[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]
“On, on, onwards, for the fire is hot! […] On, onwards, as long as you live.”
(Letter by Thomas Müntzer to his followers, 1525)
In the previous two articles I talked about the two types of anarchism I had identified, and of the potential and limits of the social struggle; now I’m going to talk about the necessity for combative anarchism, committed to the social struggle, to transcend its starting point and reach a superior revolutionary objective thanks to well-designed and solid strategy.
Analyzing the situation of activism, social movements, including the anarchist, have been on the defensive for years. We only come out to the streets and mobilize to not lose ground. We don’t know how to attack. The only thing we want is not to lose past conquests, but not to make new ones. Fights like militant unions, housing, education or healthcare are framed today in those terms. They are respectable movements of self-defense, not structures of attack. Honestly, I believe it is time to go on the offensive.
We need to overcome this ongoing situation where we are just trying to take punches as they come, and learn how to fight back, to trade blow by blow, to hurt. This last decade of struggle, and especially the experience in housing, has taught me that when one focuses their militancy in the management of a “small matter”, in the preservation of what you have, you risk losing the ambition to go further. And this can turn what was supposed to be just a phase, the means to an end, into an end in itself.
I know it’s not the best for me to talk about not limiting yourself. We live in a state of retreat, as anarchists and as social activists. A few, resigned but pragmatic, try to save the furniture from the shipwreck, and try to build something for the future. A majority is still impervious to the lost opportunity and, lost in their liturgy of banners and hymns, don’t want to see that even the most reformist collectives have overtaken them on the left, thanks mainly to their activity. Another significant part abandons ship and, seduced by the siren’s song of the establishment, flirts with electoralism, the new parties, and starts believing something incomprehensible: that voting is the transformative novelty; and that to abstain and create on the sidelines is the orthodoxy.
We raise our voice from the dirt, in the very heart of poverty. I won’t speak to you with a clean face, neither will I shake off the dust in your presence nor offer you a washed up hand; down here, where we get down to work, it doesn’t smell good, there’s no sterile debates and rhetoric doesn’t accomplish anything. While working in misery, we are trying to organise it. Let’s begin!
We are not interested in the war for acronyms, the scuffles about banners, the internal feuds of families, sects, tendencies and clans. It’s like seeing two starved insects fighting over the remains. Anything that tries to drag us into that is not welcomed. We also don’t want to hear intellectuals babbling or fighting among themselves, telling us about a past that cannot be repeated or inviting us to advance while they themselves don’t move their asses from their seats. There’s a new anarchist that is active, pragmatic, that wants to be adult but not to grow old, and that is not willing to get itself tangled in the ideological disputes of its elders. Our proposal is to make a call for all combative anarchists to work together. This verb is key: to work. To coordinate efforts based around practical work proposals, leaving asides brainy questions about the future of a society we still are not strong enough to preconfigure. We spend hours arguing about what type of fuels will be used in the post-revolutionary society, how will the means of production be managed, what resources will it use and which not; and we still haven’t made the revolution that’ll allow us to have these problems in front of us. Because of our incompetence, we have no capacity to decide about our present, so we try to decide about something that has no relevance and belongs to a future that is slipping out of our hands. Let’s work so that one day we could argue about these problems in workers or community assemblies, but until then let’s not waste time.
Once we come all together, willing to work together but not to think the same, to combine efforts but necessarily sensibilities, we can select the objective. The FAGC chose housing, and everyone interested knows the results. Yes, we are responsible for the biggest occupation in the whole Spanish state, but I already said in my previous article that that is not all, we still need a third movement. What was done alleviated the situation of many people, it has allowed to extend the life of some of the most urgent cases; and that is already the most important thing. But it’s not enough to stay there. It would be like organising an army and refusing to declare war. Everything lived, good and bad, must serve to extract conclusions, reflect and take the fight to a new stage.
And what about the long and surrealist shadow of assistentialism? We have learnt our lesson and found the way to avoid it. The social struggle, by offering real solutions to real problems, allows us to get in contact with the people. But for the relationship to advance it is essential that the person affected stops being a receiver/observer and starts being an actor. And that’s achieved by establishing as necessary that the person being rehoused takes part in their own rehousing. Do you want to receive help? Here we are for you, but first prove that you are capable of helping yourself and others. Do you refuse? Very well, we won’t give more solidarity than the one we are offered, that’s all. Whoever really needs a house will have no option but to question what they’ve learnt, what the system taught them, their own way of behaving with others, before they can make a decision. It’s possible that it won’t produce any change, but we would have made them confront a hard contradiction face to face. A what was said about rehousing also applies to the rest. In our last occupations we have been applying that principle and the results have been very positive. We certainly participate in less rehousings, but the experiences are better and the participants more in need, more committed and more active.We have also learned that behind the criticisms of “assistentialism” we often find voices with little experience that, unwilling to abandon their ivory tower and walk among the filthy and difficult reality, show their disdain for active militancy by looking for pretexts instead of offering alternatives. The risks of assistentialism are not overcome from a comfortable distance while surrounded by those already convinced.
Once organised, with an established protocol to avoid becoming an NGO or a real estate agency, we are missing that last twist that I mentioned in “Street Anarchy II”, that third movement: the way of conflict.
The third movement is the one that makes the difference between conventional squatting (an act that closes its cycle on its own, revolutionarily innocuous) and programmed expropriation of households owned by banks, with the objective of establishing a communal management of a collective good (an act that means a direct political, social, and economical challenge).
It’s not enough to occupy houses, which usually only affects a limited number of people. It’s not even enough to make them available for the people and use them for rehousing. In the end we can end up reinforcing the System by compensating for one of its shortfalls and inhibiting people in protest by helping them get back on the capitalist train. We need to occupy and rehouse, but as part of a political strategy of mass socialization that aims for the neighbours themselves to manage consumer goods through assemblies, just like we expect the workers to do with the means of production.
The strategy is simple: unite with those other combative anarchists, call a popular assembly about the most urgent topic that worries your neighbourhood (I use housing as an example because it’s the field we have more experience with), offer useful tools to the neighbours and establish contact with them. How many empty houses owned by the banks are in the neighbourhood? So occupy all of them and make the neighbours directly manage the public good of housing. We have to take the step, cross the threshold, and turn squatting into collective expropriation.
How many of your neighbours pay rents to the same real estate agency, bank or rich landlord? How many can’t pay or are about to find themselves in that situation? Once again, call a neighbours assembly and give that fatalism a conscious dimension. They soon are going to lose the home because of not being able to pay the rent, so give not paying a political character: propose calling a rent strike. No one pays, either until everyone’s rent goes down (if the disposition of the people doesn’t allow for anything more radical) or until the management of the houses is put in your hands with no intermediary.
