Filed under: IGD
2016 will forever be burned into our hearts and minds in beautiful and terrible ways.
It was a year of joy; of possibility. It was one of intense battles, crushing defeats, of victories. It was a year that saw our capacity both realized, often lost, and in some cases, never attempted.
It was a year that saw the coming together of so many seemingly different struggles, as we came up against not only State repression, but liberal containment and recuperation. We saw riots. We saw occupations. We saw militant direct actions that attacked the property of the rich, the pipelines of corporations, and the infrastructure of our enemies. We saw freeway shutdowns, militant train blockades, and intense clashes with the authorities as this year we witnessed against another 1,000+ police murders in the US alone. We saw the growth of a militant and radical anti-fascist movement, as everywhere people got organized to confront and smash the burgeoning far-Right. We saw a new generation of Native warriors take center stage and face off with both bureaucrats and brutal police. We saw continued reclamation of indigenous land in so-called Mexico and the growth of active solidarity with Rojava. We saw continued organizing campaigns from anti-racist initiatives in neighborhoods, tabling at gun shows, workplace organizing, and fronts against condos and gentrification. We saw people braving sub-zero temperatures and scorching heat to blockade resource extraction. We saw tens of thousands rise up to greet a billionaire that would be king and offered him nothing but fire and contempt.
To think that all of this would have taken place within the span of one year before would before have been seemingly unthinkable. But this is the world that we inhabit now; this is the terrain on which we fight and live our lives.
For our project, It’s Going Down, 2016 was a time of growth as we continued to link up with more people in a wide variety of struggles and movements than we ever dreamed possible. This year, our project has been blessed to work with and publish the words of rioters, strikers, occupiers, water protectors, Native warriors, anti-fascists, wobblies, anarchists, appelistas, former political prisoners, and many more. This year, prison rebels sent us reports of riots over contraband cell phones, students in Mexico carried out interviews as their universities stood occupied, and rebel transmissions detailed everything from clandestine communiques to in-depth strategy. We submitted and released reports on breaking struggles from the rural south to metropolitan cities. We released podcasts on everything from anarcho-punk bands playing inside prison walls, to the sights and sounds of the Standing Rock camp in so-called North Dakota. We talked with everyone from an anarchist community center in Brooklyn, people fighting pipelines in Iowa, labor organizing in the south, Mexican anarchist political prisoners, fast food workers who formed an anti-capitalist union in Portland, to anti-fascist militants facing down Neo-Nazis across the US. From discussion on praxis and tactics, how to bring in new people to our movements, to talk on how to maneuver in the coming terrain under Trump. With each new day IGD has continued to evolve and with each explosion, we have only gotten bigger.
But as we have continued, what is also clear is that IGD in of itself is not important. It is a weapon for the movement, but like everything else within it we are not special snowflakes, we are simply playing a role in a much larger struggle. But what is important are the connections that this project helps to make, the conversations that it spreads and questions that it raises, the new people that it pulls into revolutionary activity, and the capacity that it builds for a wide range of people to come together and take action. This is why all of the financial support, the feedback, the emails, the comments, the conversations, the critiques – hell even the death threats and snarky podcast comments have all helped us.
But 2016 will also always be bittersweet.
For it is a year that we lost so many so close to us. So, let us remember this year, for those no longer here and for everything we left behind in the battles we faced with bravery. Let us remember our scars and the faces of our enemies, from Sacramento to Rojava to Standing Rock to Holman Prison, let us not forgive, let us not forget. 2016 was a taste of what is coming, like it or not. This year taught us what is possible when we think hard about how to work with what we have; yet showed us that it is time to become so much more than what we are.
We dedicate this to everyone that isn’t here to read it. We will see you when we storm heaven.
