Book Review: Rising Up and Rising Down


Rising Up and Rising Down, William T. Vollmann’s enormous catalog of human violence and the thin, nearly-plausible excuses we make for it, is indispensable reading for the radical activist. In its initial printing, it fills seven encyclopedic volumes, requiring an almost superhuman effort to read. Written over more than two decades of journalism and spentt in the teeth of the worst political upheaval, Rising was often researched at very real risk to Vollmann’s life and seems to have drained all but the most bitter humor or levity from his prose. The “readable” trade paperback is a work that Vollmann himself says was done “for the money,” and “in hope that it might actually be read.” Indeed, after a reading of Rising Up and Rising Down in even this abridged format, the thought of wading in up to your neck with a seven volume collection seems almost suicidal.

Rising Up and Rising Down is not subtle with its metaphors. The front cover depicts a dove - a symbol of peace - tumbling down upon a darkened floor, wings haplessly outstretched, its neck forlornly broken, or perhaps breaking. The back cover, beneath the text, depicts a blurry hammer smashing something unseen. The first pages are in narrative form, ‘Three Meditations on Death,’ and give the reader precisely the proper mindset for absorbing the rest of the book. Vollmann wearily catalogues his stream-of-consciousness ruminations about mortality in three places - the Paris Catacombs, amidst bare skulls and yellowed bones dating back to the Roman era; a forensic morgue in the midst of the investigations that will (or will not) close the book on the questionable deaths of a few of violence’s victims; and the battlefield-streets of Bosnia, that defy the forensic search with their senseless slaughter.

Australian Radical History - Franceso Fantin and Book Review: "Never Give In"

Francesco Fantin was born near Vicenza in Northern Italy in 1901. He left school at 14 and began working in a textile factory to help support his family. Fantin grew up differently, he came from a “reverso” family – “one who is against”. The growth of fascism in Italy posed a significant challenge for Fantin, an avowed anarchist. Faced with increasing repression in Italy, in fear of his life, Francesco immigrated to Australia in 1924. He moved to North Queensland working as a labourer in Queensland and Victoria. His brothers, Alfonso and Luigi, joined him in North Queensland a few years later. Francesco Fantin was actively involved with many other Italian anti-fascists in North Queensland in struggles against the local fascists. Italy joined the war on the 10th June 1940. Three days later on the 13th June 1940 the Australian Aliens Registration Central Bureau received information Fantin was a fascist active around Cairns. Military intelligence soon took an active interest in Fantin. On the 13th February 1942, an order was issued to arrest the enemy alien Fantin (Q18 117) from Edmonton. After his arrest police officers from Cairns searched a room occupied by Fantin at Sawmill Pocket Edmonton and among other incriminating evidence found a colourful handkerchief with a picture of Durriti.

Fantin had been transferred to an internment camp in Loveday, South Australia, despite the anarchist and anti-fascist Francesco Carmagnola making representations told the authorities that Fantin was an anti-fascist, not a fascist. Ironically, Francesco Fantin, Valentino Ciccotti and Francesco Carmagnola opened the anti-fascist club, the Matteotti Club, in Melbourne in 1927. Around 60 anti-fascists were interned with over 350 fascists, at Camp Loveday. Fantin was targeted by the fascists because of his stringent anti-fascist views. He was beaten on a number of occasions. He was murdered on the 16th November 1942. Francesco was struck from behind with a piece of wood while drinking at a tap. When he fell to the ground he was beaten and kicked to death. Giovanni Casotti, a fascist from Western Australia, was sentenced to two years imprisonment for manslaughter. It has been proven beyond doubt the authorities, realising they were responsible for Fantin’s death, organised a cover up. To add insult to injury, Fantin was buried outside the internment camp’s cemetery. His bones were removed from his grave and destroyed a few years after his burial.

Le printemps érable ("The Maple Spring")

On September 5, after nine months of protests by students and their supporters, Le Conseil exécutif du Québec ("the Québec cabinet"), declared a freeze on tuition fee increases. This decision did not come from the benevolence of the new cabinet, led by Pauline Marois of Parti Québécois. Nor did it just come from the simple fact of a large number of people engaged in protest over time. In a period where victories such as these are less common, it is necessary to understand what happened in Québec that was different, so that lessons can be learned and perhaps replicated.

The campaign began with the proposal by the cabinet, by Jean Charest of the Parti libéral du Québec, to raise tuition fees by almost 75% between 2012 and 2017, or over 125% from the relaxation of tuition fees from 2007. Students responded quickly, The first National Day of Action scheduled on November 10th, 2011. Social science students at the Université Laval went strike on February 13, followed by some at Université du Québec à Montréal. Over the next two months, the number of striking students rose to at least 180,000, but with over 200,000 attending a protest on March 22. By this stage the protests had the support of the major student organisations, especially Coalition large de l’Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante (CLASSE), and increasingly members of the community.

