Kansas City August 19th Reportback

“Millions for Prisoners”struggle hits Missouri

On Saturday, August 19, 50-100 people gathered in Kanas City to participate in the national “Millions for Prisoners’ Human Rights” rally against prison slavery and suffering, called by Jailhouse Lawyers Speaks and the IamWE Prison Advocacy Network. Alison, of the KC Greens, writes:

The #KCMillions4Prisoners march on Saturday, August 19th was organized by prisoner reformers & abolitionists, socialists, communists, & anarchists.

Several groups were present including Missouri CURE, Northeast Kansas John Brown Gun Club, One Struggle KC, Kansas City Food Not Bombs, Progressive Youth Organization – KC, Serve The People – Kansas City, ACLU of Missouri. Kansas City Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the IWW, Mothers of Incarcerated Sons and Daughters, SOS Squad of Siblings the Green Party of Kansas City, Missouri, and more

We marched to the the Jackson County Correctional Center, one stop on our tour. The prisoners inside knew that we would be coming. The marchers announced their arrival with a blow-horn, supported by drummers and chanting outside, The people inside reciprocated – they banged on the windows and made little signs with messages like “help” and “I love you” for us to read.

We ended the tour with a memorial service for those killed during the Attica rebellion and those killed by the police in MO and KS over the last two years.

The 3%s (a white supremacist group) were there too with weapons. We marched and they followed, chatting occasionally with the police who were there. This is the second time Green Party members have reported armed right wing militia at a protest in KC. The first time they came with arms was on June 10 with Act for America this summer. They are planning another gathering on September 9.

With all of the calls to tear down symbols of the confederacy, marchers were challenged to continue the movement and tear down all of the monuments build to uphold white supremacy – including the prison industrial complex.

Millions For Prisoners: A Day of Action with the Incarcerated (Press Release)

Millions For Prisoners: A Day of Action with the Incarcerated

August 19, 2017

Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee

The Call Has Been Issued

In Kansas City We Respond.

American slave labor is alive behind prison walls. This labor is the end result of a carceral state that entraps the poor, african american and latinx communities at an exponentially higher rate than others. It is extortionist, legally codified white supremacy in service to American Capitalism’s basest exploitation.

Last year, September 9th, marked the beginning of the “nationwide prison strike,” which catalyzed a wave of organizing, locally and nationally. We now have a level of national organization and communication that has not been seen before. On August 19 Jailhouse Lawyers Speak call for a day of action in solidarity with the incarcerated. Building this grassroots effort, initiated by JLS and by IWW members in prison, are the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, Free Alabama Movement, Free Ohio Movement, George Jackson University, New Abolitionist Movement, and many more. We stand together with those in prisons across the country.

Join The Millions for Prisoner March Here in K.C.

On August 19th From 5:30PM -8:30PM

At Ilus W. Davis Park, Downtown Between Locust and Oak on East 11th Street

Directory of Resources for Ex-Prisoners

This is intended to be a directory of resources for people who have been released from prison. This directory will change as resources are added and changed over time.

1. Social Security Administration

gives unemployed people $600.00/month (single) or $900.00 (married), and gives ex-prisoners $930.00 once, and only if you go to their office within 48 hours of getting out of prison. But you must take and show them your prison release papers & last two 2 months prison time sheets to get $930.00 check
– Address:
3100 Smith, Houston, Texas 7706
– phone:
tel: +1-1-800-772-1213
– web:
http://www.ssa.gov/ssi or http://www.ssa.gov

2. Emergency foodstamps

$150.00 at office visit and $110.00 per month per person:
– phone:
tel:1-800-582-4636
tel:1-800-221-5689
– web:
http://www.govbenefits.gov
http://www.foodstamps-step1.usda.gov
http://www.fns.usda.gov/fsp

3. 20-40% discount utility bills (air, heat, water, electicity!) + 5% extra senior citizens discount.
  • phone:
    tel:1-800-582-5706
  • web:
    http://www.acf.gov/programs/liheap
    http://www.aps.com
    http://www.liheap.ncat.org/sp.html
    http://www.hud.gov
    http://www.ncsha.org/section.cfm/4/39/187
4. 100% free government-provided children’s health insurance for children age 16 and under by Congress all towns [So your job can’t charge you for your kid’s insurance] & [It ain’t wellfare dept.] says:
  • phone:
    tel:1-800-KIDS-NOW (tel:1-800-4326-558)
    tel:1-800-747-1222
  • web:
    http://www.insurekidsnow.gov
    http://www.coveringkids.com
    http://www.huskyhealth.com
5. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • address
    451 7th Street SW Washington, D.C. 20410
  • phone:
    tel: 202-708-1112
  • web:
    http://www.hud.gov/renting/phprog.cfm
6. Mental health services
  • web:
    http://www.freementalhealth.com
7. Free or discount medicine(s)/prescription(s)
  • phone: tel:1-800-788-6417
    tel:1-888-477-2669

  • web:
    http://www.rxhope.com
    http://www.needymeds.org
    http://www.pparx.org
    http://www.atdn.org/access/pa2.html
    http://www.rxassist.org/docs/medicare-and-paps.cfm

8. Volunteers of America
  • web:
    http://www.voa.org
    http://www.seniorcorps.org (pays $200 cash / month to volunteers)
9. Free Dentists at:
  • web:
    http://www.adea.org
    http://www.nfdh.org
10. Free Accredited Colleges courses at:
  • web:
    http://www.khanacademy.org

  • 750+ Free Online Courses from the Best Colleges
    http://www.youtube.com/education
    http://www.einztein.com

11. Jobs that pay before you start work:
  • web:
    http://www.careerbuilders.com
    http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/fsa/index.html

    • gives up to $4,000 grant money to pay student to pay cost of living/bills
      http://www.nsep.gov/initiatives
    • gives up to $20,000 to $30,000 grant money for student to fellowship at schools in “U.S.A.” & abroad
12. U.S.A. Small Business Administration

loans ex-prisoners $150,000 up to $$1,000,000 for up to 10 years to repay total to open a business in the US.
– Address:
4300 Amon Carter Blvd. Suite #114, Fort Worh, TX 77074
– phone:
tel: (817)684-5500
tel: (817)355-1933
tel: (713)773-6500
– web:
http://www.sba.gov

Pre-Reading for 2017 IWW Skill Share: Black Autonomy Federation: Let’s Organize the Hood!

Black Autonomy Federation

(PDF version) poor people survival

Black Autonomy Federation: Let’s Organize the Hood!

Black Autonomy Federation: Let’s Organize the Hood!
By: Black Autonomy Federation

Originally Published on June 9, 2013


Let’s Organize the ‘Hood: Inner City Organizing Projects.

By word or deed, we are being told that revolution is not possible, that we must accept whatever crumbs the white power structure gives us, or that we must join the power elite ourselves. Indeed, both the Left and large segments of the Black nationalist movements are joining the white government by becoming Mayors, U.S. Congressmen, and local politicians who work through the system for reforms. These “radical politicians” tell us that there is no longer any reason to struggle in the streets, that in fact we now can have power under the system itself. That their elections ensure that we are on the road to revolution.

Yet, even after the election of tens of thousands of Black and POC politicians since the 1964 Voting Rights Act, the inner city poor are still desperately poor, there is still substandard housing, police brutality is worse, and the quality of life for millions, even the Black middle class, is eroding. Poverty is at 25% and unemployment is rising in our communities to over 15%, even though it may be improving for the white middle class. Now there is mass imprisonment of millions and tens of thousands have been killed by the police just since the end of the Black Power era (1965-1975). So, in such an environment, running for political office is clearly mis-leadership, if not outright treachery. We will not get free under this system, and we must continue to organize for our survival and liberation. No politician can give you your freedom, even the President, you must take it!

We must rebuild inner city neighborhoods as a community survival program, even while we work to fight racism and capitalism, along with internal colonialism. We need to build a new society, but until then we need to organize and empower poor folks living in deteriorating inner city communities to rebuild substandard housing and create jobs, food and housing cooperatives. Capitalism is a social system with inherent economic inequalities. Not only do the poor pay more for basic amenities, but also they are made the scapegoat of this corrupt system. They are called a “criminal underclass”, “layabouts,” “welfare queens” and other garbage by the rich and their ideological agents; even part of the Black working class echoes this propaganda. Then after they have told their lies, the rich fashion new laws to ensure their unjust rule by starving, humiliating, killing, imprisoning, torturing, policing and otherwise keeping the pressure to survive on the poor themselves.

First, we must recognize that we need a new way of confronting our oppressed situation. How do we get started at this?

This period of widespread social repression is extremely dangerous: one of every three young Black men and almost 60 percent of all female prison inmates are in the so-called “American criminal justice system” (prison, jail, or on parole), high unemployment and social disinvestments are destroying the economic base of many inner city neighborhoods; chemical warfare (drugs) is being used to destabilize our communities and keep us from fighting back; and an epidemic of police violence takes place each day to beat, kill and torture Black men, woman and children and to intimidate the community into fearing white authority—all these and worse are the daily life experiences of poor Black people under this system.

