La Tarcoteca

La Tarcoteca

lunes, 24 de junio de 2019

Hong Kong: Anarchists in the Resistance to the Extradition Bill - Crimethink

Source - CrimethInc. : Hong Kong: Anarchists in the Resistance to the Extradition Bill : An Interview 22.6.2019

Since 1997, when it ceased to be the last major colonial holding of Great Britain, Hong Kong has been a part of the People’s Republic of China, while maintaining a distinct political and legal system. In February, an unpopular bill was introduced that would make it possible to extradite fugitives in Hong Kong to countries that the Hong Kong government has no existing extradition agreements with—including mainland China. On June 9, over a million people took the streets in protest; on June12, protesters engaged in pitched confrontations with police; on June 16, two million people participated in one of the biggest marches in the city’s history. The following interview with an anarchist collective in Hong Kong explores the context of this wave of unrest. Our correspondents draw on over a decade of experience in the previous social movements in an effort to come to terms with the motivations that drive the participants, and elaborate upon the new forms of organization and subjectivation that define this new sequence of struggle.
In the United States, the most recent popular struggles have cohered around resisting Donald Trump and the extreme right. In France, the Gilets Jaunes movement drew anarchists, leftists, and far-right nationalists into the streets against Macron’s centrist government and each other. In Hong Kong, we see a social movement against a state governed by the authoritarian left. What challenges do opponents of capitalism and the state face in this context? How can we outflank nationalists, neoliberals, and pacifists who seek to control and exploit our movements?
As China extends its reach, competing with the United States and European Union for global hegemony, it is important to experiment with models of resistance against the political model it represents, while taking care to prevent neoliberals and reactionaries from capitalizing on popular opposition to the authoritarian left. Anarchists in Hong Kong are uniquely positioned to comment on this.

The front façade of the Hong Kong Police headquarters in Wan Chai, covered in egg yolks on the evening of June 21. Hundreds of protesters sealed the entrance, demanding the unconditional release of every person that has been arrested in relation to the struggle thus far. The banner below reads “Never Surrender.” Photo by KWBB from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.

“The left” is institutionalized and ineffectual in Hong Kong. Generally, the “scholarist” liberals and “citizenist” right-wingers have a chokehold over the narrative whenever protests break out, especially when mainland China is involved.
In the struggle against the extradition bill, has the escalation in tactics made it difficult for those factions to represent or manage “the movement”? Has the revolt exceeded or undermined their capacity to shape the discourse? Do the events of the past month herald similar developments in the future, or has this been a common subterranean theme in popular unrest in Hong Kong already?
We think it’s important for everyone to understand that—thus far—what has happened cannot be properly understood to be “a movement.” It’s far too inchoate for that. What I mean is that, unlike the so-called “Umbrella Movement,” which escaped the control of its founding architects (the intellectuals who announced “Occupy Central With Love And Peace” a year in advance) very early on while adhering for the most part to the pacifistic, citizenist principles that they outlined, there is no real guiding narrative uniting the events that have transpired so far, no foundational credo that authorizes—or sanctifies—certain forms of action while proscribing others in order to cultivate a spectacular, exemplary façade that can be photographed and broadcast to screens around the world.
The short answer to your question, then, is… yes, thus far, nobody is authorized to speak on behalf of the movement. Everybody is scrambling to come to terms with a nascent form of subjectivity that is taking shape before us, now that the formal figureheads of the tendencies you referenced have been crushed and largely marginalized. That includes the “scholarist” fraction of the students, now known as “Demosisto,” and the right-wing “nativists,” both of which were disqualified from participating in the legislative council after being voted in.

Throughout this interview, we will attempt to describe our own intuitions about what this embryonic form of subjectivity looks like and the conditions from which it originates. But these are only tentative. Whatever is going on, we can say that it emerges from within a field from which the visible, recognized protagonists of previous sequences, including political parties, student bodies, and right-wing and populist groups, have all been vanquished or discredited. It is a field populated with shadows, haunted by shades, echoes, and murmurs. As of now, center stage remains empty.
This means that the more prevalent “default” modes of understanding are invoked to fill the gaps. Often, it appears that we are set for an unfortunate reprisal of the sequence that played itself out in the Umbrella Movement:
  • appalling show of police force
  • public outrage manifests itself in huge marches and subsequent occupations, organized and understood as sanctimonious displays of civil virtue
  • these occupations ossify into tense, puritanical, and paranoid encampments obsessed with policing behavior to keep it in line with the prescribed script
  • the movement collapses, leading to five years of disenchantment among young people who do not have the means to understand their failure to achieve universal suffrage as anything less than abject defeat.
Of course, this is just a cursory description of the Umbrella Movement of five years ago—and even then, there was a considerable amount of “excess”: novel and emancipatory practices and encounters that the official narrative could not account for. These experiences should be retrieved and recovered, though this is not the time or place for that. What we face now is another exercise in mystification, in which the protocols that come into operation every time the social fabric enters a crisis may foreclose the possibilities that are opening up. It would be premature to suggest that this is about to happen, however.
In our cursory and often extremely unpleasant perusals of Western far-left social media, we have noticed that all too often, the intelligence falls victim to our penchant to run the rule over this or that struggle. So much of what passes for “commentary” tends to fall on either side of two poles—impassioned acclamation of the power of the proletarian intelligence or cynical denunciation of its populist recuperation. None of us can bear the suspense of having to suspend our judgment on something outside our ken, and we hasten to find someone who can formalize this unwieldy mass of information into a rubric that we can comprehend and digest, in order that we can express our support or apprehension.
We have no real answers for anybody who wants to know whether they should care about what’s going on in Hong Kong as opposed to, say, France, Algeria, Sudan. But we can plead with those who are interested in understanding what’s happening to take the time to develop an understanding of this city. Though we don’t entirely share their politics and have some quibbles with the facts presented therein, we endorse any coverage of events in Hong Kong that Ultra, Nao, and Chuang have offered over the years to the English-speaking world. Ultra’s piece on the Umbrella Movement is likely the best account of the events currently available.

Our banner in the marches, which is usually found at the front of our drum squad. It reads “There are no ‘good citizens’, only potential criminals.” This banner was made in response to propaganda circulated by pro-Beijing establishmentarian political groups in Hong Kong, assuring “good citizens” everywhere that extradition measures do not threaten those with a sound conscience who are quietly minding their own business. Photo by WWS from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.

