Acknowledging difference, rejecting division – a critique of identity politics

Race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, class and ability: some of the loaded breaking points that shape identity and experience. These categories have always loomed large in my political life and are rarely navigated comfortably, even within radical communities.

I first became politicized in a radical way in college having conversations about privilege and oppression that seemed to quantify human suffering into categories of identity and analyze how the actions of dominant groups and systems prevented any sort of broad based social justice. I gained a lot of knowledge about how privilege and oppression manifest in the world and in my own life but I really didn’t know what to do with that knowledge.

As a result I tried to be constantly vigilant, agonizing over every social interaction in my life and berating myself for not accepting the burden of my privilege fully enough. The result was that it was harder for me to relax enough to have genuine connections with people and I had no way of gaining social self-confidence without feeling like I was being an oppressive white man. On the flip side any sort of existential crisis I was having was legitimate only if it could be understood as coming from my experience being queer or fat or left-handed.

I am not talking here about being uncomfortable acknowledging how the current allocation of wealth, power, and privilege has been built on a history of domination and abuse. I am talking about the way that people in radical and activist communities often take in this information without having a model for how to live with it sustainably. One of the worst things about this society is the way that it divides and alienates people from themselves and each other. To adhere to a type of identity politics that denies the validity of experience outside the frame of identity serves, in a weird way, to reinforce the profundity of this alienation; training people to respect and maintain the very boundaries that divide and dehumanize them when they could be trying to transcend those boundaries.

After I left school, and moved to the West Coast, I was exposed to radical people who were critical of ‘identity politics’ for many reasons that seemed valid. At some point I remember stepping back from worrying incessantly about how my actions either subverted privilege or reinforced oppression. I tried instead to connect myself to my own desire and use that as the basis for building affinity with others.

It is easy to find fault with the way that many conversations about identity and power play out. It is much more difficult to acknowledge that the issues addressed by those flawed conversations remain. Learning to say ‘the framing of this debate is flawed and I choose not to engage with it’ is one thing, but if that stops one from ever framing any debate, then heavy and important things remain uncommunicated and the process of engaging with life honestly is stifled. Being constantly aware of the way that you are affected by privilege and oppression can get in the way of having organic relationships with people. On the other hand, trying to connect with people across lines of difference without having a way to address the elephant of identity also limits the potential for real intimacy and understanding.

So here I am; I know that many of the issues raised by identity politics are important but many of the conversations that happen around them no longer lead me to a place that is useful. Despite this I also know that I live in and am supported by a society built on the exploitation and destruction, past and present, of people, cultures, and ecosystems. It is along the lines of this exploitation that the need to cling to identity was born.

I guess for me the important thing is about what I choose to do with the knowledge that I have. Am I compelled to see people primarily as a collection of identities or do I strive to connect with people as complete entities with all of their experiences intact? It is the difference between declaring myself anti-sexist, going around self-consciously seeking out women to have ‘anti-sexist relationships’ with, versus allowing myself to connect with and support strong and beautiful people in my life, no matter what gender because, on some level, I love them. The first instance often inhibits intimacy, while the second uses organic relationships as a lens through which to understand how the experiences and opportunities of people in our lives are shaped by identity.

Sourcing my politics from my own desires and experiences is a much stronger model for me than setting the greater good of social revolution against my desires. It is not that we can’t change the world at all; it is just that the model of how we do it needs to be different if it is to be sustainable. It means that meeting my own needs is something I should be able to do without guilt. I do not believe that we live in a zero sum world where my happiness always comes at the expense of somebody else’s. I have a desire for my life to amplify connectedness and well-being through my own well-being, rather than to contribute, through my own isolation, to the isolation of the world. Sacrificing my own happiness will not, in itself, change anything about the institutions and power dynamics that perpetuate oppression. If I choose to believe that we live in a world where everyone is either hurting, angry or complacent, then letting go of pain and anger dooms me to complacency – I prefer to believe that there is a whole spectrum of emotions accessible to people that continue to engage reality and that the question of selling out is not so easily answered.

This does not mean there is no concern for people who are outside of ones own life and experience. I may read an article on the genocide of people I don’t know halfway around the world and be moved to tears and trembling – but that response for me stems from my own lived experience, from the understanding that the people suffering are as real as the people in my life, that their desires are no less valid and their pain no less felt.

I don’t claim to have it all figured out. Living a life I can feel satisfied with is still about discomfort. I think that if issues around identity, oppression and privilege ever seem simple or easily navigated, it will be because I have disengaged. For me, right now, staying engaged means maintaining a tension between knowing and feeling the unvarnished reality of suffering and remembering the capacity people have to build networks of mutual love, respect and support without letting the power of one of these thoughts erase the truth of the other.

Against the fossil fool empire

On April 1st, people around the world will take direct action against the fossil fuel empire, declaring this traditional day of trickery Fossil Fools Day. Rising Tide, Rainforest Action Network, Global Exchange, Earth First!, and friends and allies are calling for y’all to pull a prank that packs a punch against the industries that are most responsible for climate change — the time to ramp up the level of resistance is now.

Our message is simple: to have any hope of averting cataclysmic climate change, we must stop burning fossil fuels. All the “carbon-neutral” number crunching and talk of reducing X percent of emissions by 2010, 2020, or 2050 will mean nothing if fossil fuels are still in the picture. Yet this is exactly what “progressive” politicians, corporations, and even some of the big greens are promoting. While they fool the public with slick talk of “clean coal,” hybrid cars, and carbon offsets that will make greenhouse gas emissions magically disappear, energy companies are busy building new oil and gas pipelines, tapping new wells, and constructing a new fleet of old fashioned coal power plants.

