Sunday, August 31, 2008

Anti-Capitalist Bloc UPDATE #1

Today at 1pm we held at the Lake and Hiawatha Light Rail Station in solidarity with Starbucks workers and to celebrate getting our comrade Erik Foreman’s job back. The rally was a great success with about 100 people showing up. At about 1:45 we all legally boarded the light rail (using rail passes) and headed down to the Mall of America in order to escort our fellow worker back to his first shift.

Everyone was peaceful and orderly on the train as we headed south. At the Bloomington Station the train we were met by police who asked to speak with us regarding our plans. We informed the police that we did not wish to cause any trouble, to protest inside of the mall, or to unlawfully assemble in any way inside the mall. The police told us we should be fine and that we would not have any trouble. We were then allowed to proceed to the MOA stop. At the MOA the train was surrounded by police in full riot gear. They threatened to arrest us if we left the train. We were trapped inside the train for about 20 minutes. The police even prohibited a woman with a child who needed insulin from leaving the train, endangering the child’s health. After about 10 minuets and only after repeatedly insisting that we had a medical emergency did the police permit the woman and child to exit the train. When asked why we were being detained a policeman said: “the mall doesn’t want you here.” The officers’ badge numbers were mostly covered by their gear.

After about 20 minutes the police ordered the train back the way it came and, with us stuck inside, we didn’t have much choice in the matter. As far as I know, there were no arrests (thankfully) and everyone is safe.

This is clearly a violation of our rights as a union to public picketing, our rights as citizens to lawful assembly, proof that the Minneapolis and Bloomington cops are outright liars, proof that they protect and defend corporate capitalism rather than the rights of citizens, and proof once again that our organized power is the only “right” that we have.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Solidarity & Defense will be updating our site over the next several days with news and interviews from the anti-Republican National Convention organizing that is taking place in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Solidarity & Defense rejects the platforms and policies of the Republicans and Democrats. We maintain that the real CHANGE we need comes only through the actions of masses of everyday people thinking, acting, and experimenting with politics at the grassroots. It is through directly democratic organizations in which all have the opportunity to participate and have their say, that we understand movements are built - Movements that themselves are capable of creating new societies based on justice, dignity, and liberation.

Solidarity & Defense is an endorser of the Anti-Capitalist Bloc (Red & Black Bloc). this call has been initiated by the Twin Cities Branch of the Industrial Workers of the World.

news and updates:

St. Paul and Minneapolis: More Police raids Saturday Morning

Illegal Police Raid on Anti-RNC Covergence Space in St. Paul

A Call for an Anti-Capitalist Bloc (Red & Black Bloc) at the RNC Protests

On "Labor Day" 2008, and throughout the Republican National Convention (RNC), tens of thousands of people from our community and from across the Unites States will protest against the GOP's pro-corporate policies of war and discrimination. The Anti-Capitalist Bloc will join these mobilizations not just to protest a bad president or failed policies, but to stand up against the whole system of exploitation and oppression: capitalism.

It is the inherent character of capitalism that is creating the current economic crisis. Tens of thousands of laid-off workers, thousands of homes in foreclosure, and quickening inflation of gas and food prices are all signs of a system out of control, a system where the sins of the bosses are visited on the masses of workers.

Capitalism needs wars and exploitation to maintain itself. The war in Iraq was not simply a blunder by W., but the extension of a long-term strategy of U.S. domination of that region. The forced displacement of the poor of New Orleans is a new episode in an old legacy of racist subjugation. The recent raids against immigrant workers show the insidious connection between racism, and the system's needs for a low waged precarious workforce. Continued oppression of women and the hatred whipped up against the GLBT community are designed to reinforce an authoritarian patriarchal culture.

Not a conspiracy or mistaken policy, capitalism is a system in which a small ruling class profits from the labor of the working class majority. The stolen wealth is used to dominate the political system (including both major political parties), and finance a massive apparatus of repression, cooptation and division necessary to maintain capitalist rule. While the earth warms, and bridges collapse, the capitalists continue to do whatever is necessary to increase their profits. To defeat their attacks we must defeat their entire system.

