Dec 13, 2005

this was forwarded to us.

Brief Report on Toledo anti-NSM Protest.
by C. Berneri
12/12/05 11pm

- 60-80 Nazis: NSM, Creativity Mvnt, Retaliator Skinheads
- 100-120 counter protestors: RWL(Revolutionary Workers League)/NWROC; anarchists; ISO; independent radicals; some Toledo residents; Peace Team (self appointed protest marshals)
- 700 cops and law enforcement (as reported on news): from three counties; FBI
- 29 arrests: 3-4 Nazi sympathizers; the remaining arrestees were antiracists

Our team arrived at 10:30am. We checked out downtown Toledo and the protest site. Lots of police activity, not much of anything else. Much of downtown around city government buildings were barricaded off. We walked around some and were stopped by police within 10 minutes. We were told to leave the area and stay on streets not within area around protest site. We went back to our car and decided to drive around north Toledo.

One site of interest was the Lucky Duck tattoo shop which is a known Nazi hangout. On our way we saw a group of 15 anarcho-antiracists assembled outside of a public library. Previous announcements reportedly from Toledo antiracists had asked for anti-Nazi protestors to assemble at public libraries. We stopped to talk to the anti-racists. Very soon afterwards (5 minutes or so) we saw three police cars drive by us. We dispersed. As we left in our car we saw one car load of antiracists stopped by police. We circled the block, drove back by and saw 5 cop cars surrounding the 1 antiracist’s car. We decided we should leave so as to not get pulled over, also. As we drove away we saw more cop cars driving towards the area.

We decided to meet up with other people and walk down to the protest area. Police had set up an elaborate system. People had to pass through metal detectors, be frisked, and digital photographed (using a video camera). People were not allowed to carry in bags or bottles, not even plastic water bottles. Since the City had won a ruling that allowed for arrests outside of the designated protest area, and be given a fine of up to $25,000, we decided that we should just go in to the protest area, otherwise we would have to leave all together. It was later reported to me that some protestors who decided not to go into the designated protest area, were arrested, presumably because they were not leaving the area quickly enough. I have not confirmed this, however.

The police had the protest area totally under control. The area was surrounded on three sides by lines of riot police. The Nazi’s area was the equivalent of one full city block away. The distance between the antiracist protestors and the Nazis also had obstacles separating them. This included two lines of riot police, mounted horses, an elevated street median covered in snow, and two rows of barricades. The horses were actually roaming in the designated protest area. The tactic was to push protestors backwards, away from the first barricade. This in effect created even more distance from the protestors to the Nazis. It would have been impossible for people to even throw a snowball at the Nazis, let alone get to them physically. The most protestors could do was yell at the Nazis, and by and large that is what most did.

Very early on, in the designated protest area, police on horse back disrupted a Black reporter/photographer. It appears he couldn’t get out of the way of the horses fast enough and was subsequently arrested for causing a disturbance and interfering with police action. Some NSM sympathizers were identified in the protest area. The sympathizers were verbally harassed by antiracists, but there was never a threat of physical assault. It was one male Nazi sympathizer who got upset and caused the initial scuffle when police tried to remove him form the crowd. He was arrested for misconduct, I think.

For the next 1.5 hours people hollered at the Nazis. Some chants were aggressive and said if the Nazis crossed the street then they would get “a boot up their ass”. But this was more or less people venting and blowing off steam. As I said, there was no chance of a confrontation breaking out, the police were in control. However, where the confrontation occurred, was with the police. Police on horse back kept trotting through the crowd. This was proceeded by police grabbling protestors, seemingly on an indiscriminant basis. People of color, notably Latino’s, were grabbed: people who were vocal, though passive physically, were targeted. One woman was arrested for “hitting a horse”. This occurred when the police charged in, and in the attempt to get away and not be trampled, brushed up against the horse. There was no punch thrown.

Towards the end of the rally, the police swooped in and started grabbling people. People were forced against bus terminal structures (shelters) by horses and riot police. People tried to get out of the way but were grabbed. Police tried to tazzer three people. People started to leave the designated protest area to avoid arrest. The crowd was split in three, with the center group taking the most arrests.

This isn’t going to go into the politics of the day, that deserves much greater attention than what can be offered here.

I think the city of Toledo wanted to set an example. Because of the previous anti-NSM, anti-Cop riot, the City wanted to make people feel intimidated and powerless. Anyone not within the confines of the designated area were arrested. People trying to leave were targeted. Meeting places and autonomous activity in other parts of the city was monitored and people were arrested. People in the designated protest area, abiding by the regulations set down by the police, were arrested. The City and police were in payback mode and wanted to re-establish their control.

The crowd in the protest area was, as stated, more or less passive. Some arguments occurred between antiracist and the few Nazi sympathizers, but never acts of physical intimidation or violence.

Post Toledo Oct.15th, there has been increased FBI and police activity in Southern Michigan. Michigan law enforcement agencies recently hosted an invite only conference on dealing with the increase of hate crimes and Nazi activity. Law enforcement has also been monitoring antiracist groups. With Toledo, it should be assumed that the FBI were targeting members of the crowd. Using the video stills taken from when people first passed through the metal detectors into the designated protest area, the FBI and police compared these to any previous mug shots or the footage from the Toledo Oct 15th riot. There has also been FBI activity looking into the ELF/radical environmental movement of Michigan. Given the proximity of Toledo to Michigan, it is not hard to assume that the FBI was scanning the crowd for known radicals: whether or not these individuals are connected to the ELF/environmental movement.

Still, many people were arrested who have no arrest sheet or warrants. I think that there was a combination of factors going on – random grabs along with specific targeting.

Final Thoughts
The struggle against the NSM and other fascists can not be won in a swift military defeat by either the antifascist forces or by the State. The political and social terrain that gives rise to the fascists will continue.

The Toledo Dec. 10th action illustrates that the State and radical antifascists are not ally’s but opposing forces. The state seeks to undercut radical, rank and file, and grassroots initiatives that challenge the authority and hegemony of the system. The struggle against the fascists, against racist movements (both autonomous and originating from within the framework of capitalist society), and against political authoritarianism and repression continues to be a protracted struggle. We must organize accordingly.

Dec. 10th in Toledo was a defeat for the radical antiracist forces, we were out maneuvered – we accepted and moved on the terrain laid out and controlled by the State. With our accepting of their terms, we fell into their web and suffered arrests. There was little we could do, unless we did as the authorities said and “stayed away”, which for us is not a desired option.

Toledo shows why we need to develop our abilities and capacity to set the terms of engagement. We need to build a popular, mass and determined response to the fascists; a response that itself is outside and against the system.

Dec 1, 2005

Since the Three Way Fight blog is newish, we wanted to repost previous articles so that they don’t get lost in the ether.

Here's a list of some of our more signifigant posts:

They live, we die by Ali
a critique of the Israeli fascist Kahanist ideology and movement.

imperial reckoning by Mike Morgan
an article taken from using two recent books on the Kenyan Mau Mau resistance as a springboard into a look into Insurrection and the tactics of counter-insurgency.

“¡Que se Vayan Todos”: Venezuela’s Anarchists and the Three-Way Fight by Francis
this piece is an examination of Venezuela, the Left, Chavez, and Venezuelan anarchists. Francis states, "When Venezuela is mentioned in North America these days, it is almost always in reference to President Hugo Chavez, who is vilified by the mainstream press and adored by much of what passes for the left. Not surprisingly, the reality is much more complicated..."

Cursory thoughts on armies, insurrection, and The Sixth by RX
article looking at the Provisional IRA surrender to capitalist electoralism, contrasted to the Zapatista's critical analysis of their struggle, the need to re-organize politically as well as militarily, and how to build an "inter-galactic" anticapitalist movement.

Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements - Part One by Matthew
Part one of a two part essay examining fascist conceptions of womanhood, femininity, and social relationships regarding gender. Matthew also deals with the partiipation of women in fascist movements, not as spectators, but as active participants.

Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements - part Two

Interview from, Beating Fascism: Anarchist anti-fascism in theory and practice

Nov 28, 2005

What Pat sez...

The November 21st issue of American Conservative has an examination of the Weekly Standard. American Conservative is Pat Buchanan’s brainchild and represents a mixture of old time conservatism and a contemporary Far-right anti-globalization, anti-War, and anti-Israeli politics. American Conservative is, however, no unified voice on all fronts. They prioritize debate and the clarification of similarities and differences. Checking out the November 8, 2004 issue you could find a good example of the heterogeneous nature of the journal – each of the main contributors picks a different presidential candidate. If one believed the simplistic caricature that is portrayed of the Right by the Left, one would expect that Buchanan’s folx all endorsed Bush. Wrong. The issue starts with the following editorial,

“Unfortunately, this election does not offer traditional conservatives an easy or natural choice and has left our editors as split as our readership. In an effort to deepen our readers’ and our own understanding of the options before us, we’ve asked several of our editors and contributors to make “the conservative case” for their favored candidate. Their pieces, plus Taki’s column closing out this issue, constitute TAC’s endorsement. —The Editors”

and then among the articles, Scott McConnell lays out an argument for why Kerry should gain the presidency, or more accurately, why Bush should loose,

“There is little in John Kerry’s persona or platform that appeals to conservatives… But this election is not about John Kerry…It is, instead, an election about the presidency of George W. Bush… Bush has accomplished this by giving the U.S. a novel foreign-policy doctrine under which it arrogates to itself the right to invade any country it wants if it feels threatened. It is an American version of the Brezhnev Doctrine, but the latter was at least confined to Eastern Europe… George W. Bush has come to embody a politics that is antithetical to almost any kind of thoughtful conservatism. His international policies have been based on the hopelessly naïve belief that foreign peoples are eager to be liberated by American armies—a notion more grounded in Leon Trotsky’s concept of global revolution than any sort of conservative statecraft.”

