Posts filed under Power to the People

man 5 reformism

Liberals always think that the process of getting their favorite policy enacted is just like this, simple:

$ patch < reform.diff

But that is never how it works. Your reform is not written up in the right format. This will just get you an error message. Actually, what you’re doing is always, necessarily, going to be this:

$ cat reform.txt | nationalism | patriarchy | gender‑binary | racial‑fear | paternalism | party‑politics | plutocratic‑interest | entrenched‑bureaucracy | regulatory‑capture | patch

But what you get at the end of all those filters is always something quite different from what you were hoping for. Or if it was just what you were hoping for, your hopes and dreams are kind of terrible. In either case, it’s questionable whether this actually counts as the more practical approach to social and political change. In either case, you should broaden your horizons. In Anarchy, there is another way.

SEE ALSO

Progressive Politics

Shared Article from The Huffington Post

Obama Delays Immigration Action Until After Election

WASHINGTON (AP) — Abandoning his pledge to act by the end of summer, President Barack Obama has decided to delay any executive action on immigration…

huffingtonpost.com


Of course, this is a shameful move from Barack Obama. Immigrants’ lives and families are being sacrificed, yet again, over and over and again, to opportunism and to crass political calculation. The careers of Democratic politicians are not more important than people’s lives and livelihoods. What makes it worse is that this move is as completely predictable as it is morally grotesque.

Progressive electoral politics is like building a vast, extraordinarily expensive, Rouge River-scale machine plant to build cars. Then, after the ribbon is cut, the plant opens to great fanfare, billions of dollars are spent, and a couple of go-karts are rolled off the line as a test, the manager up tells you that there won’t be any more cars for the time being — because all the wear and tear on the machines would destroy their ability to make more cars, some day in the future. So until then you’ll have to wait. All the while the machine whirs along, drawing more power and costing more money all the time, but no more cars ever come off the line, because every time there might have been some output, it was sacrificed to make sure that the machine itself would keep idling smoothly. But it is so perfectly polished.

Devour Borders: Mexican food as revolutionary praxis

From Jeffrey M. Pilcher, The Rise and Fall of the Chili Queens, in Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (2012):

. . . Mexican food [from worker-owned street vendors] was also seen as a threat to white workers, both through unfair competition and labor radicalism. Nativist opponents of immigrant workers claimed that the Mexican diet of tortillas and chili, like the Chinese staple rice, undermined the nation’s standard of living. . . . Mexican food was also associated with anarchism and union organizing. Tamale vendors were blamed for the Christmas Day Riot of 1913, when police raided a labor rally in Los Angeles Plaza. Milam Plaza in San Antonio, where the chili queens worked in the 1920s, was a prominent recruiting ground for migrant workers. Customers could eat their chili while listening to impassioned speeches by anarcho-syndicalists of the [Industrial] Workers of the World[1] and the Partido Liberal Mexicano.[2]

— Jeffrey M. Pilcher, The Rise and Fall of the Chili Queens
in Planet Taco: A Global History of Mexican Food (2012), p. 113

So I just stumbled across this passage today; it’s kind of like a perfect addendum to the Xenophobia and Anarchophobia / U.S. vs. Them section of my old No Borders / No State presentation, reheated, perfectly seasoned and cooked up together with everything I have to say about worker-owned, informal-sector food vendors and disruptive social and economic agoras.

See also.

  1. [1] Original mistakenly reads International [sic] Workers of the World, a distressingly common mistaken expansion of the I.W.W.’s initials.
  2. [2] A Mexican anarchist revolutionary group, whose founders included Ricardo Flores Magón, among others. After a series of strikes and uprisings they played a major role in the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution and briefly liberated Baja California from the control of the Mexican national government in 1911, with cross-border assistance from hundreds of I.W.W. anarcho-syndicalists from the U.S. After being defeated by the Mexican military and expelled from Mexico, members lived on in exile in southern California and central Texas.

Translation of “One comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh I’ve got the desire” (Viento sin Fronteras, in EL LIBERTARIO)

Here is another translation from Venezuela, once again of a one-compa-sounds-off article, this time from Viento sin Fronteras (Wind without Borders) in a rural area of Mérida, a state in western Venezuela. The article was reprinted by the Venezuelan anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a nervous translator trying to keep up with a lot of regional references that I don’t always know, and moving through a lot of material coming out more quickly than I can translate it; this is a working draft; 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. Again, there are lots of different Anarchists in Venezuela, and this is one compa’s view; there are many with different views about the attitude that Anarchists should take towards the protest. (See, for example, this previous translation of a commentary by Victor Camacho. Viento sin Fronteras is, let’s say, significantly more hands-on.)

