Commune Against Civilization #4: Nothing is Over
Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Capitalism, Civilization, Featured, Northwest
Filed under: Analysis, Anarchist Movement, Capitalism, Civilization, Featured, Northwest
What follows is not an official position of the many-headed hydra of the Olympia Blockade.
All the reasons for making a revolution are there. Not one is lacking. The shipwreck of politics, the arrogance of the powerful, the reign of falsehood, the vulgarity of the wealthy, the cataclysms of industry, galloping misery, naked exploitation, ecological apocalypse– we are spared nothing, not even being informed about it all. “Climate: 2016 breaks a heat record,” Le Monde announces, the same as almost every year now. All the reasons are there together, but it’s not reasons that make revolutions, it’s bodies. And the bodies are in front of screens.”
–Now, by the Invisible Committee
In America in the eighteenth century Cotton Mather and other Puritan ministers preached against wilderness as an insult to the Lord, as a challenge to man to show the proof of his religious conviction by destroying it. Mather, and others, urged the colonists to make of the “howling wilderness” a “fruitful field.” In 1756 John Adams wrote that when the colonists arrived in America, “the whole continent was one continued dismal wilderness, the haunt of wolves and bears and more savage men. Now the forests removed, the land covered with fields of corn, orchards bending with fruit and the magnificent habitations of rational and civilized people.”
– Of Wolves and Men, by Barry Lopez
In Europe people talk a great deal of the wilds of America, but the Americans themselves never think about them; they are insensible to the wonders of inanimate [sic] nature. Their eyes are fired with another sight; they march across these wilds, clearing swamps, turning the course of rivers….
– Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
ON THE 12TH DAY, the police raid on the Olympia Commune Blockade finally came. For a span of several hours something like martial law was imposed on little downtown Olympia. Like last year’s eviction from the same spot, multiple dozens of police officers from several agencies were deployed in the middle of the night to do their dirt at the hour when most people are in their deepest sleep, and when no throngs of shoppers, tech yuppies, and pacified liberals are around to witness the violence that props up their privileges, the American way of “life.”
Olympia was (and is) crawling with filth from the Olympia Police Department (OPD), Washington State Patrol (WSP), the Union Pacific Railroad police, Thurston County sheriffs, and whatever other ghouls have been summoned for the job. As the communards suited up at 5:00 AM on November 29th for a little game of cat-and-mouse, the streets were covered in marked and unmarked police cruisers and SUVs, snatch squads in mini-vans, multiple detachments of bicycle police, cops on foot in full riot gear, a SWAT team and bomb squad, and an MRAP (an armored military vehicle that looks like a little tank), and about 4 heavy pieces of equipment (backhoes, bulldozers, cranes) for demolishing the encampment, and a single engine aircraft turning tight circles above town, taking thermal images like last year. The operation to clean and repair the tracks went on for several hours, and groups of pigs remain in the area.
During last year’s raid, at least a couple officers of OPD were seen to have tears in their eyes and a quiver on their lips as a fierce and venomous black bloc engaged them in the tense pre-dawn moments before the train came through. Superiors on the force were repeatedly seen murmuring reassurances in the ears of the rookies and the conscientious on their side. Whether this was out of fear or out of shame for the things they know they are enabling, these murderers, rapists, and foot soldiers for the foulers of the water knew they’d rather be almost anywhere else on that morning a year ago.
This year, the engagement was of a lower intensity, as the commune elected mainly to vanish from the site ahead of the raid and avoid arrests for now. Among other considerations, the reluctance of OPD to face the formidable rage of members of their own “community” or to clean up the messes of its own making allowed the blockade to last almost twice as long as last year, and we had fun imagining their shaky hands putting on their gear, psyching themselves up only to find an empty camp. All the better to steel ourselves for our next date, at a time and place of our choosing.
The blockade is gone, but the blockaders have retained the upper hand. Spirits are high. Next moves are imagined, and then plotted. The energy of the commune is now freed up for diffusion through the social terrain and for further joyous subversion through this holiday season.
It’s easy to imagine such a flagrantly illegal and anarchistic event as the blockade having had the consensus of the broader society arrayed against it, but times change. Consensus in the broader society is far from clear, and among the usual droves of people outwardly hostile to the blockade we find what seems to us a greater-than-usual number of sympathizers, a wearing-off of the anesthetic of capitalist “hope” when it comes to the prospect of going through the usual political channels to achieve anything at all, a proliferation of actions and expressions of solidarity, the potential beginnings of the conditions for a generalized insurrection.
