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BAAM #29 Released
Email: trenchesfullofpoets (nospam) riseup.net
04 Jan 2010
The 29th monthly newsletter of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement is out!
Available here as always for free as a PDF and in plain text. Also, look for free hard copies in all the usual places.
In this issue:
Angelica workers win strike
By Jake Carman
Iran: Stand Up! Fight Back!
By Joseph Caye
Capitalists, Global Warming, and the Climate Justice Movement: Reflections on COP15
By James Herod
Anarchists and Workers Put Greek Government in Tight Spot
December 6th: Boston Stands with Greece
By Jeff Reinhardt
The 9th NEAN Assembly: A Report
Harvard Workers Confront Racism
By Geoff Carens, Union Rep. HUCTW/AFSCME Local 3650
Sabaté: A Short Memorial of a Man for whom Defeat Meant Nothing
By Jake Carman
The Future Is In Our Hands. With every one of capitalism’s failures, our momentum grows. Every time a politician’s lies are exposed, the people gain ground. The charges are set, all we need now is a spark. If we working and oppressed people all stand together, stand up for ourselves and each other, no one will be able to stop us. Freedom, access to the things we need, power over the things we create, a meaningful voice in the decisions of our lives, and safety and opportunity for our communities: we can win these things,
If We Fight For It
Angelica workers win strike
By Jake Carman
After a five day strike beginning on December 10th, the largely immigrant workforce of Angelica Textile Services in Somerville won a new contract with benefits and higher wages. Angelica, a billion dollar company with over 5,000 workers nationally, counting on its board the likes of Jeb Bush (George’s brother and former Governor of Florida) stalled negotiations with the Somerville workers. The workers, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 1445, were asking for a $1 wage increase, more company contribution to the healthcare plan, and an extra 10¢ an hour to the pension plan. They voted to strike on December 1st, and as Local 1445 representative Fernando Lemus told the Boston Globe, they were willing to “sacrifice this Christmas” as “the cost of living is so high.”
For five days, hundreds of workers and supporters from other unions and Centro Presente, an immigrant workers center across the street from Angelica, maintained picket lines from 6AM until midnight, until the company offered a new contract. The workers voted to sign the contract, ending their strike and declaring victory. Supporting unions, according to the Party for Socialism and Liberation, included: “the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 35; the International Brotherhood of Operating Engineers, Local 877 Area Trades Council; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 2222; the American Federation of Government Employees; Unite Here, Local 26; and the Teamsters, Local 25.” Along with the outpouring of support, Local 1445’s impressive unity and resistance to the bosses’ attempts to divide them contributed to the overwhelming victory. •
Iran: Stand Up! Fight Back!
By Joseph Caye
Iranian security forces beat back opposition supporters December 27th in the most violent demonstration since the post-election riots. At least eight, and possibly more than a dozen protesters were killed during the demonstrations on Sunday. Among them was Ali Mousavi, nephew of reformist movement leader Mir Mousavi. Ali was shot through the heart for opposing the regime’s abuses of power. Hundreds of dissidents were injured in the bloody suppression. Police were opening fire and spraying crowds, Basij, a state-run, volunteer paramilitary, were running down Iranians with their motorcycles, and a police van is on video running over a protester without the briefest hesitation. Iran’s news agency, the IRNA, issued a statement that the bodies of five of the protesters are being held pending an autopsy. Funerals, which traditionally occur the day after passing, are catalysts for sparking more protests. Over 300 protesters were arrested. Some of the people who went to the rallies have since been reported missing. In the days following the opposition rally, the regime cracked down on the opposition’s leaders, arresting seven of Mousavi’s aides, a former foreign minister, and a journalist. And IRNA issued false reports of Mousavi and Karroubii fleeing Tehran for an anti-opposition rally Wednesday.
In the six months since the rigged elections on June 11th, the Iranian Regime has done everything in its power to repress dissenters. Some of the protesters arrested for their participation in the post-election riot were sent to Evin and Kharizak prisons, where they were raped and tortured to death. The government denied claims of torture, saying that the protesters who died in prison had caught meningitis. Others who were caught were charged with treason or espionage, and promptly tried and executed. The Ayatollah Khamenei has repeatedly issued statements denouncing the protesters as “enemies of God” and threatened a death sentence for anyone who leads a demonstration. The Iranian regime has also cut access to websites that dissidents could use to organize in the days prior to a potential march. Foreign media has been banned from Iran, making it harder for the rest of the world to see what is happening, and emigrants fleeing the tyranny will often refuse to release their names in interviews for fear of retribution. Despite risking lives and livelihood to attend demonstrations, the opposition repeatedly shows up in the thousands.
