Demonstration at Westlake Center (4th & Pine) 6PM
Tuesday March 15 2011
March 15 has been a day of international action against police brutality around the globe since 1997. The specific date is significant because in Switzerland, on March 15, two children, ages 11 and 12, were beaten by police. M15 originated from the Black Flag group in Switzerland and from the Collective Opposed to Police Brutality in Montreal. People in countr…ies across the world come out to the streets in March to express their rage against the police. In Montreal specifically, there has been fierce annual riots erupting from the depths of the dispossessed. This March 15, Seattle will be joining the rest of the world in the streets and the timing couldn’t be more appropriate.
Traditionally, the day is titled “International Day Against Police Brutality” but this definition is limiting. We are calling for a demonstration “Against the Police”. The brutality of the police is an inherent part of their role as the guard dogs of the bosses and the rich; it is not simply an abuse of power, but a symptom of power itself. Here in Seattle, we have seen what police violence looks like first-hand multiple times this past year. The minute someone is homeless, jobless, or can’t handle the repetitious drone of everyday life, the pretense of police protection vanishes. They become criminal. For many others the semblance of protection never exists. Police murder is a war on all those who won’t follow their every order, and those who don’t fit the cut-out copy of citizen. All the excluded become dehumanized, explained-away statistics. Even after an inquest or after a resignation, police murder does not stop, and it won’t, until there are no more police in the streets. Taking to the streets on our own terms is a step toward building resistance to the police on a practical level.
No peace in the streets with police in these streets!
Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=205272389489860&ref=ts
No charges will be brought against Officer Ian Burke for the execution of John T. Williams. Is anyone surprised? Is this the call for justice so many police-apologists desire? It’s been nearly six months since the murder of John T. Since then footage of SPD brutalizing people have been leaked to the public, and just over a week since officers attacked anti-police demonstrators in their Seattle home.
In the early morning of Sun Feb. 6th the police approached a person vaguely matching the description of a suspect in a burglary on a nearby porch. After being asked for their badge numbers and denied entry to the house the pigs snuck in through an open window and attacked six people, arresting three and charging them with assault on an officer. One pig exclaimed “I’m going to Ian Burke your ass motherfucker” to one individual as he was handcuffed and beaten. Though the house didn’t seem to be targeted due to knowledge of anti-police demonstrators residing there, once it was understood that these people weren’t going to take shit from the authority the pigs escalated with violence.
[These are and are not weapons of war]
That same night a group of 40 supporters gathered outside the jail and held a noise demo show solidarity with their comrades and other prisoners. Bells, horns, whistles, pots and pans all rattled through the empty streets and into the jail. A surveillance camera was destroyed and a grate from the guards parking lot was ripped down. The chant “A.C.A.B.- All Cops Are Bastards!” caught on inside on multiple levels. We could see lights flicker and arms wave through windows .The prisoners heard us and understood why we were there. Our friends were released on Tuesday, with no charges sticking.
The old adage “an injury to one is an injury to all” rings true in the face of our common enemy: the State and Capitalism, whose police and prisons maintain the depravity and isolation of a world reduced to commodities and appearances.
This call out for Specifically West Coast solidarity is not meant to exclude any regions from acting (in fact we encourage it!) but to reaffirm networks of affinity that already exist. To realize our strength as a collective force, and the feelings of joy that spread through moments of solidarity and revolt in the face of a common enemy. It is our actions together that bind us.
Against the police and the Prison World they maintain!
Solidarity with all imprisoned comrades, and those still resisting!
To John Graham, Leonard Peltier, Scott Demuth, G20 Arrestees, Asheville 11, Imprisoned Chilean comrades.
Solidarity with all prisoners!
Destroy what destroys you!
Below is a list of recent anti-police activity in Seattle, from most to least recent.
Feb. 12th – Another October 22nd Coalition (O22) rally, this time with a heavy anarchist presence.
Feb. 6th – Noise Demo outside Seattle Jail for arrested comrades
Feb. 3rd – Police accountability forum hosted by Seattle’s “alternative” newspaper The Stranger was interrupted by individuals in the crowd shouting down the police and groups of protesters chanting “Cops, Pigs, Murderers!”, inside and outside the building.
Jan. 20th – A march organized by the Oct 22nd coalition (front group for the RCP parasites ) that resulted in a group of youth holding an intersection during an unpermitted march.
This announcement is taken from a event page. At the bottom are links to some mainstream coverage, including (sometimes inaccurate) mentions of anarchist participation in the demonstrations tonight. Hopefully someone will post a reportback from an anarchist perspective on tonight’s actions soon.