The chimerical abomination known as “technology” is not now, and has never been, “neutral.” How could it be? In fact, the term does not denote one discrete entity but is a code phrase for an entire ensemble of means of mass resource extraction/production/consumption and the social relations and ecological consequences that they engender. Belief in the neutrality of capital’s science and technology is every bit as mystical as the opposition to it could ever hope to be. The popular adherence or loyalty to these overarching concepts is the State religion of our age, and there are more and more people willing to hear out the heretics.
Studies show that even in a best case scenario, alternative energy sources cannot hope to smoothly take over from the fossil fuel economy or supply more than a large fraction of the total energy expended year after year in the current global set-up. Studies show that climate change is unfolding much, much more rapidly than previously revealed by the priests in white coats. Studies show that what the studies of yesteryear showed were embarrassingly optimistic lies and obfuscations. Cascading energy failures will be the echo of the cascading ecological catastrophes.
A different sensibility is beginning to assail the iron trap of civilized decorum, eroding the edges of its illusory social “peace.” There isn’t much time left to stop the establishment of the newest extractive processes and defend the last wild places. To complement the urban insurrections to come, let us consider that the wild and wooded places that remain may represent some of the terrain on which free people can still outmaneuver the tentacles of the Leviathan.
The absurdity of the enemy is laid more and more bare. Olympia Port Commissioner Bill McGregor thinks that the Danse Macabre of the apocalypse commune shouldn’t include mirthful feasts or immodest demands. Eating pizza, dancing, and having a good time is unconscionable to the 21st century Puritans of “left,” “right,” and “center.” Their lineage is plainly that of every extinguisher of festivity who ever counseled forbearance and security over the gambles of life and love. They are praying that their house of cards doesn’t collapse around them.
On the other hand, we have less and less to lose. And we really want to see “city manager” Steve Hall fight a bear.
Solidarity lies in action. Action that sinks its roots in one’s own project that is carried on coherently and proudly too, especially in times when it might be dangerous even to express one’s ideas publicly. A project that expresses solidarity with joy in the game of life that above all makes us free ourselves, destroys alienation, exploitation, mental poverty, opening up infinite spaces devoted to experimentation and the continual activity of one’s mind in a project aimed at realising itself in insurrection.
– introduction to the pamphlet Revolutionary Solidarity, by Daniela Carmignani
The blockade, and then the raid, unfolded amidst the story of Cyntoia Brown – who has been imprisoned for more than 10 years – going viral on social media. Cyntoia is locked up for the 2004 self-defense killing of 43-year-old man who purchased her services as a sex slave when she was 16. Cyntoia had been drugged and repeatedly raped at the behest of her pimp, before being bought by the man who she would end up killing. Cyntoia is serving a life sentence. This case is just one travesty among the myriad upon which this culture is based.
Simultaneously, a grand jury has been convened in the state of Virginia and at least 2 people subpoenaed to investigate the events surrounding August 12th in Charlottesville, where anti-racist and anti-fascist activist Heather Heyer was murdered by white supremacists at a demonstration. As if the death of Heather, the serious injuries of many others, and the mere existence of white supremacists were not enough, you can bet that grand jury is not being used to repress the murderers, but to increase the costs of taking a stand against them. Pacific Northwest anarchists are no strangers to the repressive tool of the grand jury, nor the need for solidarity against its implementation. Jenny Durkan, the attorney who oversaw the federal investigation into the May Day 2012 protest and who is responsible, among many other things, for putting several anarchists behind bars for 4 – 6 months, recently won the mayoral election of Seattle. Oh, what’s that? I’m receiving word that she was just now ambushed by protesters at an otherwise well-scripted news conference.
Meanwhile, J20 prosecutor Jennifer KerkHoff is hoping to send 197 anti-inauguration protesters to prison for 60 years, and yet has seen fit to admit, “I’ll be very clear. We don’t believe any of the defendants personally engaged in property destruction.” Such brazen swine, these. So confident that their enemies will never look down their snout.
The borders continue their disgusting operations and the bombs continue to fall. Untold masses of people are confined in the panoptical tombs of Power’s most brutal expression– the prisons and detention centers– while in this very moment millions of children face the smiley-faced repression of their pedagogical training– being filtered and sorted, admonished and punished, rewarded and molded– funneled into the appropriate boxes for their future roles as prisoners, workers, and vagrants… or else managers, slave catchers, and owners.
For our own lives and those of our contemporaries, the stakes are as high as they have ever been. No arrests for the Olympia blockaders yesterday doesn’t mean that we have nothing to worry about or fight for. Our comrades face charges or are locked up. We ourselves will face the same. The very nature and consequences of dissent, assembly, expression, and association are being renegotiated as you read this.
