Category Archives: Occupy

An Open Letter to Veterans

      Watching PBS, I encountered some alarming statistics. Every 80 minutes, a veteran commits suicide. That adds up to 6,500 veteran suicides per year.

      Of course, the government’s analysis of these facts seems to miss the point deliberately, and the U.S. Military will never get to the root of the problem. It can’t get to the root of the problem.

      It is the root of the problem.

      The fact is, we subject human beings to trauma that distorts and alters them. As a veteran myself, I know this to be true. But then we subject them to even more serious and prolonged trauma in combat—in wars that benefit the aims of the larger system, the interests of the wealthy and powerful. Because the suicide rate is really fueled by trauma, and because that trauma is necessary in order to turn troops into what the military needs them to be, the government can only react to these suicides by treating each one as a lamentable tragedy while avoiding any discussion as to the real systemic causes of this suicide epidemic.

      So what if this kind of denial leads to thousands more veterans blowing their brains out? To the government, that’s just a reduction in potential payouts in benefits. Suicides don’t spend their G.I. Bills.

      Veterans return from combat expecting to transition back to a world of white picket fences, opportunity, and individual liberty. They expect to return to a world based upon fair play, where character and hard work are rewarded. Instead, they find that Americans have the right to shut up. We have the right to sleep in our cars, to lose our families due to economic stresses, to struggle and suffer and wonder why all those soldiers are giving their legs and arms and eyes and lives. And if we stand up, we have the right to be hit with billy-clubs, sprayed in the face with mace, and get our fingers snapped while we’re prone and cuffed.

      Land of the free? Home of the brave?

      Veterans return from combat to find they have inherited poor, butchered half-lives in return for their sacrifices.

      The disillusion wears them down.

      But suicide isn’t the solution. I mean, sure, it’s the solution the government actually prefers—which is why it does nothing to substantially address the suicide rates. No government wants thousands of angry, disillusioned combat veterans. If you didn’t kill yourselves, the government would have to monitor you.

      You’re dangerous. Dangerous to the real enemy.

      My thinking is this: If you returned home from the war to find jihadists tearing your family apart, seizing your home and kicking your kids into the street, forcing you into slavery for pennies per day, you wouldn’t tuck your chin and go along with that. You’d get a rifle and you’d find friends from your old unit, and you’d handle that problem. You wouldn’t put a bullet through your own brain-pan and call it a day.

      Okay. So the real enemy isn’t a group of jihadists. The real enemy is a group of bankers and politicians who want to destroy your family and your way of life. Don’t rifles work on them too? I bet they do.

      You have come home to a real threat, a threat to your loved-ones’ well-being, a threat to your pursuit of happiness, a threat to the very future itself. As veterans, you have self-discipline, dedication, team-work, and a wealth of direct experience under fire. You have a specific set of skills developed under pressure. Put those skills to use.

      Look, you’re being presented with a false concept. You think your only choices are (A) find some way to drag stones up the side of the pyramid for the privileged few and go along with the program, or (B) opt out. What about option C? Option C is: Change the conditions.

      Change the conditions.

      Look at those now involved in Occupy. Whether you agree with their methods and whether you agree with their political orientation, they have recognized that the system has become intolerable and they have decided that, instead of being slaves, they are going to change the conditions.

      Together, all of us who are disillusioned can tear down this system and build something better.

      So, don’t kill yourself. If you’re going to kill anybody, kill somebody who’s really got it coming. Don’t remove yourself from the equation—you aren’t the problem. Be part of the solution. Get organized. Develop a plan. Help teach and train others. Build a coherent resistance to this tyranny.

      A better world is possible.

      We need you.

* * *

By ____ _____1

1  This article may or may not have been written by Sean Swain, but because the federal government has stripped Swain of all constitutional protections on the grounds that his writings “promote anarchy and rebellion against authority,” his name cannot be associated with any published work for fear of fascist repression. Sean Swain, who may or may not have written this, is a political prisoner who supports the Occupy Movement, burning down banks and courthouses, and arming the homeless. In a free country, this footnote would not be necessary.

A Murder of Crows: An Open Letter to the Occupy Movement On One View For Facilitating the Occupation of the Prisons

“It is not necessary for crows to become eagles.”