It was quite clear by this stage the protest had reached major proportions. Certainly, it also had dramatic moments. Around one hundred student protesters were arrested on March 20, after demonstrators blocked a bridge with concrete blocks. On May 6, protesters were attacked when outsiders (and possibly agents provocateurs) started throwing projectiles into the crowd. In the reaction that followed, and with clashes between the police and protesters, ten were injured, and two seriously, one losing and eye and another a skull fracture.

Isocracy Network November 2012 Newsletter

1. Put Public First! Dr. Joseph Toscano and Dr. Jean Ely for Melbourne, 27th October
2. Big Steps: Wage Justice for Early Childhood Workers, November 17
3. Isocracy Network Annual General Meeting, November 24
4. Reclaim the Spirit of the Eureka, December 3

Foods are the new oil, land is the new gold

by Nairi Porter, Cape Town, South Africa

Food riots will become part of people's everyday life, environmental analyst Lester Brown says in his book Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity.

The UN Food & Agriculture Organization recently reported that the food prices have started rising again, now reaching a 6-month record. And they are approaching the levels last reached at the beginning of the 2008 financial crisis. And of course the high food prices were one of the main factors for the riots in the Middle East that caused the Arab spring. Sure, there are no indications for new mass riots because of the food prices for the time being, but Brown predicts that sooner or later this will happen.

There is much truth in that, I think. On one side, the demand on the food market is constantly growing due to the increasing Earth population. Every year about 80 million people are added to that number, and what's more, now that more and more people are moving to a higher social segment (with the advent of the middle class in the emerging economies), more than 3 billion people will be consuming more meat, dairy products and eggs - all products that require intensive use of grain cultures. The growing affluence overall could substitute population growth as a main factor for the rising food prices.

Meanwhile, about 1/3 of the corn that is produced in the US goes for the production of ethanol, which is used as a biofuel. Nowadays more grain is used for making fuel for cars than fodder for livestock, Brown explains. This is already causing major concerns, which have prompted the UN to call for the suspension of biofuel production.

Protecting Yourself in a Surveillance State

Everywhere we go, everywhere we turn we are being watched, tracked, surveilled. It's impossible to walk to the shops without being caught on someone's cameras. Everyone carries with them a portable tracking device with GPS and a microphone, we've been enticed into spying on ourselves for a shiny toy and apparent convenience.

There was a time when this wasn't the case, when CCTV cameras were rare and not placed every few feet along a shopping strip. There was a time when a person could walk down the street without some nameless entity being able to press a button and see where they were with accuracy down to a few metres.

This is not George Orwell's 1984, this is far more insidious and it's getting worse every day. The business of surveillance is worth billions in the currency of your choice. The agenda of surveillance of everyone all the time is vigourously promoted by both corporate capitalists and the state.

The corporate world wishes to protect their monetary fiefdoms. One of the largest examples of which being the self-proclaimed intellectual property lobby. They have successfully managed to gain state support for the notion that a civil dispute, such as copyright infringement (e.g. downloading a digital copy of a song or video), is a crime. Thus enabling their subornment of the apparatus of law enforcement for their private financial benefit.

The state, on the other hand, has been in the business of watching the people, both its own and those of other states, for far longer. For the state the purpose is control and the maintaining of power of those running the state. They tell the people they want to control that it is to protect those people from the Bad People; terrorists, organised criminals and pædophiles. It's always the same bogeymen and it plays on the politics of fear. The state tells people that there are lots of Bad People out there, but the state can protect them just as long as the people do what they're told and live their lives the way the state dictates.

If you aren't doing something wrong then you don't have anything to fear.1

One of the most common, usually pro-state, arguments is that you have nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear from the prying eyes of state based surveillance. This argument is flawed in very fundamental ways, as has been repeatedly proven, both in writing and practice. Daniel Solove, professor of law at George Washington University, demonstrated this in both his book, Nothing to Hide: The False Tradeoff Between Privacy and Security, and his related article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.2

It doesn't even take corrupt practices by those with the power to pry into the lives of regular people to demonstrate the flaws in the “nothing to hide” argument. Especially when this is extended to corporate surveillance. It is also very easy for those engaging in surveillance to blur the line between what they view as legitimate surveillance and what may not be or definitely is not in any way legitimate.

The revelations last year of the practices of News International staff in the pursuit of private information to sell newspapers is a prime example of the how easy it is for those with the ability to pry into the lives and business of others to go too far in the pursuit of their goals.

Israel, Apartheid, and International Law in the Occupied Territories

To supporters, Israel is the only democratic state in the Middle East, a wealthy, liberal democracy and homeland for the Jewish people. Yet to many, the occupied territories of Palestine are an example of colonialism and apartheid.

Do the actions of Israel constitute apartheid, a claim vigorously denied by Israeli supporters who say such policies are motivated by security rather than race? In a special lecture, academic Dr Virginia Tilley will explore and discuss this divisive topic.

Dr. Tilley is an international specialist in comparative ethnic conflict. An expert in apartheid, she was researcher at the Centre of Policy Studies in Johannesburg and a senior member of South African Human Sciences Research Council, studying the transition from apartheid to democracy.

She has also written a number of articles on Israel's occupation policies and is the author of "The One State Solution" (University of Michigan Press 2005) and editor of “Beyond Occupation” (Pluto Press, forthcoming).