Even if there were ways to capture and permanently store the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the burning of fossil fuels (which there aren’t, despite much hype about carbon sequestration), we would still reject their continued use. From the ancient mountains of Appalachia being blown to pieces for cheap coal to the tributaries of the Amazon being poisoned by oil extraction, the fossil fuel industry has brought nothing but terror, death, and destruction to the land and communities it occupies.

It is clear that the governments and corporations of the world will not solve the climate crisis, and time is running out. We must take immediate and direct action to put an end to the fossil fuel nightmare we live in, meeting the size and scale of the problem with an appropriate response. Since the only thing governing corporations is their own bottom line, we need to obstruct the fossil fuel empire to the point where the extraction and burning of oil, coal, and gas are no longer profitable ventures.

Fossil Fools Day is an invitation to take such action. We are calling on communities around the world to throw a wrench in the works of a local fossil fool. Ideas include, but are by no means limited to shutting down gas stations, blockading power plants, occupying coal mines and oil wells, home demos, Critical Mass bike rides, office occupations, targeting banks such as Bank of America and Citi that invest in coal, and disrupting new road construction.

Unfortunately we cannot simply resist fossil fuels and think we are safe. In addition to using old technologies, energy companies are already pursuing a number of new ones to feed industrial society’s insatiable hunger for energy. Nuclear power is seeing a renaissance as companies claim it to be zero emissions (it’s not). Oil companies are setting their sights on agrofuels, which promise to fill the world with more pesticides, more pollution, and best of all, less food! And of course there are the dubious scams called carbon offsets where you can pay a company to plant some trees or install windmills and they promise to “neutralize” your carbon.

The carbon offsets that you can buy do very little to actually reduce emissions. Many are based on a colonial model of “green” development in third world countries that undermine community autonomy, steal indigenous land, and destroy existing self sufficient communities. For example, tree plantations in Brazil — which are a major benefactor of carbon offset schemes — are referred to as “green deserts” by local indigenous people. That is because once biodiverse land is transformed into massive monocrops of exotic trees — paid for by rich northerners supposedly to offset their emissions — these places are off limits to hunting and food gathering. Even if they weren’t, there isn’t much to gather because most of the native plant and animal communities have been killed off. Thus we have carbon offsets not only destroying biodiversity but also actively impeding the ability of communities to live self sufficiently. Perhaps worst of all, carbon offsets perpetuate the notion that we can fight global warming without stopping our use of fossil fuels.

At best, these schemes slightly slow the impending climate collapse, and at worst actually accelerate emissions, continue our dependence on fossil fuels, amplify existing inequalities, and create new social and environmental problems. If we are to successfully fight climate change we must also resist these quick techno-fixes that seek to only fatten the wallets of the world’s elite.

The future is up to us. Thus far, the global movement for climate justice has yet to meet the urgency of the climate crisis with an equal urgency in action. That is not to say that there have not been instances of inspiring resistance. Activists in Australia have shut down the world’s largest coal export facility repeatedly. Farmers in Ireland are using civil disobedience to fight a natural gas pipeline that Shell is building on their land. Indigenous tribes throughout the Amazon physically block oil company access to their lands. In the US there has been strong resistance to new coal plants. In 2006 Earth First! and Rising Tide blockaded a coal power plant in Virginia. In northwest New Mexico people from the Dine’ tribe have occupied the site of a proposed coal plant for over a year.

It is this kind of action we hope to see erupt around the globe on April 1st and beyond. The world has seen enough activists dressed like polar bears holding signs and celebrities posing in front of melting glaciers. It is high time for us to go beyond symbolic action and disrupt business as usual for the fossil fools. A number of actions are already planned in the US and UK. We have a number of online resources, including zines and posters that can be found at and . If you are planning an open action, please let us know and we’ll help get the word out. If you’re planning a pleasant surprise for the fossil fools let us know how it went! Contact us at:

Resistance everywhere – eco-defense in Tasmania

Beyond the southeastern tip of Australia is a small heart-shaped island called Tasmania. The land is ull of sharp natural and cultural contrasts. Indigenous Tasmanians possess the oldest living culture in the world, and the island was the most southern outpost of humans during the last ice age. It is home to large tracts of ancient rainforest, rugged mountains, spectacular coast lines, wild rivers, and many rare and endangered flora and fauna.

Like most of the natural areas on earth, these amazing habitats are under attack from loggers, roadbuilders and industry — which has sparked a vigorous direct action movement to defend the wilderness in Tasmania. Using road blockades, tree-sits and art — we’ve constructed a full-size ship in the middle of a logging road — we’re stopping the chain saws.

Colonial exploitation

The island was invaded by the British in 1803, initially used as a site for the Australian colonies’ most horrific penal institutions, and then as a home for new settlers. Settlers, with the assistance of their convict slaves, proceeded to clear the land and kill native animals that competed with sheep for pasture. Over-hunting rapidly led to the extinction of the the Tasmanian Emu and the marsupial Tasmanian Tiger, a beautiful wolf-like creature. Within 40 years of colonization the Indigenous inhabitants had been dispossessed of their land and the few remaining were shipped off to a remote island to be ‘civilized’ in a harsh Christian mission.

These early acts of brutality towards land, animals and people seem to have set the standard in Tasmania. The early 20th century saw the beginning of mega-dam developments in the lakes of the highlands and western wilderness, which destroyed vast tracts of rainforest. The proposal to flood the stunning Lake Pedder in the southwest wilderness saw a surge in ecological thinking and action, and is seen as the point at which Tasmania developed a potent environmental movement. Despite a strong campaign, Lake Pedder, with its beautiful quartzite beaches, was lost to the insatiable greed of the Hydro Electric Commission. The HEC had total power — they were a government department given full privileges over the island, were exempt from freedom of information, and their locked boom gates kept their destructive work hidden from the public eye. They were an unstoppable force, until they tried to dam the Franklin River. In the early 1980s the Franklin campaign resulted in a massive river blockade. Even though the HEC had started building the dam, the river was saved when the federal Labor Party made it an election promise to save the river, and they won. The Franklin-Wild Rivers National Park is now part of the South West World Heritage Area, the formation of which has been another tireless effort of conservationists.

