Tag Archives: Anarchism

The Kurdish Revolution in Kobane – Freedom School Class – Thursday, January 29

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Derek Scarlino and Brendan Dunn will give a talk and lead a discussion about the events in the fight against ISIS in Kobane, Syria, and the Kurdish social revolution. The Kurds are a people who have for years been denied a nation to call their own and have been occupied by the Ottomans, British, Americans, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. While Syria has been ripped apart by a tragic civil war since 2011, a number of Kurdish towns in the Northern part of Syria carved out their own autonomous cantons where they have created a social revolution rooted in concepts of feminism, mutual aid, cooperation and participatory democracy. It is here where women have taken the lead in the fight against ISIS and have successfully beat them back. It is here where the PKK, the anarchist Kurdish Workers’ Party, has carved out an alternative to the systems envisioned by Islamic fundamentalists, authoritarian states and the Capitalist West. It is a system that many would call anarchist in nature and in practice. There will be an open discussion in class about what we can learn from the Kurdish revolution.

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Fredom School Class Postponed Until Next Week!

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Derek Scarlino and Brendan Dunn will give a talk and lead a discussion about the events in the fight against ISIS in Kobane, Syria, and the Kurdish social revolution. The Kurds are a people who have for years been denied a nation to call their own and have been occupied by the Ottomans, British, Americans, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. While Syria has been ripped apart by a tragic civil war since 2011, a number of Kurdish towns in the Northern part of Syria carved out their own autonomous cantons where they have created a social revolution rooted in concepts of feminism, mutual aid, cooperation and participatory democracy. It is here where women have taken the lead in the fight against ISIS and have successfully beat them back. It is here where the PKK, the anarchist Kurdish Workers’ Party, has carved out an alternative to the systems envisioned by Islamic fundamentalists, authoritarian states and the Capitalist West. It is a system that many would call anarchist in nature and in practice. There will be an open discussion in class about what we can learn from the Kurdish revolution.

Class is from 7:00 – 8:30pm. Free dinner will be served at 6:30pm.

Anarchism Reading Group Meets! – Saturday, November 22

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Anarchism, Revolution & Political Theory Discussion and Reading Group
When: This Saturday, November 22 at 7:00pm
Where: Mohawk Valley Freedom School office – 500 Plant Street in Utica’s Oneida Square                                                     What: We will be discussing the first 30 pages of the book ABC of Anarchism by Alexander Berkman

Why?: Several local activists are forming a new organization in town called Black Rose (Rosa Negra). They have decided to launch a discussion and reading group open to anyone interested which will be centered around the philosophy and theory of anarchism and revolution. Although anarchism and anarchy conjure images of chaos, violence and disorder in the minds of many people, the actual theory and practice of anarchism are the exact opposite. In its most basic form, anarchism is a framework that is critical of all forms of violence, coercion, hierarchy and oppression. As such, it is a rejection of both capitalism and the State. Anarchism envisions a society that is rooted in concepts of liberty, freedom, mutual aid, cooperation, decentralization and collectivism. A society whereby the people democratically control and self-manage society and the economy. There is a long history of anarchism and anarchist social movements in the US and around the world. Come join this reading group if you want to learn more about this philosophy or are interested in discussing political theory.

We will read the following text:

The ABC of Anarchism by Alexander Berkman
– Published in 1929, this is considered a classic text that discusses what, exactly, anarchism is, its theory, history, and practice. Berkman was a well known revolutionary anarchist who was persecuted for his beliefs and activism and eventually deported to Russia by the US government. The book can be found here or picked up in person at the Freedom School: https://libcom.org/files/AlexanderBerkman-ABCofAnarchism.pdf

Anarchism, Revolution & Political Theory Discussion and Reading Group

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Anarchism, Revolution & Political Theory Discussion and Reading Group
When:First meeting this Saturday, November 15 at 5:30pm
Where: Mohawk Valley Freedom School office – 500 Plant Street in Utica’s Oneida Square
We will order pizza! Feel free to bring other food to share with us!

Why?: Several local activists are forming a new organization in town called Black Rose (Rosa Negra). They have decided to launch a discussion and reading group open to anyone interested which will be centered around the philosophy and theory of anarchism and revolution. Although anarchism and anarchy conjure images of chaos, violence and disorder in the minds of many people, the actual theory and practice of anarchism are the exact opposite. In its most basic form, anarchism is a framework that is critical of all forms of violence, coercion, hierarchy and oppression. As such, it is a rejection of both capitalism and the State. Anarchism envisions a society that is rooted in concepts of liberty, freedom, mutual aid, cooperation, decentralization and collectivism. A society whereby the people democratically control and self-manage society and the economy. There is a long history of anarchism and anarchist social movements in the US and around the world. Come join this reading group if you want to learn more about this philosophy or are interested in discussing political theory. The readings will be passed out at the first meeting and we will decide which sections to read and how often we will like to meet.

