During the height of the movement against neoliberal globalization in the U.S., numerous chants and sayings emerged or were resuscitated, such as, “This is what democracy looks like” or “The whole world is watching.” Fortunately, along with the phenomenon of summit-hopping itself, these utterances have largely fallen into disuse. A particularly nonsensical saying from that moment was “Speaking truth to power.” First coined by Bayard Rustin for a pamphlet he co-wrote in 1955, called Speaking Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence, the notion has been rightfully critiqued by the likes of Noam Chomsky, who stated, “power knows the truth already, and is busy concealing it.” Yet even this does not go far enough, as it maintains the presumption latent in the slogan that there exists a binary between those with power and those without it, or that power as such is a thing one can speak to.
Theorists from Spinoza to Gramsci to Foucault have attempted to wrestle with the question of what power is, arriving at no agreement aside from the fact that power is no one thing. In this sense, power can be understood as being “overdetermined,” a Freudian concept appropriated by Marxist theorists which, as explained by Stuart Hall, allows that “an idea, a symptom, or a dream symbol can itself be the condensation of a set of different chains of meaning, which are not manifest in the way in which the symbol is given.…One has to conceive of it as overdetermined; that is, the same symbol can be determined at different levels, by different kinds of discourses.” The exploration of this discursive malleability of power, as well as the capacity of power to reify certain discourses, is at the heart of the most recent edition of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, volume number 32, published in May of this year by the Institute for Anarchist Studies and oriented around the theme of “Power.”
Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is an impressive anthology coming out next month from PM Press incorporating a wide variety of voices examining the practice of radical education both inside and outside the classroom. I’m honored to have a piece included in the collection that chronicles and analyzes the militant 2016 teachers’ strike in Mexico which occurred across several states, was met with severe state repression, and led to broader popular rebellion, particularly in Oaxaca. (Here’s a piece from 2016 providing a brief snapshot of some of the events of that struggle.)
In order to print and distribute as many copies as possible, PM Press is running a Kickstarter campaign through which folks can pre-order the book. There are ten days left on the campaign and I encourage you to support it if you’re able and please help spread the word. Here’s more info on the book:
Teaching Resistance: Radicals, Revolutionaries, and Cultural Subversives in the Classroom is a collection of the voices of fierce, activist educators from around the world with a focus on those in and around DIY/punk subculture who engage inside and outside the classroom from pre-kindergarten to university.
More than just a book for teachers, Teaching Resistance is for anyone who wants to explore new ways to subvert educational systems and institutions, collectively transform (and re-imagine) educational spaces, and empower students and other teachers to fight for genuine change. Topics include community self-defense, Black Lives Matter and critical race theory, intersections between punk/DIY subculture and teaching, ESL, anarchist education, Palestinian resistance, trauma, working-class education, prison teaching, the resurgence of (and resistance to) the Far Right, special education, antifascist pedagogies, and more.
Thanks for supporting radical education and radical publishing!
Editor’s note:Luis Fernando Sotelo was arrested in Mexico City in November 2014 after a protest for the disappeared students of Ayotzinapa. During the demonstration, a Metrobús station and a Metrobús (a rapid transit bus service) were burned. After nearly two years of proceedings, he was sentenced to 33 years in prison in September 2016. Following an appeal, he was resentenced to 13 years. He has since been resentenced again, as he explains below.
To those who resist the strategies and apparatuses of capitalist power.
To the compañeras of the world who rebel and refuse to accept forms of domination.
Turning my attention to the reciprocity that I believe is the foundation of true revolutionary solidarity, I wish to share a chapter of my life, reflecting even behind the prison bars, here in front of the desks of the judicial system, the arm of the state, where the defense of freedom and justice becomes a monetary exchange.
So I’ll tell you: Here, around midday, without taking me by surprise, I heard the messenger (also a prisoner and in charge of delivering the permits to go see the judges). He shouted my name and I knew then that I would be receiving news from the Fourth Criminal Court, that they had issued a new sentence. I was given the news in the dock of the 32nd Court. I suppose the one who read me the ruling – he didn’t identify himself – was a secretary. I only saw him.
