Frantz Fanon: “Concerning Violence”

amazon-logging-2Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon … Decolonization, which sets out to change the order of the world, is, obviously, a program of complete disorder. But it cannot come as a result of magical practices, nor of a natural shock, nor of a friendly understanding. Decolonization, as we know, is a historical process: that is to say that it cannot be understood, it cannot become intelligible nor clear to itself except in the exact measure that we can discern the movements which give it historical form and content. …  If we wish to describe it precisely, we might find it in the wellknown words: “The last shall be first and the first last.” Decolonization is the putting into practice of this sentence. That is why, if we try to describe it, all decolonization is successful.

The naked truth of decolonization evokes for us the searing bullets and bloodstained knives which emanate from it. For if the last shall be first, this will only come to pass after a murderous and decisive struggle between the two protagonists. That affirmed intention to place the last at the head of things, and to make them climb at a pace (too quickly, some say) the well-known steps which characterize an organized society, can only triumph if we use all means to turn the scale, including, of course, that of violence.

You do not turn any society, however primitive it may be, upside down with such a program if you have not decided from the very beginning, that is to say from the actual formulation of that program, to overcome all the obstacles that you will come across in so doing. The native who decides to put the program into practice, and to become its moving force, is ready for violence at all times. From birth it is clear to him that this narrow world, strewn with prohibitions, can only be called in question by absolute violence. …

During the period of decolonization, the natives’ reason is appealed to. He is offered definite values, he is told frequently that decolonization need not mean regression, and that he must put his trust in qualities which are welltried, solid, and highly esteemed. But it so happens that when the native hears a speech about Western culture he pulls out his knife–or at least he makes sure it is within reach. The violence with which the supremacy of white values is affirmed and the aggressiveness which has permeated the victory of these values over the ways of life and of thought of the native mean that, in revenge, the native laughs in mockery when Western values are mentioned in front of him. In the colonial context the settler only ends his work of breaking in the native when the latter admits loudly and intelligibly the supremacy of the white man’s values. In the period of decolonization, the colonized masses mock at these very values, insult them, and vomit them up. …

Baltimore man holding up toilet paper ... looting with police vans burning in background
A man carries items from a store as police vehicles burn, Monday, April 27, 2015, after the funeral of Freddie Gray in Baltimore (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Now what we must never forget is that the immense majority of colonized peoples is oblivious to these problems. For a colonized people the most essential value, because the most concrete, is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring them bread and, above all, dignity. But this dignity has nothing to do with the dignity of the human individual: for that human individual has never heard tell of it. All that the native has seen in his country is that they can freely arrest him, beat him, starve him: and no professor of ethics, no priest has ever come to be beaten in his place, nor to share their bread with him. As far as the native is concerned, morality is very concrete; it is to silence the settler’s defiance, to break his flaunting violence–in a word, to put him out of the picture. The wellknown principle that all men are equal will be illustrated in the colonies from the moment that the native claims that he is the equal of the settler. One step more, and he is ready to fight to be more than the settler. In fact, he has already decided to eject him and to take his place; as we see it, it is a whole material and moral universe which is breaking up. …

Thus the native discovers that his life, his breath, his beating heart are the same as those of the settler. He finds out that the settler’s skin is not of any more value than a native’s skin; and it must be said that this discovery shakes the world in a very necessary manner. All the new, revolutionary assurance of the native stems from it. For if, in fact, my life is worth as much as the settler’s, his glance no longer shrivels me up nor freezes me, and his voice no longer turns me into stone. I am no longer on tenterhooks in his presence; in fact, I don’t give a damn for him. Not only does his presence no longer trouble me, but I am already preparing such efficient ambushes for him that soon there will be no way out but that of flight. …

All the Mediterranean values–the triumph of the human individual, of clarity, and of beauty–become lifeless, colorless knickknacks. All those speeches seem like collections of dead words; those values which seemed to uplift the soul are revealed as worthless, simply because they have nothing to do with the concrete conflict in which the people is engaged. Individualism is the first to disappear. The native intellectual had learnt from his masters that the individual ought to express himself fully. The colonialist bourgeoisie had hammered into the native’s mind the idea of a society of individuals where each person shuts himself up in his own subjectivity, and whose only wealth is individual thought. Now the native who has the opportunity to return to the people during the struggle for freedom will discover the falseness of this theory. The very forms of organization of the struggle will suggest to him a different vocabulary. Brother, sister, friend–these are words outlawed by the colonialist bourgeoisie, because for them my brother is my purse, my friend is part of my scheme for getting on. The native intellectual takes part, in a sort of auto-da-fé, in the destruction of all his idols: egoism, recrimination that springs from pride, and the childish stupidity of those who always want to have the last word. Such a colonized intellectual, dusted over by colonial culture, will in the same way discover the substance of village assemblies, the cohesion of people’s committees, and the extraordinary fruitfulness of local meetings and groupments. Henceforward, the interests of one will be the interests of all, for in concrete fact everyone will be discovered by the troops, everyone will be massacred–or everyone will be saved. …

What are the forces which in the colonial period open up new outlets and engender new aims for the violence of colonized peoples? In the first place there are the political parties and the intellectual or commercial elites. Now, the characteristic feature of certain political structures is that they proclaim abstract principles but refrain from issuing definite commands. The entire action of these nationalist political parties during the colonial period is action of the electoral type: a string of philosophicopolitical dissertations on the themes of the rights of peoples to self-determination, the rights of man to freedom from hunger and human dignity, and the unceasing affirmation of the principle: “One man, one vote.” The national political parties never lay stress upon the necessity of a trial of armed strength, for the good reason that their objective is not the radical overthrowing of the system. Pacifists and legalists, they are in fact partisans of order, the new order–but to the colonialist bourgeoisie they put bluntly enough the demand which to them is the main one: “Give us more power.” On the specific question of violence, the elite are ambiguous. They are violent in their words and reformist in their attitudes. When the nationalist political leaders say something, they make quite clear that they do not really think it.

