Posts filed under Power to the People

Translation of “Quick Overview of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious and Ill-informed” (Rafael Uzcategui, El Libertario)

More from Venezuelan anarchists on the current wave of protest and government repression. I started translating Rafael Uzcategui’s recent, extremely helpful overview Resumen express de la situación venezolana para curioso/as y poco informado/as but I found that a translation had already been done by the author himself, and reposted by volunteers at the anarchist activist blog ROAR.[1] The translation is his work. I have, however: (1) restored some boldface emphasis from the original Spanish that was left out in the translation, (2) made editorial revisions to a few isolated phrases that I thought reflected careless errors or were potentially misleading (with editorial notes where I made any changes), (3) re-added a P.S. at the very end of the article which was omitted from the English translation, and, (4) to fit the usual format at this blog, I’ve added the headline back in. (Any editorial changes I’ve made, after the headline, are explicitly noted.) This one is translated by the author himself, but as with previous translations, if you notice any issues with the translation feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach an editorial note or correction to the text here.

Quick Overview of the Situation in Venezuela for the Curious and Ill-informed.

Rafael Uzcategui

On February 4th, 2014, students from the Universidad Nacional Experimental del Táchira (Experimental University of Táchira), located in the inland state of the country, protested the sexual assault of a fellow female classmate, which took place in the context of the city’s increasing insecurity. The protest was repressed, and several students were detained. The next day, other universities around the country had their own protests requesting the release of these detainees, and these demonstrations were also repressed, with some of the activists incarcerated.

The wave of indignation had as context the economic crisis, the shortage of first necessity items and the crisis of basic public services, as well as the beginnings of the imposition of new economic austerity measures by President Nicolás Maduro. Two opposition politicians, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, tried to capitalize on the wave of discontent rallying for new protests under the slogan “The Way Out” and also tried to press for the resignation of president Maduro. Their message also reflected the rupture and divisions on the inside of opposing politicians and the desire to replace Henrique Capriles’ leadership, who publicly rejected the protests. The Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table) coalition, didn’t support them either.

When the government suppressed the protests, it made them grow bigger and wider all over the country. On February 12th, 2014, people from 18 cities protested for the release of all of the detainees and in rejection of the government. In some cities of the interior, particularly punished by scarcity and lack of proper public services, the protests were massive. In Caracas, three people were murdered during the protests. The government blames the protesters, but the biggest circulating newspaper in the country, Últimas Noticias, which receives the majority of its advertising budget from the government itself, revealed through photographs that the murderers were police officers. As a response to this, Nicolás Maduro stated on national television and radio broadcast that police enforcement had been “infiltrated by the right wing.”

The repression of the protesters draws not only on police and military enforcement agencies; it also incorporates the participation of militia groups to violently dissolve the protests. A member of PROVEA, a human rights NGO, was kidnapped, beaten and threatened with death by one of them on the west side of Caracas. President Maduro has publicly encouraged these groups, which he calls colectivos (collectives).

The Venezuelan government currently[2] controls all of the major TV stations, and has threatened with sanctions radio stations and newspapers that transmit information about protests. Because of this, the privileged space for the distribution of information have been the social media networks, especially Twitter. The use of personal technological devices has allowed record-keeping through videos and photographs of ample aggressions of the repressive forces. Human rights organizations report detainees all over the country (many of them already released). The number has surpassed 400, and they have suffered torture, including reports of sexual assault, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. As this is being written 5 people have been murdered in the context of the protests.

In his speeches, Nicolás Maduro incites[3] the protesters opposing him to assume even more radical and violent positions. Without any ongoing criminal investigation, he automatically stated that everyone killed has been murdered by the protesters themselves, who he disqualifies with every possible adjective.

However, this belligerence seems not to be shared by all the chavista movement, because a lot of its base is currently withholding its active support, waiting to see what will come next. Maduro has only managed to rally public employees to the street protests he has called. In spite of the situation and due to the grave economic situation he faces, Nicolás Maduro continues to make economic adjustments, the most recent being a tax increase.

The state apparatus reiterates repeatedly that it is facing a “coup”, that what happened in Venezuela on April 2002 will repeat itself. This version has managed to neutralize the international left-wing, which hasn’t even expressed its concern about the abuses and deaths in the protests.