The Anti-Capitalist Bloc stands for solidarity, direct action, the general strike and revolution. We advocate an economic system controlled collectively and democratically, and an end to the racism, sexism and violence of the capitalist system.

Is this a black bloc like in Seattle?
No. While remaining tactically flexible, our goal is not a confrontation with the police, but to raise the profile of organized working class direct action against capitalism. The Anti-Capitalist Bloc is independent from, but not competitive with or hostile to the RNC Welcoming Committee.

St. Paul, Minnesota: Police Raids and Arrests of Protesters



The ramsey county sheriff’s dept and the SPPD raided the RNC convergence
space and detained over 50 people in an attempt to preempt planned
protests of the rnc on Monday.

read more

Monday, August 18, 2008

Violence on the Streets of Chitown: beginings of an anti-authoritarian analysis

Recently the Illinois governor made comments about sending both State Police and National Guard onto the streets of Chicago to help "de-escalate rising crime". The story made national news. As we organize in our region we see the need to highlight and examine stories that deal with our various communities.

The following is a short interview conducted between a member of S&D and a member of the new class struggle anarchist group, Four Stars Anarchist Organization (four stars representing the four stars of the Chicago city flag).Q & A were conducted in personal capacities and do not necessarily reflect the views of either organizations.

Q: In the July 16th, edition of the Chicago Tribune (CT), the Illinois Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich suggested sending in State Police and National Guard as “a constructive way… to do everything that we possibly can to help… end” Chicago’s street violence and shootings. The Governor said the violence “is out of control”. And the August 6th CT edition cited the murder rate up 18 percent with sixty-two slayings in July alone. It seems so bad its making the national news, too. What’s going on here? Is this a real issue? Is Blagojevich playing political games, trying to embarrass Mayor Daley? Or IS there mounting violence and rise in crime?

A: Well, the issue is real, and serious, but Blagojevich’s statement was largely posturing. It reminded me of when Hugo Chavez offered to send Venezuelan troops to help with relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina. Maybe I’ve just seen too many episodes of The Wire, but I’m not convinced that the actual murder rate is dramatically higher this year. There are at least a couple different political factors that could play a role in shifting the statistics. The new police chief is a former FBI agent who has no previous ties to the Chicago Police Department (CPD). It seems at least plausible to me that old guard cops who want to embarrass the new chief are inflating the rate relative to previous years. Alternately, it could be that the new chief is inflating the stats in order to demand more thorough reforms to CPD that would enhance his limited power base. Finally, I think local and eventually national media pick up on a story that sounds hot. That’s what happened with the student killings (your question #4) last year, and now this year with the overall level of violence. Regardless of the statistics, however, violence is and has been a serious issue in a range of poor and working class communities for a long time. What seems different in the last couple years is that the violence has increasingly intersected with neighborhoods that are being gentrified on the south, west and northwest sides of town.

Q: If there is a spike what are the reasons behind it and how does it compare to the recent past’s history of violence in the city?

