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No TAV: feeding the fire of resistance in northern Italy

Images and Words by Frank Barat - ROARMag, November 16, 2017

When I get to Turin airport, on a warm autumn day, the smell of smoke is overwhelming. The weather forecast on my phone shows me a big bright sun, but I can only see clouds outside. It is only when we enter the highway that I realize that this ocean of greyness has nothing to do with clouds. The Piedmont is in fact on fire, and the flames have engulfed the Susa Valley for close to a week.

The Susa Valley is a beautiful strip of land, located between Italy and France, with the Alps on either side overlooking the valley and acting as a protector. Its inhabitants are known for their stubbornness and attachment to the land. A montagnard mentality. For them, leaving is never an option. Their attachment and closeness to the land reminds me of the Native American communities in the US or the Aboriginal people in Australia, as it is both spiritual, physical and practical. People have been evacuated from their homes, and the rest of the inhabitants of the small villages dotted in the valley now live in the fear that they too, sooner or later, will be told to do the same.

When my local contacts — Mina, an activist, and the lawyers Valentina and Emmanuel — pick me up from the airport, they explain that another type of fire has engulfed the valley for more than twenty-five years: the fire of revolt.

Being a key route for trade, business and tourism for two of Europe’s powerhouses, the Susa Valley has attracted many mega-infrastructural projects throughout the years, none of them more controversial and virulently opposed than the Turin-Lyon high-speed freight railway line.

For a quarter of a century, people from all walks of life have fought against this mega-project, a railway line of 270 kilometers with at its core a tunnel of nearly sixty kilometers long, crossing the Alps between Susa Valley and the city of Maurienne in France.

The Italian and French governments together with the European Union, which is funding 40 percent of the 26 billion euro project, laud the railway as something that will benefit both the people and the freight companies, as well as provide hundreds of jobs. The inhabitants of the valley, who were never properly consulted in the first place, say that this new line is not only unnecessary — since the current line has, according to expert surveys and report, room to expand — but will only bring environmental destruction and economic and social disaster to the valley and its people.

This Is Blockadia

By Daria Rivin and Alice Owen - Common Dreams, November 3, 2017

As world leaders prepare to meet in Germany to negotiate climate action at COP23, activists are putting words into action by blockading a nearby coal mine. Their message is that leaders need to grasp the urgency of keeping fossil fuels in the ground, right here and right now. With an increasing frequency and intensity, such direct actions and the associated demands for climate justice are unfolding on every continent.

These interwoven spaces of resistances are Blockadia. Based on the new Blockadia Map of 70 cases, an international team of researchers has observed a significant increase in the frequency of these resistances; all conflicts with a known start date before 2006 amount to 16 cases, whereas there are 48 conflicts starting within the last ten years.

As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it

By Ali Tamlit - Red Pepper, October 26, 2017

Today is the 30th birthday of the opening of London City Airport – but there isn’t much to celebrate. Since the airport’s opening in 1987, carbon dioxide levels have increased from 351 parts per million (ppm), around a ‘safe’ level in terms of climate change, to a dangerously high 409 ppm this year.

Politically, discussions around sustainability and climate change were just getting started then, and there was hope that world leaders might find a solution for us. This was 5 years before the landmark 1992 Rio Earth Summit. Now, two years on from the 2015 Paris climate agreement – an agreement that on the surface sets an ambitious target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees – there is little sign of action from any government. Top NASA scientist James Hansen described it as ‘worthless words’ with ‘no action’.

While officials prevaricate, we are increasingly seeing the devastating effects of climate change in more frequent extreme weather events: think of Hurricane Irma which hit the Caribbean last month, or the extreme flooding in Bangladesh, which left a third of the country under water.

But a lot of other things have changed since 1987. Firstly, we’ve learned as people and as a movement that although these numbers matter – parts per million and degrees centigrade – that’s not what climate change is actually about. Very recently, thanks largely to the action at London City Airport by BLMUK, the narrative that the ‘climate crisis is a racist crisis’ has been thrust into the mainstream.

