Listen to the Episode — 51 min
[Because this episode was recorded live and not written in advance, we decided not to include the entire transcript. If you want to hear the interviews, you’ll actually have to listen to the audio!]
Alanis: The Ex-Worker!
Clara: An audio strike against a monotone world!
Alanis: A twice-monthly podcast of anarchist ideas and action!
Clara: For everyone who dreams of a life off the clock!
Alanis: Hello and welcome to Episode 31 of the Ex-Worker! Hello Chapel Hill, North Carolina! My name is Alanis…
Clara: And I’m Clara, and we’ll be your hosts this evening.
Alanis: We have an exciting program for you this evening! We’re gonna share some of our news on the Hot Wire - with some depressing and some exciting things to announce, as per usual - and then we’re going to have a series of interviews who’ve been participating in the book fair. You’ll get a chance to hear about some workshops if you missed them, hear from some tablers, and updates from other places and projects. We hope you enjoy it!
Clara: We’ll be talking to a couple of different people who’ve given presentations, including a report back from the Can Vries eviction in Barcelona. You’re going to hear a letter from Luke O’Donovan read by one of his friends and supporters, and a couple of other things.
Alanis: And if you’d like to learn more about the podcast or send us feedback, you can visit our website at crimethinc.com
Clara: Let’s get started!
THE HOT WIRE
Alanis: And now it’s time for the hot wire, our updates from riots, rebellions and resistance around the world. Clara, what’s in the news?
Clara: Carlos, Amelie and Fallon, the three anarchists imprisoned in Mexico on charges of an arson against a Nissan dealership, have been convicted and sentenced to prison terms: 7 1/2 years on federal charges, and 2 1/2 years plus payment of damages on local charges.
Alanis: The conviction of Angola 3 prisoner Albert Woodfox has been overturned by an appeals court. This is terrific news, but Albert - who has spent the last 42 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana - has not been released yet. Stay tuned for updates and info on how to support him at angola3news dot blogspot dot com.
Also, in another piece of exciting prisoner release news: just as of yesterday, Brian “Jacob” Church of the NATO 3 has been released from prison! Congratulations, Jacob!
Clara: Don Blankenship, former CEO for the giant coal corporation Massey Energy and all-around scumbag, has been indicted on charges of security fraud and violating mine safety standards for his role in a 2010 disaster in which 29 workers were killed in West Virginia. In theory he could spend up to 31 years in prison; we’re skeptical. And he’s not being charged for making millions from mountaintop removal coal mining, the practice of blowing up entire mountains to get coal from within them in which his former company specialized, and the incalculable human and ecological devastation this causes; nor with the horrific consequences for air and water quality and global climate change that dependence on coal energy produces.
Alanis: In similar news, the former prison commissioner for the state of Mississippi, Christopher Epps, was recently arraigned on corruption charges, accused of raking in almost a million dollars in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for directing lucrative contracts to a former state legislator. While Epps got payments towards his condo on the beach and multiple Mercedes Benz cars, the companies tied to the crooked politician he worked with got to run a notoriously brutal and corrupt private prison, oversee commissary services that offer necessities to prisoners at hideously exploitative prices, and determine Medicaid eligibility for people in prison. In other words, while thousands of prisoners rotted in miserable conditions without health care, their suffering was literally funding these rich men’s cars and condos, dollar by dollar.
Clara: It would be poetic justice on a certain level if these scumbags ended up rotting in the same facilities they used to run, surrounded by the same prisoners whose exploitation used to fund their luxurious lifestyles. But the problem isn’t the laws they broke; it’s the system that says it’s perfectly legal to profit off of stuffing thousands of humans into cages, so long as you follow the state’s rules and the free market to determine who profits and how much.
Alanis: Speaking of prisons, do you remember back in 2010 when a court ruled that the California state prison system had to release thousands of inmates, because the overcrowded and inhumane conditions in which they were kept were unconstitutional? Well, the state’s lawyers have been fighting tooth and nail against any plan to reduce the prison population, as you might expect. But now they’ve sunk to a new low; lawyers from the state attorney general’s office challenged a court ruling forcing them to expand an early parole program on grounds that releasing more prisoners would reduce the pool of cheap labor available to the state. That’s right, prison slavery is now being cited not as a problem, but as a reason in favor of mass incarceration, because otherwise the government would have to pay firefighters and other workers for the work that thousands of prisoners are doing now for less than $2/day.
