#49: September 9th National Prison Strike

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#49: September 9th National Prison StrikeThe Ex-Worker is back! And just in time, because a potentially historic national prisoner strike is just around the corner. In our 49th episode, we discuss the upcoming September 9th strike to end prison slavery, with an interview with the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee. You’ll also hear a review of Dan Berger’s book Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights
Era
; an interview with an anarchist from the UK about the Brexit vote; listener feedback on Spanish revolutionary militias, Comintern, and parallels with Rojava; updates on Kara Wild, a trans anarchist incarcerated in Paris; a letter from trans anarchist prisoner Jennifer Gann; plus news, prisoner birthdays,
event announcements, and plenty more.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.

The Democracy of the Reaction, 1848-2011

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What harm could possibly come of using the discourse of democracy to describe the object of our movements for liberation? We can answer this question with a fable drawn from history: the story of the uprising that took place in Paris in June 1848.

In addition, to commemorate the June 1848 uprising, 168 years ago this week, we’ve prepared a biography of one of its many colorful participants, including the first translation into English of the only surviving account from the proletarian side of the barricades.

Read on.

Democracy: The Patriotic Temptation

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In this installment in our series exploring the anarchist critique of democracy, guest author Uri Gordon discusses the attractions and risks of democratic discourse.

Like most political words, democracy is an “essentially contested” concept—its meaning is itself a political battleground. What political ideologies do, as mass patterns of political expression, is to “de-contest” or fix the meaning of such concepts and place them in particular relationships. The term “equality,” for example, can mean equal access to advantage (liberalism), equal responsibility to the national community (fascism), or equal power in a classless society (anarchism). On such a reading, there is no way objectively to determine the meaning of such concepts—all that exists are distinct usages, each of them regularly grouped with other concepts in one or another ideological formation.

I would therefore like to suspend the discussion of the appropriate conceptual understanding of democracy, and instead ask about the strategic choice to employ the term. Is it worthwhile for anarchists to de-contest “democracy” in ways that point towards statelessness and non-domination? Two arguments follow. The first is that anarchist invocations of democracy are a relatively new and distinctly American phenomenon. The second is that the invocation is problematic, because its rhetorical structure and audience targeting almost inevitably end up appealing to patriotic sentiments and national origin myths.

Read the essay.

Rojava: Democracy and Commune

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In the latest installment in our series exploring the anarchist critique of democracy, guest author Paul Z. Simons offers us a meditation on revolutionary forms of organization. Drawing on his experiences in Rojava in 2015, he contrasts conventional democratic practices with what he has seen of democratic confederalism and evaluates the federation of communes as a model for North American anarchists. At a time when the ruling order has been discredited but there are very few proposals for how else to shape our lives, Simons suggests some much-needed points of departure.

Read on.

Confronting Cops and Klan in Stone Mountain

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On April 23, 2016, hundreds of people gathered to oppose a rally called by the Ku Klux Klan at Stone Mountain Park, Georgia. This convergence brought together a wide range of groups committed to shutting down the KKK. The crowd circumvented several blockades consisting of hundreds of local officers, riot police, and state SWAT teams to reach the parking lot where the white supremacists were assembling.

This was just one of many events in the wave of black-led revolt since the eruption in Ferguson, Missouri in August 2014 following the murder of Mike Brown. To understand the context of what happened in Stone Mountain, we have to pan back across the struggles of the preceding years. In this report, we recount the demonstrations that led up to this one and offer a blow-by-blow account of the action for everyone who may have to mobilize in response to similar rallies in the years to come.

Full article after the break.

Born in Flames, Died in Plenums

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In the latest installment of our series exploring the role of democracy in the struggles of the past decade, we trace the Bosnian uprising of 2014 from its first fiery days though the massive directly democratic plenums that swept the country to its rapid collapse and the return of business as usual. Enthusiasts of direct democracy all around the world reported eagerly on the plenums when they were at their peak, but within three months they had died away. What can we learn from this brief explosion of popular assemblies? What was its relationship with the riots that opened up an opportunity for social change? Why was it possible for the government to reestablish order?

Read the feature.

Reflections on Direct Democracy in Slovenia

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In winter 2012-13, a massive wave of protests swept Slovenia, a small country in the northern Balkans. It started in the second largest city, Maribor, a de-industrialized husk that was once the center of Slovenia’s vanished automobile industry. The corrupt mayor had installed speed-checking radar at every major crossroads, resulting in hundreds of already impoverished people being charged with penalties they could not afford to pay, for the profit of a private company. In a series of clandestine attacks and public demonstrations, people burned the speed-checking devices one by one, then gathered on the squares and streets to inform the mayor by means of Molotov cocktails, rocks, and everything else they could get hold of that he was no longer welcome in their town. In response to the initial police repression, solidarity protests spread around the country in a matter of a few days. They lasted for six months.