A: I’m not an expert on this, and I haven’t looked closely at the statistics, but it seems at least anecdotally that the spike in violence, especially gun violence, has been localized in particular neighborhoods where three factors intersect: gentrification, the slumping economy, and changes in the structure of street gangs. For more than a decade, gentrification has continued its advance across Chicago, transforming previously poor and working class neighborhoods into dramatically whiter and wealthier communities. This process has frankly brutal effects on the lives of families and especially young people, forcing frequent changes in living situations, jobs, and schools. One result has been a series of shifts in gang boundaries and periodic flare-ups in border areas, where a gang’s membership has been displaced and forced to move to a new neighborhood that already has an established gang structure. In the past year or so, the rate of gentrification has slowed as a result of the economic downturn and especially the mortgage/credit crunch, but this has only exacerbated the problems facing poor folks in the city. This has increased the appeal of gang activities, especially drug dealing, for people whose economic prospects in the legal economy are extremely limited. Finally, over the past two decades the CPD and the FBI have largely succeeded in crippling the traditional gang hierarchies that previously held strongly centralized power over the vast majority of gang activity in Chicago. The creation of the supermax prisons at Tamms (Illinois Department of Corrections) and Florence Colorado (Federal Bureau of Prisons) a decade ago finally severed the links between the incarcerated gang leadership and the mid-level leaders still on the streets. The result was predictable to anyone who followed the trajectory of the Basque or Kurdish armed struggles in Spain and Turkey during the same period: a spiraling decomposition of the gang structure into smaller and less cohesive segments, with less central control and a greater tendency toward spontaneous and often counter-productive violence. The average street gang in Chicago now is fully autonomous and in total control of a few blocks of terrain, and the long-standing grand alliances known as “people” and “folks” have almost completely deteriorated. The old guard leaders who could have prohibited revenge killings, for instance, no longer hold power. These three factors have combined to heighten the trends toward violence in certain neighborhoods over the past few years.

Q: Parts of Chicago really come off nowadays as being “locked down”. Police surveillance cameras on all kinds of street corners and an increase in the cop cars cruisin’ the streets. What parts of the city are getting this beefed up presence and what is their intention? I find it hard to think that all the cameras are just to keep “the Order” and an eye on the gangsters. Should we think there are deeper State motives for this surveillance? Crime, which is real and we shouldn’t pretend otherwise, can also be the pretext for initiating broad population and information monitoring programs, right?

A: Mayor Daley has really pushed for Chicago to follow London, Englands lead in terms of ever expanding surveillance networks. His rationale is of course based on the “war on terror” rhetoric so common since 9/11. He also likes to position Chicago as a world city (eg. the Olympic bid for 2016) and regularly reminds people that we could be a target for international terrorists. Some of this has to do with local politics and gentrification questions, but I think the more important consideration is the broad shift since 9/11 toward a generalized. low-level police state consciousness. I don’t think there’s anything particularly sinister or conspiratorial going on, but there seems to be a broad ruling class agreement that surveillance is always useful in preventative counter-insurgency. This assumes that economically marginalized communities of color are still the primary potential source for any insurgent threat to the status quo. Given the degeneration of organized black radicalism in the US over the past thirty years, I find it instructive that this assumption is still current within ruling class circles. For instance, there’s no reason Daley couldn’t argue that the surveillance cameras are primarily needed in wealthier neighborhoods, in order to prevent crime against the middle class. That he has instead positioned the cameras largely in poor and burnt out neighborhoods (including some that have gentrification potential) says something important about the purpose of the surveillance in the first place.

Q: This year some 25 students were killed while walking to and from school. Last year it was something like 32 students – some as young as 7. Looking at the gunfights and shootings that are destroying families and their communities, beyond the police build up, what other responses have there been?

A: Beginning with the media coverage a year ago, there have been a series of responses in the communities most affected by the student deaths. A number of church-based anti-violence coalitions emerged, although it’s not clear to me that they have continued. There have been periodic spontaneous marches against gun violence, and most black-oriented radio stations in town have devoted extensive airtime to discussing the situation (including several stations with an all or mostly music focused programming schedule). At the same time, there have been a series of under-reported killings by the CPD (almost a dozen in the past year), which have led to a number of protest marches and at least one near-riot on the west side. To the best of my knowledge there has been no serious attempt to analyze the police killings within the broader context of gun violence, the student deaths, and so forth.

One other response worth looking at is represented by the group “CeaseFire,” (CF) which employs former gangmembers to deescalate tense situations and prevent revenge killings or other spirals of gang violence. CF has historically been a mainstream organization that despite its unorthodox methods didn’t really rock the boat as far as law-enforcement was concerned. For obscure reasons, the group lost almost all its funding a year ago (most of it came from the State of Illinois, and the state budget crunch was the officially cited reason for cutting their funding), and the group is now largely staffed by volunteers with only a handful of paid employees. Nonetheless, the group has attempted to respond to a series of killings in our neighborhood (a half dozen people have been killed within walking distance of our home in the past year).