On Dec. 27th, when Ashura, (the Shi‘ite day of mourning for the 7th century martyr Imam Hussein)coincided with the seventh day of mourning for Ayatollah Montazeri, (called in state media reports of his death “the clerical figure of rioters”) thousands of opposition supporters poured into the streets of Tehran. The crowds were lush with green bandannas. It was the largest protest in months: a renewal of the anti-regime movement. These opposition protests, which are normally confined mostly to Tehran, have spread to cities all over Iran. Proof that through all the regime’s intimidation and active repression, unrest has grown and more people are willing to take the risk and show their support for toppling the theocracy. Earlier in December, a group of Iranians in Sirjan overtook the Basij running a public execution, and cut down two men who were about to hang for armed robbery. During the Ashura protest, Iranians were showing increased aggression towards the security forces. The internet is smattered with photos of women and men with green bandannas over their faces, standing over a flaming motorcycle or holding a police baton in one hand and raising the victory V with the other. In some instances, groups of angry Iranians surrounded lone Basij and kicked them to the ground.
On Wednesday, demonstrations in support of the Iranian regime drew hundreds of thousands of participants to rally sites in cities across Iran. Government employees were bussed to rallies to increase the number of chanters. These were government organized demonstrations that lacked many of the characteristics of the oppositions rallies. There were no security forces actively molesting the demonstration. No demonstrators hid their face for fear of being identified at the rally. No one was arrested for having a camera, reporting the events, or even just honking their car horn as a show of support. No one was gunned down, beaten, and dragged into a vehicle headed to an even worse experience in prison. The regime’s aggression towards criticism shows how fractured it already is.
Expect more demonstrations in the coming months, especially on February 11th, when Iranians celebrate their Revolution. •
Warming, and the Climate Justice Movement:
Reflections on COP15
By James Herod
[Prefatory Note: For the purposes of this essay I will assume that the science which establishes that the earth is warming up is correct. This is what all participants to the conference believed, both inside the conference hall and outside in the streets. For a brief note on dissenting views, with links, see Footnote No. 4 below.]
The fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Participants (COP15) in the Kyoto Protocol took place this month in Copenhagen, Denmark from December 7 to 18, 2009. The purpose of the conference was to wrap up more than two years of negotiations by representatives of all the world’s governments to get a legally binding treaty for a new round of reductions in carbon emissions under the U.N.’s Kyoto Protocol to replace the first round which was expiring.
So what happened? The United States sabotaged the negotiations by refusing to agree to any legally binding treaty, by refusing to commit itself to any significant reduction of its own carbon pollution, and by refusing to work through the U.N.’s open and democratic negotiating process, instead maneuvering behind the scenes in secret to strike a deal with a few select countries which was then sprung on the conference at the last minute. Naturally, the negotiations collapsed and the conference ended in failure, except for the United States, which outcome is obviously what it had intended all along. To understand the significance and probable consequences of this event some background will be necessary.
Amidst growing reports from the world’s climatologists of alarming increases in temperatures worldwide due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, a treaty was fashioned at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1992, called the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. To date, 192 nations have signed the treaty. The United States tried to obstruct this summit from its outset. The original draft of the treaty had to be greatly weakened and watered down before the United States would agree to sign on.
The same thing happened five years later in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, where an addition to the Rio treaty was being negotiated to put some teeth into it through legally binding cuts in carbon emissions. Once again the United States was obstructive, refusing to cooperate, unless reductions in carbon emissions were handled through the market (the so-called “Cap and Trade, with Offsets”). Al Gore flew to Kyoto to negotiate this demand. The world finally agreed, just in order to get some treaty, but then the U.S. never ratified the Kyoto Protocol anyway.
Al Gore’s presence at this crucial conference is significant. He had been for some time closely involved with Wall Street’s efforts to create a market for carbon trading. In a brilliantly researched essay(1) David Noble persuasively argues that there had been a split in the capitalist ruling class with regard to global warming. Its original response (and its propaganda) was to deny it. But then the financial elite realized that a lot of money could be made if carbon emissions could be commoditized and traded on the market. They launched a massive propaganda campaign to convince the world that global warming was real, that it was being caused by humans (by burning fossil fuels), and that capitalists could solve the problem through their normal market mechanisms. Global warming moved into the mainstream.
The purpose of the Kyoto Protocol was to reduce carbon emissions and thus cool the earth. The purpose of Wall Street is to make money. So far, Wall Street has prevailed, as was demonstrated again this December in Copenhagen. Twelve years after the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997 it is clear that the market approach, insisted on by the United States, has not worked. Carbon emissions have not declined in most countries. They have increased. Most climate justice activists totally reject Wall Street’s scheme. They have produced detailed, empirical studies to prove that it hasn’t worked.(2)
Yet we are in an extremely harsh time frame on this problem. If the science is correct, very substantial reductions in carbon emissions worldwide must be achieved in the next ten years, with the nearly total elimination of fossil fuels within the next twenty to thirty years. If the 2020 goals are not met, there is the danger that a tipping point will be reached, setting in motion irreversible warming trends, with the release of billions of tons of methane gas presently trapped in the frozen tundra stretching across northern Canada and Siberia, and billions more tons trapped in nodules deep in the oceans, the loss of the oceans as a carbon sink as they become acidified, and the loss of reflected heat with the melting of the polar ice caps, glaciers, and Greenland’s ice. The earth will become unrecognizable, and all life on it will be threatened.
