A Tourist’s Guide to Anarchism

Skoros: Anti-Consumption in Crisis

Skoros Collective (2015)

Film Review

This film is about the Skoros collective in Exarcheia,* Athens’ infamous fascist-free zone. Skoros operates a secondhand store in rented space, unlike many Exarcheia businesses, run as squats in abandoned buildings. Skoros formed during the 2008 global economic crisis, which (owing to skullduggery by Goldman Sachs, the IMF and the European Central Bank) hit Greece especially hard. See The Real Cause of Greece’s Economic Crisis. Customers, which include many refugees housed in Exarcheia squats, are allowed to select three items per visit. The store is staffed by collective members as unpaid volunteers. Since the film was released in 2015, the store has become a tourist attraction – listed in A Guide to Shopping in Athens and featured in the Independent travel section.


*Exarcheia is a self-governing anarchist community spanning four decades. There is a recent effort by Greek authorities to evict squatters from Exarcheia’s abandoned public buildings, but it looks to be an extended process. See

Greece: Exarcheia under police occupation!

and

Ministry Issues Ultimatum

and

Airb Bnb Exarcheia

Acting Locally: Update on the Community Rights Movement

We the People 2.0

Directed by Leila Conners (2018)

Film Review

This documentary is about the community rights movement. It profiles grassroots groups all over the US fighting federal and state laws that usurp the ability of local government to protect the citizens they represent against the toxic and environmentally destructive activities of corporations.

Close to 10,000 US communities have established grassroots community rights groups. Two hundred local jurisdictions have passed community rights ordinances that allow them to restrict toxic and environmentally destructive corporate activities. Examples include fracking (near schools and homes), strip mining, toxic sludge disposal, fly ash* dumping, giant hog factories and mountain top removal.

Pittsburgh City Council was the first local authority to pass a community rights ordinance in 2010. In addition to guaranteeing all Pittsburgh residents the right to clean air, fresh water, freedom from chemical trespass,* and the right to local self-governance, the ordinance also prohibits oil and gas extraction within Pittsburgh city limits.

The national Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been assisting local communities in starting community rights organizations since 1995. Where local residents can’t persuade officials who supposedly represent them to pass community rights laws, they campaign to vote them out of office or enact community rights ordinances through ballot initiative

Their International Law Center (see https://celdf.org/law-library/international-law-center/) assisted Ecuador, the first country to recognize the rights of nature, in amending their constitution in 2008. They are also helping NGOs in India to pass a national Ganga River Rights Act.

CELDF is among a growing number of grassroots groups calling for a peoples constitutional convention to amend the US Constitution. They believe the 1789 Constitution has allowed the US to become a corporate state as opposed to a republic. See https://celdf.org/2017/05/blog-us-constitution-1789-time-serious-overhaul/


*Fly Ash – is a toxic byproduct of coal combustion in electric power plants.

**Chemical trespass – is a legal term for the involuntary exposure of human beings to toxic chemicals.

The film can be viewed via most public libraries at Beamafilm

Marcus Garvey: A Giant of Black Politics

Marcus Garvey: A Giant of Black Politics

Directed by Howard Johnson (2008)

Film Review

This film is about Black journalist, entrepreneur, and activist Marcus Garvey, as remembered by those who worked with him in the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

Garvey was born in Jamaica in 1887, 50 years after slavery ended in that country. Sharing his father’s love of books and learning, he played an important role in educating Blacks in Jamaica and the US about advanced civilizations in ancient Africa.

Essentially the first Black nationalist, Garvey played the dual role of teaching former slaves (in Jamaica and the US) self-love and racial pride and campaigning to create a homeland in Africa for the African diaspora.

He ran into major resistance in Jamaica, where British colonists granted lighter skinned “mulattos” with special status and authority. The latter, direct descendants (usually via rape) of white slave masters, preferred to identify as “British,” rather than Black, and viewed Garvey’s teachings as a threat to their privilege.

