Aug 25, 2009
I recently checked out A People's History of American Empire, a illustrated adaptation of Howard Zinn's classic A People's History of the United States from my local library. I very much enjoyed it for both its interesting and informative content but also it visceral artwork portraying the many, many crimes committed against the people of the Global South in the name of the Amerikkkan Empire. From Wounded Knee to U.S. interventionism in Latin America, the Middle East and Asia, the book provides a detailed history of what is normally kept out of text books interwoven with the story of Zinn's life and how his experiences influenced in world view.
This book, in my mind is the perfect present to give to a person you wish to enlighten. The illustrated format makes the knowledge contained therein more accessible to a larger audience, including young people and anybody not as likely to sit down and read a 200+ page book. A crucial part of raising class consciousness is education and the broader an audience that can be reached the better. This is why in post revolutionary Cuba, Castro funded pro-revolutionary movies; the format made their message accessible to everybody, regardless of literacy and made it more attractive as people are more prone to go to the movies then read Das Capital.
So go read this book for free at Borders or Barnes and Noble, they have nice chairs.
Look around this room. Look at all the appliances, lighting fixtures, furniture, electronics, food, water, building materials. Creating and transporting all these consumer goods in any economic system requires allocating and coordinating large amounts of raw resources, capital and labor. In capitalism, private firms operating as corporations assure that all goods are sent to the necessary location based on the profit motive. Though mercantile capitalism has existed since the 9th century in Arabia, contemporary corporate logistics has its roots in the 1602 creation of the Dutch East India Company. For the next four centuries, corporate capitalist logistics would dominate the field.
For example, Coca-Cola, an Atlanta, Georgia based firm, creates sugary beverage concentrates, which it distributes to its numerous “anchor bottlers” across the globe, such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company, and Coca-Cola Amatil. These anchor bottlers contain and distribute Coca-Cola beverages to profitable markets. This is a “supply chain” A supply chain is the system of organizations, people, technology, activities, information and resources involved in moving a product or service from supplier to customer.
Coca-Cola and its affiliates transport enormous amounts of syrup and finished product, which requires huge amounts of petroleum, rubber for tires, sheet metal for trucks, glass for bottles, and the like. Petrol companies need steel to make derricks, rubber companies need petrol to produce their product, and glassmakers need sand and petrol to make the signature Coca-Cola bottle. Thus, a supply chain for producing a single bottle of Coca-Cola includes steel mills, oilfields, rubber plantations and glass factories.
In any economy, a society must decide how products will be made and where, and to whom they are distributed. In a capitalist society, economy is driven by the profit motive: Coca-Cola produces to make profit, as does Exxon, Nestlé, Boeing, McDonalds and all other private firms. Though the government will create public infrastructure (roads, railroads, waste disposal facilities, hospitals to provide subsistence healthcare for workers, fire departments to protect property, police to control the producing class (the proletariat) which are difficult for private firms to profit from, private firms do a large majority of all economic activity.
Capitalism done things that could not be done in manorialist and classical societies: it can create has massive high-rise buildings, allow gigantic food surpluses (and huge populations), global trade. Capitalism does what it is designed to do very well: deliver profits to the wealthiest relatively consistently. While the government is left to enforce capitalist law, protect private property and wage wars against other, rival governments, private individuals are led along by Adam Smith’s “Magical Hand” of profit. Logistics are handled by the thirst for profit.
It is an imperfect system, to be sure: while richest fifth eat 45% of all meat and fish, more than 800 million people suffer from hunger or starvation. Possibly, more troubling is the fact around eighty percent of these hungry people live in countries that actually “enjoy” food surpluses! The logistics of capitalism have apparently failed around one billion people— more than two times the population of the United States.
In the next article, I will discuss a society that succeeds in delivering goods more successfully than capitalism… one where logistics are handled to better people rather than profit.