Do you organise in a libertarian union? Propose to integrate the labour struggle with the social struggle (which doesn’t mean just having good intentions, writing statements and supporting campaigns, but to start your own way of intervention and confrontation, directly revolutionary). To compete with the establishment unions using their weapons is either a waste of time or suicide. The nature of libertarian unionism always was multifaceted, and extended beyond the purely laboural plane. In order to survive, anarcho-syndicalism needs to adopt integral solutions and offer tools not limited to factories or even consumer cooperatives, but that directly address the issues of the poorest neighbourhoods. We must bring back the renters unions that anarcho-syndicalism pushed for back in the 30s, and take neighbours demands to a different plane.
And what about the platforms that already work around housing? First, we have to distinguish between those that undertake a committed and altruistic labour, with a revolutionary base, and those that are ineffective, are in the pocket of the political parties, or are motivated by nefarious interests. Second, no one has the monopoly of the social struggle. If you think a campaign is lacking, that it is being used as a pawn for electoral purposes, and you think you can offer and structure things better, more effectively, more radically, there’s no reason why you should cede the territory to anyone – none that makes us that there has to be exclusivity or imposture in the housing front. Third, we have to be aware, as anarchists, of the necessity of articulating our own answers, our own programs, our own strategies. Yes, the fights have to necessarily be popular and collective, open to everyone; tactical alliances are equally desirable, as long as they are limited to the work and don’t require concessions. But we have to be able to structure a differentiated road map with our own objectives, we have to show to the people that we offer veritable solutions to the social issues, and know how to communicate that we have our own revolution going on.
The situation, thanks to the so-called “progressive candidatures”, can be more favourable than what it looks like. Develop this strategy everywhere, but don’t miss the chance of honing in on wherever the “champions of housing and social policies” have reached power. Squat en masse, with the support of the neighbours, and start laying the foundations, the theoretical support, to show the contradictions of these “progressive parties”. Whether because their insensibility and incompetence is what forces you to squat, or because they trigger or condone a repressive reaction.
This general proposal, of intervening in a struggle based around a good (or means of production or service) to radicalise it, take it to its final stages, and make the popular body (the assembly of neighbours or renters) that initiates and fights on said battle be the one that ends up organising said good, is a simplified way of starting a revolution. The councils or soviets were just this in their origins. This is what the third movement is about.
We are at a pivotal moment. Consumed by the electoralist fever, demobilized by the partisanship of the new generation, we forget that for those down below the shit is still covering them up to their necks. The sick and the hungry, the homeless and the immigrants can’t endure any more of your vote counting or your insufferable theories. We can run away from our responsibility as long as we want, but there’s nowhere to hide. I myself tried to address this matter by creating an idyllic community of rehoused people, believing that the revolutionary response would come later. Too concerned with guaranteeing the stability of the neighbours, and especially that of their children, it took me two years to understand that the path of the conflict must go hand in hand with the work of creation. It may make life more uncertain, but if the construction of the new doesn’t happen in parallel to the destruction of the old (like classics like Bakunin and Proudhon recommended), you will create a beautiful walled city, but you will leave untouched anything beyond its borders; and in the end the exterior will breach the fortress and will do the same that humidity does to the stone.
In this moment anarchism, the entirety of the social movements, is at a crossroad. There’s a gordian knot that seems unsolvable, and both the pure theoreticians and the institutionalists intend to cut it with a penknife; from the FAGC we assert that it’s time to use a guillotine. Get involved in the neighbourhoods, don’t be afraid of the hostility, the mistrust, the bickerings and the animal instincts that I assure you you’ll come across. Strike now while the mirage of recuperation hasn’t yet reached even those with empty stomachs. Look for the one who doesn’t have a home or a salary or government help or hope. Call the whole neighbourhood and confront them with the idea that it’s in their hands to change their situation. Grow little by little, with effective assemblies and free from pompous speeches. Offer reality, naked and coarse reality. And start taking, taking and taking until there’s nothing you don’t manage yourselves. It can be scary, but it’s the dizziness before a revolution that starts. The only thing left is for you to join. And what if you don’t succeed? Goddammit, at least you would have tried.
I’ve said it before but I won’t stop saying it. If they exploit misery, it is our task to organise it. ■
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.
[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.
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
[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.■
“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.”
“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?
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.
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? ■
The history of eco-fascism is somewhat cloudy, but its origin draws from the previously existent eugenics movement and combines it with a form of hideous ecological disguise that aims to justify its murderous elements. The eco-fascists, more or less, are the same people Murray Bookchin described as ‘self-professed deep ecologists who believe that Third World peoples should be permitted to starve to death and that desperate Indian immigrants from Latin America should be excluded by the border cops from the United States lest they burden “our” ecological resources.’ While there has been a great deal of trying to dress the movement up, often with deepening appeals to the sanctity of nature, the beauty of the natural world, and the ugliness of industrial pollution, the roots of the movement are inescapable; the essence of eco-fascism is the idea that the World is sick, and the illness is humanity. Therefore the eco-fascist claims that we should do our best to eliminate as many people as necessary – or at least accept their deaths – to allow the World to ‘heal’.
It would be remiss to mention this without giving a brief mention to Thomas Malthus, the 19th Century English thinker who argued that the ‘power of population is so superior to the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.’ That is, he argued that there were too many people (or at least, would be too many people) in relation to available resources, causing an inevitable issue for humanity. Malthus’ argument was, when boiled down to the most fundamental ingredients, that the Earth could only support so many individuals and that there needed to be some boundary put on how many individuals could be allowed to exist. Culminating in the idea that we should not seek to cure disease, should not seek to curb famine, and should encourage the poor to live in overcrowded and unsanitary environments, and that we should even ‘court the return of the plague’, Malthus’ Essay on the Principle of Population is not the first piece of eugenical writing, but is certainly one of those most responsible for popularising these perspectives. Malthus’ nonsense drew a response from early English proto-anarchist William Godwin, whose lengthy Of Population opens with the claim that Malthus’ theory is ‘evidently founded upon nothing’.
Why write about this? At least, why write about this now; isn’t there a pandemic going on? Should I not be writing about that? The answer is a simple one, although malignant in its purity; with the world thrown into yet another new flavour of turmoil due to the outbreak and subsequent global spread of COVID-19, there has been an equal rise in opportunism designed primarily to take advantage of the fact that people are scared and worried. Ever the opportunists, and ever the predators of the fearful, one of the most prominent factions in this has been the far right wing, and even more specifically, the eco-fascist movement. Social media has made this even more prevalent, since messages can be distributed widely very quickly and all it takes is a single share for a piece of carefully designed propaganda to leak out from amongst one group into a much wider pool of people who will keep the message going without really being engaged with the original sentiment. It’s easy for somebody to stumble into spreading fascist adjacent ideas without ever really meaning it – but more on that later.
