Tag Archives: anarchism

From Standing Rock to Resistance in Context: Towards Anarchism against Settler Colonialism

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

By Adam Lewis, E-International Relations

The direct action at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline has captured a wide range of political imaginations under the #NODAPL banner. People from over 100 Indigenous nations, as well as non-Indigenous/settler allies/accomplices, have travelled to the site where the US Army Corps of Engineers has attempted to place the pipeline under the Mni Sose (Missouri River), and right through Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation lands). The resistance at Standing Rock has included a range of camps and tactics, as well as heavy handed police/security responses. Though the Army Corps of Engineers decided to withhold the easement permit for the last stage of the pipeline in December 2016, pending an environmental assessment, few see this as the end of the resistance.  Many pointed out that this is not a commitment to stop the pipeline as a whole, but rather an attempt to seek out other means of ensuring its completion. Donald Trump recently signed executive orders to revive both the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipeline projects, prompting renewed calls for resistance.

This article asks how events like the resistance at Standing Rock relate to broader struggles of Indigenous autonomy and decolonization, and how such events are seen by, and interact with, radical anarchist politics. I consider how an anti-colonial perspective within anarchism could be further developed in particular local contexts with specific reference to structures of settler colonialism and ongoing histories of Indigenous resistance. This article details and expands upon some of my previous work on anarchism and its relationship to settler colonialism and Indigenous struggles (see Lewis 2016a, 2016b, 2015).

By ‘anarchist’ I mean those people, theories and movements committed to the destruction of the state, capitalism and all forms of oppression. Anarchist politics seeks to end domination through direct action and militant or revolutionary struggle, while also working to ‘build a new world in the shell of the old’ here and now. Anarchists aspire to create anti-authoritarian, non-hierarchical and direct-democratic forms of relating. Anarchism as a movement began in late 1800s Europe, but has since spread and developed through a range of actors, spawning a variety of tendencies and perspectives around the globe (for a good introduction to anarchism see Milstein, 2010, also Dixon 2014). For my purposes here, I speak to those movements who call the settler states of Canada or the United States home, and who tend to be dominated by non-Indigenous peoples, and often white settlers.

I begin first by laying out the settler colonial context that is crucial for understanding all struggles in North America. I then move to a discussion of how anarchists, and all those interested in transformative radical futures more broadly, can incorporate such a context into their own resistance and put the creation of alternatives into conversation with projects of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization. How can radical futures be imagined given the context of both continued structures of settler colonialism, as well as Indigenous resurgence that is intimately and directly tied up in relationships to land?

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Indigenist Intersectionality: Decolonizing an Indigenous Eco-Queer Feminism and Anarchism

Institute for Anarchist Studies

This essay appears in the current anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29), available here from AK Press!  Laura received an Institute for Anarchist Studies writing grant to complete this piece. 

The violence enacted against Indigenous women and Two-Spirit/LGBTQ people evokes deep questions about the intent and impact of colonization in a Canadian settler and state context. The horrors of colonial violence—bodies were violated and abandoned at the sides of highways, in ditches, in rivers—tell stories of the vital importance of Indigenous women’s leadership, their warriorhood, their gifts and their medicines, and also of the centrality of gendered freedom and fluid belonging in Indigenous cultures. It is a system of colonization that seeks to erase and subsume these realities and to replace Indigenous truth with illusions of our weakness. We are at a pivotal moment now as state and settler voices seek to understand what is…

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Towards an anti-colonial anarchism

Eurocentricism, re-colonization, and settler colonialism

By , Intercontinental Cry

Unnamed anarchist from Europe [interviewer]: Particularly in Canada, the term “First Nations” is frequently used to describe Indigenous societies. This tends to confuse radical Europeans who consider all references to “nations” as necessarily conservative. Can you shed some light on the Indigenous usage of the term?

Taiaike Alfred from the Mohawk Nation of Kahnawá:ke [interviewee]: Europeans should not transpose their experience with nationhood on others. I myself do not think the term accurately describes our people – only our own languages and words can do that – but it is useful in a sense; it conveys an equality of status in theory between our societies and that of the colonizer. And it reiterates the fact of our prior occupancy of this continent (Alfred, 2010).

