Empire Logistics

NOTE: Over the next several months, this site will be collaborating with Empire Logistics. The following is an introduction to the project.

“The strength of the capitalist class is – apart from economic compulsion – its State apparatuses and its ability to work together in order to save the capitalist world system. This new spirit of class solidarity within the capitalist class has its basis in global production chains and in the dependence of all countries on a functioning world market. But at the same time, this is its weakness, because a local crisis can today, faster than ever, send a shock wave through-out the capitalist nerve system. ”  —Peter Åström, “Crisis & Communization”

Empire Logistics is a collaborative initiative to research and articulate (through online mapping, video, text and other media) the impact and ‘externalized costs’—human, economic, social and environmental— of the international goods movement industry. An initial area of focus has been “The Inland Empire,” an area of Southern California that was hit hardest by the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 and the ensuing depression. The Inland Empire continues to face some of the highest home foreclosure rates in the country, staggering unemployment far above the national average, a rise in homelessness, and a decline in the median wage.

One of the reasons for the severity of the crash in this region is the structural link between the housing boom and the goods movement industry. An astonishing 40-plus percent of all the goods that enter the United States move through the Inland Empire, making it one of the largest distributions hubs in the country.

Initial class projects initiated by EL at Cal Poly, Pitzer College and UC Riverside focused on Mira Loma, a census-designated area where there exists the highest density of warehouses in the United States, where big firms like Wal-Mart and Target house their goods in massive distribution centers before moving them to their retail outlets all over the country.

Unsurprisingly, Mira Loma is also the epicenter for struggles in labor and environmental justice. Most notably, Warehouse Workers United (WWU) has been organizing the goods movement workers to unionize and attain the power of collective bargaining against distribution firms like Wal-Mart and the sprawling complex of satellite temp agencies that provide an effective deterrent against unionization by destabilizing job security. Likewise, in the environmental realm, the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice (CCAEJ) is attempting to pressure local government to better regulate air quality in Mia Loma, which has some of the worst air pollution in the country.

The EL collective will soon begin mapping other West Coast trade corridors and hopes to complete a supply chain portrait of the U.S. by the end of 2013. In providing useful and accessible information, a supply chain poetics, compelling stories, and windows into the lives and resources affected by the supply chain, we aim to facilitate direct response to immediate social/economic problems through collective actions that bypass official media channels, and to help forge connections and solidarity among related struggles.

Currently, the project is focused on creating “node profiles” of ports, warehouses, trucking companies, and other key elements of the global supply chain.  If you are interested in creating a node profile or in joining the project as a researcher, contributor or collaborator, please contact us.

 

Contributors:
University of California-Riverside students
Pitzer College students
Art Institute of California students
California Polytechnic State University students
Gifford Hartman (The Bay Area Public School)
Sheheryar Kaoosji (Warehouse Workers United)
Kenneth Rogers
Victor Valle
Michael Wilson

2011: Occupied

The following is a list of essays and features appearing on occupyeverything.org during 2011:

January 8, 2011
A Counter-Conference: Strategies for Defending Higher Education
organized by Bob Samuels; video by Cameron Granadino

The 2011 MLA Counter-Conference took place during the annual Modern Language Convention in Los Angeles, January 8th, 2011 at Loyola Law School.  While thousands of people were meeting at the traditional convention, this one-day event centered on discussing actual strategies for making higher education more just.

 

January 10, 2011
A Socially Anti-Social, Dialogically Autonomous, Psychedelic Social Practice
by Marc Herbst

Occupy Everything because everything has already been occupied.
Occupy Everything because everything is a site for contestation.

 

January 11, 2011
knowledge commons, power, pedagogy, feminism and collective practices
interview with Cara Baldwin by Paula Cobo

 Art institutions have historically operated as corporations, with varying effects/affects. At this particular moment what interests me in terms of collective practices are those that are incredibly open.

 

January 30, 2011
Masks, or The Illusion of Power
by Ken Ehrlich

So… when our actions become too rehearsed, we search for ways to re-animate our own sense of what constitutes collective, direct action. We try to shake off the distracted paralysis and the tormented mask. We look for ways to inject into our cynical narratives moments of off kilter gestures, we try to most of all to surprise ourselves.

 

February 22, 2011
Operational Aesthetics: Briefing Script
by Michael W. Wilson

An operational aesthetic is perceptual capacity in movement. Rather than seeking the productive end (communism), it seeks the procedural dynamic (communization). In doing so, it moves its focus to systemic functionality without fetishizing design. This dynamic is, by necessity, located within a system of exchange. When the operative threatens the circulation of existing goods, services and/or values, (s)he risks losing a position within that system.