Around the same time the woodchipping industry started to take a firm grip in the forests, a lot of which were left out of the World Heritage Area due to industry pressure. Conservationists started to shift their focus from the HEC, who had already built more dams than they really needed, to the Forestry Commission. Once again exemption from freedom of information and locked boom gates were an attempt to stop the public understanding what was happening to their common land. Forest blockades have been a regular occurrence in Tasmania ever since.The ’90s saw a lot of action in the Tarkine rainforest, Australia’s largest remaining tract of rainforest.

Attempts were made, but failed, to stop a new road into the heart of the wilderness. Today a small chunk in the heart of the Tarkine has been protected in a reserve, but huge amounts of the rainforest are still torn out and dragged off to the woodchipper. At the end of the ’90s, after heavy industry lobbying and infiltration of the unions, the Regional Forest Agreement was signed off by federal and state politicians. This was an attempt to put into legislation a guarantee of wood supply to the industry, offer weighty compensation if they were unable to log an area, and enable them to over-ride legislation protecting threatened species. It was a huge blow to those fighting for the forests, and many of those that had been struggling for nearly 20 years felt that there was no longer any hope for change.

Time for Direct Action

This is where we came in! The Huon Valley Environment Centre was born in 2001 in the southern Tasmanian town of Huonville, across the road from the chainsaw shop regularly visited by loggers with ‘Save a job, shoot a greenie’ stickers on their trucks. I don’t think most of us realised at the time what had come before us, so there was a lot of youthful enthusiasm to take on the forestry industry in the Southern Forests. The Southern Forests consist of large tracts of ancient old-growth Eucalyptus forests, and some patches of rainforest. These forests lie along the outside boundary of the World Heritage Area, and are therefore open to industry destruction. Our sights quickly focused on the Lower Weld Valley (the upper reaches are in the World Heritage Area), a stunning wilderness valley that had never heard the sound of a chainsaw until very recently. A number of blockades have attempted to stop the building of new roads and a bridge over the Weld River, as well as regular work in logging areas.

Within five years the name “Weld Valley” has gone from being nearly completely unknown to being synonymous with the fight for the forests in Tasmania.

One of the most spectacular actions that has happened in the Weld was the Weld Ark pirate ship blockade. A full-size pirate ship was constructed to block the extension of a road into the deep wilderness, which it did for over a year until it was destroyed by police and Forestry officials in November 2006.

Countless people visited and lived at the Weld Ark camp, which was home to a canopy research station, numerous tree-sits and tripods, a fort, and of course a dragon (lock-on device) in the heart of the ship itself. The Weld Ark was an inspiration to many, and many songs, movies and pieces of art have been produced in its memory. It was devastating for activists when the camp was finally destroyed — bulldozed and set fire to in the middle of the road. An activist who was able to remain in a tree-sit when the camp was raided saw Forestry workers posing in front of the pirate ship with their wives and children, while co-workers took photos of them.

Since then it has been impossible for activists to establish a long-term camp in the Weld due to around-the-clock security, but it has not stopped activists conducting walk-ins, locking on, and setting up tree-sits and tripods, in an attempt to stop work and highlight the destruction to the wider public. In March 2007 the whole of the Weld valley was locked down when activists set up two blocks, one controversially blocking Forestry’s major tourism attraction — an airwalk through the forest canopy. Blocking the road to the airwalk was a young performance artist and activist Allana Beltran, sitting atop a tall tripod dressed as an angel. Matthew Newton, a photographer who has been taking photos of activists in the forests, took a number of breathtaking photos of Allana that now seem to have inspired the nation. The photos made it into national newspapers, magazines, and, television. Additionally, the photographic essay that it was part of was nominated for a prestigious Walkley Award (Australia’s journalism awards). The images were further thrust into the public domain when Forestry Tasmania and the police decided they were going to sue Allana for nearly $10,000 as compensation for lost wages, lost business at the airwalk, and the hire of a crane to get her down. The outcry was enormous. The issue had gone beyond the forests into issues of civil liberties and the right to protest, and people who would never have spoken out about the forests were inspired to action. Luckily, due to all the bad publicity, the police withdrew their compensation claim, but Forestry are still goin
g ahead with their claim which will be heard in court sometime early in 2008.

At the same time, activists from the HVEC have been busy lobbying politicians and the World Heritage Committee (UNESCO, a United Nations group) regarding the threats to the World Heritage Area from logging along its boundary. The World Heritage Committee has always wanted the forests along the border to be added to the world heritage area, and have responded strongly to reports sent to them by HVEC activists. In mid-2007 at the World Heritage Committee meeting in Aotearoa, New Zealand, 21 countries voted unanimously to express concern over the logging along the world heritage area border, including the Lower Weld Valley, Upper Florentine, and Styx valleys, and are sending an inspection delegation to Tasmania in March 2008. With a newly elected Labor Party federal government we are hoping they will take more notice of the World Heritage Committee than our previous decade-long conservative government. But we are not holding our breath! Like all left-leaning major parties in western countries, the Australian Labor Party has moved strongly towards the center and is strongly influenced by industry unions that have been infiltrated by big business during the past decade. The new Environment Minister is Peter Garrett, the lead singer of the famous ’80s band Midnight Oil, who produced songs with strong messages about the environment and Indigenous rights. He is Labor’s new pin-up boy, an attempt to encourage those who might have voted Green to vote for them instead. Unsurprisingly, Garrett has already proven himself completely impotent on important environmental issues.