What are the chances that the United States will change its policy anytime soon, in time to help stave off the tipping point? Virtually zero. Corporate control, especially by Wall Street and Big Oil, over the United States government is now nearly total, and is irreversible within existing institutional structures. The forty-year-old counter-revolution by neoconservative free market ideologues to make sure that corporate control was never threatened again, as it had been in the sixties, has been completely successful. It would take a revolution to reverse this, and there is no sign anywhere of that happening, certainly not in time.
Perhaps the other 191 nations in the treaty could just go ahead without the United States? Perhaps. But they could have (and should have) done that in Rio in 1992. Why didn’t they? Why was the treaty watered down to accommodate the United States? They certainly should have gone ahead without the U.S. in Kyoto. Why did they cave in to U.S. demands for “Cap and Trade?” They most certainly should have done so this month in Copenhagen. But they didn’t. They allowed one country, the United States, to sabotage the treaty, both procedurally and substantively. Whether the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will survive at all is doubtful.
Well, aside from the fact that the United States is the biggest polluter in the world, and even though its empire is rapidly fading, it is still an enormously powerful nation. If a country is not its ally, it is most likely its enemy, and it can be utterly smashed, as has been demonstrated regularly in recent years in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, and (coming soon) Yemen.
In other words, what we are seeing in operation here (in the ability of the U.S. to dictate the terms of the treaty, and even scuttle it) is the world’s structure of power, obviously. The conceptual framework being used to understand and discuss this power structure, however, both inside the convention halls and outside in the streets, is badly flawed. The world is not made up of “developed” and “developing” nations. Each of the 192 nations is not separately and autonomously passing through stages to development, with some just being farther along than others. The world is made up of imperial exploiting nations and exploited or neocolonial nations. In fact, most countries of the world are not on the road to development at all. They have been and are still being systematically and deliberately underdeveloped by the core capitalist countries.
Yet these ideas were missing in Copenhagen. Capitalists were there in full force (incognito of course), but capitalism, the concept, wasn’t. The negotiations were taking place, as well as the protests against them, as if capitalism didn’t exist (except for a few anti-capitalist banners in the streets, and speeches by the Presidents of Bolivia and Venezuela, Evo Morales and Hugo Chavez). It is not useful at all to divide the world into rich and poor countries (as the Rio treaty does). Every nation, however poor, has a rich elite, which is more or less integrated into the global capitalist system. Representatives of these elites were meeting in Copenhagen, not independent governments. Their demand that the North pay its climate debt to the South is not really about stopping global warming. It’s about getting the money and technology to develop. These junior partners of empire desire to become major players. Even their insistence on democracy and transparency is colored by this desire. The first hurdle they must clear is simply to be admitted to the chambers where decisions are made.
This explains why the delegates to these conferences cannot devise effective solutions to the climate crisis. They are themselves part of the problem. Any government, after all, could, if it only wanted to, outlaw fossil fuels and enforce this law with its police and armies. There is no need to try to reduce carbon emissions through the market. They could simply be banned. This would be suicide for the capitalist class, however, of which national elites are a part, so it is never done.
Can global warming be stopped on the local level? No it can not. Tens of thousands of towns and cities could do everything in their power to reduce their carbon footprints and it would not make much difference as long as the great engines of capitalist industry, agriculture, transportation, government, and military are still running.
Capitalists have caused global warming.(3) It is true that initially, and for some time thereafter, capitalists didn’t know that they were doing this, but they could damn well see that they were destroying the environment, and they didn’t care, and still don’t, any more than they cared about the millions of people they were killing, and still are. Capitalists are not going to stop global warming. They are still, and always will be, bickering and jockeying and fighting amongst themselves for position, power, markets, resources, and profits. That’s what they mostly do at these conferences. (Plus, thousands of corporate lobbyists descended on Copenhagen, flushed with cash, to add to the chaotic drama.)
We might have survived peak oil and the gradual disappearance of cheap fossil fuel energy. (Too bad peak oil didn’t happen a couple of decades earlier.) That crisis would have been spread over several decades at least. We might have had as much as half-a-century to make the transition to a less energy intensive way of life (seeing that no combination of known alternative energy sources can even begin to replace the energy we have been getting from fossil fuels). We would at least have had a bit more time to try once again to get capitalists out of the picture, so that humanity could work together to build a new civilization, something that is impossible to do as long as capitalists control the world. There would even have been an outside chance that it could have been a sustainable, decentralized, democratic, and just social order that we created.
