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Open Letter from ‘Wretched of the Earth’ bloc, London, December 2015…

'Wretched of the Earth' bloc at Global Climate March London.

‘Wretched of the Earth’ bloc at Peoples March for Climate Justice and Jobs, November 29, 2015. London, UK.

The Wretched of the Earth are a collective of over a dozen grassroots Indigenous, black and brown organizations representing diaspora from the Global South. Over the past few months, we have fought tooth and nail to lead last weekend’s London climate march alongside Indigenous delegates from frontline communities on their way to the Paris climate summit. We know that our presence was only allowed so the NGOs could comfortably check the ‘diversity’ tick-box. While we knew it would not be an easy space to be in, the violence and hostility we faced on Sunday was worse than we expected.

As Wretched of The Earth speakers fired up the 50,000-strong crowd with a message of decolonization, delivered from a crane above them – another hard-fought-for concession – the march organizers carefully plotted for their animal props to move ahead of us via a side channel. With minutes to go, the mainstream banner suddenly appeared in front of us for the press photos. We stormed forward and unravelled our own banner, only to realize it was a stand-off. They wouldn’t begin the march unless we put our message behind theirs; theft of narrative – in some cases literally, as banners were physically pulled from people’s hands. From that point until the end it was a violent tussle to lead the march.

NGOs summoned the police on our black and brown bodies. Re-read that last sentence. Suggesting that our symbolic coffins – calling out BP and BHP Billington for the blood on their hands – were health and safety hazards, they attempted to remove them. Our placards placing British Imperialism in the framework of Climate Injustice were radioed in to be taken down, as they ‘didn’t fit the message of the day’. They tried to recapture the front of the march by stopping it in the middle of central London and moving their banner back. They then slowed down the rest of the marchers that followed us, effectively separating us off. But we stood our ground, together. We write our own rules.

The NGO narrative appealed to the perpetrators again, asking them to ‘do something’. Their narrative read ‘We do this #ForTheLoveOf Skiing’. Our narrative is one which has a context wide enough to contain the solidarity needed for systemic change. It is one which doesn’t compartmentalize the struggle into climate, racism, migration. It acknowledges that to be truly insurrectional, one must be intersectional.

We held placards and gave speeches that explained clearly that another war in Syria is a war on Mother Earth. That war and corporate climate genocidal mega-development is the main driver behind forced displacement and the migrant ‘crisis’. That the white-hetero-patriarchal-imperial ideology which premises this continued climate colonialism is that which perpetuates racist and patriarchal policing, prisons and austerity in the Global North.

Many of the major NGOs and March organizers went on a self-congratulatory tirade, talking about ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusivity’, conveniently forgetting that – whether on the march or in the lead up – it was Avaaz, Greenpeace and cohorts who created obstacles for our communities to lead. Something needs to be made clear: the global climate movement starts at the frontlines of corporate colonialism, in Indigenous territories, where black and brown communities fight back against European-sanctioned climate genocide. And that’s why our placards read ‘We die first, We fight first, We march first’.

‘People get used to anything. The less you think about your oppression, the more your tolerance for it grows. After a while, people just think oppression is the normal state of things. But to become free, you have to be acutely aware of being a slave.’ The revolutionary Assata Shakur said it.

We ourselves in the Wretched of the Earth bloc have had to decolonize our minds in order to recognize the shackles on our bodies, in order to recognize the insidious and acute nature of our oppressor. We therefore have a duty to up the ante where the stagnant water of colonialism has trapped the fight for justice from flowing toward freedom. The Climate Movement needed the medicine, and we have the remedy.

‘The white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro, but pretend that they are smiling’. Malcolm X said it. Colonized peoples rising up recognize a forked tongue by necessity. We see the liberal foxes prowling between the ranks of the NGOs, dangling carrots before the people, knowing that the millions in their coffers are not for systemic change, but for their liberal methods of teasing people toward an empty empathy. The behavior of the NGOs – Avaaz at their head – on Sunday showed why climate campaigners need a decolonization treatment.

Now more than ever, we know that not only do we have to fight against climate change and the capitalist-colonialist system which it hails from, we also have to fight against the UK’s whitewashed colonialist climate movement which perpetuates the oppression, erasure and brutality we face daily.

The march organizers, ITV, BBC, all of the echo chambers of the status quo will have you think we weren’t even there. Yet ’Still fighting Co2onialism’, was the banner leading the Britain’s biggest climate march, because we can no longer afford to place the onus on people recycling and expect the polluters to lead us to liberty. Neither the government nor the NGO liberal line will lead us to justice. This is a war of narratives, and ours is decolonial.

