingdom of Persia, which were governments that openly voiced their opinion to block oil supplies to the UK, along with closing any connections and trade to soviet territories.

The URSS, which was directly adjoined to these territories, actively participated in the military operations that led to the British occupation of Teheran, the abdication of Sha Reza Pahlavi in favour of his son Mohammed and the armouring of energy supply through the constitution of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company. Similarly, President Roosevelt and the king of Saudi Arabia had signed the first treaty that guaranteed a secure petroleum supply to the USA as part of the Wahhabism reign.

The third industrial revolution, based on technology and the computerization of production processes has further heightened the need for fossil fuel energy. The process of decolonization during the previous decades has undermined the capacity of industrialized states to control the extraction lines of fuel supply of energy: this was, in my opinion, the main reason behind the race towards nuclear energy for civilian use during the 50s and 60s, which was particularly worrying during the oil crisis of 1972 and 1979.

It is enough to remember the famous petroleum shock of the 70s or what has been occurring this last year with the minimum price of crude oil; we must reflect on how the cost of petroleum could be so low, dumping the environmental costs on all of society. Even the current geopolitical American choices are marked by the necessity of breaking free from the Middle East by obtaining self-sufficiency through shale minerals.

The fourth industrial revolution will still remain based on energy-consumption, however it could also contain the seeds for the dissolution of centralized energy. The emergence of the internet has generated an economic scale that has consequences on many fronts: big data. How is this connected to the energy resource debate? telematic networks consume a lot of electrical energy since they are based on the transmission of electrical signals. Secondly: big data, especially connected to social network, is subtly transforming human beings into machines that value their social relations.

Paradoxically, the economy of big data bases a large part of their production processes on energy derived from different sources than the usual fossil fuel ones: we don’t work through electricity. Our smartphones do, however they are only a means to connect the brain to networks. Our brain works through the transmission of chemical energy. In reality the entire paradigm of the Internet, strictly correlated to big data, supposes a complete rethinking of the paradigm of production of energy based on fossil fuels. This is demonstrated through entrepreneurial research from Elon Musk, who is investing a solution through the project of the Powerwall batteries, which would reduce our dependency to energy distribution networks by creating batteries connected to solar panels based on high performance for domestic and vehicular use.

Other aspects of the future industrial revolution predict an increase in energy consumption which fossil fuels would not be able to sustain in the long-term: the automation of not only production processed but also intellectual work, including stock trading based on genetic algorithms towards certain jurisprudence laws for processing contracts, to automatic analysis of images and block chains through Bitcoin transactions. All of these changes will bring about an increase in computational capacities and as a consequence will create a different way of thinking about the development value of energy resources.

Through this another important aspect will be introduces into the industrial revolution: nanotechnology. It is evident that a molecular machine can’t be fed and sustained through normal networks of energy distribution, as the batteries of lithium ions have a precise physical limit in the possibility of miniaturization. Even here we will need to find other ways to exploit chemical energy: from the oxidation of hydrocarbons in large power plants to the oxidation of glucose fuel oi.

Does this mean that in a few years we will see fossil fuels disappear? No, in fact: the petroleum peak is much further away than what we expect and the technology mentioned beforehand is still in development. Additionally, oil shale has profoundly changed energy geopolitics. And let’s now forget one main fact: petroleum also serves as an essential raw material for the production of plastic. Conventional fossil fuel resources are becoming increasingly hard to control due to the unstable system caused by micro-regional conflicts, whilst nuclear energy has already proven its catastrophic possibilities.

If it is true, as some might remember, that nuclear fission has caused less deaths than fossil fuels, it should also be noted that nuclear energy has the unpleasant characteristic of potentially being able to create, as demonstrated in Chernobyl and Fukushima, catastrophic accidents that in a limited amount of time can render a territory completely inhabitable. For that reason it can’t be a valid alternative to fossil fuels.

