There’s an ant massacre in my freezer.


I’ve never seen anything like it. Reminds me of the D-Day stencils of 9,000 dead soldiers, just done in Normandy last week.

d-day stencils normandy

d-day stencils



Poor guys. The strangest part is that when the swarm and frosty die-off began, there was nothing even IN the freezer. Really, nothing. Three fingers’ worth of ginger and an old bag of ice from my housewarming brunch — that’s it.

At first I thought the ants might want the water in the ice, but then they could have just stormed the sink where there’s plenty pooling in the undone dishes. On the freezer floor you can see a drip of some caramel-looking substance (ice cream?), but the pattern of the tiny corpses doesn’t suggest the spill as the focus or destination.

On the bright side, now there is food in the freezer. Because I made a trip to the real grocery store, rather than a corner store run, and for the next few days my dinners will graduate from chips-and-salsa to ravioli-in-jarred-sauce or saag-paneer-heated-in-the-oven.

If you know me, you know that this is a sorry state, and somewhat unusual. I like to cook. Hell, half this blog consists of cooking photos.

The simplest explanation is overwork. Too many projects, paid and unpaid. I finish work, exhausted, and rush off to a meeting or plop down to edit a political video. By the time I get hungry, my body is at a total loss for what it wants to eat. I sit and stare into space, trying to key into whether it’s soup or tofu or salad or what. I end up with chips and salsa.

I always wondered how my mother did it: working more than full time and feeding us every night. She used lots of cans and boxes. Dinty Moore beef stew. Frozen peas (which I still love). Stove Top stuffing. Mom didn’t enjoy cooking (unlike me), and though she would grill up fresh chicken or fish, or brown some sausage to throw into the Ragu spaghetti sauce, the main objective of dinner was efficiency. I get it now.

But what doesn’t make sense is why she should have had to work so hard — why any of us should have to work as long and hard and anxious as we do. Shouldn’t we have all the time in the world to cook and feed each other, if we want to? I mean, listen. People used to have to write everything out By Hand. Deliver it on horseback. Then came the printing press, the personal typewriter, and now the computer and internet. We can work a bajillion times faster, more efficiently. But instead of everyone doing less work and enjoying more free time to fucking cook and relax, the people with jobs get squeezed more and more, work longer and harder, and the ones who can’t find a job… good luck to you.

Work, work, work, then die — in a freezer. Hunting for who even knows what.

Valentine’s Day Action

Update 28/2 8pm: Ah, some context might be useful since you can’t read the description on YouTube from over here!  Heh, my bad.


Valentine’s Day sometimes brings chocolates and sometimes flowers. But Valentine’s Day in Oakland, California, brought angry women out to the Mi Pueblo supermarket in the heart of the barrio. There they tried to speak to the chain’s owner, Juvenal Chavez, not about love, but about the sexual harassment of women who work there.

Mi Pueblo worker Laura Robledo’s story, in her own words:

Hello, my name is Laura Robledo. I am a single mother of three children. Last October I started working for Mi Pueblo Foods at the McLaughlin Avenue Store, in San Jose. Recently I was suspended and later-on fired for alleged misbehavior.
During the first few weeks of employment, a co-worker began to sexually harass me on a constant basis.

The company allegedly conducted an investigation on this matter finding no apparent cause for disciplinary action against the alleged harasser. It seems that the individual that harassed me still works at Mi Pueblo. This makes me feel humiliated.

I believe management fired me because I decided not to remain silent. There could be more women that have been sexually harassed but are too afraid to speak up.

Last December I attempted to hand deliver a letter to Juvenal Chavez, the owner of Mi Pueblo Foods. But I was stopped by several male security guards at the entrance of Mi Pueblo headquarters in San Jose. In this letter I challenge Mr. Chavez to talk to me in person so I can tell him what it really means for female employees to work at Mi Pueblo Foods.

On Valentine’s Day, 2013, supported by members of local group Dignity & Resistance; workers organizing in Walmart retail stores; and union members and staff of UFCW, Laura again tried to deliver her letter, and again security guards blocked the way. Undeterred, workers and community members will continue finding ways to fight not only sexual harassment in Mi Pueblo Foods, but also discrimination against African-Americans, e-verify attacks on undocumented workers, and attacks on workers who wish to form a union at Mi Pueblo.


