A Statement from Haitian Prisoners Supporting Operation PUSH

By

Fight Toxic Prisons

From SPARC

The following is a statement is from a group of Haitian prisoners in the FL DOC system who are supporting the prisoner strike slated to begin on Jan 15.

The timing of this statement is particularly relevant, given the anniversary of the largest and most successful slave revolts in history, also known as Haitian Independence Day. On January first, 214 years ago, rebel slaves in the Caribbean inspired slaves worldwide and shook the foundation of the global economy. They set the stage for slave revolts that would sweep the planet, crippling colonialism and toppling empires.

It also comes on the heals of President Trump insulting Haitians by stating they “all have AIDS,” as his administration opted to end the Temporary Protective Status (TPS) which was enacted after an earthquake in 2010 killed 300,000 on the island.

Today, despite all its talk of freedom, the U.S. is home to the largest literal slave population in the world, thanks to mass incarceration policies coupled with the slave clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 13th Amendment. And some of those slaves are preparing for the next uprising.

This statement below was received following publication of the Operation PUSH call to action:

“EXPOSING THE LIES OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA ”

It’s high time to expose the rulers, law makers, and law enforcers in Florida and in this country at large. Therefore we are calling on the people of this state to help put a stop to all the injustice, lies, and deceit once and for all, especially those of us, whom through trickery, have been victimized and as a result are entangled in the web of lies and deceit.

Throughout the presidential campaign, Donald Trump, now this nations president, was adamant about deporting illegal and criminal immigrants. He was met with a hard fight with the governors of the states (especially the Democratic Party). Why? Because immigrants are their bread and butter.

The American people are always been led to believe that their leaders wisely put tax payers dollars to good use to keep the street of this country safe by keeping criminals and the corrections system and off the streets. The truth is tax dollars do not fund prisons, prisoners do. How? Free labor force!!!

Prisons in America are nothing but a different form of slavery plantations and the citizens of the country are walking zombie banks. There are so many Haitians, Jamaican, and Latinos in the FDOC serving sentences that exceeds life expectancy and or life sentences who are not being deported. They use all immigrants, for free Labor and then deport them.

Why flood the system with immigrants waiting to be deported after serving their entire sentence? Because of the benefit. The undeniable truth is Florida prisoners are slaves who work and do not get paid. New age slaves within the prisons system!!!

For more on Operation PUSH, check out this interview with one of the strike organizers

Interested in planning a solidarity demo on NYE or Jan 15? Take your pick of DOC facilities littering the state.
Via: itsgoingdown.org
Edited for mb3-org.com

Iran: Bread. Jobs. Freedom.

Protest in Zanjan, December 30 2017

Posted By

Mike Harman

We are publishing this dispatch direct from an activist in Iran, trying to make some sense of the current wave of protests. The situation is moving so quickly, and the protests sufficiently diffuse, that anyone claiming to know what will happen can be disregarded. The contribution we can make is to ask questions, to look at what has happened, is happening; and only from that speculate about what might happen in the future. We hope that more will contribute to this effort in the coming days and weeks.

We have lightly edited this piece for translation issues and to add footnotes.


From Armin Sadeghi, January 4th 2018.

Are we waging a revolution in Iran? Perhaps not. But if we perceive the essence of a revolution as “the abolition of fear”, then everyone has heard (and seen) the Iranian people shouting with no fear that “the emperor has no clothes”.

It is hard to anticipate beyond this, since the conflicting social forces have not yet fully unfolded; and it is almost impossible to grasp a revolution as it’s being made. But, we can speculate on the situation, just as Marx wrote to Ruge1: “The internal difficulties seem to be almost greater than the external obstacles. For although no doubt exists on the question of ‘Whence,’ all the greater confusion prevails on the question of ‘Whither.'” Here we restrict ourselves to the question of ‘whence’, where the current wave of protests have come from, since there is certainly doubt on this outside Iran.

The course of events has been accelerating faster in Iran (as it has been in many other regions), and it has almost reached the point where no one can generate an cohesive narrative. Still, the political establishment was successful with yet another façade of an election – the same old trick of a false choice between bad and worse, while both parties serve the same class interests 2.

At the same time, Iran has the most workplace accidents and fatalities in the world. Just before the election more than forty miners were killed 3, and the the president was booed while he was trying to maintain a popular image by visiting the site. A few months back, the collapse of a commercial building in the center of Tehran (Plasco Building) demonstrated that sentiment is growing among people, and there is a general distrust with the political apparatus as a whole.

After Rouhani’s reelection, the situation got more twisted. Rouhani’s administration – the same people who had advocated the neoliberal project for decades – became too self-confident and waged an all-round war against the working class, precarious and contingent workers. Public healthcare is diminished to almost nothing, the same goes for job security and workplace security. The neoliberal project has been going on for more than 26 years. There was another revolt about two decades ago and it was brutally suppressed by the same people who hold the reformist front today4.

Since then, despite the apparent political conflicts between sequential administrations, economic programs have been written by the same hand: pseudo-privatization, accumulation by dispossession, destroying all independent workers’ syndicates and councils 5, precarization of labor and so on. Over the last decade we have witnessed a free fall of the middle class into lower sectors of our society. The doctrine of a metropolitan country has left all the smaller cities and ethnic groups to struggle for survival, while the capital seemed to grow. The rest of the story is too familiar to get into the details; you just have to take a look at the per-capita consumption of fundamental commodities such as milk and dairies (which has fallen to less than a half), red meat which has fallen by more than 70% and many others.