A few years ago Tasmania’s woodchipping giant Gunns Ltd. (the world’s largest hardwood woodchipping corporation) decided to float a proposal for an extremely polluting pulp mill in northern Tasmania. There has been strong community and national response against the pulp mill. Despite glaring errors in pollution calculations and extreme corruption on behalf of the state government, Peter Garrett recently approved the pulp mill. All Gunns need to go ahead with building the pulp mill is major finance from the ANZ Bank, who are currently the target of a massive boycott campaign run by The Wilderness Society. ANZ are currently biding their time, but it is likely there will be a massive community direct action response if the pulp mill starts to be built.

Gunns Ltd. are a cliché of a dodgy corporation. Its CEO only avoided going to jail for his involvement in political bribery in the early ’90s because he wouldn’t talk. Another board member is Tasmania’s most reviled conservative ex-premier. They treat their workers scandalously, and pay a pittance for public forests thanks to their backhanded deals with equally corrupt politicians. In 2004 Gunns Ltd. decided to sue a wide range of conversationists and activists, including the HVEC, for half a million dollars in relation to actions at woodchip mills and community actions in the Huon Valley. There have already been years’ worth of court appearances, without the case even properly getting started. Gunns is accusing activists of a series of offenses, some provable and others not, but if any of Gunns’ claims are upheld by the Supreme Court, activists will be liable to pay for the whole case, including the cost of Gunns’ expensive lawyers. This means activists could become bankrupt and lose their homes and businesses, as well as risk a life-long injunction order that would jail them for any further action or speaking out against Gunns.

While this case seems minor in comparison to the grand juries in the U.S. which are sending people to jail, the Gunns case is likely to have a massive effect on people’s perceived freedom to speak out, and is extremely disempowering and distracting for many activists.

But the action never stops! There are still regular actions in the Weld Valley, and there is currently a well-established blockade camp in the Upper Florentine Valley which is increasingly gaining attention from the media.

Recently our campaigning efforts have also shifted towards linking the destruction of old-growth forests to climate change, and arguing that the protection of these places is one of the easiest actions to take to help mitigate dangerous climate change. If you must travel, travel to Tasmania and help us out! These forests are a global treasure, so they are yours to fight for too! Check out our websites for more info:

Slingshot issue #96 introduction

Slingshot is an independent, radical, newspaper published in Berkeley since 1988.

In March, the Slingshot collective will celebrate 20 years of publishing. As we finished up this issue, we had a great discussion about what it means to do a radical project like this for such a long time. There have been a lot of changes over 20 years, yet to look at it from one perspective, you could say that politically, economically and environmentally, things have just gotten worse since 1988, despite the energy put into Slingshot. What are you to think when you put your life into a project aiming at social change, and things move backwards instead?

Probably the key to the sustainability of the Slingshot collective has been that we don’t treat it as a simplistic means to an end — insert newsprint and out comes social change. Publishing the paper is part of the way we live our lives joyously and engaged. Making each issue creates community and is intellectually, artistically and politically stimulating. Slingshot is not an action group, but rather a process — a tiny part of a larger culture of resistance.

Looking over 20 years of papers, you notice that we seem to be writing the same article over and over again. We started out writing about People’s Park, wars, police abuse and environmental destruction, and we still are. One could feel discouraged or give up out of frustration, but in the end, staying engaged with these issues means we’re still engaged in our lives. We haven’t just “grown up” and gotten a job, moved to the suburbs, and tried to pretend things are okay. And we aren’t caught in a web of defeat, resignation or cynicism — knowing things are fucked up and getting psychologically broken by it. Instead, we’re fully alive or at least strive to be — feeling the pain of the world and yet still able to feel pleasure, love and freedom. We refuse to let the system win by living wasted, meaningless, despairing lives.

Slingshot doesn’t want to be reduced to a loyal opposition — just writing down the standard, predictable anarchist responses oblivious to whether or not it matters. We hope that by admitting that we don’t have all the answers and having a sense of humor, we can figure out how to react to the “same old issues” with something fresh. While we wish we could just write an article and end capitalism or global warming, 20 years of making a zine teaches you that grappling with social change takes some patience and an intergenerational perspective.

If you dream of living a meaningful, engaged, fun life full of community and energy, your dreams can come true. A huge amazing group came together to make this issue — in sharp contrast to recent, under-staffed issues. It feels easy to imagine another 20 years of Slingshot. [. . . heroic music plays . . . ]

Slingshot is always looking for new writers, artists, editors, photographers, translators, distributors & independent thinkers to make this paper. If you send something written, please be open to being edited. We especially are seeking COVER ART submissions!

Editorial decisions are made by the Slingshot collective, but not all the articles reflect the opinions of all collective members. We welcome debate and constructive criticism.

Thanks to all who made this: Aaron, Chelsea, Compost, Dominique, Eggplant, Gregg, Hefty Lefty, Hunter, Ian, Jess, Jess, Joy, Julia, Karma, Kathryn, Mario, Molly, Moxy, PB, Rugrat, Samantha, Stephanie.

Slingshot New Volunteer Meeting

Volunteers interested in getting involved with Slingshot can come to the new volunteer meeting on Sunday, March 9 (Slingshot’s 20th birthday!) at 4 p.m. at the Long Haul in Berkeley (see below).

Article Deadline and Next Issue Date

Submit your articles for issue 97 by April 12, 2008 at 3 p.m.

Volume 1, Number 95, Circulation 16,000

Printed January 24, 2008

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751 •

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who has a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ‘em out for free.

