Saturday, October 19, 2013


Theoretical weekends will hear today from Mao Zedong.  Mao had this thing about bureaucracy.  He didn't like it much.  He wanted badly to eliminate it, get rid of it, get past it.  Of course, this wasn't easy.  Never is, but must be done.  On that I agree with the Great Helmsman.  Of course, bureaucracy was one of the targets of the Cultural Revolution.  In the midst of all that was happening, in February of 1970 Mao wrote down in plain language a little about the problem in a work called TWENTY MANIFESTATIONS OF BUREAUCRACY.  It is not too late to take a read.  The following is from something called Communist Philosophy Education.


1.  At the highest level there is very little knowledge; they do not understand the opinion of the masses; they do not investigate and study; they do not grasp specific policies; they do not conduct political and ideological work; they are divorced from reality, from the masses, and from the leadership of the party; they always issue orders, and the orders are usually wrong, they certainly mislead the country and the people; at the least they obstruct the consistent adherence to the party line and policies; and they cannot meet with the people.
2.  They are conceited, complacent, and they aimlessly discuss politics. They do not grasp their work, they are subjective and one-sided; they are careless; they do not listen to people; they are truculent and arbitrary; they force orders; they do not care about reality; they maintain blind control. This is authoritarian bureaucracy.
3.  They are very busy from morning until evening, they labour the whole year long; they do not examine people and they do not investigate matters; they do not study policies; they do not rely upon the masses; they do not prepare their statements; they do not plan their work. This is brainless, misdirected bureaucracy. In other words, it is routinism.
4.  Their bureaucratic attitude is immense; they cannot have any direction; they are egoistic; they beat their gongs to blaze the way; they cause people to become afraid just by looking at them; they repeatedly hurl all kinds of abuse at people; their work style is crude; they do not treat people equally. This is the bureaucracy of the overlords.
5.  They are ignorant; they are ashamed to ask anything; they exaggerate and they lie; they are very false; they attribute errors to people; they attribute merit to themselves; they swindle the central government; they deceive those above them and fool those below them; they conceal faults and gloss over wrongs. This is the dishonest bureaucracy.
6.  They do not understand politics; they do not do their work; they push things off onto others; they do not meet their responsibilities; they haggle; they put things off; they are insensitive; they lose their alertness. This is the irresponsible bureaucracy.
7.  They are negligent about things; they subsist as best they can; they do not have anything to do with people; they always make mistakes; they offer themselves respectfully to those above them and are idle towards those below them; they are careful in every respect; they are eight-sided and slippery as eels. This is the bureaucracy of those who work as officials and barely make a living.
8.  They do not completely learn politics; they do not advance in their work; their manner of speech is tasteless; they have no direction in their leadership; they neglect the duties of their office while taking the pay; they make up things for the sake of appearances. The idlers [e.g., landlord] do not begin any matters, but concentrate mainly upon their idleness; those who work hard, are virtuous, and do not act like the officials are treated poorly. This is the deceitful, talentless bureaucracy.
9.  They are stupid; they are confused; they do not have a mind of their own; they are rotten sensualists; they glut themselves for days on end; they are not diligent at all, they are inconstant and they are ignorant. This is the stupid, useless bureaucracy.
10.  They want others to read documents; the others read and they sleep; they criticize without looking at things; they criticize mistakes and blame people; they have nothing to do with mistakes; they do not discuss things; they push things aside and ignore it; they are yes men to those above them; they pretend to understand those below them, when they do not; they gesticulate; and they harbour disagreements with those on their same level. This is the lazy bureaucracy.
11.  Government offices grow bigger and bigger; things are more confused; there are more people than there are jobs; they go around in circles; they quarrel and bicker; people are disinclined to do extra things; they do not fulfil their specific duties. This is the bureaucracy of government offices.
12.  Documents are numerous; there is red tape; instructions proliferate; there are numerous unread reports that are not criticized; many tables and schedules are drawn up and are not used; meetings are numerous and nothing is passed on; and there are many close associations but nothing is learned. This is the bureaucracy of red tape and formalism.
13.  They seek pleasure and fear hardships; they engage in back door deals; one person becomes an official and the entire family benefits; one person reaches nirvana and all his close associates rise up to heaven; there are parties and gifts are presented. . . This is the bureaucracy for the exceptional.
14.  The greater an official becomes, the worse his temperament gets; his demands for supporting himself become higher and higher; his home and its furnishings become more and more luxurious; and his access to things becomes better and better. The upper strata gets the larger share while the lower gets high prices; there is extravagance and waste; the upper and lower and the left and right raise their hands. This is the bureaucracy of putting on official airs.
15.  They are egotistical; they satisfy private ends by public means; there is embezzlement and speculation; the more they devour, the more they want; and they never step back or give in. This is egotistical bureaucracy.
16.  They fight among themselves for power and money; they extend their hands into the Party; they want fame and fortune; they want positions and, if they do not get them, they are not satisfied; they choose to be fat and to be lean; they pay a great deal of attention to wages; they are cosy when it comes to their comrades but they care nothing about the masses. This is the bureaucracy that is fighting for power and money.
17.  A plural leadership cannot be harmoniously united; they exert themselves in many directions, and their work is in a state of chaos; they try to crowd each other out; the top is divorced from the bottom and there is no centralization, nor is there any democracy. This is the disunited bureaucracy.
18.  There is no organization; they employ personal friends; they engage in factionalism; they maintain feudal relationships; they form cliques to further their own private interest; they protect each other, the individual stands above everything else; these petty officials harm the masses. This is sectarian bureaucracy.
19.  Their revolutionary will is weak; their politics has degenerated and changed its character; they act as if they are highly qualified; they put on official airs; they do not exercise their minds or their hands. They eat their fill every day; they easily avoid hard work; they call a doctor when they are not sick; they go on excursions to the mountains and to the seashore; they do things superficially; they worry about their individual interests, but they do not worry whatsoever about the national interest. This is degenerate bureaucracy.
20.  They promote erroneous tendencies and a spirit of reaction; they connive with bad persons and tolerate bad situations; they engage in villainy and transgress the law; they engage in speculation; they are a threat to the Party and the state; they suppress democracy; they fight and take revenge, they violate laws and regulations; they protect the bad; they do not differentiate between the enemy and ourselves. This is the bureaucracy of erroneous tendencies and reaction.

