Preparing for Round Two Coming to Blows with the Trump Regime

We’ve reached the first plateau of the Trump era. Round one is over and we’re still in the fight. With so much happening so fast, it can be hard to step back and get enough perspective to keep ahead of events. Let’s review the events of the past month and get a sense of where we are, so we can strategize for what comes next.

Phase One: Escalation in the Streets

The Trump era began with blockades and confrontational demonstrations in Washington, DC and around the country. Footage of white nationalist Richard Spencer being punched by a person in black bloc attire made antifascists popular even with television stars, though the shooting of a Seattle antifascist by a supporter of Milo Yiannopoulos ended the day on an ominous note. The Women’s March the next day saw some of the biggest crowds in protest history.

Here, at the outset, we encounter the fundamental tension between quality and quantity that has marked all resistance to Trump. On the one side, we see fierce and courageous rebels who are not numerous enough to avoid being isolated and repressed; on the other, we see truly massive numbers of people limited by their narrow tactical repertoire and naïve faith in existing institutions. Everyone invested in real social change should recognize how important it is for these two social bodies to cross-pollinate.

Even Portland, OR was uncontrollable on the night of the presidential election.

Washington, DC celebrated the inauguration in style.

Unfazed by this one-two punch, Trump presented a string of executive orders aimed at forcing through the Dakota Access Pipeline, stepping up deportations, and banning people from seven countries—essentially declaring war on the part of the US population that opposed his Presidency. This was a make-or-break moment, and people rose to it, shutting down airports around the country the weekend of January 28-29. These blockades were complemented by a taxi strike and demonstrations in several major cities.

“We will repel bullies. We will shelter freaks and outcasts; those who have no home. We will get past the lies. We will hunt monsters… And when we are lost amidst the hypocrisy and casual violence of certain individuals and institutions… we will… punch some people in the face when they seek to destroy the weak and the disenfranchised and the marginalized. And we will do it all with soul, with heart, and with joy.”
-David K. Harbour

Three days later, courageous demonstrators shut down Milo’s speaking event at the University of California at Berkeley. Anarchists saw this as a victory for direct action, while liberals wrung their hands and Milo’s fans congratulated themselves that the “tolerant left” were falling into a trap, discrediting themselves. Trump himself took notice with a series of tweets about “professional anarchists” and “violence,” while the New York Times dedicated a front-page article to the spread of anarchist anti-fascism.

In this context of escalation, the stakes are double or nothing: either direct action tactics will spread to the population at large, enabling all the different demographics targeted by the government to defend themselves, or they will remain confined to a small minority that the authorities can use as an excuse to crack down on everyone. Standing aside “peacefully” in hopes of being left alone is no longer an option.

Phase Two: Fractures in the Halls of Power

After these first two tempestuous weeks, concluding with the Bodega strike of February 2, the pace and scale of street protests subsided a bit as the spotlight shifted to the halls of power—where real fractures within the ruling class were appearing. February has seen much of the corporate media turn decisively against the Trump administration, evidence of rebellion within the White House, turmoil on the National Security Council as Michael Flynn was forced to resign in disgrace and Trump’s first choice to replace him refused the job, and the definitive judicial defeat of the first version of the Muslim Ban.

Doubtless, much of this was galvanized by the grassroots resistance of the first two weeks. By showing that the US will be ungovernable under Trump, demonstrators made it impossible for bureaucrats and pundits to line up behind the President for the sake of preserving order.

These divisions now extend all the way into Trump’s party. Milo’s sordid demise on February 20-21 illustrates this adequately enough. The Republican Party that swept into power behind Trump was based on a tenuous alliance between traditional conservatives and a new generation of nationalistic racists like Milo. Milo sold himself to white nationalists and authoritarians on the basis of his status as a (barely) oppressed person willing to speak in favor of oppression; like so many others who have struck that Faustian deal, he learned the hard way that he was not the one calling the shots. While he is implicated in his own downfall, it was anarchists who forced the issue, compelling Trump and the Conservative Political Action Conference to embrace and then repudiate him.

Without spokespeople like Milo, the Republican Party will lose everything that gave it a modern edge. And although Milo and other stooges of Steve Bannon doubtless hope that their explicitly racist nationalism will be the successor to Trump’s populism, allegations of promoting pedophilia do not make a good point of departure for a new far-right party.

Crowds shut down Seatac on January 28 and 29 in response to Trump’s immigration ban.

Protestors declare war on Milo at UC Berkeley on February 1.

Phase Three: The Empire Strikes Back?

In short, a burst of grassroots resistance at the opening of Trump’s term has helped to discredit his Presidency and split his support base. This is the context in which Trump and his cronies are seeking to take his message back to the streets, starting with the rally in Florida and hoping to continue with events around the country on March 4. They desperately need to mobilize street-level support in order to rally Republican politicians to remain loyal to them and to build the grassroots momentum necessary to implement their fascistic agenda.