This characteristic on the part of the nationalist political parties should be interpreted in the light both of the make-up of their leaders and the nature of their followings. The rank-and-file of a nationalist party is urban. The workers, primary schoolteachers, artisans, and small shopkeepers who have begun to profit–at a discount, to be sure–from the colonial setup, have special interests at heart. What this sort of following demands is the betterment of their particular lot: increased salaries, for example. The dialogue between these political parties and colonialism is never broken off. Improvements are discussed, such as full electoral representation, the liberty of the press, and liberty of association. Reforms are debated. Thus it need not astonish anyone to notice that a large number of natives are militant members of the branches of political parties which stem from the mother country. These natives fight under an abstract watchword: “Government by the workers,” and they forget that in their country it should be nationalist watchwords which are first in the field. The native intellectual has clothed his aggressiveness in his barely veiled desire to assimilate himself to the colonial world. He has used his aggressiveness to serve his own individual interests.

Thus there is very easily brought into being a kind of class of affranchised slaves, or slaves who are individually free. What the intellectual demands is the right to multiply the emancipated, and the opportunity to organize a genuine class of emancipated citizens. On the other hand, the mass of the people have no intention of standing by and watching individuals increase their chances of success. What they demand is not the settler’s position of status, but the settler’s place. The immense majority of natives want the settler’s farm. For them, there is no question of entering into competition with the settler. They want to take his place.

The peasantry is systematically disregarded for the most part by the propaganda put out by the nationalist parties. And it is clear that in the colonial countries the peasants alone are revolutionary, for they have nothing to lose and everything to gain. The starving peasant, outside the class system, is the first among the exploited to discover that only violence pays. For him there is no compromise, no possible coming to terms; colonization and decolonization are simply a question of relative strength. The exploited man sees that his liberation implies the use of all means, and that of force first and foremost. When in 1956, after the capitulation of Monsieur Guy Mollet to the settlers in Algeria, the Front de Libération Nationale, in a famous leaflet, stated that colonialism only loosens its hold when the knife is at its throat, no Algerian really found these terms too violent. The leaflet only expressed what every Algerian felt at heart: colonialism is not a thinking machine, nor a body endowed with reasoning faculties. It is violence in its natural state, and it will only yield when confronted with greater violence.

From Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of The Earth

Lewis Call: Revolutionary strategy of post-modern anarchists

“If power in the postmodern world is based largely upon illusion and the creative manipulation of reality, then revolutionaries have a clear and effective strategy available to them. They only need to seize the energies of simulation, puncture the veil of illusion, and replace the official discourse with a radical alternative narrative.”

— Lewis Call, “A is for Anarchy, V is for Vendetta: Images of Guy Fawkes and the Creation of Postmodern Anarchism

In Support of Baltimore: Or; Smashing Police Cars Is Logical Political Strategy

(by Benji Hart, via Radical Faggot)

Burning Baltimore police van during riots in response to murder of Freddie Gray
A Baltimore Metropolitan Police transport vehicle burns during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency and activated the National Guard to address the violence in Baltimore, his office said on Monday. Several Baltimore police officers were injured on Monday in violent clashes with young people after the funeral of a black man, Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, and local law enforcement warned of a threat by gangs. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton – RTX1AK33

As a nation, we fail to comprehend Black political strategy in much the same way we fail to recognize the value of Black life.

We see ghettos and crime and absent parents where we should see communities actively struggling against mental health crises and premeditated economic exploitation. And when we see police cars being smashed and corporate property being destroyed, we should see reasonable responses to generations of extreme state violence, and logical decisions about what kind of actions yield the desired political results.

I’m overwhelmed by the pervasive slandering of protesters in Baltimore this weekend for not remaining peaceful. The bad-apple rhetoric would have us believe that most Baltimore protesters are demonstrating the right way—as is their constitutional right—and only a few are disrupting the peace, giving the movement a bad name.

This spin should be disregarded, first because of the virtual media blackout of any of the action happening on the ground, particularly over the weekend. Equally, it makes no sense to cite the Constitution in any demonstration for Black civil rights (that document was not written about us, remember?), but certainly not one organized specifically to call attention to the fact that the state breaks its own laws with regard to the oppressed on a nearly constant basis.

But there is an even bigger problem. Referring to Black Lives Matter protests, as well as organic responses to police and state violence as “non-violent” or “peaceful” erases the actual climate in which these movements are acting, the militant strategies that have rendered them effective, and the long history of riots and direct action on which they are built.

I do not advocate non-violence—particularly in a moment like the one we currently face. In the spirit and words of militant Black and Brown feminist movements from around the globe, I believe it is crucial that we see non-violence as a tactic, not a philosophy.

Non-violence is a type of political performance designed to raise awareness and win over sympathy of those with privilege. When those on the outside of struggle—the white, the wealthy, the straight, the able-bodied, the masculine—have demonstrated repeatedly that they do not care, are not invested, are not going to step in the line of fire to defend the oppressed, this is a futile political strategy. It not only fails to meet the needs of the community, but actually puts oppressed people in further danger of violence.

Militance is about direct action which defends our communities from violence. It is about responses which meet the political goals of our communities in the moment, and deal with the repercussions as they come. It is about saying no, firmly drawing and holding boundaries, demanding the return of stolen resources. And from Queer Liberation and Black Power to centuries-old movements for Native sovereignty and anti-colonialism, it is how virtually all of our oppressed movements were sparked, and has arguably gained us the only real political victories we’ve had under the rule of empire.

We need to clarify what we mean by terms like “violence” and “peaceful.” Because, to be clear, violence is beating, harassing, tazing, assaulting and shooting Black, trans, immigrant, women, and queer people, and that is the reality many of us are dealing with daily. Telling someone to be peaceful and shaming their militance not only lacks a nuanced and historical political understanding, it is literally a deadly and irresponsible demand.

The political goals of rioters in Baltimore are not unclear—just as they were not unclear when poor, Black people rioted in Ferguson last fall. When the free market, real estate, the elected government, the legal system have all shown you they are not going to protect you—in fact, that they are the sources of the greatest violence you face—then political action becomes about stopping the machine that is trying to kill you, even if only for a moment, getting the boot off your neck, even if it only allows you a second of air. This is exactly what blocking off streets, disrupting white consumerism, and destroying state property are designed to do.

Black people know this, and have employed these tactics for a very, very long time. Calling them uncivilized, and encouraging them to mind the Constitution is racist, and as an argument fails to ground itself not only in the violent political reality in which Black people find themselves, but also in our centuries-long tradition of resistance, one that has taught effective strategies for militance and direct action to virtually every other current movement for justice.