This article was amended on December 3, 2015 to better reflect the role of different NGOs in these events.

 

 

To Recapture The Dream by Julius Lester 1969

“We Must not mistake an organization, a gun, or even an ideology for a revolution. They are only a means towards it. Revolution is first and foremost a question of morality, a question of values, a question of the inner life of people.” - Julius Lester, “To Recapture The Dream,”.Liberation AugSep1969, pp26-30

[ originally published at OccupyWallStreet.net ]

Day_14_Occupy_Wall_Street_September_30_2011_Shankbone-800px
(photo: Friday, Day 14 of Occupy Wall Street – photos from the camp in Zuccotti Park and the march against police brutality, walking to One Police Plaza, headquarters of the NYPD. CC BY 3.0 David Shankbone )

There has been a flurry of discussion around process in OWS of late. This can only be a good thing. Atrophy and complacency are the death of movements. Any viable experiment in freedom is pretty much going to have to constantly re-examine itself, see what’s working and what isn’t—partly because situations keep changing, partly because we’re trying to invent a culture of democracy in a society where almost no one really has any experience in democratic decision-making, and most have been told for most of their lives that it would be impossible, and partly just because it’s all an experiment, and it’s in the nature of experiments that sometimes they don’t work.

A lot of this debate has centered around the role of consensus. This is healthy too, because there seem to be a lot of misconceptions floating around about what consensus is and is supposed to be about. Some of these misconceptions are so basic, though, I must admit I find them a bit startling.

Just one telling example. Justine Tunney recently wrote a piece called “Occupiers: Stop Using Consensus!” that begins by describing it as “the idea that a group must strictly adhere to a protocol where all decisions are unanimous”—and then goes on to claim that OWS used such a process, with disastrous results. This is bizarre. OWS never used absolute consensus. On the very first meeting on August 2, 2011 we established we’d use a form of modified consensus with a fallback to a two-thirds vote. Anyway, the description is wrong even if we had been using absolute consensus (an approach nowadays rarely used in groups of over 20 or 30 people), since consensus is not a system of unanimous voting, it’s a system where any participant has the right to veto a proposal which they consider either to violate some fundamental principle, or which they object to so fundamentally that proceeding would cause them to quit the group. If we can have people who have been involved with OWS from the very beginning who still don’t know that much, but think consensus is some kind of “strict” unanimous voting system, we’ve got a major problem. How could anyone have worked with OWS that long and still remained apparently completely unaware of the basic principles under which we were supposed to be operating?

Continue reading…

Occupy Wall Street Journal - January, 2013  Hurricane Sandy (Front)

A limited edition of The Occupy Wall Street Journal by vizKult is one of many zines being donated to The Way the Lights Went Out: A Hurricane Sandy Zine Benefit for The Ali Forney Center, a New York based organization which provides housing to homeless LGBT youth. Some of  Ali Forney Center’s facilities were damaged when Hurricane Sandy touched down in the New York City area on October 29th, 2012. More info about the benefit below.

The Occupy Wall Street Journal - (back) Arts & Kulture section with Alternative Economies

The back-page of new edition of The Occupy Wall Street Journal is a call to invigorate Alternative Economies in the face of rebuilding of communities affected by Sandy. The issue also puts a shout out to all the art related groups doing alternative economies work, including Arts & Labor’s Alternative Economies  subgroup and their new guide What Do We Do Now? to be distributed in 2013.

The Way the Lights Went Out: A Hurricane Sandy Zine Benefit (Facebook Invite)
Zine Reading and Sale Benefit
Wednesday January 9, 7pm
Blue Stockings Bookstore
172 Allen Street, NYC

READERS:
Kate Angell (My Feminist Friends, A Thousand Times Yes)
Jamie Varriale Vélez (Sinvergüenza)
Jenna Freedman (Lower East Side Librarian, Barnard Zine Library)
James Aviaz (Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK)

ZINE DONORS:
Stranger Danger Zine Distro, Kathleen McIntyre (The Worst), Lauren Denitzio (Get it Together), Kate Wadkins (International Girl Gang Underground), For the Birds Collective, Kate Angell, Amber Dearest (Fight Boredom Distro, The Triumph of our Tired Eyes), Maranda Elizabeth (Telegram), PonyBoy Press, Aimee Lusty (Booklyn, Pen15 Press), Amanda Stefanski, Jami Sailor (Your Secretary), Jordan Alam (The Cowation), Alycia Sellie (Brooklyn College Zine Library), Cindy Crabb (Doris), Natty Koper & Sivan Sabach (Bangarang This), Chella Quint (Adventures in Menstruating), Shawn Smith (Black Lesbians in the 70s Zine), Elvis Bakaitis (Homos in Herstory), Sarah Rose (Tazewell’s Favorite Eccentric, Once Upon a Distro), Maud Pryor (Marmalade Umlaut), vizKult.