In 1916, Garvey left Jamaica for the US, where he also received a mixed reception. African Americans who saw no future for themselves in the US championed his campaign for a new African homeland. Other Black leaders, driven by a deep seated desire to “be white,” viewed native Africans as “savages” and favored integration into mainstream society.

In Harlem, Garvey who was dark skinned faced the same bigotry of light skinned descendants of plantation owners as he did in Jamaica.

In the early 1920s, J Edgar Hoover’s newly formed FBI began investigating Garvey with a few to deporting him. They eventually charged and convicted him for mail fraud (over the failed Black Star Line*) and tax evasion. After 2 1/2 years in US prison, he was deported to Jamaica, where he quickly rebuilt the Universal Negro Improvement Association.

He had a massive following among poor Jamaicans, even after he left Jamaica for England. He died there in 1940.


*Garvey envisioned the Black Star Line as a Black owned shipping company to facilitate the transportation of goods throughout the African economy. Garvey’s initial arrest and conviction centered around the distribution (by mail) of a photo of a ship the company had yet to purchase.

Tiny Houses: A Solution to Homelessness?

Emerald Village: A Dream of an Affordable Tiny House Community

Respectful Revolution (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about a non-profit organization in Eugene, Oregon that has created a self-governing tiny house village for the city’s homeless.

The total of the project was $1.8 million – $300,000 for land and $1.5 million to construct 22 tiny houses. The group raised $1 million obtained via direct fundraising, $120,000 via a city development tax waiver, and in-kind donations of one tiny house each by a team of 13 architects and builders.

The dwellings are slightly bigger than conventional tiny houses and include kitchen, toilet and shower facilities. Some are large enough to house two people. All (previously homeless) residents were required to contribute 50 hours to building their home though most contributed much more. At present, each pays $250-300 rent, which covers all utility, staff and other operations costs.

While 22 tiny houses makes only a tiny dent in Eugene’s homeless population, Square One Village, the trust that created the tiny house community, hopes the project will inspire federal a state authorities to help fund similar projects throughout the US.

Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle With the City of Los Angeles

Tiny Home Rebel: One Man’s Battle with the City of Los Angeles

SBS (2019)

Film Review

This Australian documentary is about Elvis Sommers’ battle with the city of Los Angeles to build free tiny houses on wheels for the city’s homeless.

Sommers, who volunteers his time, has a crowdfunding site to pay for the materials he needs to build tiny houses. In fact, he has a whole lot full of tiny houses the city forced his homeless clients to remove from Skid Row sidewalks and other homeless encampments. Fortunately he is also quite ingenious in finding public land in low traffic industrial areas, where city authorities are unlikely to notice his homeless friends in their tiny homes. Filmmakers follow him as he moves a pregnant homeless woman (who has just had her tarp and all her belongings confiscated by the city) into her new tiny house.

The Los Angeles city council opposes giving homeless people tiny houses to live in because they consider these dwellings a public threat. According to one city council member, tiny houses are dangerous because they might be used for “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” According to the city director of sanitation, the real reason is they make it too difficulty to bulldoze homeless tents and belongings to hose down city sidewalks.

At present, the only location LA homeless can legally set up tents to store their belongings is on Skid Row. Elsewhere city regulations require a tent has to be down between 6 pm and 9 am (unless it’s raining), and it has to be at least ten feet from a driveway.

Skid Row currently has 2,000 homeless residents in tents. Every two weeks, they are given 12 hours notice to move their tents and belongings to allow sanitation workers to hose down the sidewalks. If they fail to move them, city bulldozers scoop up everything they own and take it to the landfill.

Officially LA has 12,000 shelter beds for 47,000 homeless residents.

Sommers finds it ironic that the city spends millions sanitizing sidewalks where homeless live instead of using the funds to provide them with emergency housing.

Exit Through the Gift Shop: Banksy’s 2010 Documentary

Exit Through the Gift Shop

Banksy (2010)

Film Review

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only documentary world famous guerilla street artist Banksy ever made. He introduces the film (with his face and voice disguised) as a documentary about a would-be French-American filmmaker who wanted to make a documentary about the notorious street artist.