A society based entirely on telematics, like the one which is being created, has two essential factors: the quantity of frequency band available and the quantity of usable renewable energy. Through this a possible scenario can be drawn on the available nuclear energy of a new generation, based on fusion rather than fission, for big machinery and a myriad of energy sources that rely on solar, wind or chemical sources. I can’t stress enough that there will be a disappearance of manufacturing production in favour of cognitive production, as manufacturing production will be automated.

Attention: the risk of an accelerationist illusion, in which all the current problems are automatically resolved to build a utopia is also right around the corner. If it is true that this new hypothetical paradigm could solve the environmental crisis brought upon us by the profoundly irrational production system we are living in then it is also true that it could create new and more subtle forms of domination.

Inside this new paradigm it will be necessary to increase the capacity to influence and affect the reality of those who put theirselves into a revolutionary perspective of overcoming the current situation. It can’t be any form of rational capitalism, there can be no capitalism associated with humans: capitalism is by nature based on the value of the current situation, exchange values and would remain a state that regulates money. Therefore: the necessity to completely value our entire social existence, the existence of each individual, would signify the pinnacle of our alienation.

Leaving a society based on accumulation of wealth and the domination of men over each other is possible only through a revolutionary sense. There is no escape: it is our duty to approach these technologies and use them to build a suitable society. The potential of the science of complex systems and cybernetics are immense and we can’t leave them in the hands of a mechanism based on the structural alienation of men.

Article from Italian anarchist weekly newspaper Umanità Nova

Translated by Pietro Casati

Luigi Galleani: “The most dangerous anarchist in America”

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The name Luigi Galleani isn’t particularly well-known nowadays, however during the last century it was. In 1971 the American Minister of Justice named him “the most dangerous anarchist in America”. He had a large faithful following amongst Italian speaking workers both in Italy and the United States. He was an excellent orator and edited an important newspaper, “Cronanca Sovversiva”, which was described by the Minister of Justice of the United States as “the most rabid anarchist paper published in the country”. This is true, but it is also true that Galleani expressed his own ideas with huge clarity and efficacy and that he has largely contributed to anarchist philosophy. Galleani was my grandfather, from my mother’s side. My mother hasn’t talked much about him and I now regret not asking questions about him. I only started to become interested in my family history after his death. At that point I was very surprised when I discovered the amazing life my grandfather had lived.

His life

Born in Vercelli in 1861 from a middle class family – his father was an elementary school teacher – he studied law in the University of Torino, but he never graduated. He was in fact already politically active, particularly in the area of Lunigiana. The end of the 19th century was a period of huge social tensions, marked by the creation of workers movements and a strong repression from the state. To avoid arrest, Galleani passed through France in 1880 but was soon kicked out and he sought shelter in Switzerland. When he returned to Italy in 1893 he was arrested and sent to prison for three years under the imprecise charges of “conspiring against the State”.

Once released, he was sent the Italian area of Pantelleria. Nowadays this island is a trendy holiday retreat, even Madonna has a villa there, but back in the day it was an extremely poor and isolated area. Being exiled there was the harshest punishment, a sort of civil death: those confided in that zone even called themselves “the dead people”. However Galleani was ready for this challenge, his spirit unbroken. He released an article titled “maner immota fides (“my faith remains unchanged”), which became his own motto and ultimately symbolizes the meaning of his life. In Pantelleria he meets a young widow, Maria Rallo, who had a child. They fell in love and started a family. Thus, Maria became my grandmother.

They decided to try to escape. My mother told me that her family helped find a small ship that conducted a dangerous crossing through North-Africa. They were then threatened with deportation back to Italy. Therefore in 1900 they decided to travel, through London, to New Jersey, where Galleani was invited to fill the role of editor of “La Questione Sociale”, which back in the day was the main anarchist newspaper in the United States. Shortly after his arrival he was injured by the police during a textile strike that he was leading. A contemporary noted, “I never heard a more popular orator … he possesses a marvelous facility with words, accompanied by an ability rare among tribunes: the precision and distinctness of ideas. His voice is full of warmth, his look alive and penetrating, his gestures of exceptional vigour and impeccable distinction.” .Thus, he was accused of inciting violence, however he managed to escape to Canada.