So the background is clear: proletarianization has been going on for nearly three decades, there are no worker’s unions left that could pursue their class interests, there is a dramatic increase in unemployment due to financialization of capital.

The baby boom generation of the eighties cannot fit to any socially accepted paradigm; after graduation (and a considerable part of this generation has gone to college and university), there are no jobs that could fit their skills, and the jobs they could hold onto won’t support any sort of decent life. Due to this the current generation can’t maintain a nuclear family (which is so crucial to the ideological and economic structure of the political regime in Iran, note that all the official economic data is published per family not per person).

This has resulted in a year of diffuse but contiguous rallies, demonstrations, and sit-ins: The students opposing the privatization and commodification of education; the retired opposing the bankrupt retirement accounts; Teachers and nurses protesting against inhuman living conditions, the bus drivers supporting their syndicate members; and innumerable strikes in various sectors, from miners to sugarcane workers.

Within this context, Rouhani’s administration sought to push his war against the working class one step further after his re-election. He started a new project for unpaid internships which was strongly opposed by a student campaign against all kinds of unpaid or underpaid work. Reza Shahabi, the head of the bus drivers syndicate6 was unlawfully imprisoned, and after more than two months of hunger strike, when he had two brain strokes, the authorities refused to send him to a hospital. These acts were strongly opposed by union activists from various sectors. then along came the catastrophic earthquake.

The catastrophe of the earthquake was not just a natural phenomenon, but it pulled down the curtain hiding the poverty of the western region of the country. The officials couldn’t care less for the people in need of immediate help. They even treated them with a certain degree of contempt. And the people’s circles were created to help our fellow-human beings. This event disillusioned a major part of our society about who is going to stay on their side, and who is only thinking of how to take advantage of every situation. The earthquakes went on, and for months it was happening (with smaller degrees of course) in all parts of the country. Tehran was consumed by restlessness, since it has been anticipating a strong earthquake for decades.

The people were healing from the trauma, when the economic earthquake came: the annual budget engineered by Rouhani’s administration was an insult to everyone. All the damage done by the earthquake was six hundred million dollars, and the government found it impossible to provide a reconstruction budget, leaving it to donations from individuals. While, on the other hand, the budget of certain propaganda institutions was more than 15 billion dollars and it was fully paid for the current year. The price of fuel was to increase by more than 50 percent. There was no budget left for state construction programs. News and infographics were being forwarded between people, and the dissatisfaction went beyond the government’s anticipation.

How did it start? Who is on the streets? What do they want? And where to go next?

The Rouhani’s administration accused his so-called rival in the last election of igniting the revolt. But it can’t be ignored that the previous bread revolt (twenty-five years ago) started in the same region. Moreover, Mashhad has been a tax paradise for part of the regime’s economic elite for decades and it has one of the highest rates of growth of slums in the country. All the same, it is of no significance for us to check the conspiracy theories about the beginning of the revolt. The issue here, is its sudden outburst all around the country. Cities were joining the protest that middle class Tehraners hadn’t even heard of before. The body of protesters was mainly the disillusioned youth of 15 to 30 – the No-Future generation of Iran if you like to use familiar terms.

The first demonstrations started with a rage against economic conditions, and the government’s budget for the next year. But it took less than two days for the protest to aim the political apparatus as a whole. Slogans such as “down with high prices” was soon replaced with “down with the dictator”. Slogans against the supreme leader and the regime were cried out loud in the face of repressive forces for the first time.

Still it was clear that the horizontal movement couldn’t easily translate its rage into specific positive demands. Even the slogans against the whole regime had no idea of any alternative. The economic dissatisfaction couldn’t be translated into concrete measures. The reactionary forces within and outside the establishment (mainly including the son of the previous Shah of Iran and his supporters of monarchy! And the Mujahedin-e-Khalgh which is another religious reactionary armed organization) sought to take advantage of the situation. In some parts they tried to invest in the nostalgia of a good dictator who was Reza-Shah, the grandfather of the opposition leader today, in other parts they strived for the support of Trump administration. All this happened because of the systematic suppression of the left since the revolution of 1979. In fact, some argue that the cornerstone of this regime is founded on the suppression of the left and women.

The bright spot among all the confusion were the students. On the third day, they really shifted the paradigm of the revolt, mostly in Tehran, and it spread in many other parts of the country. They opposed the reactionary slogans with “even women has joined us, but you lazy men are just standing by”, they changed the pro-nationalist slogan of “neither Gaza, nor Lebanon, I will die only for Iran” with a much deeper slogan of “From Gaza to Iran, down with the exploiters”. They also added some class-conscious slogans promoting councils, or encouraging people to move beyond the fake dualism of reformists and fundamentalists. This was immediately recognized by authorities as a fracture point. Since then they have been arresting all the students and corresponding activists. The intelligence services saw this situation as the perfect opportunity to suppress the left for yet another decade.

This project is still going on, and all the left can hope for at the moment is to survive this situation and launch a counter attack in due time.

– Armin Sadeghi

Via: libcom.org

Edited for mb3-org.com

Atlantic City Skinheads Associate Arrested On the Same Day ACS Gets Smashed in Philly!

from Philly Antifa

Thomas J. Turner, ACS associate arrested with LOTS of guns and drugs.

 

Our friends over at Idavox, the One People’s Project News Service, broke this story today:

Next on the White Power Chopping Block: Thomas “Q-Ball” Turner

The Atlantic City “Skinheads” associate was busted just mulling about the neighborhood in New Jersey with guns and drugs. Lots of drugs. And the cops found more in his storage space. Much more.