Friday, October 18, 2013


It is prison Friday and we return to the case of Russell Maroon ShoatZ.  

Russell is a founding member of the Black Unity Council and a former member of the Black Panther Party.

Russell was a solider in the Black Liberation Army and he is serving endless time for an attack on a police station which resulted in the death of an officer.

In 1991 Russell was placed in solitary confinement.  He has been there ever since.  The South Brooklyn Anarchist Black Cross reports just 5 days after observing his 70th birthday, on August 28, 2013 Shoatz was,
transferred to the State Correctional Institution (SCI) at Frackville, amaximum security institution. He has once again been immediately placed ina restricted housing unit (RHU): solitary confinement of twenty-three-hour-a-day lock down. Shoatz was not given a reason for the transfer.

The transfer came one week before Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’
(PA DOC) officials, including Secretary John Wetzel, must report to a
federal judge on the progress of Shoatz’s release into the general
population. DOC defendants in the case Shoatz v. Wetzel have represented to the court on multiple occasions that they intend to release
Shoatz into the general population, but have so far failed to do so.

Coming on the heels of a weekend of events held around the country in honor
of Shoatz’s birthday, the transfer highlights the refusal of the PA DOC to
respond to a major international campaign, launched in May 2012, to win the
release of this senior citizen into General Population. In a birthday
message sent jointly to Shoatz and PA DOC Secretary Wetzel, three Nobel
Peace Prize recipients – Archbishop Desmond Tutu of
South Africa, Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor and Mairead Corrigan Maguire
of Ireland – demanded “in the strongest possible humanitarian terms” that
“now is the time for the immediate and unconditional release” of Shoatz.

Archbishop Tutu, a founder of the Elders group which includes Nelson
Mandela and former US President Jimmy Carter, and Ramos-Horta, former
President of East Timor and a Special Representative of the United Nations,
have vowed that they will continue to monitor the situation of Shoatz until
his “unfair and unjust treatment” is alleviated. A report of Shoatz’s case
has been formally filed with the office of the UN Special
Rapporteur on Torture, Juan E. Mendez.

For more on Russell, please check out the Scission post, "Russell Maroon Shoats Is a Political Prisoner."

I have no idea why his name is spelled with an "s" in one place and a "z" in another.  But then, who cares.

The following is from  Free Russell Maroon Shoatz.

Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submit request to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

October 17, 2013: Pittsburgh PA —  Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submitted acommunication to the United Nations Special Rapportuer on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Juan Mendez, requesting that he inquire into Shoatz’s nearly 30 years of solitary confinement within the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC). Shoatz is a 70-year-old, former Black Panther Party member who has been locked in solitary confinement at various state prisons for the past 22 consecutive years, and 28 of the past 30 years.

The request comes at a time when the campaign to release Shoatz from solitary confinement has been gathering increasing international attention. In August, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Jose Ramos-Horta of East Timor, Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa marked the occasion of Maroon’s 70th birthday by sending a letter to PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel that read: “We also affirm, in the strongest possible humanitarian terms, that now is the time for the immediate and unconditional release from solitary confinement and restricted housing of Russell Maroon Shoatz. After decades of solitary confinement – including the past 22 consecutive years – there is no reason for further delay. Continued confinement in 23-hour-a-day isolation is nothing short of torture.”

For the last 23 years, Shoatz has had an impeccable disciplinary record, and has not received on serious rule violation during this time. Despite his model behavior, advancing years, and health problems, the PA DOC has refused to release this father, grandfather, great-grandfather, human rights advocate, and published author into the general prison population.

