Saturday, October 06, 2012


A couple of years ago, I think, I read a book about how major natural disasters like big earthquakes are treated one way by the State and by Capital,  and a totally different way by working people.  Working people often rally and create new forms of organization and take care of each other.  The State decides there is danger of riots and the like and sends in the police/military.  It was an interesting read.  The book was 

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit

The piece below by Harry Cleaver is along those lines.  In the opening this work he writes, 

"'When the Chinese write "crisis", they use two characters, one of which means "danger" and one "opportunity". This expression points beyond the riskiness most people usually associate with crises to the new possibilities inherent in any moment of dramatic change."'

With that thought in mind, I present for Scission's Theoretical weekends the following (which as is so often the case is taken from libcom).

The uses of an earthquake - Harry Cleaver

When earthquakes, floods, droughts and volcanic eruptions strike where we live, they are usually considered instances of crisis and unmitigated natural disaster. Yet, recently I have had opportunities to witness how the meaning of crisis depends entirely on one's point of view.
The opportunities have come during two visits to Mexico City. The first visit was a month or so after the major earthquake of 1985 that brought widely reported death and destruction. The second was a follow-up visit seven months later. During the days and weeks following the quake, television and newsmagazine images of the anquished search for survivors, of mountainous rubble and of tent cities of the homeless had fully prepared me to find a flattened city and prostrate population.
Instead, I found a city with quite localized destruction and one in which at least part of the population was anything but prostrate. In dozens of the poorer barrios of Mexico City, the movement of the earth sparked movements of people using the devastation in property and the cracks opened in the structures of political power to break through oppressive social relations and to improve their lives.
* * *
When the Chinese write "crisis", they use two characters, one of which means "danger" and one "opportunity". This expression points beyond the riskiness most people usually associate with crises to the new possibilities inherent in any moment of dramatic change. The situation in Mexico City has shown just how perceptive this linguistic formulation really is. Not only were the dangers created by the quake extremely complex, but so too were the new opportunities created.
Less obvious than the physical hazards of the quake, but no less real, were the economic and political risks created by this sudden disruption of social order. For the government, the earthquake was one more unexpected crisis superimposed on the foreign debt crisis and on the social tension created by austerity policies aimed at generating foreign exchange to repay the debt. Between the onset of the debt crisis in the summer of 1982 and the quake in September of 1985, neither government officials nor outside commentators ever knew whether the next devaluation or price increase would be met with acceptance or with massive social upheaval. In this atmosphere the quake posed the immediate danger of overloading the government's already taut managerial resources, rendering it unable to cope with an increasingly frustrated and angry populace. This is just what happened.
For many poor people in Mexico City, the immediate physical dangers of the earthquake were also quickly superceded by complex legal and economic dangers. Although the media focused on the photogenic collapse of major highrise buildings, far more extensive, though harder to see, were the dangerous structural cracks in thousands of buildings, especially residential houses and apartment buildings. This kind of damage left the buildings standing but made them too dangerous to inhabit. The majority of people sheltered in tents and shanties had fled such damaged, but still standing housing.
When landlords and lawyers arrived on the scene the very day of the quake, the people in the community quickly realized that the greatest threat to them would come from these owners trying to take advantage of the situation by tearing down their homes and rebuilding more expensive, higher rent properties from which the former tenants would be excluded. This possibility loomed ominously because a great deal of the housing, especially that of the poor, had been regulated by rent control laws since at least 1948. As a result, thousands of families had been paying extremely low rents and for years landlords had made no contribution to the maintenance of the buildings. Demolition and rebuilding would allow such landlords to escape rent control by turning their former tenants out into the streets --permanently.
Anticipating such actions, thousands of tenants organized themselves and marched on the presidential palace demanding government expropriation of the damaged properties and their eventual sale to their current tenants. By taking the initiative while the governemnt was still paralysed, they successfully forced the seizure of some 7,000 properties. Although an even larger number of damaged homes remained unexpropriated, the popular mobilization and the potential for further government action undoubtedly prevented the eviction of many otherwise unprotected tenants. With remarkable acuity these militant poor had converted an eminent danger into a promising opportunity.
How was this possible? After three years of failure to resist austerity, how could the poor successfully push their case in this period of intensified crisis? The answer is two-fold: first, the earthquake caused a breakdown in both the administrative capacities and the authority of the government, second, the ability of these people to organize themselves grew out of a long history of autonomous struggle.
The breakdown of governmental authority is the easiest to understand. Many of the modern highrise buildings that collapsed were government office buildings and the destruction of both locales and records brought sizable sections of the bureaucracy to a standstill. Among those sections were the Ministries of Programming and Budget, the Treasury and Telecommunications. Furthermore, the destruction of highrises in central Mexico City involved the collapse of dominant symbols of the government's only claim to legitimacy --the centralized "modernization" bought with oil revenues, borrowed capital and continued poverty. The collapse of these symbols struck to the heart of the State's confidence in itself and in its policies.
While the government was still immobilized in shock, many communities moved into action. One of those, near the center of Mexico City, which over the years had developed a pratice, and indeed a reputation, for successful autonomous self-organization and militancy, is called Tepito.
* * *