Although the resistance has made a good showing thus far, it is still entirely possible that Trump and his cronies will succeed in pulling off their plan. Escalating ICE raids around the country attest to the danger threatening millions. As this goes to press, Standing Rock is being evicted, showing that apparent victories under Obama were really just temporary compromises. The following months will be decisive in determining whether Trump can consolidate power behind a new form of fascism, or whether ungovernable social movements will make this impossible.

In this situation, there are three basic errors we should avoid.

We must not become immobilized watching the spectacle of resistance to Trump as it plays out in the courts and Washington, DC. The strength of the institutional pushback against Trump is a direct factor of grassroots mobilization and resistance. If Trump is removed from office by institutional means, he will only be replaced by a politician who will likely implement versions of the same agenda—just as Obama already escalated deportation and surveillance. Even if he fails to establish autocracy in the United States, Trump’s role will be to reestablish the legitimacy of the corporate media, moderate Republicans, Silicon Valley, and the Democratic Party—all the adversaries we were fighting before he made them seem ethical by comparison. For now, some Democrats and media outlets appear sympathetic to us, but their standard strategy in a situation like this is to use us as shock troops to obtain a little leverage over the authorities, then sell us out in return for a seat at the table.

We must not make the same error as Milo, mistaking media exposure for power. Notoriety can help us when it enables us to make contact with new people or to spread our ideas and tactics in meaningful ways. But if we receive too much media coverage, more quickly than we can translate it into added organizational strength on the ground, it will only position the authorities to go after us with everything they’ve got. Remember the lesson of the SHAC campaign, which seemed to be making tremendous headway against an animal testing corporation by building up a fearsome reputation—until the government took advantage of this reputation to stomp it out. There are no shortcuts to doing the work of grassroots organizing, certainly not through corporate media.

We probably won’t be able to avoid open conflict with Trump’s civilian supporters, but we should not let it distract us from taking on the government directly. If the Trump administration fails to fulfill its promises, many of those who currently support it may reconsider their position—the last thing we want to do is force them to entrench themselves in their current position. We have to find ways to take the offensive against the authorities while defending ourselves against rearguard attacks from freelance nationalists.

Above all, we need to pass on all the knowledge we have accumulated over the past two decades of anarchist activity to a new generation of demonstrators—and quick. We are but a small part of the huge social body that is prepared to enter into struggle now, but that struggle may never get off the ground unless we share what we know with others. Never before have so many people been open to anarchist ideas and tactics, but this window will not last long. Expanding our ranks is the only way to survive the waves of repression that wait ahead. Let’s go into round two with more numbers and more strength.

Further Reading

The Landing: Fascists without Fascism

Long Term Resistance: Fighting Trump and Liberal Cooption

Terminal Showdown

Take the Offensive

Operational Security Lessons on the Fury Road: POPSEC

POPSEC is a series drawing on popular media to convey important security lessons—how to emulate best practices, analyze mistakes, and strive not to repeat errors. Mad Max: Fury Road is full of both good and bad examples of security practices. While the following contains all kinds of spoilers, it’s also full of life lessons we can draw from scrutinizing the successes and mishaps on the Fury Road.

Lesson 1: If You Liked It then You Should Have Put a Lock On It

Popsec fury road 3

Now, of course it’s wrong to keep women locked in a vault like property, but there’s an important lesson to be learned from Immortan Joe’s objectification of women and subsequent failure to “keep them in their place”: if you care about something, secure it. If it’s important to you that something not make it out into the world, be it a physical object or information, lock it up using a robust passphrase (or sturdy physical lock). Keeping your prized possessions in a vault is no good if the vault isn’t secured with a sufficiently complex combination.

Lesson 2: Assess Your Adversaries

Popsec fury road 4

This seems like a pretty obvious statement, but it’s actually an important operational security lesson: you don’t want to be a porcupine trying to take down a war rig. When assessing your threats, it’s important to make sure you’re not biting off more than you can chew. While it’s true that we don’t always have a choice in adversaries, it’s also wise to avoid initiating confrontations if you’re not at least reasonably sure you can come out on top. On the Fury Road, this might look like not trying to take on a juggernaut being driven by Imperator Furiosa, but in the real world this might look like peacing out from a dicey action if you didn’t roll in with your affinity group, or staying away from the barricades if you’ve been personally targeted for arrest in the past. The State has nearly unlimited resources for repression, and it is very important to learn how to be strategic in your opposition.

Lesson 3: Prepare for the Worst

Popsec fury road 6

Whether you’re driving into a dust storm or running through clouds of tear gas1, it’s important to anticipate the possibility of these circumstances ahead of time, and plan accordingly with regard to things like personal protective equipment, tactics, and exit strategies. This is obviously true on the Fury Road, but is also worthwhile in the context of demonstrations and direct action. Familiarize yourself with the repression tactics (and environmental circumstances) you are likely to face and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that “planning accordingly” may look different depending on whether your intention is to stick around or to make a purposeful and orderly getaway. If you intend to remain on the scene when tear gas is deployed, you may wish to invest in a respirator or gas mask. If you intend to leave in the event that chemical weapons are deployed, a damp bandanna may be sufficient for your needs. This level of preparation requires a great deal of forethought and research, but it is well worth the effort.

