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commune against civilization

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commune against civilization

Dispatch #1 from an uninvited guest on

It’s been one year since the Olympia railroad blockade of 2016 found itself growing for 7 rainy days and nights, prompted by solidarity actions with Standing Rock and eventually culminating in a fierce street fight with the police, while the baleful sound of the train whistle announced the resumption of business as usual. One year after this rupture, one revolution around the sun later, an assortment of the brave and the heartbroken, the tender and the enraged, are at it again. The hot, communal mess splayed across the train tracks has been resurrected, appearing again like a recurrent dream. Immediately, it feels like it never left us. Immediately we know that it never did.

This year, the festivity and rage happened to kick off on Nov.17th, at the same exact moment that the streets of Athens, Greece were erupting 6,000 miles away in fiery combat against the police, as anarchists and their friends observed (with riots) the 44th anniversary of the Athens Polytechnic university uprising that shook the Greek military dictatorship of 1967-1974, further catalyzing its decline. That upheaval, nearly half a century away now, saw a tank crash through the gates of the school, its drivers and their superiors perhaps knowing but not wanting to believe that their time had come. It was this cycle of events launched the Greek anarchist movement– pride and inspiration of anti-capitalist rebels the world over– into the contemporary era, swelling and bursting again in the generalized Greek insurrection of December, 2008 after 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was murdered in cold blood by police in the Exarchia neighborhood. We send warm greetings to the comrades on Greek territory. These nights still belong to Alexis.

Speaking of territory, this alleged place known as “Olympia” is nothing other than a fictional geopolitical entity. It’s a cover. The spot was taken from its original inhabitants through a combination of lies and brute, genocidal force, its use denied to them or strictly regulated ever after through state machination and cynical capitalist maneuvering. Its non-human inhabitants silenced, exploited, and exterminated to the point of an eradication that is ongoing (while even among the privileged and pale-skinned the rates of cancer continue to climb). Its operations of surplus accumulation were achieved through the imposed grinding misery and racism of immigrant labor and the customs of sundown towns. Like all the cities and towns of the Empire, it is an unliving monster, an aggregate of production and consumption whose perpetuation of its version of life is incidental to the continued mass extraction of resources and profit.

Contrary to the admonitions of those who would much rather see everything return to “normal,” none of this is ancient history. In light of current events, and every new attack on the dispossessed, this past isn’t so very long gone at all. As we learned from Asheville, NC on May Day a few years ago and in innumerable clashes every since, the past doesn’t pass.

Industrial Infrastructure, White Supremacy, and You

Once again, there will be lies uttered on all sides about the anarchists, anti-authoritarians, anti-fascists, queers, and indigenous militants and activists who constitute the blockade, the array of those who love and support it. The liberals (even the “anarchist” ones!), conservatives, fascists, police, port commissioners, local progressive politicians, and shoppers will take turns casting doubts, condemnations, and fretful worries all over the thing. This does not necessarily trouble us, at least not any more than living through the terminal phase of terrestrial life on the earth troubles us, with its profound and rotten malaise in all hearts, its blood on all hands. Just as we don’t necessarily mind having the same debates and discussions year after year in the meetings and general assemblies. After all, even the most intransigent among us started somewhere.

Aside from the cascading catalogue of horrors, what is most troublesome during this– possibly the most critical moment in our own lives so far regarding the prospects for life and freedom in this world– are those who, while calling us “comrade,” would split and mutilate the full social and ecological context of the catastrophe.

Of course, politicians will select the issue of fracking or of “hate groups” or anything else and isolate them from the rest of the nightmare in order to drum up votes for their campaign. And it’s no surprise anymore either when fascists commandeer the increasingly pressing concerns of ecology, community, or autonomy for their own twisted agenda, refracting valid and resonant issues through the prism of their narrow, poisonous, sad, and deeply mistaken answer to the apocalypse. And centrists? Who knows or cares what they even think?

But it’s time (once again) that we make ourselves clear to our would-be accomplices: there are no industrial projects that are any more redeemable than fracking. Fracking, divorced from the greater context, is a side issue.

Civilization itself is the equivalent of an ongoing fracking operation. Every single day that elapses while the industrial infrastructure stands yields an amount of toxifying waste which is the same as an Exxon-Valdez oil spill. And that’s not from “accidents” or “disasters.” That’s the normal, non-disastrous functioning of the system. If the syndicalists and social ecologists among us (some of whom have indeed made valiant contributions to holding down anarchist spaces and bolstering blockades) have the stomach to look– and look deeply– into the basis for any of the structures of capital, be they railroads, ports, mines, factories, solar panels, or co-operative grocery stores… it’s hard to imagine they would like what they would find.

The railroad feeds the Port of Olympia, and moves fracking materials out to the Bakken oil fields. But why don’t we hear more or care more about the fact that it also continuously ships the massified, butchered bodies of old growth trees to far-flung places, all in order to line the pockets of timber barons? Or that it also feeds the enterprises that produce plastic bottles and soda (I invite you to research what plastic is, research the effects of even a miniscule amount of plastic on living bodies. If you do, you might realize that recycling is more a cruel and hilarious con job than a solution).

But it doesn’t stop there. Without railroads and the infantile, Europeanized artifice of a world that needs them, there would have been no impetus for the near-total annihilation of the American Bison. That ruthless, mechanized slaughter was not only undertaken to complete the railroads (with the coerced help of the broken, brutalized bodies of immigrant Asian laborers), but to disrupt the ancient and symbiotic relationship between the grass-eating fauna of this land and its human inhabitants. Go to the Midwest and behold the cracked, dry, desertifying remnants that pass for soil, the once-ecstatic skin of the earth which took thousands of years to build up, inch by inch, but took only a few generations to wipe out utterly. Look at the “corn” that sits in place of the prairie, growing only because of its genetically-modified nature and the millions of gallons of synthetic, oil-based fertilizer dumped on it year after miserable year. Learn for yourself about the “Green Revolution” in agriculture between the 30’s and the 60’s, about it’s furtherance of the iron-fisted subjugation of the so-called Third World, about the prelude to neo-colonialism that it represents, and then see if you can tell the enemies of civilization that they, somehow, are the “genocidists.”