But this new crisis, this imminent “tipping point” for global warming, is another beast altogether. It is happening too fast. How can we possibly dismantle in just a decade or two the vast infrastructures capitalists have built – the billions of people living in crowded metropolises, having been driven off their lands and separated from their peasant farming and now totally dependent on agribusiness for their food and on oil and gas for heat and transportation?
In retrospect, it appears that our fate was sealed when our massive communist, socialist, and anarchist movements, which mobilized tens of millions of people, failed throughout the twentieth century to defeat capitalists. Now it seems that we may not get another chance.
Can the climate justice movement stop global warming? No it can not. To do that it would have to be able to destroy capitalism. This objective, however, is hardly even on the agenda for most climate activists, and if it were they wouldn’t have an inkling about a strategy for doing so. Hardly anyone does nowadays. If a movement can’t even identify the root cause of a problem, how can it possibly solve it?
It was sweet, it’s true, that climate justice activists made such an impressive appearance in Copenhagen. They put 100,000 people in the streets. They came from all over the world. They organized an alternative conference, the KlimaForum. They tried to make their voices heard. But they were viciously repressed, and, in the end, actually locked out of the conference hall.
There were dozens of groups and organizations involved, among which were: Climate Justice Action, Greenpeace International, Rising Tide International, Carbon Trade Watch, Camp for Climate Action, Friends of the Earth International, Mobilization for Climate Justice, 350.org, Rainforest Action Network, and Climate Crisis Coalition. Additionally, there are hundreds of NGOs worldwide working on this issue.
Nevertheless, this movement is very short on money and power, and it is not massive (although usually it likes to pretend that it is). Its protests have no punch, as was noted by Naomi Klein when she said in Copenhagen: “They’re laughing at us.” There is not much muscle here to be coming up against a rich, deeply entrenched, historically seasoned, and powerful world ruling class. The slogans are nice, but can they ever be more than just chants?: “Our Climate is Not Your Business,” “Change Trade, Not the Climate,” “There is No Planet B,” “Nature Doesn’t Compromise,” “Bla Bla Bla, Act Now,” and so forth. I think not.
So what are our prospects? Realistically speaking, we are fucked. Ten, fifteen, or twenty years will go by in a flash. Business as usual will prevail. The oil, gas, and coal companies will not be reigned in. Corporate-controlled governments will not take action. The sheer inertia of a worldwide capitalist civilization built on cheap fossil fuel energy will keep the vast machine grinding inexorably on until the tipping point is reached, after which the irreversible warming of the earth will begin in earnest from natural causes. That will be the end of the line for us.
(Note: A longer version of this essay, more adequately filled out with concrete details and data, may eventually be posted on my web site, I hope. Faced with a 2000 word limit, I ended up writing a very different essay than the one I had mapped out and had started to write based on the considerable amount of research I had done.)
(1) David F. Noble, “The Corporate Climate Coup,” posted on Global Research website on May 4, 2007. < http://www.globalresearch.ca/PrintArticle.php?articleId=5568>.
(2) See for example Tamra Gilbertson and Oscar Reyes, Carbon Trading: How It Works and Why It Fails (Critical Currents, No. 7, November 2009). There is a rare (on the left) dissenting view about “Cap and Trade” by the well-known radical scholar Robin Hahnel. He believes that Cap and Trade could work if a few changes were made in the system, and he believes the left should support this because whether we like it or not the world is presently organized through the market and is likely to remain so for some time. So this is our best chance to get carbon emissions reduced, he argues. See his three part essay on “The Left and Climate Change” posted on Znet on December 24-26, 2009 at: http://www.zcommunications.org/zspace/viewCommentaryPrint/4086> <...4087>, <...4088>. By the way, there is a competing mainstream proposal to Cap and Trade, namely, Fee and Dividend. This proposal is supported by James Hansen, one of the first scientists to raise the alarm about global warming. He is the director of Nasa’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies. For a description of the proposal see James Hansen, “Cap and Fade,” at: <http://www.commondreams.org/prnt/50274>.
(3) One of the most uncompromising statements of the link between capitalism and the environmental crisis is the book by Joel Kovel, Enemy of Nature: The End of Capitalism or the End of the World? (Zed Books, 2007, second edition, 354 pages).
(4)As I understand it, originally there were only a dozen or two scientists challenging the global warming thesis, and they were obviously beholden to the fossil fuel industry. But now it seems that there are hundreds of independent climatologists who challenge the prevailing view. Some of them agree that warming has been taking place but deny that this is being caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They say it is because of normal cycles in the number of sun spots, and that the warming period we have been in will quite soon give way to cooling, probably just a normal cooling cycle, but possibly another “little ice age.” Other climatologists say that the earth is not warming at all, but cooling, and they have data bases and charts to prove it. These claims are a little harder to swallow, seeing that all the glaciers are melting before our very eyes. A useful archive of papers on both sides of this debate, but with an emphasis on dissenting views, has been compiled and posted on the Global Research web site in Canada, at: < http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=newsHighlights&newsId=24>. Let’s hope that these global warming deniers are correct, and that we will get a reprieve from the imminent climate catastrophe that we are otherwise facing. •
Anarchists and Workers Put Greek Government
in Tight Spot
On December 6th, the anniversary of the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos by Greek police, Greece once again erupted in riots. Students occupied hundreds of universities and high schools, and anarchists launched demonstrations all over the country, fighting with cops, torching cars, and taking over radio stations to broadcast their message. Unlike last year, most of the rest of the country did not join the anarchists in the streets, but the anniversary clashes were a reminder that Greece is still a revolution waiting to happen.
