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Great Anarchists | Review

Anarchism, despite being a rich historical tradition with theorists and thinkers from all over the world, and which has influenced a great many social movements, is unfairly maligned at times. Some pigeon hole it as an anachronism, based on the worship of a prelapsarian past; a mindset of the small-society and essentially obsolete today. Others malign it as overtly and centrally European, unequipped to deal with the struggles faced by people of colour and colonised peoples today who may demand a nationalism of their own for the sake of safety. Beyond this, some – often of the more traditionally Marxist stripe – tend to label it utopian and divorced from material change: too busy focused on what could be to deal with what is.

Given that these criticisms are some of the most common that anarchists, and Anarchism more broadly, face, there is always a concern when a book with a historical angle crosses the desk, and has a focus on the thinkers of the past. While it is unquestionably valuable for a modern movement to be aware of the thoughts and struggles of those who came before, is this not just re-affirming some of those critiques above to centralise them in a book of this kind? The pivotal issue of a work such as Ruth Kinna and Clifford Harper’s new Great Anarchists is whether it manages to avoid the trappings of simply repeating and glorifying those of the past, becoming a project of immediacy and relevance, or whether it becomes mired in celebrating long dead men.

Immediately the question is answered: in the introduction, they establish the important principal that, ‘although these contexts were special, many of the issues the anarchists wrestled with still plague our lives’, and that the purpose of the investigations in the book are ‘not just interesting archaeological exercises’, but instead opportunities to examine how classical anarchists thinkers influenced modern movements and offer insight into lessons that apply to modern living. From the very beginning, the project is set up with a powerful motivation towards a useful and ultimately successful goal.

Originally published as a series of pamphlets, Great Anarchists serves as a crash course through individual prominent anarchists and thinkers of influence to the anarchist movement, and to this extent each segment is dedicated to a single individual. Further, Clifford Harper’s beautiful illustrations begin each segment, showing an artful and striking portrait of the subject. The heavy, stark lines and strongly textured designs draw on images of classical woodcuts but without the clutter that can often confuse and bury less expert attempts at the style, and compliment the book in a unique manner. Addition of art such as this breaks up the text, and transforms Great Anarchists from a piece of raw educational material into a singular project, a kind of didactic art-book, fusing the theory with an aesthetic quality that calls to mind the aesthetic and joyful narratives implicit in so much of anarchist thinking.

Comprised of ten miniature biographies of thinkers associated with anarchism, one of the strengths of the project lies in the selections themselves. It would be tempting to approach a project such as this with the desire to nail down all of the ‘canonical’ thinkers, and it is precisely this temptation that Kinna and Harper avoid. While prominent names such as Kropotkin certainly appear, and it can be somewhat disconcerting to see a list of ‘great’ anarchists that doesn’t include Emma Goldman, the choice to include early pre-anarchist figures such as William Godwin, mavericks such as Max Stirner, and those with legacies which have been largely depoliticised by history and education such as Oscar Wilde, allows an image of anarchism to be built more broadly. Further, it implies a vital piece of information: anarchism is somewhat unique among ideological traditions in that while it invariably draws from thinkers in the past, there is no name-giving origin point or presumed ‘central’ figure of authority. Anarchism can be found in any number of places, drawn out from any number of thinkers, and there are more of them around than you might think.

Kinna’s clear and concise style provides a great sense of ease to the reading. Never difficult, there is an almost conversational tone to much of the writing which can allow a reader to almost miss exactly how much information is being presented. Further, and perhaps most importantly to avoid the curse of hagiography, Kinna is never afraid to present critiques of the figures contained in the book: whether it is highlighting Kropotkin’s infamous views on the First World War, Bakunin’s anti-Semitism, or the long-standing tension between Stirner and much of the general anarchist movement, there is always room for nuance in Great Anarchists, and it is precisely this care that avoids the book sliding into myth-making.

All of this is extremely positive, however, that does not mean that Great Anarchists is without some degree of concern. To begin with, there is the first and obvious issue of the selection covered. While it is absolutely true that, shy of writing a tome thousands of pages long, Kinna and Harper would always be forced to make decisions to exclude certain thinkers in a project of this kind, the choice of who to include is worth examining. Inclusions of Oscar Wilde and William Godwin are certainly appreciated, and as mentioned earlier, open up the world of anarchism more broadly than simply focusing on the anarchist ‘canon’ might have, however the limitations of the figures selected do seem evident: other than Lucy Parsons, every figure discussed in the text is white, and with no exception at all, every figure is either of European or North American origin. Given the generally European flavour of most early anarchist theory, it is difficult to critique Kinna and Harper themselves for this issue, but in a text in which they are willing to include figures who pre-date the anarchist movement (as typically thought of) itself, it seems slightly strange that no figures from Asian, African, or South American anarchism are discussed.

It must be emphasised that this is not a damning criticism, and does nothing to impact the valuable nature of the work that is included in Great Anarchists, nor is it intended to downplay the significance of any thinker who has been included. Instead, it simply must be stated that the anarchist movement is broad and multifaceted one, and it might have been nice to see an inclusion of a figure such as Itō Noe (to give but a single example) in order to reflect that and also to combat the idea of anarchism as being a Eurocentric concept.

Further, there is a single note worth making, which is that while the downsides of various thinkers as individuals is a subject of discussion – anti-Semitism, or personal views on war, as mentioned earlier – there is fairly little critique of their thought itself in the broader sense. As Great Anarchists is more of an introduction to thinkers on their own terms than a text of theory in its own right, this is not truly an issue in my view. However, it is easy to imagine an anarchist coming from an anti-civilisational or primitivist perspective taking issue with the discussion of Louise Michel’s support for scientific and technological advancement in an uncritical tone – addressing only potential ‘deeply unscientific practices’ – as if these views were in a state of firm consensus amongst the anarchist community in general.

Neither of these downsides counteract or deny the useful and overall very fun nature of Great Anarchists, which manages to achieve its stated goal of balancing historical education with an emphasis on shared struggle with the present almost effortlessly, and is an enjoyable read.

The question for someone new to the world of radical leftist thought – particularly anarchist thought – is often where to start learning. It can be incredibly difficult without any particular guide to know where to begin, both in terms of which thinkers one should approach first, but also the texts they wrote and which ones should be considered the most urgent to read. Perhaps the most commonly suggested classical anarchist work among modern radicals is Kropotkin’s The Conquest of Bread, and while still a fantastic work filled with powerful explanation and convincing argument, there is some truth to the claim that the style can be challenging for people with little background in reading older texts. By contrast, many of the attempts that have been made to write modern groundings and introductions to the radical movements of anarchism take an altogether different route and, while they do provide an overview of common perspectives, it is fairly normal for them to avoid delving too deeply into the history of anarchism. Preferring to give modern day examples, and discuss modern day events, this strategy can be very useful but for a number of new readers it can be frustrating: where did these ideas come from, the question is asked?

Kinna and Harper’s new collection strikes a delicate but vital balance between the two approaches. Maintaining constant connections with the movements and struggles of revolutionary groups and radical thinkers of today, they draw a line directly between historical writers and activists without entangling themselves too deeply in what might be intimidating theory for the newcomer; their language is clean and concise, and they refrain from approaching the topic with the assumption that any given reader will already know what they seek to discuss. Given this mixture of the present with the past, as well as the brilliant use of illustrations throughout the book, Great Anarchists takes a centre stage as one of the most useful and beautiful introductions to the history and, more importantly, the present of radical thought. While not without potential nitpicks, the next time you are pressed to show a curious individual something to get them tumbling into the radical movement, Great Anarchists should be near the top of the suggestions. ■

Jay Fraser
Jay is an anarchist, poet, amateur philosopher, and basketball fan. He did his degree in English at the University of Lincoln, and is a fan of animals, good coffee, and horror movies. You can find him on Twitter @JayFraser1, or trying to find his face mask for the millionth time.

Great Anarchists by Ruth Kinna and Clifford Harper is available now from Dog Section Press for £6. Visit www.dogsection.org/press to buy, and read online.

Ruth Kinna is a professor of Political Theory at Loughborough University, and is currently the editor of Anarchist Studies. Clifford Harper is a radical illustrator, whose work can be found in a number of radical publications.

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Tracksuits, Trauma, and Class Traitors | Review

An essay collection united around an examination of class, justice, and social perception, D. Hunter’s Tracksuits, Trauma, and Class Traitorsa powerful set of arguments delivered in a tone that switches from the personal to the academic with ease. Blending scholarship with experience, Hunter adopts the methodological framework of the auto/ethnography, and attempts to situate his often harrowing life experience within a framework that embraces class politics, restorative justice, and social understanding over the course of ten essays of varying length. As the author tells us in the introduction to the collection, ‘’one of the aims of this book was to emphasise not only the humanity, but also the insight, intellect, and determination of those living in poverty.’’

Following the author’s previous book Chav Solidarity, the thematic through-line is obvious, and Tracksuits follows through on many of the themes that were established previously. Despite this, there is no need to have read the prior work to understand the new one; this is perhaps one of the largest strengths of Tracksuits, as Hunter’s writing is clear and accessible even when dealing with some of the more academic subjects. Marrying the unornamented and raw background of their life experiences with the theoretical allows a window of insight that should make even those without much background in theory to dive in without any issue. This conversational and almost casual tone combined with the brevity of many of the essays makes it excellent introductory reading, and would be easy to pick up and dive into for anybody at any level of academic experience.

Hunter’s essay collection begins with a content warning, and although this review will not touch on everything mentioned by the author, it is my responsibility to warn any prospective readers to take the content warning serious; discussions of mental health issues, violence, drug usage, and sexual abuse are frequent throughout the book and there are visceral moments in the reading which may be difficult.

A question that is commonly asked is the role of theory and analysis on the left: for many, it is an interesting curiosity, but there is a lot of discussion of how central it should be. There are some who suggest that it is, in fact, obnoxious to insist on analysis; further, there are those who claim that theory is a barrier to the ‘real working class’, getting in the way of Real Politics. While there is some truth to that – others have written before on the class barriers built into education, as well as the difficulty of certain authors – there are also many (of whom I am a representative, in a small way) who believe that theory is often powerful and liberatory, and that there is an inbuilt classism and derision in insisting that people who are working class or from traumatic backgrounds are unable to grasp ‘advanced’ concepts.

Hunter provides a powerful example of the way theory should be used, or at least one vision for how it could be. Utilising the framework of personal experience, lived encounters with the harsh realities of life under the myriad oppressive structures of modern capitalist society, Hunter leans over the boundary between the ‘real’ class conflict and the analysis. Here, theory is a way to consider experience, to step back and think about it, rather than to dissociate from it, and Hunter’s writing moves from the merely demonstrative to the functional when it funnels trauma into, for example, ideas of restorative justice.

In the first major essay of the collection, ‘Naming Football Teams’, the question ultimately arises of how one is supposed to deal with having been wronged. Without going into the specifics, there is essentially a scenario in which somebody has harmed another in a way that seems to, under the current shape of society, scream out for punishment; for vengeance, even. There is a punitive urge that underlies out current cultural logic, but Hunter calls instead for ‘a form of justice that does not require cages, keys, police, courts, and a violent class system’, but rather a process designed to ‘deconstruct abusive interpersonal relationships, and generate responses to them which do not merely reproduce the same dynamics’. Essentially, it is a call for a justice based on empathy, but Hunter is not simply engaging in wishful thinking here: referencing various cultures which have engaged (and continue to engage) in justice that differs greatly from the carceral, as well as philosophers and activist groups, the outlines that reconciliatory justice may take are eminently practical, and yet are informed by the theory.

Another great strength of Hunter’s writing must be highlighted here; it is all too easy for somebody who is distanced from, say, Indigenous American culture to simply point to the Other from the comfort of whiteness and decide to pick and choose which elements of this culture are fit to adopt. Avoiding this trap, however, Hunter tries to clarify that they are ‘’careful not to stake a claim to ownership of these ideas’’. Vital to avoid a kind of mythologising of the Other, Hunter acknowledges these other justice systems as ideas from which to draw inspiration, to prompt the thought that there are other ways to do things, rather than simply claiming that any one none-white, none-European tradition is the true path to peace.

Careful consideration of race at the intersection of class returns more prominently in another later essay, ‘You’re Just a White Boy’. While the title of this essay from other authors could be worrying – we’re not going to get another self-serving narrative about the problems of being dismissed as white in progressive spaces, are we? – Hunter quickly does away with that, opening with a quote from Jackie Wang’s incisive book Carceral Capitalism, which describes whiteness as ‘’a category [that] is, in part, maintained by ritualized violence against black people’’, and the discussion does not get any more conciliatory from there. Hunter details his relationship with MD, someone who they have known for a long period of time and who is currently in prison, and whose blackness contrasts heavily with Hunter’s whiteness despite their shared experiences and background, and who is not afraid to confront Hunter with this; ‘’ He tells me he doesn’t know how much of my willingness to make the worst possible decision in every situation was generated by the assumption that being white I would get away with stuff. […] I reply by telling him that as a white person some of those repercussions don’t apply. He nods, but looks far off over my shoulder and says, “I reckon you don’t think they should, either”.’’

Hunter’s willingness to be challenged in these circumstances and to discuss the nature of that challenge is admirable, though it must be noted that admiration is clearly not the intention here. Moving from this personal connection and contemplation in a way that has become trademark of the author by this point in the book, Hunter crashes from anecdote to theory: ‘’ whiteness becomes a stigma that can nevertheless be inhabited as long as it is reflexively acknowledged as stigma.”, as the quote is given. Reminiscent of Slavoj Žižek’s conception of the ‘’liberal communist’’, who simultaneously disavows capitalism and inhabits it fully, allowing the disavowal to absolve him of his behaviour, Hunter outlines a perspective on race wherein as long as whiteness is performatively acknowledged and apologised for, it can be effectively surpassed. This perspective is rejected in part, in favour of a critique of whiteness that becomes more granular and sees the varieties of whiteness spread through the intersection of class and gender and sexuality and which acts in concrete ways to change everyday life. Yet we are reminded as the essay closes that this kind of examination, while important, is also one that is in part facilitated by the privilege whiteness grants: ‘’black people don’t make these cages, we just live in them. We just die in them. White people make them.’’, MD reminds us.

‘You’re Just a White Boy’ may be one of the most contentious pieces in the collection, if only for the difficulty in discussing such a monumental issue from a perspective that is necessarily cut off from that reality. Hunter takes great pains to be careful with the subject of race, acknowledging and expressing understanding of his own racial background and the differences in material conditions and experiences that people from other racial backgrounds have had to live with, but it is a difficult balance to strike. For some, it may not be entirely successful, but it does seem to be honest and frank, which mitigates some of the worst tendencies that this kind of writing can often inhabit: if it is not successful, it is at least not in bad faith, which is far from the worst misstep one could make when writing something of this kind.

While it would be very easy for me to continue in this fashion, recounting and detailing particular essays, that would be missing the point; the examples and discussions above serve to demonstrate some of the particulars to a reader and to examine that style of the analysis Tracksuits contains, but it would be inappropriate for me to continue removing pieces from context and breaking them down; instead, it is important to discuss the conclusions. After detailing and discussing various aspects of their own life and the lives of others, Hunter concludes with the following lines that echo Michel Foucault’s call in his introduction to Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti-Oedipus, which instructed us to kill the fascist inside our heads;

‘’We need to abolish the White supremacist in us, the ableist, the patriarch, the transphobe, the parts of ourselves that still think, feel, act and organise as if some humans are worth more than others, that some bodies matter more. This is collective work, this is done in vulnerability with one another, and with an openness to making mistakes, speaking the worst of ourselves and trusting in “our” class that we can find new answers to old questions.’’