Anway, the point here is that American Conservative is trying to regenerate “Right Wing” discourse. They have positioned themselves as the opposition to Bush and the NeoCon agenda. Buchanan himself is not fascist, just an old time White Conservative. however, his politics have lead him to embrace fascist groups that organize through patriotic fronts. This is where his sympathies lay, with reactionary nationalism that is attempting to build popular Right fronts. And while Buchanan is a U.S. patriot, he looks globally to find partners and like-minds. Check out his take on France's Le Pen, who won an impressive 17% of the 2002 French Presedential vote. Quasi-fascist National Front Le Pen (Le Pen has been associated politically with WWII Nazi and Vichy Government officials) was defeated only when the the Communist and Socialist Left rallied behind Conservative capitalist President Jacques Chirac.

The signifigance of American Conservative and Buchanan was touched upon previously in an interview I did with the Kate Sharpley Library. I made some political points on the popular Right and it's relevance to fascist trends here in the States.

Nov 17, 2005

The Context and Rebellion Behind The Headlines

more thoughts from Sketchy Thoughts on the French youth revolts:

... While some stupid hypocrites on the left (sorry, some might prefer words like “reformist” or “revisionist” which i think are too inexact) claimed that the rioting was “apolitical” or “irrational,” it was in fact selective (symbols of the State, businesses, and cars being the main things set on fire) and understood by everyone who cared to open their eyes to be a rebellion against the miserable living conditions in the suburbs.

This does not mean that every act that anybody committed during the first two weeks of November should automatically be granted a revolutionary seal of approval. There is nothing laudatory about the case of the disabled woman who was severely burnt when she could not escape a bus that rioters had set on fire, or the retired autoworker who was killed when he tried to put out fires rioters had set. Such attacks have no progressive content, but to condemn them without noting that horrible anti-social violence like that also occurs when nobody is rioting is to risk seriously distorting their meaning. That only a handful of violent attacks against bystanders have made the news during almost three weeks of violent rebellion involving tens if not hundreds of thousands of people is what is actually remarkable.

Yet even when it was sympathetic, the left was slow to respond to events. From what I have seen, the two main Trotskyist organizations (Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire and Lutte Ouvriere) were not only slow to respond, but also failed to appreciate that the riots might be something more than a random and dumb revolt.

Not that many anarchists or socialists seemed to know what to make of the largest rebellion in decades either. Notable exceptions were the CNT-AIT, CNT-F and Alternative Libertaire (amongst the anarchists) and the tiny Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). But even amongst these, only the CP(MLM) seemed to initially grasp the import of the events as they transpired. And apart from issuing communiqués, there is no news of practical solidarity being extended on anything but an ad hoc or personal basis. People who have shown up at courthouses to extend solidarity to the rioters have noted that most of the “regulars” at such solidarity appearances are nowhere to be seen.

Anarchist responses seem to run the gamut from “Long live riots!” (many individual postings on the Indymedia sites) to a circle-a echo of the social democrats, decrying the irrationality of the riots while acknowledging that they are the byproduct of real suffering.

With the exception of the CP(MLM), i have not read anything by an groups in France that actually consider the rioters to be the vanguard or the most important agent of revolutionary change in the current context. Most merely suggest that the rioters should ally with or join up with radical trade unionists or other established (and predominantly “French”!) left-wing sectors.

read more

Nov 14, 2005

Ruling Class Views on France

There are some significant, and quite incompatible comments on the French situation from two distinct ruling class quarters – both of which I would see as neo-con and globalist. The first, from Thomas Barnett’s blog, is indicated below. The second is contained in Steven Steinlight’s comments to a recent panel on the subject held by the Center for Immigration Studies. It should be on either this group’s website, or on NPR’s.


The competing analysis on the Paris riots
■"Why France is burning with anger," comment by Dominique Moisi, Financial Times, 98 November 2005, p. 13.
■"Why Singapore hums as riots sweep France," by Roger Cohen, International Herald Tribune, 9 November 2005, p. 2.
■"A revolt of youth without religious motivation," by Roula Khalaf and Martin Arnold, Financial Times, 9 November 2005, p. 2.
■"Strife adds to familiar concern: Economic impressions," by Dan Bilefsky, International Herald Tribune, 9 November 2005, p. 6.
It ain't about religion, but about economic connectivity. The 'new proletariat' can't turn to Marxism, because that's too discredited. So when you're radicalized today, the one package that's both anti-capitalist and anti-Western is jihadist Islam.
No, it's not about religion and, quite frankly, it never is. It's about identity in a world where you're defined by your job.
Singapore works because Singaporeans work. Lee Kuan Yew's genius isn't just his clever use of affirmative action programs, its his ability to make Singapore an FDI magnet. The place has the highest inflows and outflows of foreign direct investment as a percentage of GDP in the world, because it's the most trusted government on trade and investment in the world, as captured in Economist polls of corporate CEOs.
So please, no clash of civilizations.
Not yet, at least. But expect Islamist parties to tap into that economic unrest and anger. If they represent that pain effectively, we'll see economic and political connectivity arise. France will do this against it's will, but it will do it to protect the country's own connectivity to the global economy.
Posted by Thomas P.M. Barnett at November

Nov 9, 2005

L' Intifada ou L' Haine?

"Newsweek feverishly asks whether 'the riots [will] swell the ranks of jihadists in Europe' and calls the events the 'beginning of jihad in Europe'.

This is all more than a bit over the top, and drips with the very undisguised racism that is the cause of the disturbances..."

"Nonetheless, the commentators, even if they articulate themselves through the orientalist prism, alight on the heart of the matter: Europe, like anywhere else in this deregulated, unemployed, privatised, pulverised, atomised, lobotomised cosmos, where the slavering corybantic market fundamentalists would yet privatise the heavens and lay off Saint Peter and the Archangel Gabriel if they thought it would enable them to compete better with Estonia's flat tax, sits atop a powder keg of righteous anger, the predictable product of gross inequality and racism both within its borders and in its relations with the developing world."

"The paternalist left has abandoned them at best, and at worst actively participates in racist and Islamophobic attacks disguised as a defence of la laïcité républicaine, and the far left is only marginally better. The left must remember, as in New Orleans, globalisation is not merely a question of class, but explicitly one of race (and, one might add, gender)."

"It is true that this abandonment of the field allows fundamentalists to fill the void, just as a similar attitude by social democrats to their traditional (white) working class constituency opens the door to the far right, but it is not true, as not a few have been reporting, that the riots are a product of Islamist agents provocateurs. First of all, it should be noted that the rioters are not just 'beurs' - French verlan for Arabs - but also black youth. Secondly, to be sure, the riots are anger uncorked, but there is also an explicit political aspect to their actions: "We'll stop when Sarkozy steps down," said a Strasbourg rioter, according to the Guardian."

excerpts from, 'L'Intifada Française' - Between Ramallah '00 and Paris '68, off of the blog Apostate Windbag

read more

Nov 7, 2005

Two thoughts

Two thoughts

This is my initial venture into the blog world. It may be off to the side of ongoing discussion and activity since that’s pretty much where I am.

I think the left could spend a bit more effort on the wmd issue. Proliferation of wmd’s is hardly a ruling class concern. Russian weapons are for sale, Israel, India and Pakistan all have such weapons and their willingness to sell the technology is known. No reasonable ruling class faction would possibly have believed Iraq’s possession of such weapons was either a direct or an indirect threat to any U.S. interest. The weapons that Iraq once possessed were only used against internal dissidents and Iranians, and only with tacit U.S. approval. Only a presumption of suicidal irrationality makes it conceivable that Iraq would use such weapons against U.S. interests, including Israel, or that it would distribute them to jihadists to be used in this way…particularly after 9/11. It is just as probable, if not more so, that Israel or Pakistan or a former Soviet state could behave in such an “irrational” fashion.
The debate about “bad intelligence” or manipulated intelligence is a smokescreen that obscures the fact that Iraqi weapons were no palpable threat. Now, when a developing majority of the political class is moving towards the position that they were duped into supporting the war by bad information on this issue, we should recognize this as an attempt to regain some tactical flexibility for a strategic initiative that was, and still is, supported by a very broad ruling class consensus, not as a reversal of some neo-con aberration. I think that it is very unlikely that the “intelligence failure” extends beyond the media and a good deal of the left.
No one who follows the Juan Cole blog, Informed Comment, would think that he is a closet supporter of U.S. imperial aims. So why is he advocating only a “limited” pull out of U.S. troops, leaving special operations forces and a monopoly of air power to protect the existing regime and its probable successor? Why would he invoke Yugoslavia and Afghanistan as ‘good’ models, a position that would have been unthinkable - even for most liberals - not too long ago?
Without knowing too much about his political background, I think that it is what Cole knows about the actual players and programs in Iraq that leads him to this naïve advocacy of a sanitized U.S. role, a role not that different from the benevolent imperialism visions of Nial Ferguson. This demonstrates how a variant of social democracy can grow out of an emphasis on the fascist potentials in and around the salafi jihadist movement, if this is not linked with a clear critique of the global capitalist system that this movement is responding to. Such a social democratic thrust can and will find popular support.
We should learn from the mistakes of revolutionaries during the previous “three way fight”, also a time when revolutionaries were persuaded that U.S. and British special forces and airpower were a good way to fight fascism and promote peace and stability.
I see that Alexander Cockburn has a critique of Cole (Juan Cole Blog, Oct. 28,). My first reaction is that this also is an evasion of major elements of the situation, in this case, of the nature of the “insurgency”. Perhaps he goes into more detail in material that I have not yet seen.