Lost in the smoke from burning banks was another development equally disturbing to Greek authorities. The Fisk bond-rating agency lowered Greece’s bond rating to BBB+, only two notches above junk status. The move was prompted by the new Socialist government’s October announcement that the 2010 budget deficit will be 12.7 percent of GDP, twice as large as previously claimed. European Union officials and the mainstream financial press were highly critical of the announcement. The Greek stock market dropped by about 25 percent and commentators began predicting the government’s imminent default on their debt. Prime Minister George Papandreou loudly promised to cut government spending and bring the deficit back to the EU mandated maximum of 3 percent of GDP. Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou went on a European tour to shore up confidence in the government’s deficit-reduction plan. It didn’t help. Standard and Poors also lowered their rating, and Moody’s placed Greece on credit watch. Partly due to these rating downgrades, the euro dropped to a three-month low against the dollar.
Part of the government’s problem is a failure to provide much in the way of specifics. This is undoubtedly because cutting the deficit would involve enormous reductions in social spending, including slashing education funding, laying off government workers and privatizing many services. Even at current spending levels, strikes by farmers, garbage collectors, reporters and even geologists are paralyzing the country, as workers demand a greater share of the profits they generate. Any advance notice by the government of their next cost-cutting target would trigger even greater unrest. Nor is the fact that the Socialists came to power by promising improved services helping their cause. The government is thus trying to thread a needle between rioters and strikers on one side and corporations, tycoons and bankers on the other.
Mike Whitney, writing for Counterpunch, points out that they have a way out. Since Greece is, like JPMorgan Chase, too big to fail, they could force the EU to bail them out by threatening to withdraw from the European Monetary Union and go back to the drachma. Whitney suggests that such a move would set off a euro-threatening chain reaction among the EU’s poorer members in which Portugal would be next in line. Unfortunately, there is no support within the Greek government for anything so radical. The ruling party is socialist in name only, as well as being highly corrupt. Even the New York Times has pointed out the irony of a Socialist Prime Minister “citing the international market as requiring sacrifices at home.”
Historically, governments move to the left to ease pressure from below and move back to the right as that pressure diminishes. But because of Greece’s position embedded in the European Union, combined with their enormous debt, the leftward relief valve is denied to them. Their only option for maintaining control is to ramp up repression of overt dissent and try to divide their opponents with propaganda. Their attempts at the latter have been examined by Greek analysts on Infoshop.org and Anarchistnews.org, who have reported on the government’s attempts to frighten the middle class and demonize anarchists while trying to foster a culture of consumerism. None of this seems likely to be very effective. Mobilizing the middle class as a bulwark against revolt is a lot easier in countries that actually have a middle class, and Greece’s is shrinking rapidly. Previous generations of rebellious youth could be bought off with the promise of careers as they got older, but today’s “700 euro generation” is trapped in a shrinking world economy, with no prospect of achieving the comfortable lives their parents enjoyed. Similarly, beguiling the masses with visions of iPhones and Nikes works a lot better when the masses have a reasonable amount of disposable income, or at least access to credit. Even the time-worn trick of painting anarchists as hooligans and terrorists in the media is more effective in the US, which has so few anarchists that most people have never met one. Things are much different in Greece, where anarchists are still credited with being in the forefront of the revolution against the military junta in 1973. Exarchia, the anarchist neighborhood of Athens, is reportedly one of the safest and most desirable places to live in the city.
Extrapolating the current trend would see the government continue to try to reassure the bond market with speeches and vague plans while scrambling to keep a lid on unrest at home. Too corrupt to raise taxes on their corporate benefactors and too weak to cut benefits in the face of an angry populace, they would eventually come to the brink of default. At this point the EU would have little choice but to step in with a quiet bailout, or else risk the euro plummeting against the dollar and other currencies. This would be a substantial victory for Greek insurrectionists of all stripes, as well as a strong precedent for further assistance to the EU’s other debt-burdened countries. Not to mention further proof, if any were needed, that direct action gets the goods. •
December 6th: Boston Stands with Greece
By Jeff Reinhardt
On December 6th, in a follow up to last year’s demonstrations of support for the Greek anti-authoritarian uprising, Boston held an unpermitted march in solidarity with the continued Greek revolt, sparked by the police murder of Alexis Grigoropoulos, a fifteen year old anarchist, on December 6th, 2008.