When the situation cooled down he returned to America and settled down with his family in the Canadian region of Barre, near Vemont. Barre was a suitable place for them: An area with huge radical roots that are noticeable even nowadays through local figures like Bernie Sanders. In Barre, Galleani found time to reflect and write. He became a beloved orator, established what was to become the leading anarchist periodical in America, Cronaca Sovversiva (The Chronicle of Subversion), and settled his family into a modest home on Pleasant Street. His Cronaca, with a subscription list that grew beyond 5,000, was read worldwide and was the most influential anarchist newspaper ever published in the United States. It included original contributions by Kropotkin, Bakunin, Malatesta, and other leading international theorists. During that time he already had five sons and in 1909 the youngest child was born, Mentana (“Tana”), my mother.

Three years later he transferred with his family to Wrentham, close to Boston, a city with a huge Italian community where Galleani had many followers.

In 1917 the United States entered the war and shortly after the Russian revolution started. Galleani opposed the war with the slogan “Against war, against peace, for a revolution”. A violent campaign against anarchists began that had many xenophobic and racist traits. Thus, the Italians and other immigrants that held radical ideas became their main target.

The government repeatedly tried to censor his newspaper “Cronaca”. In fact, my mother remembers the police raids in their house. They wanted to deport Galleani, but the law didn’t allow the deportation of a resident in America for more than six years or who had children born in the United States. Consequently, the State created a new law (Immigration Act e Anarchist Exclusion Act) to mitigate this.

Galleani and thousands of other anarchists and radicals who weren’t born in America were kidnapped and deported without trial during the notorious Palmer raids. My mother visited him frequently in prison, where he was being detained before his deportation. One time she brought him a chocolate bar and the police cut it into pieces to control whether there was anything hidden inside.

Returning to Italy in 1919, Galleani involved himself again in political activism. He started to publish again his newspaper “Cronaca”, however in 1922 Mussolini came into power and the newspaper was censored. In 1924 he was imprisoned and sent to another internment, this time in Lipari. He then lived in Caprigliola, in Lunigiana, constantly monitored by the police, where he died of a heart attack in 1931 at the age of 77.

Subsequent family story

When Galleani was deported, his family (Maria and six children) remained in the United States. It was a huge blow for them, even if they received a lot of help from the Italian-speaking anarchist community. Maria started working in a factory. One of the daughters left to Italy to take care of him, the eldest daughter began working in the medical profession by helping the anarchist community in Boston and had a pioneering role in the growth of the organization.

My mother stopped seeing my grandfather when she was only ten years old. She remembers this particular instance: “when my father was about to be deported my parents were fighting and my mother asked him ‘why don’t you tell them you don’t believe in anarchism anymore?’ I will never forget his reaction. Now I am happy that he lived the life he intended always believing in the cause”.

My mother was always very proud of him. She then became a communist. Even if there is often a certain degree of hostility amongst anarchists and communists, she felt that she was fighting for the same ideals. She transferred to New York, where she met my father, an Irish writer, and we and my brother where born there.

During that period (end of the 1940s), McCarthy gave a new order to start another witch hunt against any radicals. My father was included in the black list. Thus, our family left America and immigrated to London. I became a philosophy teacher, working on Mark and Hegel. I am proud of being my grandfather’s nephew and I’d like to think that I am continuing his work.

