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BAAM # 31 Released
Email: trenchesfullofpoets (nospam) riseup.net
26 Feb 2010
We're proud to announce the release of the 31st issue of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Newsletter. Download the PDF for free:
In This Issue
-Another Successful Eviction Blockade in Dorchester Page 2
-VT. Nuke Plant to Close Page 3
-Scott Brown and Your
Healthcare: Feel Sick? Page 3
-Corvid College and the Radical Education Tradition Page 4
-The Belgrade 6 Page 5
-Greek General Strike Page 6
-Trans folk in Prison Page 8
-ABC on Direct Action Page 9
Banks Get Bailed Out,
People Get Thrown Out!
As BAAM has covered in previous editions, there is a housing crisis afoot and banks are waging wars against tenants of foreclosed properties that have had the misfortune of falling into the banks’ hooked tentacles. Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Deutschbank are among those leading the way in unconscionable policy against tenants of foreclosed properties, refusing to accept rent, refusing to sell the homes to families who are able to purchase them at appraised value, preferring to let the properties sit vacant and rot, which leads to further deterioration of neighborhoods already struck hard by poverty.
But when City Life/Vida Urbana gets involved, it is highly unlikely that families will be evicted from their homes. Dedicated to economic justice and community empowerment since 1973, CL/VU’s tenant organizing has stricken many a blow against predatory banks. Their negotiations to keep families in their homes take place on a number of levels, several of which are between lawyers and bureaucrats. But in the face of particularly obstinate banksters set on eviction, perhaps CL/VU’s strongest bargaining tool is its network of hundreds of people, scores of whom will turn out at a time to show up before the constable does. The very threat of such an eviction blockade, filled with singing, chanting rowdies with signs and banners who believe in housing as a human right, has, in most cases, kept the banksters at bay and willing to re-negotiate. Indeed, few evictions have taken place with CL/VU’s organized community intervention.
Had it not been for such an intervention, Friday, 19 February might have gone very differently for the Nguyen family. In the 02124 part of Dorchester, the zip code hit hardest by the foreclosure crisis, the ongoing economic shitshow adversely affected their family business. Bank of America [trustee] and JP Morgan Chase [servicer] foreclosed the home the Nguyens purchased 13 years ago. They would not accept rent and began eviction proceedings. Even after a local non-profit offered to buy the home in cash at real value, the banksters refused to back down. The constable was called to evict at 9AM on the 19th and an eviction blockade was called for 8:30AM to physically block the eviction. Lawyers negotiated fiercely into the night, eventually winning a partial victory and securing the Nguyens in their home for at least another week. And so the eviction blockade turned into an energizing rally and a demonstration of community strength in front of the Nguyens’ Dorchester home.
Though the struggle is not yet over for the Nguyen family or countless other families, when joined together with scores of Bostonians and the inspiring organizers of CL/VU, one can’t help but be convinced of the truth in the chanted assertion, ‘When we fight, we win!’ •
Vermont Yankee Finally Meets Its Match
by Jeff Reinhardt
On Wednesday, February 24th, the Vermont state legislature voted against renewing the license for the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, located in Vernon, VT. By a 26-4 vote, the legislature denied the power plant any operation beyond 2012, when its license expires.
The vote represented the hard work of grassroots activists and groups from around Vermont and Western Massachusetts, who had fought the plant for several years. Numerous accidents had occurred in the past at the plant, including a collapse of one of the main water-cooling towers in August 2007, and the revelation (against the managers of plant) that underground pipes were leaking tritium into the groundwater.
The vote represents the first shut down of a nuclear plant in over twenty years, in the face of the Obama administration passing bills to fund more nuclear power. New England has long opposed nuclear power plants. The Seabrook NH plant was the last constructed in the US to date, 30 years ago despite a massive anti-nuclear movement. •
Painted Into a Corner: Scott Brown and the Health Care “Debate”
It is a truism in US politics that the range of acceptable opinion is extremely narrow, even compared to other Western nations. Democrats and Republicans agree on virtually all issues of substance. Both parties openly support wars in the Middle East, the Israeli occupation of Palestine, the “war on terror” (even if they don’t call it that anymore), bank bailouts, and a host of other oppressive policies. Genuine disagreements among the ruling elite, such as whether to attack Iraq or Iran first, or how to best divide up Iraq’s oil fields, are generally handled quietly behind the scenes. Issues like same sex marriage, immigration enforcement, and executive bonuses for bankers are rhetorically elevated to the status of major policy disputes in order to preserve the illusion of conflict between Democrats and Republicans.
A central narrative generated by this dynamic is that of the inexplicably ineffectual Democratic Party. The Democrats are cast as perpetually disorganized bumblers who mean well but can never quite squeeze out a victory against the nastier and better disciplined Republicans. An essential component of this illusion is the filibuster, a Senate rule that allows a minority of more than 40 to block any proposed legislation. Whenever the Democrats have been in power they have relied on the threat of a Republican filibuster as an excuse for failure to enact any measure that might assist their constituents at the expense of their corporate donors. These protestations of powerlessness would be more convincing if the Democrats ever filibustered anything themselves.
