Saturday, December 30, 2006


Tomorrow the Intergalactic will begin. This presents us with a question. Or rather two related questions:

What the fuck is an Intergalactic? I mean, what the fucking fuck?

To answer these questions it is necessary to start more or less at the beginning. On New Year’s Day 1994 armed guerilla fighters came out of the mountains and jungles of Chiapas, Mexico and captured several cities, blockaded roads, freed prisoners and took others, and after a few days issued a communique that told the world why they had decided to do this.

They called themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN in the Spanish initials) after Emiliano Zapata, an indigenous revolutionary famous for his military exploits and populist principles during the Mexican Revolution. They had formed roughly ten years earlier when a small cadre of non-indigenous Maoist revolutionaries had moved to Chiapas to organize the locals into a guerrilla force. Their Maoism didn’t survive contact with the indigenous population and after ten years of working with them the EZLN had morphed into something altogether different. Indeed, they had changed into something politically, ideologically, militarily and socially unique.

Chiapas is one of the poorest states, in terms of personal income, in the Mexican union and has one of the largest indigenous populations. It is also one of the richest in terms of natural resources. To make a 500 year long story very very short, suffice it to say that the natives were getting royally screwed. NAFTA passed through the Mexican and US systems in ’93. The indigenous realized that not only would this further continue their screwing, but that it was worse than that. If NAFTA was implemented unopposed it would have amounted to a death sentence. NAFTA went into effect on Jan. 1st, 1994, and it was on this day that the EZLN decided to start fighting back.

The war lasted twelve days until a ceasefire was agreed upon by the EZLN and the Mexican government. I don't really have space to get into the details, but there is an excellent short summary of the next stages of the conflict here. Basically when the dust cleared a bit the Zapatistas had managed to create some autonomous space in Chiapas for their communties, innovated new strategies and tactics of social struggle and social organization, and launched what came to be known in corporate press as the "anti-globalization" movement.

Twelve years later they launched an initiative that they called The Other Campaign. Designed as a non-electoral counterpart to the presidential campaigns, The Other Campaign´s purpose was to extend the Zapatista movement and tactics to the national level. They sent their spokesman, Subcommandante Marcos, to tour the country and gather information from people engaged in social struggle about what they would like to see Mexican society look like. Following the Zapatista principle of "command by obeying" Marcos would hold meeting in each town on the tour and listen and take notes as people told him about the particular problems of their situation and what they were doing about it. When he returns to Chiapas the Zapatistas will collate the information and then send two Zapatista Commandantes (Generals) to each designated region of Mexico in order to help organize the groups there.

The Other Campaign has already had some significant effects. Some of its proponents credit it with unifying the factionalized activist groups in Oaxaca that eventually led to the Oaxaca uprising. The Zapatistas are very popular throughout Mexico and have been very uncompromising throughout their existence. Because of this they hold a great deal of moral authority and groups that otherwise wouldn't be able to work together feel comfortable uniting under the Zapatista rubric. Many people here believe that Mexico will be in a national revolutionary situation within the next five or so years, and The Zapatistas and The Other Campaign are obviously key elements in this phenomenon.

The international counterpart of The Other Campaign is called the Intergalactic. So called as a result of the peculiar Zapatista sense of humor, The Intergalactic is an open invitation to everyone in the Galaxy to come to the Zapatista community in Oventik for four days of workshops and talking and training, etc. Its basically an international conference of radical leftie groups.

So this is what is happening tomorrow. Sorry this post is a bit slight, but internet access is spotty here. More later.

Friday, December 29, 2006

tha po po 

I just wanted to respond to this 'cause its important to me, and it seemed a litte long for comments.

it may be that police are symptoms of an inherently unjust and
"disordered" social order.

and there may be societies of previous times and other places that
lacked civil law.

but in the current world system, civil law is a concomitant of all
functioning polities. that may be condemnation of us, of humanity, etc.
but no place on earth without civil law at the moment is doing well. and
civil law must have enforcement.

even if we were somehow to attain true anarchic lawless society, that
would still have to be mediated by an orderly (lawful) transfer of power
from the leaders to the rest of us.

First, an anarchic society isn't lawless, a chaotic one is. All anarchic societies thus conceived or realized have some sort of "law" even if in some cases it amounts to what we could call "custom".

Second the assertion that a power transfer has to be mediated seems to me strange and unsubstantiated. People can "take" power by appropriating the mechanisms of the state. Usually this is done in an unmediated fashion, a fashion that is by definition lawless, i.e. violent revolution. Or they can simply exercise power and make the state structures more or less irrelevant. In either case it is a "lawless" process. States do not make legal provisions for their own dissolution, at least if Lincoln is to be believed. A transfer of power to an anarchic society would have to be orderly, but it could not be lawful, at least according to the laws of the structure that was being transferred away from.

so if the anarchist revolution you envision is to occur, it will have to
involve the police in a lawful self-dismantling that, as it occurs, will
STILL have to be regulated.

Again, the point above. Historically these things aren't very well regulated, but rather somewhat spontaneous and cascading sequences of events in varying spans of time. Indeed your assertion is somewhat absurd on its face. How can the law lawfully self-dismantle? Who or what would possibly regulate such a process?

For the record, the anarchist revolution you claim I envision isn't the one I envision. To assert that anyone thinks we're going to snap our fingers and have utopia is to engage in a war on straw. Most likely the police would eventually be (gradually) deprived of funding and individual policemen would no longer find it useful or moral to be involved with the institution.

i'm hard-pressed to imagine what sort of "social relations" can exist on
a LARGE scale (which is the only kind modern societies have the option
of basing themselves around) without formal rules, and thus without

If you necessarily define "modern" as "large" then no, non-hierarchical social relations probably will not be "modern". However, there is no reason to think that there could not be non-hierarchical social relations that still qualify as "modern" in the other senses of the word (technologically advanced, culturally, morally, politically, economically sophisticated, etc.) It is indeed difficult to imagine if one is relatively new to the topic, but there is actually an extensive body of theoretical, historical, ethnographic, anthropological, and practical literature on the subject. Flights of imagination are not required.

