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Ramparts: A Barricade Forum – Barricade

Call for Submissions Issue #5 — Deadline Oct 15, 2022

Marionette control bar,with clipping path

In 1910, women’s rights and labor activist Helen Todd declared that bread—“which is home, shelter, and security”—is just as necessary to life as roses—“music, education, nature and books.” The slogan “Bread and Roses” immediately became a rallying cry for a successful textile workers’ strike in Massachusetts in 1912, before going on to have a career in song and strike actions far beyond this moment.

The table and the imagination: the one inconceivable without the other.

Barricade wants to publish your translations of this and like-minded demands, from all places and times where the forces of capital and reaction have sought to separate them.

Issue #5 will emphasize poetic voices raised in protest, from song lyrics to epic narrations, to aphorisms, to word art. While poetry will be our focus, we will still also consider prose submissions.

See our Submissions page for details on how to submit your translation manuscript. Deadline for the present call: October 15, 2022.

Notes on Imperialism and Painting, in condemnation of the invasion of Ukraine

George W. Bush, Vladimir Putin, 2013, oil on board, 20×18

Barricade stands in solidarity with the people of Russia and Ukraine who have become unwitting victims of a totally indefensible war initiated by Russian president Vladimir Putin and his oligarchic administration, a crisis that has, in a matter of weeks, led to the displacement of millions of ordinary citizens, driven Europe to the brink of another major refugee crisis, and resulted in thousands of military and civilian casualties. Putin’s attack—alongside his refusal to acknowledge Ukraine as a legitimate state with a democratically elected government—is not just territorial but ethnic and is fueled by a misplaced nostalgia about a purportedly glorious Soviet past. We at Barricade condemn this invasion of a sovereign state by a foreign dictator that has resulted in the destruction of thousands of human lives and livelihoods.

But even as we denounce Putin’s war on Ukraine and his escalating rhetoric around nuclear weapons, we also want to call out the double standards of the United States and mainstream Western media for their convenient elision of the West’s own complicity in the crisis, especially its involvement in NATO’s capital-driven expansionist policies. We express our solidarity for the working people of both countries and mark our protest not only against the war initiated by Putin but also the global neoliberal network founded on an economy of extraction and the maximization of profits. We believe that a war is inseparable from the way we tell the story of the war, and that the US’ (justified) denunciation of Putin also serves to conceal the equally egregious sovereign-territorial invasions the US has made this century, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan in the guise of a “war on terror,” but in erstwhile Yugoslavia as well in 1999 in total disregard of the UN Charter. The current crisis should, therefore, not make us forget the fact that the US and its allies have on several occasions used force to invade and interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, undermined their territorial independence, and brought about regime changes to suit its own geopolitical needs—and that the effects of these actions reverberate and are amplified in hardly unforeseeable dimensions, causing more death, impoverishment, despair, and further conflict, long after such “operations” are “accomplished.”  

Excursus on the artist and his art
To illustrate the risk of the ease with which US imperial war crimes can be and have been elided or painted over by emerging geopolitical crises—not to mention by our national desire to obfuscate and forget—former president George W. Bush has gifted us a remarkable example. Since retiring from political life, Bush has—like another wartime leader before him, Winston Churchill—taken up painting. Unlike Churchill, who waxed romantic in a famous essay on the pleasures of plein air painting, Bush’s paintings are primarily portraits. Yet not unlike Churchill, whose essay explicitly analogizes the (ostensibly) purposeless activity of art-making with the (overtly) purposive activity of war-making, Bush’s paintings serve an implicit political function. Adam Taylor of the Washington Post wrote in 2014 of Bush’s portrait of Putin: “it is a really good painting aesthetically.” While it’s tempting to sneer at a foreign policy reporter’s aesthetic judgments—and tempting, but less so, to recall that “Hitler was actually a kinda good artist”—what’s more telling is that this comment is smuggled in between parentheses. For this is how revision and rehabilitation of the narrative begins. Matt Saunders, writing also in 2014, but for Artforum—a venue in which one might reasonably expect to encounter credible aesthetic judgments—describes a certain “haplessness” in the painter’s hand: “he moves the paint with carefree gumption.” And yet, Saunders foregoes the opportunity to analogize Bush’s hapless way of moving paint with his hapless art of war or with his carefree gumption in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan, prompting instead: “The ex-president defines himself as a painter, but do we define him as an artist?” We at Barricade would like to suggest that the portrait is very often just as much of the artist as it is of the sitter.

The Alt-Right Name Game

Given their fixation on a very particular conception of “tradition,” it should come as no surprise that participants in the alt-right and other closely related movements have regularly adopted language that connects them with figures from the past whose personal mythologies appear useful for their movements’ ends. One manifestation of that is in the very names that participants choose when they want to obscure or alter their identities.