The protests are being carried out in many parts of the country and are lacking in center and direction, having being called through social media networks. Among the protesters themselves, there are many diverse opinions about the opposition political parties, so it’s possible to find many expressions of support and also rejection at the same time.

In the case of Caracas the middle class and college students are the primary actors in the demonstrations. On the other hand, in other states, many popular sectors have joined the protests. In Caracas the majority of the demands are political, including calls for the freedom of the detainees and the resignation of President Maduro, while in other cities social demands are incorporated, with protests against inflation, scarcity and lack of proper public services. Even though some protests have turned violent, and some protesters have fired guns at police and militia groups, the majority of the protests, especially outside of Caracas, remain peaceful.

The independent revolutionary left in Venezuela (anarchists, sections of Trotskyism and Marxist-Leninist-Guevarism) has no involvement in this situation, and we are simple spectators.[4] Some of us are actively denouncing state repression and helping the victims of human rights violations.

Venezuela is a historically oil-driven country. It possesses low levels of political culture among its population, which explains why the opposition protesters have the same “content” problem as those supporting the government. But while the international left-wing continues to turn its back and support — without any criticism — the government’s version of “a coup”, it leaves thousands of protesters at the mercy of the most conservative discourse of the opposition parties, without any reference to anti-capitalists, revolutionaries and true social change that could influence them.

In this sense, Leopoldo López, the detained conservative opposition leader, tries to make himself the center of a dynamic movement that, up to the time of this writing, had gone beyond the political parties of the opposition and the government of Nicolás Maduro.

What will happen in the short term? I think nobody knows exactly, especially the protesters themselves. The events are developing minute by minute.

For more alternative information about Venezuela, we recommend:

P.S. If you want to read about the elements that contradict the possibility that there would be a coup d’etat in Venezuela, I recommend you read: https://rafaeluzcategui.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/las-diferencias-de-abril/[5]

— Resumen express de la situación venezolana para curioso/as y poco informado/as (Feb. 21, 2014). Translated by the author, Rafael Uzcategui, with minor editorial revisions by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1] When I first posted this story, I picked up the English translation from ROAR and assumed that it had been done by volunteers there. They helpfully pointed out, in the comments below, that they had re-posted an English translation originally offered by the author himself. I’ve revised the text here to reflect that. —CJ, 22.Feb.2014
  2. [2] actually in author’s translation. Original Spanish: El gobierno venezolano actualmente controla todas las estaciones de televisión.
  3. [3] encourages in author’s translation. Original Spanish: En sus discursos Nicolás Maduro estimula que los manifestantes en su contra asuman posiciones más radicales y violentas.
  4. [4] In author’s translation: The Revolutionary Independent Venezuelan Left (which includes anarchists and sectors that follow Trotsky, Marx, Lenin and Guevara) is not involved in this situation. We are simple spectators. Original Spanish: La izquierda revolucionaria independiente venezolana (anarquistas, sectores del trotsquismo y del marxismo-leninismo-guevarismo) no tiene ninguna incidencia en esta situación y somos simple espectadores.
  5. [5] This paragraph, omitted from the first translation, added by Charles W. Johnson.

Translation of Message from CDH-UCAB: on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment of the detainees from 12-F (Centro de DDHH de la UCAB, reprinted in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another report on the protests and government repression Venezuela, originally published by the Center for Human Rights at UCAB, and re-posted online by the Venezuelan anarchist paper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. The same caveats apply as elsewhere; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.

Message from CDH-UCAB: On Torture and Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of the Detainees from 12-F.

Human Rights Center at UCAB

In a press notice published by the newspaper Últimas Noticias and reproduced with additional and equally false reports by the Sistema Bolivariano de Información y Comunicación (SIBCI),[1] reference is made to a supposed declaration by the Center for Human Rights at UCAB[2] (CDHUCAB) in order to downplay the importance of the serious accusations by spokespeople of Foro Penal about the torture of people detained in Valencia, in the state of Carabobo.[3]

It’s necessary to clarify concerning:

  1. The CDH-UCAB had no direct contact with those detained in Valencia, Carabobo, so it can neither confirm nor deny these allegations which, because of their severity, require an investigation by the authorities, independently, without intimidation or retaliation against the victims or the accusers, without anyone being disqualified ahead of time,[4] and following international standards that bind Venezuela as a country party to the International Convention against Torture.