Back issue Project

We’ll send you a random assortment of back issues for the cost of postage: send us $3 for 2 lbs or $4 for 3 lbs. Free if you’re an infoshop or library. Or drop by our office. Send cash or check to Slingshot to: Slingshot 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Circulation Information

Slingshot is free in the Bay Area and is available at Long Haul and Bound Together Books (SF), plus lots of other places. Contact us or come by if you want to distribute Slingshot for free in the Bay Area.

Subscriptions to Slingshot are free to prisoners, low income and anyone in the USA who has a Slingshot organizer, or cost $1 per issue. International is $2.50 per issue. Back issues are available for the cost of postage. National free distribution program: Outside of the Bay Area, we’ll mail a stack of free copies of Slingshot to distributors, infoshops, bookstores and random friendly individuals for FREE in the US if they give ‘em out for free.

Volume 1, Number 95, Circulation 16,000

Printed January 24, 2008

Slingshot Newspaper

Sponsored by Long Haul

3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705

Phone: (510) 540-0751 •

Letters to Slingshot

Dear Slingshot:

Hello, I am an incarcerated reader who really enjoys your paper. I would like to comment on the Green Scare. There was an in-depth article about this in an old issue of Rolling Stone I recently read. It explained that the entire bust went down due to one snitch. It makes me sad and angry that the government can charge these people as terrorists when no one is hurt. What about the real terrorists — the multinational corporations that poison us and our planet? I’m not condoning the acts of arson that were committed, but motive should also be considered and the motives of the ELF were good and just. I think the long sentences that our friends are facing should instead be given to the crooked lobbyists and politicians that are making our planet uninhabitable.

Also I am in prison for the rest of my life because my best friend lied and snitched on me so I empathize with the true victims of Operation Backfire — The Defendants. If anyone else would like to write me I would appreciate it. — Thanks — Tom Doyle Jr. #1137378, Neal Unit, 9055 Spur 591, Amarillo TX 79107

Dear Slingshot:

For over the last year there has been a tree-sit on the UC Berkeley college campus. The school plans to expand their football stadium and wants to kill a grove of oak trees in the process. A number of students are trying to save the oak trees.

We here at Concord Revolutionary Anarchist People are all for trees and most definitely prefer trees to the construction of more buildings. However, this tree-sit is such a silly “Berkeley” thing. A tree-sit to protect 38 trees? Come on, aren’t there bigger problems in the world and better ways of spending a year’s worth of energy? This is exactly why we dislike college towns. No sense of reality or contact with the outside world. When acres of forest are cut down every day, when tract homes and other types of development are taking over open space and wilderness through the country, when species of plants and animals are going extinct all the time, these people focus this much energy on 38 trees growing in an urban environment?

How much more could be accomplished if these people spent over a year of their life dedicated to something a little bigger? Look, in 1986 Iceland was planning on ignoring the International Whaling Commission moratorium on commercial whaling. That same year two activists spent maybe half a year raising funds and planning to take a one-night action. In this single night they were able to sink half the Icelandic whaling fleet and destroy the whale meat processing plant in Reykjavik — an action that Iceland’s whaling industry is still attempting to recover from.

Tree-sits around the world have led to whole forests being saved from destruction.

38 trees in an urban environment hardly compares. While we do hope that this tree-sit, as with all tree-sits, succeeds, we believe the time and energy could be much better spent in other areas of the world. If the choice, however, would be between this tree-sit and no action at all, we most definitely prefer for the tree-sit to take place.

That all being said, we would also like to point to a future area of probable struggle in the Bay Area. In Concord, California, the Navy base is being handed over to the city government, and they must decide what to do with over 5,000 acres of land. Currently the city is deciding how much of this land should be saved as open space, how much should be used as parks and how much should be used to develop commercial and residential zones. This project has the potential to create 5,000 acres of open space, where there are more than 38 oak trees.

However, things are not looking good. A quick run down on Concord city government recent activities: Recently, a member of the city council, Michael Chavez, died of a heart attack. While we cheer the death of every politician, relatively speaking, he wasn’t too bad. He actually ran on a very pro-open space agenda, and was the deciding vote on not allowing Wal-Mart to build a super center in Concord. Now, due to his death, a replacement has been appointed by the rest of the council; Guy Bjerke a right wing, pro-development jerk (who was very pro-Wal-Mart). Not only this, but members of the city council forced out the old City Manager and replaced her with one of their good buddies, who doesn’t even live in Concord anymore! Now take a look at how much he is going to get paid: $200.00 an hour for 6 months of work. Also, because he no longer lives in Concord, he will also get living expenses, at a rate of $3,600 a month. He will also only work 4 days a week and have a flexible schedule. And to top things off, the city will also be paying for his gasoline bill to and from Penn Valley, where his actual house is, and any other expenses he collects along the way.

Basically, the city government is now made up mostly of super pro-development jerks and their personal friends, and it’s getting worse. Clearly these people only care about money, and the best way to make money is to create more development. These are the people who will be deciding how much of the Navy land should be open space! So the question is, will we see a level of resistance and dedication to protect these 5,000 acres of land from development equal to that of the Berkeley tree-sit? Will the Berkeley tree-sitters and their supporters be willing to step outside of their liberal bubble and attempt the same thing in a town like Concord? Only time will tell, but we know we are starting to plan resistance today.


We received this annonymously — if anyone knows how to contact “CRAP,” please let us know in case folks want to plug into the Concord scene.

