Sunday, 28 July 2019

Letters of Insurgents, some thoughts

Recently I worked my way through Fredy Perlman's novel Letters of Insurgents, I had previously read it in pieces before, but this time I read it cover to cover and made use of Audio Anarchy's massive audiobook.

Apologies if you're in a online chat group or forum with me and had to put up with me plugging the book on and of for the past month.

Here's some thoughts on, I typed this up for Goodreads.

Letters of Insurgents is difficult to describe, appropriate given how one of its main themes is the difficult of communicating with other human beings, and the dangers miscommunication can cause.

I've been aware of this book for some time, everyone I've known whose read this book has been glowing in its praise, one even said it drove them to tears. But I was intimidated by the books length, thankfully there's a free audio version that's not hard to find to help.

The format, a series of correspondence between two revolutionaries in different countries can make keeping track of events and people somewhat difficult as the narrative jumps between them and in time, but this does give an excellent demonstration of complexity as events and people keep having layers added to them throughout.

The content is largely concerning humanity, what it means to be free and revolution in its purest sense and all the ways many fall short. Its very critical, but everything it criticises has its chance to have its say and its rare for a character or strategy to have no positive features and attractions.

Political parties, Unions, Communes, underground armies, and urban guerrillas are all scrutinised and appraised from the point of view of human happiness and freedom. 

There's a few things I'd like to add, while the structure of the book is just a very long conversation between two old friends trying to catch up and then later reach out to each other, its not just a long book about people talking to and at each other. Much of the analysis and criticism is woven into the actual events, so we see the effects and achievements of local militia's and "Popular" armies. We see how different groups of the New Left react to the growing militancy and social upheaval of the 1960s. 

I saw one of the few dissenting reviews I've come across of this book complain that it is one encounter with a strawman after another, and I couldn't disagree more. Its true its easy to see where Perlman's sympathies lie, but the characters who come closest to that are by no means perfect, and characters on the other side who aren't total reactionaries do have redeeming features. Ultimately I think what Perlman was getting at is that people are complicated and no one is perfect, and correct politics if such a thing exists does not make for correct behaviour.

Personally I found it very interesting when a character who turned to primitivism showed up. Perlman earned a lot of respect for his early writings but nowadays he's something of an embarrassment because in later life he turned to Camatte's primitivism.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see his primitivist stand in get so much criticism. Thought the book does have a strongly pro edgrowth vibe with the desirability of abolition work and mass industrial consumption. 

In short I highly enjoyed my time with Letters of Insurgents, I can see why its both almost universally praised by readers and never managed to break out into mass readership despite the praise and the abundance of cheap and free versions available. In addition to its length its really, really hard to summarise accurately.

Here's just a few screen caps of bits that stood out to me while reading.

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Willem Van Spronsen

Willem Van Spronsen, 69 year old Anarchist and Anti-fascist
Yesterday a man was shot and killed in the Tacoma immigrant detention centre, after attacking its transport hub in an attempt to prevent deportations. That man was Willem Van Spronsen, a 69 year old man, known as an active anti-fascist and anarchist. Last year he was in court for intervening to protect a 17 year old fellow protestor at another protest against the treatment of migrants at that facility.

Conditions there, and in other facilities have only gotten worse, with them quickly becoming concentration camps for the US government to house thousands of people of all ages in deteriorating conditions.

Since this is still breaking news there is some confusion about the events, early reports framed the incident as if Spronsen were trying to set fire to the whole camp, only for it come out that the use of incendiaries was against ICE vehicles.

La Resistencia, a group that has organised several protests against detention centres and immigration raids, including at Tacoma has released a statement.

