Complex

To navigate the inferno, we must rely on each other

This week the streets exploded again. The unrest that has defined this summer finds its latest geographic center, shifting in recent weeks from Kenosha to Rochester, Lancaster to Louisville. It's hard to think of a city that hasn't revolted since George Floyd was murdered, the ebb and flow of the movement finding new intensities as the police continue to kill and get away with it. The scene in Louisville resembles the others: looting and fires, teargas and gunshots, crowds clashing with the cops. The memory of Breonna Taylor is carried by courageous thousands in the dark night of rebellion.

Every day we’re faced with the practical problems of an ongoing movement. How to help the rebellion endure? How to spread new tactics and keep things fresh? How do we keep going, months on end? How do we scale our practices so that more people can participate in more ways? With an eye towards the coming weeks, how do we prevent the movement from being cannibalized by the election—turning marches into Get-Out-the-Vote efforts or, as some have grimly joked, becoming nightly riots for Biden? And how do we stay one step ahead of the police, avoiding the long reach of the state and its digitally-enhanced repression?

The weeks since Kenosha have been hard for us. We're running up against tough questions without precedent in our generation, and which the modern legacy of American protest, from anti-globalization to Occupy, hasn't given us the framework to deal with. How can the struggle against the police and the racial nightmare escalate and expand without incurring a higher level of lethal violence? How do we combat, neutralize, or otherwise defend ourselves from right-wing opportunists and straight-up sociopaths, without ceding any terrain or legitimacy to them? How do we prevent social unrest, eerily foreshadowed by that bloody night in Wisconsin, from tipping over into open conflict between armed factions?

These have been the immediate problems we’re wrestling with, often in conversation with many of you. But reality is no less forgiving. There is no hiding from the questions our epoch poses: the upheaval of our time is so wide-ranging that it touches each of us intimately and will alter our fates. The complex of wildfires in California and Oregon converted the skies a terrible orange, confirming our hypothesis that now is the color of emergency. Everyone stuck inside, choking regardless. Days later the plume traveled across the continent and obscured East Coast skies—particulate matter of burnt houses, animals, and trees suspended in the atmosphere—proving that in this dying civilization no one can breathe.

Whatever the outcome in November, the overall situation is set to deteriorate. The strange case of the militia stopping cars to look for a phantasmal enemy felt like a bad premonition, an all-too-plausible indication of where we’re heading. The looming election promises only chaos and the confirmation of the worst biases in every political corner. Everyone’s fears will manage to come true at the same time, even in contradictory directions. Blue-check liberals subtweet their outrage while they fantasize about which country they would prefer to receive asylum in. Nevermind that we have 200k dead and, due to the pandemic regime, borders are closed and US citizens won’t be going anywhere. Diehard realists and political strategists wargame election scenarios, all of which signal the collapse of democratic legitimacy and the violent fracturing of society. Everyone wants it to end, but no one can imagine positing anything better.

Can a culture war really escalate into a civil war? What we witnessed in Kenosha convinced us that the dreaded conflict is already here. A reprisal in Portland the following week, and an extrajudicial execution in response, while Kyle Rittenhouse skips court dates without consequence. November may burst the bubble of the last fantasies of liberal peace, but we already knew no one was coming to save us. The question we should consider now is not whether there will be more serious unrest and open conflict, or how exactly it will play out in the streets, the courts, and on Twitter. We must ask ourselves how we will choose to inhabit this conflict, what ethical intensities can exceed a left/right cultural war, and what truths will never be expressed in a battle between the adherents of nationalist conservatism and the proponents of neoliberal progress.

Without putting down any of our weapons, how can we refuse that terrain of battle and impose new polarities? How can we bring more and more people into this fight and offer them something beyond a side in the culture war? As millions are losing their attachment to being governed and simultaneously disregarded by a failed state, how can we all illustrate what is possible when we shed this historical weight?


“The People Don’t Need Permission to Feed Each Other”

Santiago de Chile’s community kitchens amid the pandemic and uprising

Benito Brava returns to Territories with an on-the-ground look at the community kitchens which have sprung up in Santiago de Chile in recent months. Autonomous mutual aid practices often arise when governments abandon people—so how do we respond when the state tries to recuperate, or simply repress, such efforts? What responsibility does mutual aid have in a moment of popular revolt, especially when social emergency meets political crisis? This essay explores these questions and more as it weaves together original reportage, Chilean history, and radical analysis.

Despite an uprising’s power to break boundaries of political conflict, participants risk retreating into familiar terrain as revolt stretches on for months and uncertainty takes its toll. As new uprisings around the world erupt in the midst of the COVID pandemic, yet-to happen natural disasters, and resulting economic crises, it becomes imperative to imagine the conditions under which autonomous relief initiatives can contest territory alongside wider revolt.

Read the Article


For David Graeber

Friends of Inhabit share their encounters across the decades

Without hesitation or being asked, David gave our affinity group his credit card back in 2001 after border police seized all our things heading into Quebec City. He insisted we use it to buy helmets, shin guards, etc. After I thanked him profusely, he told me: “This is exactly what I have a job at Yale for.” Cheers and plenty of love to David Graeber from that one small crew of 16-year-olds in army surplus helmets trying to bring down global capital via vandalism and lots of sprinting, the only ones who ever will.

