Filed under: Action, Critique, Ontario
From Anarchist News
On May 1st, Hamilton’s anarchists and anti-capitalists gathered in Beasley Park for a march and a block party. Weather was cold and rainy, so the turnout was lower than in previous years, but we had a lot of energy and for whatever reason, the police were a lot more hands-off than they usually were (May Day has tended to be a bit fighty in the past), which is probably just as well.
We took to the streets and marched North towards the Barton Jail. There was a speech highlighting the role prison plays in society and how the greedy rat-bastard screws at the jail have been using the many deaths due to bad conditions there as a bargaining chip in their negotiations with the province.
We then marched west to James St N, the heart of gentrification in Hamilton, setting off smoke bombs, throwing up stickers and laughing at the surprised hipsters taking breaks from their $20 burgers to watch the demo. A speaker highlighted the work of the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network in fighting evictions throughout the city and supporting tenants organizing against displacement.
Down James and West on King brought us to the Ellen Fairclough building, site of many settlement services for refugees and other migrants. Speakers described organizing political solidarity and support for migrants in the city talked about grassroots efforts to make municipal services available to all and to continue pressuring the federal government to continue allowing refugees and their family members to settle in Canada.
Around the block and back to Gore Park for a speech in front of a lovely statue of Queen Victoria digging into the crimes of empire, the colonial nature of the Canadian state, and what Indigenous sovreignty and autonomy would mean.
Finally, we marched on back to Beasley Park after two hours for a big meal, courtesy of Hamilton Food Not Bombs, a free store, music performances from Mother Tareka, Lee Reed and Marshia Celina, poetry from Klyde Broox, and a speech from a Syrian anarchist about support for the revolution in Syria.
Anarchists circulated a beautiful zine called “Steal City: Thoughts on some everyday struggles in Hamilton.” See text below, from The Hamilton Institute:
A Steal City…
Far and wide, Hamilton is known as the steel city. Historically, the largest producer of steel in the country, our solidly working-class city has been built around the steel industry. For better or worse, steel has been integral to what it means to be a Hamiltonian. Against this backdrop, we want to make a slightly different proposition – we propose that in practice Hamilton is a stolen city. Hamilton is a city built on the widespread theft of indigenous lands. Hamilton is a city where everyday bosses steal the profits made by their workers and landlords steal hard earned money from tenants. Hamilton is a city where politicians embezzle funds, as police rob us of our freedom and in some cases our lives. The only appropriate response to these realities is to take our city back. As part of this year’s annual May Day celebrations, the intentions of this modest publication are twofold – to call into question some of the taken-for-granted institutions and values that shape our city, and perhaps more importantly, to encourage action. Written by a handful of people inspired by anarchist ideas, the pages that follow discuss issues related to policing and immigration, the environment and colonization, violence, democracy, and private property. Against these systems of domination, we propose autonomy, solidarity, internationalism, and direct action as ways to build our collective power in this city.
Living in Canada, or rather, in the territory controlled by the Canadian state, colonization is an ongoing process essential to the way power works here. We live in Hamilton, Ontario, a city built by settlers who invaded the traditional territory of the Chonnonton people, as well as of the Haudenosaunee, Anishinabec and Wyandot peoples. The history of colonialism is often made invisible, like the graves and homes of the all-but-forgotten Chonnonton that are now covered by subdivisions and factories. Ongoing colonization often remains unseen, even as a process that implicates everyone on this land.
In the 1500s, various European powers initiated a process of colonizing peoples in what they would call Africa, Asia, and North and South America. Some places, like India or West Africa, the colonizers maintained a military presence to control the local population and oversee the collection of natural resources, agriculture, or slavery without settling many Europeans there permanently. In other places, like Brazil or the Caribbean, Europeans enslaved and killed local Indigenous populations to the such an extend of mostly erasing them as distinct cultures and then importing (mostly African) slaves to do the labour. In places like Canada, South Africa, or Algeria, the colonizers tried to establish permanent settlements of Europeans. All of these different colonial strategies lead to different political situations in the 21st century. For us here in so-called Canada, it’s the last strategy of settler colonialism, that continues to shape our reality.