Q: Considering the complex and the near overwhelming issues here, between the violence and the States response, what should radical anti-authoritarians be doing?

A: First, I think we should be talking more about the situation. There is a tendency on the left to ignore this sort of violence and focus exclusively on police brutality, but in working class communities street violence produces ambivalent attitudes toward the cops. Many people of color, especially immigrants, do not trust the CPD at all, but in the context of gang violence there is often an acknowledgement that there are only two alternatives: revenge, or police intervention.

Second, we should work to build a third alternative. In Chicago, I think that means some level of engagement with groups like CF. Especially in the current context where the group is largely supported by volunteers, a critical mass of radical anti-authoritarians could have a real impact on the organization’s work. There are multiple risks here: on the one hand, the group’s historical identity has never been particularly radical and it is possible that direct engagement with CF could be a political dead-end; on the other hand, there are real physical dangers in engaging so closely with the world of current and former gangmembers, even when de-escalation is the stated goal. These dangers would only increase if some attempt was made to politically influence the trajectory of the group in a radical direction. Nonetheless, the potential of a group like CF is real, and we should examine it in more detail.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Detroit: Arm the Spirit

"Where the Spirit... is, there is liberty" - from Corinthians (3:17) and inscribed on the Spirit of Detroit monument.

by C. Alexander

The Free Press Sunday Edition made another call for ousting Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. With Kilpatrick being jailed on Thursday for traveling to Windsor – a violation of his probation – The Detroit Free Press in its editorial read, “Out of jail, now leave office”. On the same day as Kilpatrick was jailed, Free Press Columnist Stephen Henderson basically made a thinly veiled call to action to evict Kilpatrick from office. He wrote regarding the actions of Kilpatrick,

In any other American city – in most banana republics – half of that would be enough to inspire some kind of populist effort to change leaders

Henderson, one time supporter of Kilpatrick now one of his loudest critics, represents one of the fault lines. The city has been divided on what to do about City Hall. Henderson and the Free Press are one voice coming from the city’s establishment, the “leadership”. But they are not alone. Other voices for and against Kilpatrick have risen up. Protests are becoming common place. City Workers unions continue to call for Kilpatricks resignation, while some of the Service Employee unions rally to his defense. Inner city community coalitions want him out while groups like the New Black Panther Party help mobilize a street presence to intimidate and silence those who reject Kwame. In one corner you have working-class alliances with a scruffy but for-real-street vibe standing against City Hall corruption, and in the other corner you have professional well dressed political leaders saying that it’s Kwame who is the real Heartbeat of Detroit. You have splits in the police ranks and splits in the neighborhoods. Depending on who you talk to, Kilpatrick is either the symbol of hope and Detroit’s new generation, or, he is a political gangster thinking he is above the law he was elected to enforce.

The Free Press and a growing number of Detroit’s “leadership” say that the city has reached “an all time low”. But the Kilpatrick episode is just another example of the deeper conflicts that have marked the city’s history. People put their faith in Kilpatrick because he is young, charismatic, and full of ideas. After years of loss and desperation, citizens of Detroit looked at this man and considered him to be a break with what had gone before.

During his tenure as Mayor the downtown strip has become more alive than in 30 years. There is a bustling in many of the streets. At 12 midnight on a Friday, you can get caught in a traffic jam when all the people start coming out of the clubs and restaurants.

During this time Kilpatrick related to a new generation raised on hip hop and brought in the biggest names of that industry, hanging at the clubs while helping to push the conversation of how hip hop can inform and build needed community empowerment.

But what propels all of this is that Kilpatrick represents a player in the development of a new bourgeois power elite. Self-determination - the idea of a peoples sovereignty against occupation and colonization and once a corner stone of the socialist, Black liberation, and revolutionary people’s movements - has been co-opted. Kilpatrick is the face that had come to represent the rise of a new boss class. Kilpatrick has tried to put their bourgeois idea of, “Our time has Come” into practice. Self-determination is now the ideology of a narrow minded capitalist class. Theirs is not a concern with “popular power” and masses of people in motion but in creating a power structure over people.