Clara: The US House of Representatives passed the bill authorizing the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The Rosebud Sioux tribe, whose tribal lands are in South Dakota, declared the government vote an act of war and vowed to close their borders to the pipeline. The bill failed to pass the Senate, though it this “hollow victory,” as Rising Tide called it, will likely be overturned in January when the new Congress gets to town.
Alanis: One member of the Hambacher Forest occupation remains in jail after an eviction on October 30th, in which numerous occupiers were violently attacked and arrested by police and corporate security guards.
Clara: The good citizens of Denton, Texas passed a resolution banning fracking within their town, despite nearly $700,000 spent by fracking companies intended to discourage them. As mayor Chris Watts stated, “The democratic process is alive and well in Denton.” In response, the chair of the state bureaucracy that regulates gas and oil drilling said that she didn’t give a shit what the good citizens of Denton think, and that she would go ahead and give the fracking companies permits to operate regardless, because only she and her state government cronies, and not the people who live on that land and face the consequences of fracking, have the right to decide. Democracy is indeed alive and well; THIS IS WHY WE NEED ANARCHY.
Alanis: In animal liberation news, 11 vehicles were torched at a foie gras company in Gourdon, France, while in the Spanish village of Villafruela, around a thousand partridges destined for hunting by the rich were freed by the ALF.
Clara: The Russian government is considering plans to begin using reindeer-mounted police to patrol indigenous communities living in the frozen tundra regions of the far north.
Alanis: Outside Praetoria, South Africa, poor people working with a group called the Economic Freedom Fighters have begun expropriating land and building shacks; the ruling ANC party has condemned them, saying that they’re undermining the government’s plans to help out the poor themselves, and sent police to fire on the squatters.
Clara: A food riot in Bannu, Pakistan injured 17 police, who killed two rioters and arrested 150.
Alanis: Thousands of Kenyans protested in the streets of Nairobi after a woman was brutally attacked by a group of men for wearing a miniskirt.
Clara: University students have been rioting all over the place, in Lusaka, Zambia, in Bogota, Columbia, in Ankara, Turkey, and in Makassar, Indonesia, where a deputy police chief was shot with an arrow.
Alanis: In Israel, protests and a general strike of the Arab community have taken place to protest the police murder of a young Arab man.
Clara: And in the weirdest green capitalist recuperation news we’ve heard all day, a bus company based in the city of Bath in the UK has inaugurated the so-called “Poo Bus”… [bursts out laughing]
Alanis: …which is powered entirely by biomethane gas generated from treatment of sewage and food waste. According to the company, the average person’s yearly poop output can power the bus approximately 37 miles.
Clara: And finally, we’ve just heard that Nigerian anarchist Sam Mbah has died. He was a lawyer, journalist, activist, and the author of the classic book African Anarchism.
LETTER FROM LUKE O’DONOVAN
I will try to be brief; those of you who know me know I have a tendency to blather on and, though there would be a certain poetic humor in my imprisoning you all for the duration of a lengthy speech, I will save such annoyances for when I can be present and can counterbalance them in person. I’ll try to keep to what seems important.
I must begin by acknowledging the astounding show of support I’ve been receiving from close friends and absolute strangers alike. Although many across the country have provided me with invaluable support, I will single out, for a moment, what has come from the Triangle. Though I can hardly say I’m surprised at it — as many of my closest friends and most respected comrades call this place home — what I’ve received in support from you has been incredibly inspiring. From dance parties to brunches, there has been no small sum of money sent my way, but the value I place on these actions far outweighs even that. My thanks could never be quantified.
From floods of letters to news reports, I’ve received a plethora of smile-coaxing material, and too many books for me to receive. I’d ask not to be sent any more books for some time! Even letters, an essential form of support, are getting to be too many to answer.
One of the major functions of prisons is the inscription of a certain discipline upon bodies contained within them. It is by rendering prisoners in their weakest possible formation, that of the isolated individual, that prison is able to achieve this. Letters cut through that isolation, allowing prisoners to hold on to convictions that are necessary for any opposition to the social order; convictions that would otherwise be lost to rehabilitation.
