Today is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I’m writing from the Federal Correctional Institute in Memphis, Tennessee, the same city in which Dr. King was assassinated despite, or maybe because of, being nonviolent. This murder followed a campaign of targeted harassment known officially as Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. This operation included efforts to scandalize Dr. King and coerce him into killing himself. The United $tates of Amerikkka clearly and shamelessly documented these efforts in reports that can be read today. Their goal was to keep black wage slaves in their places by brutally executing any effective leaders who stood up and effectively organized.
Now we have black cops, black prison guards, and black wardens, including the black lieutenant here at FCI Memphis. Have things really improved? Ask George Floyd’s daughter. Ask the families of the martyrs: Freddie Grey, Michael Brown, Mark Duggan, Heather Heyer, Kimani Gray, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake and Timothy Stansbury, Jr., just to name a few. Ask the families of heroes like Herman Bell, Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, Albert Washington and Mumia Abu Jamal. Ask the family of Tamir Rice, Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling and Emmett Till. Do not harden your heart to these outrages. Say their names! Let the fresh outrages of daily murders break your heart open. Pour that discontent into the foundations of the system that enslaves you and set it on fire.
What is the foundation of this system that murders people on live TV? Remember this: All cops are slave catchers. “All slavery is based on housewivisation.” (Abdullah Ocalan) All housewivisation is based on animal husbandry. All animal husbandry is based on coercion and domination. Every arrest is an abduction, a kidnapping at gunpoint. All imprisonment is human trafficking, a hostage situation in which people and their families are extorted for money and threatened with violent death, beatings and rape. Don’t you dare flinch and look away from that suffering. Cultivate persistent endurance to look at this crime against humanity. Ask yourself: Why are so many resources mobilized to find a missing, wealthy white woman, but no one mobilized a similar militia to find a missing black woman, or to rescue prisoners from the State?
Remember that all “corrections” officers are also prisoners. They are like spiders trapped in their own web. The worker bees can leave. Even drones can fly away. Prison guards serve 8 to 16 hour sentences, sometimes longer. They are being paid to lock themselves up! Long after most prisoners leave prisons the guards keep coming back. No one has a higher recidivism rate than a C.O. In my mind they are exactly the same as prisoners who choose to work for the Bureau of Prisons while locked up, whether as an orderly, in laundry, maintenance or in the kitchen. The only difference is that they get better pay and benefits. They are prisoners of privilege. The irony is that all contraband comes from these house slaves, who then seek to catch inmates with the same contraband they smuggled in.
This prison industrial complex is a microcosm of the tyranny they are trying to perpetuate on a larger scale. It is our duty to destroy this one-sided domination, inequality and intolerance. We have a moral obligation to humanity to kill fascism, despots and dictators. We have to overcome seeing cops as protectors, just as men to overcome seeing women as wife, sister or lover. These stereotypes are passed down by extinct and irrelevant traditions – namely slave catching. A people can’t be free unless their women and their prisoners are free. A people’s freedom is measured by their treatment of their so called criminals. “Women’s freedom is more precious than the freedom of the homeland.”*
The history, or herstory, of the loss of freedom is simultaneously the story of how women, prisoners and animals lost their freedom. The downfall of these peoples, non-male genders, prisoners and non-human animals, is the downfall of civilization, a wholesome society, which resulted in today’s sexist society. The depth of this enslavement of nature, humans and animals, and the intentional re-writing of “his”tory is directly related to the rise of domination, hierarchy and state power.
Men were enslaved after they mastered the enslavement of women. It is an application of the “divide and conquer” strategy. Sexist society used women’s biological difference as justification for her enslavement. “No race, class, or nation is subject to such systematic slavery as housewivisation.”* No one suffers under this system more than black and brown women. But making hungry black women become prison guards, cops and wardens is not the answer. They are just prisoners who’s consent to work as paid slaves is manufactured at the point of the sword of hunger, poverty and violent death of their children at the hands of other cops in low-income neighborhoods.
The 2020 Uprisings were chaotic and dangerous, they were also good. In times of chaos the possibility for change increases in proportion to the clarity of the people’s goals. During these times small steps taken for freedom will result in large leaps forward. Freedom for women, racial minorities, refugees and all marginalized people will emerge as the winners from against the current crisis. Whatever humans build, humans can destroy. Enslavement is not a law of nature or our destiny. We need the necessary theory, program, and organization, and the means to implement them.