We will read the following texts:

The ABC of Anarchism by Alexander Berkman
– Published in 1929, this is considered a classic text that discusses what, exactly, anarchism is, its theory, history, and practice. Berkman was a well known revolutionary anarchist who was persecuted for his beliefs and activism and eventually deported to Russia by the US government.

“The Tyranny of Structurelessness” by Jo Freeman
– This was a popular essay that emerged from the women’s liberation movement in the US in the 1970s. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in setting up organizations that have democratic structures. Freeman was active in the women’s liberation movement of that era.

Anarchism and the Black Revolution by Lorenzo Komboa Ervin
– Written by ex-Black Panther turned anarchist Lorenzo Komboa Ervin, this is a great writing that focuses on the fundamentals of class struggle anarchism and discusses the relevance of anarchism to the Black liberation movement.

“Revolutionary Ecology: Biocentrism & Deep Ecology” by Judi Bari
– A great essay on what deep ecology is and why struggle must also be centered around the environment. Bari was a member of Earth First! and  the Industrial Workers of the World who organized timber workers and environmentalists to save California’s old growth redwood forests.

Please email mvfreedomschool@gmail.com if you have any questions or are interested in joining this reading group.

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An Interview With Green Party Gubernatorial Candidate Howie Hawkins on Activism and Social Movements

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(This interview was originally published in 2010 on Znet and in the Industrial Worker. The full interview can be found here: http://howiehawkins.com/2010/index.php/interviews/399-interview-by-brendan-maslauskas-dunn)

Brendan Maslasuaks Dunn (BMD): I understand you spent some time in the Bay Area growing up. What were you politically involved with back then?

Howie Hawkins (HH): Well, Willie Mays was a San Francisco Giant and he was my hero and this was in the Bay Area and this was in the 60s so… I cut school one day when they were doing the ban the draft week and went over there and was on the periphery of one of those demos that week. The next year the big thing was the San Francisco State strike so I went to some of those activities that was basically trying to get autonomy for the black studies program so they could serve the community so I learned a lot from that and got familiar with a lot of the different tendencies in what was called the New Left back then. One of the things that influenced me was there was something called Ecology Action West which I later learned was all written by Murray Bookchin. So that Post Scarcity Anarchism with an ecological orientation and libertarian socialism – that was probably one big influence on me back then. [I] also ran into Hal Draper’s Socialism From Below pamphlets that the independent socialists were circulating and understood the distinctions between statist socialism that was authoritarian and socialism from below which was democratic. I’m in high school and new to all this and they’re sure not teaching us much about this in high school.

I remember on Earth Day, 1970 I organized the Earth Day at my school and wrote up a sort of handbook on the issues and called for corporations basically to be run as public utilities without the profit motive but to serve production for use and not try to grow endlessly like capitalism makes companies do endlessly in order to survive and I sort of got to the conclusion without understanding the whole analysis of how to get to it. There were demonstrations over at Berkeley and I went over to one I remember when Peoples Park was breaking up and I was there the day before the kid was shot to death. I cut school and went there so I was absorbent of a lot of this stuff as sort of a truant who was really going to political protests which was sometimes just a library across the railroad tracks from the high school because high school was kind of slow and there was a lot of antiwar demos in the Bay area that I went to so I absorbed a lot from the movements there.

BMD: I also understand you’re a socialist. Given the dark history of what was done in the name of socialism, why do you call yourself one?

HH: Well, any word is contested. I mean you have democratic republics that are dictatorships so democracy – do you want to abandon that word? Do you want to abandon the idea of a republic? I think we need an alternative to capitalism which most people understand to be profit oriented enterprise and appropriation of surplus by the owners. So what is socialism? It’s democratic appropriation and allocation of economic surplus by the people. I would say a little different from some socialists who say the producers because in any economy in any one time it’s something like, at most, you have about 40% of the people actually working. You have young people, children, you have old people, you have injured people so everyone should have some say in how the surplus is distributed and the forms that those socialist economic institutions could take can be public in the sense of like a municipal power utility, they can be cooperatives where the users (the people that contribute to the enterprise) dispose of the net income and you have consumer you have producer or worker you have marketing coops you can have hybrids of producers and consumers… but the point is that what is produced is how you dispose of it, is the democratic decision – it’s not just to those who happen to own the property and I think that that’s an important idea that America, out of all the countries of the world, has just sort of erased form discussion. So I think it’s important to keep that on the table. Now when I campaign I don’t campaign for an ideology – socialism or even ecologism or green – green’s a label we use but, I campaign for concrete reforms that more people can understand on their own terms. Now a lot of those reforms; for example, a right to a job and a living wage which requires direct public employment to ensure everyone there has full employment, is not compatible with a capitalist economy, not because you couldn’t with government help have a market to get everyone employed between public and private employment because the vested interests who own the capital in the capitalist sector, they want unemployment to discipline the workforce and keep wages down. So, for me socialism for me is an extension of democracy into the economic realm.