It’s for this reason I’d like to encourage you all to continue to write prisoners, even if I personally might be too busy to respond. There are many who haven’t got the type of support I do and so feel the pressures of prison more acutely. I would like to make explicit, here, that I place no value on charity work and reject the position that imagines something essential and revolutionary about the prisoner. Prisoners are no more the revolutionary subject than workers or people of color, and there is nothing essential about criminality that ought to be ascribed value. So, I urge you, don’t shy away from theoretical or political topics in your letters, be open with your intentions and oppositions. These are the types of discussions that can turn a correspondence from an act of charity to an act of war and change we imprisoned correspondents from victims to combatants.
I’ve alluded to a war above, a war many of you have acknowledged is going on and within which many of you have decided to become partisans. I am an anarchist and a communist and a part of what that means is that I have committed myself to living and creating a form of life which is made impossible by the current social order. My entire life, like many of yours, will be in conflict with that order which will no doubt lead me back to the situation I’m in now. For this reason the truest form of support for me, the only form of solidarity with me, is any act in conflict with this order, an act that contributes to a strategy of the destruction of prisons and to the abolition of imprisonment. As long as a single prison stands, there will be those who want me in it.
Don’t let my mention of strategy be lost in passing; don’t let it be ignored. I realize among anarchists there is a reluctance to think on the level of strategy. We must abandon the aesthetic romanticization of misery and rebellion. Don’t let it be said, however, that I argue for a cold and rational strategy which has numbed me. Beauty, poesy, and sincerity are among the things I love most, but my love for them is a mourning love. The beauty of misery has been lost. Beckett wrote the eulogy of misery, and no medium has expressed it since. It is not that misery and beauty have gone from this world, but that we have. There are no poets these days because poesy has been caged. There are no poets. They have become strategists; they are all off at war for the sake of poesy itself.
This war is at stake in every action we take. Each action confirms one ethic or another, and it is only by elaborating our own that we might become anything but liberal subjects, that we might choose our own side.
So, let us realize that the enemy with which we contend does not stand as a subject facing us, but exists as an environment hostile to us. We must therefore live a life at war, within and against this environment. For the proliferation of worlds, for the Faeries, for the desert to bloom, build the Commune. Build the Party.
Caged but never tamed, Luke O’Donovan
NEXT WEEK’S NEWS
Clara: OK! Let’s wrap things up with Next Week’s News. Alanis, what’s events have we got coming up?
Alanis: Well, if you couldn’t make it to this anarchist book fair, there are several more coming up. On the 29th of November, in Manchester and Salford, UK; December 5th through 8th, in Madrid, Spain; in Cape Town, South Africa on December 6th, Buenos Aires, Argentina on the 6th and 7th, and in Oakland, California on the 7th.
Clara: Ohio anarchist prisoner Sean Swain has put out a call for support for Blackjack, his former cell mate. Do you remember the excerpt we read back in Episode 10 of Sean’s essay “Days of Tear Gas, Blood and Vomit,” his hilarious and inspiring account of fighting off a goon squad of heavily armed “extraction squad” armed with little more than a tube of toothpaste, a broken broomstick, and some styrofoam cups? Blackjack was his co-conspirator in that rebellion, which is more than enough to merit our admiration. He’s been in solitary for over a year, targeted for being an anarchist and because a rap verse he wrote appeared in materials by the 12 Monkeys crew of prison rebels. For his address and some more info on him, check out seanswain dot org or follow the link on our website.
Alanis: And last but not least, we want to share, as we often do at the end of our episodes, some prisoners with upcoming birthdays, in case you want to write them - though of course bear in mind the things that we’ve heard earlier about the importance of stepping up prisoner solidarity beyond simply letter writing. But, that said:
On December 5th, Tsutomu Shirosaki, a former underground armed revolutionary from Japan who’s serving a 30 year sentence in US prison;
On December 12th, Zolo Azania, a former Black Panther framed for the killing of an Indiana cop;
On December 15th, Fred “Muhammad” Burton , another black radical framed for the killing of a cop in Philadelphia.
Clara: And that’s it for this episode of the Ex-Worker. Thanks to everyone who talked with us tonight, thank y’all for being here at the 2014 Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair…
Alanis: thanks for the delicious food, thanks for all the books and zines, and we’ll see you next time!
Clara: And thanks for the memories!