This is the fundamental takeaway from Tracksuits, Trauma, and Class Traitors; the idea that the it is only through collective and communal work that recognises that the flaws in most people are not the result of their personal unpleasantness (although that can be a factor) but are in fact expressions of their lives, their circumstances, and the culture in which they have lived and survived. We have patriarchy inside us because it is impossible to escape the world, and the world is patriarchal; this is the same for white supremacy or ableism, or homophobia and transphobia, which are so commonplace as to be banal if not for their insidiousness. The way through this is not to personally disavow these things, as if stubborn refusal could change the world, but to work together, to communicate, to provide material aid wherever possible, and to challenge the world on our own terms and with the staunch acknowledgement that everyday life can and must be different.

While it is certainly possible to quibble with elements of Tracksuits – some people will certainly find the more graphic passages uncomfortable or even impossible to read, depending on their own experiences, and it is true that the tonal shifts can be abrupt and somewhat rough here and there – the final result of the collection is one that expresses solidarity and makes a demand for a new world that is made together. Ultimately, while Tracksuits fails to be a silver bullet for the world of social ills, and definitely will not be for everyone’s tastes, it does present a detailed portrait of a life lived in extreme difficulty but with a sense of awareness and sensitivity that is often left out of these kinds of narratives. Weaving back and forth through critical writing and biography, it is an experience that isn’t easily forgotten and which points arrows at many of the right places.

Jay Fraser

Jay is an anarchist, poet, amateur philosopher, and basketball fan. He can be found on Twitter, or anywhere that has good coffee.

Tracksuits, Trauma, and Class Traitors by D. Hunter
is available for pre-order from The Class Work Project and will be be released on the August 4th. You can follow D. Hunter on Twitter at @dhuntertheclaretchav

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Tear Gas | Knowledge Exchange

Let’s be clear about this.
Tear gas is a weapon of terror which is used to intimidate and disperse.
It is neither a “none lethal” nor “less lethal” option.

“Lacrimator Agent” as they are prone to call various chemicals which the police use was developed for use in war, it’s very invention was to skirt The Hague Conventions of 1899 which restricted “projectiles filled with poison gas”. The Great War saw it’s first use to clear trenches of unfortunate working class lads in the wrong uniform and along with an array of horrific weapons it’s use in warfare was outlawed by international agreement under the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925 which prohibits the use of “asphyxiating gas, or any other kind of gas, liquids, substances or similar materials”. It currently stands listed as part of the international trade in tools of torture by Amnesty International and yet remains a popular weapon of oppression by the majority of the worlds states.

However no one bothered to outlaw a countries use of such a horrific weapon on their own people and in the following years it became a standard tool of police to maintain order and obedience. It’s use as such first rose into the public consciousness when the Israelis used it during the first Intifada and it was discovered that the US had exported $6.5 million worth of tear-gas guns, grenades, launchers, and launching cartridges to Israel. The “less lethal” option took 40 lives during that conflict and left thousands others to suffer illness. More recently we’ve seen prodigious use on the streets of Hong Kong, Paris and Seattle to the much less documented use by U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) against émigrés more than once a month since the start of the Obama administration.


It’s become a favourite of despots as gas has a psychological impact that has long been utilised to control the victims of an attack since day dot. This effect was noticed by Amos Fries of the U.S. Chemical Warfare Service who commented “It is easier for man to maintain morale in the face of bullets than in the presence of invisible gas.” A truth then as it is now a hundred years later as I was entire blocks of Seattle drowning in noxious gas. It’s use was not to clear out any violent mob, but to assault peaceful protestors, mostly teenagers. Time and time again in protest footage we see police use tear gas canisters themselves as weapons, launching them directly into peoples bodies and faces. The results, horrific. A study from Iran observed the high rate of Vascular inurioes caused by such reckless brutality from the police “with high rates of associated nerve injury (44%) and amputation (17%)” in the study.

While ostensibly a last option tool to disperse violent mobs it has overwhelmingly become the weapon of choice of law enforcements seeking to harass and stymie any assembly with a mind to protest whether radically or peacefully. It may be banned as a weapon of war but it is seeing plenty of use as a weapon of fear and control.

TACTICAL INFO
Protests can be uncompromisingly disorganised. This is especially so when is has come together as a peaceful protest and the police have decided to turn it into a riot either by pushing tensions higher or simply by straight up attacking people. The best defence against the use of tear gas in this situation as it is in more conflict prone campaigns is the prepared comrades and autonomous affinity groups who are ready to deal with this specific threat.

One of the indirect defensive tools you have is fire. While not particularly great for the environment burn bins and tires create smoke, and specifically heavy smoke. This acts as a barrier for teargas, meaning that you can block it from going towards the demo/rioters/you name it. If able you will want to ensure that the cops will not use teargas in the first place and the best method here is to to disable their masks.

In Greece, they do this by spraying lines of cops with powdered fire extinguisher, which cloggs up their gas masks and makes them think twice before using it. In Catalan protestors covered the police in paint. This can be used to reduce visibility of gas masks and riot helmet alike and if it’s a weapon being used they are less likely to deploy tear gas as it will mean they could be trapped with zero visibility. Effective ways to do this are with water bombs filled with paint solutions, or even water guns or garden spraying equipment. Make sure to use none toxic paint tho, for legal and environmental concerns.

If you are partaking in unrest where you know the police are liable to use chemical agents consider volunteering yourselves to be “gas response”. That is, protestors who are armed with devices to cover tear gas canisters and drown them in water. They is best done in teams of three or four. You’ll need someone to hold the container and someone to pour the water with preferably a couple of friends dedicating their energy to locating canisters and spotting police about to fire them. Ideally you want to respond immediately and minimise the spread and the effect on others. You will need respirators or at the very least masks,goggles and good thick gloves. Cannisters can be hot and will burn you.

The basic methodology is to quickly cover the canister and pour water all over it. A popular container is a traffic cone or for the prepared the top half of a plastic milk container. However the former is very water inefficient and the later can be quite fiddly, especially in the heat of the moment. It you have the resources and want to come prepared consider using the Printable “Anti Gas Kettle” as developed by Corgian which solves both issues at the expensive of a sizeable printing project. Download the files here on sketchfab.

Corgian asks that anyone looking to provide some material support do so to FOR THE GWORLS who helps black trans women get reaffrimative surgery as well as help them pay rent.

If you are operating solo you’ll was a water battle with a wide opening and put the tear gas cannisters inside preferably using tongs of fire retardant gloves.

Either way you’ll want several bottles of water ready to go (preferably with a good source nearby to top up) and a separate water proof bag with water in for collecting empty cannisters.

If you’re not able to dowse cannisters you can always remove the immediately threat by returning to sender. Either quickly grab the canisters and chuck them back – not very safe mind and use gloves! Heck if you’re sporting go Greek and get in some tennis practice by bringing along a racket or just be give it a good punt like this Palestinian lawyer…


MEDICAL INFO

If you are attending an action where you think you are likely to be attacking with chemical agents consider doing some prep the day before. Respirators which cover the eyes are a must, any Charcoal lines filter will do the job Tho ideally you’d have one rated to FFP2 (N95). If you shave your hair, do so the day before to allow micro-cuts to heal. If you have signicant facial hair, consider cutting it down or shaving it o to help your respirator achieve a better seal. There is a reason the army are limited to moustaches and this is it.

Before going out for an event where you expect teargas you should shower, and then do not apply makeup or other greasy stuff to your skin (like moisturisers etc) Teargas binds with grease so it is a fucker if you come to riots well-moisturised and with makeup.
Especially makeup is bad, as people tend to apply it to sensitive areas such as eyes

There are an array of compounds and blends used to the similar effect. the two primary agents are CN (phenacyl chloride or chloroacetophenone) and CS (2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile) tho notable amongst the rest are CR (dibenzoxazepine) and DM (diphenylaminechlorarsine)

Exploding tear gas grenades as well as launched cannisters that are improperly or maliciously red can cause injuries beyond the intended chemical irritation. Patients struck by cannisters may have thermal burns, contusions, bone fractures, lacerations, avulsion, amputations, or concussions. A hit to the torso, neck, or head can kill a protester.

CS is the most commonly used tear gas. Because it is so common, the literature that discusses the effects of different tear gasses typical does so by comparing their effects to CS. CN, also known as mace, is less common as it is more toxic than CS gas. CR is less toxic than CS

but a stronger irritant. CR can be identified by its pale, yellow colour and pepper-like odour. Patients whose skin is contaminated with CR may experience severe pain when wet, either during decontamination with water or due to sweating. DM is also known as adamsite and “green gas” due to its noticeable green colour. DM’s effects are similar to that of CS. The onset of symptoms is slower, but the duration of symptoms is longer, sometimes lasting over 12 hours.

CS, CN, CR, and DM are not actually gasses. They are aerosols (a suspension of fine particles in a secondary gas). They are distributed by dissolving them in a solvent, evaporating them through thermal reaction, or turning them into a micro-powder.

Symptoms of exposure to all tear gasses are generally similar. Under low concentrations, tear gas causes a burning sensation in mucous membranes, especially the eyes. Other effects are tearing of the eyes, increase nasal mucus production, and coughing. Moderate concentrations and longer exposure lead to profuse coughing, blepharospasm (involuntary closing of the eyelid), increased salivation, difficulty breathing (dyspnoea), prostration (doubling over), burning and stinging sensations on the skin, disorientation, dizziness, syncope (fainting), headache, tachycardia, and vomiting. Heavy concentrations, especially in enclosed spaces, can lead to death by asphyxiation or pulmonary edema. Patients with pre-existing respiratory disorders such as asthma are more sensitive to tear gas and exposure to even small quantities can be life-threatening.

TREATMENT BASICS

The following steps should be followed for treating patients exposed to “Riot Control Agents” or RCAs.

Introduce yourself to the patient. The patient may be blinded or disoriented, so will need to clearly introduce yourself before touching and treating them. This is true in general, but doubly so when they are alert but incapacitated. Failure to do so can lead to them striking out at you.

Remove the patient from the RCA. Pepper spray is short range and exposure happens during brief usage, but tear gas often makes air noxious for many minutes. Patients need to be moved away from tear gas before treatment can begin. Attempt to move the patient upwind from clouds of tear gas or burning cannisters. Tear gas is heavier than air, so if possible, move your patient to higher ground. In urban settings, you may be able to enter the foyer or courtyard of an apartment or building where the air is fresher.

Remove contact lenses. If the patient has RCA on their face or eyes, they should remove their contact lenses. Flushing the eyes can push contact lenses up into the eye socket. Ask your patient if they are wearing contact lenses, and if so, direct the patient to remove them before treatment. If the patient cannot open their eyes or is incapable of removing the contacts, you may need to flush their eyes until they can open them to remove the contacts. Some patients will attempt to save their contact lenses and reinsert them after you have decontaminated their eyes. You should advise them against putting the contacts back in and suggest they dispose of them immediately. However, they may have significantly impaired vision without lenses and will not be able to get home or continue participating in the action without their contacts. They may also have financial restrictions and not want to dispose of a new pair of lenses. Whatever the case may be, they may put the contacts in regardless of what you say, so your job is to help minimize recontamination and associated pain. After treatment, assist the patient with cleaning their lenses. Have them wash their hands using the solution from your bottle. Then, have them them rub their contacts together between their finger and thumb as your slowly stream water onto the lenses for at least 30 seconds. This will help remove a majority of the RCA before they put their lenses back in. After they put their lenses back in their eyes, you may need to help them gently flush out residual RCA.

Prevent the patient from touching the effected area. A patient’s instinct will be to rub the effected body part, especially the eyes and face, while contaminated and after decontamination. This can make the contamination worse and spread it to other body parts. When RCAs are deployed, no one should touch their eyes at all except to remove contact lenses.

Allow tear and mucus production. If water or saline are not available, natural tear and mucus production will eventually remove the RCA. RCA on the skin breaks down and washes o over time. Even without intervention, patients will recover, albeit much more slowly. Remove contaminated clothing. If the patient is heavily contaminated with pepper spray or tear gas, they may need to remove their clothes to prevent continued irritation. Masks and bandannas need to be removed before decontaminating the face, but other clothing can be removed after.

Decontaminate the body part. If the RCA is CR, attempt to brush and dust o as much RCA as possible. Avoid use of water or other liquids to decontaminate the patient unless they are already wet or sweaty, or the RCA is in their eyes (which are already wet). For other RCAs, flush the body part with large amounts of water. For parts of the body other than the eyes, spraying large amounts of water on the effected body part is sufficient. Specifics techniques for decontaminating the eyes are covered later in this chapter. Because pepper spray is oily, it may be useful to gently dab or wipe the effected area with gauze to remove the bulk of the pepper spray. Vigorously rubbing and scrubbing will exacerbate the pain. During treatment for both pepper spray and tear gas, attempt to prevent run off from spreading the RCA to other parts of the patient’s body or your body, especially mucous membranes or open wounds.

Rinse the patient’s mouth. Patients should rinse their mouth with water or saline to remove the RCA. Even in the absence of burning or irritating sensations in the mouth, a mouth rinse is encouraged as it helps remove the taste and it helps them feel cleansed.

Allow coughing and sneezing. If your patient is coughing or sneezing, allow them to continue as this is the body’s natural response and it will help remove the RCA. Give your patient tissue or gauze, and have them blow their nose.

Use refrigerant spray. For patients who have been contaminated with pepper spray, spray the effected areas with refrigerant spray. Use of refrigerant spray does not have an effect on pain levels beyond the immediate treatment, but it psychologically helps patients feel treated. Spray the effected areas for 3 to 5 seconds. Beware the refrigerant spray with cause a burning sensation on open wounds an mucous membranes. If the patient’s face was contaminated, instruct them to close their eyes and mouth and exhale slowly through their nose while your spray them. Consider use of an inhaler. If your patient is asthmatic, remind them to use their inhaler. If you carry a Salbutamol inhaler in your medic kit, consider suggesting they use it to self-medicate.

Consider treating for hypothermia. Patients may remove contaminated clothing, and clothing may be wet from treatment. On cool or breezy days, this can contribute to hypothermia. Consider wrapping the patient in an emergency blanket so they do not have to put back on their contaminated clothes.

Consider other complications. Patients may appear to be generally fine when you begin treatment, but you should still pay attention to their respiratory rate and overall complexion as you treat them. Patients may develop delayed respiratory distress or hyperventilation, or they may go into shock as their adrenaline wears off.

Instruct the patient on how to decontaminate at home. When you discharge the patient, direct them on how to safely decontaminate when they get home. Clothing should be removed before entering their home. Tear gas residue, especially CR, should be vacuumed o clothing and the body before entering the home. If it is available, an ultra-low particulate air (ULPA) or high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) vacuum should be used to suck up as much tear gas residue as possible. The patient should throw out the vacuum bag after use to prevent spreading tear gas. Clothing should be washed separately from other items, twice, and with a harsh detergent. If clothing cannot be immediately washed, direct them to put it into a sealed plastic bag until they can wash it. The patient should shower in a well ventilated room using the coldest water possible for at least 20 minutes. Warm water opens pores and may cause additional burning sensations, so patients should shower with the coldest water they can tolerate until the feeling of burning stops. Likewise, scrubbing effected areas should be avoided until burning stops.

For further information download Riot Medicine here.

It’s worth adding that several solutions have been developed, some of these such as Viniger or Baby Shampoo solutions are dubious and there is little reason to think they are effective and may act as an irritant themselves. Comrades in Greece however have long used milk of magnesia, specifically Maalox brand but any will do.

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The Demands of CHAZ | Statements

THE DEMANDS OF THE COLLECTIVE BLACK VOICES AT FREE CAPITOL HILL TO THE GOVERNMENT OF SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

In credit to the people who freed Capitol Hill, this list of demands is neither brief nor simplistic. This is no simple request to end police brutality. We demand that the City Council and the Mayor, whoever that may be, implement these policy changes for the cultural and historic advancement of the City of Seattle, and to ease the struggles of its people. This document is to represent the black voices who spoke in victory at the top of 12th & Pine after 9 days of peaceful protest while under constant nightly attack from the Seattle Police Department. These are words from that night, June 8th, 2020.