Today, Seattle City Prosecutor Dan Satterberg announced that the city will NOT press any charges against Ian Birk, the cop who murdered John T. Williams last September. Hours later, Birk voluntarily resigned from the Seattle Police force–but this is not enough. In fact, today the mayor issued a statement explaining that, however guilty Birk may be, the way the law is written specifically protects the police from being prosecu…ted for murder. According to the system, the most we can hope for is disciplinary action from Birk’s employer!
But hundreds of people in Seattle refused to accept this, and on very short notice demonstrated in multiple different marches that wound their way throughout many parts of the city.
Demonstrators everywhere blocked traffic, chanting and distributing leaflets, but everywhere they were met with cheers and honking of encouragement from commuters who wished to join them in the street. The SPD mobilized a huge response, donning riot gear and wielding clubs to try to keep demonstrators from reaching key locations like police precincts or from congregating in key intersections, but demonstrators were unafraid of the police and continued to express their outrage throughout the night. Some people shouted down cops, while others sat in the street and refused to move as the police tried to clear them. Demonstrators had one another’s backs and no one was arrested!
We can’t stop now! When Chief Diaz and Mayor McGinn explain that nothing can be done, they are asking us to accept that Birk will get away with murder. Tonight, we refused, but one night of amazing protest is not enough. The only way things will ever change is if we change it, and that will take more and more people in the streets.
In this spirit, please come out again on Friday night at 6 PM to Westlake for more demonstrations.
The Facebook announcement for tonight’s event quickly grew from about 300 invites to over 6000 literally overnight. As one poster answered the prompt, “Who is organizing this event,”: “At this point, we all are!” Please share this one even more widely, but also remember that social change is not an image on your computer screen. We are all needed in the streets!
Seattle Times Coverage of tonight’s demos: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/photogalleries/localnews2014242122/
Justice is Impossible And So Are We
This is not just about John T. Williams, and it is entirely about John T. Williams. We know there is no justice, only an ontology that is filthy with other people’s values and absent of our desires. This is the reason no officer has been prosecuted with criminal charges for firing a weapon in 30 years. Capitalism is an imperfect system that is impossible to maintain. It wrecks the earth, our bodies, and our spiritual selves by demanding a humanity that is calculated by industry/government. That is why it has it’s own security to enforce it’s doomsday fiscal politics: the police. If liberal democracy and capitalism worked, why would this force be necessary?
Daily we live with the knowledge that the lives we lead are not ours: we are fulfilling other people’s wishes, living by their principles. Most are lead to believe that the only way they can have any power over their own lives is by competing and dog eat dog becomes their hegemony.
In order to be heard, they want us to distill our anger and condense our rage into a cohesive argument. We have to prove our dissatisfaction. However, we abide by the laws that they are free to amend at will. They shoot whomever they please, we go to work and obey their policies.
This cannot continue.
We demand no more police. We demand no more Guardians of Tourism and Capital. This means the entire system must give way to let us determine our own lives. They will tell us that we are crazy, that we should not piss off a system that is powerful and adept at crippling our psychic and physical stamina. They should be the ones afraid of how we will respond to their insistence at obedience.
We demand the impossible, because we are already living it.
No charges against Seattle officer who shot woodcarver
By Steve Miletich
King County prosecutors have decided not to file criminal charges against Seattle police Officer Ian Birk in the fatal shooting of woodcarver John T. Williams, sources familiar with the decision say.
The Prosecutor’s Office is expected to announce the decision in a news conference on Wednesday, the sources say.
Shortly after, Seattle Police Chief John Diaz is expected to disclose at a news conference that the department’s Firearms Review Board has reached a final decision that the Aug. 30 shooting was not justified, say sources briefed on the finding.
The board’s conclusion, reached in private deliberations a few days ago, allows the Police Department to begin internal proceedings that could lead to Birk’s firing or other discipline, the sources said. In October, the board reached a preliminary decision that the shooting was unjustified, sources said then.
Deputy Police Chief Nick Metz said Tuesday he couldn’t comment in detail on the department’s plans but said police officials were working on a statement on the course of the case.
Metz said the department was aware that the outcome is a “very sensitive issue” and that the “community is watching closely.”
Birk has been on paid leave since the shooting.
The Prosecutor’s Office declined Tuesday to discuss its decision.
“Our decision has not been finalized and we will make an official announcement in the near future,” said Ian Goodhew, deputy chief of staff for King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.
Prosecutors have been confronted with a steep legal hurdle in deciding whether to charge Birk with murder or manslaughter. State law shields police officers from criminal prosecution when they claim they used deadly force in self-defense, unless it can be shown they acted with malice and a lack of good faith.
A spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn said Tuesday night that Satterberg and Diaz will make statements on the case on Wednesday.
Spokesman Mark Matassa did not reveal what would be said. He said McGinn will hold his own news conference Wednesday.
The decision not to file criminal charges comes about a month after a King County inquest jury reached mixed findings on the shooting. Four of eight jurors found that Birk wasn’t facing an imminent threat when he fatally shot Williams, and that he didn’t give Williams sufficient time to put down a knife he was carrying during their confrontation on a Seattle sidewalk.
One juror found that Birk faced a threat and gave Williams sufficient time; three others answered “unknown.”
Four jurors determined Birk believed he was in danger when he encountered Williams, while four others answered “unknown.”
The findings regarding the actual threat to Birk stand in contrast to previous King County inquest decisions, in which jurors have almost always upheld the actions of police officers involved in deadly shootings.
Inquest jurors weren’t asked to weigh whether Birk was guilty or innocent of wrongdoing in the shooting.
The results were reviewed by the Prosecutor’s Office to help determine whether to file criminal charges.
Even before the inquest, Birk, 27, who joined the department in July 2008, had been stripped of his gun and badge as a result of the preliminary finding by the Firearms Review Board and Diaz, the police chief, that the shooting was unjustified, sources said. The board waited to make a final decision until after the inquest.
The board, made up of Deputy Chief Clark Kimerer, two captains and a lieutenant, heard testimony in October from civilian witnesses and police investigators. One board member sat in on the inquest. The board determines if officer shootings fall within department policies and procedures. The inquest jury sifted through conflicting testimony and two patrol-car videos and audio that captured some of the confrontation at Boren Avenue and Howell Street but not the shooting itself. Their answers did not have to be unanimous.
Evidence presented during the inquest showed about four seconds elapsed between Birk’s first order to Williams to put down the knife and when he fired.
The shooting occurred after Birk saw Williams cross the street holding a flat piece of wood and a knife with a 3-inch blade. Williams, a member of Canada’s First Nations people, used the knife for carving, his family says.
Birk got out of his patrol car and followed Williams onto the sidewalk. Birk shouted at Williams to get his attention and ordered him three times to put down the knife. Birk fired when Williams didn’t respond, hitting him four times.
Birk testified during the inquest that he was initially concerned because Williams showed signs of impairment while carrying a knife. He said when he sought to question Williams, Williams turned toward him with a “very stern, very serious, very confrontational look on his face.”
Birk told jurors Williams “still had the knife out and [was in] a very confrontational posture” when he opened fire.
Williams, a chronic inebriate, had a blood-alcohol level measured during his autopsy at 0.18 percent, above the 0.08 percent at which a driver is deemed legally drunk.
During the inquest, two witnesses contradicted Birk, saying they didn’t see Williams do anything threatening before he was shot.
Birk testified that shortly after the shooting he told a witness, a responding officer and a detective that Williams had not complied with his order to put down the knife. He acknowledged that, at that time, he did not tell them that Williams had threatened him.
It wasn’t until hours later, Birk testified, that he provided a detailed written statement alleging that Williams had menacingly displayed the knife and “pre-attack indicators.”
Williams’ knife was found folded in the closed position after the shooting.
Jurors unanimously found that Williams was carrying an open knife when first seen by Birk. But four answered “no” and four “unknown” when asked if the blade was open when Birk fired.
In reviewing the case, prosecutors had various options: charging Birk with second-degree murder, first-degree reckless manslaughter, second-degree negligent manslaughter, or declining to bring a charge.
A second-degree-murder charge would require prosecutors to show beyond a reasonable doubt that Birk intended to unlawfully kill Williams, or that Birk intentionally and unlawfully assaulted Williams, causing his death.
Manslaughter requires less proof. Prosecutors must show only that reckless or negligent conduct caused a death, though they still must do so beyond a reasonable doubt.
Federal prosecutors have been monitoring the case and could consider bringing a criminal civil-rights case against Birk. But they must show willful criminal conduct to obtain a conviction.
The shooting of Williams and other incidents have prompted the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and 34 community groups to call on the U.S. Justice Department to investigate Police Department practices. Seattle officers have been under scrutiny over use of force in several incidents in the past year, particularly in dealings with minorities. Justice has opened a preliminary review of the department.
At least two protests are planned for Wednesday over the decision not to file criminal charges against Birk.
The Capitol Hill Blog said there would be a protest at City Hall at 4 p.m., and a Facebook event page announced a protest at 6 p.m. at Westlake Park in Seattle.