If we understand “the left” as a political subject that situates questions of class struggle and labor at the center of its politics, it’s not entirely certain that such a thing even properly exists in Hong Kong. Of course, friends of ours run excellent blogs, and there are small grouplets and the like. Certainly, everybody talks about the wealth gap, rampant poverty, the capitalist class, the fact that we are all “打工仔” (jobbers, working folk) struggling to survive. But, as almost anywhere else, the primary form of subjectivity and identification that everyone subscribes to is the idea of citizenship in a national community. It follows that this imagined belonging is founded on negation, exclusion, and demarcation from the Mainland. You can only imagine the torture of seeing the tiresome “I’m a Hong Konger, not Chinese!” t-shirts on the subway, or hearing “Hong Kongers add oil!” (essentially, “way to go!”) chanted ad nauseam for an entire afternoon during recent marches.
It should interest readers from abroad to know that the word “left” in Hong Kong has two connotations. Obviously, for the generation of our parents and their parents before them, “Left” means Communist. Which is why “Left” could refer to a businessman who is a Party member, or a pro-establishment politician who is notoriously pro-China. For younger people, the word “Left” is a stigma (often conjugated with “plastic,” a word in Cantonese that sounds like “dickhead”) attached to a previous generation of activists who were involved in a prior sequence of social struggle—including struggles to prevent the demolition of Queen’s Ferry Pier in Central, against the construction of the high-speed Railway going through the northeast of Hong Kong into China, and against the destruction of vast tracts of farmland in the North East territories, all of which ended in demoralizing defeat. These movements were often led by articulate spokespeople—artists or NGO representatives who forged tactical alliances with progressives in the pan-democratic movement. The defeat of these movements, attributed to their apprehensions about endorsing direct action and their pleas for patience and for negotiations with authority, is now blamed on that generation of activists. All the rage and frustration of the young people who came of age in that period, heeding the direction of these figureheads who commanded them to disperse as they witnessed yet another defeat, yet another exhibition of orchestrated passivity, has progressively taken a rightward turn. Even secondary and university student bodies that have traditionally been staunchly center-left and progressive have become explicitly nationalist.
One crucial tenet among this generation, emerging from a welter of disappointments and failures, is a focus on direct action, and a consequent refusal of “small group discussions,” “consensus,” and the like. This was a theme that first appeared in the umbrella movement—most prominently in the Mong Kok encampment, where the possibilities were richest, but where the right was also, unfortunately, able to establish a firm foothold. The distrust of the previous generation remains prevalent. For example, on the afternoon of June 12, in the midst of the street fights between police and protesters, several members of a longstanding social-democratic party tasked themselves with relaying information via microphone to those on the front lines, telling them where to withdraw to if they needed to escape, what holes in the fronts to fill, and similar information. Because of this distrust of parties, politicians, professional activists and their agendas, many ignored these instructions and instead relied on word of mouth information or information circulating in online messaging groups.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the founding myth of this city is that refugees and dissidents fled communist persecution to build an oasis of wealth and freedom, a fortress of civil liberties safeguarded by the rule of law. In view of that, on a mundane level, it could be said that many in Hong Kong already understand themselves as being in revolt, in the way they live and the freedoms they enjoy—and that they consider this identity, however vacuous and tenuous it may be, to be a property that has to be defended at all costs. It shouldn’t be necessary to say much here about the fact that much of the actual ecological “wealth” that constitutes this city—its most interesting (and often poorest) neighborhoods, a whole host of informal clubs, studios, and dwelling places situated in industrial buildings, farmland in the Northeast territories, historic walled villages and rural districts—are being pillaged and destroyed piece by piece by the state and private developers, to the resounding indifference of these indignant citoyens.
In any case, if liberals are successful in deploying their Cold War language about the need to defend civil liberties and human rights from the encroaching Red Tide, and right-wing populist calls to defend the integrity of our identity also gain traction, it is for these deep-rooted and rather banal historical reasons. Consider the timing of this struggle, how it exploded when images of police brutalizing and arresting young students went viral—like a perfect repetition of the prelude to the umbrella movement. This happened within a week of the annual candlelight vigil commemorating those killed in the Tiananmen Massacre on June 4, 1989, a date remembered in Hong Kong as the day tanks were called in to steamroll over students peacefully gathering in a plea for civil liberties. It is impossible to overstate the profundity of this wound, this trauma, in the formation of the popular psyche; this was driven home when thousands of mothers gathered in public, in an almost perfect mirroring of the Tiananmen mothers, to publicly grieve for the disappeared futures of their children, now eclipsed in the shadow of the communist monolith. It stupefies the mind to think that the police—not once now, but twice—broke the greatest of all taboos: opening fire on the young.
In light of this, it would be naïve to suggest that anything significant has happened yet to suggest that to escaping the “chokehold” that you describe “scholarist” liberals and “citizenist” right-wingers maintaining on the narrative here. Both of these factions are simply symptoms of an underlying condition, aspects of an ideology that has to be attacked and taken apart in practice. Perhaps we should approach what is happening right now as a sort of psychoanalysis in public, with the psychopathology of our city exposed in full view, and see the actions we engage in collectively as a chance to work through traumas, manias, and obsessive complexes together. While it is undoubtedly dismaying that the momentum and morale of this struggle is sustained, across the social spectrum, by a constant invocation of the “Hong Kong people,” who are incited to protect their home at all costs, and while this deeply troubling unanimity covers over many problems,1 we accept the turmoil and the calamity of our time, the need to intervene in circumstances that are never of our own choosing. However bleak things may appear, this struggle offers a chance for new encounters, for the elaboration of new grammars.

Graffiti seen in the road occupation in Admiralty near the government quarters, reading “Carry a can of paint with you, it’s a remedy for canine rabies.” Cops are popularly referred to as “dogs” here. Photo by WWS from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.

What has happened to the discourse of civility in the interlude between the umbrella movement and now? Did it contract, expand, decay, transform?
That’s an interesting question to ask. Perhaps the most significant thing that we can report about the current sequence that, astonishingly, when a small fringe of protesters attempted to break into the legislative council on June 9 following a day-long march, it was not universally criticized as an act of lunacy or, worse, the work of China or police provocateurs. Bear in mind that on June 9 and 12, the two attempts to break into the legislative council building thus far, the legislative assembly was not in session; people were effectively attempting to break into an empty building.
Now, much as we have our reservations about the effectiveness of doing such a thing in the first place,2 this is extraordinary, considering the fact that the last attempt to do so, which occurred in a protest against development in the North East territories shortly before the umbrella movement, took place while deliberations were in session and was broadly condemned or ignored.3 Some might suggest that the legacy of the Sunflower movement in Taiwan remains a big inspiration for many here; others might say that the looming threat of Chinese annexation is spurring the public to endorse desperate measures that they would otherwise chastise.
On the afternoon of June 12, when tens of thousands of people suddenly found themselves assaulted by riot police, scrambling to escape from barrages of plastic bullets and tear gas, nobody condemned the masked squads in the front fighting back against the advancing lines of police and putting out the tear gas canisters as they landed. A longstanding, seemingly insuperable gulf has always existed between the “peaceful” protesters (pejoratively referred to as “peaceful rational non-violent dickheads” by most of us on the other side) and the “bellicose” protesters who believe in direct action. Each side tends to view the other with contempt.

