Posts Tagged ‘Keith McHenry’


With the events in Charlottesville still fresh in our minds, and with seemingly daily confrontations between neo-Nazis and anti-racists, the information and analysis Keith McHenry presents below couldn’t be more timely. It’s a reasonable bet to assume that the FBI will focus more on anti-racists than on white supremacists and neo-Nazi domestic terrorists, and will attempt to entrap anti-racists.

Even if the FBI, by some miracle, focuses on alt-right thugs, it’s still a certainty that they’ll continue to infiltrate leftist groups and will continue to attempt to entrap activists. If you’re a left political activist, please read on and understand what we’re up against.

Dummy 3 flat 72-small

(The following piece is from The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe — an actual cookbook written by anarchists which includes accurate information about anarchism and “recipes” for social change.)

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How to Avoid FBI Entrapment

by Keith McHenry

The government wastes millions, probably tens of millions, of dollars annually spying on and disrupting the anarchist movement. It wouldn’t waste all that money trying to stop us if it wasn’t worried that we might inspire resistance.

Even though most anarchists are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and many participate in useful projects such as infoshops, bicycle co-ops, and the sharing and growing of food, the police, state agencies, federal agencies, and military intelligence units in the United States routinely infiltrate anarchist groups, and government provocateurs have repeatedly attempted to entrap activists. For the most part, they’ve failed at that.

But unfortunately some activists have not only been arrested, but have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to years in prison.

The FBI and other law enforcement agencies can and do frame or entrap anarchists to devastating effect, so it is important to do all you can to reduce the possibility of being set up on phony “terrorism” or other charges. Not only could you be removed from the community for many years, your family and friends would suffer through your ordeals in court and through the pain of knowing you are in prison. Defense activities also siphon off huge amounts of energy, time, and resources from the good work of building a better world.

Still it is not always possible to avoid being the target of the authorities, so take precautions to limit the damage if the state seeks to silence you. Taking actions that you can be proud of may be the most important single thing you can do. Think of the consequences of your acts. How will you feel if someone is injured or killed because of something you did? Could your actions be used to discredit the movement? Could they add to the divisions, fear, and paranoia in the community?

Don’t think that you can get away with risky, pointless actions. You’re not clairvoyant. The government targets even the most peaceful groups (including Quaker groups)  through its use of informers and provocateurs, and surveillance is unrelenting and omnipresent. So what can you do beyond carefully considering your actions and doing only things you feel good about?
You can take some simple steps to reduce the possibility of being arrested and prosecuted on phony charges. When people talk or joke about taking up arms, trashing communities, or bombing or burning down some place, speak loudly about how you would never participate in any action that could injure someone.

The fact that we know that we are not considering acts of terrorism can cause us to make light of statements about arson, bombings, and rock throwing, but the FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to political meetings to talk about using violence or property destruction, or initiated conversations while being wired to record conversations. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. When the cases get to court, prosecutors and the media can point out that the accused activists didn’t object to the comments made by the informants, “proving” their guilt.

You can minimize the success of the state in harming you and your efforts by making it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. (They’re not the same: violence involves damage to people or animals; sabotage involves—sometimes, not always—damage to property.) If you are planning to damage property, consider making your intentions clear in advance by offering a public explanation of your actions. Examples could include pulling up genetically modified crops or dismantling the separation wall in Palestine, actions designed to stop an egregious harm. At the same time you can refrain from giving the exact time or location of your plans so that the authorities will have at least some difficulty blocking your actions. While you may still be accused of taking part in a “terrorist” plot, you will have much more popular support, and you’ll make the authorities’ “terrorism” accusations less credible.

You can make your positions clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings, and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should talk elsewhere.

It once was possible to use the defense of entrapment, but that is no longer the case. Vice News contributor Natasha Lennard’s article, “The Line Between FBI Stings and Entrapment Has Not Blurred, It’s Gone,” makes this quite clear.

In her introduction to the Human Rights Watch report, “Illusions of Justice: Human Rights Abuses in US Terrorism Prosecutions,” Andrea Prasow said that “Americans have been told that their government is keeping them safe by preventing and prosecuting terrorism inside the US . . . But take a closer look and you realize that many of these people would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts.” While this report focuses on the entrapment and framing of people in the Muslim community, anarchists in the United States have also been targeted, as described in the report.

Natasha Lennard writes:

Since 9/11, Muslims in the US have been the focus of major counterterror stings. But other groups have been caught in the net where sting meets entrapment. A small group of self-identified anarchists in Cleveland were all convicted and sentenced to around 10 years in prison for allegedly plotting to blow up a bridge in Ohio. But an FBI infiltrator provided the target and the fake C-4 explosives. Rick Perlstein wrote of the case in Rolling Stone, ‘the alleged terrorist masterminds end up seeming, when the full story comes out, unable to terrorize their way out of a paper bag without law enforcement tutelage.

The case of entrapment in Cleveland provides concrete examples of what activists should watch out for. The FBI sent an informant, Shaquille Azir or “Kalvin Jackson,” to the kitchen at Occupy Cleveland on October 21, 2011, seeking to build a relationship with some of the cooks.
FBI Special Agent Ryan M. Taylor filed Federal Complaint 1:12-mj-3073 regarding the matter. The government presented it at the defendants’ May 1, 2012 arraignment; it details how the entrapment worked. It’s a stark warning to anyone who might be a target of the FBI. In sections 8 and 9, the FBI admits to using a Confidential Human Source (CHS) and Undercover Employee (UCE) to encourage acts of terrorism:

8. The (CHS) Confidential Human Source hereinafter has been working as a source for the FBI since July 20, 2011. The CHS has a criminal record including one conviction for possession of cocaine in 1990, one conviction for robbery in 1991, and four convictions for passing bad checks between 1991 and 2011. The CHS is currently on probation in Cuyahoga and Lorain Counties for passing bad checks. Since July 20, 2011, the CHS has been paid approximately $5,750 for services and $550 for expenses, the CHS has not been paid since beginning her/his probation.

9. The (UCE) Undercover Employee has been employed by the FBI for over 15 years and has been working in an undercover capacity for 10 years. The UCE has received ongoing training in conducting undercover investigations and has participated in dozens of investigations in an undercover capacity.

Section 12 suggests the FBI was seeking anarchists to frame at Occupy Cleveland.

12. Based on an initial report of potential criminal activity and threats involving anarchists who would be attending an event held by a protest group, the Cleveland FBI directed the CHS to attend that event. On October 21, 2011, at approximately 6:30 pm, and while the CHS was attending the event, the CHS identified four suspicious males with walkie-talkie radios around their necks. Three of the four men had masks or something covering their faces; one male did not. The men were wearing black or dark colored shirts, had black backpacks, carried the anarchist flags and acted differently than the other people in attendance.

Section 29 shows that informant Shaquille Azir was recording meetings for the FBI and claimed that one of those targeted, Michael Wright, had talked of making smoke bombs from a recipe taken from the William Powell book titled The Anarchist Cookbook (NOT this Anarchist Cookbook).

(In a separate case, according to a terrorism complaint filed in Brooklyn in April 2015, FBI informants provided Asia Siddiqui and Noelle Velentzas with copies of the Powell book on November 2, 2014, circling the types of bombs the government thought would help build their case.)

29. On March 22, 2012, the CHS was provided a body recorder [and] consensually recorded a meeting between the CHS and WRIGHT. In sum and substance, WRIGHT described using an upcoming festival as an opportunity to create a civil distraction in order to commit a larger act of violence. WRIGHT also discussed making smoke bombs and other explosive destructive devices using the ‘Anarchist Cookbook,’ a book that describes the construction and use of weapons and explosives. The following are some of the relevant excerpts from that conversation:

Sections 97 and 98 show that phone calls and conversations were recorded a couple of days before the FBI-engineered May Day fake bombing:

97. On April 29, 2012, the UCE recorded a telephone call with WRIGHT. In sum and substance WRIGHT said that he would call the UCE around 1:30 pm to give the UCE the exact meeting location, however it was in the Warrensville Heights, Ohio area.