Facebook Invite: https://www.facebook.com/events/138515892968167

PS. Another group devastated by Hurricane Sandy was the immigrant community of New York, who in some cases did not qualify for aid despite being valuable members of our communities. Sandy Relief for Immigrants, a online donation page has be made by La Union, OWS Making Worlds and others, please spread the word and donate here.

99% Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film (still)

“I’m not interested in your creative commons bs (which those of us who actually work in media refers to as amateur licensing)” -99 Percent Films/Audrey Ewell

What’s wrong with this picture? 99 Percent Films calling Creative Commons bullshit and amateurish? And then threatening to sue an Occupy Mash-up Artist for using parts of their trailer in a remix video.  (see email exchange here: Occupy Film Threatens Lawsuit [pastbin])

Somehow this doesn’t surprise me. Since being involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement for the past 365+ days  I’ve noticed two camps, those who practice the change they want to see, and those who brand themselves and act otherwise. I’ve even seen commons focused websites enclosed with Copyright…I’ve seen groups raise over $80,000 and set up top-down companies where they expect free labor at the bottom… I’ve seen non-profits supporting workers labor rights but at the same time hiring unpaid interns.. .I’ve seen protest groups take money from the organizations they are protesting… the list goes on…

Around December of 2012, an Arts & Culture initiative that would hope to prevent these type of content copyright issues was started but very few groups participated. It was a program that would encourage content sharing within for Occupy Wall Street groups called Share OWS. Although it went through several rounds of revisions in working group meetings, very few people signed up or even wanted to help with the project. To this day, what would seem like an obvious thing -that the whole Occupy Wall Street movement is a commons to be shared and maintained by all participants – I still don’t know what people where thinking. Did they think occupy was immune to enclosure?  u at the epicenter of capitalism, Wall Street NYC, commoning is a job, it doesn’t just happen.

Anakata Gottfrid Svartholm in "Steal This Film" (2006)

(via Metahaven, via ioerror)

Pirate Bay co-Founder Gottfrid Svartholm was taken from his room in Cambodia and has been held for almost two weeks. Apparently the Cambodian and Swedish governments are not giving straight stories on why he is being held, according to his good friend Niklas Femerstrand inn this article on Torrent Freaks: Sweden Kidnapped My Frienbd, Pirate bay Co-Founder Anakata:

“[...] The door was already open and there were approximately eight officers present and additional ones lurking in the shadows around the hallway. Kenny went in first and I followed. When Gottfrid saw me he immediately looked from officer to officer in what seemed like an attempt to figure out if there was something special related to my presence. I came in muttering “so this is where the terrorists hold the anti-terrorist.”

Some of you may know Gottfrid aka Anakata from his appearance in Steal This Film (2006), where he and the other founders explain how the US movie industry has been knocking at Pirate Bay’s doors for some time now. A point made in the film was that the torrent trackers like Pirate Bay only hold meta-data, so the real data is elsewhere, on the computers of the people who use it. And now with Magnets, PEX, DHT, this info is no longer even the, and had become something like meta-meta-data. Another ominous warning in the film, was the fact that arrest and threats of prison time don’t solve the problem, both in this case and other cases, it only multiplies the amount of followers’supporters. As the case against wikileaks has shown, the amount of corporate info leaked WILL go up. So for the culture industry it is shouldn’t be a question of how to penalize the public, but rather, how to understand this anti-copyright sentiment. Unless of course, they intend to try to capitalize on culture forever.

Advice from vizKult: use Creative Commons license when ever you can, otherwise pirating is simply the direct-action arm of the Commons, use it to liberate culture & knowledge when necessary.

 

The ‘Infinite’ Strike Begins TONIGHT: With art education costing upwards to about $80,000 for an MFA and $60,000 for a BFA, a call for a new system of education is in order. Members and working groups from Occupy Wall Street and Strike Everywhere and Edufactory and others have begun the call to slowly erode the industrial-education-complex, aka edu-factory. Starting now, with a focus on stopping enrollment in private for profit institutions in September, VizKult joins the call for an ART STUDENT AND TEACHER STRIKE and the formation of new alternative education models!

