Friday, January 31, 2020


There is a good deal of confusion about “Who is in charge of what” among non-FN people in regard to the Wet'suwet'an who oppose the fracked gas pipeline boondoggle. It's like “How can 5 traditional chiefs block something that the band chiefs supported?” “Who elected the 5 anyway?” “Isn't it undemocratic for 5 chiefs to attempt to stop something the council majority supports?” All these are perfectly valid questions when you do not understand the nature of traditional FN governance and impose your own Eurocentric view upon it. I blame no one for this lack of understanding, since we newcomers have a background of at least 2000 years of top-down coercive power imposed upon us, and few are well versed in history and the social sciences. (In spite of the fact you can find more that you need to know on this subject in five minutes on the Internet.)

A little background first. Unlike most Indigenous people living north of the Rio Grande, the west coast peoples have a very hierarchical social structure. In European terms (rather inaccurate, BTW) you have a small noble class, titles of which are inherited, a very large “commoner” class, and in the past, a small slave class. As you will see, “class” is also quite inaccurate and is a European projection, for there is little relation between these “classes” (other than slaves) and the means of production and the distribution of its products.

The central fact of these societies – indeed of ALL societies north of MesoAmerica, is there is NO STATE. There is no agency separate from and standing over society to coercively impose the will of the elite upon the populous. No bureaucracy, no police, nor army. Furthermore, everyone (except slaves) is armed, and based upon neolithic technology, no one has a technological advantage, such as existed with later imperial conquest (fire arms vs spears) Furthermore, these societies are highly decentralized. The basic unit is the village, few of which had more than 2000 inhabitants, and all were autonomous.

Hence, hierarchies differ as to whether a state exists or not. A stateless hierarchy is best described as a STATUS hierarchy. A hierarchy with a state (and hence true class division) is best described as a POWER hierarchy. The difference is easy to visualize with an example I used during the Second Iraq War. “Pavarotti had all the status you could want, but a petty village bureaucrat had more coercive power over people. George W. Bush, had all the power in the world, but was held in contempt by 90% of the world's population.”

In a status hierarchy coercive power is severely limited. Chiefs, hereditary or not, have to persuade the people to act through their wisdom and ability. They are chiefs precisely because they are respected, and should they lose that respect, their chiefdom ends right there. Organization is also complex and diffuse. Not only chiefs but warrior societies, fraternities, clans, all that within a system of matrilineal inheritance.

Try this thought experiment. You live in a village of several hundred people in a stateless society. For some reason – perhaps you are a psychopath – you think you should dominate the group. How could you do that? If you started telling people “I'm in charge – you do what I say.” they would think you were crazy and laugh at you. If you got too obnoxious they will expel you from the village. Another possibility would be to convince some of the villagers to support you with promises of wealth and you have a gang that begins to coerce the rest of the people. The majority might decide to pack up and build a new village down the coast, leaving you as a loser with your little gang. Through the clan system they might then join another village and come by later and exterminate you. There is no police or army to stop people from leaving, nor exiling or killing your would-be dominator. (As an other thought experiment, imagine such a situation in our society and its result, if you moved to vacant land down the coast, or exiled/killed the village bully.)

In a system where coercive power is lacking, the system of governance has to be one of consensus. This may not mean that every adult decides every issue in council, but it does mean a social consensus – all the groups within that society must agree. Lack of agreement, if the issue was forced, would mean that society would split apart. Hence to keep social cohesion, there must be general agreement on matters of grave importance.

In traditional societies there were chiefs for different functions. Some were stewards of the salmon, they would announce when it was time to fish and how much to take. (They did not “own” the salmon in a private property sort of way, but oversaw usage.) Others, like the Wet'suwet'an clan chiefs, are stewards of the territory and resources of the Wet'suwet'an people. They have final word on “the big picture” of what goes on in those territories. Even if only a minority of chiefs are opposed, development cannot go on, since there is no consensus. Their refusal is not some oddball thing, let alone the product of “outside agitators” as far right propaganda would have, but is integral to the traditional system of governance and is therefore ABSOLUTELY LEGITIMATE within that system.