Tacoma, WA-- Early this morning, a person who appears to have been engaged in protest against the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma was shot and killed by members of the Tacoma Police Department. Today marks yet another death linked to the detention center, and another death at the hands of the police. Based on available information, including the police scanner recording, Willem Van Spronsen, the protestor killed, appears to have been targeting not the detention center itself, as has been widely reported in the media, but the parking lot across the street from the detention center which houses the NWDC’s transportation infrastructure. This infrastructure includes a fleet of buses that transports immigrants to be caged at the detention center, and that transports immigrants from the detention center to the Yakima Airport, from which they are deported.
Mr. Van Spronsen was apparently trying to set the deportation buses on fire when he was shot and killed. His actions sadly reflect the level of desperation people across this country feel about the government’s outrageous violence against immigrants, which includes the use of detention centers to cage migrants both currently living in the U.S. and those seeking asylum. This death results from the federal government’s unresponsiveness to the anger and despair people feel at the horrors unfolding both at the border and in the interior, and from the inability of officers to de-escalate rather than shooting to kill.
But for the City of Tacoma allowing the GEO Group’s facility to be built and expanded in Tacoma, this death, and the death and suffering of those inside the detention center would have been avoided. The NWDC has become a liability not just for the tens of thousands who have been caged there, but for the city of Tacoma itself. It’s past time for the city of Tacoma to cancel GEO’s business license. It’s clear that this “business” is a deadly one, that has only brought pain and suffering to our region.
La Resistencia calls on the City of Tacoma to hold immediate public hearings addressing the Tacoma Police’s actions today that resulted in the loss of life at the Detention Center and why the City continues to allow GEO to operate with a city business license.
La Resistencia (formerly NWDC Resistance) is a grassroots collective led by undocumented immigrants and U.S. citizens based in Tacoma, Washington. It is an unincorporated association founded to confront human rights violations at the Northwest Detention Center and dedicated to ending the detention and deportation of immigrants.
And reports from activists in the area who knew Van Spronsen including friends believe that this action was sadly motivated in part as a form of suicide.

Puget Sounds Anarchists, a group of Anarchists from Olympia Washington that Spronson worked with also released a statement/eulogy.

Submitted Anonymously
Early this morning around 4am our friend and comrade Will Van Spronsen was shot and killed by the Tacoma police. All we know about what lead up to this comes from the cops, who are notoriously corrupt and unreliable sources for such a narrative. The story that we do have is that Will attempted to set fire to several vehicles, outbuildings and a propane tank outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma which houses hundreds of immigrants awaiting hearings or deportations. He successfully set one vehicle on fire and then exchanged gunfire with Tacoma police officers who fatally shot him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. We find his actions inspiring. The vehicles outside the detention facility are used to forcibly remove people from their homes and deport them, often to situations where they will face severe danger or death. Those vehicles being destroyed is only a start of what is needed. We wish the fires Will set had freed all the inmates and razed the entire Northwest Detention Center to the ground. And we miss our friend and wish from the bottom of our hearts that his action had not ended in his death.

Will Van Spronsen was a long-time anarchist, anti-fascist and a kind, loving person. Here in Olympia some of us remember him as a skilled tarp structure builder from the Occupy encampment in 2011. Others remember him from the protests outside the NWDC last summer where he was accused of lunging at a cop and wrapping his arms around the officer’s neck and shoulders, as the officer was trying to arrest a 17-year-old protester. The very next day when he was released from jail he came right back to the encampment outside the center to support the other protesters. He is also remembered as a patient and thoughtful listener who was always willing to hear people out.
We are grief stricken, inspired and enraged by what occurred early this morning. ICE imprisons, tortures and deports hundreds of thousands of people and the brutality and scale of their harm is only escalating. We need every form of resistance, solidarity and passion to fight against ICE and the borders that they defend. Will gave his life fighting ICE we may never know what specifically was going through his head in the last hours of his life but we know that the NWDC must be destroyed and the prisoners must be freed. We do not need heroes, only friends and comrades. Will was simply a human being, and we wish that he was still with us. It’s doubtless that the cops and the media will attempt to paint him as some sort of monster, but in reality he was a comrade who fought for many years for what he believed in and this morning he was killed doing what he loved; fighting for a better world.

This evening around 8pm roughly 30 anarchists gathered at Percival landing in Olympia WA to remember Will Van Spronsen and to oppose ICE. We held road flares and banners reading “Rest In Power Will Van Spronsen” “Abolish ICE” “RIP Will” “Fire to the Prisons” and “Stop Deportation End Incarceration.” We shared stories and memories of Will with each other, laughed, and cried. Some people split off and plastered downtown Olympia with “Immigrants Welcome” stickers, while others drove circles around downtown flying the “Rest in Power Will” from the back of a truck.
May his memory be a blessing.
Love to those still fighting.

Fragments of his writing have since started to trickle through.

He also typed up a short letter, some are calling a manifesto, that in reality is closer to a suicide note and explanation of his personal frustrations, horrors and dreams.

Its a little hard to read, so for clarity I've typed it up, I tried to keep the punctuation as close to the original as possible but the capitalisation in word processing didn't always comply.

Note: This letter was originally typed up on three pages without capitalisation. Punctuation retained from the original. Italics represent transcription additions.

First page

There’s wrong and there’s right.
it’s time to take action against the forces of evil.

Evil says one life is worth less than another
evil says the flow of commerce is our purpose here.
evil says concentration camps for folks deemed lesser are necessary.
the handmaid of evil says the concentration camps should be more humane.
beware the centrist.