–Sitting Bull, 1888

      In prior communications, I urged Occupy to consider the inclusion of prisoners into any plan moving forward and made some general arguments regarding the potential for such a plan, and to a lesser degree I argued the moral imperative for including prisoners into a movement that in its slogans professed to represent the 99%. Assuming my arguments were as persuasive to you as they seemed to be to me, I now undertake to present one view as to how such a relationship between Occupy and prisoners could develop, and what that collaboration could look like.

      It must be noted, however, before I begin, that as soon as my writings were posted and at least one subsequent response from an Occupy group quoted my prior communication, my mail to and from the prison became seriously delayed. It would appear that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not only monitoring my mail, but the agents who do so need to improve their reading skills; my mail has been delayed up to 45 days and the words in the letters do not exceed four syllables. This speaks to two things: (1) The enemy is afraid of the ideas I’m espousing, and that’s just another reason to undertake them, and (2) the federal government needs to develop a reading program for their agents.

      Perhaps someone out there can mail “Hooked on Phonics” to me so the F.B.I. can gain its benefits. Perhaps include a note to the F.B.I. letting them know to take their time with that one.

      At any rate, I firmly believe that collaboration between Occupy and prisoners has the same kind of potential as Derrick Jensen’s proposal for collaboration between Occupy and groups supporting ecological defense. Of course, in my thinking, it would be best to select “all of the above,” and have Occupy inextricably integrated with prisoners and the Earth Liberation Front.

      In this communication, I provide my view on how a collaboration between Occupy and prisoners could work. By this view, Occupiers and prisoners begin a dialogue for purposes of developing a prisoner resistance manual or manuals, and then distribute those manuals to prisoners. This, then, gives prisoners the tools for organizing resistance cells, developing strategies and tactics for long-term resistance, preparing for repression, informing the larger prison population, and expanding resistance activities to other prisons.

One View

      Whether relying upon relationships with prisoners that already exist or else consciously developing new relationships, Occupiers could propose to prisoners that they begin the process of formulating a comprehensive resistance manual that would include methods for organizing and for developing strategies and tactics. Occupiers’ contribution would be to ensure that the organizing is both non-hierarchic and consensus-based, but largely the brainstorming would be conducted by the prisoners.

      It may be a good idea to develop two manualsone that is very dense in terms of information, and a second that is more of a comic-book companion that addresses only the larger, general points. This makes it possible to reach a broader audience.

      It then becomes the responsibility of the Occupiers to develop a strategy for delivering this resistance manual to prisoners. I won’t present possible methods here, as that would also alert the authorities. Suffice to say, you have a number of readily available options.

      Once prisoners get a copy of the manual, they can begin small group organizingcells, guerrilla columns, tribes. They decide what strategies and tactics to employ, from sabotage to political violence to all-out takeovers of prisons. They develop a plan for printing up flyers or newsletters or other methods for reaching out to the larger prison population, keeping them informed of events and framing the conflict. The prisoners also prepare for repression and possible even draft in-the-event letters directed to Occupiers, just in case the prisoner resister is captured, so that Occupiers and outside supporters could immediately undertake a defense strategy through phone calls, letters, and protests. Outside supporters can make repression of prisoners very difficult for the prison system, particularly if prisoners who are captured in the course of resistance maintain no communication with their captors and continue complete noncooperation. Their plight could also be made easier by prior planning to deliver messages and necessities to segregated prisoner resisters, re-doubling resistance actions and demanding their release back to population, and possibly even smuggling vitamins and food to prisoner resisters who are hunger-striking.

      In this context, Occupiers could greatly facilitate resistance. Armed with the right information, Occupiers could call as a prisoner-resister’s counsel, another as a newspaper reporter, and a third as a representative from Amnesty International or the American Red Cross concerned for the prisoner’s health and well-being. Occupiers could call the prison, the central office of prisons, senators, representatives, and media, causing a firestorm of activity and distraction for the prison complex.

      Prisoners with resistance experience who are transferred to other prisons could immediately get in contact with Occupiers and then plant the seeds for new resistance cells.