Nov 5, 2005

More from Sketchy Thoughts on the struggle in France

"As for [National Front leader Jean-Marie] Le Pen, he thinks that 'by attacking the agents and symbols of the State, it is France herself that is attacked, by hordes of people that the so-called anti-racist laws prevent us from calling foreigners.'

Here we can see what the fascists are up to: using racism to divide the masses!This racist propaganda is also a part of the criminalization of the 'dangerous classes.'

According to the reactionaries it is a matter of passing off the rebellion as part of the gangster tradition of claiming territory.This is the catchphrase used time and again, the 'gang territory'..." -Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist Maoist) November 2005

Please note that the above text about the past week’s riots in Clichy-Sous-Bois come from the website of the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist Maoist) in France and translated by yours truly(Sketchy Thoughts). I have a “fast and loose” translation philosophy, meaning that when there is a choice between readability and the original phraseology i tend to favour the former, provided that the meaning stays the same. The original document can be seen in French.

Please also note that i am translating this as i have not been able to find any radical accounts of the riots or the police racism that provoked them in English… i do not necessarily agree with the PCMLM’s point of view, nor do they necessarily agree with mine. Si quelqu’un a un meilleur texte à suggérer, svp envoyez-moi le!

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Nov 4, 2005

France on Fire: North African youth riots

"Anything could have started it. When you're an immigrant here, you're just stuck in your shit. Does it really surprise you it's going up in flames?"
- Momo, Age 26, Aulnay-sous-Bois

"The thugs will disappear, I will deploy the force necessary to clean this up. We will use the Karcher treatment [referring to a cleaning product]. We will send in special teams and then, if necessary, the riot squads."
- Nicolas Sarkozy, Minister of Public Security, June 20th, La Courneuve

Last weeks deaths of two North African immigrant youth who were being pursued by police has set off the longest period of urban and suburban rioting in France's most recent past.

Trying to find critical and informed commentary from a radical angel is proving difficult. The blog, Sketchy Thoughts, has tried to provide some French-to-English translations of news. The two above quotes have been taken from a recent post on this blog.

Other stories relating to the Paris events:
Irish Examiner - Rioting continues to spread further
My Way News - Rioting Spreads Beyond Paris Suburbs
Expatica Magazine -Week of violence prompts French soul-searching
BBC - Anger Grips Paris Riot Suburb

While some seem to want to say that the riots are "race riots" this seems simplistic. While the actions seem to be carried out by mostly North African and Muslim youth, the root cause seems to be around the marginalizationion many from these communitiesees face. It's the case of the Tipping Point - where factors have reached a critical level and the pot boils over.

The Paris riots may be a sign of things to come as Europe becomes more global while failing to offer satisfactory integration on the economic and social basis to its growing immigrant populace. And while these current riots may be in poor Middle Eastern, African and Muslim estates of France, as we see more economic decline within the traditional "core" countries of Western Europe and the U.S., we need to ask if insurgency against being stuck in society's periphery may emerge in urban areas that were once the prosperous and now the declining. Capitalist globalization is creating vast areas of economic instability and social marginalizationion - from Paris to Detroit to Manchester to New Orleans to where ever industry picks up and leaves in favor of new labor pools that are cheaper and easier to exploit.

Oct 26, 2005

Interview from, Beating Fascism: Anarchist anti-fascism in theory and practice

Here’s a discussion (late 2005, each in their personal capacity) between somebody from the Kate Sharpley Library, a member of Class War (from the UK) and a North American comrade connected with ‘Three Way Fight’, an anti-fascist web log.

Anti-fascism Now

KSL: What’s your background in anti-fascism?
I got involved with the anti-fascist movement after moving to London in 1992. I saw the ‘Battle of Waterloo’ on TV and thought – I want to be involved in that!

I wrote off to AFA a couple of times, but never got a reply. By that time I had joined Class War, and I just got involved in stuff from there. Usually we would just tag along on events organised by other anti-fascists – usually AFA if it was an action, but we would do our own thing around East London, or tag along with what used to be quite a big group of non-aligned anti-fascists around East London.

By the time AFA was coming to an end in the UK, I was convinced that a range of tactics was needed against fascism, and that direct action would need to be an option in any strategy. I was briefly involved with the No Platform group, and when that petered out I was one of the people who formed Antifa.

3WF: After several years of being active in punk and skinhead circles I came to see that radical anti-authoritarian politics had to be intersecting with a broader layer of people outside of a sub-cultural scene. I started doing Anarchist Black Cross work and got behind the support for an antifascist who was being charged with assault on a Nazi. The Anti Fascist Defense Committee (AFDC) had been created in Minneapolis, Minnesota by various anarchists and anti-racists. Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation was also a key publicizer of the case and defense, with the defendant being a L&R member, as well as having been one of the founders of ARA in the late 1980’s. This defense campaign was around 1993.

With the ABC we were both supporting active militants (like in the case of the AFDC) as well as long time political prisoners (many of whom were Black/New African, Puerto Rican, and Native American/Indigenous). This work was a way to open up dialogue around the whole prison system concept and how ‘law and order’ had, and continues to be, a mechanism for social control, and within the context of the United States, disproportionately affecting poor people and people of color.

The ABC was a positive way of showing radical anarchist politics in motion. By working in united fronts with other groups we would bring our perspectives into the mix and by doing that hopefully contribute to the building of ourselves and our movement by being seen as committed, principled, and serious.

It was around this time that several anarchists and ABC groups started to develop relationships with Lorenzo Komboa Ervin. His book Anarchism and the Black Revolution had a real impact on many class struggle anti-racist anarchists. The fact that Ervin had also been involved with community (and personal) self-defense against White fascist attacks further cemented the link between militant anti-racism, class struggle politics, and revolutionary anarchism.

I had moved to Chicago, Illinois by now and through the ABC was working on different anti-police brutality, anti-prison, and anti-gentrification projects. The work was not necessarily antifascist, but we were always trying to come from a politic that had critical perspectives based on race and class (as well as gender and age).

For some of us, our ABC work started closer collaborations with antifascist projects like ARA. Eventually, the ABC group I had been involved in kinda liquidated itself into ARA. I have been involved expressly with ARA or antifascist politics since then.

KSL: What are the roots of ARA? What have been its most notable successes?
3WF: ARA formed in 1987 when there was a major rift in the skinhead scene between anti-racists and the White Power skins. ARA was created by the Baldies, a multi-racial skinhead crew in Minneapolis. Originally ARA was to be a vehicle to build a larger anti-racist presence to take on the Nazis but it really remained a skinhead movement for the first couple years of it’s life. The reputation of ARA and the Baldies got around the country and you started having ARA and anti-racist skinhead alliances form. The punk press like Maximum Rock and Roll magazine promoted ARA and reported on anti-nazi actions. Actually, MRR is where a lot of us in other parts of the country first heard about the Baldies and ARA, sometime around ’87 and ’88.

By the early 1990’s ARA had morphed into a broader youth oriented movement. It was overwhelmingly anarchist, but had a political openness that prevented it from becoming an exclusionary sect. Also, it was a fighting movement and that really set it apart from much of the left who talked the game but failed to put the boot in.

During the 1990’s ARA started to develop a more popular presence. Different chapters initiated projects ranging from anti-nazi activity, to attacking more institutionalized racism. This later aspect usually materialized as Cop Watch which was a way to monitor and disrupt police in our cities.

I would say that some of the success of ARA was that it was the largest antifascist movement in the US and Canada. During the 1990’s I think it would be fair to say that ARA politicized hundreds of militants and had hundreds more gravitating to it, not necessarily part of a core, but forming the essential periphery. Around 1997 an easy estimate of ARA’s numbers would be 1500-2000 people.

ARA had an uncompromising political edge as well as having a cultural aspect that attracted people. People felt like they were part of a real scene. Militants organized, traveled, and built a movement in a period when there was no internet (wow imagine that – ha!) We had a real network that was based on direct contact and relationships. You could travel to all kinds of cities and there would be an ARA crew to hook up with. More importantly, we were a direct challenge to racist and fascist groups who were trying to organize. Point one of ARA’s unifying plank is:
‘We Go Where They Go. Whenever the fascists are organizing or active in public were there. Never let the fascists have the streets!’

ARA took this seriously. All over the US and Canada from big cities to small towns, if the fascists were active, ARA would organize to shut them down and make it as difficult for them to function as we could. Obviously we had varying success. Sometimes we could smash the fash. Other times we would have to accept a defeat if we were outmanoeuvred and unable to take the ground. Even in those situations ARA tried to make an impact, but sometimes the battle was lost even if the war still went on.

Other instances saw ARA taking on the cops who would be mobilized to defend fascist gatherings. People wanted to get to the fascists and the wall of cops would become one more target of anger. You could have hundreds or thousands of people in some cities come out to protest the fascists. With these numbers you had all kinds of political agendas and perspectives mixing it up. ARA tried to relate to militant and working class anti-racists and ARA’ers would throw themselves into the thick of things. This got ARA recognized by a lot of people. It kinda built a situation where you either loved ARA or hated it, but could never ignore it.

