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A Certain Discomfort: Of Anarchist Solidarity and Syria

from Anarchist News

Even as Rojava captures the imaginations of anarchists, with many groups and individuals around the world engaged in active support of the Kurdish-lead libertarian experiment, there remains a profound ambivalence among anarchists towards the struggles in the rest of the country formerly known as Syria. On the one hand, some radicals seek to identify and support grassroots initiatives, popular armed formations, or resistance movements in exile that have a liberatory character; on the other, some see the Syrian Revolution as nothing more than yet another imperialist coup being lead by armed religious fascists with nothing worth supporting. Between those two poles, the huge majority of anarchists (and others who care about international revolutions) consider the conflict too complex and murky to come to any conclusions.

To be clear, I’m writing as one of those who sees a lot of liberatory potential in the Syrian Revolution, who has tried to follow it and hear the voices of organizers on the ground even as their work has been overshadowed by authoritarian armed groups, and who has tried to do some minor acts of solidarity by translating and writing articles. It’s quite striking that many who support the Rojavan revolution so fervently are unwilling to extend their interest to the rest of Syria, where the huge majority of the country’s 20+ million inhabitants live(d). Some have explained this by the absence of a cohesive political project under the dictatorship – unlike in the Kurdish regions, where the PKK was able to organize during its transition to libertarian municipalism, the repression was such that there were no organized parties and only a few clandestine networks of dissenters.


Support for Refugees means support for Assad? Confronting the pro-Assad left in Hamilton

On Saturday September 5th in Hamilton, at the Refugees Welcome rally organized by Sanctuary Hamilton, one of the speakers decided to use the opportunity to put forward his views in support of Syria’s Assad regime. Dismissing the millions of people who have participated in the Syrian revolution, from Aleppo to Rojava and from Zabadani to Raqqa, as “the so-called Syrian rebels” (the scare quotes are his), he went on to call for Canada to end its sanctions against the Assad regime and to re-establish diplomatic relations as ways of addressing the desparate situation of many refugees.

I think it’s important to respond to this for two reasons. Firstly, because it was totally innapropriate to inject that message into a non-sectarian rally calling on the federal government to do more for Syrian (and other) refugees. He was effectively blaming the Syrian people for their own displacement by labelling the movement against Assad the source of the problem. But more importantly, support for the Assad regime in leftist spaces is unfortunately not a marginal position. It often hides behind anti-war or anti-imperialist rhetoric, but there is a pro-fascist current within the left. With a blend of cherry-picking, conspiracy theories, and knee-jerk “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” reasoning, it’s possible to give speeches in support of this dictatorship, one that has killed over 200 000 Syrian people in the past four years (1), even while evoking the names of refugees who died while fleeing the regime’s violence (2). (Continued)

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Now that it’s undeniable: Gentrification in Hamilton 2015


Excerpts from the essay on an 11×17 poster for sticking up around town

This text is available as an imposed booklet pdf for easy printing


For the past several years, we’ve been talking quite a lot about gentrification here in Hamilton. In the current moment, as the vanguard of art galleries decisively give way to boutique shops and condos, as sections of town are repurposed into bedroom communities for people who work in Toronto but can’t afford to live there, what do we mean when we talk about gentrification? Two years ago, even the arts industry fucks could claim, without feeling too dishonest, that they were creating something local and durable. Now we watch their flagship galleries and favourite restaurants close while a Starbucks and McMaster satellite campus open in Jackson Square, with condos going up on all sides. You were the footsoldiers of gentrification – don’t say we didn’t warn you.

What is the relationship between gentrification, culture, and development? How do issues of transit, climate change, and population growth enter in? How does an anarchist approach to these issues go beyond the good progressive urbanist line of rent control, land trusts, free transit, and affordable housing? In this context, can we imagine an urban space worth fighting for, or is it, like our friends write in Salto, that “the urban horror … is so engrained that in order to reclaim the city as a project to nourish free lives, we would have to destroy it down to the last stone.”1 (Continued)

Another Spectacle and Broken Solidarity: Why we’re staying home July 5th

Another Spectacle and Broken Solidarity: Why we’re staying home July 5th

This weekend, a protest initiated by an international Big Green NGO,, is being held in the lead up to the Pan-Am climate summit in Toronto. This Jobs Justice Climate march is yet another attempt by Big Green NGOs and labour unions to draw on the strength of the grassroots environmental movement in this area to serve their own interests, channeling our energy into appeals to powerful people who we know aren’t part of the solution. They are hijacking local resources to build their own fundraising opportunity, while turning us towards the most pacified forms of opposition.