After the 2008 elections the Democrats appeared to have barely retained their favorite excuse, but when Republican Arlen Specter switched parties and Al Franken finally won his recount in Minnesota they were faced with the challenge of a filibuster-proof majority, just in time for the health care “reform” debate. While billed as an overhaul of the US’ famously dysfunctional health care system, the health care bill swiftly morphed under lobbying pressure into a giveaway to already wealthy pharmaceutical corporations and HMOs. Under the measure everyone would be forced to buy health insurance, and those who have decent health plans already would have to pay an additional surcharge. In other words, the health insurance industry pulled off the enviable political feat of passing a law requiring everyone to purchase their products and in some cases pay extra for it. Not surprisingly, their investors approved. Industry stock prices rose and Business Week published an article proclaiming the bill an industry victory.
During the debate Republican Senators were united in their “opposition” to the bill, secure in the knowledge that there weren’t enough of them to actually stop it. One can judge the integrity of their stance from the fact that opponents of the bill have received an average of 30% more in campaign contributions than supporters since 1989, according to Opensecrets.org. The Democrats, unable to scapegoat the GOP as they ordinarily would, resorted to killing off provisions favorable to consumers on the pretense of mollifying various “Blue Dogs” among their membership, culminating with Joe Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, eliminating the last remnant of a public option at the price of not crossing the aisle and joining a Republican filibuster. The bill thus cleared the Senate and was in the process of being merged with its equally objectionable House counterpart when Scott Brown parachuted in.
Brown won the special election in Massachusetts, filling deceased Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat by promising to be the 41st Republican vote that would kill the final health care bill. The fury of Massachusetts voters at the Democrats’ poorly concealed scam propelled Brown into the Senate against a better known opponent in a heavily Democratic state. In the long term this is just what the Democrats needed. Lieberman might be the most hated man in the US after killing the public option, and while he’s borne the strain with aplomb, he’s not a long-term solution. The Senate can’t keep trotting him out every time they need an emergency Republican without giving the game away completely. The timing of Brown’s election, however, has the Senate painted into a corner. He can’t break his biggest (and pretty much only) campaign promise before he even gets his key to the mens’ room, and all 40 of his GOP colleagues have rhetorically cemented themselves into implacable opposition to the “socialist” health care bill. The health insurance industry is therefore left waiting for a break in the logjam that will finally release their windfall. They’ll probably get it eventually - they did pay for it, after all - but it could well be delayed until after this year’s midterm elections.
Fueled by the health care debate debacle and the economic collapse, popular anger has erupted against the Democrats as voters realize they have been hoodwinked yet again. In addition to Brown’s victory, conservative Republicans have defeated conservative Democrats in special elections in Virginia and New Jersey. Several Democratic legislators have announced their resignations in the wake of polls showing them trailing all of their potential Republican challengers. On paper, liberal politicians could take advantage of this situation by promising things like ending the wars in the Middle East and reversing bank bailouts, but in real life such candidates are starved of funding and ignored by the corporate media. The midterm elections are therefore likely to wipe out the Democrats’ majority in at least one house of Congress and return them to the status of loyal opposition where they have always been most comfortable.
While voters are correct in blaming President Obama and the Democrats for the state of the health care system and the economy, too many of them see the Republicans, or teabagging Republican sock puppets, as a viable alternative. The mainstream media obscures the fact that both parties are servants of the corporate establishment by presenting the staged struggle between them as genuine. But as the ongoing depression deepens, the gulf between political rhetoric and economic reality will become increasingly wider and harder to conceal. More and more voters will realize that electoral politics is a trap for suckers and begin to create their own alternatives. •
The “Free” School and
Boston’s Corvid College
by Jake Carman
In 1901, Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, Catalan anarchist and teacher, began a new tradition of radical education. He founded La Escuela Moderna (or “The Modern School”) in Barcelona. In Catholic, Monarchist Spain, La Escuela Moderna hoped to free education from the domination of the church and “educate the working class in a rational, secular and non-coercive setting,” flattening the hierarchy of teacher and student, and promoting independence and free-thinking to those who would one day lead the working class in the social struggle. The only problem was, La Escuela Moderna was so expensive that only the wealthy middle-class could afford to send their children.
Nevertheless, the Ferrer model began a revolution in education, the results of which we are still seeing today. In 1911, two years after Ferrer’s execution, sister schools of La Escuela Moderna sprang up across the world. In New York City, Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman, and Voltairine de Cleyre opened the Ferrer Center with nine students. Other schools opened in South America, Cuba, London, and elsewhere in the US, often teaching day classes to children and continuing education for adults in the evenings. While in Spain, the revolution in education helped promote the working class-consciousness so valuable to the 1936 Spanish Revolution, here in the United States, Ferrer’s ideas were influential in reshaping the educational landscape, even among some mainstream private schools.