It might feel surprising for Canada to be lumped in with Algeria and South Africa, places where the white-supremacist domination of the peoples indigenous to those areas sparked massive international outrage and saw successful national liberation movements. However, the only difference is how far the genocide went here in North America and how successfully the settlers have been able to maintain control. That Canada can now presents itself as a peace-loving, progressive country is entirely due to how successfully it has hidden its unending campaign of violence and land-theft against Indigenous peoples.
Still, resistance to colonization by Indigenous peoples has been constant for hundreds of years. This in spite of a genocide that saw, by some estimates, the number of Indigenous people in the US and Canadian territories drop from 15-20 million in 1500 to about 1-2 million by the mid 1800s. Today, as Indigenous resistance continues to swell across the Canadian territory, many non-Indigenous people are feeling inspired by the practices of autonomy, collective struggle, land defense, healing, and cultural revival being put into practice. Many of us in settler communities share certain values and practices with Indigenous people who set out to defend and restore their territories and communities. Collaborations between settler and Indigenous groups have been important in resisting the expansion of the Tar Sands and other extractive infrastructure across the continent, as well as in other struggles.
Anarchist and other anti-authoritarian currents in settler communities have long tried to ally themselves with Indigenous peoples against their common enemies. However, these collaborations often happen without challenging the broad ignorance among settlers about colonialism and Indigenous cultures. This support can also conceal the differences in goals and priorities between Indigenous resistance and settler radicals. For example, Indigenous peoples often engage in struggle with the Canadian state to ensure the survival of their communities and to regain or maintain autonomy within their territories, a foundation for action that few (if any) settlers share. Even if as anarchists, we consider ourselves opposed to the Canadian state, we still contribute to its project of settler domination of these territories. Resistance to colonialism demands that we situate ourselves within the long history of settlement and resistance here, that we orient ourselves relative to the ever-expanding frontiers. It invites us to imagine new ways of relating to the land and of thinking about autonomy and solidarity.
Guard Dogs of Capitalism
As a pillar in society, police are tasked with the role to serve and protect. But we have to ask ourselves, serve and protect whom? The reality is that the institution of policing serves the interests of a few, at the expense of the rest and plays a role in both creating crime and punishing it. From racketeering charges against Hamilton’s anti-poor task force, The ACTION Team to murder on the job, we are told these are just a few bad apples. But anyone living in targeted neighbourhoods will know those are just a few of the abuses perpetrated in the name of the police. No, it’s not just a few bad apples; it’s a rotten logic that informs policing.
Police enforce laws that have been set out to govern actions that have been deemed undesirable by lawmakers, politicians and property owners. These laws prohibit certain actions with the belief that by making something illegal, it will no longer happen. More often than not, this structure of control serves to preserve class interests – the police protect the rich and their property. When we understand the logic of policing, it gives new meaning to the Hamilton Police Services motto, “Excellence in Policing”. .
We have seen this ‘excellence’ carried out by several police officers in Hamilton who’s resumes have made headlines for killing, beating and abusing the community they proclaim to be protecting:
- Officer Ryan Tocher killed 2 men, Soun Saing and Phonesay Chanthachak in 2007 and 2012 respectively. He hospitalized Po La Hay in 2010 after wrongly identifying La Hay’s home address as the home for which they had a drug trafficking warrant. As a result of these murders and other faulty conduct he has gone through four separate SIU investigations, all of which found his actions justifiable.
- Derick Mellor was a Hamilton officer who used his status and power to engage in sexual relations with several women involved in human trafficking, sex work and domestic violence cases that he was working on.
- Hamilton police shot and killed Steve Mesic, a 45-year-old man with mental health issues after they received a call about a man walking in traffic.
- Nineteen-year-old Andreas Chinnery was shot at the door of his apartment by two police officers that were responding to a noise complaint.