A comrade from Mérida sounds off: Oh, I’ve got the desire

Viento sin Fronteras

This is a little chronicle many are certainly familiar with. Yesterday I got up at 6 a.m. so I could get ready to go to work. I arrived at work around 7:30 am and I spent the whole day over there. At 7pm I went back to my house. When I got home I had to go down to the nearest bodega (I live in a rural area) to buy stuff for making dinner or lunch in the coming days. Well O.K., so a purchase that consists of some three potatoes, two cans of sardines, three tomatoes, an onion, laundry soap,[1] a box of cigarettes and a few cookies, comes out to 170 bolivars [≈ US $27]. Up to this point everything seems normal but it isn’t. My daily salary is 200 bolivars [≈ US $32].

Clearly, they are 200 bolivars and this leaves me only just 30 bolivars [≈ US $5] to save for paying the rest of my expenses, like the rent for example. Or the fare for public transport, if I weren’t walking to work I’d have to take 10 bolivars off these 30 that are supposed to be left over for me.

Besides this, I remembered that the last time that I went without natural gas nearly a month passed before that commodity came back to my house. And I my house, of course, a little house of 38 square meters [≈ 409 sq. ft.] where the water shuts off every day for an hour or two, with a rent that’s equivalent to nearly half the minimum wage I work for. It brings to mind that house from the housing project[2] that that the showboat[3] of the Communal Council[4] built (great affiliate of PSUV[5] certainly and an ideological reference for many here) and which was empty until two weeks ago, which he managed to sell, for no less than the discreet sum of 700,000 bolivars [≈ US $ 111,250].

Something comes into my mind, and my nerves get hotter. I spent 10 years of my life in college. I have an undergraduate degree, a master’s, and I left my doctoral thesis half done when I lost interest. And O.K., it’s not that I believe that I deserve a Ministry salary, but for some reason, and this reason for some other reason always ends up being my fault; it has been impossible for me to find a job that, without being exactly the thing for which I supposedly studied at least would permit me (and that’s what college is supposedly about) to give back to society or to whoever, a little bit of that intellectual or technical material that I supposedly acquired in those years. At times, they then give me some moments of clarity and I say: clearly, it’s that to get hooked up you have to know whose balls to yank.[6] Or I think and I swear[7] about how to set up that writing project with the ever sacrosanct words: Eternal Commander, Fellow Comrade, the Little Bird, Our Process, the Economic War, the Eternal Giant, the Legacy.[8] All this without a doubt adds to the degree of a feeling of frustration that’s growing.

And with that, what comes into my head are the contracts for the Guasare coal, the Deltana Plate, the three billion dollars that Chevron loaned us, the concessions to Chinese timber companies in the high Caroní, the death of the Sabinos, the criminalization of the Wayuu, the Red Fascist wall shooting dissident unionists, the armed forces of the government holding old women with their pans at gunpoint, ordering them to be quiet, the dead of Uribana, the 400 dying every year in prison, the intellectual authors of the massacre of El Amparo placed in the government designing the anti-terrorism laws. And so on. And so I think that late or early, me, and many people who aren’t identified one bit with the spokespeople of the opposition parties, including folks who come from the Chavista movement, are getting out into the streets to protest. And I’ll be over there, if country life lets me, handing out pamphlets to anyone who has eyes to read them. Without falling into naivete, I know that there will be plenty of imbecile fanatics for Pérez Jiménez[9] or Leopoldo Lopez[10] there with their slogans and believe me that I’ll fight them right there. Right there I’ll show that they’re the same as the others.

Oh, I’ve got the desire[11] to go out hurling stones when the police car crosses my path. Because they are some thugs and some cheerleaders.[12] Oh, I’ve got the desire to take all the trash that they aren’t capable of managing and set it all on fire in the doorway of the Mérida state government. Oh, I’ve got the desire to smash the windows of the supermarket and leave all those products tossed on the floor that I have to wait in line for on my weekend days. Oh, I’ve got the desire to catch an ATM[13] alone and try once and for all to see how the fuck you can withdraw all the money with a sledgehammer.

I’ve got the desire to give thanks in person to the folks who set SEBIN’s trucks on fire[14] because they’re a murdering intelligence agency that tortures and persecutes political dissidents. I’ve got the desire to go up to that student leader, who’s really an ally of PJ,[15] and tell her to shut her mouth, that she’s a wanker,[16] that it’s her fault (and that of those mamelotracios[17] that she obeys) that the protest — which could have been a good way to lock up the pigs[18] and a place where we’d all recognize that all these demands are the vindication urgent for EVERYONE — was converted instead into a slogan, pretty much belonging to their own partisan interests.

The year is just beginning and it doesn’t promise to be a year for calm ones. Well, let the storm come.