The Poor People’s Survival Movement, (part of a broader program called “Let’s Organize The Hood”), which was first devised by the Black Autonomy Network of Community Organizers, is what is needed in this period for poor and working class Black people. With it as a component part of our Anarchist federation and our political program, we will ultimately build a sociopolitical infrastructure to intervene in every area of Black life: food and housing cooperatives, Black Liberation schools, people’s banks and community mutual aid funds, free medical clinics and hospitals, rodent control and pest extermination programs, cooperative factories, a Black Partisan militia to patrol our communities, the establishment of a Black inter-continental electronic communications network, land and building reclamation projects, public works brigades to rebuild the cities, youth projects, drug clinics, a Black alternate currency and many other programs can be made possible with a mass supported Poor Peoples’ Survival Movement, because it can potentially mobilize millions of our people around specific obtainable objectives, instead of pie in the sky rhetoric by national leaders.

All of these programs in part can satisfy the deep social needs of the Black community, but they are not solutions to our problems, because although we can build a survival economy now, we have to realize it will take a social revolution to overthrow capitalism and obtain full economic self-sufficiency. We will have to fight to obtain full freedom. For instance, we will have to demand money for rebuilding the cities at community and government expense. We will create community public works brigades to rebuild inner city areas, made up of community residents.

One way to raise money for such a project is to demand an end to taxes of workers and the poor, increased taxation of rich and major corporations to finance our social programs.

Even though that would be part of a mass program for the poor, the reality is that this will not happen right away. We just have to build a mass membership group to represent the poor and serve as their organization. Small amounts of donations and other fundraising can serve as the seed money. But then what?

We must begin to go into the poorest, most economically depressed Black and ethnic neighborhoods and not just begin to define the problems, but to feed, clothe and even house people to the limits of our resources, in other ways, build survival collectives as the grassroots basis of the PPSM. This means starting food co-ops, doing insurrectionary squatting to reclaim buildings for community cultural centers and for housing the poor and homeless, building local coalitions against police brutality, starting an underground newspaper or other grassroots media.

This also means that we must join with the people to fight their slumlords, local governments, unemployment and welfare offices, their employers and other exploiters who fleece and oppress the working poor. The particular neighborhood, the city and the region, means that the nature of the struggle in different parts of the country will be different, but what I want to emphasize is we must start out with a perspective from day one to be part of the people, on the very scale of their problems, instead of a middle class “revolutionary study society” like most Left wing and Black nationalist formations are today.

Working out a strategy and tactics that can realistically hasten a revolutionary showdown means it is necessary first to understand where the Black liberation struggle actually stands today. What stage is it in? The truth is that it is in a reactionary period, where opportunist national leaders and politicians still have a hold on the minds of the people. At best we can say that our revolutionary forces are a rebuilding stage and once this is understood, the solutions begin to fall in place for all its problems. Our task is to create a movement that will bring into the struggle large numbers of the most despised sectors of the Black working class.

In truth, before we can build an effective revolutionary movement, we must rebuild the foundations of a mass movement of the urban Black poor and their non-white allies in the barrios, reservations, prisons, ghettos and other poverty pits. This in turn has the effect of throwing other class sectors into battle; students, industrial workers, clerical workers, the unemployed generally and we can even split the white working class. This process actually started in the 1960s in the wake of the civil rights/Black Power and other ethnic liberation movements, but the conservatives have seized the agenda in recent years.

If we can mobilize the Black poor in the urban ghettos as a force against capitalist reaction and the mis-leadership of the Negrosie, we become a serious movement at an early stage of our organizational development. Otherwise, we get sucked into the trap of ‘navel gazing”, issuing grand proclamations, and manifestoes and so on that nobody pays attention to but group members. So the task is to clearly link struggles for the pressing immediate needs of Black people with the revolutionary goal of overturning the whole racist system.

That is why the ideas of the PPSM assume such great importance today. The solution lies in formulating and fighting for a program that can help transform the general discontent and militancy of the urban Black masses into an organized, cohesive, consciously revolutionary force. By presenting and fighting for such a program, a small movement can transform itself into an influential power among the masses of people. Although it is not possible to give an “operating manual” for how to organize the PPSM in each city, here is a simple way to look at it: the main strategic and tactical demand is for Black control of the Black community, (leading to a large scale social revolution in the future). This is nothing new, others have written about it and the demand for Black control has been raised spontaneously in thousands of struggles around the U.S. over the last 50 years. It is obviously a demand that speaks directly to the needs and present understanding of Black people: they want an end to white domination and control over their lives.

At the same time, the struggle for Black control is profoundly revolutionary, because it poses the question of who will have decision-making power over Black people; will we begin to rule ourselves or continue to be under the white capitalist rulers. The realization of this aim of Black autonomy can build the cities into Black fortresses that will be centers of Black counter-power to the entire white power structure of North America. Our aim has to be to make ourselves ungovernable to the white power structure. Make it impossible for the police to patrol our neighborhood, make it impossible for politicians to assume control on the local level and begin to take over the schools and other government resources and use them for the people. We can’t do as the nationalists do, just advocate for reparations or a future nation-state, or now just running for office and administering cities on behalf of the capitalist state.

As they develop within the Black communities, struggles targeted to win control over specific institutions and agencies can pave the way and prepare increasing numbers of people for the all- inclusive goal of total control of their community and of the existing political system. These partial struggles, carried out around issues such as Black control of neighborhood control of the schools, an end to police brutality, decent hospitals under community control and other issues, can be extremely important because through them encouraging victories can be won. We must realize that most Black people don’t belong to social or civic organizations, except for their church or union. They need to feel that they can now belong to something that can produce tangible victories now.

These victories, even if limited to specific areas and issues at first, can help raise the confidence of the community in its own power and lay the basis for broader future struggles. For instance, the following demands could help to promote this process generally:

End police brutality by replacing police occupation forces with a community controlled Black Partisan militia drawn from residents of the community. This Partisan Militia force would not just do “policing,” but deal with civil defense, fire safety, food distribution, youth training, community military preparedness, military communications and a host of other neighborhood safety issues. It would not be a colonial force, a repressive guard force for the downtown white merchants, or any other tool of the oppressor, it would be a true community defense guard made up of neighborhood residents.

The creation of a Black Partisan Militia, not only for purposes of dealing with our own internal oppression and crimes against the people, but to create conditions for defense of the community against racist cops and politicians, feeding and building houses for the poor, holding community meetings, training the community in military tactics, and patrolling the community.

Black grassroots control of all funds allocated to the Black community and control over all plans for renovating and constructing housing and other communal facilities and improvements. The Black community can only get decent housing, end urban homelessness, start to house families on project waiting lists when it gets access to massive capital.

Only the government and major corporations now have access to such resources, we must fight to win these funds for the people, rather than let the bureaucrats and “community development” poverty pimps decide what they want to do with the money to ‘help’ business people and real estate developers.

Beat back layoffs by the corporations who are cutting jobs, running to low wage areas of the world, by fighting budget cuts by politicians and rich capitalists. We have got to build local movements that educate the people to these economic crimes and mobilize them to fight back and stop it. We need to sit-in at the offices of corporation meetings, government hearings and other functions to disrupt local life and be willing to take any other action necessary to win our demands.

We should establish Black community General Assemblies to create dual power and start to make policy decisions and administer the affairs of the Black community. These assemblies should be composed of representatives elected by poor and working class Black people in various community institutions: such as hospitals, welfare centers, libraries, factories — as well as delegates elected on a block basis. They would then be federated into a local Community-wide Assembly for citywide or regional coordination. This would be the beginning of building dual power institutions to challenge and dismantle the government itself.

Educate, agitate and organize the Black community around the issues of the prisons and the mass lockup of Black youth. Show how police brutality, homelessness, poverty, unemployment and the drug economy are brought on by the exploitative system of capitalism is what’s causing the problems in our community. We must certainly down the idea that police and prisons exist in any way keep the Black community safe, or that the police are there to protect us from a criminal class of poor people. We need to show that this government is willing to spend more money to put our kids in prison than send them to college and that we are being confined at a rate ten times that of whites. We must create a mass coalition around this issue, which includes other peoples of color and progressives.

Establish a Black community controlled food system for self-sufficiency and as a way of fighting to end hunger and malnutrition, including a cooperative trucking network, food warehouses, communal farms, farmers’ cooperatives and agricultural unions, inner-city food cooperatives and neighborhood unions and other collective associations. However, this will also include a mass protest campaign challenging the theft of Black farmland by agribusiness corporations and rich white “land barons’ and reclaiming it for our projects This is especially important now that the U.S. government has entered an economic crisis during which it will not longer be able to provide for our needs. We must force the government and the corporations to provide the money for many of these projects, to be administered under our total control.

We must mobilize poor people to be a potent class force in this country and disrupt the system until our demands are met. We are not sectarian or vanguardist, and we may need to join with any authentic organization fighting for the poor to build a mass campaign, whether it’s the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, Kensington Welfare Rights Organization, or the countless Black grassroots anti-poverty groups in every city and state, but the main thing is that we must build our own.

We must have an independent self-sustaining survival economy to guarantee full employment to our people, even while we fight the racist and exploitative government and its corporate backers. We demand that the government provide massive economic aid to rebuild the cities, under the control of the people of those communities and we will create public works and building brigades out of the inhabitants of the community. Ghetto housing has to be rebuilt and turned over to the occupants.