From Modesto Anarcho:
“I don’t know why did we have police in the 1st place. We seem to be taking good care of each other, organizing traffic, cleaning streets.” – Egyptian on Twitter
The two following articles regard the ongoing events in North Africa and the Middle East. Many people here in California (& Washington) have heard of these uprisings, but many don’t know much beyond the fact that people are angry and in the streets. What is interesting about these revolts is that they mirror so much of what has been going on here, where we live. Riots in the face of police brutality. People angry over poverty, lack of housing, and unemployment. People starting to occupy their workplaces…There is a revolution going on in North Africa and the Middle East, but how far it goes or if it stays a revolution and leads to a better life is up to the everyday people revolting and fighting in Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, and everywhere else. Will the window into freedom that people are creating allow them to get to somewhere new, or will they allow just another group of thugs and gangsters to fill the current rulers shoes? It’s up to us if we want to follow their courageous example. The following articles are taken from Anarchist News and Crimethinc.com. Several videos and further links are supplied throughout the text.
Recent Events in North Africa and the Middle East From Anarchist News.org
The current revolutionary wave started 6 weeks ago in a poor working class suburb of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia when an unemployed man publicly burned himself after being abused and humiliated by police and public officials. Four weeks later the dictator Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. Since then revolt has spread to Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Yemen, Libya and Sudan. Syrian youths are planning demonstrations and even in Albania protesters have gained confidence from Tunisian example. Now, the Egyptian dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak is struggling for survival and even the mighty Chinese government is taking no chances and censoring the word “Egypt” from the local Internet.
Everywhere, left-wing parties and non-hardline, populist Islamists, despite being the most prominent examples of opposition and having fairly decent reputations, have been left behind and mostly ignored by self-organized masses. Religious leadership is not desired by most demonstrators, who, according to one report, overwhelmed “Allah Akbar” by much louder chants of “Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian.”3 Various trade unions and federations are playing a secondary, but significant part in these events. Generally they have not taken initiative. Most significant has been the Tunisian UGTT federation (being the second largest organized force after the ruling party) but even in their case, support for demonstrations and political strikes, according to one report, came from local and regional impetus against the wishes of the national executive. And recently UGTT has sided with the interim government.
Self-organization has been a great source of strength for the protesters. Many demonstrations were started on Facebook and publicized by phone and word of mouth. After initial clashes with police, protesters adjusted their tactics and taught each other how to outsmart the cops. When the Egyptian government disabled the Internet, neighbors went door-to-door quietly at night to invite everyone to join. On the streets people have shared food and medicine widely with other protesters in need and some have come prepared with medical supplies to tend to the injuries of strangers. Everyone describes powerful solidarity among the protesters and for many each new day brought new friends.
One female demonstrator in Cairo described a surprising absence of sexual harassment in the crowds and automatic respect from male strangers – a previously unimaginable experience for her in Egypt4 , a country infamous for sexual harassment in the streets. Although women have been a minority in these protests, they are now taking to the streets in greater numbers to replace the men.
Besides changes in interpersonal relations, there have been many instances of powerful political self-organization. Both in Tunisia and Egypt, workers in factories, newspapers and other workplaces kicked out their bosses and CEOs and replaced them with self-management by worker committees or in some cases by new, more popular bosses.5 Almost overnight there arose numerous neighborhood committees to guard against government-sanctioned thugs and looters. Similar committees have taken to cleaning and otherwise running their communities. Some committees are arresting any police officers that pass through their areas. One tweet from Egypt said: “I don’t know why did we have police in the 1st place. We seem to be taking good care of each other, organizing traffic, cleaning streets.” In Egypt, Union members from many industries have created a new trade union federation and are starting to form factory committees to “defend” their workplaces (the word can also be translated as “occupy”) and to organize a general strike.78
In Egypt and elsewhere in the region there have been various strikes, including general strikes restricted to cities or internal regions. In Suez, public servants have gone on indefinite strike until Mubarak resigns. In Egypt and Tunisia numerous police stations, ruling party headquarters, banks and residences of ruling party members have been burned and looted by protesters. The police have been beaten from the streets by demonstrators fully willing to attack them and burn their vehicles. Bedouins have charged police stations and looted their weapons to defend themselves against State violence. In Libya, protesters upset by lack of housing took direct action and squatted 800 vacant lots. Read the rest of this article here.
