In the spirit of abolition and building a better world, we honor #Juneteenth today with the MACC Anarchist Feminist working group’s contribution to Public Seminar anarchafeminist manifesto.
Anarchafeminism means abolition of the police and prisons. As anarchafeminists, we recognize that the prison-industrial complex is a project that extends beyond physical walls and permeates all of society. This antiblack, ableist, and gender- normative project maintains the sovereign state, and the sovereign sex. It upholds the dangerous view that a neutral arbiter of justice and rightful punitive measures exist in a system built upon racism, colonialism, and misogyny. The system is not broken. It is working exactly as intended – criminalizing black, brown, indigenous, feminized, and gender nonconforming bodies. Treating this violence as an exception, is ahistorical, dangerous, and limits possibilities for real transformation.
Reforms such as the ones proposed by the 8cantwait campaign, allow the state to appear as if it is responsive to demands for change, while leaving the same structures and systems intact. In contrast, the non-reformist reforms proposed by 8toabolition, offer one path forward that reduces the resources that go toward policing and prisons, and increases investments in communities.This is a step in the direction of an abolitionist vision, in which the carceral state, and all states are obsolete.
Gendered violence is foundational to the development of the state. However, the state’s pathological desire to control women’s bodies is exacerbated within the carceral state. Women are the fastest-growing prison population in the so-called United States. As male prison populations decrease in response to criminal justice reforms, women’s incarceration continues to grow at an all-time high. One in 18 Black women will be incarcerated in their/her lifetimes and 47% of Black transgender women will be incarcerated. Prisons are inherently spaces of violence and control for everyone, but women also experience sexual forms of violence and trauma during incarceration including rape, shackled births, and denial of necessary medical care. At least 1 in 4 women has had an incarcerated loved one, which contributes to decline in mental, emotional, and physical health. Incarceration of women and their loved ones is a burgeoning women’s health crisis.
We recognize that the carceral state was built to maintain a disciplined society, in which gender binaries and norms were policed. We stand against this political isolation, that maintains a binary and dominant gender by taking women and femmes away from their resources and support structures. In opposition, we build solidarity through walls and bars by supporting our incarcerated comrades with acts of care and mutual aid. Our political commitments of abolition, anarchism, and radical feminism break the chains of our oppressors and aim to create a world that renders the prison-industrial complex impossible.
From the onset of COVID-19, it was obvious that the authoritarian government led by Rodrigo Duterte was not prioritizing the needs of Phillipino people. He ignored calls for a travel ban, lest the country lose out on any tourism revenue. And, while the pandemic called for health-related responses, like increased PPE and transportation for healthcare workers, Duterte’s administration responded instead with militaristic tactics, treating the virus like an enemy state. According to Local Autonomous Network (LAN), this is an attempt to secure power, rather than to keep anyone safe.
The anarchists involved in LAN were already not inclined to rely on Duerte’s regime, nor the prevailing capitalistic order. To do so begets a return to ‘normal’, and ‘normalcy’ means more of a structure that encourages selfishness and supremacy over cooperation. As with most anarchists, LAN sees many of the hardships under COVID-19 not as anomalous, but as agitations of structural injustice. For example, they cite Duerto’s ineffective aid to “no work, no pay” workers, such as street vendors or pedicab drivers, as an ignorance towards the needs of his own people. Those who have reacted to COVID-19 with selfishness are expressing a learned maladaptive - a symptom of a social order that impairs cooperation.
“Mutual aid is a natural action for a person,” says a collective member who helped Food Not Bombs hand out fresh soup. “Cooperation is an instinct.” Jean, who helped distribute rice around her community said, “this is not to show off that we want to be a hero, but [that] we are there to share what we have according to our capacity.” Chung, a pedicab driver, has been offering free rides to healthcare workers, as well as using his cart to distribute aid packages. These efforts belong to a complex network that looks to model cooperative living: community gardening, donation drives, food redistribution, and online classes for children and adults. All of this falls in-line with LAN, FNB and the Etniko Bandido Infoshop’s ongoing work; that is, community-building mutual aid that persists through foul and fair weather.
Now is a great time to revisit Occupy Sandy, an example of grassroots, horizontal organizing that stepped in when government organizations like FEMA and NYCHA were stumbling. The ad-hoc effort came about from people who were previously involved in Occupy Wall Street, and grew into a coordinated system that deployed hot meals and supplies with a force of over 60,000 volunteers.
Following Hurricane Sandy, there was a varied reaction across state entities. Public-facing officials made use of their extended screen time to feign efficacy and across-the-aisle cooperation, often overplaying the resiliency of their region. (Sound familiar?) FEMA, although also administering on-the-ground aid, largely focused on monetary loans (with varying success). The MTA reistated service quickly, while NYCHA left residents stranded in unsafe conditions. Meanwhile, other members of government were comfortable taking a back seat while Occupy Sandy provided aid in hardest-hit communities, sometimes providing the supplies for OS to distribute. Along the way, the Department of Homeland Security was keeping tabs on OS, culminating in an exhaustive report that can teach us a lot about how the state exists alongside disaster communities.
By Out of the Woods’ telling, “disaster communities are not intentional communities, drop-out communes, or activist temporary autonomous zones. They’re self-organised, non-market, non-statist social reproduction under adverse conditions.” Within these communities, we see examples of mutual aid - in the case of Occupy Sandy, that looked like community-based organizing around need-fulfillment, without the hierarchical trappings of orgs like the Red Cross. Their occurrence is natural - during crisis, there is an innate “reversion to improvised, collaborative, cooperative, and local society.” But they are also ephemeral, and slated to disappear once normalcy is restored.
Thus, while such autonomous entities springing up when the state is weak might appear threatening, these disaster communities come equipped with the latent promise that they’ll disappear. With that security in hand, the state can feel empowered in utilizing their services, and even, in the case of the DHS report, praising their strategy. But, as Easton Smith argues, there’s more to it than that. By working alongside Occupy Sandy, the state was granted access to a stabilized public; by supporting, rather than squashing its efforts, the state was allowed an intercessor that could quell public frustration in the interim between crisis and normalcy. Meanwhile, the state made OS meet them on their terms, including threats to withhold essential provisions if protests were staged. Members of OS worried that they could either be political or provide aid, although the two needn’t be mutually exclusive.
The solution is not necessarily to bar all interaction with the state. Smith makes the case for some interplay - especially when it comes to getting emergency supplies - but with a full understanding of the value of a disaster community, which can be leveraged. Occupy Sandy, by nature of being so ad-hoc, had no foundational understanding of its relationship to the state. And there’s another thing that the DHS report can teach us: that the state knows its enemy. Going forward, we ought to try to understand them at least just as well.
Lastly, we must consider the revolutionary potential of these disaster communities. Let’s accept that they not only can, but must be both aid-giving and political. But even so, Out of the Woods argues that no amount of disaster communities lead to revolution. Maybe so, but when they pull upon existing activist work and mutual aid structures, the effect is different. In the case of covid-19, this may look like anti-prison groups using health-related decareration to stoke justice reform; or the mainstream appropriation of rent striking to link tenants to unions for long-term organizing. The Mexico City earthquake of 1985 is a good example of disaster as a catalyst for reform. Lastly, disaster communities can easily be made into long-term networks, which can develop a more sophisticated relationship with the state, and work to serve more dimensions of our daily lives.