98. On April 29, 2012, the CHS was provided with a body recorder and consensually recorded a meeting with the UCE and WRIGHT, BAXTER, and HAYNE.

In Section 110 of the federal complaint, the FBI admits that the alleged criminal activity that they were investigating amounted to no more than “smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland”:

110. WRIGHT recruited BAXTER, C.S. and the CHS to participate in some form of direct action, initially involving smoke grenades and destruction of signage on buildings in downtown Cleveland;” Erick Trickey of Cleveland Magazine noted that defendant Connor Stevens expressed support for nonviolent direct action.

On a Saturday in April, about three weeks before his arrest, Stevens served dinner in Market Square with Food Not Bombs. He got talking with fellow volunteer Aidan Kelly about Ernest Hemingway’s novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, in which an American joins the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War to fight a fascist uprising, and is assigned to dynamite a bridge. “I remember distinctly talking about his ideas about pacifism,” Kelly says. He and Stevens agreed that movements such as Food Not Bombs offered a better alternative for creating social change than violence.

Trickey writes of the first meeting of Stevens and co-defendant Brandon Baxter, a meeting like those you may have had if you travel in anarchist circles.

At Food Not Bombs last year, Stevens met another young anarchist, Brandon Baxter, as intense and passionate as Stevens was cerebral.

The 19-year-old Lakewood High graduate’s influences weren’t long-dead, bearded writers, but websites ranging from the far right (the conspiracy-minded InfoWars) to the far left (the Anonymous “hacktivist” movement). He embraced Food Not Bombs with gusto, screaming “Free food!” across Market Square when dinner was ready.

Yet the FBI claims that Wright downloaded Powell’s version of the Anarchist Cookbook with the purpose of making a bomb, which would have been a good trick given that to all appearances Powell’s book has never been sold in e-book format.

111. WRIGHT repeatedly asserted he downloaded the ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ in an attempt to learn how to make explosives including constructing plastic explosives from bleach and other household items; . . .

The complaint finally shows that the FBI was moving their own plot along by providing the defendants with phony C4.

112. When presented with the opportunity to purchase C4, WRIGHT and BAXTER met with an individual offering it for sale;

Michael Winter of USA Today reported that “Three self-described anarchists were sentenced to prison Tuesday for trying to blow up a highway bridge between Cleveland and Akron using dummy explosives provided by an undercover FBI agent.”

Ed Meyer of the Akron Beacon Journal wrote that “U.S. District Judge David D. Dowd, Jr. rejected the government’s insistence that the defendants get 30 years in prison and instead gave Douglas L. Wright 11½ years, Brandon L. Baxter nine years and nine months and Connor C. Stevens eight years and one month.”

Both of Stevens’ parents, James and Gail Stevens, lashed out at the government’s actions.

“My son is guilty, and so are you!” James Stevens told federal prosecutor Duncan Brown at one point. Gail Stevens called her son “my hero,” said she loved him with all her heart, and that he never would have acted as he did if not for the provocateur.

The entrapment of the young Occupy anarchists in Cleveland was the most dramatic attempt to discredit the Occupy movement. And it worked—with the help of some protesters who played into the hands of the police.

Efforts to re-energize the movement failed as the media reported on a wave of Occupy-related violence. Reuters reported:

Occupy Wall Street protesters smashed windows in Seattle, fled police on scooters through the streets of New York, and clashed with officers in Oakland on Tuesday in a May Day effort to revive the movement against economic injustice with demonstrations around the United States. . . .

New York police reported 10 instances of harmless white powder—apparently meant to raise an anthrax scare—being mailed to financial institutions and others . . .

In Seattle, some 50 black-clad protesters marched through downtown, carrying black flags on sticks they used to shatter the windows of several stores including a Nike Town outlet and an HSBC bank before police moved them out of the area. Others smashed windows at a Seattle federal building, and swarms of demonstrators gathered in an open-air plaza.

May 2012 was not the first time authorities used an alleged May Day bomb plot to discredit anarchists. Chicago police, seeking to stop the movement for an eight-hour workday, attacked a peaceful rally in May 1886. A bomb was set off and police shot into the rally in what has become known as the Haymarket massacre. The bomber was never identified and the government provided no evidence linking them to the bombing, yet anarchists August Spies, Samuel Fielden, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Louis Lingg, and Albert Parsons were accused of the bombing, convicted, and executed.

Historians James Joll and Timothy Messer-Kruse claim the evidence points to Rudolph Schnaubelt, brother-in-law of Michael Schwab, as the likely bomber. Howard Zinn, in A People’s History of the United States also indicates it was Schnaubelt, suggesting “he was a provocateur, posing as an anarchist, who threw the bomb so police would have a pretext to arrest leaders of Chicago’s anarchist movement.”

Spies would later testify, “I was very indignant. I knew from experience of the past that this butchering of people was done for the express purpose of defeating the eight-hour movement.”

That was in the 19th century. The government has been framing, imprisoning, and occasionally murdering anarchists ever since.

But you’re not powerless. You can take some simple steps to protect yourself from being arrested, charged, and convicted of planning or participating in acts of terrorism. The FBI and Homeland Security have sent infiltrators to our meetings to talk about using violence. The authorities will often attempt to give the impression in affidavits or typed memos that someone other than their informant or undercover officer made statements advocating violence, and imply that everyone participating in the discussion supported its use.

One of the most successful strategies used by the FBI is to have those infiltrating joke about the use of violence. When the words they used become the text in memos or court filings, they’re out of context, they no longer seem humorous, and can be presented as a serious conversation supporting the use of violence. Since those participating in such conversation consider the statements nothing more than an awkward attempt to be humorous or fit in with the group, no one thinks to make it clear that they don’t intend to participate in a violent action. Months later, out-of-context statements can appear as evidence that anarchists were plotting acts of terrorism. Even if you state clearly that it is not appropriate to talk or joke about violence, you can still be arrested and tried, but you will greatly reduce that possibility if you do speak up.

Activists have been charged as terrorists after getting a ride home with people that turned out to be infiltrators. After dropping off their passengers, provocateurs and those they’re setting up have burned down buildings or torched vehicles. The fact that you were seen getting into the informant’s vehicle before the act of alleged terrorism happened can provide the evidence needed to accuse you of taking part. The FBI and their informants are not always honest, and may choose not to mention that you were not at the scene of the crime, even though they can honestly say you got into a vehicle with the arsonist. Sometimes federal prosecutors have been able to get convictions simply because the set-up activists were intimidated into not expressing their dedication to nonviolence, fearing that they would be accused of being “weak” and not serious about social change, the well-being of animals, or the environment. Both provocateurs and holier-than-thou true believers use such fears to manipulate people into saying or doing things they would never otherwise say or do. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into silence. Don’t let anyone manipulate you into saying or doing things that could land you in prison.

The first step is to make it clear that you are not going to participate in acts of violence or destructive sabotage. You can make this clear in your literature, statements to the media, at meetings, social gatherings and during informal conversations. If people are joking about using violence or talking about the virtues of acts that could injure or kill people, it is wise to make several statements making it clear that you will not engage in any kind of violent activity. Point out that you are dedicated to nonviolence and that anyone considering any other strategies or methods should meet elsewhere. To help protect your friends you might also point out that it is very unlikely that such plans could be concealed from the government. As you can see in the Cleveland case, otherwise innocent conversations can be recorded and provide support for prosecution.

Another step you can take is to include statements about nonviolence in your literature about any direct action you might be planning or supporting. On occasion, the media and prosecutors will claim that our literature didn’t make any mention that our protests would be nonviolent, and use that as “proof” we are terrorists. If your group is planning an action, you can protect yourself by including explicit language about nonviolence in your publications. This can be difficult when working in coalition with groups that might not share our principles of nonviolence, but you could publish your own literature on the action. Don’t be intimidated into remaining silent on the issue of violence. It isn’t necessary to exclude reference to nonviolent direct action just because people are arguing in support of a “diversity of tactics.” You may initiate a pledge of nonviolence for the campaign you are supporting and organize nonviolence training sessions. Nonviolent resistance is every bit as valid as other methods and is often more effective.