There is nothing for it but to increase the stakes for our enemies, to extend to them the courtesies they lavish so readily upon us. To take the initiative, with the full knowledge of what they have in store.
Right now, the FBI is keeping an eye on what websites you browse, on what your neighbors are saying in chat rooms. Right now, folks are sitting in prison for talking about Illegal acts. Right now, the military is restructuring for domestic deployment. Right now, a million people are plotting the overthrow of the United States government, and these people may one day become your best friends and greatest allies.
We want to explain why.
– The People Vs. The United States, by The Conspiracy to Incite a Riot
In the face of the resounding social defeat that is our increasingly common condition, the waves of resistance indicated by things like the Olympia blockade are bound not only to be fierce but also fumbling, serving as they do as conduits for all the marvel, courage, and adeptness denied expression and circulation in daily life. The return of the repressed will not always prove graceful, especially in sudden, public, and high-pressure situations. On the ground, we will have as much to learn as we have to unlearn.
In this context, as surely as we can count on the need to examine our own behaviors and assumptions, we can count on the continual re-appearance of capitalism’s first– and often best– line of defense. Liberals, pacifists, self-appointed “community leaders” claiming to speak for monolithic identity blocks, and their good little “allies” will claim to share in our desire for liberation while tirelessly working for its utter defeat or neutralization.
Power lies in the infrastructure of this world, and when confronted with threats to that infrastructure, those with their hands on the reins of government can be counted upon to come at us with their own “diversity of tactics.” In this light, we may discern the reason that schools, colleges, and universities are funded by the enemy. The institutional Left, its academic settings and sensibilities, is bottom lined by capitalists and managed by the State so that they may, in turn, define and circumscribe their own potential enemies, turning them into little helpers instead. These helpers can plausibly see themselves and their refinements of speech and ideology as the foils to the “backward” and “ignorant” expressions of the uneducated, and certainly as the dead opposite of reaction and Trumpism. But propose the burning – or even the immediate and total autonomous takeover – of all the educational institutions of this sick and abusive culture, and see which of the dogs snap at you, loyal to the master.
The collegiate and middle class “opposition” to this culture will exploit every insecurity and every intra-movement tension/conflict to defuse social tension/conflict as a whole. History has shown that any and all effective activity against the State and Capital is beset on all sides by the deluded scum who would smother its appeal before it ignites.
Those who come forth in bad faith, first with salutations, then with doubts and hand-wringing, next with the moral certitude and shame-mongering befitting spokespeople, and finally with the shrill insistence on the return to normality and the full force of the law behind them, deserve the very worst. This is something we are not always willing or able to give to them, given the precise vicissitudes of particular situations. But their agenda must be unmasked and ridiculed at the every opportunity. Our crews, cliques, and affinity groups must continue the work of inoculating ourselves to their deceptions represented by texts like “With Allies like These: reflections on privilege reductionism,” and “Revolutionary Solidarity: a critical reader for accomplices.”
As we take steps onto the unknown terrain of terrible freedom, or maybe just our last stands, the experimentation and learning curves which are the co-terms of our departure must not be halted, but continually reassessed and reconstituted in a broadening and deepening perspective of liberation.
All the rest is living death.
With love and rage,
/// a few communards against the nightmare
Incendiary Greetings to Cyntoia Brown, the targets of the Charlottesville grand jury, and the J20 defendants!
Love to all anarchist, anti-fascist, and anti-development prisoners worldwide!
Freedom for all Indigenous, Black, Brown, Queer, and Trans liberation prisoners!
Shout out the Anarchist Black Cross.
Solidarity Means Attack.
Fire to the Prisons.
NOTHING IS OVER.
Next issue to include a dialogue about the potentials and limitations of the insurrectionary approach laid out in the issue #3. Send correspondence/letters to firstname.lastname@example.org for possible inclusion in future issues/re-launch.
Some topical readings:
–Land and Liberty, and Of Martial Traditions and the Art of Rebellion, by Seaweed
–Revolutionary Solidarity, by Pierleone Porcu, Daniela Carmignani, Wolfi Landstreicher, and Killing King Abacus
–Revolutionary Solidarity: a critical reader for accomplices
-With Allies Like These: reflections on privilege reductionism, by Common Cause Ottawa
-Who Is Oakland: Anti-Oppression Activism, the Politics of Safety, and State Co-optation, by CROATOAN
–Gone to Croatan: origins of north american dropout culture, edited by Ron Sakolsky and James Koehnline
–Against the Megamachine: essays on empire and its enemies, by David Watson
–A Crime Called Freedom, by Os Cangaceiros
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