  2. Beginning February 12, teams of lawyers from CDH-UCAB have given support to detainees in the capital region, having responded, from the early hours of the 13th, to invitations from many communications media, in which, because they were still in the process of locating detainees, were unable to supply detailed information about the conditions of detention they faced, without having meant, as we stated in many media outlets, that there was or was not torture or inhuman or degrading treatment.

  3. The CDH-UCAB did warn, within a few hours of the first detentions, that it was worried about the detainee’s lack of access to their families and lawyers, since under that condition the conditions of detention could not be verified, to which was added the seizure of their cellular phones, preventing any communication.

  4. After visiting various detention centers and having had contact with a considerable number of detainees and their families, the CDH-UCAB has identified a series of unacceptable situations that affect many different rights, including the penalization of protest, the minimum guarantees to the detained, the guarantees of due process and the conditions of detention, among which there have been acts which could qualify as torture or cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment, in accord with the UN Convention against Torture:

    a. In practically every case with a verdict, the judges have included an injunction prohibiting those convicted from demonstrations, a sanction that the law does not expressly provide for, and which violates the constitutionally-protected right to peacefully demonstrate.

    b. In nearly the totality of the cases, the families have been arbitrarily denied from seeing the detainees. This has basically happened in the detention centers of CICPC[5] and those of the National Guard. In all cases in which they banned families from seeing their detained relatives, the authorities have alleged “orders from higher up.”

    c. The conditions of the places that they have used as centers of detention are in some cases absolutely inadequate, this is the case of the National Guard Command located in La Dolorita, in which 18 youths — the majority students — were held for 2 days in the same extremely small room, without a functioning bathroom, without adequate ventilation, without beds or mats, and without These conditions were noted directly by lawyers from CDHUCAB, who also verified the presence of a functionary from the Public Defender’s,[6] who, in spite of these inhuman conditions, had not issued reports on it.

    d. In some cases the families were not even permitted to make telephone contact with the detained for 48 hours or more during the time they were detained, which is not only a violation of the most basic rights of detainees and families, but has even generated some accusations of disappearing prisoners[7] that ceased after some hours, and which could have been avoided with relevant information about the whereabouts of the detainees, as established by international standards.

    e. Many detainees were not brought before a judge, or in the process of being brought before a judge, within the 48 hour limit that the law refers to. Some had spent 56 to 60 hours without being presented to a court, as was the case of Hugo[8] Gerrero, a professor at UCV,[9] who the judge finally freed with apologies, because he was not even participating in the protest.

    f. In the great majority of the cases the lawyers have not been able to have private conversations with the detainees. When they have permitted a lawyer access to see their defendants in the detention centers, at least one official has always been present during the entire conversation, limiting the possibility for the detainees to clearly report the actions and the treatment that they are receiving in detention.

    g. Practically all the detained have made accusations that they have been assaulted psychologically and many physically. The psychological attacks range from threats of being physically assaulted or even threats that they would be raped. The physical attacks range from minor injuries on different parts of the body, up to highly sensitive situations we are in the process of verifying.

    h. In some cases an undue delay is produced in order for the detainees to be brought to the show-cause hearing. That is to say, to the time of detention (which many times exceeds the legal maximum time of 48 hours) in some cases up to 10 or 12 more hours are added to be heard by the judge in the show-cause hearing.

    i. Without a judge’s order, in the majority of the cases security forces reviewed the private information contained in detainees’ cellular phones or electronic devices (their e-mails, text messages, photos, etc.), and, on occasions, have proceeded to offload images that could document excesses by the security forces of the State.