One of the most pernicious roots of eco-fascism is in the eugenics movement that preceded it. While there are clear differences, they are largely differences in tactics rather than sentiment; the eugenicist seeks to sacrifice given groups of individuals to the altar of genetic superiority that they have in their heads, arguing that the existence of whichever group being discussed is a flaw in the species. The eco-fascist seeks to sacrifice groups of individuals to the altar of the environment, arguing that the existence of whichever group is being discussed is a core ingredient in ecological disaster. To return to Bookchin, it can’t be ignored that the groups under discussion are almost always the same in either case; the poorer people, the people of colour, the people who are differently abled.
COVID-19 has drawn much of this discussion into the public sphere. Whereas it’s generally seen as poor taste to refer to groups of people as infections, diseases, and plagues – for good reason – this seems to be forgiven when the group being referred to is non-specific. Hand waving at humanity in general, as if being vague is ethical bulletproofing, gets a pass. It is relatively common today to find another viral tweet with tens of thousands of likes gesturing towards the clearing waters of Venetian canals, or the wandering deer of Japan navigating neon-lit city centres and declaring that the Earth is healing itself; the smog-cleared skies of California receive a probing enquiry – perhaps we were the real virus all along?
Strange as though it may seem, musings of this kind have become more and more common as the weeks have gone by and the evidence of nature ‘reclaiming’ previously populated areas has begun to accumulate. Suffice it to say, there is more than a little of the eco-fascist ideology floating around in the assumptions of that question; when somebody asks if humanity is the ‘real virus’, they set up a system in which the Earth is a being and humanity a problem that needs to be solved. The solution being proposed is rarely stated outright, but it doesn’t have to be because it’s implicit in the question; you cure a virus by getting rid of it. Beneath the surface level wonder at seeing a wild boar shuffle across Italian cobblestones, there is a lurking belief that maybe the world would be better off without us. Or, more commonly, the world would be better off without some of us, with who that some is being left as a blank to be filled in by the subconscious of the questioner. Unquestionably, whoever that somebody is, will be someone else.
It doesn’t take long to see the correlation between the eco-fascist ideal and the underlying logic of this line of reasoning.
Something that is vital to note is this; despite the fact that many of the assumptions of the ‘humans are the real virus’ rhetoric are shared with eco-fascists, not everyone who has spread it or internalised it is necessarily a fascist. Reality is sometimes difficult to parse, especially when so much is happening with such frequency. The difficulty is compounded by modern media, which bombards everybody with a deluge of barely intelligible nonsense composed of equal parts guesswork, blatant lies, misrepresentations, and government stenography. The baseline intuitiveness of the eco-fascist assumptions at work are easy to understand. For an individual lacking a systematic critique but searching for answers, it can be easy to adopt elements of this thought – this means that even people who would ostensibly baulk at the idea of outright genocide being discussed openly, such as liberals or social democrats, are able to buy into and spread the auto-virality meme without ever truly realising the dangerousness that underwrites the entire concept. So what’s the trick? How can this horrible concept become so natural that even relatively pleasant individuals can spread it and accept the logic at its base?
Simply put, there has been a piece of rhetorical trickery here; a bait and switch. We are constantly being told that these apparent ecological recoveries are the result of human beings receding from the world; the more of us that are quarantined or in self-isolation, the fewer of us that there are out and about causing environmental issues. On the surface, this appears to make some kind of sense; the fact that this formulation isn’t immediately and obviously nonsense is the hook that eco-fascists use to draw in even the well-meaning liberal. The trick is to realise that what has primarily changed is not humanity at all – the death toll of COVID-19 is growing, and it is both tragic and politically infuriating, but it hasn’t yet killed the millions, or potentially even billions, that would be required for the change to be attributed to fewer humans. The fact is that there are almost as many human beings today as there were months ago: what has changed is the behaviour of those human beings. That is to say, what has changed, to some degree, has been our modes of social organisation.
The language of the eco-fascist claims that human beings are the problem, and that with their self-isolation – that is, their removal from the system – has come ecological recovery. Such individualised and atomised analysis prevents the ever-important systematic approach; the real problem is capitalism, and it is with the interruptions and staggerings of capitalism that recovery has come along. Deeply embedded in the language of the right wing, the misattribution of the worst elements of capitalism to the mere existence of human beings exists as a dual weapon.
Firstly, it allows them to turn their vitriol upon individuals. Which individuals are chosen as targets is obvious beyond discussion; in this case, the virus has been racialised by members of the right as the ‘Chinese Virus’, a horrible formulation that has come with a rise in anti-Chinese racism and (as a simple visit to the front page of various popular newspapers will reveal) a desire to punish. This has leaked out even into supposedly left-wing and liberal discussions of the subject: a recent collection of essays published by the editorial iniative ASPO bears the name Sopa de Wuhan, (Wuhan Soup), and features essays by the usual list of left and liberal thinkers: Slavoj Žižek makes an appearance, alongside Georgio Agamben, Judith Butler, David Harvey, and Franco Berardi. Secondly, it allows them to imply a connection between the two; to link the existence of capitalism to the existence of individuals and bind them together ideologically; to present capitalism as human and therefore inevitable and inescapable.
It has long been argued that one of the worst impulses of capitalism, and really the one which puts a firm cap on how long it can last, is the requirement for continual growth and expansion. Capitalism, to put it lightly, is greedy and constantly demands more; more production, larger markets, more factories, more profit, and therefore more extraction, more waste-product, more fuel burned, et cetera. When left in the hands of governments and corporations, this tendency is indulged as often and as wantonly as possible. COVID-19 is a virus, and it is not beholden to capitalism, and therefore it doesn’t care that its proliferation puts a spanner in the works. People self isolate, the amount of work that’s being done slows; ‘it’s not entirely clear how humanity would suffer were all private equity CEOs, lobbyists, PR researchers, actuaries, telemarketers, bailiffs, or legal consultants to […] vanish’, David Graeber writes in his book Bullshit Jobs, and mass quarantine and self-isolation has answered the unasked question: humanity would not suffer. These jobs are entirely superfluous and could be done away with; so much of the work humanity does is done purely to keep people occupied, and it has become abundantly clear that this occupation is no good for most people.
Further, with self isolation and the closing of so many workplaces, the number of cars on roads drops, the amount of fuel being burned drops, and the result is some measure of ecological bounce-back. But we all know, and anarchists have argued for a very long time, that nobody needs to die for this kind of thing to happen. Observations that the world has begun ‘recovering’ since the introduction of mass quarantine would be premature – you don’t ‘fix’ the environment in a few weeks – but it’s hard to argue that visibly clearer air isn’t good on at least some level. It would be entirely within the bounds of imagination to do away with millions of cars on the road in any given day and to replace them with better forms of public transport, which serve more people and vastly reduce environmental damage. The abolition of nonsense work and the re-structuring of transport are just two examples of improvements to our lives that are realistic and easy; we simply need to re-organise our society.
