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No Borders Camp: Unpolished Notes on a Glorious Week for Anarcho-Liberalism
by -
Monday Dec 3rd, 2007 8:43 PM
What in the world is happening? When did anarchists stop being anarchists? Maybe sometime in the last 8 years, the effort to generalize anarchist ideas started to mean fusing liberal and third-worldist tendencies with the beauty of self-organization, mutual aid, and attack.
No Borders Camp: Unpolished Notes on a Glorious Week for Anarcho-Liberalism

What in the world is happening? When did anarchists stop being anarchists? Maybe sometime in the last 8 years, the effort to generalize anarchist ideas started to mean fusing liberal and third-worldist tendencies with the beauty of self-organization, mutual aid, and attack.

We would like to hope that the activities of the No Borders Camp in Calexico/Mexicali and the trajectory its American organizers* ferried everyone on is an anomaly to today’s anarchist current in the U.S. and is either particular to the American Southwest or to a certain scene within the Southwest.

Being Midwesterners with little contact with folks in the Southwest, we didn’t know what to expect other than what was broadcast in the Camp’s own propaganda and preliminary workshops: fury at the murderous border policies, an emphasis on “days of action, not a conference,” an emphasis on the establishment of one bi-national camp, strong references to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the great Woomera escape, and, well, direct action.

Every day, there were 3 general meetings, 5 or 6 various sub-meetings (toilets, media, security, etc.), 1 or so spokes-council meetings, and, when warranted, a general pre-action meeting. Meetings about when to have meetings, marathon meetings about mundane details of housekeeping, meetings about what to tell self-appointed negotiators to tell the authorities, meetings that spent half of the time telling people the proper etiquette required to participate in meetings, and even the meetings that were warranted degenerated into what restrictions to impose on others at demonstrations. The tyranny of formalized consensus process reigned; blocking consensus meant instant alienation, marginalization, and vilification, as the organizing block of 10-12 people and their 20 or so additional friends always stepped in to defend each other on even the most reformist ideas- which became alarmingly frequent. It was a process which some of us came to mockingly, but quite seriously, call “direct bureaucracy” instead of the self-label of “direct democracy.”

We recall, with a bit of nostalgia, the days of meeting for a purpose: how to blockade the city, what to bring to disrupt business, what time to push towards a hotel, where to break off, how to leave a pen en masse, etc. – matters of urgency to open possibilities, not bottle them up in a suffocating framework of ritualized process. How most people passively tolerated the bullshit of the camp’s organization is scary and baffling.

Wanting to please the border police, those responsible for innumerable deaths in the desert (the same deaths that drove many of us to the camp) and who surrounded us with the weapons of brutality and surveillance, is a completely indefensible attitude for self-proclaimed anarchists. “They are happy with what we are doing,” relayed a legal observer (who had just met with a higher-up in the Border Patrol) to a general meeting. We watched with astonishment as people clapped and congratulated themselves. She continued, “They said, ‘We won’t take any action against you as long as nobody harms an agent, the wall isn’t damaged, and nobody crosses in from Mexico,’” i.e., every healthy impulse for anyone wanting a free society without borders.

In the days before the camp, a Calexico police officer, returning from riot police training exercises in preparation for the Camp, ran a stop sign and died. The first day of the Camp, organizers stressed everyone should be sensitive to the situation because “the police officer came from the community.”** Maybe if we were trying to build a world with nicer police and more humane policies, this would be understood. But we want a world without borders and cops, and if we are going to get there, the last thing we need to be doing is apologizing for their existence. Throughout the week, all instances of confrontation were met with cries of “Deescalate!” and even accusations of “ableist, hetero-normative, white, male privilege”*** when people were confronting institutions that enforce repression and exploitation- namely the ICE Detention Center and the Border Patrol. Upon leaving the camp and cleaning up, a most insulting action was taken: to move the brush barricades back into the neat piles like we found them, so the BP would have less work to do! And all this before most people had left the camp and thus were no longer protected by the barrier from a BP attack.

