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(en) US, BAAM #35 of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement - The Northeast Anarchist Network: A History, as Written from the Vantage-Point of Boston. by Jake Carman + Two Flash Mobs for Labor Rights

Date Tue, 10 Aug 2010 10:18:09 +0300

Throughout the summer and the fall of 2006, a popular rebellion clutched the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, serving as a glimmer of inspiration in what felt like, until that point, a decade of heavy state repression, diminishing liberties, and stagnating social movements at home, and constant war abroad. To some of us in Boston, the Oaxaca Uprising was a distant smoke signal telling us not to feel so alone. Even from our distant vantage, we could clearly see that revolution is possible. Lasting as a geographic reality until the Federal Preventative Police invasion of Oaxaca City on October 28th, the fires of popular rage burned just long enough to teach the world some valuable lessons. Oaxaca’s rebellion showcased the possibility of horizontal, directly democratic, and anti-authoritarian social organizations, based around the ancient, international model of the peoples’ assembly.

In May 2006, in the US a few months be-
fore the Oaxaca Uprising, millions of migrant
workers and their allies reclaimed May 1st
as International Workers Day, waging the
Great American Boycott; striking, refusing
to participate in the economy, and taking the
streets. BAAM members solidified our pre-
viously-floundering organization to help turn
out anarchists and anti-authoritarians to the
planning meetings and the demos. This mo-
mentum within BAAM continued, resulting
in the 1st Annual Sacco and Vanzetti parade
on August 27th. With the Sacco and Vanzetti
parade, BAAM members hoped to connect
the efforts of what appeared to us to be two
distinct camps of active anarchists locally.
The politics of social (“red”) anarchists who’d
been organizing around labor, neighborhood,
and immigration issues fused with those of
environmental and animal-focused (“green”)
anarchists, who at the time were reeling from
the national FBI witch hunt we called the
Green Scare. At an event with the demand
of “Amnesty for all immigrants!! End all
political repression,” migrant workers rights
and labor organizers, environmental and ani-
mal rights activists, and anarchists worked
to build bridges between the separate issues.
As May approached the following year,
BAAM members and other local anarchists
hoped to use the proximity of the corporate
--Tech Conference (May 4th 2007) with May
Day to bring the “green” and “red” anarchists
closely together. On the weekend of February
24th-25th we organized a meeting we called
the “Northeast Anarchist Consulta,” in hopes
of coordinating resistance to the BIO confer-
ence and May Day participation, linking en-
vironment to social issues.

The Consulta (a term borrowed from the Oaxacan
rebels’ Zapatista neighbors in Chiapas) was just about a
complete disaster. While over a hundred of anarchists from
all over the Northeast sat together in a room to discuss
collaboration, solidarity, and strategy, the meeting itself was
entirely dominated by the most extreme perspectives and poles
of the anarchist spectrum, arguing over whose issue was
more important, and criticizing each other for moral decisions,
ways of talking, and life-styles. The facilitators entirely
dropped the topic of May Day, and the only discussion on the
matter occurred during a small group break-out session.
Planning for BIO was only slightly more productive. Needless to
say, our goal of coordinated efforts between organizers working
toward both events fell well-short of our expectations.