Slightly more than a decade ago now, British writer, theorist, and music critic Mark Fisher published his now classic book Capitalist Realism, an attempt to diagnose and decipher the cultural environment of modern capitalism and begin thinking about how we might escape its grasp. To cut a relatively short story – Capitalist Realism is a very brief work – even shorter, Fisher argues that capitalism has been perceptually fused with ‘reality’ in such a way that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism; that capitalism is the ‘only game in town’. He also argues that one of the best ways to point out how artificial and potentially changeable this kind of social organisation is, is to look towards the un-ignorable crises that appear to rip into the fabric of capitalist realism. Fisher chose, in 2009, to use mental health issues, bureaucracy, and incoming climate catastrophe as his examples. Today, these examples loom ever larger, with mental health having been largely ignored and the horrors of apocalyptic climate change bearing down on us with an increasing rage. It is now commonplace to hear statistics claiming that vast swathes of the population have serious issues with depression, anxiety, and a host of other conditions. Similarly, it’s not unusual to turn on the news or (more commonly) open up Twitter and see how yet another wildfire has ravaged yet another country, leaving smoking forests and smouldering corpses behind.
However, we can now add another example to the list of things which lift the veil and expose the levers and pulleys working behind the scenes; COVID-19 has, if nothing else, shown that a pandemic can do much the same as any wildfire. Suddenly a way of life that we were told was inescapable is swept to the side; jobs that we were told were vital become meaningless as offices and executive suites get abandoned and huge portions of the workforce either become unemployed or begin to work from home – workers that have previously been treated as scapegoats or ignored and dismissed as menial and unskilled become ‘essential workers’ without whom no country could stand. This is, of course, the message anarchists and the left in general have been pushing for well over a century; so much of the work we do is unnecessary, and so much of the work that is necessary is demeaned and under-compensated.
Given this perspective, it becomes obvious that the eco-fascist framework in which any given human is part of a planet-wide disease is flawed at the core. Similarly, the diluted and diffused version of their discourse that gets spread around by largely well-meaning people is based on a misconception that confuses a social system with those individuals who take part in it. The outbreak of COVID-19 has, to return to Mark Fisher, thrown aside many of the claims that there is no alternative to our current system, revealing a variety of ‘fractures and inconsistencies in the field of apparent reality’ that make its contingency and fragility all the more obvious. Whatever the government and popular consensus might like us to think, it’s impossible to look at a world where workplace populations can drop so drastically without damaging any vital services and then fail to imagine that things could be different.
The right wing and the state has already taken advantage of this, of course; opportunists, as mentioned earlier, are on top of this kind of thing. Governments across the world have taken this opportunity to hand out enhanced police powers, to enforce lockdowns and punishments for people who might be out of their home too often; Hungary has already managed to skip straight into out-and-out dictatorship, using the pandemic as an accelerant to Orbán’s bigoted fire. As the surface of political discourse shifts, forced into motion by the earthquake that has caused decades of neo-liberal consensus to show the cracks in the foundations, the right wing has taken every chance it can get to push towards its own goals; the left should do the same. Undeniably, there has already been a start; rent strikes have broken out in various countries; General Electric workers have demanded their factories be converted to build ventilators, and mutual aid networks have emerged in their hundreds. Those who consider themselves to be unconcerned with ideology have found that ideology is extremely concerned with them, and the already shaky grip that the centre has had on mainstream discourse for some time has become even more tenuous.
We cannot, however, allow ourselves to be fooled that a crisis will, with some minor coaching from a rent strike, end capitalism or the state. If any credit can be given to apparatuses such as these, it’s that they have demonstrated a remarkable tenacity and the ability to worm their way into surviving nearly any disaster. Anarchists can’t rely on the state to crumble under its own inadequacies; it must be pushed. Mutual aid networks are a fantastic start, despite how many of them have faced internal disruption from party political actors seeking to subvert them into hierarchical structures. The rumblings of worker solidarity found in factory walk-outs, and the backlash against landlords, too, are brilliant beginnings. But true change doesn’t come with a few good signs; there must be increasing pushback against the state, and it must be continuous. COVID-19 has torn a hole in the veil of capitalist realism; what we knew for a long time – that things can be different – is now becoming common knowledge to those who have had their world rocked by this pandemic. Anarchists and other leftists cannot allow any avenue to remain unexplored, or to be reclaimed by the right; the ecological aspect is included in this.
For years, ecological catastrophe has been one of the few continually inescapable tears in capitalist hegemony. For years, it has been looming as a threat, with each news story growing increasingly alarming; scientists have been issuing dire proclamations of end-days deadlines for a long time, and there has been little reason to doubt the legitimacy of these claims. Damage caused by industrial capitalism is there for anyone to see. Visiting a beach, seeing the endless stretches of logged forest, watching species after species vanish into extinction; all of this is undeniable to anybody willing to engage legitimately with the evidence. Capitalism is at extreme contradiction with ecological sustainability. For the eco-fascist, it has been trivial to marry these obvious observations with COVID-19 to introduce a form of self-destructive hippydom; at the core of fascism lies a desire for the end – as the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze wrote, it is a ‘war machine that no longer had anything but war as its object’. Usurping the language of the environmentalist, the eco-fascist sees an opportunity to mask the violence and overt misanthropy of their ideology, but is only that; a mask. Fascism is, at its core, ‘a line of pure destruction’, to return to Deleuze, and any attempt to claim that the true motive is environmental sustainability is transparently absurd. The only true environmentalism is liberatory.
What needs to be enforced by the anarchist movement, at every turn, is the reality of the situation: COVID-19 and the subsequent shuffling of society has not proven that humanity is a curse with which to be done away; it has proven that capitalism is nothing but a series of choices and structures that we make and reinforce everyday, and those choices can be made differently; those structures can be torn down. Claim this moment and these apparent ecological recoveries as ideological, but claim them correctly; if there is something that needs to be sacrificed for the ongoing health of the planet and its inhabitants, it’s capitalism. ■
On social media, I have recently come across an
‘anti-capitalist love note’, reassuring its readers that they are
much more than their productivity. This criticism of economic output
as a measure of human worth will strike a chord with many people.
Material production influences the kind of person you are, but it
does not justify or invalidate your existence. No capitalist
accounting can do justice to being human. You need no reason or
apology for living life in freedom, and productivity is not your
The cult of productivity has led to extensive
damage and misery, as those who enthusiastically embrace wrong ends –
placing profits before people – wreak havoc upon the world, and
subject fellow humans to oppression and abuse. Their hard work brings
In his essay ‘Productivity is dangerous’, Vincent
Bevins suggests that the obsession with productivity contributed to
Germany’s imperial aggression and state violence in the 20th century.
In his lecture ‘Judenplatz 1010’, Timothy Snyder reminds us that the
concept of productivity was used by the Nazis to dehumanise Jews who
‘were sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to be murdered when it was judged
that the calories they consumed were worth more than the work they
produced’. Productivity is wielded as a bludgeon against humanity:
‘This is an artefact of the industrial world: humans who are denied
humanity are judged as objects who carry out physical work.’