In Memory Of
Feral Pines and all those lost in the GhostShip fire in Oakland
Salvador Olmos Garcia, killed by police in Oaxaca
Clark Fitzgerald, passed away in a car accident while traveling to Standing Rock
Paul Woods, passed away in motorcycle accident
Michael Israel, killed by the Turkish State while fighting ISIS in Rojava
Erik Petersen, took his own life
Denalda, passed away in GhostShip fire
Jordan Mactaggart, killed in Rojava while fighting ISIS
Wolverine aka William Jones Ignace, passed away while in his home
Bert Allen “B.A.” Naholowa’a, passed away while at Standing Rock from heart attack
Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop
At the tail end of 2015, the Ferguson Insurrection weighed heavily on our minds, as did the continuous daily slaughter of people at the hands of the police. Uprisings, riots, and confrontational struggles against the police continued to break out, most notably in Baltimore and then in Minneapolis, which saw the occupation of an area around a police precinct. We began to see a growth of anarchist organized anti-prison projects and newsletters, a sure sign of what lay on the horizon. Another big thing on many people’s minds was the growth of far-Right forces in the wake of the Charleston Massacre and Neo-Nazi support of police in Olympia, who shot two young men that were accused of stealing beer. Meanwhile, in the background, Trump became a real political player although at the time we still thought his chances at winning were few and far between. Meanwhile, mainstream NGO’s continued their sad and sorry spectacles outside of the annual COP conference and the Left played it’s role of “loyal opposition” to a T. Meanwhile in Canada, the real resistance showed its strength as indigenous blockades of pipelines proliferated. At the end of 2015, we wrote:
2016 we hope will be a year of asking hard questions: where are we weak and why?
We are also excited to see people starting to analyze their local terrain in order to better attack within it. To experiment, to try new forms and projects, expand their spaces, publications, crews and reach out to other communities. We are excited that people are discussing the effects of previous waves of repression and yet continue to move forward, approaching action as a means to create capacity and as a vehicle to get organized around. Hopefully people will use the new year to take stock of their activities, think critically about their activity, and continue to push forward, making new bonds, offering new models, and building our capacity.
Did we achieve these goals? To the first, there continues to be a need for a general discussion in anarchist, anti-authoritarian, and autonomous anti-capitalist circles about where we are weak, and what are the ways that we could begin to overcome some of these shortcomings. As we wrote in another text:
Anarchists have a horrible habit of understanding their weaknesses, yet feeling powerless to do anything about them. This mirrors the same feelings of powerlessness that pervades everyday life within capitalist civilization, from work, to politics, to personal relationships, to climate change, to mass media. In short, we want things, yet don’t often have agency over how to get them. We want to be powerful and be able to defend ourselves, we want to be organized amongst each other and to construct ourselves as a force, and we want our ideas and actions to resonate among the wider population and within social struggles.
In short this means having the ability to physically engage in self-defense and also be offensive, this means having above all relationships based around being organized and the will to carry out a strategy, and more over, the ability to nurture and create a base of support within a wide population.
To the second part of building capacity, 2016 did feel like a big year of doing just that and it gave us lots of opportunities to do so. Some examples included the New Year’s Eve noise demonstrations outside of prisons, a Day in Solidarity with Trans Prisoners, the International Day in Solidarity with Anti-Fascist Prisoners, building for May Day (which this year kicked off a variety of prison actions), the massive prison strike, several well organized and highly attended anarchist speaking tours, a variety of conferences ranging from the Anarchist Black Cross, Torch Antifa Network, and Bend the Bars Conferences, and much more. 2016 also saw a huge mix of both huge anti-fascist mobilizations, turn of the hat show downs in the street against Trump, and flash-point organizing against Milo, Roosh V, and other such ass-hats trying to come out in public. We saw a continued explosion against the police, especially as the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile brought the country to a fever pitch. Beyond just freeway shutdowns and riots, we also saw the creation of several ‘police free zones,’ including occupations in Chicago and NYC. Labor and community struggles continued to evolve, from the Portland Burgerville Workers’ Union to fights over gentrification in Montreal, San Francisco, and Brooklyn. We saw (and continue to see) the massive struggles of #NoDAPL take shape across the country, as well as many other locations against pipelines such as in Iowa, Florida, Vermont, and elsewhere. Finally, we saw a huge explosion of revolt in November, as across the US, thousands took to the streets against the election.
When you really stop to think about it, this is what made 2016 totally fucking insane. From mass action in solidarity with the #PrisonStrike, to people in the thousands heading out to the front lines of #NoDAPL, continuous waves of violent anti-Trump showdowns, large scale antifa mobilizations happening everywhere from the South to California, to more diffuse confrontations with the far-Right that played out in a multitude of ways, 2016 was a year that didn’t even give us a chance to catch our fucking breath.