A relatively small community by Mexico City standards, Tepito has only about 125,000 residents in a city of some 20 million. An old, stable community, Tepito's people have lived there for generations with little influx, or outflux, of resident population. There is little influx, except by marriage, because there is little room in this densely packed community. There is little outflux because people like it there. They like the way they live and are proud of their own history of community struggle which they trace all the way back to the days of the Spanish Conquest.
To me this sense of history was intriguing but sounded at first like so much "invented tradition". Colorful but unlikely. It was only later, during a visit to the Museo Archeologico that I discovered evidence that their claims are perhaps not so exagerated. There, on a wall in the Museum, is a large, transparent map of Pre-Columbian Mexico City superimposed on a modern map of the city. It is striking that Tepito stands today very close to the same ground as an ancient Aztec community called Tepiton. Perhaps there is more continuity in community traditions in Tepito than those outside want to admit.
However ancient its roots, Tepito survives today both within and underneath the official economy. On the surface, the work of many of its residents make Tepito the second largest producer of shoes in Mexico. They also produce clothing, stereo records, and many other goods. Complementing this artisanal production are a wide variety of service activities such as restaurants, auto repair and retailing. Underground, Tepito's residents make their living by smuggling and bootlegging. The community's enormous open air market is known throughout Mexico City as a source of FAYUCA, cheap foreign goods smuggled in to avoid high tariffs. Under the counter of many an open air stall selling shoes is often a well illustrated catalog of hi-fi equipment available for home delivery. Less well known, but freely discussed by many, are the bootleg producers who sew American and European designer labels on Mexican jeans, who repair old Mexican irons and then glue General Electric face plates on them, or who fill empty Parisian perfume bottles with cheap substitutes.
What is fascinating about this economy is not its underground component --fairly common everywhere these days-- but how little work it takes many people to make a living in it, and how much free time they have carved out to build a community around other kinds of activities. Although there are exceptions, such as shoe makers working long hours for outside capitalists at very low piece wages, the majority of the population seems able to earn enough income to live, more or less the way they would like, with as little as two to four hours of work a day on the average. These incredibly short working hours are affirmed by residents who explain that they are able to achieve this freedom from work partly by having all members of the family work (but only for a while) in the family workshop or street stall, and partly by choosing the lower income and free time that is produced by this pattern of life.
Combine such short hours with the kind of low earnings you might expect in a Mexican barrio and you get some idea of the relatively low "standard of living" which predominates in Tepito. (Again there are exceptions, such as smugglers who have made fortunes plying their trade.) It would seem an ideal verification of every conservative suspicion of the backward qualities of those in the underdeveloped Third World. They are poor because they want to be, because they won't work!
But "standard of living" is a slippery concept to say the least, however measured to the last peso by economists. What experience in the Third World has shown, and what the people in Tepito realize, is that hard work in the search for development via high personal income brings profitable results for only the successfull few and nothing but exhausted and wasted lives for the majority.
Instead, a great many Tepitenos (1) have chosen a very different approach to life and to development. By minimizing their work time they limit their individual earnings but they also create considerable quantities of disposable time both for enjoying life together and for self-organization and collective struggle for community-wide improvement. This is done quite consciously, with pride in choosing a life style based on doing things together rather than on possessing things individually. For many in the community these are simply the values of the traditional Mexican peasant community, transplanted to the city. Traditional values they consciously counterpose to those of modern Mexican capitalism.
While the Mexican economy as a whole has been plunged ever deeper into crisis during the last few years, two very interesting things have happened in Tepito. First, the underground economy has prospered as the official economy has stagnated. The daily devaluations that have driven up the price of legally imported goods have made Tepito's less expensive smuggled ones more attractive to consumers. Second, according to one social scientist who has been keeping track of such things, over this same period the number of street parties in Tepito has increased seven-fold.
This multiplication of street parties is symptomatic of a thriving and in some ways joyous community life. In Tepito life is very communal, not only in the sense of community self-organization, but also in the more basic sense that people spend a great deal of their time in the streets or in their VECINDADES: a unque housing arrangement with large central courtyards surrounded by small individual habitations. Homes are small not only because people cannot afford more space but also by choice. While they may sleep, work or make love in their small homes, they spend even more time socializing, cooking and eating together in the courtyards. There too the children play, protected by the old who sit watch at the entrances which lead from the VECINDADES to the street.
We need not romanticize (the community is by no means free of poverty or crime) to recognize how people have chosen a life rich with social interaction over one less poor in individual material wealth. Tepitenos enjoy telling stories of those "new rich" who have moved out to larger accommodations in wealthier middle class neighborhoods only to return not long after, starved for the community spirit they left behind.
One of the most important results of Tepito's approach to development has been its ability not only to defend its community integrity but to elaborate its own autonomous plans for self-development. The most important instance of defense was its ability to thwart government plans for its "renewal". When Candelaria de los Patos, a similar community not far away, was "renewed" the people of Tepito watched carefully. They saw its inhabitants swept away, scattered throughout the city; some even took refuge in Tepito. They then saw, rising from the bulldozed ruins of that community, a giant modern housing development: Nonoalco Tlatelolco, whose high rise apartments were quickly filled by members of Mexico's middle class. From this experience the Tepitenos concluded, correctly, that urban renewal meant the destruction of poor communities and their replacement with middle class ones --a familiar experience throughout North America.(2) So, when the government turned to Tepito and said, "OK, its your turn", they resisted, fiercely and with imagination.