Aug 24, 2009
In the developed world, the vast majority of the products and services we consume or use have been transported many miles from their point of manufacture to reach us, perhaps many hundreds of thousands of kilometers. The movement of these goods and services is called logistics, and is imperative to the survival of a social group in times of both struggle and prosperity. It’s good that you have created your tractor, but how will you get your tractor to the farm where it needs to be. Moreover, how did you acquire the parts? How many labor-hours went in to constructing this tractor? Will the benefits this tractor outweigh the costs? These are all matters of logistics, the study of transporting, storing and supplying goods and services, and it is in logistics that we find the lifeblood of all social groups, be they nonviolent direct actors or Zapatista guerrillas.
While large firms and governments have the resources to field and supply large security forces –that is, forces that secure corporate and governmental interests-, common people who wish to effect change yet lack state or corporate power must rely on the resources they can scrounge up. Though these resources may be –and quite often are- meager, they are as indispensable to forces of constructive change as they are to the forces of conservatism and reaction. While a group may have a perfect argument for a post-capitalist future, this argument means nothing if they cannot muster material forces against the capitalist socioeconomic model. Mind you, classical capitalism was affected not by Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, but by the trend of increasing affluence in the European bourgeoisie.
In this series, I plan to study the logistics of everyday life in capitalism, the economics of worker’s movements -both nonviolent and belligerent- past, present and future, the logistical structure of conventional armies, and the importance of cooption and expropriation by worker’s movements in a fight for a post-capitalist world. Though any number of perfectly sensible arguments can be made against capitalism –be it representative or autocratic- all these things come to nothing without an understanding of the material world and how we can best change it.
Aug 13, 2009
I am going to be trying something new here at The Revolution Script with this post. Most of the time I talk about a fantasy land called "the Revolution" but today I am shifting gears and explore another hypothetical reality, the Zombie apocalypse. I have long been a fan of zombie films and have spent many a long hours thinking about what I would do in case of zombies or Zeds. After hours of research on the topic of anti-zombie weapons I think I have a pretty good idea of what I would be packing if the zeds came to the Green Mountain State. Be aware that I am not expert, these are just my humble opinions.
For the purposes of this post, I will be talking about the slow, classic Romero zombie, dumb as hell but dangerous in groups. Fast zombies made popular by 28 days later kind of go against the whole idea of a zombie, a slow, dumb metaphor for the herd/mob mentality of society and the dangers it brings. The following general assumptions can be made about killing the undead:
• You must either destroy the brain or severely damage any part of the central nervous system. They will continue to function as long as these parts are intact even when their torsos and limbs have suffered extensive damage.
• The structural integrity of the zombie's bodies will be significantly lower than that of a live human, facilitating it's destruction. Therefor less powerful rounds will be more effective. A shotgun shell of bird shot would only produce a flesh wound on a human but might have enough kinetic energy to break a zombie's spinal cord.
• In all situations, the size of the wound cavity created by a weapon and its ammunition must be one of your primary consideration if you have a choice. Factors like performance against body armor and penetration of barriers are no longer relevant due to the nature of the enemy. Even effective range beyond 100-200 yards is becomes less important when battling the undead; you should never engage zombies with firearms any more than necessary as it attracts unwanted attention from both hostile humans and zombies. You want your bullet to be as big as possible so that it will have a greater chance of severing the spinal cord. Hollow points, soft points and full lead bullets are preferable but obviously you are going to take whatever you can get.
• MAKE YOUR SHOTS COUNT! Ammo doesn't grow on trees you know.
A major consideration is whether one is going to be mobile, moving around to avoid being swarmed or stationary, fortifying one area or building. When one is mobile, you can continually resupply and avoid danger, picking when to engage the zombies. Vehicles are a must as moving on foot is strenuous, unsafe and slow. Additionally you are more likely to find other survivors and potential member of your convoy; the more people firing and the more vehicles to haul cargo the better. However not everybody will want to be your friends and some will want to kill you and/or take your gear. Be very careful who you trust. Gas is a big logistical concern but can be gathered either at gas stations, from people's garages or by siphoning from the tanks of abandoned cars.