Nonviolent direct action, noncooperation, and nonviolent resistance can be very empowering. It takes courage to organize and participate in campaigns of nonviolent struggle. Nonviolent struggle can build trust between participants and the public. Campaigns of nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience can be so effective that governments and corporations will try anything to push our movement into adopting violent tactics. That is one reason groups like Food Not Bombs have been the focus of infiltration and why the authorities rely on agents provocateur to reduce the impact of nonviolence, while sowing fear and alienation.

Don’t let people intimidate you into silence. People can make comments about nonviolent activists being “wimps” or “pussies,” that nonviolence never works, or that you are not really committed to change if you aren’t willing to use sabotage or violence. You might even hear that nonviolence is racist because people of color “have to take up arms,” and that white, first-world people have the luxury to use nonviolence. Infiltrators or government agents may be talking to some of your friends at cafes, clubs, or other public locations, promoting the idea that armed resistance or arson is the only solution. Honest discussion of all tactics and methods, including types of violence, is fine, but make it clear that you and your group are dedicated to nonviolence.

At the same time, it is not wise to make claims of infiltration or accuse someone of being an informant. It is best to not worry about infiltration and to stay focused on the work of your organization. Just take the simple precautions of asking that any discussions of violent tactics take place somewhere other than at public meetings, make it clear you are dedicated to nonviolence; and make that plain in your publications and through organizing nonviolence trainings. If you do this, attempts to convict you on terrorism charges will likely fail, and the fear and mistrust that so often destroy movements will be defused. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Don’t accuse people—just be careful about what you say and do.

You can make sure you and your friends will not fall prey to the government’s efforts to disrupt your work. First, stay focused on the fundamentals of your project or campaign. Don’t feel guilty about refusing to take violent action. Since the world is facing so many dire crises, it might seem rational to consider arson or other acts deemed violent by the corporate state, but these tactics often backfire. They can cause the public to withdraw any support they may have had for your cause. The use of violence also breeds distrust among activists, because of the secrecy involved. But as we have learned from Ed Snowden and other whistle blowers, it is nearly impossible to have secrets in the United States. According to the Washington Post, over eighty billion dollars is spent each year on government and corporate spying.

A campaign of violence would add to the disempowerment in our community and scare the public into greater support of the authorities. If you feel you must investigate tactics that include violent action, ask yourself whether such tactics will do more harm than good for you personally and for the cause you support. Are you really ready to live fearing capture? How will you feel if your friends spend their lives in prison while you’re all portrayed as dangerous and crazy? Will your actions really inspire the public to rise up and save the earth? How will you feel if you kill someone or if one of your friends is killed? Can you really see yourself coordinating a campaign of bombings, arson, shootings? How will you feel spending the rest of your life in prison, seeing the stress this puts on your family and friends?

While it is possible you could spend decades in prison for taking nonviolent direct action, you are likely to feel more empowered and have wider support on the outside than if you were imprisoned for violent acts. Unlike people who are doing life in prison for bombings or shootings, if you are sentenced to a long prison term for organizing or participating in a campaign of nonviolent direct action and noncooperation, you have a much greater chance of inspiring popular support, possibly achieving your political or environmental goals, and of leaving prison before your sentence is up.

In addition, mass nonviolent direct action based on a thoughtful strategy is more likely to be effective. Agents provocateur encourage drastic actions, knowing we are knowledgeable about environmental and economic threats. If pressured, you can remind your friends that many of the anarchists in prison were framed for “terrorist” acts and that as anarchists we are dedicated to nonviolent direct action.

Along with making it clear you are not going to be silent when people suggest using violence, you may want to organize nonviolence preparations, trainings or workshops with your friends or organizations. Suggest that your community study the history of nonviolent direct action in books by people such as Emma Goldman, Erica Chenoweth, Gene Sharp, Martin Luther King Jr., and others who experienced first hand the power of noncooperation and nonviolence.

Again, be concerned about jokes concerning violence. If people joke about armed revolution, bombings, rock throwing or other acts of violence, make it clear that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and ask them to stop. You might remind your friends that conversations and jokes about using violence have resulted in activists being framed and sentenced to long prison terms. Terms sometime decades long. The activists that are joking about violence or making statements about the need to use violence are not necessarily infiltrators or police agents, so don’t make any accusations. They may have been influenced by someone they met or may have read some of the many books romanticizing violence. It is best not to worry and to stay focused on the work of your group. The government can use the fear of infiltration as a way of destroying trust in your community. Again, simply remind your friends that you are dedicated to nonviolent direct action and that we don’t joke or talk about taking violent action.

While armed resistance has worked to overthrow governments and change the power structure of some countries, in virtually every case the system that resulted continued to use violence to retain its authority. That is the exact opposite of what anarchists are seeking: a society free of coercion, exploitation and domination. Nonviolent social change offers the clearest route there.

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Keith McHenry is the author of Hungry for Peace: How You Can Help End Poverty and War with Food Not Bombs.

hungry

 

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(For the last couple of months we’ve been running the best posts from years past, posts that will be new to most of our subscribers. We’re just starting to run blasts from the past from 2014 — this is the first — and will be posting them for the next few months; we’ll intersperse them with new material.)

Anarchism: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Anarchist Cookbook front cover(from the new [2015] Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe, Introduction by Chris Hedges)

by Chaz Bufe

There are many popular misconceptions about anarchism, and because of them a great many people dismiss anarchists and anarchism out of hand.

Misconceptions abound in the mass media, where the term “anarchy” is commonly used as a synonym for “chaos,” and where terrorists, no matter what their political beliefs or affiliations, are often referred to as “anarchists.” As well, when anarchism is mentioned, it’s invariably presented as merely a particularly mindless form of youthful rebellion. These misconceptions are, of course, also widespread in the general public, which by and large allows the mass media to do what passes for its thinking.

Worse, some who call themselves “anarchists” don’t even know the meaning of the term. These people fall, in general, into two classes. The first, as the great Italian anarchist Luigi Fabbri pointed out nearly a century ago in Influencias burguesas sobre el anarquismo, consists of those who are attracted to the lies in the mass media. By and large, these people are simply looking for a glamorous label for selfish, antisocial behavior. The good news is that most of them eventually mature and abandon what they consider “anarchism.” The bad news is that while they’re around they tend to give anarchism a very bad name. As Fabbri put it:

[These are] persons who are not repelled by the absurd, but who, on the contrary, engage in it. They are attracted to projects and ideas precisely because they are absurd; and so anarchism comes to be known precisely for the illogical character and ridiculousness which ignorance and bourgeois calumny have attributed to anarchist doctrines.1

The second class consists of those who equate anarchism with some pet ideology having essentially nothing to do with anarchism. In modern times, the most prominent of these mislabeled beliefs have been primitivism and amoral egoism. Again, the identification of such beliefs with anarchism tends to give anarchism a bad name, because of, on the one hand, the absurdity of primitivism and, on the other, the obvious antisocial nature of amoral egotism. To put this another way, the identification of anarchism with chaos, mindless rebellion, absurdities (such as primitivism), and antisocial attitudes and behaviors (such as amoral egoism) has three primary undesirable effects: 1) it allows people to easily dismiss anarchism and anarchists; 2) it makes it much more difficult to explain anarchism to them, because they already think that they know what it is and have rejected it; and 3) it attracts a fair number of what Fabbri calls “empty headed and frivolous types,” and occasionally outright sociopaths, whose words and actions tend to further discredit anarchism.

So, if we’re ever to get anywhere, we need to make plain what anarchism is and what it isn’t. First, let’s deal with the misconceptions.