Buried under prisoner fan mail

Slingshot has always offered free subscriptions to prisoners and we will continue to do so, but as the number of in-print publication shrinks (with more and more activists switching their energy to on-line media) the amount of time and energy our tiny collective spends doing prison distribution is making us consider our options. We’re now mailing around 1,000 copies of each issue to prisoners, and we get dozens of new subscription requests a week. It isn’t so much the money for postage or printing — the real issue is the time it takes to type in all the new addresses, maintain the list and actually do the mailing. Returns of papers sent to prisoners who move (prisons seem to move prisoners frequently) or rejected by the prison also is a hassle and expensive — $1.44 per copy! Our collective is very small and all-volunteer.

We have four ideas for dealing with this:

(1) We would prefer it if people publishing resource guides of publications that are free for prisoners stop listing us — we’re overloaded just with the current word of mouth.

(2) If you live in the Bay Area and have any energy to help us with our prisoner mailing project, please contact us! We need the most help the week or so before each article deadline, and in the week after the issue gets published (see page 2 or our website for these dates).

(3) We’ve noticed that at some prisons, many prisoners separately subscribe to the paper. If you are a prisoner and someone else on your cell block gets the paper and you can share a single copy, that would help us out.

(4) One idea that would be a lot of work, is for us to figure out prisons that have libraries where we could mail a single copy — we would then just distro to libraries and only mail individual papers to prisoners who were unable to read us in their prison library.

Please let us know if you have other ideas or comments on these ideas, or if you have energy to make any of this happen. Email or write to 3124 Shattuck Ave. Berkeley, CA 94705.

Interstate 69 is stoppable! come to Indiana in 2008 – demand freedom not freeways

It’s 2008 now, and as we mark one decade of anarchist resistance to I-69, it’s clear that we’re entering the critical moment. We’ve always believed that we can defeat I-69, but if we’re to stop this road, we have to do it now.

I-69, an interstate highway that currently runs from Port Huron, Michigan to Indianapolis, Indiana, has been facing a fifteen-year battle to expand in Indiana. According to overall plans for the highway, it would eventually run from the Canadian border at Port Huron, through Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana, before ending in Laredo, Texas. At the US-Mexico border, I-69 is designed to connect to a network of highways, railroads, and other infrastructure projects being built as part of Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) to enable increased trade between Canada, the USA and Latin America. However, the highway has never been completed, in large part due to widespread opposition to its construction in Indiana.

In Indiana, the highway would run from Evansville to Indianapolis along a 142-mile route. That route — the majority of which is “new terrain” and not built over an existing road– would cut through farmland and a wildlife preserve while paving some 5,000 acres of farmland, 1,500 acres of forest, and 3,000 acres of wetlands. The highway is expected to evict 400 families, a few of whom have already signed contracts giving up their homes and lands under the threat of their land being seized by eminent domain.

Construction in Indiana is almost certainly set to begin late in the spring or early in the summer of this year. Over the course of 2007, construction on its connector roads in Latin America has continued or intensified, as has repression against those resisting it, while Canadian multinationals have begun considering investments in sections of I-69 in the American South. The Indiana Department of Transportation began evictions in earnest last summer, though the vast majority of families threatened by the road in Indiana are still on their land.

We are now confronted with a choice. We can organize to take a strong symbolic stand against all of this, to let the world know that what I-69 represents is wrong.

Or we can ask ourselves: What will it take to really stop this highway? And then act according to the answers we develop together, in our communities and in our affinity groups.

Because as I-69 comes closer to becoming a reality — as all the multinationals and other vultures line up to profit from the devastation — it can seem like the highway juggernaut is unstoppable. In reality, as it approaches this phase, it is more vulnerable than ever. Opposition has been building for a long while. All of the assembling bidders can still be scared off, and for the first time, there will be “progress” on the ground. If we choose to, we can impose a crisis on this entire project, an opportunity we don’t often have.

An invitation stands to develop your own autonomous and creative contributions to stopping I-69, or to participate in the collective organizing process initiated by Roadblock Earth First! (among others) at last September’s consulta in Evansville, Indiana. In either case, we recommend forming an affinity group with those you know and trust; getting to know the land, the history of the struggle, and the communities directly affected. And know that whatever path you choose, now’s the time to prepare for action.

Over the last decade, eco-radicals have worked hard to prepare the ground for this moment by building bridges between radicals and residents affected by the highway. The campaign against I-69 has used a variety of tactics to cultivate these connections, among them a “listening project” that allows for dialogue between radicals and others, a bike tour through the area that would be affected by I-69, and “road shows” along the route of I-69.

While resistance to I-69 has been strong for the past fifteen years, direct action tactics have become more common since 2005. That year resistance to the project increased, with a “Roadless Summer” campaign that focused on a variety of private companies including firms funding the project and Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT).

INDOT has admitted that they lack full funding for the project. This lack of funding is a key weakness that can be exploited by radicals organizing against I-69. With an estimated cost of $4.5 billion dollars but only $700 million to fund the road actually on hand, the state of Indiana has turned to unpopular measures to try to fund the road including privatizing it and making it a toll road. Anything that makes the project even more expensive makes its completion more difficult and unlikely — especially as government budgets now face recession-related cuts. Early disruptions in the construction process will throw a huge monkey wrench into the works. If I-69 can be stopped in Indiana, it could kill the whole project since many states are waiting to see how construction in Indiana proceeds.

With the very climate of the earth hanging in the balance, now isn’t the time to let the state and the multinationals sink billions of dollars into even-more highways to move ever more global trade.

For more info, check out, or Or write to to learn about organizing in your area.

Beyond protest

Folks around the world are preparing for diverse, decentralized, absurdist direct actions on Leap Day — Friday, February 29, 2008 — taking seriously the call to use our extra day to smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state. In the Bay Area, Leap Day Action Night will start at critical mass at 6 p.m. in Justin Herman Plaza near Embarcadero BART in San Francisco. The bikes will ride round and round — where the action happens — and what oppressive institutions it targets — no one will know . . . until the water balloons filled with lube begin to fly and the clowns playing flaming brass instruments arrive.

