2014 Workshops

Here are the workshops for the 2014 Boston Anarchist Bookfair. Head over to the schedule to see when they're being held.

Affinity Groups

We will be leading a workshop on why and how to form affinity groups for decentralized coordinated direct actions. There is a spokescouncil in the works for soon after the bookfair to discuss possible coordinated actions in Boston this Winter.

Against Race and Capitalism: The Need for Utopian Thinking

The system of racial dominance in South Africa - known as Apartheid - was, like many other oppressive systems - difficult to understand how to overthrow. In a context of harsh police and military repression, South African radicals built various different structures and ideologies to oppose racialism and oppression. In the end, the system change in South Africa (this is the 20th anniversary of "democracy") left much of the old capitalist and racist infrastructure intact. Furthermore, the party that has ruled for the last 20 years has many of the bad habits of Stalinists, with neoliberal economic policies. What can we learn from this? How can we avoid having our revolutionary struggle get co-opted?

Rick Turner was a white South African who was assassinated by the state in 1978. He was killed because he was an openly independent and radical thinker. Turner was considered Utopian, because he encouraged liberals and Marxists to envision a socialist society that would be non - hierarchical and rooted in self-managed workers councils. Looking at Rick Turner's life choices and his Utopian vision can help those of who aspire towards a similar vision think through the struggle that lies ahead.

Based on my book, "Choosing to Be Free: A Life Story of Rick Turner," I will present a short slide-show and talk about Rick Turner and the struggle in South Africa, and then will open it up for a larger discussion about how these issues relate to us here in america.

An Anti-Authoritarian Analysis of Syria's Uprising and Civil War

The popular uprising in Syria that has demanded the fall of Bashar al-Assad and an end to Ba'athist domination since its beginning in March 2011 poses a number of questions for the international left, particularly anarchists. For one, the Assad regime has long sought to present itself as an Arab state in steadfast resistance to U.S./Israeli designs in the Middle East, as well as a government that is more representative of Arab public opinion, compared with the various Gulf monarchies. Yet Assad's regime is bourgeois and highly authoritarian, as is clearly evinced by the disproportionate force with which the regime has met its opponents, as reported by opposition sources and international media.

Undoubtedly, many of the initial demonstrations raised legitimate grievances against the Assad dynasty, and the class character of the protest movements only confirms this. Still, one must not ignore the religious and sectarian aspects of the uprising, which have largely pitted the majority Sunni population against the Alawite and Christian minorities whom Ba'athism has protected and privileged. Moreover, the oppositional movement arguably was “hijacked” by Islamization and jihad, as fueled greatly by the influx of foreign fighters and the significant support in terms of funding, arms, and training as provided to rebels by Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, and the U.S./Israel. Most obviously, this dynamic has been key to the recent emergence of ISIS/Islamic State, and it drives the new war being waged by the NATO-Arab monarch “coalition.”

This talk, then, will examine the history and practice of Syrian Ba'athism, the course of the uprising from 2011 to present, the meteoric rise of ISIS, and the promising anti-authoritarian example being instituted by Kurds in northeastern Syria (Rojava), an anarchistic experiment that is now radically threatened by Islamic State forces.

The Anti-Work Workshop

I'm going to go over the anti-work tradition within anarchism. I'll be highlighting many different figures (some more controversial than others...) who were anarchists and those who may not have been but nevertheless have influenced the anarchist discussions of work.

I'll also be using my site, AbolishWork.com as a an example where people can come and see the anti-work discussion (within an anarchist context) be furthered.

Anarchism 101

We'll go over some of the central ideas, history, and practice of anarchism. This workshop is oriented toward those who are new to anarchism, but more experienced and well-versed anarchists are invited to attend and contribute to the discussion!

Anarchism and Psychology

I plan to begin by talking about intersections between anarchism as a political movement and psychology as both a discipline that supports the status quo and a source of potentially useful knowledge and skills. After introducing the topic and related concepts, the session will move into discussion so that participants can share their own experiences, both challenging and rewarding.