Today’s Free Schools often take the word “Free” literally, using both English meanings (i.e., social-political freedom and at no cost). Under this model, teachers are as free to teach what they want as the students are to learn. Free Schools exist from Portland, Oregon, to New York City, to Australia. Kassie Carlson wrote about her visit to one such school in Whitechapel, London, for the February edition of the BAAM Newsletter: “The London Free School Collective aims to ‘confront hierarchy and inequality in education and reclaim knowledge to develop self reliance.’ ...classes include clothes making, radical reading group, computers, self-defense, nomadic kiln construction, class politics and climate change, and DIY/zine publishing.” Whitechapel, like many Free Schools, has no official campus, but rather hosts classes in a variety of spaces across the city. This can be beneficial, according to Carlson, as it “encourages many different communities to engage in the activities.” The Manhattan Free School offers education to people ages 5-18. According to their website, “We believe children learn best by actively engaging with the natural world through first hand experience...We believe democratic free schools restore childhood to children and allow children to form healthy relationships with people of all ages.... We believe that people of all ages learn responsibility when they possess and can exercise the responsibility and liberty to govern their own communities.”
This winter in Boston, a new school following in the tradition of radical education begins classes. Corvid College, according to their website, is “A college for anyone who was or is unsatisfied with the bureaucratic, hierarchical nightmare that is the education industry today.” While Corvid College is neither a descendant of La Escuela Moderna nor a Free Skool, it is still influenced by anarchist politics and ideas. Their website states, Corvid College is “Anarchic: self-managed in spirit, horizontal in structure.” Classes are meant for learners of all ages, and topics range from Primitive Daoism, to Anarchism and Religion, to the Criminalization of the Immigrant, to the Moral and Ethical Limitations of Democratic Decision-Making, to Looking at the Sacco and Vanzetti Case: The Uses and Meaning of History for Anarchists.
Eric Buck, one of the founders of Corvid College, told us in an interview, “during my years at Goddard (I) discovered the Ferrer Schools in Spain. Slowly, as I began to read more and more in alternative educational experiments, I began to develop a picture of what a college built around self-direction in all respects might be, not just pedagogically but financially and organizationally.” Buck came to Boston, as he humorously put it at a BAAM meeting last spring, “To escape Academia,” and soon got to work holding meetings of anarchists and others interested in alternative education. But what they came up with is something new, different than the Modern School and the Free Schools, as it is infused with elements of traditional colleges. “None of us know how to ‘do community’ anymore,” Buck says. “I think the college model can be resuscitated and put to use in revivifying the practice of community... This is why the college model has been chosen over other educational processes, like the freeskool or the skillshare group.”
However, while Corvid College isn’t necessarily a direct descendant of La Escuela Moderna, and it isn’t a Free Skool, its influence from anarchist politics and ideas renders it different from traditional colleges. Corvid College does not plan to seek accreditation. Instead of grades and degrees, the organizers hope students will develop portfolios. “Accreditation is one of the primary means of impersonal, professional, institutional control over what is taught today,” says Buck. “Accreditation requires institutionalization of what we want to be free of: institutionality... Accreditation is just one mark of the whole system that destroys or impedes the educative impulse and standardizes human growth. In other universities, students should be demanding the de-accreditation of their university. In Corvid they won’t have to.” Students can sign up for courses on the website: http://corvidcollege.wikidot.com/
One criticism of Corvid College is that some of its courses are quite expensive. A course called The Massachusetts Legal System, for instance, at $500 costs almost half as much as a course at UMass Boston. According to Buck, “Course fees at Corvid are set by individual teachers, and higher costs for a course indicate a teacher’s higher needs....Since we find ourselves still in an economy that is based on money and expect to for some time, we wanted to make the college function in such a way that if someone wanted to make a living from it, she could try. In other words, no one is going to prevent anyone who wants to propose a course (notice I did not say be employed) from charging something for it.” While the College does not intend to provide financial aid per se, they have some creative suggestions for the economic problem. As Buck said in our interview, “Teachers offer a variety of idiosyncratic discounts and cost mitigations: some are putting out a tip jar so student can pay-what-they-can. Some accepting goods and services in lieu of cash. Others offer discounts when a certain enrollment figure is reached, or for paying cash in full up front. Still others are teaching for free because they can and want to. Finally, since we value financial transparency and directness and despise bureaucracy, students living under financial duress should contact the course teacher directly and see if any arrangements can be made.” Even if some courses may be beyond your means, participating in radical education projects can only encourage their development and growth; and if there’s one thing the people of our region need in these times, it’s the spreading of a new ways of learning and teaching.