“The Special Rapporteur on Torture has recently spoken out about similar instances of extraordinary long-term solitary confinement in the United States in Pelican Bay state prison and in the case of the Angola 3. Like these cases, the solitary confinement of Russell Shoatz is yet another extreme violation of international human rights standards,” said Jules Lobel, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights and one of the attorney who submitted the document to the Special Rapporteur on Shoatz’s behalf.

Although Shoatz is still held in the solitary confinement unit, he has been permitted more out of cell time in recent weeks, as prison officials inform him that he is being assessed for release from isolation. On September 23, 2013, Shoatz began a 60-day step-down program where he is permitted out of his cell as a block worker for approximately one-hour Monday through Friday.

Although this program represents the most out-of-cell time Shoatz has been afforded since he was in federal prison in 1991, and the most in a PA DOC prison since 1983, there is no guarantee that he will eventually be released into the general population. Prison officials have stated that he will merely be considered for release after the completion of the program.

The communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture was submitted by Jules Lobel; Dan Kovalik, Senior Associate General Counsel for the United Steelworkers; Dustin McDaniel and Bret Grote of the Abolitionist Law Center; and attorney Hal Engel.

The 14-page document observes that a 2011 report issued by the Special Rapporteur provided a “legal analysis . . . that resoundingly affirms the conclusion that U.S.-style solitary confinement units are prohibited under international law.” It called on the Special Rapporteur to “immediately initiate a prompt and comprehensive investigation into the facts surrounding Russell Maroon Shoatz’s nearly 30 years of solitary confinement in the PA DOC.”

 The communication concluded by recognizing that even if he is soon released from isolation, “It is vital that the egregious violations of Shoatz’s human rights are recognized by your office and the international human rights community more broadly, both for his own sake, and for the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children who have been subjected to these conditions of social isolation and sensory deprivation in U.S. jails and prisons over the years.”

MEDIA RELEASE: Lawyers for Russell Maroon Shoatz submit request to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture

Contact:          Bret Grote            412-654-9070

For more details see:

Thursday, October 17, 2013


A specter haunts the world and it is the specter of migration.
                          ----Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri 

I am late today, but the subject at hand is anything but.  Migrant workers around the world face obstacles like few other workers anywhere...and it ain't like those other workers have it all that great either.

In the news we see ships full of poor workers sinking in the Medeterranian and scores drown.  In the deserts of New Mexico and Arizona, scores more die of thirst and heat.  In the Emirates workers are locked in dorms, cheated, raped, and abused.  Everywhere the story is the same, yet everywhere workers are on the move.  Why?  Is migration a positive or a negative?  Why?  Is migration the future or the past?  Why?  What should the stand of communists, anarchists, Marxists, progressive people be in regard to the international movement of labor across borders, seas, and mountain?  What can be done and what should be done?

I have my own thoughts on all this, but today I am keeping them silent, except for this.  Borders are bullshit and people have the right to move as they please and need.  Movement is one way of fighting the Empire and global capital, with our own form of alter globalization.   The fight against this exploitation and abuse and on behalf of migratory labor is the fight against Capital. The movement of labor across borders is part of the class struggle today.  It is working people who are moving.  It is Capital which is forced to respond once again.  As capital flows across borders and increasingly knows no State, so labor does the same...fleeing from and moving toward. The exploitation of migratory labor is purely the result of global capital struggling to save surplus value, its rate of profit, its accumulation of capital, its power, command, and control.

Anyway, I'll leave it at that and give you two more posts today.  The first is from The South Afreican Civil society Information Service, and can serve as sort of a backgrounder, if you like.  The second is a manifesto written by some folks active in the No Borders UK network. It was written last year, but it is far from dated.


By Glenn Ashton · 15 Oct 2013

The recent tragedy off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, in which over 300 migrants were drowned, placed inequality between the developing and developed world into sharp focus. That people are desperate enough to risk their lives for economic opportunities highlights two perceptions of the migrants – how bad things are in some nations and how good they appear to be in others. World leaders must urgently re-examine what drives the ever increasing numbers of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers to leave their homes.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), 2013 sees the highest number of refugees for the past 15 years. The estimated number of around 45 million internal and external refugees is similar to the entire population of a medium size country like South Africa or Spain. Yet even these figures fail to tell anything like the full story.

The UN definition of refugees remains narrow and excludes categories such as economic migrants, climate change refugees and slaves. Consequently the global number of migrants and refugees is considerably under-reported, primarily because migrants – political, economic or environmental - are excluded from claiming refugee status, except under extremely limited circumstances. Africa remains a colonial vassal to the first world, isolated behind geographical and political barriers.