What Anarchism Isn’t

Anarchism is not terrorism. An overwhelming majority of anarchists have always rejected terrorism, because they’ve been intelligent enough to realize that means determine ends, that terrorism is inherently vanguardist, and that even when “successful” it almost always leads to bad results. The anonymous authors of You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship: The Anarchist Case Against Terrorism put it like this:

You can’t blow up a social relationship. The total collapse of this society would provide no guarantee about what replaced it. Unless a majority of people had the ideas and organization sufficient for the creation of an alternative society, we would see the old world reassert itself because it is what people would be used to, what they believed in, what existed unchallenged in their own personalities.

Proponents of terrorism and guerrillaism are to be opposed because their actions are vanguardist and authoritarian, because their ideas, to the extent that they are substantial, are wrong or unrelated to the results of their actions (especially when they call themselves libertarians or anarchists), because their killing cannot be justified, and finally because their actions produce either repression with nothing in return, or an authoritarian regime.2

Decades of government and corporate slander cannot alter this reality: the overwhelming majority of anarchists reject terrorism for both practical and ethical reasons. In the late 1990s, Time magazine called Ted Kaczynski “the king of the anarchists”; but that doesn’t make it so. Time‘s words are just another typical, perhaps deliberately dishonest, attempt to tar all anarchists with the terrorist brush.

This is not to say that armed resistance is never appropriate. Clearly there are situations in which one has little choice, as when facing a dictatorship that suppresses civil liberties and prevents one from acting openly, which has happened repeatedly in many countries. Even then, armed resistance should be undertaken reluctantly and as a last resort, because violence is inherently undesirable due to the suffering it causes; because it provides repressive regimes excuses for further repression; because it provides them with the opportunity to commit atrocities against civilians and to blame those atrocities on their “terrorist” opponents; and because, as history has shown, the chances of success are very low.

Even though armed resistance may sometimes be called for in repressive situations, it’s a far different matter to succumb to the romance of the gun and to engage in urban guerrilla warfare in relatively open societies in which civil liberties are largely intact and in which one does not have mass popular support at the start of one’s violent campaign. Violence in such situations does little but drive the public into the “protective” arms of the government; narrow political dialogue (tending to polarize the populace into pro- and anti-guerrilla factions); turn politics into a spectator sport for the vast majority of people3; provide the government with the excuse to suppress civil liberties; and induce the onset of repressive regimes “better” able to handle the “terrorist” problem than their more tolerant predecessors. It’s also worth mentioning that the chances of success of such violent, vanguardist campaigns are microscopic. They are simply arrogant, ill-thought-out roads to disaster.4

Anarchism is not primitivism. In recent decades, groups of quasi-religious mystics have begun equating the primitivism they advocate (rejection of science, rationality, and technology—often lumped together under the blanket term, “technology”) with anarchism.5 In reality, the two have nothing to do with each other, as we’ll see when we consider what anarchism actually is—a set of philosophical/ethical precepts and organizational principles designed to maximize human freedom. For now, suffice it to say that the elimination of technology advocated by primitivist groups would inevitably entail the deaths of literally billions of human beings in a world utterly dependent upon interlocking technologies for everything from food production/delivery to communications to medical treatment. This fervently desired outcome, the elimination of technology, could only come about through means which are the absolute antithesis of anarchism: the use of coercion and violence on a mass scale, as it’s inconceivable that a majority of human beings would voluntarily give up such things as running water, sewer systems, modern medicine, electric lights, and warm houses in the winter.6

Anarchism is not chaos; Anarchism is not rejection of organization. This is another popular misconception, repeated ad nauseam by the mass media and by anarchism’s political foes. Even a brief look at the works of anarchism’s leading theoreticians and writers confirms that this belief is in error. Over and over in the writings of Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Rocker, Ward, Bookchin, et al., one finds not a rejection of organization, but rather a preoccupation with it—a preoccupation with how society should be organized in accord with the anarchist principles of individual freedom and social justice. For a century and a half now, anarchists have been arguing that coercive, hierarchical organization (as embodied in government and corporations) is not equivalent to organization per se (which they regard as necessary), and that coercive organization should be replaced by decentralized, nonhierarchical organization based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid. This is hardly a rejection of organization.

Anarchism is not amoral egoism. As does any avant garde social movement, anarchism attracts more than its share of flakes, parasites, and outright sociopaths, persons simply looking for a glamorous label to cover their often-pathological selfishness, their disregard for the rights and dignity of others, and their pathetic desire to be the center of attention. These individuals tend to give anarchism a bad name, because even though they have very little in common with actual anarchists—that is, persons concerned with ethical behavior, social justice, and the rights of both themselves and others—they’re often quite exhibitionistic, and their disreputable actions sometimes come into the public eye. To make matters worse, these exhibitionists sometimes publish their self-glorifying views and deliberately misidentify those views as “anarchist.” To cite an example, the publisher of a pretentiously (sub)titled American “anarchist” journal recently published a book by a fellow egoist consisting primarily of ad hominem attacks on actual anarchists, knowing full well that the “anarchist” author of the book is a notorious police narcotics informant who has on a number of occasions ratted out those he’s had disputes with to government agencies. This police informer’s actions—which, revealingly, he’s attempted to hide—are completely in line with his ideology of amoral egoism (“post-left anarchism”), but they have nothing to do with actual anarchism. Such amoral egoists may (mis)use the label, but they’re no more anarchists than the now-defunct German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was democratic or a republic.

The full absurdity of identifying amoral egoism—essentially “I’ll do what I damn well please and fuck everybody else”—with anarchism will become apparent in short order when we’ll consider what anarchism actually is.

Anarchism is not “Libertarianism.” Until relatively recently, the very useful term “libertarian” was used worldwide as a synonym for “anarchist.” Indeed, it was used exclusively in this sense until the 1970s when, in the United States, it was appropriated by the grossly misnamed Libertarian Party.

This party has almost nothing to do with anarchist concepts of liberty, especially the concepts of equal freedom and positive freedom—that is, access to the resources necessary to the freedom to act. (Equal freedom and positive freedom are discussed in the following section of this essay.) Instead, this “Libertarian” party concerns itself exclusively with the negative freedoms, pretending that liberty exists only in the negative sense, while it simultaneously revels in the denial of equal positive freedom to the vast majority of the world’s people.

These “Libertarians” not only glorify capitalism, the mechanism that denies both equal freedom and positive freedom to the vast majority, but they also wish to retain the coercive apparatus of the state while eliminating its social welfare functions—hence widening the rift between rich and poor, and increasing the freedom of the rich by diminishing that of the poor (while keeping the boot of the state firmly on their necks). Thus, in the United States, the once exceedingly useful term “libertarian” has been hijacked by egotists who are in fact enemies of liberty in the full sense of the word, and who have very little in common with anarchists.

This is what anarchism isn’t.

What Anarchism Is

In its narrowest sense, anarchism is simply the rejection of the state, the rejection of coercive government. Under this extremely narrow definition, even such apparent absurdities as “anarcho-capitalism” and religious anarchism are possible.7

But most anarchists use the term “anarchism” in a much broader sense, defining it as the rejection of coercion and domination in all forms. So, most anarchists reject not only coercive government, but also religion and capitalism, which they see as other forms of the twin evils, domination and coercion. They reject religion because they see it as the ultimate form of domination, in which a supposedly all-powerful god hands down “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” to its “flock.” They likewise reject capitalism because it’s designed to produce rich and poor and because it’s designed to produce a system of domination in which some give orders and others have little choice but to take them. For similar reasons, on a personal level almost all anarchists reject sexism, racism, and homophobia—all of which produce artificial inequality, and thus domination.