Lesson 4: Use Robust Passphrases

Popsec fury road 1

The corollary to Lesson 1 is—when you do use a passphrase (or lock) to secure something you care about, make sure it’s a robust one. Furiosa uses a sequence of switch flips and button pushes2 to achieve sufficient complexity, but in the real world you might consider either using passphrases constructed from a series of unrelated words, random passphrases generated by a password manager, or a combination of both. There are varying schools of thought regarding biometric locks (fingerprints, retinal scans, etc.), but they do work well for a select set of threat profiles, and are worth looking into as an option.

Lesson 5: Barriers Will Not Stop Determined Adversaries, and That’s OK!

Popsec fury road 2

Furiosa’s deal with the Rock Riders involves causing a landslide to block off their canyon once she’s through, in order to stop her pursuers in their tracks. A few of her foes are buried under the rubble, and some can’t get over it, but with enough time and effort Immortan Joe is eventually able to drive over it with much of his cohort. Similar scenarios exist in real-life security culture. When discussing security and security precautions, the discourse takes on a somewhat nihilistic tone due to the fact that with enough time and resources, any security can be broken. Yet in most cases, it is actually not necessary to have “perfect” security. Usually, the adversaries we are facing have neither the will nor the limitless resources to circumvent the roadblocks we place in their way. Additionally, the goal in security doesn’t really need to be stopping adversaries in their tracks, but rather delaying them long enough to accomplish our aims.

On the Fury Road, the time Immortan Joe spent overcoming the obstacle of the roadblock gave Furiosa and her crew a significant amount of time and space to maneuver. In our own security practices, this translates to the idea that using encryption is always better than not. Encryption should never be treated as a magic shield. Encryption doesn’t necessarily keep your messages from being read by people other than the intended recipient, but it can make intercepting your communications difficult enough, time-consuming enough, and resource-intensive enough that most adversaries will decide it’s not worth the trouble and move on.

Lesson 6: Try Not to Create a Single Point of Failure

Popsec fury road 5

When creating a security strategy for yourself, make sure it never relies solely on one tool or tactic. Immortan Joe diverted all of his resources, as well as the resources from neighboring Gas Town and the Bullet Farm, in order to pursue and overtake Furiosa. When he failed to catch her, this left the Citadel defenseless against her return. Likewise, your plan to stay safe and secure will fail if you rely only on any one tool, tactic, or individual. What does this mean in terms of practical application? It means you should be looking to build “defense in depth.” That is to say, you should be choosing tools and strategies which help protect you, and also communicating in ways which are not inherently incriminating if any of those tools cease to be secure, or strategies fail to be effective. Tools and tactics should be varied and disposable, and the loss or compromise of one should never be sufficient to land you and your comrades in prison. Secure communication tools are important supplements to strong operational security practices and good judgement.

Lesson 7: Be Selective about the Information You Offer

Popsec fury road 7

I’m real happy for you, and I’mma let this piece finish, but Max Rockatansky had the best security culture of all time. Dude managed to insinuate himself into a group of suspicious women, gain their trust, and ingratiate himself to the point of being able to talk them into GOING BACK THE SAME WAY THEY CAME, all without ever even giving his name, never mind any other personal details. Now, Max is a pretty cool guy, and is actually honorable and trustworthy, and his operational security is absolutely something we all should strive to emulate… HOWEVER, there is an important consideration to keep in mind: despite the fact that Max offered little to no personal information to his comrades, Furiosa and friends still had a pretty good idea of what his motives were, what he stood to gain from assisting them, and that he would not benefit from betraying them.

Play your cards close to your vest, try to understand that others will do the same, and don’t place your trust in someone whose motives are unclear. You don’t need to know someone’s life story, but it’s worthwhile to know what they stand to gain from helping you, and what they gain from screwing you over.


By Elle Armageddon

  1. Also, please do not actually run in tear gas clouds, this is how people get trampled. 

  2. As an aside, please do not actually use “1onetwo1redblackGO!” as a passphrase, that one is mine. 

Stretch Goal: Stickers and Translation

With scarcely a week left on our Kickstarter campaign, we’re already two thirds of the way to $20,000. If we reach that goal, in addition to publishing the books, we will also be able to print stickers and arrange Spanish translation.

For this campaign, the vast majority of each pledge goes to pay for producing and shipping the books; that’s why our stretch goal is so high. If you help us raise enough money, however, we can take this to the streets, helping to create an atmosphere of opposition to the border clampdown that is taking place all around the world right now.