      By this view, an emphasis has been placed upon prisoners engaged in their own liberatory activity, with Occupiers filling generally a logistical role. This is important, both for resistance to work on the macro scale and for the resistance process to be a transformative one for each resister on the micro scale. Also, this approach does not in any way exclude other actions which could compliment this strategy, including selective extractions, for example. I, for one, have long been puzzled as to why supporters of Mumia Abu-Jamal do not take the money they invest in legal counsel and instead purchase automatic weapons and go get him out themselves. The same goes for Leonard Peltier, who should have been liberated long ago.

      It should also be noted that this strategy is designed for small-group organizing. Small group organizing is emphasized for several reasons. First, in a penal environment, there is a general lack of trust and a number of divided factions, and it is unrealistic to believe that these groups will unite for an action that requires large numbers for success. Also, it should be remembered that prison is a hyper-repressive situation with informers everywhere, making it necessary to form small, insulated groups for purposes of resistance. This form of resistance then lends itself to sabotage and other acts designed to impede the operation of the larger system. In one sense, this strategy reflects the one employed by the United States government when it de-stabilized the duly-elected Sandinista government of Nicaragua in the 1980s. As someone who edited military training manuals developed from the Nicaraguan experience, my view of a successful de-stabilization of the prisons (and of the government generally) incorporates many of those strategies and tactics.

      A final note should probably be made regarding “illegality.”

      The way forward I propose may well be criticized by those who take issue with the potential illegality of the actions I propose. De-stabilizing the prison system is certainly violative of prison rules for the prisoners who undertake such actions, and may be against the law for non-prisoners to promote. If such a plan gained any widespread traction, the federal government would certainly invoke the nebulous rationale of “national security,” and would enforce laws whether they existed or not. So, for those who object to this potential illegality, some thoughts:

      We all seek freedom. At the base of the Occupy Movement is a struggle for freedom. But “freedom” can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, so to be more precise with language, let me attempt to define what freedom is. Freedom is a lack of regulation. A totally free agent is one who is completely unregulated externally. The more regulated you are, the less free.

      I think a cogent argument could be made that we currently live in the most un-free (and therefore most-regulated) society in human history. Nazi Germany nor the Soviet regime had access to technology nor to the immediate means of control that this fascist police state has. You can’t get much more un-free than this. You can’t get much more regulated without the government assigning an agent to every man, woman and child, and then assigning an agent to watch over those agents.

      To be free, you have to take away the regulator’s ability to regulate you. You won’t talk the regulator out of his power position. He won’t quit his low-down ways because you present to him a logical argument for your freedom. He’s not going to give you your freedom, your lack of regulation, so if you really want it, you’ll have to take it from him.

      If you develop an effective plan for taking back your freedom from the regulator, from the oppressor, from the one who writes the laws and rules, chances are he will declare your efforts to be criminal. So, any real effort to get free is a crime.

      To get free, you must commit crimes. Only outlaws can gain their freedom.

      From another angle, freedom is a state of being unregulated and therefore beyond law, and an outlaw is, by definition, one who is outside the law. Therefore, a free person is an outlaw, a criminal.

      Freedom is a crime.

      Each law that is broken is a rejection of regulation, is an expansion of freedom. As both Derrick Jensen and Ward Churchill have pointed out, each violation of the law, whatever it is, becomes a fulcrum that can then be used to make the enemy oppressor/regulator’s system more unmanageable, eating up limited resources and diverting his attention to too many emergent problems at once. It becomes too many proverbial watts for his speakers. The cascade begins, the system falls apart, the tide shifts, the bad guys lose the illusion of power.

      If you want freedom, the absence of regulation, then you don’t want the oppressor to maintain his tyranny anywhere. You don’t want him left in control of his prisons. You don’t want the United States out of Iraq and Afghanistan, you want it out of North America, off the planet, gone. You want the United States out of the United States. If you leave the oppressor anywhere with any power over anything, then you leave him the potential to muster the power to again regulate you. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, in “Masters of War,” it isn’t enough to kill this beast, but we will have to “stand over (its) grave to make sure that (it’s) dead.”