For ease of consideration, we’ve broken these demands into four categories: The Justice System, Health and Human Services, Economics, and Education.

Given the historical moment, we’ll begin with our demands pertaining to the Justice System.

  1. The Seattle Police Department and attached court system are beyond reform. We do not request reform, we demand abolition. We demand that the Seattle Council and the Mayor defund and abolish the Seattle Police Department and the attached Criminal Justice Apparatus. This means 100% of funding, including existing pensions for Seattle Police. At an equal level of priority we also demand that the city disallow the operations of ICE in the city of Seattle.
  2. In the transitionary period between now and the dismantlement of the Seattle Police Department, we demand that the use of armed force be banned entirely. No guns, no batons, no riot shields, no chemical weapons, especially against those exercising their First Amendment right as Americans to protest.
  3. We demand an end to the school-to-prison pipeline and the abolition of youth jails. Get kids out of prison, get cops out of schools. We also demand that the new youth prison being built in Seattle currently be repurposed.
  4. We demand that not the City government, nor the State government, but that the Federal government launch a full-scale investigation into past and current cases of police brutality in Seattle and Washington, as well as the re-opening of all closed cases reported to the Office of Police Accountability. In particular, we demand that cases particular to Seattle and Washington be reopened where no justice has been served, namely the cases of Iosia Faletogo, Damarius Butts, Isaiah Obet, Tommy Le, Shaun Fuhr, and Charleena Lyles.
  5. We demand reparations for victims of police brutality, in a form to be determined.
  6. We demand that the City of Seattle make the names of officers involved in police brutality a matter of public record. Anonymity should not even be a privilege in public service.
  7. We demand a retrial of all People in Color currently serving a prison sentence for violent crime, by a jury of their peers in their community.
  8. We demand decriminalization of the acts of protest, and amnesty for protestors generally, but specifically those involved in what has been termed “The George Floyd Rebellion” against the terrorist cell that previously occupied this area known as the Seattle Police Department. This includes the immediate release of all protestors currently being held in prison after the arrests made at 11th and Pine on Sunday night and early Saturday morning June 7th and 8th, and any other protesters arrested in the past two weeks of the uprising, the name Evan Hreha in particular comes to mind who filmed Seattle police macing a young girl and is now in jail.
  9. We demand that the City of Seattle and the State Government release any prisoner currently serving time for a marijuana-related offense and expunge the related conviction.
  10. We demand the City of Seattle and State Government release any prisoner currently serving time just for resisting arrest if there are no other related charges, and that those convictions should also be expunged.
  11. We demand that prisoners currently serving time be given the full and unrestricted right to vote, and for Washington State to pass legislation specifically breaking from Federal law that prevents felons from being able to vote.
  12. We demand an end to prosecutorial immunity for police officers in the time between now and the dissolution of the SPD and extant justice system.
  13. We demand the abolition of imprisonment, generally speaking, but especially the abolition of both youth prisons and privately-owned, for-profit prisons.
  14. We demand in replacement of the current criminal justice system the creation of restorative/transformative accountability programs as a replacement for imprisonment.
  15. We demand autonomy be given to the people to create localized anti-crime systems.
  16. We demand that the Seattle Police Department, between now and the time of its abolition in the near future, empty its “lost and found” and return property owned by denizens of the city.
  17. We demand justice for those who have been sexually harassed or abused by the Seattle Police Department or prison guards in the state of Washington.
  18. We demand that between now and the abolition of the SPD that each and every SPD officer turn on their body cameras, and that the body camera video of all Seattle police should be a matter of easily accessible public record.
  19. We demand that the funding previously used for Seattle Police be redirected into: A) Socialized Health and Medicine for the City of Seattle. B) Free public housing, because housing is a right, not a privilege. C) Public education, to decrease the average class size in city schools and increase teacher salary. D) Naturalization services for immigrants to the United States living here undocumented. (We demand they be called “undocumented” because no person is illegal.) E) General community development. Parks, etc.

We also have economic demands that must be addressed.

  1. We demand the de-gentrification of Seattle, starting with rent control.
  2. We demand the restoration of city funding for arts and culture to re-establish the once-rich local cultural identity of Seattle.
  3. We demand free college for the people of the state of Washington, due to the overwhelming effect that education has on economic success, and the correlated overwhelming impact of poverty on people of color, as a form of reparations for the treatment of Black people in this state and country.
  4. We demand that between now and the abolition of the SPD that Seattle Police be prohibited from performing “homeless sweeps” that displace and disturb our homeless neighbors, and on equal footing we demand an end to all evictions.
  5. We demand a decentralized election process to give the citizens of Seattle a greater ability to select candidates for public office such that we are not forced to choose at the poll between equally undesirable options. There are multiple systems and policies in place which make it impractical at best for working-class people to run for public office, all of which must go, starting with any fees associated with applying to run for public office.

Related to economic demands, we also have demands pertaining to what we would formally call “Health and Human Services.”

  1. We demand the hospitals and care facilities of Seattle employ black doctors and nurses specifically to help care for black patients.
  2. We demand the people of Seattle seek out and proudly support Black-owned businesses. Your money is our power and sustainability.
  3. We demand that the city create an entirely separate system staffed by mental health experts to respond to 911 calls pertaining to mental health crises, and insist that all involved in such a program be put through thorough, rigorous training in conflict de-escalation.

Finally, let us now address our demands regarding the education system in the City of Seattle and State of Washington.

  1. We demand that the history of Black and Native Americans be given a significantly greater focus in the Washington State education curriculum.
  2. We demand that thorough anti-bias training become a legal requirement for all jobs in the education system, as well as in the medical profession and in mass media.
  3. We demand the City of Seattle and State of Washington remove any and all monuments dedicated to historical figures of the Confederacy, whose treasonous attempts to build an America with slavery as a permanent fixture were an affront to the human race.

Transcribed by @irie_kenya and @AustinCHowe. Special thanks to Magik for starting and facilitating the discussion to create this list, to Omari Salisbury for the idea to break the list into categories, and as well a thanks to Kshama Sawant for being the only Seattle official to discuss with the people on Free Capitol Hill the night that it was liberated.

Although we have liberated Free Capitol Hill in the name of the people of Seattle, we must not forget that we stand on land already once stolen from the Duwamish People, the first people of Seattle, and whose brother, John T. Williams of the Nuu-chah-nulth tribe up north was murdered by the Seattle Police Department 10 years ago.

Black Lives Matter — All day, Every day.

The Capital Hill Autonomous Zone is an occupied area of Seattle, taken on June 8 2020 during BLM Protests and encompasses around 6 city blocks. You can find out more, and watch the live streaming at www.caphillauto.zone

This statement was originally shared on Medium.

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Dear White People at Black Lives Matter Protests | Current Events

Black Lives Matter protests have spread around the world, from major cities, to the kind of small towns that haven’t had any protests in years. White people have wanted to, and in many cases have been invited to, support the protests and join the struggle against white supremacy.

However. There are different ways to do this, and some are lot better than others. We’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts (or do’s and don’ts) based on suggestions given to us (the white authors of this article) by black people, and other people of colour involved in the BLM movement. Views are of course by no means universal, but there is a common thread of criticism that we hope this helps to spread.

So my fellow white anarchists, white leftists, white accomplices, and even you, well meaning white liberal friend I haven’t spoken to since school, this list is for you.

✔️Do take the time to look for black people organising demos in your area
Don’t rush to call your own white organised demo

✔️Do listen to black people speaking at the demonstrations
Don’t take the stage to share your Very Important White Opinions™

✔️Do make placards and banners using the slogans popular in BLM movements, especially local ones
Don’t cover them in the branding of your political group as an advertising exercise

✔️Do use the resources you have, and contact black groups to offer them, for example:
✔️Do hand out bottles of water, PPE and food
✔️Do offer to act as a street medic, cop watcher, or legal observer
✔️Do help organise training so new black activists can do the above
Don’t just show up and start selling your paper

✔️Do call out your white friends for their racism and bad takes
Don’t constantly argue ‘devils advocate’ with your black friends

✔️Do take a mask, and keep it on
✔️Do take hand sanitizer, and use it
✔️Do take spare PPE
Don’t go if you’ve got a cough
Don’t unnecessarily increase the risk of coronavirus

Don’t start shouting ‘fuck the police’ when no one else is
✔️Do join in shouting ‘fuck the police’ if groups of black people start it

✔️Do give your money to black led groups and to individuals who need it
✔️Do convince your group, union branch, workplace, to do likewise.
Don’t tell all your black friends about it and then pause as if waiting for applause

✔️Do offer to share legal advice, bust cards, or tips on dealing with protest policing if useful
Don’t assume you know more than black protest organisers

✔️Do put yourself between the police and the crowd, if you are able to tough it out or risk arrest
Don’t try and start a fight with a so far placid group of cops to show how tough you are
Don’t repeat the patronising narrative that riots can only be cause by white people ‘tricking’ black people into them

✔️Do go out of your way to share the speeches and stories that black people posted publicly from the demonstration you attended
Don’t treat this as a photo opportunity, especially when your selfies may lead to criminal charges for others

✔️Do realise you are going to fuck up. We all fuck up.
Don’t react defensively when someone points out you’ve fucked up.

Don’t come if you want to be the centre of attention
Don’t think the important thing is how many new people you can add to your group
Don’t get in an argument with black demonstrators about any of the above
Don’t assume this list is exhaustive. Search for more.

✔️Do realise this is a time to support a movement you don’t control
✔️Do come, when invited, and if you are prepared to follow the lead of black people in the crowd.

Our thanks to the people who help us to improve by using their time, experience, and critique. If wish to add to this list, criticise it, or suggest we change it’s wording, get in touch with us via social media or email.

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Against the Terror of Anti-Terror | International

The Philippine government is another step closer to revealing its true self: an undemocratic, oppressive entity ready to protect and serve the interests of the powerful, wealthy, and privileged few. Before there was talk of lockdowns and quarantines during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was the issue of updating the Human Security Act, a law defining the parameters of terrorism. After many days and weeks of politicking, grandstanding, and red-tagging, Congress unveiled the 2020 Anti-Terror Bill.1

In it, the government aims to strip whatever semblance of constitutional liberties and rights are left after the Duterte administration’s stints into extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses, that have claimed upwards of 5,000 lives and left indelible marks on the lives of countless Filipino families.2

On the 28th of February 2020, the Senate passed their version of the Anti-Terror bill, with 19 senators voting yes, and only 2 voting no.3 Debate still rages in the House of Representatives on its merits and its dangers,4 however, as of the 29th of May, two congressional committees approved the Anti-Terror Bill.5 As the people of the archipelago face the greatest health crisis of this century without mass testing, public safety, and financial stability, Congress is trying to take advantage of us while we are down and already suffering from pandemic and the excesses of government.

A History of Insurgency

Different insurgent groups exist within our country, whose goals aim to threaten and change the status quo — to overthrow the people who benefit from it: the current ruling class. The most prominent of these groups are the Bangsamoro separatists (such as the MNLF and MILF), the Islamic fundamentalists (such as the BIFF, the Abu Sayyaf, and the Maute Group)6 and the Marxist-Leninist parties engaged in armed struggle (the CPP-NPA-NDF and remnants of MLPP-RHB).7

These sets of militant organizations with their own allegiances and motivations have been operating for decades across the archipelago, challenging government power in rural and urban areas around the country.

It is in this landscape of insurgency that in 1996, then-Senator Juan Ponce Enrile introduced a bill that would create a legal definition for terrorism, and outline what the police and military can or cannot do to catch and prosecute convicted “terrorists.”8 A “watered-down” and “toothless” version of this bill became the Human Security Act, signed into law by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2007.9

However, the rhetoric since then has evolved as Rodrigo Duterte became the President of the Philippines. Duterte has condoned and even called for the extrajudicial execution of alleged drug users and pushers as part of his campaign against illegal narcotics.10 He also told soldiers to shoot female rebel combatants in the genitalia, a clear violation of the Geneva Convention.11

Meanwhile, police and military forces regularly illegally detain dissidents, regardless of their affiliation or intention.12 There are even cases where farmers, workers, and activists are murdered as part of “anti-subversion activities.”13 Worse still, indigenous Lumad ancestral land across the country are being occupied illegally, while atrocities against their communities continue to be perpetrated.14

Left and right, in the name of public safety and order, the current administration has committed grave violations of human rights. Civil and military officers even called for the restoration and enhancement of laws and measures to make their jobs easier, presumably so that they could claim more victims and plunder more territory. This included the push by Secretary Año to bring back the Anti-Subversion Law that specifically targeted communists and those with communist sympathies.15

In this context, one cannot help but be skeptical about the government’s motivations in changing the definition of terrorism, and extending the punishment to be meted out to suspects and convicts under this bill.

Reading Between the Lines

In the Senate, this bill was authored by Senator Panfilo Lacson, to “provide a strong legal backbone to protect our people from the threat of terrorism, and at the same time, safeguard the rights of those accused of the crime.”16

Terrorism has been given a different definition under this bill. Simply, terrorism is any organization of people proving to be harmful to the social, cultural, and economic structures of society, capable of causing harm to property or personage, and inciting other people in joining their cause.

Under the proposed law, suspected “terrorists” can be held for 60 days without an arrest warrant. Aside from this, a 60 day period can also be granted for digital surveillance, meaning any gadget connected to the internet, a phone, a computer, and appliance can be spied on, with a simple suspicion by an involved police or military authority. This basically means that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and even freedom of conscience can be violated as soon as any investigator deems a person or a group “terrorist.” Anything suspects do can be considered a “terroristic act” and will be subject to the state’s extrajudicial ways and means.

Once convicted, those who will “propose, incite, conspire, and participate” in the “planning, training, and facilitation of a terrorist attack” face life imprisonment. The same punishment goes for any “recruiters and active supporters of a terrorist organization.” Lesser sentences are given to those who “threaten to commit terrorism, incite others to do so, voluntarily join any terrorist group, or be an accessory in any acts they do.” In short, anybody remotely related to any “terrorist organization” can be charged with a crime under this act.17

Overbroad and Overpowered

We can all agree that safety of the public is always the concern of our society. Our safety and the safety of our friends, our family, and our communities have been part of the Filipino psyche for centuries. Once this welfare has been violated, we come to each other’s aid, and struggle to restore it to them. An injury to one is an injury to all.

However, the government has consistently shown itself as the primary violator of our freedom, our security, and our right to live. Whether it be on issues of labor, civil rights, the indigenous peoples, or even human life, the State continues to side with the powerful and supports Capital, the wealthy, and the privileged.

Yet, the State itself has the audacity to declare what is a public threat, what is terrorist or not. Under this bill, any organization can be dubbed terroristic as long as there is enough “evidence” to secure a conviction. Anyone can be convicted as a terrorist just because they called to oust the current president, joined a rally that suddenly became a “serious risk to public safety,” or even shared posts or messages that are remotely critical of the government. They can be detained for as long as the police or military would need to build a falsified, trumped-up case against them.

For years, activists have been discriminated on without any proof from the government. Students, labor leaders, and even indigenous elders from Mindanao have been harassed and persecuted for their views and beliefs. If the Anti-Terrorism Bill passes, anyone the regime considers an enemy can be silenced with practically life imprisonment. No wonder why many people consider this bill as a Martial Law in all but name.

The Terror in Anti-Terror

Mikhail Bakunin once said that:

“The human being completely realizes his individual freedom as well as his personality only through the individuals who surround him, and thanks only to the labor and the collective power of society.”18

This means that freedom is only achieved when all people are themselves equally free. Freedom can only be achieved when a person’s beliefs and actions are recognized by their fellowmen. The fact that our conscience can be arbitrarily punished by any leader in government means that freedom can be punished for being in the way of greed for power.