Continue reading “The Alt-Right Name Game”

On Borrowed Language and Historical Continuity on the Far Right

One moment from August 12, 2017 that was discussed repeatedly during the course of the Sines trial was the march by members of League of the South (LOS), the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), and the National Socialist Movement (NSM) – groups that formed a coalition known as the Nationalist Front (NF) – from a parking garage on Market Street in Charlottesville to what was then called Emancipation Park about two blocks away (the park was previously named Lee Park and has since been renamed once again as Market Street Park). The conflict that occurred when that particular bloc of far right demonstrators clashed with counter-protesters was one of the most dramatic and widely documented events in an already tense and tragic day.

A photo submitted as evidence in the Sines v. Kessler civil trial showing members of the Traditionalist Workers Party, League of the South, and National Socialist Movement facing counter-protesters on the east side of what was then called Emancipation park, August 12, 2017

The NF bloc clearly came prepared to fight: many members of LOS and TWP wore helmets and carried uniform police riot shields. A number of them also had flagpoles that quickly became weapons (a practice that was frequently discussed on message boards beforehand). That day in Charlottesville, there were also antifascists who brought helmets, shields, and sometimes flagpoles, but as the NF members approached the park, they were confronted by a line of people who were simply locking arms with little to nothing to protect them. This fact makes the footage of that moment all the more gut-wrenching to watch. Ultimately, the NF groups all made their way into the park.

Continue reading “On Borrowed Language and Historical Continuity on the Far Right”

The Sanctifying Language of the Alt-Right

In November 2016, Richard Spencer’s public profile took on a new degree of notoriety when The Atlantic released video of a speech he gave at the annual conference of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank then under Spencer’s leadership. The comment that yielded the most headlines came at the end when he cried out “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” as he raised a cocktail glass with a straight arm at a high angle to a cheering audience and at least a few Nazi salutes.

The phrase hail victory is, of course, historically linked to that gesture insofar as it is a translation of the German Sieg heil. That pairing of signs – one verbal and one corporeal – was also commonplace among alt-right participants. In a previously recorded deposition that was presented during the Sines trial, former Identity Evropa member Samantha Froelich was asked if she had heard “either Sieg heil or hail victory discussed within the alt-right.” She answered, “yes, at every social event I went to, that was said” and explained that it was associated with “the Roman or Nazi salute.” She even described a joke that was passed around among Identity Evropa members “where you would ask if you’ve seen my friend Kyle. ‘Did you see Kyle?’ Sieg heil? I hope you understand the wordplay here. And then you would do the Sieg heil and say, ‘Oh, he’s right over there’ and point your finger. ‘He’s about this tall’ [indicating a Nazi salute] and that was – that was the joke, is that you’re Sieg heil-ing in plain day.” Continue reading “The Sanctifying Language of the Alt-Right”

Sines v. Kessler: Using the Courtroom as a Public Platform

[The following is part of an ongoing series about Sines v. Kessler, the civil suit against many of the main organizers of the August 2017 Unite the Right (UTR) rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. For an overview of the suit’s objectives and its many defendants, please see the first post in the series here.]

Courtrooms have long been sites for grand ideological statements. Before he was sentenced to hang for the 1886 Haymarket bombing (despite a distinct lack of evidence against him and his co-defendants), August Spies renounced none of his beliefs and instructed the jury that “socialism, in short, seeks to establish a universal system of co-operation.” Before receiving a ten year prison sentence in 1918, Eugene V. Debs declared that “I ask no mercy. I plead for no immunity. I realize that finally the right must prevail. I never so clearly comprehended as now the great struggle between the powers of greed on the one hand and upon the other the rising hosts of freedom.”

As a venue, however, courtrooms are also available to actors with far less noble sentiments. For one example, a week and a half into the Sines v. Kessler trial, it is clear that defendant Christopher Cantwell intends to continuously take advantage of his status as a pro se defendant to bully witnesses in cross-examination, expound on his beliefs, and rehabilitate his tarnished image among his overtly fascist constituency.

The US Marshals Service has put up yellow tape around the federal courthouse in Charlottesville. Whether or not it’s a coincidence, co-defendant Chris Cantwell has been getting legal advice from fellow inmates who are in federal prison for planning to commit violence against a judge and a jury foreman. (Photo by the author)

By the time he went to prison last year for threats and extortion directed at neo-Nazi rivals, Cantwell had gone from being a popular movement podcaster in the days leading up to Unite the Right to virtual pariah status. The reason for his fall was not so much his aggression toward a fellow fascist or even the infamous teary rant that earned him the “Crying Nazi” nickname, but rather the fact that he had admitted publicly to being an informant for federal agents. Working for domestic intelligence services isn’t exactly uncharted territory among far right actors, but it nonetheless confers a treasonous stench that cannot easily be washed away (as Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio has been learning in recent months). Still, as a movement invested in gestures of hypermasculine dominance and obsessed with martyrdom, fascists often reward audacious displays, even when they are strategically ill-advised.

Jury Selection in the Unite the Right Civil Trial and the Limits of Legal Action

[The following is part of an ongoing series about Sines v. Kessler, the civil suit against many of the main organizers of the August 2017 Unite the Right (UTR) rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. For an overview of the suit’s objectives and its many defendants, please see the first post in the series here.]