      And for purposes of clarity, I should point out that the true enemy is not just government. Bankers, corporations, top-down institutions that coerce our complicity to their vast crimes are also the enemy and the government is simply the principle management-machine of its affairs, as aptly described by Insurgente Marcos in “The Fourth World War Has Begun.”

      At any rate, however you attack those oppressive institutions, you will be an outlaw. You will be a criminal.

      Freedom is against the law. Freedom is treason.

      To defeat the oppressor, in the words of a Jewish nationalist from a couple millennia ago, we can’t leave one stone stacked on top of another. The whole thing must be torn down, including the prisons.

      That might be illegal.

      So, make the most of it.

* * *

By ____ _____ 1


An Open Letter to Occupy Regarding the Controversy Over “Demands” and the Movement’s Way Forward

      A recent article in Rolling Stone presented a picture of Occupy divided over the issue of “demands.” According to the article, one faction opposes demands while another views demands as a practical and inevitable strategy. The article leaves the distinct impression that either Occupy is divided or else the mainstream media, who hasn’t been able to wrap its mind around the reality of what Occupy is, has itself become obsessed with the issue of demands and lacks the imagination to conceive of any other way for Occupy to proceed.

      I would like to add my voice to the dialogue. I would suggest that making demands would be very difficult, if not impossible. Before making any demands, at least 3 questions must be definitively answered: (1) Who is making the demands?, (2) To whom are the demands made?, and (3) What will be done in exchange for the meeting of demands? If you do not have the answers to those questions, then you cannot effectively enter into any demanding or negotiating. You may as well make your demands to the wall.

      As to the question of who is making the demands, Occupy presents itself as a movement of the 99%. That means anyone making demands must be making them for the entirety of the 99%. As I am part of that 99%, for the purposes of informing anyone seeking to make demands, the two non-negotiable demands that should be made on my behalf are: (1) The immediate and complete abolition of the global system of capital, and (2) The immediate and complete abolition of the United States as an incorporated entity, including its state subsidiaries. All other points are negotiable for me. Good luck.

      But I think this presents my point succinctly that it is impossible for anyone to present demands on behalf of the 99%.

      The second question, to whom the demands are made, is just as complicated. Some in Occupy want banks re-structured, some want recognition of Occupy’s right to exist in public spaces, and some may want the release of secret documents linking space aliens to the JFK assassination. All of these demands require negotiation with a variety of different institutions and governments on many levels. This requires the juggling of millions of demands issued to thousands of agencies and organizations, and juggling the various responses. Again, good luck.

      And this brings up another issue to consider, related to power relationships. When issuing a demand, you’re recognizing the authority of the person or entity to grant or deny the demands. You are, in essence, accepting that they have the right to exist, and you are seeking resolution with their legitimate exercise of power. I do not think this can be done on behalf of the 99%, as some of us do not recognize the right of governments, banks, or corporations to exist. They have no authority; they have the power to compel.

      That brings us to the third question, what will be done in exchange for the meeting of demands? Before a representative of Occupy (however that would work) could present demands (whatever they would be), the representative would have to be able to guarantee that, when demands are met, Occupy would relinquish something or give up something, or refrain from something. That is how demands work.

      It must be understood by everyone at the table that, related to Occupy, if all demands are met, then everyone involved in Occupy will pack up the tents and apply for work at WalMart and Starbuck’s, resuming their shopping at the mall. If Occupy’s representative cannot guarantee the authorities that the 99% will return to dragging stones up the side of the pyramid when demands are met, then there is no way to issue demands; the demands are meaningless because even if they are met, nothing will be resolved.

      For my part, I only hope there are others as unreasonable as I am, and that they will not resume their roles as slaves under any conditions, that the system can meet their demands when it ceases to exist.

     So, having presented what I hope is a brief and effective argument for why demands are an impossible way forward, I would like to provide an alternative way of viewing the current reality, which may inform us as to an effective way forward.

      Occupy is a system that poses as an alternative to the hierarchical, corporate, global-colonizer system (we can just call it “the enemy system”). It may seem strange to think of Occupy as a system because it is consciously unsystematic, but it is a system in the same way that biosphere is a system, containing a diversity of life. In many ways, Occupy is the un-system.