It doesn’t take great mental leaps to see that the people whom the police target are largely low-income, indigenous, black and new immigrants. From its roots, policing in Canada began as a force of colonization when the RCMP was formed to combat indigenous resistance to colonization and settler encroachment, specifically the Métis uprising in the Prairies. Policing continued to play a key roll in enforcing British, then Canadian, colonial rule and the physical and cultural genocide that continues to this day against indigenous people. It is the majority white police force with a wealthy white elite who serves to benefit from upholding and perpetuating white supremacy
In addition to physical police confrontations, policing extends intimately into our everyday lives in unsuspecting ways. With Google logging your IP address when checking your email to phone companies tracking when, where and who you’re contacting while using your cell phone to the facial recognition software installed in CCTV cameras, it seems that surveillance is everywhere. These are only a few examples of how businesses collect data and make a business of helping the police and private sectors keep an eye on us. Surveillance and data tracking technologies are instrumental tools of social control that impede our ability to move through the world unnoticed by the watchful gaze of the police state.
None of this information is new to most of us. If the cops have ever stopped you, you don’t need it explained to you why the police are the enemy. If you’ve been handcuffed, spent a night in jail, ticketed for something, done time or been id’d for crossing the street then you probably have some distaste for or hatred towards cops. The police are nothing more than the guard dogs of capitalism and continue their colonial and white supremacist agenda.
The more the police and the state harass us and attempt to control our lives the more important it becomes to find ways to push back. Talking about why we hate the police with our friends, showing up and organizing to resist police killings, confronting police when we see them harassing people on the street and finding ways to solve our problems without calling the cops are just a few examples of the ways we can undermine the authority that the police attempt to enforce. To put it simply, a popular punk anthem once stated “All Cops Are Bastards.” We do not disagree.
Today We’re Forecasting Crisis
You can scan all the weather channels, but the forecast is bleak. At the moment, we are in the midst of the biggest extinction since the dinosaurs disappeared, oceans are on the rise, and the places we live are barren, polluted and unhealthy. Everything we need to survive on this planet – clean water, soil, other living things – is being degraded at a nearly unimaginable rate. Most of us have grown up with this alarming narrative about the environment. If there were a TV forecaster reading this news, they’d be ready to jump out the window.
We are aware of the forecast and yet the dominant culture’s solutions are wholly inadequate and self-serving. Bring a reusable bag. Buy overpriced coffee that somehow “helps” this endangered species featured on the label. Use 30% recycled toilet paper. At best, these avenues allow business to expand as we keep pace with the alarming forecasts. At their worst, these consumer choices lead to feelings of complacency and powerlessness, while failing to even address the alarming storm warnings.
We are encourages to wait for governments, businesses or the UN to invent new products, energy sources or institute policies to unify the divergent interests of governments and industries to save the world But these solutions aren’t coming. It is the insatiable growth of Capitalism – The exploitation of the natural world and the constant excessive growth necessary to the continuation of capitalism – that caused this problem in the first place.
What’s worse, as the natural world continues to degrade it’s the poor and global south who feels the burn. The weatherman predict that it will only get hotter, leaving scorched earth and desertification around the equator and flooded metropolises. These predictions show an impending loss of arable land and displacement of the global poor in the near future. Even today, we see this in our own backyards where the life expectancy of folks living in the polluted Hamilton core is twenty years shorter than those living up-mountain, in Westdale or Dundas. No matter how bad things get there will always be a group of privileged people who don’t have to feel the crisis. Capitalism is killing us every day, but it’s not killing all of us.
We are familiar with the unending list of false solutions handed to us, top-down. Once we accept them as dead ends, it opens up space to come up with more creative solutions that build off our power, bottom up. Connecting with each other in our communities and neighbourhoods, forming relationships and exchanging knowledge about the world around us are all powerful ways to build power for ourselves and collectively, while not forfeiting it to someone else. We can act now, with our bodies and stop projects that devastate our land base from happening. This is the substance of a core anarchist value, called autonomy.
We build autonomous power when we occupy their worksites and break their shit. When we work with our neighbours to tear up concrete and plant a garden.