Again, formal rules do not necessarily entail "enforcement" as you mean it. There are plenty of mechanisms for "enforcing" rules in a non-hierarchic society that do not depend on violence or physical coercion.

that current social relations can be shown to be both contingent and
unjust does not at all imply that we can leap across an unthought,
unimagined gap into a realm of non-hierarchical relations that can't be
anticipated or defined as anything other than the negation of the
present state of affairs.

No leap is proposed. Revolution is a process, not necessarily an event. It is also not unanticipated or undefined, and certainly is not merely a negation of the present state of affairs. To proponents of slave societies a non-slave society was considered unimaginable, impractical, and a utopian negation. Fortunately these proponents did not carry the day.

social relations are structured. structure means hierarchy. "moments" of
disruption or transcendence or modification of structure are just
that--"moments" that exist, in time, between punctually identifiable and
therefore structurally visible forms of concrete social relation. to
think that we can eternalize a moment of revolution/transition is much
less realistic than faith in the Kingdom of God. an eternal instant of
freedom is nothing but a trick of the mind, a fetishization of the
negative moment in dialectical logic.

Structure does not necessarily mean hierarchy. There are such things as non-hierarchical social structures that work. Some of which have been used in the past, some we use every day, and some are currently being created.

I certainly am not proposing that we eternalize a moment of anything. No anarchist revolutionary that I know does either. An eternal instant of freedom is indeed an illusion, but only for those who define freedom negatively, as the absence of coercion or some such. This is the prevailing view of freedom in our society, but it is not the only one in existence. Indeed it is a fantastically destructive one, and I will add, the view of freedom upon which capitalism and hierarchical social relations are based.

law enforcement of some kind is required in modern societies.
now maybe you're right--maybe most police officers are most of the time
involved in perpetuating unjust social relations. that seems simplified
to me, but whatever...

I actually wasn't asserting that most police officers are actively doing these things most of the time, although they are existentially. Most of the time they could be handing out candy to kittens. It still wouldn't change their fundamental raison d'etre which is to act as the mechanism for the state's monopoly on violence in the service of preserving unjust social relations. The very existence of a police force perpetuates unjust social relations. This is its end and its condition for existence. From what I understand most beat cops spend most of their time mediating domestic disputes, certainly an admirable activity, although there are probably better means for this than armed men.

The point is that in the limiting case, when the social order faces a crisis of legitimacy, the police are called upon to act in the defense of the illegitimate order. Witness the entire history of the labor movement in any country you choose to name. Or more recently and closer to home, witness the police repression of the Seattle protests of '94.

Even in a non-limiting case the policies of policing agencies are always geared toward increasing social control, witness the perpetual increase of surveillance, detention, expansion of power, diminution of individual rights, increased militarization, etc. Because the causes, unjust social relations, must remain unexamined, the institutions are faced with always treating the symptoms. Thus the structure of the institution always sees more control as the solution to any given problem. Whether or not individual policemen do is irrelevant.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

American heroes 

What is the U.S. army?

A U.S. military 'at its breaking point' considers foreign recruits

"....Foreign citizens' serving in the U.S. military is a highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries to defend the country...."

Would this be so different from the current arrangement?

What makes the troops worthy of special honor?

I do not wish to question their bravery or skill, nor do I wish to mimimize the pain many are now suffering. They are, more ore less, victims. So would foreign mercenaries, likely impoverished young people taking a gamble on an economic future as US citizens, be victims if they suffered death or injury in the service of the US army.

But would an unemployed Bulgarian, say, who joined the US army because he couldn't afford college and wanted to get out of Eastern Europe, be a good candidate for "a profile in courage"? Then why are "native" soldiers in any sense "heroes"? They are skilled, brave, perhaps naive, perhaps violent, perhaps making the best of a bad situation, perhaps committed to ideals of service and patriotism that are, now, in the age of global capital and "humanitarian war," obsolete.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Lest things should start to go too well... 

This would seem to be a bad turn of events.

Ethiopia Hits Somali Targets, Declaring War

Ethiopia officially plunged into war with Somalia’s Islamist forces on Sunday, bombing targets inside Somalia and pushing ground troops deep into Somali territory in a major escalation that could turn Somalia’s internal crisis into a violent religious conflict that engulfs the entire Horn of Africa.


Even before Ethiopia’s escalation on Sunday, there were alarming signs that the conflict in Somalia could quickly spiral out of control. According to United Nations officials, at least 2,000 soldiers from Eritrea, which recently waged war with Ethiopia, are fighting for the Islamists. They have been joined by a growing number of Muslim mercenaries from Yemen, Egypt, Syria and Libya who want to turn Somalia into the third front of holy war, after Iraq and Afghanistan.


American officials acknowledged that they tacitly supported Ethiopia’s approach because they felt it was the best way to check the growing power of the Islamists, whom American officials have accused of sheltering terrorists tied with Al Qaeda. A State Department spokesperson in Washington said Sunday that the United States was assessing reports of the surge in fighting in Somalia but provided no further comment.


Witnesses in frontline areas have said that waves of young, poorly trained Islamist fighters have been mowed down by Ethiopian troops. Ethiopia’s military is trained by American advisers and is supplied with millions of dollars of American aid.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas from Rat 


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