A further model of popular education useful to the growth of an anarchist movement, alternative to the mainstream model, the traditional Free School model, and the Corvid model, might be a School of Work and Struggle. In these times of high unemployment and matching discontent, it would be very beneficial for anarchists to create people’s institutions where we can research and together learn skills in the various trades of labor (especially ones which would be useful to us after the revolution, and are thus vital for us to immerse ourselves in now). While teaching ourselves and our un- and underemployed neighbors how to do useful work, we can also learn and share the theoretical ideas of anarchism and, more practically, how to effectively organize within the labor movement and how to create workers’ power and job autonomy today. There is a veritable treasure chest of historic wealth through which anarchists who seriously ponder where the best use of their energy and efforts might be in furtherance of the cause can find inspiration in the lessons of those fellow travelers who walked the path before. •
International Terrorism Made Easy: The
On the night of August 24, some graffiti was sprayed on the wall of the Greek embassy in Belgrade. Two bottles (one of them on fire) were thrown at the building, causing some minor smoke damage and a crack in a window. A hitherto unknown anarchist group claimed responsibility for the attack and explained that it was a solidarity action for Todoris Iliopulos, imprisoned after the uprising in Greece December 2008 and on hunger strike since July. Ratibor Trivunac of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative (ASI, an anarcho-syndicalist union in Serbia, part of the International Workers’ Association) was interviewed the following day. Questioned about the events, he stated that the ASI did not use these tactics and that he did not know the anarchist group claiming responsibility. He did not condemn the act, explaining that the act is minor compared to the repression in Greece.
On September 3, Trivunac and three other members of the ASI (Sanja Dojkic, Tadej Kurepa and Ivan Vulovic) were arrested without any warrants. Two more arrests followed over the next few days (Nikola Mitrovic, Ivan Savic). The six have remained in custody since then. After three months, the six were formally charged with “international terrorism.” Interestingly, an attack on the US embassy in February 2008, wherein one of the attackers died as the building burned to the ground, was prosecuted with much lighter charges, raising suspicions of a highly political trial where action from the left is judged differently from action motivated by nationalism.
As soon as the arrests became known, anarcho-syndicalists around the world started protests. The trial is set to begin February 17, so the focus has switched to raising funds for the lawyers. Since the general income level in Serbia is low, international efforts are necessary to acquire the money. Both the FAU in Germany as well as the CNT in France have set up donation accounts. In a recent meeting BAAM consented on declaring solidarity. The following declaration was drafted:
Activism is not Terrorism
On the 3rd and 4th of September 2009, six members of the Anarcho-Syndicalist Initiative (ASI) were arrested in Belgrade. Based on sketchy evidence in connection to $25 worth of damage to a Greek embassy, they are accused of being “international terrorists.” This is an act of political persecution and oppression by the Serbian state, the intent of which is to criminalize unwanted political activism. Claiming the defendants are terrorists opens the door to an extreme denial of their rights. Political activism is not terrorism. Therefore the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement (BAAM) declares its solidarity with the Belgrade 6. We demand that the charges are dropped and the arrestees are released.
Support the Belgrade 6
The Belgrade 6 still need support. You can support them by spreading the word about their arrest, staging actions or donating money to the cause. To facilitate donations from the US, a paypal account has been opened: belgrade6 (at) hushmail.com. Support stickers are in print and will be sold for donations exceeding $2. Please include your address if you would like to receive a sticker. •
General Strike Cripples Greece
by Jake Carman
On Wednesday, February 24th, 2.5 million Greek workers participated in a 24-hour General Strike in response to Austerity Measures imposed by the Greek Government. In a country of only 11million people, almost a quarter of the population participated in industrial action against government plans to degrade the quality of public life to appease the European Union.
As Chris Spannos writes for Znet, “The EU has given Greece a March 16 deadline to show ‘improvements’ in its budget, which translate to reduced deficit spending by imposing further ‘austerity measures.’” PASOK, the governing Greek Socialist Party, has already announced wage freezes and bonus cuts worth 6.7 billion. They may push the retirement age back two years, levy a 2% tax increase, and raise fuel costs. These moves are meant to reduce EU fears that Greece’s floundering economy could cause a chain reaction and tear the Euro down, and the EU with it. As Spannos writes, “Greece now has to convince Brussels that these cuts are enough to reduce its budget deficit by 4 percentage points this year.” According to the Boston Globe, “The government is under intense pressure to plug a budget deficit that equals 12.7 percent of gross domestic product and to avert the first national default among the 16 countries that use the euro.” Even as the strike ensued, the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund met with Greek political leaders, the Globe continues, in “discussing the imposition of additional measures to reduce the national debt - now more than $400 billion.” However, the general strike was so pervasive that no one in Greece was reporting on these talks; even the corporate media employees had refused to work for the capitalists on that day. Only independent and radical media operated, and they were more concerned with reports and updates about social action from the enraged populace.
Both public and private workers participated in successfully crippling the country. Transportation from and within Greece— buses, trains, boats, planes, etc—sat idle. Restaurants and shops sat empty, education workers walked out, and the only schools open were those occupied by the students, who were earning an education in struggle. According to the Boston Globe, this is the second 24-hour general strike in two weeks.