Stickers

If we reach our new goal, we can make 50,000 copies of this sticker, offset printed at 3” by 5”. We’ll send out five free with each copy of No Wall They Can Build in the rewards and make them available in bulk afterwards for $0.05 to $0.20 each.

Translation

If we reach our new goal, we can prepare a Spanish version of No Wall They Can Build to offer free in perpetuity, so this project can serve as a bridge between communities in struggle. We will also offer a Spanish translation of the Borders Poster as a PDF.

Thank you for all your assistance—your faith in us confers a responsibility that we take seriously. We’re grateful for all the ways you help us to do our part.

Resistance, Repression, and Media Lies in Philadelphia: Reportback from the Black Resistance March, 2/17/17

Donald Trump has taken to his soapbox to carp about “fake news,” as if the corporate news media were a subversive force. On the contrary, while biased or outright dishonest reporting is the rule rather than the exception, it almost always serves those in power. The interests of the corporate news media cannot be disentangled from the advertisers who fund them and the authorities they count on for scoops. In this eyewitness report from a demonstration in Philadelphia last Friday, participants relate how police attacked them with batons and pepper spray, then persuaded local media to report that it was the demonstrators who pepper-sprayed them.

Last night in North Philadelphia, four people were arrested and many were injured by batons and mace during a march organized by a local militant Black Lives Matter group, Philly Coalition for REAL Justice. The flier described it as a “Black Resistance March.” The online description expanded on this:

“All are welcome as long as they make space for black people at the front of the march. The issues contained in the assaults on LGBT folks, on Muslims and refugees, occupation and militarization abroad are intersectional. Today we center our black women, our black immigrants, black LGBTQ family, and our black Muslims. Dress warm and be vigilant.”

The march kicked off with a line of Bodyhammer-style shields made from large city traffic cones. Each one had a letter painted on it so that together they read “U-N-G-O-V-E-R-N-A-B-L-E.” Even the protest chants had an air of militancy. “Bullets Trump Hate” resonated throughout the streets as the march headed north on Broad Street. One person with a megaphone paid homage to the words that became a rallying cry after police officers murdered Eric Garner. “They say ‘hands up, don’t shoot,’ but we have another one for you… ‘guns up, shoot back.’”

The march made its way north towards the Temple campus. We stopped at the bustling intersection of Broad and Girard, a main artery for traffic and public transit. The crowd blocked the streets and burned American flags while people of color talked about police repression and terrorism through a megaphone. “This is not my flag. It has never been my flag. We’re burning this flag for Emmit Till. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Freddie Gray. This is for Brandon Tate Brown.” There was more talk about the current racist stop-and-frisk policy, and, of course, the MOVE bombing of May 13, 1985. The list went on while the fire grew.

After it began to burn out, the march started to move again. The group wasn’t half as large as some anti-Trump demonstrations that brought out thousands only a few weeks ago. In a fashion typical of Philadelphia Police, the march was followed by dozens of squad cars and at least two police helicopters, and surrounded on either side by bike cops who seemed to outnumber participants by at least two to one. The strategy for policing mass mobilizations in Philadelphia is heavily influenced by former Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey; usually, the police avoid making arrests, while oversaturating the area with officers. This approach is informed by the “Vancouver Model” as outlined in the police manual Managing Major Events: Best Practices from the Field by the Police Executive Research Forum.

As soon as we neared Temple University, the march became confrontational. Those with megaphones tried to rush into the campus dining hall. Uniformed officers tripped over each other as they hurried to block the entrance and exits, using their bikes to shove people who stood in their way. They formed a line in front of the doors with their bikes as blockades.

Someone noticed a Bank of America across the street and everyone rushed in that direction. Only one officer stood guard before all the shielded protestors formed their own line at the entrance. Bike cops rushed over, clumsily tripping over each other again as they scrambled to catch up with the crowd. A scuffle broke out. Someone threw black paint over the bank window and perhaps an officer or two. Cops extended their batons. Shielded protesters stood their ground and moved forward, chanting “Kill the Rich.” Police pepper-sprayed a large portion of the crowd, then began swinging their batons and hitting many people. Four arrests took place. There was an unsuccessful attempt to de-arrest someone. I saw at least one person bleeding from the head after being hit by police. Street medics took care to help flush the pepper spray out of the eyes of those struck.

All the local news media outlets that covered this event reported that protestors pepper-sprayed the police and that police were hospitalized with injuries. No one I spoke with has witnessed anything other than the police pepper-spraying protestors. One person’s account is as follows: “Here’s what happened. We wanted to get inside Bank of America. A bunch of cops started beating people up with bikes and batons because they care more about capitalist institutions than people. One of them started spraying us with pepper spray. I got it in my eyes. The cops started shouting to their own guy, “Who’s spraying? Stop spraying!” Now, in order to cover up their incompetence, the press is implying that we were the ones who injured them.”

