I recently had the chance to enjoy reading Unruly Equality: US Anarchism in the Twentieth Century by
Andrew Cornell. It was a strong synopsis
on the subject from its glory days around the Haymarket Market Square Affair of
1886 to its marginal re-emergence in fairly different forms after intermittent
government repression reached a fever pitch and throttled the remanences of the
older forms for the most part in the 1920s.
continuum of US Anarchism from its heyday through the era of the New Left is
clear and well documented through cited sources for anyone who wants to follow
up, but the book essentially wraps up there with a handful of acknowledgments
of contemporary Anarchists in the Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation
and adherents to the Anarchist People of Color (APOC) tendency, and the
Anarchistic Food Not Bombs and Earth First! movements.
the 1990s Love and Rage Revolutionary Anarchist Federation is similarly
acknowledged, it doesn’t get the space I think it clearly deserves as part of
what I think Unruly Equality is
basically missing: the link that
connects the New Left to the Global Justice Era.
fact, even its characterization as a Revolutionary Anarchist Federation is only
half at best of the story. Love and Rage originally formed as a
continent-wide Anarchist newspaper project from a series of continental
Anarchist Conventions in the mid-to-late 1980s.
local Love and Rage contributors from
Mexico, the US and Canada even only formed a formal Love and Rage Network after
two pilot issues distributed at some of the later 1980s gatherings and one year
of printing the Love and Rage newspaperin 1990.
it wasn’t until a convention in 1993 where a certain clique in the Love and
Rage Network caused the transition from a decentralized Network, to a cohesive,
cadre based Revolutionary Anarchist Federation.
Many who rejected the change bolted, including whole groups such as
Chicago’s Baklava Autonomist Collective and Neither East Nor West.
went on to form the Autonomous Zone Infoshop (A-Zone), whose Collective
proceeded to help start the Network of Anarchist Collectives (NAC). NAC was, for all intents and purposes, the
beginning of the Infoshop Movement in North America.
of this history goes unrecorded in Unruly
Equality, missing for the most part the last twenty years of the twentieth
century in US Anarchism!
2002 I visited the A-Zone for the first time, for a forum on Anarchist
Economics held in opposition to the meeting of the TransAtlantic Business
Dialogue (TABD) that was meeting in Chicago at the time. It was my first time at an Infoshop, and went
on to become the first Collective I joined the next year. But it wasn’t until we were packing up that
space in 2003, in Bucktown next to the Congress Theater, that a comrade handed
me a copy of Baklava’s ‘zine, Wind Chill
Factor, telling me that it was what the A-Zone came out of, that I started
to learn that history.
A-Zone Collective disbanded the next year, and it wasn’t until 2010 when I was
doing a ‘zine about it for another Infoshop Collective in Pilsen, Chicago that
I learned about the NAC through a couple issues of its Internal Discussion
Bulletin the A-Zone Collective did, (Dis)Connection.
like I hadn’t questioned where the Infoshop Movement came from, I never really
wondered where Anarchist Black Cross (ABC), Anti-Racist Action (ARA) or any
number of other contemporary radical Left projects came from until I had been
politically active for a while, and frequently because someone else brought up
the subject. Part of this was because of
my personal obsession with the Old and New Lefts, but I also think this is at
least partially because of radicals from the 1980s and ‘90s who dropped out
and/or haven’t done a particularly good job of recording and sharing the
lessons they’ve learned from their struggles.
I think these tendencies are a dangerous waste of time and energy.
are archives of Love and Rage and (Dis)Connection at the Taala Hooghan and
Long Haul Infoshops among other places.
There used to be one online, but now it’s down and you need to check
archive.org for http://loveandrage.org/, which I don’t believe was updated after the
March 30th, 2015 capture.
Five squatted buildings on Manhattan’s Lower East Side are being targeted by New York City as the site of a supposedly low-income housing project. The city council voted on June 29 to approve a plan, submitted by the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), for Lower East Side Coalition Housing Development (LESCHD, a corrupt non-profit housing organization) to develop the site. The five squats, numbers 535, 537, 539, 541, and 545 East 13th Street, are occupied by a diverse group of over 100 people, some of whom have resided in their squats for over 10 years. (A sixth squatted building across the street is not included in the development plan.) The squatter community on 13th Street was founded over 10 years ago by people who had originally sought to be accepted into the city’s now-defunct homesteader program, but took a do-it-yourself approach and became squatters from the onset. They were soon joined by many more people, and expanded to include more buildings.