Adequate jobs and services must be provided to all community residents, including first preference for all construction jobs in the Black community, instead of the racist job trust system of white-dominated labor unions. We have to unite with progressive unions, poor people’s movements and others to build a broad coalition, but we have to push it beyond reformism and conventional politics. We have to demand reparations for the poor who have been ignored by the government and its rich backers, as well as the middle class Black nationalists.

As we have pointed out, being the victims of extreme inequality in the economy, Black and non-white workers have already begun to organize caucuses in the unions against discrimination against racist hiring and firing and also demanding upgrading and promotions. Also because of high unemployment in their communities and general poverty, they have had to create movements to demand basic services for the poor and homeless instead of on the job issues alone. History has proven that the government will not respond to either workers or the poor until they organize to demand a change and disrupt the system. That is certainly the case where a Black President ignores the distressing conditions of the Black community.

We need only to look at the severity of the problem: In the first six months of 2011, the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of labor Statistics listed official unemployment rates at just over 10 percent of the labor force, in the Black community it is 15-25% +. Under Capitalism, since the 1960’s, half that 10% figure is “normal” and nonsensically considered by Capitalist economists as “full employment” even though this is millions of people consigned to economic poverty of the worst sort. But the government figures are intentionally conservative and do not include those millions who have given up actively searching for jobs, the under-employed (who can’t make enough to live on), the part-time workers (who can’t find a full time or steady job) and the homeless (now between 4-5 million alone).

Of the millions of people that the government does count as jobless now, only about 5-7 million are now given any unemployment compensation or other federal or state aid; the rest are left to starve, steal or hustle for their survival, and many who are receiving benefits face the prospect of having them cut off at any time, due to government austerity policies.

A person without a job under the Capitalist system is counted as nothing. Yet, every worker has the human right to a job or an income benefit. It is only under Capitalism where workers are dismissed form employment in times of business crisis, overproduction, and depression or just to save labor costs through less workers and more speed-up. And some workers cannot find jobs in the Capitalist labor market because of lack of skills, or racial and other social discrimination.

But the government’s official figures lie; private researchers state that the total number of people who want full time jobs and thus cannot find them, along with the officials statistics amounts to nearly 17.3 million persons, an even truer figure is 20 million unemployed people in the USA at this time. Clearly then this is a crisis situation of broad proportions, but all the government is doing is juggling and hiding figures. Yet the figures do show that Blacks, Latinos and women are bearing the brunt of the current depression The National Urban League in its “Hidden Unemployment Index” (included as part of its annual “State of Black America” report) reports levels of almost 17 percent for Black adults 25 and older and incredible levels of 25-30 percent for Black teens and young adults 17-24 years of age. In fact, Black youth unemployment has not declined much since the 1974-1975 recession.

It has stayed at an official level of 15-20 percent, but in some inner city neighborhoods of the major cities like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, the real unemployment rate for young people is more like 30-40 percent. For Black youth the unemployment rate is at least two to three times higher than that of white youth. Capitalism is making economic exiles of Black people as a whole. In fact, some researchers report that there are almost 2 million homeless youth, most of them Black and Latino. Conditions in the inner city are destabilizing whole neighborhoods and cities.
According to economic researchers, while making up 12-15 percent of the total population, Black America represents nearly 40 percent of the United States of America’s poorest population.

The fact is that unemployment is concentrated in the Black and Latino communities and is greatly responsible for the most destructive tendencies in human relations and deteriorating neighborhoods. Crime, prostitution, suicide, drug addiction, gang fighting, mental illness, alcoholism and the break-up of Black families and other social ills are rooted in the lack of jobs and the denial of essential social services in their communities. Since so many die in the streets or in prison, it is actually racial genocide in the form of social neglect.

Unemployment is profitable for the bosses because it drives down the wages of all workers and helps the employers to keep the workforce under control through this “reserve army of labor,” which are allegedly always ready to scab, according to union bureaucrats. Because of pervasive discrimination against Blacks, Latinos and other nationally oppressed workers, including higher levels of unemployment, the jobs they do get are generally on the bottom rung. This is also profitable for the boss and divides the working class to their benefit.

Homelessness is just the most intensified form of unemployment, where in addition to loss of jobs or income, there is loss of housing and lack of access to social services. There are now millions of people who are or have been homeless over the last 15-25 years, because of the deindustrialization of the economy, the Capitalist and government offensive to destroy the unions, to beat back the gains of the civil rights struggle and do away with the affordable housing sector in favor of yuppie gentrification in the cities.

You see the homeless sleeping on the streets in cities, big and small and what this reflects is a total breakdown in the Capitalist State’s social services system, in addition to the absolute economic inequality is American society. This heating up of the class war waged by government and the major corporations shows, more than anything, that Capitalism worldwide is undergoing an international financial panic and is really in the beginning stages of a world depression.

Add to the 90 million persons who live below the poverty line and three to five million homeless in the U.S., another 3-5 million homeless in the 12 nations of the European community, along with some 80 million people living in poverty there, with millions more in the Capitalist countries of Japan, Korea and other parts of Asia barely surviving and this can only be accurately called a depression. This is on top of millions more in the Third World because of poverty, the legality of colonialism and unequal trade by the rich countries and financial institutions like the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.

So although Black workers must organize and fight homeless and unemployment in the U.S., clearly there must be an international movement of workers and poor people to fight this economic deprivation, as part of the overall class struggle. It’s not enough to depend on the relatively privileged unions or the middle class civil rights organizations alone.

In every city in North America, the Black and POC poor communities should organize poor peoples’ organizations to fight for unemployment benefits and jobs for the jobless, the building of decent, affordable low-income housing and an end to homelessness, a universal living wage, as well as against racial discrimination in jobs and housing. Such groups would be democratic organizations, organized on a neighborhood basis, (to ensure that it would be under the control of the people and against infiltration and takeover by liberal or “radical” political parties, or co-optation by the government), which would be federated into a citywide, regional and national organization.

This is what the Poor People’s Survival Movement is designed to do.It would be that mass organization that would become a national Black unemployment league to create a mass fight back movement in this depression. It would be made up of poor peoples community-based groups from all over the country, with delegates elected from all the local groups. Such a national organization could meet to map out a large-scale attack on unemployment, as well as serve as a national clearinghouse on Black unemployment conditions.

On the local level in the Black and poor neighborhoods, Poor People Survival Movement would create the local community unemployment organizations which would establish food and housing cooperatives, lead rent strikes and squatting, initiate land and building reclamation projects, establish producer and consumer cooperatives, distribute food and clothing and provide for other services: they would establish neighborhood medical clinics for free treatment of the homeless and unemployed, rodent control programs, etc. and they would deal with community social problems ( brought on by unemployment ) and other issues of interest They would build hunger marches and other demonstrations and carry the people’s wrath to various government offices and to the businesses of the rich.

Not only would the unemployment councils be a way of fighting for jobs and unemployment benefits, but also the local groups would be a way to a obtain community self-sufficiency and direct democracy, instead of depending on city hall, Congress or the President. This radical self-reliance organizing helps lead to the kind of confidence among the masses that makes a Black municipal commune a serious possibility.Politicians speak down to the people, the PPSM carries the voice of the people upward with the demands of the people, and then the organization can fight for it.
One of the most important functions of an unemployment movement is to obtain unity between the employed and unemployed or homeless, and workers solidarity across race lines.

It is important that although we are talking about uniting the poor generally, that we want to be sure that our own Black communities, suffering more than anybody, are in the lead. We will not accept arguments that the Black poor or homeless folks should follow behind white middle class radicals, who have never been poor a day in their lives. We want unity, but not exploitation of our people, as has happened too many times in the past by so-called white radicals claiming to organize Black people.

Finally, the employed and unemployed must work together to struggle against the Boss class if they are to obtain any serious gains against low wages and poverty during this period of economic crisis. The unemployed, who would even walk the picket lines with workers and refuse to scab just to get a job, could support workers who are on strike or protesting the boss. In turn, workers would form an unemployed caucus in their trade unions to allow union representation of these workers and also force such unions to provide food and other necessities, make funds and training available to the unemployed, as well as throw the weight of the unions into the fight for decent jobs and housing for all workers. The Capitalist bosses will not be moved otherwise. MAKE THE BOSSES PAY FOR THEIR ECONOMIC CRISIS!

Here is what a united movement of workers and homeless must demand:

1. Full employment (zero unemployment) for all workers at union wage.

2. Establishment of a shorter workweek, so that workers would be paid at the rate for 40 hours of work for 20 hours a week on the job, expansion of job sharing so that more can be employed.

3. End homelessness, build and make available decent affordable housing for all. Repeal all loitering, anti-panhandling and other laws against the homeless.

4. End the war budget and use those funds for decent, low-income housing, better schools, hospitals and clinics, libraries, parks and public transportation, and job creation.

5. End racism and sexism in job opportunities and relief benefits.

6. Jobs or a guaranteed income for all.

7. Full federal and state benefits for unemployed workers and their families, including corporate and government funds to pay the bills, rents and debts for any laid off worker and unemployment compensation at 100 percent of regular paid wage, lasting the full length of a worker’s period of unemployment

8. Universal living wage and/or national minimum wage set at prevailing union entry wage, for all working people. Increase the government minimum wage to $15-20 an hour as mandated by the workers themselves.