      All the same, Occupy, as a system, is facing down an enemy system that does not tolerate alternatives to itself. How many people do you see foraging? Hunting the buffalo and living in a wigwam? Exactly. The enemy system eliminates alternatives. It does not play well with others.

      Your system, Occupy, cannot co-exist with the enemy system because the enemy system will attempt to eliminate you through whatever means are available. It will send its cops and military to crack your skulls. It will send snitches to infiltrate you and divide you. It will unleash propaganda to isolate you and brand you as terrorists. It will then confine you and neutralize you and maybe kill you.

      The reality is this: We have two systems, opposing cultures, and one will eliminate the other (or, in the instance of Occupy prevailing, weaken the other system so it no longer has the power to eliminate you). This is a culture war. That may not be the term you like, but whatever euphemism you choose, the reality is what it is. A hostile system is at war against you, and you can either win or lose.

      The longer the enemy system exists, the more it will harm you. As Ward Churchill, Derrick Jensen, John Zerzan, and a host of others have pointed out, your interests are best served by taking down the enemy system as quickly and effectively as possible. Then we’ll all be free to live as we choose, without interference.

      If Occupy is to move forward according to this mode, then I would like to propose 7 principles to guide Occupy:

  1. Occupy must be led by no one.

     Because the enemy system is centralized, hierarchical, and rigidly structured, Occupy can only defeat it by being what it is not. Being leaderless, everyone must lead themselves and thus have the transformative experience that will never again let them become sheeple. A leaderless Occupy is more difficult to defeat.

  1. Occupy must proceed according to no plan.

     With no leader, no architect, there is no one to herd Occupy into conformity to a singular plan. Variety and diversity of tactics forces the enemy system to herd cats. If anyone come up with the perfect plan, burn it immediately.

  1. Occupy must have no targeted end-point.

     For reformists seeking to make demands, this point will be difficult. To proceed with no end-point is to view yourself as developing a way to live into the future, for yourself and your children. It implies no compromise, no return to the enemy system. It says you will live as you live until the enemy defeats you or goes away.

  1. Occupy must develop a new currency of support.

     The enemy system rewards its supporters with pay that translates into material goods. You end up with unhappy slaves with large piles of material stuff.

      Occupy must have a different “currency.” Rather than paying supporters with money that translates into material goods, Occupy must re-pay supporters with support. In other words, those who give support will get support. You are rewarded not with material junk, but with community and belonging and care and support. Social support must be Occupy’s currency.

  1. Occupy must proceed incrementally.

     Occupy’s advantages are its diversity and de-centralization. Each autonomous group can develop its own strategies and approaches to living, and those efforts will become part of Occupy’s collective knowledge as each group builds upon the ideas of others and perfects others’ failures. This provides a start-stop-start progress, unlike the enemy system which attempts to impose one uniform program for success.

  1. Occupy cannot prevail all at once.

     There is no magic button to push to make 8,000 years of control programming go away. There are, however, a million very practical buttons to push repeatedly and in no particular order that will make the control program collapse fairly quickly. It will not collapse at once but will unravel, faster in some places than in others. At some point in the future, we will realize the enemy system has gone away completely.

  1. Occupy must recognize no authority but its own.

     The 99% have no presidents, no representatives, no congress, no courts. The 99% have no bosses, no bankers, no managers. The 99% have no joint chiefs, no police, no military. All of these things are the property of the 1%. They are all components of the enemy system that we must reject.

      By this view, we should have no illusion of any authority but our own authority. We have no one to negotiate with. There is no one who has authority to “grant” us the future we strive to construct directly.

      I suggest these 7 points as a general guide. I hope they provide a kind of framework for moving forward without the reformist model of making demands and negotiating with the enemy system. It is my hope that these principles can guide Occupy not only to defeat the enemy system, but also guide Occupy into the future beyond the enemy system’s collapse.

      I think these principles shape localized communities we all deserve.

* * *

By ____ _____1

Occupy, Liberate, De-Colonize: An Open Letter to Occupy Columbus from Prison

by Sean Swain

In 2007, in a published interview I observed that if Ohio prisoners simply laid on their bunks for 30 days, the system would collapse. I wasn’t talking about just the prison system, but Ohio’s entire economy.