To put this another way, anarchists believe in freedom in both its negative and positive senses. In this country, freedom is routinely presented only in its negative sense, that of being free from restraint. Hence most people equate freedom only with such things as freedom of speech, freedom of association, and freedom of (or from) religion. But there’s also a positive aspect of freedom, an aspect which anarchists almost alone insist on.8

That positive aspect is what Emma Goldman called “the freedom to.” And that freedom, the freedom of action, the freedom to enjoy or use, is highly dependent upon access to the world’s resources. Because of this the rich are in a very real sense free to a much greater degree than the rest of us. To cite an example in the area of free speech, Bill Gates could easily buy dozens of daily newspapers or television stations to propagate his views and influence public opinion. How many working people could do the same? How many working people could afford to buy a single daily newspaper or a single television station? The answer is obvious. Working people cannot do such things; instead, we’re reduced to producing ‘zines with a readership of a few hundred persons or putting up pages on the Internet in our relatively few hours of free time.

Examples of the greater freedom of the rich abound in daily life. To put this in general terms, because they do not have to work, the rich not only have far more money (that is, access to resources) but also far more time to pursue their interests, pleasures, and desires than do the rest of us. To cite a concrete example, the rich are free to send their children to the best colleges employing the best instructors, which the rest of us simply can’t afford to do; if we can afford college at all, we make do with community and state colleges employing slave-labor “adjunct faculty” and overworked, underpaid graduate students. Once in college, the children of the rich are entirely free to pursue their studies, while most other students must work at least part time to support themselves, which deprives them of many hours which could be devoted to study. If you think about it, you can easily find additional examples of the greater freedom of the rich in the areas of medical care, housing, nutrition, travel, etc., etc.—in fact, in virtually every area of life.

This greater freedom of action for the rich comes at the expense of everyone else, through the diminishment of everyone else’s freedom of action. There is no way around this, given that freedom of action is to a great extent determined by access to finite resources. Anatole France well illustrated the differences between the restrictions placed upon the rich and the poor when he wrote, “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

Because the primary goal of anarchism is the greatest possible amount of freedom for all, anarchists insist on equal freedom in both its negative and positive aspects—that, in the negative sense, individuals be free to do whatever they wish as long as they do not harm or directly intrude upon others; and, in the positive sense, that all individuals have equal freedom to act, that they have equal access to the world’s resources.

Anarchists recognize that absolute freedom is an impossibility, that amoral egoism ignoring the rights of others would quickly devolve into a war of all against all. What we argue for is that everyone have equal freedom from restraint (limited only by respect for the rights of others) and that everyone have as nearly as possible equal access to resources, thus ensuring equal (or near-equal) freedom to act.

This is anarchism in its theoretical sense.

In Spain, Cuba, and a few other countries there have been serious attempts to make this theory reality through the movement known as anarcho-syndicalism. The primary purpose of anarcho-syndicalism is the replacement of coercive government by voluntary cooperation in the form of worker-controlled unions coordinating the entire economy. This would not only eliminate the primary restraint on the negative freedoms (government), but would also be a huge step toward achieving positive freedom. The nearest this vision came to fruition was in the Spanish Revolution, 1936–1939, when huge areas of Spain, including its most heavily industrialized region, came under the control of the anarcho-syndicalist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo. George Orwell describes this achievement in Homage to Catalonia:

The anarchists were still in virtual control of Catalonia and the revolution was in full swing. . . . the aspect of Barcelona was something startling and overwhelming. It was the first time that I had ever been in a town where the working class was in the saddle. Practically every building of any size had been seized by the workers and was draped with red flags or with the red and black flag of the anarchists; . . . Every shop and café had an inscription saying it had been collectivized; even the bootblacks had been collectivized and their boxes painted red and black. Waiters and shop-workers looked you in the face and treated you as an equal. Servile and even ceremonial forms of speech had temporarily disappeared. . . . The revolutionary posters were everywhere, flaming from the walls in clean reds and blues that made the few remaining advertisements look like daubs of mud. . . . All this was queer and moving. There was much in it that I did not understand, in some ways I did not even like it, but I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.

This is anarchism. And Orwell was right—it is worth fighting for.9
1. Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism, by Luigi Fabbri. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2001, p. 16.

2. You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 1998, p. 20.

3. It may be that now due to apathy, but in violent/repressive situations other options are cut off for almost everyone not directly involved in armed resistance.

4. For further discussion of this matter, see You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship: The Anarchist Case Against Terrorism and Bourgeois Influences on Anarchism.

5. Ted Kaczynski is in some ways quite typical of this breed of romantic. He differs from most of them in that he acted on his beliefs (albeit in a cowardly, violent manner) and that he actually lived a relatively primitive existence in the backwoods of Montana—unlike most of his co-religionists, who live comfortably in urban areas and employ the technologies they profess to loathe.

6. For further discussion of this topic, see Anarchism vs. Primitivism, by Brian Oliver Sheppard. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 2003. See also the “Primitive Thought” appendix to Listen Anarchist!, by Chaz Bufe. Tucson, AZ: See Sharp Press, 1998.

7. Indeed, there have been a fairly large number of admirable religious anarchists, individuals such as Leo Tolstoy and Dorothy Day (and the members of her Catholic Worker groups, such as Ammon Hennacy), though to most anarchists the advocacy of freedom on Earth while bowing to a heavenly tyrant (no matter how imaginary) seems an insupportable contradiction.

To the best of my knowledge there have been no such shining examples of anarcho-capitalists other than Karl Hess.

8. To be fair, marxists also tend to emphasize positive freedom, but for the most part they’re also curiously insensitive, and often downright hostile, to “negative” freedom—the freedom from restraint (especially when they have the guns and goons to do the restraining).

9. Of course, this discussion of anarchism is necessarily schematic, given that this pamphlet is intended as an introductory 10-minute read. For elaboration upon these themes, see Anarchism and Anarcho-syndicalism, by Rudolf Rocker; What Is Communist Anarchism?, by Alexander Berkman (republished by AK Press as What Is Anarchism?); Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow, by Peter Kropotkin; and Anarchy in Action, by Colin Ward.


 

by Keith McHenry, author of Hungry for Peace and primary author of The Anarchist Cookbook

Even though I have shared meals with the hungry for over 36 years, I find it shocking that today, in 2017, so many people are coming to eat with Food Not Bombs.

The National Center on Family Homelessness reports there are “2.5 million children in America that are homeless each year.” A society that lets millions of children live on it’s streets is a society that is collapsing.

To address this crisis we need to change our local and national priorities. That is why Food Not Bombs shares its meals outside: to encourage public dialogue about redirecting taxes from the military to providing real security for our people in the form of housing, education, and desperately needed services.

But instead of a humane, sensible response to homelessness, the Santa Cruz City Council has turned instead to making it illegal to be homeless via its law against sleeping outdoors. To make matters worse, a year-and-a-half ago, the City Council closed down the only homeless shelter in our city.

Anti-homeless architecture is also common in Santa Cruz. This includes installation of high frequency sound “Mosquito Boxes” in parks (activated after closing hours), removing planter boxes and free speech zones on Pacific Avenue, replacing the City Hall lawn with gravel and rocks, and now the ugly chain link fencing at the historic downtown post office.

These policies contribute to the death of homeless people, including 53-year-old Micheal Mears who died of hypothermia on February 17, 2017. Medical staff told his sister Jenny that his body temperature was 70 degrees when he was found on Potrero Street.

Anarchist Cookbook front coverAnother response to homelessness is to pass laws seeking to end sharing of meals in public in the hope that hiding hunger and homelessnes will reduce pressure to fund programs to help the poor.

To justify laws against sharing meals outside, advocates of repression cite a theory claiming that “street feeding” keeps people homeless.

One of those seeking to drive the homeless and groups that share food outside out-of-sight is Janet Fardette. In her 2009 Sentinel letter, “Time to take back downtown Santa Cruz,” Ms. Fardette writes, “Our city no longer belongs to us. It has been taken over by drug addicts, homeless, panhandlers and the like.”

I can understand that it must be frustrating for property owners to see an increasing number of people living outside. They worked hard to obtain their homes and businesses, and the growing number of people living outside must be disheartening, and does nothing to improve the value of their property. Still, does it really do any good to hide hunger and homelessness? Will that make these problems go away? Wouldn’t it be better to help suffering people than to persecute them.