A question: If you, yourself, are not willing to go clear the land of its original inhabitants, dig a mine, forcibly shovel carcinogenic filth down each and every one of their throats, force native children into schools to “learn,” split communal structures into the atomized boxes of private-property-based nuclear families, then why on earth would you feel entitled to the products of a mine? Solar panels?

Probe into the hellish annals of His-story long or far enough and realize: Genocide is inseparable from patriarchy is inseparable from ecocide. Tug on one strand or sinew of the web of domination and watch the others stretch and yawn, before reaching out for you.

The technologies dreamt up, designed, bought and paid for by millionaires, military scientists, and white supremacist techie gentrifiers cannot but do what they have been brought into existence to do. Text groups are not a community. Our “communities” are not even communities. Until the machinery grinds to a halt and we really decide who feels entitled to its fruits, until we determine whether or not everyone (near and far, human and otherwise) affected by them can live and die in a dignified manner with their operation, we are not a community. As long as a single cop shop remains, as long as they lock food up in stores and charge us ransom to get it out of there, then we will not have realized even a paltry vision of freedom.

The Beginning of the End

A walk through camp this morning yielded these primary sounds: laughter, song, a few puppies at play giving out the occasional slight growl or yip followed by the coos or the gentle reproaches of the doting people at their side, old friends catching up, new friends being made, the rustling of food containers and some chomping from the kitchen, the crackle of wood coals in the metal drum mingling with the smell of wood smoke in my nostrils, reminding me of the aroma of my grandmother’s hearth in the earliest days I can remember on the other side of this Turtle Island, on the other side of a life that, for all its pain and failure, has been worth the living.

In camp, even those few who have little affinity or liking for each other begin to cooperate, the notes sounded between them soften. Arguments occasionally boil or simmer, tempers flare, but when they cool again understanding has deepened. Relationships take effort, but also time and space. Healing and truth sink into us only gradually, but our patience is rewarded. At long last, we let that which is petty truly slide. There is not much else to do in the face of our shared goal as it finally shimmers momentarily on the horizon: life in common.

Who cares that we must neutralize yet another troll this morning, or initiate more accountability proceedings for those lost in a cycle of abusiveness, or even eject the incorrigible? What matter that there are apparently napalm-wielding fascists who live in that tunnel over there? So what if the climax of this chapter is another pitched battle? Chances are that everyone you know is having a hard time. We are all hurt, scared, fed up, anxious to the point of despair and rage. This way of life suits not one of us, and we don’t want to perpetuate it anymore.

Most everyone can feel it, but I will give it a name for you: Life in the blockade is a small step away from the life of civilization. Let the most aghast and scandalized of the Leftists riot and curse our names if they don’t want to come to grips with this fact. But just think, if we all leave our “homes” in the cold, rainy nights of November in order to go live together outside, to split up responsibilities in an egalitarian fashion and share in our joys and pains in the open air, if we develop autonomous and effective communal structures and customs of communication, decision-making, and conflict resolution, if we care for the young and vulnerable together and blur lines of ownership, if the goal increasingly being enunciated by the communards is not the attainment of this or that concession from those in power but instead for this to never end… if we stop this fucking train in favor of a life where we only take from the land that which we can eventually give back, in a continuation of the dance that has existed since time immemorial… then why shy away from the implications of our project? Why recoil from the next steps? This is objectively a de-civilizing trajectory, and we couldn’t be more pleased.

The continued existence of the Port of Olympia offers us next to nothing. It’s abuses and injuries far, far outweigh any potential benefit. The furred, feathered, and scale-clad denizens of our only home, the plants and mountains and seas, have never needed infrastructure such as this, and human people are no different. Those who insist that we are– that without the structures of bosses, cops, scientists, and rapists that we would collapse into a heap– have a particularly deep-seated case of Stockholm Syndrome. They are in love with their captors.

We must hurry to wipe the port off the map before another manipulator convinces us that to do so is madness. We must do the same with all the rest of the colonizer’s fictions. Finally, we must tear the map itself to ribbons and scatter it to the four winds. There is a world whose heart still beats, however faintly, waiting for us to live inside it.

Others have said it before us: expand the terrain of struggle, communize everything, demand nothing. If those in power don’t know what they can possibly do to placate you, then power will begin to slip like sand through their fingers and flow to you and yours. Give nothing and expect even less from the aspiring managers of social struggle. Mercilessly mock and cut down those who would assume a leadership based on anything other than the confidence and consent of their peers, or who would pacify the legitimate rage of the exploited.

FRIENDS, NEAR AND FAR, hear the cries of the comrades of the Grey Coast cluster: We are not going back to normal. Solidarity actions must proliferate everywhere. Autonomous blockades and actions (unconnected with any government, political party, trade union, top-down federation, or advocacy group) must roar into life. Form affinity groups or act alone and spread the revolt horizontally (by the multiplication of easy reproducibility, not by the addition of membership lists).

If we can do it, so can you. Strike, occupy, sabotage, disrupt, take over. Sever the tentacles of the unliving beast and open up space for the holiday without end.

It was true back then and it’s true now: we are an image from the future. Get going.

With love and free shit for the comrades,
With egalitarian desire gone feral,

From the weirdest little town in “the West,”
/// some catastrophic commune kids