— Ganas no me faltan (21 Feb. 2014). Very imperfectly translated by Charles W. Johnson

  1. [1] Lit. jabón azul, a specialized kind of soap used especially for laundry (although it can also be used for household cleaning or for personal hygiene).
  2. [2] misión vivienda, a huge public housing construction project launched as part of the Bolivarian Missions sponsored by the government, and administered through government-approved community councils.
  3. [3] Cantamañanas, more accurately, someone who promises to do something and never does it.
  4. [4] Orig. Spanish: CC, i.e., Consejo Comunal, a local council which, among other things, administers government funds granted under the Bolivarian Mission programs.
  5. [5] United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the current ruling political party.
  6. [6] Venezuelan slang, jalar bolas, lit. to pull balls, fig. to flatter or sweet talk with an ulterior motive.
  7. [7] Ambiguous: reniego, meaning either potentially reneging, cursing, detesting, renouncing a religion, or, significantly given the context, uttering blasphemy.
  8. [8] comandante eterno, compañero camarada, el arañero, nuestro proceso, la guerra económica, el gigante eterno, el legado, all nicknames or honorary phrases associated with the Bolivarian Socialist government and especially with the cult of personality around Hugo Chávez.
  9. [9] Presumably Marcos Pérez Jiménez (1914-2001), right-wing military dictator of Venezuela 1952-1958. A few of the more right-wing opposition groups explicitly identify their goals with perezjimenismo.
  10. [10] Leopoldo López Mendoza, leader in the right-wing political opposition party Voluntad Popular, arrested earlier this month and imprisoned on terrorism charges after the outbreak of street protests in Venezuela.
  11. [11] Ganas no me faltan, common phrase, meaning I don’t lack the desire or I don’t lack the urge.
  12. [12] Matraqueros, lit. those who use matracas, a kind of spinning noise-maker popular with diehard Latin American sports fans.
  13. [13] Cajero del banco, which can refer either to an ATM or to a human teller. From the reference to smashing with sledgehammers, I assume (hope?) from context that this is referring to smashing up a machine to get at the cash inside of it.
  14. [14] Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia Nacional, the main national intelligence agency and political police force in Venezuela.
  15. [15] Primero Justicia, a center-right party in the political opposition, run by Henrique Capriles, a right-wing opposition leader who has condemned the street protests.
  16. [16] Pajua, from paja, lit. masturbation or fig. wankery, in the sense of talking bullshit.
  17. [17] Original Spanish, untranslated. I don’t have a good idea of what this means, even after consulting with native speakers from South America. (It’s not in any slang dictionaries I have access to, either.) Our best guess is that it’s probably a portmanteau profanity of some kind and that it’s probably intended to suggest something like cocksuckers.
  18. [18] I am not at all sure that this is a correct translation. Orig. Spanish: que podría haber sido una buena tranca de cochina. Tranca is a lock or a door-bolt, cochina literally means sow, but cochino/a are also used as the masculine and feminine forms of an insult meaning nasty or dirty. This phrase, taken as a whole, doesn’t seem to be an idiomatic expression, or at least, does not seem to occur anywhere else on the Internet.

Translation of “One comrade sounds off: What’s happening now in Venezuela?” (Victor Camacho, in El Libertario)

Here is another translation, this time of a commentary by the radical writer Victor Camacho, posted online as part of a series of different opinions from Venezuelan comrades by the anarchist newspaper EL LIBERT@RIO. Inline links and editorial notes in footnotes are added by me. As always, the same caveats apply: I’m a quick and nervous translator, this is a working draft, 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. The closing note of apathy about the protest is, for what it’s worth, just one compa’s opinion; other articles from other folks at EL LIBERT@RIO have taken a range of different stances towards the protests, although all of them condemn the government’s repression of the demonstrations and the assault on civil and human rights.

Edited 23.Feb.2014. I’ve fixed three typographical errors (pointed out by Joe in comments below. —CJ

One comrade sounds off: What’s happening now in Venezuela?

Victor Camacho

Several people from outside the country have asked me about the situation in Venezuela right now. And I don’t know with scientific certainty even though I live here. But putting things in perspective, I venture to say that the great crisis in Venezuela is not a latent “coup d’etat” (as the conspiranoid government says)[1] , nor is it an economic crisis (as the opposition says), but rather an uncertainty due to the lack of elections in 2014.[2]

But first, let’s talk about context. The most remarkable, definitely, is the economic situation. Here the use of terms is interesting: for the administration, it’s a matter of “economic warfare”; for the opposition it’s a matter of an “economic crisis.” There is a shortage of basic resources, high inflation, a recently devalued currency and more forceful State intervention in the economy. The word “crisis” is intented to demonstrate the inability and the ineptitude of the government in solving those problems; the word “warfare” denotes the government’s intention to make itself out as the victim of agents who cause these problems, from without or from within. On the political side, we are facing a situation which is a very strange one for Venezuela, given that this year there will not be elections. Elections have functioned as a way of dissolving conflicts between the opposition parties and the administration, and even more, they have functioned as a factor unifying both groups: to unite against a common enemy. Thus, 2014 brings with it the risk of partisan division. Both sides, which not only have lost support but also run the risk of splitting apart, are looking ahead to a 2014 in which there is no need to keep holding themselves together. Inflation, shortages, and insecurity are conjoining factors, which function as catalysts for the political crisis, but they are not the great driving factor in this moment.