The city’s plan was uncovered by a squatter from another block who heard rumors of the development project. Freedom of Information requests were filed, but no responses were received. After many more rumors and some anonymous tips, a New York Times reporter confirmed that there was in fact a plan for the 13th Street squats. Subsequent requests for information turned up the plan sent to the city council. It was a reincarnation of a plan defeated by squatters four years ago, but this time around was submitted as an Urban Development Action Project (UDAP) to bypass the usual review procedures and deny squatters any opportunities to oppose it at public hearings. The so-called low-income housing proposed for 13th St. has a minimum income requirement for a studio apartment of $13,800, well above what most squatters and other neighborhood residents take home.
Due to factional disputes within Eviction Watch, a network of 21
Lower East Side Squats, much of the defense tactics were conceived and
implemented by the Legal/Research and Outreach subcommittees, along with
many squatters from the targeted buildings and former members of
Squatter Activist Council. Attempts to hold Eviction Watch meetings were
disrupted by residents of 535 and self-proclaimed communists from a
group called the Class War Organizer (CWO). Squatters and supporters
arriving at one meeting were driven off by residents from 535.
The first defense tactic used by squatters was what worked four years ago—going after the funders of the project. This included unannounced visits to the offices of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC, corporate scum who finance poverty pimps b y selling tax exemptions), and Enterprise Foundation (a group that collects grants from corporate scum). Actions were also carried out in Philadelphia and other cities against funders. In Baltimore, parodies of eviction notices were pasted to the residences of Enterprise board members and employees. Mass mailings were sent out to funders, politicians, and housing groups of all types, to publicize the fact that this project would displace over 100 people. Letters of support were solicited and included in m ass mailings.
The second tactic was to raise awareness in the community and build up local support. A plan to march to the Community Board was approved at one of the early Eviction Watch meetings, before the complete breakdown between rival factions. The Community Board tactic had been used by squatters in previous struggles. Most recently in June of 1993, when over 100 squatters shut down a meeting to delay a vote on the development of Glass House. (The development plan passed at a later meeting, but was never implemented; Glass House fell to an opportunistic police force, compounded by internal disarray, in Feb. 1994.) The Community Board (#3) was only voting as a formality on this issue. The streamlined UDAP process didn’t require its participation. However, it w as an opportunity for squatters to voice their outrage. The first action was against a sub-committee. Fifty squatters packed the room and prevented the board from convening a meeting.
An important part of the overall strategy to defend the buildings is on the legal front. Recent court rulings over the evictions of squats in the Bronx set favorable precedent for due process to be recognized for squatters. 535 E. 13th decided, undemocratically, in the opinion of many squatters, to drop out of the legal action. Two residents of 535, including a member of the CWO, showed up in court and asked that their building be removed from the case. They also discussed a deal offered by the city to accept relocation to city-owned apartments in exchange for their dropping any and all claims to their building. Many squatters active in this struggle consider any negotiations to vacate a building to be a “sell out,” and feel the divisiveness weakens the squatters movement. CWO distributed hundreds of leaflets filled with lies and misleading information, which created much confusion for people trying to keep up with the complexities of the situation.
Knowing that legal tactics alone cannot bring victory, squatters
continue to put up posters and do outreach in the Lower East Side.
Squatters also developed good contacts in the mainstream media. Two
major daily newspapers have run sympathetic articles covering the
dispute between squatters and the city.
This plan to evict five buildings is the most serious threat the squatters of the Lower East Side have faced. Squatters realize that if these buildings go the remainder will be weakened and picked off over the next couple of years. Since the mid-’80s t here have been 15-20 buildings occupied by organized squatters in this neighborhood, existing in a gray area of semi-autonomy as government administrations have come and gone. The survival of squatting as a continuing movement rests heavily on whether this fight is won or lost. If the squats lose in court, squatters may have already won a political victory in the eyes of the public. If the squats were to win title to the buildings, they would no longer be squats, but could inspire others to carry on the struggle. A favorable court ruling on due process alone could put squatting right back where it was—in legal limbo.
On Dec. 30, 1994 John Salvi, an anti-choice hitman, walked into the
Planned Parenthood Clinic in Brookline, Mass., shot and killed Sharon
Lowney, the receptionist, and wounded three others. Salvi then walked
down the block to the Pre-term Clinic and opened fire again, killing
Leanne Nichols and wounding two other clinic staff members. These
murders are the third such attack in the last year and a half. In Mar.