ARA was definitely a big part in making it impossible for some fascist groups from operating. Organizations like the fascist World Church of the Creator eventually could not operate publicly without massive police protection. Even their cadre became targets in their own neighborhoods. I would say that ARA contributed in a big way to the demise of several fascist operations.

KSL: What’re you doing now?
3WF: The US antifascist movement is at a low point currently. For good or bad, groups like ARA follow the same patterns as the fascists. When open fascists are active, so is ARA. When there is no fascist organizing, ARA just kinda flounders. This lack of consistency and the inability to articulate a broader program has lead several militants to step back and rethink our agenda.
I think that fascist groups, like left groups, have periods of growth and action, while also having periods where there is uncertainty over political direction and strategy. What I think is constant is Fascism as an ideology with the potential to pop up and take advantage of situations that have become socially and politically polarized, especially around race, economics and culture. Antifascists need to be developing a broad analysis that considers where the fascist trends could and will emerge.

Unfortunately, most antifascist organizing exists to just engage the fascists on a quasi-military basis. The strategic and more ideological considerations are dealt with on such a minimal basis that sometimes it seems that they are not there at all. I think there is a danger of retreating into our heads and getting so caught up in abstract theorizing that we become do nothing, but there is also a real tendency to just act without an accompanying analysis.

CW: There is a lot to do at the moment. Simply gathering intelligence and being aware of far-right strategy, groups and activists is an enormous task. Anti-fascists in the UK are re-grouping at the moment, at a time when the fascists have never been stronger in this country. We are playing catch up. On a personal level I have spent a lot of time this year studying far-right websites (both UK and US sites) and a lot of time training at the gym – feeding the brain and the body!

KSL: Fascism is shit – is there anything else to say about it?
3WF: I think many people look at fascism and say, ‘What a load of crap. How could anyone really believe that stuff?’ Even many antifascists look at the fascist movement as a joke, violent, but a joke. No doubt the fascist movements have their share of the knuckle-draggers, idiots, and the politically inept, but don’t all movements have these types? I would actually say that in a real fascist movement, the more inept and foolish would be eliminated from the ranks. Fascism prides itself on ability, commitment, and sacrifice.

Fascist movements of the past were popular because they offered a total ideology with accompanying programs for action. Millions embraced fascism not because these people were stupid but because fascism provided a vision for social transformation amidst a time of international crisis. Fascism was able to mobilize masses of people.

I think this is important. The perspective I hold essentially sees fascism as a real movement of ideas that can draw people in and motivate them. It is a ideology and world view we are gonna have to compete with on more than a physical or military level.

CW: Fascism is a dynamic political ideology that seeks to appeal to all classes, to unite those classes within a strong state, under the control of a hierarchical elite. Usually race is a key component of fascism, and it is always staunchly anti-socialist, and opposed to any independent organisation of the working class. Fascism is usually opposed to internationalism, unless that internationalism is based on race.

KSL: What’s the current state of North American fascism?
3WF: When talking about the North American fascist movement I would first say it is in flux and there are several competing political tendencies. To give an answer I would break it down into three basic categories. Admittedly, the categories I lay out are simplified and consequently overestimate some trends and neglect other factions that are smaller, more ideological, and represent a more dissident fascism. These groups are what we might call the ‘Third Position’. A fuller elaboration would make a book. But nonetheless, I think the following breakdown gives an idea of what is here.

The first category is what I would call the Euro/White fascist block. This includes the National Alliance, The Creativity Movement (formerly called The World Church of the Creator), Aryan Nations, the various Nazi skinhead groups, the modern Ku Klux Klan, etc. Basically, those who trace their lineage back to White and European fascism and Hitlerian National Socialism.
Currently there are all kinds of rifts in these scenes. Several of the key leaders have died over the last few years and there has been a jockeying for power. I think one could also make the case that there has been a counter insurgency struggle being waged against the fascists by the US government in which there have been mysterious murders of nazi cadre by cops or the imprisonment of fascists on trumped charges. There is activity in the nazi circles but I think many groups are going through a process of regroupment.

The second block are not outright ‘fascist’ (and because of their Americanism some factions may claim an ‘anti-fascism’ and have an anti-racist platform based on Christian fundamentalism), but are based around a more popular far-Right, conservative, religious, and US Nationalist politic. There can be crossover with the hard-core fascists, but this block is unique in that it’s defined often as an ultra-conservative movement that still seeks to preserve the United States as a nation, albeit a White dominated and Christian nation. Another major political characteristic of this block is that it is isolationist and wants to remove the US from global affairs. I would say that this is a rather significant block in the US. If there is a deepening social crisis it could emerge as the strongest organized political tendency in opposition to the current two party electoral system. Anti-immigration and vigilante groups, rural militias, and sections of the activist anti-Choice movement would be included here. One important difference between this block and the out-and-out fascists is on the issue of revolution. Most neo-Nazis are for social revolution and the destruction of the US, this goes against the sensibilities of the ultra-conservatives. Though under the right social circumstances the conservatives could see the need for what amounts to a radical authoritarian ‘regeneration’ of US society. Political ideologues like Pat Buchanan and his journal, The American Conservative, could be considered an articulate voice in this block, though not necessarily the dominant one.

The last block is the wild card and has yet to materialize on any mass level, although the potentials for its emergence are present. Before laying this out I want to make clear that in this situation a blanket labeling of fascism has it’s problems. Nonetheless, certain characteristics are similar to fascism and any discussion demands serious attention and an analysis of this block’s authoritarian nature. I would consider this section to be based in the disorganized and marginalized masses of poor and working people. I would say that what could emerge are ultra authoritarian social movements that are male-centric, militarized, religious based, and insurgent.

These movements are not restricted to White/Euro culture, quite the opposite. Outside of the US, Hamas, the Sadrists in Basra, and the Al-Qaeda network are the most glaring examples of non-socialist, non-liberatory ideologically driven movements. Hamas, which has a strong presence in Gaza, has actual geographic space to define and control. They also have mass support due to their willingness to fight Israel and their development of social aid programs in their controlled areas. Now, the just mentioned groups have developed in their own unique sphere but I think that not so dissimilar situations could develop here. If a revolutionary ‘left’ opposition does not materialize in the States that is made up of and shaped by the oppressed, then more reactionary forms will emerge in that void. This position is controversial because it denies the view that the oppressed will necessarily form a left opposition to the State.

Here in the States there are vast armed criminal associations operating in the poor and people of color communities. These organizations may have links with elements of the government and cops, but they still have a relative autonomy that I think could provide the basis for an insurgent and authoritarian reaction against the State if there was a social shift in which resources and power were at stake.

Because I define three basic (and simplified blocks) I want to say also that this means there has to be different approaches to each. We can’t treat these movements in the same fashion. Fascism, and a more broad authoritarianism, is complex and our interactions with it can’t be static.

KSL: Can you say a bit more about the ‘a three way fight’ idea? As I understand it, it’s that the fascists are not necessarily an arm of the current ruling class.
In a way I already touched on this. The idea of the ‘Three Way Fight’ breaks down like this: First, the State and the capitalist ruling classes. Next, you have the insurgent forces from below who are fighting for their own vision and are autonomous from the State. This is where it gets drawn out into the sides. One force are the authoritarians. This would be fascists and the authoritarian socialists. In the other corner, you have us, the revolutionary anti-capitalist and libertarian left.

Now, these lines are not always neat and clear. This perspective doesn’t think Marxists and Leninists are fascists. And it doesn’t claim that the libertarian/anti-authoritarian left is free from mistakes and contradictions. What we think is that for our side, we are gonna be competing ideologically and on the ground with more than the State. We don’t consider there to be a simple dichotomy of ‘Us and Them’, it’s much more complicated. The authoritarian left suffered much discredit after the demise of the USSR, and with the rise of the ‘anti-globalization’ movement there has been a new wave of radical and popular anti-authoritarian politics. But all this can shift. There is no reason to think that authoritarian and Stalinized politics can’t make a come back, just as there is no reason to assume anti-authoritarian politics will progress and become the dominant political trend within the struggle against the State.

We must be offering perspectives and engaging in practice that is rooted in a radical libertarian and socialist vision. Not that everything we do has to have a big circle A stamped on it, but we have to be critical about strategy and political trends. Like I said before, if a revolutionary anti-authoritarian tendency is not present then more authoritarian politics will develop in that void.
You would think that this perspective is evident in anarchism, but I don’t think it is, at least not in North America. Fascism as an opposition is often underestimated or revolutionaries think when times get tough and that there is a radical challenge to the State, then it will ultimately coalesce a left opposition. I don’t hold that view, I think history points to something much more heterogeneous.

KSL: What’s the current state of British fascism?
CW: The way in which fascism adapts to a changing political climate, and its ability to move with the times, is remarkable when you compare it to the dinosaurs of the last century left (and at times the anarchist movement) Having punched below its weight for 50 years, British fascism has now got its act together.

Look at the way the British National Party have attempted to organise in South Yorkshire. They have spoken about contemporary issues – the rise of Islam, the changes brought about by asylum and the effect on social services, the corruption of long term Labour Councils – and the left is all too often wittering on about Palestine, or the miners defeat of 20 years ago. They are attempting to fill the vacuum.

Secondly, I think the international links that fascist groups in Europe/North America have developed put the links of European & US anti-fascists to shame. We need to up our game.
In the UK the fascists who have adapted to society have prospered politically (look at Nick Griffin) whilst those who are stuck in the old anti-semitic conspiracy theories have either stagnated, or are reliant on the arrival of recruits disillusioned with the populist approach of the ‘new’ BNP.