From the history I was told, how they resisted governmental pressures was creative and resourceful. Drawing on the technical help of some young architects and urban planners from the Universidad Autonoma Metropolitana, they elaborated their own community development plan, submitted it in an international competition sponsored by UNESCO, and won! The resulting publicity and legitimacy made it impossible for the government to move in and evict them.
The proof and vindication of the wisdom of the people of Tepito came with the earthquake when highrise after highrise collapsed in nearby Tlatelolco. Thirty-six of the fifty-five apartment buildings were destroyed or rendered uninhabitable. Thousands were killed or left multilated and lost everything. At the same time, the older buildings in Tepito received much less damage and only five people were killed in the whole community.
Today the plan's physical model covers the whole wall of one community center. In the wake of the earthquake, the original architects, now professionals, are redrafting the detailed plans for several representative parts of the community, in consultation with the residents.
The government, of course, fiercely opposes this kind of autonomy. The hegemonic PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and its state, which have ruled Mexico for the last 50 years, can not passively tolerate such challange. They have tried for years to crush or subvert this autonomous self-organization, sometimes with violence, sometimes with cooptation. The people of Tepito are well aware of these efforts. What is remarkable is how they have successfully defeated the threat.
Besides collective physical resistance to the threat of violence, the most striking defense mechanism of Tepito is its chosen form of self- organization: informality and decentralization. Aware of the PRI's efforts to coopt what it cannot crush, Tepito not only has an incredibly diverse set of organizations but most are organized in a way that avoids cooptable power structures. Tepito is living proof that the absence of a strong organization does not necessarily mean the absence of strong organization. Every imaginable group, it seems, has organized itself in Tepito. Artisans (e.g., several different groups of shoemakers, auto repairers, clothing makers and bootleggers) have organized themselves along "industrial lines"; merchants have organized their own distribution and financial services by trade and by section of the community; in the streets lined with their stalls, the merchants have also organized their own police to fight shoplifting by those from outside the community; the inhabitants of the VECINDADES have created their own active groups and then linked up with other VECINDAD groups; artists have organized Tepito-Arte Aca, one of the longest lived artist organizations in the city of Mexico; those interested in rebuilding have organized architects and a community paper IL NERO (short for EL COMPANERO) (3) which has been published steadily for at least the last 14 years; and so on.
In all these cases organization is informal; there are no written rules, no presidents, no vice-presidents and no treasurers. In Tepito people speak of "leaders" rather than of heads of organizations. "Leaders", they say, are those who can get the things done that people want done. Leaders change, but the mechanisms of change are informal, the focus of discussion just shifts from some individuals to others. There is, in short, no hierarchy that can be bought off by the PRI, only individuals working together. Any decision that would seriously affect the community, or any section of it, has to be made through complex discussion and negotiation among the gamut of organizations with some interest in the matter. It is not only an effective defence mechanism, it is also an incredibly democratic, participatory form of organization.
The looseness of these diverse organizations, both in their internal workings and in their interactions would seem to imply great inefficiencies, tremendous lag times between the perception of a problem and its solution. The typical costs of democracy. And in truth this kind of organization does require a lot of time commitment, particularly considering that the different organizations cut across the community in many ways and a given individual is likely to take part in several different groups. But, as we have just seen, life in Tepito is organized in just such a way as to make time available for this complex political life. The extraordinary amount of time devoted to such public life is reminiscent of many periods of popular revolutionary upheaval when large numbers of ordinary men and women set aside unnecessary work to seize time for their own participation in the creation of a new political order.
Moreover, recent history has shown that far from being inefficient, this form of organization has allowed the people of Tepito to move quickly and effectively to help themselves in an emergency and to deal with a much more inefficient, partially paralysed government. Almost as soon as the aftershocks had ended, the Tepitenos had assessed the potential dangers posed by their landlords and moved to take preventive action. First, they built their shacks and pitched their tents immediately in front of their of their houses, where they could defend them, refusing government and relief agency suggestions to congregate in parks and parking lots, or even to leave the city. Second, in many of the hardest hit streets they set up block organizations to coordinate relief and self-protection from street thugs and from government goons trying to intimidate them and to take control. Third, within a week of the earthquake, they had met with representatives of over 150 other communities and autonomous organizations to form a Self- Help Network to facilitate the circulation of information, talents and resources (La Red Intercultural de Accion Autonoma).(4)
Using such methods, the people of Tepito successfully mounted their offensive to demand expropriation of damaged properties. Today, everywhere you walk in Tepito you see the large red on white signs hanging from doorways announcing that the property belongs to the federal government. The next step, in which the Tepitenos are now involved, is forcing the government to sell the properties to them at low prices and to either help them rebuild or to leave them alone while they rebuld on their own.
Some people of Tepito quickly demonstrated their ability and willingness to rebuild by themselves. Early on, they began to tear down unsafe buildings by hand --carefully preserving the building materials for later reconstruction. They have also forced the government to allow them to legally construct other things they need, such as toilets.