The documentary relates how Los Angeles French-American secondhand clothes merchant Thierry Guetta spent ten years (1999 -2009 making thousands of videos graffiti and street artists he met through his cousin Space Invader and his friend Shepherd Faery.* Thierry would go out with the artists** as they (illegally) painted walls at night.

After learning about the 2003 prank Banksy pulled off when he installed one of his own street paintings at the Tate Museum in London. Determined to meet the elusive artist, he got the opportunity in 2006, when Banksy’s assistant was turned back by immigration during a visit to Los Angeles.

Banksy, who knew all LA’s blank walls from filming local street artists, agreed to serve as his helper. In return, Banksy allowed to Thierry to film him (his hands only from behind).

Thierry also helped Banksy with a prank at Disneyland  in which they handcuffed a blowup doll in an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit to a railing. Banksy includes the hilarious footage (filmed by Thierry) in this documentary.

At Banky’s urging, Thierry attempted to edit and pull together his thousands of hours of footage into a film, but the result was underwhelming. Instead Thierry (again at Banksy’s urging) began doing street art himself, while Banksy edited the footage.

Thierry mortgaged his business and his home to set up a studio, where he hired a crew of artists to mass produce satiric images of modern social icons. Calling himself Mister Brainwash (MBW) he hired the vacant CBS studios for his first exhibit in 2008. Endorsed by both Banksy and Fairey, his Life is Beautiful exhibit became front page news, lasted two years, and earned him millions of dollars.


*Fairey, considered the world most prolific street artist (as of 2010), is most famous for designing the iconic image of Obama used in his 2008 campaign.

**Among the most famous street artists Thierry filmed are Seizor, Sweet Tool and Cycops, Ron English, Dot Masters, Swoon, Buffmonster.

 

 

 

We Need to End Money Creation by Private Banks – Urgently

After 18 years with the New Zealand Green Party, I will be voting for the Social Credit Party in our parliamentary elections in September. Founded in 1954, Social Credit was NZ’s official third party for many years, winning 20-30% of the vote in the 1970s. They have consistently campaigned around ending the ability of private banks to create money. Contrary to popular belief, 97% of the money circulating in the global economy is created (out of thin air) by private banks when they issue loans. (See 97% Owned)

Given the impending dual crisis we face (post-COVID19 economic collapse and catastrophic climate change), the need to regain public control over our money system is more urgent than ever. New Zealand, like the US has embarked on massive Quantitative Easing (QE).  Under QE, money created by central banks is handed over to private banks to buy back Treasury bonds.* This influx of new cash is supposed to inspire private banks to lend lots of money to businesses to create new jobs.

The US, UK, and EU tried QE following the 2008 global economic collapse. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now. Instead of using these funds to increase business lending, private banks used it to increase stock prices by buying back shares, to increase CEO salaries, and to speculate in the housing market (driving up house prices) and derivatives.

The result? A so-called jobless recovery in which stock prices soared with minimal new job creation.

What we needed then and what we need now is for the new money central banks (including the Federal Reserve) to be spent directly into the economy to fund the COVID19 recovery.

The movement to retake public control of money creating is a very old one, growing out of the US Greenback Party. Named after the Greenbacks Lincoln issued to fund the Civil War (rather than incurring massive debt to private banks). In 1892, the party was reborn as the Populist Party (aka the People’s Party). In 1892, the Populist candidate for president won 8.5% of the popular vote. (See The Populist Moment)

It was a Labour government that first used the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to fund state housing and the State Advances Corporation* in 1936. The US and Canada also used direct Reserve Bank funding to reduce joblessness during the Great Depression and to help pay for World War II. The US continued to use this so-called “overdraft facility” to cover deficits until 1981, Canada used theirs until the mid-seventies, and New Zealand theirs until 1987.


*Treasury bonds are the financial instruments governments issue when they borrow money from financial institutions to fund their deficits.

**The State Advances Corporation was a government agency providing extremely low interest mortgages for first time home owners.

Below is a recent local radio interview I gave with New Plymouth’s Social Credit candidate.