BMD: I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about, maybe one or two movements you’ve been involved with in your life that have really had an impact on you.

HH: Well, I think the anti-Vietnam War movement, in particular the GI movement… and when I got drafted I did enlist in the Marine Corps before the draft letter got me. My number came up – it was the last call for Vietnam – July ’72 and the Defense Secretary Laird(sp???) called up numbers 35 through 70 and I was number 65, so… you know I had looked at my options and decided rather than going into exile or underground I would go into the service and first thing I did was join the American Serviceman’s Union which was actually the front for Workers World Party, you know they really ran it, but it was an effort to unionize and resist imperialist war. And by the time I did it, I wasn’t sticking my neck out so much, I mean I can remember one of the things that I saw, this is when I think I was a freshman in high school was the Presidio 27 refusing to go to Vietnam out of San Francisco and they really paid a price for that. And there was the GI Coffee House movement… Anyway, by the time I was in the resistance, particularly in the Army, I mean Nixon had to Vietnamese the war as they called it – bring the troops home and let the Vietnamese fight with our funding because our soldiers, in the Army in particular, they weren’t fighting, they were refusing, they thought… they didn’t like the war. And it even affected the Marine Corps. I went in – this was officer training – I was in college and it was an off-campus program. And actually the veterans who had been there as grunts and then come back to college on the GI Bill and were now coming back into the Marines to be officers, they were pretty anti-Vietnam War. It was amazing. The “gung ho” Marines were the kids that were just coming straight out of college and wanted to be Marines; you know the whole image around that. So I just think that’s an underestimated but powerful movement that’s a more working class movement than a lot of the movements of the 60s because it was working class people that tended to get drafted and go fight and resist.

So that was something that really stuck with me and made me understand also the importance, when you’re getting back to domestic affairs, the importance of building a strong labor movement. So what I ended up doing after college was construction up in northern New England where none of the jobs were union except really big projects and those guys came in from out of state. You know, nuclear power plant, sort of big college dorm construction, although I did some of that but it was a non-union shop. So I joined the Wobblies just so I had an affiliation. There were no other Wobblies anywhere around, except we had a couple of guys, we had a worker co-op for a while – we were all Wobblies but I wanted some affiliation, at least in spirit. I’ve kept that affiliation since then. And I’ve been involved in a lot of labor support struggles – the JP Stevens textile struggle in the South, I was really involved with the Phelps Dodge struggle, the miners in Arizona. The same thing happened today as what happened to miners in Namibia, owned by the same company – Phelps Dodge, they struck when it was in Namibia, they were sent… this actually happened a long time ago in Arizona. In both cases they just put the workers on a train and sent them out to the middle of the desert and just dropped them off in the desert. And I got involved with that because the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Dartmouth was the President and CEO and Chairman of the Board of Phelps Dodge. So we did a lot of work around that and even the AFL-CIO national office came in and we did a whole corporate campaign around that. There were UFW grape and lettuce boycotts. And then since I’ve been in Syracuse, there’s labor actions, there was one [recently] at Coyne Textile Services a couple blocks from here, and I’ve been out at the Motts strike in Williamson and out at the Momenta Processed Materials rally back in June. And it’s a big part of my campaign for governor. So I think I’ve been inspired by the labor movement – not so much the official labor movement but the real labor struggles that people have when they get attacked by employers. And we haven’t won a lot, I mean one thing, before I came to UPS and became a Teamster I was really supportive and glad to see they’d won that UPS strike in 1997. It was one of the few big strikes that the labor movement won in a generation, going back to the 60s.

BMD: What exactly attracted you to the Wobblies and how has an IWW analysis of the labor movement and the economic system we live under had an effect on your outlook?