Galleani’s philosophy

Nowadays, anarchists have the infamous reputation of being conspirators, bomb throwers or terrorists. Anarchism is viewed as a type of nihilism, a negative and destructive philosophy. Galleani’s philosophy doesn’t fit this category. Firstly, his ideas aren’t connected to any sort of secrecy or conspiracy, as he expressed his visions very clearly, without showing any fear. He was an appreciated orator and prolific writer. Similarly, anarchism isn’t merely a form of nihilism. It is a positive political philosophy with a very clear theory.

According to anarchist philosophy the State, private property and all forms of authority are harmful and unnecessary because a community that cooperates voluntarily is entirely possible. At the base of this ideology is the underlying positive faith in human nature, optimistic and idealistic, the idea that people are capable of living together harmoniously without the need for property, laws or a coercive authority. A better world is possible: this is what Galleani and his comrades believed in.

The obstacles towards the creation of such a community are private property and the State. Galleani defined himself as an anarcho-communist. Thus, like Marxist communists he supported the abolition of private property and means of production: production should never be used for profit. However he refused the more authoritarian aspects of Marxism, like the idea that a communist state is necessary to create a communist society. People are capable of living together voluntarily, without need for any force or coercion.

Galleani advocated an “anti-organizational” form of anarchism, refusing any type of hierarchy as he considered all political organizations and unions to be oppressive and coercive.

Touching on slightly more controversial aspects of Galleani’s vision: he and his colleagues supported “factual propaganda”, direct action against the state and structure of the oppressors. The political situation was extremely violent and unstable during the first years of the 20th century. Galleani and his colleagues were convinced that if they were attacked they had the legitimacy to react, they even claimed that some insurrectional acts would have been able to kick start a spontaneous revolutionary uprising by the workers.

In 1905 he published a brief pamphlet, named “The Health is Within You”,  advertised in the pages of the Cronaca as “an indispensable pamphlet for those comrades who love self-instruction”. However this pamphlet was, in actuality, an Italian language manual for the manufacture of dynamite and other weapons to be used in the upcoming class war. In 1919 there were a series of bombings. It should be noted that contrary to current terrorism, those terrorist acts did not target any civilians. The targets were picked with great care and were capitalistic institutions like Wall Street, big businessmen (Rockefeller, J P Morgan) and government officials responsible for leading a war against their workers, such as Attorney General Palmer. The FBI desperately tried to prove that Galleani’s group were responsible for these attacks (it is unlikely that Galleani was involved). They failed to find any evidence, however many members of Galleani’s group were suspected of terrorism. These were violent times and we must remember that the main perpetrators of violence were the police and the State. What happened to Galleani also happened to thousands of other radical activists: they were attacked, arrested and deported without trial. Many decided to resist and fight back, and Galleani was one of these people. This is why Galleani was labelled as “the most dangerous anarchist of America”. I am certain that he would have been proud of this label.

Published in Italian anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova, translated into Italian by A. Soto.

Author: Sean Sayers

Translated from the Italian version by Pietro Casati

 

Turkey and Total Repression: Immunity and Prison

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Whilst the Turkish colonist and fascist oligarchy pursues its destructive policy in Kurdistan, the Turkish state and president Erdogan are steering towards an increasingly authoritarian regime. The new war against the Kurds started in July 2015, after the suspension of the peace process and also following the imposed isolation of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan. After this event suicide bombings against civilians began to occur, which UIKI (Italian Logistic organization of Kurdistan) accused of “being an operation formed by AKP (Justice and Development Party) and ISIS working together”. Thus, 5 people were killed in Diyarbakir, 33 in Suruc and hundreds in Ankara. In these same attacks another 900 people were injured.

In the second phase of this operation the military and Turkish police got involved in the action. For months, in many cities of Kurdistan an authoritative military curfew was imposed. Cizre, Silopi and Sur were completely destroyed, in fact in Cizre 120 civilians were burnt alive in a canteen. This massacre was documented by organizations like ONU, HRW and Amnesty International. Nusaybin, Yuksekova and Sirnak are still enduring similar atrocities and most Kurdish cities are systematically under attack on a daily basis. Similarly, another 800 civilians, mainly women and children, were executed by the Turkish military.