Although extreme weather events are increasing, it’s important to examine who is being affected and who is causing it. London City Airport was a perfect target to highlight this argument. The UK has emitted the most CO2 cumulatively per capita since the industrial revolution, has built its wealth on colonialism and now is one of the centres of global capitalism that continues to extract resources and wealth from countries in the global South. All of this while globally 7 out of 10 of the countries most affected by climate change are in sub-Saharan Africa.

How the earthquakes shook Mexican politics

By Edgard Sánchez Ramírez - Socialist Worker, October 2, 2017

WE ARE not cursed, nor do we suffer from divine punishment or mere natural disasters, but from the consequences of a savage capitalism and the policies of the governments that defend it.

Just after September 7, when the first big earthquakes hit southern Mexico, the Senate announced it had opened a bank account to collect donations to support survivors in Chiapas and Oaxaca. They didn't receive a single donation from Mexican citizens, and hardly any from the senators themselves. By contrast, Section 22 of the CNTE [the radical section of the Mexican teachers' union] transported tons of goods and first aid materials from Mexico City and beyond to the affected areas to share them directly with the people of Oaxaca.

When President Enrique Peña Nieto [or EPN as he is known] went to Oaxaca to promise aid, Section 22 had already distributed the better part of what had been collected. And after the earthquake hit Mexico City and central Mexico on September 19, there were widespread calls for the public to give aid directly to social organizations and movements that are independent of the government and the institutional political parties.

Centers have opened all over Mexico City--in ordinary families' homes, union halls like the electrical workers union (SME), and artists' studios such as Oaxacan painter Francisco Toledo--to collect aid, bypassing the state and delivering it directly to neighborhoods, towns, and communities who are in desperate need of it. People have offered food, water, child care and even their electrical outlets so volunteers can charge their cell phones.

Obviously, this brings to mind the tremendous people's response after the earthquake in 1985 that killed up to 10,000 people in Mexico City. Tens of thousands of people have volunteered for brigades to rescue people, remove debris, carry food, clothes and water, reinforce damaged houses, provide tools for digging, etc. The spontaneous rebirth of this tradition is all the more remarkable because the great majority of these brigadistas were not even born in 1985!

It is as inspiring as it is hopeful see a huge number of youth helping rescue people and offering aid to the survivors. Groups of young people--who previously belonged to no organization, but came together as classmates, friends or even strangers who just happened to find each other--are taking to the streets with backpacks slung over their shoulders, their personal information written on their arms in magic marker, and cell phones charged to 100 percent, looking for somewhere to help.

Notes on the Bure ZAD and the politics of eternity/death

By Julius Gavroche - Autonomies, September 16, 2017

Un grand sommeil noir
Tombe sur ma vie :
Dormez, tout espoir,
Dormez, toute envie !

Je ne vois plus rien,
Je perds la mémoire
Du mal et du bien…
O la triste histoire !

Je suis un berceau
Qu’une main balance
Au creux d’un caveau :
Silence, silence !

Paul Verlaine

The ZADs of france (Zone à défendre), at Notre-dame-des-landes, Testet, Roybon and the many others elsewhere (click here for ZAD map: le monde 21/12/2015) have emerged originally as moments of contestation against major infrastructure developments, public and private, typically outside of large urbanised spaces.  The protests have then, in some cases, been followed by occupations of the contested territories with the aim of literally physically impeding the development projects.  It is then bodies against machines, the war machine of the State, with all of its apparatuses of control and repression, and the physical machines that re-make space and life, to serve the movement of capital-commodities.

The very real physical nature of the protest then calls something into play which is rarely, if ever, present in momentary city protests (and perhaps not sufficiently reflected upon): bodies need to be feed, sheltered, clothed, cared for.  To provide for these needs and more, a protest that extends in time must gain roots, it must become to some degree self-sustaining.  The ZADs then become expressions-experiments in other, non-commodified, forms of life.  Organised collectively, horizontally, self-managed without a centre or leadership, open to all who share in its vision, the ZADs prefigure a different world, an non-capitalist world opposed to the kinds of infrastructure investments essential to capitalism’s continuous expansion.