  5. In addition to some deeds which the CDH-UCAB is still investigating, the situations we just described are also contrary to the Convention against Torture, to which Venezuela is a party, and contravene the standards to apply to all detainees under this and under the Special Law to prevent and punish torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment,[10] whenever the obstacles presented by those responsible for the custody of the detainees are contrary to the procedures required for the prevention of torture, involving those officials in responsibility for acts that can be investigated and punished and which constitute human rights offenses with no statute of limitations.[11]

  6. Finally, the CDH-UCAB rejects this new attempt by SIBCI to discredit the work of Provea,[12] alleging a supposed source of funding noted for financing groups against government in the country while remaining silent, just like the Public Defender’s office,[13] about the kidnapping and assault of the same organization’s Media Coordinator,[14] acts which, it is worth noting, also form part of the conduct which the State is obligated to investigated and punished due to the commitments assumed by the UN Convention against Torture. This accusation has been lodged at the office of the Attorney General and the Public Defender’s.[15]

Caracas, 18 February 2014

— Translation of Comunicado del CDH-UCAB: Sobre torturas y trato cruel e inhumano de detenidos del 12F. Translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1] A propaganda system established and operated by the Venezuelan government.
  2. [2] Centro de Derechos Humanos, at the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, a private university, which is one of the largest universities in Venezuela.
  3. [3] See for example Foro Penal: Hay torturas (Foro Penal: There is torture), 22 Feb. 2014.
  4. [4] Lit. “apriori disqualifications.”
  5. [5] Cuerpo de Invasticaiones Cientificas, Científicas, Penales y Criminalísticas, Venezuela’s largest national police force and forensic investigation agency.
  6. [6] Lit. Defensoría del Pueblo, an ombudsman’s office which is tasked with monitoring, promoting and defending human rights under the Venezuelan constitution. The office-holder is appointed for a 7-year term by a committee on the national legislature.
  7. [7] Lit. denuncias de desapariciones fisicas, a reference to the long-standing dirty-war tactic of disappearing enemies of the regime, i.e. imprisoning and murdering them in secret, while officially denying knowledge of their condition or their whereabouts.
  8. [8] Hug in text; this seems to be a typo.
  9. [9] Universidad Central de Venezuela, a public university in Caracas.
  10. [10] Ley Especial para prevenir y sancionar la tortura y otros tratos crueles, inhumanos o degradantes, a Venezuelan national law.
  11. [11] Lit. delitos imprescriptibles, imprescriptible or inextinguishable offenses, a category in international law applying to, for example, torture, disappearance, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
  12. [12] Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos, a prominent Venezuelan human-rights NGO which has repeatedly criticized the Bolivarian government
  13. [13] Again, Defensoría del Pueblo, the government’s human-rights ombudsman.
  14. [14] Inti Rodríguez, the media coordinator of Provea, was allegedly kidnapped on February 12 by about 20 disguised men who interrogated, beat, and threatened to kill him, which he claims to have included pro-government paramilitaries and (from the language they used in the interrogation) possibly also members of police or intelligence agencies.
  15. [15] Again, Defensoría del Pueblo, the government’s human-rights ombudsman.

Translation of Report from San Cristobal, Tachira (Anonymous, reprinted by El Libertario)

Here is another report from the streets in Venezuela, posted online by the Venezuelan anarchist paper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. The same caveats apply as elsewhere; if you notice any mistakes or mangling please feel free to point them out in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.

Report from San Cristóbal, Táchira, 19-February-2014

Anonymous

Feb. 2014: protest in San Cristobal

This morning the sun rose on San Cristóbal desolated by the bloody attack perpetrated by the Bolivarian National Guard against students who were posted at the intersection of Avenida Carabobo with Ferrero Tamayo. The deployment was striking and devastating: birdshot,[1] expired gas cannisters,[2] tear-gas bombs, stun grenades, and a contingent of the motorized brigade of the military corps that was escorting a tank and two armored vehicles that trashed the tactical reserves of the students.

In spite of such a bloody attack the boys battled them for a space of hours, until fatigue put a dent in them, due to the orchestrated plan of attack; after razing the place, the troops kept on with their devastating frenzy, completely destroying the barricades set up by the active citizenry, who kept a vigil until late into the night. Neighbors from various streets of Barrio Obrero, La Romera, La Avenida Carabobo, Avenida Ferrero Tamayo and the whole high part of the city, are witnesses to what I’m saying.

It is important to highlight that in addition to the Bolivarian National Guard, groups of gunmen on motorcycle were encountered, who intermittently attacked different parts of the city, returning to the outside of the state capitol to refill their ammunition and fuel for their motorcycles after carrying out the raids on the sites previously analyzed.