The crisis of splitting is still worse in the opposition parties. Many in the rank and file of the opposition are not content with the efforts of MUD (Mesa de la Unidad Democrática) [Board of Democratic Unity] or of Capriles, these would be above all the most radical opposition figures. they are not content with the recent pact between the leaders of the opposition, which has tacitly accepted the Maduro government to work together with the government on many different projects, among them the issue of insecurity. In fact, the larger part of the leadership of MUD is not promoting the protests. Thus, Leopoldo López and María Corina Machado, also former candidates for the presidency, are exploiting this rank-and-file discontent in the opposition in order to steal the show.[3] Many in the opposition are really bothered by the current situation and waited very eagerly for the call to get out into the streets, which is why Leopoldo López is the name most discussed these days to be the one who expresses many of their sentiments, while the popularity of Capriles decays. Ironically, the reasons for the protest are vague enough and there is no unified criterion: not everyone protests for the same reason, whether it be for the detained students, the economic situation, the insecurity, all of the above or something else that escapes me.

On the government’s side, more than anything, there’s rejoicing. Opposition radicalism benefits Chavismo a lot, because if Chavismo knows how to do anything, it’s uniting in the face of adversity. The protests help the government to demonstrate that the opposition is violent and outside of the law. They serve to create a scenario where the State is the victim of a common enemy, that there is no time for internal discussions within the Chavista movement, because better us than them. The government signals that there is an environment of protest similar to the one on April 11, 2002,[4] as if there were a coup d’etat lying hidden in these protests, but even though the environment is tense enough like in 2002, and one of the demands is the immediate resignation of the president, there is no likely terrain for a coup d’etat. The opposition hasn’t got one bit of control in the Armed Forces; nor in any other public force; the opposition has only two governors, and, also, their leaders are negotiating with the government. It is hardly likely that a coup d’etat could happen, and, for it to happen, this could only come from high places in the same government.

It is difficult to know exactly what is happening in the country, given that there is an information barrier imposed by the government. One of the factors that caused the protests to spring up is printed media’s lack of acccess to paper, what it costs to start up many newspapers with national or local circulation, including communal and worker-run media.[5] On national television, they are not showing the protests that are happening in the country, and when it happens it is only to show the acts of vandalism and violence in which protesters are involved. The government’s imposition on audiovisual media has been so constant that self-censorship is the norm. In this way, civil society jumps over the information-wall through the use of social networks, especially Twitter. But also this has not been perfect; on the one hand there have been accusations of censorship of connections to the social network Twitter by the State telecommunications company, CANTV, which offers approximately 90% of the Internet connections; and, on the other hand there have been accusations from the government of the use of social networks to spread false information, above all of images of supposed repressions of protests. The information has been used as a matter of convenience for both sides, for example, the administration typically only gives importance to the death of one pro-government demonstrator,[6] forgetting the other 2 deaths in the opposition; while the opposition is accustomed to forget the death of the pro-government demonstrator while crying over the death of the 2 opposition members. In this sense, the political repression and the para-policing groups are no “fairy tale” as the government tries to insist. The police have used firearms against the protesters and what the police cannot do (tortures and intimidation, for example) is done by so-called “colectivos,” armed groups which function as para-police corps.

In my opinion, these protests benefit only the government, and the only good thing that they offer to the opposition is to free the rage that they are keeping inside. Keep in mind, I’ll remind you, I don’t identify with either side. Beyond that, I can’t add any more.

— Opina un compa: ¿Qué pasa ahora en Venezuela? (February 22, 2014). Translated by Charles W. Johnson.

  1. [1] Original Spanish: conspiranoia, a play on conspiración and paranoia.
  2. [2] He doesn’t mean that elections have been suspended; it’s due to coincidences in the normal scheduling of elections. Presidential elections in Venezuela are held every six years, with the most recent election in 2013. Parliamentary elections are held every five years, with the most recent election in 2010. Regional elections are held every four years, with the most recent election in 2012. As a result it’s common to have many election years in a row, but as it happens there are no regular elections scheduled for 2014. —CJ
  3. [3] para robar el protagonismo
  4. [4] The date of the U.S.-backed coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in 2002
  5. [5] medios comunitarios y autogestionados
  6. [6] Original Spanish: el oficialismo sólo suele dar importancia a la muerte de un oficialista.