This physical dimension of radical politics has often been set aside or ignored in the heat of demonstrations, riots and insurrections.  But the fragility of the “occupy” movements of post-2011, focused primarily on the occupation of city squares, was in part due to this blindness.  The occupations in fact could not be maintained, because the bodies present needed more than the occupiers could provide for themselves.

This same fragility however can serve as the occasion to remember older forms of radical politics in which needs and desires were consciously addressed: feminism, race-national liberation movements, syndicalist and anarcho-syndicalist organisations, workers cooperatives, neighbourhood assemblies, and so on, are all past and present examples (not without weaknesses) of desire become political.  Indeed, the more one explores the history of “anti-capitalist” politics, the more our disembodied politics of protest appear to be the exception rather than the rule.  What were the revolutions of the past (the Paris Commune 1871, the Russian Revolution of 1917, the Spanish Revolution of 1936, etc.) if not creations born of needs and passions?  And if revolution seems so distant to so many today, is it not because politics has become but one more alienated and ghostly spectacle of consumption?

The ZADs bring us back to the living earth, giving life back to us.

Aftershocks of solidarity and opportunism

By a member of the Action and Resistance Collective of Mexico - Socialist Worker, September 28, 2017

THREE MAJOR earthquakes affected central and southern Mexico in September. In southern regions such as Oaxaca, Chiapas and Morelos, it has been difficult to account for collapsed buildings and people affected, but in Mexico City alone at least 38 buildings fell, leaving more than 325 people dead and thousands wounded.

The immediate response to the earthquakes, in all three cases, has been tremendous solidarity from workers and ordinary people. Immediately after the earthquake in the south, the Oaxaca teachers' union called for mobilization to support the affected people with supplies and reconstruction work.

What surprised everyone, however, was the great show of solidarity that emerged in Mexico City. Hundreds of thousands of people moved around the city to rescue their neighbors, collect food and help in any task in which they had opportunity. Workers of all kinds, from the most humble masons to the most experienced professionals--and even brigades of undocumented immigrants from Central America--showed their desire to support all those affected by earthquakes.

The fact that the transportation system stopped for the whole day did not prevent people from leaving their homes to provide support to those who needed it. As a result, it's estimated that around 70 people were rescued alive from the collapsed buildings.

But the rescue efforts have not been simple, and they've been complicated even more when the army has gotten in the way.

On the second day after the earthquake, the military attempted to take control of all affected areas in Mexico City, determined to prevent the inhabitants from organizing themselves. In some places they succeeded, but in others they were challenged by the popular organization.

Mexico’s Earthquake: Government Represses Grassroots Rescue Work and May be Burying Survivors Alive

By Johnny Hazard - CounterPunch, September 26, 2017

The best and worst of Mexico have been on view since the earthquake of Tuesday, September 19 that rocked Mexico City and surrounding states. This was the second major quake in Mexico in 12 days; the first affected principally the southern states of Oaxaca and Chiapas. As the officially-acknowledged death toll from the most recent tremor surpasses 400, it is important to recognize the work of students and other citizens who, with or without experience or expertise, have collected massive amounts of food, water, personal hygiene items, and blankets and distributed them to displaced persons and have cleaned rubble—manually, which is the only way to find survivors. Within minutes, people came up with ways to help: offer rides or glasses of water, find and go to buildings that had caved in or were at risk of doing so, collect provisions and move them immediately toward affected neighborhoods and towns, and go with groups of engineers, doctors, paramedics, psychologists, lawyers, veterinarians, and other specialists to affected locales. All of this apparently non-controversial human and humane activity is seen as a threat by the federal government, which knows that during Mexico City’s last massive earthquake, exactly 32 years earlier, citizen response to government neglect and to the earthquake itself was a key event in the building of resistance to one-party rule. And more recently, the 11-year-old war on drugs has led to an increasing militarization of the country, augmented by a fear of losing control in the wake of protests against atrocities like the forced disappearance of 43 education students three years ago (September 26, 2014). Authorities hoped that suppressing civilian participation in relief efforts would help in the pre-existing U.S.-style public relations strategy of glorifying police and military personnel as heroes.