 

March 4, 2011
Ask About An Autonomous University: 5 Exam Questions For Life
by Louis-Georges Schwartz

Common university ideology makes us feel that our work is a labor of love, yet resentment and fear fill our days. Exhaustion grips us to such an extent that we have no choice but to withdraw, but rather than fleeing into our families, the latest 3D entertainment or the hippest new bar, perhaps we could collectively seek refuge in an autonomous school we might tolerably call our own.

 

March 9, 2011
Notes on Labor, Maternity, and the Institution
by Jaleh Mansoor

How do others less lucky than I make it in the global service industry (in which education and so called higher education now takes it place, now that Professors at State schools are classified as mid level managers?) How do women who have babies and work make it? They pay to work; they pay with their children. Sacrificial economies.

 

April 13, 2011
OCCUPY EVERYTHING [I]ntimacy and Scale
by Cara Baldwin

I am first struck by the foreign impression of my own hand hitting paper. To set out to write in this way is to see my own handwriting for the first in a very long time. It’s grown sloppy. I dreamt last night I was looking at my writing from years ago. How clearly cloying my penmanship was then. It expressed a sincere desire for legibility and understanding–even approval.

 

June 17, 2011
Three Crises: 30s – 70s – Now
by Brian Holmes

What we face is a triple crisis, economic, geopolitical and ecological, with consequences that cannot be predicted on the basis of past experience. Can we identify some of the central contradictions that will mark the upcoming years? Which institutions and social bargains have already come under severe stress? In what ways will the ecological crisis begin to produce political responses? How will class relations within the United States interact with crossborder and worldwide struggles? Is it possible to imagine — and work toward — a positive transformation of the current technopolitical paradigm?

 

July 7, 2011
CONTENTS #1: USERSHIP
by Stephen Wright (introduced by Sean Dockray)

The first issue of Contents is a contribution from Stephen Wright on “Usership.” For the past few years I’ve been fascinated by Stephen’s ideas about invisibility, use, and redundancy, all of which come into play in the writing below. In particular, I’ve wondered about the relationship between “the user” and “the worker” – on the one hand, the difference is one between playing the role of a consumer and that of a producer; but on the other hand, as users, our activity is producing value somewhere (websites, telecoms, IP holders).

 

July 22, 2011
The Summary Execution of Kenneth Harding and Reaction to Police Terrorism in the San Francisco Bay Area: A Timeline
by Louis-Georges Schwartz
August 5, 2011
An Introduction to Tahrir Documents
by Tahrir Documents

Tahrir Documents collects printed matter from Cairo’s Tahrir Square and its environs. Since the first week of March, volunteers in Cairo have gone to the square, usually on Fridays, to gather documents distributed at protests and rallies. The archive continues to grow as new groups emerge, rallies continue, and the production of printed material keeps pace. We also accept scanned or  photographed submissions sent in by individuals not directly involved in the project, such as friends in Alexandria documenting the appearance of printed material there.

 

August 5, 2011
Tahrir Documents: A Guide
by Tahrir Documents

The following is a sample of some of the documents we have collected from Tahrir Square, translated, and published in English alongside the Arabic originals. They are arranged here alphabetically by title and linked to the full-length translated document, along with a PDF of the original, on our website.

 

August 9, 2011
Tolerance or Universality
by Kailash Srinivasan

In August 2010, The Guardian ran a graphic segment on female genital mutilation, which represented extremely violent imagery of victimized women and girls. The piece produced, however, a mix of fascination and guilt.

 

August 16, 2011
CONTENTS #2: they are several
by Cara Baldwin (introduced by Sean Dockray)

An introduction to Cara Baldwin’s contribution, they are several. At the end of April, when Cara was compiling links related to a situation in which Facebook shut down the pages of dozens of anti cuts groups in the UK, I invited her to use the platform of CONTENTS (at that point more of an idea than a platform) as a tool to organize and make public this research.

 

August 23, 2011
Notes from Tehran (a Green Movement after the Arab Spring?)
by Milad Faraz (introduced by Jaleh Mansoor)

Two years after what has emerged as a “Green Movement”, it is the author’s critical understanding of the movement, its historical significance and the threat posed to it by what is characterized as its liberal and secularist articulations. The piece draws on critical reflections on conceptions of “religion” and “secularism” and argues for a historical understanding of such concepts in making sense of Iranian modern politics.

