Wednesday, March 23, 2016

#GTFOFRSO International Women's Day Action and a Discussion of Left Strategy

#GTFOFRSO: Celebrating International Women's Day the Correct Way 

Freedom Road Socialist Organization - Fight Back (FRSO) recently held an International Women's Day (IWD) event at University of South Florida, under the guise of Students for a Democratic Society - Tampa (SDS). The conference room, which was reserved from 6 to 8pm, contained no signage or other indicators of SDS. A large red FRSO banner was draped across the greeting table, one's first stop. A full-color handout was distributed; it contained three minor references to SDS - one on the bottom of the second page that identified two of the six speakers as SDS members, a small SDS logo on the back cover, and two lines of text on the bottom of the back cover listing SDS's Facebook URL and website. The handout also contained the day's agenda, identified the other four speakers (two FRSO members, one from the Committee to Stop FBI Repression - Tampa, and one from Students for Justice in Palestine), and provided information about FRSO events, goals, causes, and contact information. 

At about 5:50pm roughly a dozen protestors entered the room and stood quietly at the front and along one wall of the room holding signs reading "Rape Apologists OUT of International Women's Day!! #GTFOFRSO," "THE LEFT HAS NO ROOM FOR RAPE APOLOGISTS #GTFOFRSO," "Ask Me About FRSO'S Rape Coverup #GTFOFRSO," and other similar slogans. The event organizers appeared confused and quietly convened behind the greeting table (the back of the room, the opposite end of the podium and screen but by the front door). An organizer approached a protestor and said they could stand on the sides of the room, not at the front. The protestors at the front relocated; both sides of the seated audience of approximately 10 people were flanked by protestors. Protestors confronted Steff Yorek, the keynote speaker, about her participation in a rape coverup; denounced FRSO for perpetuating this rape coverup for "a year or more;" chastised FRSO for holding an IWD event; accused FRSO of harboring "an assaulter, a predator;" demanded said member be kicked out; and demanded that FRSO issue a public statement immediately. Yorek told the protestors she would be willing to discuss the issue with them after the event. 

After a lengthy disruption (transcribed/described in detail below), FRSO had building staff/security remove protestors from the public event, and some of the event's audience left with them. The event eventually commenced. About six of the original protestors returned during the second speaker's presentation. They quietly, quickly distributed pamphlets to the 15-20 member audience without disrupting the speaker and promptly left. Several of the original protestors stood outside and talked to approaching attendees about the FRSO rape coverup while waiting for the promised conversation with Yorek. Protestors encouraged anyone who entered the event to ask FRSO about the coverup. The steward/guard soon returned to lock the door. Two potential attendees left after talking to protestors, two attempted to enter but couldn't due to the locked door, and one entered. After the event, a few attendees exited through the front and many out the back door, which lead to a stairwell that allowed them to bypass protestors. The back door was guarded by three FRSO members after the front door was locked for the duration of the event. After the event around 8pm, four remaining protestors entered the conference room and confronted Yorek at length in front of the remaining crowd, with the victim's advocate leading the way.


Deets and Dirt

• Find a detailed transcription and report of the initial, lengthy disruption at the end of this post. Video exists of all occurrences described in this post.
• Here is the video of the third and final confrontation between the victim's advocate, another protestor, and Steff Yorek. According to its original poster, the video has been edited for time. No crucial content was deleted or altered.
• Leftists Against Predatory Organizations provides background information and documentation, as well as contact information if you'd like to join the struggle against predatory organizations in your city, university, organization, etc.


A Casual Chat

Oblivion: We were able to do something uncommon or even unheard of in Florida, with its transitory population and sectarianism. We effectively organized and mobilized an alliance of loosely and unaffiliated activists against the FRSO IWD event. Typically FRSO prevents this particular type of action by strategically scheduling events so their critics can't attend. They also assume there's an inability on our collective part to unify due to political differences they perceive amongst us. And they hold events that would make any disruption of them suspect as racist, culturally insensitive, "inappropriate," divisive. They hold vigils for police murder victims, anti-racist rallies, national liberation events, immigration marches - these spaces have allowed them to avoid our demands for a public statement about rape coverups and rape apology, removal of predators in their ranks, and an apology for their cruelty to the survivor and the survivor's supporters. But the IWD event was a perfect opportunity to publicly confront them and state our demands while avoiding any false accusations of racism, disruption for its own sake, or self-promotion, whatever the various claims they've made against anyone who's spoken for the survivor and against the coverup. It was on a Sunday, at a public place, and about women. It's interesting and important that feminists, unaffiliated socialists, assorted activists, party-building Reds, so on - all inevitably differing from each other in many ways - came from halfway across the state and surrounding areas to disrupt this event.

Wolfe: Yes. This is the sort of coalition building that should be happening all the time, but is tough to pull off, especially in Florida. The question is whether this kind of thing can be sustained in a state which has a healthy population of activists, who all move somewhere else after just a month. If the video gains traction, it will show that it is increasingly difficult for Leftist organizations to get away with the sort of coverups they have in the past. FRSO, your actions are intolerable and saying they are "for the cause" doesn't make them any less so. What impressed me the most is that you got a major figure in the FRSO hierarchy to effectively admit that they do not care about rape culture--on video no less. It is ironic that the Left, always asking "What is to be done?," seems to have a hard time coming up with effective strategies.

Oblivion: Well, we haven't yet learned how to sustain it here. We've seen some wins in Seattle with its $15/hour minimum wage and Chicago dropping the tampon tax. Say what you will about Sawant, an openly socialist person is on Seattle's city council. Last night you said in reference to the Trump rally-crashers who are being attributed to Bernie Sanders, "liberals are more Leninist than Leninists." How True was something you said off the cuff, talking late into the night over a box of wine looking at the city lights gleaming off the water as the smoke or fog rose, conjuring riots and revolution in my mind. We don't have the cultural benefits of a Seattle, a Chicago, a New York, an Oakland, where there's generational activist knowledge passed from seasoned activists to the next batch and so on. All we've got's the long-timers, the lifers, sometimes Florida natives, other times not, some of whom are entrenched union rank-and-filers, some radical feminists, some Occupy Tampa - the longest running encampment in the country, maybe world, mind you - diehards and some others whose affiliation I don't know offhand to rely on for experience, for connections, for wisdom, for all the things that get passed from activist to activist in other places. 

Geographical separation and a lack of public transit make it difficult for us to convene for reading groups and movie nights, much less direct action and civil disobedience, not to mention every new activist who rolls into town has their own agenda. It's very anti-dialectical, really. We're thinking of the whole over the part while our new prospects for communism-building are thinking part over the whole. They want and often need our kind of cred for their ladder-climbing union jobs, their Planned Parenthood-track jobs, their academic trajectory, their college degrees, their Dem party path, whatever it is... While we need them to focus on the whole over the part, to understand that only then can we have a Real mass movement that Matters. These "elders" and "veterans" and "knowledge holders" are often discounted, too, because we're old, we're young, we're women, we're perceived as tankies or trots or some new/other party formation, we're associated with some interpersonal drama, online incidents, gossip that's transpired with or without us. In essence, we're often discounted for the very reasons that we're the ones to turn to. Don't mistake me: People turn to me, people surely turn to others. With certain mental health crises, about abortion, for security services, for this or that solution to this or that problem. They recognize reliable local resources. But for the initial planning phase of civil disobedience and direct action, they don't look to me or Us. They look to...I don't know. Books, I suppose. Theory that preaches what we've been practicing modified based on our current conditions. This vexes me.