Protesters transporting materials to build barricades. The graffiti on the wall can be roughly (and liberally) translated as “Hong Kongers ain’t nuthin’ to fuck wit’.” Photo by WWS from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.

The online forum lihkg has functioned as a central place for young people to organize, exchange political banter, and circulate information relating to this struggle. For the first time, a whole host of threads on this site have been dedicated to healing this breach or at least cultivating respect for those who do nothing but show up for the marches every Sunday—if only because marches that number in the millions and bring parts of the city to a temporary standstill are a pretty big deal, however mind-numbingly boring they may be in actuality. The last time the marches were anywhere close to this huge, a Chief Executive stepped down and the amending of a law regarding freedom of speech was moved to the back burner. All manner of groups are attempting to invent a way to contribute to the struggle, the most notable of which is the congregation of Christians that have assembled in front of police lines at the legislative council, chanting the same hymn without reprieve for a week and a half. That hymn has become a refrain that will likely reverberate through struggles in the future, for better or worse.
Are there clear openings or lines of flight in this movement that would allow for interventions that undermine the power of the police, of the law, of the commodity, without producing a militant subject that can be identified and excised?
It is difficult to answer this question. Despite the fact that proletarians compose the vast majority of people waging this struggle—proletarians whose lives are stolen from them by soulless jobs, who are compelled to spend more and more of their wages paying rents that continue to skyrocket because of comprehensive gentrification projects undertaken by state officials and private developers (who are often one and the same)—you must remember that “free market capitalism” is taken by many to be a defining trait of the cultural identity of Hong Kong, distinguishing it from the “red” capitalism managed by the Communist Party. What currently exists in Hong Kong, for some people, is far from ideal; when one says “the rich,” it invokes images of tycoon monopolies—cartels and communist toadies who have formed a dark pact with the Party to feed on the blood of the poor.
So, just as people are ardent for a government and institutions that we can properly call “our own”—yes, including the police—they desire a capitalism that we can finally call “our own,” a capitalism free from corruption, political chicanery, and the like. It’s easy to chuckle at this, but like any community gathered around a founding myth of pioneers fleeing persecution and building a land of freedom and plenty from sacrifice and hard work… it’s easy to understand why this fixation exerts such a powerful hold on the imagination.
This is a city that fiercely defends the initiative of the entrepreneur, of private enterprise, and understands every sort of hustle as a way of making a living, a tactic in the tooth-and-nail struggle for survival. This grim sense of life as survival is omnipresent in our speech; when we speak of “working,” we use the term “搵食,” which literally means looking for our next meal. That explains why protesters have traditionally been very careful to avoid alienating the working masses by actions such as blockading a road used by busses transporting working stiffs back home.
While we understand that much of our lives are preoccupied with and consumed by work, nobody dares to propose the refusal of work, to oppose the indignity of being treated as producer-consumers under the dominion of the commodity. The police are chastised for being “running dogs” of an evil totalitarian empire, rather than being what they actually are: the foot soldiers of the regime of property.
What is novel in the current situation is that many people now accept that acts of solidarity with the struggle, however minute,4 can lead to arrest, and are prepared to tread this shifting line between legality and illegality. It is no exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the appearance of a generation that is prepared for imprisonment, something that was formerly restricted to “professional activists” at the forefront of social movements. At the same time, there is no existing discussion regarding what the force of law is, how it operates, or the legitimacy of the police and prisons as institutions. People simply feel they need to employ measures that transgress the law in order the preserve the sanctity of the Law, which has been violated and dishonored by the cowboys of communist corruption.
However, it is important to note that this is the first time that proposals for strikes in various sectors and general strikes have been put forward regarding an issue that is, on the surface of it, unrelated to labor.

Our friends in the “Housewives Against Extradition” section of the march on September 9. The picture shows a group of housewives and aunties, many of whom were on the streets for the first time. Photo by WWS from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.

How do barricades and occupations like the one from a few days ago reproduce themselves in the context of Hong Kong?
Barricades are simply customary now. Whenever people gather en masse and intend to occupy a certain territory to establish a front, barricades are built quickly and effectively. There is a creeping sense now that occupations are becoming routine and futile, physically taxing and ultimately inefficient. What’s interesting in this struggle is that people are really spending a lot of time thinking about what “works,” what requires the least expenditure of effort and achieves the maximum effect in paralyzing parts of the city or interrupting circulation, rather than what holds the greatest moral appeal to an imagined “public” watching everything from the safety of the living room—or even, conversely, what “feels” the most militant.
There have been many popular proposals for “non-cooperative” quotidian actions such as jamming up an entire subway train by coordinating groups of friends to pack the cars with people and luggage for a whole afternoon, or cancelling bank accounts and withdrawing savings from savings accounts in order to create inflation. Some have spread suggestions regarding how to dodge paying taxes for the rest of your life. These might not seem like much, but what’s interesting is the relentless circulation of suggestions from all manner of quarters, from people with varying kinds of expertise, about how people can act on their own initiative where they live or work and in their everyday lives, rather than imagining “the struggle” as something that is waged exclusively on the streets by masked, able-bodied youth.
Whatever criticisms anybody might have about what has happened thus far, this formidable exercise in collective intelligence is really incredibly impressive—an action can be proposed in a message group or on an anonymous message board thread, a few people organize to do it, and it’s done without any fuss or fanfare. Forms circulate and multiply as different groups try them out and modify them.
In the West, Leninists and Maoists have been screaming bloody murder about “CIA Psyop” or “Western backed color revolution.” Have hegemonic forces in Hong Kong invoked the “outside agitator” theme on the ground at a narrative level?
Actually, that is the official line of the Chief Executive, who has repeatedly said that she regards the events of the past week as riotous behavior incited by foreign interests that are interested in conducting a “color revolution” in the city. I’m not sure if she would repeat that line now that she has apologized publicly for “creating contradictions” and discord with her decisions, but all the same—it’s hilarious that tankies share the exact same opinion as our formal head of state.
It’s an open secret that various pro-democracy NGOs, parties, and thinktanks receive American funding. It’s not some kind of occult conspiracy theory that only tankies know about. But these tankies are suggesting that the platform that coordinates the marches—a broad alliance of political parties, NGOs, and the like—is also the ideological spearhead and architect of the “movement,” which is simply a colossal misunderstanding. That platform has been widely denounced, discredited, and mocked by the “direct action” tendencies that are forming all around us, and it is only recently that, as we said above, there are slightly begrudging threads on the Internet offering them indirect praise for being able to coordinate marches that actually achieve something. If only tankies would stop treating everybody like mindless neo-colonial sheep acting at the cryptic behest of Western imperialist intelligence.
That said, it would be dishonest if we failed to mention that, alongside threads on message boards discussing the niceties of direct action tactics abroad, there are also threads alerting everyone to the fact that voices in the White House have expressed their disapproval for the law. Some have even celebrated this. Also, there is a really wacky petition circulating on Facebook to get people to appeal to the White House for foreign intervention. I’m sure one would see these sorts of things in any struggle of this scale in any non-Western city. They aren’t smoking guns confirming imperialist manipulation; they are fringe phenomena that are not the driving force behind events thus far.