These ideas are not my own. These templates for a new world, a necessary utopia, come from Abdullah Ocalan, Murray Bookchin, Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Errico Malatesta, Voltarine de Cleyre, August Spies, Dorothy Lee, Proudhon, Lucy Parsons, Karl Marx and many more. Their ideas are shaping new ways of living worldwide, as people organize, reject and eject police, dictators and fascists from their communities.
The female commander of the YPS, the women’s protection unit of Rojava, which is the people’s autonomous zone in northeast Syria, has this to say about our role in Revolutionary Internationalism, “Many people love these ideas and claim to be about revolutionary change. I challenge all armchair philosophers – Don’t talk about it, be about it. We all must die one day, but most people will toil away as wage slaves, living lives of quiet desperation, and then die as slaves without accomplishing anything other than perpetuating the very same system that dominates and enslaves their body, heart and mind – and their labor. In the face of inevitable death we truly have nothing to lose but our chains. They can kill a revolutionary but they can’t kill the revolution. Death to fascism! Long live Revolutionary Internationalism!”
But it is not enough for us to think nice thoughts and strive to realize them, reality itself must strive towards utopian thoughts. For all of people’s talk about “empowerment” most liberals actually manage to steer us away from effectively addressing social issues and instead retreat into social quietism practices like “personal self-transformation”, “enrichment”, myths, metaphors, rituals and green consumerism. I love yoga and meditation, but magical gymnastics and smoking your own thoughts won’t make you or the world any better than drugs will by themselves. Direct actions based on insights and consciousness are the only way to make ourselves and the world we live in more humane and worth living. We need our needs to be met.
“The new political and social structures cannot be poetic alone, they must also be scientific. Poetry and imagination must be integrated with science and technology, for we have evolved beyond an innocence that can be nourished exclusively by myths and dreams.”**
We can all agree that we must be practical, but we may also feel that it is impossible to stand up to powerful nation-states and their thugs. Just remember that our survival depends on our action and that most of a state’s power comes from the myth that they are all knowing, all powerful and everywhere. They are not. They think they can control us and all of nature, but they fail at this every day. Nature finds a way to live, often violently.
“The compelling dictum “respect for nature” has concrete implications.” (Bookchin) Concrete is right. One of the daily wonders that brings me joy, even here in prison, is the sight of “mere” grass and flowers breaking up concrete. On a long enough time frame nature always wins. Let’s choose to be on the winning team.
“Our animal nature is never so distant from our social nature that we can remove ourselves from the organic world outside us and the one within us.”**
How do we reconcile the reality we live in with the world we need to create in order for all beings to be happy, free and at peace? First of all, “to say peace when there is no peace is to say nothing.” (Bernard Williams) Militant action is necessary in the face of powers which refuse to relinquish power without a struggle.
“The use of armed force can only be justified for the purpose of necessary self-defense. Anything beyond that violates our principles of emancipation. Repressive regimes throughout history have been based on war or have aligned their institutions according to the logic of warfare.”*
In the new revolutionary militant structure no one person is in charge. “We are all here to fight and resist because we want to, or because we feel we need to – and we’re all risking our lives. Why would it be appropriate for one person to tell me how it is I’m going to end my life? Shouldn’t that be my own decision?” (Margaret Killjoy) Every decision is made democratically, in the style of the Spanish anarchists of the Spanish Civil War and the YPG and YPJ of the Rojava Revolution. In militant structures the voting process is streamlined and we practice coming to decisions quickly.
At home, in councils, decision making takes longer, with a lot of people. We listen to one another and discuss things, for as long as it takes.
“We’re a collection of people with a somewhat shared culture who commonly defend certain rough borders and principles. But we’re not a country. We don’t have a king or a parliament or a council or a royal priesthood or trade barons or capitalists or really any vestiges of power at all. There are no laws here, no prisons. Everyone is the master of their own destiny. We are a voluntary association of autonomous groups and individuals who cooperate to provide one another mutual aid. We’re people who have each other’s backs because having someone’s back means someone has yours, and that’s a good way to live.”***
We are an anarchist autonomous zone, like Rojava. All nation-states are just ideas, not physical things. Anyone who tells you that we need police to be safe, that we need to be paid to work and that we need to pay for food – that person and their country are all children. People work because they choose to, because things need to be done and because the community feeds and shelters them. Our community feeds people because we choose to. We feed people simply because we are people.
