During a press conference on September 28, anarchist prisoners announced the beginning of an indefinite hunger strike. They are compañeros Fernando Bárcenas and Abraham Cortés, prisoners in North Prison, Luis Fernando Sotelo, prisoner in South Prison in Mexico City, and Miguel Peralta, prisoner in Cuicatlán Prison in Oaxaca. The strike is in rejection of the 33 year and five month sentence given to Luis Fernando Sotelo, to mark three years since the arrest of compañero Abraham Cortés on October 2, 2013, and in solidarity with the prison strike underway in the United States against the exploitation of prisoners’ labor and in support of the revolts against the killings of African-Americans by police in the U.S.
The three compas in Mexico City have gone on hunger strike, while Miguel will go on fasts.
This piece is longer than the average post. Written in a few sittings over several months, it contains that which I have been attempting to find expression for over the course of nearly a year; an exercise in trying to give coherence to a period of rapid change. It is incomplete and unfixed, as it should be. As I am currently beginning a new endeavor, this seems as good a time as any to post it as a personal trail marker. I don’t expect many people to trudge all the way through, but regardless of how much you read, your feedback is welcomed. As a final introductory thought, I would like to note and problematize my heavy reliance on white men as sources for this piece. While not my conscious intention, it was an end result. This speaks to both my personal and the institutional prejudices that exist when it comes to determining what constitutes knowledge and who is permitted to produce it. Ones I plan to address in my work moving forward.
For about a year, up until recently, I had a regular meditation practice, sitting every morning for 20 to 30 minutes. For the initial part of that year, I met frequently with a teacher who, having spent years in contemplative practice both as a Christian and a Buddhist monk, came to develop his own approach to meditation and spirituality more generally. I am deeply indebted to him, as the way in which he explained spirituality appealed to my then-militantly atheist worldview. His approach helped nudge open the door which I had so emphatically kept shut at all costs, allowing in the slightest of possibilities that perhaps, just perhaps, there was something greater going on and that a reconsideration of my perspective might be merited.
The two of us would have lengthy discussions about life, the universe and everything, never arriving at an answer, 42 or otherwise. A point I kept returning to was where does spirituality leave us regarding social justice and collective liberation? I can concede the benefits to my personal life of meditation, mindfulness, and being in the present moment. I can even appreciate, though philosophically disagree with, ideas such as Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Yet these all seem to be individual, subjective and inward-looking practices that when taken to the extreme encourage a retreat from the world in the name of spirituality. We cannot meditate capitalism out of existence, we must act. He assured me that working for social justice was the natural end result of spirituality as it leads to right action. This assurance did not satisfy me and I asked him to explain it further.
In the context of the most recent acts of repression and violence that have arisen in the country, as different anarchist collectives and individuals we have decided to show solidarity by going into the streets and carrying out various actions in the different parts of the country that are suffering the brunt of the state, and resisted with the people.
Our rage cannot be contained by police bullets, by the State’s jails, by the media’s lies. Our dead will not be forgotten, their combative spirit has spread so that we may take justice into our hands.
Nochixtlán and Oaxaca resisted as the Isthmus region has resisted, demonstrating to the powerful that we don’t fear them, that we will confront them, we will defeat them; in the cold Mixteca the frontline has not been neglected. In spite of the pain that invades the people, they know the worst way to remember those who died in battle is to abandon the war.
In February, I saw down with renowned indie hip-hop artist sole for a few hours and the result is the latest episode of his podcast, the Solecast, released yesterday. We covered a lot of ground, from Occupy Oakland to Palestine, Chiapas, Cuba, Rojava, the elections, anarchism and more. And he said a bunch of unnecessarily nice stuff about me in the intro, for which I thank him.
Give it a listen and let us know what you think!
Disclaimer: That photo is a screenshot from a 2011 interview I did with Keith Olbermann. I don’t like it but sole does and it’s his show, so who am I to argue?
It is time to deepen the struggle against the state, against capital, and against the forms they use to continue to perfect their means of dominion over us. Different materials for spreading information and reflection have been developed in recent times. Blogs, magazines, newspapers and countless other materials have been produced by compañeros with different contours but with the same intention: to contribute to the social war from an anti-authoritarian and offensive perspective.
February 26, 2016
Translated by Scott Campbell
On the repressive circus mounted by the Mexican State
…what is condemned about anarchists is not the violence, but their having transcended denunciations and conferences, bringing disobedience, insubordination and the capacity for revolt to this point. What is condemned is precisely the fact of their standing up and walking from the point of a radical critique of power and an intransigent ethic of freedom; and, moreover, to do so until the very end.