Despite the cold night, at least 25 anti-authoritarians met in Copley Square and marched downtown chanting anti-capitalist slogans. At the Greek Consulate in Beacon Hill, a spontaneous assembly was held that resulted in a letter of solidarity to our Greek comrades. (Text at end of this article)
Police presence was minimal and there were no serious confrontations. The relatively small array of black-clad nighttime protestors did not gain much attention, but passersby and the police felt their intentions. Boston can expect to see more solidarity with the Greek anti-authoritarians in the future. The march ended on a fun note, with protestors getting out their radical caroling books and singing not-so merry Christmas songs on the Boston Common. •
Statement of the Spontaneous Assembly of Boston Anti-Authoritarians remembering the murder of Alexandros Grigoropoulos, in solidarity with our Greek comrades in the struggle for freedom.
In the presence of police, on the steps of the Greek consulate, we assemble to collectively make this statement. We stand whole-heartedly with your struggle and we demand the abolition of our government and yours. An injury to one is an injury to all, and we gather at the Greek consulate building in Boston in protest of the heartless persecution of the Greek comrades. Your strides towards life without capitalism and authority are an inspiration to the world. We, too, will never forget, and never forgive.
From Boston to Greece, in the commemoration of Alexis and the risings of past, and with optimism for the risings of tomorrow.
The 9th NEAN
Assembly: A Report
OK, so it happened to coincide with Philadelphia’s second most severe snowfall on record. Nevertheless, anarchists from Boston, Pittsburgh, Hartford, New Haven, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Albany, Binghamton, and beyond managed to make the trip to the Lava Space in West Philadelphia, where but few of us could be kept from singing the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song.
The Wooden Shoe infoshop in Philadelphia had organized and graciously agreed to host the Ninth Assembly of the Northeast Anarchist Network, where thirty or forty of us had congregated. The first day was dedicated to meetings; workshops were slated for the second day. Noshing on some dumpstered fruit, items discussed on Saturday included, but were not limited to: BAAM’s resurrected proposal of hosting radical community outreach events in our respective cities in the month of May; small group break out sessions dredging up the remains of projects and committees that had started at some point in our Network’s three year history and deciding whether or not they can and/or should go forward; where NEAN and anarchists more broadly fit into the upcoming United States Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010; and, perhaps most contentiously and productively, how to deal with sexual assault and those in our ranks who perpetrate it, using as a jumping off point an individual who was recently and publicly outed for his offenses against his comrades. After a difficult, but mostly respectful discussion, we drafted a statement that we hope to broaden with action: We will not tolerate sexual assault. NEAN demands accountability from assaulters, in accordance with the wishes of the survivors, whom we are committed to supporting.
The local Food Not Bombs brought glorious relief to the discussion with a delicious veg-heavy meal. Saturday evening was largely spent digging our vehicles and selves out of the foot and a half of snow that had accumulated, and then digging our way into parking spots, only to dig ourselves back out again the following morning. Upon arriving back at the Lava Space, it was announced that all of the workshop presenters were too bombarded with snow to be present, let alone to present their material. Undeterred, we launched into the planned G20 reportback before our Pittsburgh comrades who had organized with the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Project had to leave. Though said comrades were dreading uninformed negativity, most people in the room were not only G20 participants, but had overwhelmingly positive reflections on the events and the impact on Pittsburgh residents, Pitt students, anarchist participants, and the broader US anarchist movement. The discussion wrapped up with the departure of the Pittsburgh comrades for their snowy 300 mile journey home. The assembly proceedings had concluded, but we continued to reap what I consider the greatest reward of this Network: networkING. In fact, if I were to criticize the planning of the assembly, it would be that we were not given nearly enough opportunities to do this. As social anarchists, social connections are our strongest weapon against every form of oppression and repression. It is precisely these pleasant conversations over plates of pleasant food that strengthen our friendships and connections with like-minded folks from distant cities, giving us fresh ideas, energy, and inspiration to keep loving and keep fighting. •
By Geoff Carens, Union Rep. HUCTW/AFSCME Local 3650
On December 16, friends and supporters of fired Harvard employee Ravi Raj picketed Holyoke Center, the University’s main administrative building. A lively group braved darkness and freezing temperatures to show support for Ravi, who was fired in October on flimsy pretexts. Ravi was terminated just two months after he filed charges of racial discrimination against the University. Many on campus believe that Ravi was fired in retaliation for standing up to racist slurs and unfair treatment on the job.
I met Ravi a year and a half ago, after a picket we held for another victim of discrimination at Harvard. In an email protest to the Director of Labor Relations, Ravi expressed his solidarity for the worker involved, and also described racial slurs by his own manager. Ravi’s boss had repeatedly mocked his Indian accent in front of others, and made disgusting, bigoted comments about Indian culture. When Ravi complained to administrators, management turned on him, first trying to fire him for poor performance. Ravi’s work was so good that this was impossible, so the bosses framed him for minor misconduct instead.