In this case though, this hijacking is being done in the middle of a massive security deployment – the Pan-Am games come with the largest policing operation in this area since the G20. It is in fact the same policing structure – a Joint Intelligence Group, or JIG. Organizers from are explicitly breaking solidarity by insisting participants reject ‘harm to property’, and they have no plan in place to support anyone who might become a target of police violence. is going to use our movements as a pretext to raise yet more money for themselves, asking us to step into the jaws of the Pan-Am JIG while making it clear we’re on our own should we come under attack. This arrogant and parasitic behaviour is totally out of step with how grassroots campaigns in Ontario understand diversity of tactics and solidarity. We’ve built our collective strength over years and decades – why should we accept an outside group coming in to undermine it?

This letter is written by a small group of people who have been active in the campaign against Line 9 and who believe our local movements don’t stand to benefit from this climate summit march. This letter is an attempt to explain our opposition to this event in more detail.

Pushing back: Hamilton in March

The past month in Hamilton saw two communique-worthy events without communiques. We celebrated March 15th day of action against brutality in the middle of the Juno awards ceremony and our buddy who was getting railroaded into a jail sentence got off after a crowd of supporters pressured the court.

For the second year in a row, a crowd of angry, largely masked folks gathered on March 15th for a confrontational march against the police and the daily violence they inflict on us. By coincidence, the march started at the same time as the Juno awards, a big stupid spectacle celebrating canadian musicians, were also starting in downtown hamilton. With banners reading “Free donuts! Just kidding, fuck you pig”, “All Cops are Bastards, Fuck the Police”, and “Cops Pigs Murderers”, the march was a bit smaller than last year but higher energy, way tighter, and anchored by Hamilton’s Flamingo Mutiny Brigade, a radical marching band. More than twenty people joined in off the street as the march progressed, pushing through police lines into the heart of the awards ceremony area. The march dispersed without incident while energy was still high and no one got arrested.

On Friday March 20th, a friend of ours who was getting pushed into a fifteen-day jail sentence for a made-up breach of bail showed up at the Hamilton courthouse ready to go do time. The situation of her charges is described in more detail in this open letter, but she’s an anarchist involved in anti-pipeline actions in the area who has regularly been targeted by police over the past years. Forty people showed up to support her, which seemingly caused the duty council and the crown to take a serious second look at what they were doing. Anarchists in town have an extremely conflictual relationship with the justice system, notably in fall 2013 when, during another mass court support day, a crew of people attempted to de-arrest one of their friends and started a hilarious brawl.  In the end, rather than going to jail, which she’d arrived ready to do, our friend got her charges dropped and went home free.

In other Hamilton news, The Tower, our local anarchist social space, is having a spring fundraiser.

Consider this a challenge to anarchists in other cities to let the rest of us know what you’re up to!

A Meticulous Process of Inquiry

Some Inspirations from Chapter 4 of “À Nos Amis” // “To Our Friends”

When we look at the world around us, the scale of the disaster can seem overwhelming. We know that many processes on which we currently rely are in fact harming us, but can we imagine stopping them? And if we succeed in stopping the flows, how do we sustain the social forms we produce through our resistance? How do blockades produce new forms of self-organization?

In the chapter “Power is Logistical; Let’s Block Everything!”, the anonymous authors of “To Our Friends”, a follow-up to “The Coming Insurrection”, argue that “Power is the very organization of the world, this engineered, configured, and designed world. […] Whoever determines how the space is organized, whoever governs the environments and the ambiances, who administrates, who controls access – it is they who govern people. […] The true structure of power is the material, techonological, and physical organization of the world.” Therefore “A revolutionary perspective is not focussed on institutional reorganization of society, but on the technical reorganization of worlds.”

“This world manages to maintain itself by keeping us materially dependant for our basic survival on the good working order of the social machinery. We need to equip ourselves with a deep technical knowledge of the organization of this world, a knowledge that at once permits us to sabotage the dominant structures and that allows us the time necessary to disentangle ourselves from the general progress of the catastrophe … For as long as the prospect of a popular uprising inevitably means scarcity of medical care, food, and energy, there will be no determined mass movement. In other words, we must undertake a meticulous process of inquiry. It is only from there that movements will truly dare to block everything.” (Continued)

It Begins: Repression of “Anti-Petroleum Activists” and the Pan Am Games

On January 29 2015, a person in Hamilton who has been active in organizing against Line 9 and the Tar Sands opened their door to find a detective from the Hate Crimes and Extremism Unit of the Hamilton Police. This person is on bail from charges relating to the many blockades of Enbridge’s Line 9 construction sites. They were placed under arrest for breach of bail under a flimsy pretense. They were held overnight and released the next day under a stricter bail. Subsequent court appearances have made it clear that the Hate Crimes and Extremism Unit targetted this person as part of the security operation in the lead up to the Pan Am Games.