9. We must demand and take away government and corporate funds by any means necessary to establish a massive non-government public works program to provide jobs (with full union rights and wage scale) to rebuild the inner cities and provide needed social services. The program and its funds should be under the control of committees democratically elected from poor and Black neighborhoods, to avoid “poverty pimps” and rip off job agencies, or government bureaucrats.

10. Free all persons in prison for crimes of economic survival; jail corrupt corporate insider traders, bankers and/or racketeer business people.

These and the demands previously mentioned are merely a survival program and agenda for unemployed workers; the real answer is a social revolution, the elimination of Capitalism and workers’ ownership of the economy and society. This is a vital first step however. There would be no unemployment or social need for wage labor in an Libertarian socialist society. People could live a decent life without exploiting each other and they do not have to have money to receive decent medical care or housing, it is a human right for all.

Building A Memphis Poor People’s Survival Movement

Memphis, TN. was recently called the poorest big city in the nation by the U.S. Census Bureau. It is the ruling elite, with its long history of structural racism, malign neglect, and class oppression of the poor and low income workers, which has created this state of affairs which continues down to this day. As is always the case, it is the Black working class, immigrants, and the elderly that are suffering more than anyone in American society, whether it is unemployment, poverty, mass imprisonment, etc. Even with a so-called “recovery” from a depression or deep business recession, we can be sure that poor communities will remain poor and powerless. This is long-term economic apartheid, racial and economic segregation of Black people/POC, which has made our communities into a beggar class. Now, the rich ruling class is threatening to extend this same kind of impoverishment of the Black workers and poor to even more people, not just to “destroy the middle class”, but to create an economic dictatorship where only the rich will have financial resources, and social program money that would go to the working and poor people will be transferred directly to the rich class. This would be an outright corporate fascist state, where only those who own corporate and the means of production will have any rights.

“Government Austerity, Sequestration…corporate downsizing…”whatever we call it, this is now the greatest threat to the economic security of both poor and working peoples in this country. It is being unleashed right now by the Capitalist state and its government flunkies, on a scale greater than anything seen since the period before the Great Depression of the 1930’s. It threatens to plunge the people of the USA into the deepest poverty since before the even the “New Deal Policies” of the Roosevelt government that arose during the Great Depression to afford the people some relief, and produce Social Security as one of its lasting programs. The rich did not give in to creation of the program, it took a long fight by poor people’s movements to enact Social Security and all the social programs which followed over the years, and although they are government administered programs, we should find a way to subvert them and use them to make the rich pay for this economic crisis. We realize that some so-called “radical” and Anarchists oppose this posture, but we should not starve people on narrow political principles alone. In fact, we should make the take over these programs from government bureaucrats, put them in the hands of the people themselves to administer, and should make the government convert all its billions of dollars in military spending to provide for the social needs of the people.

Yet, the which radical Occupy Wall Street movement and its local affiliate, Occupy Memphis, which came together over about two years ago, was supposed to be that radical social movement which would take the rich on and defeat them, on behalf of all the people. However, this movement is clearly based on the white middle class, and is hostile to genuine radicals, peoples of color, and more militant political tendencies. It is stifled by its own internal racism and liberal reformism, it simply is not a true revolutionary tendency, even though the Left and even segments of the Black nationalist movement hailed its coming as “true liberation”. Black Autonomy saw through this, and raised serious criticisms, which have now been adopted by many others since the luster has worn off the new movement, and we can see it for what it is.

The Poor Peoples Survival Movement, created by Black Autonomy Federation, is a new radical social movement being organized that has to engage in confrontations with the city and local area governments, as well as with the economic elite, especially FedEX, (the largest employer in the city of Memphis), the Regions Bank and other investment banks, the Chamber of Commerce, and other ruling class institutions, who give orders to the gov’t administration and sets the real economic policies for this city, rather than politicians. Their city budget starves the Black community to death, while ensuring that white middle class area, tourist sites, and businesses are well take care of with corporate welfare and business contracts.

The Poor People’s Survival Movement has to challenge mass unemployment by building an activist unemployment movement of the thousands of out-of-work laborers and homeless in this area; it has to fight for more taxes on the rich and end its one-way class warfare; we have to fight to end taxation of food and the highest state sales taxes in the country, which are clearly socio-economic discrimination; we have to fight austerity measures by the gov’t to make poor and working people pay for this economic crisis by cutting their Social Security benefits and gouging Medicare and Medicaid. We have to challenge the local gov’t and mayor, who have let FedEx and other businesses get by with paying virtually no taxes, and by paying these companies hundreds of millions in corporate welfare. We have to bring a mass coalition of folks together, many of whom have never even been to a demonstration or joined a protest movement in their lives, but who have to protest now for sheer survival of themselves and their families.

Although we obviously will not turn away whites as members, we cannot get hung up with organizing the white middle class, but rather the Black working class and poor, that must be the base of our organizing, the very people who have been ignored by Occupy Memphis, and the Occupy Wall Street movement generally. Since Memphis is a majority Black city, we must put the majority of our efforts in the Black community.

So although we talk in terms of a broad sweep of organizing a people people’s movement, the truth is that you must begin very modestly in our hometowns, or the place where we are located now to create the PPSM. There are very important issues, effecting millions, but we must convince just a few people first, and with these few, we can begin to change the world. Actual poor people, as opposed to white middle class organizers in their name, are the force to change the world. We are suffering greatly in this period, but we are suffering more because we are not organized to resist the rich people and their government who are starving us. So how do we start?

This means that we must build a movement from scratch, and we must do it in a very simple fashion: bring together a small group of activists and connect with the poorest communities. We must build an organization of organizers, and plan our next steps carefully. We have already built a core group, now we must build an organization, educate our members, and then mobilize. We must hold marches, street demonstrations, and protests of our own to challenge the city government and the elite of this city. We need to examine how we can subvert local government and business meetings, whether city council meetings, that of the Mayor, or the Chamber of Commerce, and turn them into a rally for the people. We need to hold mass assemblies in recreation centers, libraries, and at other public locations, as well as at street corners. Our strategy has to be different from OWS’s long-term occupation, which might work in NYC, but does not appear to be the best strategy for Memphis, unless it is at the very offices of these corporations of gov’t officials, not outside on the streets sleeping in tents as the guest of the government.

How should we conduct each meeting of the Poor People’s Survival Movement?

1. We should have one internal strategy meeting, and one grassroots public meeting, each month for the Memphis PPSM. Each meeting should have a specific theme or focus so that we can stay grounded, not lose time to general discussions and endless debates. For, instance, power structure research, how poverty is structured in Memphis, the city budget, and other issues should dominate our discussions. We should argue over how to do it, rather than what we should do.

2. Each meeting should last no more than 2 hours, and after that we should stay in touch by email or phone calls between meetings.

3. Meetings should be held in a public library or other free space as first priority.

4. Each meeting should have a different moderator, who should be at the meeting.

5. We should respect each person’s right to speak.

If we start by holding these public meetings, which are both a study group as well as an action planning meeting, we can build a winning strategy with a variety of tactics. It will not be easy, because we are a new movement and there will be tremendous opposition from the rich and their agents, but if we persevere we will succeed over the long run.

This is only part of the issue, and this is not the entire program, which covers many other areas.poor people survival-2

Skill Share Pre-Reading: Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements

(PDF version) misogynist informants

Why Misogynists Make Great Informants: How Gender Violence on the Left Enables State Violence in Radical Movements

Some people may have seen this article already, which has been making its rounds on Facebook and the blogosphere, but INCITE! blog editors loved it so much that we wanted to share it here. The piece was originally published in make/shift magazine’s Spring/Summer 2010 issue and written by Courtney Desiree Morris.

In January 2009, activists in Austin, Texas, learned that one of their own, a white activist named Brandon Darby, had infiltrated groups protesting the Republican National Convention (RNC) as an FBI informant. Darby later admitted to wearing recording devices at planning meetings and during the convention. He testified on behalf of the government in the February 2009 trial of two Texas activists who were arrested at the RNC on charges of making and possessing Molotov cocktails, after Darby encouraged them to do so. The two young men, David McKay and Bradley Crowder, each faced up to fifteen years in prison. Crowder accepted a plea bargain to serve three years in a federal prison; under pressure from federal prosecutors, McKay also pled guilty to being in possession of “unregistered Molotov cocktails” and was sentenced to four years in prison. Information gathered by Darby may also have contributed to the case against the RNC 8, activists from around the country charged with “conspiracy to riot and conspiracy to damage property in the furtherance of terrorism.” Austin activists were particularly stunned by the revelation that Darby had served as an informant because he had been a part of various leftist projects and was a leader at Common Ground Relief, a New Orleans–based organization committed to meeting the short-term needs of community members displaced by natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region and dedicated to rebuilding the region and ensuring Katrina evacuees’ right to return.