And while I don’t believe that every protester involved in attacking police cars and corporate storefronts had the same philosophy, or did what they did for the same reasons, it cannot be discounted that when there is a larger national outcry in defense of plate-glass windows and car doors than for Black young people, a point is being made. When there is more concern for white sports fans in the vicinity of a riot than the Black people facing off with police, there is mounting justification for the rage and pain of Black communities in this country.

Acknowledging all of this, I do think events this weekend in Baltimore raise important questions for future direct and militant action in all of our movements. In addition to articulating our goals, crafting our messaging and type of action, we need to think carefully about what the longer term results of militant action might potentially be. Strategies I might suggest, and important questions I think we should try and answer as we plan or find ourselves involved in political actions are these:

  • Are we harming state and private property, or are we harming people, communities and natural resources? Is the result of our action disrupting state and corporate violence, or creating collateral damage that more oppressed people will have to deal with (i.e., Black families and business owners, cleaning staff, etc.)? Are we mimicking state violence by harming people and the environment, or are we harming state property in ways that can stop or slow violence? Are we demonizing systems or people?
  • Who is in the vicinity? Are we doing harm to people around us as we act? Is there a possibility of violence for those who are not the intended targets of our action? Are we forcing people to be involved in an action who many not want to be, or who are not ready?
  • Who is involved in the action? Are people involved in our action consensually, or simply because they are in the vicinity? Have we created ways for people of all abilities who may not want to be present to leave? Are we being strategic about location and placement of bodies? If there are violent repercussions for our actions, who will be facing them?

We should attempt to answer as many of these questions as possible before action occurs, in the planning stages if possible. We also need backup plans and options for changing our actions in the moment if any of the agreed-upon conditions are not the same when it comes time to act.

I rolled my eyes when inquiries in Ferguson “shockingly” revealed racist emails sent throughout local government, including higher-ups in the Police Department. I think many of us knew the inquiry of virtually any police department would yield almost identical findings. The riots in Baltimore have many drawing parallels between policy and conduct in both cities now. What kind of action brought to light for the less affected what Black people have always known? What kinds of actions will it take to make it widely understood that all policing is racist terror, and justice can only come with its permanent abolition?

Black power, Queer power, power to Baltimore, and to all oppressed people who know what time it is.

Revolution is brewing from Ferguson to Ayotzinapa … Billionaires, generals, cops, and other swine: your days are numbered.

Tens of thousands of protestors in Mexico city surround a burning effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto, in protest of the narco-state he oversees, and the recent police murder of 43 radical students in Ayotzinapa, in the Mexican state of Guerrero (Thursday, November 20, 2014)

Tens of thousands of protestors outside the National Palace in Mexico City surround a burning effigy of President Enrique Peña Nieto, in response to the Mexican narco-state he oversees murdering 43 radical students in Ayotzinapa, in the Mexican state of Guerrero (Thursday, November 20, 2014)

Ayotzinapa protests awaken Mexico from a nightmare

(via ROAR Magazine)

Demonstrators march with crosses with writing that reads in Spanish "Narco Cops" in protest for the disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero, in Mexico City, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Federal police detained yesterday Iguala Mayor Jose Luis Abarca and his wife, Maria de los Angeles Pineda, who are accused of ordering the Sept. 26 attacks on teachers' college students that left six dead and 43 still missing.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)The political and humanitarian crisis in the southern Mexican state of Guerrero marks a new low in a country marred by corruption and drug violence. More than a month after the disappearances of 43 students there is still no sign of them, while official government search efforts are laced by ambiguities to say the least.

At the same time the disappearances have stirred up a hornet’s nest that has taken the form of an unparalleled and broad social movement in all corners of Mexico.

Mexico, with Guerrero at its epicenter, seems torn between despair and hope. Despair from the horror of the atrocious events in Iguala, and hope from the structural change promised by the societal response. Which social and political processes have erupted, exactly, and what does this mean for the possibilities of social change in Mexico?

 A breeding ground for revolutionaries

The entrance of the Rural Normal school in Ayotzinapa welcomes her students with murals of Che Guevara, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, and Carlos Marx. The disappeared students come from a school with a history of left politics embedded in a special national education program set up to train primary school teachers. Started in 1920, this program has the express goal of social emancipation of the poor. The school has produced two of Guerrero’s most important guerrilla leaders in the seventies and, unsurprisingly, has gained the reputation of being a breeding ground for radical activism.

Contemporary students are the children of farmers and indigenous families living in the poorest and most marginalized areas of Mexico. The school’s position as a hotbed of activism has not gone unnoticed and has constantly forced students to face state repression in the form of chronic underfunding, police violence and criminalization.

 The disappearances

On September 25, a group of Ayotzinapa students went to the nearby town of Iguala to organize transport to the remembrance protest of the 1968 Tlatelolco student massacre. For lack of money, the students appropriated three buses on the fateful night; in response, the mayor of Iguala gave orders to stop the buses “no matter what.” Enforcing the orders, the local police opened fire on several buses, killing six students and bystanders and leaving 25 wounded. The night deteriorated into a head-hunt for the fleeing students, 43 of whom were eventually abducted in police vehicles never to be heard of since.

The response of the government was riddled with exceptional incompetence, as the following events reveal. The day after the drama, the responsible mayor of Iguala requested a leave of absence and went on the run. Meanwhile, the governor of Guerrero and the president of the republic have been involved in a ping-pong game of finger pointing to avoid responsibility. The respected human rights center Tlachinollan, located in Guerrero, has pointed out the serious deficiencies in the official investigation and the search for the students. Consequently, the parents of the disappeared students have announced to only trust the findings of a foreign team of investigators. Mexicans have lost all trust in the authorities to bring the crisis to a just end.

Graffiti spray-painted on the wall in Mexico-City reading ‘narcoestado’, or narco-state
Graffiti spray-painted on the wall in Mexico-City reading ‘narcoestado’ (“narco-state”)

 A public secret revealed

The Iguala events have irrefutably revealed ties between powerful drug cartels, the local police force and the responsible mayor. The interwoven nature of local governments with organized crime is no secret. But the revelations brought to light by the recent events have forced the government to break with their policy of official denial. As president Peña Nieto stated at a press conference, “the Iguala events have revealed the naked truth.”