I first met him at this talk we organized in New Orleans in 2010. It wasn't about anything specific, but ended focusing on the student movement that'd just happened in London. As a gift, he gave us a thick shard of glass from one of the windows of the Tory HQ that got smashed when people briefly took over their building.

He happened to be in Austin, TX for the early days of the local Occupy and spoke at the first General Assembly, introducing himself to the crowd only as "David." We were standing in the back, somewhat disgruntled with the libertarian-pacifist-hippy-party vibes of other speakers. Reading us from afar, he approached and said "Oh, I found the anarchists!" Over the next few days, David was in it with us, sitting in awkward meetings, defending the contraband tents, and living the strange now-time of the occupation, perfectly charmed and interested in it all.

Zuccotti Park had already been evicted. There was some action Uptown that night. Against what or exactly where, I don't remember. I was there with friends visiting the city, two anarchists from the Southwest, who wanted to experience Occupy—or at least what was left of it by then. They said while they were in town, they were staying with "our friend David." They introduced us, you and I, by first name only. We exchanged pleasantries, spoke for a few minutes, hung around as the small crowd shouted slogans. I left soon after, not sticking around to the end like you did. Only later did I learn who you were, connect your first name with the last name which was a part of practically every conversation that fall, in those days when it felt like we were capable of anything. We never ran into each other again, but I remember you as kind and humble, a participant in the movement like anyone else—dedicated, sincere, willing to do the work, always ready to fight against the odds.

I’m trying to remember back to ‘09, talking with you and our friend at a cafe in NC. I’m probably giving you shit about what the youth are into. You’re telling me about the new book on debt you’re writing and I’m saying you gotta read Agamben and Benjamin’s essay on capitalism as religion, like the autodidact fuckwit I could be. Our friend is whipping his dreads back and forth. I can’t remember if it was then or at the bar later when we were talking about the book. Maybe H is there. The ethos we share made us co-conspirators, created the possibility of friendship—gave me opportunities to encounter this possibility, without school, without a shared discipline. How we grew apart before Occupy, how I never got the chance to cross paths with you again. I feel fortunate that we could exchange laughs and fistbumps during that time of political uncertainty. That time takes our friends from us, that our enemies conspire with the passing of time to impose tiny little shit restrictions that obliterate experience. We all know the sadness of debt, I feel it anchored to me, an unfulfilled history.


Monthly Reading

Shemon & Arturo on race traitors

Hari Kunzru on the politics of whiteness

Julien Coupat on the revelations of coronavirus

Nikita Gale on life in quarantine

Cory Doctorow on surveillance capitalism

Diana Vela Almeida on extractivism

Leah Penniman on Black land stewardship

Mike Gouldhawke on land as social relationship

Liaisons on the Beirut explosion


Want to chat about the future? Get in touch: hello@inhabit.global.

You’re on Path B,

Inhabit

“The People Don’t Need Permission to Feed Each Other”

Santiago de Chile’s community kitchens amid the pandemic and uprising

Written by Benito Brava

Archival photos from Archivo Fortín Mapocho

As a result of the October 2019 uprising, millions of Chileans have reconceptualized what it means to live and to fight. A new generation of frontliners has emerged as protesters learn to carve out territories for unauthorized public activities and defend them against the police.

But the COVID quarantine measures suspended the October revolt. After months without substantial protests or public activity, hunger protests and olla comunes (community kitchens) emerged throughout Santiago in response to food shortages and the COVID economic crisis. Police deployed the same dispersal tactics they used during the uprising  against both the hunger protests and community kitchens. Police violence against community relief efforts sparked public outrage, especially one video showing a guanaco (armored water cannon truck) running over an olla comun table covered with food.

Similar autonomous relief initiatives have proliferated across the world despite strict government lockdown measures. These initiatives are necessary because of the intentionally unequal distribution of resources across territories and populations. To maintain this inequality amid disasters, government institutions increasingly rely on and account for autonomous relief initiatives to support such zones of abandonment. For example, in Milan, groups of anarchists, communists, and other revolutionary tendencies formed autonomous relief brigades and gained government authorization to use public space and build solidarity between neighbors.

While many hope that autonomous relief initiatives could build new terrains to contest the state and capital, state institutions enforce exceptional forms of surveillance and social control in order to demarcate the scope, potential, and function of autonomous relief. This tension reveals a deeper question that must be answered amid the new uprisings appearing during the COVID pandemic and natural disasters more broadly. In what context could autonomous relief projects serve to contest territory rather than become enmeshed in state apparatuses?

This is not the first time community kitchens have sprouted up in Santiago amid hunger riots. During the Pinochet dictatorship, Santiago’s periphery rioted and organized ollas comunes throughout the 1983-1984 economic crisis. Despite the fear that unauthorized assemblies would face military repression and violence,  people could organize and attend an unpermitted ollas comun. After all, these public gatherings weren’t to discuss politics but to prevent widespread hunger. Yet in these spaces, new political affinities and conspiracies could emerge.

Today’s ollas comunes started in response to fear of an economic crisis amid the October revolt which interrupted the Chilean economy and tanked the peso’s value. Neighborhood assemblies proliferated throughout Santiago and some of their participants formed committees to organize ollas comunes. Back in October, ollas comunes served food a few times a week. They are now a daily occurrence in most neighborhoods.