“Some people here will feed you because you’re militia. But I’d feed you much longer because I know you’ve risked so much on our behalf.”***
We get our food from farmers. They give it to us because they know we redistribute it fairly. They give it to us because we have a good reputation. We don’t need to trade tokens, currency, capital, for food, because we are measured by our reputation.
We don’t believe in prisons. Nation-states put children in cages, take them away from families and communities and give them to police and the wealthy class. They claim the purpose of imprisonment is to reform people and to scare away potential criminals by locking up those who do commit crimes with longer and longer sentences. But punishment doesn’t work!
“It’s a crime against humanity! They put humans in cages and they call it justice. They keep them away from light, from company, from anything that might possibly help them come to understand the need for social behavior, then put them back in cages, for longer, when they act out!”***
And the recidivism rate is incredibly high.
We should give criminals medals “for daring to be antisocial in the face of an antisocial order. Your system seeks to ‘punish’ a class of people it deems ‘criminal’. That’s not the way we work. If a crime has been committed, like theft, assault, murder or rape, we take each instance as it’s own unique event.”***
When people are fed and housed we don’t have theft. People steal things they need, or occasionally things that they want. People steal food, or they steal expensive things to sell to buy food.
“In our community food is free. Shelter is free. Nothing is “expensive” if nothing is bought or sold. Theft is a crime of poverty and where’s no poverty there’s no theft.”***
If someone rapes or murders or is truly unrepentant, they can fuck off.
“If they are clearly a danger, like an unrepentant rapist or murderer, then we’ll probably kill them.”***
If they are just an asshole they can be sent away. Prison doesn’t work.
Councils are our system of self-governance. But a council can only make decisions for itself, and people can decide to abide by its decisions. We get a lot out of being part of society, so if we want to be part of the community we try to abide by the council’s decisions.
“If we had a flag it would be a black one. The negation of a flag. Flags inspire loyalty. We aren’t looking for loyalty, we’re looking for solidarity, for bravery. For us, it’s the mask. We inherited it from the revolutionaries. They used masks so the authorities wouldn’t know whom to arrest later. But we keep it up because the mask is something more than that. It’s the flag and it’s the uniform all in one – at it’s simplest, in the middle of a fight I know who my friends are. I know whom to shoot. But more than that I know my friends and myself are one thing, that my life is only a portion of the whole. I feel powerful with a mask on.”***
What I learned about anarchism at the CHAZ/CHOP in Seattle was largely a negative example. Compared to Rojava it was not impressive. Freedom isn’t enough. We “need freedom and responsibility paired together. Freedom is a relationship between people, not an absolute and static state for an individual.
All people are free. When we speak of freedom, we acknowledge that freedom is a relationship between the people of a society. This relationship of freedom is created by means of mutual respect, the acknowledgment of one another’s autonomy, and the ability to hold one another responsible to themselves and to one another. I feel that to the core of my being.”***
I’m not angry with the U.S. Government or their police. I don’t get angry at a sickness or a hurricane or an injury. They are just something that happens, and we fight them and heal.
Freedom is a relationship between people. My writing is not only for the anarchists and the revolutionaries. This is also for the wage slave, the prisoners, the workers, even for the cops and soldiers. This is not addressed to Rojava but to the people of the United $tates of Amerikkka, so they might know the people their country has betrayed.
“It’s for anyone who wants to know that there are ways to relate with one another besides through the authority of economic or political power. It’s so they know that another way of life is possible, that there are people who live it.”***
I call on you, the reader, to organize yourselves to support the revolution in Rojava however you can – by your presence, contribution, or by creating 2, 3, many Rojavas! Follow the example put into practice by the Internationalist Academy. Plant crops and set up a tree nursery. Create an underground “female road” for abused women to escape from their oppressors. Practice building ecologically balanced homes and found a women’s village for abuse survivors. Practice first aid, build compost and purify water. The basis of any community is a rich diversity of people, plants and animals. Practice companion planting for farm crops and build an edible forest of compatible plants, like fruit trees, berries and nuts. Learn to bake bread, install electrical wires and maintain various motor vehicles, generators and machines. Learn the limits of solar power and other forms of electricity, hydro-power and wind. There is a transition period in which we must be very creative and push ourselves, but I have seen it done in Rojava.