GALLOWAY, TWP., NJ – An associate of the Atlantic City ”Skinheads” (ACS) who was friends with another associate currently in prison for carjacking and killing a Black woman over a decade ago has been arrested on weapons and drug charges after police responded to calls about a suspicious man carrying a firearm.

According to a Dec. 30 statement on the Galloway Police Department Facebook page, when they found Thomas J. Turner, Jr., 42, on East White Horse Pike, he was wearing a black tactical vest and carrying a backpack, along with a .45 caliber Encom MP-45 assault pistol along with a 30-round magazine with 17 bullets. The statement also notes Turner also had 15 grams of methamphetamine, which is considered a quantity consistent with distribution, drug paraphernalia and other suspicious items. Upon obtaining a search warrant for a storage space leased to Turner, police found police located additional drugs, reportedly heroin, as well as a more weapons, ammunition and two additional extended magazines. Turner was charged with Possession of an Assault Firearm, Possession of an Assault Firearm While in the Course of Committing a CDS Offense, Unlawful Possession of an Extended Ammunition Magazine, Possession of Schedule I Drugs and Possession with Intent to Distribute CDS. He is currently being held at the Atlantic County Jail.

Turner, also known as “Q-Ball” is known as a member of the Atlantic City “Skinheads” one of the first neo-Nazi bonehead crews in the state, and at one time the largest and most violent. Court records indicate that Turner was interviewed in regards to the carjacking and murder of a Black woman, Cindy Cade as she went to buy tickets at a May’s Landing, NJ movie theater by Turner’s friend and fellow ACS associate Walter Dille, who is currently serving life for the crime.

No further information regarding Turner’s case is available.


Turns out Dec 30th was a bad day for the Atlantic City Boneheads all around.  That evening, at least 4 Nazi Boneheads, including several ACS members, were confronted by Anti-Racists at a Murphy’s Law show in Philly.

ACS members have (unfortunately) been sporadically spotted at shows in Philly for years.  Sometimes they are confrontational and other times they fly under the radar. Depending on the venue, bands and crowd that night, they will get bounced/confronted or ignored.  One associate of ACS, Martin “Shlak” Schacteer (of Rape-Rock band Call the Paramedics and Eat the Turnbuckle) books shows around town as “Uselessdrunk Productions” and, predictably, welcomes ACS to attend.

Shlak (r) with Vincent De Felice of Atlantic City Skinheads

Shlak with Ryan “Cody” Hoebel of ACS. People don’t forget, Martin.

Every so often, though, ACS will overstep and attend the wrong show.

While we would love to be able to claim some credit for what happened on the night of the 30th, none of us were involved so descriptions of what exactly happened should be taken with a grain of salt but word around town is that several boneheads including Vincent De Felice of Atlantic City Boneheads, KSS founding member Joseph Hoesch, ACS member “Whitey Sick” and at least one other Nazi were given the proper greeting by Anti-Racist punx and real skinheads.  The confrontation escalated to violence. Allegedly 3 of the bones were put in the hospital, one with a broken arm, and “Whitey” was last seen fleeing, leaving his “brothers” behind.

Pic from Whitey’s FB. That’s true… it COULD happen to you, Whitey

What we do know to be true, is that several of aforementioned Nazis were talking about attending the show on social media and had RSVP’d on Facebook as going.

One post in particular, which was later deleted from De Felice’s facebook, supports the story we heard.

Let’s rock, indeed…

Vincent De Felice is a longtime ACS member.

De Felice wearing an Aggravated Assault t-shirt. AA is a nazi band comprised of members of ACS.

De Felice. Note the ACS logo tattooed on his chest (Celtic Cross with skulls beneath).

“Andrew Charles” is actually Andrew Boyle, a former Keystone State Skinheads member who left sometime around 2008, shortly after being arrested for weapons possession outside a show after the cops were called by bystanders when he and other KSS members were being confronted by DLJ of One Peoples Project.

Boyle wearing an aggravated assault shirt.

Drew Boyle

Joseph Hoesch is another former KSS member.  Some of us ran into Joey when he and another Neo-Nazi were hanging around a Refuse Fascism march on November 4th in Philly.

Joseph Hoesch, former KSS member and Neo-Nazi

Hoesch claimed to have no association with KSS any more and to no longer be a Nazi, saying he had “outgrown all that.”  Clearly this was just a cowardly way to give Anti-Fascists pause so he could skate away. Hoesch claims to skate regularly at Dilworth plaza on weekends so something to keep in mind for our readers.

Kyle Thomas (or Trush. He uses two last names on social media) is a new face to us. He seems to keep his association with ACS on the DL and his social media presence holds no outwardly Neo-Nazi views. It is unknown if he is a “fencewalker” or have some affiliation to ACS/Nazism.

We will let our readers know when and if we receive more info/confirmation about what went down.  Much respect to whoever stood up to defend their scene and city on December 30th.

It’s easy to write off ACS as a non-entity because of their long-standing policy of avoiding political events in favor of sub-cultural ones as well as just destroying themselves with drugs and alcohol. And indeed, they are not as much a focus for our crew compared to KSS or the Alt-Right.

But the arrest of “Q-Ball” Turner with a huge cache of weapons, as well as the murders committed by ACS associates Walter Dille and Christopher Crumb, remind us just the stakes we are playing for. Anyone willing to take a stand to keep people like this out of the scene (an important recruiting ground for them) is doing us all a favor.