Ayotzinapa has become the paragon of institutional ties with drug cartels and represents the sickness that has been ailing Mexican society in the form of corruption, extreme violence and impunity for years.

The movement that has risen in response to the Iguala events breaths a certain sense of relief. A family member of an Ayotzinapa student who disappeared a few years ago, relates how the movement has helped her: “Without Ayotzinapa our voices would still be shrouded in silence.”

Where people used to whisper, they now openly agitate against the narcogobierno [drugs government]. This sea change must not be underestimated in the context of the extreme violence and repression which would normally make a public expression of this nature a dangerous act. Ayotzinapa has finally laid bare this public secret.

Thousands protests in the streets of Acapulco on October 17, 2014
Thousands protests in the streets of Acapulco on October 17, 2014

 The perfect storm?

The disappearance of the students has mobilized and brought together diverse local groups from all social strata and regions of Mexican society. Committees of support have been set up in the most remote corners of Mexico, the Zapatistas have held a silent march in Chiapas and famous Mexican actors have declared their solidarity. However, the heart of the movement is located in Iguala, in the Asamblea Nacional Popular (ANP) headed by the parents and schoolmates of the disappeared students.

The strength of the Ayotzinapa movement is based in the coalition of student and teachers organizations. This coalition seems to be the recipe for a perfect storm. Both are at the forefront of the struggle and are flooding Mexican streets with staggering numbers, of which the 50.000 strong demonstration on October 22 in Mexico City has been the largest so far.

In Guerrero, epicenter of the struggle, highways are blockaded daily, government buildings are torched and radio stations occupied and taken over. Students and teachers of leading universities have called various strikes, and there is talk of a general strike to come. To top all this off, teachers associations have set themselves the goal of taking over all of Guerrero’s town halls. At the time of writing the count is set at 22 out of a total of 81.

In recent Mexican history, teachers and students have been the vanguard of social struggles, which has given them an important symbolic value. It also provides the current movement with the needed practical experience and organizational structures to build upon.

 Roots of the movement

Mexican universities are well known for their militant and radical student movements. The latest revival took place in the form of a national movement called #YoSoy132 (#IAm132). The movement started during the presidential election campaigns of 2012 when the students agitated for the democratization of the media because of their their partial reporting, which favored erstwhile presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. The movement is organized horizontally and made up of 130 local and autonomous assemblies spread all over Mexico, coordinating in its national Interuniversitaria, which has now taken up the cause of the Ayotzinapa students.

Just like #YoSoy132, the radical teachers organizations besmirched the start of the presidential term of Peña Nieto with large-scale protests when he announced controversial neoliberal reforms in education, energy and telecommunications. The democratic section of the national teachers union CNTE, well known for their role in the Oaxaca uprising of 2006, has led the protests against the attempt to privatize Mexican education.

In Guerrero, these militant protests were led by the teachers organization CETEG, which has united the forces of farmers, indigenous people, students and community police, thereby broadening the struggle against the entire neoliberal offensive of the new government. Besides the education reforms, they protested the privatization of the energy sector, destructive mining projects, repression of political activists and the lack of public security.

The Interuniversitaria, CNTE and CETEG are the motor of the current Ayotzinapa movement.

 Banner reading “We are all Ayotzinapa”, “Don’t forgive, or forget”, “Punish those responsible”, “Alive they took them, alive we want them back”
Banner reading “We are all Ayotzinapa”, “Don’t forgive, or forget”, “Punish those responsible”, “Alive they took them, alive we want them back”

 Insecurity unites a diverse movement

“Alive they took them, alive we want them back.” Recurrent in all protests, this slogan expresses the most important demand of the movement: the unharmed return of the students and the punishment of all those responsible for their disappearance. Banners and social media also often show the hash-tag ‘#AyotzinapaSomosTodos’ [#WeAreAllAyotzinapa]. This sends the clear message that this ‘could have happened to anybody in Mexico’. This sad reality of the structural insecurity caused by the deep ties between the corrupt government and organized crime speaks to a diversity of Mexicans and is the glue that binds the Ayotzinapa movement.

A current in the movement articulates Ayotzinapa as a systemic problem. It is mainly the radical teachers organizations which are determined not to settle for the usual course of events in Mexican political crises, namely a reshuffling of the political cards and then back to business as usual. The protesters’ response to the resignation of Guerrero’s governor says it all. “It will not solve anything,” was the loud response after which the mobilization and protests continued with unrelenting zeal. Indeed, the appointment of an interim governor of Guerrero was answered immediately with the demand for his dismissal since he was not chosen by el pueblo, the people, but by the federal government. On their own terms, the Ayotzinapa movement demands the dissolution of the municipal, state and federal governments. As they say in Mexico, “The cob must be stripped of all its corn.”

The broad coalition that makes up the Ayotzinapa movement has its internal complexities and tensions. The issue of insecurity speaks just as well to people who want a properly functioning liberal democracy as to radical groups that would like to see far-reaching political change. This is evident from the following examples.

A few days after the disappearance of the students, shopkeepers and merchants of Guerrero’s capital Chilpancingo joined the protest demanding the resignation of the governor. The extreme violence in the region has been seriously affecting commerce in Chilpancingo, leading to this groups’ participation. Under a similar pretext of insecurity, 200 striking police officers in Acapulco joined the struggle. While the middle classes focus on the issue of insecurity, a group of socialist students of the Ayotzinapa movement choose a more fundamental focus.

The students have decided to temporarily occupy two mega-stores in Chilpancingo to hand out food and basic supplies. Electronics and luxury items remain untouched, which makes it different from ordinary plundering, but rather sends a clear political statement that inequality is at the root of the problems in Mexico. This message also resonates in many of the highway blockades, where the Ayotzinapa movement gives civil vehicles free passage but denies it completely to the trucks of multinationals like Coca Cola and BIMBO, symbols of the inequality of the capitalist system.

The different currents that feed the Ayotzinapa movement are its strength because of the broad support. At the same time, the divergent currents carry with them the risk of fragmentation.