Kilpatrick and his team defend them selves by telling us to look at all they have done, pointing to the redevelopment of the downtown and river front with its casinos and new lofts. But that is just that – the downtown redevelopment is limited to just that small strip within the city. Once you get outside of it you see the continuing poverty and crisis that has defined this city for two generations. When there is already mass unemployment we see this new boss class eliminating needed city workers jobs by cutting deals with private firms like the Carlyle Groups waste treatment subsidiary, Synagro. We see a cronyism that has the Mayors friends and relatives getting bids on contracts, lining their pockets, at the expense of the city. And you have cover ups of murders, like dancer Tamarra Green aka. Strawberry, who was found dead after a rumored party at Manoogian Mansion i.e. the Mayor’s home. It was also reported that Green had been beaten with a bat by the Mayor’s wife, the medical evidence of the assault mysteriously vanishing.

It would be a mistake to put all the city’s problems on Kilpatrick, he’s just one person. His problems have not brought Detroit to “an all time low”. It would also be a mistake, as many make, to say the real outrage is on the Mayor’s sexual transgressions (although his affairs show his dishonesty). The real issues here are about power and vision of the future. Kilpatrick and the elite use power to bolster their own ends, not the masses of Detroit’s citizens.

People have felt beat down for a long time. The organizations of collective action and revolutionary social change have nearly been eliminated. There are many on the ground still trying to engage and build community and city wide movements, but they are small, fragmented and often unaware of others trying to do the same thing on a city, metro or broader regional basis. The tasks before us are many, as well as serious. We need a real debate on approaches to movement building while still working to connect and strengthen the fractured opposition. We need a critique and rejection of the centralization of power and knowledge into the hands of a few. This process means fighting to open up - and defend - space for others to participate, raise their voice, and act. This constant building up of our abilities, and capacities, is the chance to confront the boss class, turn things around and upside down, and allow liberty's rays to penetrate into the darkest of corners.

The struggle goes far beyond Kilpatrick and the "leadership" of this city. It’s time Detroit, lets Arm The Spirit.

A Perfect Capitalist Disaster

"Health care is ground zero of the perfect capitalist disaster. Miller & Friends want to fix health care so retirees don’t live too long and the private insurance industry keeps making jackpot profits. He and his class of vulture capitalists want health care that restricts access to workers and retirees and specializes in serving those who were never exposed to the hazards of hard work.

One way or the other the perfect capitalist disaster will be a catalyst for change."

August 11, 2008

A Perfect Capitalist Disaster
by Gregg Shotwell/UAW Local 2151

What appears to be a catastrophe in the auto industry could be the perfect storm for GM, Ford, and Chrysler. They’ve wanted to close plants and jettison dealerships for a long time. The 2007 contracts with the UAW gave the auto companies an unrestricted license to close plants because of conditions “beyond the control of the Corporation” such as “market related volume decline”. Now they are ready to open that gift, that is, the contract.

Unlimited plant closings coupled with time limits on the Job Bank means the Concession Caucus has delivered the union’s head upon a platter. But I am no great prophet and this is no great matter of speculation. Everyone knows “market related volume decline” is in sync with the goal to close plants and cancel commitments to dealers.

The 2007 GM-UAW contract listed nine plants to be closed for certain and one to be “closed or sold”. But that was before the perfect capitalist disaster. Now, poaching is legal and the game are penned in.

Manufacturers didn’t push free trade agreements because they expected to export from the USA. They never expected to export anything but jobs. The objective of free trade agreements was to close factories in the US, invest offshore, and import products formerly “made in the USA” back to the US market. The current capitalist crisis gives auto companies a perfect opportunity to bankrupt North American Operations and become major importers.