Egypt Today, Tomorrow the World From crimethinc.com
North Africa is in revolt. As usual, the most striking thing is how familiar everything is: the young man with the prestigious degree working at a coffee shop, the unemployment and bitterness, the protests set off by police brutality—for police are to the unemployed what bosses are to workers. These details cue us in that what is happening in Egypt is not part of another world, but very much part of our own. There are no exotic overseas revolutions in the 21st century. Make no mistake—though these events dwarf the riots in Greece and the student movement in England, they spring from the same source. To keep up with events, we urge you to read our comrades’ dispatches from Egypt and anti-authoritarian perspectives from the Middle East in general. But for these uprisings to offer any hope, we have to understand ourselves as part of them, and think and act accordingly. To that end, we’ve solicited this analysis from a comrade in North Africa.
What is happening—first in Tunisia and now in Egypt—is the beginning of the wave of full-scale revolutions that will inevitably follow the global financial crisis of 2008. Taking place in the wake of the failed “War on Terror,” these revolutions combine the latent force of massive numbers of unemployed youth with the dynamism of modern communication networks. They signal the conclusion of the decade of counter-revolution that followed September 11, 2001. Although they continue the exploration of new technologies and decentralized forms of organization initiated by the anti-globalization movement, the form and scale of these new revolutions is unprecedented. Largely anonymous groups are using the ubiquitous World Wide Web to spark leaderless rebellions against the pharaohs of the global empire of capital.
The self-styled rulers of the world are truly at a loss as to how to understand the new social and technological forces at play; the aging dictator Mubarak is a perfect example of this, but he is hardly the only one of his kind. One can almost smell the fear, not only amongst the despots of China and Saudi Arabia but also the supposed leaders of representative democracies. The contortions the US government has been going through are the most grotesque of all; it isn’t lost on the Egyptian people that the bullets striking down their comrades came from the USA. Egypt receives $1.3 billion dollars of military aid from the US every year. The suppression of “democracy” in the Middle East has been a deliberate policy of the US government: they know popular sentiment would never support their agenda as the military enforcement of global capitalism.
The best efforts of Mubarak’s dying regime to put its fingers in the ears of the world have not silenced the people on the streets of Cairo. Even blocking cell phones and trying to turn off the entire Internet have proved futile. For generations, Arabs and Africans have been silenced, represented by various colonial governments and portrayed as “primitive” and “terrorist” in Europe and the US. Now the people of Egypt are speaking in thunderous unison for freedom—not for political Islam, as demagogues from Iran to Israel would have the world believe. In doing so, they are realizing the ideals to which the US government pays only hypocritical lip service.
Today, the common condition from Egypt to Tunisia is approaching universal unemployment—especially among the younger generations, which comprise the vast majority of population. This is increasingly the case in the United States and Europe as well. Unemployment is no accident, but the inevitable result of the last thirty years of capitalism. Capitalism reached its internal limits at the end of the 1970s; now the factories of every industry produce ever more commodities, while increasing automation renders workers less and less necessary. The only way to make profits off these commodities is to eliminate workers or pay them next to nothing. To discipline the skyrocketing unemployed population and prevent revolt, the police wage a never-ending war on the population. We live in a world overflowing with cheap shit, in which human life is the cheapest of all.
In these conditions, people have nothing to left to lose. Nothing, that is, but their dignity—and it turns out they will not surrender that. It was precisely this innermost core of dignity that led Mohammed Bouazizi to light himself on fire rather than face humiliation at the hands of the police, who in seizing his fruit-selling cart took away the only way he could feed his family. The blaze lit by Mohammed Bouazizi has spread, carried by other unemployed people who thereby transform themselves from abject beggars into world-historical heroes. The people of Egypt are not only burning police cars, they are organizing popular committees to clean the police and other trash off the street, and the streets of Cairo have never felt safer.
It is not surprising that a wave of revolutions should begin now. Not since the days of pharaohs and monarchs has the world been controlled by as senseless a force as the global financial market. As capitalists became less and less able to produce profit from industrial production over the past decades, they had to invent means of profiting based on expected future returns. But in a world of increasingly cheap commodities and poor consumers, how could capitalists keep people buying stuff and still make a profit? They had to invent a way for consumers to continue buying even when they weren’t paid living wages: thus the invention of mass debt. When the sale of real goods can no longer produce profit, profits must be made on increasingly fantastic expected future returns—in other words, on finance.
Yet like any house of cards, debt cannot be built up forever. Eventually, someone wants to be paid back—and so the entire house of cards collapsed under its own weight in 2008. The financial crisis signals a deeper metaphysical crisis of our present order: capitalism is unable to provide for the real material needs of the global population. The high poverty rates in Egypt are not simply the result of mismanagement by Mubarak, but the inevitable consequence of the contradictions of our era.