Facing the bleak forecast of the environment crisis and its false solutions, the only sane response is to act now, building autonomy in Hamilton and scaling up. The weatherwoman forecasts a push back against Capitalism, which will shake it to its core.
PROPERTY IS THEFT
It’s the first of the month, and like many Hamiltonian renters, you begin a dance. That dance might start elated as paychecks stuff your wallet with the fruits of a month’s worth of hard work. The second is dreary and crestfallen, as you surrender the bulk of it to your landlord: the bully in the schoolyard demanding your lunch money. Every month it’s repeated, and if you’re like many of Hamilton’s residents, the shakedown is preceded by uncertainty of whether your landlord will demand more than you can afford this month, or kick you out altogether. In a city hit by some of the largest rent increases in the country, this dance is getting harder. This routine has become so commonplace that it may seem absurd to ask: “Why do we pay rent?” The simple answer to that question is that your landlord owns the building, thus you have to pay to live there. However, that answer opens up further questioning. What is ownership? What is property?
These questions may seem absurd, but their answers are revealing. The most basic form of property is, of course, land. If I happen upon an unclaimed piece of land, I can build a house on it, and call it my own. I can grow crops; I can raise livestock. The land on which I live, and produce my livelihood I call “mine”. That all sounds reasonable. However, let’s say I happen upon a piece of unclaimed land, and I decide not do anything with it and leave, can I still call it “mine”? Now let’s say I built a house on said land, and left immediately after I was finished never to return. Could I still call it “mine”? If after I die, someone decides to live in that house, are they trespassing? What about while I’m alive, living somewhere else, with no intention to move into the former house? Are they then trespassing? The answer to these questions would obviously be “no”. Just like at the bar, when you sit in your chair, you call it “yours” for the time being. If you get up to use the bathroom, and someone sits in “your” chair while you’re gone, your friend may say “excuse me, that’s my friend’s seat” and the expectation would be that the person mistakenly sitting would find another chair. However, once you leave the bar, or switch seats, it would be ridiculous to continue to consider that chair “yours”.
So how does that line of reasoning apply to housing and rent? Let’s say I’m a landlord. I pay to have a house built. I don’t live in that house, I live somewhere else. While I live somewhere else, what is to stop someone from just squatting in the first house? The answer should be obvious: as soon as the squatter is found out, they’re told they are trespassing on “private property”, and they’re hauled out by police. If this were the bar, it would be like me claiming multiple chairs as “mine”, but only sitting in one. By what authority can I do that? In the real world, by owning private property, you have at your disposal a team of enforcers known as the police. So, as long as the state or city recognizes that I “own” a piece of property, they will prevent others from using it at my request.
Continuing the analogy of stools at a bar, if I have claimed most of the stools at a bar, and I have some tough guys enforcing that for me, I can then begin to charge people to sit in those chairs. If they don’t pay, they have to stand; if they try to sit without paying, they get beaten up. The question then must be asked, “Is this moral?” In the analogy of the bar, this sort of “bar stool rent” would seem like a pretty mean-spirited thing to do and pretty immoral. The only reason I can get away with it, is that I have some tough guys enforcing it. In the housing market, this practice is seen as normal, but again, it’s not a moral practice, it’s just that landlords have a bunch of paid tough guys (the police) enforcing it for them too. If someone were to claim all of the stools at a bar, you may say, “What the fuck? You stole all the chairs!” and you’d be right. So why when thousands of Hamiltonians struggle to pay rent do we not all stand up and shout at the landlords, “What the fuck? You stole all the houses!”
The landlords didn’t build those houses, some carpenters did. They didn’t wire the houses, some electricians did. They didn’t actually contribute to the houses’ construction at all. What they did was hand over some slips of paper (money) and said, “This is mine.” Then they left, never intending to live in those houses. All they do is use that concept of “mine” to take money from you, because you need a place to live, and don’t have enough slips of paper to call another building “yours”. So if the landlord is just taking money from you without contributing anything to society, just owns things, what does that make him? A parasite. Likewise, what does that make rent?