Successful Mass Protest During Repression

United in Anger: A History of ACT-UP

Directed by Jim Hubbard (2012)

Film Review

This documentary traces the history of ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), one of the few successful mass protest organizations during the repressive Reagan era. Between 1981, when the AIDS epidemic was first recognized, and 1987, 40,000 Americans died of AIDS. During this time Reagan refused to utter the word AIDS, much less advocate for research, prevention and treatment. Prior to 1987, 80% of patients diagnosed with AIDS would be dead in two years.

ACT-UP first formed in New York City in 1987, the same year the first anti-AIDS drug AZT became available. By 1996, the year the life-saving Triple Cocktail* became available, they had 147 chapters across the US.

The film mainly focuses on the New York City chapter, and their Monday night meetings attended by hundreds of activists. Most former ACT-UP members believe the secret of their success decentralized (non-hierarchical) organizing. This fostered the burgeoning of dozens of affinity groups based on the needs of specific AIDS patients (women, minorities, low income).

The ACT-UP Women’s Caucus was one of the more important affinity groups, as the CDC was stubbornly resistant to the reality that AIDS was the number one killer of American women. Because the disease presents differently in women (eg with a a high incidence of cervical cancer), the initial CDC diagnostic criteria made it impossible for female AIDS patients to qualify for Social Security Disability or Medicaid. This not only left them penniless and homeless as the disease progressed but denied them access to America’s for-profit health system

In 1987, ACT-UP held their first protest at the Burroughs-Wellcome Tuckahoe (New York) research facility to protest the prohibitive prize of AZT ($10,000 per year).

Over the years, the organization held a number of creative protest actions, most involving civil disobedience:

1988 – Unfurled banners on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange to protest AZT’s  high cost.

1988 – Made the front page news for “taking over” the FDA to demand more rapid approval of drugs for AIDS treatment.

1989 – Joined with other social justice groups for a City Hall protest against Mayor Ed Kochs failure to fully fund low income housing and hospitals (many AIDS patients were dying in hospital corridors.

1989 – Joined with Women’s Health Network for a 7,000+ protest at St Patrick’s Cathedral (with hundred protestors “dying in” inside the sanctuary) to protest the Catholic Church opposition to safe sex, condoms, and abortion.

1990-94 – Commenced four-year campaign to pressure CDC to include women with AIDS in their diagnostic criteria to include women with AIDS.

1990 – Protest to force National Institutes of Health (NIH) to include patients in designing clinical trails

1991 – Camera bombed Dan Rather’s CBS network news yelling “Fight AIDS not Arabs) the day the US declared war on Iraq (picked up by all major US news outlets).

1995 – Blocked Midtown Tunnel to protest city/state service cuts

 

 

 

 

Sarah Roberts: Taranaki’s Tireless Anti-Fracking Campaigner

 

A Broken Earth

Directed by James Muir (2020)

Film Review

This is a beautifully made film about Taranaki fellow activists Sarah Roberts and David Morrison and their tireless efforts to hold Taranaki’s (mostly foreign-owned) fracking industry to account.

The film begins when the couple literally woke up one morning and discovered their dairy farm was surround by fracking wells and production stations that were discharging fracking wastes into a stream they used to water their herd. Around this time, Sarah began experiencing many of the same health complaints (headaches, nosebleeds, rashes, etc)  as many of her neighbors.

On investigation, they discovered 14 fracking wells to the front of their property, 16 to the rear, and 12 at the side. Although four wells were directly adjacent to their property line, they were never consulted, or even notified, about the well construction. After examining oil industry and Taranaki Regional Council (TRC) records, Sarah also discovered that the casings (linings) of some of the wells had been leaking for two years – without TRC carrying out any required ground water testing.

Most of the film concerns the history of the farm, which David’s father bought after returning from World War II, and the decision by both men to preserve the land surrounding the farm as a conservation estate. Until Sarah and David made the gradual  discovery that unregulated oil and gas drilling had systematically transformed one the most pristine natural landscapes on Earth into an industrial zone. The film also shows the the difficult heartbreaking decision the couple made to sell the farm David had managed for 20 years.