 From de-escalation to militarization

During the first month of protests, the government was surprisingly peaceful in its response. Even when more militant actions occurred, like setting fire to government buildings or occupations of town halls, the authorities did not intervene. The government seemed to be hoping for a fiery but short lived movement that would burn out by itself. Besides, this de-escalation strategy was at the time the only realistic course of action since a new victim of state violence would only have heightened the flames of discontent.

However, the government did employ its usual tactic of discrediting the students and teachers by labeling them as dangerous and radical vandals. More recently they have even stooped to the level of accusing the Ayotzinapa students of being allied to a drug cartel. Strikingly enough, these accusations have not had the sought-after effect on the people.

On October 29, more than a month into the protests, the first violent confrontation with the military police forces took place when teachers of CETEG attempted to occupy the Casa Guerrero, the White House of Guerrero. Meanwhile, the government is taking over control of the cities of Guerrero as well as twelve municipalities. A large-scale militarization of the region is taking place, denounced by the teachers organizations as an attempt to suppress the movement. Now that more and more anger is directed towards the president himself, the chances of a violent intervention are growing by the day.

 Self-organization: leading by example

The long-standing community police forces of Guerrero are an inspiration to the Ayotzinapa movement. When people speak of real solutions to rising insecurity, they are quick to refer to the self-organized community police, “where the people do it themselves.”

Indigenous communities, mostly, have organized their police groups based on their own culture and organizational structures. The police are directly responsive to the community which governs and controls their activities. The areas where the community police is active are seen as the safest places in Guerrero.

UPOEG is one of the community police organizations which has gained a lot of respect by immediately organizing search parties for the disappeared students, coordinating their efforts with the parents. As such, UPOEG is filling the void left by the government and shows the power and possibilities of self-organization. Besides its policing role, UPOEG is also putting forward a plan to create a ‘fourth level of government’ next to the existing federal, state and municipal structure of Mexico. This would take the shape of a ‘council of community leaders’ with the aim of pulling political power to the bottom of Mexican society: the communities.

Self-organization in Guerrero is referred to by the Ayotzinapa movement as an example of what another Mexico might look like.

Satirical version of Time Magazine cover depicting president Peña Nieto as Death, with the accompanying text “Slaying Mexico”
Satirical version of Time Magazine cover depicting president Peña Nieto as Death, with the accompanying text “Slaying Mexico”

 The importance of international pressure

The fear that political instability will disrupt Mexican commercial interests makes the country highly susceptible to international pressure. This was apparent when the Zapatistas rose up in 1994 during the implementation of the NAFTA free trade agreement. The pressure exerted on Mexico as a response to the international solidarity movement was of crucial importance in the course of the Zapatista struggle.

The Mexican government does not want to lose her image as ‘stable’ and ‘open for business’. The protesters in Mexico are well aware of this fact. They have made a satirical version of the cover of the influential Time Magazine and spread it far and wide via social media. The image parodies an edition of Time with Peña Nieto ‘Saving Mexico’ on the front cover. The parody depicts the president as Death with a scythe in his hand, accompanied by the text “Slaying Mexico.” This is a firm call for international pressure.

International intellectuals supported the struggle with a critical open letter to president Peña Nieto signed by Noam Chomsky, Umberto Eco and more than two-thousand other academics.

Once more, it is of crucial importance that the eyes of the world are turned to Mexico to restrain its government from using all-out repression against the Ayotzinapa movement. The course of struggle is unclear, and a burst of violence lurks in every corner, just like the possibility for social change. One thing is certain: a diverse group of Mexicans is envisioning Another Mexico, which now more than ever, is possible.

Maggie Blanca is an independent journalist and PhD student in Cultural Anthropology.

Jeremy Crowlesmith is an independent journalist based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, with a background in student organizing and independent media.

1964: Stuart Christie’s account of his actions in a Franco assassination attempt

Mugshot (front and side) of Stuart Christie
Stuart Christie’s mugshot, taken after his arrest in Spain for a failed attempt to assassinate dictator Francisco Franco with an improvised explosive device.

[…] By August 6 1964, everything was ready for my mission. My ticket had been booked on the night train from Paris to Toulouse. I met Bernardo and Salvador, my Spanish anarchist contacts from London, at the place d’Italie, and from there we walked down the rue Bobilot and into a narrow and neglected side street with grubby grey tenements.

Checking to ensure we had not been followed, Salva gave a prearranged knock on the curtained street-floor window and, when the door opened, we filed quickly through the dark and narrow hallway and into the front room. This was the quartermaster’s stores, where the weapons, explosives and forged documents could be kept with some degree of safety.

Three people were already in the room. Two were seated, one of whom I recognised as Octavio Alberola, the charismatic coordinator of the underground anarchist group Defensa Interior, and the man on whose shoulders lay the responsibility for killing Franco.The third man, referred to as “the chemist”, was standing by the sink wearing rubber gloves, measuring and pouring chemicals.

Being thirsty, I went to the sink for water, and was about to put a glass to my lips when the chemist turned round and saw what I was doing. He shouted at me to stop and rushed across, removing the glass carefully from my hands, explaining that it had just been used for measuring pure sulphuric acid.

Shaken, I stood back to lean on the sideboard and went to light a cigarette. This triggered another equally volcanic reaction from the chemist as he explained that the sideboard drawer was full of detonators. I retreated to the table, and was very cautious after that.

The chemist placed on the table five slabs of what looked like king-size bars of my granny’s home-made tablet (a crumbly Scottish toffee similar to butter fudge), each containing 200 grams of plastic explosive, along with detonators.

Alberola went through the details of the operation while Salva translated. My job was to deliver the explosives to the contact, together with a letter, addressed to me, which I was to collect from the American Express offices in Madrid. Then, at a rendezvous in the plaza de Moncloa, the contact would identify me by a handkerchief wrapped around one of my hands. He would approach me and say, “Qué tal?” (“How are you?”), to which I was to reply, “Me duele la mano” (“I’ve a sore hand”).

I spoke no Spanish, so to avoid the embarrassment of forgetting my lines and unloading a kilo of high explosives on the first friendly Spaniard I met, Octavio wrote the words down for me, along with all the instructions. (This was, with hindsight, extremely foolish.) Once the contact had identified himself, I was to hand over the parcel, together with the letter, and leave immediately.