Wolfe: Who are the people turning to? We know of two situations where a known employee of an astroturfing PR firm whose clients include the Florida Democratic Party was able to pose as a superstar activist and recruit young and impressionable activists into their following. This ties into an earlier remark. Anyone who has seen a Dem op in action knows that they take over, manipulate, and use up street level organizations with the skill of a Lenin or a Bakunin. They have the Machiavellian skills that we used to have, but somehow lost. They can build fronts--fronts for electing Democratic candidates--but fronts nonetheless. In addition to this, they're able to exploit the latest demographic technology to calculate which people are most likely to be able to be won over to their side and target them. Modern data allows us to know what people are thinking before they're thinking it. They have that data, slick propaganda, and charismatic operatives. Look at the Left by contrast. Trots still sell newspapers--print newspapers. Our key organizing techniques are mined from texts written in the early 20th century. "What Is to Be Done?" and The Road to Power were written when the telegraph was cutting-edge tech.

Oblivion: Well, that Dem op's workplace is still unverified, but we don't have to get into that right now, and it doesn't detract from your salient point. She's working this town for all it's worth, and the only ones who notice it are all about her strategy, the ones who don't end up...not with Us but with her or disillusioned, from what I've seen from this one specific Dem op's maneuvers. And yes they access VAN and certainly other shiny new demographic toys. So you've hit the who and hinted at the why. The why is what we talk about when we say that "track to activism" - Americorps, SEIU, Planned Parenthood, tenure-track pipedreams. You'll scoff and internally roll your eyes, but I fell in the ditch while you barely cling to the gravel road (hopefully thumbing a ride soon). *Laughter* So what about the how to get them to turn to Us? I mean broadly, to those of Us with experience, narrowing those with experience to those with experience who are Marxists.

Wolfe: Clearly, we need to sell more newspapers. [Laugh track] The how is the question, and one I do not yet have any answer to. We need a serious rethinking of strategy in the 21st century and far, far better propaganda at the very least. This is one reason I am happy that Jacobin now exists. As trendy as it may be to slag them, a gorgeous and explicitly Marxist mag whose design doesn't look like it was put together by the worst of the '80's 'zine crew (or BAMF editorial staff) is at least a start. But this still provides no answer on what to do with the pretty much fucked Tampa activist community. I was really hoping that you had a notion on this fueled by this recent success. Let the practice guide the theory.

Oblivion: But focusing on Tampa Bay is putting the part before the whole. Our entire fucking point of view is that of international socialism. We know localism isn't the answer. But solving this activism problem in Tampa Bay may be useful elsewhere and in and of itself. So don't narrow the field too much. But if you do, then the #GTFOFRSO IWD action should at least be supplemented by looking at the recent Trump rally disruption in Tampa and perhaps those elsewhere. We talked a bit about this last night. Let's look at our notes. *flips to illegible scribbles in notebook* 
1.) Organizers threatened those who dared to be too disruptive with state repression in the form of cops and the secret service.

2.) Activists were motivated to attend in order to defy the organizers' threat. Why? Last night we posited that "fun is an appeal," right? So FOMO is an actual MO. Everybody who's anybody, that is anybody I want in MY hypothetical party, would be intrigued by and find irresistible such a threat, a dare. There's nothing more exciting to young/newcomer activists than playing chicken with local establishment organizers who they perceive as less radical than themselves. So there was a gauntlet thrown down, but it was an illusion. The threat wasn't real; the dare didn't exist. The Dem op we're dancing around naming was the sole exception after numerous online conversations about potential repercussions for breaking the organizers' line in the sand, the line of decency, being well behaved, legality, these bourgeois concepts that the Left cannot afford to abide. She disrupted the thing and nobody called any cops or SS. 

3.) I asked, "Do we even need/want them?" being the discerning disciplinarian to your inclusive populist. However, I agree with your primary response: "We need people." Then I asked what keeps what I labeled "cuspers" from committing to smaller-scale, interpersonal, less dangerous, well-organized, possibly more effective actions. How do we get Dem ops/Clintonite wreckers posing as Sanders supporters in order to discredit him to be actual Leninists, not just liberals who are better at Leninism than We are. There becomes a question of (inter?)national vs. local actions and the benefits thereof. Now, lets exclude party climbers, career politicians, etc. for now. I want to know how to funnel those willing to get arrested at a Trump rally over basically nothing, to communism. If we need these people, as you claim and as I accept, then how do we activate these potential Reds? How do we funnel them? How do we convince them that Our way--collectivism--is best? Whole over part. Use their energy for an Actual mass movement? *closes notebook*

Wolfe: Yes--but thinking too "internationally" can lead to, among other things, being a cheerleader for Putin in the name of anti-imperialism (speaking of FRSO). So, I still think that Tampa is useful as a prism through which to view the problem at local, national, and international levels. We can view the whole through the part. Our long term goal is always democracy in a classless society. Now, you keep pushing me to answer the question I do not have an answer to. How do we get the cuspers? Well--try harder. Since you bring up Sanders, he gives us an opportunity. We now have thousands of newly-minted "socialists." What are we going to do with them? This is not the end. Within a few short years we have seen Occupy, Black Lives Matter, and now Sanders, so many dissenters from the liberal consensus... [bathroom becomes available]

Oblivion: Okay, maybe I'm trying to corner you. That's what I do. That's what we do. It's how we reach our synthesis, our line, our Correctness, which is always already changing, being questioned, under these rapidly changing 21st century conditions. But you're the one who wants and believes in the cuspers, so the onus is on you. And I'm fine with inconclusiveness. Maybe someone will actually think about it and respond. Fingers crossed.

Wolfe: Yes! Agreed. But if anything has become clear to me it is that We need to expose the false radicals, We need to show cuspers when they are being led into a Dem trap. We need to yell this at the top of our lungs. And, to bring this back to the FRSO action, we also need to expose the toxic left organizations. Maybe if we knock out the bad options, the good ones will become obvious.

Oblivion: So let's leave it at that for now. It's loud, it's getting crowded, and there's a long road ahead of you. And me. And Reds. And everyone.