Mobile units will want a variety of weapons, including at least one scoped weapon to help clear an area of undead from a distance if need be and several shotguns/carbines for clearing buildings or other close quarters. Hopefully you and your group will all have secondary weapons such as pistols in case of loss or failure of your primary weapons; you don't always have time to reload or clear a malfunction.
Stationary units will still need the some of the above mentioned gear for supply raids but will also stock longer ranged, higher powered weapons such as sniper rifles as to take advantage of their fortified position and superior ground if they needed to defend their position. The weapons used in raid will also come in handy if your perimeter is compromised or you need to lay down a larger volume of suppressive suppressive fire.
Your shotgun should be a pump-action 12 ga. with as large of a ammo capacity as possible. Pump actions will function with any ammo because you are working the action; semi-auto shotguns are finicky about what ammo they like and makes them cycle every time. Buck shot either #4,1,00, or 000 is a must for combat but some 1 oz slugs to open locked doors would come in handy as well.
For a pistol, I would choose a larger caliber revolver again for reliability with all types of ammo and all type of shooting positions. Auto loading pistols will often not function correctly will lower power ammo loads or if fired with one hand or in other imperfect shooting positions. A Ruger M&P R8 tactical revolver would be ideal as it has an eight-shot cylinder, comparable to a 1911 with the reliability of a revolver in a light weight package. I would load .38 special hollow points over .357 magnum in most situations so that I could place more accurate follow up shots.
Any reasonably accurate rifle would be adequate but hi-capacity magazines and reliability are definitely a huge bonus. This won't come as a surprise but my ideal rifle would be in AK74-S for supreme, unwavering reliability and because the rifle bullet fired out of the smooth, submachine gun bore tend to tumble at distances past 50 yards, which would devastate zombies. This is only if I had marksmen in my unit with intermediate and long range weapons. If I was on my own I would more likely pick an M-4 carbine so that I would be able to accurately engage zombies at great distances if necessary.
Additionally you will want some silent weapons when you want/need to remain unheard, again by either hostile humans or undead, which is most of the time. Crossbows or compound bows would be ideal as they can be very powerful, even at safe distances and you can retrieve and reuse most if not all of your expended ammo. Melee weapons are also useful in this type of situation. I am partial to bolo and kukri machetes but Saheim and I both agree a double edged logger's axe would be extremely effective and keep the zombies at a distance. Pick either a sturdy blunt trauma weapon such as a club or metal bat or a large edged weapon meant for slicing not stabbing such as a katana or axe. Piercing weapons would also work but likely to lesser effect.
Aug 12, 2009
Another gun of the day. Me and my comrade in arms have been going gun crazy. He just bought a Saiga in .308, complete with scope and bipod. We took it out along with my Mossberg with a new pistol grip yesterday and did some sniper training. After we sighted 'er in she shot great, poppin' off head shots . The Mossberg fuckin' bucks now with no shoulder stock and no front pistol grip to help absorb recoil. But it does fit under my trench coat now, along with a bandoleer of 12 ga. This is useful in home-defense situations, obviously...
For those unfamiliar with the gun, Saigas are Russian Kalashnikovs which have been converted to hunting rifle configuration by removing the bayonet lug, pistol grip and ability to accept high capacity magazines, so to circumvent laws preventing the importation of assault weapons into the U.S. These are pretty much top of the line AKs made at famous Izhmash factory. Because of their exempt status from many gun laws, they are extremely cheap for such a well-made, top of the line (almost AK-100 series quality) Avtomat Kalashnikova and widely available. They are relatively easier to reconfigure this rifle in either an assault rifle or Dragonov/sniper configuration, both of which are shown below. See more of my notes on Saigas here
Aug 6, 2009
Aug 3, 2009
This is the first of a series of posts on security culture. If you are engaged in any direct action or just plain old activism, you MUST practice security culture. Also check out the ALF security culture handbook and the IRA Green Book.
For as long as anyone can remember, the FBI has infiltrated radical communities in hopes of framing people on criminal charges. This has intensified in anarchist circles over the past few years. A handful of unfortunates now languish in prison, serving up to decades for actions they never carried out and probably would never have even considered were it not for the efforts of agents provocateurs. How does the government choose who to target? What factors put people at risk? Most importantly, what can we do to protect ourselves and each other?
