Look at your computer setup and imagine that you hooked up a 3D printer. Instead of printing on bits of paper this 3D printer makes real, robust, mechanical parts. To give you an idea of how robust, think Lego bricks and you're in the right area. You could make lots of useful stuff, but interestingly you could also make most of the parts to make another 3D printer. That would be a machine that could copy itself.
I've considered myself an anarchist for a very long time, but figuring out what that means can be a bit tricky. The anarchist tradition is very diffuse, and contemporary anarchist cultures and movements are a bit incoherent (like most of the left). So I've been trying to find a tangent of anarchism that seems the most viable. Most people don't like identifying themselves with an "-ism", and I can understand that given that this is generally a stifling, limited, empty gesture, something to guide chatter in a coffeeshop, with little real bearing on one's life.
Lucy an Albert Parsons are remembered as some of the most famous anarchist partisans in American history. Their lives also present an amazing and inspirational story of ferocious dedication against the oppression of the world.
Albert was a a Confederate soldier and relative of George Washington. His experience in the Civil War led him to a total life transformation, turning from a Confederate volunteer into a radical who rejected slavery and discrimination of all kinds and worked for Reconstruction and the rights of emancipated slaves. He married Lucy Gonzales in Texas. Lucy was a Texas native, of African-American, Mexican, Native American and Caucasian ancestry. They were married in Austin and lived in Waco. Together and individually they published pamphlets and newspapers tied to the radical labor movement and anarchism.
The California Nurses Association made a few headlines recently when a new nurses union out of Pennsylvania voted to affiliate with them. The CNA has become one of the fastest growing union in the country, bringing together nurses on conjoined demands of better work standards, patient care, and promotion of national single-payer health care. They currently represent about 75,000 nurses. Their greatest success to date has been capping the patient:nurse ration in the state of California. I'm going to repost the note on their new affiliation published in The Nation below. I'm also posting links to the recent AFL-CIO press release, their website, and the website of the national organizing organization. They're organizing in Texas right now.
If you happen to go up Guadalupe right now, on the outside wall of a bike shop on the Drag near MLK there's a big sign for Orbea bikes.
I was a little startled to see this. I've heard that they're good bikes, but I'm surprised to see a big banner for them in a major part of Austin. Why? Orbea isn't just a bike maker. It's a company in the Mondragon cooperative chain from the Basque country of Spain. This means it's a worker cooperative, owned by its workers and managed through democratic assembly. Mondragon is one of the greatest living experiments that testifies to the strength of the cooperative model. Tens of thousands of workers in hundreds of companies confederated together produce an array of products and services, have their own bank and technical school, etc.
I'll bet you'd be surprised to learn that the east Texas/west Louisiana region was one of the strongholds of the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical union based on direct action and workers' self-management of industry. The IWW is most famous for its work out west, and folks who know about it remember the Free Speech Fights in the northwest, the miner struggles in Rockies and southwest, etc. Lesser known is the work of radical unionists in east Texas and west Louisiana who formed the Brotherhood of Timber Workers, which affiliated with the IWW in 1912. Though short-lived, this union was militant and vibrant. It was known for its radicalism and its racial integration, laudable especially for the time.
Here's the story, straight from the online Handbook of Texas:
Submitted by GustavLandauer on Sat, 01/12/2008 - 1:04am
I wanted to draw some attention to the amazing work of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in Oakland, especially their efforts to connect the environmental movement to social justice issues and grassroots economic development. Center is a major promoter of building "green-collar jobs," an idea that has gained tremendous power both in Austin and throughout the country. There are very reasonable hopes that we can begin to rebuild the severely weakened manufacturing base of America by major investments in green technology and environmental goods manufacturing. This possibility is of course hindered when major companies like GE decide to use the environmental movement as an excuse to offshore light bulb production to barely regulated factories in China, but a firm coalition between environmentalists and the labor movement could insure that such deeds go noticed.
Anyway, this is the Ella Baker Center's green program, and I recommend checking out their work and advocacy.
I've always found it interesting that southerners tend to have a total absence of the radical porion of their history, despite a prevailing culture among many in the Deep South and Texas of obsession over history and its minutia, over family history, and especially over military history. I've always wondered if this matters, if things would be different if people knew a little more about the marginal history of their regions.
Submitted by GustavLandauer on Sat, 01/05/2008 - 9:22pm
Recently I've been rereading an odd book, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics by Christopher Lasch. I stumbled across the awhile back because Lasch has lengthy treatements of the political, economic and philosophical underpinnings of both American populism and anarcho-syndicalism. I'm not sure I'd recommend the book. It's definitely provocative and one of the more interesting intellectual histories I've read, but he has a major ax to grind and spends hundreds of pages doing so. He grinds his ax against the cultural liberalism of the 1960s and its precursors and aftermath. Much of what he says makes sense, much of it is kind of, well, atrocious, probably. Towards the modern era he discusses political movements against abortion rights and busing in Boston, and it's hard to tell if he approves of these movements or if he's trying to say that the "left" gave up its populist roots and so now the "right" is taking them over.