Detailed Account/Transcription of First #GTFOFRSO IWD Disruption

Audience member: "Who's Steff?"
Protestor: "Steff Yorek, featured speaker and the chief person behind FRSO's rape coverup." She was pointed out to the crowd.
Various protestors said, "Oh, the rape coverup, hmmm...""Have you heard about that?," and continued speaking about the safety of women.
The organizer who had previously asked the protestors to stand on the sides stood at the front of the room and loudly proclaimed, interrupting a protestor: "I'm gonna have to say it again. If you speak up, you're disrupting the event, I could have you removed. You are free to protest, but if you speak up, if you speak out, you're disrupting the event."
Protestor: "We've got ten minutes til the event starts, so we have plenty of time."
Organizer: "Technically, technically, the event starts as long as we have the room. We have the room now. I'm just letting you guys know." The protestors agreed.
Protestor: "I don't know, like this is really characteristic of the state of the Left today though because without democracy internal to organizations, without transparency, you're basically gonna end up with these kind of like sects and cults. These groups are like people's private property and some dude who's been around from the 60s goes around collecting rent on people's dues. This is the state of the degradation of the Left today."
During this protestor's even-toned speech from the side of the room, several FRSO members smirked and paced about, and two men at the greeting table sat red-faced and nervously ran their hands through their hair. Yorek convened with FRSO members at the greeting table, and one of the organizers began laughing with Yorek about the disruption.
The laughing organizer stood up and said, "Uh, if you have..."
Another protestor (shouting): "YOU FUCKING COVERED UP RAPE!"
Another protestor: "Yeah, quit covering up rape, and you can have your event."
Same organizer (smiling and standing): "Hey everyone, we're here to celebrate Women's Day. If you wanna talk to us..."
Another protestor: "That's ironic. That's like so ironic. You have so..."
Same organizer: "If you want to talk to us after the event, that is absolutely fine. Until then, we'd like to celebrate Women's Day. We have people here who want to celebrate it."
Audience member: "How can we celebrate it if you guys are rapists?"
Another protestor: "So does FRSO want to use institutional silencing of the people calling out their rape coverup?"
Yorek: "Well, we have the room reserved."
Protestor: "So you want to use institutional silencing of people calling out your rape coverup." 
Audience member: "Are y'all gonna talk about this?"
Several FRSO members laughed, and Yorek crossed the room smiling.
Audience member: "Can like one of the leaders talk about this, please?"
Same organizer, from the podium: "So I know that some of you have grievances and that's understandable. However, right now, this is not going to be handled. We can handle it after the event. You can talk to us. We can handle the event, we can handle what the grievances are."
Yorek (appearing to be having a side conversation with a protestor): "I'm not going to argue with you. If you want to discuss the issue, I will actually discuss it with you after this event."
Another protestor: "I think you should discuss it now."
A couple of seconds of unintelligible dialogue between protestors, Yorek, and FRSO members erupted into a several minutes long chant, with one protestor seizing the microphone on the podium at the front of the room (by the back door, opposite end of the greeting table/front door): "KICK OUT DUSTIN PONDER!" The room fell silent.
Audience member: "How can we celebrate International Women's Day if somebody's telling me that there's a rape coverup happening?"
Another organizer (heatedly): "If you're interested, she just said we could discuss it after the event. Are you interested in disrupting or discussing?"
Audience member: "Both. I wanna discuss but..."
Organizer, on the microphone: "Then we can discuss after the event."
Several minutes of restless awkward silence passed.
Another protestor, to Yorek who had been attempting to pull her aside individually from the collective action throughout the disruption: "That's what Sol told me when I first confronted her about this, and that was over a year ago. Oh, and that was when she lied about Dustin Ponder being in the organization, and that was when people blamed the victim to her face."
Another protestor: "Yeah a year seems like a good amount of time to get this thing dealt with. Waiting another hour seems kinda..."
Another protestor: "Why wouldn't you want to deal with this on International Women's Day?"
Audience member: "Yeah, let's deal with it now."
Yorek: "I will discuss the issue after the event. You all can stay around." During Yorek's previous statement, a Marshall Center steward or security guard (not in a uniform one might typically associate with security guards) entered the room, then proceeded to approach one side of the protestors.
Protestor: "So is FRSO using institutional repression to silence people calling out the rape coverup?" 
Steward/guard: "I just wanted to talk to you." [unintelligible conversation between some protestors and the steward/guard]
Organizer: "We gave you viable options. If you're not going to take them, then..."
Protestor: "Good job, Jessica."
Organizer (Jessica): "Thank you."
Audience member: "This is weird. Like how can I focus on your talk if this is happening?" No response. The hushed conversation between the steward/guard and half of the protestors occurred on one side of the room. FRSO members lined one area closest to the door, arms uniformly folded across their chests looking glum and detached.
Protestor: "Why did Sol and Jared move to LA when they're involved in a rape coverup?"
Another organizer: "Maybe because she wanted to organize in LA."
Audience member to protestors being talked to by steward/guard: "Who is that person?"
Protestor: "I think someone who works for the school."
Audience member: "And you guys aren't with the event?"
Another protestor: "No, we are not with the event."
Audience member: "Okay, so who is the event? And can you start?"
Another protestor: "Yeah, they can go ahead. No one's stopping them."
Audience member: "Who's the first speaker? Can a speaker start?"
Yorek: "We're not gonna start till the disruption is over."
Another protestor (whispering): "No one's disrupting."
Organizer at the podium: "We would like to start our event now. If you wanna talk to us afterwards, we will be here, we will listen to you, but I know right now you're here to disrupt this event and not actually enjoy Women's Day." General uncomfortable laughter.
Another protestor: "I think this is a fine way to enjoy Women's Day."
Yorek: "You're disrupting the event."
Protestor: "Yeah?"
Yorek: "You need to leave."
Another protestor: "But we're celebrating Women's Day."
Another protestor: "Look, if you're addressing us, we can address you back. That's not disrupting the event. If you're going with the charade of us protesting silently while you celebrate Women's Day then at least try to do that sincerely."
Another protestor: "We're celebrating Women's Day by calling out a group who covers up rape. It's been a year since these accusations and no actual statement from FRSO has been made."
Audience member: "Maybe they can make one now. Make a statement now. Can we have a statement now?"
Another protestor: "In the time it would take to address this now, we'd be out of here."
Yorek, on the microphone: "My statement is that I will not discuss this until after the event."
Various protestors: "Right, right," "Yeah, we've heard that before," and "There hasn't been a statement for a long ass time."
Another protestor: "It seems like we've been asking you to discuss it for a year and a half and now that we've finally put a lot of pressure on you and you can't avoid it, you're still trying to delay."
Another protestor: "It's hard to delete people in person."
Another protestor: "Yeah, you can't block someone in real life. Sorry, it doesn't work like that so here we are."
The steward/guard spoke to FRSO members near the greeting table as uncomfortable, restless quiet again settled on the room.
Audience member: "Am I gonna get to hear speakers talk about this [gestures to handout] or anything?"
Protestor: "Every speaker on this panel knows about the coverup. You know that, right? Everybody here knows that? Everyone here knows it and is cool with it?"
Audience member: "I don't even know who the speakers are, I just thought it would be interesting but now this issue has come up and I want to hear a statement today."
Protestors briefly chanted "ISSUE A STATEMENT!"
Protestor: "What are you covering up? Why are you so scared to talk about this?"
Another protestor: "I know. Like if there's nothing, then I don't see the problem."
Audience member: "Why can't y'all just issue a statement, right now, then y'all can talk?"
The steward/guard continued moving from Yorek to other organizers to protestors, as FRSO members smirked and attendees read the flyers protestors had distributed earlier. Finally, protestors were asked to leave by the steward/guard and did, loudly chanting: "KICK OUT DUSTIN PONDER!" 


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Glorification of Grand Juries: Stop. Now. And Publicly Renounce Your Error.

Commence Oblivion 



Stop glorifying grand juries. Even if they're "on your side." Stop it now. Just stop. Trust me. Never trust anyone who says, "Trust me." But trust me: full stop.

Grand juries are rogue entities without oversight of any kind who can swoop in and detain anyone under arbitrary secret surveillance state dicta, without much if any cause, as Manning, Snowden, Assange, Greenwald, Poitras, Potter, et al. have risked their lives and safety, gone to prison and into exile to inform and warn us about. Grand juries symbolize everything about the (surveillance) state (and beyond) we should stand united against. So, stand united against them with us.