This is a simple and, in many ways, all too common story. Bail and probation conditions are routinely used by police to harass and intimidate people in Hamilton, usually broke people and people of colour. We seek to share the story of our friend’s arrest and some analysis around it not to arouse indignation about the police’s actions, but to inform our allies of the kinds of attacks we can expect in the leadup to the Pan Am games and to combat the fear this harassment can bring.


Free Speech: The Last Bastion of Scoundrels

Print some of these up and tape 'em up around campus if you want

Print some of these and tape ’em up around campus if you want

Thursday, November 6th saw two attempted shut downs of speaking events at McMaster. In the afternoon, a marching band stormed a lecture by Susan Cunningham, an oil industry executive, about women’s leadership; and in the evening, another group shouted down an event by a group called Lifeline that seeks to limit women’s reproductive autonomy by opposing access to abortions.

Supporters of both events have denounced the protestors for interfering with their right to free speech. But let’s be clear – why should we give a shit about the free speech of billionaires and of those who organize to take away the freedom of others?

Should we really support the right of a billionaire to maintain their enormous ability to reach and influence the public relative to everyone else? Do we really want to create space for people trying to take away women’s control over their own bodies? If that’s what the “right to free speech” means, then we should throw it away, because it no longer serves us. As if a right to free speech is even meaningful in a society where some people can pay a million dollars to have their self-interest become universal truth while others are arrested for speaking up without asking permission.

In universities all views are permitted so long as they never translate into action; where speech is free for as long as we are content to merely speak; where Henry Giroux can have an office beside a commerce professor, because they are united in the passivity the institution imposes. When well connected groups with deep pockets use the university space to advance their agenda, it isn’t called disruptive, it’s just how society works. But when people with little power organize to push back, suddenly everyone is concerned that a right might be violated.

We don’t accept this cowardly and pacifying way of living. So-called “free speech” becomes a bastion of scoundrels, a wall used by tyrants to protect themselves from the anger of their victims. Scumbags like Cunningham and Lifeline hide their attacks against us behind the language of free speech. We will confront them at every turn, because we understand that the oil industry and the anti-abortion movement to be enemies of freedom.


Here’s the text from the original leaflet that was given out at Cunningham’s talk:

Tyranny and the oil patch: Oil and feminism don’t mix!


You got rich destroying the earth and exploiting impacted communities – rough. As a woman in a patriarchal society, you fought like hell to make it to the top of an industry predicated on imperialism and ecocide – nothing to be proud of. And now, because you dumped a pile of money on McMaster’s corrupt doorstep, they’re going to celebrate you as a beacon of “women’s success” – stunning.

But right now, across the continent, from Elsipogtog to Unist’ot’en, Hamilton to Appalachia, there are women taking an inspiring lead in shutting down the transportation of oil and natural gas to prevent the expansion of an industry that threatens the survival of their communities; an industry that has already laid waste to so much of this earth. This is the kind of leadership that deserves to be celebrated; these are the kinds of people who actually deserve a glossy poster and a podium.

You seem proud of your role in oil extraction in the gulf of Mexico, an area that has been absolutely decimated by the oil industry in recent years. Leadership in ecocide? You want us to know about your role sucking profits out of West Africa. Leadership in imperialism? If this university had a shred of integrity it wouldn’t give you space to whitewash your disgusting actions with vapid crap about women’s leadership. For those of us on the other end of your violence, we know it doesn’t matter who gives the orders to destroy – the impacts are the same.

We can already hear the predictable complaints that we’re violating your right to free speech (ie, the right of the rich to force us to listen respectfully as they steal the earth from under our feet). It seems monstrous to consider the so-called “free speech” of someone who can afford to buy their own place at the podium while they continue to devastate communities and poison the land and water. This is not an issue of free speech – you’ve had more than enough space in this world for your voice to be heard, and look what you’ve done with it. If you want respectful and productive dialogue, you have to get your foot of our throats first.

Someone who has dedicated their career to driving the earth ever further into the jaws of disaster should not be celebrated for their leadership. To celebrate them with the language of feminism is an insult to women and to everyone who struggles against the hegemonic order. We hope one day you can see the connections between the oppression of women and the patriarchal institutions you’ve committed yourself to.