My train pulled into Toulouse station shortly before dawn on Friday August 7 after a clammy and uncomfortable night. After a hurried coffee and croissant I caught a train to Perpignan. Here, I prepared myself for crossing the border; I would hitchhike the rest of the way to Madrid.

The best way to take the explosives in, I thought, was on my body, not in my rucksack in case it was searched by a punctilious customs officer. In Perpignan, I found the public baths and paid for a cubicle. After a hot soak, and still naked, I unpacked the slabs of plastique, and taped them to my chest and stomach with Elastoplasts and adhesive tape. The detonators I wrapped in cotton wool and hid inside the lining of my jacket.

With the plastic explosive strapped to me, my body was improbably misshapen. The only way to disguise myself was with the baggy woollen jumper my granny had knitted to protect me from the biting Clydeside winds. At the risk of understatement, I looked out of place on the Mediterranean coast in August.

I walked through the outskirts of Perpignan until I came to a junction with a road sign pointing to Spain. After what seemed like hours, a car pulled over. It was driven by a middle-aged English commercial traveller from Dagenham. He was going to Barcelona.

It soon became apparent that his charity was driven to a large extent by enlightened self-interest. Every few kilometres the old banger would chug to a standstill and I would have to get out in the full blast of the August Mediterranean sun and push the bloody car up the foothills until we got it bump-started. Between pushing a car uphill and granny’s jumper, the sweat began rolling off me. Waterproof tape was yet to have been invented, and the cellophane-wrapped packets of plastique began slipping from my body. I had to keep nudging them up with my forearms.

Traffic was heavy when we reached Le Pérthus, the busiest of Spain’s frontier mountain passes. This was where we would have to clear a customs check. On the other side was fascist Spain.

After queuing for a bowel-churning eternity, I had to push the car on to the ramp while my companion steered. I pulled my jumper taut and waited with my heart in my mouth while two dour-faced Civil Guards with shiny patent-leather three-cornered hats and sub-machine guns at the ready looked me up and down. I handed my passport over to the border guard while the customs officers examined the boot and searched behind the seats of the car.

“Why have you come to Spain?”

“Turista!” I replied, hoping my accent didn’t make it sound like “terrorista”.

A pair of dark eyes looked at me suspiciously for a moment before the stamp finally descended on the passport.

The car made it as far as Gerona’s main square, where it broke down again, this time in the middle of the rush hour. Eventually we got going again and before I knew it we were driving through the dilapidated red-roofed outskirts of industrial Barcelona.

“I never thought we’d make it,” said my companion.

“Neither did I,” was my reply.

We said goodbye and went our separate ways.

The possible dates for my rendezvous in Madrid were from Tuesday 11 to Friday 14 August. I left Barcelona on Monday, this time keeping the explosives in my bag. I could have flown or taken the train, but I enjoyed hitch-hiking and it also meant I would have a bit more money in the event of any emergency.

My destination in the capital was the American Express office. Instead of going to the railway station for a left-luggage locker and leaving my rucksack there, which is what a more experienced anarchist would have done, I swung it on to my back and strolled down the carrera San Jerónimo to collect the letter for my contact.

It was siesta time and the streets were quiet. Turning the corner to enter the American Express office, I was immediately aware of three smartly dressed and tight-lipped men in heavy-rimmed sunglasses standing by the entrance muttering among themselves. I breathed deeply and tried to control my anxiety. Walking past this group, I went into the American Express office where I asked for the poste restante desk. A clerk pointed me in the direction of a desk at the far end of the room.

Handing my passport to the receptionist I asked whether any letters were waiting for me. At this same moment I noticed out of the corner of my eye two men and a woman sitting in an alcove to my right. Again, I knew immediately they were police. The blood and lymph drained from my face and heart. My stomach churned. Something had gone badly wrong.

The girl with my passport found my letter among the tightly packed trays behind her and pulled it out. As she did, I noticed it had been marked with a pink piece of paper the size of a bookie’s slip. The woman from the alcove, a supervisor, approached the girl, now bringing the letter to me, said a few words to her and removed the slip.

What was in the letter? How much did they know? Would I be arrested there or would they wait until I had met my contact? But if they knew about the Amex pick-up, they probably knew the details of my rendezvous as well.

The supervisor handed the slip to the girl, indicating she should take it across to the two men in the alcove. The supervisor then handed me the letter and my passport. I turned to see the two men from the alcove quickly walking out. I made a mental note to shaft American Express at every conceivable opportunity, if I were ever again offered an opportunity.

My diaphragm tightened even more and my heart thumped like a tight Lambeg drum. Yet I felt curiously detached as I took a deep breath and walked out of the office, trying to keep my face expressionless. Mustering all the confidence I could, I paused at the doorway to look at the group of five men now standing to one side of the entrance. Until I appeared at the doorway they had been deep in conversation. They stopped briefly, exchanging knowing looks with one another, and carried on.

Attempting the jaunty air of a well-heeled tourist who had just cashed his letters of credit, I walked back the way I had come, and as slowly as I could. I had only gone a few yards when the knot of men began to follow me up the street, still talking among themselves. My eyes darted everywhere, desperately searching for any opportunity to escape. I continued up the carrera San Jeronimo, stopping to peer in shop windows I passed, as though I was window shopping, but in fact to see how far they were behind. They had allowed me a 20 yards’ start before moving, and they kept to that distance.

An empty taxi pulled in to the pavement beside me. But when the driver appeared to invite me to get in, I knew it was an undercover police car. I was being hemmed in.

By this time I had reached the corner of the busy calle Cedaceros. As I steeled myself to make a dash through the crowds I was suddenly grabbed by both arms from behind, my face pushed to the wall and a gun barrel thrust into the small of my back. I tried to turn my head but I was handcuffed before I fully realised what had happened. It was all over in a matter of moments. […] ‘

From: https://libcom.org/library/franco-assassination-attempt-stuart-christie

Peru: Andean Self-determination Struggles against Extractive Capitalism

Via Upside Down World:

conga4The region of Cajamarca, in the northern highlands of Peru, is no stranger to foreign invaders exploiting their natural resources. In the year 1533 when the Spanish conqueror Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa – the last Inca, his people surrendered a room full of gold and two of silver in the hope of securing his release. Pizarro received the treasure, but executed the Inca regardless. Five hundred years later the invaders are back and demanding their gold and silver, and much more besides.