Once we start thinking about this reality, it then dawns upon us that we have never really been free. We may have freedom to post online, to make our opinion and dissent heard, and to act according to our beliefs and interests. However, as soon as we point our fingers to those in power and disclose their weaknesses and faults, they will do everything in their power to silence us, and hide it from plain view. For years, this facade of democracy reigned over the archipelago. In reality though, it is nothing but a game the rich and powerful play to become even richer and stronger. This bill merely shows us the rules they want to play on.

A society that is libertarian, a society that respects liberty, does not rely on organizations that say they protect and serve us, only to break up protests, discriminate based on sex or race, and kill in cold blood. It recognizes and respects the autonomy of each person, the ability of each person to think, speak, and act however they want. As such, the power to protect themselves and those they care for from the threat of terrorism, perpetrated today by cops, bosses, and government officials.

We have a long way to go before we can even ponder on what we should do to build a better society. Today, we see what little freedom we have left collapse into authoritarianism and fascism. We have seen Bolivia, the United States, and Hong Kong. If this bill is not junked, we could see it too in the Philippines. This is not just an issue for Filipino libertarians and anarchists. This is an issue for everyone in the archipelago, regardless of age, sex, religious belief, or political affiliation. If the State can take away from us, how more are they willing to terrorize us further? Besides, how can we trust fascists to tell us who are the real terrorists?

Written by Malaginoo
Original post can be found here on Bangilang itim’s website.
Bandilang Itim aspires to end the atomization imposed upon us by capitalist society, an alienation that separates us from each other. Bandilang Itim aims to be the banner that rallies together libertarian socialists in the archipelago known as the Philippines.

  1. See a report on the proposed law: Neil Arwin Mercado, “Longer warrantless detention among features of Lacson anti-terror bill.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. October 02, 2019. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1172687/longer-warrantless-detention-among-features-of-lacson-anti-terror-bill []
  2. See a list of some of the victims: Jodesz Gavilan, “LIST: Minors, college students killed in Duterte’s drug war.” Rappler. October 21, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/newsbreak/iq/179234-minors-college-students-victims-war-on-drugs-duterte []
  3. Op. Cit. Neil Arwin Mercado, “Longer warrantless detention among features of Lacson anti-terror bill.” []
  4. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels OK non-contentious provisions in anti-terror bill.” Philippine News Agency. March 10, 2020. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1096093 []
  5. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels approve anti-terror bill.” Philippine News Agency. May 29, 2020. https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1104372 []
  6. See the report: Agence France-Presse, “Tracing back the Philippine Muslim conflict.” Rappler. October 7, 2012. https://www.rappler.com/nation/13759-tracing-back-the-philippine-muslim-conflict []
  7. See the report: Alan Robles, “Explained: the Philippines’ communist rebellion is Asia’s longest-running insurgency.” South China Morning Post. September 16, 2019. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/politics/article/3027414/explained-philippines-communist-rebellion-asias-longest-running []
  8. Janess Ann J. Ellao, “Human Security Act: ‘Draconian, Fascist.’” Bulatlat. August 11, 2007. https://www.bulatlat.com/2007/08/11/human-security-act-‘draconian-fascist’/ []
  9. GMANews.TV, “Arroyo to sign proposed anti-terror law Tuesday.” GMA News Online. March 5, 2007. https://www.gmanetwork.com/news/news/nation/33045/arroyo-to-sign-proposed-anti-terror-law-tuesday/story/ []
  10. Sofia Tomacruz, “Duterte: It is my job to kill.” Rappler.com. March 10, 2020. https://www.rappler.com/nation/254037-duterte-says-job-to-kill []
  11. Paterno Esmaquel II, “Duterte defends ‘shoot in the vagina’ remark.” Rappler. February 26, 2018. https://www.rappler.com/nation/196966-duterte-defends-shoot-female-rebels-vagina-remark []
  12. See for example the harassment of mutual aid activities during the pandemic: Rambo Talabong, “10 feeding program volunteers arrested in Marikina.” Rappler. May 1, 2020. https://www.rappler.com/nation/259615-feeding-program-volunteers-arrested-marikina-may-2020
    See also the harassment of benign May Day protests: Eimor Santos, “Cases filed vs. 18 ‘protesters’ arrested in Quezon City.” CNN Philippines. May 2, 2020. https://cnnphilippines.com/news/2020/5/2/Alleged-Labor-Day-protest-Quezon-City-cases.html []
  13. See for example a report on the killings perpetuated on the island of Negros: Ronalyn V. Olea, “Negros killings, ‘a war against unarmed civilians’ — groups.” Bulatlat. July 27, 2019. https://www.bulatlat.com/2019/07/27/negros-killings-a-war-against-unarmed-civilians-groups/ []
  14. See for example the report: Cristina Rey, “Increased militarization under martial law threatens Lumad teachers in the Philippines.” Intercontinental Cry (IC). July 15, 2017. https://intercontinentalcry.org/increased-militarization-martial-law-threatens-lumad-teachers-philippines/ []
  15. Janella Paris, “Proposed anti-subversion law a ‘repressive weapon’ – law group.” Rappler. August 17, 2019. https://www.rappler.com/nation/237963-law-group-says-anti-subversion-law-repressive []
  16. Op. Cit. Filane Mikee Cervantes, “House panels OK non-contentious provisions in anti-terror bill.” []
  17. Taken from the contents of the bill itself. See: Senate Bill No. 1083 “The law on the prevention of terrorist acts of 2020.” https://senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=18&q=SBN-1083 []
  18. Mikhail Bakunin, “Man, Society, and Freedom.” The Anarchist Library. https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/michail-bakunin-man-society-and-freedom []
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Street Anarchy pt.2 – Social Struggle | Theory and Analysis

[translator’s note: Ruymán is a member of FAGC (Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria or Gran Canaria’s Anarchist Federation), which centres most of its activity around the issues of housing, rent and homelessness. They are known for housing homeless people in squatted buildings run along anarchists’ principles without the members needing to share the same ideology. The biggest one so far, La Esperanza, houses more than 260 people, around 160 of them minors. More recently the FAGC has called for a rent strike to demand better conditions for renters during the COVID-19 crisis. The strike is supported today by more than 60.000 tenants. This is the second of a series of three articles written in 2015 where Ruymán explains how the FAGC sees the way forward for anarchism based on their experience these years]

“To-morrow for the young the poets exploding like bombs,
The walks by the lake, the weeks of perfect communion;
To-morrow the bicycle races
Through the suburbs on summer evenings. But to-day the struggle.”
(W.H. Auden, Spain, 1937).

Let’s start by pointing out that the person speaking to you about social struggle fancies himself an individualist. I am an individualist because I am wary of my independence and personal criteria, but also for pragmatic reasons. When you implicate yourself in the social struggle is necessary to retain a large dose of individualism: to not become corrupted, to avoid letting yourself be dragged by gregarious impulses and majoritarian urges, to know why you do the things you do.

But I am sickened by aristocratism; I am an individualist because I want, for every single person, a unique and strong personality, and let everyone develop their own “self” without environmental limits or impediments. But how to tame the environment so that it is individuals who shape it and not it that shapes the individuals? By implicating ourselves in the social struggle, there’s no other way.

Our contempt for the current society can lead us to resignation. Be it through a satisfied nihilism (“there’s nothing to be done and it’s better to vegetate and occasionally make an appearance on social media or a well written article”) or the castaway attitude (“even if we don’t like it this is our habitat, let’s adapt to it and save whichever furniture washes on the shore”). To ask for everything to burn without raising a finger or entangle yourself in electoral reforms or popular electoral reforms are examples of both attitudes. Resignation, more or less an active one, but resignation nevertheless.

To resign oneself is to surrender, and that is as if one is dead inside. We need to implicate ourselves in the social struggle because only then we’ll be able to change something, even if it’s only a part of the portion of the world we’ve been given by chance. But we have to implicate ourselves with a big dose of realism; so much realism it sometimes hurts.

We need to know that you can implicate yourself, succeed, change people’s lives and still not change anything on their minds. A petty person who is hungry is not different than one that is fed, except in their material capacity to hurt. They might have more or less possibilities, different priorities, but they are fundamentally the same. To idealize the “working class” (category that if it’s not limited to set the line between the oppressed and oppressors is of no use) is absurd. The male worker is not the character from the soviet posters nor is the female worker the one from the american WWII propaganda. The excluded and marginalized, the “class-less”, among whom I include myself by birth and calling, don’t fit the fixed romanticized vision of nomads and free spirits. We are beings of flesh and bone that cannot be observed from the outside, only lived from within.

To assign virtues and defects when they are not inherent is a source of injustices and frustrated expectations. Those of us who work for revolution need to have something clear: it won’t be done by nietzschean supermen; it will be done by people with prejudices, full of taboos, burdened by sexist, racist and xenophobic ideas. This is the human material of revolutions because people don’t change from one day to another no matter how much you try to change the circumstances. The initial enthusiasm mitigates these attitudes, but without a previous pedagogy we can’t expect people to throw away their emotional baggage instantaneously.

Are we sure that by changing material conditions we won’t be capable of changing subjective conditions? Not necessarily. Kropotkin is one of my favourite thinkers, and after studying him and trying to apply some of his proposals —those that seemed to me more urgently realistic— I can confirm that at least in some of the presuppositions of The Conquest of Bread¹ (1892) he was wrong. Or rather, to be fair with Kropotkin, the error is not on the main thesis of of this work (fundamental, otherwise), according to which the first question to solve during a revolution is that of bread; we are the ones who are wrong if we believe that just by being the first question must be the only one. The first question of the revolutionary phenomenon certainly has to be to satiate the basic necessities, but we would be naive to think that this fact alone will abolish all forms of hierarchy. If Tolstoy reminded us you cannot speak about non-edible things to someone with an empty stomach², we also can’t expect that by filling up that stomach we will obtain a behavioural change in that person. We can give shelter, roof and bread like Kropotkin recommends, but if the capitalist mental structure hasn’t been shaken, the improvement of the material conditions won’t have substantially changed the nature or the aspirations of the those affected. We can create a society of satisfied needs and economic equality, but that alone, without doing background work, won’t eradicate power and submission. Kropotkin used to say that if people had the means of production they wouldn’t have to kneel in front of someone like Rothschild; they may not grovel for bread, but they can still be made to submit by brute force, fear or deception. Economical equality doesn’t eradicate authoritarianism or hierarchical vices, nor does it swiftly erase capitalist tics.

This can be seen in the example of the communes and resistance communities. A microsociety that organises with an anarchist model, one in which this model proves itself efficient and effective, can be a showcasing of how anarchy works “too well”, because it’s capable of improving the conditions of the lives of those affected, of satiating their needs, but with very little effort required of them. You can’t create an oasis of anarchy surrounded by a desert of capitalism, because sooner or later the sand seeps through the door.

Most of the libertarian communities of the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th, and even more so the hippie communities of the second half of the last century, failed for a clear reason: they constituted themselves in closed communities, isolated, without realising that people don’t leave their “old mentality” at the entrance. This was already explained by Reclus in his text The Anarchist Colonies⁴ (1902). A society doesn’t have a life of its own independent from its members, although there is some kind of collective group psychology that makes it behave like a living organism. As such, it dies if it stays closed off and can’t breathe, and lives when it lets air come it, can breathe and nourishes itself from the outside.

This centrifugal and centripetal qualities I spoke of on the previous article are not only applicable to different kinds of anarchism, but also of communities and militancies. In my experience on communities I’ve been able to experience how the periods of forced isolation and endogamy encourage depression and immobility, but when you interact with the environment you are part of and receive stimuli from the outside the organism that is the community renovates and revitalizes itself. Same thing with militancy. The activity centred on your own group, which doesn’t open and expand itself nor wants to interact with the outside, is useless and engenders calcification. It’s essential to move towards the outside, to irradiate. The blood that doesn’t flow coagulates and causes gangrene; movement is the basis of life, the basis of change.

But I will be asked: why should we get involved in the social struggle if material change doesn’t have the intended immediate results? And even if it were desirable, what strategy to follow?

The great aspiration for revolutionary anarchism, and for most social movements, is to reach the people. It may be true that through the social struggle, by helping them and promoting ideas of self-management, their mentality won’t change. But that’s the only way of establishing contact with them. I understand the good intentions, but to a family searching for food in the trash, who is trying to separate the rotten from the decomposed, you cannot tell them about the virtues of veganism or the pernicious effects of transgenics; it sounds like an insult or a macabre joke. These things, which are really a display of your consciousness, are relevant when you have your basic needs satisfied and a stable status; the malnourished are only interested in not starving to death. When you speak of things detached from the immediate reality of people and try to drag them into our politics, instead of evaluating what can our worldview offer to them, we are establishing a line of separation between the people without ideology and the anarchist. Which mentally, is not that different between the one there is between the dispossessed and the proprietor: different interests if not directly opposed.

We have to analyse what legitimate interests people have that may intersect with our ideas and praxis and try to get involved. Back in 2011 the FAGC realized the alarming need of housing that there was in the Gran Canaria Island: between 25 and 30 evictions every day while there are 143,000 empty homes in the archipelago. The people needed a roof; so that’s what we had to offer to them, because ours ideas are perfect for it and because historically, from the Paris Commune to the squatters movement, it has been part of our tradition.

I’ve already said that the politics of bread, even if they are a priority, are not enough on their own. We need to use big doses of pedagogy (steering away from indoctrination and proselytism), socialize formative tools, strengthen people’s independence and create committed circles willing to defend their gains. Yes, bread is not everything, but it’s the only way for that formless and ineffable mental construct that we call “the people” to take you into consideration and be able to tell you apart from all the other snake-oil salesmen. Yes, the propaganda by the deed has limits, and showing the correct path and taking it is not enough to get others to do it themselves; but it’s the most honest and coherent way of spreading an idea and trying to get people to adopt it. The experiential way, of doing what you preach, is the only one that gives you the right to put a proposal in front of people. If you haven’t lived it before, don’t sell it to me. To give basic necessities the priority it deserves, and not to offer poetry, liturgy or scholastics to someone who is in need of protein is the only way to start being serious, the only way to not appear detached from reality.

Certainly the capitalist reflexes and the bourgeoisie tendencies can persist in the mind of the person who just stopped being destitute thanks to your help. LIberated from hardship maybe their consumerist mentality will be strengthened. But if they managed to change their living situation through libertarian means, with direct action tactics away from legality, the reality is that the example remains and survives; and that serves as evidence that even if the human material fails, the ideas and practices don’t. And anyway, if the seed of your example of mutual aid and autonomous organisation only germinates in one in every ten people, that’s enough for the social struggle you started to have been worth it.

Wilde speaks in his “The Soul of Man Under Socialism”⁵ (1890) about how boring the “virtuous poor” were. To demand for the poor to be virtuous, on top of being poor, is not a matter of being “boring”, but of brutal and unjust insensibility. In the social struggle you’ll discover people who haven’t had any contact with anyone for years, who have been excluded from basic comforts, who have been in a permanent state of war for decades, who feel that everything that surrounds them is hostile. We should not be surprised if they have difficulties trusting and even take advantage of the people lending them a hand; it would be more surprising if they didn’t jump to your jugular immediately. But instead, many people who have been treated like wild animals since they were kids, constantly harassed by their environment, become inspired by a solidarity given in exchange for nothing, except compromise, and by a way of acting that rejects any kind of leadership and servislism. They learn to help others, they open houses for homeless families just like they were opened for them. They realise the next step is to protect themselves autonomously; the illegality they were forced to use before now serves a deeper objective. Maybe they’ll become interested in the ideas that took them this far and they’ll start talking about anarchism. And if not, they no longer ignore the meaning of the word or fear it. Inside them a change of paradigm takes place.

Despite that, something should be made clear: the anarchist model we propose doesn’t need to convert people into anarchists to work; that would be abhorrent. Anarchism for the anarchists is chauvinism. Anarchism becomes useful when is directed towards those that aren’t and will never be anarchists. That is when a project or model proves it works.