However, the one thing which saved the
weekend, an after-thought tacked on to the
end of the agenda by the foolishly-optimistic
consulta planning committee, was a proposal
for a regional anarchist network. While the
practical task of anarchist tactical unity had
failed for the season, the consulta participants
bit on the idea of building a network. Thus
began a two-year and four-assembly process
of building a horizontal network of autono-
mous anarchist groups, projects, and indi-
viduals spanning the Northeast. From Boston
to the campus of Umass Amherst, to the city
of Syracuse, NY, down to New York City,
and back to Amherst, hundreds of anarchists
from a myriad of struggles and perspectives
toiled over the collective-writing process for
the Northeast Anarchist Network’s Points of
Unity, Purpose, and Structure. We reveled
in meeting so many great comrades scat-
tered across the region, learning from each
other’s experiences, and forming projects,
committees, and working groups together.
Some meetings were inspiring and produc-
tive, some were sickeningly depressing and
unbelievably frustrating. Our meeting in New
York City was the darkest hour the network
has seen yet, and undoubtedly many-a-dis-
heartened rebel pondered if that was the end
of NEAN as they traveled home. However,
the good comrades persevered, forming solid
bonds that stretched hundreds of miles.
New York was a turning point. Upon col-
lective analysis we recognized that much of
our internal debate and drama stemmed from
stress of the collective writing process of our
founding documents, which had dominated
the assemblies thus far. However, we found
hope in the fact that said documents were
nearly complete. We knew we were on the
verge of transition between a diverse move-
ment struggling to form a network, and a func-
tioning network of organizations and projects.
One uplifting event that occurred between
the 4th and 5th Assemblies was the Battle of
Georgetown, where NEAN anarchists joined
in protests to the IMF/World Bank, shutting
down one of the richest neighborhoods in the
Capitol. On October 19th, 2007, NEAN com-
rades participated together for the first time in
an international demonstration, and brought
cohesion and unity to the protest. Their fa-
miliarity with each other allowed them to
push boundaries and take risks they might not
have otherwise. As I wrote for an article soon
after the conflict, “Wearing all black, cover-
ing their faces with bandanas and leading
the unpermitted procession with improvised
garbage-barrel shields, the anarchists held the
streets from curb to curb. They broke about
10 windows at corporate shops, including
Abercrombie and Fitch, and dropped a ban-
ner off of Urban Outfitters that read: ‘Get
Free. Smash Capitalism.’ When Fox News’
cameras were stuck in their faces, the protest-
ers smashed those as well. “The police were
in a state of chaos, because they did not hold
the initiative,” said Jeff X..
The anarchists in the protest succeeded
against three times their number of Police,
FBI, and Secret Service forces, who were
trying to run them down with motorcycles.
Georgetown stood shuttered before the anar-
chists even arrived, and police evacuated the
Four Seasons Hotel where the IMF delegates
were staying. Only four protesters were ar-
rested. This incident began a trend of anar-
chists using the Network structure to mobi-
lize and coordinate protests to World Trade
summits, political conventions, and other
manifestations of authority and domination.
During the 5th Assembly, November 17th
and 18th, 2007 in Amherst, MA, we be-
came a network. Saturday was consumed
with the usual arguments over language and
word choice. On Sunday morning, however,
the assembly decided to adopt the founding
document, but appointed an adhoc committee
(including James Herod and myself, among
others) to fine-tune the language and then
return the document to the local collectives
for final ratification. And so the Network was
established. As James Herod, long-time Bos-
ton anarchist and founding member of NEAN
recalls, “Around 11am, we finally dropped
into the structure, and immediately there were
all these proposals for actions and projects!”
One of these proposals became the official
quarterly of the Northeast Anarchist Network.
We first published The Nor ‘Easter in Febru-
ary 2008, and the paper and publishing collec-
tive has been one of NEAN’s most solid proj-
ects ever since. Currently, NEAN prepares
to release the 9th issue of The Nor ‘Easter,
which strives to connect the efforts, struggles
and ideas of NEAN-affiliated groups and oth-
ers across the region.
Two decent assemblies, one in Ithaca and
one in Providence, followed, but the next mile-
stone was the eighth NEAN Assembly, again
in Ithaca. According to an article by Adri-
enne published in the BAAM Newsletter
entitled “Reportback from the 8th NEAN
Assembly, May 23-25,” “Every participant I
talked to agreed that this was by far the best
assembly in terms of meetings and building
connections.” The 9th Assembly occurred in
Philadelphia, and, as Adrienne again wrote
for a BAAM Newsletter reportback, it “hap-
pened to coincide with Philadelphia’s sec-
ond-most severe snowfall on record.” Never-
theless, around fifty people from all over the
region braved the snow to demonstrate that
the network was alive and kicking, even in
the dead of winter. One positive result of the
assembly was the beginnings of a discussion
of proper response to cases of sexual assault
within our movement and our network. We
drafted a NEAN statement (soon approved
by all affiliated groups) against sexual assault
and in support of survivors, and the assembly
sent its participants home to work on commu-
nity processes against sexual assault.
Throughout the NEAN process, various
committees, campaigns, working groups,
and projects have come out of the Northeast
Anarchist Network. Some have fared better
than others. Solidarity Without Borders—a
working group that came out of the meeting
between the Northeast Anarchist Network
(NEAN) and the Midwest Action Network
(MAN) on February 16th and 17th 2008,
Pittsburgh, PA—sent members to an encuen-
tro with the Zapatista’s and other adherents to
La Otra (The Other) Campaign in San Cris-
tóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico on Au-
gust 12, 2008. NEAN musicians attempted to
start a Network of Revolutionary Musicians,
producing a compilation and a short New
England tour in July of 2008. In August of
2008, a NEAN committee formed to wage
a Campaign to Discredit Representative
Democracy and promote direct democracy.
The campaign included banner drops off of
buildings and bridges, street theater, public
events, protests, forums, panels, videos, post-
ers, fliers, and stickers. NEAN comrades also
played a large role in the Democratic and Re-
publican National Conventions in the summer
of 2008. NEAN actions medics joined with
others rushing to Haiti to provide mutual aid
in the form of health relief and independent
media after the major earthquake that struck
in January 2009.
There have been three distinct phases in
the development of the network thus far. The
first was the difficult task of setting the foun-
dations on which to build the network. The
second was the process of discovering our-
selves as an organization, learning
which committees, projects, and work-
ing groups would float, utilizing our
new connections and large numbers for
national summits, demonstrations, and
campaigns. The third phase, which we
seem to be on the verge of leaving, has
been a plateau, where we have strug-
gled to maintain our local organiza-
tions while crisis swept the world. At
the very time when anarchist organi-
zation is most necessary, we’ve stalled
in our momentum, and have failed to
formulate a cohesive, effective strat-
egy for holding our local ruling class
responsible for the global recession.
As we draw near the 10th NEAN
Assembly, the Network returns to
where it began: here in Boston. Let us
turn a page and begin a new phase of
revolutionary struggle, a phase where
we learn to go beyond respecting and
appreciating our different styles, paths,
tactics, and targets, and discover how
to combine these different efforts to
constitute a highly-decentralized yet
united force to help free human society
and the natural world from the grips of
capitalism and authority.
Never during the existence of the
Network have the times called for
such dire and immediate action. The
weight the rich have hung around the
people’s neck grows increasingly heavy.
Oil spreads through the ocean, choking
life and livelihoods. The Afghanistan war is
now the longest war in US history; the war on
terror broadens daily; attacks against immi-
grant communities increase; and the extreme
right and fascists solidify their organizations
and grow like cancer. Across the region,
unions lay crippled, and the working and
oppressed classes’ protest only as individuals
and small groups, and bemoan the failures of
their efforts in the face of the onslaught.
Obama’s Democrats are becoming the pub-
lic enemies of today. The Right’s portrayal of
Obama’s camp as left wing has contributed to the
discrediting of socialism and the traditional
left, the Republicans are still distrusted for
their recent failures in power, and the Tea
Party has been outed as a Republican puppet.
Banks, the rich, global corporations, and
politicians are for the first time in recent
memory casually despised by the vast major-
ity of working people. The soil is fertile for
revolution, and with gripping, ongoing exam-
ples like the Greek movement to point to, we
anarchists have never had such a clear path to
the hearts and minds of our fellow humans.
What’s more, we have organizers in place in
many of the right spots, continuing to build
upon decades of solid work within organized
communities of neighbors, workers, students,
and other oppressed folks. All that is missing
is the organizational capacity to take our indi-
vidual efforts and add them together, so that
the results multiply. By combining our ideas
and visions for the future with sound tactics
of struggle and hard work, we can effectively
present anarchism as a viable alternative to
the status quo and fill the political void.
Moving forward, the Northeast Anarchist Network
ought to mount a concerted effort to bring as
many of the anarchist groups, projects, and
organizers together as possible, and to strive
to develop some region-wide strategies.