Nick Griffin’s masterstroke was removing the BNP’s commitment to compulsory repatriation of all non-whites. The policy was ridiculous (on many levels!) and removing it meant quite a few of the old nazi nutters left the BNP. With that policy gone, people who may have the odd black friend, get on well with the staff in their local Chinese or fancy the Asian woman in the corner shop, could vote BNP without feeling they are necessarily sending such people off to the gas chambers.

The second element in the rise of fascism in this country is entirely external, and is something that quite possibly anti-fascists can do next to nothing about. The rise of militant Islam is something outwith this interview, but the reality is that what has happened in many Muslim societies over the past 20-30 years, and what people see in some Muslim communities in Britain, scares the living daylights out of them.

This issue, and the third element, the poor levels of integration between British Muslims and other communities, has not been seriously addressed by the British political establishment. It is being addressed by the fascists. It is now being addressed by the old left, in the shape of the Respect Unity Coalition, who’s message is basically ‘Don’t Criticise the Muslims’. Things may get worse before they get better, especially if there are more suicide bombings by British Muslims.

KSL: Has the ‘War on terror’ had much effect?
3WF: I think it has put fear into a lot of radicals and made mass work difficult. The state is definitely operating with more repressive tactics. There is also massive propaganda that says: ‘You’re with America or you’re against America.’ There are actually media reports around that say that in addition to foreign born terrorists, there are home grown terrorists which included White Supremacists, Anarchists, and radical environmental groups like the ELF/ALF. In some ways, as the war in Iraq gets further drawn out, people are becoming disenchanted with it. There is a growing anti-war movement and this is collapsing the notion of loyalty to the current government. People are feeling more emboldened to speak out. This may open up more space for dialogue and radical voices.

CW: It has been a disaster for race relations in the UK. It has driven communities further apart, something that the US/UK political establishment is probably unconcerned about, and something the likes of Bin Laden, and British Muslim extremists would be delighted about.
When polarisation occurs, people take sides. And every time a British Muslim is seen talking about Jihad, or praising those fighting the US/UK troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, it is another stack load of votes and donations for the BNP.

KSL: What does the militant anti-fascist movement need to do to win?
3WF: Big question that I don’t have a good answer for.
I think most importantly we have to be engaging in struggles beyond just anti-fascist street battles. I think that we need to have monitoring groups and be keeping tabs on the various fascist fronts, but our challenge to fascism may be in broader arenas. I think we’re gonna be in combat with fascist politics (both openly and quasi-fascist) around immigration struggles and when doing anti-U.S. war work.

Also, we can’t just see fascism as a White/Euro politic. It goes deeper and is international. We have to be accessing the various opposition movements and be critical of what, how, and who we support. Some may think that those fighting US/British Imperialism in Iraq or Afghanistan are deserving of unconditional support, but what are these groups’ politics? Do we want to give support to movements that are anti-woman, anti-queer, authoritarian, and against popular participatory politics? I would say no. But for some these questions are irrelevant.

I think we have to really maintain an antifascist outlook at all times. Anti-fascism is a total politic, not just one for when were on the streets fighting nazi skins.

CW: To win we have to know our enemy, beat our enemy and replace our enemy.

I am not sure if we have a militant anti-fascist movement, and I am not sure we want to style ourselves as ‘militant’. I have always said I am a moderate – its the people who want to compromise with the fascists who are extreme!

KSL: Finally, what’s the best advice you can give someone new to the movement, on how to fight against fascism and for a free society?
3WF: Think, be critical, and don’t look at debate and analysis as something unrelated to our struggle. However, don’t let the complicated questions prevent you and your movement from action. The political situation changes and may call for new strategies; talk it over with those who seem serious and are interested in your ideas. And the last thing, think with security on your mind. Be smart, be cautious, don’t jump in without some plans.

CW: Know the sort of world you want. Know your enemy and remember this – we have to beat the fascists every time, they only have to beat us once. If they come into power, we are dead and buried. Literally.

Taken from:
Beating Fascism:
Anarchist anti-fascism in theory and practice
edited by Anna Key
Anarchist Sources Series #6 ISSN 1479-9065
ISBN 1-873605-88-9 Price £2.50 + 30p postage / $3
Available now from good book shops or straight from the publisher:
Kate Sharpley Library, BM Hurricane, London WC1N 3XX, UK or
Kate Sharpley Library, PMB 820, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley CA 94704, USA

Oct 23, 2005

Hold On...

Our project has been slow to get a consistent level of participation and contributions, but don't fret and think we have given up.

We are going to be posting some info and articles here within the week so check back. We will be covering the recent Toledo riots, NSM organizing, antifascist activity and the post Toledo response, as well as the continuing politics of Iraqi Occupation, thoughts on the "crisis" of capital, and an interview conducted by the anarchist Kate Sharpely Library with one of the 3Way Fight contributors.

Oct 1, 2005

Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements - Part Two

by Matthew

(Sources at bottom.)

Gender politics has always been important to the political right, but in the current period it’s more important than ever before. To get a full sense of this, we need to look beyond classic fascism’s direct descendents to the array of religious-based rightist movements. Globally, the religious right is highly diverse, encompassing movements that define themselves in terms of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other faiths—and many of these movements are themselves highly fragmented. Some of these movements, or sections of them, arguably deserve the label “fascist,” and many more of them have important points in common with fascist ideology, organizational strategy, and social base.

Unlike classic fascism, some religious-based movements, notably the Christian right and the Islamic right, put gender politics at the center of their program. For them, reasserting heterosexual male dominance and rigid gender roles are more important than any other goals. These may be the first organized mass movements—at least since the European witch-burnings of 400 years ago—that have placed this degree of emphasis on promoting women’s oppression.
At the same time, religious-based rightist movements generally embody some mix of the four gender-politics themes I outlined in Part One of these notes: patriarchal traditionalism, demographic nationalism, militaristic male bonding, and quasi-feminism. Even the Christian right and Islamic right show some of the same complexities we see in conventional fascist movements.

The U.S. Christian right has recruited large numbers of women with a contradictory blend of messages. On the one hand, the movement promotes a system of gender roles that offers many women a sense of security and meaning and, in Andrea Dworkin’s words, “promises to put enforceable restraints on male aggression” (p. 21). Women are told that if they agree to be obedient housewives and mothers, their husbands will reward them with protection, economic support, and love. Feminism is denounced as unnatural, elitist, man-hating, and a dangerous rejection of the safety that the traditional family supposedly offers women.

Within this overall framework, however, Christian rightists often implicitly use concepts borrowed from feminism—for example, arguing that abortion “exploits women” or that federal support for childcare is wrong because it supposedly limits women’s choices. A bestselling sex manual by Christian right leaders Timothy and Beverly LaHaye declares that (married, heterosexual) women have a right to sexual pleasure, endorses birth control, and encourages women to be active in lovemaking. Christian rightist women’s groups have also encouraged many women to become more self-confident and assertive, speak publicly, take on leadership roles, and get graduate training—as long as they do so in the service of the movement’s patriarchal agenda.

Beverly LaHaye’s Concerned Women for America, which claims over half a million members, vilifies feminism as a threat to the traditional family and healthy moral values. Yet the CWA’s website is studded with feminist-sounding language regarding political and social equality, sexual harassment, violence against women, the importance of women’s education, and other themes. A CWA position paper opposing comparable worth is titled “Undermining Women’s Choices.” It argues, not that women have a duty to be homemakers, but rather “women have taken incredible strides in the workplace” and “it is already illegal to pay unequal wages to equally qualified men and women who do the same job.” “The real hardship women face is having to compromise staying home with family and working outside the home for financial reasons. Women who choose to stay at home with their children have not received the respect and support they deserve.” In such ways, Christian rightists use specific realities of women’s oppression to bolster their patriarchal agenda.

In many countries, the Islamic right offers women a comparable mix of traditionalist and quasi-feminist incentives. Islamic rightist women’s organizations, Nikki Keddie argues,

"provide outlets for activity and creativity that are usually approved by one’s family, even dominant males. This means that for many Muslim, fundamentalist women ... young women can go to the mosque or women’s religiopolitical gatherings without overt family control. Some may reject marriage partners their parents propose, on the ground that the intended are not good Muslims. Many women note that men respect them more if they dress in the fundamentalist women’s covered but novel ‘uniform,’ and they thus avoid sexual harassment. On the one hand, religiopolitics gives an ideology and greater self-respect to women who want to devote time and concern to their families, and it avoids some of the dilemmas of free choice regarding sexual questions. For women who want to work outside the home, on the other hand, religiopolitics offers a badge of traditionalism and respectability to carrying out a new way of life, and, in Iran and other countries, many women can work in fundementalist dress who could not work outside the home before. Activity in religious politics creates a proud ideology for those with traditionalist views, and, for some women, is more a way of coming to terms with the modern world than a rejection of that world. Fundamentalists commonly accept many contemporary, and even Western-oriented, changes in women’s status, including education, companionate marriage, and, de facto, a place in the workforce. Their family ideal is often only a few decades old."

Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) illustrates some of these dynamics. FIS supporters have murdered women for appearing in public without the veil, yet the movement has also attracted women in substantial numbers. Algerian feminist Khalida Messaoudi has argued that this mobilization must be understood in relation to decades of rule by the National Liberation Front (FLN), which sought to modernize and secularize Algeria while maintaining women’s oppression:

"The FLN destroyed all the traditionally valued places, the places of the inside, but without proposing others: only 4.2 percent of women work in Algeria.... The FIS, for those who accept the veil, offers them all ‘some places outside,’ for example, the mosque. There, they are allowed what even the FLN denies them: a political voice. FIS women’s ‘cells’ debate every subject all over Algeria. This way they have the impression of acquiring a certain power and power that interests them"(quoted in Slyomovics, p. 217).

Policies toward women vary substantially among Islamic rightist movements. Afghanistan’s Taliban represent the most repressive end of this continuum, with their near-total effort to drive women and girls out of public life. The Taliban closed all girls’ schools and barred women from working in nearly all jobs, leaving their homes without a male relative or without being covered head to toe, being treated by male doctors, playing sports, singing, and much more. Women’s courtroom testimony was legally worth half of a man’s testimony and women could not petition a court except through a close male relative, family planning was outlawed, and women were frequently beaten, mutilated, or killed for breaking the rules.

The Taliban have always been a fighting organization of men only, with no interest in recruiting or mobilizing women. In terms of the far-right gender themes I outlined in Part One, the Taliban blend patriarchal traditionalism with a culture of militaristic male bonding similar to the fascist paramilitaries of the 1920s and 1930s.

In contrast to the Taliban, Iran’s 1979 revolution included many women on the front lines and brought in a significantly different set of gender policies. Iran’s Islamic Republic placed many new strictures on women, such as barring them from certain occupations and courses of study and requiring all but their hands and faces to be covered in public. Husbands received full control over divorce and child custody, polygamy was legalized, and the marriage age for girls was lowered to nine years. At the same time, the Islamic Republic allowed women to vote and hold seats in the legislature (but not as judges). Mass literacy campaigns and free education raised female literacy from less than 25 percent in 1970 to over 70 percent in 2000.

Over the years, some of Iran’s misogynistic policies were softened, either because of economic development needs (as Farideh Farhi argues) or pressure from Islamist women activists (as Homa Hoodfar contends). Keddie, writing in 1999, noted a “resurgence of women’s activities in the media, teaching, filmmaking, literature, and the arts, and a maintenance of women’s employment, so that women are far freer and participate more broadly throughout the labor force than in some Muslim countries that do not have Islamist governments.”

In the Islamic Republic’s first decade, demographic nationalism led the government to dismantle family planning programs, but this policy was later reversed. Subsidized contraceptives are now widely available through a network of health clinics, religious leaders have issued fatwas encouraging birth control, and both men and women are required to take a class in contraception to get a marriage license (although the responsibility still falls mainly to women). Even abortion, which is currently illegal except to save the mother’s life, has been seriously debated: In 2005 the Iranian parliament passed a law that would have allowed abortion within the first four months of pregnancy—if the fetus was disabled and would impose a financial burden on the family. The Guardians Council struck down the law on religious grounds.

Keddie draws a useful, if imperfect, distinction between religious fundamentalism and religious nationalism. Fundamentalist movements (whether Muslim, Christian, or Jewish) emphasize a narrow reading of scripture or a specific set of religious practices and aim to impose their version of religion on society as a whole through control of the state. Rigid gender roles and subordinating women are central to this program.

Religious nationalist movements, by contrast, don’t usually stress purity of religous doctrine or practice. Instead, they use religious identity as a rallying point, coupled with the exclusion and vilification of other ethnoreligious groups. Examples of this kind of movement include Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist nationalist movements in South Asia, Serb and Croat nationalists in the former Yugoslavia, and militant Israeli settler groups such as Gush Emunim (although Gush Emunim actually includes many religious fundamentalists in coalition with more secular nationalists).

Religious nationalists, Keddie argues, tend to put less emphasis than fundamentalists on subordinating women, and sometimes present themselves as champions of gender equality. But religious nationalists “discourage any independent assertion of women’s rights as divisive to the national struggle.”

India’s Hindu nationalist movement, centered on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and related organizations, is a prime example of religious nationalism. Promoting Hindu supremacy and the hatred (and mass murder) of Muslims, the movement has become one of the most powerful political forces in India, with the BJP heading two coalition governments between 1998 and 2004. For the most part, Hindu nationalists uphold a deeply patriarchal form of traditionalism, and anti-Muslim pogroms have specially targeted Muslim women for rape, mutilation, and murder. But some Hindu nationalists see themselves as opponents of women’s oppression—which they identify with Islam. In Keddie’s words, “Hindu nationalists use women’s equality issues as a rhetorical stick with which to beat Muslims, and not as a basis for a struggle for equality and against atrocities against women [perpetrated by Hindus], such as ‘bride-burning’ to accumulate dowries.”

It’s important to put all of these movements in a larger context. Rightist gender politics and the right’s increased focus on controlling women overlap with what Butch Lee calls “the worldwide war against women and children”—the wave of battery, murder, and sexual assault, including the organized use of mass rape by soldiers and paramilitaries, from Bosnia to Darfur to Tailhook. Many rightist movements are major players in this war, using systematic violence and threats to enforce women’s obedience. At the same time, these movements also hold out to women the prospect of safety and protection from male violence if they follow the rules.

Like the overall wave of misogynistic violence, the political right’s gender politics is also intertwined with global capitalism’s campaign to pull women more systematically into the international market economy, as consumers and especially as wage workers. This process, at the center of capitalist globalization, is shifting gender roles and restructuring male dominance—sometimes in ways that erode the traditional male power of fathers, husbands, and local elites.
It’s tempting to see far-right gender politics as a straightforward rejection of capitalist globalization, a drive to force women out of the wage labor force and back into full domestic submission. While there’s some truth to this, I think it’s only part of the story. As we’ve seen, even the Christian right and the Islamic right often blend patriarchal traditionalism with a measure of quasi-feminism, telling women that it’s okay to move into new jobs and new roles as long as they do it in an ideologically controlled way.

In addition, patriarchal traditionalism itself can serve global capitalist interests, at least in some contexts. Maria Mies, in her groundbreaking book Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, argues that “housewifization”—the process of defining all women as housewives—is itself a part of capitalist development and replaces older gender roles, as the nuclear family replaces older forms of social organization. In today’s global economy, housewifization enables the new international division of labor to function smoothly. When homemaking is defined as women’s natural, proper role, then all of women’s paid work can be defined “as supplementary work, her income as supplementary income to that of the so-called main ‘breadwinner,’ the husband”—which means women can be paid much less than men. Housewifization also makes it easier to control women politically: “Housewives are atomized and isolated, their work organization makes the awareness of common interests, of the whole process of production, very difficult. Their horizon remains limited by the family. Trade unions have never taken interest in women as housewives” (Mies, pp. 118, 116).

If global capitalism’s “housewifization” has something in common with far-right gender traditionalism, that doesn’t mean the two will always agree. It does mean that there’s room for both compromise and open warfare between right-wing movements and international capital, on policies for women as on other issues. With complexities and contradictions on both sides, the specifics will vary from society to society and from one historical moment to another. In some cases, this dynamic may intensify the conflicts over gender politics within the far right, for example over how much to emphasize the state versus the family as the center of male dominance, or how much and in what ways to seek women’s active support.

1. Roksana Bahramitash, “Revolution, Islamization, and Women’s Employment in Iran,” The Brown Journal of World Affairs, vol. 9, no. 2 (Winter/Spring 2003)
2. Concerned Women for America, “Undermining Women’s Choices,” 25 February 1999
3. Andrea Dworkin, Right-Wing Women (New York: Cowar-McCann, 1983).
4. Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (New York: Doubleday, 1992).
5. Farideh Farhi, “The Contending Discourses on Women in Iran,” Focus (newsletter of the Asia-Pacific Human Rights Information Center), nos. 11 & 12 (March & September, 1998)
6. Sondra Hale, “The Women of Sudan’s National Islamic Front,” in Political Islam: Essays from Middle East Report, edited by Joel Beinin and Joe Stork (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 234-249.
7. Jean Hardisty, “Kitchen Table Backlash: The Antifeminist Women’s Movement,” in Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon, 1999).
8. Homa Hoodfar, “Devices and Desires: Population Policy and Gender Roles in the Islamic Republic,” in Political Islam, edited by Beinin and Stork, pp. 211-219.
9. “Iran’s Parliament eases abortion law,” The Daily Star (Lebanon), 13 April 2005
10. “Iran Rejects Easing of Abortion Law,”, 9 May 2005
11. Nikki Keddie, “The New Religious Politics and Women Worldwide: A Comparative Study,” Journal of Women’s History, vol. 10, no. 4 (Winter 1999), pp. 11-34
12. Janet Larsen, “Iran: Model for Family Planning,” Washington Free Press, no. 60 (November/December 2002)
13. Butch Lee, “Women’s War Daily #1: For Women Only: after Anti-War movements win or lose in Iraq...there’s still Women,”
14. Butch Lee, “Women’s War Daily #1: For Women Only: The Rape Movement in Iraq & Men’s Anti-War Politics
15. Maria Mies, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour (London: Zed, 1986).
16. Gail Omvedt, “Hindu nationalism & women,” The Hindu, 27 & 28 April 2000
17. Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, “Some of the restrictions imposed by Taliban on women in Afghanistan,”
18. Jyotirmaya Sharma, “The Women of the Sangh,” The Hindu, 24 September 2004
19. Susan Slyomovics, “’Hassiba Ben Bouali, If You Could See Our Algeria’: Women and Public Space in Algeria,” in Political Islam, edited by Beinin and Stork, pp. 220-233.