I was surprised but not shocked by this news. I had learned as an undergrad at the University of Texas that the campus police department routinely placed plainclothes police officers in the meetings of radical student groups—you know, just to keep an eye on them. That was in fall 2001. We saw the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, watched a cowboy president wage war on terror, and, in the middle of it all, tried to figure out what we could do to challenge the fascist state transformations taking place before our eyes. At the time, however, it seemed silly that there were cops in our meetings—we weren’t the Panthers or the Brown Berets or even some of the rowdier direct-action anti-globalization activists on campus (although we admired them all); we were just young people who didn’t believe war was the best response to the 9/11 attacks. But it wasn’t silly; the FBI does not dismiss political work. Any organization, be it large or small, can provoke the scrutiny of the state. Perhaps your organization poses a large threat, or maybe you’re small now but one day you’ll grow up and be too big to rein in. The state usually opts to kill the movement before it grows.

And informants and provocateurs are the state’s hired gunmen. Government agencies pick people that no one will notice. Often it’s impossible to prove that they’re informants because they appear to be completely dedicated to social justice. They establish intimate relationships with activists, becoming friends and lovers, often serving in leadership roles in organizations. A cursory reading of the literature on social movements and organizations in the 1960s and 1970s reveals this fact. The leadership of the American Indian Movement was rife with informants; it is suspected that informants were also largely responsible for the downfall of the Black Panther Party, and the same can be surmised about the antiwar movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Not surprisingly, these movements that were toppled by informants and provocateurs were also sites where women and queer activists often experienced intense gender violence, as the autobiographies of activists such as Assata Shakur, Elaine Brown, and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz demonstrate.

Maybe it isn’t that informants are difficult to spot but rather that we have collectively ignored the signs that give them away. To save our movements, we need to come to terms with the connections between gender violence, male privilege, and the strategies that informants (and people who just act like them) use to destabilize radical movements. Time and again heterosexual men in radical movements have been allowed to assert their privilege and subordinate others. Despite all that we say to the contrary, the fact is that radical social movements and organizations in the United States have refused to seriously address gender violence [1] as a threat to the survival of our struggles. We’ve treated misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism as lesser evils—secondary issues—that will eventually take care of themselves or fade into the background once the “real” issues—racism, the police, class inequality, U.S. wars of aggression—are resolved. There are serious consequences for choosing ignorance. Misogyny and homophobia are central to the reproduction of violence in radical activist communities. Scratch a misogynist and you’ll find a homophobe. Scratch a little deeper and you might find the makings of a future informant (or someone who just destabilizes movements like informants do).

The Makings of an Informant: Brandon Darby and Common Ground

On Democracy Now! Malik Rahim, former Black Panther and cofounder of Common Ground in New Orleans, spoke about how devastated he was by Darby’s revelation that he was an FBI informant. Several times he stated that his heart had been broken. He especially lamented all of the “young ladies” who left Common Ground as a result of Darby’s domineering, aggressive style of organizing. And when those “young ladies” complained? Well, their concerns likely fell on sympathetic but ultimately unresponsive ears—everything may have been true, and after the fact everyone admits how disruptive Darby was, quick to suggest violent, ill-conceived direct-action schemes that endangered everyone he worked with. There were even claims of Darby sexually assaulting female organizers at Common Ground and in general being dismissive of women working in the organization. [2] Darby created conflict in all of the organizations he worked with, yet people were hesitant to hold him accountable because of his history and reputation as an organizer and his “dedication” to “the work.” People continued to defend him until he outed himself as an FBI informant. Even Rahim, for all of his guilt and angst, chose to leave Darby in charge of Common Ground although every time there was conflict in the organization it seemed to involve Darby.

Maybe if organizers made collective accountability around gender violence a central part of our practices we could neutralize people who are working on behalf of the state to undermine our struggles. I’m not talking about witch hunts; I’m talking about organizing in such a way that we nip a potential Brandon Darby in the bud before he can hurt more people. Informants are hard to spot, but my guess is that where there is smoke there is fire, and someone who creates chaos wherever he goes is either an informant or an irresponsible, unaccountable time bomb who can be unintentionally as effective at undermining social-justice organizing as an informant. Ultimately they both do the work of the state and need to be held accountable.
A Brief Historical Reflection on Gender Violence in Radical Movements

Reflecting on the radical organizations and social movements of the 1960s and 1970s provides an important historical context for this discussion. Memoirs by women who were actively involved in these struggles reveal the pervasiveness of tolerance (and in some cases advocacy) of gender violence. Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, and Elaine Brown, each at different points in their experiences organizing with the Black Panther Party (BPP), cited sexism and the exploitation of women (and their organizing labor) in the BPP as one of their primary reasons for either leaving the group (in the cases of Brown and Shakur) or refusing to ever formally join (in Davis’s case). Although women were often expected to make significant personal sacrifices to support the movement, when women found themselves victimized by male comrades there was no support for them or channels to seek redress. Whether it was BPP organizers ignoring the fact that Eldridge Cleaver beat his wife, noted activist Kathleen Cleaver, men coercing women into sex, or just men treating women organizers as subordinated sexual playthings, the BPP and similar organizations tended not to take seriously the corrosive effects of gender violence on liberation struggle. In many ways, Elaine Brown’s autobiography, A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story, has gone the furthest in laying bare the ugly realities of misogyny in the movement and the various ways in which both men and women reproduced and reinforced male privilege and gender violence in these organizations. Her experience as the only woman to ever lead the BPP did not exempt her from the brutal misogyny of the organization. She recounts being assaulted by various male comrades (including Huey Newton) as well as being beaten and terrorized by Eldridge Cleaver, who threatened to “bury her in Algeria” during a delegation to China. Her biography demonstrates more explicitly than either Davis’s or Shakur’s how the masculinist posturing of the BPP (and by extension many radical organizations at the time) created a culture of violence and misogyny that ultimately proved to be the organization’s undoing.

These narratives demystify the legacy of gender violence of the very organizations that many of us look up to. They demonstrate how misogyny was normalized in these spaces, dismissed as “personal” or not as important as the more serious struggles against racism or class inequality. Gender violence has historically been deeply entrenched in the political practices of the Left and constituted one of the greatest (if largely unacknowledged) threats to the survival of these organizations. However, if we pay attention to the work of Davis, Shakur, Brown, and others, we can avoid the mistakes of the past and create different kinds of political community.
The Racial Politics of Gender Violence

Race further complicates the ways in which gender violence unfolds in our communities. In “Looking for Common Ground: Relief Work in Post-Katrina New Orleans as an American Parable of Race and Gender Violence,” Rachel Luft explores the disturbing pattern of sexual assault against white female volunteers by white male volunteers doing rebuilding work in the Upper Ninth Ward in 2006. She points out how Common Ground failed to address white men’s assaults on their co-organizers and instead shifted the blame to the surrounding Black community, warning white women activists that they needed to be careful because New Orleans was a dangerous place. Ultimately it proved easier to criminalize Black men from the neighborhood than to acknowledge that white women and transgender organizers were most likely to be assaulted by white men they worked with. In one case, a white male volunteer was turned over to the police only after he sexually assaulted at least three women in one week. The privilege that white men enjoyed in Common Ground, an organization ostensibly committed to racial justice, meant that they could be violent toward women and queer activists, enact destructive behaviors that undermined the organization’s work, and know that the movement would not hold them accountable in the same way that it did Black men in the community where they worked.

Of course, male privilege is not uniform—white men and men of color are unequal participants in and beneficiaries of patriarchy although they both can and do reproduce gender violence. This disparity in the distribution of patriarchy’s benefits is not lost on women and queer organizers when we attempt to confront men of color who enact gender violence in our communities. We often worry about reproducing particular kinds of racist violence that disproportionately target men of color. We are understandably loath to call the police, involve the state in any way, or place men of color at the mercy of a historically racist criminal (in)justice system; yet our communities (political and otherwise) often do not step up to demand justice on our behalf. We don’t feel comfortable talking to therapists who just reaffirm stereotypes about how fucked-up and exceptionally violent our home communities are. The Left often offers even less support. Our victimization is unfortunate, problematic, but ultimately less important to “the work” than the men of all races who reproduce gender violence in our communities.

Encountering Misogyny on the Left: A Personal Reflection

In the first community group I was actively involved in, I encountered a level of misogyny that I would never have imagined existed in what was supposed to be a radical-people-of-color organization. I was sexually/romantically involved with an older Chicano activist in the group. I was nineteen, an inexperienced young Black activist; he was thirty. He asked me to keep our relationship a secret, and I reluctantly agreed. Later, after he ended the relationship and I was reeling from depression, I discovered that he had been sleeping with at least two other women while we were together. One of them was a friend of mine, another young woman we organized with. Unaware of the nature of our relationship, which he had failed to disclose to her, she slept with him until he disappeared, refusing to answer her calls or explain the abrupt end of their relationship. She and I, after sharing our experiences, began to trade stories with other women who knew and had organized with this man.

We heard of the women who had left a Chicana/o student group and never came back after his lies and secrets blew up while the group was participating in a Zapatista action in Mexico City. The queer, radical, white organizer who left Austin to get away from his abuse. Another white woman, a social worker who thought they might get married only to come to his apartment one evening and find me there. And then there were the ones that came after me. I always wondered if they knew who he really was. The women he dated were amazing, beautiful, kick-ass, radical women that he used as shields to get himself into places he knew would never be open to such a misogynist. I mean, if that cool woman who worked in Chiapas, spoke Spanish, and worked with undocumented immigrants was dating him, he must be down, right? Wrong.