Have any slogans, neologisms, new slang, popular talking points, or funny phrases emerged that are unique to the situation?
Yes, lots, though we’re not sure how we would go about translating them. But the force that is generating these memes, that is inspiring all these Whatsapp and Telegram stickers and catchphrases, is actually the police force.
Between shooting people in the eye with plastic bullets, flailing their batons about, and indiscriminately firing tear gas canisters at peoples’ heads and groins, they also found the time to utter some truly classic pearls that have made their way on to t-shirts. One of these bons mots is the rather unfortunate and politically incorrect “liberal cunt.” In the heat of a skirmish between police and protesters, a policeman called someone at the frontlines by that epithet. All our swear words in Cantonese revolve around male and female genitalia, unfortunately; we have quite a few words for private parts. In Cantonese, this formulation doesn’t sound as sensible as it does in English. Said together in Cantonese, “liberal” and “cunt” sounds positively hilarious.

Does this upheaval bear any connections to the fishball riots or Hong Kong autonomy from a few years ago?
A: The “fishball riots” were a demonstrative lesson in many ways, especially for people like us, who found ourselves spectators situated at some remove from the people involved. It was a paroxysmic explosion of rage against the police, a completely unexpected aftershock from the collapse of the umbrella movement. An entire party, the erstwhile darlings of right-wing youth everywhere, “Hong Kong Indigenous,” owes its whole career to this riot. They made absolutely sure that everyone knew they were attending, showing up in uniform and waving their royal blue flags at the scene. They were voted into office, disqualified, and incarcerated—one of the central members is now seeking asylum in Germany, where his views on Hong Kong independence have apparently softened considerably in the course of hanging out with German Greens. That is fresh in the memory of folks who know that invisibility is now paramount.
What effect has Joshua Wong’s release had?
A: We are not sure how surprised readers from overseas will be to discover, after perhaps watching that awful documentary about Joshua Wong on Netflix, that his release has not inspired much fanfare at all. Demosisto are now effectively the “Left Plastic” among a new batch of secondary students.
Are populist factions functioning as a real force of recuperation?
A: All that we have written above illustrates how, while the struggle currently escapes the grasp of every established group, party, and organization, its content is populist by default. The struggle has attained a sprawling scale and drawn in a wide breadth of actors; right now, it is expanding by the minute. But there is little thought given to the fact that many of those who are most obviously and immediately affected by the law will be people whose work takes place across the border—working with and providing aid to workers in Shenzhen, for instance.
Nobody is entirely sure what the actual implications of the law are. Even accounts written by professional lawyers vary quite widely, and this gives press outlets that brand themselves as “voices of the people”5 ample space to frame the entire issue as simply a matter of Hong Kong’s constitutional autonomy being compromised, with an entire city in revolt against the imposition of an all-encompassing surveillance state.
Perusing message boards and conversing with people around the government complex, you would think that the introduction of this law means that expressions of dissent online or objectionable text messages to friends on the Mainland could lead to extradition. This is far from being the case, as far as the letter of the law goes. But the events of the last few years, during which booksellers in Hong Kong have been disappeared for selling publications banned on the Mainland and activists in Hong Kong have been detained and deprived of contact upon crossing the border, offer little cause to trust a party that is already notorious for cooking up charges and contravening the letter of the law whenever convenient. Who knows what it will do once official authorization is granted.
Paranoia invariably sets in whenever the subject of China comes up. On the evening of June 12, when the clouds of tear gas were beginning to clear up, the founder of a Telegram message group with 10,000+ active members was arrested by the police, who commanded him to unlock his phone. His testimony revealed that he was told that even if he refused, they would hack his phone anyway. Later, the news reported that he was using a Xiaomi phone at the time. This news went viral, with many commenting that his choice of phone was both bold and idiotic, since urban legend has it that Xiaomi phones not only have a “backdoor” that permits Xiaomi to access the information on every one of its phones and assume control of the information therein, but that Xiaomi—by virtue of having its servers in China—uploads all information stored on its cloud to the database of party overlords. It is futile to try to suggest that users who are anxious about such things can take measures to seal backdoors, or that background information leeching can be detected by simply checking the data usage on your phone. Xiaomi is effectively regarded as an expertly engineered Communist tracking device, and arguments about it are no longer technical, but ideological to the point of superstition.
This “post-truth” dimension of this struggle, compounded with all the psychopathological factors that we enumerated above, makes everything that is happening that much more perplexing, that much more overwhelming. For so long, fantasy has been the impetus for social struggle in this city—the fantasy of a national community, urbane, free-thinking, civilized and each sharing in the negative freedoms that the law provides, the fantasy of electoral democracy… Whenever these affirmative fantasies are put at risk, they are defended and enacted in public, en masse, and the sales for “I Am Hong Konger” [sic] go through the roof.
This is what gives the proceedings a distinctly conservative, reactionary flavor, despite how radical and decentralized the new forms of action are. All we can do as a collective is seek ways to subvert this fantasy, to expose and demonstrate its vacuity in form and content.
At this time, it feels surreal that everybody around us is so certain, so clear about what they need to do—oppose this law with every means that they have available to them—while the reasons for doing so remain hopelessly obscure. It could very well be the case that this suffocating opacity is our lot for the time being, in this phase premised upon more action, less talk, on the relentless need to keep abreast of and act on the flow of information that is constantly accelerating around us.
In so many ways, what we see happening around us is a fulfillment of what we have dreamt of for years. So many bemoan the “lack of political leadership,” which they see as a noxious habit developed over years of failed movements, but the truth is that those who are accustomed to being protagonists of struggles, including ourselves as a collective, have been overtaken by events. It is no longer a matter of a tiny scene of activists concocting a set of tactics and programs and attempting to market them to the public. “The public” is taking action all around us, exchanging techniques on forums, devising ways to evade surveillance, to avoid being arrested at all costs. It is now possible to learn more about fighting the police in one afternoon than we did in a few years.
In the midst of this breathless acceleration, is it possible to introduce another rhythm, in which we can engage in a collective contemplation of what has become of us, and what we are becoming as we rush headlong into the tumult?
As ever, we stand here, fighting alongside our neighbors, ardently looking for friends.