When Monday evening the top trending social media topic was "Planned Parenthood Not Indicted About Selling Fetal Tissue, but Two Activists Are Indicted for Producing Fake Anti-Choice Videos" or whatever the SEO gods named the thing that everyone was momentarily paying rapt attention to, a wave of nausea and disgust passed over me. I've heard the horror stories about grand juries: the obfuscation, the complete ruination of lives and livelihoods and personages, the Red and Green Scare chilling effect tactics, the prosecutorial puppetry. Remaining improbably still slightly naive about the General State of Things - here referring to knowledge about grand juries - I was even shocked to see the shibboleths of the liberal anti-forced birth leadership praising the plot twist in the narrative of abortion rhetoric, which let's face it, is not news to BAMF readers, anti-natalists, leftists, among others who can see a scripted story playing out like a fifth grade rendition of "Our Town." Yet somehow I was sickened. Somehow the cynicism has not yet seeped to the very marrow of my bones. Stupid lingering remnants of romantic cautious optimism. How dare I assume that comrades, feminist associates, fellow repro-opponents, like-minded uterine autonomists, and other uncharacterizable (I'm not generally an apt applier of labels) sympathizers would recognize this disgusting and thinly veiled ploy to gain public approval for grand juries by rallying support around their heroic indictment of what are undoubtedly unscrupulous and disgusting individuals preventing women from accessing health care they need to remove toxic parasites from their bodies? What is wrong with me? And, more relevantly here, with you?


Do not glorify grand juries. If you do, you're doing feminism wrong. You're doing communism wrong. You're doing Marxism wrong. You're doing anarchism wrong. You're doing Leftism wrong. You're doing things generally wrong. If you support grand juries under any circumstance, you might be a liberal. You also might be a conservative. You also might be a capitalist. Whatever you identify as or actually are, you're wrong. So please for the love of the hate of the state, stop. Just stop. And renounce your support. Post this. Post a bunch of links I'll include despite BAMF's new approach that does not require submissions to have credible citations and reliable research, be bogged down with Marxian terminology, or include trendy whatever-is-in-style-at-time-of-posting rhetorical strategies. I'm running on instincts here, taking a cue from Salvage. The screeds have commenced.

Presumably, everyone reading this can google. If not, I'm not an Expert but I can and have googled for you. I have personally seen it transpire. I have read innumerable accounts of grand juries ruining lives. I have no other pressing reason to butt up against the organizations with the most funding and public support to continue to provide safe, free/affordable (in some cases) abortions while fighting legislative battles to keep it that way. At this juncture, my reason for harshly criticizing the response of Planned Parenthood, NARAL, National Network of Abortion Funds, and countless others praising the use of grand juries in favor of their cause(s) is because my devotion to smashing the state and communism trumps my need to blindly support abortion providers' and their financial backers' political stances. 


Commence Wolfe


One of the most fundamental differences between liberals and Marxists is the way they conceive of the state. For the liberal, the state is a fundamentally beneficent entity—an expression of a social contract between equals, existing for the good of us all, legitimated by the consent of the governed. If the state is failing to act for the common benefit, acting in an oppressive way, they see these actions as uncharacteristic, as deformations. The problem, they say, is we have failed to get the right people in charge, perhaps due to the pernicious influence of big money or, more often, a barely disguised disgust at the fact that ignorant white trash rednecks are still allowed the franchise.

This view leads to a tendency to think that the problem is not with the existence of grand juries but that they have become perverted by prosecutorial bad apples, that the problem is not with the modern surveillance state, but with the people doing the surveilling, that the problem is not with drone assassinations, but with those whose fingers are on the buttons.

Since the state so often fails to live up to liberal expectations, they must tell themselves stories. One story is that we have Fallen from the wisdom embedded in the Constitution, and if we returned to these principles—principles contrived by and for wealthy slave owners—then things would once again be set aright. Another popular story looks back to a more recent “golden age.” They tell us of the wonders of the great F.D.R., who put our nation on the correct course. F.D.R., the East Coast patrician, was a veritable Fredrick the Great who through his enlightened ideas and out of the goodness of his wealthy heart realized the true role of government and showered the working class with benefits. Then came the dark times and Reagan the Usurper...

Those with a Marxist outlook ought know better. The state, for Marx, has always been an instrument by which one class secures its rule over others. It does not act on the behalf of all equally, but on behalf of those whose rule it exists to secure. Any benefits offered to other classes are but instruments for this end. The “social contract” is a convenient fiction, cooked up to justify this. The influence of big money on government under capitalism is not a distortion of the system but of its essence. Given all of this, the state is by nature in the business of repression.

However, too many people who otherwise realize this remain within the spell of the myth of the beneficent state. They cheer when it scores a victory for “their side.” This tendency must be fought. The bourgeois state does not work for us. Occasionally it will, for reasons of its own, haul some dishonest right-wing propagandists up on charges. But when it does something like this it pays to bear in mind that pro-forced birth activists pose no danger whatsoever to capitalist rule, and that left wing activists and environmentalists do.

Oblivion for the Conclusion


May I reiterate my disappointment? Geez, people, really? No one stopped to consider the implications of this uncritical praise for and gushing over a grand jury? Have we forgotten the very recent Tamir Rice no vote? Have we forgotten the historical persecution of communistsAnd anarchists? Have we forgotten the indefinite detention of and terrorism charges brought against animal rights and earth liberation activists? Tune in, folks. You're next. Once you endorse this, you've always already signed an agreement written in invisible ink, agreed to comply, encouraged more persecution of activists of all stripes. And a lot of others' are next as well. Don't make everyone a bed you don't want to lie in yourself.




Notes from Oblivion:


• This post is the first formal collaboration between me and John Wolfe, as well as the (I believe) second attempt to switch up the structural and stylistic approach to BAMF. Let us know your thoughts about the collaboration, the switch up, and the content.

• Some of the following articles are flawed in various ways, but their validity and relevance remains intact. Grand juries are dangerous, secretive, and CAN AND WILL pull yo' ass up on charges out of the blue. They must be abolished. Get on board. Now.

MUST READ: 


Monday, January 18, 2016

Rushed Late Night Scribbles on Student Loan Debt Strike Strategy: Part I

When does the student loan debt strike start?


I asked that question a few short hours or long minutes ago. For some it has already begun. There are anecdotal claims that a third of student loans are currently in default; other sources say 17%, or 7 million. There must be an equation that the feds and private loan sharks have devised to calculate risks, costs, and recovery rates. Here are some tedious definitions, statistics, and forecasts for those who choose to wade through them. Numerous people involved in ForgiveStudentLoanDebt.com (now apparently called StudentDebtCrisis.org) claim to have withheld payment from 5 to more than 20 years. Vice is perpetuating the idea that moving abroad - seemingly to Europe then perhaps to South America - and defaulting on loans is a relatively safe bet and good idea because the loan sharks are focusing on deploying collection agencies on defaulters in the US, who they can more easily track and efficiently penalize. Arguments have been made that countries who refuse to allow US student loan collection entities to harass their residents would gain well-educated, spirited US ex-pats who would enrich their culture.

While the keyboard is hot and the mind is sharp, "I want to live on the abstract plane" and take an aerial view. Perhaps an economist like Doug Henwood or Richard D. Wolff will give us some market-based insights later. For now, I'll tell you intuitively what I think could happen. If 1/3 of student loans are indeed currently in default, then 2/3 are being paid regularly, irregularly, are in deferment, are in forbearance, or are in some other state-sanctioned state of flux that excludes them as being classified as in default. If .5-1/3 of the 2/3 of ostensibly non-defaulted student debtors actively making payments were to suddenly, simultaneously halt student loan payments for 6 to 12 months, it would prompt at least some concessions to our collective demands and at best a collapse of what everyone knows and recognizes as the latest version of the housing bubble and another formation of the dot-com bubble. We know this; we watched it happen. Investments were made, the returns were much lower than expected, growth stopped or declined, the market crashed, the bubbles burst (why such a happy image of bubbles for such a ruinous phenomena?). Fine. The market fails. But it didn't crash and burn. And we didn't get any concessions. Why? No demands. Why? A lack of organized strategy around foreclosures, bankruptcies, and the stalling/failing/sinking of startups.