“It is not realistic though to go for the immediate abolition of the State. This does not mean we have to take it as it is. The ecological question is fundamentally solved as the system is repressed and a socialist social system develops. That does not mean you cannot do something for the environment right away. On the contrary, it is necessary to combine the fight for the environment with the struggle for a general social revolution.”*
To make real world progress we must have education, practical projects and the organization of global solidarity. We need experts in the following fields: sustainable forestry and agriculture, water use, irrigation and sanitation, ecological sustainability, renewable energies, mechanical and electrical engineering, physics, chemistry, biology and botany. We need committed scientists.
The reality of these projects is often a culture for sheltered Amerikkkans. There will be days with less food as everyone shares equally and the capitalist nation-states do their best to destabilize our progress with embargos. There will be violent attacks from fanatics like ISIS, as well as mercenaries sent by fascist countries like Turkey and the United $tates. There will be spies and sabotage, but we must find ways to live. There will also be natural disasters as climate change continues.
“The countries that presently exist here need democratic reforms going beyond mere lip service to democracy. The classic state structure with it’s despotic attitude towards power is unacceptable. The institutional state needs to be subjected to democratic changes. At the end of this process, there should be a lean State existing simply as a political institution, which only functions in the fields of internal and external security and in the provision of social security. Such an idea of the State has nothing in common with the authoritarian character of the classic State, but would rather be regarded as a general public authority.”*
The decline of real socialism and the failure of the anarchists in the Spanish Civil War were a result of their failure to take seriously the importance of the gender issues. This has evolved into even more complicated issues today. Women and non-male gendered people may be regarded as an oppressed class.
“As long as we do not discuss freedom and equal treatment of women in a historical and societal context, as long as no adequate theory has been devised, there will not be an adequate practice either. Therefore, women’s liberation must assume a key strategic role in the democratic struggle.”*
This includes the various gendered peoples and other sexual orientations than straight hetero-normative. The revolution will only succeed by being inclusive.
We need to make politics democratic again. Today’s political parties are just propaganda tools of the State who distribute favors. As long as the current parties are in power, a democratic society will not be possible.
“There is a widespread individual and institutional subservient spirit, which is one of the biggest obstacles blocking democracy. It can only be overcome by creating an awareness of democracy in all parts of society. Citizens must be invited actively to commit themselves to democracy.”*
Minorities living in our communities must be invited as well.
“The development of grassroots level democratic structures and a corresponding practical approach must have top priority.”*
“Politics need independent media. Without them State structures will not develop any sensitivity to questions of democracy. Nor will it be possible to bring democracy into politics. Freedom of information is not only a right of the individual. It also involves a social dimension.”*
“The right to native language education must be respected. Even if the authorities do not advance such education, they should not impede civic efforts to create institutions offering language and culture education. The health system must be legitimized by both state and civil society.
An ecological model of society is essentially socialist. The establishment of an ecological balance will only be accomplished during the transition phase from an alienated class society based on despotism to a socialist society. It would be an illusion to hope for the conservation of the environment in a capitalist system. These systems largely participate in ecological devastation. Protection of the environment must be given broad consideration in the process of societal change.”*
Individual rights and freedom of expression are never to be restricted by any country, state or society, whatever reason they may cite. The freedom of an individual frees society. The freedom of a society liberates the individual. The two go hand in hand.
“A just redistribution of the economic resources presently in the possession of the State is particularly important for the liberation of society. Economic supply must not become a tool in the hands of the State for exercising pressure on the people. Economic resources are not the property of the State but of society. An economy close to the people should be based on such redistribution and be use-value oriented instead of exclusively pursuing an economy based on commodification and profit. The profit-based economy has not only damaged society but also the environment. One of the reasons for the decline of society lies in the level of expansion of financial markets. The artificial production of needs, the more and more adventurous search for new sales markets and the boundless greed for ever-growing profits lets the divide between rich and poor steadily grow and enlarges the army of those living below the poverty line or even dying of hunger. Humanity can no longer sustain itself with such an economic policy. This is therefore the biggest challenge for socialist politics: progressive transition from a commodity-oriented society to a society producing on the basis of use value; from production based on profit to production based on sharing.