With some 50,000 people abruptly thrown into the streets by the earthquake, the government was forced to face the unpleasant realities of Mexico City's grossly deficient sewage situation. Even before the earthquake, it was estimated that some four million people were without flush toilets in the city. The results are notorious, a degree of public unhealthiness of staggering proportions. Mexico City, it is said, is one of the few cities in the world where you can get salmonella and amoebic dysentery from breathing the air.
Despite this situation, the Mexican government had apparently steadfastly refused to sanction the independent building of low tech, non- flush toilets by individuals and groups desirous of changing the situation. As a result of the earthquake and the sudden, obvious increase in the number of people living and defecating in the streets, the paralyzed government was forced to allow such alternative technological solutions as could be constructed by the people themselves. In support of such activities, newspapers such as EL DIA have begun to publish technically detailed and easy to follow instructions for composting laterines. Here again, the poor of Mexico City were able to utilize the earthquake crisis to take the initiative, this time in the struggle over sewage and public health.
Despite these successful initiatives, the rebuilding needed in Tepito, and elsewhere in Mexico, is vast and beyond the financial and skill resources available to all who need help. Therefore, along with facilitating and coordinating the circulation of available resources, the Self-Help Network of community organizations has directed part of its efforts to gaining access to some of the hundreds of millions of dollars of reconstruction aid which has been offered to Mexico by a variety of international agencies (e.g., the World Bank, various countries' Red Crosses, various church groups, Oxfam, and so on.)
The Network moved quickly to train community representatives to prepare proposals for reconstruction projects that could be submitted directly to foreign aid groups, bypassing the corrupt Mexican government agencies. Some of these projects have been for the physical reconstruction of housing, others have been longer range projects for the creation of workshops and community services.
In each case initiative and control remains in the hands of the local neighborhood (or village group for communities outside of Mexico City) with the Network providing skills and communications. While I was in Mexico I visited a number of projects organized and financed in this manner. In each case the projects had been carried out by the local groups who were proud to show what they could do for themselves, using foreign aid but without giving up their own creativity and autonomy.
Given the Mexican government's propensities for centralized control and for contracting out work to private enterprise without consulting local groups, considerable conflict has arisen in the barrios of Mexico City over State directed reconstruction. At first, many people, tired of living in the streets, welcomed the help. But then, as they observed the type of buildings being constructed, they became angry and rebelled, blocking further work. As already indicated, the people in Tepito and in many other communities, have clear ideas about how they want their community structured, including the style and architecture of their habitations. Again and again the government and its contractors have ignored or opposed their wishes, minimizing costs and constructing vertical apartment buildings without the traditional VECINDAD organization around a central courtyard. As a result, there have been many pitched battles with the government over the concrete details of reconstruction.
* * *
Danger and opportunity. The people of Tepito have proven themselves far more capable than the government both of responding to the dangers and of seizing the opportunities created by the earthquake. If the debt crisis, and now the collapse of oil prices, have thrown Mexican "development" into question as a viable path to social improvement, the earthquake crisis has brought into view a long existent but rarely recognized alternative. That alternative lies in the ability and willingness of the people of Tepito, as well as those in many other barrios, to assert a different set of values: those of autonomy, self-activity, and the subordination of work to social needs. It is also embodied in their ability, as against governmental paralysis, to design and implement their own projects, thus elaborating those values in concrete practice. Time and again, the people of Tepito are acting to meet their own needs and then presenting the government with a FAIT ACCOMPLI to be legalized ex-post.
Given the way they are organized, and their values and attitudes so antithetical to those of official Mexican capitalism, it is unlikely the government can coopt the people of Tepito. They would have to be crushed, and made over into something quite different from what they are today. Fortunately, the continuation of economic crisis in Mexico serves to preoccupy the government and forces it to stretch its resources of control. Simultaneously, like the earthquake, it creates more opportunities for the Mexican people to elaborate their own autonomy against official development plans and to take control over their own lives.
For those of us outside of Mexico, the people of Tepito have an important lesson to teach, not only about the uses of an earthquake, but about the use of crisis more generally. Every crisis involves change and contains opportunities for movement in new directions. Crises are not to be feared or "solved"; they should rather be embraced and their opportunities explored. We should always be ready to take advantage of any crack or rupture in the structure sof power which confine us. Only those who benefit from these structures should fear such cracks. For the rest of us, they are openings through which we may gain access to more freedom.
____________________________________________________________ ___________ (*) This article was published in: VISA VERSA (Quebec) December/January 1987, MIDNIGHT NOTES (US) No. 9, May 1988, WILDCAT (Germany) Winter 1988, and COMMONSENSE (Scotland) No. 9, 1989. (1) ASCII text note: "Tepitenos" is spelled with a tilda over the "n". (2) For a discussion of the state's use of "urban renewal" for poltical control, see MIDNIGHT NOTES #4, SPACE NOTES, "Spatial Deconcentration in D.C.". (3) ASCII text note: "NERO" and "COMPANERO" are both spelled with a tilda over the "n". (4) ASCII text note: there is an accent over the "o" in Accion. =================================================== =========
Articles on Tepito, or by people connected with Tepito, about things concerning Tepito available (at the cost of reproduction and mailing) from the Texas Archives of Autonomist Marxism, Department of Economics, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, 78712-1173. The Texas Archives can be reached via e-mail at: (Harry Cleaver) or (Conrad Herold)