Starting-Gunners


There are a bunch of "immediate defaulters" (i.e. "starting-gunners") for lack of a more precise, less connotatively pejorative term. Immediate defaulters are likely already factored into the equation that the loan sharks have inevitably always already constructed. That means the interest rates, punitive repercussions, and other strategies to force payment from statistically "reliable" debtors are already built into the system. Interest rates may be higher to compensate loan sharks for what they bet on losing from their profit margins to immediate defaulters. Penalties for defaulting once you start paying, such as garnishment of wages and seizing of homes; ruining of credit lines necessary to buy homes; paying for medical care; and affording transportation in areas where public transit infrastructure is so disjointed and underfunded that having, maintaining, insuring, registering, licensing, fueling, and storing a car is the most efficient/only practical means of going places to earn money to pay for the education that allowed you to be considered for a job to begin with, as well as to the places you spend money because you need goods and services, are more directly threatening than those to the starting-gunners who've never paid at all. Personally, I owe more than $150k in student loan debt, primarily due to borrowing as an uninformed and displaced teen, subsequently as an uninformed, disillusioned 19- to 21-year-old MA student, and finally as a slightly informed, defiant twenty-something PhD student.

My presumptions about (premeditated, conscious) immediate defaulters (I always assumed I'd be one, and I only know three well) run along the lines of: Merchants who have already paid off their business loans and don't report their earnings accurately to the Tax Man who doesn't look too closely at the perpetuator of the US myth of the hardworking, successful, albeit a bit rebellious, independent entrepreneur; wealthy people who hide behind smokescreens of marriage, attorneys, reproductive expenses, and other state institutions because they continue to reproduce the Center, the labor force, the nuclear family; the working class who are accustomed to hiding from the government's attempts to garnish their wages and seize their personal property and even their bodies; the working class who are incapable of navigating the labyrinthine process required to establish an accepted payment plan to keep the wolves from the door and can't afford an attorney or are not wired to pursue and engage with bureaucracy; craftspeople, artisans, artists, and small merchants who sell things in online stores and local markets and street fairs and don't report the income; and those who simply don't care about consequences or aren't aware of exactly how dire they could be (we might say they have nothing to lose but their chains, but I'll not wax idealistic at this hour.).

These cowboys, these cavalier people who haven't paid a dime in ages/ever are to be admired. By me, anyway. I've paid thousands and the loan balance never decreases. You know why. Interest rates. Economic curves. Income-based repayment. You're out of a job precarious person? Ah, well, we won't evict you, steal your unemployment check, and take your car, but we will capitalize the interest that accrued while you used one of the (is it still three?) trump cards of failure that you're allowed as a student loan debt slave. In fact, use all of those cards because then the threats become imminent. You're educated, you have what we know you think we think is earning/producing potential, and you have what we know you think we think is an ethical and moral obligation to pay back money you borrowed from us, you hippie. Why were you taking out loans at age 16 anyway, dropout loser? (That's Doctor Dropout Loser, to you.) It's a credible threat because we assume you're well-traveled and well-read, that you want to maintain your US citizenship and probably live here, and if not here then in a Western or Eurocentric nation with which we have a robust collections agreement. By the way, despite Vice's often tenuous claims, the last time I checked a few years ago, the only place student loan debt collectors cannot follow one is to Cuba (probably on its way off the list if it has not already conceded to US interests, pun intended), Iran, and North Korea. Pretty bleak options any way you slice it, even for my Maoist readers and comrades.

But these cowboys are not alleviating any problems. Renegades are badasses. I love them. One of the top 10 most memorable things anyone has ever said to me was, "Okay, but where are you going to meet another partner who supports the FARC?" Though the nuance of my position was lost on them - as my nuances and all nuances so frequently are lost - the underlying implication of their point is valid. Renegades, rebels, radical fronts, and spontaneous disrupters are badasses. They lay it all on the line. That is admirable, something I wish I were more like. But here are the 2/3 of us, paying our monthly alimony to the spouse we supported for so long that we must now pay to sustain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed and paying child support if we had someone we value co-sign, like our elderly parents, our established older siblings, our recently deceased grandparents, et al., or we'll lose custody. Luckily I declined the co-signing option, and unluckily they were throwing tens of thousands of dollars at me per semester. TENS OF THOUSANDS PER SEMESTER. In the US, a semester is something like four months. Then there are the couple of summer terms. So I could have gotten $30k for the fall and spring semesters, plus more for summer terms, at any given time. Often I did opt for the maximum amount. When I started college part-time at 14, I paid tuition with money from my fast food job. Once enrolled full-time at 17, I worked a lot and took mid-range loans (say $8k a semester, probably $4k all summer) and lived with roommates. But the further I went down the academic path, the more serious debt sums I racked up.


The Rest of Us


Then there are those of us who intend to pay, have paid what and when we can, and are able to nimbly navigate nightmarish bureaucratic  mazes to enroll in state-sanctioned payment plans as the loan sharks sponge all of our expendable income. It seems we're on our own, but we are many, we are everywhere, we are millions. And this is not to dismiss offhand the courage/ignorance/lack of bureaucratic navigation skills of immediate defaulters. It is to simply state that some of us are wired to Follow the Rules and read tedious wording, qualifications, options, caveats and legalese, which has (as much as I hate to give the Obama administration credit for anything but war crimes and bolstering of the surveillance state) become more manageable for the economic layperson. It's markedly easier to identify, compare, and select from several limited but at long last comprehensible repayment options. 

Communists think collectively. How can we movement build? How can we alleviate suffering? How can we unify as a class? Even while people in other places under other conditions may be suffering more intensely and in different ways, there is always a fight within our own ring, there is always someone to get on the ropes, there is always a stand to take. And this one looks ripe for the taking. Let's assume the cowboy renegades are not having any of our silly ideas about mass movements, unity of struggle, and other people's problems. We'll be dismissed as some kind of privileged opportunists and petit bourgeois whiners by our liberal social justice acquaintances and leftcom and third-worldists comrades, respectively. We should be grateful we even got to go to college, the first might say. Our futile attempts to jab capital's jaw is an impotent waste of time and energy, the second might say. There is only one class that can start the Thing that ends the Thing that causes suffering, the third might say. Then again, I don't know what anyone will say. Nor do I particularly care. I'm playing fast and loose with my BAMF style, structure, and typical approach right now because I want to get this message to you now. 

Don't look to the starting-gunners, don't place your bets on government loan forgiveness under Bernie or anyone else. Look to the millions of people around you who are in eerily similar situations revolving around this singular present-day matter that is so deeply entwined with the financial sector and the state. Ask them how they feel about and what they would do to overturn student loan debt. Look inside and ask yourself what you're honestly willing to actually do about it. What are our demands? The US is begging for a general student loan debt strike (perhaps a general debt strike). You think about it, I'll sleep on it, and always feel free to comment below with your thoughts. Let's see what kind of organizational strategies can be deployed/would work the most effectively to achieve such a feat, for we need a mass movement to tackle such a massive plague. No amount of restless late night thinking and keyboard clacking from me can replace that.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Pro-Abortion Activism: The Most Dangerous Type

All Apologies, Again.