In recent days, it has become increasingly evident that some of the most horrific accusations against state, local, and federal government officials and compliant mainstream media and personnel are true, ranging from inventing a little girl (“Frida Sofía”) who supposedly was communicating from under the rubble of a collapsed private school, Colegio Rebsamen in Mexico City, to government officials and military personnel actively blocking civilian efforts and confiscating relief supplies or forcing them to be surrendered to government warehouses. Volunteers and activists have asked donors and transporters of supplies to cross out barcodes on all products and write messages like “Not for resale—earthquake relief” or “No use of this material by governments or political parties is permitted”.

Where Non-Profits Fear to Go: Report From Florida

By Mutual Aid Disaster Relief - It's Going Down, September 25, 2017

The following is a report back for a relief trip to the Florida Keys made possible by the work of numerous folks involved with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR). The immense amount of support and solidarity provided for those in need exists through the collaboration of various communities to come together in times of crisis. This represents the perspective and response of anarchist comrades, yet there are a number of different political orientations for those involved with MADR. As the predatory nature of the State continues to benefit from disasters such as these, we feel it is crucial to give space to anti-state and anti-authoritarian voices in order to continue to remind us in the storm after the storm, who the true enemy is.

On 9/18 Monday morning at 3 AM a group of 9 folks left “The Hub” (5107 N. Central Ave.) in Tampa to drive to the Florida Keys with a 12 ft truck loaded with food, water, and other necessities, as the U.S. Highway 1 checkpoint established in Florida City after Hurricane Irma, was to be terminated Tuesday at 7:30 AM. Although police stated that only residents, business owners, disaster workers and supply vehicles with proper identification would be allowed to enter until further notice.

It had been a week since residents who were able to leave had evacuated and they were just now returning to their homes, or what was left of them. The hurricane’s last minute shift to the western coast of Florida put the Florida Keys (especially the Middle Keys such as Marathon, and Lower Keys; Big Key Pine, Little Torch Key, and Key West) directly in the storm’s path, as it made landfall on Sunday, September 10th.

In order to provide much needed aid to those neglected by the Red Cross and FEMA, we drove with a van full of medical supplies and a 12 ft moving truck filled with food, water, and other necessities to the poorest areas. Yet, before we even entered, there were a number of other obstacles in our way constructed by the State and the non-profit industrial complex looking to take advantage of successes in autonomous organizing and the opportunities that disaster provides. The immense amount of supplies that have been collected at “The Hub” in the past couple weeks was made possible through the long-standing connections between various radical communities and the donation of the space from the St. Paul Lutheran Church.

Mexico: Political Statement from the Autonomous Brigades After the Earthquakes

By Anonymous Contributor - It's Going Down, September 23, 2017

To the people of Mexico

To the Indigenous Governing Council

To the National Indigenous Congress

To the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

To the National and International Sixth

We are individual and collective adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, EZLN and CNI sympathizers and people from below and to the left in solidarity with the suffering of our brothers and sisters, victims of the recent earthquakes and the predatory system that is only death.

As in 1985, those who claim to govern remain totally surpassed by reality. Today their wonderland can’t be seen, not even by them. Meanwhile, we are the ones from below who suffered the consequences of these natural and socio-environmental disasters. Like 32 years ago, today the Mexican people are the ones going into the streets and towns to help, to give what little they have to help the other, the one who suffers, the stranger, the brother. Some who have much contribute much. Among those who have little, they contribute what they can, sometimes everything that is in their hands. Those who have nothing give their heart and offer to serve were needed. They are the ones who fill the streets and coordinate to gather aid and distribute it. Small business owners support by giving food and drink to those who give their time and effort. True hope emerges from these smiles and glances of solidarity.