People around the world have been talking with their friends, forming affinity groups and preparing to disrupt business as usual. Leap day is an extra day — a blank slate waiting to be transformed into a spontaneous, inspirational rebellion against the corporations and institutions that are destroying the earth and transforming the amazing experience of being alive into a drag filled with rent, stupid jobs, boring suburbs and polluted freeways.

Every four years in the USA brings another ridiculous Election Year when the system tries to channel everyone’s growing dissatisfaction with the ways we’re getting screwed into a spectacular distraction. Candidates all promise *Change* and the media plays dramatic music while endlessly trumpeting the election process circus to convince you that if only you vote for the right person, if only you buy the right product, if only you drive the right car or starve yourself so you have the right body, everything will be okay, afte rall. And somehow everyone forgets the betrayal of the last election year — forgets that the media and corporations and politicians offering the change are the same ones who created the whole mess in the first place. And the real issues — why is everyone working to make these jokers richer and richer and why are the forests and rivers we used to play in when we were young getting torn up to build another parking lot for another fucking Wal-Mart? — no one talks about the real issues during election year.

Luckily, every four years also brings Leap Day Action Night! Leap day offers an opportunity to go beyond protest — merely decrying what we’re against — and focus on living life in a positive, creative, loving, cooperative, sustainable fashion without domination of others or the earth.

Leap Day Action is not being organized by anyone and yet it will happen in cities and towns everywhere because — without asking permission and without boring meetings, email lists or moldy coalitions — people will act on leap day. At night. The key is a wild brainstorm to figure out what we haven’t tried yet — because all the stuff we’ve been trying hasn’t worked yet. What tactics are too risky or too laughable? Those are precisely the ones that just might be the key to a memorable leap day.

Life can be transformed from dull and ordinary at the most unexpected moments. The January critical mass bike ride in Berkeley was proceeding normally — no cops around, no edgy anger in the air — when suddenly, someone noticed a huge hole in the chainlink fence between the frontage road we were riding on and the 10 lane wide Interstate 80 Freeway. Suddenly, the hum drum of the predictable shattered and bikes were streaming onto the freeway — how many lanes could we shut down? One lane . . . two lanes . . . three lanes. Cars swerving, horns honking. And then we rode, bike lights blinking. And 5 minutes later, we were taking an exit and escaping into the dark — still no police, no tickets — just a brief vision of liberation and resistance!

On LD8, our lives will shift from talking about freedom and liberation to living chaos in real time — getting back to the roots of rebellion instead of running our activist efforts like we’re trying to replicate the computerized, bureaucratic structures of “the man”!

How do you want to spend your Friday Night? What props and costumes and maps of targets and flyers describing a new world will you bring along? In the Bay Area, meet us at San Francisco critical mass bike ride. Everywhere else, organize your own leap day. Leap for it!

Check for info. To get free 17 X 23 inch Leap Day Action Night posters with a space to write your event, email or write LD8, c/o Slingshot, 3124 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705.

In the San Francisco Bay Area: gather at San Francisco critical mass bike ride (Justin Herman Plaza near Embarcadero BART 6 pm) and ride with the mass to the undisclosed location of a leap day action starting at about 8 p.m. Bring costumes, decorations, refreshments, drinks, games, musical instruments, art supplies, dancing shoes, fliers, gossip, your friends, sports equipment, skateboards, puppets, stilts, frisbees, unicycles, toys, pogo sticks, juggling clubs, funny hats, skipping ropes, kites, banners and your dreams & desires for a different reality. Think the unthinkable – demand the impossible! Use your extra day to smash capitalism, patriarchy and the state.

Kiling the park to make it safe

The latest threat to People’s Park in Berkeley — a living testament to the struggle to reclaim land and the dream of sharing it in common — comes in the form of University of California sponspored proposals to “re-design” the park. To defend the park, we need to go to the meetings of the university-appointed advisory board, and we need to be proactive about creating community based process.

People’s Park has always relied on “user-development” — the process of those who use the park collectively deciding what should be done, and then doing it. In 1969, the Park was created spontaneously and without permission. Much in the spirit of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement, People’s Park has been a 39 year experiment in tending gardens, feeding one another, building and keeping up tables and benches, the free clothes rock, the free-speech stage, and providing community. The concept of paid contract workers implementing a design by “experts” that was commissioned by bureaucrats is completely against the nature and unique value of People’s Park.

In a recent Orwellian twist, the design architects hired by UC Berkeley published a report declaring that People’s Park was under-utilized and lacked diversity. In fact, People’s Park has more users per area than probably any other Berkeley park and is arguably one of the more diverse places on Earth. What “lack of diversity” meant in their report was that some well-off, white, “nice” people don’t feel comfortable using the Park.

The semantics of the debate on People’s Park are carefully couched in politically correct wording, seldom using words like “class”, “race”, or “gentrification”. Instead it is worded as issues of “comfort” and “safety”. What’s really going down is that the Park has become a sanctuary for people who are increasingly marginalized. Skyrocketing rents, closed psychiatric wards and spinning times have left many homeless and unwelcome in other parts of the city. It’s challenging all right. In the face of all this, the Park has provided a remarkable service — giving tangible, physical support and more subtly providing a scattered, yet real web of community for those most in need.

Unfortunately this creates a place that is understandably “uncomfortable” to those who are used to more predictable and controlled environments. One is likely to find folks talking to themselves, partying or hustling a few bucks.