The campaign to stop Food Not Bombs’ free meals includes an online petition, and phoning and e-mailing local officials. Ms. Fardette suggests in a February 13, 2017 e-mail that officials look into “Robert Marbut’s widely successful” theory — mentioned on the NPR report, “More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless” — that “Street feeding is one of the worst things to do, because it keeps people in homeless status. I think it’s very unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of recovery programs.”

Marbut’s “solution” focuses on “correcting” the behavior of those living on the streets, treating people as though they were naughty children. Marbut doesn’t even consider a failing economic system, gross disparities in wealth and income, and the obscene price of housing in neither his analysis nor his “solution.” In short, he posits that it’s the homeless person’s behavior that keeps him or her from paying for housing.

Blaming the victim isn’t working. Hundreds, probably thousands, of people still live outside in the cities that have adopted Marbut’s program and many in those cities still rely on Food Not Bombs and other groups that provide free meals.

Those who would like the homeless to disappear from Santa Cruz are lobbying to adopt Marbut’s “solution” and drive Food Not Bombs from public view. In short, they want to adopt Marbut’s “stick” but in all likelihood not adopt his inadequate “carrot.” The $5,300 a month that might be spent on Marbut’s consulting fee could be much better spent on maintaining 24-hour bathrooms.

Food Not Bombs is not a charity. We share vegan meals in visible locations with signs and literature promoting change in society, change that will mean that no one is forced to live on the streets or to depend on soup kitchens.

We can end homelessness if we divert even a small fraction of the billions wasted on armaments, and insted use it to provide real national security in the form of affordable housing, jobs for anyone who wants one, and access to quality education and healthcare for all. A living wage (a net boon to the economy) would also make it far easier for people to get off the streets. Blaming the homeless for their condition is clearly not working.

Sign the petition
https://www.change.org/p/support-the-right-of-food-not-bombs-to-share-free-food-info-and-ideas-in-public-spaces-in-sc?source_location=minibar

Keith McHenry is a co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement.



by Keith McHenry, author of Hungry for Peace

Even though I have shared meals with the hungry for over 35 years, in a time of ever-rising profit and productivity, the numbers of the hungry and homeless have risen, not fallen, over that time. In many of our cities, it feels as if we’re still living in the Great Depression.

The National Center on Family Homelessness published a study in 2014, based on a calculation using the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education and the 2013 U.S. Census, which found that “2.5 million children in America—one in every 30 children—go to sleep without a home of their own each year.” A society that lets a over two million children live on it’s streets is a society that is collapsing.

The most common government response to the suffering of those being forced into homelessness is the passage of laws against being homeless. Laws against sleeping, sitting, asking for money, living outside, or what officials call “quality of life crimes” make this bad situation even worse, and make the lives of homeless men, women, and children even more miserable.

Another aspect of this punitive response to homelessness is passage of laws prohibiting the public sharing of meals with the hungry. The hope is that hiding from public view the problem of homelessness will make it go away. This is an all too common tactic in cities across the country. Over 70 have passed laws that ban or place restrictions on the public sharing of meals. Orlando, Florida has a twice-a-year limit per park on providing free meals to the hungry. Ft. Lauderdale restricted the meals by requiring a permit and making it illegal to provide meals within 500 feet from any building, and provide toilet facilities, essentially eliminating all possible locations and making it impossible to comply with the permit restrictions. To justify all this, municipal authorities are citing a new theory that claims that “street feeding is unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of [substance abuse] recovery programs.”

One of those seeking to drive the homeless and groups that share food from public sight, and to make public food sharing impossible, is Janet Fardette, founder of the Leveelies — a group of volunteers that pick up trash along the San Lorenzo River levees in Santa Cruz, California. In her 2009 letter to the local paper, “Time to take back downtown Santa Cruz,”  she wrote, “Our city no longer belongs to us. It has been taken over by drug addicts, homeless, panhandlers and the like.”

One can understand her annoyance. It must be frustrating to property owners to see an ever increasing number of people seeking shelter in doorways, sidewalks, and along the
levee. Seeing people living outside, near or on their properies must be disheartening.

What’s not so understandable is the attempt to hide the homeless from public view without doing anything to address the root causes of homelessness or doing anything to aid the homeless.

As part of her campaign to drive the “homeless problem” out of sight–including an online petition, phone calling local officials and the police, and speaking out during the public comment portion of a board of supervisors meeting–Ms. Fardette suggested that officials look into “Robert Marbut’s widely successful” theory, mentioned in the NPR story “More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless” that feeding homeless people helps to keep them homeless.

Marbut puts it this way: “Street feeding is one of the worst things to do, because it keeps people in homeless status. I think it’s very unproductive, very enabling, and it keeps people out of [substance abuse] recovery programs.”

Marbut’s proposed way to end homelessness focuses on correcting the behavior of those forced to live on the streets, treating people as though they were naughty children. A failing economic and political system with low paying jobs, high rents, underfunded education, and little access to both physical and mental health services isn’t the culprit. Rather, as outlined in his “Guiding Principles” for solving the problem of homelessness, it’s the homeless peoples’ bad behavior that keeps them from being able to pay for housing.

Marbut’s “Guiding Principles” include:

* “Positive behavior should be rewarded with increased responsibilities and more privileges. Privileges such as higher quality sleeping arrangements, more privacy and elective learning opportunities should be used as rewards.”

* “Too often there are no consequences for negative behavior. Unfortunately, this sends a message that bad behavior is acceptable. Within the transformational process, it is critical to have swift and proportionate consequences.”

* “External activities such as ‘street feeding’ must be redirected to support the transformation process. In most cases, these activities are well-intended efforts by good folks, however these activities are very enabling and often do little to engage homeless individuals. Street feeding programs without comprehensive services actually increase and promote homelessness. Street feeding groups should be encouraged to co-locate with existing comprehensive service programs.”

The last Guiding Principle is  “Panhandling Enables the Homeless and Must Be Stopped.”

Marbut’s program might not be as successful as those who cite him hope. The Rivard Report’s February 10, 2016 article and video, “No End in Sight for Homeless Camps in San Antonio,” claims that Marbut’s theory has not been as effective as promised even in his own home town. After ten years of implementing Marbut’s program via Haven for Hope of Bexar County, there are still thousands of people living outside.

Those promoting his approach may have big hearts, and if Marbut’s theory worked it would be great. But Marbut’s theory is not working for most people in the cities that have hired his services.

The Associated Press cited a case in point in a September 2011 story on homelessness in St. Petersburg, Florda:

“St. Petersburg’s struggles with some of the most rampant homelessness in the country reached a crescendo when police officers with box cutters slashed up a makeshift tent city near downtown.

“Enter Robert Marbut, a former San Antonio councilman and White House staffer who came to town last fall wielding what he likes to call a “velvet hammer.” City leaders hired the $5,300-a-month consultant after buying into his idea of forcing the homeless off the streets but taking them someplace better — a sprawling, one-stop complex where people could be housed, fed and start to get help with mental illness, addictions and the other problems that put them on the streets.

“More than a just big shelter, it would be a ‘transformational campus’ like the one Marbut helped establish in San Antonio.

“Marbut was the architect and first CEO of a similar shelter compound in San Antonio called Haven for Hope. The 22-acre, $100 million complex with room for about 1,000 was built with private and public money. It opened last year and is filled to capacity.”

This means that some, probably a great many, are not being helped on Marbut’s home turf. They’re still out on the streets — and hungry.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that “St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster has said the city will eventually begin arresting homeless people who sleep in parks or on public rights of way, with Safe Harbor [a ‘transformational’ jail] an eventual destination for them.”

Riann Balch, head of Phoenix’s Human Resources Department, launched a program in September 2016 called the “Street Feeding Collaborative,” asking local churches to stop “street seeding,” because there are “better ways to help [the] homeless.”