This is required reading for anyone going to the impending Earth First! Rendezvous in Oregon, the CrimethInc. convergence in Pittsburgh July 20-26, or, for that matter, any other radical gathering or protest. We’ve also added a guide to security culture to our online library, which we hope everyone will read as well.
Cold-Blooded Bounty Hunters
Perhaps, gentle reader, you’ve never been part of a community targeted by the US government. Picture undercover agents attending your events with the intention of setting people up to be framed for illegal activity. Most of your friends and family would have the sense to keep themselves out of trouble, of course—but can you be absolutely sure everyone would?
What if someone fell in love with the agent and was desperate to impress him or her, and the agent took advantage of this? Every community has people in it who may sometimes be gullible or vulnerable, who may not display the best judgment at all times. And what if the agent provocateur is a person everyone trusts and looks up to? Government agents aren’t always outsiders—often, the FBI recruits or blackmails long-time participants, such as Brandon Darby and Frank Ambrose. Don’t underestimate these people; they’re cold-blooded bounty hunters ready to do whatever it takes to earn their paychecks, guided by experts with millions and millions of dollars of funding.
Perhaps you’re still saying to yourself “It would never happen—all of us are law-abiding citizens.” Sure you are, every last one of you. The US has 2.3 million people in prison, and over 5 million more on probation and parole—if there isn’t a single person in your whole community who has ever broken the law, you’re exceptional, and probably exceptionally privileged. Anyway, it doesn’t matter—your unfortunate friend or neighbor doesn’t even have to do anything illegal to get framed by the government. They just have to end up in a situation in which it’s possible to make it appear that they could have been considering doing something illegal.
Often the evidence is so tenuous that it takes the government multiple attempts to obtain a conviction. In an entrapment case resulting from the mobilization against the 2008 Republican National Convention, defendant David McKay received a hung jury at trial, only to be coerced into pleading guilty afterwards behind closed doors. In another recent entrapment case, it took two hung juries before a third jury finally convicted some of the defendants—prompting a law professor quoted by the New York Times to say, “It goes to show that if you try it enough times, you’ll eventually find a jury that will convict on very little evidence.”
Muslims and people who care about the environment are at the top of the list for operations like this; opponents of unaccountable authority are close behind. And here we arrive at the one significant difference between “law-abiding” white middle America and at least some of the communities currently targeted by the FBI: the latter are critical of the government. Who can blame them, considering?
How This Affects Us
There have been two instances in which people who attended a CrimethInc. convergence have been entrapped. Eric McDavid, Zachary Jenson, and Lauren Weiner met each other and an informant by the name of “Anna” at the 2004 and 2005 convergences, among other events. Anna drove them across the country, rented them a wiretapped cabin, bought bomb-making materials, and took advantage of McDavid’s attraction to her to pressure the group into discussions that resulted in McDavid’s conviction on conspiracy charges. Afterwards, Elle Magazine quoted regretful jurors as saying “the FBI was an embarrassment” and “I hope he gets a new trial.” In 2008, Matthew DePalma attended a CrimethInc. convergence in Wisconsin, at which he was approached by Andrew Darst, a federal infiltrator posing as a member of the RNC Welcoming Committee. Darst persuaded DePalma to assist him in manufacturing explosives, recorded conversations with him in a wired apartment, and drove him around to do research and purchase supplies. DePalma was indicted on felony charges [PDF, 3.4 MB] for possession of “unregistered firearms,” and eventually pleaded guilty.
Besides these two cases, not one of the hundreds upon hundreds of people who have attended CrimethInc. convergences has been convicted of anything having to do with bombs or Molotov cocktails. These infiltrators sure are precise! Apparently, they can show up in a chaotic space filled with hundreds of people who don’t know each other, immediately identify the most dangerous extremists, and insinuate themselves into their closest confidence—all in a very short time. Next thing you know, the snitches are saving the day, narrowly rescuing ordinary citizens from terrorist attacks—which the criminals would have been about to carry out anyway, even if the agents provocateurs hadn’t befriended them, talked them into crazy schemes, and supplied them with all sorts of incriminating materials.