(What follows are the materials available as of August 29, 1988.)
(Note: these materials are NOT available as e-texts, but only as photocopies. Copies are $.10/page for larger than normal, i.e., "lpp" and $.06/page for regular 8.5" X 11". You can estimate the cost of mailing by taking an envelop containing the expected number of pages to the postoffice and having it weighed.)
Most of the articles are in EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO which was a weekly supplement to EL DIA, edited by Gustavo Esteva.
Asociacion Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Promocion "La Difcil Construccion de la Autonomia," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1327, 29 de Noviembre de 1987, pp. 2-3. (2 lpp)
Bugnicourt, J.; J.-J. Guibbert y M. Pacheco "El Despertar de las Pobladores," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1339, 21 febrero de 1988, pp. 11-12. (2 lpp)
Centro de Estudios Tepenos, "La Reconstruccion de Barrio de Tepito," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1285, 8 Febrero 1987, pp. 6-7. (2 lpp)
El Gallo editorial, "A un ano de distancia: El Riesgo de Colonizar la Autonomia," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, 1270, 26 Octobre 1986, pp. 2-3. (2 lpp)
El Gallo editorial, "Vivir con Autonomia," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1265, 21 Septiembre 1986, p. 2. (1 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "ÀLa Hora de la iniciativa Social?" typescript. (date unknown) (23pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Cocinar la Autonom"a, " EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1276, 7 Diciembre 1986, pp. 8-9. (2 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Comunicacion: contracultura: Aportes para un debate," COMICACON Y CULTURA, No. 13, Marzo 1985, pp.125-143. (10pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "El desencuentro de la autonomia con la institucion," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1281, 11 Enero 1987, pp. 4-7. (4 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "La regeneracion de nuestros suenos," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1269, 19 Octobre 1986, p. 3. (1 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Los 'Tradifas' O el Fin de la Marginacion," EL TRIMESTRE ECONOMICO, Vol. L(2), NÅ“m. 198, Abril-Junio de 1983, pp. 733-769. (19pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Recetas contra la nostalgia: Las mundanzas de Tepito," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1264, domingo 14 de septiembre de 1986, pp.3-7. (5 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Regenerating People's Space," in ALTERNATIVES XII, 1987, pp.125-152. (28pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Regeneracion de la Autonomia," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, 3 Nov. 1985. (3pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Del terre-moto a la con-mocion," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, No. 1220, 10 Nov. 1985, pp. 11-13. (3 lpp)
Esteva, Gustavo "From Earthquake to Social Quake," typescript, 1985 (?) (13pp)
Esteva, Gustavo "Mexico's State and Political Regime as seen from the Perspectives of Grass Roots Movements," typescript. (date unknown) (49pp)
Equipo CIDAP "El Estudio de la Coyuntura Barrial," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1339, 21 febrero de 1988, pp. 10-11. (2 lpp)
Hernandez, Alfonso "Carnalismo Chilango," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1324, 8 de Noviembre de 1987, pp. 11-13. (3 lpp)
Hernandez, Alfonso "El Obstinado Barrio," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1353, 12 de Junio de 1988, pp. 14-15. (2 lpp)
Lacalmette, Philippe "Tepito, barrio convivial," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1264, domingo 14 de septiembre de 1986, pp.13-14. (2 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel "Mis Suenos guajiros," (I) EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1294, 12 Abril 1987, pp. 2-10. (II) #1295, 19 Abril 1987, pp. 2-13. (III) #1296, 26 Abril 1987, pp. 13-16. (25 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel "Un fonazo pa Tepito," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1264, domingo 14 de septiembre de 1986, pp. 8-10. (3 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel "Una Conversacion con Daniel Manrique de Tepito Arte Ac"¡," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1282, 18 Enero 1987, pp. 4-6. (3 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel "Mexico al filo del siglo XXI La Revoculcion oi Tepito, el sismo y los nuevos desafios de la ciuda de Mexico," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, No. 1221, 17 Nov. 1985, pp. 15-19. (5 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel, Alfonso Hernandez y Carlos Plascencia "Arquitectura, sociedad y cultura en Tepito," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, No. 1231, 26 enero 1986, pp. 8-9. (2 lpp)
Manrique, Daniel "Bardas, paredes, muros y murales," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, No. 1238, 16 marzo 1986, pp. 11-15.
McKnight, John L. "Regenerating Community," SOCIAL POLICY, V. 17, N. 3, Winter 1987, pp. 54-58. (5pp)
Molina, Humberto; J.-J. Guibbert y Enrique Low Murtra "Autoconstruccion y Participacion," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1339, 21 febrero de 1988, pp. 8-9. (2 lpp)
Molina, Humberto "Bases para la Proteccion de los Barrios Populares," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1339, 21 febrero de 1988, p. 13. (1 lpp)
Promocion del Desarrollo Popular, "20 Anos desde Promocion del Desarrollo Popular," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1298, 10 Mayo 1987, pp. 6-8. (3 lpp)
Promocion del Desarrollo Popular, "Los Organizasiones no gubernamentales en MŽxico," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1294, 12 Abril 1987, pp. 6-10. (5 lpp)
Red Intercultural de Accion Autonoma "Dos Anos DespuŽs: lecciones de un teremoto" [three articles] "En la hora del Rescate," "Del terremoto a la con- mocion," "El Renacimiento de la Esperanza," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1317, 20 de Septiembre de 1987, pp. 3-9. (7 lpp)
Red Intercultural de Accion Autonoma [three articles] "Las Memorias de Malena," "El Estilo de las Repuestas," and "Lecciones y Alternativas," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1318, 27 de Septiembre de 1987, pp. 2-10. (9 lpp)
Robert, Jean "La autonomia no es una robinsonada o Los verdaderos enemigos de Tepito," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1264, domingo 14 de septiembre de 1986, pp.1-16. (16 lpp)
Ruiz, Monica Navarro, "Cuando las Mujeres Agarran la Onda," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1322, 25 de Octubre de 1987, pp. 2-3. (2 lpp)
Schteingart, Martha "Las Politicas de Auto-construccion en AmŽrica Latina," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1324, 8 de Noviembre de 1987, pp. 4-7. (4 lpp)
"Una Nueva Red de Creacion Technologia," EL GALLO ILLUSTRADO, #1283, 25 Enero 1987, pp. 8-9. (2 lpp)