But on Wednesday the 24th, Greek workers did more than just stay home. Between 50,000 and 100,000 marched in Athens, including a thousands strong anarchist/anti-authoritarian bloc, reported by Athens Indymedia as the largest contingent. On the way to Constitution Square, a plain clothes policeman was identified and then beaten up by protesters, who attacked numerous shops and banks with projectiles. In Constitution Square, a stand-off developed between molotov cocktail-wielding workers and tear-gas-hurling riot police, resulting in minor injuries and the arrest of one socialist (from the opposition Democratic Socialist Party, DIKKI, not the ruling PASOK.) When police attempted to encircle the workers, arresting two, the rabble responded and freed their comrades, surrounding and beating the police, breaking their shields, and running them off. After Constitution Square, the workers marched toward the Athens Polytechnic School, which is currently occupied (as usual) by students, this time protesting police breaking the academic asylum law by entering a Polytechnic campus in Zografou a few days prior. On the way, workers invaded Zonars Cafe, a bourgeois shop that sells cups of coffee for nine Euros (currently around $14 US), looted the place and smashed the windows. They then entered the upscale Papasotiriou Bookshop and distributed hundreds of liberated books to demonstrators and passers-by. They expropriated garments from a multi-national clothing store in a similar fashion. According to a Libcom.org report from Taxikipali, who reports frequently from Greece, “The general feeling is one of great success with the forces of repression humiliated and the working class having proved its will to struggle against the state onslaught.”
5,000 marched in Thessaloniki. Another massive anarchist bloc took up the rear, led by a banner that read, “War Against the Bosses’ War.” Members of the Greek Antiauthoritarian Movement participated in the bloc, along with the Libertarian Syndicalistic Union, holding placards reading: “Capitalism is not in Crisis, Capitalism is the Crisis.” Along with thousands of leaflets and publications distributed, the workers scrawled their messages on the walls of shops that did not participate in the strike, and filled the Hondos Centre (a multinational perfume company) store with putrid garbage, causing its workers to join the strike. Government buildings were also defaced before the police attacked. Around 20 police followed retreating protesters onto a university campus, again breaking Academic Asylum. In response, protesters drove out the police and barricaded the school’s Rectorial Headquarters.
In Volos, 500 workers broke off from the larger march and occupied the METKA (Metal Constructions of Greece) factory, and 120 joined a workers’ assembly there. METKA bosses attempted to stop their workers from participating in the strike, so workers showed up early in the morning to blockade the gates for the second time in February. 2,000 joined a demo in Heraklion, Crete, called by “parliamentary left parties, out-parliamentary communists, independent organisations, anarchists etc,” according to Athens Indymedia. In Chania, Crete, 450 participated in a demonstration of independent organizations (as opposed to the demo held by parliamentary communists.) In Veroia, anarchists led a demonstration beginning at the town’s Workers’ Center. Another march occurred in Naousa. 1300 joined the non-parliamentary communist rally in Patras city, with even more at the parliamentary-communist rally. Patras Anarchists failed to make a call for the strike.
Along with the marches, members of the parliamentary Communist Party occupied the Stock-Exchange building in Athens, according to Athens Indymedia, “to show to the auditors of [the] European Commission, Central European Bank, [and] IMF who are in Athens where [is] the money for real and to stop searching in the workers’ pockets.” The occupation lasted until 2pm.
Athenian fascists tried to capitalize on the strike by calling an anti-immigrant rally at Amerikis Square. When anarchists and other antifascists showed up en masse to stop them, a solid wall of police stood in their way, informing them that all demonstrations were banned from the square. Around 800 antifascist then rallied in the autonomous Kyprou & Patision Park. Two fascists tried to attack them with vans, and thus had their vans destroyed.
As of this writing (February 25th) the number of arrests and injuries, and the financial damage caused by the strike and the direct actions against corporations and state institutions are not yet known. It is also unclear whether Greece’s anarchist organizations and their ideas are strong enough to play a key role in the movement of workers. What is clear, however, is that the Greek population will not take “austerity measures” sitting down, that the institutional and authoritarian left is divided and slipping from the influence of PASOK, and that a new insurrection, broader and more profound than that of the 2008 Greek December (see BAAM # 28) looms on the horizon. As a 60 year old striking engineer, Haralambos Dramantis, told international reporters at the Athens rally, “If people see the minority living a good life and their wages plummeting, they’re going to take to the streets...We haven’t seen the big uprising yet, but it will come.’’ •
Transgender People in Prison
It was a monstrously large room at Northeastern Law and not only was every last seat occupied before the event began, the walls were lined with standing bodies and people sat in crevices where it was possible to do so and still see the four speakers. Represented were the Sylvia Rivera Law Project based in NYC, the Transformative Justice Law Project based in Chicago, and TransCEND Boston. It was heartening to see such a huge turnout for an event on transgender people in the prison industrial complex, centralizing the experiences of trans and gender non-conforming people of color, inclusive of undocumented trans people. The three unapologetically radical organizations represented were created and are run by trans people who approach their work in ways that strive to help trans people without reinforcing the legitimacy of the legal system or any other oppressive structures.