Meanwhile the population of both the City of Berkeley and the University of California students has been getting richer and whiter. “Compassion burnout” is exhibited in recent Berkeley anti-homeless legislation and a San Francisco Chronicle columnist spewing homeless hate on the front page. The University, neighbors and rich hill folks would like to see it “cleaned up.” So here we are, the soul of Berkeley and People’s Park teetering in history.

The Park has its problems. The Park is not the cause of these problems. One should look toward economic structures and social dynamics for the cause. In fact, the Park alleviates the symptoms. I shudder to imagine Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley without the Park. The green space and singing birds and freedom is the breath of soul all us city dwellers need.

Of course the common goal is to have the Park inviting and nurturing for all. The challenge is to create this. That is not the same as removing people who make others, who have to witness their difference or suffering, uncomfortable. Instead we should focus on creating an active, diverse and healthy place. Dilute the problems with the solution.

And since People’s Park is a do-it-yourself kind of place, it is upon all of us to make it more how we dream it could be. If folks would like to see more neighbors’ picnics, well bring your neighbors and some food and blankets. There have been great ideas lately of activities for the Park including Tai Chi classes, art shows, movie nights, tea parties, theater, beer-fest etc. Organize an activity! Come to the Park, enjoy it, share music, food, conversation, sun, chess, Frisbee, gardening. People’s Park is yours, believe in the dream of sharing.

A member at the last People’s Park Advisory Board actually passed a proposal for a design “competition”. People’s Park is about cooperation not competition.

If you care about the Park, please come out in support of it now. We are planning a “Quest for Common Ground” process to vision the park in the spirit of cooperation. There will be visioning activities on Sunday Mar 30 (April 6 rain date) and on the Anniversary, Sunday April 27, in the Park.

UC advisory board meetings are on the first monday of each month at 7 pm at 2362 Bancroft Way in Berkeley. Check for the UC architects’ proposal and updates. Please get involved in these processes soon to add our generation’s contribution to this unique legacy.

Harlem community fights gentrification – allied with Zapatistas

Viewed by many as one of the few Manhattan neighborhoods that is not yet completely gentrified, East Harlem — or El Barrio — has been the target of landlords, business owners, and corporate conglomerates who are eager to profit. Movement for Justice in El Barrio has been resisting attempts to push people out of their homes.

For nearly three years, the Movimiento por Justicia del Barrio (MJB) has been fighting gentrification in East Harlem, organizing one building at a time for better housing conditions. Two years ago, they connected their local struggle to struggles worldwide when they joined the Zapatistas’ Otro Campaña (Other Campaign). Since then, they have continued building a grassroots movement in their own neighborhood while articulating a broader struggle against neoliberalism.

The group recently held a presentation at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan. Member Oscar Dominguez began the presentation by providing a background of The Sixth Declaration of the Lacondon Jungle, released by The Zapatistas in June 2005, which identifies capitalism and neoliberalism as the root of many problems facing oppressed groups today. Said Dominguez: “The capitalist system forces people to migrate to other countries.”

Dominguez went on to describe how The Sixth Declaration condemns capitalism for robbing people, destroying cultures, and displacing communities.

Ana Laura Merino then introduced The Other Campaign, a two-tiered campaign that developed from the ideas of The Sixth Declaration. Dedicated to autonomy and direct democracy, The Other Campaign addresses “the need to change Mexico and create a new one,” said Merino.

The campaign involves the Zapatistas working in solidarity with other Mexicans to identify the needs of various communities and determine how to move forward. During the first stage of the campaign, Subcomandante Marcos traveled throughout the 32 Mexican states to listen to people’s problems and take detailed notes. The second stage is currently being implemented as Zapatista delegates travel throughout the country and listen to how people want to overcome these problems.

Due to immigration law, most MJB members were not able to attend the two meetings held in Juarez, Chihuahua, for Mexican immigrants living in the U.S., so instead, they made a video message which MJB member Juan Haro presented in Juarez.

The video, entitled “Message to the Zapatistas,” featured interviews of Mexican immigrants living in El Barrio. They told stories of being forced to leave Mexico due to extreme poverty and having to leave behind their homes and families to find a better life in the US. They also described the problems they faced in the US, such as racial discrimination, low-paying jobs, and poor housing conditions. Lastly, they gave messages of support to The Other Campaign, expressing their hopes of creating a better Mexico and someday returning to their homes and loved ones. “We believe if Mexico changes we can return to our country of origin,” said Dominguez.

Throughout the presentation, MJB members emphasized the importance of autonomous and inclusive organizing, in which the people make decisions for themselves. They frequently brought up the struggles of women, poor people, people of color, lesbians, gays, and transgendered people, noting that it is the most marginalized people who are most hurt by neoliberalism. Haro discussed the importance of connecting these issues so that marginalized groups can come together under “one broad struggle.”

Georgina Quiroz spoke specifically about the repression of women. Quiroz brought to light the unsettling fact that women and their bodies often become collateral in times of political repression. For example, in the Mexican city of Atenco — which has been a hotbed of state repression and civil unrest — sexual assault against women has been frequent. Quiroz ended her talk about women by announcing an upcoming international ecuentro for women. Hosted by the Zapatistas, the encuentro, or gathering, took place on December 27th in Chiapas.

The night ended with Haro sharing a recent victory and next steps. Haro explained how MJB successfully forced millionaire and ruthless gentrifier Steven Kessner to sell the 47 buildings he owned in El Barrio. Shortly after Kessner left town, the buildings were bought up by a multinational corporation based in London called Dawnay, Day Group. Dawnay, Day has since instigated dirty and illegal tactics to force long-term residents to leave their homes. MJB is planning a trip to London to confront the company at their headquarters.

As Movement for Justice in El Barrio continues to organize, the group is helping people better their housing conditions in El Barrio while waging a broader struggle for liberty, justice, and democracy around the world.