The exacerbating conflict is cause for concern. Nevertheless, I will not give up my hopes for a just peace. It can become possible at my time.”*
This last phrase is very important for me, because I often feel overwhelmed by the propaganda and mythology of the State. I tell myself “hope is as hollow as fear”. But, recently friends from Rojava, Ireland, the UK, Canada and all over the occupied territories of the United $tates have reached out to send me hope and mutual aid.
“Our idea of a democratic nation is not defined by flags and borders. Our idea of a democratic nation embraces a model based on democracy instead of a model based on state structures and ethnic origins. This would be a model based on human rights instead of religion or race. Our idea of a democratic nation embraces all ethnic groups and cultures.”*
As we come to the end of this message I’d like to share one final idea of Abdullah Ocalan. The term “anarchist”, like “anarchy” has been hijacked by State propaganda to misrepresent our heart song and portray us as terrorists and criminals. Abdullah Ocalan’s proposed “Democratic Confederalism” has all the same characteristics of anarchism because it is based on the writings of Murray Bookchin. His daughter, Debbie Bookchin says, “Help bring a new world into being in Rojava. And spread its vision: that a free, ecological society is possible everywhere.”
“Although in Democratic Confederalism the focus in on the local level, organizing confederalism globally is not excluded. We need to put up a platform of natural civil societies in terms of a world Democratic Confederal Union to oppose the United Nation, as it is an association of nation-states under the leadership of the superpowers. It is necessary to bring together wide-ranging communities within a World Democratic Confederation if we want a more secure, peaceful, ecologic, just and productive world.
Democratic Confederalism can be described as a kind of self-governance in contrast to administration by the nation-state. The relationship between a democratic confederation and nation-states should neither be continuous warfare nor assimilation of the former into the latter. It is a relationship of principles that rests on the acceptance of two separate entities that accept coexistence. In the case of interventions and attacks, not only by nation-states but in general from capitalist modernity, Democratic Confederalism should always have self-defense forces.
Democratic Confederalism is not at war with any nation-state, but it will not stand idly by while assimilation efforts take place. Revolutionary overthrow or the foundation of a new State does not create sustainable change. The State will be overcome when Democratic Confederalism has proved its problem-solving capacities with a view to social issues. This does not mean though, that attacks by nation-states have to be accepted. Democratic confederations will sustain self-defense forces at all times. Democratic confederations will not be limited to organizing themselves within a single particular territory. They will become cross-border confederations when the societies concerned so desire.
Principles of Democratic Confederalism
- The right of self-determination of the people includes the right to a state of their own. However, the foundation of a state does not increase the freedom of a people. The system of the United Nations that is based on nation-states has remained inefficient. Meanwhile nation-states have become serious obstacles for any social development. Democratic Confederalism is the contrasting paradigm of the oppressed people.
- Democratic Confederalism is a non-state social paradigm. It is not controlled by a State. At the same time, Democratic Confederalism is the organization of democracy and culture.
- Democratic Confederalism is based on grassroots participation. It’s decision-making processes lie with the communities. Higher levels only serve the coordination and implementation of the will of the communities that send their delegates to the general assemblies. For one year they are both mouthpiece and executive institutions. However, the basic decision making process rests with the local grassroots institutions.
- Democracy cannot be imposed by the capitalist system and its imperial powers, which only damage democracy. The propagation of grassroots democracy is elementary. It is the only approach that can cope with diverse ethnic groups, religions and class differences. It also goes together well with the confederal structure of the society.
- Democratic Confederalism is also an anti-nationalist movement. It aims at realizing the right of self-defense of the people by the advancement of democracy”*
As I finally wrap this up I see that today, MLK Day, there haw been a terrorist attack on a Jewish synagogue in Texas. The people inside saved themselves by attacking the man who held them hostage, while State forces sat around outside. At the same time President Biden makes lip-service to democracy in his flaccid and impotent calls for voting rights for black people and minorities, while we still have yet to arrive at an honest, true democracy. Fascist, populist forces, empowered by Donald Trump, are passing laws that restrict voting rights all across the United $tates. The whole time this farce goes on we fail to acknowledge that the only two political parties, that we are “free” to vote for, fail to represent us and our interests, instead bribing and rewarding their corporate sponsors. For-profit politics is digging its own grave. Our victory over this corrupt system is inevitable. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.” I believe that we will win!
Write Dan at:
Dan Baker 25765-509
PO Box 34550
Memphis, TN 38184