Under capitalism, most of us are not our
productivity because it is appropriated by the capitalist class. Our
actions, which are human at heart, serve the capitalist purpose of
fuelling economic growth that perpetuates subjugation and
precipitates ecological ruin.
Productivity is hypocritically worshipped and
weaponised by the rich because they reap the benefits of mass
exploitation. In this unfair and unsustainable system, people are
alienated from the results of their labour, and their own worth is
lost in the process.
Productivity is monetised and domesticated in the
capitalist economy. Creative endeavours are harnessed by capitalism
and serve its nefarious goals when the worker plays by its rules,
which promote fierce competition and protect those in power – the
rich subjugate and discipline the poor. Authoritarianism and other
social distortions lead to a warped view of humanity with regard to
its productive potential and actual output.
Equating productivity with humanity and self-worth
is a kind of vulgar behaviourism that benefits the privileged.
Actions do shape human nature, and behaviourism is not evil or
misguided per se. The problem arises when we define people only
through those aspects of their life that can be quantified and
integrated into a broken economic mechanism that is destroying not
only the environment, but also social relationships. Human behaviour
that does not bring profit loses recognition and visibility, whereas
toxic productivity comes to the fore.
According to behaviourists, humanity predominantly
depends on what people do or do not do. In this view, productivity
defines humanity. While it does matter what people do, it should not
detract from or augment their humanity. Behaviour might be what makes
us human in some complex and multifaceted sense, but it is crucial to
acknowledge humanity without relying only on productivity. Humanity
should be an all-encompassing option that includes all humans in a
All living beings have meaning and significance
that cannot be reduced to their service to economy. Once humans
overcome this exploitative vision of society and environment, being
human will cease to be an exclusive privilege. People need to learn
how to live in harmony with each other and nature. Human rights
should not entail the devastation of life on Earth to indulge the
superiority fantasies of the few affluent individuals who reserve
justice and freedom for themselves.
Planting trees and cutting them down can both be
seen as productivity. The modern economy introduces a perverse
asymmetry to this equation as deforestation is deemed much more
profitable than reforestation. There is a way to judge the
consequences of productivity as positive in one value system
(profit), and negative in another (the environment).
When it comes to the environmental crisis, both
conservation and innovation require a different kind of productivity.
Growing forests and building green power plants are not neutral
options. In the current model, they are not valued for their
A proper judgement should be made of those who
extract and burn fossil fuels, and run the economy based on
unsustainable growth. Economic productivity measures not only
affluence, but also responsibility for the extent of global
destruction, from carbon footprint to nuclear waste.
Productivity can be the reverse side of
consumption. Being productive could foster consumption. Some business
models rely on generating demand for their products. Whether
production and consumption are enriching or destructive activities
depends on the relationship between human beings and the environment.
In an exploitative and extractive economy, productivity and
consumption mean both exploitation of other humans and the decimation
What is rewarded is not always what benefits us
and the environment the most. From cultural heritage to investment
bankers, our culture and economy erase humanity and nature in favour
of wealth and tyranny.
In his book Bullshit Jobs (2018), David Graeber
argues there are many jobs that make no sense. Instead of decrying
their existence, we could question the economic system that created
them by demonstrating that it disrupts the natural relationship
between humanity and productivity. If people notice the profound gulf
between human and economic worth, they will see that every job is
The relentless focus on productivity inevitably
motivates the wrong kind of action. When people are free to do what
they please, they will not inflict self-defeating damage. Forced to
produce the right amount of stuff in an exploitative economy, many
people actively undermine the good work of others because of their
ineptitude or perverse motivation. If everyone is compelled to work
regardless of their preferences, those who want to do something else
or wish to sit idly by might cause chaos and devastation. Their
forced contribution will not only cancel out the efforts of others,
but far exceed them since disruption can be easier to achieve than
constructive change. This involuntary destruction is not an
aberration, but the very essence of capitalist production.
The understanding that human worth does not equal productivity and that the latter can have catastrophic ramifications should not lead us to believe that we are always better off doing nothing. On the contrary, these insights should motivate people to organise in order to topple the current system of ruthless exploitation and to establish a more harmonious relationship among human beings, and between humanity and the environment.■
Pavlo Shopin is a research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the English Department at the University of Freiburg. He comes from Luhansk, Ukraine.
This article is a call to action to protect and defend the trans community.
There is no space for neutrality.
We strongly suggest you listen to G.L.O.S.S. when reading this article.
[This article is lifted directly from the original zine format which you can download below.]
WHAT ARE TERFS? TERFs, otherwise known as Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, are people who refuse to accept transgender identities, and who violently oppress trans people, especially trans women.
Many TERFs will claim they believe in trans rights and that trans people should be protected from violence. However, they incorrectly believe that people’s biology (e.g. genitals and chromosomes) determine their gender and whether they experience sexism and gender -based violence. Their ideology results in them refusing to accept trans women as women and discriminating against them by excluding them from spaces cis women can go to.
Anyone who supports or promotes these ideas – whether it’s attending events in person, sharing online, or any number of other questionable methods – is, in our view, a TERF.
TERMS Transphobia: hatred of trans people (although in this zine we try to use more precise words e.g. trans hostile, or trans derogatory). Trans misogyny: form of sexism aimed particularly at trans women and trans feminine people. Dead naming :referring to someone by a former name they no longer use. Mis-gendering: using the wrong pronouns. Cis: people who aren’t trans/ are assigned the appropriate gender at birth.
MEET THE TERFS TERFs come in many shapes and sizes. Here are a few groups on the scene at the moment.
A Women’s Place They Say: “violence against women & sex discrimination still exist. Women need reserved places, separate spaces and distinct services” But: Deny that trans women are women, question trans existence, and encourage trans misogyny.
Transgender Trend They Say: “We are a group of parents based in the UK, who are concerned about the current trend to diagnose “gender non-conforming children” as transgender.” But: Encourage parents to disbelieve and dismiss their trans children’s identities; intensifying gender dysphoria.
Feminist Current They Say: “We provide a unique perspective on male violence against women” But: Intentionally mis-gender and dead name trans women and deny the existence of trans people.
We Need To Talk About Sex They Say: “We discuss the Gender Recognition Act and its impact on the rights of women and children” But: Target and harass trans women, deny that trans women are women and, mis-gender and dead trans women on purpose.
Mayday for Women They Say: “Mayday are a collective of women who have come together to: Oppose the proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004, Stand up for women’s rights and defend women’s freedom of speech” But: Campaign against self-identification from trans people, promote ideas that being transgender is idealogical brainwashing and intentionally mis-gender trans women.
Fair Play for Women and Girls They Say: “We are a group of ordinary women who are concerned that in the rush to reform transgender laws that women’s voices will not be listed to” But: Promote lies about the trans community, campaign for trans women to go to male prisons and erase trans identities.