Their eyes hopelessly clouded by their own ideology and lack of vision, heads of state can only stand dumb and surprised as the crisis goes on and on. They lamely hope to re-start the financial markets through “austerity” or “green” capitalism, refusing to consider systemic change despite the fact that the system cannot even deliver jobs and affordable commodities to people—much less a good life. Just as it took an era of revolution to overthrow the divine right of kings, it will take new revolutions to overthrow the divine right of things: the power of financial capital and its puppet dictators.
Revolutions are never brought about by technology, but rather by the collective action of human beings who radically transform their relationships with each other and the world they share. However, one cannot deny what an important role the World Wide Web has played in Egypt and Tunisia. Especially among cybernetically skilled and predominantly unemployed youth, it enabled people to call for and participate in mass mobilizations without any need of leaders. The demonstrations in Egypt on January 25 were called for by a Facebook page called “We Are All Khaled Said,” named for a victim of police brutality much like Alexis Grigoropoulos in Greece, [or Oscar Grant in Oakland CA, editor’s note]. The page itself was set up by the anonymous “El-Shaheed”—that is, “martyr” in Arabic. Meanwhile, youth throughout the world are mobilizing as Anonymous; in the battle over Wikileaks and more recently in actions against the Tunisian government, Anonymous has showed itself to be a potent new international with an awakening political maturity beyond the message boards of 4chan. Demonstrators’ ability to communicate with large numbers of people and react immediately to events via mobile phones, Twitter, and Facebook is swiftly making previous forms of Leftist and industrial-based political organization obsolete, along with other hierarchical formations such as political Islam.
This revolutionary use of social media should come as no surprise. In the hands of an elite few, expensive communications technology will naturally be used for self-aggrandizement and consumerism. In the hands of unemployed youth and other excluded classes, this technology can be re-purposed to organize revolution. The Internet is the new global factory floor, and we are seeing its first workers’ councils form—a new kind of collective intelligence that enables people to organize themselves directly without representation.
The blank confusion of global capitalists as to who is “really behind” the mysterious resistance in Egypt and Tunisia is revealing. It’s obvious how desperately US politicians wish they had anyone, such as Mohamad ElBaradei, with whom to negotiate. These revolts are anarchist in form if not content—and even the content is becoming increasingly radical. The absence of any organized group or leader in the early days of the protests speaks volumes: increased information technology has not only destabilized the old Leftist forms of organizing, but also the justifications for having hierarchical government in the first place. When people can communicate, they can organize their own lives. Expanding such horizontal structures to a global scale no longer seems impossible, even if it is not yet well thought out.
To make things even worse for capitalists and nation-states, the massive secret apparatus of the state has been revealed in all its incompetence by sites such as Wikileaks. While Wikileaks had nothing to do with the Egyptian revolution, the cables describing Ben Ali’s pet tiger being fed a luxurious diet while Tunisians starved further stoked the flames in that country. Wikileaks has produced paranoia in the global state apparatus itself, as the state cannot function without the subjugated population believing that it is necessary and according it the right to exercise violent force. Now the empire has no clothes—and its naked corrupt power is disgusting to behold. There is a growing consensus that the state apparatus is an archaic holdover no longer worthy of respect.
The Mubarak regime made the classic mistake of conflating technological structures with the people using them, an error typical of Silicon Valley and certain theorists as well. In a poorly thought-out move, the regime shut down all four ISPs in the country, effectively turning off the Internet. In addition, cell phones have been intermittently blocked before major demonstrations. If anything this only enraged the Egyptian people more. It may even have interrupted their spectatorship—it is easier to watch a demonstration over the Net than to participate—and driven more and more people into the street.
The lesson here is clear: the supposedly decentralized Internet is quite centralized, and while it may be useful, it is a mistake to depend on it as long as it remains in capitalist hands. Yet rulers such as Mubarak face a no-win situation. If they keep communications technologies up and running, these will be used to organize against them—but if they take them down, it will provoke worldwide outrage.
How do you organize without the Net? You might start with existing social institutions; in Egypt, this meant the mosques. The “Days of Wrath,” characterized by street-fighting with the police far more intense than the Greek insurrection of 2008, culminated in the torching of the headquarters of Mubarak’s party. Afterwards, in a brilliant move, the protesters called for people to gather after prayer at mosques—where most Egyptians would be gathered anyway. In this regard, the mosques served the same purpose that social centers and squats did during the Greek insurrection, only for a much greater part of the population.