Balch told AZ Family, “'[Our] mission is to educate faith and community-based groups about why street feeding can do more harm than good.’ Balch said that giving someone a meal will encourage them to stay on the street and wait for another one.”

It is clear that blaming the victim isn’t working, especially given the inadequate, underfunded programs to help the homeless. Hundreds of people still live outside in St Petersburg, Ft Lauderdale, San Antonio and the other cities that have adopted Marbut program, and
many homeless people still rely on the outdoor meals shared by Food Not Bombs and other groups.

While it is great that some people in some cities have transitioned into homes through the shelters and programs inspired by Marbut, the number of people living on the streets in those cities has continued to increase.

Those who would like the homeless crisis to disappear from Santa Cruz are lobbying officials to adopt Marbut’s approach and drive Food Not Bombs and its free meals from public view. (The $5,300 a month they might spend on hiring Marbut could be much better spent on maintaining 24 hour bathrooms. That would improve the lives of the homeless.)

Food Not Bombs is not a charity. We share our vegan meals in the most visible locations possible with signs and literature encouraging the public to support social and political change so that no one is forced to live on the streets or depend on soup kitchens for food. We can end homelessness if we just divert some of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent every year preparing for war, and instead spend that money on the real national security of a living wage, affordable housing, guaranteed work for those who want it, and high quality education and healthcare for all.

Blaming the homeless for their condition is clearly not working.

Keith McHenry is a co-founder of the Food Not Bombs movement and the author of Hungry for Peace and The Anarchist Cookbook.

To reach Keith go to www.foodnotbombs.net.

_____
More Cities Are Making It Illegal To Hand Out Food To The Homeless

St. Pete making progress with legions of homeless

No End in Sight for Homeless Camps in San Antonio

“Janet Fardette: Time to take back downtown Santa Cruz


Anarcho-Syndicalist ReviewAnarcho-Syndicalist Review just published a nice review of the new Anarchist Cookbook in their Fall 2016 issue. Here’s the full review:

___________

The Anarchist Cookbook, by Keith McHenry with Chaz Bufe. See Sharp Press, 2015, 154 pp. [8.5″X11″], $19.95.

This book was released as a refutation of the earlier book of the same title, which (in addition to its bad politics and dangerous recipes has repeatedly been used by police to entrap people on terrorism charges. Its first 89 pages briefly discuss anarchist theory and ‘recipes for social change’ such as organizing events (a practical, detailed section that any novice should find helpful), blockades and occupations. Part III opens with a discussion of the politics of food before offering 24 pages of vegan recipes, many suited for large crowds. Chris Hedges’ introduction offers a sympathetic appraisal of the anarchist tradition, stressing (as does the book as a whole) the movement’s fundamentally nonviolent nature.

Anarchist Cookbook front coverThe book is grounded in Food Not Bombs’ practice of activist feeding, but also draws on See Sharp’s library of anarchist pamphlets. Part One distinguishes anarchism from terrorism, primitivism, chaos, rejection of (non-coercive) organization, amoral egotism, and the right-wing has co-opted as capitalist-friendly ‘libertarianism.’ An excerpt from the classic You Can’t Blow Up a Social Relationship reminds us that revolution is fundamentally about organizing people to create a new society.

The practical nature of the book emerges in its second half. There is extensive and sensible discussion of provocateurs and informants, some of who have lured FNB volunteers into long prison terms. Brief chapters offer steps on organizing meetings, a consensus flow chart (FNB has always been fond of this profoundly anti-democratic decision-making process), promoting local events, and convening a gathering. There are useful tips for novices on public outreach, such as how to pack a literature table’s contents, and why rocks (police can accuse one of stocking them as weapons) are not as good as rubber bands to secure flyers.

McHenry believes that conscious eating brings people together to live more lightly off the land. Community is formed as we meet and eat together. So he offers recipes for small groups of five or six, many of which can be expanded to feed 100. The recipes are generally simple, hard to mess up (necessary if volunteers unused to working with each other are doing the cooking), and filling.

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Anarcho-Syndicalist Review is always well worth reading. The cover article in this issue, “The Cult of Che,” is worth the price of the entire magazine. Subscriptions are $15 for three issues. and the address is ASR, P.O. Box 42531, Philadelphia, PA 19101. Their web site is at http://www.syndicalist.us.

 


In the mid and late 1980s, I worked at Typesetting Etc. in San Franscisco. We shared a large second-story corner office on 7th Street with Processed World magazine, a block from the worst part of San Francisco’s skid row, 6th Street. The location was an exercise in contrast. The office and the building it was in (the Grant building) were gorgeous. High ceilings, wainscoting, wrought iron banisters, marble stairs, tiny hexagonal white tiles on the lobby and hall floors.  If anything, the office itself was even nicer: carpeted floor, antique radiators for heating, wood-casement picture windows that extended nearly the full 12 feet to the ceiling. And it was ungodly cheap.

The reason? The location. We were right across the street from a notorious heroin-dealing bar, catercorner to the Greyhound station, and everyday we would see unbelievable scenes of degradation just by looking down from the windows. It was routine to look down and see homeless people pissing in the street or on the sidewalk, and occasionally we’d see a homeless person taking a dump between parked cars.

Food Not Bombs in Golden Gate ParkAt the time, the San Francisco city government and the city’s cops were locked in a years-long battle with Food Not Bombs, trying to prevent the group from serving free food to the hungry and homeless.  Over the course of that campaign, they arrested hundreds of people for serving or attempting to serve food, and they wasted at minimum hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars, more likely millions.

In the midst of all this–in the dim, dark, pre-desktop publishing days when we still worked with cold type, vertical cameras, and light tables–a bubbly, bearded type walked in and asked us to do some free work for Food Not Bombs. This was a fairly typical request, as we did free or drastically discounted work for what seemed like half of the leftist political groups in town. (To support this, we also did a fair amount of commercial work, mostly for theater companies; the Church of $cientology was just down the street, and we even did occasional work for them at special Church of $cientology rates.)

In any event, the bearded, bubbly type turned out to be Keith McHenry, one of the co-founders of Food Not Bombs, who had moved to San Francisco a few years before, and was leading the Food Not Bombs campaign.

Since then, Keith and I have been friends, and over the years See Sharp Press has published the second edition of Food Not Bombs, the group’s original manual (1998); Hungry for Peace, Food Not Bombs’ new manual (2012); and most recently the new (2015) Anarchist Cookbook, which I co-authored with Keith, which advocates nonviolent direct action and is the antidote to the infamous 1971 bomb- and drug-making manual of the same title.

In the same period, Food Not Bombs expanded from single chapters in Boston and San Francisco to hundreds of chapters worldwide.

Food Not Bombs served its first free meal 35 years ago today.

Here’s Keith’s remembrance of the founding of Food Not Bombs.

* * *

hungry

The Beginning of Food Not Bombs

by Keith McHenry

During the late 1970s, I was active with the Clamshell Alliance and the Coalition for Direct Action and participated in a number of protests at the Seabrook nuclear power station construction site in New Hampshire. Those protests brought the eight of us who started Food Not Bombs together. One of us, Brian Feigenbaum, had been arrested at a protest, and we started to hold bake sales outside the Student Union at Boston University and in public places like Harvard Square to raise money for his legal defense.

Several of us decided we also needed to build opposition to Seabrook in the Boston area, Boston being the largest city likely to be effected by a nuclear accident at Seabrook. At about the same time, several of our friends discovered that many of the board members of the First National Bank of Boston sat on the boards of the companies building and buying Seabrook Nuclear Power Station.

The bank was using depositors’ money to fund this dangerous project. We decided to start a campaign called the First National Bank Project with the intention of bringing the effort to stop the nuclear station to the people of Boston.

I designed a flyer diagraming the interconnections of the bank’s board members with the nuclear industry. Several on the First National Bank of Boston’s board also sat on the boards of military contractors such as Raytheon as well as on the boards of companies such as Babcock and Wilcox that were profiting from the construction of the nuclear power station. The flyer showed this complex web.