Lesbian Rights Alliance They Say: “[We] defend lesbian rights to have same sex relationships and defend lesbian and women only space and stop the erasure of lesbians” But: Intentionally mis-gender trans women, promote ideas that trans men are “sick”, and blame trans people for the oppression of lesbians.
THE DANGER OF TERFS TERFs may be a fringe group, but they tap into the trans-hostile and trans misogynistic views held by many, across the political spectrum. They are not the first hate group to hide under the guise of left wing struggle. We’ve seen it with right wing nationalists and racists working their way into the animal rights movement. Like Gays Against Sharia, TERFs weaponize victim status to demonize and encourage hatred. These are not views that can be “discussed” or “debated”. They even attend anarchist events to campaign for more repressive state laws (can anybody see the irony there?)
They rely on a mixture of clever wording and a hope that the majority don’t really understand what they are talking about. They are hiding under a thin disguise what is nothing more than hate speech. They aim to isolate and exclude trans people. They erase trans identities and fuel already high levels of violence against trans women.
This violence is predominantly targeted at trans women from working class backgrounds because TERFs campaign to exclude trans women from women’s prisons and refuges which disproportionately affects trans women on the bread line. We all know prisons aren’t full of rich people, and the rich rarely find themselves without a roof over their head. And given the institutional racism that both lands disproportionate numbers of people of colour in prison and excludes them from accessing services, it’s safe to assume that trans women of colour are particularly affected by the words and actions of TERFs.
For these reasons and more, we don’t see the struggle against TERFs as a struggle soley for trans women, or even the trans community as a whole. It’s also a part of the class struggle, the feminist struggle, the anti-racist struggle, the prison abolitionist struggle and a struggle for anyone who doesn’t want their group to be co-opted by right wing hate dweebs.
DEALING WITH TERFS We must no platform and resist TERFs. This can be done in many ways, such as:
Organize demos when TERFs arrange to speak: sometimes their events are held in secret, and it may be necessary to buy a ticket. There are pros and cons to this; but if you decide to, use a fake name and email. Remember to cover your face at demos like this – TERFs will try to film you and then target you. Try to get Legal Observers on hand too, for when the pesky cops show up.
Proactive myth busting: hold events, talk to people, share stuff written by trans writers on social media, or whatever works for you!
Calling Out TERFs: when you hear TERFy stuff, or see it on social media. If people won’t engage, exclude them from your groups.
Support Trans prisoners: show solidarity with trans people incarcerated by the state by writing to people inside (check out Bent Bars project) or raising money to support their legal cases and other needs (Empty Cages Collective can give you pointers there).
It is most important to offer one another support as we organize. TERFs try to pick out individuals, they try to isolate us from one another. But this will not succeed if we prioritize caring for one another.
SHALL WE TALK ABOUT VIOLENCE? When talking about this situation, we feel it is crucial to consider the levels of violence and oppression the TERFs are campaigning to be inflicted by the state and other elements of society on trans women.
They are campaigning for a world where trans women are refused appropriate refuge from abusive partners and dangerous situations, knowing full well the disproportionate levels of violence aimed at trans women. They seek to maintain a system in which women are sent to male prisons -a place we have lost far too many trans sisters in thelast 2 years alone. And this is just what they are openly campaigning for, without mentioning the obvious trans-hostile undertones and side agendas that they are less public about.
When opposing TERFs, protestors have experienced intense levels of trans-derogatory verbal abuse and physical violence. Whilst we are in no way telling people they should be violent, nor that it is the only effective tactic, we think it would be counter-productive and insensitive to condemn violence used in the fight against trans-hate given the real life dangers trans people face. For some this is an ideological, philosophical or academic fight but for people like us it’s a fight to exist -so don’t be so quick to judge the methods used by some of our allies and comrades.
MYTH BUSTING “But SCIENCE!!!!” TERFs say that chromosomes are an absolute indicator of gender and that science thus “proves” that trans people can’t exist. BUT the reality of biology is much more complicated, “Biologists have never been under the illusion that genes and chromosomes are all there is to the biology of sex.” (Sarah Richardson, Sex Itself)
as a new/ modern idea.”TERFs
claim that being trans was “invented” in the early 20thcentury
by a patriarchal medical system. BUT
fact trans people have been known in many different cultures around
the world and throughout history.
women are socialized as men.”TERFs
say trans women are raised as male making them violent, patriarchal
undergo social transition as young as 5, and/or have lived as women
longer than they have as men. Even those who do come out later don’t
experience growing up in the same way as cis men and are usually more
critical of the way they were raised.
people are obsessed with conforming to gender stereotypes,”according
to TERFs. BUT
not realistic for trans people to dress how they would ideally like
–some elements of gender conforming are necessary for safety and
well being. Despite the risks many trans people still resist gender
stereotypes and thus aren’t recognized as trans, making it easier
for TERFs to gloss over this fact.
grow out of it/regret it.” Saying
these sorts of things does not have the effect of saving people from
surgery, it just delays or even stops trans people from accessing the
services they need. Whats more, there are many different ways of
being trans not all of which involve the same amount of surgery, or
necessarily any surgery at all. (SPOILER
ALERT: if you’re ever tempted to ask a trans person whether they’ve
thought about this –YES THEY HAVE).
“Changing the gender recognition act will harm cis women.”TERFs have been rallying around the claim that changes to the Gender Recognition Act will put women at risk as it will allow men to enter women-only spaces. This is false. Several countries, including Ireland, Norway and Denmark, have already passed laws to allow trans people to determine their own legal gender with great success.
In any case, trans women are already using women’s toilets in the UK. They are also already accessing services via women’s refuges. This is because the Equalities Act 2010 recognises “gender reassignment”as a protected characteristic, and protects against trans people from being discriminated against when using facilities appropriate to their gender identity. Changes to the Gender Recognition Act will make no difference. ■
This zine/article was written by Sister Not Cister UK, An organisation who are angry with the recent rise of anti-trans feminism and organise workshops and media to help educate people on the issues around transphobia. You can visit their Facebook account by clicking here. You can visit their website by clicking here.
One of the reasons why anarchists are seen as a self-absorbed bunch is that they do not trust the idea of political representation. The media and the powers that be create an illusion that the majority of population are deeply invested in elections and keen to cast their vote for a candidate or a party that would “defend” their interests. Since there is a belief that a liberal democracy empowers its citizens through representation, anarchism is dismissed as an antisocial perspective. This seems to be wrong since it disenfranchises the electorate and widens a rift between state institutions and the public. While many people feel compelled to vote, anarchists are vocally skeptical about the naive enthusiasm around the mindless delegation of power to political elites. Therefore, anarchism is lambasted as a marginal and counterproductive position when it comes to political representation. This criticism is demonstrably false.
There are strong reasons for anarchists to be wary of political representation. Furthermore, the Anarchist view of representation is organically woven into the popular attitudes to politics.