The languages that we speak build walls. The English language, for instance, is noun-based, territorial and possessive by nature. Behind this language, however, is a distinct way of relating – one that is exemplified by the interview excerpt above. Sharing a language does not imply consensus or commonality. In this case, although Taiake Alfred does not agree in full with the term ‘First Nations’, he does differentiate First Nation and Indigenous Nationhood from European, Westphalia conceptions of nation-state. He dually describes why, from his perspective as a member of the Mohawk Nation from Kahnawá:ke, this terminology resists Eurocentric impositions of governance but also responds to colonial power-imbalances. Social movements, especially in North America, often fall carelessly into colonial traps of Eurocentric thought and colonial universalism, as exampled above[1]. On the surface, though, it is clear why anarchist movements and anarchic theory may be attracted to anti-colonial struggles.

Opposition to the state and to capitalism, to domination and to oppression, are at the core of anarchist and autonomous movements; they are also at the core of anti-colonial struggles that see the state, and by mutual extension the capitalist system, as de-legitimate institutions of authority that ‘Other’ and colonize by way of white supremacist notions of cultural hegemony (see Fanon, 1967; Smith, 2006). Anarchist movements, however, often fail to account for the multiple layers of power that are at play, both contemporarily and historically. As Barker (2012) critically contends, many of the Occupy sites, for example, recolonized by uncritically occupying already occupied lands. The settler privilege of autonomous organizers within these movements upheld hegemonic/colonial territoriality. Romanticized for stewardship and place-based relations to land, Indigenous peoples have even been idolized as the ‘original’ anarchist societies (Barker & Pickerill, 2012). Indigenous Nationhood Movements actively seek to rebuild nation-to-nation relations with settlers by re-empowering Indigenous self-determination and traditional governments (Indigenous Nationhood Movement, 2015). Nation-to-nation, though, cannot be taken in its settler colonial form; indeed, this assumption concerning a homogenous form of government was, and is, at the core of colonialism: “modern government…the European believed, was based upon principles true in every country. Its strengths lay in its universalism” (Mitchell, 2002: 54). Respecting Indigenous Nationhood as a culturally, politically, and spiritually distinct movement propelled by and for Indigenous peoples is integral. Reasons for and tactics in support of these movements may vary, however they inevitably overlap in many offensives with anarchist anti-authoritarian agendas.

With Eurocentric understandings of an anti-colonial anarchism at the core of many activist oriented renditions of such thinking, activists and scholars alike have heeded words of advice to those amidst struggles against colonial forces in settler colonial contexts. As stated by Harsha Walia in discussing autonomy and cross-cultural, colonial-based struggle:

“Non-natives must recognize our own role in perpetuating colonialism within our solidarity efforts. We can actively counter this by… discussing the nuanced issues of solidarity, leadership, strategy and analysis – not in abstraction, but within our real and informed and sustained relationships with Indigenous peoples.” (2012)

By respecting difference, even spatializing autonomy, settler peoples would do well to not transplant – to settle – their perceptions of autonomy, of solidarity, of leadership, and of strategy onto Indigenous movements. Alternatively in settler colonial contexts, anarchist struggles against colonial authority, and thus capitalistic systems, invariably require respectful engagement with Indigenous movements. This is integral if re-colonizing tendencies of anarchist movements–oftentimes primarily driven by European settlers–are to be prevented. Anarchist actors, especially when operating in settler colonial spaces, must understand the nuances of place specific histories and colonial processes. As Lasky suggests, there is “potential for directly relating to each other and changing our relationships with each other in ways that withdraw consent from ‘the system’ and re-creates alternatives that empower our collective personhoods now” (2011: np). As Alfred mentions however, Eurocentric tendencies have oftentimes perpetuated colonial relations of power. As a result, the very structures of oppression that anarchic thought starkly opposes, but also stemmed from, creep into relational geographies.