Sep 28, 2005

Continental Drift

[Brian Holmes is offering the seminar “Continental Drift" in September and October, 2005 in New York City in conjunction with the 16 Beaver art group. Autonomedia will publish a collection of Holmes' essays, Unleashing the Collective Phantoms, this winter.]

This seminar is called “Continental Drift,” and it's about the different sorts of regional blocs that are forming in the world and in our heads. Now, the first questions to ask could be these:

Why even talk about regional blocs or continental integration? Isn't that just about the European Union, and its attempt to regain some lost power? Why not pursue the bottom-up theory of the multitude that was launched with the book Empire? Or conversely, why not admit that the real force of globalization is American imperialism? How can the abstractions of geopolitics have any meaning for the ordinary individual? And what does “continental drift” have to do with art, or with activism?

What I mainly expect is not to answer these questions, but to make them sharper and deeper and more urgent.

read more

Sep 27, 2005

Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements - Part One

Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements - Part One
by Matthew

A "three-way-fight" approach to fascism challenges simplistic frames of analysis. In particular, it challenges (1) a dualistic "Oppressor-versus-Oppressed" model of struggle, (2) caricatures of far-right movements as simply agents of top-down repression, and (3) the idea that the left is the only insurgent force that speaks to people's grievances and needs. These points are clear in three-way-fight discussions of fascism's potential to rally mass working-class support.
We need to use this same nuanced approach when it comes to discussions of fascism and women. Women and gender politics are major issues for the right, and our analysis of fascism needs to address this in a central way. In particular, we need to address the following realities:

* Far-right movements range from some that are mostly or virtually all male to others that include large numbers of women activists.
* While all far-right movements are male supremacist, they embody a range of doctrines and policies on women and gender issues -- including some drawn from the left and even feminism.
* Far-right movements don't just repress and terrorize women but also mobilize them -- largely by offering them specific benefits and opportunities.

(I'm using "far right" here to include both fascist movements and also right-wing populist movements that are related to fascism in terms of ideology, organizing dynamics, and social base, but which stop short of fascism's revolutionary challenge to the status quo.)

I offer here some tentative thoughts about the ways right-wing movements have addressed women and gender issues, which I hope will stimulate further discussion, research, and debate. Part One of these notes concentrates mainly on classic European fascism and its political descendents -- what we might call “conventional” fascism. Part Two will discuss religious-based movements, such as the Christian right and Hindu nationalism, which fall outside the conventional fascist tradition but have a lot in common with it. Both parts include a list of sources and suggested readings at the end.

Since the end of World War I, when fascism first emerged as a major organized force, far-right movements have promoted gender politics based on some synthesis -- or contradictory mixture -- of four themes:

* Patriarchal traditionalism - Often formulated in religious terms, this current promotes rigid gender roles based on a romanticized image of the past. Women are confined to domestic roles as wife, mother, caregiver, plus at most a few (under)paid jobs that extend these roles into the wage economy. Women are to obey men, especially fathers and husbands, who provide them security and protection (especially, in racist versions, protection against sexually aggressive men of other ethnicities). Traditionalism emphasizes the family as the main framework for male control over women. This is the most conservative current of far-right gender politics, although the "traditions" being defended are arbitrary, selective, and often made up.

* Male bonding through warfare - This theme emphasizes warfare (hardship, risk of death, shared acts of violence and killing) as the basis for deep emotional and spiritual ties between men. It is often implicitly homoerotic and occasionally celebrates male homosexuality openly, and is frequently at odds with "bourgeois" family life. In the cult of male comradeship, women may be targets of violent contempt or simply ignored as irrelevant and invisible. In Europe during and after World War I, this current flourished as an ideology that spoke to the cameraderie of the trenches and later street-fighting organizations.

* Demographic nationalism - This theme embodies fears that the nation (or privileged classes or ethhnic groups within it) is not reproducing fast enough. A variant says that the quality of the national "stock" is declining because of cultural degeneration or racial mixing, and therefore eugenics programs are needed to control human breeding. Demographic nationalism says women's main duty to the nation is to have lots of babies (and, in the eugenics variant, the right kind of babies). This doctrine rejects homosexuality as a betrayal of the duty to reproduce, but also sometimes clashes with patriarchal traditionalism -- for example in the Nazis' program to encourage out-of-wedlock births among "racially pure" Germans. Demographic nationalism (especially eugenicist versions) also tends to centralize male control over women through the state, which weakens patriarchal authority within the family.

* Quasi-feminism - This current advocates specific rights for women, such as educational opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and the right to vote, and encourages women to engage in political activism, develop self-confidence and professional skills, and take on leadership roles. But quasi-feminism can't go too far with this, because like other fascistic ideologies it assumes that humans are naturally divided and unequal. This means that quasi-feminism accepts men's overall dominance, embraces gender roles as natural and immutable, advocates only specific rights for women rather than comprehensive equality, and often promotes rights only for economically or ethnically privileged women. (None of this is unique to the far right, of course.)

One of fascism's distinctive features is the tension between forward- and backward-looking tendencies -- what Michael Staudenmaier has called a "dialectic of nostalgia and progress." Gender politics is one of the main arenas where that tension gets played out, and the four themes outlined above are one way to think about that. If patriarchal traditionalism represents fairly pure nostalgia for the past (even if it's an imaginary past), each of the other three themes represents fascism's forward-looking side, its push to shake things up and create something new. By combining these conflicting themes fascism not only appeals to constituencies that want different things but also speaks to people's self-contradictory longings and impulses.

In addition, quasi-feminism embodies fascism's tendency to take on, in distorted form, elements of political movements it aims to destroy. It's the same dynamic that produces fascist "socialism" -- which attacks specific features of capitalism and specific groups of capitalists, but not the principles of economic exploitation and class hierarchy on which capitalism is based.
In the era of "classic" fascism (1919-1945), quasi-feminism was generally the weakest of the four themes shaping far-right gender politics. But in certain contexts where feminism had made an important impact (notably through campaigns for women's suffrage), quasi-feminism played a surprisingly important role on the far right. Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists supported women's right to work for pay equal to men's, and recruited former suffragists who saw fascism as a way to continue fighting for women's rights. In the U.S., the 1920s Klan movement (a right-wing populist movement that had many fascistic characteristics) included a semi-autonomous women's organization, Women of the Ku Klux Klan. The WKKK built directly on earlier women's suffrage and temperance movements, in which racism and nativism were rampant. The WKKK criticized gender inequality among White Protestants and described the home as a place of "monstrous and grinding toil and sacrifice" for women. (On the BUF, see Durham; on the WKKK, see Blee.)

These patterns have continued in recent decades among classic fascism's political descendents. Neofascist groups embody all four of the gender politics themes outlined above. In North America and western Europe, neofascist groups tend to be explicitly male supremacist and mostly recruit men. But some of them have also tried to mobilize women and neofascists sometimes incorporate feminist-sounding themes in unexpected ways.

White Aryan Resistance, a leading third positionist group in the 1980s US, sponsored a women's affiliate called the Aryan Women's League, which promoted the slogan "White power plus Women's power!" Germany's Republikaner opposed abortion but declared in their 1990 platform that "women and men have equal rights. The right to self-actualization applies equally to women and men; this is especially true in occupational life." The Italian Social Movement (MSI), which for decades was Europe's largest neofascist party, urged a "no" vote on the 1974 referendum that legalized divorce, yet advocated a salary for housewives.

A 1985 MSI poster highlighted the contradictions of fascist quasi-feminism. It denounced Marxist feminism ("which is based on an equality which goes against nature") but also rejected "the exploitation of traditions, which relegate women to restricted and historically obsolete roles." Instead, the poster called for a form of equal rights based on the complementarity of the sexes and women's "unrelinquishable freedom to choose which roles to pursue in society." (On the Republikaner and the MSI, see Durham, pp. 86-88.)

It would be an exaggeration to treat these sentiments as typical of neofascist gender politics, just as it would be a distortion to treat working-class fascism as a major reality. In both cases, we are dealing with subcurrents that deserve special attention -- because they're key to the far right's potential to "take the game away from the left."

(To be continued)


* Kathleen M. Blee, Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
* Renate Bridenthal, Atina Grossman, and Marion Kaplan, When Biology Became Destiny: Women in Weimar and Nazi Germany (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1984).
* Victoria De Grazia, How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).
* Martin Durham, Women and Fascism (London: Routledge, 1998).
* Claudia Koonz, Mothers in the Fatherland: Women, the Family, and Nazi Politics (New York: St. Martin's, 1987).
* Stefan Kuhl, The Nazi Connection: Eugenics, American Racism, and German National Socialism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994).
* George L. Mosse, Nationalism and Sexuality: Middle-Class Morality and Sexual Norms in Modern Europe (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

Sep 6, 2005

I received the following article from an email list I'm on. Normally, I would not have posted the story in it's entirety, but it seems that it is a fresh report and not actually published yet. Therefore no web address to link to.

It is one of the best accounts of the situation in NO I have seen so far and details the relationship between various folks trapped in NO, their interactions with cops and the National Guard, and how they had to organize to save themselves. I think we will be seeing more detailed reports coming out now that many people are able to step back and digest what they have been through.