First, elections are open only to eligible voters. To make matters worse, since only a fraction of the elected representatives assumes control over the government, it is always a small minority that decides the crucial outcome of any election. In a liberal democracy, a minority of people elects a tiny group of individuals who run the state. The majority of population does not participate in elections, and most voices are not heard. Anarchists are thus in solidarity with most ordinary people.
Secondly, many voters participate in elections to protest against the elites and challenge the status quo. They see it as an act of resistance and a rebuke to the system. People comply with its operation in the hope that the candidates they elect will destroy it from within. Hence more and more anti-establishment candidates enjoy popularity with disgruntled voters. Anarchists do not disagree that the system needs to change and would be happy to help dismantle it. However, there is a clear recognition that once inside the system political actors will inevitably become part of the establishment and serve the interests of the few to the detriment and subjection of society at large. This has been proven time and time again.
Finally, many people feel that representation does not work and regard as hypocrites any politicians who claim to represent them. While some can be hoodwinked into delegating power and voting in elections, only a tiny minority aspires to become politicians. The establishment are the real fringe that wields power and runs the state apparatus.
Most of us do not seek to become politicians because we recognize the fraudulent nature of representation. If you ask why someone does not wish to be a politician, they will most probably reply that politics is corrupt. Then they might admit they do not think it is a real job and say they hate hypocrisy in which all politicians eventually engage.
It is not rocket science to understand that political representation is a hoax. Not being a politician is a matter of common sense and decency. The refusal to represent others in political institutions is not a rare attitude, but a deep-seated conviction of the vast majority of people.
Anarchists can reach the wider public if they manage to draw attention to this paradox of the human condition: perhaps political propaganda has persuaded a plurality of citizens that voting in elections can be good for them, but the overwhelming majority still intuitively rejects the prospect of becoming a politician. It is one thing to delegate power, and quite another to exercise it over others.
Most of us can tolerate some kind and degree of violence, but ultimately refuse to take responsibility for the brutal oppression of fellow humans. We share the vision that it is inhumane to subjugate others and do not want to be in charge of an unfair and violent system. People can be misled to accept tyranny, but humanity cannot be defeated or fully eradicated – refusing to top the political pyramid is a form of resistance that stems from common human dignity and freedom. Anarchy thus remains at the heart of being human. Colin Ward concludes his book “Anarchy in Action” (1973) by saying that “anarchism in all its guises is an assertion of human dignity and responsibility. It is not a programme for political change but an act of social self-determination.”
In this light, the current populist trend threatens to damage humanity, as more and more people are drawn into political machinery. For those who have bought into the promise of changing government institutions from inside, a reality check is just around the corner: these idealistic contrarians will become the thing they hate – the elite oppressors. Staying away from politics thus means refusing to be a functional cog in the machine. It is an Anarchist principle that most people can appreciate and find sensible.
Anarchy is not the exclusive preserve of a slim minority, but the underlying fabric of society. Ward argues that “an Anarchist society, a society which organizes itself without authority, is always in existence, like a seed beneath the snow, buried under the weight of the state and its bureaucracy, capitalism and its waste, privilege and its injustices, Nationalism and its suicidal loyalties, religious differences and their superstitious separatism.”
At their most humane, people are already kind-hearted Anarchists who do not wish to harm and oppress each other. If only more of us could see how misguided and injurious political representation really is. It stifles and constrains our humanity. At the level of intuition, most humans do actually grasp the perverse influence of representation as they do not want to become politicians. ■
Pavlo Shopin is a research fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in the English Department at the University of Freiburg. He comes from Luhansk, Ukraine.
There is not a state or kingdom whose history has not been stained with the brutality of war. The armed conflicts, conducted by the economic forces, have never brought anything but misery and deaths among countries, while the ones in power will never die on the battlefield. It has always been this way, sending pawns to defend a country and interests that only rich will benefit from. Here we leave these classic and wise words in order to focus on the current subject:
Today we keep witnessing the cruel barbarity, with more military and armament technology. Once again, instead of using science for making our lives easier, it is being used to defend the interests of the states and its high classes. In this way, being helped by the huge technology advances, the war has become one of the biggest businesses of the world’s leaders. With this, in this semi globalised world and big armies, we encounter the largest exodus and genocide in the history of humanity.
We scandalize when we watch the rising tide of refugees on TV, the battlefields, and so on; but we soon forget that everything starts here: in our governments and their corporations. The war begins in our cities’ and towns’ factories, because it is clear that without the sale of weapons wars would not be possible to carry out. Where some of us see sadness and death, others see business; and disgracefully, while the business exists, this is situation going to exist.
The Spanish state is the fourth country/company exporting weapons to all over the world, a small space in the globe that supplies a huge amount of warships, drones, mortar shells, cannons, etc. to anyone who takes out the wallet. The TV is entertaining us with series of narcos, murders and dealers, trying to brutalize the society; and we do not realize that inside the political class and the Spanish companies’ offices one can find the best material to create the most brutal TV show.
Many companies of our country have a direct contact with the production of armament and others are exclusively dedicated to it. That is how it works, first they create the conflicts and then they sell the weapons. On the one hand, these corporations are made up of unscrupulous businessmen ready to profit from death, and on the other hand, of workers willing to produce wealth for the leaders and death for the unlucky countries. This workers’ behaviour is not something unpredictable, since they have only lived on the work culture and have learned to fill their refrigerators without considering the damage they are generating to other families. Toys like Action man are going to be bought by them with no bad conscience.
Behind it all there are always banks like BBVA, Santander, BBK; companies like Nantia, Sener, Espal; or even Education, if we consider that on Engineering Schools students learn how to design weapons, and the people in charge do not care to which companies are these students sent to do an internship. We are governed by real psychopaths, while they talk about peace and democracy from their high-backed chairs. They are the most dreadful criminals.
For instance, in the case of the Basque Country, the leaders of its autonomous government (PNV) invest in an indirect and concealed way huge amounts of money in the military business. Then, at a personal level, they become managers and shareholders of these companies. This obscure business was one of the reasons why the big ships left Bilbao’s harbour every week headed for Saudi Arabia. After many protests and different actions, it was possible to stop the armament departure from the Basque coast. However, they started to use Santander’s harbour, so the fight on the Cantabrian harbours continues.
In the same way that media bombard us with the message that the people living in a war-torn areas are terrorist beings without feelings and heart, these people are being bombed by our planes and real ammunition produced by our all-heart and extremely soulful neighbours. But make no mistake, in this world we all have feelings, we all thrill, we cry, we fall in love, we fight… We are all human and none should die because of the economic interests.
This cannot be allowed! Let’s no let weapons be produced! We all know that only the working class society is able to produce them and that it is the one with the power to stop it. The leaders do not produce anything, they only keep the benefits and leave thousands of dead bodies behind. It seems impossible, but as everything, the solution lies in our hands.