 

communique on the building the infinite student strike, May 23, 2012:

 

SOLIDARITY WITH QUEBEC STUDENT STRIKE GOES ON

INFINITE SOLIDARITY WITH A CALL FOR INFINITE GENERAL STRIKE

 

 ACTIONS IN NYC ON WEDNESDAY, MAY 23, 2012:

6pm:   Night School in Solidarity with the Quebec Student Strike

Washington Square Park, Manhattan

8pm:   March Against Police Oppression

Meet in Washington Square Park, Manhattan

(reconvergence at Union square)

10pm:  Night School at Union sq.

WE MARCH AGAIN!

 

May 22 marked the 100th day of the ongoing Quebec student strike, one of the largest student mobilizations in history. Demonstrations against the massive tuition hikes (which would increase tuition by 60% over five years) occurred daily across Quebec, with over 160,000 students on “infinite strike.”  Last Friday, the Quebec government enacted a draconian emergency law (Bill 78) intended to break the strike. The legislation in effect outlaws public assembly, imposes harsh fines for strike activity and criminalizes protest, just as the struggle is gaining popular support and escalating to unprecedented levels. Many are questioning the law’s constitutionality.

 

Bill 78 summary:

·  Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.

·   The fines are higher for student leaders (up to $35,000) and for unions or student federations (up to $125,000). Fines double with repeat offenses.

·   Authorities must be notified at least 8 hours in advance about public demonstrations involving more than 10 people. Organizers must provide the start time and duration of the demonstration, as well as the routes of any marches.

·   No on-campus protests. Protests outside universities must stay at least 15 feet from entrances.

·   Encouraging someone, explicitly or tacitly, to protest at a school is subject to punishment.

 

No More “Good Faith”

The government of Quebec has conceded the power of the students by suspending the current semester, while the education minister has been forced to resign amid the crisis. The Quebec Premier Jean Charest claims that the government has negotiated in “good faith,” but the student unions say that the government has refused to budge on the central issue: TUITION HIKES. Students are fighting to maintain affordable, accessible higher education for all the people of Quebec. The crisis has put into question the political future of the Premiere’s Liberal Party and his own career. Civil liberties in Quebec are being fundamentally undermined. “Good faith” is dwindling between the people and the government.

What Is An Infinite General Strike?

The infinite strike is a voluntary and collective cessation of activities in order to assert claims that would not be addressed otherwise. The word “infinite” points to a confrontational stance with the government. It does not mean that the strike is limitless, but that its length is undetermined in advance. This means that the strike goes on until demands are met or until the body decides to stop the strike. In the case of Quebec’s student mobilization, the students meet every week to decide whether to continue the strike.  The educational system is a crucial part of the economy and it requires human capital in order to function.  Only through a strike is it possible to create the institutional congestion generated by a whole cohort of students that may not graduate. That is why an open-ended general strike is such a powerful weapon.

Why the Quebec Student Strike Matters For NYC

We are all in the red!  In Quebec strikers, demonstrators and sympathizers alike have shown their solidarity through the emblem of a red square, signifying a state of “being in the financial red”—untenable student debt. In the United States, the Federal Reserve recently stated that student debt stood at $870 billion, while the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (a new government agency regulating private student loans) estimated that it had already surpassed $1 trillion. As more and more students stand up and organize against exorbitant escalations in tuition and debt, similar draconian laws have been passed in the US. Unprecedented levels of police brutality have been perpetrated against student uprisings across New York City—at Baruch College, Brooklyn College and the New School, just to name a few. The state seeks to silence these students, many of whom have been arrested on trumped up charges that reek of biased intimidation.

It would appear that we too are in the red, both financially and politically. This is untenable. It is time that we stand in solidarity with students in Quebec and across the world to fight for our right to free education. On May 23rd we in New York City continue our solidarity and stand with the infinite strike. Our demonstration in solidarity with Quebec students is also in defense of our right to assemble and protest. An increase in the powers of the police and the state anywhere is an attack on us everywhere. State repression exists globally and it is unjustifiable. We will not stand by and watch our already limited voices be silenced even more. The warnings and fear mongering of new protest laws being enacted in Frankfurt, Chicago and Montreal will not deter us. The new laws only prove that our mass mobilizations are a threat to the powers that be. We will be heard. We will take part in our own lives and not be pawns for the workings of capitalism. Our rights are not given to us by governments but established by us. OUR LIVES ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE!

Call to Students, Workers and Debtors of New York

With call on students, workers and debtors from all walks of life to stand with us in our right to assemble and dissent in our commons, against police brutality and intimidation. There is nothing to fear or be ashamed of in this. There is only strength and solidarity for us to find each other. As we stand with the students of Quebec, we acknowledge their grievances, and join their chorus with our own. As Quebec does not stand down, neither will New York. We are not afraid, and see no limit on the horizon.  All we see is red!

 

WE ARE ALL IN THE RED!