When COVID hit, neighborhood assemblies moved online and shifted towards discussions, workshops, and publishing efforts. Those dismayed at the empty streets and uninterested in Zoom meetings—particularly the frontliners—deprioritized these virtual assemblies and focused on ollas comunes. Meanwhile, neighbors unaffiliated with the assemblies organized new ollas comunes themselves.

Both the ollas comunes in Santiago and Milan’s neighborhood brigades have faced new forms of surveillance and scrutiny amid the COVID pandemic. Police enforce the lockdowns and residents can only leave their houses after filling out an online form and receiving a permit. After their dispersal of some ollas comunes, Chilean national police established a way for the kitchens and their participants to obtain permits. While Milan’s relief brigades have chosen to get state authorization, the ollas comunes in Santiago have not. As their participants often assert: “the people don’t need permission to feed each other.”

In May, the asamblea libertaria (a libertarian anarchist neighborhood assembly) in Penalolen was invited to help with an olla comun held at an elementary school in a nearby neighborhood. Three people from the assembly showed up to the school with supplies to make 300 sopaipillas. They were greeted by three different groups preparing food: people from Coordinadora Violeta Parra (the Violeta Parra coordinating committee), a neighborhood group formed to rename their street after the folksinger who also distribute milk on a daily basis to children, another Catholic group who makes 300 sandwiches weekly, and a group of moms from the school with to-go boxes and keys to the building. While frying sopaipillas and packing lunches, participants talked gossip and explained different projects in the neighborhood.

While each olla comun focuses on the immediate neighborhood, they have provided the conditions for coordinating across neighborhoods. People from the asamblea libertaria explained that they meet weekly at the Liceo, an anarchist social center with a print shop, popular library, and industrial-sized bakery. At the end of the olla comun, a member from the coordinadora asked if they could use the bakery to make bread for more ollas comunes. As months went on, comrades used the Liceo to make bread for five different ollas comunes in nearby neighborhoods. In the process of coordinating, they met street vendors who would donate their unsold produce to ollas comunes and neighbors with trucks who would transport supplies.

Most olla comun organizers rely on donations from the robust informal economy. 25% of the Chilean economy is informal, a figure which includes the urban poor who pursue independent work and cannot afford taxes or permits. This percentage is less than neighboring South American countries because the Chilean government has waged a decades-long war against unpermitted street vendors, producers, and other independent commerce. Yet it is precisely because of the longstanding policing that olla comun organizers turn to the informal economy instead of seeking donations or resources from major companies and organizations. They choose to facilitate connections within the non-state sanctioned network of production and distribution instead of being dependent on NGO donations, municipal grants, or the national economy.

Many participants in ollas comunes are ambivalent members of opposing political parties: socialists, communists, and UDIstas (right-wing party members). In August, participants in the asamblea libertaria were introduced to Maria, a leader of a three- acre toma (land occupation) where 1500 homeless residents had been squatting land, in order to begin distributing bread to their olla comun. Maria introduced the asamblea libertaria people to the other participants in the toma’s kitchen: “That’s Gloria, who moved here six months ago from Haiti with her family, Margarita who brings donations from her feminist organization, and Jose, our UDIsta friend,” jokingly referring to his right-wing party membership.

Ollas comunes refuse to seek municipal authorization because it entails a dependency on the same political system that has produced the existing unequal resource distribution. After the dictatorship, democracy arrived to Santiago’s periphery as a patronage system. The UDI party, established by politicians of the military regime, gained support in working class neighborhoods through patron/client relationships they developed during the dictatorship. Amid a glaring lack of public infrastructure, UDI politicians would allocate resources that local UDI supporters cared about. To compete with the UDI politicians in office, opposition political parties likewise adopted this party patronage system.

There has been growing disenchantment with the patronage system over the past thirty years as well as fragmentation within the right-wing working class. After decades of compromises with local politicians, long-promised neighborhood improvements rarely come to fruition. As a result, new social organizations—particularly those formed by older generations—often declare themselves “non-political” to escape the patronage system and the unequal resource distribution it has created. Rather than recomposing these fractured party lines, ollas comunes generate new allegiances and affinities within the city. Why be forced to make promises and compromises with state institutions to get a permit when they don’t even give resources in exchange?

The strength of the Milan brigades’ strategy was to enable any group with their own affinities to work independently in public space. Yet this limited the alliances that could form between groups. After all, social distancing entails a reduction in your networks. But to build solidarity with their neighbors, the brigades accepted the legal protection of permits despite the restrictions they entailed. The ollas comunes also reveal that autonomous relief during a moment of revolt is not always so clear-cut. While school administrators are willing for anarchists to volunteer in an olla comun, they would undoubtedly be reluctant to have this alliance on record. Even worse, the makeup of the ollas comunes would reveal potential affinities between an elementary school and a land occupation across the city.

After two months of helping in the olla comun at the toma, the participants from the asamblea libertia began joining in the toma’s anti-police eviction defense. Through developing these relationships with the toma’s coordinators after several unsuccessful police raids, participants in the Liceo’s popular library partnered with toma residents to build and supply a popular library on the squatted land. Despite the purported benefits of protection, legal recognition carries potentially grave legal consequences for the disparate social forces strung together throughout the Chilean uprising.