Eternal War on the Hitler Youth,

Edited for mb3-org.com

Anews Podcast – episode 45

https://podcast.anarchistnews.org

Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 45 for January 5, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Editorial: On Accountability in Real Life
TOTW – Year Past, Year Coming

This podcast is the effort of many people. This week this podcast was
* sound edited by Linn O’Mable
* editorial by some anarchist
* written by jackie
* narrated by chisel and a friend
* Thanks to Aragorn! and friends for their help with the topic of the week
* Contact us at podcast@anarchistnews.org
To learn more

Introduction to anarchism: http://anarchy101.org
Books and other anarchist material: http://littleblackcart.com
News and up to the minute commentary: https://anarchistnews.org

Edited for mb3-org.com

A few reasons not to organise on Facebook.

Facebook activism

Posted By

jef costello

Recently we have seen a big increase in activist Facebook pages. Facebook seems to have become an essential propaganda tool. However we should question the use of it as an organising tool, and even as a propaganda tool.

Facebook is a sieve:
This is noting new, Facebook is a sieve. It’s actually the goal of a social network: collect data, sell it to advertisers, sell personalised adverts etc. Facebook might bristle sometimes at handing over data to the cops, but it is happy to link Facebook accounts with people’s identities. Posting on Facebook is therefore a guaranteed risk, it could even be seen as reckless. During the movement against the loi de travail we could see online surveys about where demonstrate. This kind of information only contributes to one thing, the dossiers of the secret service.

Not everyone is on Facebook:
With 22 million daily users, Facebook is the top social network in France by some distance. It is a large part of the population. However, while 84% of under-40s use facebook daily, only 56% of the population is actually on Facebook. This drastically reduces the accessibility that advocates claim is the result of intensive Facebook use by militants.

Facebook: no archives guaranteed
Another problem coming from the size of Facebook: your info is out of date in two days. Although posts are archived for the benefit of advertisers (and the cops) it is almost impossible to find a post, even a politically significant one, after three days. The information is swamped by the enormous volume of information that is circulated in real time. In keeping with the 24-hour news cycle, each news story is driven out by the next, so the extremely important information about police brutality or the video showing mistreatment of migrants in the metro quickly disappears under the weight of Hanouna’s latest homophobic outburst or the death of a famous singer.

Mark Zuckerberg can delete your page whenever he wants:
Recently the sinister Alain Soral, a notorious anti-feminist and anti-semite, was kicked off Facebook. Nothing too serious, perhaps even encouraging given the tide of hatred washing over the 120000 subscribers to his page. Nevertheless it is part of a much more dangerous system in which Facebook can simply delete pages which it doesn’t like. It doesn’t matter how important these pages might be: Negronews, liked by 500000 people and with relatively inoffensive content, was deleted for supposed “incitement to hatred” with no justification or further explanation given. Similarly “La République mais pas trop”(51000 subscribers) a satirical page was permanently deleted by Facebook’s automatic moderation, in spite of the particular attention they paid to removing racist/sexist/homophobic comments on their page.

There are several ways get kicked off Facebook:
– a moderator doesn’t like you and bans you for a petty and or subjective reason.
– the page being reported too many times. This is particularly important as it means that nationalists can shut down pages with harassment campaigns; after a certain number of reports Facebook automatically shuts down the page. This is undoubtedly what happened to Urgence Notre police assassine (Warning, our police kill, 61000 subscribers) which was attacked by hordes of unhappy police officers and has disappeared.

The illusion of accessibility: pay, or talk to yourselves
Here is the most problematic part of Facebook: the algorithms are designed to create social bubbles. A concrete example is in this article:

“As we like, share and comment on articles, Facebook’s algorithms create a model of our preferences. Then Facebook tries to show us content that we will want to see. So, if someone likes snowboarding, subscribes to snowboarding pages and shares snowboarding articles, they can expect to see more articles about snowboarding on our timelines than someone who hates the sport, which isn’t a surprise. The problem is that Facebook has become a trusted news source for net users, and political opinions get the same treatment as snowboarding.”

So, because of Facebook’s algorithms, when we publish subversive texts we are only likely to reach people who are already interested in them. We won’t reach the proletarian who is mostly interested by fishing, or the young lad who is into hairdressing, we will carry on talking amongst ourselves. The only way to get through these algorithms is to pay. Of course, nothing is free, even propaganda.

So unless you want to go broke (adverts are expensive) trying to fight Facebook’s algorithms you need to ask yourself the right questions. We need to look at our autonomy and that starts with getting your hands dirty; you need independent servers, to set up websites and learn from existing projects. For example there are MUTU sites in several cities, so we need to create our own social networks and online spaces which we control! Let’s demand more from ourselves and kick Facebook out of our struggles.

Translated from :
https://paris-luttes.info/quelques-raison-de-ne-pas-s-9260

Via: libcom.org

Edited for mb3-org.com

Philadelphia, PA: Report on New Year’s Noise Demo

via IT’S GOING DOWN

On the eve of 2018 anarchists and anti-prison rebels gathered to make noise, show solidarity with prisoners, and express our disgust with prisons. While gathered in a park people shared drums and stickers before parading to the Federal Detention Center at 7th St and Arch St.

The cold quiet streets filled with the reverberation of drums and the clanging of pots and pans, and the walls were decorated with posters, stickers, and tags against imprisonment. Once at the detention center the noise only got louder, growing frantic each time a prisoner flashed their cell lights, waved to us, or shone a flashlight out the tall thin windows.

Fireworks lit up the facade of the gloomy building. After a while the cops showed up and not long after we marched away, insulting the police and shouting slogans, and dispersed safely. It felt great to be so loud and to see those locked inside enjoying and responding to us being there.