Hand-written statements by protesters, weathered after an afternoon of heavy rain. Photo by WWS from Tak Cheong Lane Collective.
  1. In reflecting on the problems concealed by the apparent unanimity of the “Hong Kong people,” we might start by asking who that framework suggests that this city is for, who comprises this imaginary subject. We have seen Nepalese and Pakistani brothers and sisters on the streets, but they hesitate to make their presence known for fear of being accused of being thugs employed by the police. 
  2. “The places of institutional power exert a magnetic attraction on revolutionaries. But when the insurgents manage to penetrate parliaments, presidential palaces, and other headquarters of institutions, as in Ukraine, in Libya or in Wisconsin, it’s only to discover empty places, that is, empty of power, and furnished without any taste. It’s not to prevent the “people” from “taking power” that they are so fiercely kept from invading such places, but to prevent them from realizing that power no longer resides in the institutions. There are only deserted temples there, decommissioned fortresses, nothing but stage sets—real traps for revolutionaries.” –The Invisible Committee, To Our Friends 
  3. Incidentally, that attempt was a good deal more spontaneous and successful. The police had hardly imagined that crowds of people who had sat peacefully with their heads in their hands feeling helpless while the developments were authorized would suddenly start attempting to rush the council doors by force, breaking some of the windows. 
  4. On the night of June 11, young customers in a McDonald’s in Admiralty were all searched and had their identity cards recorded. On June 12, a video went viral showing a young man transporting a box of bottled water to protesters who were being brutalized by a squad of policemen with batons. 
  5. To give two rather different examples, this includes the populist, xenophobic, and vehemently anti-Communist Apple Daily, and the “Hong Kong Free Press,” an independent English online rag of the “angry liberal” stripe run by expatriates that has an affinity for young localist/nativist leaders. 

sábado, 8 de junio de 2019

Destroy Amazon: Update on the Tech Dystopia - It's Going Down

Source - Destroy Amazon: Update on the Tech Dystopia - It's Going Down 7.6.2019

Seattle anarchist paper The Transmetropolitian Review looks at continued acts of defiance and resistance to Amazon.

Who would wish to reappropriate nuclear power plants, Amazon’s warehouses, the expressways, ad agencies, high-speed trains…auditing firms, nanotechnologies, supermarkets and their poisonous merchandise? Who imagines a people’s takeover of industrial farming operations where a single man plows 400 hectares of eroded ground at the wheel of his megatractor piloted via satellite? No one with any sense.
-The Invisible Committee, Now, 2017

Setting The Stage

Since we last wrote about Amazon, the situation has grown much worse. Just over a year ago, we released our eighth IRL issue, subtitled The Amazon Issue. It was our most popular print issue and we could barely keep up with the demand at our usual distro-points (cafes, bars, corners-stores, etc.), a reminder that physical newspapers could still have an impact, even in tech-saturated Seattle. The issue was released just before the 2018 May Day march and accompanied several other initiatives aimed at making Amazon the focus of popular anger.
On the day of the demonstration, all of the left seemed united against the corporation and its demented overlord Jeff Bezos, with even the mega-unions taking a stand (albeit a limited one). Of all the actions taken against Amazon on May 1st, 2018, it was a lone woman from Tacoma who brought us the most joy. Dressed all in black, her face covered in a mask, and with no one to help her, this woman ran up to Jeff Bezos’ little balls (the Amazon Spheres) and smashed out one of its over-priced panes of glass, ultimately leading to her arrest. Once this action hit the media, even the corrupt and boot-licking Stranger newspaper called on the state governor to pardon her, a first for this pro-capitalist publication. Never in our wildest dreams did we imagine The Stranger supporting an anarchist, which just goes to show how widely this popular anger at Amazon had spread across Seattle.
Smashing the Bezos Balls
Between 2017 and 2018, we decided to focus all of our efforts against Amazon after bald-headed Bezos announced his Hunger Games-style contest where different North American cities would grovel for the chance to host his Amazon HQ2. Having experienced first-hand what HQ1 did to Seattle (detailed in a previous article), we were more than fired-up to ruin the man-child’s happy-fun-time. While this might seem like an easy task in mid-2019, it certainly wasn’t. Thanks to Donald Trump, our efforts in 2017 were met with both liberal hostility and leftist ambivalence. With the president constantly attacking Amazon and Bezos in his tweets, our efforts were seen as either Republican Party agent-provocateur-ism or proof we were secret Russian agents. Given that Bezos owned The Washington Post, one of the most outspoken anti-Trump media outlets, we were clearly out to undermine the liberal “resistance” by attacking the Amazon CEO. Given that Trump was in an all-out feud with the CIA, a long-time friend and ally of Amazon, we were obviously working with the president by critiquing Amazon and the CIA. If you think this sounds stupid, you’re definitely using your brain.
Despite this absurd level of resistance to our efforts, the tide began to turn during the spring of 2018. As the grovelling competition for HQ2 became more obviously pathetic, rebels in different cities began to catch on to the smell of bullshit. The first city outside of Seattle to initiate hostilities was Atlanta, and within a few months their efforts had garnered news-headlinesgeneralized disquiet, and channeled popular discontent against the Amazon leviathan. By then, major strike-waves had hit Amazon fulfillment centers in Europe, reminding us all that direct resistance was possible at the companies main logistic choke-points, its most vulnerable locations. There were a few instances of direct action and agitation around Seattle-area fulfillment centers, along with a few fruitless efforts toward infiltrating these places of work, but they largely went nowhere.
Amazon protest, Spain, March 2018
Outside of the mega-unions, there are few groups capable or willing to organize the Amazon fulfillment centers, a seemingly daunting task. While certain workers in Minnesota and New York have recently met with some success, there simply isn’t enough time to form militant worker’s organizations inside the fulfillment centers before they’re completely automated. At best, the IWW might create a few anti-capitalist locals strong enough to disrupt the shipping network, while the mega-unions might still be capable of raising wages for the last humans still employed in these warehouses. Regardless, the proverbial clock is now ticking upwards to midnight, and the future we’ve all dreaded is swiftly approaching. But we’ll get to that later, after the headlines.
Against the possibility of communism, against any possibility of happiness, there stands a hydra with two heads. On the public stage each one of them makes a show of being the sworn enemy of the other. On one side, there is the program for the fascistic restoration of unity, and on the other, there is the global power of the merchants of infrastructure—Google as much as Vinci, Amazon as much as Veolia. Those who believe that it’s one or the other will have them both. Because the great builders of infrastructure have the means for which the fascists only have the folkloric discourse.
-The Invisible Committee, Now, 2017