* * * * *

Despite an uprising’s power to break boundaries of political conflict, participants risk retreating into familiar terrain as the revolt stretches on for months and uncertainty takes its toll. As new uprisings around the world erupt in the midst of the COVID pandemic, yet-to happen natural disasters, and resulting economic crises, it becomes imperative to imagine the conditions under which autonomous relief initiatives can contest territory alongside a wider revolt.

The situation in Santiago may be different from other contexts. In particular, the racialization of resource distribution and state violence in the US has no immediate analog in Chile. Nonetheless, state violence and intergenerational cycles of poverty are endemic to Santiago’s periphery. Parallels can be drawn across the western hemisphere because political governance entails the maintenance of boundaries delineating zones subject to abandonment, structural violence, and slow death. These boundaries are enforced through regulating how social organization develops within a territory and limiting the contexts in which autonomous initiatives can operate.

The conflict between the ollas comunes and state institutions reveals that autonomous relief initiatives can contest territory through normalizing evasion and providing space for conspiracy. By evading forms of surveillance and social control, autonomous relief initiatives have the potential to contest the boundaries of abandoned territories and populations through bringing together disparate, seemingly incongruous social blocs. In doing so, they can further fracture long-standing divisions between privileged and marginalized, between formal and informal, between citizen and criminal, between frontliner and homebound, and between network and organization.

Through these seemingly contradictory alliances, participants realize the irrelevance of their opposed political ideologies and break pre-established forms of political conflicts over resources. Amid uncertainty and the lingering desire for the return to a fictive “normalcy,” autonomous relief initiatives create forms in which inhabitants can re-imagine long-held assumptions of power and authority as their initiatives expand within their territories.

To protect the identities of participants, names and locations have been changed.

Shift

Finding new ground

Hello from Inhabit. We’re still locked out of Twitter, but you can catch us on Instagram (@inhabit.global) and, of course, here in the monthly newsletter Territories.

We’ve got two things for you this time around. The first is an archival text we’re excited to share, a blast from 1970 that’s worth a fresh look today. The second is our monthly reading section, with links to some of the most on-point writing to be found recently.


The New American Revolution

Tom Hayden’s lost vision of ‘power from below’

Everyone knows how the radical Sixties lost ground to the reaction of the Seventies. But what if events had turned out differently? You can practically feel that troubled era straining against itself in this 1970 text, available online for the first time. In this excerpt, SDS guru Tom Hayden imagines a revolutionary way forward that brings Black Power and countercultural “free territories” together into a dynamic strategy that could break the political impasse of his time. For those interested in theories of self-determination, dual power, and autonomous zones, Hayden’s essay is still a powerful read fifty years later.

The Territories will establish once and for all the polarized nature of the Mother Country. No longer will Americans be able to think comfortably of themselves as a homogeneous society with a few extremists at the fringes. No longer will politicians and administrators be able to feel confident in their power to govern the entire US. Beneath the surface of official power, the Territories will be giving birth to new centers of power.

Read the Essay


Monthly Reading

Idris Robinson on the George Floyd Rebellion

Shemon on the Black counter-insurgency

Sanjana Varghese on technological control

Ann Neumann on power & the pandemic

Mushon Zer-Aviv on algorithmic determinism and utopian imagination

Kai Heron & Jodi Dean on climate revolution

Anne Boyer on practices of freedom

Jade Delisle on indigenous ecologies

Claire Evans on the biological and the computational


You’re on Path B,

Inhabit

The New American Revolution

Tom Hayden's lost vision of 'power from below'

Editor’s Preface

During a recent trip to the archives, I came across a long out-of-print book penned by the late SDS leader Tom Hayden. He is one of the best-known figures from the American Sixties, although he is rarely read these days except as a dose of nostalgia. Flipping through the book got me thinking about his tumultuous era: where might all that revolutionary energy have gone, had the arc of history bent otherwise? I was surprised to encounter, tucked into the volume’s conclusion, some ideas whose contemporary relevance struck me as almost uncanny. Excited by this chance find, I’ve reproduced an excerpt below in order to make the text accessible for a wider audience today.

Hayden’s short book Trial, first published in 1970, is primarily an analysis of the infamous case of the Chicago Eight—an odd assortment of radicals and provocateurs, author included, charged with federal crimes in the wake of the 1968 DNC protests. It’s an interesting read, first as historical document and also as eerie foreshadowing of the repression many are already facing for their participation in the George Floyd Rebellion.

But I think it’s the last chapter which is the most relevant for us today. In the book’s closing pages, Hayden searches for a revolutionary way forward given that the mass movements of the previous decade were waning and reaction was setting in. He describes his vision of a New American Revolution: a vast uprising bringing together national liberation movements, Black Power, and a heady mix of student radicalism and the counterculture. It’s a theory of revolution born from the failures of the Sixties—not a fully developed strategy, not equally convincing in all its claims, but a line of thought which may hold lessons for us fifty years later.

While certain terminology feels dated, Hayden’s voice is still fresh and the clarity of his argument is striking. Its central thesis runs something like this. If waves of mass protest alongside moments of fierce resistance—the Sixties having an abundance of both—were insufficient to bring about revolution, then a revolutionary process will also require the creation of “new centers of power” where dedicated groups of people actively build new forms of collective life. The democratic bodies developed this way would be the same self-governing institutions of the future liberated society. ‘Revolution’ could then be understood as the growth of these novel arrangements and their gradual or sudden displacement of existing power structures. This is dual power, in short—a term Hayden explicitly uses here.