For a Black December, for a year full of revolt and defiance 😉
Strength to everyone fighting repression ❤ ❤
Freedom for all prisoners

Via: anarchistnews.org

Edited for mb3-org.com

Jacqueline Jones Talks Lucy Parsons, the Black Woman Anarchist That History Forgot

by Stassa Edwards, via Jezebel

History has nearly forgotten Lucy Parsons (c. 1853-1942), the radical anarchist and orator who enthused working-class audiences for decades with her rhetoric of resistance and violence. She struck fear into the hearts of the Chicago police and businessmen, agitating for workers to seize their rights by whatever means necessary, including violence. By 1887, one newspaper warned that authorities in Chicago “feared this one woman more than all of the chief Anarchists combined.” Another described her as “one of the most notorious women.”

If authorities feared Parsons, then it was because of what they perceived to be her dangerous rhetoric. “Learn the use of explosives!” Parsons wrote in a late 19th-century essay, imploring the laboring poor to rebel against exploitative capitalism, and those who profited from it. Despite the fact that Parsons was a virtual celebrity, followed by newspaper reporters and tracked by police, history has largely been unkind to her legacy, eclipsed in part by her husband, Albert Parsons, one of the anarchists executed in the wake of 1886’s Haymarket affair. In her new book, The Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical, Jacqueline Jones revives the life and legacy of Parsons by following her from her early life in Texas to her rise as a famous anarchist.

Jones describes Parsons as a “walking contradiction of terms.” As Jones deftly demonstrates, Parsons’s life was defined by ironies. Parsons was born into slavery but denied that she was black, creating instead a romantic origin story that purposefully obscured her racial identity. Likely born in Virginia, Parsons was forced to relocate to Waco, Texas by her owner (and likely biological father) in the middle of the Civil War. Once free, she sought out education and eventually met Albert, the Confederate solider-turned-Republican-turned-socialist-turned-anarchist. Unwelcome in Texas, the interracial couple relocated to Chicago where they both quickly established themselves as leaders in the labor movement and, eventually, became fierce and vocal anarchists. It was in Chicago, while Albert was on trial for his alleged role in the Haymarket bombing, that Lucy reinvented herself, claiming that she was born to Mexican and Native American parents.

It was a fiction, of course, but Parsons cultivated many personal fictions, even as her fame as a radical agitator grew. After Albert’s execution, Lucy toured the United States, imploring the working classes to take their rights by force if necessary. Her fiery and idealistic rhetoric was often at odds with her personal life. She disagreed with Emma Goldman on the issue of free love (eventually leading to a feud between the two), even as she took numerous lovers. Those contradictions extended into her family life as well. She advocated for freedom but Parsons infamously had her own son committed to an asylum because of political differences, where he would die 20 years later.

Jones deftly explores Parsons’s contradictions, offering an in-depth look at a complicated woman, as well as new insight into Parsons’s surely difficult life in Texas. What emerges is a woman whose legacy is present, even if her name has been forgotten. Parsons’s work lives in our more expansive understanding of free speech and her legacy haunts contemporary debates on class, economic justice, and capitalism.

I spoke to Jones about her book, Lucy Parsons, and Parsons’s enduring legacy. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

* * *

JEZEBEL: Why Lucy Parsons? What was so attractive that you decided to write this big biography?

JACQUELINE JONES: I’ve been teaching American history for a while now. When I teach the survey to students I’m always interested in introducing them to interesting women in American history. Lucy Parsons name has come up in my lectures for many years, yet I was pretty reliant on a biography that was written about her in 1976, Carolyn Ashbaugh’s biography [Lucy Parsons: An American Revolutionary] It’s good, it gives the chronology of her life, but it says nothing about her origins.

I got to thinking that with all of the new resources, especially digital resources, that it was time to revisit Lucy Parsons and to see if I could find something out about her background, as well as introduce her to a new audience. People today have never really heard of her. I guess I’m not surprised, but when I told people I was writing a biography of Lucy Parsons, many people, even people who knew a lot about history, said, “Who?” That’s too bad because during her time she was quite the celebrity. The news media followed her obsessively and she was known coast to coast. She was a tremendous speaker and her speaking career lasted from 1886 until she died in 1942. That’s quite a long life.

You brought up that many people don’t know about Lucy Parsons. Frankly, before reading your book, I only knew about her as the widow of one the Haymarket bombers.

Alleged bomber! Her husband Albert Parsons was executed in November 1887 for his alleged role in the Haymarket bombing. He did not throw the bomb. The prosecutor, the judge and the jury knew that he didn’t throw the bomb, he wasn’t even in Haymarket Square when it was thrown. He was several blocks away in a tavern.

In any case, it’s definitely true that her career has been overshadowed by his. Many people who do know her think of her as Albert Parsons’s wife or widow without know that she had a very long and fruitful career after his death as a public speaker, as an agitator, and as a writer and editor. She was really a remarkable woman. Maybe we only have so much room in the pantheon of women to acknowledge a few women anarchists. There is certainly Emma Goldman—with whom Lucy Parsons famously feuded. There doesn’t seem to be much knowledge about Parsons and her background. It’s too bad; she had such an interesting life, full of contradictions and full of ironies. She always denied that she had been born into slavery and claimed this false Hispanic/Native American identity for herself. She’s so interesting in so many ways.

Why do you think her reputation, or at least knowledge of her, has been eclipsed by other women like Goldman, or even Mary “Mother” Jones? Certainly, their reputations have survived in histories of labor and anarchists but Parsons seems to have fallen by the wayside. Why has she fallen by the wayside while Goldman has not?