Opening The Curtain

After the May Day 2018 demonstrations had come and gone over the streets of Seattle, it was clear that Amazon was now seen as a public-enemy far outside anarchist circles. Anger against the HQ2 was rising from city to city, along with dozens of voices critiquing Amazon’s ruthless practices. In this moment, the leftists politicians of the Seattle City Council made their final stand against Lord Bezos and his greedy minions. Summoning every ounce of their spines, these elected officials passed a head-tax on the major corporations in the city, including Amazon, a law that would have generated revenue to build affordable housing for low-income and homeless residents. For a brief moment, it seemed like electoral-democracy had pulled a coup on us anarchists, proving that voting still mattered in the corrupt United States and affirming that leftists politicians could restrain the scrupulous tech-companies. Their hopes were quickly dashed.
Trade-unionists defending Amazon construction, Seattle, 2018
All it took to cancel this tax was Amazon pausing construction on one of its HQ1 skyscrapers, a move that threw the conservative trade-unions into a frenzy. In an ill-fated photo-op, the socialist City Council-woman and her party held a protest rally outside the glass Bezos Balls, only to be met by a counter-rally of hard-hat wearing construction workers. This spectacle of socialists vs. workers was enough to explode the heavy contradictions in the air, dooming the taxation effort. Soon enough, the leftists in City Council withdrew from the battlefield, canceled the head-tax, and hung their heads in defeat. While some of the more pathetic Seattle liberals droned on about “damaging the anti-Trump resistance,” it became clear to many naive leftists that democracy didn’t stand a chance against Amazon. Although this hyper-local episode might not have registered amid the national static, its implications were felt deeply within the Democratic Party establishment.
In November 2018, the long awaited results of the HQ2 contest were announced. Members of our editorial collective had privately predicted that Amazon would build its new facility near the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, a logical move related solely to infrastructure. As one intrepid journalist from The Atlantic exposed, Amazon had already built a handful of anonymous data centers near spook-central, a site positioned in between where some of the main trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables make landfall, allowing the CIA (and other agencies) to took scoop up massive amounts of internet traffic. By most accounts, Amazon Web Services account for at least 1/3 of all internet traffic in the US, while more recent estimates put this number closer to ½, if not higher.
Amazon data center near CIA HQ
Similarly, the location of HQ1 in Seattle was not chosen at random, it was selected for its proximity to a main fiber-optic node located below the twin-cylinders of the Westin Hotel, just a few blocks from HQ1. Long famous for gracing the cover of a Modest Mouse album, this hotel hosts one of the most important nodes of the internet and has long been a public secret across Seattle. According to a handy Wikileaks mapof Amazon facilities posted in 2018, a portion of this node belongs to the company under the name SEA4. Given all of this information, it was no surprise that Arlington, Virginia was chosen as the site of HQ2.
What did surprise us was Amazon announcing there were two lucky winners of the HQ2 contest. Not only would Arlington be graced with an economic atom-bomb, but Queens, New York would also be subjected to Amazon’s merciless gentrification and displacement. While cities like Atlanta breathed a sigh of relief, Queens braced itself for the impending invasion, although it didn’t throw in the towel and admit instant defeat (like Seattle). For the next months, radicals of various stripes began a campaign to block the HQ2 in Queens and prevent their community from being destroyed, an effort which made headlines across the US and inspired everyone who’d seen their own cities destroyed by the tech-leviathans. In the midst of these efforts, a scandal suddenly rocked Amazon and catapulted its deranged sultan into the media spotlight: Jeff Bezos had been cheating on his wife, Mackenzie Bezos.
Protest against Amazon HQ2, NY, 2019
While it might seem inconsequential, this affair had major implications. Firstly, it signaled that Jeff Bezos would soon lose the dubious distinction of being the richest man on Earth, given that Washington State divorce laws entitled his wife to half their fortune (making her the fourth richest woman on Earth). Secondly, Mackenzie Bezos had famously defended her husband when the book-length hit-piece The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon was published in 2013, an expose that unveiled the disgusting history of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. His loyal wife gave the book a one-star review on Amazon and claimed her husband was a good man in the review, an assertion she possibly came to regret. In January 2019, it was revealed that Jeff Bezos had been having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, a television host for the Fox network. Shortly before this revelation became public, Jeff and Mackenzie Bezos announced their divorce in a joint statement, hoping the scandalous affair wouldn’t reach the media, although the National Enquirer had different ideas.
This media-organ owned by a long-time friend of Donald Trump quickly published details of the affair, along with creepy texts from Lord Bezos where he referred to Lauren Sanchez as “alive girl.” In addition to leaking lurid selfies and partial dick-pics sent from the idiot man-child, the National Enquirer made Jeff Bezos the laughing-stock of the media and set off a political battle which included private detectivesDonald Trump, the Washington Post, and the Democratic Party. The liberal anti-Trump “resistance” tried to make Jeff Bezos into a victim of pro-Trump forces, an effort which was mildly successful, given the majority of the media coverage. Despite trying to pass himself off as the victim of right-wing blackmailing and extortion, King Bezos was still forced to read the writing on the wall and realize he was widely hated, along with his beloved Amazon.
While screen-shots of his imbecilic sexts were still circulating the internet, Amazon announced it was pulling out of the HQ2 deal in Queens. On February 14, 2018, the company stated on its blog that “a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project.” Although the long and patient work required to scuttle this deal came from community organizations and radical groups, it was easier for Amazon to blame the politicians, thereby catapulting them to fame. Most notable among them was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), a Democratic Socialist and senator for the Democratic Party. As the organizers of the anti-Amazon campaign celebrated their victory, AOC was made into a spectacular villain or hero, depending on who you asked. In either case, responsibility for scuttling the deal was placed on her shoulders, not the people who made it happen.