References

Alfred, T. (2010). Interview with Gerald Taiaiake Alfred about Anarchism and Indigenism in North America. Retrieved from http://www.alpineanarchist.org/r_i_indigenism_english.html

Barker, A. (2012). Already Occupied: Indigenous Peoples, Settler Colonialism and the Occupy Movements in North America. Social Movement Studies, 11(3-4), 327–334. doi:10.1080/14742837.2012.708922

Barker, A. J., & Pickerill, J. (2012). Radicalizing Relationships To and Through Shared Geographies: Why Anarchists Need to Understand Indigenous Connections to Land and Place. Antipode, 44(5), 1705–1725. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8330.2012.01031.x

Fanon, F. (1967). Black skin, white masks. New York, NY: Grove Press.

Indigenous Nationhood Movement. (2015). About. Retrieved from http://nationsrising.org/about/

Lewis, A. (2012). Decolonizing anarchism: Expanding Anarcha-Indigenism in theory and practice (Masters thesis). Queen’s University, Kingston, ON. Retrieved from http://qspace.library.queensu.ca/bitstream/1974/7563/1/Lewis_Adam_G_201209_MA.pdf

Mitchell, T. (2002). Rule of experts: Egypt, techno-politics, modernity. Berkley, CA: University of California Press.

Smith, A. (2006). Heteropatriarchy and the three pillars of white supremacy. In Incite! (Ed.), The colour of violence: The INCITE! anthology (pp. 66–73). Cambridge, UK: South End Press.

Walia, H. (2012). Decolonizing together: Moving beyond a politics of solidarity toward a practice of decolonization. Briar Patch, January/February. Retrieved from http://briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/decolonizing-together

[1] Adam (Lewis, 2012) explores this topic in depth.

Mel Bazil on “Anarchy, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Decolonization”

http://unistotencamp.com/Via The Final Straw

Streaming at AshevilleFM through June 15nd, 2014, then podcasting later at radio4all.net and airing on KOWA-LPFM in Olympia, WA, KWTF in Bodega Bay, CA, KXCF in Marshall, CA, and WCRS-LP Columbus Community Radio 98.3 and 102.1 FM

This week’s episode features a workshop by Mel Bazil, an indigenous Gitxsan and Wet’suwet’en organizer, sovereigntist, and anarchist of the Unist’ot’en Action Camp. For folks in the listening audience, Unist’ot’en is located on unceded native lands in so-called British Colombia, Canada. More about the Unist’ot’en Action Camp can be found at unistotencamp.com

This audio is from an almost hour and a half presentation that Mel gave on Saturday the 24th of May at the Montreal Anarchist Bookfaire, entitled “Anarchy, Indigenous Sovereignty, and Decolonization.” Many thanks to CKUT Radio in Montreal for sharing this content with the Final Straw. More info on CKUT can be found at www.ckut.ca

This week we’ll be presenting the first of two parts of Mel’s presentation, the second will be aired in coming weeks and linked together on the Final Straw website soon.

Firstly though, an announcement about the health of longterm political prisoner, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson. The following text was found at rashidmod.com, where one can seek further updates on the situation.

For anyone in the Durham area of North Carolina, there is a call-out on June 13th for a Noise Demo at the jail. More info can be found at here.

For more info on the prisoner hunger strike at Polk CI in Butner, NC, including their demands, click here.

The playlist for this episode is here.

Monstrous Settlers: Zombies, Demons, and Angels

From Settler Agrarian:

I am a monster (but I’m working on it).

With the birth and growth of Idle No More, now more than ever, lots of settlers are understanding colonialism as a problem, and trying to think through our relationships and obligations to Indigenous peoples, the history of colonization, and what all that means for us as settlers.  This shifts colonialism from an “Indian problem” to a “Settler problem.”  In spite of the mainstream media, many Canadian settlers are learning that they are implicated in an ongoing colonial relationship.  For me that’s encouraging, because I didn’t grow up in a context where colonialism is actually something discussed and debated, where settlers see colonialism as a problem that involves us.  I move through some spaces like this now, and they continue to challenge me.  This is about how settlers respond to these challenges.