Friday, October 05, 2012


It is not that I know much about Omar Khadr or his case history.  I don't.  I don't know if the guy is a bad guy, a child soldier, a terrorist, a freedom fighter, or anything else.  What I do know is that the history of his incarceration and everything connected to it is a damnable offense in this day and age, or, at least, it should be.  I am going to post three different pieces on the case below.  The other side can present their own story on their own blogs.  I don't have to defend myself against the charge of supporting fundamentalist jihadi politics.  I don't consider the Taliban or Al Quida or Iran or al-Assad to be anti-imperialists.  I consider them to be a pack of throw back, right wing, religious, misogynist dogmatists and thugs who stand in opposition to most everything I believe.  I do not defend them.  I criticize those who do, especially those who cry out the enemy of my enemy must be my friend.  I've done more than my share of speaking out against that bull, but that is not what this is about.  This is about the so called liberal West, you know where democracy and the rule of law reign.  There is, I know, nothing here that can really shock us in the USA anymore, but I seldom venture here and I just thought it being Prison Friday and all at SCISSION that now was a good time to once again point out that just because the other guys are not good guys, doesn't mean the guys opposing them are good guys either.  The world is full of bad guys these this case demonstrates.

The first article below comes from Invictus.  The second comes from  The third is from

Omar Khadr Leaves Guantanamo, While Press Refuses to Report His Water Torture

reposted from Firedoglake

On a pre-dawn Saturday morning, September 29, the youngest prisoner in Guantanamo, Omar Khadr left the harsh US-run prison where he had been held since October 2002. At the time of his incarceration he was fifteen years old. According to a CBC report, Khadr was flown to Canadian Forces Base Trenton, where he was to be transferred to the Millhaven Institution, a maximum security prison in Bath, Ontario.

Khadr is supposed to serve out the remainder of an eight-year sentence, part of a deal his attorneys made with the U.S. government, with Khadragreeing to plead guilty to the killing of SPC Christopher Speer during a firefight at the Ayub Kheil compound in Afghanistan, in addition to other charges such as "material support of terrorism" and spying. Khadr essentially agreed to participate in what amounted to a show trial for the penalty phase of his Military Commissions hearing. For this, he got a brokered eight year sentence, with a promise of a transfer out of Guantanamo to Canada after a year.

The Khadr deal was made in October 2010, but the transfer promise was dragged out as seemingly the Canadian government balked at accepting the former child prisoner, who was also a Canadian citizen. The entire affair became a magnet for right-wing propaganda in Canada, while human rights groups also fought for Khadr's release. But not long after Macleansleaked U.S. documents related to the Khadr transfer, including psychiatric reports by both government and defense evaluators, the Canadians appeared to move more quickly to accept Khadr into Canada.

CBC reported that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said he was "satisfied the Correctional Service of Canada" (CSC) could administer Khadr's sentence, presumably six more years of imprisonment. Speaking no doubt to those fear-mongerers who suggested Khadr's safety somehow threatened the average Canadian, he also noted the CSC could " ensure the safety of Canadians is protected during incarceration."

For those looking for an early release by Canadian authorities, Toews said, "Any decisions related to his future will be determined by the independent Parole Board of Canada in accordance with Canadian law." According to Carol Rosenberg's report, Khadr could be eligible for early release because he was a juvenile at the time of his supposed crimes.

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Legal Director Baher Azmy released a statement calling for Khadr's immediate release, and for President Obama to close Guantanamo and release the 86 known detainees already cleared for transfer.

Khadr never should have been brought to Guantanamo. He was a child of fifteen at the time he was captured, and his subsequent detention and prosecution for purported war crimes was unlawful, as was his torture by U.S. officials.

Like several other boys held at Guantanamo, some as young as twelve years old, Khadr lost much of his childhood. Canada should not perpetuate the abuse he endured in one of the world’s most notorious prisons. Instead, Canada should release him immediately and provide him with appropriate counseling, education, and assistance in transitioning to a normal life.

Azmy also suggested that Canada could "accept other men from Guantanamo who cannot safely return to their home countries," such as Algerian citizen Djamel Ameziane, who lived legally as a refugee in Canada from 1995 to 2000. Ameziane fears persecution if he were transfered back to Algeria.

Covering-up Crimes

No doubt the Khadr transfer will get a great deal of coverage in the mainstream press and the bloggers of the fictional Internet land of Blowhardia. Little of the digital ink will be meaningful, and much of it will be disinformation.

But even reputable sources will leave out many of the details surrounding Khadr's imprisonment and torture, details that may be too embarrassing for the U.S. government, or for a Democratic incumbent running for President who steadfastly refuses to punish those who engaged in the planning and implementation of torture during the Bush years, and who lies about the so-called nonabusive nature of current U.S. interrogation policy (while even the progressive press and bloggers give him a free pass on this, because such lies are printed on the front page of the New York Times).

In probably the most egregious cover-up surrounding the Khadr case, one recent document released in the Macleans' treasure drove of released reports on Khadr's treatment and mental condition under U.S. control states that Khadr received a form of waterboard-like drowning torture while held as a wounded teen at Bagram.

Dr. Stephen Xenakis, a psychiatrist and former brigadier general in the U.S. Army, wrote in a February 28, 2012 summary report to Canada's Public Safety Minister Toews that while at the Bagram medical facility in late 2002, that Khadr  "was mocked" by U.S. personnel,  "and remembers having water poured on his face while hooded so that he felt unable to breathe." Dr. Xenakis confirmed to me by telephone that Khadr had told him this during one of the 300 hours he spent interviewing the famous Guantanamo prisoner.

Given the hullaballoo surrounding the issue of waterboarding in general, as evinced in the recent controversies over the release of a Mitt Romney campaign draft about his support for "enhanced interrogation techniques" and the wide reporting surrounding Human Rights Watch's recent reportthat included revelations about unreported waterboarding of a Libyan prisoner, it is shocking to see the total lack of interest in this new revelation. It is as if there were an invisible censor that determined what was appropriate to report, and never or rarely to go farther than that.

I was personally distressed by the lack of coverage (I believe I'm still the only one to report it in an article at The Dissenter earlier this month), but I directly approached human rights groups and members of the press who regularly cover the torture issue, and the Khadr case in particular. I never received a response from the press. Human Rights Watch told me they would look into it.