If you’re gullible enough to believe that version of the story, you’re a perfect target for government entrapment yourself. It seems much more likely that these agents provocateurs pick on the most vulnerable people they can find: the lonely, the naïve, the impressionable, the mentally or emotionally unstable, people who lack close friendships or life experience. This is easier than messing with shrewd, well-connected organizers. The point is not so much to catch the people organizing resistance to the government—charges of Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Jaywalking are just not that impressive—so much as to discredit resistance movements by framing somebody, anybody, as a Dangerous Terrorist. If that means destroying the life of a person who never would have actually harmed anyone, who cares—honest, compassionate people don’t become snitches in the first place.
None of this is intended to blame or insult those who are entrapped. We all have moments of weakness. The guilt lies on those who take advantage of others’ weakness for their own gain.
How We Defend Ourselves
Why go on meeting publicly, if the government sees this as an opportunity to entrap us? Wouldn’t it be safer to shift to informal networks or small underground cells?
The government would like nothing better than for us to retreat to private scenes and cliques, so there are fewer opportunities for unconnected individuals to get involved. It is to our oppressors’ advantage for small numbers of radicals to escalate to more militant tactics while losing connection to a social base; this makes direct action less likely to spread, while rendering it easier to justify repression. It might be harder for the government to track down clandestine groups at first, but you can bet they’ll set their minds to doing so with a vengeance; Operation Backfire is proof that closed, high-security structures are also not impenetrable.
The most important thing for us to be doing is not secretively carrying out military strikes against the State, but generalizing whatever ideas, skills, and momentum we can. To that end, we desperately need public, participatory activities offering points of entry for new people and opportunities for existing groups to connect.
Right now, there’s no reason to believe that everyone with “RADICAL” stamped on their FBI file is about to be rounded up and sent to camps. It seems that the current government policy is to collect as much intelligence as possible on radicals, target high-visibility organizers with conspiracy charges when there is a good chance of convicting them, and entrap whichever random victims are easiest to frame. That means rank-and-file participation in radical movements and communities is still relatively low-risk, so long as you use your head.
Let’s review what that entails:
Never undertake or discuss illegal activity with people you haven’t known and trusted for a long time. Don’t trust people just because other people trust them or because they are in influential positions. Don’t let others talk you into tactics you’re not comfortable with or ready for. Be aware that anything you say may come back to haunt you, even if you don’t mean it. Always listen to your instincts; if someone seems pushy or too eager to help you with something, take some time to think about the situation. Reflect on the motivations of those around you—do they make sense? Get to know your comrades’ families and friends.
It’s also useful to study the behavior of informants. An interesting analysis of the communications of the agent provocateur in the Eric McDavid case is available here.
All this is fairly common sense among seasoned radicals, but perhaps we can go a step further. Thus far, activists and anarchists have thought of security largely in personal terms—as a way for individuals to avoid incriminating themselves and their friends. The forms of “security culture” common in our communities have reflected this individualism. Yet even if 99 out of 100 anarchists are able to avoid getting framed, when agents provocateurs manage to entrap the 100th one we still end up all paying the price—losing friends, spending years working on prisoner support, and ceding the government yet another opportunity to demonize us in the media.
We need to evolve a new security culture that can protect others as well, including vulnerable and marginal participants in radical spaces who may be particularly appetizing targets to federal bounty hunters. In addition to looking out for yourself, keep an eye on others who may put themselves at risk.
For example, imagine that you attend a presentation about a direct action mobilization, and one person in the audience keeps asking crazy questions and demanding that people escalate their tactics. It’s possible that this person is a cop; it’s also possible that he’s not a cop, but a hothead that might make a very attractive target for cops. Such individuals are typically shunned, which only makes them more vulnerable to agents provocateurs: “Screw these squares—stick with me and we’ll really make something happen!” Someone who has nothing to lose should approach this person in a low-stress environment and emphasize the importance of proper security culture, describing the risks that one exposes himself and others to by speaking so carelessly and urging him to be cautious about trusting anyone who solicits his participation in illegal activity. A ten-minute conversation like this might save years of heartache and prisoner support later on.