I’m not really sure. Certainly, Goldman was a powerful speaker, she was an agitator, she propounded free love and she was the editor of Mother Earth. So, she was constantly in the public eye, but so was Parsons. She edited two radical journals, Freedom and Liberator, she had many speaking tours around the country. Parsons was also a prolific writer, she thought deeply about political theory and history. It’s not clear to me why she isn’t remembered. I know why Goldman is remembered—she was outspoken and deported in 1919, sent to the Soviet Union and returned from there deeply disillusioned. They have very different trajectories.

As I said, Goldman was a proponent of free love, she thought monogamy was not the natural order of things. Ironically, Lucy Parsons, though an anarchist, claimed that the nuclear family and monogamy were the building blocks of a just society. When in fact, she lived a very liberated life, sexually. She had a baby in Waco, Texas and the father is unknown—it might have been Albert but it might have been a named Oliver Benton, a man who claimed her as his wife. After Albert died, she had a series of love affairs with younger men, a couple of which ended in spectacular fashion in the newspapers. She dragged them to court. On some level, she presented herself as a very prim, Victorian wife and mother and her private life, I think, was subsumed under this rhetoric.

It’s quite an interesting question. I think she did pioneer resistance to efforts to suppress free speech. She was a real First Amendment proponent; certainly the efforts of the Chicago police to silence her in the late 1880s and 1890s, that was the beginning of free speech campaigns that other groups, like the Wobblies or the Industrial Workers of the World, continued well into the 20th century. Parsons was really there at the forefront of these free speech campaigns. She deserves a lot more credit historically than she’s been given.

I wanted to return to Lucy Parsons’s origins for just a moment. You uncovered new information about her birth and really untangled this mess of her self-made origin story. Could you talk a bit about the challenges of tracking Parsons’s early life, from her birth in Virginia to her life in Texas? This seemed to be a contentious issue during Parsons’s career, fueled in large part by her.

When Carolyn Ashbaugh wrote her book, she only devoted three pages to Parsons’s first 21 or 22 years. Ashbaugh barely mentioned [Parsons’s] years in Waco before she left for Chicago in 1873.

The short part of the story is that I sat in front of a computer for many weeks and managed to track her down. I found an article in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat in 1886 which I consider the Rosetta Stone of Lucy Parsons’s life. That article gave me the name of her mother, Charlotte. It told me that her mother had married a man in Waco named Charlie Carter, it gave me the name of [Lucy and Charlotte’s] owner, Tolliver. He was from Virginia and was a Confederate surgeon who brought his slaves to McLennan County in Texas during the Civil War. It also gave me the name of the man who claimed Parsons as his wife. He was called Oliver Gathings by white people, but the name he took after slavery was Oliver Benton.

All of this pointed to some real challenges to recreating her early years. One is that often after slavery, former enslaved men and women took new last names and abandoned the names of their owner. Charlotte did that, she took the name of her new husband, Charlie Carter. Charlie Carter had abandoned his slave name, Charlie Crane. Oliver Benton had abandoned his slave name, Oliver Gathings. That’s one of the challenges; to navigate these name changes over time is very difficult. But once I found the name of Charlotte, I could look her up in the Waco census for 1870 and her daughter who, in 1870, was 19. Her daughter gave her name as Lucia, again another name change because Lucia eventually became Lucy.

There were these challenges to overcoming these barriers to piecing this history together. Once I knew the name of Parsons’s owner, I could find Tolliver in the Confederate military records. He was a surgeon, he was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Illinois. He then went back east and got his slaves and brought them to Waco in 1863. He then becomes part of the Waco record.

It was a kind of detective mystery. It was fun to see these pieces eventually fall into place, again to have them confirmed by multiple sources. It wouldn’t have made any sense to take the Globe-Democrat article at face value. I had to confirm all of that information multiple ways before I thought it was true.

Lucy’s origin story or, at least the one she invents, of being Latina and Native American, seems to emerge at a very specific time. She spins this story at the very moment that her husband is implicated in the Haymarket bombing. She already has this very fluid relationship with identity, I was wondering what your takeaway on Lucy’s creation of a new racial identity is? Why is she compelled to create this particular identity?

You’re right that [Lucy’s origin story] takes hold at a very specific time and that’s when Albert has been implicated in the bombing and she’s about to launch her own career as an orator and agitator. I think there are a couple of things at work here: her looks were indeterminate and she felt that she would gain more credibility on a national stage if people thought that she was not African American. I think that she thought that being labeled African American would damage her credibility as an orator on almost any subject. She approaches it as a kind of exotic identity for herself.

Parsons was able to get away with it to a certain extent. People couldn’t really tell by looking at her what her origins were. Also, there was no Mexican-American press in Chicago until the 1920s or 1930s. There was nobody in Chicago to interview her or to ask her about her parents or to comment on the fact that she couldn’t speak Spanish. If you look at her through the years and see what she told census takers, she’s constantly getting her [fictional] parents mixed up—sometimes her father is Mexican, sometimes it’s her mother, other times they’re Native American. She can’t keep her own story straight because it’s a fiction. She’s not that careful about preserving it.

Albert was complicit in this. He claimed later that when he met her, he found a lovely Spanish maiden on her uncle’s ranch in west Texas. Of course, they met in Waco.


Popular print of Haymarket Riots, 1886. Image via Wikipedia.