The final line of the Northeast Anarchist
Network’s points of unity reads as follows:
In order to embody these values we see the
need for an anarchist social revolution.
Let’s take these words to heart and share
them with our comrades. For us this must
mean putting the movement before every-
thing, and striving to live as the models of
respect and responsibility that it will take
for humans to win freedom. We must realize
that our single issues are, even if won, nearly
worthless without all of the other struggles
our comrades wage, and that we should thus
make our single issues facets of a burgeoning
movement. Heartfelt solidarity
will fill the spaces in between.

Let’s put personal drama
aside and shun gossip, for it
doesn’t belong in the realm of
movements of revolutionary
solidarity. Let’s save our judge-
ments on each other until we
fully examine ourselves. Let’s
utilize small victories, losses,
and even simple conversations
with strangers as fuel for the
fire that will burn the rich out.
All it takes is our imagination,
our thoughts, our words, and an
honest effort. Let us fill the gaps
between NEAN-wide assem-
blies with numerous local and
subregional assemblies where
we learn about our neighbors’
struggles, and develop ways
to share recourses and become
more effective. Let’s be the
nourishment we pour upon the
seeds of anarchy, so that the
roots of our future may take
hold in the fertile soil, beneath
the summer sun. We must be-
lieve that we are capable of
winning our freedom, because
if we have faith in ourselves
and each other, then we can.
Comrades, I beckon you!
Come to the 10th Assembly of
the Northeast Anarchist Net-
work. On your way, ponder the past, present,
and future, and participate enthusiastically
in the proceedings (in particular the sched-
uled strategy discussion!) We anarchists of
the Northeast are NEAN, and it is upon our
resolve, our determination, our ingenuity, our
passion, our articulation, and the weight of our
efforts that we earn a place in history for our
ideas and deeds. Consider the anarchist social
revolution, consider the achievement of what
the closed-minded and forgetful call Utopia,
and act to win so profoundly that they never
forget what is possible, and that we can’t be
ignored any longer. Revolutionary anarchy
in the Northeast of North America would be
an opening door for global upheaval. The o
pportunity, the responsibility, is ours.


Two Flash Mobs for Labor Rights

This past month in Boston, two flash-mob
actions took place in support of two very prev-
alent labor struggles. First, on June 11th the
Boston Sass Attack and The Radical March-
ing Band took over Hyatt Hotel’s downtown
location to do their dance version of “Boy-
cott Hyatt. (to the tune of Beyonce’s “Single
Ladies.”) Hyatt workers have been fighting
wage and medical benefit cuts at many of the
hotel giants’ braches across the country. The
action was a huge success and the troop even
got to perform their routine twice. Check out
the video at http://www.gsmlaborcouncil.org/
Only a week or so later, the Second Line
Social Aid and Pleasure society did a simi-
lar flash-mob action in Shaw’s Supermar-
ket in Porter Square, Cambridge. The band
swarmed near the checkout
line and did their version of
“Down by the Riverside”
(except the chorus was “I
ain’t gonna shop at Shaws
no more”). Workers in
Shaw’s Methuen warehouse
have been on strike for over
three months now trying to
keep their wages and ben-
efits. Check out this video
at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0WPVLsCVcI
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