Folks in the room less familiar with trans issues punctuated with shocked gasps and expressions the overview speakers gave of the systemic discrimination faced by trans people in education, housing, health care, employment opportunities, and how sex segregated public programs can be hostile and inaccessible. Due to these factors and more, it is hardly a wonder why transgender people are staggeringly overrepresented in prisons, and usually for crimes of survival. Horrifically, trans people are nearly always held in gender inappropriate housing, and are subject to sexual violence at rates nineteen times greater than the overall, perpetuated and encouraged by guards. One by one, the speakers enumerated some of the endless and unthinkably humiliating ways in which prison staff systematically delegitimate trans identities by enforcing ‘appropriate’ gender presentations. And despite the innumerable traumas that prisons inflict specifically on trans people, Elizabeth Marie Rivera-Valentine of Trans- CEND Boston notes darkly that incarceration is such an inevitable fact in the lives of many trans women she knows and works with that, given the stability of food and housing it provides, prison is referred to as ‘Paris.’
As in, wondering aloud what happened to a certain individual might elicit the response that she is in Paris.
With some of the problems outlined, the discussion was ripe for the need to abolish the prison industrial complex and replace it with community-based solutions that centralize the needs of the offended parties in ways that allow for healing rather than punishment. Also addressed was the inadequacy of the 501(c)(3) or non-profit model to work toward meaningful social change-- lawyer Owen McCarter from the Transformative Justice Law Project quickly summarized his organization’s disinterest in acquiring the much-vaunted tax status by relating his collective’s distaste for spending valuable time asking rich people for money and then having to use that money in accordance with the desires of said rich people. [for more impassioned information on the non-profit industrial complex, see INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence’s anthology The Revolution Will Not Be Funded].
Righteous energy poured out of speakers, particularly from Gabriel Arkles of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, on how incredibly harmful hate crimes legislation is to the communities they were purportedly designed to protect. The blatant hypocrisy was pointed out, that these laws are not passed because legislators have any enduring love for queers, trans people, gender non-conformists, people of color, and any intersections of the above. That even hate crimes statutes for racially motivated hate crimes have by and large been used to secure longer sentences for people of color convicted of killing white people. That not only does hate crimes legislation fail to address the pervasive transphobia in our society, it manipulates our fear and grief over the very real violence against our communities in a way that fortifies the legitimacy of incarceration as a means of dealing with social problems while making legislators look compassionate. That these laws do not prevent anyone from committing acts of hate. That imprisoning such persons does not prevent them from committing more violence against marginalized populations, since they will likely be imprisoned alongside the very communities they have harmed. Neither will prison rehabilitate them; few people indeed are able to leave prison more compassionate and balanced than when they entered. Aside from lining the pockets of politicians and corporate prisoncrats, what purpose does their incarceration really serve?
Prisoner support, particularly penpal correspondences, is something I prioritize in my own activities. But echoing in my head have been the words of Stefanie Rivera of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, who spent three and a half years in a men’s facility. She told stories about how guards and inmates alike target unsupported prisoners and how outside support is largely determined by mail call, which she called a ‘popularity contest.’
Her testimony was charged with pain, concluding, ‘I’m done doing the three and a half years, but it’s not going to leave me any time soon.’
So if you want to get involved in the crucial work of supporting prisoners, Boston ABC holds prisoner support events twice a month where you can help us send literature, fulfill research requests, or maintain penpal correspondences-- we’ve got tons of folks looking for penpals. Hit us up at bostonabc (at) riseup.net If you’re interested in supporting specifically queer and trans prisoners, check out blackandpink.org, also based in Boston.
And to our incarcerated readers: you are not forgotten. <3 •
A Report from the Emerson Anti-
The Emerson Anti-Authoritarian Society is a recent addition to the Northeast Anarchist Network, after a brief hiatus of inactivity. We’re dedicated to bringing all sorts of radical thinking to Emerson College, with the goal of knowledge always in mind. So far we’ve put together a very successful Really Really Free Market, which attracted about 75 student participants. Our next event was a “Know Your Rights” training taught by the Boston Anarchist Black Cross. About 15 students came for the hour-long info session and left with a greater understanding of their rights when dealing with the state and its agents.
Our biggest opposition so far has been Emerson’s property management team, who are currently blocking us from booking rooms with what can only be described as bureaucratic bullshit. We’re intent on securing ourright to book rooms and host further events at Emerson, management be damned. The future looks bright for our group, and we’re all excited and determined to bring a greater anti-authoritarian attitude to the students of Emerson. •
Taking Risks: Statement on Direct Action from the Boston Anarchist Black Cross
Here at the ABC, we may be viewed by some of our comrades as over-cautionary, sometimes even to a fault. While it is our role within the movement to preach responsibility and awareness, and to work to keep our comrades safe and away from the clutches of the State as much as possible, we would like to clarify our stance on the use of direct action and other risk-taking tactics in the furtherance of The Idea.