Many apologies to BAMF readers. Both of our current contributors are working on long-form pieces that make consistently generating content in a timely fashion for BAMF challenging. Your favorite contributor, Dr. John Wolfe, is working on a theoretical book that I'm not authorized to disclose much about here while teaching Marxism to our potential future comrades. I recently finished my first novel and irresistible internal and external pleas and demands to edit it and send it out into the world to find its place call day and night. Now allow me to proceed. 

Oh, wait, one more preamble. We've established that the terms used in abortion rhetoric are outdated and ineffective, and, yes, I am painstakingly working toward an entirely new, updated, rhetorically effective lexicon, as previously proposed. Let's try a few terms and phrases on for size to see how they suit us. Feedback about the various terms and phrases employed is more than welcomed; it is solicited and appreciated. Please comment below on any of the many I throw around, as I flail and struggle to develop more useful, relevant terminology to describe precise and nuanced positions and procedures, thereby destroying the gossamer that obscures the actual function of abortion in our society* - which is not to punish some whore for having sex by forcing her to reproduce - but which is to terminate life-endangering parasites in a safe manner at the discretion of the host. This is a social good, as any leftist and/or logician knows. Okay, let's go.


Abortion rights activism is the most dangerous kind of activism.**


This said, there must be a distinction made here, early, between Being (Perceived As)/(Identifying As) Something - such as a gender, an ethnicity, a race, a threat, a nationality, a follower of a religion, an adherent to a political ideology - and Being Someone Attempting To Protect Someone/Something Who/That Is/Are (Perceivied/Identify As) Something. Do not mistake the point: Being a black man, wearing a burka, following Islam, being LGBTQ, being a woman, being a child, existing as an abortion clinic, and providing abortion in the US*** is more dangerous than attempting to protect such intensely persecuted groups/things. So, there are those who are in danger, are discriminated against, are casually murdered at a frighteningly accelerating rate, are stalked, harassed, kidnapped, held captive, coerced, raped, tortured; and there are those of us who notice, become aware of, and become passionate about creating and/or guarding a safe place for the persecuted to exist, deterring and confronting threats of encroachment upon these entities' being, existence, and presence. Here we will focus on the dangers of Being Someone Attempting To Protect Someone/Something Who/That Is/Are (Perceivied/Identify As) Something. 

While there is plenty of evidence to support the claim that pro-abortion activism is the most dangerous type of activism, particularly in this relatively new age of surveillance,***** which seems to have lead to heightened suspicion, fear, propaganda, and video evidence of the spectacle of violence and pain that we watch seemingly on loop, building callousness and numbing our empathy toward those being beaten, kicked, dragged down a street, shot dozens of times, immobile bodies lying around as mundane as chairs around a kitchen table. You've read and/or heard about the latest (and historical) atrocities against women and against abortion providers (because how could you not have?). I have faith in you, dear reader, comrade reader, under-informed reader, male reader, misogynist reader, Reddit brocialist reader, liberal reader, overeducated underpaid academic reader, and all the rest. You know, if not exactly then at very least generally, what's happening to those some of us try to protect. The information about these incidents surround us, permeating the culture we cannot escape, everything we see, hear, read, absorb always already contains it.

The vested interests that protect the control of women's reproductive choices and bodily autonomy (as well as that of nonhuman animals, which we ought to revisit another time) are the powerhouses of capitalism. They rule the world. The military needs disposable bodies to exploit. The tech world needs disposable bodies to exploit. The fast food industry needs disposable bodies to exploit. The Church, all sects of Christianity, and all other religions need disposable bodies to exploit. The propaganda disseminated by these mega ideological superstructures is unparalleled - excluding that of the meat, dairy, and egg lobbies, which is older by 25 years or so and therefore may have a little more pull if the two were ever to bump heads, but luckily for both the contradictions between them are obscured and indeed absolutely integral to the perpetuation of capitalism as we know it in the West because they all rely on exploitation of others' reproductive systems, forced gestation and natalism, and disposable bodies capable of perpetuating the cycle, i.e. viable female reproductive systems.


Casual Pro-Coerced Natalism vs. Pro-Coerced Natalism Terrorists: Thin Line or Nonexistent Line?


The requirements to oppose uterine autonomy for women are minimal. Christian. Muslim. Parent. Man. Woman. Humanist. Child. Woman who has had an abortion. Person who wanted to coerce a woman to gestate and reproduce their own genetic material but she terminated the dangerous parasite. Person who wanted to force a woman to gestate and reproduce someone else's DNA but she chose uterine autonomy instead. The statistically nonexistent woman who has had an abortion and regretted it for various nuanced reasons, apparently often tied to how "planned" the menstrual interruption was. A woman who wanted to gestate and reproduce but subverted the life-endangering reproductive condition due to any number of circumstances. In short, the criteria to be ideologically pro-forced gestation and pro-forced reproduction are very few. 

Interestingly, not alternately but additionally, the requirements to be a danger to repropponents/repro-opponents are only slightly more stringent. The differentiating factors here seem to be:

1.) An unquestioning, unwavering belief that embryos and fetuses are equal to a reproductively capable woman based on some esoteric value scale (probably and usually based in the  teachings of Christianity but not necessarily actually addressed in any version of the text on which their claims are ostensibly based) and, therefore, the subversion of a nonconsensual germination is equal in moral Wrongness to murder,

2.) An extreme sense of entitlement to impose those beliefs by any means necessary on anyone perceived to be defying them, often embodied by a small-town sheriff mentality with an inner dialogue similar to "Welp, if no one else is going to handle this blight on our reputable little town, then I'll saddle up my horse, ride in and shoot those bandits myself," and

3.) A lack of fear of consequences. 

As we've seen numerous times, even as a pro-coerced natalism terrorist is cuffed and taken into police custody (never shot because he's always already a white man), he shouts, "I did it for the babies!" or some similar illogical claim, uncertainty of his actual motives somehow remains, manifesting in media coverage and widespread cultural sentiment. He is labeled mentally ill, an extremist, a loose cannon, an anomaly, a rare exception to the myth of the passive, silent supporters of nonconsensual hostism, when in actuality the passive, hidden supporters of forced hostism create and enforce the ideological conditions under which he is able to carry out these deadly deeds and meet these three criteria. This self-styled small town sheriff cleaning up the bordello whores who must be forced into natalism to rectify their engagement in sexual intercourse only has the three elements that distinguish him from the pack of passive pro-forced birthers thanks to the passive supporters themselves. The ones who donate to the innumerable pro-forced insemination organizations; write articles and books on the evil of anti-natalism; silently pray in self-righteous groups outside of clinics alongside bullies who shout at and stalk pro-uterine autonomists (and who are prone to turn into terrorists) without ever reprimanding or questioning their aggressive tactics; give pro-forced reproduction speeches at churches; distribute anti-uterine autonomy propaganda; and utter negative, inevitably slut-shaming words about a woman who removed herself from a toxic reproductive situation. These are the ones who build, maintain, and encourage the conditions for the terrorist to develop the three necessary elements that set him apart from the gentle lamb of God innocents. Meanwhile, many of them (sometimes not so) secretly praise him and consider him a lifesaving hero. Scott Roeder is a hero to them, and I'm willing to bet something of value to you his commissary comes in as quickly and thickly as George Zimmerman's bail money and support fund did. Why fear consequences when there is a (sometimes not so) silent army of supporters out there ready to watch your horse gallop away to boldly battle a grave evil that could turn our hellbound world around and set it on the Right track?   