Links and references from this episode of The Ex-Worker:
The Hot Wire [3:10]
- Southern Insurrectionary History [11:42]
- The Can Vries Eviction and Riots in Barcelona [18:27]
- Rethinking support for anti-authoritarian queer and transgender prisoners [23:26]
- A Letter from Luke O’Donovan [27:36]
- NYC Anarchist Black Cross on post-release prisoner support [32:50]
- Supporters of Andy, an anarchist arrested in Philadelphia [36:03]
- The Inside/Outside Alliance from Durham, NC [38:13]
- UNControllables, a Chapel Hill-based anarchist student group [41:10]
Next Week’s News [48:03]
This live episode was an experiment, so let us know what you thought! If you didn’t care much for it, don’t worry—we’ll continue producing episodes in our usual style. If you did like it, then send us suggestions for other circumstances in which we record the show live! Hosting an anarchist event somewhere in North America where you’d like us to come? Drop us a line! (It’s firstname.lastname@example.org, in case we forgot to mention it.)
Despite doing eight interviews, we still only scratched the surface of the presentations and projects at the book fair, which included discussions of green anarchism, Afro-pessimism and self-abolition, mathematics and anti-colonial resistance, the anti-police rebellions in Ferguson, and lots more, plus a graffiti art walk! The full list is available at the Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair website.
You may be wondering why we said that we were recording live in Chapel Hill, North Carolina when it’s called the “Carrboro Anarchist Book Fair.” Chapel Hill is a small university town and Carrboro is an even smaller town adjacent to it; the two main spaces where book fair workshops and tabling took place are on either side of the dividing line. It’s confusing, we know.
Savannah spoke about the forthcoming book project “Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the South,” due to be released next year on AK Press. You can read some of the stories that will appear in the book on the North Carolina Piece Corps website, including discussions of convict resistance in late 19th century Tennessee, anti-confederate bandits in the swamps of North Carolina, and armed black self-defense from the early civil rights era.
One presenter discussed the riots in Barcelona after the eviction of the Can Vries squat, and its eventual re-establishment.
A workshop about queer and transgender anti-authoritarian prisoners focused on the cases of Luke O’Donovan (whose moving letter from prison a supporter read for us), Michael Kimble, Marius Mason, and Amazon from Gender Anarky.
Folks from New York City Anarchist Black Cross spoke about post-release prisoner support, mentioning the cases of Sundiata Acoli, the Tinley Park Five, and others.
Comrades from Philadelphia are seeking support for Andy, a young anarchist who was attacked and injured by police at a Ferguson solidarity demonstration; supporters are helping to raise money towards his medical and legal expenses. Help out if you can!
The Durham-based Inside/Outside Alliance supports struggles of folks locked up in the Durham County Jail. They recently initiated a call-in day to the jail to demand that prisoners receive adequate food - although it has already taken place, you can still call the jail to support their demands!
We heard from the Chapel Hill, NC-based student group UNControllables, who organize, among many other events, a “Radical Rush” week of events, which included this impressive “Disorientation Guide” for local student radicals. If you’re interested in connecting with them, especially if you’re a fellow student interested in anarchist university organizing, you can contact them to carolinauncontrollables at gmail dot com, or - sigh - via Facebook.
Ohio anarchist prisoner Sean Swain has put out a call for support for Blackjack, his former cell mate. Do you remember the excerpt we read back in Episode 10 of Sean’s essay “Days of Tear Gas, Blood and Vomit,” his hilarious and inspiring account of fighting off a goon squad of heavily armed “extraction squad” armed with little more than a tube of toothpaste, a broken broomstick, and some styrofoam cups? Blackjack was his co-conspirator in that rebellion, which is more than enough to merit our admiration. He’s been in solitary for over a year, targeted for being an anarchist and because a rap verse he wrote appeared in materials by the 12 Monkeys crew of prison rebels. Send him some mail if you have the chance.
Upcoming prisoner birthdays:
Tsutomu Shirosaki #20924–016
FCI Yazoo City LOW
PO Box 5000
Yazoo City, MS 39194
Zolo Azania #4969
State Prison Minimum Unit
1 Park Row
Michigan City, IN 46360
Fred “Muhammad” Burton #AF 3896
1590 Walters Mill Rd
Somerset, PA 15510