As if all that weren’t enough, the same commando group that attacked the students, posted in the site previously mentioned, set off for the vicinity of Táriba, where, revealing all their training in military tactics, they mounted a frontal attack, without any pity, on the collectivity; due to the brutality of the attack, over there the actions were much quicker. Next they headed over to retake control of the bridge of Las Vegas de Táriba, an important access point that allows a connection by ground with the plains. Once again the Bolivarian National Guard showed their worst face, and used everything to attack those who protested in the zone. It’s noteworthy that the neighbors in the Conjunto Residencial Don Luis (a group of buildings) were affected by the effects of the different gasses that were thrown without any coherent reason into the middle of that town.

The city revealed its worst face; they were breathing air loaded with a fetid stench and the smell of burning rubber and plastic. Public transit was paralyzed in 99% of the city, rising to 100% before eight in the morning; the barricades showed up in every part of San Cristóbal, some upright and steady, others partly standing, and some completely collapsed, the community has reflected its powerlessness in the asphalt that has served as a blackboard for messages of “SOS” and “HELP.”

The thing that San Cristóbal has lived through is without precedent, a hostile situation, which the armed “collectives” have exploited to rob, destroy and attack those who were obliged to stay at the few workplaces that can still be found open. Speaking of business, shops have closed for the day, the street vendors have disappeared completely from the streets, the only places that have opened their doors are some supermarkets and public markets, which were motivated by pressure from different government authorities, which threaten them with fines and additional legal actions.

At this time (6:30pm) the fuse of protest has been lit once again. I’m informed that encounters with National Guard troops in the high part of the city, and neighbors and organized civil society have appeared strongly resisting the attacks of the Bolivarian National Guard, which is making use of aerial tactics through the use of Mi-17V-5 helicopters, one of the latest assault and transport models of the legendary Russian helicopter, purchased by the Venezuelan government, which in addition to flying over and reporting is also conducting airlifts between the Buenaventura Vivas base in Santo Domingo and the airport in Paramillo.

— Translation of Reporte desde San Cristóbal, Edo. Táchira, 19/02/2014 by Anónim@. Translated by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1] Perdigones, pellets. The Bolivarian National Guard frequently uses small-gauge shotgun fire as a crowd-control weapon.
  2. [2] Expired tear-gas cannisters were frequently used against Egyptian protesters in Tahrir Square, leading to some claims that the expired cannisters might cause more dangerous reactions in people exposed to the gas. The idea is not widely supported by scientists, but the accusation that expired cannisters are being used in Venezuela has led to an investigation.

Translation of Caracas, 15-F: Impressions from the street (Humberto Decarli, in El Libertario)

A lot of folks have been trying to follow what is going on in Venezuela; unfortunately, much of the discussion in U.S. radical Left and anti-war media has been heavily dependent on reports from government-controlled media, or limited to information from the English-language press; and commentary has been far too much dominated by simplistic binary narratives that present U.S.-supported politicos and the Bolivarian revolutionary government as the only alternatives. Over the next few days, I hope to translate and post some of the news and commentary being put out by Venezuelan anarchists. This article is a short commentary by Humberto Decarli, published in the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. Because of the rapid development of events in Venezuela, you should be aware that I’m trying to produce these translations relatively quickly, and while I read Spanish fluently, what I’ve studied has usually been either Castilian or North American Spanish; so I’ve tried to consult friends who are native speakers from South America where I was unsure about what seemed to be idioms or local references peculiar to Venezuela. I apologize in advance for any mistakes or mangling of local idioms, which are of course solely my own responsibility. (If you notice any ambiguities or mistakes in the translation, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments, and I’ll attach a note or a correction to the text here.)

Caracas, 15-F: Impressions from the street

15-F, 9 p.m.: repression of the protesters in Plaza Altamira

Humberto Decarli

I was in the Plaza Altamira today, February 15, until about seven[1] thirty p.m. I observed that, it being a Saturday at that hour there were many students, youths and motorizados, from about the Hotel Caracas Pálace up to a quarter south of the Torre Británica in Altamira Sur. There was an atmosphere of combatividad but without organization. No flyers, few banners, few papers and hardly any agitation. The few chants were: “Este gobierno va a caer,” sung (“This government is going to fall”); “No me da la gana, es una dictadura igualita a la cubana” (“I don’t want it, it’s a dictatorship exactly like the one in Cuba”); “El pueblo, unido, jamás será vencido” (“The people, united, will never be defeated”); “El pueblo, arrecho, reclama a sus derechos” (“The people, arising, are taking back their rights”) (these last have been around since my student days against the Acción Democrática / COPEI governments.)