Given the ongoing George Floyd Rebellion, I should note that the first guiding principle Hayden offers for this coming revolution is self-determination for people of color. While the language of “internal colonies” is no longer in fashion, his description of the structural inequities facing many communities sadly remains true and his appeal to self-determination remains powerful. As Hayden provocatively argues regarding the radical movements of his time, the idea that Black, Puerto Rican, Chicano, and Indigenous liberation simply means integration into the so-called “American way of life” is a lie sold by the white, liberal establishment. Then as now, they will inevitably see in the shards of a smashed window the frustrated desire to participate in their system rather than the will to destroy, escape, or transform it.

The second principle Hayden outlines is the creation of “free territories,” a concept which has echoes in the autonomous zones spreading today as well as significant overlap with the current of radical municipalism popular in recent years. A free territory is a physical space, like an urban neighborhood or rural commune, where people collectively fashion a new social order in contrast to mainstream society. Importantly, these are not escapist playgrounds—a charge Hayden levels against many of his drop-out peers—but embodied attempts to depose governmental authority at its most basic level, that of everyday life. In Hayden’s revolutionary scenario, a network of free territories would become the ‘new centers of power’ which would have both the vitality and the force to finally overcome the old world.

Hayden’s lost vision of a New American Revolution may have gone unrealized in his lifetime, but the strategic course it charts and the revolutionary promise it contains may still speak to us today. I hope you find this archival text to be of interest and inspiration as we seek our own paths in building and fighting for new worlds.

The New American Revolution: An Excerpt from Tom Hayden’s Trial

If we look at any revolutionary movement, we see that it evolves through three overlapping stages. The first is protest, in which people petition their rulers for specific policy changes. When the level of protest becomes massive, the rulers begin to apply pressures to suppress it. This in turn drives the people towards the second stage, resistance, in which they begin to contest the legitimacy of the rulers. As this conflict sharpens, resistance leads to a liberation phase in which the ruling structure disintegrates and new institutions are established by the people. America in the Sixties experienced primarily the protest phase, but resistance has already become commonplace among the blacks and the young. Temporary periods of liberation have even been achieved—as when students occupied Columbia University for one week and learned they could create new relationships and govern themselves. Of course, these experiences only provide a glimpse of liberation as long as the government has sufficient police power to restore university officials to office.

In the resistance phase it becomes necessary to lay plans for defeating the police and building a new society. It is a time of showdown in which the government will either crush the resistance and restore its own power, or undergo constant failure, eroding its own base to a very dangerous point. Because it challenges the legitimacy of the way things are ordered, resistance acquires the responsibility of proposing and creating new arrangements.

The general goals of American revolutionaries are not too difficult to state. We want to abolish a private property system which, in its drive for new markets, benefits only a few while colliding violently with the aspirations of people all over the world. We want a transformation in which the masses of people, organized around their own needs, create a new, humane, and participatory system.

What is less clear is the kind of structural rearrangement that will be required to achieve these goals. A radical movement always begins to create within itself the structures which will eventually form the basis of the new society. So it is necessary to look at the structure of motion-now-in-progress to understand what must be destroyed and what must be built. We need a new Continental Congress to explore where our institutions have failed and to declare new principles for organizing our society.

The first principle of any new arrangement is self-determination for our internal colonies. In the Seventies the Third World revolutions will sharpen not only on other continents but here inside the US. The black ghettos are a chain of islands forming a single domestic colony. The same is true of the Puerto Rican people struggling for independence in San Juan, New York, and Chicago; the Chicano people of the Southwest; and the Asians and Indians struggling in their small urban and rural communities. The concept of "integration," which so dominated consciousness in the Sixties, is now blinding most people to the new reality of self-determination. Underlying the desire for integration is the even deeper belief that America is "one nation, indivisible." It seems unthinkable that this country might literally be broken up into self-determining parts (nations on the same land), yet that is more or less what is evolving. The failure of the US to make progress in the areas of education, jobs, housing, and land reform here at home, the constant recourse to repressive violence at a time when the "revolution of rising expectations" is nowhere stronger than in America, can only make Third World people turn towards independence.

The second principle of rearrangement should be the creation of Free Territories in the Mother Country. Already we are seen as alien and outside White Civilization by those in power. It is necessary for us to create amidst the falling ruins of this empire a new, alternative way of life more in harmony with the interests of the world's people.

Abbie [Hoffman] is a pioneer in this struggle, but so far "Woodstock Nation" is purely cultural, a state of mind shared by thousands of young people. The next stage is to make this "Woodstock Nation" an organized reality with its own revolutionary institutions and, starting immediately, with roots in its own territory. At the same time, the need to overcome our inbred, egoistic, male, middle-class character, and especially to create solidarity with Third World struggles, has to become a foremost part of our consciousness.

The new people in white America are clustering in ghetto communities of their own: Berkeley, Haight-Ashbury, Isla Vista, Madison, Ann Arbor, rural Vermont, the East Village, the Upper West Side. These communities, often created on the edge of universities, are not the bohemian enclaves of ten years ago. Those places, like Greenwich Village and North Beach, developed when the alienated were still a marginal group. Now millions of young people have nowhere else to go. They live cheaply in their own communities; go to school or to various free universities; study crafts and new skills; learn self-defense; read the underground press; go to demonstrations. The hard core of these new territories is the lumpen-bourgeoisie, drop-outs from the American way of life. But in any such community there is a cross-section of people whose needs overlap. In Berkeley, for example, there are students, street people, left-liberals and blacks, together constituting a radical political majority of the city. Communities like this are nearly as alien to police and "solid citizens" as are the black ghettos.