If I could instantly acquire two new digital skills, they would be:

Knowing How To Code

Knowing How To Make Good Videos.

As it stands, I know zero about the former, and above is my latest attempt at generating media from an action around the Mi Pueblo Grocery fight, an ongoing campaign that I’ve been working on for some months here in Oakland.

Learning, slowly learning.

The action was nice, if a little gender-simplistic.  (Queers and gender-nonconforming folks, if they can get work at all, also face hella sexual harassment on the job; it’s not just women.)

Still, the fierce women trabajadoras in the video inspire me.

Moving, patiently and persistently.  Patiently and persistently.

MLK & Obama Inauguration Day

Jacob Lawrence, from the Toussaint L’Ouverture Series, “To Preserve Their Freedom.”

i don’t begrudge my friends and family their joy, but since 2008 i have lost my belief in a patriotism dressed up in charming blackness.

instead, may blackness continue to serve as an impetus toward universal freedom, fundamentally challenging all harmful power structures (including the u.s. government).

may blackness fill us with the vision, love, and spiritual strength necessary to fight for a classless society, a society of equals, where leaders are not idolized but trusted — and directly accountable.

much gratitude to all who have struggled and are struggling for real, worldwide liberation.

so humbling and exciting.


Top: “Steeped in African American history while growing up in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance, Jacob Lawrence launched his career at age 21 with a 41-panel series about an important black hero, Touissant L’Ouverture, who led the slave rebellion to liberate Haiti from French rule. Years later, he reprised the series in screen print, including the dramatic ‘To Preserve Their Freedom,’ 1986, a reminder that American blacks were still not liberated.”

Feat. Karega

featuring my friend and beautiful leader Karega Bailey, deep & dope hip hop with some on-point politics! lots to love. ♥

history books, history crooks
without slaves, how would this history look?
let me bring yo mind to attention
take away the builders, the building is nonexistent

two times for the man with the white fist
who’s quite pissed
who knew that racism existed in america
but now that the color is green
ask the poor white man how he like this
big cities with nice ****
i’d like to thank y’all for stoppin by
but these problems have existed in the hood
now that they’re in your homes
you decide to occupy

The Environmental Strike?

Slowly, painfully, I’m studying Russian revolutionary history.  I know it’s important, and I wish I could tell you I was enthralled, but the truth is I’m mostly confused by all the terminology (“defencists?”), slightly jumbled chronologically, and easily distracted by Facebook and the neighborhood kitten outside my apartment.  Plus I’m sick, as evidenced by the Everest of crumpled tissues on my coffee table.  (Don’t worry; I’ll clean it before you come over.)

Clockwise from top left: general strike in Indonesia; miners’ strike in South Africa; WalMart strike in U.S.A.; strikes in Egypt; Cambodian garment workers’ strike protesting sexual harassment.

Anyway.  One of the things I’m learning in my intermittent reading bursts is the difference between economic and political strikes.  Far as I can tell, economic strikes are the more common ones, where workers stop production in order to force owners to give them higher wages, or health care, safer conditions on the job, the firing of a racist or sexist manager, etc.  Economic strikes generally happen within a specific company, since you’re trying to lessen the acuteness with which that company exploits you.

Political strikes, on the other hand, have to be bigger, because the target isn’t just one company, but broader policy or the government itself.  Strikes for the 8-hour work day, ending child labor, or trying to force a government to end a war, change regimes, or block austerity measures must necessarily grow huge and widespread to have a chance of succeeding.  Only then can “organized labor become a political actor.”

This is basically what I gather, and in Russian history they have these pretty cool charts showing the breakdown of economic and political strikes around the time of revolutions in 1905 and 1917.  Moreover, the two types are related: at least according to Lenin, political strikes need a strong foundation of tangible economic gains in order to win popular backing from the working class.

In a political strike, the working class comes forward as the advanced class of the whole people. In such cases, the proletariat plays not merely the role of one of the classes of bourgeois society, but the role of guide, vanguard, leader. The political ideas manifested in the movement involve the whole people, i.e., they concern the basic, most profound conditions of the political life of the whole country. This character of the political strike, as has been noted by all scientific investigators of the period 1905–07, brought into the movement all the classes, and particularly, of course, the widest, most numerous and most democratic sections of the population, the peasantry, and so forth.