They are students without experience in politics or the struggle in the streets but all the same they have come out to challenge the bullets of the government’s “tontons macoutes-C.D.R.”[2] The National Guard is ready to intervene and every second they are making feints to frighten the people that runs but also comes back. What also sticks out, interestingly, is the non-existence of manipulation by the political parties or national leaders, which is highly satisfying. Neither, fortunately, are there electoral slogans, because there’s no election-carnival this year. There is initiatve because folks feel indignation at the scarcity, shortages, inflation, insecurity and frightening repression exercised by the “patriotas de los colectivos,”[3] a type of gang of thugs financed and armed by the government’s politico-military committee.

It pleases me to see the capacity for mobilization, but the question is, can it last? Are we in the presence of another Arab Spring? Is this the awakening of the Venezuelan people? It would be aprioritical to answer at this moment. What’s certain is the continuation of inflation, repression, scarcity, shortages, insecurity, etc. And the State’s got no answer because, being an import economy, it has no hard currency, because they arranged for dollars to come in bypassing the Central Bank; when the foreign currency that entered the country and was liquidated through CADIVI,[4] the government’s cronies carried off a third in their briefcases[5] — Giordani[6] dixit — without anyone, no matter how low on the totem pole, facing justice for it. To make matters worse, Iran has made an arrangement for its conflict with the West, to accept supervision of its nuclear program, and they are now dismantling the economic sanctions, and will go ahead with exporting 1.6 million barrels daily for the month of may, which will knock the market off its bench. Difficult moments for the militarist regime in Venezuela. All they have left is the exercise of force, appealing to what Foucault called the disciplinary power, or direct enforceability.

— Translation of Caracas, 15-F: Impresiones desde la calle by Humberto Decarli. Translated by Charles W. Johnson, with some extremely helpful assistance from Sergio Méndez.

  1. [1] [six: originally mis-written as six, due to my careless error. Thanks to Joe in the comments below for the catch. —CJ 22.Feb.2014]
  2. [2] Tonton Macoute, an infamous force of paramilitary death squads formed by the Haitian dictator François ‘Papa Doc’ Duvalier, which murdered more than 60,000 Haitians from 1959-1986. CDR, Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, a Cuban network of Communist paramilitary/neighborhood snitch organizations initiated by Fidel Castro in 1960 to monitor and suppress “counter-revolutionary” activity.
  3. [3] Patriots of the collectives.
  4. [4] The Comisión de Administración de Divisas, “Commission for the Administration of Currency Exchange”), the agency in charge of legal foreign currency exchanges in Venezuela.
  5. [5] Literally, “una tercera parte se las llevaron las empresas de maletín.” “Empresas de maletín,” lit. “briefcase enterprises,” are politically connected firms, which typically get government contracts by means of political preference or corruption. They are often “ghost” enterprises, which snag the government contract and then subcontract all the work to other companies.
  6. [6] Jorge Antonio Giordani Cordero (b. 1940), the current Minister of the People’s Power for Central Planning in Venezuela, responsible for most of Venezuela’s monetary policy during the current crisis.

We Will: The Radical Possibilities of Freed-Market Social Activism

One of the Five Pillars of left-wing market anarchism that Gary Chartier and I identify in the Introduction to Markets Not Capitalism is a commitment to the radical possibilities of market social activism:

… [M]arket anarchists also see freed markets as a space not only for profit-driven commerce, but also as spaces for social experimentation and hard-driving grassroots activism. They envision “market forces” as including not only the pursuit of narrowly financial gain or maximizing returns to investors, but also the appeal of solidarity, mutuality and sustainability. “Market processes” can — and ought to — include conscious, coordinated efforts to raise consciousness, change economic behavior, and address issues of economic equality and social justice through nonviolent direct action.