In the eyes of anarchists, the answer is simple: Rent is theft! We want a world where private property is abolished; where no one can claim ownership over more than they themselves can use. In the here and the now, this means aggressively fighting against the gentrification of our city and the related rent increases. This can look like many things – the targeted trashing of property management firms; confrontational harassment of real estate agents, landlords, developers, and other leaches; the squatting of abandoned spaces; or the organizing of rent strikes in our buildings and broader neighbourhoods. We want to steal back all that has been taken from us.
Casting Aside The Ballot
“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal”.
Democracy is often talked about as a near universal good – it is held up as the political ideal for societies to strive towards. At the international level wars are waged under the illusion of creating a liberatory democratic state. While at the local level it is presented as the single answer to any and all social problems. If you have an issue in your neighbourhood, the prescribed solution is to get in touch with your local city councilor. If you’re interested in seeing broader societal change, the common advice is to vote for a change in government. But, do any of these avenues actually work? Is democracy worth all of the hype?
Those in power, our ‘democratic representatives’ do not serve the interests of most of us. Living under capitalism means living in society defined by massive divisions between the rich and poor, and democracy is the playground for the wealthy. For those of us who struggle everyday to get by, who have to work and take care of families, there is little time and even fewer opportunities to be involved in the functioning of government. Even less likely, is the prospect of any of us ascending to the role of elite politician. Not just anyone can be Prime Minister or even a local councilor for that matter – it takes having resources and a lot of them, being born into the right family and given particular opportunities, getting the right education, and having the proper connections. Within this context, we’re presented with the option of voting for one affluent candidate over the other. Whoever wins, we lose.
Some people may object. What if there’s a politician who wants to shake things up? What if a political party is formed to fight for the marginalized? The history of social movements is a history of struggles that once recuperated into the realm of electoral politics loose all potential for meaningful change. Capitalizing on social discontent and unrest, politicians and political parties make extensive promises to get into office. These promises rarely, if ever, come to fruition. The individual politician however sincere and well meaning, gains political authority by entering into a system whose foundation is the overarching power imbalance between those who govern and those who are governed. The political party however radical in its mandate succumbs to the pressure of winning and maintaining power, bowing to the influence of dominant economic interests.
So-called progressive politicians, like Hamilton’s Ward 3 City Councilor Matthew Green use the momentum of grassroots initiatives to gain political traction. Green boasts on his website: “I am YOUR advocate at city hall, so that I can help us foster real, lasting, positive change in our neighbourhoods”. Green notes that all across the city people are involved in making their neighbourhoods better and all that “we need now is coordination”. This coordination of course, is to be provided by him. Exploiting language of community engagement and social justice, Green positions himself as the professional representative and ultimately the gatekeeper of social change in the city. Similarly, in the riding of Hamilton Center NDP politicians David Christopherson (MP) and Andrea Horwath (MPP) position themselves as leaders fighting for the rights of working families in the city. Christopherson claims to have “led the charge to defend Hamiltonians from the fallout of Stelco’s 2007 foreign takeover by U.S. Steel”. While Horwath brags of being a community organizer who has helped facilitate the revitalization of Hamilton’s downtown core. Yet, the steel industry and its workers have been devastated, and revitalization has meant nothing more than the import of hip businesses at the expense of the mass displacement of poor Hamiltonians. Meaningful change does and cannot come from any level of government. Politicians do not defend our interests – we must defend ourselves and defend our city.
Putting aside the question of politicians, political parties, and who they serve, the act of voting is in and of itself a problem. Democracy, contrary to popular characterizations, is innately disempowering. It creates a pacifying situation in which we give up our responsibility and our power – in all matters we defer to our elected representatives. As individuals and within our communities, our capacity to take action, to shape our lives and our surroundings, is severely hindered by the logic of democracy. We’re taught that decision-making and collective problem solving is a matter for the professionals, rather than each and everyone one of us. The passive act of casting a ballot is not the epitome of political participation, but a hollow substitute. Anarchists want more.