Zimbabwe is a prime example of statisticians’ uncertainty regarding numbers of displaced citizens. This regime, with its continued political persecution and ongoing economic precariousness, epitomises instability. However the UNHCR only lists a total of 118 452 Zimbabwean persons of concern, as of January 2013. South African immigration officials have registered around 300 000 Zimbabwean migrants. These figures do not reflect the reality. The International Organisation of Migration (IOM) office in Harare cites figures of between 500 000 to 4 million Zimbabweans living outside the country, most in neighbouring nations, others scattered as far abroad as Canada and Australia.

Besides political instability, Zimbabwean migrants flee primarily because of the lack of economic opportunity, reflecting the larger reasons for African migration to Europe and elsewhere. Failing states without social safety nets and with poor health care, collapsing municipal and state services and a general lack of opportunity to thrive are major drivers of migration. This the underlying reason that Sengalese, Somalians, Chadians or numerous other African nationals seek refuge and opportunity in Europe. They are no different to Salvadoreans, Mexicans or Columbians seeking Elysian fields in the USA or Canada. These millions of migrants assume huge risks on their perilous journeys and are prone to further exploitation and abuse at their eventual destinations.

It is not only the well-publicised Mediterranean crossing that experiences particularly high death rates. Crossing the desert to just reach exit points to Europe is equally perilous. Migrants are regularly crowded into superheated containers crossing the Sahara, or simply robbed and abandoned mid-journey, with untold numbers of skeletons whispering their secrets into the sandy ocean.

Migrants using the route from the horn of Africa across the Red Sea to the Sinai Peninsula, Yemen and Saudi Arabia are even more at risk. It appears that the majority of women are raped, often continuously, or condemned into slavery, as are many men. Hundreds have perished on this crossing but their travails are only occasionally covered by the corporate media. Migrants across the Sinai fall victim to Israeli organ smugglers, several gangs of which have been exposed around the world.

Given these horrific realities it is unsurprising that many African migrants choose to head south, instead of north. South Africa now hosts high numbers of migrants besides Zimbabweans. Somali, Ethiopian and Eritrean shopkeepers – often indistinguishable to locals – are fixtures of many township corner shops. Pakistanis, Chinese and Bangladeshis further swell the numbers. These immigrants regularly fall victim to crimes of opportunity, xenophobia or exploitation by authorities and police.

While the UNHCR finds Asia has the largest numbers of refugees, the skewed reporting and relative poverty of Africa arguably places migrants in the African milieu at greater risk. Although the situation in Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan is dire, Asian refugees generally have broader opportunity to escape their situation than most Africans, directly into Europe via Asia. African migrants are essentially imprisoned on the continent, isolated by oceans and deserts let alone the ruthless exploitation of human smugglers and corrupt officials.

While nations like Australia have established exclusionary migration policies, the ascendancy of an increasingly racist right wing across Fortress Europe has, in concert with economic stagnation, curtailed the already limited migrant numbers entering the continent. Over 30 000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far this year. Around one quarter historically receive refugee status, with many others repatriated.

These realities are exacerbated by the fact that Africa remains exploited by colonial and neo-colonial economic policies enforced by the dominant global north. This is further compounded by the immoral exploitation of its economic resources.

Illicit financial outflows through gambits like corporate money laundering, support of kleptocrats and tax avoidance are estimated to have lost Africa between $850 billion and $1.8 trillion between 1970 and 2008, dwarfing aid. Even the so-called aid grudgingly paid to Africa is pathetic. The US pays Israel 6 times more than the entire African continent, which presently supplies around 14% of its oil. During the cold war half of US aid to Africa went to repressive African regimes. US food aid continues to disrupt unsophisticated local agricultural markets. Europe does little better, preferring to arm Africa than deliver on debt reduction or promises of increased trade. EU trade liberalisation alone has cost Africa more than $300 billion since the late 1980’s, let alone ecological costs to marine and forest ecosystems.

The economic balance sheet remains increasingly skewed toward the advantage of the global north. The welfare of most Africans has decreased markedly over the past half century. Resource rich nations like Nigeria, Congo and Angola are openly exploited for their resources while one in four children there will not reach their fifth birthday. In short, double standards prevail between governance in the north and south.

Globalisation sees increasing liberalisation of trade in goods and services to the advantage of the developed north. While immigration of skilled labour is embraced by the north – again exploiting scarce African resources - the same does not apply to unskilled migrants. Africa has effectively been reduced to the role of a captive, continental-scale colony, where its land, resources, environment and people are exploited by the developed world.

When blame is apportioned, the media parses it in tropes of poor leadership and unstable democracy. In reality, the fundamental reasons for African instability can be laid directly at the door of continued exploitation of Africa by neo-colonial policies, enforced by the rich on the poor.

Migrants attempting to escape from Africa are cast as victims of self-imposed poverty and corruption by the dominant media and economic discourse. Instead, each and every single victim should serve as a stark reminder to the developed world that their death reflects the symptoms of an exploitative system made manifest.
Ashton is a writer and researcher working in civil society. Some of his work can be viewed at 

A No Borders manifesto

A manifesto written by some people active in the No Borders UK network. Please note that this manifesto has not been endorsed by everyone in the network. It is simply meant to stimulate thinking and discussion.