1993, Michael Griffin shot and killed Dr. David Gunn. Griffin was a
member of Rescue America, an anti-choice group founded by former Ku Klux
Klan member John Burt. On July 29, 1994, the Reverend Paul Hill
assassinated Dr. John Bayard Britton and his clinic escort James
Barrett, wounding escort June Barrett.
News reports have been quick to fixate on the establishment churches’
criticisms of the Brookline killings, arguing that the insanity
surrounding abortions leads to such desperate actions. In other words,
“women’s reproductive freedom is unacceptable, this is what you’re going
to get if abortion remains legal.” Yet, while there are no direct ties
between the Catholic hierarchies, Operation Rescue’s troops, and John
Salvi, he is not a lone gunman, nor are his actions beyond the pale of
the religious right’s tactics.
From 1984 to 1993, the National Abortion Federation has recorded
1,540 incidents of violence at clinics; almost 200 clinics have been
bombed, 254 have received bomb threats, 276 were invaded, and 279
vandalized. This rise in violence since the mid-1980s marks the
religious right’s awareness that its legal efforts to overturn Roe v.
Wade have failed. The religious right has now moved to overturning Roe
through the use of violence. In order to resist the right’s use of
hitmen and physical force, we need to break from the politics of liberal
feminism and accept only a feminism that is fundamentally about
liberation, not protection. We must begin by reinvigorating feminism
with a refusal to negotiate women’s reproductive and sexual freedoms.
Women’s right to abortion on demand must be part of a strategy to
transform society through a militant mass movement that is directly
democratic and empowers all women, a movement that can independently
guarantee women’s reproductive freedom.
Abortion Reform and Women’s Liberation
Women won the legal right to abortion in 1973 because there was a
mass movement forcing the government to change or risk being destroyed
by the social movements of the 1960s. The women’s movement related
abortion reform to a revolutionary vision, shaped by their participation
in the struggle for Black liberation, inspired by the resistance of
women like Assata Shakur, who withstood police torture for being a
leading figure in the Black Panther Party and Black Liberation Army.
Sisterhood was an international solidarity, binding the 100,000 women in
Thieu prison in Vietnam fighting American imperialism to women’s demand
for absolute control of their bodies.
The victory of Roe had clear limitations from the outset—it did not
grant abortion on demand nor do women now have permanent control of
their bodies beyond the state. Simply, it asserted that the state would
not regulate women’s right to privacy. Roe benefited the state,
undercutting more radical demands for free health care, pre-natal
services, and control of the burgeoning abortion business, and cementing
a dependency between liberal feminist organizations, the court system,
and the illusory left wing of the Democratic Party. The result was women
becoming one more interest group whose rights are settled in the court
of public opinion.
The Right Counter-Attacks
Since 1973, the right has mounted a legislative assault on abortion
rights. The Hyde Amendment cut off federal Medicaid funding for abortion
in 1977. Further, the marked decrease in the number of
obstetrics-gynecological residency programs offering training in
abortion procedures, and public hospitals unwilling to provide the
service due to political expediency, illustrates that Roe, like much of
the civil rights legislation of the 1960s, set up symbolic rights,
neglecting the entrenched social and economic inequalities that made Roe
a hollow victory for many women.
During the Reagan-Bush years, the women’s movement was faced with
continued attacks on clinics, an unsympathetic White House, and a
disinterested House and Senate dominated by Democrats. Without a mass
movement, the Democrats could afford to pay lip service to women’s
rights while not following through. The right was then convinced it had
successfully set the national tone to legally dismantle Roe. The new
Bush nominees to the Supreme Court, however, didn’t overturn Roe,
although they severely restricted it. The 1992 Casey decision, and
Webster v. Reproductive Health Services in 1993, required parental
notification and gave the states leeway to require waiting periods;
barriers that overwhelmingly affect poor, rural, Black and Latina women.
Seeing the new Republican-dominated House and Senate willingness to
put their anti-choice, anti-queer rhetoric temporarily to the side, at
least until the 1996 presidential elections, the religious right has
faced its legal efforts’ limitations, and has moved toward a strategy of
violence and intimidation. The religious right has a powerful mass
movement committed to using violence, with ties to neo-nazis, the Klan,
and the growing citizen militias. The pro-choice response has been to
assume the right is willing to negotiate women’s reproductive rights
because it needs to maintain its place in the Republican fold the same
way they need the Democrats.