Ravi got a new job outside Harvard, and a lawyer, and is determined to fight for reinstatement. Our action on a frigid December evening was just one of a series of protests members of my union have held for Ravi. On the 16th we brought (loudly) amplified speakers, anti-racist picket signs, electric candles, noisemakers, and a bullhorn to Harvard Square. We attracted a lot of attention, and handed out hundreds of flyers publicizing Ravi’s case. More actions will follow until we get justice in this case! A contingent from BAAM was a very significant part of our protest. Activists in the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers would like to express heartfelt thanks to our sisters and brothers in the Anarchist movement for helping make this important protest a success. •
Sabaté: A Short Memorial of a Man for whom Defeat Meant Nothing
By Jake Carman
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Francisco Sabaté, an anarchist guerrilla who continued the antifascist struggle after Franco’s victory until he perished in battle 21 years later. Francisco Sabaté Llopart (known as ‘El Quico’) was born March 30th, 1915 in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat near Barcelona. In 1932, Francisco joined the anarchist union, the National Confederation of Workers (CNT). It was a climate of high tension with fascists and the church on one side and anarchist and socialist workers on the other. Sabaté founded the affinity group “Los Novatos” (The Apprentices) with his older brother, Jose. Los Novatos joined the Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI), and participated in the insurrectionary movement of January 8th, 1933. In 1935, they carried out their first expropriation/robbery to provide funds for a prison relief group. On December 8th, 1933, Los Novatos joined a new insurrection, quickly taking their town of Hospitalet, and burning all of the official files, documents, and records in the government buildings they captured before the rebellion was put down on the 14th. When a new uprising occurred on October 6th, 1934, led by a Catalan nationalist separatist faction, the anarchists didn’t participate, but once the revolt was scattered, Los Novatos collected the guns abandoned in the streets and dumped in the sewers by the Catalan separatists, which were later used against the fascists during the revolution. Francisco met his companion, Leonor Castells Marti, at the end of 1935, just six months before Civil War tore Spain apart.
Los Novatos had joined the Revolutionary Committee of Hospitalet, and anticipating the July Fascist uprising against the Socialist government, they raided the homes of all known fascists and sympathizers days before the coup. On July 19th the workers controlled Hospitalet, so Los Novatos went to Barcelona to help put down the fascists there. While the Socialist government had done little, the CNT armed the people and workers poured onto the streets. The crushing of the fascists in Catalonia and elsewhere allowed workers to seize the initiative, and their places of work, the industries, the neighborhoods, and government and administrative buildings. In Barcelona especially, anarchy prevailed. Prisons were burned down, symbols of the Catholic church (largely behind the fascist coup) were destroyed, and militia columns were created with whole formations of tanks converted from the vehicles of the rich and the bureaucrats, stolen and armored by CNT factory workers.
Much of Los Novatos left Barcelona with the CNT column led by Beunaventura Durruti, while Jose and Francisco Sabaté went with another CNT column led by Juan Garcia Oliver. The Sabaté brother’s deeds in the war were no more outstanding than the thousands of other militia volunteers. Soon though, a small communist sect answering to Stalin came under control of the “Republic” and attempted to take the reigns of the military units, sending the anarchists and other competitors into the most dangerous battles with insufficient arms. Due to this treachery, countless comrades perished. After one such massacre, when a CNT unit led by the communist officer Ariño lost 80 percent of its volunteers, Sabaté and three comrades confronted Ariño, and Sabaté shot him dead. Fleeing the firing squad, the four deserted to Barcelona where they carried out various missions for the CNT, including prison breaks and attentes. Toward the end of the war Sabaté joined the remnants of Durruti’s column, now called the 26th Division, winning a medal of valor in the battle of Montsech. However, the war was lost, and the 26th Division were the last organized fighters to leave Barcelona to join the thousands of others in concentration camps in France.
When he managed to escape the concentration camps, Sabaté joined the French resistance fighting the Nazis, until 1945, when he returned to Spain to take up the clandestine struggle. Establishing bases of operation along the mountainous border between Spain and France, and throughout Catalonia, he made contacts with many peasants and workers, and recruited militants for urban guerrilla combat groups. Soon he’d made a name for himself, freeing comrades from prison, and killing fascist leaders and police chiefs. After a few years Sabaté would barely need his gun, as giving himself an introduction (using his nickname) “Soy El Quico!” became enough to make the most hardened police surrender their weapons an flee. They fought for fifteen years, ‘El Quico’ becoming Public Enemy No. 1 and a permanent nightmare for the authorities. While many of his comrades were arrested or killed - including his brother Jose in 1949 and his younger brother Manuel in 1950 - Sabaté succeeded in slipping through the various police dragnets. In one of his final missions, he rode around Barcelona before an important appearance of Franco, using a home-made mortar to fire bundles of anarchist propaganda leaflets through the sunroof of a taxi.