Meanwhile coverage by McClatchy's Carol Rosenberg quotes derogatory statements about Khadr by the government's psychiatric "expert," but is totally mum on the revelations about the water torture of the teenaged prisoner noted in a defense attorney's report. Nor do any reports seem to recall that there never was an eyewitness to Speer's death, or that documents long withheld from Khadr's defense showed the likelihood that Speer died from "friendly fire," as noted in this April 2008 LA Times story.

As for other overlooked details about the Khadr case, an initial look at report on Khadr's release shows that nothing is said about previously reported threats Khadr had about being transferred and raped, as came out at his military commissions "trial". According to the ACLU:

In bombshell testimony, Interrogator One described a “fictitious story” he told the 15-year-old about an Afghan they sent to prison in America because he was lying. Interrogator One said he told Khadr that “a bunch of big black guys and big Nazis,” patriotic and angry about the 9/11 attacks, “noticed the little Muslim” because he “speaks a different language, prays five times a day.” He said he told Khadr, “This poor little kid, away from home, kind of isolated,” was “in the shower by himself and these four big black guys show up, and say ‘we know about you Muslims.’ They caught him in the shower and raped him. The kid got hurt and we think he ended up dying.”

Interrogator One also explained the approved interrogation techniques he used on Khadr to extract information, including “fear up,” “fear up harsh,” “fear of incarceration,” “pride and ego down,” and “love of family.”

The references to "fear up" and the "approved interrogation techniques" are specifically to techniques that are part of the Army Field Manual (AFM) on interrogations. Such techniques are, according to a most recent article by Charlie Savage, "nonabusive" in nature. Now Savage is reporting as fact what is in fact spin by the U.S. government, who loves counterpoising the abusive AFM -- which also includes in its "techniques" use of cruel isolation, sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, and use of certain drugs -- to the equally repugnant but more splashy waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation" tortures of the Bush era.

Savage and the New York Times were not challenged by the characterization of AFM tactics as "nonabusive," even by people who knew better. The fairy tale that the AFM is a "humane" alternative to the Bush-era torture is a fiction central to the Obama reelection campaign, and there's nary a "progressive" blogger that will challenge that these days, especially when the assertion is in a story on the election on the front page of the New York Times. The silence persists despite the fact the actual nature of the AFM and especially its notorious Appendix M has been documented byAmnesty InternationalPhysicians for Human RightsCenter for Constitutional RightsOpen Society Foundation, and other human rights groups.

Meanwhile, it seems likely that Khadr's release itself is related to U.S. presidential politics, with a thorny controversy related to Guantanamo finally stashed out of sight. No more questions, no more unsightly leaks (like this recent article two days ago revealing Dr. Michael "I-have-no-opinion-if-nearly-half-of-all-Muslims-are-inbred" Welner's seven-hour interview with Omar Khadr). Khadr will go now to Millhaven, a dangerous maximum security prison that had a prison riot in 2009, and where the exercise yard lacks prison staff and yard fights are broken up by rifle shots by guards.

Khadr's release will temporarily throw an embarrassing light on the Obama's administration's failure to close the controversial torture prison, and then the news will sink back into the turgid morass of bloated presidential campaign politics. And just like the story about a prisoner at Guantanamo, Adnan Latif, who was found dead on September 10, but was quickly forgotten (the press doesn't even care how he died), the Khadr case will slip out of sight, and the unsightly parade of lies and cover-up that masquerades as reporting on U.S. politics will continue.

But at least one prisoner will have left Guantanamo alive, soon to see family, and maybe have half a start at a life, a life he insisted had been taken from him first by his pro-Al Qaeda father, and then later by U.S. authorities and interrogators. "I never had a choice in my past life, Khadr once told CBC News, "but I will build my future with the right bricks, and that Islam is a peaceful, multicultural and anti-racism religion for all."


Defending Omar Khadr

 | OCTOBER 5, 2012
Defending Omar Khadr

So Omar Khadr is finally back from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and in Canada, or to be more accurate, a Canadian jail. The Conservatives, after years of vilifying him as a terrorist and stating he was not welcome back, were forced to accept Khadr into Canada by the United States. Judging by Public Safety Minister Vic Toew's barely suppressed indignation when announcing Khadr’s return, the Conservatives are none to pleased about it.

The supporters of Khadr have been quick to jump to his defence upon learning of his return. Anyone who was following the Khadr case in the media this week was treated to endless storylines about a divisive figure who some saw as a terrorist and others saw as an exploited child soldier.

Considering that Omar Khadr is in Canada for the foreseeable future and that the debate over Khadr’s actions and future are not going away anytime soon, I thought it might be useful to try to understand the ways in which people have been trying to defend him and the implications that they carry.

The first and most common defence of Khadr is that he was a child soldier.  He was 15 when he was detained by American troops and accused of his crimes. This defence rests on the fact that he was not responsible for any crimes as laid out in the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. This is the defence proffered by Senator Romeo Dallaire. Khadr was a child; he was not responsible because he was forcibly recruited by his father.

The second defence is somewhat intertwined, though not completely, with the first. This is what I will call the procedural defence: he was tortured, he was detained without trial for many years, he didn’t have proper access to lawyers, he was mentally incapacitated by his conditions, the trial was structurally unfair and so forth. Of these claims there cannot be any doubt, Khadr was the subject of torture almost immediately after his capture. He was threatened with rape and attack dogs, subjected to stress positions, to sleep deprivation, denied medication and a litany of other abuses. There can also be no doubt that he had no due process. He languished in Guantanamo for approximately ten years; his plea agreement cannot be taken seriously because of it. In this defence the torture and violations of any due process by the American government invalidate any possible legal conclusion of guilt.