The Pro-Choice Response
The liberal pro-choice movement has failed; it’s just too wedded to
the system to admit it. In response to the rise of anti-choice forces in
the mid 1980s many feminists formed local direct action clinic defense
groups. These groups, often coalitions of different political
tendencies, had a more flexible approach to the new terrain of the
struggle. These groups tend to choose tactics which fit the situation,
meaning if the police were relatively benign they would use this to
their advantage, if they were not the clinic defenders challenged
anti-choice forces and the police with the same resistance. The National
Organization for Women’s [NOW] standpoint has always been to lobby the
state regardless of it’s response, and attempt to integrate other
feminist movements’ efforts into their own. This was done not so much
out of opportunism, as the logic of its liberalism. NOW believes its
establishment ties put them on the front line of feminism’s possible
success, therefore they should determine the movement’s direction. The
end result has been the half-hearted use of clinic defenders, chanting
leftist slogans from behind police barricades while the police fail to
provide even the minimal protections offered by the law. The liberal
feminists’ new legislative weapon—National Organization for Women et. al
v. Joseph Scheidler et. al., better known as the RICO case—creates
dangerous legal precedents for revolutionaries (Love and Rage vol. 5, #
3). While this may seem like a display of anarchist revolutionary
elitism, RICO limits all activists’ ability to determine what tactics
are necessary to ensure their freedom. RICO empowers the government to
prosecute any organization (in this case Operation Rescue) engaged in a
pattern of “racketeering,” broadly including acts or the conspiracy to
commit such acts, such as interference with commerce, arson, obstruction
of justice. Prosecution under RICO does not have to take place in a
public court, and grants the state unlimited power to seize documents
and force testimony. NOW argues that RICO will be used to protect
abortion clinics and women, limiting Operation Rescue’s efforts to shut
clinics down, without affecting other political struggles. Just imagine
RICO in the hands of Alabama’s state legislature during the Montgomery
bus boycott. NOW’s myopic view of women’s rights leads directly to such
counter-productive victories. Moreover, legal efforts have failed.
Note that Brookline had “model” anti-blockade laws. Doctors wearing
bullet-proof vests with armed bodyguards are still murdered. Faced with
their own political failure, the liberals can only re-double their
lobbying efforts, hoping that a split will develop within the right. As
Susan Yanow of the Massachusetts Abortion Access Project was quoted as
saying, “the shootings have divided the abortion movement. They are
fighting with each other over tactics.” Caught in this quicksand of
lesser-evilism, liberal feminists hope the checks-and-balances charade
of American democracy will rein in the extremists. This strategy
represents a death of vision that cannot adequately ensure women’s
reproductive freedom. The anti-choice movement has moved its agenda
beyond a legislative strategy to destroying the women’s movement with
violence. We need to take direct action against this movement to stop
them. Roe was a tremendous victory, we now have to expand on it. We need
to defend Roe and the clinics using whatever means necessary. We have
to move women’s reproductive freedom outside the parameters of the
state’s authority, linking abortion rights to Major Ana María of the
Zapatista National Liberation Army’s vision of a free society, a world
without borders and directly democratic, moving us toward directly
challenging the existing order’s monopoly on power.
Toward the Free Society
Jan. 22, 1995 marked the 22nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Instead of being a celebration, it was a day of mourning. Instead of being an affirmation to women everywhere, it was mostly filled with muted anger and suppressed rage. In demonstrations across the US the urgency to break through the liberal facade was palpable on the faces of fierce women taking the streets in the bitter cold. What we need to do now is repeat again and again, “we won’t go back,” taking our demands beyond this rotting American dream. We need a movement willing not only to defend the clinics but to build an insurgent base for a revolutionary counter-society. Only then will we be able to defend our bodies and bring their hate machine to the ground. The women who have given up their lives demand that we push beyond Roe. As women took the streets in NY on the 22nd, police politely asked us to stay on the sidewalk; we refused. Our freedom is not up for negotiation, our bodies are not up for a vote. Our lives depend on our refusal and our willingness to put our bodies beyond their death culture and grasp the free society.
The Long Haul in Berkeley, California is still around and is also the host of the Slingshot newspaper Collective’s office, that has reported on many similar things as Love and Rage such as Infoshops opening, and squats.
I was squatting in Oakland in 2013 when I first read about the infamous Berkeley Squat, Barrington Hall. I excitedly shared this information from Love and Rage, where I first discovered it. None of the younger people, many of them long time East Bay squatters, had any idea about this history.