What's at Stake


Anyone who dares defy the unending threats are targets in constant danger. Our spouses, children, homes, vehicles, employment, personal information (as far as that exists in this Surveillance Age), and our very lives themselves are perpetually in imminent danger, and we have no way to predict when an attack might happen. As though the ever-present pro-forced birth ideology that permeates all aspects of our culture weren't an effective enough threat, the Internet has made the stalking and murder of interrupters of reproductive labor far easier than in days of yore, or even since the advent of social media. This causes providers to flee from state to state to protect their ability to help women obtain critical and safe medial termination of unwanted parasites, to guard their loved ones, to save their own lives. Clinicians are often bullied and intimidated into quitting jobs, making their lives and livelihoods precarious, as well as causing high turnover at clinics, one of Operation Rescue's stated goals since at least 2004, disrupting the availability of anti-germination services women need. Clinic escorts - volunteer or compensated - are frequently frightened out of helping comfort and protect patients after encountering one of the many threats. So while seemingly scripted and staged legislative battles over defunding major non-natalist and women's healthcare providers and other skirmishes over rules, buffer zones, age limits, waiting periods, and so on might seem important and interesting intellectually, abstractly, from afar, the Real Battle is in the trenches. And every Leftist should be involved in this trench warfare, presuming solidarity is still one of our core shared values, something I deeply hope we all deem necessary for any kind of movement toward communism.  


Notes:
There are likely other functions of abortion in our society, which seem worth examining another time. 

**There are two probable exceptions to this claim: Animal rights activism and environmental activism. This is due to the nature of governmental infiltration and surveillance of those two aforementioned types of activist circles, a phenomena non-natalists have yet to systemically experience (that we know of). Small town police harassment and other such diffuse, annoying, largely uncoordinated efforts often impede anti-natalists' work, but any comparison between that and the intense scrutiny and demonization faced by animal rights and environmental activists, respectively would be inaccurate. Here are some links if you need proof: http://www.greenisthenewred.com/blog/about/
https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2008/june/ecoterror_063008
http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/08/24/schuster.column/index.html

*** It should always already be assumed that this post (and blog in general) focuses on conditions in the US, the place with which I am most familiar and within which I am most aware of the dangers, biases, daily life, and other nuances that even as a citizen of the world, a traveler, and a reader, I cannot speak as accurately about.

**** A historically unprecedented surveillance of women, as revealed here

***** We are not presently addressing the common (liberal) cop-out of "exceptions for rape and incest" that exhibits an absence of critical thought with which were are sickeningly overfamiliar. BAMF should address that at some point. 

A somewhat of sad/ironic/meta sidenote on this post: There is a two to three paragraph narrative-style section missing from the middle that concretely describes exact circumstances and encountered tangible threats, as well as the consequences and outcomes thereof. However, due to the topic of the post I removed it because it could possibly reveal "too much," thereby endangering myself and others, our livelihoods, our very lives. J. Wolfe said, "It is less strong in the sense that the personal narrative gave the piece greater rhetorical weight. The argument is, I think, not affected." That comforted me to an extent, and I hope he is correct. Perhaps this sidenote bolsters any "rhetorical weight" that may have been lost due to the omission.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Toward a New Abortion Rights Rhetorical Strategy and Lexicon

There is a vacuum of relevant leftist rhetoric about abortion. The left has no cohesive abortion stance.


We call for more militant feminism, we hold safer spaces workshops, we volunteer at abortion clinics, we contact legislators, we wave signs, we share our abortion stories, we do what we can in a climate in which even the words that we use to describe abortion are empty husks referring to a battle we are constantly chasing, never initiating, never advancing, never winning. When it comes to abortion rights and access, the left - and I mean you, comrades - is severely lacking a unified, cohesive, effective rhetorical strategy. Patriarchal state control over reproductive power and the degradation of women is fundamental to the accumulation of capital and necessary to the proliferation of neoliberalism (Federici, Caliban), yet we can't seem to agree on how to talk about, much less mobilize around, abortion rights. This is a problem that must be remedied.


"Abortion" is an imprecise term that obscures various situations, numerous definitions, and individual stories. It's an abstract concept, alienated from the individual physical body and the social body.


We use the term "abortion" to refer to an an elective* medical procedure that ends 21% of pregnancies in the U.S. However, medically and practically, "abortion" refers to numerous ways of ending a pregnancy, intentionally or unintentionally. Most people are unaware of the term's vagueness. Here I will list a few types of abortion to illustrate of the vast number of procedures covered by one vague term. 

A "medication abortion" or "medical abortion" involves taking two pills that terminate a pregnancy that is less than 49 to 63 days along with what can be compared to a heavy menstrual period. The first pill is taken at the clinic and the second at home (or wherever one may be). It is simple, safe, and relatively painless. Then there is suction curettage or, in common parlance, "surgical abortion," which involves anesthesia and suction and is usually used to end pregnancies 6 to 14 weeks along. Induction abortion was applied to later pregnancies with great skill and compassion by the late Patron Saint of Abortion Rights Dr. George Tiller, so much so that doctors from around the country sent their patients to him. Then there is IDX or DNX, which was outlawed in the U.S. in 2003 thanks to Rick Santorum, George Bush II, and a bunch of other misogynists. Of course, since the procedure is occasionally necessary, doctors must find loopholes for those who can't afford to hop a plane to get the health care they need.** 

Another type of abortion that can be elective or non-elective is miscarriage. Miscarriage, or "spontaneous abortion," often happens automatically before the twentieth week and usually before anyone is aware of the pregnancy. "Stillbirth" refers to this phenomenon after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Other times, unctions and herbal concoctions are used to cause miscarriages and stillbirths when abortion is culturally, financially, or otherwise inaccessible. Miscarriages and stillbirths can also happen when the pregnant person is brutalized or poisoned. There are many other politically-loaded terms that refer to nothing, to an idea, or to something that means something else (e.g. "partial birth abortion," a phrase invented by a man in the National Right to Life Committee in 1995, "back alley abortion," and "feticide"). It is impractical to identify all possible applications of the term "abortion" in this article due to my limited knowledge, your presumed ability to perform research online, and self-imposed length limitations. And this is the point. The word "abortion" contains so many variances that its fullness becomes emptiness. The term "abortion" hides the reality of numerous, varied, and complex realities, obfuscating what is actually at stake: women's control over their own reproductive labor power and state enforcement of gender (and obviously always other) hierarchies.



"Abortion" and "Work": A Brief Interlude


Like capitalism uses the term "work" to cover up many different types of work (e.g. forced labor, indentured servitude, debt slavery, work done by undocumented immigrants, child labor, "consensual" work, sex work, etc.) to make the large-scale inequalities and abuses within "work" tolerable, acceptable, and ostensibly necessary, the broad, inaccurate term "abortion" obscures complicated realities surrounding the numerous methods and situations causing the end of pregnancies in order to strategically decontextualize "abortion," making it seem simple and abstract, an act to be accepted or rejected, judged right or wrong, in toto. The term "abortion" hides all of these nuances so that the utter necessity of state control over women's reproductive ability and the enforcement of gender hierarchies to the functioning of capitalism, as argued by Federici in Caliban and the Witch, remains hidden and therefore unexamined. 