We believe anarchists must take risks on the road to the society we wish to build, because, as we know, the state, the police, the army, the prisons, the environmental devastators, and the capitalists will not abolish themselves. For every step we take, for every thing that needs to be changed, there are roadblocks in our way. The entire legal system exists to protect the power and privilege of the elite from righteous levelers who aim to flatten their haughty pyramid. Thus, while there are many ways of building community power and challenging authority that are relatively safe and legal, it is sometimes essential to step outside of the framework of state-sanctioned activity if we are to ever fully revel in the leveling. By participating in direct action, we can radicalize local conflicts and help win the small victories our struggling communities need to sustain momentum. We can learn useful skills, develop trust and relationships under stress and pressure, and, through the excitement of action, sustain our own energy and relearn the joy of the struggle.
It is true that many participate in such tactics when we go to someone else’s city for big demonstrations and summits, but it is a crying shame that such energy, excitement, and personal dedication has rarely been present in Boston’s local struggles in recent years. Our neighbors and coworkers are being crushed under the heel of authoritarian capitalism, but they are fighting back and they could sure use some sturdy hands. By involving ourselves in local struggles, and finding ways of employing effective confrontational tactics, we could be actively building a culture of resistance in the circles and neighborhoods around us. Besides, the best direct action is that which empowers others to adopt the tactic. When we fight and win, even in the smallest of battles, if we can include those around us, they will bring what they’ve learned wherever they go.
As we have stated above, the last thing we, as the defensive arm of the anarchist movement, wish to do is to discourage anyone from directly struggling against our oppressors. All that we ask of our comrades who choose to participate in such actions is to do so with responsibility and self-discipline. Take yourselves at least as seriously as the State will take you. Organize yourselves into affinity groups of people you are comfortable working with, educate yourselves on your rights and the applicable laws, and always take into consideration the effects your actions will have on your immediate community, your coworkers, and your comrades. Many places in the world have a strong and deep-seated anarchist tradition, and in these places affinity groups often come directly out of working class communities, forged amongst people who have grown up together, sometimes even learning the skills they will use together in play as children. We should strive toward this strategy where we can; by taking on risky tasks with only those whom we trust the most and by helping anarchism take root in our communities. However, in a city like Boston where anarchist organizers come and go with the season’s changing winds, it may be the case that you do not know your most trusted comrades for more than a year or two. In a situation like this, perhaps we shouldn’t be discouraged from taking action, but we should certainly take into account the risk and reward factors, and be very conscious of the level of risk in general. There are plenty of useful and strategic actions groups of intelligent and thoughtful activists can take that are directly confrontational, but require lower levels of risk and less stringent guidelines in communicating about them. Just always remember there are infiltrators, traitors, and spies amongst us, that community spaces, phones, computers, and cars can serve as the eyes and ears of empire, and that the entire purpose of government is to protect itself as the tool for domination by the elite class.
One last clarification: it is well known that ABC maintains a community defense fund often used to bail folks out of jail. We would like to make clear our collective’s policy on the use of our funds for actions that result in arrest: If you do not plan an escape route, plan your own bail! While intentionally setting oneself up to be arrested can be, and certainly has been used as an effective tactic, it is also an immense drain on our movement’s resources when so many activists simply sit down and wait to be carted off. There is no reason why activists who plan to get arrested cannot also plan and raise the necessary funds to make their own bail. Our funds are reserved for emergency cases, which occur very often and can be very expensive. Between the costs of bail and legal fees, and the practical effects of having our most dedicated comrades locked up or pinned down by probation and parole, we feel that the best actions are the ones that not only achieve the desired effects and further the good struggles, but keep rebel feet on the streets and not shackled on the capitalists’ plantations.
Keep up the fight comrades, and please utilize us for our knowledge of rights, the legal system, and of our community defense programs.
Disclaimer: Boston ABC would never ever EVER encourage illegal activities. Because illegal things are bad.
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
Calendar: Get Involved
Sunday, February 28th
Serving Solidarity: A Night of Greek Cuisine and Uprising. Homemade Greek food, culture, and inspiring information about the situation in Greece. With excerpts from ZNet’s documentary “After the Greek Uprising.” 5pm at Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, Boston.
Thrsday, March 4th
National Day of Action to Defend Education. Public Education is under attack. Unions, community groups and student organizations have signed on to the call (defendeducation.org). With increased privatization, rising costs,budget cuts and union busting, it is time to fight back against the big business agenda for education. Here in Boston, Campus unions at UMass-Boston have planned a rally at 12 noon outside the Campus Center. Student groups are also helping to plan the events. The teach-in will be held from 4pm to 7pm in the McCormackBuilding, third floor in room 201.
Saturday, March 6th
Prison Birth Project Fundraiser.
(DJ and Dancing) 7pm @ the Community Church, 545 Boylston St, Copley Square.