For us editors, the victory in Queens was inspiring and joyful, especially after what we witnessed in Seattle. It was certainly gratifying to see the Democratic Party mayor of NYC and the Democratic Party governor of New York squirm like maggots when the deal fell through, but our joy was cut short when AOC willfully basked in the spotlight, thereby bolstering her electoral ideology and recuperating an autonomous anti-Amazon initiative that had taken almost two years to build. Ever since she famously championed her time as a bar-tender, it was clear that AOC existed solely to salvage the conception of fair-capitalism and instill her fellow millenials with the delusional hope that, if they only worked hard enough bar-tending, they could not only become a senator and “change the system,” they might even become an astronaut. In this regard, she represents the last chance for a dying Democratic Party establishment to reinvigorate capitalism and make it more youthful, hip, and able to tweet like a pro. Just because our opponents in the right-wing of capitalism despise someone like AOC, it doesn’t mean we should all support AOC and her left-wing of capitalism, especially when both sides want her to be the focus of everyone’s attention. Now that we’ve become sufficiently distracted from the issue at hand, it’s time to move on to the most disturbing part of this article.

Taking The Stage

From the extreme left to the extreme right, there’s no lack of bullshitters who endlessly promise us “a return to full employment”…It’s now necessary to be able to monitor en masse all our activities, all our communications, all our gestures, to place cameras and sensors everywhere, because wage-earning discipline no longer suffices for controlling the population. It’s only to a population totally under control that one can dream of offering a universal basic income.
-The Invisible Committee, Now, 2017
While the residents of Queens were able to stop the Amazon invasion, their peers in Arlington weren’t so lucky. Queens has long been a rebellious place and NYC still hosts thousands of radicals, as it has for over a century, making this region more resistant to blatant colonization. This wasn’t the case for Arlington, Virginia, a city that had the unfortunate reputation of hosting the Pentagon, which isn’t exactly a bastion of resistance. A coalition of local radicals organized to oppose this deal, but their efforts hardly stood a chance in this highly militarized hell-scape. Since the HQ2 deal was announced, housing costs in Arlington have risen close to 20%, while home vacancies dropped by nearly 50%, fulfilling all the predictions made by critics of HQ2. With the deal finalized, Amazon will soon move into a new luxury micro-city called National Landing, positioned just south of the Pentagon and across the river from Washington DC. Conveniently for Jeff Bezos, his new HQ is close to the Washington Post and within driving distance of his new DC home. From here, he can more easily masturbate to screenshots of Donald Trump’s tweets and stare longingly at the White House.
With the bald-headed scumbag now dreaming of becoming the president, his dick-pics still floating across the web, and his former wife having left him to his misery, Jeff Bezos has now gone into full-psychotic-overdrive. His first move after this series of disasters was to attend his very own MARS Conference in March 2019, a symposium dedicated to Machine Learning, Automation, Robotics, and Space. At this annual invite-only event, Jeff Bezos flew around in an octo-copter, played beer-pong with a robot, giggled at crop-pollinating drones, salivated to Lockheed Martin space-engines, and gazed in wonder at all the luxury gizmos he can afford to buy.
Bezos giggling at drone, MARS Conference, 2019
This MARS Conference has been held since 2016, and at each opening Jeff Bezos has done something cringe-worthy: in 2017, he piloted a massive robot and flexed it arms, while in 2018 he went on a stroll with a war-dog from Boston Dynamics. He was a bit more restrained in 2019, most likely from all the media attention, although this years attendees included Mark Hamill, famous for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars films. He wouldn’t be the last Hollywood celebrity to suck up to Bezos in the coming months.
At this MARS conference, off-world-colonization was a major topic of discussion, given its little Jeff’s main obsession. His space company, Blue Origin, has successfully launched eleven of its reusable New Shepard rockets, paving the way for its first human crews. Over the years, Bezos has pumped billions of dollars into this space-colonization effort while ruthlessly exploiting his workers down here on Earth. As he makes plans to charge millionaires $300,000 for a few minutes in his spacecraft, his warehouse workers can barely afford to pay their rent. If you think this sounds horrible, keep reading.
Faced with mounting pressure from all sides, Bezos reluctantly agreed to pay his US fulfillment center workers $15 an hour in October 2018, although this seemed to piss off the tyrannical sociopath. Over the next months, he secretly accelerated his plans to fully automate the Amazon fulfillment centers by bringing more robots into the facilities. In a despicable yet typical move, Bezos instructed his underling to contact the media on April 30th, 2019 and announce that fully robotisized fulfillment centers were a decade away.
Able to breath easy knowing the public was placated, Jeff Bezos then went on to attend his very own invite-only event in Washington DC on May 9th, 2019, where he unveiled Blue Origin’s first lunar lander, signaling his intentions to use the moon as a stepping stone to colonize outer-space. As he described his colonial vision, Bezos said “you’re going to have whole industries. There are going to be thousands of future companies doing this work. A whole system of entrepreneurial activity, unleashed. Creative people coming up with new ideas about how to use space. Earth ends up zoned residential and light industry. It’ll be a beautiful place to live, it’ll be a beautiful place to visit, it’ll be a beautiful place to go to college, and do some light industry.” While admitting that the limitless growth and toxic pollution of capitalism are incompatible with a healthy planet, Bezos concluded that humans simply needed to extend that same limitless growth into space. As he asked the audience, “do we want stasis and rationing or do we want dynamism and growth? This is an easy choice. We know what we want.” While we obviously find this logic sickening, we clearly weren’t alone.
Mock-up of Amazon space-station, Blue Origin, 2019
Shortly after this disgusting conference in Washington DC, two anonymous Amazon corporate employees contacted Reuters and revealed Amazon’s secret plans to robotisize its fulfillment centers. According to these anonymous sources, Amazon has been installing boxing-machines that package commodities five time faster than a human. While the initial job losses in the US would be less than 2,000, the sources claimed that Amazon plans to vastly increase the number of robots. It’s unclear why these corporate employees leaked this information, but the announcement came less than two weeks after Amazon claimed full-automation was at least a decade away. In a panic, Amazon made a promise that same day to give $10,000 dollars to any of its warehouse employees who wanted to quit, but only if they pledged to start their own delivery company. With the leaked information now revealing that thousands would soon lose their jobs, Amazon had no choice but to dangle the promise of another job, this time delivering Amazon packages rather than sorting and boxing them. Instead of depending on the US Postal Service, UPS, or FedEX, the company now wants thousands of small contractors to hustle back and forth from the Amazon fulfillment centers.
As was stated in one of our previous critiques of Amazon, efforts to unionize these fulfillment centers are most likely doomed. By the time any organization forms a substantial block among the workforce, these facilities will no longer require humans. Unions in Europe have made the most advances in this regard and have staged numerous work-stoppages, although they’ve still been unable to achieve even moderate gains for their members. This leaves the delivery drivers as the final human workforce capable of sabotaging Amazon’s fulfillment network, but only if they’re organized under an anarchist union with the objective of destroying the company, not merely subsisting off its wages.
We don’t want to discount this possibility, but we also don’t want to impart any false hope. It would take a concerted effort to create an anarcho-communist union big enough to destroy Amazon and require months if not years to build the necessary membership. Amazon is a techno-fascist entity that needs to be taken down immediately, just as its overlord is a demented capitalist psycho-path who needs to be stopped, and its highly likely that unionism is not the way to accomplish these objectives. Amazon poses an existential threat to all free people on the Earth and plans to extend its ruler’s vision into space. To stop these techno-fascist schemes before they come to fruition, we need to act directly. Thanks to Amazon’s relentless expansion, its facilities are now everywhere, and as some anarchists stated decades ago, the secret is to really begin.