We want decisions to be made by those most intimately affected by them. We want our daily lives to be shaped by our personal desires and our communities shaped by our collective will. We possess the capacity for so much more agency than democracy gives us credit for. When we abandon the democratic reasoning of representatives and stop pleading to those in power, we open up incredible possibilities as we move from asking to acting. A problem in your neighbourhood shifts from an issue to bring to city council to an issue to be dealt with by neighbours themselves. A desire to see some sort of social change moves from a matter of petitioning and voting to a matter of taking direct action. And as we act, we build the relationships, skills, and knowledge necessary to take control over our lives.
Returning to the original question: Is democracy worth all of the hype? For anarchists, the answer is a resounding no.
A Divided City Along Race, Status and Class.
Hamilton is a divided city, built by migrant’s labour and maintained by separation. As new immigrants and refugees move in, they’re stuck settling into the same destitute and precarious conditions that affect many of us. In a city where 20% of the population is broke and living mostly down-mountain or in high-rises across the city, half of Hamilton’s newest immigrants are living in poverty. Our city has long been known as a landing pad for refugees, with percentages double the national average. Social service industries have been established or moved here to encourage this, influencing how the city grows, including its racial make up and its economy.
Thanks to racist political maneuverings, refugee boards continue to reject applicants forcing many to choose to go undocumented rather than be deported. With few options available for supporting themselves, many people who find themselves in this situation turn to work in unregulated jobs. In these precarious situations, migrants and refugees become subject to their bosses, landlords and other parasites who prey on the dubious legal status of these newcomers to steal their wages, benefits, security and personal safety. The rejection of refugees’ claims isn’t a broken system, but rather one part of a government process which has always propped up economies and undercut laws which claim to provide a basic standard of living.
Truthfully, in Canada, the state and capitalism produce a subdivided underclass, along lines of race and citizenship, which guarantee rights to some at the expense of others. These lines of exclusion aren’t limited to status. We can point to income gaps between new migrants and those born in Canada in the Canadian workforce or the state violence and underdevelopment of black, afro-caribbean and indigenous communities across the GTHA which force many into the risky, unregulated economies of drugs and B&E’s.
With the refugee crisis grabbing headlines in 2016, lines have further been drawn in Hamilton as anti-immigrant sentiment is batted around like it’s ones patriotic duty. We argue that this crisis is a manufactured one, caused by the forced displacement of peoples from conflicts in the Middle East, Colombia and Central/Eastern Africa. The individual causes of displacement and migration are many, stemming from historical or ethnic conflicts dating back to the start of empires; land theft and border militarization of indigenous lands; devastating resource extraction or the political collapse of economies and workplaces. Yet all of these problems find their roots in the motives and influences of a wealthy minority who exploit conflicts, territories, and lives to make profits, do business and maintain a pool of exploited labourers. Contrary to popular conception, global migration is in large part NOT to wealthy nations but rather, migration crosses the globe forcing people to remain uprooted in the global south as a precarious, exploitable workforce that represents a global war against the poor.
Part and parcel of this war is the pitting of people against each other across the lines of nationality. In Canada, nationalism is more commonly referred to as patriotism, and everyone is conditioned from a young age to believe that loving your country is one of the most important, natural things you can do. Nationalism relies on grand, unifying narratives to bind populations together in pursuit of a common destiny. Canadian nationalism came from mostly French and British settlers who forged a new collective national identity, born of the shared experience of racial domination over Indigenous nations, enslaved Africans and the intense exploitation of Chinese migrants.
Rather than limiting ourselves to the narrow perspective of nationalism, anarchists put forward the competing concept of internationalism. This flows from the realization that borders and nations are artificial constructs meant to divide us, and that struggles for freedom and dignity waged anywhere in the world are deserving of our solidarity and support. That rather than fighting and dying in wars for the sake of the rich and powerful, oppressed people should unite to wage war against our common oppressors. And finally, that for humanity to reach its full potential, and come together to confront the problems that we face as a species, we require nothing less than a global revolution against state and capitalism.