On 30th December 1959 he crossed the border for the last time, and on the 5th January 1960, Sabaté was killed in Sant Celoni by the Somaten (a Catalan fascist variety of Home Guard) and the Civil Guard, after barely escaping thousands of police and soldiers multiple times, humiliating the fascists. Though mortally wounded, he survived for days, fighting to his last breath. The militia patrolmen riddled his body with bullets as he lay their dead on the street, just to be sure. All four militants who accompanied him on this trip had perished earlier in the undertaking. They were Antonio Miracle Guitart, 29; Rogelio Madrigal Tories, 27; Francisco Conesa Alcaraz, 39; and Martin Ruiz Montoya, 20. ‘El Quico’ was 45. Though Sabaté was slandered by the press—all of it: fascists, communist, liberal, and even anarchist—those extremely repressed workers of Catalonia who witness with quiet glee the sheer terror he invoked in Franco’s government will surely carry his found memory as a fearless and tireless warrior for freedom to the graves. Hopefully, Sabaté’s deeds will inspire new generations of comrades to take up the struggle with equal fervor and dedication.
As Sabaté wrote on a note left in the home of a wealthy capitalist after an expropriation:
“We are not robbers, we are libertarian resistance fighters. What we have just taken will help in a small way to feed the orphaned and starving children of those anti-fascists who you and your kind have shot. We are people who have never and will never beg for what is ours. So long as we have the strength to do so we shall fight for for the freedom of the Spanish working class. As for you, Garriga, although you are a murderer and a thief, we have spared you, because we as libertarians appreciate the value of human life, something which you never have, nor are likely to, understand.”
- Francisco Sabaté Llopart, ‘El Quico’
History adapted from a Libcom article and Antonio Tellez’s “Sabaté: Guerilla Extraordinary,” available at the Lucy Parsons Center for only $12. •
Calendar: Get Involved
First and Third Monday:
Papercut Zine Library meeting, 7:30pm, Contact papercut (at) riseup.net for location
First Tuesday of Every Month:
BAAM public meeting, 7pm, Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave. Open meetings feature an introduction to BAAM, reportbacks, and workshops.
Second Tuesday of Every Month: Anarchist Black Cross meeting (defense and prison abolition group), 8pm, email bostonabc (at) riseup.net for location.
Free Radical Film Nights, 7pm, Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave.
Second Sunday of Every Month: 2pm Industrial Workers of the World meeting. Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, Boston
Food Not Bombs free community meal, 3-6pm, Boston Common, Park St T Stop, Boston
Food Not Bombs free community meal, 3-7pm Central Square Cambridge, MA
Saturday, January 9th
Eyes Wide Open: Joint reflection on state, politics, and the alternatives Round two of this discussion. 1:00 - 7:30 PM Northeastern University, Snell Library - Room 090. Please RSVP as soon as possible, the venue has limited seating. A summary of what went on and copies of the papers that were presented at the first event are available upon request. Contact Pasqualino at pcolombaro (at) gmail.com
Sunday, January 10th
ABC Prisoner Support/Prison Action News mailing. 12:00pm @ The Broad Majestic Shannon (email for directions: BostonABC (at) riseup.net) Join us for an afternoon of prisoner support in addition to mailing the January issue of Prison Action News to hundreds of prisons, we will be writing letters, sending literature, doing research, and more! All are welcome!
Tuesday, January 12th
Anarchist Black Cross Monthly Meeting: 8:00pm at 45 Mt. Auburn St. in Harvard Sq, Cambridge. All are welcome!
Bread and Puppet comes to town. New show called “Tear Open the Door Of Heaven” as well as the “Dirt Cheap Money Circus” and an art installation at the BCA Cyclorama, 539 Tremont st, South End Boston. For ticket purchases visit www.theatermania.com/boston or call 1-866-811-4111. $12 general admission, $10 for students/seniors. Breadandpuppet.org
Sunday, February 14th
Anti-Valentines Day Dinner and ABC Fundraiser. Come eat delightful vegetarian food for a cause! Vegan and gluten-free diets amply accommodated. Tickets Start at $15 (everything over 15 will go to Justice for Jason- www.justiceforjason.org/) Dinner includes 4 course meal and a drink. Ticket Deadline is February 1st. To order, email bostonabc (at) riseup.net. 6PM at the Community Church of Boston 565 Boylston in Copley. (See back page for more info)
Saturday, March 13th
Self-Styled Anarchist Fashion and Craft Show. Back by popular demand! Watch rebels strut their stuff to raise the ABC defense funds. At the Community Church of Boston. Details TBA, check next BAAM Newsletter.
MAY Month of Anarchy
Coming out of the 9th NEAN Assembly (see page 9 for a report), a month of anarchist and related public events and actions across the Northeast. Specifics TBA
Contributors to this month’s issue:
This work is in the public domain.