We needed no negotiations to take the camp and no negotiations other than rocks from Mexico to extend the camp. It was just understood: We want something. We take it. We defend it. Then why oh why from that point forward did everything we want have to be told to the authorities beforehand via self-appointed negotiators?**** The most disquieting moment of negotiations and mass psychosis occurred in the preparation for a joint bi-national meeting(!). Negotiators sent themselves to negotiate more space along the gated barrier for everyone to meet in. They reported back that the BP agreed to cede 6 feet if we agreed not to vandalize their vehicles as had happened during the previous morning’s standoff. The negotiator then said that that means monitoring each other to make sure that doesn’t happen again (read: police each other for the police)! No one groaned or batted an eye for any of this announcement. A short time later, another negotiator announced that the BP would like to know if anyone had put anything in the gas tank of one of the vandalized jeeps so they would know to not drive it. At least outwardly, no one thought it disturbing for a negotiator to be a police spokesperson and few felt comfortable to chuckle aloud at the ridiculous request. What is going on?

One who is fed up with a society of confinement and its alarming growth and normalization of prisons would expect to find friends and accomplices at an anarchist demonstration against a detention facility (or to at least shake the walls of the prison without interference from other demonstrators). Not the case! Only a dozen or so participated in the dismantling of a section of the fence, paint-bombing, graffiti, and the near toppling of a large gate into the facility, while a crowd of 100-150 simply danced around the facility and in some cases lambasted those taking direct action with virulent diatribes of pacifism and again, accusations of privilege from the vaults of anti-oppression politics. It’s also worth noting that more people were taking photos and videos than acting against the facility. And strangely, most of these images never surfaced in the following days. Which leads us to…

The only actions worth broadcasting to the rest of the world were those of the repressive forces. Upon escaping from the police attack and subsequent hunt, we ran back to our cars. Eight of us and only 2 people with cars, one of whom was an organizer milling around, infatuated with calling the mainstream media while the rest of us begged him to get in his car and drive us out of the area. Finally he caved. When we got to a safe space, he again launched into a frenzy telling people to get the media’s contact info and call them. But those of us with our heads screwed on straight were more concerned about calling our friends to make sure they were safe. And in the following days, we dug through media reports (mainstream and independent) and the camp’s website. BP attack, BP attack, BP attack. Little to nothing about our initiatives, our attacks: the rocks hurled by the Mexican side at the BP on the first day, the actions at the detention facility, the hole pried open in the fence on the last day, the Mexican side throwing whatever they could over the fence at the BP after the attack*****, the vandalized jeeps, even the immense stretch of border wall covered with paint.******

Always victims, never actors creating our own destiny.

We are filled with utter confusion at how an anarchist movement, once strong and complex, has regressed so shamefully.


* Spending all of our time on the Calexico side, we cannot speak to those who spearheaded the effort on the Mexican side.

** What community? What does community mean in a world of social control and dispossession?

*** Funny how this verbal tirade wasn’t launched against the Mexican side for stockpiling rocks and bottles, or for throwing rocks at the BP on the first day, or for throwing everything they could at the BP on the last day.

**** At one point we even witnessed an organizer hop the barricades to ask the BP if we could build a fire, and then accept no for an answer. Fortunately, the next night, cold people did as they pleased.

***** Apparently, many Americans who had crossed over to march with the Mexican side on the last day were screaming for those trying to slow the BP’s attack on their comrades with rocks and bottles to stop “escalating” the situation.

****** The occupation of the camp itself was the only openly celebrated action, and this seemed largely to be the planning work of two years(!) by the organizing core- an action completely within the confines of the organizers’ blueprint.
LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
anarcho-liberals....talk can be cheapFriday Dec 7th, 2007 12:57 PM
you're right!nobodyFriday Dec 7th, 2007 12:49 AM
anarcho-liberals....talk is cheapThursday Dec 6th, 2007 9:36 PM
well, I liked the article@Thursday Dec 6th, 2007 1:45 PM
dear abnarch@lazinessmThursday Dec 6th, 2007 12:03 PM
anarc@laziness?..Thursday Dec 6th, 2007 2:40 AM
Healthy ImpulseKim SkyWednesday Dec 5th, 2007 6:36 PM
gret articleyet another anarchist wanting moreWednesday Dec 5th, 2007 4:02 PM
What a jokeNot an anarchist, sorry.Wednesday Dec 5th, 2007 7:47 AM
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