After two and a half long days of questioning potential jurors, the jury in the federal civil suit Sines v. Kessler has finally been impaneled. The following are some notes about how the jury selection process played out in this case and some of the pitfalls of using the courts to pursue far right actors.

Continue reading “Jury Selection in the Unite the Right Civil Trial and the Limits of Legal Action”

Only here for so long: understanding what antifascist architecture could mean

By Alhelí Harvey

It’s a rainy morning in Austin, Texas. The kind of morning where the mugginess outside seems to creep in under the door, around the window frame, smothering the walls; it feels like a climatological manifestation of this state’s malice towards people. Anyone with a womb and without a wallet is a target, and anyone can be their bounty hunter. 1 Haitian migrants are literally stranded under a bridge, only to be brutalized by the Customs and Border Patrol; 2 this assemblage of goons on horses is the direct descendants of the Texas Rangers, one of the most openly racist police forces this “Empire of Maladies” has ever devised. 3  I tap a video on Instagram: “There was a fire last night…” and see that a stage in the center of a community that looks like a cross between a set from The Smurfs and a 1970s summer camp is a pile of ash. As the video presents the facts of the fire, we see that the community is a series of cabins (referred to as “cobbins”) under an overpass (US Interstate 880). This place is Cob on Wood– referring both to the earthen community space’s literal material and its location on Wood Street. It is as much makeshift as it is tactical: in the face of multiple failures by Oakland, California, and the country, unhoused residents and their collaborators created what has been described as an “eco-oasis” in under a year. 4

Cob on Wood has a health clinic, a hot shower, and a community kitchen. Residents make shelters on their own from a material that is both cheap and effective: cob, a weather-resistant mixture of soil, clay, sand, and straw. Similar to adobe, cob has been used all over the world and is highly durable. In many ways, the community is an example of architecture without architects. In one sense, Cob on Wood is a manifestation of a collective response to an urgent need for both housing and resources. The methods for its building came about through a collaborative process rarely seen in capital A- architecture. These details, while laudable and certainly inspiring models for different building approaches, just as easily point toward the inadequacy of architectural practices, understandings, and relationships as they are widely practiced by the trade and discipline itself.  Continue reading “Only here for so long: understanding what antifascist architecture could mean”

Notes on the Upcoming “Unite the Right” Civil Trial: A Guide to Who’s Involved and Why It Still Matters

It’s been over four years since the Unite the Right (UTR) rally in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11-12, 2017. Since January 6 of this year, those events astonishingly seem destined to be remembered as only the second-most infamous outbreak of mass violence during the Trump era. But if the storming of the US Capitol building is primarily remembered as an attack on institutions, norms, and ideas, UTR stands as a symbol of the visceral and often very personal fear and animosity that drives a great deal of far right activism.

Starting on October 25, the Western District of Virginia will commence the Sines v. Kessler civil trial against a number of the groups and individuals who, the plaintiffs contend, “conspired to plan, promote, and carry out the violent events in Charlottesville.” I plan to attend all or most of the trial and will be posting regular updates here. I was also on-site when UTR happened, so some commentary may be from personal recollection and not exclusively quoted from other sources.

UTR participants near the southwest corner of Emancipation Park on Aug. 12, 2017. James Fields is visible third from left holding a Vanguard America shield. (Photo by the author)

The four years of pretrial motions, arguments, briefs, and hearings leading up to this point have been extraordinarily chaotic and I plan to address some of those details at a later date. In the meantime, as a way of bringing readers up to speed, I’m going to use this introductory post to describe who the players are and just what the purpose of the trial is.

Continue reading “Notes on the Upcoming “Unite the Right” Civil Trial: A Guide to Who’s Involved and Why It Still Matters”

The Snail of the End and the Beginning

(Neoliberalism and Architecture or The Ethics of Searching vs. the Ethics of Destruction)

translated by Madeleine Collier

This essay, originally written by Subcomandante Marcos (Delegado Cero) in 1996, can be accessed in the original Spanish at the EZLN archives.

In the Lacandona jungle, in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, there is a deserted settlement surrounded by heavily armed military posts. The name of this abandoned town was Guadalupe Tepeyac. Its inhabitants, the indigenous Tojolabals, were forcefully expelled by the Mexican government in February 1995, when federal troops sought to assassinate the leadership of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation [EZLN]. 

However, it is not the painful exile of these indigenous peoples, who pay for their rebellion by living in the mountains, of which I will tell you. I want to tell you about an architectural work that was born at the edge of the then-vibrant Guadalupe Tepeyac, in July and August of 1994. Largely illiterate–the most educated among them have a third grade education–, the Tojolabal architects undertook, in 28 days, to build a structure capable of housing 10,000 seats for the event the Zapatistas called the National Democratic Convention. In honor of Mexican history, the Zapatistas named the meeting place Aguascalientes. 1 The gigantic gathering space had an auditorium for 10,000 seated attendees and an 100-member presidium, a library, a computer room, kitchens, sleeping quarters, and parking. It even, it is said, included an “area for staging attacks.”

Continue reading “The Snail of the End and the Beginning”