Burning The Stage

The revolutionary gesture no longer consists in a simple violent appropriation of this world; it divides into two. On the one hand, there are worlds to be made, forms of life made to grow apart from what reigns, including by salvaging what can be salvaged from the present state of things, and on the other, there is the imperative to attack, to simply destroy the world of capital.
-The Invisible Committee, Now, 2017
Without going into too much detail, we can confidently state that robotisization will create a level of unemployment unseen since the planetary recession of the 1920s-30s, only much bigger. We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but everyone seems to agree its effects will be massive and profound. Amazon is one of the main promoters of this shift, and its market dominance is now being challenged by governments in Europe and the US. While the European Council President Donald Tusk recently called Amazon and the tech giants “an uncontrolled, spontaneous empire,” his counterparts in the US are now moving to use an anti-trust investigation to break up the tech-giantsbefore popular anger grows to vast for them to control. Incidentally, the last time the US federal government broke apart big corporations was when the international anarchist movement was at its greatest strength.
Alexander Berkman speaking against Rockefeller, NYC, 1914
When the US split apart Standard Oil in 1911, it was proceeded by an anti-trust investigation between 1904 and 1906, followed by a five year lawsuit. Popular anger against Standard Oil was at its peak, just as its CEO, JD Rockefeller, was widely despised across the US. This robber baron was forced to live in a gated compound, traveled only under heavy guard, and even his own family members began to kill themselves from the stress. Among the people leading the charge against the Rockefeller empire were the anarchists, a fact which spurred the federal government to intervene. If a similar anti-trust probe leads to a lawsuit against Amazon, it should be taken as a sign that we’ve entered another moment of strength. States only intervene in their free-market when its capitalists begin to destabilize the entire system through their recklessness. Rather than let a popular revolt grow beyond their control, the state will always usurp the rebels by claiming to be sole arbiter of justice. In the case of Standard Oil, all that happened in 1911 was that the company was broken into smaller pieces, most notably Chevron and Exxon. Petroleum didn’t stop belching from exhaust pipes, oil wells were still sunk across the land, and JD Rockefeller felt no hesitation in allowing the killing of his workers in the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. All the anti-trust lawsuit against Standard Oil accomplished was convincing the population that Rockefeller had been punished enough and helped diffuse popular anger. It did nothing to stop the expansion of Rockefeller’s empire, as should be evident from our pollution filled world today. We should expect nothing less from an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon.
Despite all the popular anger and state pressure, Jeff Bezos doesn’t seem too worried. He just held another conference for himself at the Aria casino in Las Vegas called re:MARS and was able to show off the latest advances in robotic technology. An assortment of techno-fascists gathered to hear a variety of speakers, including Robert Downey Jr., star of the hit movie-series Iron Man. After playing a tech-obsessed CEO for Hollywood, this brain-damaged actor now claims he will start a company that will use robots to heal the damaged environment. As he told the star-struck audience, “between robotics and nanotechnology, we could probably clean up the planet significantly, if not entirely, within a decade.” At the time of this writing, Jeff Bezos is about to give a major speech to the attendees at re:MARS, but we won’t wait for this arch-swine to deliver more repulsive remarks. Now it’s time for resistance.
Bezos being rushed by animal rights protestor at MARS, June 6, 2019
Surprisingly or not, the most recent and effective actions against Amazon have emerged outside the US during the Gilets Jaunes (Yellow Vest) movement in France. Since the massive revolt kicked off in November 2018, multiple Amazon fulfillment centers have been blockadedby the yellow vest wearing rebels, with some warehouse workers even being fired for supporting the movement. Although some of these blockaders are part of the CGT trade-union, most of them are simply members of a diverse and widespread movement aimed against neo-liberal capitalism, the economic system which lets Amazon exploit workers across the globe. These blockades of Amazon facilities often take the company by surprise and happen mostly at night or early in the morning, with the most recent having occurred on May 30, 2019. There are twenty Amazon facilities in France with more than 7,000 employees, making it a much smaller workforce than the US. In other words, it’s much easier to paralyze, disrupt, or destroy. Since the movement began, the construction of a fulfillment center near Lyon has been stalled, while another near the ZAD of Notres-Dame-des-Landes has also been put on hold. While the battle is not over, if construction of these facilities proceeds, it will certainly ignite a serious conflict.
Gilets Jaunes blockade of Amazon, Montélimar, France, 2018
After seven months of Gilets Jaunes blockades, Amazon became the most hated foreign company in France, with even the besieged government being forced to respond. While consistently blacking out the existence of the Gilets Jaunes movement, the French state made much fanfare about a plan to tax Amazon and the other tech-giants. As was described above, this is simply a tactic to diffuse popular anger and prevent and all-out rebellion from destroying the company. Despite the hesitation of other EU states, France has now implemented its GAFA tax, forcing the tech giants to pay 3% (wow!) of what they make in the country. While this tax was passed in March 2019, it failed to stop popular anger against Amazon. Despite a government media-blackout being conducted against the Gilets Jaunes, the movement is still taking to the streets every Saturday, often with fiery results. It’s only a matter of time before we see an Amazon fulfillment center burning.
Gilets Jaunes blockade of Amazon, Bouc-Bel-Air, France, 2018
While we wish there was more resistance to Amazon in the US, we’re confident the rebellion will soon enter its second phase. The victory in Queens was the first time anyone was able to stop Amazon in its tracks, and the lessons learned along the way are still being digested. We wish everyone good luck in their future efforts and hope we’ve highlighted just how dangerous Amazon is. As was stated above, the secret is to really begin.