On one hand, these protests were a reaction to the disastrous effects of the transition from socialism to free market capitalism, which left many people poor and humiliated. On the other hand, from the beginning, they were clearly aimed against those who held institutional political power. This was the biggest self-organized struggle in Slovenia since the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991. It brought down the mayor of Maribor and the national government—but more importantly, it opened up a space in which it became possible to invent new forms of autonomous action and to question representative democracy.

This is part of our series exploring the role of democracy in the struggles of the past decade.

Read the feature.

#48: From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine

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#48: From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine — Welcome back to the Ex-worker! We’re eschewing our typical format once again to bring you our second audio zine, a production of Crimethinc.’s new text From Democracy to Freedom. This release coincides with the announcement of an online platform for participating in decentralized reading groups and online discussions on this text as well as the others in the series exploring questions around democracy, and how we relate to it as anarchists.

You can download this and all of our previous episodes online. You can also subscribe in iTunes here or just add the feed URL to your podcast player of choice. Rate us on iTunes and let us know what you think, or send us an email to podcast@crimethinc.com. You can also call us 24 hours a day at 202–59-NOWRK, that is, 202–596–6975.

Anarchy and Democracy Reading Groups!

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This month, we are publishing a series exploring an anarchist analysis of democracy, including case studies from anarchist participants in directly democratic movements around the world. As an offline counterpart to the series, we invite you to organize discussion groups about the relation between democracy and anarchy. We’re not finished thinking through this topic, and we want your help engaging with these questions. Our hope is that together we can produce new ideas and tactics that can be put to use in the next wave of unrest.

To facilitate all this, we’ve prepared print-ready PDF of the flagship text in the series, “From Democracy to Freedom”:

From Democracy to Freedom imposed PDF [6.5mb]

To complement what we hope will be a network of such discussion groups, we’ve established a participatory forum utilizing our comrades’ platform Crabgrass, here:

we.riseup.net/democracyandanarchy

Here’s how to use the forums:

  1. Visit we.riseup.net and make yourself a user profile.
  2. Click on the “Settings” tab and configure your profile to match your needs.
  3. Click on the “Groups” tab at the top left of the page (next to the raven icon).
  4. From the “Groups” tab, select “Search” from your options on the left. Type “democracyandanarchy” into the search box and click “Search.”
  5. Join the “democracyandanarchy” forum by clicking on it and then clicking “Join Organization” on the left. This enables you to read and contribute to discussion threads.
  6. Commence critiquing the articles, posing and answering hard questions, summarizing the discussions you’ve had offline, and more!

Ideally, we’d like people to meet in person to discuss the texts, even in groups as small as two, and to use the online forum to compare your thoughts with other groups and pose each other questions. If you lack offline community, or want to share the discussion from your local group, we hope the forum can connect you with others who share your interests. The Ex-Worker podcast will draw material from the discussions on the forum to include in future episodes of the podcast.

You can draw from and add to a list of discussion questions for reading groups at the forum site. If you have technical questions about using Crabgrass or other Riseup services, try the Crabgrass Help Pages. You can also email us at rollingthunder@crimethinc.com.

Read on here for some discussion questions.

Steal Something from Work Day 2016

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Today we take a break from our ongoing series about the anarchist critique of democracy to observe an annual day of action, Steal Something from Work Day.

Today is April 15—in the US, the day that taxes are usually due to the federal government. Ironically, this time tax day has been moved back to Monday so the IRS can celebrate Emancipation Day—which the rest of us have no opportunity to celebrate, chained as we are to the grindstone. Slavery has been abolished, but wage slavery persists.

The government steals a part of our labor in the form of taxes. Our employers steal a part of our labor in the form of profit. And the necessity of working steals our lives, one day after another—it steals us from each other, forcing us to toil to keep the bills paid rather than being creative together or spending time with our children.

We can build towards a worldwide movement to abolish the imposed scarcities and controls that force this situation on us. But in the meantime, we have to be pragmatic, to do the best we can with the opportunities available to us. That’s why people all around the world celebrate April 15 as Steal Something from Work Day.

For this year’s heartening account of workplace theft and a selection of Steal Something from Work Day resources, read on.