I’m a white, male, educated, cis-gendered, able-bodied, hetero-sexual, middle-class settler, so I basically benefit from every major axis of oppression.  What follows is a reflection of my own experience with the politics of colonialism, decolonization, and settler solidarity efforts with Indigenous peoples, over the past few years.  I’m drawing on some feminist, queer, trans, and anti-racist writers and activists here too.  Even though dynamics are always different and complex, I think there are also some similarities in terms of the way privileged folks (like me) conduct ourselves across these struggles, especially when we’re trying to to prove that we’re good, in spite of our privilege.  When I use “we” and “us” I’m talking about other white settlers who benefit from ongoing white supremacy and settler colonialism in Canada.  I am glossing over lots of complexities and nuances of colonialism and decolonization.  I’m experimenting with monster metaphors in hopes of getting at some of these issues in a different way, but I recognize that this is serious shit.  And I want your feedback, critical or otherwise.

Upsettlers, Monarchists, and Manarchists are monsters that plague settlers in Canada, making it difficult for us to grapple with our colonial privilege, engage with other settlers, and effectively support Indigenous struggles.  I started out as a Monarchist, had stints as an Upsettler, became a Manarchist, and now I’m trying to avoid relapsing into all three monsters.

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Decolonizing Anarchism: An Anticolonial Critique

From Sketchy Thoughts:

There was an “anti-colonial Victoria Day” book launch in Montreal on May 21, where Maia Ramnath presented her new book Decolonizing Anarchism, published by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies (and available from leftwingbooks.net). What made this launch special, and different from most such events, was that the Ramnath spoke on a panel with Ponni, a radical activist from India, who used her intervention to level a detailed and outstanding critique of the book, from an anti-authoritarian and anticolonial perspective.

Given the strength of this critique, i asked Ponni if i could upload the transcript here to my blog. She graciously agreed, though wanted me to make it clear to readers that this is not a “review”, it is a talk given at an event, and so is not structured or intended as a written piece would be. Here it is:

I am an activist with the queer movement, feminist movement and labour struggles and a student of history. I also work on conflict related issues in Sri Lanka primarily in the north and east of Sri Lanka. I have studied modern Indian history – which means 1757 to 1947. But later I have come to be involved in a range of different research projects on social movements in post-independence India including archiving the women’s movement in some parts of India in the 70s. I am also part of an informal network of queer feminists across the South Asian region.

This introduction is important not to establish my authenticity; in fact I am mildly annoyed by the authenticity that is read on to me in the global west even by the closest of comrades. It is to explain the background from which the following comments are coming. In many ways the book is too close to home, to say the least.

What I enjoyed in the book are the snippets of information about related social movements in the ‘diaspora’, if I can read that modern category on to another period and the limited channels of solidarity that exist today among activists in South Asia and groups based in the global west.

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Decolonizing Anarchism: An Antiauthoritarian History of India’s Liberation Struggle

Decolonizing Anarchism examines the history of South Asian struggles against colonialism and neocolonialism, highlighting lesser-known dissidents as well as iconic figures. What emerges is an alternate narrative of decolonization, in which liberation is not defined by the achievement of a nation-state. Author Maia Ramnath suggests that the anarchist vision of an alternate society closely echoes the concept of total decolonization on the political, economic, social, cultural, and psychological planes. Decolonizing Anarchism facilitates more than a reinterpretation of the history of anticolonialism; it also supplies insight into the meaning of anarchism itself.

“Maia Ramnath offers a refreshingly different perspective on anticolonial movements in India, not only by focusing on little-remembered anarchist exiles such as Har Dayal, Mukerji and Acharya but more important, highlighting the persistent trend that sought to strengthen autonomous local communities against the modern nation-state. A superbly original book.”—Partha Chatterjee, author of Lineages of Political Society: Studies in Post-colonial Democracy

“[Ramnath] audaciously reframes the dominant narrative of Indian radicalism by detailing its explosive and ongoing symbiosis with decolonial anarchism.”—Dylan Rodríguez, author of Suspended Apocalypse: White Supremacy, Genocide, and the Filipino Condition

Maia Ramnath is a teacher, writer, activist, and dancer/aerialist living in New York City. She is the author of The Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Charted Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire—in many ways a companion volume to this one. She is currently a member of the Institute for Anarchist Studies board and Historians against War steering committee.

Title #3 in the Anarchist Interventions series co-published with the IAS.