But his misogyny didn’t end there; it was also reflected in his style of organizing. In meetings he always spoke the loudest and longest, using academic jargon that made any discussion excruciatingly more complex than necessary. The academic-speak intimidated people less educated than him because he seemed to know more about radical politics than anyone else. He would talk down to other men in the group, especially those he perceived to be less intelligent than him, which was basically everybody. Then he’d switch gears, apologize for dominating the space, and acknowledge his need to check his male privilege. Ironically, when people did attempt to call him out on his shit, he would feign ignorance—what could they mean, saying that his behavior was masculinist and sexist? He’d complain of being infantilized, refusing to see how he infantilized people all the time. The fact that he was a man of color who could talk a good game about racism and racial-justice struggles masked his abusive behaviors in both radical organizations and his personal relationships. As one of his former partners shared with me, “His radical race analysis allowed people (mostly men but occasionally women as well) to forgive him for being dominating and abusive in his relationships. Womyn had to check their critique of his behavior at the door, lest we lose a man of color in the movement.” One of the reasons it is so difficult to hold men of color accountable for reproducing gender violence is that women of color and white activists continue to be invested in the idea that men of color have it harder than anyone else. How do you hold someone accountable when you believe he is target number one for the state?

Unfortunately he wasn’t the only man like this I encountered in radical spaces—just one of the smarter ones. Reviewing old e-mails, I am shocked at the number of e-mails from men I organized with that were abusive in tone and content, how easily they would talk down to others for minor mistakes. I am more surprised at my meek, diplomatic responses—like an abuse survivor—as I attempted to placate compañeros who saw nothing wrong with yelling at their partners, friends, and other organizers. There were men like this in various organizations I worked with. The one who called his girlfriend a bitch in front of a group of youth of color during a summer encuentro we were hosting. The one who sexually harassed a queer Chicana couple during a trip to México, trying to pressure them into a threesome. The guys who said they would complete a task, didn’t do it, brushed off their compañeras’ demands for accountability, let those women take over the task, and when it was finished took all the credit for someone else’s hard work. The graduate student who hit his partner—and everyone knew he’d done it, but whenever anyone asked, people would just look ashamed and embarrassed and mumble, “It’s complicated.” The ones who constantly demeaned queer folks, even people they organized with. Especially the one who thought it would be a revolutionary act to “kill all these faggots, these niggas on the down low, who are fucking up our children, fucking up our homes, fucking up our world, and fucking up our lives!” The one who would shout you down in a meeting or tell you that you couldn’t be a feminist because you were too pretty. Or the one who thought homosexuality was a disease from Europe.

Yeah, that guy.

Most of those guys probably weren’t informants. Which is a pity because it means they are not getting paid a dime for all the destructive work they do. We might think of these misogynists as inadvertent agents of the state. Regardless of whether they are actually informants or not, the work that they do supports the state’s ongoing campaign of terror against social movements and the people who create them. When queer organizers are humiliated and their political struggles sidelined, that is part of an ongoing state project of violence against radicals. When women are knowingly given STIs, physically abused, dismissed in meetings, pushed aside, and forced out of radical organizing spaces while our allies defend known misogynists, organizers collude in the state’s efforts to destroy us.

The state has already understood a fact that the Left has struggled to accept: misogynists make great informants. Before or regardless of whether they are ever recruited by the state to disrupt a movement or destabilize an organization, they’ve likely become well versed in practices of disruptive behavior. They require almost no training and can start the work immediately. What’s more paralyzing to our work than when women and/or queer folks leave our movements because they have been repeatedly lied to, humiliated, physically/verbally/emotionally/sexually abused? Or when you have to postpone conversations about the work so that you can devote group meetings to addressing an individual member’s most recent offense? Or when that person spreads misinformation, creating confusion and friction among radical groups? Nothing slows down movement building like a misogynist.

What the FBI gets is that when there are people in activist spaces who are committed to taking power and who understand power as domination, our movements will never realize their potential to remake this world. If our energies are absorbed recuperating from the messes that informants (and people who just act like them) create, we will never be able to focus on the real work of getting free and building the kinds of life-affirming, people-centered communities that we want to live in. To paraphrase bell hooks, where there is a will to dominate there can be no justice, because we will inevitably continue reproducing the same kinds of injustice we claim to be struggling against. It is time for our movements to undergo a radical change from the inside out.

Looking Forward: Creating Gender Justice in our Movements

Radical movements cannot afford the destruction that gender violence creates. If we underestimate the political implications of patriarchal behaviors in our communities, the work will not survive.

Lately I’ve been turning to the work of queers/feminists of color to think through how to challenge these behaviors in our movements. I’ve been reading the autobiographies of women who lived through the chaos of social movements debilitated by machismo. I’m revisiting the work of bell hooks, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Toni Cade Bambara, Alice Walker, Audre Lorde, Gioconda Belli, Margaret Randall, Elaine Brown, Pearl Cleage, Ntozake Shange, and Gloria Anzaldúa to see how other women negotiated gender violence in these spaces and to problematize neat or easy answers about how violence is reproduced in our communities. Newer work by radical feminists of color has also been incredibly helpful, especially the zine Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Partner Abuse in Activist Communities, edited by Ching-In Chen, Dulani, and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha.

But there are many resources for confronting this dilemma beyond books. The simple act of speaking and sharing our truths is one of the most powerful tools we have. I’ve been speaking to my elders, older women of color in struggle who have experienced the things I’m struggling against, and swapping survival stories with other women. In summer 2008 I began doing workshops on ending misogyny and building collective forms of accountability with Cristina Tzintzún, an Austin-based labor organizer and author of the essay “Killing Misogyny: A Personal Story of Love, Violence, and Strategies for Survival.” We have also begun the even more liberating practice of naming our experiences publicly and calling on our communities to address what we and so many others have experienced.

Dismantling misogyny cannot be work that only women do. We all must do the work because the survival of our movements depends on it. Until we make radical feminist and queer political ethics that directly challenge heteropatriarchal forms of organizing central to our political practice, radical movements will continue to be devastated by the antics of Brandon Darbys (and folks who aren’t informants but just act like them). A queer, radical, feminist ethic of accountability would challenge us to recognize how gender violence is reproduced in our communities, relationships, and organizing practices. Although there are many ways to do this, I want to suggest that there are three key steps that we can take to begin. First, we must support women and queer people in our movements who have experienced interpersonal violence and engage in a collective process of healing. Second, we must initiate a collective dialogue about how we want our communities to look and how to make them safe for everyone. Third, we must develop a model for collective accountability that truly treats the personal as political and helps us to begin practicing justice in our communities. When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.

As angry as gender violence on the Left makes me, I am hopeful. I believe we have the capacity to change and create more justice in our movements. We don’t have to start witch hunts to reveal misogynists and informants. They out themselves every time they refuse to apologize, take ownership of their actions, start conflicts and refuse to work them out through consensus, mistreat their compañer@s. We don’t have to look for them, but when we are presented with their destructive behaviors we have to hold them accountable. Our strategies don’t have to be punitive; people are entitled to their mistakes. But we should expect that people will own those actions and not allow them to become a pattern.

We have a right to be angry when the communities we build that are supposed to be the model for a better, more just world harbor the same kinds of antiqueer, antiwoman, racist violence that pervades society. As radical organizers we must hold each other accountable and not enable misogynists to assert so much power in these spaces. Not allow them to be the faces, voices, and leaders of these movements. Not allow them to rape a compañera and then be on the fucking five o’ clock news. In Brandon Darby’s case, even if no one suspected he was an informant, his domineering and macho behavior should have been all that was needed to call his leadership into question. By not allowing misogyny to take root in our communities and movements, we not only protect ourselves from the efforts of the state to destroy our work but also create stronger movements that cannot be destroyed from within.

[1] I use the term gender violence to refer to the ways in which homophobia and misogyny are rooted in heteronormative understandings of gender identity and gender roles. Heterosexism not only polices non-normative sexualities but also reproduces normative gender roles and identities that reinforce the logic of patriarchy and male privilege.

[2] I learned this from informal conversations with women who had organized with Darby in Austin and New Orleans while participating in the Austin Informants Working Group, which was formed by people who had worked with Darby and were stunned by his revelation that he was an FBI informant.

Article published courtesy of make/shift magazine and Courtney Desiree Morris. For more of the author’s work visit: http://creolemaroon.blogspot.com/.

Pre-Reading for 2017 IWW Skill Share: My body, my rules: a case for rape and domestic violence survivors becoming workplace organizers

Liberté Locke, a Starbucks Workers Union organizer, writes about how violence at work and in our personal lives are similar, how domestic abusers and bosses use the same techniques of control and that we need to fight both.