HH: The Wobblies are an inspiration given their history. I mean, they organized people that the AFL wouldn’t organize – the migrant workers, the minority worker, the workers in dirty, dangerous jobs like mining. They were relatively antiracist in a time racism was really strong in this country, in the nineteen-teens – this is when they were strong and they’ve kept that spirit alive. They also are very big on democracy at a time when the mainstream labor movement is bureaucratized. And the Preamble, the Wobblies’ classic document that’s inspirational to this day. So, all those things attracted me to it and it has informed me, you know, I have not really been engaged in any Wobbly activities because they haven’t been where I live at. And I think that [construction] is an industry where Wobblies can make really big inroads because there’s a lot of small construction, home construction that’s being done. Even in New York City which is a union town a lot of the rehab work is being done by immigrants who are being paid less than a minimum wage and that’s been going on for decades. I did some construction work down there in the 70s and 80s and most of it on rehab stuff. And I saw that it was disheartening. But in the organized building trades, they have a tradition in this country of sort of being exclusive and trying to keep their numbers small so they can keep their wages up. It’s not a class movement – it’s a movement for their members. So I think there’s a lot of room there for the Wobblies to organize and I wish them all the best luck. And there are other sectors like that where the IWW is organizing right now like Starbucks. Even the nonprofits they were trying to organize. Some people criticize that and there may be some merit in some of the criticism from some of the real small groups but on the other hand, I know, for example, SEIU organizers up here in Upstate New York were really overworked and underpaid by 1199. They tried organizing a union, they got fired right away. So I think there’s definitely a role for the IWW. And for me it’s more of inspiration and, you know, I pay my dues out of solidarity.

BMD: Do you think there’s an upsurge in the labor movement with undocumented workers in particular but with workers in this country in general?

HH: Well certainly undocumented workers and even the documented immigrants – they were in solidarity with each other. They’re coming from countries where there’s real changes going on  -Venezuela, Bolivia, at least, you know, the Latin American Spanish speaking countries I think inform a lot of those peoples’ activities and understanding of what’s going on. So I think that could have a much broader influence and I think the AFL is in a lot better position than it was, say, 15 – 20 years ago in its relation to those workers, at least formerly. So I think that’s going to be a source of renewal for the labor movement. The workers centers that are organizing those folks and things like Jobs with Justice, community-labor alliances, you know it varies from town to town and place to place but I think those are all areas where renewal of the labor movement will come. And the reform caucuses in different unions – I’m in TDU – Teamsters for a Democratic Union – and that’s probably the biggest and it’s had its ups and downs but those kinds of things are popping up. So I think the potential is there and the need is there and we just got to try to make it happen.

Freedom School Class – Thursday, May 29 – The Zapatistas: Rebellion and Indigenous Resistance in Mexico

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Join us for class this week as we discuss the Zapatista uprising in Mexico. A Filipino dinner will be served at 6:00pm and class will run from 6:30-8:00pm.

On January 1, 1994 an indigenous rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico took the world by storm. Indigenous Mayans chose the date as the rebellion because it coincided with the day that the trade agreement known as NAFTA was enacted into law in Mexico, the US, and Canada. NAFTA had a disastrous impact on indigenous people, the poor, and the working class in North America. The rebels called themselves Zapatistas after the Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata. The Zapatistas created a new political system that built grassroots power of indigenous people, peasants, women, and other oppressed people. Their influence on social movements and politics forever changed Chiapas and Mexico and also shaped the alter-globalization and global justice movements. Zapatismo is the set of politics and practice advocated by the Zapatistas which is a combination of Mayan indigenous beliefs, anarchism, and Marxism. It advocates decentralized politics, building grassroots power without seizing state power, participatory democracy, autonomy, liberty, mutual aid, cooperation and dignity. A common saying of the Zapatistas is, “Para todos todo, para nosotros nada” (everything for everyone, nothing for ourselves), which is reflective of their selflessness and vision for a very different world. We will discuss the history of the Zapatistas, social movements in Mexico, and how the Zapatistas have influenced alternative politics around the world. We will also look at the Zapatistas’ ideology, political structures, alternatives, and views on leadership.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TffwElt_UU

Freedom School Class – Thursday, April 17 – The Philosophy, History, and Politics of Anarchism

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This class was supposed to happen last week but was postponed until this week. We will be discussing the tenets of anarchism as both a philosophy and a tool for social and economic change. Anarchy is a topic not widely covered in standard classes of history or politics, though there is a great deal of literature on anarchy itself. Because it’s tenets are not more broadly known, there remain many inaccurate depictions of anarchists as well as what anarchy is and looks like. From the late 19th and early 20th centuries, anarchists (and anarcho-syndicalists) were the major driving force of Left wing politics in the United States seeking reforms to perceived ills such as lack of worker’s rights and the ability for laborers to organize. Anarchy was a highly visible and viable political option and force for much of the early 20th century in many different countries.

We will cover the origins of the term and the philosophical foundations of what we understand to be anarchy today as well as historical examples of anarchists and their efforts to realize their vision in spite of the state monopolies on power and force. Of particular note will be anarchists of the past and how their take on anarchy differentiates from group to group, participatory economics (“parecon”), anarchy and capitalism, the DIY ethos and self-determination, concepts of property, direct democracy, definitions of liberty in line with anarchist principals and what anarchy looks like today.

As usual, class will be at 6:30pm and dinner will be served at 6:00pm.

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