Anarchy in the Burbs

Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means.", ...*puts on 'They Live' sunglasses: "Maoism in the Metropolitan Area"

from Anarchy in the Burbs

Dear readers,

We are excited to present to the world our very first zine! But before we tell you about how this zine came about and its contents, we want to share a bit about ourselves and our aspirations for resistance in the region known as the Inland Empire.

Anarchy in the Burbs began as a project aiming to become a source of collaborative information and resources, by and for IE locals. We initially got the ball rolling with i.e.uprising as an informal news source providing information on – you guessed it – the IE uprisings. We also wanted to provide some political education from a radical, autonomous angle and encourage our community to cultivate agency over our living conditions. We seek to share knowledge and resources for people interested in building a strong base for future liberatory movements in the occupied Inland Empire region.

A call to action: The Inland Empire Will Breathe By Any Means Necessary!

Summer 2020 saw hella people from our hometowns taking the streets in opposition to the police and white supremacy. The fire and fervor also revealed that there are many people in the IE who all envision a world beyond exploitation, prisons, borders, or oppression. In recent years, our communities in the IE are starting to confront another huge problem. Poverty has plagued this region for decades and has become a direct gateway to the logistics beast that’s taken root in our community. Mega-companies such as Amazon and other logistics companies feed off of our people by taking advantage of our economic desperation and precarity. The lack of opportunity in the IE is no accident; we are only wanted as cheap, disposable labor for the wealthy’s profits. We all know that the warehouses and logistics sector have forcibly imposed themselves onto the lives of every resident of the Inland Empire, but it is much more than that: we are confronting a system that is organized in such a way that it literally deprives us of our ability to breathe clean air. We all live within this system that is designed to suffocate life, not nourish it.

Racial capitalism in the Inland Empire is suffocating us all. The encroachment of logistics development is transforming these indigenous lands into large warehouses, changing our communities into diesel death zones where residents struggle between life and death. San Bernardino County residents suffer from a range of illnesses, all of which have been linked to poor air quality caused by the warehouses and the logistics sector. Breathlessness is a fundamental feature of this white supremacist, settler-colonial system that constantly imposes harm and violence upon Black, indigenous, Latinx, and non-white communities. The Black struggle against police brutality and institutional racism has been teaching everyone about this system’s violent mechanisms, and it is summed up by the Black Lives Matter movement with one phrase: “I can’t breathe.” Racial capitalism’s link to the state continues to primarily oppress Black people, and the anti-Blackness that these systems are built on have constructed the blueprint for all other experiences of systemic suffocation, which includes the environmental racism and mass exploitation that we are experiencing in the IE.

In the face of systemic suffocation, we now have to collectively re-assess the meaning of life and move away from the violent system that continues to cause rampant death and the suffocation of our communities. We cannot wait for the good will of our leaders: why would we wait for their good will when we are running out of air to breathe? The time has come for us to become self-determining communities. We all deserve better and we must believe in our ability to reorganize our society in ways that nurture life, not suffocate it. We do not need to have all the answers right now in order to recognize the urgent importance of abolishing the existence of the warehouses and logistics sector that poison our communities. As we can clearly see, life cannot continue this way, and breathing will become impossible unless capitalism and its warehouses are abolished as a whole. Let’s navigate the unknown together and put our minds together to create a better reality than the one that has been imposed on us. As the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN) movement once said, we learn by walking, and by walking we will learn.

Ultimately, we cannot be hesitant any longer: we must begin a collective departure away from this present civilization of death and its mechanisms of suffocation. Let the IE show the world that we can throw down hard. Let’s combat breathlessness with the fresh air produced by revolt. In the closeness of our bodies and minds in struggle, let us find ways to pass the air that we have left to more of our communities and to other generations. We must attack the foundations and institutions that deprive us of the sacred air we breathe and construct a new reality that does not commodify and exploit the planet and our people. We just want to breathe: this is not a demand but a threat. We will not ask for permission anymore. We will breathe by any means necessary.

Let’s hit the streets now: How this zine came about

In the wake of the George Floyd uprisings as well as movement organizing in the time of COVID-19, we tried to consolidate useful, consumable information for the IE locals who were beginning to take the streets and organize for the first time in their lives. We centralized information for actions until street demos died down, at which point we decided to focus on providing an informal and introductory political education. We broke down what we felt were useful organizing concepts and theory as well as addressed common questions and concerns in an effort to welcome folks new to this scene, analyzing with an IE lens so that anybody could use these findings in a local (or similar) setting when the time comes. Simply: there isn’t enough writing on suburban-based and small city autonomous organizing (especially for new folks coming into it), so we tried to remedy that.

Of course, for COVID and non-COVID reasons, there were limits to organizing (especially social media organizing), but the webpages have been a starting point for many faceless readers as well as for the working relationships we’ve made since then. Although organizing in the IE has obviously existed prior to summer 2020, there was a palpable invigoration of interest and mutual aid following the uprisings in memory of George Floyd, and we’re grateful for the projects and communities borne of or multiplied by it. Our contribution is small but hopefully significant to somebody, and so we’ve compiled this zine in memory of the wildfire George Floyd produced and the ensuing history made in the Inland Empire. We hope that the lessons and advice offered in this zine can help push movement organizing in the IE to new, unseen levels in the future.