GM and Ford (like Delphi) invested profits overseas (foreign assets are protected under US bankruptcy law) rather than pump dollars back into US plants. Chrysler does not have extensive investments overseas but they have made a deal with Chery Motors in China and they could partner with another foreign auto maker to import small cars to the US. Unless Cerberus, the three headed private equity fund that owns Chrysler, prefers a fire sale. In either case we can’t deny the dogs from hell are at the gates.

Some speculators feel that unlike Delphi it would be too risky for GM to declare bankruptcy because consumers would not want to buy vehicles from a bankrupt company. But Americans buy tickets to fly on bankrupt airlines maintained by disgruntled mechanics and depressed pilots. Why wouldn’t they buy a car from two bankrupt companies: Delphi & GM?

Under bankruptcy protection GM would continue to operate some plants in the US. The disaster scenario would enable them to accelerate the transition to lower tier workers and extort greater concessions from the UAW. Bankruptcy, like a boxer taking a dive, is a business plan.

There is simply too much cash to be skimmed by reneging on VEBAs and pensions. If they can’t pay, they can’t pay. So who will have to pay and pay and pay? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Money isn't lost, it changes hands. We are about to experience a massive transfer of wealth from workers to investors (inside investors). It will be the most enduring legacy of the UAW’s partnership with the corporations.

The VEBA was sold to UAW members as an insurance against the specter of bankruptcy. What the Concession Caucus didn’t explain is that the health of the VEBA depends on the profitability of the company. Because they didn’t get the money upfront, the VEBA is essentially a promissory note. If the company goes bankrupt prior to an actual transfer of cash, the VEBA is busted flatter than a penny on a train track.

The security of retirees depends on the success of the VEBA. In turn the VEBA depends on concessions from workers and plant closings. Some would attest that the UAW has a serious conflict of interest. But members know better. The sweethearts have already made their beds.

Steve Miller, who is managing the perpetual failure at Delphi, said in a recent speech to the Detroit Economic Club, "One of the biggest factors in a decision to put new investment offshore is the punitive effect of health care costs on job creation in America."

Miller told the audience that after Delphi emerges from bankruptcy he would like to take a role in solving "the country's number one domestic political and economic issue [health care]”. He thinks he knows how to take waste out of health care.

Look at what’s left of Delphi and Bethlehem Steel, then ask yourself if you want the likes of Miller fixing your health care plan. Miller’s idea of waste is workers. Or more to the point, the cost of workers and retirees who, as he said in a previous speech, live too long [(when workers retired at “age 65 and then died at age 70.....the social contract inherent in these programs seemed affordable.”) Steve Miller, Detroit Economic Club, 4/03/2006].

One of the areas of waste that Miller cited during his speech was malpractice lawsuits. Miller is suing the Appaloosa hedge fund for backing out of an investment in Delphi. Apparently, due diligence exposed Miller’s reorganization plan as flimflam. Miller didn’t hesitate to file a frivolous lawsuit to force a hedge fund to invest against their better judgment.

What sort of businessman coerces someone into investing?

Miller has spent the last three years wasting money on fruitless legal proceedings and rewarding Delphi executives for continuous failure. If we don’t mount a counter offensive to wrest control of health care from parasites like Miller, we will lose more than VEBA. Our lives are on the line.

We’re not affordable. We live too long. Miller & Friends want to fix that.

Manufacturing workers have lost too many jobs and made too many concessions. Retaliation is in order. We know how to take the waste out of the system — cut out the middlemen. We don’t need them. They do not perform any value added function in the delivery of health care. They are more than a burden. They are a moral hazard.

Why should duffers sporting cologne that costs more than a doctor visit be allowed to skim money from doctors, nurses, hospitals, clinics, medical supply companies, and patients? We don’t need the middlemen. Give them six months severance and offer to retrain them for work in the foundry.

Health care is ground zero of the perfect capitalist disaster. Miller & Friends want to fix health care so retirees don’t live too long and the private insurance industry keeps making jackpot profits. He and his class of vulture capitalists want health care that restricts access to workers and retirees and specializes in serving those who were never exposed to the hazards of hard work.

One way or the other the perfect capitalist disaster will be a catalyst for change.