I came to that conclusion because I recognized that 50,000 prisoners work for pennies per day making the food, taking out the trash, mopping the floors. We produce parts for Honda and other multi-nationals at Ohio Penal Industries (OPI), making millions of dollars in profit for the State. If we stopped participating in our own oppression, the State would have to hire workers at union-scale wages to make our food, take out the trash, and mop the floors; slave labor for Honda and others would cease.

Ohio would lose millions of dollars a day in production. The State’s economy would not recover for a decade.

When I made that observation, I didn’t know for certain that I was right. I suspected I was. But more than a year later, prison officials came to get me. My cell was plastered with crime tape. All of the fixtures, including lights, sink, and toilet, were removed and inspected, something that I haven’t seen happen in 20 years of captivity. I was taken to segregation and slated for transfer to super-max.

The reason? My observation, in a year-old published interview, that Ohio’s economy would collapse without prisoner labor. That’s when I knew my observation was right. The enemy confirmed it.

I eventually avoided super-max because my friends and supporters made enough noise, but I am now on a Security Threat Group list even though I have never been part of any organization, and my incoming mail is screened.

I share all of this in order to underscore how seriously and irrationally terrified the Sate is about the possibility of anyone awakening the prisoner population to its own power. The State is hysterically shit-in-their-pants petrified of an organized prisoner resistance, the way plantation owners feared a slave uprising.

I was subjected to repression in 2008. Since then, the situation for the State has become even more dire. Given austerity cuts and privatization of a few prisons, the guard-to-prisoner ratio has drastically dropped, leading to more disruption in the standard prison operations. On top of that, the Kasich administration’s efforts to bust public workers’ unions, though a failure, has destroyed the morale of guards and staff, the majority of whom now only care about collecting their pay checks. With each downturn in the economy, the prison system takes more essential services from prisoners—from medical to food to clothes—and thereby increases the hostility and resentment of the prisoner population.

With very little effort, very little money, and a great deal of advanced planning, Ohio’s prison population could be inspired to completely disrupt the operation of the entire prison complex. If such a disruption were to occur, it would cause more than the economic collapse of the Sate the I already discussed. Such a disruption would ultimately seize from the State the power to punish. This would pose more than a simple political problem for the government: in such a scenario, it loses all power to enforce its edicts and impose itself; the government ceases to be the government.

Such a development would be a great benefit to the Occupy Movement. While Occupy directly challenges the crapitalist system, it must be remembered that the global crapitalist Matrix uses governments as factory managers. If you protest private bankers, you get beaten by public cops. Given the recent bail-outs, the public trust is nothing more than a corporate slush-fund. It is nearly impossible in this Blackwater-Enron out-source era to tell where governments end and corporations begin—and vice-versa.

The prison complex is an essential component to the larger crapitalist Matrix. If an Occupy-prisoner collaboration in Ohio could take the prison system out of the enemy’s control—if the Occupation could expand to the prisons—we can collectively create the prototype for the larger movement to replicate, building a momentum that collapses prison complex after prison complex, paralyzing state government after state government, spreading like a computer virus, liberating and de-colonizing the most-essential and intimidating bulwark against freedom the empire relies upon: the prisons.

For those of you who are part of the 99% but don’t really want to identify with this segment of the 99% and object to possibly causing all of these criminals to go free, I remind you: The most hardened and irremediable criminals, the most ruthless killers and rapists, currently run the Fortune 500; they dictate U.S. foreign policy; they drive cars emblazoned with “To Protect and To Serve.” You serve the agenda of those criminals if you turn your back on these “criminals.” Without us, you’re not the 99%. If my math is right, without us, you’re only about 94%.

This 5% is only waiting for the invitation.

You can let your enemy keep his slaves and possibly defeat you over time, or you can liberate his slaves and defeat him quickly.

To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a matter of actually living up to what you present yourself to be—something your enemy has never done.

We’re still waiting for that invitation.

Sean Swain
Mansfield Correctional Institution

Write Sean a letter:
Sean Swain
ManCI 243-205
PO BOX 788
1150 N Main
Mansfield OH 44901