Let’s have each other’s backs…
‘Divide and conquer’ is a strategy as old as time. A tool of those in power to sow social division, it facilitates domination and weakens the possibility for collective action. There are more of us than there are of them. Those who rule are an elite minority, There are more workers than bosses, and far more everyday people than there are politicians. Given this issue of numbers, much energy has historically and continues to be put towards keeping us divided. Divisions within our society act to create a hierarchy of the oppressed under which those who are otherwise exploited can exercise power over others in their daily lives. The unemployed, women, people of colour and indigenous folks generally fall near the bottom of this hierarchy.
Serving the interests of those in power, we compete amongst ourselves to be more like our shared enemy to become wealthier, more influential. We do this by trying to separate ourselves from the people we have shared interests with. We complain about immigrants taking ‘our jobs’. We hate on ‘those people’ on social assistance, people with disabilities, single moms doing their best to raise children with minimal resources. We reject people trying to get through the day by using drugs or alcohol to cope, people who may not conform to rigid gender roles or forms of sexuality, people who do sex work as a means to support themselves. We enforce and perpetuate social hierarchies against our shared interest.
Hand in hand with the creation of capitalism in 15th century Europe, came the creation of new divisions and hierarchies. Acts of resistance were demonized. Agitators were persecuted, as in the widespread witch-hunts. Communities were divided and ripped apart by superstitious fear of witches, propping up the development of governments ‘need to protect people’ and a ‘justice system’ to make things ‘fair.’ Part of this process involved demoting women to non-persons in the eyes of the law, kicking them out of professions, and banishing them to the family home. Women became the property of husbands who were responsible for their control. Violence within families was framed as righteous discipline with the help of the church. Suspicion and fear destroyed strong community bonds, squash people’s revolts against the feudal system. People had less time to organize against the state because they had to be suspicious of their neighbours and concerned about following the rules to avoid death or torture.
People had to focus on making sure those within their own family followed the rules as well. The family became a ‘mini-state’ with the father as chief and affairs governed internally, no longer the business of the community. This allowed for men to work long hours selling their labour, while women did the unpaid labour taking care of them. Women obeyed husbands and made sure the children followed the new rules so they too could go on to create their own future families of disciplined workers. Family violence, though pre-existing, was institutionalized with laws such as the ‘rule of thumb’ which stated women were only to be beaten with sticks no broader than the husband’s thumb. (Disciplining of children took on a similar form.) Women were no longer seen as competent people with rights, but as sexual objects who were responsible for bearing children andproviding pleasure. They were then castas weak, foolish, and lusty, and thus in need of men’s supervision and discipline. Over time this became the new ‘normal’.
This whole process was brought to the ‘New World’ and intensified. Colonization cast indigenous people as uncivilized and deserving of genocide. this barbaric process of ‘civilizing and re-educating’ involved shaming, torture, and sexual violence which has long been used as a tactic of subjugation. African slaves were seen as demons and used to work the stolen Native land for the benefit of wealthy Europeans and the settlers that participated in the process.
This environment of hierarchy is still present today not only in the government who rules us, but within our daily lives. Those who sign our paycheques and who have the power to evict us from our homes exert power and control over us. In our workplaces and in our neighbours we need to fight against this exploitation, but we also must simultaneously wage a battle at the level of the family and our personal relationships. Domination flourishes when we are willing to disempower others for small gains whether we are aware or not of our choices and their impacts on others.
As we begin to root out the ways hierarchy exists within our actions and relationships, we begin to take responsibility for ourselves with dignity. We build real power to stand for ourselves and to work with others doing the same. Recognizing our unity is a threat to the capitalist system and the state that maintains its inherent inequality. Anarchists know that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely. The popular notion of ‘anarchy’ is ‘chaos’ but in actuality it means ‘against rulers.’ Anarchism believe in people’s capacity to create order together in a cooperative and equal way where we all benefit and get a say, and no one is dominated.