But while there was a lot to do, it’s important to remember that one should not simply always be rushing around from one thing to another, like a chicken with a picket sign, just being an activist. The point is that we want to build something out of our activity. But while we want to avoid becoming a ‘protest ghetto,’ we also don’t want to fall into the trap of being an insular scene. When one goes to an anarchist or radical bookfair, and you look around the room and it is the same tired people you’ve been seeing for the past 10 years and hardly anyone new is walking through the door, what you’re witnessing is a scene trying to keep itself alive by doing one of the few things that it can. Is it any wonder then that so many that make up the ‘radical milieu’ are pretentious assholes that sneer at any attempt to actually do anything, when the scene that they exist in is toxic, lethargic, and based around social capital? To state that we should leave these pitfalls behind would be obvious, but better questions abound: what can we build in their place? As we wrote before:
In creating an autonomous anti-capitalist force, we have to break out of the stranglehold of the symbolic, demand based, and spectacular mode of activism and push towards building autonomy. This means getting organized on our own terms and carrying out our own actions, outside of and against the union bureaucrats, Democratic Party managers, non-profit career activists, and religious leaders. We need to leave not only the two corporate political parties behind, but mainstream electoral politics altogether.
Moreover, we will also have to leave behind the trappings of the “radical milieu” completely, from its moralistic nihilism to its activist careerism. We cannot wait for the radical scene to catch up or come around, much of it won’t; we’ll have to push together with those around us we share affinity with, reaching out while in struggle with those outside of politics, radical or mainstream. In doing so, we must work to find commonality with other people while building new forms of life through shared and lived conditions and the struggle to free ourselves from them.
But while we did a good job to sticking to our guns and getting involved in a wide variety of struggles – there were still opportunities that we let pass us by. One was the massive strike that was carried out by Verizon workers that saw extensive use of sabotage, and where police were used to bring in scabs while the union bureaucrats sought to kill the militancy. Had anarchists attempted to launch a campaign of solidarity, either through militant actions at common targets, walking picket lines in solidarity and pushing back scabs, or through gathering supplies and money for those on strike, perhaps we could have made common cause with a huge body of workers that was becoming very unruly. Another opportunity for solidarity that only some anarchists, anti-authoritarians, and others seized on was the Driscoll’s boycott and solidarity campaign for the congruent strike in San Quentin, Mexico. After a massive strike erupted in Mexico by berry pickers, a boycott was called while some farmworkers in the US also started to demand better conditions and a union. In places like Santa Cruz and Watsonville, solidarity and boycott actions have remained constant, yet in most others by and large, people decided to not participate. Even a call for a week of action that would have let to basic actions such as banner drops, wheatpastes, flyering, good old fashioned sabotage, and noisey pickets would have gone far. In the future, hopefully we can find the ability to communicate with each other and build solidarity with a struggle that needs to be supported.
The Flint Water Crisis also brings up some very big questions, as despite the marshalling of resources by the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, the situation continues to grow more dire. But the water crisis in Flint in many ways was just the tip of the iceberg, as in many cities and especially on Native reservations, water quality is just as bad or actually worse. In a recent Reuters study, at least 3,000 cities were found with similar lead levels or worse than Flint, MI. It is in the face of this disaster that we can begin to see the United States as a failed State that has lost all credibility and legitimacy while failing to provide even basic services. While some anarchists such as in Chicago have organized to supply Flint residents with water, what has the response been from the wider movement? In a time where trust in the government is at an all time low and people are literally fearing for their lives due to its ineptness, we should be, and should have been, mobilizing.
Lastly, the prison strike brought various challenges to the surface, as the flurry of activity that we saw in its buildup and first two months was not matched by what came after. While we know that people on the ground are still writing to prisoners and still organizing, we need to go into things knowing that the event in themselves will never be the end. We must think about what comes after the big days of actions, after the big mobilizations. How will we pull new people into our movement and keep them there. How will we deal with repression? Part of building capacity, and moreover, being a movement, means not just simply committing ourselves to the one big event, demonstration, riot, or outpouring of anger. It means being in it for the long haul and seeing what comes next, and being prepared to weave that into our strategy.
A Fighting Force Worthy of the Name
Anarchist and autonomous anti-capitalist groups and movements in the US have long been split largely into two camps. One camp sees success coming from the establishment of a set organization with a formalized and clear ideology and membership process. The other camp instead sees hope in informal and affinity based structures in diffuse networks. While both of these sides have histories worth studying and learning from, often they both have as many weaknesses as they do strengths. Some people place all their hopes in building up the ‘one organization to rule them all’ to the point that they never get organized to begin with. It’s great that you know Robert’s Rules to Order by heart and can quote from the constitution of your organization, but if your membership rotates in and out the door every 6 months and you actually can’t get beyond a 1st meeting, then what good is it? Likewise, you can photocopy all of the insurrectionary zines in the world and write fiery scribes about rioting all you like, it still won’t change the fact that without enough people and a base of support for your ideas, you won’t get very far beyond being some sort of ideological hipster.