To this communal, creative, inventive, self-managed response, the bad government replies in the only form it knows: with violence, labelling a repressive military occupation as civilian protection. Far from meeting its obligation, which is to help the victims, it sends the army, marines, and different police agencies to occupy civil life and prevent an encounter among those from below. With acts of banditry, its agents of violence rob the aid people have gathered and divert it in order to distribute it conditionally, promoting its figures, governments, institutions and parties. At the sites of the disaster, the state intervenes among those working, to keep them from even communicating and coordinating. During this time, we have seen how a version of Plan DN-III, named Plan-MX, has been implemented. As we’ve seen, the army goes to the disaster sites, where the people have been taking part in successful life-saving work for hours or days, and arrogantly pushes the rescuers out in order to take control of the location and work in a way that is useless, increasing the risk of death for those who are trapped in the collapse. At other sites, their entry is friendly and collaborative in front of the cameras, wearing the hat of solidarity with the people, but they change the strategy and impede or obstruct the rescue efforts. In any case, when a victim is rescued, they rush to stage a show for the media in which they appear as the heroes who risked their lives for Mexico. We could say that what the bad government has put together is not an operation that prioritizes saving lives, but a production that is seeking to revive its own corpse, the victim of a much larger collapse: of its legitimacy. A moment came when they stopped all rescue activity and didn’t allow anyone to come near, nor did they give information, abandoning those who could have been rescued and letting them die amidst the ruins of the fallen buildings. That they do very well. They are experts in murdering and disappearing the people.

For us, men and women from below and to the left, what the bad government and its criminal partners, such as the television stations, show is a deep contempt for life. For them it is just a macabre spectacle that suits their interests in militarizing daily life and to rebuild the social image of an army that, far from defending the people and what remains of the nation’s sovereignty, has proved to be the main protector of transnational capitalist interests and an implacable murderer of the people, especially those who resist the expropriation of their territories, waters, culture, and communal lives.

Living Autonomy: Anarchists Organize Relief Efforts in Florida

By Rigole Rise - It's Going Down, September 20, 2017

Recently we spoke with Dezeray about her organizing with Mutual Aid Disaster Relief (MADR) in the weeks since Hurricane Irma and how spaces such as the hub in Tampa are crucial sites for building solidarity and stability during times of crisis. They’ve had an overwhelming amount of support from the local community, especially those who have realized the practice of mutual aid is a part of the work of anarchist, anti-fascist, and anti-racist struggles. The Reverend Dr. Russell Meyer from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Tampa—the church that has provided the building now known as “the hub,”—noted during a sermon following Hurricane Irma, “a week ago these people were known as Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Terrorists. Have you ever seen a terrorist show up to a child with Pedialyte in their hand?”

Although this has not deterred the actions of neo-Confederate groups such as Save Southern Heritage from standing outside across the street taking pictures, filming, and documenting those who enter the space. In the days following Hurricane Irma Alt-Right 4chan users trolled the MADR hotline by making false rescue reports to take away time and resources from those actually in need. 3% Percenters have tried numerous times to call or show up in the space and say there was an emergency, state multiple people were coming to collect all of the supplies, along with a number of other faulty narratives all trying to disrupt their work because of the power that it holds.

With a visit by Richard Spencer in Gainesville, Florida at the University of Florida set for October 19th, a number of Alt-Right white supremacists have already been discussing on 4chan how they are going to use “Stand Your Ground” laws as an excuse to slaughter anti-fascists and turn it into a bloodbath. It is crucial to see how we can learn from and support projects such as these, as the organizers involved are experiencing repression, threats of physical violence, and doxxing for doing this crucial work and need our solidarity now more than ever.

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