1. Freedom of movement is not a right; it is a real living force. Despite all the obstacles that states put in people’s way — all the barriers of barbed wire, money, laws, ID cards, surveillance and so on — millions
cross borders every day. For every migrant stopped or deported, many more get through and stay, whether legally or clandestinely. Don’t overestimate the strength of the state and its borders. Don’t underestimate the strength of everyday resistance.

2. In the 19th century, militants fighting against slavery in the US
created an ‘underground railroad’ that smuggled many thousand runaway slaves to safety, as well as enabling acts of sabotage and rebellion. In the 20th century, the term was used again by the anti-Nazi resistance in Europe. Can No Borders become a 21st century underground railroad across Europe and beyond?

3. The most successful and inspiring No Borders work has been just about this: creating strong networks to support free movement across Europe’s borders. This is the infrastructure of a growing movement of resistance: contacts, information, resources, meeting points, public drop-ins, safe houses, and so on. A pool of formal and informal connections, a web of solidarity, working on both public and clandestine levels.

4. People manage to move, live, and evade state control because they are part of communities and networks. Migration happens because of millions of connections between millions of people. Our No Borders networks are one small part of this. Yet, as a movement, we can play an active role in bringing such connections together across national and cultural boundaries. Our struggle is one and the same.

5. People move for many different reasons. Many of the causes of global
migration can be traced back to the West’s imperial and capitalist
ventures: western-manufactured weapons and armed conflicts, wars of
aggression in pursuit of oil and other natural resources, repressive
regimes backed by Western governments, climate change and land grabs, and so on. But this is not the whole story. We shouldn’t overemphasise the role of western powers and fall into the trap of seeing people who migrate as helpless victims. People have always travelled in search of better living conditions, or simply to pursue their dreams and desires.

6. Modern states try to turn movement into a right that is granted or
denied according to economic and political power. Elites and ‘first world’
citizens with purchasing power can travel and settle where they want,
while the poor are controlled and criminalised. Some may be let through
because they are deemed to be useful to the economy, or because they are classed as ‘genuine refugees’. Categories like refugee, asylum seeker, economic migrant and illegal immigrant are used to divide and control. This is why we use the term ‘migrant’ for all.

7. There are many fronts to fight on against this rotten economic and
political system. We do not want to make No Borders some kind of model or metaphor for every fight against domination and repression. We are drawn to this struggle for our own reasons and out of our own passions and histories – for example, many of us are migrants or the children of migrants. However, there are some specific reasons why we think free movement is right at the heart of struggles in Europe at this moment.

7.1. Migrants from poor countries are the first line of attack for
retrenching European governments and economies in a time of crisis. With limited rights and no visibility, migrants are often the first workers to lose their jobs when the recession bites; the first to be targeted by increased repression and new surveillance technologies; the first to be
blamed and scapegoated for capitalism’s crises; and the first to be dispensed with when their labour is no longer needed.

7.2. But migrants are often also the first to resist, and to develop
alternative infrastructures outside the reach of the state. In 17th
century England, travelling workers and beggars thrown off their land by
the enclosures started early revolutionary movements like the Levellers,
Diggers and Ranters. In the 19th century, anarchism grew up among
dispossessed migrant communities in Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Chicago or the East End of London. In the 20th century, the anti-Nazi resistance in France was begun by exiles from Spain and Eastern Europe. The
precariousness of migrant groups means they would always need to develop new ways of organising in order to survive. The loss of old ties and certainties encourages new ways of thinking and acting.

7.3. Migrants may be the first under attack, but they won’t be the last.
The conditions faced by clandestine migrants show what we can all look
forward to in austerity Europe: mass unemployment, less employment rights and more exploitation, less welfare, repression more brutal and naked. This is what the crisis really means: the so-called first world turning into a third world, with widespread poverty and a stark class divide. The old compromise of the welfare state, which kept workers in the West quiet by guaranteeing basic living standards, is crumbling. As illusions and disguises are shattered, we see the return of open confrontation between the elites and the rest of us.

8. No Borders has its roots in anarchism. There is plenty to criticise in
the recent history of European anarchism. Too often anarchists have
retreated into their own identity, forming a subculture and cutting
themselves off from the wider struggles around them. But there are also
many positive things we should retain, including the Do It Yourself (DIY)
culture of recent decades. Social centres, activist kitchens, independent
media, housing and workers’ co-operatives, secure communication networks and other DIY projects are valuable resources – so long as we recognise that, like migration, activism is not an identity but something we do. For example, No Borders squats in Calais and in big cities across Europe are not lifestyle choices but essential shelters and resource points. And as the safety blanket of European welfare systems is pulled away, more and more of us will have to find new ways to do things ourselves. All our know-how on the streets, at the barricades, in practical support and mobility, will become precious. The point is to make our skills and resources part of wider movements of resistance.

