Posts Tagged ‘civil disobedience’

Anarchism in America

Pacific Street Films (2009)

Film Review

Despite its 2009 release, this fascinating documentary is largely based on 1980s interviews with America’s most prominent anarchists, including Karl Hess, Molly Stermer, Murray Boochkin and Ed Edamen. As well as a rare interview with Emma Goldman at age 64 (1933) when she was granted a 90-day permit to return to the US.

There is also footage from the 1919-1920 Palmer Raids, in which thousands of anarchists (including Goldman) were rounded up and jailed and/or deported; the global protests triggered by the police frame-up (1920) of Boston anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti; the Spanish Civil War (during which 3 million anarchists ran their own towns, schools, clinics and cultural centers for three years); and the anarchists involved in civil disobedience during the 1980s anti-nuclear movement.

Dispelling many common misconceptions about anarchism, the filmmakers depict anarchist political philosophy as the belief that people are capable of governing themselves independent of any state or hierarchical authority. They challenge all hierarchy – whether in male-female relations, the family, schools or work. Instead they champion decentralized participatory democracy.

Several of the anarchists interviewed view anarchism and distrust of authority as innate in the American cultural identity. This is evidenced by pervasive anti-government and anti-corporate sentiments among the greater US population. Hess asserts that right wing writer Ayn Rand borrowed most of her so-called “objectivist” philosophy from anarchist Emma Goldman.

Edamen asserts that at the end of the 20th century (before it was captured by the Koch brothers and other corporate elite), there were more anarchists in the US libertarian movement than any other group.

The filmmakers also highlight the anarchist roots seen in worker-run cooperatives and the homesteading (now called “prepper”) and anti-government punk rock groups such as the Dead Kennedys.

blockade

 

Two hundred of us blocked all the entrances to the New Zealand Petroleum Conference for five hours yesterday.

Some great video footage at the Greenpeace website below.

Source: The People’s Climate Rally – 21st – 23rd March 2017

Walden and Civil Disobedience

By Henry David Thoreau

Penguin Classics (1983)

Introduction and Endnotes by Michael Meyer

Book Review

Self-described as a “mystic, transcendalist,* and natural philosopher to boot,” Thoreau published Civil Disobedience in 1849 and Walden in 1854. Both are works of social criticism. Surprisingly most of his critiques of mid-19th century American society ae still applicable to 21st century post industrial capitalism.

In Civil Disobedience, for example, he maintains that a “standing government” is as dangerous to true democracy as a “standing army.” He is particular critical of slavery and the war against Mexico (opposed by the majority of his contempories), which he describes as “the work of a few individuals using the standing government as their tool.”

He also asserts that voting is not enough when men of conscience oppose the “wickedness” government carries out in their name. He argues that people are obliged to transgress unjust laws “rather than waiting until we persuade the majority to amend them.” He adds that  [jail] “is the only house in a slave state that a free man can abide with honor.”

In July 1846 Thoreau was arrested for failing to pay his poll tax, owing to his refusal to recognize the authority of a government “which buys and sells men, women and children at the door of the senate house.” He only spent one night in jail, after an acquaintance “interfered” and paid his tax for him.

I was unaware, prior to reading Walden, that Thoreau also popularized the concept of voluntary poverty. The philosophy he elaborates in describing his two years in the woods at Walden Pond is highly critical of the upper middle class society he was born into. He observes that a “laboring man has no time for true integrity – no time for anything but to be a machine.”

He views his time at Walden Pond – where he built his own cabin and furniture and grew most of his food – as an experiment to help him reduce his life to the absolute basic necessities and the most expedient way of procuring.

He asserts the wealthy classes spend so much time cluttering their lives with useless luxuries that they lose their ability to think clearly about what they really believe him. He also decries the lack of freedom associated with the accumulation of material wealth: “Luxury enervates and destroys nations which have accumulated dross but can’t get rid of it . . . [they] have forged their own golden or silver fetters.”

He’s also high critical of what he describes as the “factory system” – which is “not meant to ensure mankind is well and honestly clad but for corporations to get enriched.”


*Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement that developed in the late 1820s and 1830s in the eastern region of the United States. The movement was a reaction to and protest against the general state of intellectualism and spirituality in American society.

Disobedience: the Courage to Break Free

By Kelly Nykes (2016)

Film Review

Disobedience is about the global movement (on six continents) to shut down the fossil fuel industry. The primary aim of the Break Free from Fossil Fuels movement is to end fossil fuel mining and shut down gas-fired power plants.

A major premise of the documentary is that the COP21 climate conference in December 2015 was a public relations stunt. Climate activists believe it accomplished virtually nothing towards preventing catastrophic climate change for two main reasons: 1) the national emissions targets agreed are purely voluntary and unenforceable and 2) despite agreeing to limit average global warming to 1.5 degrees C, the treaty’s carbon budget will result in 3.5 degrees warming.

President Lyndon Johnson was the first to warn the world, in 1965, of the link between heavy fossil fuel combustion, CO2 emissions and global warming. Ten years later, Exxon began planning for global warming by making their drilling rigs “climate proof.” In 1989, they switched tactics by co-founding the Climate Coalition and hiring a public relations firm (the same one that promoted the health benefits of smoking) to launch the climate denial movement.

Filmmakers include coverage from mass civil disobedience actions to shut down coal fired power plants in the Philippines and Turkey, tar sands production and export in Alberta and British Columbia and an open pit coal mine in Germany. Given that Germany is one of the world leaders in renewable energy production,* I was extremely surprised to learn they burn more lignite* *coal than any other country, including China and India.

The film also features footage from the Seattle blockade of a Shell Arctic oil exploration rig – which helped persuade Shell to abandon their plans to drill the Arctic for oil.

For the most part, these actions succeed by increasing the cost of doing business – especially now when low oil and gas prices are already denting profits.


*On  May 16 Germany got nearly all its power from renewable energy.

**Lignite is often referred to as brown or “dirty” coal due to the high level of particulate and heavy metal pollution it produces.