The importance of these communities is that they add a dimension of territory, of real physical space, to the consciousness of those within. The final break with mainstream America comes, after all, when you literally cannot live there, when it becomes imperative to live more closely with "your own kind."

Until recently people dropped out in their minds, or into tiny bohemian enclaves. Now they drop out collectively, into territory. In this situation feelings of individual isolation are replaced by a common consciousness of large numbers sharing the same needs. It is possible to go anywhere in America and find the section of town inhabited by the drop-outs, the freaks, and the radicals. It is a nationwide network of people with the same oppression, the same institutions and language, the same music, the same styles, the same needs and grievances: the very essence of a new society taking root and growing up in the framework of the old. 

The ruling class views this pattern with growing alarm. They analyze places like Berkeley as "red zones" like the ones they attempt to destroy in Vietnam. Universities and urban renewal agencies everywhere are busy moving into and destroying our communities, breaking them up physically, escalating the rents, tearing down cheap housing, and replacing it with hotels, convention centers, and university buildings. Politicians declare a "crime wave" (dope) and double the police patrols. Tens of thousands of kids are harassed, busted, moved on.  

* * *

In every great revolution there have been such "liberated zones" where radicalism was most deeply rooted, where people tried to meet their own needs while fighting off the official governing power. If there is revolutionary change inside the Mother Country, it will originate in the Berkeleys and Madisons, where people are similarly rooted and where we are defending ourselves against constantly growing aggression.

The concept of Free Territories does not mean local struggles for "community control" in the traditional sense—battles which are usually limited to electoral politics and maneuvering for control of funds from the state or federal government. Our struggles will largely ignore or resist outside administration and instead build and defend our own institutions.

Nor does the concept mean withdrawal into comfortable radical enclaves remote from the rest of America. The Territories should be centers from which a challenge to the whole Establishment is mounted.

Such Free Territories would have four common points of identity:

First, they will be utopian centers of new cultural experiment. "All Power to the Imagination" has real meaning for people experiencing the breakdown of our decadent culture. In the Territories all traditional social relations—starting with the oppression of women—would be overturned. The nuclear family would be replaced by a mixture of communes, extended families, children's centers, and new schools. Women would have their own communes and organizations. Work would be redefined as a task done for the community and controlled by the workers and people affected. Drugs would be commonly used as a means of deepening self-awareness. Urban structures would be destroyed, to be replaced with parks, closed streets, expanded backyards inside blocks, and a village atmosphere in general would be encouraged. Education would be reorganized along revolutionary lines, with children really participating. Music and art would be freed from commercial control and widely performed in the community. At all levels the goal would be to eliminate egoism, competition, and aggression from our personalities.

Second, the Territories will be internationalist. Cultural experiment without internationalism is privilege; internationalism without cultural revolution is false consciousness. People in our Territories would act as citizens of an international community, an obstructive force inside imperialism. Solidarity committees to aid all Third World struggles would be in constant motion. Each Territory would see itself as an "international city." The flags, music, and culture of other countries and other liberation movements would permeate the Territory. Travel and "foreign relations" with other nations would be commonplace. All imperialist institutions (universities, draft boards, corporations) in or near the Territory would be under constant siege. An underground railroad would exist to support revolutionary fugitives.

Third, the Territories will be centers of constant confrontation, battlefronts inside the Mother Country. Major institutions such as universities and corporations would be under constant pressure either to shut down or to serve the community. The occupying police would be systematically opposed. Stores would be pressured to transform themselves into community-serving institutions. Tenant unions would seek to break the control of absentee landlords and to transform local housing into communal shelter. There would be continual defiance of tax, draft, and drug laws. Elected officials would serve the community or be challenged by parallel structures of power. Protest campaigns of national importance, such as the anti-war movement, would be initiated from within the Territories. The constant process of confrontation would not only weaken the control of the power structure, but would serve also to create a greater sense of our own identity, our own possibilities.

Fourth, they will be centers of survival and self-defense. The Territories would include free medical and legal services, child-care centers, drug clinics, crash pads, instant communication networks, job referral, and welfare centers—all the basic services to meet people's needs as they struggle and change. Training in physical self-defense and the use of weapons would become commonplace as fascism and vigilantism increase.

Insurgent, even revolutionary, activity will occur outside as well as inside the Territories. Much of it will be within institutions (workplaces, army bases, schools, even "behind enemy lines" in the government). But the Territories will be like models or beacons to those who struggle within these institutions, and  the basic tension will tend always to occur between the authorities and the Territories pulling people out of the mainstream.

The Territories will establish once and for all the polarized nature of the Mother Country. No longer will Americans be able to think comfortably of themselves as a homogeneous society with a few extremists at the fringes. No longer will politicians and administrators be able to feel confident in their power to govern the entire US. Beneath the surface of official power, the Territories will be giving birth to new centers of power.

In the foreseeable future, Free Territories will have to operate with a strategy of "dual power"—that is, people would stay within the legal structure of the US, involuntarily if for no other reason, while building new forms with which to replace that structure. The thrust of these new forms will be resistance against illegitimate outside authority, and constant attempts at self-government.