 

August 31, 2011
Eat the Rich
by Brian Holmes

Americans like to keep things simple and direct, so here it is: they rule. For the simple reason that they (the ruling class) have all the money. The top 5% of US citizens own almost 2/3 of the country’s wealth, or 63.5%. Compare that massive share to 12.8% for the bottom 80% — that is, “the rest of us,” as Rhonda Winter puts it in the excellent article from which this pie chart is taken.

 

October 4, 2011
The Time of Crisis
by Joshua Clover

 The class is not that of Multitude, of dematerialized labor, but is the class of debt — and the politics of time, I think this is an inevitable conclusion, is that of debt default. Debt default — and perhaps this is my only claim — is the temporal complement to the specific or general strike, and is the route of solidarity with material labor, with the place of exploitation.

 

October 10, 2011
Open Letter Re: OccupyLA—Solidarity, Critiques, Reinventions
by paracaidistas collective

Many of us are not shy about expressing our hatred for capitalism itself, and the entrenched institionalized inequalities that stem from it. We do not believe that a legislative solution will lead us out of this crisis; the entire legislative system exists in the service of structures of power designed to privilege the few at the expense of the many, and based on profound disrespect for the needs and perspectives of the majority of the humans on this planet (not to mention the planet itself).

 

November 1, 2011
The Oakland Commune
by Louis-Georges Schwartz & Michael W. Wilson

 The Oakland Commune doesn’t grow by seducing public opinion in order to enlarge its membership. It grows by showing what it can do. The Oakland Commune can make Oscar Grant Plaza habitable for a large number of people; itcan run a library; it can resist assault by the police; it can fight other factions in the 99% for the right to actively defend itself against state violence; it can retake the territory from which it had been evicted by the brutal force of the police; it canspark direct action by 0%ers as far away as New York City; it can declare a general strike.

 

November 22, 2011
The “Pepper Spray Incident” and the Inevitable Radicalization of the UC Student Body
by Eric Lee

The participation of thousands of students across the state in the anti-Wall Street movement represents the rapid radicalization of California students, which in itself is indicative of the quick move to the left by millions of movement sympathizers. The radicalization of the students manifests itself on the busses, in the restaurants, and in the coffee shops on and around my campus, where discussion of political strategy dominates. Of course, these anecdotes mean relatively little—but the politicization of the student body is significant nevertheless. Though the process of politicization is experiencing its birth pangs, it is emotionally moving that the process has finally begun.

 

December 15, 2011
How Many Sexual Assaults Happened at #OccupyLA?
by Micha Cardenas

To those who would say this is a peripheral issue, I absolutely disagree. I propose that the question as to whether we can create spaces which challenging existing institutions of violence, such as economic inequality, without reproducing and even worsening other institutions of violence, such as a patriarchal rape culture, must be central to the occupation movement. Whose liberation and equality is this movement about?

CONTENTS #2: they are several.

 An introduction to Cara Baldwin’s contribution, they are several. At the end of April, when Cara was compiling links related to a situation in which Facebook shut down the pages of dozens of anti cuts groups in the UK, I invited her to use the platform of CONTENTS (at that point more of an idea than a platform) as a tool to organize and make public this research. It seemed to be another instance (after Wikileaks and then the government imposed internet cutoff in Egypt during the revolution) of power swiftly and decisively intervening in the infrastructure that supported a certain type of horizontal organizing or dissemination. Although her contribution has evolved into a reflection on horizontality and more generally the metaphors with which we imagine our collective formations, I still think these questions among others are lurking within Cara’s text and selections – what happens when horizontality occupies a vertical landscape? or the reverse? how do we manage at the intersection of these ways of thinking and living, what new languages and subjectivities are to be articulated here? -SD

CONTENTS #2: they are several.

Cara Baldwin

Cara Baldwin is an artist, writer, researcher and theorist whose work focuses on art practice, public art, and intersections of cultural production and political organizing.

Introduction

“Our ribs are broken to spare planes of glass.”

— Escalate Collective, UK

Abstractly, social struggles are configured horizontally and vertically. Concretely, social struggles are centered around resources, power and their distribution. In this field of the everyday we find social forms.

 

Just as life challenges us to redefine the terms through which we live in a personal sense, in the last decade, new words have emerged to describe new cultural forms. In the wake of economic collapse in Argentina in 2001, for example, the term horizontalidad came to describe parity of exchange that was both creative and dynamic.

 

Horizontality or horizontalism is a social relationship that advocates the creation, development and maintenance of social structures for the equitable distribution of management power. These structures and relationships function as a result of self-management, involving continuous participation and exchange between individuals to achieve the larger desired outcomes of the collective whole.