9. No Borders needs to be an open and diverse movement. Many different people, with and without papers, have contributions to make. To make this a reality we have to tackle the borders within our movement too. We need to constantly address different forms of privilege, whether based on people’s legal status, language, education, gender, race, class, or simply people’s other commitments and abilities to face different levels of risk.

10. This is not a game. We are fed up with shit actions. We need to
distance ourselves from the symbolic stunt activism that has come to
dominate many activist scenes. Stunt activism seeks to grab the attention of the mainstream media and, through them, to win over so-called public opinion. It can make sense to pay attention to the media, but not to make them our main focus. We need to scrap the idea – pushed by the state and media corporations – that there is one unified, homogeneous mass of ‘normal people’ called the public. There is no such public; only lots of different people and groups with different, often conflicting, interests and desires. And the mainstream media don’t speak for any such public anyway – they speak for the media corporations and advertisers who set the agenda.

11. We therefore propose a few principles for No Borders activities:

11.1. Number one: our actions should be direct actions in the true sense.
They should have direct material outcomes, even if these are only small – if we stop one person being deported, if one migration prisoner manages to escape, if one person gets a safe roof over their heads, if we stop one eviction, win one asylum case, help one person trapped in the system to find strength to get through the days, win one workplace struggle, cause some real damage to a company’s profits, this is a material gain. When we do meaningless symbolic actions that fail to achieve anything, we only get discouraged, while the system gets stronger. When we achieve direct successes, these reverberate in our communities, encouraging those already taking part and inspiring others to get involved, thereby strengthening the network as a whole.

11.2. Number two: every action should also have a broader aim: to build
the infrastructure of resistance and rebellion. This means developing and strengthening our networks, making new alliances, acquiring useful skills and material resources. The audience of our actions is not ‘public
opinion’; it is all those we want fighting beside us. Our aim is not to convince the majority of the European population of the No Borders
argument. The people we most need to work with already know very well what borders mean.

11.3. Number three: pick tactics strategically. We should think carefully,
and seriously, about our strengths and weaknesses. We should be clear
about what our actions can actually achieve, and where we need to improve and be better prepared. Dogmas, fantasies, and ingrained habits should be questioned all the time. We must acknowledge the valuable work to be done by people who, for various reasons, cannot take on certain risks. But we must also recognise that, if our movement is to begin to really challenge the border regime, many of us will face serious risks and far more serious repression. Our defence against repression and fear is to create a strong culture of solidarity.

12. Radical grassroots movements are the groundwork for the new world we carry in our hearts. At first they start as essential support lines for escape and small-scale resistance, and for the small hidden acts of counter-attack and sabotage that are available to the weak. At the same time, resistance and struggle are not separate from the rest of life – these networks and communities are the same ones in which we live, learn, play, work, invent and build alternative social and political structures. As a movement’s strength grows, and as crises expose weaknesses in its enemies, these networks become the infrastructure for open rebellion. So the 19th century underground railroad was the basis for slave revolts during the US civil war. The underground railroad of the 1940s broke out into partisan uprisings. What new forms might struggle take in the 21st century? We don’t know, but let’s find out.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Anyone familiar with spectator sports of any kind know the name Bob Costas.  He's been around broadcasting since the early 1980s.

Well, Sunday night during NBC's Sunday Night Football, at halftime, Costas took on the Washington Redskins.  It was the first time and it was important that it occured in the midst of a hugely watched national broadcast of America's most favorite team sport...NFL Football.

He used two minutes of airtime to do so.  That might not seem like much and his actions aren't like the bravest thing ever done, but, you know what, it's a big deal,  whatever you think. 

Costas said that the word Redskins,  "...can’t possibly honor a heritage or a noble character trait, nor could it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur no matter how benign the present-day intent."

Costas wasn't through.  The next day he appeared on The Dan Patrick radio program.  Costas had a question for Washington's football teams owner Don Snyder:

“If you were to walk into a gathering of Native Americans–if you were on a reservation or happened to come across a family of Native Americans in a restaurant, and you began conversing with them–would you feel comfortable referring to them as Redskins?”

Personally, I liked to see Snyder try that. 

Right wingers and racists jumped all over Costas for his "audacity."  Many on the left thought he was too mild and let too many off the hook.

Again, the fact that this man said something on this night is of importance if one actually cares about getting rid of that slur of a name and of dealing with the whole issue of racist mascots and names in general.  It is important to take on the issue of white supremacy in popular culture in a place where millions of "not just the choir" are watching.  If one is only interested in scoring some polemical victory on either the left or the right, then I suppose it is of no matter.

It is interesting that less then two weeks earlier Steven Gaydos wrote on the Variety web site:

What’s wrong with this sports picture?