Our objective is to reach those who have nothing, not to turn them into conscious anarchists, but because only them, those who suffer and struggle the most, have objective motivations to want to change their life and reasons to obsessively tear down everything. The anarchist message of freedom and autonomy is for all of humanity; the one about three meals per day and a roof over your head can only be for those who lack that. The anarchy for the satiated, for the intellectually bored, is an useless artefact. The libertarian principles can be taken by everyone, they can change the inner life of anyone who consumes them no matter their ascendency. But its economic and social program is directed towards changing the life of those who today have to eat mud. That’s why it is important to intervene in that fight; there’s no other way to change what is around us.

How to do it? From the inside, without paternalism or impositions. The “parachute” tactic that jumps into a conflict, coming from the outside, will lead to failure. You only have the right to intervene when you have been seen to get your hands dirty, sweat and bleed; and not even that will dispel all suspicions. We need to create a project in which the difference between the anarchists who initiated it and the people with generally no ideology who join it gets blurred over time, without ranks, vanguardism or primacies.

By taking interest in the real worries of the people, the ones that come from them, and not the ones you want to introduce them to from the outside. Once we have taken part in their interests, their fight, their demands, our mission as anarchists is to take them a bit further, a step beyond. Malatesta understood this clearly:

“Let us make everyone who dies of hunger and cold understand that every product that stokes the warehouses belongs to them, because they are the ones who produce everything, and let’s encourage and help them to take it all. Whenever there’s a spontaneous rebellion, as has sometimes happened, let’s hurry to mingle in in it and to try to turn it into a coherent movement by exposing ourselves to the danger and fighting together with the people. Later, through practice, ideas emerge and opportunities present themselves. Let us organise, for example, a movement to not pay the rent; let’s persuade the field workers to take crops back to their houses and, if we can, let’s help them carry it and to fight against the owners and guards who don’t want to allow it. Let us organise movements to force the municipalities to do everything big and small that the people desire, like for example to lift the taxes for essential goods. Let us remain always among the popular masses and let’s make them accustomed to take by themselves those liberties that could never be gained by legal means. To summarize: everyone should do whatever they can according to the place where they are and the environment around them, taking as a starting point the practical desires of the people, and always inspiring new desires”⁶

What the FAGC tried to do with the “Group of Immediate Response against Evictions” and the “Renters and Evicted Union” was to intervene in a real aspiration of the population (housing) while staying away from the moderate and legalist proposals from the local platforms and collectives, to bring the fight for a place to live to new presuppositions, deeper and more radical. This is the first phase of our fight. By stopping evictions in a combative way and rehousing people without a home in individual houses expropriated from the banks, we started the contact with the people and demonstrated that things could be done in a different way, one that is more committed and efficient.

While embroiled in the popular aspirations for housing we started the phase of the “La Esperanza” Community, because we needed to make a show of force with a project big and showy enough that it couldn’t be hidden from public opinion no matter how hard anyone tried. Rejecting the victimism of thinking that no matter what we do we’ll be silenced, we’ve tried to show that regardless of the manipulations and misrepresentations of the media, if you do something of enough magnitude it is impossible to shut it down and sweep it under the rug (to this we must obviously add a great capacity to work and know how to design a good “media war”). After that comes a third phase that I’ll explain in the last article of this series.

What was done in this second phase has is importance and meaning, not only for its obvious social dimension of giving a roof to such a huge number of adults and minors, but also in other aspects. In our movement it seems like some think tanks squabble over a ridiculous hegemony. They invalidate what the competitor says with words, always with words. If a proposal looks to them to be too radical or too reformist they don’t try to oppose it by comparing it with a practical example that proves it wrong, they oppose it with another idea. When they criticised the legal reform proposed by the PAH (Platform of People Affected by Mortgages) to regulate housing in Madrid for being too useless and legalistic, that criticism may have been correct (in fact it was), but if you don’t present an alternative the people will have no option but to go with the only alternative that is in front of them. We criticised the legal reform and as evidence to back our criticism we created, for example, the “La Esperanza”. What we need is an action tank, action groups that take actions to validate our theories, an activist backing with real and quantifiable results. That is what validates your proposal; everything else is rhetoric, verbiage and paper, and that has the same weight as banging your fist on the table at a pub.

But we have to be realistic: if the division in the lived experience between the anarchists and the rehoused must be erased (as this is the only way of not only avoiding vanguardism but also of promoting self-emancipation and engaging those affected to the fight for their own cause), we have to be able to detect differences and similarities between our aspirations; there lies the limits of the social struggle. Personally, as an anarchist, and in relation to the “La Esperanza” Community, I could prefer an occupation sine die, a constant challenge against the state and the financial institutions, surviving in a constant emergency situation. But precisely as an anarchist I don’t like declaring a war on behalf of someone else. I cannot throw people, with kids of their own, to fight against windmills spurred on by my ideas. I must know and understand what are their real aspirations and how far they are willing to go. And if they’ve already gone as far as they can, I can’t force them to engage in ways of struggle that haven’t yet develop within them. The necessity creates the means, and those ways will develop naturally when it is the right moment. I need to understand that if for me illegality is an option and a resource to defend, for them it is an obligation born out of necessity. After the war people want peace and we can’t criticise them for that. With that in mind I redact legal documents that disgust me because the community I’m part of needs them and trusts me to give them substance. “La Esperanza” has decided to regularize their situation, going in with everything: if it goes wrong, it’ll continue existing outside of the law and won’t abandon the apartments; if it goes well it will have successfully challenged the system and forced it to give in to their demands.

Will achieving those demands be the end of everything? As a community, maybe yes, but as part of the global strategy of the FAGC obviously no. Achieving this victory will be an example of what can be accomplished through squatting, by making the banks and the political powers submit to a policy based on proven facts. It must and can be reproduced in other places. But if we don’t give this strategy a final twist, its practical result, if it were to be successful and go viral, would be to increase the number of council homes in the State and grow the public housing sector. And that’s not our objective. Our objective is to give a roof to the families, but under a completely different social paradigm.

When you intervene in workers union organising and try to achieve an improvement of working hours or salaries, what we achieve if we win is a partial victory and a show of strength. What matters is getting that practical experience, building the muscle. But if we limit ourselves to reduce the hours or increase the salaries, we will only be reinforcing the capitalist model of work. If we decide we have other aspirations, we’ll have to prove it with something more than declaring your intentions. It’s the same thing with housing. The idea is for no one to die in the street, that’s the priority; but understanding that what causes that to happen is the current model, and therefore we shouldn’t just treat the symptoms but also cure the disease. By giving a roof and stopping the reshoused person from being evicted from their home, we show strength and respond to an atrocity by tackling it directly; but if behind that there is not a third movement, that demonstration will go no further. It’ll remain as an end in itself.

The struggle is not something automatic (struggling for its own sake). You struggle to destroy barriers and reach objectives. When do you know if the struggle is important? When you’ve reached that objective and yet you have the feeling you are just getting started.

Make way then for the third movement!

Ruymán Rodríguez

Read Part One:- “Two Anarchisms

Read Part Three:- “The Third Movement

More information about the Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria can be here www.anarquistasgc.noblogs.org or on their Facebook.

¹ Digital edition on the Anarchist Library: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/petr-kropotkin-the-conquest-of-bread

² “Before we give the people priests, soldiers, judges, doctors and teachers, we should ascertain if they happen to be dying of hunger” (The Triumph of the Farmer or Industry and Parasitism, 1888)


³ Although truth be told, unless there is a difficult global revolution, any form of anarchy will alway initially occur surrounded by capitalism, be it at a small two, a big city or a whole region. It changes the resources, the competencies and the scale, but its imperfection is a manifestation of anarchy. That’s why I can maybe say to have lived in anarchy, and that is beautiful and hard

⁴ Digital edition on libcom: https://libcom.org/library/anarchist-colonies-elis%C3%A9e-reclus

⁵ digital edition on project gutemberg: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1017

⁶ In Times of Elections, 1890

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Riot Medicine | Knowledge Exchange

Revolutionary action can, quite frankly be quite boring. Hours stood on the picket line or drowning yourself in tea in a occupied cafe, tent, or treehouse with little to do but natter away and try and ensure you’re objectives are met. This however is not always the way and when the cops turn violent, the terrier boys ambush you or you manage to head off the fash, things get hairy quick. These moments in the storm, whether intended or forced upon us can be a frenzied blur, for most people an utterly shock to the system that can be overwhelming both physically and mentally. The only way we can ensure success and any degree of safety is in relying on the comrades, whether formally or loosely organised, who, through the providence of experiance and training are able to keep their heads and provide active support roles. Here in the UK for example, we have a very well organised network of Legal Observers from several networks such as the Green and Black Cross and more often than not you’ll find the beautiful souls that come to provide on the ground medical support. Battle medics, street medics, riot medics, or whatever you call them are a blessing to be sure. Their particular sets of skills thankfully are not always put to use however should you find yourself in a spot of bother they are are the first line of support, looking after people who have taken a baton to the head, come down with heat stroke or (as was my first introduction to battle medics) taken a tumble from a horse. From Berlin to Melbourne Action medics are a vital part of any protest or direct action.

However unlike our Legal Observer comrades, there is an unfortunate drought of material to help prepare the riot medic for the role. Paper Revolution has decent intro text and a handbook and these texts are about as good as they come, Sure I’ve seen a fair few other guides and found many of them useful, however there is a tendancy to focus either on the politics or the medicine, and at that usually only a narrow window with a specific set of situations in mind. Which is why I’m especially stoked to have bumped into a new publication on my twitter feed.

“Riot Medicine” is a new 466 page work by Håkan Geijer that gives an well researched, in depth 101 for battle medics of all descriptions. Shared freely from it’s website the manual gives a robust guide for practicing insurrectionary medicine. Taking the reader from the methods of organising and situational risk assessments right through to the nitty gritty of first aid, managing shock and dealing with spinal cord injuries. This absolute belter of a book goes way beyond being a mear refined St John’s First Aid guide mind. It’s specific focus on the issues, thinking and praxis of providing on the ground medical support during riots and revolutionary action is in depth and without florid prose and laconic word smithing, it wastes no time making the point in clear, understandable language that while taking ontechnical points remains accessable and useable. Frankly it’s the opinion of the Editor that this is the must have guidebook for riot medics and it a vital download for every activist and organiser regardless other whether they intent to fill the role of medic.

Keep your eyes peeled for a printed edition after lockdown ends however in the meantime here is the introduction text and at the bottom you’ll find a link to download a copy – for free and without registration.

Peter Ó Máille

Introduction:-
Riot medicine is the practice of medicine in an adversarial environment. It exists outside of formal and State sanctioned medical services. Practitioners of riot medicine go by many names (riot medics, street medics, demonstration medics, action medical), but at the end of the day, their goals are the same. They take to the streets as part of the diverse system of mutual aid that allows individuals to engage in protest. The duties of a riot medic may include handing out water during a peaceful demonstration, providing late-night jail support for arrested comrades, caring for injured protesters and bystanders during a riot, or extracting and providing lifesaving interventions for combatants during an armed uprising.

The lens of riot medicine rather than street medicine was chose to help you focus more on how to provide medical care during demonstrations and physical engagements rather than to inform you on how to run a volunteer clinic or provide care for injuries sustained outside of short lived confrontations. The aim is to provide enough medical and tactical knowledge to enable riot medics to support short mobilizations on the scale of several hours to several days.

If you are an experienced medical professional, this book will guide you on how to safely operate during a protest. However, this book assumes that medicine may not be your primary occupation or field of study. Both the common and more formal medical terms are included as well as a glossary for reference. Foundational medical theory has been provided to give context for various treatments, and as such, not all information in this book needs to be memorized. Some information may seem obvious, but what is obvious to you is not obvious to others. In depth information is provided to help demystify seemingly esoteric practices and address common misconceptions.

Because of the exceptionally diverse conditions under which riot medicine is practiced, this book generally avoids making absolute statements about how an individual or group must act. Riot medics may be part of the Black Bloc or may act as seemingly neutral third parties. They may be uncertified or may be practicing physicians. How they choose to act depends on may factors including the nature of the action, the legality of protest, the legality of practicing medicine, and the overall political climate of the region where an action is taking place. This book will provide you with a toolbox that will help you make operational decisions using your own experiences and context specific information. Riot medicine incorporates elements of wilderness medicine and combat medicine, but it is still a distinct practice. Often the riot medic is only equipped with what they can carry in a backpack. What they choose to pack is limited by multiple factors, the major one being that their gear can be confiscated or destroyed during the course of their work. They need to carry provisions to survive the day and personal protective equipment to keep themselves safe enough to do their job. The riot medic needs to take a highly practical approach to medicine knowing that they will not be able to operate under ideal conditions. Hospital-quality diagnostic equipment will not be available, materials may be limited, and care rendered often will only be \good enough” to get a restless comrade back into the fray.

Riot medics comfort traumatized comrades as much as they heal their bodies. Protests and confrontations with fascists and the State can be stressful and even traumatizing. Even in the non ideal environments you will be working in, it is your responsibility to keep calm and help calm those around you. Nervous and stressed out comrades can be liable to make mistakes that lead to more injuries. Reading this book will help enable you to act confidently and therefore help others act confidently, contributing toward successful demonstrations and insurrections.

This book is written from an autonomous, anarchist perspective. However, the information and tactics described within will be useful to all participants in the struggle for liberation. State imposed laws and regulations are a reality, and where it is relevant, it is noted where your

work may intersect with the legal system to highlight what legal risks there may be. This book was written in 2019{20, so as you are reading this, be wary that medical best practices, legal considerations, and all other information may have become out of date.

The act of challenging the State is dangerous, but with some basic knowledge, medics can drastically reduce the repercussions protesters face. The goal is that by reading this book, you will be able to provide care for and support to comrades known and unknown, all in the pursuit of a world free of domination.

Directly download Riot Medicine by clicking here or for addition options including using a PGP Key and other media check out the Riot Medicine website : riotmedicine.net

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Street Anarchy pt.1 – Two Anarchisms | Theory and Analysis

[translator’s note: Ruymán Rodríguez is a member of FAGC (Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria or Gran Canaria’s Anarchist Federation), which centres most of its activity on the issues of housing, rent and homelessness. They are known for housing homeless people in squatted buildings run along anarchists’ principles without the members needing to share the same ideology. The biggest one so far, La Esperanza, houses more than 260 people, around 160 of them minors. More recently the FAGC has called for a rent strike to demand better conditions for renters during the COVID-19 crisis. The strike is supported today by more than 60.000 tenants. This is the first of a series of three articles written in 2015 where Ruymán explains how the FAGC sees the way forward for anarchism based on their experience these years]

“Anarchism is not a romantic fable, but a hard awakening […]”(Edward Abbey, A Voice Crying in the Wilderness [Vox Clamantis en Deserto], 1990).

The dichotomies between “anarchisms” evolve periodically. During the late 19th century it was between collectivists and communists, organisation and anti-organisation, individualists and syndicalists, pure syndicalists and anarcho-syndicalists, etc. Today this theoretical brawl, which seems to develop cyclically, has been established between insurrectionism and social anarchism.

In the 19th century some anarchists wanted to unravel the Gordian knot by speaking of “anarchism without adjectives”, and in the late 20th century of “synthesis”. These days it is necessary to go beyond that.

The disputes, if they don’t fester and become stagnant, are positive. The theoretical debate is healthy; what is unhealthy is when the debate replaces militancy. Some anarchists confine their militancy only to anarchist spaces. Whether to protect its essence or bring it up to date, the dispute is still framed wrongly, as it was in the 19th century.

Yes, the dispute between collectivists and communists helped us realise that a subsection of anarchism at the time was still tied to a specific conception of private property and salary and that another wanted to transcend that and be generous; also how one tendency was trying to be realistic and practical and another could be too optimistic.