I love that Albert and Lucy collaborate to create this romantic fiction…

One of the things you bring up in the book is that as Lucy cultivates this identity, of being Latina and Native American, she’s really emphasizing that she is more native than white Americans. I was wondering how that played out in the context of being an anarchist because, of course, many of them were foreign-born. Pointing to foreignness was a common way to discredit anarchists…

She took on that purpose very seriously. Certainly, she claimed that she was more native-born than anyone else—she claimed that her ancestors met Cortés when he came to Mexico. Sometimes she would say that her ancestors met Columbus when he came to the New World. Secondly, her physical appearance played a role, too. She was quite fashionable and she was very vain. Everyone agreed that she was very beautiful. She was very well put together and a very talented seamstress.

The picture on the cover of the book is one of her favorites. She’s in a silk-striped dress, she has a lace collar which has a gold pin at the throat. She’s wearing a hat with black ostrich feathers. Everybody remarked on how elegantly she dressed. She would go speak in places and the cops would be looking around for this firebrand orator and they couldn’t locate her. Then she’d ascend to the stage and they’d all be amazed to find this very beautiful, well-dressed woman was the much-feared Mrs. Parsons. She had a good sense of humor, she was playing with these stereotypes of a bomb-throwing anarchist as an unshaven man from western Europe who couldn’t speak English and who was very alien to native-born Americans.

The newspaper writing that you included in the book is very interesting. It’s essentially men who are both allured by her dress and the fact that she’s attractive but are also very bothered by her indeterminate racial identity. They seem very confused by the contradiction of stereotypes, between her looks and her rhetoric. There’s a bunch of ink spilled over figuring out over what her racial identity could possibly be. You call her a “walking contradiction of terms.” Do you think that’s something that she purposefully courted, perhaps to insert confusion into the coverage of her?

She often claimed that her personal identity—that her background—should be irrelevant. In the Introduction, I quote her saying something like “Nobody cares about who I am or where I come from, they only care about my message.” She is being disingenuous there. On the one hand, she thought that identity should be irrelevant and the message of class struggle should be everything. On the other hand, she loved the attention. If she could make headlines, she was delighted. She craved that kind of press attention. If she could remain a woman of mystery, I think she really embraced that as a way of being in the world.

I do try to make the point that I think that took a tremendous emotional toll on her. Parsons couldn’t speak freely about her background or talk about that long, forced trek from the east to Texas during the Civil War. She couldn’t be forthcoming about the family she left behind in Waco. I think that was an emotional burden that she carried with her.

You can tell in the book that I wasn’t about to write another Lives of the Saints, I wanted to portray her as I saw her. She had her son committed to an insane asylum in 1899. It was shocking, he wanted to join the Army and she thought that would be humiliating to her because she was an anti-imperialist. At the time she was speaking out against the [Spanish-American War] and now, to have her own son go off to the Philippines was too much for her to bear, so she has him committed. He died in that asylum 20 years later and, as far as I can tell, she never visited him.

People who met her said that she was tough. One person who met her described her as bulldozing nearly everyone. She was very sure of her own views and contemptuous of those she considered weak or ill-informed. She was a very formidable personality, but not a lovely one.

Parsons also played with gender, especially the interplay of gender and her incredibly violent rhetoric, which included encouraging crowds to make dynamite and engage in this anarchist war. She used gender to protect herself, or at least ward off suspicion, during Haymarket but also to garner support. As you pointed out, she’s very invested in her appearance as another method to undermine stereotypes. I was wondering, how does gender work either for or against Parsons? Especially considering that she’s not a white woman and the press is very invested in determining her racial identity— while they might not be sure of her race, they are sure that she’s definitely not white.

Her politics were, as you say, pretty violent. I looked at what she wrote in her husband’s paper, The Alarm, before Haymarket. She is one of the proponents of the use of dynamite. There developed a cult of dynamite among anarchists in Chicago in the mid-1880s. They argued that it was the ultimate form of self-defense for the laboring classes and also that it leveled the playing field. They argued that if they had to deal with well-armed police or businessmen backed up with Gatling guns, then they needed dynamite to protect themselves. Often this rhetoric veered away from self-defense to calling for the use of dynamite as a weapon in class warfare. She contributed to this.

It was interesting that during the Haymarket trial, the prosecution introduced many different kinds of evidence and one piece of evidence was her essay called “Two Tramps.” The essay ends with the sentence, “Learn the use of explosives!” She had a very demure personal presentation, all the while, her writings were very provocative. Authorities in Chicago loved to use words to describe her that invoked the Great Fire of 1871. They said she was a firebrand, that her comments were inflammatory or incendiary, that she was bound to unite the spark of revolution, and set the laboring classes on fire. There are all of these firey allusions to her.

After the Haymarket trial, the police detective Michael Schaack, who was the great nemesis of Chicago anarchists, was asked if he would go after the women next. The question referred to Lucy Parsons and Lizzie Swank [another anarchist and close friend of Lucy and Albert]. People often complained that Lucy got away with this murderous rhetoric only because she was a woman. And, to a certain extent, she did. Her husband was executed basically for saying things that she said as well. His writings were very provocative and very violent. He denied that later on, but that was certainly the case. When they were looking for suspects for the bombing, he and other editors and orators were rounded up—the usual suspects, I guess. It is interesting that she was kind of inoculated against a kind of vigorous prosecution.

She also has a really fraught relationship with gender. She used a lot of gendered language in her speeches—challenging men to be men, for example. But when she’s working with the Working Women’s Union, she’s also deeply frustrated by these attempts to unionize and mobilize working women like herself. This history of working women often goes unexplored in big histories of labor and anarchism. I was wondering if you could speak a bit about Parsons, the Working Women’s Union, and the organization of women in that period?