The third defence is that he simply didn’t do it, or that there is not the evidence to conclude that he is guilty of the crimes he is accused of (specifically the killing of an American soldier). He is therefore innocent. Part of this defence rests upon the violations of due process and torture in explaining Khadr’s plea agreement. But there is also a deeper questioning of the events that led to his capture.

What we do know is this, after a firefight between American forces and approximately five ‘militants’, Apache helicopters and Warthog planes bombed and gunned the compound where Omar Khadr was. American troops then threw in more grenades. As the Americans entered, a couple of grenades were thrown at them as well as some more gunshots. They proceeded to kill one more militant. When they came across Khadr he was already wounded by shrapnel, blinded in one eye. Still they proceeded to shoot him twice in the back. One of the grenades thrown over a wall by the militants killed Sergeant Speer, a medic with the American army. The conflicting eyewitness accounts by the surviving soldiers makes it very unclear when the grenade was thrown and by whom.

So in short the three, sometimes interrelated, lines of defence of Khadr are: he was a child solider, his access to due process was violated (torture, kangaroo court, etc.) and he is innocent. While all three of these lines of defence are in some manner true they miss a more fundamental truth. There was no overriding crime. Killing a soldier in the course of a war when your country has been invaded and is occupied is not a crime. I know some of you will say that he allegedly killed a medic in violation of the Geneva Convention. Now I am no legal scholar but it seems this particular killing of an Army medic is not a violation. A grenade was thrown over a wall, after the Americans had done the same. No one is claiming that the grenade was directed specifically at the medic or more importantly that the thrower could clearly identify the medic’s insignia.

The other tricky question is that of the status of resistance fighters. Are they soldiers, combatants, militants or terrorists? Rather than get bogged down in semantics it is easier to look at this question from an anti-imperialist stance. Those who resist foreign invasion and occupation have a right to do so. If we are to only accord legitimacy to recognized armies than we certainly would have to write off the partisans fighting fascism during the Second World War as simply terrorist thugs seeking to subvert authority. The point is not whether to agree with the aims of the resistance but whether people subjected to an invasion and occupation have a right to resist. The American invasion of Afghanistan was declared legal ex post facto. However, the ability of powerful nations to warp legal reality around their actions does not make their invasions any more just or resistance to them any less credible.  

When we defend Omar Khadr as a child soldier denied due process who may or may not have killed a soldier, it is important to not cede the ground that armed anti-imperial resistance is a right, not a crime. Omar Khadr is not innocent, because declaring so means that there was even a possibility he could ever have been guilty.    


Reasonable Doubt: Military court or Star Chamber? Omar Khadr and the principle against self-incrimination

By Laurel Dietz
Laurel Dietz is one of the writers of Reasonable Doubt.
So, Omar Khadr is back in town, or rather, he’s at a maximum security federal prison in Bath, Ontario. Khadr’s story is one that continues to mystify me. I am well aware of the hyperbole or versions of his case that have been bandied about by the media, but in my brief experience of practicing criminal defence and given my life experience with human nature, what is happening and what has happened to Omar Khadr just does not add up.

First, I do not understand fully why he was incarcerated for so long in Guantánamo Bay. Second, I do not understand the offence for which he was being held. Third, I do not understand the politics, the rhetoric, the fear, the racism, and prejudice that surround Khadr.

The reason I don’t understand these things is that my life experience has me so far removed from anything like what Khadr has been involved in; I have never come close enough to meddling with the powers-that-be such that truths, justice, ideals, law, and facts begin to shift and dissolve before my very eyes. I was raised in a very privileged environment and now occupy a position where the closest I come to injustice is through my profession, not my personal life.

In modern times, we have built a system of justice that is ever working towards being fair, while trying to get at the truth in an efficient manner. (Well, these are the ideals towards which we strive.) Sometimes, it’s easy to forget that it has not always been this way and the institutions of justice that we have built on ideals do not exist without continued commitment to the underlying ideals.
Over 400 years ago, our concept of justice was just being formed. At that time in England there was a court called the Star Chamber. This was an elite court that was for all intents and purposes established its own brand of justice; a person accused in that court could be sentenced for an act that was not even a crime. The Star Chamber was also known for sentencing juries that returned verdicts that were contrary to the government’s interests and having people give evidence against themselves.

As a result of the abhorrence for this type of justice, the principle against self-incrimination developed and is a basic precept of our modern criminal justice system. Simply put, today, an accused person shall not be compelled to build the case against him or herself. This includes among many other things being forced to testify at one’s own trial against oneself. Further, the principle against self-incrimination means that the courts are wary about investigative methods that produce false confessions such as coercive interrogations. The courts do not like coercive interrogations because they override a person’s right to make a real choice to cooperate with the state, and, first and foremost, coercive interrogations produce unreliable evidence.

The court’s job is not to convict an accused person; the court’s job is to get at the truth of the matter put before it. Based on the truth that is assessed at trial, the court will convict or acquit the person charged with the crime.

Despite the fact that we value the principle against self-incrimination and inducing false confessions, there is a lot of pressure exerted by the state and by society at large (through the media) on an accused person to admit their guilt. From my experience in the criminal justice system, it is often harder to exercise your right to silence and a fair trial than it is to plead guilty and serve your sentence.

One thing I do understand about Khadr’s case, is one motivation for him to plead guilty; that much is clear based on the vastly reduced sentence offered for his plea. What I will never know, though, is what would have happened if our principles against self-incrimination were invoked to give Khadr a fair trial.

Laurel Dietz is a criminal defence lawyer at Cobb St. Pierre Lewis. Reasonable Doubt appears on on Fridays. You can send your questions for the column to its writers at
A word of caution: Don’t take this column as personal legal advice, because it’s not. It is intended for general information and entertainment purposes only.