Anybody who has voiced their opposition towards Erdogan’s orchestrated war has been heavily threatened, including 1028 academics who signed the appeal “We will not take part in these crimes”. Many of these scholars have already been fired from their jobs, whilst the media has been widely silenced through the threat of legal action. In fact many journalists are currently in prison and whoever has the courage to oppose Erdogan’s omnipotence has been labelled as a “terrorist”.

Presumably, the goal of Erdogan’s announced “reform of the state” is that of emptying the parliamentary system. An important step towards the direction of this objective has already been accomplished through the withdrawal of parliamentary immunity of the deputies of the opposing HDP party (Democratic Party of the People) by accusing them of helping the PKK (Kurdistan Working Party) by supporting a peace process.

Complicit with the AKP (Justice and Development Party), the government’s party and Prime Minister Davutoğlu have been working with the MHP (Fascist Nationalist Movement Party) and the CHP (Republican People’s Party). This once again confirms that the only factor motivating the parties that represent the nationalism of the State (AKP, MHP and CHP) is their mutual hostility against the Kurdish people.

The UE, USA and NATO have limited themselves to meaningless declarations, such as “democracy is in danger” or even “the quality of democracy is declining”, thus minimizing the severity of what is currently occurring and also decreasing their responsibility in regards to the fact that these dictatorial atrocities have been committed by their own strategic ally. Meanwhile whilst the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, risked stating that these events represented “a huge blow to Turkish democracy and political freedom” the chancellor Angela Merkel, who approved the agreement for Turkey to ban refugees, declared that “she will solve this issue in the future”. Her behaviour is probably influenced and appreciated by Erdogan, who consequently won’t have to worry about any foreign interferences. However from the perspective of the Kurds: “Democracy in Turkey is over”

If indeed, on a purely academic hypothetical basis Western powers wanted to save democracy and impose stability in the region, instead of collaborating with a State that supports ISIS and starts wars against the Kurdish population they should apply economic, military and political sanctions in Ankara. In regards to the objection that Erdogan was democratically elected, it is sufficient to remember Hitler’s similar “democratic” ascent to power.

It is a well-known fact that when a regime wants to get rid of the opposition from Parliament, it must do nothing other than take away their immunity in order to incarcerate their members. These are what appear to be Erdogan’s intentions. In the meantime he is eliminating the opposition by implanting militants in the streets, prisons and mountains.
Written by Gianni Sartori for Italian anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova

Translated into English by Pietro Casati

How a Catalan neighbourhood dealt with repression: CAN VIES AND BANK EXPROPRIAT

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Two years ago Can Vies, an occupation movement located in Sants, a neighbourhood in Barcelona, was protected from all the militants and neighbours. Can Vies, meaning house in Catalan, was a shelter for many people that didn’t have a roof to sleep under, a political shelter and a meeting point for anarchists.

After days of fighting and receiving national and international solidarity the building was partially destroyed, but it remains in the hands of protesters. It was then when Can Vies decided to change their squat into a social centre and it was rebuilt brick by brick: It became a symbol of victory.

Unfortunately, the defence movement of Can Vies was not left unscathed and 13 people are currently on trial.

Two years after the anniversary of Can Vies these comrades have been processed for defending a common good. Similarly, during these past weeks the Catalan government has vacated another social centre, known as Banc Expropiat, located in Gracia, another neighbourhood in Barcelona. The response to these actions have also been strong and decisive:

More than 2500 people continue to surround the square to protect a place where human needs like clothing and food were given away for free, where language lessons were also taught for free. It was a place open to all generations with a small library and a place where anarchist policies were discussed.

“Here people obtain something that they can’t find in the streets for free. It is a form of self-defence”, states a young immigrant in regards to the Banc Expropiat. “Mutual support and solidarity are important because society is individualistic and we want to build a community”, sustains a young girl from the same assembly.