Sunday, March 7th
ABC Prisoner Support. 8pm @ The Broad Majestic Shannon (email for directions: BostonABC (at) riseup.net) Join us for an afternoon of prisoner support. We will be writing letters, sending literature, doing research, and more! All are welcome!
Friday, March 12th
A Celebration: The Radical Ideas of Howard Zinn. A Black and Red Commemoration of the late Howard Zinn, with music, speeches, and a sneak preview screening of the Sacco and Vanzetti Commemoration Society’s (SVCS) upcoming video: Howard Zinn on the Case of Sacco and Vanzetti. Endorsed by Boston ABC, BAAM, Community Church of Boston , SVCS, and the Massachusetts Global Action. To endorse this celebration, email info (at) saccoandvanzetti.org. Check SaccoandVanzetti.org for updates. 7-9pm @ the Community Church, 545 Boylston St, Copley Square, Boston.
Saturday, March 13th
Self-Styled Anarchist Fashion and Craft Show. At Encuentro 5, 33 Harrison Ave, in Chinatown, Boston on the 5th floor. 8pm. Back by popular demand! Watch rebels strut their stuff to raise the ABC defense funds. $5-50 sliding scale. Bring extra money to buy food, drinks, and clothing!
Sunday, March 14th
Papercut Zine Library resumes regular hours. Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, 2-7pm. check www.myspace.com/papercutzinelibrary for additional hours. 226 Pearl St. in Somerville (between Union Sq and Winter Hill), 3rd Floor.
Saturday, March 20th
Mini-Zine Fair. AT the Central Square YMCA, 820 Massachusette Avenue, Cambridge. 10am-all day. Free entry before 12pm. $5 entry after that. Live music.
Sunday, March 21st
Northeastern Student Teach In. 10 AM to 4 PM at Northeastern University. Students will also be able to talk to each other about the work and campaigns on their campuses and learn more about the struggles that are happening in Boston. Presented by the Northeastern University Progressive Student Alliance. The Anarchist Black Cross will teach our “Know Your Rights” workshop.
Saturday, March 27th
Sacco and Vanzetti Social. Gather for a cultural celebration, with food, drinks, info about Tarek Mehanna’s case, and of course, socializing @ the Community Church, 545 Boylston St, Copley Square, Boston.
Sunday, April 4th
ABC Ice Cream Social (ABC Easter) Come get involved in Boston ABC. Learn what we’re all about and eat some ice cream. Location and time tbd. Email bostonabc (at) riseup.net
Wednesday, April 14th
We are an Image From the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008. A short film showing, followed by the presentation of a new book by the editors, Sissy Doutsiou and Tasos Sagris, members of the Void Network in Athens, a group promoting art, theory, action, and the creation of autonomous spaces. 7pm at the Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, Boston.
Sunday, April 18th
Grand re-opening event of the Papercut Zine Library. Details tbd. Come celebrate the re-opening of the Papercut Zine Library at a new space in Somerville! 226 Pearl St. in Somerville (between Union Sq and Winter Hill), 3rd Floor.
Wednesday, April 21st
Cruel and Unusual: A film about the experiences of transgender people in prison. Presented by the Anarchist Black Cross and TransCEND.Boston. 7pm at the Lucy Parsons Center, 549 Columbus Ave, Boston.
MAY Month of Anarchy
Coming out of the 9th NEAN Assembly, a month of anarchist and related public events and actions across the Northeast. Specifics TBA
The BAAM Newsletter
is the monthly publication of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement, a
general union of Boston anarchists. Our publication aims to spread anti-
authoritarian ideas and practices, and to report on the social struggles of workers, tenants, students, radicals, and others resisting the repression of the state, bosses, landlords and banks.
In striving to make our publication sustainable, we are offering yearly
subscriptions, sent to your door for the sliding scale cost of $12-15. We also provide free email subscriptions. Email Jake at Trenchesfullofpoets (at) riseup.net for more information, or send checks (leaving “pay to the order of” field blank) or well-concealed cash to:
BAAM c/o Boston ABC, PO Box 230182, Boston, MA, 02123
Adrienne, Jeff Reinhardt
Jake Carman, Jeff Reinhardt
We accept submissions for our
paper! Email articles, photos, events, letters, etc to Jake at
Trenchesfullofpoets (at) riseup.net
Contributors to this month’s issue:
-The Emerson Anti-
What is Anarchism?
Anarchism is the theory and practice of a human society organizing without hierarchy, authority and oppression. This means that all people have equal access to the decision- making process and to the products of their collective labor. Anarchy can be described as true, direct democracy. It is horizontal: i.e. workers working together without bosses, neighbors organizing housing and neighborhoods without landlords, and people making decisions without politicians. There are many different ideas on how to get there and what exactly it will look like. We can talk all we want, but only a truly free and revolutionary people will be able to decide what their revolution will look like. So comrades, let’s get to work!
This work is in the public domain