Perhaps the most overdue demonstration of one scintilla of the testosterone that drives the multibillion dollar sports broadcasting industry is for one leading figure from CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC et al to stand up to the dude who owns the Washington Redskins and say, “We think your refusal to change the name of your franchise stinks.”

Perhaps that could be phrased in a slightly less contentious, confrontational manner, but hey, this is the big-time macho, masculine world of concussions, blown knees and lots of violent felony convictions.

Could the television, radio and online folks making billions off all of the crashing and banging on field demonstrate that they have one tiny gonad between all of them?

Or do the riches they make off the NFL render them as impotent as a pep squad full of castratos?

Consider that the Washington Bullets changed their name because frankly, there are enough real bullets in Washington, D.C. to warrant a little sensitivity, which is all that is being asked of billionaire franchise owner Daniel Marc Snyder.

Since it doesn’t seem likely that anyone is launching a sports franchise named the Whiteys, Rednecks, Blackfaces, Yellowskins, Brownbacks, it raises the question as to why Mr. Snyder is sticking to his guns and continues to shoot down any effort by Native Americans, especially the Oneida tribe, who simply would like a little of what Otis and Aretha sang about decades ago.

How about a little respect?

That's tough in a white supremacist society...

Both Posts below are from The Nation.  The first is relates to Costas' remarks.  The second (from 2011) gets into the racist history of the Washington Football franchise in general.  You will want to read them both.

Bob Costas Spoke Out Against ‘Redskins,’ and It Was a Big Deal

Broadcast personality Bob Costas looks into the camera while at yesterday’s game between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, in Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Judging by the utterly unscientific polling in my twitter feed, Bob Costas’s half-time commentary on the Washington Redskins name managed to displease almost everybody. The sports fans were enraged that Costas said the name could be seen as “a slur” and “an insult”. They were irate that Costas would bring his “politics” into sports, as if having a team representing the nation’s capital called “Redskins” is not in fact political. They also used various forms of the phrase “pussification of America,” which makes me curious why the men in my Twitter feed who love the Redskins name also seem to have such unbridled contempt for women.

On the other side of the issue, there were many tweeting, texting, and e-mailing me that they were angry Costas started his commentary by saying, ”[T]here’s no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus towards Native Americans, or chooses to disrespect them.” They argued that by telling mistruths about the team’s history, responding with such rancor to those asking about changing the name and refusing to meet with Native Americans who disagree with the name, he is absolutely “disrespecting” Native American history.

They were also upset that Costas stated that names like the Braves—home of the tomahawk chop—and the Kansas City Chiefs—home of this guy– “honor, rather than demean” and “they’re pretty much the same as Vikings, Patriots, or even Cowboys.” People pointed out that there is a reason all “mascoting” of Native Americans has been opposed by the Oneida, the Choctaw and many other Tribal councils. It is because they turn Native American culture into solely a symbol of the savage and the violent. They also, as minstrelsy tends to do, allows the dominant culture to turn a blind eye to the very real problems of poverty, education and healthcare in the Native American community.

My view, and I cannot say this forcefully enough, is that whatever problems people may have with the content of what Bob Costas said, the veteran broadcaster seized the moment and was a profile in courage. Costas did the unthinkable: he took a stand against racism on national television. He also openly—as he did a year ago by addressing gun culture after the horrific murder suicide perpetrated by Chiefs’ player Jovan Belcher against Kasandra Perkins—willingly courted the ire of disturbingly violent right-wing sports fans and their droogs in the conservative blogosphere. (These right-wingers seem to always ignore that the greatest backer of changing the name in Congress is Oklahoma Republican and Choctaw Nation member Tom Cole.)

Take a step back and look at what Costas did. He faced the camera on the most watched television show in the United States and said the following.

“Think for a moment about the term ‘Redskins,’ and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be if directed towards African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians or any other ethnic group. When considered that way, ‘Redskins’ can’t possibly honor a heritage or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent.”

If you had told me even two months ago that Bob Costas would be saying those words, I would have been in a state of shock. The terrain has changed. Credit for this should go to The Oneida Nation, the Choctaw, Suzan Harjo, and—unsung in the media—the longtime work on this in hostile environs by Washington Post columnist Mike Wise. Credit should also go to RG3, the team quarterback whose greatness—on display even in last night’s terrible loss to the Cowboys—has made the team relevant for the first time in fifteen years. Credit should also go to team owner Dan Snyder for being so ineffably obnoxious about the whole issue, it makes anyone who stands alongside him feel like they need to shower with steel wool afterwards. And credit should truly go to Bob Costas for having the guts to take what is still a minority position and put it to the widest possible audience.

I believe that support for the “Redskins” name is 1,000 miles wide and one inch thick. Most people just, in the words of former coach Joe Gibbs, “haven’t really thought about it.” Bob Costas now has people thinking about it, and that is the first step toward a long overdue change.


