#50: The History and Future of Prison Strikes

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#50: The History and Future of Prison Strikes and Solidarity — As we build momentum towards the September 9th national prison strike, we want to reflect on lessons learned from past generations of prison rebels, as well as how we can maintain energy on September 10th and beyond. In Episode 50 of the Ex-Worker, solidarity organizer Ben Turk fills us in on some history of prisoner organizing in recent decades, recaps some of the solidarity actions that have taken place leading up to this year’s historic strike, and offers perspective on continuing and deepening our resistance to prison society. We commemorate the death of Jordan MacTaggart, an American anarchist killed on the front lines in battle with the YPG against the Islamic State, and discuss international solidarity and the politics of martyrdom with Rojava Solidarity NYC. The death of John Timoney, former police chief and notorious foe of anarchists, prompts both glee and a somber reflection on the misery he inflicted on us. A member of Revolutionary Anarchist Action (DAF) in Istanbul discusses the background to the recent failed military coup as well as recent waves of anti-anarchist repression. A call for solidarity from la ZAD, news, events, and prisoner birthdays round out this packed episode.

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.

#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.

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.

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.

Destination Anarchy/Every Step Is an Obstacle

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In summer 2011, tens of thousands of people came together in Syntagma Square in front of the Greek parliament in Athens to express a complete rejection of the government and experiment with direct democracy. At the high point of the protests, over a hundred thousand people clashed with the authorities. Years later, many of the people who flooded Syntagma have poured into the ranks of the ruling party, Syriza, or the fascist party Golden Dawn. In this reflective account, a Greek anarchist narrates the events of 2011 and the developments since then, illustrating the ways that one day’s steps towards liberation become the next day’s obstacles and drawing out the questions that anarchists will have to answer to open the way to freedom.

Read the feature here.

This text is an installment in a series exploring the anarchist analysis of democracy, tracing the trajectories of directly democratic movements around the world.

From 15M to Podemos

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In May 2011, protesters inspired by the Arab Spring occupied plazas across Spain in lively anti-government demonstrations centered around directly democratic assemblies. This was the first of a wave of such movements that spread across Europe and the world. Five years later, the energy that began as a push for participatory politics has been channeled into the rise of new Spanish political parties. Is this a corruption of the discourse of the plaza occupation movement, or its logical conclusion?

Read the feature here.

This eyewitness account is an installment in our series exploring the anarchist analysis of democracy.

Series: The Anarchist Critique of Democracy

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What is democracy, precisely? Will it ever deliver on what it promises? How significant is the difference between state democracy and direct democracy? Is anarchism a kind of direct democracy, or something else entirely? And how do democratic discourse and procedures serve the social movements that adopt them?

This spring, we’re publishing a ten-part series exploring these questions, presenting an anarchist analysis of democracy in all its forms. The flagship text, “From Democracy to Freedom,” traces democracy from its origins up to today, examining its representative, direct, and consensus-based variants. We’ll follow up with case studies from participants in several of the recent movements that have been acclaimed as models of direct democracy: 15M in Spain (2011), the occupation of Syntagma Square in Greece (2011), Occupy in the United States (2011-2012), the Slovenian uprising (2012-2013), the plenums in Bosnia (2014), and the Rojava revolution (2012-2016). We’ll conclude the series with guest contributions on the subject from Paul Z. Simons, Uri Gordon, and others.

To kick off the series, we’ve prepared an updated online version of our classic text on this subject, The Party’s Over. We also encourage everyone to read the English translation of Contra la Democracia (“Against Democracy”) from Spain. Here’s an incomplete syllabus for the whole series:

The Party’s Over
From Democracy to Freedom
From Democracy to Freedom Audio Zine
From 15M to Podemos: The Regeneration of Spanish Democracy
Destination Anarchy! Every Step Is an Obstacle (from Syntagma to Syriza)
Democracy and Autonomy in the Occupy Movement
“Gotovo je!”: Reflections on Direct Democracy in Slovenia
Born in Flames, Died in Plenums: The Bosnian Experiment with Direct Democracy
Lessons from Rojava: Democracy and Commune (Paul Z. Simons)
Democracy: The Patriotic Temptation (Uri Gordon)

You’re invited to form a reading group to participate in this project! We have set up a discussion platform where groups around the world can compare notes on the texts and the topic itself, in hopes of drawing on the conversation for a future episode of the Ex-Worker podcast. If you’re interested, get together some friends and write us at rollingthunder@crimethinc.com for details.

Further Reading

Democracy’s Bankrupt
Contra la Democracia
Malatesta: Neither Democrats, nor Dictators: Anarchists and Democracy and Anarchy