The financial crises that swept Latin America in the late 1980s-early 1990s left many economies in ruin. International financial institutions, led by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), fell over themselves to lend money to the flailing governments. Peru, under the leadership of the authoritarian Alberto Fujimori, eagerly accepted. As is the custom with IMF agreements, the money came with a stack of economic conditions–conditions which included deregulation, privatization, and opening domestic industries to transnational corporations.

In Cajamarca, one of the first corporations to arrive on the doorstep was the mega mining company Yanacocha – majority owned by US-based Newmont Mining Corporation and part owned by Peruvian Buenaventura (a company owned by one of the richest families in Peru), with 5 percent financing by the IFC of the World Bank. Yanacocha is actually a native Quechua word meaning ‘Black Lagoon’ – and was a lagoon until Yanacocha (the company) set its sights on it – now it’s an open pit so huge it can be seen from space.

Yanacocha’s replacement for this lagoon that gave water freely to the surrounding communities was an artificial reservoir, a tactic they repeated for other lagoons they would come to destroy. These reservoirs are now dry – serving no-one, and the mainly agricultural communities below now experience severe water shortage. What water does flow from descending rivers is contaminated; the source of the Rio Grande, one of the largest rivers feeding Cajamarca, is now three huge tubes spewing waste water from the mine. As a result of this contamination, local farmers have reported high levels of animal deformities and death; there are numerous instances of trout deaths in the tens of thousands because of the presence of heavy metals, arsenic, and high levels of acidity in the water. The population in general have reported unusually high rates of cancer, skin diseases, and birth deformities.

conga1In one small town called Choropampa, 1,200 inhabitants suffered the effects of mercury poisoning due to a mercury spill at the fault of Yanacocha in 2000. The effects are still being felt to this day as mothers pass the heavy metal to their babies through their blood. Tests have also shown that many Yanacocha workers have dangerously high levels of mercury in their blood. However, once they are unable to work they are abandoned by the company.

Yanacocha itself admits its appalling record, “We are not proud of the current state of our relationship with the people of Cajamarca.” This admission came after a ‘Listening Study’ commissioned by Yanacocha, and showed the dismal state of public opinion about the company who, the study states, “suffers from an inability to listen effectively to the community.” However, the company continues to press ahead with wringing the earth dry despite an obvious lack of social license. Having extended into various satellites, and exhausting them, Yanacocha had planned to move swiftly into the neighbouring province of Celendin to execute a project that would dwarf all that it had done before – Minas Conga.

The Minas Conga project, projected to be three times the size of Yanacocha and the largest mega mining project Peru has ever seen, plans to consume 3,069 hectares of land. It would drain and exploit two mountain lakes to extract the gold and copper that lies beneath. The material extracted would be dumped on top of two other lakes – effectively beheading a complex hydrological system and the source of five rivers. Whatever water sources that would remain would most likely be polluted with heavy metals – as they plan to produce an average of 90,000 tons of toxic waste tailings per day, every day for 17 years. […]

At various stages, affected groups realized the extent of what had been planned for Celendin. Teachers, students, workers in the municipality, left-leaning political groups, and the Rondas Campesinas united to form a platform of civil society organizations (known as the Plataforma Interinstitucional Celendina) from which they would organize a campaign against the project. Resistance also formed in Bambamarca/Hualgayoc – a province affected by 200 years of mining and whose only remaining source of uncontaminated water is threatened by Minas Conga. On November 24, 2011 the campaign was officially launched with a mass mobilization at the mountain lakes where all groups involved pledged to protect their water source.

However, this day also marked the beginning of the repression of the protesters. The national government, desperate for a project that would generate $300 million from taxes, royalties and fees to move forward (8), sent in the national police to suppress the gathered masses. They fired live ammunition into the crowds leaving 19 protesters injured. One man was left paralyzed, another lost part of his leg, and another his sight.

As the protests continued over the next year so did the police aggression. On July 3 and 4, 2012 five protesters were shot dead by the state security forces. One of the deceased, Cesar Medina Aguilar, a 16-year-old boy and local youth leader, died from a direct shot to the head. The other four men died from shots to the head, throat and chest, while some shots were fired from army helicopters. To enshrine this state of war that the government had declared on its people, it enforced a state of emergency – suspending civil liberties and subjecting the three provinces of Celendin, Cajamarca and Hualgayoc to intense militarization for a total of 8 months.

Leading human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the National Coordinator of Human Rights in Peru (CNDDHH) have all made statements on numerous occasions calling for an end to the excessive use of force by the state during the protests and have called for investigations into the deaths, injuries and allegations of torture of protesters. To date no such investigation has taken place.

Meanwhile the intimidation continues; community leaders are harassed by a barrage of legal allegations– an example of such a charge being “psychological damage to the mining company.” Human rights defenders are terrorized and beaten; such as when an ex-priest and environmentalist, Marco Arana, was arrested and badly beaten in police custody on July 4, 2012. When two lawyers went to visit him in prison they were also assaulted. Reporters are also targeted; most recently, on July 26, 2013 César Estrada, a local reporter, was visiting the mountain lakes when the police, after receiving a call from mine workers, came and verbally and physically assaulted him, confiscating his equipment.

One family who lives on land Yanacocha wants, but who have refused to sell it to them, have faced two years of violent intimidation. On two occasions the company entered the Chaupe family’s land with over a hundred heavily armed police in riot gear. They beat the mother and daughter unconscious, killed numerous animals, destroyed their house, and put their son in hospital for 3 months. When the violence didn’t work the mining company brought the family to court claiming the land was theirs. Without even looking at the document from the family demonstrating their rightful ownership the judge ruled in favour of Yanacocha – ordering the family off their land with a suspended jail sentence and damages to pay to the mining company. Due to a huge national and international outcry, and with the help of the local NGO GRUFIDES, this initial ruling was annulled on appeal. However Yanacocha plans to continue with this attack and so the investigation process will begin anew.

Yanacocha uses the argument that they will build reservoirs to replace the four mountain lakes they plan to destroy. They claim that the water in the lakes is unfit for human consumption and that they only provide water to the communities during the rainy season. Their reservoirs, they claim, will increase water supply to the communities all year round and the water will be artificially treated.