 

[Horizontalidad is a word that encapsulates most directly the ideas upon which the new social relationships in the autonomous social movements in Argentina are founded. It is a word that previously did not have political meaning. Its new meaning emerged from a practice, from a new way of interacting that has become a hallmark of the autonomous movements. Horizontalidad is a social relationship that implies, as it sounds, a flat plane upon which to communicate. Horizontalidad requires the use of direct democracy and implies non-hierarchy and anti-authoritarian creation rather than reaction. It is a break with vertical ways of organizing and relating, but a break that is also an opening.]

 

Speaking for myself, I became radicalized in the context of the anti-globalization movement and collectively organized media and art projects. In the same way that Lucy Lippard traces herself back to the Argentina in the summer of 1968 and experiencing the work of Tucumán Arde, I often find myself in the doorway of the LA IMC in the summer of 1999. Occasionally, I leave my post and look out at oceans of police and friends from the fire escape. Sometimes I join them. And then I am not there. In fact, I am here now. This is just to say layers of shared experience are formative—they are under our skin.

 

In 2004 in the UK, the terms ‘horizontals’ and ‘verticals’ [re]emerged to describe ideological orientations that are respectively non-authoritarian and authoritarian. In 2011 in the UK, the same terms again [re]emerged in organizing debates in the student movement. Nina Power and friends from Occupied Goldsmiths in London shared several instances in which this occurred and I represent some of those here.

 

Thankfully, social struggles are not only characterized as tussles over power and resources. These vital moments of rupture are also art and life; they are sites of creation as well as destruction. As Brian Holmes recently noted in relation to ACT-UP, “The event can be a glance or a tear in private, a gesture or a speech in a meeting as much as a public action.” Little by little —and sometimes explosively— it’s through these moments that we develop humor, imagination, discernment and experience embodied action and feeling.

 

[Returning to this idea of horizontalidad; when explaining how an asamblea or unemployed workers movement functions, in the months and even years after the rebellion it was common to have people set the palms of their hands to face down and then to move them back and forth to indicate a flat plane, as well, in order to indicate how it does not function, joining the tips of their fingers together to form a kind of triangle or pyramid. In many ways is these hand gestures with the knowledge that they genuinely represent a new and powerful set of social relations. As Neka, a participant in the unemployed workers movement of Solano, outside Buenos Aires, Argentina explains:

 

“Constructing freedom is a learning process that can only happen in practice. For me, horizontalidad, autonomy, freedom, creativity, and happiness are all concepts that go together and are all things that both have to be practiced and learned in the practice. I think back to previous activist experiences I had and remember a powerful feeling of submission. This includes even my own conduct, which was often really rigid, and it was difficult for me to enjoy myself, which is something sane and that strengthens you, and if you do it collectively it is that much more so. Like under capitalism, we were giving up the possibility of enjoying ourselves and being happy. We need to constantly break with this idea, we have life and the life that we have is to live today, and not to wait to take any power so that we can begin to enjoy ourselves, I believe it is an organic process.” Quoted by Marina Sitrin in Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, 2006]

 

Just as one of the significant ways that contested social fields are [re]defined is through language, the sort of sorting that takes place on AAAAARG is political. As Stephen Wright points out this space is one that actively challenges authoritarian notions of ownership and expertise and enacts instead a space of exchange and intersectionality. One of the affects of this flat architecture, this impermanent archive is that it allows users to reconfigure ideas and histories of ideas. Therefore, subversive power of this project is not simply a matter of copyright or intellectual property, but rather, a challenge to those who think they benefit from keeping ideas from freely circulating and associating.

 

[These are not authors—they’re brokers.]

 

I chose these texts because they show some of the problems with free labor and collective organizing. Much has been said, for example, about the self-managing worker whose communicative production is monetized and exploited. While I do share these concerns and have long felt that the ‘open platform’ is capitalism’s response to self-organizing labor, I’m more concerned at this moment that public libraries, schools and museums are being closed.

This year, many of my friends allowed institutions to charge money to hear them talk or to read their writing—a few got paid—even fewer were exposed to their work.  This year saw the near dismantling of our commons. Others stand outside. What is the quality of this exchange? What does it have to say? Moreover, what life does this work aspire to?

 

[A shelf-life.]

 

In this way, production by and for a common is, increasingly moving from a luxury we cannot afford to a criminal act. As you read through these texts I want you to think about your relationship to them. I want you to be aware of the way you look at them. In this archive, we can set ideas alongside one another.

While this means we look at relationships like intersectionality and horizontality wondering how they came to be so far apart— it also means the way we are looking is different. We are casting a sideways glance rather a furtive gaze. Entire histories of ideas will bounce off and thread through one another freely and everywhere.