This is a special IGDCAST with Sofi, an anarchist compañera from Mexico City who is deeply involved in a variety of solidarity and organizing efforts with anarchist prisoners in Mexico. The audio interview is in Spanish, while below is an English transcription, along with two song MP3s you can download separately. If you want to see more in depth reporting on what is happening in Mexico, be sure to support our Mexico trip fundraiser.
We start off this episode with a recorded greeting from the Cimarrón Collective in North Prison in Mexico City. Then Sofi discusses the persecution and repression facing the anarchist movement in Mexico City as well as a review of the situation of four anarchist prisoners currently being held by the Mexican state. We look at the corruption, exploitation and neglect that occurs in Mexican prisons and what compañeros on the inside are doing to fight back. In particular, there is a focus on the Cimarrón Collective, a formation started by anarchist prisoner Fernando Bárcenas that has autonomously reclaimed space inside the North Prison and self-manages a variety of initiatives. For listeners, perhaps the most intriguing one will be their punk band, Commando Cimarrón. A couple of their songs are included in the podcast.
The interview then wraps up with discussion of a proposed amnesty for prisoners being put forward by “leftist” political parties in the Mexico City government and the response of our anarchist compañeros. Lastly, there are suggestions for how the struggle for their freedom can be supported from outside of Mexico. Throughout this post, we include links for more information, primarily in English, and photos of some of the art produced during workshops organized by the Cimarrón Collective.
It’s been several weeks since the last Insumisión. Apologies for the break, but now we’re back at it and as always there’s a lot of ground to cover. Before diving in, I’d like to share that in the next couple of months, an It’s Going Down contributor will be spending a chunk of time in Mexico with the goal of producing lots of original content. If you value the work we do here at IGD and would like to see it continue to grow, please consider contributing to the trip fundraiser or making a donation in general. We also recently published a call for translators to help put out even more content from Mexico. If you’re interested, get in touch! And now let’s take a look at the latest from Mexico…
Forty-eight years after the Tlatelolco massacre we continue demanding justice for the murdered, disappeared, persecuted, tortured, defamed, and imprisoned, as even though the killers and masterminds have not been tried and punished, those compañeros who fell in the militant struggle remain present in the popular and social struggles today as part of our memory, solidarity, guidance, dignity, strength, inspiration, rage and courage. Today, no one doubts that IT WAS THE MEXICAN STATE who planned and carried out that mass murder, just as it did with the disappearance of 43 teaching college students on September 26, 2014, as from Tlatelolco to Ayotzinapa one can trace a historical continuity that affirms the totalitarian character of the state that today we can characterize as “narco and terrorist.”
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.
We write this after reading the “Statement from the Huajuapan Libertarian Bloc on the police murder of compañero Salvador Olmos ‘Chava’” [more on Chava in English] as we believe given the escalation of the war and advancing repression on anarchist/libertarian settings it is necessary to clarify our positions in the interest of identifying the enemy’s multiple forms, as they are often reduced to criticisms of “government injustices” or simply “to believe that evil is embodied in a person or politician” and not the reality that it is the entire system of rulers and ruled who together actively participate in the maintenance of the capitalist social order.
Let it be clear! The following words are in no way aimed at tarnishing the memory of compañero Chava or to start polemical bickering, nor to cause fighting amongst ourselves, this is above all a reflection from compañeros for compañeros and we hope it is taken as such.
With the ongoing teachers’ strike that has morphed into a widespread rebellion, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, we haven’t put together a more general roundup of resistance and repression in Mexico in some time. While that struggle is very much alive and well, the intensity with which it is unfolding has diminished some. This column will first take a look at the past three weeks of that conflict (if you need to get up to speed, check out this piece) and then cover some of the other recent events around the country.
The teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have now been on strike for more than two months. Since the massacre by federal and state forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca on June 19, in which eleven people were killed, the conflict has taken on an increasingly popular dimension. This has looked like direct actions, marches, material support and expressions of solidarity from across Mexico and beyond, in numbers far too large to recount individually.
In the waning minutes of June 11, federal police, the federal gendarmarie, and state police carried out a violent raid against striking teachers blockading the Oaxaca State Institute of Public Education (IEEPO). The attack comes almost ten years to the day when a similar state attack on striking teachers on June 14, 2006, led to a five-month, statewide rebellion.