— Charles W. Johnson and Gary Chartier, Introduction. 3.
Markets Not Capitalism (Autonomedia/Minor Compositions, 2011).

Here’s some more on that, thanks to the kind efforts of DFW Alliance of the Libertarian Left. This is some broad orientation on what it means and why it matters. The specifics I’ve talked about for quite a while here; it was also the topic of my recent talk at Libertopia. More on that soon, I hope. But for now: This clip is excerpted from a much longer interview with Jason Lee Byas and Grayson English at Liberty Minded / Speaking on Liberty. (Thanks, y’ALL!)

Transcript included below for folks with screen readers, et cetera.

Grayson English: I think it’s all very interesting, all this about thicker commitments, and different things that libertarians tend to ignore, and some of the more ethical concerns that go into these social issues. But I think there’s been a pretty devastating critique on Facebook about how left-libertarianism has nothing to say about ethics, and it’s basically just saying that whatever the market does, is good. I don’t know, I just think that seems somewhat problematic for this philosophy of thicker commitments, and indirect coercion. What do you think of that?

Jason Lee Byas: … The great agora that is Facebook, for philosophical symposiums in every thread, yeah …

Charles Johnson: Yeah, I’ve definitely talked with some folks about this, on Facebook and elsewhere. I fear that Facebook is actually, like, systematically the worst possible medium for having involved discussions about this kind of stuff, for various reasons.

But, broadly what I’d say is this: left-libertarianism involves a claim that without state coercion, and without various forms of legal privilege, there are a bunch of forms of social and economic inequality, and social and economic privilege, that would tend to be systematically undermined — that would be much weaker than they are in society as it is. It doesn’t involve a claim that just freeing the market, and seeing whatever will happen, without your intervention, when markets are free, — is what either free-market anticapitalism in particular or what left-libertarianism is all about. That’s not the end of the day for either of those views.

And, so I think it is true, that if you get rid of — and it’s really important not to forget this; this is the reason we stress so much the importance of state monopoly in upholding capitalist privilege, for example — is not to suggest that, in a society freed of government intervention and regulation, that the freed market would automatically solve every social problem, every form of inequality, cancer, tooth decay, and that the seas would become the temperature and flavor of lemonade.

The specific claim is that there’s a bunch of stuff that would tend to sort of systematically get better just in virtue of kicking out the supports from institutions that are actively making it crappier. So there are a lot of forms of privilege that would tend to sort of sink and falter under their own weight, without the ongoing efforts of the state to subsidize them and to burn out competitors. But — whatever forms of social inequality, and whatever social evils — and there’s plenty that would remain, even if in a weaker form — are things that libertarians ought to take a direct hand in organizing nonviolent social confrontation against. Where these things don’t fall under their own weight, we have a responsibility to get together and push them over. And that means a serious commitment to grassroots community organizing and to social activism within the context of this freed market that we’re imagining.

That’s something I’ve always tried to emphasize in my work as very important — if you’re wondering who will stop the rich from running everything in a free society, part of the answer has to be that we will. And there are straightforward ways in which it’s connected with this commitment to the radical possibilities of freed market social activism. That is closely connected with seeing that being in favor of market relationships, is not the same thing as just kicking back and saying, Well, I don’t have to lift a finger because the market is going to take care of all my problems for me… . —

Jason Lee Byas: Market take the wheel!

Charles Johnson: — I mean market forces just are us; they’re people acting rationally in the world. We shouldn’t just be consumers of social conditions, but entrepreneurs of social conditions. That’s going to mean things like mutual aid associations forming up, fighting unions, neighborhood associations. It’s going to mean feminist activism, culture jamming, consciousness-raising, — all kinds of zaps and activism and building counter-institutions that are in the hands of ordinary folks, rather than in the hands of a socially or economically privileged bureaucracy. Any conception that takes market relationships *fully seriously,* is going to have to include social activism as an essential component of a flourishing free society. Not something that we’re bringing market relationships in instead of, because we don’t want to get our hands dirty with that stuff. It’s stuff that can, and should, and almost certainly will be happening in a free market society. And if you don’t see it happening, the solution is to be the change — to be the one that makes it happen.

Discussion from DFW ALL here. Full interview here. Speaking on Liberty interview series here.

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