It was an underlying issue that revealed approaches and attitudes. But it was also a dispute about something that was yet to take place: a social revolution that put the economy in the hands of the workers. The debate may have helped to outline what would happen in revolutionary situations like in 1936, but the debate for its own sake, without transcending the theoretical realm, can imagine the best of futures, but remains mere speculation; a mental experiment about nothing, when you still need to create everything. It may have also been that the debate between the different syndicalist perspectives had a more practical dimension, but it was still based on the same erroneous premise: to transform the praxis of others. We are only in a position to change our own activity; if you don’t like something, work in the opposite direction and let experience prove if you were wrong or not.

Consequently, the debate should not focus any more – at least not primarily – on the ideological realm; the validity of an idea must be measured by putting it into practice, in the realm of facts. Enough of supposed divergences based on agreements, congresses, thinkers and models based on the imaginary.

From my point of view there are only two anarchisms: the contemplative and the combative. Regardless of if they are given the name of insurrectionary anarchism or social anarchism, any of them can represent one of the two tendencies depending on the situation.

The contemplative anarchism lives through other people’s lives, its terrain is one of inward debate. It sets up to analyse and discuss, to anathematize engaged in endless internal fights. Its field is that of theory and stillness, be it of the committee, assembly or demonstration, of the social network or the burning of rubbish bins (a theoretician of the Molotov is not less contemplative than a theoretician on an office). Immobility as a way of life; pontification as the mode of operation. Talks and the spreading of ideas is its natural environment, the place where it feels comfortable; incapable of transcending this habitat to get a taste of the pavement or the land. Anarchism itself is its battlefield, its object of dissection, the subject of its militancy. The contemplative anarchism is the childish and immature phase of the anarchist ideology, no matter how serious, respectable and experimented it may look.

Combative anarchism, that which we defend and practice in the FAGC, is the anarchism that rolls up its sleeves, goes into the streets and fights.

Whether it is raising the pressure on a demo to get people to respond when the police charges or forcing the circumstances so that a labour conflict doesn’t come to a halt. It’s the anarchism that gets its hands dirty. The one that fights in the factory, in the neighbourhood assembly, in the street. Gamonal and Can Vies are examples of this, the “La Esperanza” community too. It’s the anarchism that has surpassed the limits of talks and the militancy of the word. It doesn’t believe that putting something into words is enough to change it. Its activity is outwards, it’s not directed towards satisfying the “initiated”, to preach to the converted, its circle of comrades is too small. The discourse created for internal consumption is a cacophony for this anarchism. It doesn’t militate for the anarchists; it militates to bring anarchy to the soil, to bring anarchy to the people. It designs its tactics and strategies, its roadmap, by defining well what it wants and what is considered a victory, so it is able to advance to the next stage. Its habitat is the neighbourhood, the shanty town, the park, the ditch, abandoned land, the expropriated houses. It’s the anarchism understood as an adult ideology, no matter how daring and audacious its aptitude, or how new its approaches may appear.

In my experience in these last four years at FAGC, and specially the last two in the “La Esperanza” community, I’ve come to conceive of anarchism as an adult ideology. Idealism is necessary, but not based on fantasies and chimeras, but on the real capacity to apply our ideas to transform the environment. We must find the limits of our myths – ideological, theoretical or any other kind – to discover the fallibility of respected thinkers. We must try to apply the ideas keeping in mind that no matter how many historical precedents they have, and how much you are able to draw from past experiences (history must be seen as a clue not as instructions), the reality is that this current experience has never been tried before, only by you and your comrades. The self-referential talk vanishes and only the hard reality remains. It’s hard, but it’s yours.

This reality is so because it stands on something tangible. In the 19th and 20th century there was an anarchism of the factory, and that was its strength. In this period there also was a cultural anarchism that gave a theoretical and literary underpinning to the street effort. We propose a street anarchism, an anarchism of the neighbourhood, and for the socially excluded. The worker of the 20th century wakes up in the 21st century and discovers that, after surviving the capitalist crisis, they’ve gone from qualified labourer to homeless. They are people destined to marginalization because they’ve suffered a change with almost no transition: workers yesterday, indigent today. For some it hasn’t changed, they’ve been born conditioned to live in the street. They like the anarchist message because of its utility. The hostility towards the police and the rejection of the sanctity of private property is natural to them; they need certain types of mutual aid to survive at points in their life. If this discourse becomes an efficient model to fully satisfy basic necessities in practise then anarchy works; it’s useful for them and, without turning them into anarchists, it’s enough.

We don’t need to be labelled insurrectionists for our radicalism or social anarchists for our work. We are combative anarchism and those kinds of labels are too narrow for us. We’ve been given a reality check and we have discovered that anarchy works in practice, that you can organise a micro-society of 250 people effectively following this model. But we also know that helping somebody doesn’t change their mind, and this I will expose in a future article.

What matters now is to know that neighbourhood anarchism, immersed in social marginalization, working in the ghetto, is vital. An anarchism implicated in the real problems of the people. It’s vital not because on its own it can “convert people”, but because it’s the best, if not the only, way to reach them. To reach the people you have to address their interests and needs.

But if vacuous provocation is not enough, which at least kicks the hornets’ nest, even less so is the talk of reforming institutions. In a moment when people are more detached from politics than ever, our missions is to force a rupture, not to seek conciliation with new ways inside the same structures. The situation is ripe for relaunching popular organisations from below, to mobilise people (and us with them) on the base of their primary necessities and demands, to give structure to the underground, to give body and muscle to those (of us) who have nothing. To entangle them in electoral promises, in local political aspirations, in the creation of institutions, is suicide: first, because they have never felt so distant from them; and second, because finally they are capable of doing other things. When a wounded enemy has to restructure themselves in a hurry, you don’t reinforce them, you finish them off. The institutions have to be seen as the enemy from whom you have to take things by force, through pressure and attrition; the adversary you undermine until you lose all fear and respect for them. Not like the weapon that is good or bad depending on who wields it. Beyond opportunistic hypothesis, something is crystal clear to me: the mice about to be devoured also think they are toying with the cat. That is playing politics: to believe you are giving respite to whom is about to consume you.

I don’t play games where others dictate the rules. And there is an anarchism that doesn’t either. That anarchism knows where its natural place is to enter the social life, it distances itself from infighting and joins in on the aspirations of the people to see if they can be criticised and taken further. This anarchism doesn’t establish itself on parameters of moral superiority (sorry if my rhetoric makes it seem like I want to go around giving lessons), I don’t do it because mine is the “last word” in social revolution; I propose it as a simple matter of survival. Either we limit ourselves to the endogamy of the “anarchy for the anarchists” (when anarchism should be for everyday people) or we let ourselves be killed by entering power structures that will eat and throw us away before we even realise. Until now these seemed like the only alternatives: closing yourself to the outside or surrendering your weapons and ammunition. It can not and should not be like this, our survival and that of our message depends on the battle, on the streets, on the most instinctive necessities of the people. We need to detect what they need, see if our praxis can provide it, adapt our tools to the moment, come up with a program that gives theoretical support to our conquests and, once the path forward becomes clear, share those tools and collectivise them (knowing when to step aside).

I don’t care about caricatures; it’s not the first time I’ve been called “slum anarchist” or “anarcho-lumpen”. I only care about results. Street anarchism has been the best method of introduction to our practices in years. The biggest housing occupation of the Spanish state hasn’t been accomplished by a party, an electoral coalition or an organisation of the system. It was started by an anarchist organisation using anarchist tools and making an anarchist model work without needing everyone involved to be one as well. That neighbourhood anarchism has given 71 homes to 71 families which account for more than 250 people. We don’t need theory to show it, the facts speak for themselves, the obstinate reality speaks for itself.

Ruymán Rodríguez

Read Part Two:- “Social Struggle

Read Part Three:- “The Third Movement

More information about the Federación Anarquistas Gran Canaria can be here www.anarquistasgc.noblogs.org or on their Facebook.

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Is this the Time for a Rent Strike? | Theory and Analysis

“The fact that there are a bunch of people suddenly interested in a #rentstrike who have no experience with orthodox organizing isn’t a mark of spontaneism or ultraleftism or some moral failure to have been previously involved in orthodox organizing. It’s a mark of the fact that shifting material conditions have presented that strategy as one that combines a) survival & b) newly increased leverage. New conditions mean new modes of organization rather than stamping your foot and insisting on the old kind.”

-Joshua Clover

“But I can’t possibly evict all of them at once!”

These are strange times. Spring has arrived, accompanied by a pandemic caused by a virus that has advanced with alarming speed and the totalitarian response from the state that puts us in a new situation. While the police enjoy their new powers, many people have lost their jobs and many more already have no idea how they are going to make it to the end of the month. In this context, disobedient voices are emerging and the idea of a rent strike has gained traction. We at Editorial Segadores and Col·lectiu Bauma have wanted to investigate this kind of strike, reviewing some famous past examples and imagining what a rent strike might look like in the coronavirus era. We hope that these reflections help whoever is interested in strategizing and acting. In response to confinement—critical thought and direct action.

WHAT IS RENT STRIKE AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

A rent strike is when a group of renters decide collectively to stop paying rent. They might have the same landlord or live in the same neighborhood. This might occur within another campaign or as part of a bigger struggle, or it might be the principle axis of a struggle against gentrification, against insufferable living conditions, against poverty in general, against capitalism itself.

To succeed, a rent strike requires three elements:

1. Shared dissatisfaction.
At the beginning, even if neighbors haven’t collectivized their demands, it’s necessary that many of them perceive the situation in more or less the same way: that it is outrageous or intolerable, that they run the risk of losing access to their housing, and that they don’t trust the established channels to provide justice.

2. Outreach.
As we’ll see below, the vast majority of rent strikes begin with a relatively small group of people and grow from there. Therefore, they need the means to spread their call to action, communicate their complaints, and ask for support and solidarity. In many cases, strikers can win with only a third of the renters of a property participating in a rent strike, but sufficient outreach is necessary to get to these numbers and to make the threat that the strike will spread convincing.

3. Support.
Those who go on strike need support. They need legal support for court procedures, housing support for those who lose their homes, physical support to fight evictions, and strategic support to face repression on a larger scale. In many cases, especially in large strikes, striking renters have found all the support they require within their own ranks, supporting one another and creating the necessary structures to survive. In other cases, strikers have turned to existing organizations for support. But the initiative for the strike always comes from the renters who dare to start it.

HISTORIC STRIKES AND THEIR COMMON CHARACTERISTICS

Now we’ll look at how these three vital elements were achieved in major rent strikes throughout history.

De Freyne Estate, Roscommon, Ireland, 1901
In 1901, a rent strike broke out on the farms belonging to Baron De Freyne, a big-time landlord in Roscommon County, Ireland. Over the preceding decades, renters in the region had consolidated their organizing power against the owners of large estates, in a movement connected to the resistance against English colonialism and the effects of the Great Famine. These movements hadn’t taken root in Roscommon, but surely the inhabitants knew of the practice and had also participated in some of the semi-illegal forms of resistance that have always been a part of rural tenancy (mass meetings, physically resisting eviction, sabotage, arson).

At the beginning of the 20th century, the residents were organized under the United Irish League, a nationalist organization that dealt with agrarian and economic issues. When the inhabitants started their autonomous strike, they quickly connected with the local UIL, while other groups connected with them to support their strike. At the same time, the high-ranking leadership acted ambiguously, sometimes offering support, other times trying to frame the strike as an independent undertaking that did not reject the concepts of rental and property outright, since the leadership of the UIL were still trying to persuade some part of the owning class to join them.

The immediate causes of the strike included a torrential rain that destroyed much of the harvest and drove up the price of feed; De Freyne’s refusal to lower the cost of rent; the accumulation of debt and the evictions of many families; and a long history of injustice with respect to land ownership, aggravated by a recent episode in which some of the inhabitants of a neighboring estate had been allowed to buy land while all of De Freyne’s tenants were forced to keep living like serfs.

The strike got underway in November 1901. At first, many of De Freyne’s tenants organized themselves clandestinely and informally, since the UIL didn’t take the initiative, although it did support the tenants. The strike spread to other estates, lasting over a year. Over 90% of the tenants on De Freyne’s lands participated. They resisted evictions by building barricades, throwing rocks at the police, and illegally constructing new dwellings.

All this caused a national scandal. In 1903, the English Parliament was forced to adopt extensive agrarian reform, putting an end to the system of tenant farming.

The Brooms Strike, Argentina, 1907
In August of 1907, the Municipality of Buenos Aires decreed a tax increase for the next year. Right away, landlords started raising rent. The conditions in poor areas were already miserable. In the prior year, the Argentine Regional Workers’ Federation (FORA) had campaigned for the lowering of rent.

On September 13, the women in 137 apartments on one block initiated a spontaneous strike. They drove out the lawyers, officials, judges, and police who tried to eject the tenants. By the end of the month, more than 100,000 renters were participating in a strike led by women who organized in committees, aided by mobilizations and structures organized by the FORA. They demanded a 30% reduction in rent; when the police came to evict a tenant, they fought with all they had, throwing projectiles and fighting hand to hand.

The strike spread to other cities, including Rosario and Baía Blanca, drawing the support of various labor, anarchist, and socialist organizations, chief of which was the FORA. Police repression was intense; in one case, they murdered a young anarchist. In the end, although the strikers stopped many evictions, they did not succeed in forcing the landlords to reduce the cost of rent. After three months of fierce battles and the deportation of many organizers (like Virginia Bolten) under the Law of Residence, the struggle ran out of steam.

Manhattan Rent Strike, New York, 1907
Between 1905 and 1907, rents in New York City rose 33%. The city grew without stopping, swelling with poor immigrants who came to work in the factories, in construction, and at the port. There was also a surge of anarchist and socialist activity. In the fall, landlords announced another rise in rents. In response, Pauline Newman, a 20-year-old worker, Jewish immigrant, and socialist, took the initiative, convincing 400 other young women workers to support the call for a rent strike. Already, by the end of December, they had convinced thousands of families; in the new year, 10,000 families stopped paying, demanding a 18-20% rent reduction. Within a few weeks, some 2000 families saw their rent reduced. This event was the beginning of a few years of neighborhood struggle and eventual state control over rent.

Mrs. Barbour’s Army, Glasgow, 1915
In the years preceding 1915, the Scottish city of Glasgow grew rapidly with wartime industrialization and the immigration of rural families. The property-owning class speculated on housing, leaving 11% of houses vacant and not financing new construction, while the working class found themselves in ever more crowded and deteriorating homes. Organizations such as the Scottish Housing Council and various labor unions spent years working to execute legal reforms in the housing and renting sector; they won some new laws, but in general, the situation continued to worsen. Furthermore, with the Great War, the prices of food rose without stopping and many of the country’s men were abroad. The property owners took advantage, thinking that it would be easier to exploit poor families with their men gone. From August to September 1913, there were 484 evictions in Glasgow. From January to March 1915, there were 6441.

In the misery, exploitation, and carnage that persecuted the working class, the property owners of Glasgow saw a good opportunity. In February 1915, they announced a 25% price increase for all rentals. Immediately, on February 16, all of the poor women in the southern part of the Govan neighborhood held a mass meeting. In attendance were the organizers of Glasgow Women’s Housing Association, an organization that had formed the previous year but still had little traction. At the meeting, they created the South Govan Women’s Housing Association, affiliated with GWHA. They decided not to pay the increase, but instead to continue paying the original rate. This spread throughout the neighborhood.

GWHA called a rally for May 1, drawing 20,000 participants. In June, the women of Govan won the cancellation of the rent increase. The movement grew from there. In October, more than 30,000 people participated in the rent strike all over the city. They came to be known as Mrs. Barbour’s Army, named after Mary Barbour, a worker of Govan. In the course of spreading and maintaining the strike, they organized rallies and protests and defended tenants against evictions, fighting hand to hand with the police. The unions threatened to go on strike in the armament factories; at the end of the year, they succeeded in winning the suspension of any punitive action against strikers, a rent freeze maintaining pre-war rent prices, and the first rent control laws in the United Kingdom—an important step towards social housing, which was introduced not long after.