We want to make clear that we are not just pro-refugees, we are anti-war and therefore, anti-capitalists. The origin of the problems must be found in order to fight it and find a solution. Capitalism is always the main problem, this savage-advanced capitalism, devastator of all trace of life. Capitalism and nationalism are two inventions created many years ago in order to end with solidarity among peoples and to incite hatred and violence in the society, as well as to send people to war in order to benefit rich peoples’ interests.
The system is going to keep working in this way unless we work to help out our comrades. For this purpose, solidarity and consciousness are going to be necessary. Let’s organize and stop being war and its murders complicit! Today they are being killed in any other place, but tomorrow this could be our situation. They are killing us with a smile on their faces! Let’s fight! ■
LA INDUSTRIA ARMAMENTÍSTICA
Y EL GRAN NEGOCIO DE LA GUERRA
No hay estado o reino que durante su trayectoria no haya manchado su historia con la brutalidad de la guerra. Los conflictos bélicos, llevados a cabo entre potencias por intereses económicos, no han traído nunca nada más que miseria y muerte entre pueblos, mientras que lxs grandes poderosxs jamás mueren ni morirán en el campo de batalla. Siempre ha funcionado de esa manera, mandar a lxs peones a defender una patria y unos intereses que nunca beneficiarán a nadie más que a lxs ricxs. Aquí dejamos estas clásicas y sabias palabras para centrarnos en el tema actual:
Hoy seguimos viendo la barbarie, de una manera mucho más compleja que nunca, con más tecnología militar y armamentística. Otra vez más, la ciencia en vez de facilitar la vida a la población, se está utilizando para defender intereses de los estados y sus clases altas. De esta manera, la guerra, ayudada de los grandes avances tecnológicos se ha convertido en uno de los mayores negocios de lxs dirigentes. Así, el día de hoy en un mundo semi globalizado y de grandes ejércitos nos encontramos con los mayores éxodos y genocidios de la historia.
Nos escandalizamos al ver por la televisión las mareas de refugiadxs, las imágenes del campo de batalla, etc. pero olvidamos que todo eso empieza aquí, en nuestros gobiernos y sus empresas. No sólo son lxs soldadxs lxs que toman parte en el conflicto armado y obligan a la población a abandonar sus casas por el fuego de los morteros, la guerra empieza en las fábricas de nuestras ciudades y pueblos, porque está claro que sin la venta de armamento no se podrían llevar a cabo las guerras .
Donde algunxs vemos tristeza y muerte otrxs ven negocio, y desgraciadamente mientras haya mercado ahí fuera esto no parará. El armamento se lleva de aquí a los países compradores.
El estado español es el cuarto país/empresa que más armas exporta a todo el mundo, un pequeño espacio del globo donde se suministra una gran cantidad de buques de guerra, drones, granadas de mortero, cañones etc. a cualquiera que enseñe sus billetes. Mientras que la televisión nos entretiene con series de narcos, asesinatos y traficantes para intentar brutalizarnos, no nos damos cuenta de que en los despachos de las grandes empresas españolas y en la clase política tenemos el mejor material para una serie que os aseguramos que sería muy difícil de ver.
Muchísimas empresas de nuestro país tienen contacto directo con la producción de armamento bélico y otras se dedican exclusivamente a ello. AsÍ funciona, se crean los conflictos y luego se les vende el armamento. Estas corporaciones se componen como siempre, de empresarixs sin escrúpulos dispuestxs a beneficiarse de la muerte y por otro lado, de trabajadorxs dispuestxs a producir riqueza para lxs jefxs o accionistas y muerte para otrxs habitantes de “países desafortunados“. Nada extraño en el comportamiento de lxs trabajadorxs ya que desde niñxs han conocido la cultura del trabajo y han aprendido a llenar su nevera sin mirar al/la de al lado y los problemas que pueda generarle. Sin ningún tipo de remordimiento seguirán comprando “action mans” a sus hijxs y llevando la desgracia a hijxs de otros.
Detrás de todo esto están como siempre bancos como el BBVA, Santander, BBK, empresas como Nantia, Sener, Espal e incluso educación, que por ejemplo en las escuelas de ingeniería también se aprende a diseñar armas y a la hora de mandar de prácticas a lxs estudiantes de formación profesional no les importa a que se dedica dicha empresa donde los mandan. Nos gobiernan verdaderxs psicópatas, mientras que nos hablan de paz y democracia desde sus poltronas, son lxs mayores criminales.
Por ejemplo, en el caso del PaÍs Vasco, lxs dirigentes de su gobierno autonómico, el PNV (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) invierte de manera indirecta y disimulada grandes sumas de dinero en el negocio militar, después, a nivel personal, convirtiéndose en gerentes y accionistas de dichas empresas. Este oscuro negocio fue una de las razones por la que los grandes barcos cargados de armamento, abandonaban todas las semanas el puerto de Bilbao con dirección a Arabia Saudí. Tras muchas protestas y acciones consiguieron paralizar la salida de armamento de las costas vascas, pero poco después empezaron a hacer lo mismo en el puerto de Santander, la lucha en el puerto cántabro continua. También se han llevado a cabo acciones en contra de factorías.
De la misma manera que a nosotrxs los medios de comunicación nos bombardean con el constante mensaje de que esas lejanas personas que viven en guerra son seres sin sentimientos, terroristas y carecen de corazón, a ellxs, nuestros aviones les bombardean con munición real creada por nuestrxs vecinxs llenos de sentimientos y corazón. Pero no nos equivoquemos, en este mundo todxs sentimos, nos ilusionamos, lloramos, nos enamoramos, luchamos… Todxs somos iguales y nadie debe morir por los intereses del capital.
¡No lo podemos permitir! ¡No dejemos que se produzcan armas! Todxs sabemos que sólo el pueblo trabajador es capaz de llevar a cabo la producción y solo ellxs lo pueden parar, porque lxs jefxs no producen nada y en este caso aparte de quedarse con los beneficios dejan miles de cadáveres a sus espaldas. Parece imposible, pero como todo, está en nuestras manos.
Queremos dejar claro que no entendemos ser simplemente pro refugiadxs, somos antiguerras es decir anticapitalistas. Hay que buscar el origen de los problemas para atacarlo y lograr la solución. El problema es el capitalismo como siempre, este avanzado capitalismo a nivel salvaje, devastador de todo medio, acompañado del nacionalismo, un invento creado muchos años atrás para acabar con la solidaridad entre pueblos y incitar a la población al odio y ir a la guerra por intereses de los que se enriquecen.
Así seguirá funcionando el sistema mientras que no trabajemos para ayudar a nuestrxs compañerxs y hoy como siempre es necesaria la solidaridad y la concienciación. ¡Organicémonos y dejemos de ser cómplices de las guerras y sus asesinatos! Hoy mueren en otro sitio, mañana podemos ser nosotrxs. Nos están matando con una sonrisa. ¡Luchemos! ■