Six more people were arrested outside the precinct the next day while doing jail support. It took over 24 hours before everyone was released. The Up Against the Law Legal Collective worked nonstop to find out where everyone was being held and when they would be eligible for bail, while the local Food Not Bombs chapter fed the gathering crowd of people expressing support outside the jail. The charges being filed against the arrestees are outlandish, but we plan to fight the system with solidarity.

The courts and the police want us to feel scared and isolated. As long as we have each other’s backs in the mounting resistance to come, we can win. And we will win.

What Would It Take to Stop the Raids? Responding Effectively to the ICE Attacks

Over the past week, nearly 700 people have been rounded up in a wave of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sweeps across the US. In response, people have blockaded roads and ICE vans and organized massive demonstrations. But what would it take to stop the raids altogether?

The Assault

In some parts of the US, the ICE assault involved brutal militarized raids in which officers smashed windows and set off flashbang grenades inside residential homes. In other places, everything happened so quietly as to go virtually unnoticed: here a bureaucratic change in the status of a prisoner, there the transfer into indefinite detention of an arrestee who was about to be released.

The raids come on the heels of a set of executive orders from the Trump administration threatening millions of people across the United States. These orders aim to deputize police as immigration officials, to build up massive prison infrastructure, and to target entire communities for harassment, detention, and deportation. The idea is clearly to give police and government officials sweeping powers to terrorize an entire community.

Debate has centered on whether these raids represent Trump’s new program or the continuation of ICE policy under Obama. Obama’s administration deported 2.7 million people, more than the US deported throughout the entire 20th century. David Ward, the Director of the National Association of Former Border Patrol Agents, has stated that the current wave of raids were “probably planned at least three or four months ago, under the Obama administration, and finally launched under the Trump administration.”

Yet the Trump administration intends to open a new chapter in the criminalization of immigrants. Trump has appointed a white nationalist from the anti-immigrant group FAIR to head US Customs and Border Protection. The white nationalist wing of the regime, represented by Steve Bannon, intends to follow through on Trump’s campaign promises to build a billion-dollar wall along the Mexican border and carry out mass deportations.

The Obama administration took a neoliberal approach to mass deportations, using them to disrupt immigrant labor organizing while leaving enough undocumented people in the country to provide a cheap labor force to boost corporate profits. The Trump administration is taking a nationalist approach, gambling that it is more important for white people and US citizens to preserve their comparative status relative to people of color and non-citizens than it is to preserve the functioning of the economy. An administration that is prepared to risk economic collapse to carry out its scapegoating is prepared to put up with a little outcry and protest as well.

The Response

Ever since the election, people have been organizing emergency hotlines, rapid response networks, and know-your-rights trainings. As soon as the raids took place, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Baltimore and Milwaukee, while confrontational protesters blocked a freeway onramp in Los Angeles. In Austin and Phoenix, people shut down streets and blocked ICE vans. On Thursday, February 16, thousands of people participated in massive school walkouts, marches, and demonstrations against the raids under the banner #DayWithoutImmigrants.

All of these actions are important. Together, they create an atmosphere of opposition to Trump’s agenda and a space in which his opponents can find each other. Yet a largely symbolic reprise of the demonstrations of May Day 2006 will not suffice to halt the raids and deportations. The Trump administration is not concerned about expressions of disapproval; protests only make him more popular with his support base. It is necessary to move from protest to resistance.

Likewise, reactive and piecemeal efforts such as blocking ICE vans might interrupt a deportation or two, but they are not going to stop the regime. Certainly, these efforts are disruptive and set a precedent for responding immediately; they demonstrate considerable courage, and they inspire courage as well. But in most cases, they will not be quick enough or forceful enough to save the people who are being wrested from their families.

Applying the logic that made the protests against the Muslim Ban so effective, we see that what is lacking is a widely accessible point of intervention that provides direct leverage on the infrastructure with which these raids are being carried out. People need a pressure point, a place that they can converge to go on the offensive.

But what might that pressure point be? There are several possibilities. ICE maintains offices all around the United States. It is similarly easy to find the detention facilities they utilize. If word got out that protesters were massing around these and interfering with their operations, a great number of people around the country would likely follow suit. If this spread far enough, it could create a political crisis within the state.

Mind you, this is not an endorsement of any particular strategy. Many people surely consider it perfectly legitimate to sit on their hands while millions are rounded up and deported or imprisoned. That likely includes many good liberals who did not object to this under Obama but will be pleased with themselves for having registered their dissent under Trump. “First they came for the immigrants…”

The point is simply that—to paraphrase Utah Phillips—our neighbors and coworkers are not vanishing, they are being disappeared, and the institutions responsible for this have names and addresses.

“And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?… The Organs would quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin’s thirst, the cursed machine would have ground to a halt! If… if… We didn’t love freedom enough. And even more—we had no awareness of the real situation… We purely and simply deserved everything that happened afterward.”

–Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

War is Already Here It’s Just Not Very Evenly Distributed

“The future is already here,” Cyberpunk pioneer William Gibson once said; “it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Over the intervening decades, many people have repurposed that quote to suit their needs. Today, in that tradition, we might refine it thus: War is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.

Never again will the battlefield be just state versus state; it hasn’t been for some time. Nor are we seeing simple conflicts that pit a state versus a unitary insurgent that aspires to statehood. Today’s wars feature belligerents of all shapes and sizes: states (allied and non-allied), religious zealots (with or without a state), local and expatriate insurgents, loyalists to former or failing or neighboring regimes, individuals with a political mission or personal agenda, and agents of chaos who benefit from the instability of war itself. Anyone or any group of any size can go to war.

The increased accessibility of the technology of disruption and war1 means the barrier to entry is getting lower all the time. The structure of future wars will sometimes feel familiar, as men with guns murder children and bombs level entire neighborhoods—but it will take new forms, too. Combatants will manipulate markets and devalue currencies. Websites will be subject to DDoS attacks and disabling—both by adversaries and by ruling governments. Infrastructure and services like hospitals, banks, transit systems, and HVAC systems will all be vulnerable to attacks and interruptions.

In this chaotic world, in which new and increasing threats ceaselessly menace our freedom, technology has become an essential battlefield. Here at the CrimethInc. technology desk, we will intervene in the discourse and distribution of technological know-how in hopes of enabling readers like you to defend and expand your autonomy. Let’s take a glance at the terrain.

Privacy

Temporary internet stream tahrir square

The NSA listens to, reads, and records everything that happens on the internet.

Amazon, Google, and Apple are always listening2 and sending some amount3 of what they hear back to their corporate data centers4. Cops want that data. Uber, Lyft, Waze, Tesla, Apple, Google, and Facebook know your whereabouts and your movements all of the time. Employees spy on users.

Police5 want access to the contents of your phone, computer, and social media accounts—whether you’re a suspected criminal, a dissident on a watch list, or an ex-wife.

The business model of most tech companies is surveillance capitalism. Companies learn everything possible about you when you use their free app or website, then sell your data to governments, police, and advertisers. There’s even a company named Palantir, after the crystal ball in The Lord of the Rings that the wizard Saruman used to gaze upon Mordor—through which Mordor gazed into Saruman and corrupted him.6 Nietzsche’s famous quote, “When you look long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you,” now sounds like a double transcription error: surely he didn’t mean abyss, but app.

Security

Heat map of a massive DDoS attack on a DNS provider that disabled several major websites

Self-replicating malware spreads across Internet of Things (IoT) devices like “smart” light bulbs and nanny cams, conscripting them into massive botnets. The people who remotely control the malware then use these light bulbs and security cameras to launch debilitating DDoS7 attacks against DNS providers, reporters, and entire countries.

Hackers use ransomware to hold colleges, hospitals, and transit systems hostage. Everything leaks, from nude photos on celebrities’ phones to the emails of US political parties.

Capital

21st century robber barons at Trump’s tech summit, December 14, 2017

Eight billionaires combined own as much wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population. Four of those eight billionaires are tech company founders.8 Recently, the President of the United States gathered a group of executives to increase collaboration between the tech industry and the government.9

The tech industry in general, and the Silicon Valley in particular, has a disproportionately large cultural influence. The tech industry is fundamentally tied to liberalism and therefore to capitalism. Even the most left-leaning technologists aren’t interested in addressing the drawbacks of the social order that has concentrated so much power in their hands.10

War

Programming: war by other means.

Nation states are already engaging in cyber warfare. Someone somewhere11 has been learning how to take down the internet.

Tech companies are best positioned to create a registry of Muslims and other targeted groups. Even if George W. Bush and Barack Obama hadn’t already created such lists and deported millions of people, if Donald Trump (or any president) wanted to create a registry for roundups and deportations, all he’d have to do is go to Facebook. Facebook knows everything about you.

The Obama administration built the largest surveillance infrastructure ever—Donald Trump’s administration just inherited it. Liberal democracies and fascist autocracies share the same love affair with surveillance. As liberalism collapses, the rise of autocracy coincides with the greatest technical capacity for spying in history, with the least cost or effort. It’s a perfect storm.


This brief overview doesn’t even mention artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), robots, the venture capital system, or tech billionaires who think they can live forever with transfusions of the blood of young people.

Here at the tech desk, we’ll examine technology and its effects from an anarchist perspective. We’ll publish accessible guides and overviews on topics like encryption, operational security, and how to strengthen your defenses for everyday life and street battles. We’ll zoom out to explore the relation between technology, the state, and capitalism—and a whole lot more. Stay tuned.

If you have a story to tell or a skill to teach, get in touch.

Welcome.

  1. A surplus of AK-47s. Tanks left behind by U.S. military. Malware infected networked computer transformed into DDoS botnets. Off the shelf ready to execute scripts to attack servers. 