Daniel Barret (Rafael Spósito)
When the unyielding have declared war on power with their daily, consistent action, there is not much need for “pretexts” in order to attack the subversives. For power, the fact that anarchists are unyielding to power’s norms, that they can’t be corrupted and don’t make alliances, is enough of a reason to attack them. It’s true, many times those who rule the world have to carry out “criminalization” campaigns in order to attack various struggles, anarchists included. However, other times these campaigns are much more than a campaign to “discredit”; besides, who wants credit? Do we need it? The vast majority of the time, these campaigns are part of a strike of greater magnitude, form part of an overwhelming strike that the State plans to inflict. It is within this context one can place recent events, part of power’s repression of the local anarchist or libertarian landscape, that is to say, in the Federal District [Mexico City].
In October, Van Meter offered a thoughtful reply to my piece, posted as a comment here. Shortly thereafter, IAS published another essay by Van Meter, Insurgent Islands: A Continuing Conversation on Anarchism with Principles, an impressive document that takes the discussion deeper and in new directions. Rather belatedly, today I put forward my closing thoughts – for now – in response to Van Meter’s reply. My response can be found below and also in the comments section on the IAS website. Reading what follows makes more sense in the context of the aforementioned essays. If you have the time and interest, I encourage you to read the pieces linked to above before proceeding to this last entry. I would like to thank Kevin Van Meter for his insightful work and for encouraging my thinking around these topics. Similarly, I thank the Institute for Anarchist Studies for making the space available to have this discussion.
Firstly, I would like to thank Kevin Van Meter for his thoughtful and constructive response and encourage readers to take in his article “Insurgent Islands: A Continuing Conversation on Anarchism with Principles.” Secondly, I apologize for my much-delayed reply. In it, I will comment on some of Van Meter’s points/critiques and hopefully refine some of my arguments from my initial response.
I read with interest Kevin Van Meter’s recent essay, Freely Disassociating: Three Stories on Contemporary Radical Movements published by Perspectives on Anarchist Theory on the Institute for Anarchist Studies website. In it, he discusses the current climate within the anarchist movement, painting a grim picture where increasingly meaningless labels and judgments get tossed about like political hand grenades, shutting down discussion, utilizing guilt-by-association, fomenting an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and devolving into moralizing-outrage-as-activism. In his third of the three anecdotes he shares, he also elaborates how association with the anarchist movement can lead to unreasonable expectations and standards being placed on an individual. As a result, the radical movement has largely become a void consumed by the loudest voices or the latest controversy, leading people to disassociate from it.
Facing this scenario, Van Meter argues for developing an “anarchism with principles” based in a milieu of “working class, and revolutionary, intellectual culture.” The principles would emerge through dialog, debate, organizing and application in struggle.
Hopefully my summary fairly characterizes his piece, though I suggest people read it themselves. As I am currently undertaking an evaluation of how I personally engage with radical politics, events and movements, I am drawn to the concerns he raises and his proposal of an “anarchism with principles.” In the spirit of dialog, I would like to offer up some thoughts of my own on the topic.
One of my biggest fears in undertaking this new site and a more open posture is that I will be judged by colleagues and comrades, people I’ve worked and organized with in the real world and online, as selling out, going soft, turning liberal. In the past, I very much adhered to a type of role or persona in carrying out my work. I held onto an internal narrative that I constructed which said I must present myself as a strident, uncompromising, militant radical of the anarchist variety lest I be thought less of, judged unworthy. Of course such thinking is flawed and problematic on numerous levels, yet that narrative became very loud, drowning out the parts which desired to share a more complete version of myself. It still holds a lot of sway and tells me I will be judged for writing these very words. All the more reason to continue doing so.
It happened that I was indulging in this particular fear on Malcolm X’s birthday, May 19. A common ritual on a commemorative day such as that is to share quotes from the deceased. And so I was looking over some quotes and found a few of his that resonated with me around this very topic.
“If you have no critics you’ll likely have no success.”
“Every morning when I wake up, now, I regard it as having another borrowed day.”
“Stumbling is not falling.”
Then I recalled how after Malcolm X went on Hajj, where he had a spiritual experience, he was viewed as being “softer.” His letter from Mecca is a profound recounting of the opening that occurred for him. Later, upon speaking with Alex Haley, he shared, “Because of the spiritual enlightenment which I was blessed to receive as the result of my recent pilgrimage to the Holy City of Mecca, I no longer subscribe to sweeping indictments of any one race. I am now striving to live the life of a true Sunni Muslim. I must repeat that I am not a racist nor do I subscribe to the tenets of racism. I can state in all sincerity that I wish nothing but freedom, justice and equality, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.”