On the other hand, the mass of the working people will never agree to conceive of a general “progress” of the country without economic demands, without an immediate and direct improvement in their condition. The masses are drawn into the movement, participate vigorously in it, value it highly and display heroism, self-sacrifice, perseverance and devotion to the great cause only if it makes for improving the economic condition of those who work. Nor can it be otherwise, for the living conditions of the workers in “ordinary” times are incredibly hard. As it strives to improve its living conditions, the working class also progresses morally, intellectually and politically, becomes more capable of achieving its great emancipatory aims.

One of the perverse truths of capitalist industrialization, though, is that in striving to survive, or even improve its living conditions, the working class also becomes the mechanism (though not the cause — that’s still capitalism) of environmental destruction.

Last week, when I posted on Facebook an article about how fracking releases radioactive substances that remain hazardous to life for 16,000 years,  my friend Nichola responded,

Oh crap. They have started fracking like crazy in NE Ohio, all around the area where my parents and family live, and everyone is going crazy with visions for new prosperity. It’s the new gold rush there, with lots of new jobs having been created. But I have been having this scary feeling about it, and here it is. Sharing.

Talk about a rock and a hard place.

The way our capitalist class society jams, capital needs to extract surplus value (profit) from workers in order to expand itself and keep growing.  That’s what “drives” the economy.  To ensure a steady supply of people from whom to extract surplus value, the owning class needs plenty of workers: the proletariat.  These workers (or non-workers, the unemployed proletariat) don’t have private homesteads to grow our kale, build our huts, weave our blankets and sustain ourselves, so we need jobs and money in order to eke out an existence.

Pretty much since this coercive system took over the world’s economies (replacing other, differently coercive systems), people who need to sell their labor-power to live have been taking on dangerous and unhealthy jobs — from crab fishing to combat, mining to manicures, un-self-determined sex work, etc.  You do what you gotta do to get by under capitalism.

But some of these environmental dangers smell to me like a whole new type of terrifying.  Like, Unit 4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility has already sunk 31.5 inches since the earthquake and tsunami, and if it collapses, could cause a fire in the atmosphere.  Bad news for Japan; bad news, evidently, for everywhere the sky reaches.

Could Japanese labor have organized itself as a biocentric actor and refused to construct nuclear power plants in the first place?  Obviously we’ve seen locals intervening against nuclear energy, and indigenous people resisting the accumulation of their land for ecocidal and literally shitty exploitation. Realistically, though, when it comes to organized labor, it seems next to impossible (please tell me I’m wrong!) to collectively reject employment in entire industries on the basis of their longer-term environmental consequences — no matter how mind-numbingly horrible those consequences may be.  As Stephanie McMillian writes on Kasama, no one wants to champion short-term sacrifices.  Socialist / communist struggle is supposed to be Helpful now and lead to Splendor later, right?

Yeah, so…about that post-revolutionary socialist productivity…

On the left, the theory of productive forces has led to a widespread productivist/mechanical view of reaching socialism: by developing and fully mechanizing production, we will reach abundance and the end of labor itself. It is increasingly obvious that this scenario is at odds with the reality around us, yet there is a general reluctance to tell the truth: that a lot of production, everything not necessary for survival, simply has to end. No one likes being the person who brings the bad news that we have to make do with less. It’s harder to organize around.

And so the idea of socialism, the common ownership of the means of production and equitable distribution of goods, also doesn’t go far enough. We need to change our relationship with the natural world. It is not there for us to use, but instead we are part of it and depend on its overall health. We need to define a different relationship with it than as a set of resources. A sustainable economy can only involve production that is subordinate to nature and that fits within its physical limits to reproduce itself — that is determined not by human desires and whims, but by our actual needs, which are dependent on a healthy planet above all.

Okay, so maybe it depends how we define post-revolutionary Splendor.  Current U.S. middle-class standards: clearly unsustainable if generalized.  But still, hopefully there will be enough for everyone, and everyone will be able to access what feels like enough.  (Questions of contentment and scarcity in Marxism is a whole nother subject I’m working on for later.)

That hope for abundance, though, seems to wane more and more each day, while a sense of urgency escalates.  It seems that the historical task of the working class may not only be organizing to overthrow capitalism, but also (and there is definitely overlap here) organizing to help stop the irrevocable fucking up of the planet, ASAP.  Coral reefs and their food supply supporting millions of poor people?  Doomed.  Lungs of the earth?  Wheezing.  Edible biodiversity?  Less than robust.  Drinkable water?  …okay now I’m depressing myself.