In Part 2, I will deal with the band councils, the question of whether the traditional system is democratic or not, and whether it is superseded by European-style governance. So please hold your questions on these issues until I write and post Part 2.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs Fakery re-the LNG Project

Consider that if all the billions of $$$ that are going to be spent on pipelines were to be spent in job creation in the areas effected. The propaganda, is of course, that the pipelines will create jobs – most of which will only be for the duration of the construction – (3 years?) and with the LNG site some permanent jobs. Not a big bang for the buck by any means. How many million dollars per job will it cost? Now suppose instead the people of the areas effected – who plainly do need jobs, it should be pointed out – got together and figured out what their area needed, and were funded to do these projects. Now I don't live in those areas, so cannot say what is needed. (Nor should I) But I do live on Vancouver Island and can easily come up with a list of things that ought to be done, but are not done due to an alleged lack of cash..
My List
Building of affordable housing, clean up and restoration of streams and lakes, beach clean up of plastics and other rubbish, reforestation/rewilding, elimination of invasive species, restoration/extension of rail service, encouragement of local food production, fish-farming in tanks, not in the oceans, encouragement of selective logging and value-added wood products.
Much of this would become long-term employment, and even the clean up would take many years. There would also be a spin-off effect.
So if I can do it for my region, surely the folks up North can come up with their own list

Pipeline Supporters - Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is - Or Shut UP!

How supportive would the politicians, fossil fuel companies and their supporters be if they were on the hook for any disasters? As it stands now, it is the typical racket, the corporation gets any profits, and we are on the hook for the clean up. So instead – everyone who wants these pipelines signs a legal binding document. If there is a problem, they are responsible for it. There will be no limited liability nor will bankruptcy law preside. Like student loans in the USA the debt will follow you to your grave. Watch the support for these projects melt away like snow in April!

Thursday, January 16, 2020


An excerpt translated by me from “Pour un Antipatriarcat Intersectionnel” by Anna, Beryl and Sarah of the Union Communiste Libertaire – appeared in Alternative Libertaire, Jan 2020.

Coming out of 1970s black feminism, intersectionality is a conceptual tool revealing the plurality of discriminations of class, sex and “race.” It seeks to make visible the multiple forms of domination, discrimination or stratification that a society can force an individual to submit to. There is recognition that the historical dominations of sex, class and “race” intersect in a manner more or less powerfully for individuals at the intersection of these forms of domination... If intersectionality permits us to make visible the phenomena of domination, this does not take into consideration all oppressions at all times, but to evaluate how certain oppressions influence the ability for one to control their existence. Angela Davis points out that this is not a simple addition of oppressions, but generates specific forms of oppression... BUT IN NO CASE MUST ONE DENY THE OPPRESSION EXPERIENCED BY AN INDIVIDUAL AND EVEN LESS MAKE A HIERARCHY OUT OF THEM. (My emphasis)

We must use intersectionality through the prism of materialism. We must not forget the preponderant weight of class and therefore capitalism in these modes of domination. This enables us to not brandish in a simplistic manner a theory of privilege without reference to class. Our discourse is not to stick individuals with a label that assigns them their privileges and oppressions without taking into account whether it corresponds to their reality or not. [The notion of class] ... is too often absent in the application of intersectionality. Social class so often determines the choice of education and social development...

The same time we will not support the claims of certain religions or identities, nor like certain feminists aid those who are oppressors. * We struggle against all forms of domination, we will not struggle along side oppressors nor be complaisant toward nationalisms, ethnic identities and religions who oppress women and LGBTL people...

Our libertarian input brings an anti-statist critique of the intersectional dominations. The State, because it is patriarchal, racist and capitalist, is the origin of intersectional domination. The State decides the laws, education, freedom of movement, access to work, medical care, housing, the right of contraception, abortion and a politics that is nativist, ethnocentric and heterocentric... “

MY COMMENT – I am sure if intersectionality had been approached in this manner here in North America, it would have caused far less conflict and misunderstanding. But then French radicals are less indoctrinated with liberalism and more rooted in the general working population. A lack of understanding of class, liberal guilt masquerading as radicalism and a culture steeped in puritanism has contributed to the extreme and divisive identity politics of some of the US left.

(*) Probable reference to two tendencies within liberal and ML feminism. One tendency, denounced by anarchists refuses to confront misogyny and homophobia within Islamism out of a fear of “Islamophobia”. There are those feminists who fear men transgendering to women. It has been claimed that some have allied with right-wing elements in common opposition to the trans-gendered.

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