  2. Amazon Echo / Alexa. Google with Google Home. Apple with Siri. Hey Siri, start playing music. 

  3. What, how much, stored for how long, and accessible by whom are all unknown to the people using those services. 

  4. Unless you are a very large company, “data center” means someone else’s computer sitting in someone else’s building. 

  5. Local beat cops and police chiefs, TSA, Border Patrol, FBI… all the fuckers. 

  6. Expect to read more about Palantir and others in a forthcoming article about surveillance capitalism. 

  7. Distributed Denial of Service. More on this in a later article, as well. 

  8. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison. In fact, if you count Michael Bloomberg as a technology company, that makes five. 

  9. In attendance: Eric Trump. Brad Smith, Microsoft president and chief legal officer. Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO. Larry Page, Google founder and Alphabet CEO. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO. Mike Pence. Donald Trump. Peter Thiel, venture capitalist. Tim Cook, Apple CEO. Safra Catz, Oracle CEO. Elon Musk, Tesla CEO. Gary Cohn, Goldman Sachs president and Trump’s chief economic adviser. Wilbur Ross, Trump’s commerce secretary pick. Stephen Miller, senior policy adviser. Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. Ginni Rometty, IBM CEO. Chuck Robbins, Cisco CEO. Jared Kushner, investor and Trump’s son-in-law. Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee and White House chief of staff. Steve Bannon, chief strategist to Trump. Eric Schmidt, Alphabet president. Alex Karp, Palantir CEO. Brian Krzanich, Intel CEO. 

  10. We’ll explore this more in a later article about “The California Ideology.” 

  11. Probably a state-level actor such as Russia or China. 

Take the Offensive:Moving from Protest to Resistance

It’s time to strategize. Is it more realistic to set out to overturn the Muslim ban, halt further construction of the border wall, help our friends and loved ones evade ICE roundups, stop the DAPL and Keystone XL, protect our drinking water, slow down global warming, tame the financial sector and stop the police from killing people and defend abortion access—or to take down the government itself? Should we fight a thousand defensive battles—or a single offensive one?

In less than four weeks, the Trump administration has accomplished something that American radicals haven’t been able to do for almost 250 years: it has convinced the majority of the American people that the government is a public menace. Trump and his cronies have picked fights with Black people, Latinos and Latinas, Native Americans, Muslims, immigrants, feminists, environmentalists, radicals, progressives, liberals, and a swath of federal, state, and municipal employees—in short, with the better part of the population. For good measure, they appear to be trying to provoke a major terrorist attack in the United States in hopes that it would shore up their dubious mandate. Undoubtedly, I’m forgetting something. It’s been an eventful month.

Furthermore, the administration has antagonized the CIA, the NSA, and the Mexican and Chinese governments; aligned itself with Russia to such an extent as to create national security scandals; and threatened to upset the entire post-Cold War global order. On the public relations side, it is making up fantastic stories out of thin air and has randomly gone to war with CNN.

Consequently, the American corporate, political, industrial, financial, media, military, and intelligence elites are at cross purposes, deeply divided among themselves. Some factions are betting that neo-fascism is the wave of the future and that it will be good for business. Other factions would prefer to return to business as usual. Given the events of the last twenty-five days, it seems possible that the administration will overstep its authority and bring about a constitutional crisis at some point over the next four years, if not sooner. If such a “crisis of legitimacy” does develop, it is likely that the latter factions of the ruling class would prefer regime change to dictatorship.

I hate to resort to Game of Thrones references, but Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are acting the parts of Cersei Lannister and Maester Qyburn respectively: not only are they playing with fire, oblivious to the dragons circling on the horizon, but they consider themselves to be very clever.

If this is really how the administration wants to do things, they can bring it on. White conservatives and a small number of web-based reactionary activists versus people of color, white liberals, a seasoned cadre of radicals and progressives, and the vast majority of Millennials? Let’s do this. They may have more guns, but we definitely have more numbers. Home team bats last.

Trump and Bannon have had a few weeks to push people around. In doing so, they’ve backed themselves into a corner and alienated over half of the country. Now, it’s time to do like our grandparents taught us and punch these bullies in the face. Here are a few suggestions for how to do so—and what comes next.

Protest Won’t Change Anything—Resistance Will

Protest is so 2003, people. Resistance is the new black. It is all well and good for thousands or even millions of people to assemble in the street. However, doing so accomplishes nothing in and of itself, as many of us bitterly remember from the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq fourteen years ago. On the other hand, gathering at times and places where our presence impacts the day-to-day operations of essential infrastructure can accomplish a great deal, as many of us remember fondly from the airport occupations two weeks ago. This is the difference between symbolic protest and direct action, which anarchists have been pointing out for upwards of 150 years. Less protest, more action, please.

