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Response to Fire This Time Activists Article

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Dominion Stories

This is a response to an article written after a group of Fire This Time activists were harassed, assaulted and handcuffed by the Vancouver Transit Police and RCMP. While we are in solidarity with the three activists - as we are with anyone who is a target of the state – we feel like the rhetoric used in their response to the situation is a rhetoric of reform and therefore a language that does not challenge the existence of the current social order and the cops who actively protect it.

First, the article is not explicitly anti-police, only anti-police brutality. The criticism of police brutality is inherently liberal and doesn't acknowledge that the police play a role (specifically the role of enforcer) in a larger system that is inherently violent. The idea that it is only isolated incidents of overt violence by some cops that are harmful suggests that it may be possible to reform the police into a 'good institution'. This is obviously impossible, since the police exist within a very specific context – a system that exists to benefit a small minority at the expense of the rest of us. So long as cops exist, their role will be to impose and enforce the laws of this society, and this will always place them in opposition to the exploited class. There are no good cops, there are no just laws. The only solution is to attack both the idea and the physical manifestations of the police and justice systems.

Second, the use of the language of rights and democracy. We must go beyond begging the state for more rights, because as long as we continue to legitimize the state's authority in this way, we will always be slaves to it. Any right the state gives us can be taken away in an instant. The article's outrage at the “assault on our democratic rights” fails to recognize that the very function of this system is to perpetuate itself. Of course, if it can do this as 'gently' as possible if it prefers to do so, but the overtly repressive hand of the state is always waiting. We need to stop struggling for more 'just' laws and new reforms, and take matters into our own hands. This requires a project based on direct action and attack with our own personal desires and lives as the basis.

Lastly, the article and it's slogan of “Stop harassment and assault of political activists” suggests that there should be special recognition for 'political prisoners'. This type of language ignores the millions of individuals who are sent to jail simply for being part of the exploited class. Stealing, drug-dealing, and other acts of survival are considered crimes and the individuals who engage in this act are constantly at odds with this society and the cops who protect it, not because of a political program, but because their very lives are a threat to the maintenance of the social order. We are opposed to the cops and the system they protect because we desire to live our lives in a way of our own choosing, and this has put us in conflict with the current social order. We have no interest in reforming the justice system, we want any system that intends to limit our freedom destroyed. We refuse to distinguish between 'political' and other prisoners, and we act in solidarity with all of the exploited who live in opposition to this system, because our struggle is the same.


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Revolutionaries or reformists

Some interesting points considering FTT portrays itself as the most revolutionary group in North America, now crying about their "democratic rights."  In regards to political prisoners I think there's a distinction made because these prisoners are targeted for their beliefs or actions that arise from these beliefs, whereas other prisoners are targeted because of their anti-social actions.  I don't think someone who robs elderly people, or those that commit rapes, etc., deserve solidarity whereas political prisoners do.

Why is it one or the other?

I really don't understood all this supposed "conflict" between revolution and reform -- to me, if done properly, in the long term, reforms can (and do) lead to revolutionary changes in society. And from the way I understand history, it seems that that's pretty much the only way that major gains have ever been made: slowly and surely, with a clear vision of the end goal in mind, making many small but significant changes along the way that better people's lives.

Sure, reforms can also be ends unto themselves, and that happens a lot, but that's exactly what's going to happen if revolutionaries refuse to participate in shaping demands and campaigns for reforms: we just leave the space open for the interests that only want reform, and let them control the process in such a way that they ensure that changes don't threaten the structures that maintain their power and/or wealth.

For example, imagine demanding an end to the occupation of Afghanistan. That's a reform, right? I mean, it's not a revolutionary change in international relations to end a single war, and it definitely doesn't address the root economic, cultural and social causes of why elites go to war.

But is it the right thing to do? Of course it is! Does it bring us closer to the kind of world we want to have? Of course it does! So what's the problem? Where's the conflict?

Now, imagine that revolutionaries aren't involved in the process of ending the occupation. What might an "end to occupation" look like to government policy makers, a liberal middle-class movement pushing to end the war, and the owners of society? Probably pretty different than anti-imperialists and anti-capitalists and folks arguing for self-determination might imagine it, I'd bet.

But by refusing to participate in anything resembling "reforms", including ending a war, we just let them win, no fight, no battle, no debate, nothing. In effect, we just hand it straight over to the powerful, carte blanche, and say: "Here you go, you decide policy -- we refuse to take part in a reformist action like ending a war!"

And on top of all that, it's pointless to talk about revolution without recognizing that we'll never have the power to make revolutionary changes--whether in the economy, polity, gender/kinship, or culture/community spheres--without first, slowly and painfully, making changes that address real needs in peoples' lives (because it's the right thing to do) and that also shift power slowly but surely in our direction.

It's like being at "1" and saying we want to go to "10", but refusing to talk about 2 through 9. We're just supposed to leap to 10 somehow -- and meanwhile we're giving the defenders of 1 all the power to control and shape any changes that might happen to be made.

Revolutions may at first seem spontaneous, but upon looking closer we usually find that, in reality, they have been built upon years and years of committed organizing and action with a clear vision, and making small changes that benefit peoples' everyday lives along the way -- that is, reforms. The trick is having revolutionaries deeply involved in shaping those processes, not refusing to have anything to do with them.

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