So fill me in.  Do you know of any examples of what I’m provisionally calling environmental strikes?  Meaning: not labor struggles over immediate safety conditions in the workplace, but more on the level of political strikes in that they attempt to impact entire environmentally destructive industries or operations, perhaps with a broad or long-term perspective in mind?

Do tell.

Jellyfish succeed where anti-nuclear organizing fails: at least four nuclear power plants in Japan, Israel, and Scotland have had to close because of millions of jellyfish clogging their filtration or cooling systems.

Solar Oven

winter is coming.
winter is coming.
winter is coming and this august-born body
never did like the cold.
bad circulation
deadens my brown fingers
turns them the greenish-white
of hospital walls.

winter is coming
and i quietly beg my freckles to stay.
me and my freckles leave the hearthless apartment
to sit in my parked car, huddled
like a batch of hopeful chocolate chip cookies
in a fifth grader’s solar oven.

i hate winter.
i want heat all the time!
almost all the time.
i want enough heat to make me happy.

when winter comes i layer up
then shrink from the inside
like an old pea shriveled in its pod
like the illinois corn disastrously shriveling in its husk
as we speak,
as meantime the miners of south africa steel themselves
against the next ANC attack
and most of africa rustles inchoate
against the next round of land grabs
and everyone can see the thick-tongued famines approach.

one night
not long ago,
i was walking my parents’ dog
a dog i don’t particularly like
though dogs in general aren’t really my thing.
well i was walking the dog
in the quiet nighttime suburbs of Sacramento
and all of a sudden i looked at a lawn and thought:
“goodbye, grass”
and even though i know lawns are awful,
i felt tender toward this one
and a little tender toward the dog.
then i thought:
“this feels like a melancholy indie film.”

winter is coming
and my oven has been broken for weeks.
i told the benevolent slumlord, who replied with the usual
benevolent slumlord promises.
bugging him seems risky
since i want his permission to paint the walls
the same golden yellow i always paint
to warm up my heart when i’m indoors
and not enwindowed in a winter car.
so my oven stays broken
and i have no backup solar version
no cob alternative
i am too pessimistic, lazy, and single to attempt to construct either one.
i just want to laze in the day-drenched summer forever
on a planet full of native grass and coral reefs
a planet free of shit-snow on sacred mountains
a planet with its own miracle of clean water
and enough for everyone.

unfortunately for me,
for us,
winter is coming
resentment won’t stop it
so i guess we had better get creative.

Waged & Unwaged Labor Struggles Are Still Feminist Fights, Y’all

inspired by Silvia Federici’s talk tonight — where she gave a feminist take on the financialization of reproductive work, as well of an overview of reproductive sector struggles from elder warehousing to education. came home, ate cookies, put beer in the fridge. then found this resonant testimonial on the web page of Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA), about its Caring Hands Workers’ Association.

“Before I took the Caring Hands training, I was economically dependent on my husband. He controlled me by determining how much money I would have. He refused to give me money for the bus, so I couldn’t go out. After I took the training, Caring Hands helped me to find work and I began to earn my own money. Now, I am free.”

—Caring Hands Graduate

Poignant evidence supporting Federici’s assertion that, contrary to the criticisms of the 1970’s Wages for Housework Campaign, efforts to win remuneration for women’s reproductive labor weren’t tainting the private sanctuary of the home. Rather, domestic social relations were already constructed around the withholding of the wage from reproductive and care work, typically done by women and always systematically devalued.

In other words, the introduction of wages for housework wouldn’t distort or shape social relations in the home any more than the absence of wages for housework already does.

Good food for thought! Now to drink one of these beers, plan my garden with a friend who’s helping me, and do a little organizing work before bed.

night, y’all.

“Your Revolution Will Not Happen Between These Thighs”

i’m really proud of myself: tonight i warmly but firmly set a boundary with an older man i’d been meeting up with politically, and who seems to be lightweight hitting on me. usually i have trouble with this because i don’t want to alienate people investigating radicalism. i fear that if i crush their flirty vibes then they’ll drop the politics completely, and i will feel guilty. but tonight i told this man that even though i genuinely enjoy spending time with him, (a) my life is really busy and (b) my primary interest is that he has options of staying politically involved and connected, if not through me then through other people in my organization. he seemed to take it okay. yay for healing subtle internalized patriarchy! ♥

and here’s a little celebration / inspiration from sarah jones. happy monday, y’all.