Seriously, there is no point in pleading with this government or registering our opposition to its policies. They truly could not care less what we think. We need to make it impossible for them to govern. We can do this. For the moment, it may be enough to simply start picking targets to shut down, sending out calls over Twitter, seeing how many people show up, and taking it from there. I think that the airport actions were the right idea—we just need to apply that model to some part of the government itself.

Take the Offensive

They always say that the best defense is a good offense, and it did just work out that way for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. The Trump administration is trying to send us scrambling in a thousand different directions at once. It’s a trap. They hope to prevent us from capitalizing on the fact that their government is out of step with the values and desires of most American people and holds questionable legitimacy in the eyes of millions.

It is true that many of us have to stay focused on solidarity work, mutual aid, and self-defense. There’s no way around that. However, the time has come to ask ourselves: under an extremely hostile administration, is it more realistic to set out to overturn the Muslim ban and halt further construction of the border wall, help our friends and loved ones evade ICE roundups and stay out of prison, stop the DAPL and Keystone XL, protect our drinking water and slow down global warming, tame the financial sector and stop the police from killing people and defend abortion access all at the same time—or to take down the government itself?

We may find that the only way to prevent everything from getting drastically worse is by going all in on revolution.

Tap the Powers of Millions

Huge segments of society are angry and afraid, full of fresh ideas and energy, open to radical perspectives, paying attention, well informed, struggling to survive, and ready to fight. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life.

Resistance to the Trump regime will succeed or fail depending on how effective we are at finding each other and making the most of our various strengths. We need great numbers of people to participate if we are going to prevail. No crack team of specialized activists can do this on their own. No judge or politician is going to set things right. Nobody can save us but ourselves. That should be more than enough.

Three Possible Futures

Suppose, then, that there is a crisis of legitimacy ahead for Trump. What are the likely scenarios, and how do we prepare? Let’s look ahead a little further since things have been happening so fast lately.

The most likely possibility is still that the Deep State (as represented by entrenched elements in the CIA, the neoconservatives in the Republican Party, etc.) will manage to rein Trump in somehow, permitting him to carry out the ordinary racist aspects of his program but preventing him from going overboard with economic protectionism, haphazard foreign policy, and collusion with Russia. Repression will keep pace with escalating social tensions as the law-abiding Left sells out protest movements in return for another shot at state power. In this scenario, we lose, Steve Bannon and the white nationalists lose, and the Deep State wins, stabilizing capitalism for another four years or more.

Those losses would be temporary, however—throughout such an administration, anarchists would compete with white nationalists for the allegiance of increasingly disillusioned sectors of the Left and Right. In such a scenario, it should be possible to make the case to white working people that the bankers and businessmen have bamboozled them once again by getting them to back Trump.

It is less likely—but possible—that Trump will face a real crisis of legitimacy. In this case, protest movements will rise to a boil, forcing the Deep State to choose between Trump’s presidency and the stability of the state itself. If the Deep State steps in to depose Trump, whether covertly or overtly, real social change may be on the table—but only if the momentum that drives events is coming from below, beyond the control of any party with a stake in state power. In this scenario, Steve Bannon and the white nationalists lose—at least temporarily—and we duke it out with the Deep State.

This scenario involves tremendous risks. Remember, this is basically what happened in Egypt in 2013 when the Egyptian military deposed Morsi and installed the strongman al-Sisi in his place—effectively bringing the so-called Arab Spring to a close and re-stabilizing totalitarianism in the Middle East. If we count on elements in the government to take care of the situation, they will do whatever they have to do to sideline or suppress radical activity—and people will look to the state to solve their problems for another full generation or more. On the other hand, if we proceed into open battle with the Deep State in conditions of upheaval, we had better have a great deal of the population behind us, and we had better do so in a way that doesn’t leave any space for white nationalists to regain their footing in opposition movements while we are reeling from repression.

Finally, it is possible that there will be a crisis of legitimacy but Trump will come out on top, using it to purge the opposition and wipe out protest movements. In this case, Steve Bannon and the white nationalists will win and everyone else will lose. This seems to be the least likely scenario—but most of us were surprised by Trump’s victory, too. In this case, it will be possible for Bannon and his ilk to portray anarchists as tools of the Deep State at precisely the same time as they are able to silence us with repression.

Reviewing these possibilities, a few things become clear. It is essential to organize in a way that distinguishes us from all state actors and leaves no space for the state to regain legitimacy; antifascism must mean opposition to the state itself, lest we topple Trump only to pave the way for an equally authoritarian regime. The sooner a crisis comes, the better, before Trump, the Deep State, and the Democratic opposition have the chance to get their feet under them; at the same time, we have considerable work to do making our proposals comprehensible to the general public. Last but not least, if regime change takes place, the momentum must come from the streets, not from within the halls of power. As usual, we’ll get out of revolution what we put into it, nothing more.

In any case, our work is cut out for us and the stakes are double or nothing. We’ll see you at the front.