From early on, the movement won the support of leftist parties and other existing organizations that focused on housing, like the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, connected with the Socialist Party. But it’s important to highlight that the women created autonomous organizations rather than joining traditional organizations. Some, like Mary Burns Laird, the first president of GWHA, also organized with political parties (the Labor party, in the case of Laird), while others, like Mrs. Barbour, weren’t affiliated with any party, creating their own path for the struggle. In any case, the GWHA’s activity was far from traditional leftist politics: their meetings took place in their kitchens, in washhouses, and in the streets. In large part, the force behind the acronym was the solidarity network that the poor women had already established in their daily caretaking activities.

Comité de Defensa Económica, Barcelona, 1931
In 1931, Barcelona had recently emerged from dictatorship. People eagerly awaited the improvements that democracy would bring… and they kept waiting. Barcelona had become the most expensive city in Europe, with rent amounting to 30%-40% of wages. (Today’s figures are similar, or even worse, but at the time, the average in European cities was 15%.) Conditions were abysmal. Many who could not afford to rent a place for themselves went to the “Casas de Dormir,” rooms where they could rest between factory shifts; often, these rooms didn’t even have beds, just ropes on which workers could rest their arms.

A rent strike erupted in April with the participants demanding a 40% reduction in rent. It lasted until December, involving between 45,000 and 100,000 people throughout the city. The Comité de Defensa Económica (CDE), or Economic Defense Committee, founded by the construction union of the CNT (Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, National Confederation of Workers), played a crucial role in the coordination and spread of the strike.

Like so many other strikes, this one was characterized by solidarity among striking neighbors who built barricades and resisted evictions together. When they succeeded, they celebrated in the street; when they did not, they broke back into the evicted house and celebrated inside. The very same workers who shut off the water or electricity in the morning came back in the evening to turn it back on. They were, of course, afiliated with the CNT. Sometimes the police ended up throwing furniture out of the windows or otherwise destroying it, fed up with having to return to reoccupied homes. Other tactics included what is known today as escrache, that is, protests in front of a landlord’s house.

Obviously, the strike didn’t come out of nowhere: it was based in community traditions of autonomy and rooted in a multifaceted network of relationships and ties that grew out of neighborhood and kinship. The movement was also closely linked to the radical culture that the CNT had been fostering since World War One.

“Santiago Bilbao, organizer of the CDE, saw the tenants’ strike as an important act of economic mutual aid through which the dispossessed could counteract the power of the market and take control of their daily lives. The CDE’s advice to the workers was: “Eat well and if you don’t have money, don’t pay rent!” The CDE also demanded that the unemployed be exempt from paying rent. However, although the strike spread through mass meetings organized by the CDE, the movement really came from the streets, which were more essential to it than any organization.”

-Barcelona (1931), Huelga de Inquilinos

The rent strike was born in the neighborhood of Barceloneta where there is a vital social consciousness, both from the hard lives of fishermen and from the laborers who work in the Maquinista Terrestre y Marítima, one of the most important companies in the metal industry. It’s no surprise that these grievances emerged from this historic fishing neighborhood next to the Mediterranean, where fishermen’s houses are still known as matchboxes. These were homes of 15 or 20 square meters where whole families lived, sometimes with lodgers such as relatives recently arrived from the village. […] It is the Sindicato Único de la Construcción of the CNT that will mobilize the discontent of working families, which, little by little, will spread to the margins of the city and in each of those neighborhoods, the strike will have its own characteristics, its own idiosyncrasies and methods of struggle.”

-Aisa Pàmpols, Manel, (2014) “La huelga de alquileres y el comité de defensa económica,” Barcelona, abril-diciembre de 1931. Sindicato de la Construcción de la CNT. Barcelona: El Lokal.

The strike was effectively ended by means of severe repression, headed by governor Oriol Anguera de Sojo and the president of the Property Owners Association, Joan Pich i Son, who also killed the insurrection of October 1934. The new democratic republic did not look much different from the old dictatorship once it brought out its entire arsenal: police, Guardia Civil (Civil Guard), and the Guardia de Asalto, the new paramilitary police. The Law of the Defense of the Republic was applied, a gag law that offered carte blanche for repression. Some were imprisoned as “governmental prisoners” and the CDE was declared a criminal organization.

Despite all this, the continued protests continued to stoke the embers for the revolution that was to come.

Much of the original documentation of the strike was destroyed in the war, perhaps as a result of the fear inspired by this example of proletarian resistance. Consequently, we are missing a large portion of the voices of the women who played a central role in the strike. Formal organizations are always given more weight in historiography than informal organizational spaces, although there is no doubt that the central role of the CNT was an important feature of the strike. However, the fact that strike tactics were different in each neighborhood tells us that the strike was not centralized, but depended above all on the initiative of those who carried it out.

St. Pancras, London, 1959-1960
St. Pancras, in London, was a mostly working-class area, with some 8000 people living in social housing.

In 1958, the district voted to raise the rent in social housing. At the end of the following July, after the Conservative Party won the district elections, they raised rents again, this time more dramatically (between 100% and 200%), and kicked out the unions (whereas previously, workers in the district had to be members). Up to that point, there had been little neighborhood organization, but as August began, tenants in one district neighborhood formed an association. By the end of August, 25 such tenant associations had been formed and these had representatives in the central committee of a new organization, the United Tenants Association. The secretary, Don Cook, had already been secretary of one of the few (and small) tenant associations that existed before 1959.

From the beginning, most of the base favored direct action and a rent strike, but the Labor Party, which wanted to use the tenants’ demands to beat the Conservative Party and regain control in the district, held them back.

On September 1, 1959, a march and meeting took place involving 4000 people. The participants adopted positions including a refusal to fill out the required paperwork to evaluate each family’s new rent, a call for unity, a promise to defend any family facing eviction, and a demand for solidarity from the unions. Over the following months, the tenants continued to hold demonstrations and, with support from the unions, established committees on every block, which held weekly delegate assemblies often attended by 200 or more participants. They published three weekly newsletters to disseminate information from the leadership to the base. By the end of the year, the UTA included 35 tenant associations.

Women protested by night at the homes of district counselors. Each counselor was targeted twice a week or more. They lost plenty of sleep. One of the few stories of the strike written by a participant (one Dave Burn) recognizes that women “formed the backbone of the movement, remaining active every day and supporting each other.” Still, most of Burn’s story focuses on formal, predominantly male delegate organizations.

The rent hike was set to take effect on January 4, 1960. At first, fully 80% of social housing tenants didn’t pay the increase, only the previous rent. After many threats and with the district’s eviction process beginning, participation in the strike dropped to a quarter of all tenants, or about 2000. In February, the Labor Party advised the UTA to call off the strike so they could negotiate with the Conservatives. The UTA refused: without the strike, they would be totally defenseless and several families were already in the midst of eviction processes.

To concentrate their forces, the UTA organized a collective payment of most of the back rent so they didn’t have to fight so many evictions at once. The first judgments were issued and three evictions were scheduled for late August. Tenants began to organize their defense, determined not to allow a single eviction from social housing. In the middle of that campaign, in July, UTA leaders met with district counselors—but the negotiations failed, since the Conservatives didn’t want to hear anything about tenants’ problems. From that moment, the UTA began a total rent strike, and in mid-August, 250 more eviction notices arrived.

By August 28, massive barricades had been erected; tenants had prepared a system of pickets and alarms to alert the entire neighborhood, so that workers could walk out and come to defend people’s homes. As of August 14, the number of eviction notices had risen to 514. The Labor Party and the Communist Party feared the rising tension and called for the strike to end, but it was too late.

On the morning of September 22, 800 cops attacked. A two-hour battle followed in which one policeman was seriously injured. Police managed to evict two homes, but on one block, the clashes continued until noon. Some 300 local workers came to help defend the strike—but the labor unions did not offer support. In the afternoon, a thousand cops attacked a march of 14,000 tenants. Confrontations continued.

The leader of the district counsel signaled that he was prepared to meet with UTA representatives. The next day, the Minister of the Interior declared the prohibition of all demonstrations and gatherings.

Due to the political scandal the riots had caused, the Labor Party abandoned the tenants and began to denounce “agitators” and “radicals.” They alleged the involvement of outside provocateurs and insisted that the conflict had to be resolved through dialogue—despite the fact that throughout the year, the district’s Conservatives had nearly always refused dialogue. Meanwhile, after negotiations, the Conservatives approved a small rent reduction.

Under attack as much from the left as from the right and facing daily threats of new evictions, the UTA decided to change strategies to avoid more evictions. They paid the back rent due from neighbors who faced the highest risk of eviction and decided to aid the Labor Party to oust the Conservatives in the coming elections. In May 1961, the Labor Party won control of the district counsel, 51 counselors to 19. Several UTA delegates had joined their ranks and the main plank of their electoral platform was rent reform.

Tenants awaited the reform of the rental plan in social housing… and waited… and waited. The two tenants who had been evicted found new homes, but after a few months, Labor counselors announced that rent reform would not be possible. The strike had failed.

Autoriduzione, Italy, 1970s
The 1960s and ’70s in Italy were a time of increasing precarity in labor and housing, and also a moment in which people dreamed of a world without exploitation and dared to pursue it. In 1974, counting on the neutrality of the Communist Party, the most forward-thinking technocrats of the industrial and financial sectors introduced Plan Carli. This Plan aimed to increase labor exploitation and reduce public spending.

During the 1960s, a strong autonomous workers movement in Italy had influenced the rise of an autonomous movement in the neighborhoods based in self-organized neighborhood committees in which women played a crucial role. Focused on practical and immediate survival, these committees organized “auto-reductions” in which tenants and neighbors themselves decided to reduce the price of services—for example, only paying 50% for water or electricity.

In Torino, the movement gained considerable momentum in summer 1974. When public transit companies decided to raise fares, the response was immediate. Participants spontaneously blocked buses at various points, distributed pamphlets, and sent delegates into town. From there, the most militant unions began to organize a popular response: they would print transit tickets themselves and volunteers would hand them out on buses, charging the previous price. Through collective strength, they forced the companies to accept the situation.

The auto-reductions in electricity payments spread quickly, organized in two phases: first, collecting signatures committing to participation in the auto-reduction, in both factories and neighborhoods; second, picket lines outside the post office, taking advantage of leaked information from the public utility unions about when and where bills were mailed. Picketers handed out information about how to participate in the auto-reduction. After a few weeks, 150,000 families in Torino and the Piedmont region were participating.

Auto-reductions were stronger in Torino because the regional unions were autonomous from the national committees controlled by the Communist Party, which blocked every direct action initiative against rising prices. Thus, in Torino, the labor unions could lend their power and support to spontaneous initiatives and those by neighborhood committees, while in cities such as Milan, the unions did not support those initiatives or else, as in Napoli, there were no strong unions in the first place. In some cities, like Palermo, students and young people made auto-reductions possible through illegal actions.

The movement extended to auto-reductions in rent, aiming to keep rent from exceeding 10% of a family’s salary. Various tactics were employed from small group efforts to neighborhood committee initiatives backed by the more radical unions. In the first half of the 1970s, participants squatted 20,000 homes, temporarily liberating them from the commercial logic of rent. There were also rent strikes in Rome, Milan, and Torino.

The feminist movement was a major part of these efforts. In this context, women developed the theories of triple exploitation (by bosses, husbands, and the state) and reproductive labor, which remain crucial in present-day struggles.

Soweto Township, South Africa, 1980s
Soweto is an urban area of Johannesburg with a high population density. In the 1980s, it had 2.5 million inhabitants. Throughout the last decades of Apartheid, the residents of Soweto experienced extreme poverty and social exclusion. In 1976, this erupted in the Soweto Uprising, a series of powerful protests and strikes and a police crackdown that ended in dozens of deaths. The material conditions of the area began to improve, but only thanks to the continued struggle of the residents.

The housing situation was appalling. Houses were of poor quality, unhygienic, and disordered. Rent and services amounted to a third of the typical salary of the residents, not counting the skyrocketing unemployment rates. On June 1, 1986, when word spread of a plan to raise rents, thousands of Soweto residents stopped paying rent and services to the Soweto Council. The Council tried to break the strike with evictions, but the neighbors resisted with force. In late August, police shot at a crowd that was resisting an eviction, killing more than 20 people. Rage intensified and the authorities halted the evictions.

In early 1988, the authorities declared a state of emergency to try to suppress the rise of black resistance across the country. The sole focal point that they did not manage to extinguish was the Soweto rent strike. In the middle of the year, the strikes continued and the authorities cut off the electricity to nearly the entire area as a means of pressure. The press claimed that the strike was not realistic, that it was only sustained by the violence of young militants. The reality turned out to be different: despite 30 months of a state of emergency that stopped much of the activity of the anti-apartheid movement, the vast majority of the residents continued to support the strike. In the end, the authorities recognized that they had completely lost control. In December 1989, they canceled all overdue rents—a loss of more than $ 100 million—definitively stopped evictions, suspended all rents pending negotiation with neighbors, and, in at least 50,000 cases, ceded ownership of the houses directly to the tenants.

Before these strikes, the anti-apartheid movement had used rent strikes as a tactic in its protests against the white government, so the entire population was familiar with them; the mobilizations and organizations of this movement had extended the practices of solidarity. But the first major rent strike started in September 1984 in Lekoa as an immediate response from the neighbors themselves to a rent increase; the most involved organization was the Vaal Civic Association, Vaal being the local region. This was probably the source of the rent strike tactic that the African National Congress (ANC) and other organizations subsequently began to use.

Similarly, the Soweto rent strike emerged from the neighborhood itself in response to its immediate conditions and survival imperatives. It is a classic example of informal neighborhood networks being key to the organization of strikes, with formal structures being created as needed once the strike had already begun. And while they were excluded from some of the formal organizations, women maintained a key role in organizing and maintaining those vital neighborhood networks.

Boyle Heights Mariachis, Los Angeles, 2017
In an attempt at racist gentrification, a homeowner raised rental costs by 60-80% on a small number of apartments in a building next to Mariachi Plaza in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Half of the tenants formed a coalition immediately—including tenants not directly affected by the rent increase—and demanded dialogue with the landlord. When the landlord tried to engage with each of them separately, the coalition launched the rent strike. Subsequently, the Los Angeles Tenants Union (LATU) began supporting the strike, helping to mobilize and secure legal resources.

After nine months, they received a rent hike of only 14%, a three-year contract (very rare in the US), the cancellation of any penalty for non-payment, and the right to negotiate the next contract as a collective after three years.

Burlington United, Los Angeles, 2018
A strike began in three buildings on the same property on Burlington Avenue, a Latinx neighborhood in Los Angeles affected by rapid gentrification, at a moment when the number of homeless Latinx people had been skyrocketing. When the landlord raised tenants’ rent between 25% and 50%, 36 of the 192 apartments declared a rent strike; the poor conditions in the buildings were also one of the complaints shared by the tenants. By the second week, a total of 85 apartments were on strike, almost half. The residents organized themselves starting with the strike declaration. Subsequently, the local LATU and a nearby neighborhood legal defense activist organization opposing evictions provided assistance to the strikers.

The legal system divided resistance through separate court processes for each apartment. Half of the apartments won their judgments; the others were forced to leave.

Parkdale, Toronto, 2017-2018
In 2017, the tenants occupying 300 apartments in multiple buildings with the same owner carried out a successful strike in the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto. The neighborhood was undergoing rapid gentrification and the real estate company in question had already earned a bad reputation among its tenants for poor apartment conditions and trying to force them out via price increases.

When the company tried to raise prices, some neighbors decided to declare a strike; others quickly joined, organizing as an assembly. Another important element in the context was the activity of Parkdale Organize, a tenants’ organization from the same neighborhood that had emerged out of another neighborhood struggle in 2015. Parkdale Organize helped mobilize the strike, knocking on doors in the affected buildings, offering resources, and sharing models of resistance. After three months, they managed to block the rent increase.