Psychological assumptions about power, hierarchy, cooperation, and similar dynamics underlie critiques of statism and capitalism and shape prefigurative efforts to transform society so that human beings can more easily achieve both of anarchism's primary social psychological goals: autonomy and mutuality. In this sense anarchism is a psycho-political movement. Yet at the same time, many anarchists are rightly suspicious of “psychologizing” and make little reference to psychology as a discipline beyond dismissing its individualist focus. Given the degree to which personal and interpersonal turmoil frequently hinder anarchist efforts, it's worth exploring which aspects of psychological research and practice might help anarchists grapple simultaneously with both the personal and the political.

Animal Rights and Anarchism

Discussing where animal rights and anarchism intersect.

Aramark Action - Exposing Injustice in Corporate Food Service

In this workshop, we will introduce participants to the topics of consolidation and exploitation within corporate food service in the university system and prison industrial complex. We seek to expose the injustice and lack of transparency and accountability perpetuated byAramark, while situating these issues in the context of privatization and capitalist corruption. Not only is Aramark Boston University’s contracted food service provider, it is also the contracted food provider at prisons across the US. As students, we hope to analyze how leveraging change on the campus level will force Aramark to change its business model and chip away at larger systemic issues. Finally, we will engage participants in letter writing to university administration as part of escalating action against Aramark.

Beyond Childcare: a Discussion on Supporting Families in our Movements

Ever wonder where all the kids went? Why our movements have less and less parents in them as time passes? We do too and we want to do something about it!

As a group, we’ll explore questions like what roles children can play in our movement? How do we support caregivers and what do we want and need caregiving to look like? How do we keep our care-giving spaces queer and trans supportive? How can adults without children be good allies? How do we support parents with kids who have special needs?

This discussion is open all – no need to be a parent yourself – and will be a child-inclusive space. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to bring their kids with them. We will have some play materials for toddlers and elementary kids (crayons, paper, easy crafts). Please contact the discussion hosts if you require childcare outside of the discussion and/or translation.

Boston to Ferguson: Resistance the Police

Join us in a discussion how to respond to police brutality and police murder. Learn the about what your rights are and what they should be, the ways to resist the system and what organizing is happening in local communities of color to fight back!

Building Student Power

Anarchists and other anti-authoritarian radicals take a fundamentally different approach to campus and student organizing than their progressive and liberal classmates. We'll talk theory, strategy, and tactics — with a strong emphasis on case studies like the Québec student strike of 2012.

Cross-Pollinating the Grassroots: Mesoamerica Resiste!

An all-volunteer group of artists, educators, and organizers, the Beehive Collective uses collaboratively made images to educate about the complex realities of our times. This workshop uses banners as portable murals that come alive through storytelling, illuminating how issues are interconnected and part of bigger systems. The Bees deconstruct overwhelming global issues, using metaphors from the natural world to connect social and environmental struggles.

Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes From San Francisco's Housing Wars

This talk is based on my new book Dispatches Against Displacement: Field Notes From San Francisco’s Housing Wars. D.A.D. is a set of essays based on by 20+ years fighting for the human right of housing. It covers public housing, residential hotels, trauma informed organizing, gentrification and alternative urban possibilities. I’ve also co-authored Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels and Black Power and other radical books.

DIY Papermaking

The art of papermaking can serve a lot of different purposes for people. It holds a beautiful amount of composure, experimentation, and freedom from a truly regenerative material, be it fiber, recycled paper, or fabric. Returning to a primal route, the papermaking workshop starts from scratch, teaching how to collect materials and set up your personal/collective work space. The workshop consists of a presentation of materials, a demonstration of basic papermaking practice using recycled materials, and then an opportunity for everyone to try their hand at pulling a sheet! A small handout of how to get started with a few tips and guidelines is provided, but exploration is encouraged!