TRIGGER WARNING: sexual violence

(Cet article en français)

I was raped by a boyfriend on August 18th, 2006. The very next day I held back tears while I lied to a stranger over the phone about why I was unavailable to go in that day for a second interview for a job that I desperately needed. When I hung up the phone I saw a new text message. It was from him. “It’s not over. It will never be over between us…”

The next day I went in for the second interview. It was inside of the Sears Tower Starbucks in Chicago. I took the train to the interview constantly looking around me and shaking. I needed work. I had just been fired from Target two weeks prior and had no prospects. I knew I would have to go through a metal detector in order to enter the building so despite every instinct in my body I did not bring a knife with me.

“What would you do if you caught a coworker stealing?”

My mind is racing. I’m thinking that I risked my safety by leaving my house for a stupid job that pays $7.75/hr. Aren’t I worth more than that? Aren’t we all worth so much more?

“I’d tell management right away, of course. I’ve never understood why someone would steal from work…”

I tell them what they want me to.

I started working at Starbucks on August 22, 2006. That was a little over five years ago. Every year we have annual reviews where I generally get to argue with someone younger than me who makes significantly more than do about why my hard work, aching back, cracking hands, sore wrists, the bags under my eyes, the burns, the bruises on my arms, the cuts on my knees, the constant degrading treatment by the customers, the “baby, honey, sugar, bitch”, the “hey, you, slut…I said NO whip cream!”s, the staring, the following after work…I get to argue why all that means I’m worth a 33cent raise rather than 22cents, Degrading for any worker. Degrading especially for a woman worker. Only for me, I get to do this every year just four days after the anniversary of when someone I was in love with raped me. My annual review is truly the only reason I’m reminded of the anniversary of the assault.

I wish I was exaggerating but truthfully I’ve just toned down how I really feel about it. Since we’re talking about labor, I could also mention how when I was raped I didn’t leave the house where it happened until the morning because of two main reasons 1) I feared riding the subway home at 3am and 2) I was getting picked up in the morning by my then best friend (and my boyfriend’s other partner) to head to her wealthy parents’ house in the suburbs where they were paying me to clean. Desperately needing to sell my labor in exchange for simple cash kept me laying awake next to my attacker. Not wanting to lose the gig had me lying to him. Promising that I’d never tell anyone. Promising not to leave him. Promises that at the time I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t keep.

It was when I was on my hands and knees literally scrubbing the floor of her parents’ house that it occurred to me that being poor was truly enough of an assault.

I stood up. I told her everything. I didn’t hear any supportive words. She said she was jealous. I wanted to throw up. I told her to take me home and that I’d rather starve than clean her parents’ house that day.

She gave me the cash even though I was no where near done and drove me home. Both from her guilty conscience, I’m sure. I resent her less these days realizing that his manipulative behavior had gotten to her too. But it was worse for her than me. I was getting out. She was deciding to stay and betray another woman in the process. That’s some pretty heavy manipulation.

In the months after the assault I went to therapy for free through a domestic violence program. I went through exercises that forced me to relive some of my happy memories of him and I together. I didn’t want to. We dated on and off for a couple of years and had definitely had some wonderful times. I wished they’d never happened. I wished I’d never met him. I didn’t want to remember his face, his voice, his scent. I purged my life of everything he gave me and everything that reminded me of him. My therapist wanted to get to the root cause of where the assault came from because I blamed myself so entirely. Thinking things were great before that one night that hit me out of no where. Or so I thought.

After nearly six months of therapy we hit a revelation. He was always manipulative, always verbally abusive. He preyed on my self-esteem and wanted me miserable so that I felt I needed him. So I’d crave his approval and attention. The few days leading up the assault I had started standing up for myself, not taking his shit as much. Refusing sex when I thought he was being an asshole when in the past I would had caved even after he would insult me. My therapist presented the idea that he raped me because he felt he was losing his control over me. It was meant to break me…as you would a horse.

Through therapy I started to feel like I was worth something and that he was the sad loser. Not me. He wanted something from me and getting that something wasn’t enough. He wanted my spirit and body. Ownership over things uncontainable.

When I started to feel stronger and less afraid I really stopped being able to put up with rude customers. Not putting up with rude customers meant facing the bosses’ wrath when the customers complained which then meant I had to stand up to my bosses. Finally the real opportunity came and not wanting to live as a victim anymore took the form of signing a union card with the Industrial Workers of the World.

I learned about organized labor. I decided that if I’m not meant to be some man’s slave than why be a slave to a boss, to a corporation, to a customer?

I looked at bosses as they sat in desks, sipping coffee drinks that they had me make them, pouring over sales numbers they got because of the hard work of me and my coworkers. We worked ourselves to complete exhaustion. Mothers I worked with talked about missing their kid’s first step while making lattes. I’ve known many pregnant women who have worked while dilated, risking their unborn child’s well being and their own, because maternity leave is so short and they wanted as much time as possible with their newborns so they were holding out. I knew the bosses and the company were responsible for the state of things.

The bosses were very manipulative. Abusing you for many shifts in a row, refusing you breaks, calling you stupid, promoting people that sexually harassed you, giving you schedules that made sleep impossible, refusing raises based on petty things like whether you always remembered to wear the required black socks or cover your tattoos. Then when we started organizing they would do this behavior for days and suddenly throw a pizza party. The majority of workers would thank the boss and talk for weeks about how much they really cared about us. How kind they were. How lucky we were.

Suddenly all the abuse faded away and grudges were dropped. Bosses were welcomed back into group conversations and invited to baby showers.

I see no difference between this scenario and the boyfriend hitting his girlfriend in the face and then showing up with flowers & candy and the cycle starting all over again.

I am not ashamed of being raped or manipulated by my ex. I am also not ashamed of leaving him and trying to heal. I am not ashamed of what horrible abuses I’ve experienced and witnessed since beginning to work at Starbucks. I refuse to accept them back after a simple pizza party.

I don’t want pizza. And I don’t want flowers. I want freedom from a life of servitude. I want an end to the abuse.

Yes, I could quit and liken it to breaking up with an abusive boyfriend but the next job would recreate the cycle. The next job would be the next abusive partner.

So I stay. And I fight. I fight through organizing with other survivors of the abuse, my coworkers. Well, at least the ones that have reached rock bottom and now want to climb out. No, not everyone is ready when I meet them to break up with their oppressor. I’ll be here when they are. When they, too, find the courage.

We work together to improve working conditions. Refusing to give them what they want when they are being assholes. Refusing them our labor. The use of our bodies for their own desires.

Under this current system we must make money to survive. To make money we must sell our labor. This is already unjust and disgusting to me. I’m fascinated by the creativity, the skill, and genius of the human mind and body. I feel great pride in being able to make something, teach something, to speak, to write, to learn. How wonderful it is to know humans are capable of so much greatness. The fact that someone was smart enough to exploit this greatness out of others for their own means with as little return to the person who created it as possible is so very heartbreaking. It’s the same heartbreak I feel when I learn of a person staying with an abuser and doing everything they say only to be beaten down again. I always wonder when they will leave. I wonder when they will fight back. I feel this way when I hold a coworker who is sobbing from being yelled at by a boss. I wonder when they will stop taking it. Many workers have. Workers who have started and joined unions. We are survivors.

These past five years have been amazing. I’ve healed from the abuse and degradation of that relationship. I healed through applying my therapist’s teachings to my life at work.

I refuse to be a victim any more. I’m determined to remember my worth and to try to help others heal from years of abuse at the hands of employers and customers. It isn’t enough to walk away if you still haven’t realized your worth because low self-esteem for our labor can just put us continually in the same fucked up situations. Before we know it we’ve been broken down quite literally and have nothing to show for it. The big bosses will have the property they purchased with the money they kept from us. They will have the best doctors, their kids will receive the best education, their parents will be provided for, and they will enjoy the fruits of our labor while we starve. It is no different than the significant other that swipes your paycheck.

The burns from the extra hot milk don’t hurt any less when I realize that drink cost my hourly wage but in one hour I will have made over a hundred of them.

Don’t listen when a boss or an abused coworker tries to make you believe that your labor is worth is nothing. Don’t believe them when they belittle your job because it’s in fast food, or retail. Whether you sit at a desk, deliver a pizza, clean a toilet, sew a pair of pants, or act on stage in order to pay your bills…remember if the bosses could do it by themselves they would. Remember they need you way more than you need them. Yes, the abuse can get worse when you stand up and fight back. Much like what happened to me. But if it took being raped to get away from such a horribly destructive relationship than that is simply what it took. If it took recovering from that to teach me about liberation and refuse servitude then so be it.

I will not be a slave. I will not be a servant. I do not consent to the abuse of my mind & body or the belittlement of my spirit. When they try to divide us it is like the partner that says you can’t see your friends. It is to isolate you so you feel alone, helpless, like your screaming and no one can hear you. Don’t let them do that. Refuse isolation. Reach out to your coworkers. Refuse to do unsafe work. Demand the money you deserve. Those that do the most work should live in the most luxury. We earned it. It is ours.

If you’ve found a way out of an abusive relationship or situation in your life than you know how badly you needed out. You’ve gone over in your mind a thousand times just how bad it could have gotten. You feel grateful to have walked away with your life. Imagine if all the horrible treatment at work ended. Imagine you didn’t dread clocking in. What if the boss now feared you? What if they wouldn’t dare hit you again, call you a name, harass you? What if they gave you all your breaks on time and didn’t refuse your overtime pay? What if you set your schedule and decided the tasks you’d take on? What if you set your pay rate?