I have a father’s broken heart
I have a broken down body
and I have an unshakeable abhorrence for injustice
that is what brings me here.
this is my clear opportunity to try to make a difference, I’d be an ingrate to be waiting for
a more obvious invitation.

I follow three teachers:
don pritts, my spiritual guide, “love without action is just a word.”
john brown, my moral guide, “what is needed is action!”
emma goldman, my political guide, “if I can’t dance, I don’t want to be in your revolution”

I’m a head in the clouds dreamer, I believe in love and redemption.
I believe we’re going to win
I’m joyfully revolutionary. (we all should have been reading emma goldman in school instead of the jingo drivel we were fed. But I digress.) (we should all be looking at the photos of the YPJ heroes should we falter and think our dreams are impossible, but I double digress. Fight me.)

In these days of fascist hooligans preying on vulnerable people on our streets, in the name of the state or supported and defended by the state.

In these days of highly profitable detention/concentration camps and a battle over the semantics,
In these days of hopelessness, empty pursuit and endless yearning.

We are living in visible fascism ascendant. (I say visible, because those paying attention watched it survive and thrive under the protection of the state for decades. [see howard zinn, “a people’s history of the united states.) now it unabashedly follows its agenda with open and full cooperation from the government. From governments around the world.

fascism serves the needs of the state serves the needs of business and at our expense. who benefits? jeff bezos, warren buffett, elon musk, tim cook, bill gates, betsy de vos, george soros, donald trump, and need i go on? let me say it again: rich guys, (who think you’re not really all that good.) really dig government, (every government everywhere, including “communist” governments,) because they make the rules that make the rich guys richer.
don’t overthink it.

(are you patriots in the back paying attention?)

Second page

when I was a boy, in post war Holland., later france, my head was filled with stories of the rise of fascism in the 30’s. I promised myself that I would not be one of those who stands by as neighbors are torn from their homes and imprisoned for somehow being perceived as lesser.
you don’t have to burn the motherfucker down, but are you just going to stand by?

This is the test of our fundamental belief in real freedom and our responsibility to each other.
this is a call to patriots, too, to stand against this travesty against everything that you hold sacred,
I know you. I know that in your hearts, you see the dishonor in these camps. It’s time for you, too, to stand up to the money pulling the strings of every goddamn puppet pretending to represent us.

I’m a man who loves you all and this spinning ball so much that I’m going to fulfil my childhood promise to myself to be noble.

Here it is, in these corporate for profit concentration camps.
here it is, in brown and non conforming folks afraid to show their faces for the fear of the
police/migra/proud boys/the boss/beckies…
here it is, a planet almost used up by the markets greed.

I’m a black and white thinker.
detention camps are an abomination.
I’m not standing by.
I really shouldn’t have to say any more than this.

I set aside my broken heart and I heal the only way I know how- by being useful.
I efficiently compartmentalize my pain…
and I joyfully go about this work.
(to those burdened with the wreckage from my actions, I hope that you will make the best use of that burden.)

Third page

To my comrades:

I regret that I will miss the rest of the revolution.
thank you for the honor of having been in your midst.

Giving me space to be useful, to feel that I was fulfilling my ideals, has been the spiritual
pinnacle of my life.

Doing what I can to help defend my precious and wondrous people is an experience too
rich to describe.

My trans comrades have transformed me, solidifying my conviction that we will be
guided to a dreamed of future by those most marginalized among us today. I have
dreamed it so clearly that I have no regret for not seeing how it turns out. Thank you for
bringing me so far along.

I am antifa, I stand with comrades around the world who act from the love of life in every
permutation. comrades who understand that freedom means real freedom for all and a
life worth living.
Keep the faith!
all power to the people
bella ciao


Audio manifesto:

Don’t let your silly government agencies spend money “investigating” this one. I was
radicalized in civics class at 13 when we were taught about the electoral college. It was
at that point that I decided that the status quo might be a house of cards. Further reading
confirmed this in the positive. I highly recommend reading!
I am not affiliated with any organization, I have disaffiliated from any organization who
disagree with my choice of tactics.
the semi automatic weapon I used was a cheap, home built unregistered “ghost” ar15, i
had six magazines. I strongly encourage comrades and incoming comrades to arm themselves.
we are now responsible for defending people from the predatory state.
ignore the law in arming yourself if you have the luxury, I did.


The letter also contained a link to an album called the audio manifesto

Edit: Looks like Bandcamp have deleted the album, fortunately it was saved on

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Does Work Really Work? - L. Susan Brown

'One of the first questions people often ask when they are introduced to one another in our society is “what do you do?” This is more than just polite small talk — it is an indication of the immense importance work has for us.

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