However, the company seems blind to the fact that the mountain lakes have been serving the local communities for centuries – for agricultural use, cattle rearing and human consumption. The mere presence of these communities contradicts the claim the water does not sustain life. Numerous animal life forms have also been documented surviving within and from the water of the lagoons. The water that reaches the rivers below also passes through a complex underground hydraulic system, thus when the water reaches the communities below it is considered amongst the purest in the region. This is unlike the water coming from the reservoirs which would need constant treatment, and the reservoirs themselves would need constant maintenance. Yanacocha proposes to carry out this function for 50 years; and the communities rightly ask `and then what?`

With regards to water supply, it is true that the area already has water shortage at certain times of the year – it is an area vulnerable to climate change, and has seen more dry periods in recent years. However, the answer is not to tear up the head of the water basin to destroy the remaining water supply. What is needed is more investment in agriculture and ways to mitigate the effects of the change.

Despite these objections, Yanacocha is due to finish its second reservoir by the end of this year. Once this happens they plan to drain the first mountain lake – El Perol. If this is allowed to pass, it will pave the way for the realization of the entire project. Similarly, the realization of the project will open the gates for mass exploitation of the entire region of Cajamarca; Conga is one mega mining project, the largest and most well-known, but there are others waiting on the sideline. According to a study by Yanacocha’s Andes Association Forum (ALAC) in 2006, 79 percent of the proven and probable gold within Peru is located in the provinces of Cajamarca and Celendin, as well as 30 percent of the copper reserves of the country.

This has resulted in an avalanche of mining concessions – 69.95 percent of the province of Cajamarca and 58.80 percent of Celendín is under concession to mining companies. Neighbouring Hualgayoc is 91 percent concessioned. Yanacocha has almost finished exploiting its primary and satellite projects, and after Minas Conga it has three other projects in the region at the exploration stage. A Chinese company, Lumina Copper SAC – part-owned by the Chinese government – is waiting to realize its 2,500 million copper project Galeno. British Anglo American are at the exploration stage of their Michiquillay project, La Granja project belongs to British/Australian Rio Tinto, and Canadian Sulliden Mining Corporation is hoping to progress with its copper and gold Shahuindo project. There are several other smaller projects also at the exploration stage. If all of these projects were realized Cajamarca would effectively be transformed into one of the largest mining districts in the world.

Apart from huge amounts of water and land, what these mega projects need is energy. Eva Arias, president of the National Mining Society in Peru (SNMPE) has stated that Peru needs to increase its energy supply by 40 percent if it is to meet its mining needs. To serve this demand, in June 2010, three months before leaving office, Peruvian president Alan Garcia signed the Peru-Brazil hydropower agreement with then-Brazilian president Inácio Lula da Silva. This laid the grounds for 20 mega hydroelectric projects to be realized along the Rio Marañon – one of the main rivers flowing into the Amazon. For Brazil, this meant construction contracts for the building of these projects, and the promise that a large portion of this energy would go to meet this emerging power’s own energy demands. The Peruvian government didn’t have the money to invest in these projects, so Brazil offered loans to its poorer neighbor through the Brazilian Development Bank. So a good deal for Brazil, and also a way to ease the energy worries of the mega mining sector as what is not sold to Brazil would be sold to the high-consuming mining projects.

For Celendin, to complement the would-be mega mining district dominated by Yanacocha, the Brazilian company Odebrecht has the rights to build the hydroelectric project Chadin II (Odebrecht coincidently has also been awarded the construction contract for the first stage of the Conga mining project – a contract worth more than 500 million dollars). Chadin II would affect over 1000 people living along the river valley; many would be displaced due to flooding, others would lose their livelihood as the river level rise would significantly alter the micro-climate of the area, making current forms of agriculture unsustainable. Engineers and environmental experts have also documented the rich biodiversity that exists in the region – many species are unique to the area, some are endangered – all of which will be negatively affected by the realization of this project. Once again, this is the first in a long line of mega hydroelectric projects waiting to be realized.

This capitalist dream of a mega mining district with energy on tap has been interrupted by desire of the local population to protect their livelihoods and their lives. Adding to that though, further obstacles have actually come from the capitalist system itself. Due to the economic crisis that shook the western world in 2008 people are now consuming less – either from a lack of buying power or from a deliberate effort to extract their power from the unrepentant machine that wreaked havoc on their lives. With people buying less the factory of the consumerist world – China, is finally showing signs of slowing.

From 1978 until 2011 the Chinese economy had maintained a rapid annual growth rate of 9.5 percent on average. Last year its GDP grew by only 7.8 percent, the slowest pace in 13 years. As many of the European countries remain in recession it is likely that Chinese growth will continue to slow. A direct result of this is that the Chinese industry does not need as much raw materials. China is the main buyer of Peruvian copper – counting for 41.5 percent of its sales, therefore a drop in Chinese demand means a drop in Peruvian sales. Gold sales have also dropped as a large percentage of the gold extracted ends up as jewelry in Western shop windows – the sale of which has taken a hit in the recession.

As a consequence of this falling demand, the price of metals on the international market has also fallen. In the last 6 months the price of gold fell by 29 percent, copper by 40 percent. All of this means that the extractors are not getting as much for their spoils and are struggling to keep their investors happy.

However what the elite is hoping for is for the people in the traditionally rich West to forget the day when the system’s belt broke and left it exposed. They’re hoping the years of indoctrination – propaganda permeating feelings of inadequacy and the need to fill the hole with things, will win over the desire for change – and that the people will return to borrowing more and spending more to fuel the earth-destroying machine.

Meanwhile, in Cajamarca, Yanacocha is eagerly awaiting this recovery of consumption. They’re not waiting idle however – they’re building their roads and reservoirs, and they’re doing their best to break the resistance through misinformation and repression. Roque Benavides, owner of Buenaventura and one of the main stakeholders in Yanacocha, recently stated ‘Neither Newmont nor Buenaventura are disposed to losing money’, but neither are the people of Cajamarca disposed to losing their water. So they will keep on resisting, and fighting for their right to determine their own future.

Read full article at: http://upsidedownworld.org/main/peru-archives-76/4438-peru-andean-self-determination-struggles-against-extractive-capitalism