What would it be like to finally be free?

Originally posted on December 4, 2011 on Facebook. Shared with permission from author.

2017 MidWest Skill Share March 25th & 26th

Kansas City IWW & Friends

2017 MidWest Skill Share

Work | Home | Street | Community | Prison

March 25th & 26th

Contact us at greaterkciww@gmail.com for more info!!

Featuring:

  • IWW Do-It-Yourself Workplace Organizing! Learn how to organize your own workplace!! your job, your voice, your union!
  • Incarceerated Workers Organizing Committee. Prisoner organizing and the 2017 National Prisoner effort!!
  • Building a Poor People’s Survival Movement. Presented by Jonina Abron Ervin for Black Autonomy Federation
  • Pod networking and direct action; possibilities for survivor-centric justice
  • The coming Repression: Solidarity, Resistance, & Liberation in the Age of Trump
    • As resistance builds against the Trump regime and its white nationalist visions, state repression of our movements will also increase. This presentation and discussion will examine some of the recent history and trends in political repression, as well as strategies and tactics for building resilient movements and defending our communities.

Schedule:

Friday night – social

Saturday –

9:30am – 1:00pm brunch / grazing

10:30am – 11:30am – Introductions
11:30am – 12:30pm – Intro to IWW / whatever

12:30pm – 1pm break

1pm – 3pm JoNina Abron Ervin presenting for Black Autonomy Federation

3pm – 4pm break

4pm – 7pm survivor pod

7pm – 8:30pm dinner

8:30pm – 10:00pm iwoc

Sunday

9:30am – 10:30am breakfast

10:30am – 1:30pm confronting state repression

1:30pm – 3:00pm lunch

3:00pm – 6:00pm iww workplace

6:00pm dinner

Shooter of unarmed anti-racist walks free; Authorities silent.

Victim still in Harborview Hospital; Shooter is well-known right wing gun activist.

From the Twin Cities GDC

SEATTLE, WA, January 25, 2017 — Social media activists claim to have identified the person who shot an anti-racist organizer on the University of Washington’s Seattle (UW-Seattle) campus on Friday, January 20, 2017, as a well-known right-wing gun activist attending white nationalist Milo Yiannopoulos’ event with his wife, also a gun activist. Although the shooter shot a person in a protest situation, University of Washington Police have refused to make an arrest, and released the shooter and the person who accompanied them to turn themselves into the police early Saturday morning. King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg has not indicated any plan to pursue prosecution. Local politicians have remained ominously quiet.

The victim is an anti-racist and anti-fascist activist, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), and the IWW General Defense Committee (GDC). His lawyer has confirmed that he was there to protest Milo Yiannopoulos’ hateful speech and violent incitement. He had been seen de-escalating conflicts between protesters and counter-protesters before he was shot. He remains in Harborview Hospital.

Social media activists allege the shooter is a well-known local right-wing gun activist who sent Yiannopoulous multiple facebook messages that evening. This person claimed in those messages that a protester had stolen a beloved “Make America Great Again” hat, and requested a new, autographed one from Yiannopoulos. In these messages he claimed a protester had ‘sucker punched’ them.

Multiple witnesses have reported that this person appeared drunk that evening, and had aggressively and repeatedly sought confrontations with protesters. This behavior can be seen on videos released by the Southern Poverty Law Center, and others. Media sources have reported that the suspect has claimed they shot in self-defense and that they originally thought that the person they shot was a ‘white supremacist,’ but UWPD deny these reports. The reporting of these sorts of unsubstantiated claims has clouded the facts, and allowed undue credence for the right-wing narrative of fear.

People have questioned the University of Washington administration’s handling of this situation. UW administrators justified the event on the basis of the principle of freedom of speech; it is unclear however that the administration would permit self-proclaimed nazis to speak on campus and encourage the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the United States. We question why the administration permits people who have merely rebranded themselves as members of the alt-right to encourage similar violence against our fellow humans. UW President Cauce’s statement denied administration responsibility, and offered no support, condemning ‘violence’ in general and reaffirming support for the event’s approval, as well as the police handling of the situation.

Multiple press accounts from witnesses indicate that the police made no serious attempts at crowd control that evening, and were unprepared for the event. At the same time, observers have questioned the prosecutor’s unwillingness to charge the shooter, even after they turned themselves in. Our comrade has expressed his empathy for the shooter and his desire to engage in a restorative justice process rather than cooperating with a criminal prosecution. This indicates his deep opposition to the violence of the police and the state. The police’s complicity with the shooter indicates their willingness to protect those who create violence.

There is a double-standard for violence in America: right-wing activists may shoot protesters with impunity. We appear to be in a period when the right wing can murder unarmed protesters and claim self-defense. This was the supposed defense of the white supremacists who shot five people in Minneapolis at a protest against police murder. These violent right wing activists will even call us the ‘nazis.’ As they have done in this case, the media will collaborate unintentionally.

Finally, we are disturbed by the total silence from Seattle’s political establishment. We expect conservatives to ignore or even celebrate violence against us. However, the silence and lack of support from liberal, progressive, and radical members of the city council – especially socialist Kshama Sawant – is damning.

Our comrade continues to recover, and we are deeply grateful for the support shown him by generous people all over the world. His pain and sacrifice should not be in vain: we call on all people opposed to fascism and racism to demand accountability from the UW, the police, and the politicians. While we hold them accountable, we must also take responsibility for our own collective safety. It is clear that the police and the politicians have no interest in our safety.

Americans often like to say ‘there is no room for racism.’ It is past time to move beyond statements, and make it a truth.

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Those who wish to financial support this member’s recovery may donate at this link.

Fellow Worker and GDC Member Shot at anti-fascist protest in Seattle

Originally posted on: Twin Cities GDC

On the evening of Friday, January 20th, a comrade of ours was shot in the stomach in the most public place on the University of Washington’s campus in Seattle – a place called “Red Square” for the color of its bricks rather than its politics.

This Fellow Worker (what members of the IWW call ourselves) and Defender (for GDC members) is a longtime anti-fascist and dedicated activist, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and the General Defense Committee of the IWW. He’s currently in critical condition at Harborview Hospital in Seattle. They have a Level One Trauma center, so it’s likely he is receiving the best quality care available, for which we are deeply grateful.

Click here to go to the official IWW General Defense Committee fundraiser for this fellow worker.

 

Make Fascists Afraid Again

How do we respond? We are building an expanded anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-fascist presence in Seattle, and this person was spearheading that effort. Will others are willing step up and replace his effort while he heals? Our response will help determine that.

There is a limited amount of time for us to make clear to the world what is clear to us: we are under armed attack. The fascist right knows where to find us – protests such as anti-Donald Trump events, or actions against police brutality. In the Twin Cities, the trial has just begun of Allen Scarsella, one of the white supremacists who came to the Fourth Precinct in Minneapolis in November, 2015 and opened fire, shooting multiple people.

We don’t have confirmation that the person who shot our comrade was a counter-protester angry at those protesting Milo’s hateful white nationalist misogyny. We do know that he turned himself into the police several hours later, claiming ‘self-defense.’ This, of course, is exactly what Scarsella did as well.

Our friend will have enormous hospital bills and undoubtedly some legal costs as well. There will be a significant loss of income. Let’s raise him so much that he won’t have to worry about that angle of things. Please give. All money will be controlled directly by them and their partner; none will go to any other cause, excepting any fees associated with the fundraising service used.

Click here to go to the official IWW General Defense Committee fundraiser for this fellow worker.

Please don’t just give; please tell your friends and families and organizations to give. That may sound daunting, but here’s why they should:

 

 

  • This isn’t just about one guy. Your friends and families know that the situation has changed dramatically. They know that things are changing fast, and have heard the word fascism a lot since Trump was elected. They may even suspect that the breakneck pace of media revelations and executive decisions is intended to distract them and make them feel helpless.
  • This is about protecting those who have already been putting themselves on the line protecting us. Who have been organizing for us and got there even before Donald Trump was elected. This is about protecting them. This is about emboldening OUR side to organized to protect ourselves, rather than simply beg for protection from fascists and racists. Some of whom are now in political power.
  • We need to ensure widespread support for them, and we need to do it in the name of organized anti-fascism. We must demonstrate that no matter our own political analysis or identity – progressive, liberal, leftist, radical, etc. – we support anti-fascism, and we support antifascists. We will not leave our own behind. We will support antifascist efforts, most of all because they are needed more than ever, and not supporting them at this crucial point would be a disaster.

Thank you for reading all the way to the end. It’s hard to hear that a comrade has been shot. We may not have expressed everything in the most organized or best way above, and if that is the case, please accept our apologies.

We hope you will consider making a contribution, and perhaps writing letters or calling to the President of the University of Washington and expressing support for the victim of the shooting and the protesters, and criticism of the UW administration for permitting an event they knew was going to promote violence against minority groups. Now they’ve gotten what they should have known was coming. Call or write the County Attorney and demand aggressive prosecution. Call Seattle City Councilors and ask them to issue a public statement of condemnation of violent attacks on anti-racist and antifascist protesters, and support of our Fellow Worker.

Tell your neighbors the truth. Change the narrative that they will try to spin on the media.