So while communications technology may be advantageous in the early stages of organizing, a movement must become powerful enough not to need the Internet once it takes to the streets. In Egypt, the revolt actually grew in intensity after the Internet was shut off.
If there is one regard in which the Internet is indispensable, it is in spreading the news of disorder elsewhere. As the Empire’s power has become increasingly spectacular, it has become more vulnerable to being damaged on the terrain of the spectacular. Obama’s first response to the uprising was to call for the “violence” to cease—even though his government routinely administers violence in Pakistan and Afghanistan and inflicts it on US citizens through the world’s largest prison system. He and Mubarak are not against violence, but they appear to be afraid of images of violence. If these images escape, they undermine the state’s cover story about maintaining order.
At the same time, the state desperately needs people to distrust and fear each other. This explains why Mubarak released undercover police in civilian uniforms to pose as looters in order to justify his crackdown. When that failed, he turned off the Internet and denied media access in order to prepare the conditions for the kind of massacre it would take to restore his control. Yet now it seems doubtful that the army is willing to carry out such a massacre.
The insurrection that began by burning down police stations then shifted to massive peaceful demonstrations intended to win over the army. Pamphlets that have circulated indicate that Egyptian organizers planned from the beginning to pit the army against the police. Insurrectionists in Europe and the USA should take note of this clever strategic move. After the front line of the party of order was effectively defeated, the Egyptians clearly understood that the only force capable of stopping them was the army. Instead of attacking it directly, which would surely have resulted in a massacre, they undertook to win over the hearts and minds of the soldiers. Thus far they have been successful in this, demonstrating that they can self-organize and maintain a leaderless yet disciplined rebellion that makes the streets of Cairo safe and clean for the first time in years. Break on through to the other side.
This leaves the army without a reason for existence, let alone any excuse for a massacre. Once an insurrection has reached a certain phase, as a friend has said, weapons are unnecessary. For a revolution to succeed in overthrowing the state, the army must refuse to shoot its own people and instead join them in revolt. In Egypt, the army is at least paralyzed enough right now not to start shooting; it may yet join the people, or more likely attempt to broker a transition to representative democracy.
All this shows that billions of dollars of military equipment can’t stop a revolution. Once things reach a certain point, military force is no longer the determinant factor. If the Egyptian people persist in revolt, the military can hardly bomb its own cities. Yet even if a military defeat is avoided, the insurrectionary process begun on the “Days of Wrath” is more likely to be side-tracked into representative democracy than to end in a genuine communization of society—that is, in the immediate sharing of all production for the survival of the people. This is not to be pessimistic—already the neighborhood assemblies and defense committees resemble nothing more than the Paris Commune. But Mubarak is a dictator, and the youth of Egypt have not yet tasted the bitter fruits of representative democracy. They may have to learn about them the hard way. Even if a representative democracy is established, it will not be the end of the story—witness the continuing protests in Tunisia. There would inevitably be another insurrection sooner or later, although that could take years or decades.
In this context, it is promising that many young Egyptians seem aware that representative democracy will only limit their movement and redirect into yet another form of enslavement. This is visible in many ways—for example, in the message sent to self-appointed leaders like ElBaradei, “Shall we just call your mobile when we have finished the revolution for you?” The insurrection has also seen unparalleled action and power of the Egyptian women, who will not go back to being subservient under the Muslim Brotherhood after these upheavals.
Yet the popular occupation of Tahir Square cannot last forever; there must come a moment when food will be produced, train lines reactivated, and the Internet turned back on. These are the real keys to the success of the insurrection and to preventing the return to capitalism, even under the mantle of representative democracy. It seems that the steps in this direction have not yet begun.
Let’s step back now and ask larger questions. If Egypt is not fundamentally different from Europe and the US, why haven’t such insurrections happened there as well? First, let us not be too hasty—the dominos are already falling, with massive protests in the streets of Jordan, Algeria, Yemen, and Mauritania. One reason the insurrection has such popular power in Egypt is that, as many Arabic-speaking countries, the Egyptian form of life has not yet been fully subsumed into capitalism. For example, in many cases one only pays as much as “one feels” one should pay for goods. Haggling is not so much a way to maximize micro-profits as to ascertain an affordable and ethical price for an exchange. The commodity exchange itself is often less important than the social relationships that the commodity symbolizes. The collective responsibility and power of the family knits people together over generations, in contrast to the alienated individuals of the United States and most of Europe. The vibrant and public street life of the Middle East is a natural fomenting ground for insurrection.