A great deal of thinking remains to be done on this subject. How do we look out for each other without prying into each other’s business or stepping on each other’s toes? Are there other ways we can protect against the machinations of infiltrators and informants? We don’t know the answers to these questions yet; we’re asking you to think them through with us. The sooner we can develop a collective security culture that prevents federal agents from framing naïve young people, the sooner we’ll be able to build a durable, visible struggle against oppression.
Aug 1, 2009
Many Vermonters are rugged back-to-the-landers/individualists and tend to do as they please without people bothering them. The relative freedom and lack of state interference that they enjoyed is conducive to the creation of post-capitalist means of production and societal organization on the microscale. Already there are many attempts of doing just this, most of them involving farming but none that I am aware which are truly cooperative, egalitarian or non-hierarchical. Hippy communes used to abound in Vermont but most of them have fallen apart. My dream communal/intentional community would be organized and operated through consensus-based assemblies and guided by principals of self sufficiency, community improvement and education. Growing, gathering and hunting food for the community at some level, depending on resources would be vital. We can work to create pockets of post-capitalist societies in order to create alternatives to participation in the oppressive system of capitalism.
Waste reclamation efforts such as dumpster diving, collecting and returning cans and bottles and scrap metaling would both help to support the community and clean up the environment. Vermont's natural beauty and near pristine "wilderness" are our greatest asset and must be protected. Organizations should participate in Green Up Day, picking up roadside trash to keep Vermont beautiful and also to increase the visibility of your organization's efforts to better Vermont. Additionally gleaning, or picking food from farms and private residences that would not otherwise be picked due to cost effectiveness or other factors. For example many, many people in Vermont have apple tree in their yards which they maintain many for ornamental value. An organization could simply ask homeowners if they mind you picking their apples for a community food bank and/or your own uses.
Beyond worker's collectives and communal farming, Vermont need more radical political networks, ones that are more direct action oriented. Potentially revolutionary political groups in Vermont are too intent on becoming involved in the electoral politics to affect change. And some people, like Bernie Sanders have had limited success in these efforts, but it will never be enough. The civil society of Vermont must be radicalized and energized.
There are some organizations already active in Vermont which seem to have the right idea. Bread and Puppet Theater is a theater troupe which preforms a massive number of show using large, silly puppets to address such subjects as GMOs, organic farming, defense spending, fossil fuels and even Vermont secession. Each performance is concluded with free bread and oil. Their performances are entertaining and thought provoking not to mention that they gather radicals together in one place and encourage discourse, which is always a good thing.
Popular education, that is education of the people is essentially to breaking the neo-liberal/capitalist hegemony of the proletariat. From birth people are indoctrinated against their will and without their knowledge to be complacent with their overlords and be ignorant of their true condition. The people must be politically/socially/economically enlightened as to how the current system does not act in their best interests and furthermore oppressive to the core, hegemonic in all levels of their consciousness and reality. It must be made clear to them that their is a better way and the overthrow of capitalism is the first step to making Vermont a better place. As an old comrade of mine would often say, we must challenge the prevailing narrative and make our fellow workers do the same. Lectures, movie screenings, free classes, newspapers/pamphlets, etc. must be utilized to not only educate the people but also create a powerful class consciousness. Encouraging disobedience and resistance among the populace is necessary in creating revolutionary conditions. Volunteers are also need for literacy programs including computer literacy. These skills are a basic human right and Vermont's civil society must make up for the short comings of public education system, especially in the adult population. I used to tutor immigrants in English and basic computer skills, both of which are major barriers to success in this country.
These are only some ideas and obviously the struggle towards socialism is an incredibly complicated and arduous one. This post is meant as a jumping off point to create both radical discourse and radical action in Vermont. As always comments are encouraged.
Also see an old post of mine along the same lines.