She is currently an associate professor at the University of the South Pacific (Fiji) and Director of Governance Studies.

To be held on Saturday July 21st at United Voice Victoria 117-131 Capel St, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3051

https://www.facebook.com/events/440974115936032/

Submission to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers

Introduction

The Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers, established by the Prime Minister on June 28, 2012, is designed to provide advice on the policy options available to prevent asylum to prevent asylum seekers risking their lives on dangerous boat journeys to Australia.

The Panel will accept submissions from interested organisations to provide input to this work.

The following submission, addressing the Terms of Reference of the Panel, is a contribution by the Isocracy Network, an incorporated association in the state of Victoria.

Yours sincerely,

Lev Lafayette
on behalf of the Isocracy Network, Inc.

Submission to the Expert Panel on Asylum Seekers

The source, transit, and destination country aspects are very well known and thoroughly documented. We are contributing no new information by stating a rise, from the 1990s onwards, in asylum seekers using irregular migration from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and most recently from Sri Lanka. We need only refer to our previous comments in Reference #1 for the causes of this increase and the solution. However the opportunity is taken to make a particular note the significant number of Chinese asylum seekers, the top source country. This rarely reported, as nearly all arrive by plane and then apply for asylum.

The opportunity is taken here however to reject the statistically invalid claims that certain government policies from 2004 and 2008 were a contributing factor to a reduction in asylum applications during that period. A comparison of Australian applications in Australia and globally show a very high level of correlation. Statistically, external factors are the primary and overwhelming cause of the quantity of asylum seekers to Australia.

The Labor-Green Alliance

In the past several days an array of Labor Party heavy-weights have come out in a ferocious attack on the Greens, nominally their political supporters in the House of Representatives on issues of confidence and supply. The charge was led by the Party's NSW secretary Sam Dastyari, describing them as "extremists not unlike One Nation" [1], with backing from the national secretary of the AWU, Paul Howes who wrote "the Greens pose as much of a threat to working people as Tony Abbott" [2]. Others also joined in the fray; Martin Ferguson accused the Greens as not having a focus on jobs, Bob Carr saying they couldn't be trusted on economic management or national security, with chief government whip Joel Fitzgibbon "the Greens stifled any opportunity we had to finding a workable solution to the very serious asylum seeker issue".

More realistically, Stephen Jones claims that they were hard to work with, and the tight-lipped Greg Combet, described the two parties as having "different values and different policies", a surprise hopefully to nobody. In contrast - and it's been a lonely voice against the chorus - left-winger Melissa Parke showed characteristically good sense when she noted that "It doesn't help either of us to be bringing each other down. It's a gift to the Coalition." But people showing such attitudes are within the targets of Labor's powerful conservative wing; as Cassandra Wilkonson argued, "While there may be good arguments for distancing the ALP from the Greens, it is the green cancer at the heart of Labor that urgently needs to be cut out." [5]

To an outside observer, the vitriol of this attack certainly seems surprising. By any realistic comparison the Green's policies and priorities are hardly extremist - they are merely on the left of Labor. The Greens have been ethusiastic supporters on the financial stimulus which led Australia to dodge the bullet in the global recessions, they've contributed to ensuring that there is a price on carbon dioxide emissions and investment in renewable energy. They support the Mineral Resources Rent Tax and have advocated expanding it. They supported an expansion to dental health car. It is not as if Adam Bant's priorities were unknown [6]. Of the independents in the 43rd parliament, nobody has been more supportive of the Gillard minority government than the Green's sole MP, the first independent to declare support for Labor, and backing the government in 90% of votes - certainly more than Cook, Katter, Oakeshott, Slipper, and Wilkie [7].

Against the Class State and for Democratic Government

If there is a single issue which confuses many on the libertarian left, is the relationship between state and government. To give an example, the Centre for A Stateless Society, does not make a distinction in the general sense, referring to governance only on the scale of voluntary associations. For them, echoing the so-called anarcho-capitalists, state and government are are apparently synonomous. Despite strong theoretical appeals to a mutualist cooperatives, their relentless attack on government is strategically aligned with anti-democratic capitalist forces. To engage with an extremely divergent point of view, the Anarchist Media Institute is strong in its advocacy for the government to establish a "people's bank", for a stockmarket turnover tax, extended support for public Medicare, etc.

It is fairly obvious where the Isocracy Network lines up in this debate; after all, we elected Dr. Joeseph Toscano from the AMI to be our Public Officer, and he kindly took up our offer. This is not to suggest that we support all the policies of the AMI of course (for example, we reject the stock market turnover tax as we reject all generic transaction taxes), but certainly we support the general thrust of leveraging even nominally democratic government to provide positive freedoms and even involvement and participation in the mainstream democratic process. As previously explained, we align ourselves with the practical tasks of political anarchism. Of course, even on this level some of the best libertarian socialists find themselves having to make what at first glance appears to be a contradictory appeal, such as Noam Chomsky's claim of having a short-term goal of extending state authority in order to ensure democracy and human rights (Powers and Prospects, 1996)

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