 

[They are several. They will not be contained.]

 

And us? I think we need to insist on the logic of free.

This is not surplus. This is not content. This is ours.

 

 

affect | anarchism | anti-globalization | archive | autonomia | autonomy | cognitive capitalism | collaboration | collective | communicative capitalism | communization | composition | commons | crowd-sourcing | critical pedagogy | direct democracy | effect | enclosure | event | everyday | factory line | feminism | field | flat interface | flexible worker | globalization | horizon | horizontalidad | horizontality | human resource management | individual | intersectionality | lines of flight | marxism | multitude | neoliberal aesthetic | networked economy | participation | platform | post-fordism | post-neoliberalism | post-operaismo | post-structural | post-workerist | relation | urban planning | structural | verticality

The Edu-factory Collection
Toward a Global Autonomous University: Cognitive Labor, The Production of Knowledge, and Exodus from the Education Factory

[The Edu-factory Collection – Toward a Global Autonomous University: Cognitive Labor, The Production of Knowledge. Especially “All Power to Self-Education” as read against George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici (Midnight) Notes on the edu– factory and Cognitive Capitalism.]

Jasbir Puar
‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, Assemblage, and Affective Politics

[Jasbir Puar offers some preliminary thoughts on the limits and possibilities of intersectionality and assemblage Cultural Feminism meets Material Feminism. Thinking this in relation to Jo Freeman’s excellent Tyranny of Structurelessness.

Jo Freeman
On so called leaderless, structureless groups as the main form of the movement: Jo Freeman’s essay has been a hidden touchstone for many. This work seems both timeless and timely in what it says about cultural production. Thinking about kinship and other insidious power-forms such as flex and self-managing labor in relation to horizontalism and the inform.
Marina Sitrin
Argentina’s workers took over factories, citizens took over the streets—no one seemed to miss having a boss.
[A foreshortened history of horizontalidad by Marina Sitrin, author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, AK Press.]
Voices of Resistance from Occupied London
Issue Four, Winter 2008/09

[Especially “turning cracks into landscapes” by Marina Sitrin, author of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina, AK Press.]

Escalate Collective
THIS IS ACTUALLY HAPPENING

[UK student organizers debate around organizational structure; horizontalism. Thanks to Nina Power and University of Goldsmiths Occupation.]

Paolo Virno and Alexei Penzin
[Paulo Virno interview by Alexei Penzin, a member of the interdisciplinary group “Chto Delat / What is to be done?”]
Colectivo Situaciones and Brian Whitener et al.
Genocide in the Neighborhood

[Brian Whitener edits and translates an English translation of Genocida en el Barrio: Mesa de Escrache Popular by Colectivo Situaciones) documents the autonomist practice of the “escrache”, ChainLinks Press]

Eyal Weizman
[While the term ‘verticals’ has been used in the UK to describe an authoritarian approach to organizing, here Goldsmiths architecture grad Eyal Weizman uses it to frame material enclosure and colonization of Palestine.]
Stan Allen
[Read against Brian Holmes’ swarmachine and considered with horizontal and cellular forms of organization and action such as a riot, mob, escrache. Also interesting in relation to urban planning and infrastructural control of public space.]
Jodi Dean
[Draft of political theorist Jodi Dean’s forthcoming book of the same title shared recently through Not An Alternative and The Public School, NY. Emphasizes the ‘horizon’ to point out limits of hortizontal organizing. Desire, here is centered on future and the Party.]
Christopher Newfield
[Christopher Newfield connects the precarity of knowledge workers and the crisis in the university.]
Brian Holmes
[Brian Holmes on the role of decentralized media intervention as a catalyst for grassroots action at the global scale from Escape the Overcode: Activist Art in the Control Society, Half-Letter Press.]
Markus Malarkey
[From Ceasefire Magazine August 8, 2011: UK student organizers debate around organizational structure; horizontalism. Thanks to Nina Power and University of Goldsmiths Occupation.]
Matt Hall
[Posted on January 2, 2011 by UCL Occupation: UK student organizers debate around organizational structure; horizontalism. Thanks to Nina Power and University of Goldsmiths Occupation.]
Stevphen Shukaitis
[Stevphen Shukaitis  describes militant collective action and imagination in response to the present, but also comes out of the 90’s and antiglobalization struggle.]
Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis
Notes on the Edu-Factory and Cognitive Capitalism

[Autonomist Marxists Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis of Midnight Notes Collective on the Edu-Factory, critical pedagogy and forms of social reproduction.]