Inspired by this example, tenants in another large, 189-apartment Parkdale building began a strike the following year. When the real estate company decreed a sharp rise in rents, the tenants in 55 apartments organized in an assembly and went on strike. After two months on strike, the tenants won their demands and the owner canceled the rent increase.

Common Characteristics
Most of these strikes were started by women; women played an important role in all of them. The strikes always occur in a context in which many tenants suffer similar conditions: rent that takes up a large proportion of salaries; the danger of losing housing; and some additional cause for outrage, such as very unhealthy conditions, a contextual issue like English colonialism (as in the Roscommon strike), or an unjust reform that favors some and harms others. And there is almost always a spark: most commonly, a price increase or a decrease in the economic opportunities of the tenants.

Often, strikes began spontaneously, which does not mean they appeared out of nowhere, but that they arose—in a favorable context—from the specific initiative of neighbors, implemented through an assembly or through affective and neighborhood networks. From there, they either create their own organizations or draw the support of existing organizations. In other cases, a formal organization exists from the beginning of the strike, but it is a rather small organization created by and for tenants, not one of the big union organizations or parties. We have only found one case in which a rent strike was called for by a large organization—1931 in Barcelona.

Regarding the chances of victory, it is important for the strike to spread as widely as possible, but it isn’t necessary that it involve a majority. Strikes have been won with the participation of only a quarter or a third of the tenants under the same owner; in the case of strikes in a given territory, that are not directed against a particular owner, it may be a much smaller proportion of the total inhabitants of a city, as long as there are enough to interrupt normalcy, provoke a crisis in the government, and saturate the legal system. The determination to maintain high spirits and solidarity rather than seeking individual solutions is more important than the number of strikers.

Another factor, perhaps the most important, depends on context. What are the state’s capacities to inflict repression? Is it better for them to crush disobedience, or to appease conflict and restore their image?

Current Conditions: More than Adequate
As we have seen, certain conditions are necessary for a rent strike to spread throughout the population: precarity that makes it impossible for more and more people to access housing and a shared sense that things are going very badly. Do these conditions currently exist?

Increasingly, large international investment funds are buying up property around the world and setting rent at record highs. As they devour the housing market, the price that people have to pay for access skyrockets.

For example, in the Spanish state, the price of rental housing reached its historical apex in February 2020 (the last month for which the data was available at the time of writing this text) at €11.1 per square meter, an increase of 5.6% over February 2019. The communities with the highest prices are Madrid (€ 15.0) and Catalonia (€14.5). In Madrid City, the price is €16.3 per square meter, a growth of 3.5%; and in the city of Barcelona, €16.8 per square meter, a growth of 3.7%. But all the tourist cities have experienced a similar increase. Between 2014 and 2019, the average rental prices in the Spanish state have risen 50%, far exceeding the highest point before the 2008 crisis.

Over the same time period, the average salary in the Spanish state has not even risen 3%. That’s right: a 50% increase in housing costs and a 3% increase in salaries. But the mean salary includes both working people and millionaires, and the latter do not have to pay rent. If we refer to the median salary or the salary earned by the greatest number of people (i.e., the most common salary among the masses), we see that it has risen much less and has even decreased in some years. In short: now there are more people than ever who cannot access housing. We have seen this situation coming for the past five years, long before the coronavirus.

This lack of housing access shows in the statistics, as well. In 2018, there were more than 59,000 evictions in the Spanish state, with an increasing proportion of evictions for non-payment of rent. In 2019, there were more than 54,000, 70% via the Urban Rental Law. Both years, the communities of Catalonia and Andalusia led in the number of evictions. The decline between 2018 and 2019 is largely explained by the resistance to evictions that has emerged everywhere and by the trend towards fewer foreclosures each year, as fewer people can get mortgages now and banks are more willing to negotiate after the explosion of resistance over the last twelve years. Between 2017 and 2019, the number of homeless people in Madrid grew by 25%, officially reaching 2583 people, although other experts say that there must actually be around 3000. There are an estimated 40,000+ homeless people throughout the Spanish state. [In the United States, the number of homeless people in Los Angeles alone exceeds this.]

The coronavirus pandemic only exacerbates this situation. Many people have lost their jobs; it is no surprise that the government’s emergency measures have been more concerned with increasing police and martial powers, protecting financial institutions, businessmen, and people with mortgages, and therefore have left the most precarious people unprotected—tenants, people without papers, and the homeless. On the other hand, it is a time when solidarity initiatives have spread at the speed of light, with cacerolazos (noise demonstrations with pots and pans) on the balconies and a rapid expansion of social demands, all despite the state of siege imposed by the government.

In short, it is not just the right time for a rent strike, but there is more need than ever to organize such initiatives right now. If this is not the time—all-time highs for housing precarity, a pandemic, and the rapid spread of social initiatives—perhaps there will never be a suitable time to launch a rent strike?

TENANT’S CONCERNS

It is understandable that renters who might be in favor of going on strike will have a number of doubts.

Practical and Legal Concerns
Initial doubts stem, simply, from a total lack of familiarity with rent strikes: to our knowledge, there has been no rent strike in Spanish territory since 1931. How does it work? What are my rights and what are the possible penalties if I stop paying the rent?

In short, you only have to do two things to join the rent strike: stop paying and communicate it to others. You can communicate your non-payment to the owner or not do so. Communicating it may make the strike stronger, but if several tenants of the same owner join the strike, that will also convey the message. The Union of Tenants of Gran Canaria has an example of a form that you can send to the owner.

The second step is very important: informing others that you have joined the rent strike. The more people join, the less danger there is for each person. Talking to your neighbors is the best way to encourage them to join the strike. It is also very important to communicate about the strike to networks that can provide solidarity in your neighborhood. These could be neighborhood associations, housing or tenant unions, or even solidarity-based labor unions such as the CNT. If they know more or less how many people are on strike, they will be able to distribute information and resources and help organize a collective defense in the event of an eviction process. Remember: together, we are much stronger.

As for the legal consequences, if you stop paying the rent, the landlord may start an eviction process to kick you out of your apartment. But in many cases, when multiple tenants of the same landlord stop paying the rent, the landlord is compelled to reach an agreement that can include a rent reduction. In a situation of generalized crisis like the current one, it is very possible that the state will intervene with a moratorium on evictions if many people go on strike.

Emotional Concerns
The emotional aspect is essential in a rent strike. Precarious housing exists everywhere, every day. The fundamental element to spark a rent strike is the courage of those who say enough is enough, who decide to take risks, to take the initiative. It is a bit of a paradox: if everyone dares, victory is almost guaranteed and there is very little risk. But if everyone hesitates, without the safety of the group, the few who dare may lose their homes.

Yet right now, we obviously have the advantage. Millions of people from humble neighborhoods are in the same situation—and we all already know that we are in this situation. There will not be “a few” who take risks, because there are already tens of thousands who have lost their jobs and will not be able to pay their rent, and this number will only increase. If we suffer in silence, we may not risk anything, but all the same we may lose our homes. But if we raise our voices and collectivize our struggle, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

The slightly more privileged people—those who can survive a month, two months, three months without pay, or who have retained their jobs—also have a lot to gain if they join the thousands of people who have no other way out, because none of us know how long the quarantine will last or how long the consequent economic crisis will continue. Regardless of the pandemic, in most of the cities in the Spanish state, we were already losing access to housing. If normality returns… then tourism will return along with Airbnb, gentrification, and the unbearable pressure of ever-rising rent.

We have another advantage on our side: during the state of emergency, the courts are also paralyzed. Some cities have already postponed all evictions and other municipalities will not be able to manage them at all, or only extremely slowly.

There could not be a better time to start a rent strike. The only thing that is needed is to raise our voices and collectivize the situation that we are all experiencing.

ORGANIZATIONS SPECIALIZING IN THE HOUSING STRUGGLE

Social organizations play a very important role in a rent strike. They can convene it, they can support it—or they can damage it. What are the characteristics of a strong and effective relationship between the housing movement and organizations?

First, we must recognize the reality of movements for housing. The movement consists of everyone who suffers from poor housing conditions or who is in danger of losing access to housing. They, the precarious, are the ones who have everything to lose and everything to gain; they are the ones who have to take the initiative to declare a rent strike or other acts of resistance.

Organization is a matter of the utmost strategic importance within a rent strike, but there is no specific organization that is essential. An organization that is already very strong can call the strike, as in Barcelona in 1931. But if the neighbors themselves need to go on strike, they will call the strike themselves and then create the organizations they need to build support and coordinate their actions. Even when organizations specializing in housing already exist, if they do not respond to the residents’ immediate needs, the residents will ignore them and create their own organizations. And in the very unfortunate case that an organization considers itself the proprietor of the movement and tries to lead it according to its own political needs rather than the needs of the residents, as occurred in the strike in St. Pancras, London, in 1960, it will end up sabotaging the strike and harming the tenants.

The fact that the vast majority of rent strikes have been organized by women reflects this dynamic: the formal organizations of the Left have emerged largely according to a patriarchal logic that puts “party interests” ahead of the human needs of the most affected people. For this reason, women often organize their own structures, among other things, within their own networks and with their own methods, rather than joining the large organizations that already exist.

A strong and effective relationship between the housing movement and social organizations could be based on these principles:

1. Social organizations respond to the needs of the residents. They can help to formulate strategies, but they should not turn a blind eye to the realities and inclinations of the residents.

2. Organizations exist to support residents, not to lead them. If the organizations assume that their leadership is essential, residents will likely have to create their own initiatives when action is urgent.

3. The most important support structures that organizations can provide are psychosocial and defensive. In regards to the first, the organization helps residents to see that they are not alone—that together they are strong, they can win. In this sense, the essential thing is to feed people’s spirits, not to discourage them or sow fear or false prudence. As for their defensive role, this is the activity of coordinating physical resistance to evictions and gathering legal resources for legal processes. Without this activity, the strikers will fall house by house.

By contrast, what are the characteristics of a counterproductive relationship between social organizations and the housing movement?

Specialist activism.
It is admirable when people dedicate their lives to solidarity struggles for dignity and freedom. But problematic dynamics arise when a specialization is derived from this approach that generates distance between the experts and “normal people.” In the case of the fight for housing, activists may end up being more aware of the perspectives of other “organized” activists and militants than they are of what is happening to other residents and precarious people. Consequently, they prioritize the interests of the organization (affiliating more members, looking good in the press, gaining status through negotiations with the authorities), when the interests of the residents should always take precedence (gaining access to decent and stable housing).

This alienation between activists and neighbors can manifest itself as false prudence. It is true that a rent strike is a very hard fight; it is not something to propose lightly. But taking a conservative position in the current situation seems to us to deny the reality that many people are already experiencing. A rent strike is dangerous—but it is undeniable that within the current crisis, the danger is already here. This month, tens of thousands of people will not be able to pay the rent, not to mention the tens of thousands who already live on the street in a situation of absolute vulnerability.

The danger of specialist activism is especially great in the case of economically privileged people. It is admirable when people from well-to-do families decide to fight side by side with precarious people. But it is totally unacceptable for such people to try to determine the priorities or set the pace of the struggles of the precarious.. As in all cases of privilege, they should be transparent with their companions and honest with themselves and support the struggles of precarious people instead of trying to lead them.

Limited scale or fragmented vision.
It is entirely understandable that people who have spent a lot of time fighting for housing would feel a little overwhelmed or doubtful about a general call for a rent strike. Indeed, it would be troubling if they didn’t feel that way. It has been more or less a century since we saw rent strikes on this scale. But we must also acknowledge that it has been nearly a century since capitalism has experienced a crisis as intense as the one developing today—and the rent strike continues to be an effective tool. It should give us some peace of mind to know that tenants and organizations that have been involved in rent strikes for the past three years in Toronto and Los Angeles are supporting the current international call.

As for the danger of dividing up the struggles, we consider totally unacceptable any call-out that does not take into account the needs of the homeless and those without documents. Although it is understandable that many organizations seeking short-term changes focus on a more specialized field or topic, they should not contribute to the fragmentation of struggles, undermining the possibility of solidarity. It is a tactic of the state to offer solutions for people with mortgages but nothing for tenants. We should not reproduce this approach even if we have good intentions. Therefore, all calls should support a moratorium on evictions and also legitimize the practice of occupying empty houses, or at least connect with calls that do.

The Reform/Revolution dichotomy.
To speak plainly, it’s an illusion to believe that it’s possible to win a revolution and abolish all oppressive structures from one day to the next: revolutions consist of a long path of struggle after struggle. It’s also an error to believe that it is possible to gain real reforms without creating a force that threatens the power of the state: states maintain social control and the well-being of the economy and they don’t protect those who are dispensable to those causes. Almost all really beneficial reforms have been won by revolutionary movements, not by reformist movements.

There is a lot of important debate about the appropriate relationship between the state and political movements, about tactics and strategy. But we are stronger when we work together—when those who are dedicated to small but urgent gains are connected to those who work against the fundamental sources of exploitation and fix their gaze on a horizon where exploitation no longer exists. At the end of the day, our struggles comprise an ecosystem. We’ll never convince the whole world to think like we do, nor will we dominate all social movements; whoever tries to do so only weakens their movement. We should cultivate healthy relationships based in solidarity between different parts of the same struggle, sharing whenever possible—and when that’s not possible, permitting each other to continue on a more or less parallel path. In order that this solidarity can function, it is necessary to respect the immediate work some people focus on and at the same time not to denounce any group’s “radicalism” to the press or to the police.

It’s easy for someone who spends half of her earnings on rent to appreciate a law that caps rent; for someone who can’t afford private insurance to appreciate public health services; for someone who lives in a squatted apartment to appreciate a moratorium on evictions; for a migrant to appreciate legal protections against deportation. Those who don’t personally experience any of these situations should empathize with those who do before solidifying their political ideas.

At the same time, many of us who experience precariousness choose not to create an identity out of it. We have to get to the root of the problem. Public health and rent control are great, but legal reforms and “public” good are not under our control, they are under the control of the state, and they will do us no good when the state decides it’s inconvenient to maintain what they once gave us. Why has this pandemic resulted in such a grave crisis? Because the state has continually reduced the quality of public health services. Why has rent increased so much? Because the state passed the Urban Rental Law, stripping away protections won by previous generations.

Short-term measures are necessary, but we also need a revolutionary perspective, at least for whoever doesn’t want to spend their whole life fighting for crumbs, for mere survival.

SOME CONCLUSIONS

Capitalism is global. States support one another at the global level. A revolution in one single place isn’t possible, at least not for the long term. An internationalist vision is essential in this time of pandemic, xenophobia, borders, and transnational corporations. In the Spanish state, internationalism has been pretty weak of late. In Latin America, there have been strikes and revolts for free public transportation, there have been right-wing coups, there have been months and months of struggle, and many deaths. Yet in the Spanish state, not a peep. In Hong Kong, there was almost an entire year of protests against new authoritarian measures. In the Spanish state, silence. For all of 2019, just on the other side of the Pyrenees, the yellow vests gave it their all fighting against austerity. How many rallies showing solidarity have there been in the Spanish state?

Movements for freedom and dignity and against exploitation must be global. Right now we’re suffering a global pandemic—and the strongest states, from the US to China, are responding with apathy and deadly incompetence or with a level of totalitarian surveillance (drones, real-time location surveillance of individuals, cameras in every public space that use facial recognition). In the Spanish state, we see a combination of incompetence and police authoritarianism.

The rent strike is already spreading through various neoliberal countries, where vast numbers of people are in danger of losing their homes. There is no doubt that this is also the situation here in the Spanish state. If we’re not capable of internationalizing our struggles now, will we ever be? ■

For solidarity and dignity,

against precariousness.

#RentStrikeNow

Written by the Segadores and Bauma collectives of Catalunya
www.segadores.alscarrers.org

English translation by CrimethInc.
www.crimethinc.com

Featured Image Station 40, a housing collective in San Francisco, is already on rent strike.