Our first action was outside the Bank of Boston’s headquarters. I was the only one in the group who owned a suit and tie in the group and so was picked to play Bank President Richard Hill in a skit.

Dummy 3 flat 72-smallThe eight founding volunteers of Food Not Bombs met and decided to support the First National Bank Project campaign with food. I recovered boxes of organic produce at my job at Bread and Circus Natural Grocery in Cambridge. We’d previous been collecting such food and delivering all of it to the people living at the projects on Portland Avenue. Following the launch of the First National Bank campaign, we agreed to use some of the food for the campaign.

The second action organized by the First National Bank Project was  held outside the annual stockholders meeting of the bank on March 26, 1981. By then, we were calling ourselves Food Not Bombs, and we decided to make a huge pot of soup out of some of the produce I was recovering. We dressed as hobos from the Great Depression era and organized a soup line outside the Federal Reserve Bank at South Station.

As we were preparing the pot of soup, we became concerned that there would not be enough people to finish all the food and that we had also not done enough to draw the number of protesters needed to make the meal resemble a Depression era soup line. We thought of a solution. We’d tell the homeless people at the Pine Street Inn homeless shelter about the lunch time protest. Two of us drove over to the Inn at about midnight. The staff was happy to let us speak to the men. I made a brief announcement about the purpose of the protest and said that we would be providing a free meal. They were excited more about the protest than the meal.

The next day Food Not Bombs arrived outside the Federal Reserve Bank dressed as hobos. One of us had a cloth tied up as a bag and filled it with crumpled paper and hung it off a wooden broom stick to look like the bindlestiff one would see in movies from the depression era. Many of the men we had met at the Pine Street Inn were already waiting for us when we arrived. We set up a literature table with information about Food Not Bombs and the flyer I had produced about the policies of the Bank of Boston. We tied a few balloons to the mirrors and door handles of our van and set out the 60-quart pot of soup, paper bowls and a few loaves of bread.

The men from the inn gathered and made a line down the sidewalk towards Canal Street and South Station. A business man stopped to tell us he was shocked to see the line. “I have only seen soup lines in movies. I sure hope this does’t become a necessity.”

We shared the soup with not only the many homeless that came, but also business people who were walking pass. We also talked with a few stockholders who stopped to share their anger at the bank’s policies. Several of those from the inn suggested we do this every day.One of them told us, “There isn’t any food available for us during the day. We get coffee and donuts before they kick us out and donuts and coffee when we return for the night, but there aren’t any food programs in Boston that provide cooked meals.”

The economic policies of the Reagan Administration had only just begun to wreak havoc on working people, and very few Americans were homeless.. By the end of the Reagan Administration the homeless population had grown from less than 100,000 mostly homeless vets to over 750,000 people, including many families.

That evening while cleaning up from our first soup line we decided to quit our jobs and dedicate our time to food recovery, grocery distribution, and the street theater of sharing vegan meals while conveying a radical message. Maybe we could slow Reagan’s economic policies of deep cuts in public housing, education, food, and social welfare, and the redirection of federal taxes towards the expansion of the military.

We started a daily routine of recovering produce, baked goods, and tofu donated by local shops, and delivering it to community rooms at public housing projects, shelters, and to others in need. Each evening Food Not Bombs volunteers would set up a literature table along with a table of vegan food at Harvard Square, the Park Street Station, and other public locations. Often people would drum and play other instruments, and at times we would organize puppet shows and other theatrical activities during the evening meals.

"Danger Money" graphic by Tomasz StepienEight years later, after eight years of President Reagan’s bank-friendly policies, the Food Not Bombs theatrical soup line of March 26, 1981 had become a soup line of necessity.

The 1981 soup line outside the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston was just a theatrical memory of the Great Depression. For over two decades it’s been a necessity. I delivered produce to Occupy Boston outside that same bank in 2011. The capitalist political and economic system continues to produce the poverty, hunger, and suffering that is a
natural outcome of a sociopathic system of institutionalized greed.

The eight of us were very optimistic that crisp March day in 1981 believing we could change the world. And yes, we accomplished much more than we could ever have imagined. At the same time, we could not have imagined just how much more we would need to do.


Anarchist Cookbook front coverby Chaz Bufe (co-author The Anarchist Cookbook)

At a reading last weekend, an audience member asked me and Keith (McHenry, primary author of the “cookbook” and co-founder of Food Not Bombs) why we had written a new “Anarchist Cookbook.” The question took us aback a bit, as we’d assumed that the answer was blindingly obvious. Evidently it’s not. Here’s the story:

Forty-five years ago, William Powell, then a 19-year-old kid, spent several weeks prowling through the stacks at the New York Public Library searching for every instructional  book and article he could find on drug making, bomb making, and other forms of mayhem. He then compiled all of this material, unedited, into a book. He field tested none of the “recipes,” and as a result the book is riddled with “recipes” that simply don’t work and/ or are dangerous to the user.  At that point, Powell had another unknown write introductory political material that was as incoherent as it was inaccurate (equating anarchism with Maoism, for instance), and that explicitly recommended violence as a political tactic.

Powell then presented this toxic mess to publisher Lyle Stuart. Evidently smelling money, Stuart, over the objections of his staff, accepted the book. He also did something I (and virtually everyone else in the publishing field) consider grossly unethical: he presented Powell with  a contract in which Powell surrendered the copyright to him.  Powell signed, and a misbegotten monster was born. (Powell subsequently had a change of heart and has publicly denounced his book and asked that it be taken out of print, but because he handed over the copyright to Stuart, he has no control over that; we included Powell’s denunciation in the front matter of our new “cookbook.”)

Powell’s book has been in print continuously ever since it was first published in 1971, and has done untold harm. After publication, the “cookbook”  quickly became a very popular ornament for young guys who wanted an edgy coffee table book with which to impress their friends. Fortunately, probably not one in ten ever read it, probably not one in twenty ever tried its lousy drug recipes (e.g., for “bananadine”–a “drug” derived from banana peels), and probably not one in a hundred ever tried its explosives recipes.

Still, it was a constant irritant to actual anarchists. Year after year, decade after decade, it reinforced the stereotype that anarchists are violent morons with no coherent political philosophy.

Worse, the FBI began using the book to entrap naive political activists. They’d give a copy of the book to their victims, or have the victims buy it, and then use the book as evidence in trumped-up terrorism cases. This use of the Powell book accelerated drastically after 9/11, with set-up victims being both Muslims and leftist political activists. A case in point is the 2012 “Cleveland Five” case, in which the FBI used the book as part of its entrapment of five young, homeless guys at Occupy Cleveland, who it had enticed with a place to stay, hot showers, and food. As a result of this FBI-orchestrated “plot,” which prominently featured the Powell book, the “Cleveland Five” received sentences ranging from eight years and one month to eleven-and-a-half years.

That was the situation that faced us when Keith and I began talking about producing a real anarchist cookbook two years ago. Anarchists had been talking about producing such a book for decades, but nothing ever came of it, and it had become obvious that if we didn’t write, and See Sharp Press didn’t publish, a real anarchist cookbook, no one else was likely to do so. (There are a few PDF food recipe “books” around under the name, but no other physical books.)

We decided to go considerably beyond food recipes in our new “cookbook.” We decided that we’d include the following: 1) Accurate information on the nature of anarchism; 2) A section on why use of violence is almost always a self-defeating political tactic; 3) A section on nonviolent political activism, both from a theoretical and practical standpoint; 4) An evaluation of all common social change tactics and approaches; 5) A how-to section detailing ways of putting those tactics and approaches into practice; 6) A section on the nuts and bolts of political organizing; 7) A section on food politics; 8) Vegan recipes for both large and small groups; and 9) A lengthy bibliography, to give those interested in further study a handy jumping-off point.

To put this another way, we decided to write an antidote to the Powell book, a book that would do good rather than harm.

We think we succeeded. We hope you’ll agree.