Get up to speed: What you will find in this zine

A lot of our thought processes and writing interventions center around addressing common obstacles that get in the way of increasing our autonomous capabilities. Our writings address these issues by attempting to unpack – and thus, remove – those obstacles that get in the way of increasing our collective power, removing them one by one. Below is an outline of some of the information we have compiled, practical advice, and critiques of common organizing logics that we felt were important to address and unpack. We hope that y’all find some of these arguments relevant and timely, and that they lend to making our movements stronger. We hope that you can share this zine and discuss it together in community, only by collectively discussing and seeing each other will we figure out the ways to set our communities free at last.

I. Info Hub

An informal directory of Inland Empire projects and groups that readers can plug into. This section also contains further readings and resources on abolition and autonomy.

II. Know-How

Some brief resources and guides on essential skills, from the digital to the streets to general survival.

III. Practice

Introductory (but crucial) concepts and practical information for folks interested in autonomous organizing.

IV. Critique

Various critiques of common obstacles seen in left organizing spaces, including criticisms of 1. rigid ideology and political labeling, 2. symbolic protest, 3. representation, 4. non-violence, and 5. electoral politics.

There are 5 Comments

"this time we used the word in the title..."

I read this zine with lovely orange headers, and as an on average predominantly BIPOC, working-class, first and second generation, and younger person living in the so-called suburbs of a once genocided and twice colonized unceded indigenous land that previously belonged to the sea, I have to say the contents are remarkably jargony and idpoly. I love it!!!!

Using 2 out of 4 of the frameworks provided and its interlocking subsystems -according to Fanon- I was able to conglomerate affinity clusterfucks into spokes-council of organizational autonomous initiatives. As they said:

"Find each other, build affinity, link up, coordinate, and multiply our power!

All power to the s̶o̶v̶i̶e̶t̶s̶ affinity groups!" p.41

I also learned that we must critique rigid radicalism:

"No one in the IE really cares about what theoretical beef Kropotkin and Marx had back in the late 1800’s; what matters most are material needs right now! Likewise, we should not be concerned with persuading or converting people to follow one abstract ideological line over another, but instead with collectively building a MATERIAL line of autonomous power. Ideology and labels should not be obstacles in the way of our self-determination."

Now I can finally work alongside the maoist in my suburb and feel joyful that I can call them my comrades!
As the only Marxist-Leninist in my town, this quote really spoke to me, it's almost as if this zine was written for me:

"Move away from only organizing with other leftists; also organize with regular folks. (The isolation of being “the only Marxist-Leninist” or xyz ideology in your town is, in part, addressed by do-ing this.)"p. 51

After I read this next quote I met my nazi neighbor halfway and decided that the world was fine as it is. I started trusting in people’s ability to solve their own problems and take collective responsibility:

"-Stop adhering so rigidly to your ideological position and meet people halfway. (Twitter is not real life.)

-Trust in people’s ability to solve their own problems and take collective responsibility. Be responsive and attentive to others rather than prescribe how they should do it. (This is the basis for autonomy.)" p.51

I loved how they said "autonomous" 60 times!, "autonomy" 29 times!, while "anarchy" was mentioned 3 times (discounting the 13 mentions of zine title) "anarchism" was mentioned 2 times, and "anarchist" was mentioned 3 times. My new favorite slogan:

"In place of leftism, autonomy!" p.52

But most importantly: "We do not need white allies. White accomplices are preferred, but white people should not be at the forefront of our movements or at actions. We are the only ones who can and should be liberating our-selves from white supremacy, fascism, and capitalism: this puts self-determination directly into the hands of the most oppressed. When we learn the methods to fight back against oppression, we do not need to rely on benevolent white people to stand up for us. In fact, we should never rely on them; instead, we should learn to have each other’s backs as non-white communities. We have talked about autonomous initiative before and want to expand on that by arguing that white folks should ideally direct their energies towards helping initiatives that are both by and for BIPOC. Typically, white-led formations tend to reproduce the white power relations that exist at large: autonomous white power is still just white power. White initiatives should therefore materially aid already existing or needed projects that support BIPOC communities."

I also now follow them on all social media and love the stuff they post like this:

Holy Fuck!

I wrote this:

and was thinking I should really give it an effort, because kids this summer really did. Do a proper rewrite. No point. This is fantastic. Awesome. Way to look out for people's safety and give them the tools to get dangerous!

that doesn't really have much of a vision...

sorry, my eyes got caught by "For Material Disruption & Subversion, Against Performance & Symbolism", and it sounds like the text is pointing to some very weak movement building:

-Negotiation does not work.

Uh, an objectification of some concept that actually does work, but of course heavily dependent on situational dynamics?

-Shaming officials goes nowhere.

Okay! There's some truth to this! Officials only care about official matters, they believe in the system...but i can't help to conclude that this might lead to a shaming of "comrades" for not properly responding to the officials, i can say "fuck that cop", or whatever, as a way of fraternizing.

-Accountability will never exist

no, group-think accountability is a nightmarish puzzle where we are flipping around chairs on a titanic, but but knowing ...taking into account are still useful to me....

The list goes on in terms burbanite truisms, but i just have no desire to collaborate or find solidarity within the zine.

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