First of all, I should point out that Parsons was more of an agitator than an organizer. She didn’t really have the patience to work with ordinary laboring women. She wanted to get up in front of a big crowd and declaim. The experience with the Working Women’s Union she found instructive because she found that it was not going to be her destiny. The problem with that group is that it was composed mostly of middle-class women who were well-educated and well-read. They were very interested in political theory and would have meetings at night where they would discuss fine points of political ideology. Parsons didn’t seem to understand that working women—women who toiled as seamstresses or domestic servants for ten or twelve hours a day—were really not interested in that kind of evening activity.

They weren’t eager to commit to a union because they considered wage work to be temporary. They didn’t think that they would be doing this forever. They believed that they were doing this labor until they got married and then they could retreat from the paid labor force. Lizzie Swank found this out, too (she and her sister worked as labor organizers in what was essentially a sweatshop). They found that it took a lot of courage to walk out; these women would have been fired if they walked out of their jobs, left without pay, and likely blacklisted. These women just didn’t have the emotional resources to confront their employers and demand higher wages. It was a really brutal system. It is true that these women were getting a lot of discouragement from their brothers and father who believed that women should not be working because they depressed the wages of men. They were encouraged to think of labor as a temporary state. Beyond that, they’re tired at the end of the day, they want to spend their Sunday afternoons relaxing and not going to union meetings.

Parsons loved the debating and talking about political history. She was extremely well read and really enjoyed in-the-weeds discussions of political theory. Working women had no patience for Parsons’s approach. She made no headway and the Working Women’s Union collapsed very quickly. It was a struggle to organize women in the garment industry well into the twentieth-century, until the 1930s, and even beyond.

One of the thing that’s still a bit of a mystery is how and when Lucy Parsons becomes so radical. You follow her in Texas, and we know she’s in school at some point. She marries Albert and, because of racial and political discrimination, they move to Chicago. At what point does Lucy herself turn from a newly free woman with a child at home to a radical firebrand encouraging workers to make dynamite?

If we take her at her word, it was Great Strike of 1877. It was the summer of 1877 when railroad employees across the country went on strike and other workers joined them in solidarity. In Chicago, the strike was a very bloody one, it lasted about a week and several people were killed. Albert was a major figure that summer because of his rhetorical abilities. He gave several speeches to large crowds. That was the first time he really came to the attention of the authorities in Chicago, including the police and powerful businessmen. Lucy Parsons says that that experience radicalized her. She realized that capitalism was predatory, that the police were aggressive in their violent attacks on workers and that the laboring classes must defend themselves at all costs.

I see her starting to contribute to a magazine called The Socialist in Chicago in the late 1870s and then she continues to write for other periodicals. The Alarm started in about 1884 and she begins writing there. You can tell from her writings that she’s reading a lot during that period. Some of her writings for The Socialist indicate that she’s reading popular women’s magazines, as well as local newspapers, and dense political theory. She’s self-taught but she’s clearly brilliant—she had to be. She only had two or three years of formal education in a school with other children of [formerly] enslaved people. That was a rudimentary kind of learning that she got there. She read a lot her own; there was a lot of study groups, the Socialists were very big on meeting in the evening and discussing very dense tracts of political theory. Albert and Lucy were very involved in that.

Now that you’re done with this project and the book is out, what do you think Lucy Parsons’s legacy is today?

She was a fearless speaker. At one point, I suggest that she was never happier than when she was dodging the police. She did it so often, I came to believe that she came to relish it—it was something awful that she had to contend with, but it became part of who she was. Getting on stage or standing on a street corner and having the police tell her to move, then going to another street corner or spending the evening in jail—that meant that she was fearless when it came to speaking her mind. When you look at the late 80s and 90s in Chicago, she’s giving speeches and the cops are demanding that she show the American flag when she speaks, and she refuses. Instead, she shows the red flag or the black flag, or anything to aggravate and antagonize the cops.

When I think of Chicago’s Red Squad—an elite group of police officers who were supposed to keep track of radicals in the city—I think she was really an impetus for the formation of the Red Squad. Certainly, after the Haymarket trial, the police become very convinced that they have to monitor all radical activities in the city. She knew whenever she spoke that there were undercover police in the audience. She knew that detectives followed her. I see her as a fearless proponent of the First Amendment. She also demonstrated a great deal of physical courage, as well.

She was very prescient. She warned against machines taking people’s jobs. She warned that, as machines took jobs, no one would be able to buy anything or sustain the U.S. economy—she turned out to be half right about that. She called out both political parties, she didn’t think they were adequate to address the nation’s ills; she was right about that. She decried the role of money in politics, saying that money corrupted the political process. She was right about that. She’s really identifying the growing gap between the rich and the poor and the dispossession of so many workers. When you read her today, it really does sound like she is talking about our current time. She really was quite prescient.

But the personal life is filled with ironies and contradictions, and that’s what makes her so fascinating. She had a rich and turbulent life and she tried to smooth that over in her public persona. It’s just who she was.

In the classical Marxist sense, at least in the 19th century, she felt that her focus should be on the urban laboring classes, particularly factory workers. She and her husband, virtually all of their comrades in Chicago, ignored the struggles of black working people. It’s not just because she was born enslaved that I think she should have been more attentive to that community but, as positioning herself as a radical, she and her comrades should have really understood the very difficult position that black workers were in. As it was, these white agitators and labor organizers, they demonized black workers as strikes breakers, the same way they demonized the Chinese as workers who would take low wages and put white workers out of jobs. That was a very short-sighted way of looking at the laboring class. That’s, unfortunately, part of the legacy of American radicalism and, of course, Lucy Parsons.

Via: anarchistnews.org

Edited for mb3-org.com