Yet are there not dark forces waiting in the wings? This seems unlikely, as the protest is clearly focused on “freedom” rather than Islam, with those wanting to lead religious chants being shouted down on occasion. This is not to say that Egyptians are not Islamic—indeed they are—yet there are subtle distinctions. Political Islam is effectively the Tea Party of Egypt, a hierarchical religious movement mostly of the older and conservative generation; but Islam exists in other variants, binding social relationships and promoting a collective ethics. One can even interpret the giving of alms in Islam as a ritual to avoid excessive centralization of wealth. “Allah” does not necessarily denote a commanding deity; the notion may also point to the ineffable, the invisible excess of life that denies reduction and resists the catastrophic harnessing of all to the imperatives of profit.
Of course, currents far older than Islam hold sway in Egypt as well. Unlike many in Europe and America, many Egyptians are profoundly aware of their history from antiquity onwards, and feel deep shame at their present state of impoverishment. The dignity and respect they show each other in the streets in midst of the insurrection attests that this revolution is not abstract, but rooted in everyday lives; it is the deep metaphysics of these forms of life that provide the subjective conditions for transformation.
Communism is older than Marx, just as anarchy is older than Proudhon. The age of revolutions did not begin with the Paris Commune, nor did it end with the fall of the Berlin Wall. As capitalism now encircles the earth, the one thing that could unite the world would be a common rejection of it and the police that defend it. The communism of Marx was trapped in the abstract metaphysics of economics and poisoned by a misunderstanding of the danger posed by the state; this sabotaged the revolutions of the early 20th century, bringing about the catastrophe of Soviet-era state capitalism.
But the age of revolutions is not over; on the contrary. In a song of the Tuareg—“the desert is our mother, and we will not sell her”—we can glimpse a form of communism far more alien and hostile to capital than anything imagined by Lenin. Many of the calls for “freedom” in Egypt have little to do with the freedom to elect a president or choose among commodities on the market, but resonate with a common desire to live with their heads high and not cowed to any ruler. For this they are ready to die, whether by self-immolation or in the streets together.
Yet one can sense a profound need at this time for a common international revolutionary purpose that resonates outside of the Middle East, for something truly universal to fill the void left by capitalism. The nationalist flags of the protesters were tactically effective at confusing the army, but they also reflect a lack of critique of the conceptual apparatus of capital and the state. While the conditions are right for revolution, over the last thirty years revolutionaries have largely failed to create and spread the organization and analysis necessary for insurrections to become genuine anti-capitalist revolutions. What does it take for people to realize that the true potential of their neighborhood defense committees is not as a means of temporarily replacing the police, but of prefiguring the abolition of all police, in every country? All power to the people.
No event occurs in a vacuum; events originate in concrete conditions, and consequently they tend to come in waves. The events in Egypt show that the center of revolutionary impetus is no longer “the West”; this new age of revolution will culminate first in areas where the living conditions are becoming unbearable and the ways of life are not yet completely colonized by capital. However, it would be a mistake to see this as merely the conclusion of an unfinished anti-colonial revolt. It is something much bigger and deeper. The financial crisis is a sign that capitalism is on a declining trajectory. The conditions that precipitated the events in Egypt are rapidly becoming universal across the globe, spelling another cycle of revolution and possibly war. Eventually these same forces will hit Saudi Arabia, Europe, China, and finally even the United States with the strength of a tidal wave.
Make no mistake about it, we are entering an era of revolt. These revolts will reject and attack capitalism in their concrete practice, even if the systematic destruction of earlier revolutionary currents has left a vacuum. Hopefully the participants will realize that freedom is impossible without the destruction of capitalism and the state, and a new generation of revolutionary thought will update the concept of revolution for the dawning era. We are at a point now where it should become clear to all that we can direct our own lives—that the state is a historical fossil holding us back. As shown in Egypt, the stranglehold of the state and capitalism must be broken in the streets; over the coming decades the results of this ultimate struggle will likely decide the fate of humanity itself.
All Power to the People!
-A dissident exiled in North Africa with assistance from the CrimethInc. Workers’ Collective
From Occupied London
Alexis is gone for two years: he’s gone to a university occupation in London, standing behind a barricade in Rome, protesting in the streets of Dublin…
Words, for the largest part, fail us.
Alexis has been gone for two long years.
There is little to be said, much to watch in awe.
He stays over in university occupations in the UK.
He street-fights the education cuts in Italy.
He protests against austerity in the freezing cold streets of Dublin.
Tomorrow, Alexis is back in the streets of Athens.
We’ll all be back there. For those days, for the days that followed, for the
days and the revolts yet to come.
These days are Alexis’ days, these days are ours.
(Click flier to learn more)