A History Lesson for the Redskins Owner

    Redskins owner Dan Snyder, in the wake of his widely reviled defamation suit against the Washington City Paper, has been on a DC media charm offensive to tell his side of the story. Unfortunately “Dan Snyder” and “charm” go together like “Glenn Beck” and “sanity.” He’s the sort of person who comes off as both nasty and needy at the same time. Think Dina Lohan, if Dina Lohan looked like George Costanza with hair. But in one interview, with Lavar Arrington, Mike Wise and others on 106.7 The Fan, Snyder really crossed the line from “charm offensive” to racist historical whitewash.

Part of Snyder’s suit against the City Paper is that a drawing of him was anti-Semitic. Mike Wise asked if this was a somewhat hypocritical given that he owns a billion dollar team named after a racial slur. Snyder responded,

"Obviously, you have not read some of the history of the Redskins and the name of the team and what it means," he said. "What's most important is that what the Redskins are all about is the tradition of the Redskins, fighting for old D.C., victory. The terminology of the Redskins is not meant to be offensive, and to compare that is silly."

What lies. It’s like saying the Ku Klux Klan burned crosses because they liked praying and roasting marshmallows at the same time.

It’s especially disgusting because this year marks a golden anniversary Snyder’s team is doing their best to ignore: it’s the 50th year since the team desegregated. The beloved local team was the last NFL franchise to integrate, and only did so after a rising protest movement and the Kennedy administration forced the issue. The roadblock to integration was the man who brought the team to Washington and, not at all coincidentally, bestowed the team with the name “Redskins”:  George Preston Marshall. Marshall was without question a great football innovator who invented rituals like halftime shows, the Pro Bowl, and was an early popularizer of the forward pass. He was also a stone bigot. At the time, the Redskins were the southern-most team in the NFL, and Marshall marketed his team to a white Southern audience by playing Dixie before games and saying proudly, “We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites.” This is why the team is called Redskins: it was a racist name from a racist owner.

Marshall was stubborn to keep the team white despite the fact that the Redskins were simply a terrible team, winning one game the previous season.  This ratcheted up the pressure on Marshall who found himself facing a struggle with civil rights activists and the Kennedy administration over his racist policies.  Marshall’s active bedfellows in keeping the Redskins white included the American Nazi Party, and the KKK who marched in front of the stadium. On the other side were organizations like the NAACP, the Congress On Racial Equality (CORE), and JFK's Interior Secretary, Stewart L. Udall. It was a saga that would end with the signing of the Redskins' first black players, Ron Hatcher and future hall-of-famer Bobby Mitchell, fifteen years after the rest of the league had integrated.

Udall is historically given the lion's share of credit for forcing Marshall's hand. While he certainly deserves recognition, it's unlikely that he would have pressed as hard without the actions of civil rights activists and ordinary black residents of DC, who had been protesting segregation for years outside of the old Griffith Stadium.

In 1961, the Redskins moved into brand new, publicly financed DC Stadium (now RFK Stadium); the shiny new facility quickly became a battleground, with competing demonstrations held by segregationists and civil rights activists alike. Built with $24 million in public funds, the new stadium sat on land owned by the National Capital Parks and thus by the federal government. Udall used this leverage against Marshall, threatening in March 1961 to rescind the federal government's lease to use the stadium if the franchise owner didn't sign a black player.

Under banners reading “Keep Redskins White!” the American Nazi Party and the Ku Klux Klan paraded around the stadium in protest. But civil rights activists countered with pickets of their own, with signs reading: "People who can't play together, can't live together.”

Marshall was intransigent, declaring that “no one of intelligence has ever questioned my theories on race or religion.” But in a city with a new black majority that could not even vote in a presidential elections at the time, the fight over a football team struck a chord with residents inspired by successes of the Civil Rights movement elsewhere, and the protests continued.

When Udall compromised and gave Marshall another season to integrate, civil rights activists took it upon themselves to make an issue of Marshall's racism wherever the team went. The local NAACP and CORE chapters picketed Marshall's home and organized a boycott of the 1961 season. Black and white civil rights activists picketed outside each and every home game that season, forcing down attendance and causing Kennedy to decline an invitation to attend the new stadium's inaugural game. On the other side of the country, activists and union members organized a boycott of a Redskins-Rams game in Los Angeles. The Redskins exhibition games in the south and the west also became targets for protesters. Pressure mounted on league commissioner Pete Rozelle to intervene.

Marshall buckled and came up with a list of black players that he would try to draft, headed by Syracuse’s star running back Ernie Davis. Davis refused to play for Marshall, and was traded to the Cleveland Browns for the great Bobby Mitchell who finally broke the league’s most stubborn color line. Today, Snyder’s ignorance – or mendacity – regarding the team’s integration is a slap in the face to Bobby Mitchell and every African American player who had to deal with Marshall’s stewardship. Dan Snyder’s profound insensitivity to this question is further evidence that his charm offensive will prove futile. But the “offensive” part? That bit he has down pat.