The Expropriate Bank was a place made entirely with glass so that everyone could see what people did inside the building, they could always see it. We are not an exclusive group, we are a group of heterogeneous and anti-capitalist people. We are part of the neighbourhood”, affirms a neighbour who frequents the Bank Expropiat.

The Bank Expropiat was a place expropriated by the banks. It was a space full of liberation dedicated to the community that eventually transformed into an anti-capitalist symbol of resistance where people could organize and provide mutual support for each other.

Many people have been conducting ongoing manifestations to save the Banc Expropiat: from these manifestations 34 people have been injured by the police. Just like two years ago with Can Vies, the State and Capital face a neighbourhood that is willing to fight in order to defend itself and recapture what was taken from them. It makes no difference how much violence capitalism uses against us, we are never stepping back.

Once again the self-proclaimed “enlightened” mayor of Barcelona has removed his mask by denying a connection in regards to the struggles of these two neighbourhoods (Sans and Gracia); arguing that they are two completely different cases because one belongs to private property.

As if one were less important than the other, as if private property somehow justified the abuse of power, expropriation and violence of these last days. “I have proposed another place”, but “they refused it”. Yes, they refused it because the Banc Expropiat was a liberated space, a space that was at the service of the population and wasn’t interested in obtaining any profits. It was a space that gave shelter, assemblies and which is mobilizing the entire neighbourhood in its defence.

Solidarity is our best weapon

 

Text written by Sara P. in Italian anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova

Translated by Pietro Casati

France, MOTION OF THE 74th CONGRESS OF FÉDÉRATION ANARCHISTE (FA): WE BLOCK EVERYTHING!

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Anarchist Federation:

We publish the motion of the French Anarchist Federation, which is committed along with the rest of French anti-capitalist movements in the current strikes against the “Loi de Travail”. In our next newspaper issues we will publish new in-depth articles from this topic.

All of us: young people, students, wage-earners of the private and public sector, people in precarious financial situations, workers and unemployed people, pensioners, legal and illegal immigrants of any nationality, all of those who have been exploited and oppressed; violently affected by the effects of the devastating capitalist system. We are under another attack by the bourgeois and Capital.

The government, under the orders of employers and international treaties, is systematically destroying all of our social achievements.

The latest representation of these attacks can be seen through the “loi travail” (work law). Our leaders intend to impose this policy on everyone by leaning on their usual political and trade union accomplices.

The State displays their repressive police and military apparatus by wounding and mutilating people with their dangerous weapons, which have been experimented with beforehand in popular neighbourhoods in order to create new forms of military repression. Therefore, the state of emergency is currently increasing, along with the possibility of incarceration and prison sentences that are being imposed en masse towards the population.

Similarly the CPA (Statement Activity Staff) will enable the computer transposition of the nefarious «livret ouvrier» [booklet imposed by the French authorities during 1803 and 1890 to control workers], built on the basis of individualism and profit as opposed to collective human rights. This enforces our prediction that these policies will create widespread inequality of all our human rights.

Faced with these aggressions, our resistance is necessary and legitimate. Now that this feeling is reborn we must continue to build and reinforce it through general strikes and confrontations against the State and capital, solidarity and strike funds, occupation of workplaces, reappropriation of public spaces and by blocking the means of production, flow of goods and workers.

On the eve of possible general strikes across many sectors we express our complete and total solidarity, particularly in sectors like public transport, for their participation in the action and development of strikes for the expropriation and management of society.

Our fight is part of a social resistance on a European and international front towards the regressions that the capital imposes on us. Our unity of libertarian aspiration wants to achieve through these general strikes the abolition of salaries, employers, the State and its borders. We need a social libertarian revolution.

Written by the Congress of the Fédération anarchiste, 14- 16 may 2016, published in Italian anarchist newspaper Umanità Nova

Translated by Pietro Casati