My First Marxist Feminist Rhyme

Yesterday: amazing political art by Young Gifted and Black, Isis Rising, and all kinds of other phenomenal hip-hop and soul-flavored performances at the Life Is Living festival yesterday in West Oakland (including an extended Nina Simone tribute that, during Jennifer Johns‘s take on Sinnerman, evoked a cathartic tear or two from the wildly dancing audience). On my way out of the park I watched this rhyme unfold in my head.

It started with the tradeoff of wages and prices, then meandered to attacks on reproductive care (thanks for that presentation, Becca!), the false liberation of muslim women thru u.s. imperialist war, and nuclear energy and fukushima (shouts to Umi for alerting me to the feminist working-class issues there).

So here you go — an extremely extremely rough experiment, something that will probably never amount to anything polished. Still, it represents my gratitude for all that I’m learning, every day, from comrades, artists, thinkers, ancestors, and people in struggle.

what they give to us in wages
they take back in price raises
and when prices go down
ain’t no jobs to go around
class war is the struggle of haves and have nots
the haves got cops and the nots get locked up
knocked up
patriarchy ain’t always a black eye
it’s that guy
cuttin reproductive care statewide
stay wise
stay apprised
don’t believe in state lies
women’s liberation ain’t no bombs in the sky
ain’t no nuclear sites
claimin power for the people
but indigenous displacement
and radiation is the payment
that’s why i send love to mothers in fukushima
and the elders volunteering
for the deadly job of cleanup

Lessons from STORM

storm coverSo many amazing questions raised in this piece, about what kinds of cadre are needed in our historical moment, how to practice and not just preach revolutionary feminism, the relationship between leadership and democracy and how to build revolutionary leadership in oppressed communities during a non-revolutionary period… totally daunting and absolutely essential inquiries.

A couple small points that are feeling particularly relevant and challenging for me right now:

We [STORM] also made a mistake in not considering emotional development to be a part of our members’ development as revolutionaries.  We did not help our members heal from past life trauma or from personal challenges encountered during political work.  Such hurt and trauma are inevitable and, if left to fester, can negatively impact our political work.  STORM’s inattention to this matter allowed members’ political and practical skills to outstrip their personal capacity to handle the pressure of their work.  This led to a lot of interpersonal conflict and tension with other activists.

and later:

STORM tended towards an emphasis on the common struggle of all people of color instead of a more in-depth understanding of the specific histories and roles of different oppressed communities within U.S. imperialism.  Our work tended to focus only on multi-racial constituencies and organization.  We neglected to build organization in and unity among specific communities with distinct interests and issues.

On a different — but related — topic, STORM did not create intentional spaces for members from different oppressed communities (e.g., different racial/national groups, women, queer people, working class people) to build community and political analysis around the particular issues facing their communities.

It’s just astonishing to me how, although I think they’re off the mark in some areas and self-contradictory in others, overall the people who wrote this document display such level-headed self-criticism, as well as appreciation for the strengths the group did have.  (And their strengths were many.)  Hindsight is 20/20, I know, but damn… nearly a decade later, these articulations still feel so relevant.  Especially in the Bay Area Left.

It’s too late at night for me to form really coherent thoughts about these things, but one question I do have is: what do we mean by  “emotional development” and “emotional growth,” and what do we want these things to look like?  Are there universal qualities and phenomena connected to emotional development, or are there many, very different permutations that may not look alike at all?  And what kind of timelines are we talking?  How do we ‘measure’ emotional growth in our revolutionary development when emotional life might be irregularly cyclical, not linear?  And how do we move beyond a triage model of emotional work, addressing subtleties of emotional dynamics without getting completely bogged down in them?

Sometimes I think the emotional realm is just as complex as the Marxist intellectual/theoretical realm, but we tend to not respect the complexity.  We demand easy answers and go for simplistic fixes.  Other times I get completely frustrated with emotional study and feel like many of us are very invested in making it seem more complicated than it actually is.  We feed on the drama.

And when you’re of two minds about something like that, how can you ever know which mind to believe?