Mother Country radicalism will have its unique organizational forms. Revolutionary movements have turned towards the concept of a centralized, disciplined, nationally-based "vanguard" party which leads a variety of mass organizations representing specific interests (women, labor, students, etc.). This organizational form is logical where people are already disciplined by their situation (as in a large factory) or where the goal is "state power." But it is not so clear that such an organizational form is necessary—at least now—for Mother Country radicalism. Certainly the excessive individualism and egoism which dominate the culture of young people must be overcome if we are going to survive, much less make a revolution. But the organizational form must be consistent with the kind of revolution we are trying to make. For that reason the collective in some form should be the basis of revolutionary organization.

A revolutionary collective would not be like the organizations to which we give part-time attachment today, the kind where we attend meetings, "participate" by speaking and voting, and perhaps learn how to use a mimeograph machine. The collectives would be much more about our total lives. Instead of developing our talents within schools and other Establishment institutions, we would develop them primarily within our own collectives. In these groups we would learn politics, self-defense, languages, ecology, medical skills, industrial techniques—everything that helps people grow towards independence. Thus the collectives would not be just organizational weapons to use against the Establishment, but organs fostering the development of revolutionary people.

The emphasis in this kind of organization is on power from below. It begins with a distrust of highly centralized or elite-controlled organizations. But we should also recognize that decentralization can degenerate into anarchy and tribalism. Collectives must stress the need for unity and cooperation, especially on projects which require large numbers or when common interests are threatened. We should seek the advantages of coordinated power while avoiding the problem of an established hierarchy. A network of collectives can act as the "revolutionary council" of a given Territory and a network of such councils can unite the Territories across the US. In addition to such political coordination, the Territories can be united through the underground press and culture, through conferences and constant travel.  

* * *

Finally and above all, the concept of Free Territories does not imply that the youth movement is already "revolutionary," except in its potential. Free Territories are only a form in which the struggle goes on. Both the "student movement" and the "youth culture" still must deal with the permeation of white, male, middle-class attitudes. Neither students on strike nor stoned freaks in the street constitute a real revolutionary force. There must be still more transformation of our character on all levels. Male chauvinism must be overthrown in the political movement and the rock culture; individualism and egoism must be replaced by a collective spirit; narrow, middle-class demands for privilege must be replaced by demands in the interest of the taxpaying masses.

Such a transformation might seem impossible in the Western cultural context of “rugged individualism,” comic book cowboys, and Dick Tracy. If our generation has produced one classic political type, it is Macho Man, the swaggering, aggressive political or cultural hero. This personality type is pernicious to revolutionary change because it is driven by the same status needs that pervade the larger society. Not only does this ego-tripping contradict revolutionary values, but it becomes suicidal in a period of approaching fascism. In a time of resistance and extra-legal activity, with agents everywhere, there is no outlet for those who must tell the world (or at least their “chicks”) of their feats. We need a “revolution in the revolution” to deal with this continuing arrogance.

The most burning need for a change in our attitude lies in our relationship to Third World liberation struggles. The creation of Free Territories in the Mother Country is not separate from the national liberation battles of Third World people. The Territories are a way to prepare for the vast international uprising which will be the next American Revolution.

We must not follow the chauvinist path taken by the Left in other colonial periods. Our support for black liberation must be unconditional. We must begin by making it clear that there will be no racism and no racist escapism in the peace movement or in Woodstock Nation. If we are serious about becoming new men and women, free of the bloody legacy of white American civilization, then we have the responsibility of becoming the first white people in history to live beyond racial definitions of interest. There is something racist about “Woodstock Nation”—not the familiar racism of George Wallace, but an attitude of distance that comes from living in the most comfortable oppression the world has ever known. We are constantly in danger of escaping into a cultural revolution of our own, a tiny island of post-scarcity hedonism, pacifism, and fantasy far from the blood and fire of the Third World.

White radicals can follow the path of their own legitimate revolution, however, without abandoning the Vietnamese and the blacks. In fact we cannot realize our own needs without the destruction of the same colonial system that brutalizes the Third World. We are at one end of a line of resistance whose other end is rooted in black America and the Third World. Young white people today, whether working-class or middle-class, are the first privileged generation with no real interest in inheriting the capitalist system. We have experienced its affluence and know that life involves far more than suburban comfort. We know further that this system contains its own self-destruct: racism, exploitation, and militarism lead nowhere in the contemporary world but to war and waste. As we look out over the top of imperialism we should be able to see that our true allies are those who live below and beyond its privilege, the wretched of the earth.

Certainly there is a gap between the children of affluence and the children of squalor. Our need for a new life style, for women's liberation, for the transformation of work, for a new environment and educational system, cannot be described in the rhetoric of Third World revolution where poverty, exploitation, and fascist violence are the immediate crisis. We cannot be black; nor can our needs be entrusted to a Third World vanguard of any kind.

But our destiny and possible liberation cannot be separated from the Third World vanguards. The change toward which we are inevitably moving is one in which the white world yields power and resources to an insistent humanity. There is no escape—either into rural communes or existential mysticism—from this dynamic of world confrontation. By our deeds each day we are determining what role, if any, we will have in the world's future. What we have and have not done, for Bobby [Seale], and for Cuba, and for Vietnam, measures exactly our stature in the new world being created.