The Fight for the Housing Right in Spain: From V de Vivienda to La PAH

The movement for the housing right in Spain is an horizontal, direct action-based movement focused on the empowerment of people with housing issues. La PAH (Platform of Peoples Affected by Mortgages) was born in 2010 from the ashes of V de Vivienda to look for a collective solution to the thousands of families facing eviction as they could not afford their mortgages after the 2008 crash of the Spanish economy. Since then, the movement has helped thousands of people to keep their houses employing, if needed, non-violent civil disobedience tactics to confront police. The Indignados had a large influence in the movement, adopting their principles of consensus-based decision-making and direct democracy and providing their local infrastructure. However, the movement is not limited to the defense of people with mortgage problems, it has evolved to defend housing as an human right no matter what the situation of those facing eviction: mortgage owners, tenants or squatters. The movement also promotes the squatting of empty houses from banks to relocate evicted people.

The talk will present an overview of the major achievements of the movement focused in Madrid, with the discussion of the main organizational principles and tactics employed.

Fight Like Hell and Live: Strategies for Surviving Suicidality and Supporting Friends in Crisis

You or your loved one is suicidal but doesn't want to turn to the psychiatric industrial complex. Now what? This workshop gives background on what existing options there are and why they are problematic, a brief overview of radical mental health, and aims to help participants develop knowledge and skill to offer mutual aid and stay alive when mainstream options are not feasible, with a specific focus on Boston area resources.

Frenemies In Our Midst: Liberalism's False Radicals

Remember that guy at your local Occupy assembly who hard-blocked anything he mildly disagreed with? Yeah, fuck that guy.

Here’s the thing, that guy isn’t some odd outlier, but representative of a liberalism that pervades a lot of our movement. Liberalism has lurked in the background of modern anarchist practice and theory from the start and it hasn’t left since. Liberals appropriate our imagery, concepts and tactics, often claiming “revolutionary” or “anti-capitalist” pretensions, but eventually they show their true colors and the results are almost never good. Let’s talk about this.

How and why did liberalism insert itself into our movement? What tensions in Anarchist theory leave space open for the liberals? More importantly, how does this affect our organizing and our praxis? I hope to offer some preliminary answers to all these questions, along with some revealing examples of anarcho-liberalism (in)action, but us being libertarians (the real kind), a participatory discussion on these points will follow.

Graphic Design for Radicals: Making Our Outreach Look Good

Design means more than making things look pretty: good design can be measured in more members in your group, more donations to your cause, and more protesters at your rally!

We'll be going over design principles and examples — and we'll show you the tools you need to make your outreach look amazing without having to buy expensive Adobe programs.

If we don't take the time to produce decent materials, why should we expect the general public to take the time to look at them?

Imagining Fat Justice

This talk will go into a brief history of fat hatred and how fat hatred is perpetuated today in mainstream society and our movements. The second half will be a discussion on the current iterations of fat acceptance movements and how we can move beyond individual self-help solutions and integrate fat justice into a larger framework for liberation.

Navigating the Surveillance State: Turn your Paranoia into "aware-anoia"

Stingrays. Tower dumps. Insect spy drones. GPS dust. PRISM. In the summer of 2013, details of the US government's dragnet surveillance programs were revealed. In the aftermath of these revelations, we're left wondering: Just how pervasive are these programs? Is privacy dead? Are we gonna have this same damn conversation every ten years? Who poses the greatest threat: the state, or powerful corporations like Google and Facebook? To what extent are they all in cahoots? How are activists, poor people, People of Color, and other marginalized groups especially affected by ubiquitous surveillance? How do we unplug from the matrix? We will examine these issues in their historical context and discuss ways for radicals to take direct action to protect themselves. We'll also present an anarchist critique of some popular avenues of modern hacktivism.