While pregnancy and birth always seem to be part of a story - a single working woman struggling to raise her child alone, the immature 20-something man who suddenly becomes a responsible father, the heart-warming adoption story of a heterosexual couple who could not procreate but ended up with a houseful of children, the accidental teenage pregnancy from prom night, the urbane lesbian couple who used a friend as a sperm donor, even the virgin who is impregnated by God himself and bears the child who will save us all from a fiery eternity - abortion is an isolated event meant to be forgotten and written out of history for all involved, personally and socially.

Because the terms "abortion" and "work" have been so often drastically contorted and misused by everyone who uses either term, we now tacitly accept them at face value. 
This is a critical strategic error."Abortion is wrong," "I have to go to work," "Abortion should be the woman's choice," "Work is boring," etc. It is not possible for any of these statements to be true because of the vagueness of the terms "abortion" and "work." 





The right is winning the battle for control over reproductive labor, women's bodies, and gender hierarchies with domestic terrorism and successful use of rhetoric.


We could all take notes from anti-abortion propagandists. These people are savants. From "partial birth abortion" (not a medical term) to "personhood" to "fetal pain," these wizards know how to persuade an audience. They have succeeded in manipulating search results to the point that anyone seeking facts about abortion can become confused. They have polluted the main point of access for working class people seeking information about abortion - the Internet. The imprecise umbrella term "abortion" and its toothless cousin "pro-choice" are perfect accomplices in this muddled mess.



"Pro-choice" is an empty phrase that is rhetorically weak, outdated, and useless.


Like "abortion," "pro-choice" means so many things to so many people that it ends up meaning nothing. Some believe it means "pro-abortion," others believe it means "whatever a pregnant person wants to do is none of my business." I suspect the mainstream understanding of the phrase is something akin to: "It's up to the woman if she wants to carry the pregnancy to term or have an abortion. It's none of my business or yours. Plus, the Supreme Court said so." As the most widely-recognized term that signifies acceptance of a person's right to choose whether or not to have an abortion, "pro-choice" (like "abortion") is the term I will use throughout this article and elsewhere until the discourse around abortion rights and access are re-evaluated, reframed, and reinvigorated/reinvented.



The liberal stance on abortion is apologetic at best, which is a concession to anti-choicers' moralistic condemnation of abortion and campaign of terror on abortion providers and seekers.


We expect liberals to be reactionary. Planned Parenthood is defunded; Obama will veto the bill. The last clinic in a rural state is attacked; donations are made. Hillary's view that abortion should be legal, safe, and rare is accepted. Some powerful, disgusting misogynist says yet another degrading thing about women, rape, and/or abortion, and memes are shared and scathing Facebook rants are written. Sexism is called out on Tumblr. It is not enough. The current abortion lexicon is useless, outdated, weak, and reactionary. It is our duty to remedy this.


Liberals are immeasurably more visible than leftists. They have an identifiably cohesive "pro-choice" stance. Therefore, theirs is the default "leftist" stance on abortion rights and access.


Most of the U.S. thinks "the left" means liberals; we don't even enter the public consciousness when they think of "leftists." Therefore, for all practical purposes, the liberal stance on abortion rights is the leftist stance. Their dominance in this narrative space has resulted in relentless usage of terms that have not been critically re-evaluated in decades, at least not in a mainstream or effective manner.*** 

This must be redressed, which is possible with a cohesive, united abortion rights rhetorical strategy and a revamped abortion lexicon. We cannot continue to hide behind the outdated, apologetic "pro-choice" stance. However, the failure of leftists to have clearly differentiated ourselves from liberals in the U.S. may be advantageous when reframing abortion rights discourse and introducing a new abortion lexicon because if a whole new set of terms were rolled out, it would follow that it would be by a wholly different kind of left. 


Everyone supporting current reproductive power relations accepts the current stagnation of abortion rights discourse. All feminists and leftists should be calling for free, safe abortion on demand, as well as working toward a new abortion rights rhetorical strategy and lexicon.


By the important but necessarily limited criteria discussed in this post, European women may have had more control of contraception, reproduction, obstetrics, and abortion in the Middle Ages before the loss of the commons and consequent Church and state imposition and enforcement of gender and racial hierarchies than (U.S.) women do today (Federici, Caliban). Because capitalism requires constant accumulation and new sources of labor power and because control of the reproduction of labor is a necessary element of capitalist accumulation and expansion (Federici, Caliban), failing to actively challenge the existing state restrictions on abortion is compliance with and approval of the entire capitalist system. If you support the destruction of gender hierarchies, access to free healthcare for all, dismantlement of the patriarchy, and, dare I say, abolishment of private property, you must support safe, free abortion on demand, no excuses, no shame, no harassment, no guilt, no barriers.**** 

I will think about and attempt to develop some accurate, meaningful, relevant terminology to potentially replace the outdated "pro-choice" "abortion" discourse in use today. I challenge you to do the same. As always, feel free to point me toward something potentially productive. All suggestions for terms, as well as references to other feminists, theorists, philosophers, and linguists working on a similar project, would be greatly appreciated. 


Notes:
• Federici, Silvia. Caliban and the Witch. https://libcom.org/files/Caliban%20and%20the%20Witch.pdf

• Statistics cited in this article are accurate as of the posting date. I highly discourage readers from consulting Wikipedia.org for any abortion-related information unless you're going to edit the articles for accuracy; every entry on abortion I could find on that site are biased and sexist, and many are inaccurate. This is unsurprising but disappointing because readers know I often refer to Wikipedia for information on other topics.

*I'm using the term "elective" due to the limitations of abortion rights rhetoric at present. Many women's "elective" procedures do not involve much of a choice. Socioeconomic circumstances and systemic misogyny often force women into situations and decisions. Low wages, sexual assault, must I continue? 

**Rich women will always be able to obtain any type of abortion since they are not restricted by the financial barriers of travel, time off work, babysitters, and so on. Access to free, safe abortion is a class issue, a racial issue, and an LGBTQ issue, which always bears repeating.

***One can contrast this to the success of anti-choicers, who have had PR blitzes with unparalleled success. One can also contrast it to the success of the LGBTQ community's largely grassroots and surging online movement to reframe and address outdated issues surrounding the notion of sex vs. gender and many other issues. Both groups (lumping together here disparate groups that have had notable successes in reframing the discourse around dissimilar causes) have been adept at developing and implementing rhetorical strategies that have entered mainstream U.S. culture, and both groups are winning battles every day, as the "pro-choice" camp continues to stagnate and decay. This is not to suggest there is no important pro-abortion work occurring. However, I have not seen any concerted attempts at a large-scale assessment and overhaul of existing assumptions about and terminology used for abortion rights (from those who support access to "abortion"--I hear plenty coming from those against "abortion" access). Here I also would like to differentiate and applaud the success of transgender rights activists in creating an entirely new lexicon (e.g. CAFAB, CAMAB, etc.) that make thoughtful, nuanced differentiations and express very specific concerns. I encourage comments from my trans rights activist readers directing others to reliable resources so that they may educate themselves. For the purposes of this article I, as usual, use the term "woman/women" to refer to those who identify as such. This is not an attempt at erasure of those who do not identify as women but may still become pregnant, or women who need access to clinics for hormone replacement therapy. My post is an attempt to confront the current stale state of abortion rights discourse and to challenge the surrounding accepted rhetoric, without co-opting but while admiring the transgender rights activist community's successes in an often overlapping struggle. I hope I have achieved this goal as gracefully as intended.

****Also, abortion is a social good, which should perhaps be addressed in a future post and should further prompt leftists and feminists to act now in support of my pleas.