The film also also details the extensive research Sarah did into a failed regulatory process (by TRC, Stratford District Council, New Plymouth District Council, and South Taranaki District Council) that essentially allows oil and gas companies to regulate themselves.

As a result of this “self-regulation,” fossil fuel companies are allowed to dig fracking wells adjacent (and under – via horizontal drilling) people’s homes, schools, hospitals, etc. The end of the film features one of the first public meetings Sarah organized (in 2015) to notify local residents about oil industry plans to drill adjacent to Norfolk School.

As part of her tireless campaigning, she worked with Taranaki Energy Watch to file a lawsuit in Environment Court in 2016 to require that district councils set minimum separation distances between fracking wells and homes, schools, and hospitals. You can find information about the lawsuit at  http://www.taranakienergywatchnz.org/.

You can read the Environment Court’s preliminary findings (which are favorable) below.

You can watch the film free until July 5 at https://festival.docedge.nz/film/a-broken-earth/

Click to access 2018-NZEnvC-227-Taranaki-Energy-Watch-Incorporated-v-South-Taranaki-District-Council.pdf

 

 

Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

Long Distance Revolutionary: A Journey with Mumia Abu Jamal

Directed by Stephen Vittoria (2012)

Film Review

This is a moving and beautifully made film about the journalistic career of Mumia Abu-Jamal, both before and after his 1981 incarceration. The film is narrated by a score of famous Black intellectuals, historians, writers, teachers, journalists, and activists. Prior to his arrest for the murder of Philadelphia cop Daniel Faulkner in 1981,* Mumia was a radio journalist for the NPR station at Temple University in Philadelphia. His interviews and news features were syndicated throughout the Delaware Valley. At the time of his arrest he was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists.

Thanks to a trial plagued with legal irregularities, he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

In 1992, after ten years on death row, a Pacifica** journalist organized for him to do regular Live from Death Row commentaries mainly focused on the immense sufferings of his fellow inmates (never on his own circumstances) under the barbaric US system of mass incarceration. He also used the broadcasts to draw public attention to the bomb the Philadelphia police (in collaboration with the FBI) dropped on the MOVE household in 1985 (see https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/08/03/the-police-war-against-move/).

The series was carried by Pacifica radio stations across the US and by Democracy Now shortly after its 1996 start-up.

Mumia’s Live from Death Row commentaries ended when state authorities banned all journalists from interviewing inmates in the Pennsylvania correctional system. The collected broadcasts were published as a book, Live from Death Row, in 1995.

After his radio broadcasts ended, Mumia worked on three more books:

  • Faith of our Fathers (2003) – about the history of African and African American spirituality
  • We Want Freedom (2008) – about the history of the Black Panther Party
  • Jailhouse Lawyers (2009) – about prisoners-turned-advocates who have learned to use the legal system to assist fellow inmates.

He also published an article in the Yale Law Journal in 1991 about the inhumane treatment of death row prisoners.

All of his publications required major research, which Mumia carried out without benefit of Internet access, and were were written out longhand.

Despite the ban on journalist interviews, scores of political science and African studies teachers arrange for Mumia to present to their classes via conference calls.

In 2006, the Free Mumia Movement went international, with mass protests demanding his release occurring in all major cities. The same year a St Denis, a suburb of Paris named a street after him. In 2007 Paris proclaimed him an honorary citizen.

In April 2011 the Third Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the death penalty, and the Philadelphia District Attorney agreed to accept a sentence of life imprisonment without parole. Because of a surprise December 2019 ruling (based on new evidence), Mumia now has a real chance of winning a new trial (see Counterpunch).


*In 1999, Arnold Beverley confessed to the murder of Officer Daniel Faulkner. He maintains the Mob hired him and a friend to kill Faulkner due to the latter’s efforts to root out police corruption. See https://stuartbramhall.wordpress.com/2019/11/10/how-abcs-20-20-framed-mumia-abu-jamal-for-execution-in-2001/

**Pacifica Foundation is an American non-profit organization which owns five independently operated, non-commercial, listener-supported radio station.