Pieces of Meat: Sexism, Speciesism, and Intersectionality

This discussion-based workshop is meant to open up a conversation about how animal rights are connected to other issues that we are used to thinking about in the context of justice and oppression. We will explore how our culture sexualizes animals and animalizes women, how animal subordination relates to gender oppression, how an intersectional understanding of justice can and perhaps should include animals, and what we actually mean when we say we felt “like a piece of meat.”

Punk Rock, Mental Illness and Recovery

As a part of the punk and activist communities for the majority of my life (1988 - present) I have struggled immensely with mental health, addiction and trauma. This workshop depicts my journey through madness, the process I endured to begin to gain control over my life and my radical human powered transformation to get to the better life I live today. My story is tragic yet inspirational. In the punk and activist communities, mental health is a topic rarely discussed constructively and without the imposition of value judgments. In our communities exists stigma and oppression that we say we are against yet we often actively participate in. These topics must be discussed openly as there are countless amounts of people suffering in pain and many people self-medicating to numb their hurt. I make no secret of the fact that I have not been treated with dignity and compassion by many of my peers in the punk scene and in particular those involved with the anarchist and activist communities in Boston. Yet, these failed relationships ultimately were the catalysts that helped me radically change my life for the better. The strongest messages I will convey are of intense and powerful resilience, overcoming abject dysfunction and facing insurmountable odds to be able to break through those obstacles to get to today. Inspiration, Hope and Empowerment is on the menu for anyone who wants or needs it in their lives and for those who are resistant and angry, and I am sure for good reasons, to be able to plant seeds within them, that it is possible to gain control over one’s life, even if it may feel like an improbable and impossible feat; I am living proof that this can happen.

The Role of the Revolutionary Organization – Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation

What meaning does organization have for anarchists? How does it help our movements? What are the potential trappings of formal organization? What is the history of anarchist organization in Boston and who are the Black Rose / Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN)? What does class struggle anarchism mean?

BRRN is a newly formed U.S. federation of anarchists and libertarian communists with chapters in Providence, Boston, New York City, Rochester, NY, Miami, Iowa City and Chicago.

Situationism Redux

Activists often give lip service to ecology, queerness, and intersectionality while pursuing strategies that are more like tar sands pipelines, plowing forward in the same straight lines, regardless of local circumstances or long-term consequences. This is, in part, because we are unskilled at analyzing complex situations and envisioning creative interventions into systemic problems. We need to learn to see the problems we are trying to solve as situations -- unique conjunctions of social and material forces at particular places. We also need to learn to use the full range of our creative capabilities to grasp the features of situations and imagine potentially useful interventions. This talk will offer attendees a toolbox of tips for more strategic (and, as it happens, joyful) activist praxis that updates and more fully realizes the insights of the Situationists of the 1960s.

Theater of the Oppressed: Arsenal Games

The workshop is an introducion for the Augusto Boal's arsenal for the Theater of the Oppressed (2h). The goal is practice games (physical dialogues) and exercises (physical monologues) where there is a fair proportion of exercises in the games and a fair proportion of games in the exercises. The games are a dialogue so they require an interlocutor who is the JOKER the facilitator/difficultator/provoker who engages the spect-actors both on and off stage in dialogue throughout the process.Who we are? The audience and the actors = Spect-actors. We are all humans, we are all artists, we are all actors! Theater is an art of looking at ourselves. As a human language, we act and we also observe. 

Who's Afraid of the Black Blocs?

Faces masked, dressed in black, and forcefully attacking the symbols of capitalism or defending the crowd against the police, Black Blocs have been transformed into an anti-globalization media spectacle. But the popular image of the window-smashing thug hides a complex reality. Join an open discussion with the Montreal-based author of the book “Who's Afraid of the Black Blocs?” (PM Press, 2014), Francis Dupuis-Déri, to discuss the Black Bloc tactic, locate it within the anarchist tradition of direct action, and to discuss the origin of this international phenomenon, its dynamics, and its goals.