For us, being organized and being in an organization are not one in the same. At the same time, thinking that a loose network of friends without coordination, support within larger communities and struggles, with no ability to engage in self-defense, and zero infrastructure to sustain themselves, can participate in active revolt and influence it in a way that furthers our politics is wishful thinking. As we wrote in another piece:
We have to build where we are. Where we live, where we work, and where we go to school. For some people this means joining the IWW and fighting at work, for some this means running a counter-information project, for some it means organizing in Black Lives Matter, and for others it means stopping a fracking development. The point is, we got to get in where we fit in. We got to grow from there and build that solid organized crew. But more over, we have to start thinking beyond just the local. We have to link up with others around us, regionally, then nationally. Beyond that, we have to build our base of support in the communities that we live in. We have to create a sea for our ideas and actions to swim in. Have regular meetings, reach out to the outside world, and get the world out about your activities to other comrades.
This means anarchists and other autonomous anti-capitalists beginning to come together in regional get-togethers to plan, organize, and carry out a strategy. It means groups in bigger towns supporting those in smaller ones with less resources, access to lawyers, or ability to make copies, design websites, or host events. Host regional convergences, have regular check-ins with other groups, and support each other’s endeavors.
The bookfair model has failed us. We can’t rely on the declining interest in the anarchist subculture to build the kind of force we need. We need to move away from bookfairs to having regional and international gatherings were we can start to have bigger and better conversations. Help plan conferences which have set aims and desires. Organize around regional and international struggles, building our capacity and developing a strategy.
Further still, as we have seen throughout the past 8 years, history is quickening. Riots, occupations, mass strikes, and disruptive demonstrations are now not so unheard of in North America. Yet, the amplification of disruptive or destructive acts in themselves does not make a different world. What is needed beyond just the registering of dissent, albeit in extreme ways, is the formulation in people’s minds that the dominant structure will never give up power, and must be overthrown in order for a new way of life to emerge. Moreover, what seems to have been successful in all of the struggles over the last decade or so lies not in the selling of an ideological package, but in the successful popularization of ethics and practices. Meaning, our program is not just for people to circle every “A” they see; instead we see success in people getting organized in a specific way and acting accordingly.
In that spirit, let us look back on 2016.
Original IGD Interviews from 2016:
Selected Original and Submitted IGD Pieces:
Prison Strike Coverage:
Interviews and Submissions from Prisoners:
Harrisburg Antifa Mobilization:
North Carolina Anti-KKK Mobilization:
It’s Going Down
The people that make up IGD are millennials. We are generation that is defined by a generalized condition of precarity and uncertainty. By and large, our work lives, the thing that defined generations before us is hardly ever set in stone and we often bounce from job to job with no ‘career.’ Our lives become more impoverished than our parents, housing more hard to find, and our environments become more polluted. From peti-bourgeoisie to proletarian. From proletarian to lumpen. Moreover, the colonial, patriarchal, and white supremacist framework that the Americas are built on only seems to entrench itself more as time progresses, while it gives new names to old systems and proclaims that we live in a ‘post-racial’ society. Meanwhile, the threat of global warming looms as does global military conflict. Within this collapse of civilization and the growing crisis of capital, life takes on the feeling of civil war as the institutional Left backs the status-quo and an insurgent far-Right grows. In the face of all of this, our generation has become defined by a generalized nihilism of our epoch generated by the knowledge that not only are things getting worse, from the climate to the economy, but that under the present conditions, they probably won’t get any better.
The struggles that have broken out over the last 8 years live up to this reality. The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore weren’t just about one person being killed; although they were – they were about everything. And what draws so many to the frontlines of #NoDAPL in North Dakota isn’t just to stand in solidarity with Native people, but also a real desire to throw a wrench into the gears of civilization and stop it. What brought thousands out to sleep in parks and public squares during Occupy, if not the need to be a part of something real, human, communal, and that could create something new. In all of these examples, from anti-police riots to pipeline encampments to occupied university buildings, our period of struggle is marked by a real desire to create new forms of life. To live in new ways and to manifest the infrastructure for such forms to expand, to proliferate, defend themselves, and grow.
We count It’s Going Down as part of that infrastructure. In the next year, we hope to expand and deepen this project, adding new features, new ways to plug in, and continue to put out new material. As always, this project is run on donations. In order for us to dedicate ourselves full time to this work and be a 24/7 resource for people, we need your help in sustaining it. That is why if you can, please help us meet our monthly fundraising goal this month – we are currently only about $200 away. Consider becoming a monthly sustainer of this project and above all – contribute!