Eye witness accounts by two Paramedics in New Orleans:
Hurricane Katrina - Our Experiences by Larry Bradshaw, Lorrie Beth Slonsky

Two days after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, the Walgreen's store at the corner of Royal and Iberville streets remained locked. The dairy display case was clearly visible through the widows. It was now 48 hours without electricity, running water, plumbing. The milk, yogurt, and cheeses were beginning to spoil in the 90-degree heat. The owners and managers had locked up the food, water, pampers, and prescriptions and fled the City. Outside Walgreen's windows, residents and tourists grew increasingly thirsty and hungry.

The much-promised federal, state and local aid never materialized and the windows at Walgreen's gave way to the looters. There was an alternative. The cops could have broken one small window and distributed the nuts, fruit juices, and bottle water in an organized and systematic manner. But they did not. Instead they spent hours playing cat and mouse, temporarily chasing away the looters.

We were finally airlifted out of New Orleans two days ago and arrived home yesterday (Saturday). We have yet to see any of the TV coverage or look at a newspaper. We are willing to guess that there were no video images or front-page pictures of European or affluent white tourists looting the Walgreen's in the French Quarter.

We also suspect the media will have been inundated with "hero" images of the National Guard, the troops and the police struggling to help the "victims" of the Hurricane. What you will not see, but what we witnessed,were the real heroes and sheroes of the hurricane relief effort: the working class of New Orleans. The maintenance workers who used a fork lift to carry the sick and disabled. The engineers, who rigged, nurtured and kept the generators running. The electricians who improvised thick extension cords stretching over blocks to share the little electricity we had in order to free cars stuck on rooftop parking lots. Nurses who took over for mechanical ventilators and spent many hours on end manually forcing air into the lungs of unconscious patients to keep them alive. Doormen who rescued folks stuck in elevators. Refinery workers who broke into boat yards, "stealing" boats to rescue their neighbors clinging to their roofs in flood waters. Mechanics who helped hot-wire any car that could be found to ferry people out of the City. And the food service workers who scoured the commercial kitchens improvising communal meals for hundreds of those stranded.

Most of these workers had lost their homes, and had not heard from members of their families, yet they stayed and provided the only infrastructure for the 20% of New Orleans that was not under water.

On Day 2, there were approximately 500 of us left in the hotels in the French Quarter. We were a mix of foreign tourists, conference attendees like ourselves, and locals who had checked into hotels for safety and shelter from Katrina. Some of us had cell phone contact with family and friends outside of New Orleans. We were repeatedly told that all sorts of resources including the National Guard and scores of buses were pouring in to the City. The buses and the other resources must have been invisible because none of us had seen them.

We decided we had to save ourselves. So we pooled our money and came up with $25,000 to have ten buses come and take us out of the City. Those who did not have the requisite $45.00 for a ticket were subsidized by those who did have extra money. We waited for 48 hours for the buses, spending the last 12 hours standing outside, sharing the limited water, food, and clothes we had. We created a priority boarding area for the sick, elderly and new born babies. We waited late into the night for the "imminent" arrival of the buses. The buses never arrived. We later learned that the minute the arrived to the City limits, they were commandeered by the military.

By day 4 our hotels had run out of fuel and water. Sanitation was dangerously abysmal. As the desperation and despair increased, street crime as well as water levels began to rise. The hotels turned us out and locked their doors, telling us that the "officials" told us to report to the convention center to wait for more buses. As we entered the center of the City, we finally encountered the National Guard. The Guards told us we would not be allowed into the Superdome as the City's primary shelter had descended into a humanitarian and health hellhole. The guards further told us that the City's only other shelter, the Convention Center, was also descending into chaos and squalor and that the police were not allowing anyone else in. Quite naturally, we asked, "If we can't go to the only 2 shelters in the City, what was our alternative?" The guards told us that that was our problem, and no, they did not have extra water to give to us. This would be the start of our numerous encounters with callous and hostile "law enforcement".

We walked to the police command center at Harrah's on Canal Street and were told the same thing, that we were on our own, and no they did not have water to give us. We now numbered several hundred. We held a mass meeting to decide a course of action. We agreed to camp outside the police command post. We would be plainly visible to the media and would constitute a highly visible embarrassment to the City officials. The police told us that we could not stay. Regardless, we began to settle in and set up camp. In short order, the police commander came across the street to address our group. He told us he had a solution: we should walk to the Pontchartrain Expressway and cross the greater New Orleans Bridge where the police had buses lined up to take us out of the City. The crowd cheered and began to move. We called everyone back and explained to the commander that there had been lots of misinformation and wrong information and was he sure that there were buses waiting for us. The commander turned to the crowd and stated emphatically, "I swear to you that the buses are there."

We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched pasted the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.

As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander's assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move. We questioned why we couldn't cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the 6-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their City. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.

Our small group retreated back down Highway 90 to seek shelter from the rain under an overpass. We debated our options and in the end decided to build an encampment in the middle of the Ponchartrain Expressway on the center divide, between the O'Keefe and Tchoupitoulas exits. We reasoned we would be visible to everyone, we would have some security being on an elevated freeway and we could wait and watch for the arrival of the yet to be seen buses.

All day long, we saw other families, individuals and groups make the same trip up the incline in an attempt to cross the bridge, only to be turned away. Some chased away with gunfire, others simply told no, others to be verbally berated and humiliated. Thousands of New Orleaners were prevented and prohibited from self-evacuating the City on foot. Meanwhile, the only two City shelters sank further into squalor and disrepair. The only way across the bridge was by vehicle. We saw workers stealing trucks, buses, moving vans, semi-trucks and any car that could be hotwired. All were packed with people trying to escape the misery New Orleans had become.

Our little encampment began to blossom. Someone stole a water delivery truck and brought it up to us. Let's hear it for looting! A mile or so down the freeway, an army truck lost a couple of pallets of C-rations on a tight turn. We ferried the food back to our camp in shopping carts. Now secure with the two necessities, food and water; cooperation, community, and creativity flowered. We organized a clean up and hung garbage bags from the rebar poles. We made beds from wood pallets and cardboard. We designated a storm drain as the bathroom and the kids built an elaborate enclosure for privacy out of plastic, broken umbrellas, and other scraps. We even organized a food recycling system where individuals could swap out parts of C-rations (applesauce for babies and candies for kids!).

This was a process we saw repeatedly in the aftermath of Katrina. When individuals had to fight to find food or water, it meant looking out for yourself only. You had to do whatever it took to find water for your kids or food for your parents. When these basic needs were met, people began to look out for each other, working together and constructing a community.

If the relief organizations had saturated the City with food and water in the first 2 or 3 days, the desperation, the frustration and the ugliness would not have set in.

Flush with the necessities, we offered food and water to passing families and individuals. Many decided to stay and join us. Our encampment grew to 80 or 90 people.

From a woman with a battery powered radio we learned that the media was talking about us. Up in full view on the freeway, every relief and news organizations saw us on their way into the City. Officials were being asked what they were going to do about all those families living up on the freeway? The officials responded they were going to take care of us. Some of us got a sinking feeling. "Taking care of us" had an ominous tone to it.

Unfortunately, our sinking feeling (along with the sinking City) was correct. Just as dusk set in, a Gretna Sheriff showed up, jumped out of his patrol vehicle, aimed his gun at our faces, screaming, "Get off the fucking freeway". A helicopter arrived and used the wind from its blades to blow away our flimsy structures. As we retreated, the sheriff loaded up his truck with our food and water.

Once again, at gunpoint, we were forced off the freeway. All the law enforcement agencies appeared threatened when we congregated or congealed into groups of 20 or more. In every congregation of "victims" they saw "mob" or "riot". We felt safety in numbers. Our "we must stay together" was impossible because the agencies would force us into small atomized groups.

In the pandemonium of having our camp raided and destroyed, we scattered once again. Reduced to a small group of 8 people, in the dark, we sought refuge in an abandoned school bus, under the freeway on Cilo Street. We were hiding from possible criminal elements but equally and definitely, we were hiding from the police and sheriffs with their martial law, curfew and shoot-to-kill policies.

The next days, our group of 8 walked most of the day, made contact with New Orleans Fire Department and were eventually airlifted out by an urban search and rescue team. We were dropped off near the airport and managed to catch a ride with the National Guard. The two young guardsmen apologized for the limited response of the Louisiana guards. They explained that a large section of their unit was in Iraq and that meant they were shorthanded and were unable to complete all the tasks they were assigned.

We arrived at the airport on the day a massive airlift had begun. The airport had become another Superdome. We 8 were caught in a press of humanity as flights were delayed for several hours while George Bush landed briefly at the airport for a photo op. After being evacuated on a coast guard cargo plane, we arrived in San Antonio, Texas.

There the humiliation and dehumanization of the official relief effort continued. We were placed on buses and driven to a large field where we were forced to sit for hours and hours. Some of the buses did not have air-conditioners. In the dark, hundreds if us were forced to share two filthy overflowing porta-potties. Those who managed to make it out with any possessions (often a few belongings in tattered plastic bags) we were subjected to two different dog-sniffing searches.

Most of us had not eaten all day because our C-rations had been confiscated at the airport because the rations set off the metal detectors. Yet, no food had been provided to the men, women, children, elderly, disabled as they sat for hours waiting to be "medically screened" to make sure we were not carrying any communicable diseases.

This official treatment was in sharp contrast to the warm, heart-felt reception given to us by the ordinary Texans. We saw one airline worker give her shoes to someone who was barefoot. Strangers on the street offered us money and toiletries with words of welcome. Throughout, the official relief effort was callous, inept, and racist. There was more suffering than need be. Lives were lost that did not need to be lost.