Some will cry that this cosmic formulation denies the issue of priorities. How shall it be settled whether to work first against racism, or the war, or male supremacy, or the production speed-up? Historically the white Left has argued that colonial liberation should wait for socialist revolution or be submerged in a black-white working-class coalition. In the same vein, some Panthers today argue that the women's movement should wait until blacks are liberated. Special interests seem constantly in danger of being betrayed, and so we fragment into groups with particular, immediate priorities.

At first this fragmentation appears hopeless. But the fact that so many different people are moving at once for their own liberation suggests an inspiring possibility. We are living in a time of universal desire for a new social order, a time when total revolution is on the agenda: not a limited and particular "revolution" for national identity here, for the working class there, for women here—but for all of humanity to build a new, freer way of life by sharing the world's vast resources equally and fraternally. The world's people are so interdependent that a strike for freedom anywhere creates vibrations everywhere. The American empire itself is so worldwide in scope that humanity has for the first time not only a common spirit but a common enemy. Through their particular struggles, more and more revolutionaries see the possibilities of the "new man" envisioned by Che Guevara. Formed in an international upheaval, such a human being would be universal in character for the first time in history. To become such a whole person in the present means fighting not only around immediate self-interest but against all levels of oppression at once.

It is in this context that priorities, especially the priority of Bobby Seale's trial, should be understood. Vanguards will be discovered in action, and priorities will be created where total showdowns between the status quo and revolution appear. Bobby's case, and the repression of the Panthers generally, embodies just such a showdown. Bobby and the Panthers were the first to raise the battle cry of liberation inside America, the first black revolutionary party with an internationalist perspective, the first to threaten imperialism totally from within. The US government certainly sees the Panthers this way; that is why it is attempting, through Bobby's trial, to demonstrate that genocide awaits all who rebel. All those who value their own liberation must go with the Panthers and Bobby as they become symbols of humanity making a time-honored stand: Freedom or Death.


A Note on the Text

I have reproduced the second half of chapter 16, “The New American Revolution,” from Tom Hayden’s book Trial (Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970). I have omitted the first portion of the chapter, largely dealing with the specific political situation at the time, which I do not consider to be as directly relevant today. An earlier version of Hayden’s essay was first published in the July 1970 issue of Ramparts and contains slight variations from the later book edition.

Heat

Their order crumbles as our power grows

The rebellion endures. Just last night, thousands marched in New York, Seattle, and elsewhere. In Portland, massive crowds equipped with the next level of PPE—helmets, shields, and leaf blowers—tore down a portion of the fence around the federal building. In Austin, Richmond, Eugene, and Louisville there was new carnage as gunfire escalates nationwide, leaving one comrade fatally wounded. In Atlanta, a crowd decimated the facade of an ICE building and in Seattle a juvenile detention building site caught fire. The uprising is deepening and a new courage is emerging, bringing the fight into the next month.

ICYMI, we published an extended essay on the George Floyd Rebellion in our last newsletter. Thanks to all those who read, commented, and shared their thoughts with us. The article is now available in French and Italian translation for our friends abroad. A zine edition is in the works too—look for copies at your nearest autonomous zone.

For this month’s edition of Territories, we’ve got 2 brand new pieces for you in addition to a new ‘monthly reading’ section. Check it out below.

By the way, if you were wondering about our recent Twitter silence—we’re locked out of our account. Hoping to get that resolved asap so we can get back into regular communication with all of you.


American Summer

A youth-oriented primer on race, revolution, and repression

Bella Bravo returns to Territories with a new reading and movie list geared towards youth finding their way amid the ongoing revolt. Some of these you may have heard of, others maybe not. No matter our age, we have much to learn—and inspiration to draw—from the brilliant resources collected here.

This is for youth, but also for those of us reckoning with a history of resistance that did not become revolution, a history of the status quo being preserved. We may march into the future chanting words we know by heart, but we need to find a way for the scripts written for us to burn like the Third Precinct.

Check Out the List

Vacating the Fire Temple

Finance rules the world. Is there a way out?

This crash course in the inner workings of the economy comes courtesy of an anonymous contributor. Opening with a wild glimpse into a post-2008 subculture called FIRE, the author walks us through the topsy-turvy world of finance, weighs predictions of the Greater Depression then turns to a critique of economy as such. This is essential reading for anyone who wants to better understand the volatility of the moment, not to mention the voraciousness of capital.

Between the pandemic and the uprising, 2020 is very much the year of hindsight. But it’s also just the latest installment in a series of unforeseeable catastrophes, punctuated by the occasional black swan event. Within the ever-worsening storm of the last decade, the world clings and bobs along with the same buoy it’s held onto for its security since the inception of the liberal order: the economy.

Read the Essay

Monthly Reading

We’re trying out a new section in Territories, plugging work we find especially thoughtful and timely. Want to see something featured here next time? Let us know at hello@inhabit.global.

Jarrod Shanahan and Zhandarka Kurti on the anti-police movement

Micol Seigel on police abolition and electronic surveillance

Ingrid Burrington on our era’s intertwined crises

Yannick Marshall on the institution of the police and maroon communities

Nick Estes on indigenous sovereignty

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney on the undercommons (Part 1 + Part 2)

Phil Neel on the crowned plague

Cade Diehm on decentralized technologies


Stay together, stay tight.

You’re on Path B,

Inhabit

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