Since March 2013, the main Kersplebedeb website has been migrated to a primarily wordpress format.
What this means in practical terms is that everything you are used to seeing on Sketchy Thoughts is now being posted straight to Kersplebedeb and simply being automatically mirrored here. So in general, you will probably have a better reading/viewing experience if you head over to Kersplebedeb.
For those who prefer the Sketchy Thoughts blogger layout for whatever reason, this page will continue to be automatically updated whenever something is posted to Kersplebedeb, for at least the short-term future. However, as additional functionality is added to the Kersplebedeb site via wordpress, the Sketchy Thoughts page will probably begin to show its age more and more.
Saturday, April 08, 2023
Since March 2013, the main Kersplebedeb website has been migrated to a primarily wordpress format.
Tuesday, November 04, 2014
That’s right, we’re having a sale!
Dozens of books on special, with a selection that will be changing throughout the month of November, so check and then check back
At leftwingbooks.net !
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/10jydOP
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Monday, October 06, 2014
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Windi Earthworm was an institution of the radical anglo left in 1980s Montreal. A crossdressing openly gay street musician who took it upon himself to educate the public about the Vancouver 5, the genocide of Indigenous peoples, the destruction of nature, and the miseries of life under capitalism, Windi was a frequent performer at benefits put on by the scene. Indeed, generally he was by far the most popular act.
Windi was diagnosed HIV+ in the mid-eighties, and had moved to the countryside by 1986 – and when his health started to noticeably deteriorate, he left Quebec for the West Coast, settling in Victoria, B.C. He died in 1993.
A month ago, on August 11, 2014, Queer Corps (on CKUT 90.3 FM) devoted an entire show to Windi’s music, and to talking to people who knew him and sharing their memories with us. It is well worth listening to, and has been uploaded to soundcloud where you can do just that.
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/X0i9Ab
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
Tuesday, September 09, 2014
At the end of the 1980s five men robbed a cash-in-transit vehicle in Copenhagen, stealing over thirteen million crowns. The subsequent investigation led to the discovery of an apartment in the district of Blekingegade that contained: ‘crystal radio receivers, transmitters, and antennas; masks, false beards, and state-of-the-art replicas of police uniforms; numerous false documents and machines to produce them; extensive notes outlining the … robbery and other unlawful activities; and – in a separate room, accessible only through a hidden door – the biggest illegal weapons cache ever found in Denmark.’ (3)
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/1semQmf
Monday, August 25, 2014
So we’re somewhere, can’t even agree on how to characterize where, but what we do agree on is we want to get out. There’s paths leading in all directions, and we can only see so far down each. Some we know are dead ends, some we know are worse. But even there, where a passageway once taken seemed to discredit itself forever with bloodshed and tragedy, we can’t really be sure it wasn’t the right one, and the we didn’t just miss a side door or tunnel branching off X feet in. It may be unlikely, and unreasonable to count upon, but no one can rule it out as a possibility.
Welcome to the epistemology of the maze. Welcome to life in the 21st century.
Situated as we are — where? still can’t agree to say! — we know we better move. So we will. And sometimes we’ll go down a passageway hoping it is the way out. Sometimes we’ll go with no hope in our hearts, just to rule it out, or to confirm a suspicion of another dead end.
Deductive? Inductive? Never mind, just put one foot in front of the other, and let’s go.
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Sunday, July 20, 2014
In Terry Bisson’s interview with Ken MacLeod in The Human Front (PM Press, 2013), there’s this great answer to Bisson’s question “How come so many UK leftists are Trots?” :
Short answer: because Trotskyists in Britain moved fast on the CP’s crisis in the 1950s, and moved with the times in the 1960s.
Long answer: in the 1960s in a lot of countries semimass currents arose to the left of the official Communist Parties. In some countries, including the United States and West Germany, most of the radicals who wanted to be revolutionaries became some kind of Maoists. In others, including the UK and France, much the same kind of people became Trotskyists. I think part of the explanation goes back to the 1950s, and especially the aftermath of 1956 and the Soviet intervention in Hungary.
The crisis of the Communist Party of Great Britain gave rise to a very serious opposition around a magazine called The New Reasoner, involving academics and people with real labour movement roots, which became what’s now called the Old New Left. Some of these people were very open to Trotsky’s arguments, and none of them were interested in adopting a new personality cult or clinging to the old one.
The funny thing is that in the United States the Trotskyists were much better organised than in Britain. For one thing, they were all in one party, the Socialist Workers Party (except for the Shachtmanites, who were busy becoming social democrats). In Britain they were all in one party too, but it was the Labour Party, and they were split into (at least) three mutually hostile groups. But the largest group was able to intervene in the crisis of the CP and rip off a couple of hundred serious people: intellectuals and trade unionists. Then they picked up more young people from the first wave of anti-nuclear activism—the Aldermaston marches and all that. They proceeded to lose or burn out the best of them, largely because their leader, Gerry Healy, was a thug as well as an ultra-left. The regime in Healy’s group was far worse than anything anyone had experienced in the CPGB. Say what you like about Harry Pollitt (the CP’s general secretary until 1956) he never thumped another communist, or threw anyone down the stairs. But other Trot groups were there to pick up people from the heap at the bottom of Healy’s stairwell. What’s worrying, actually, is how many went back up the stairs. In the United States, the SWP fumbled the CPUSA’s crisis, saw the CP left wing walk past them and into the increasingly ultra-left Progressive Labor, and followed up by failing to dive into the Civil Rights struggle. The mass movement they did dive into was the Vietnam anti-war movement, and even there they found themselves to the right of the young radicals who wanted to wave Vietcong flags. They came across as a very staid, conservative organization, rather like the CPUSA itself, and missed the 1960s. It took some doing at the time for a revolutionary organization to recruit almost no one out of SDS, but the SWP managed it.
Two of the British Trotskyist groups of the 1960s, the International Socialists and the International Marxist Group, were very much more open to the so-called counterculture. They didn’t frown on kids with long hair who smoked dope. They waved their own Vietcong flags. They shifted farther and faster than the U.S. SWP did on gay liberation, as it was then called. They had plenty of militant working-class struggles to pitch into, which the SWP didn’t to the same extent (and it missed out on the ones it did have).
So Britain is infested with ex-Trots instead of with ex-Maoists, which is a small mercy.
The lesson, yet again: don’t go hating on the kids with weird hair and strange habits…
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Saturday, July 05, 2014
Friday, July 04, 2014
New York State Political Prisoner Jalil Muntaqim was recently denied parole for
the 8th time by the New York State Parole Board. Jalil first became eligible for
parole in 2002, and has been denied parole from that time to the present. At
this point there is no longer a need to discuss Jalil’s accomplishments and why
he should be home. Instead, let’s talk about the forces that are working to
influence the parole denials of Jalil Muntaqim.
Law Enforcement officials across the country, spearheaded by The New York City
Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), have led a nationwide media campaign
against Jalil and Herman Bell, his co-defendant. The PBA has labeled them in the
eyes of the public as violent sixties radicals who murdered two NYC police
officers in cold blood. Police unions in San Francisco, Chicago, New Jersey and
Florida have all mobilized their ranks and have publicly petitioned the New York
State Parole Board to deny parole for both Jalil and Herman.
People, you don’t have to believe us. You can look on pro-police websites such
as http://www.sfpoa.org and http://www.nycpba.org. The Fraternal Order of
Police, the same group that has lobbied publicly for close to three decades for
the execution of Mumia Abu Jamal, have also lobbied to help keep Jalil and
Herman in prison. In fact, Sally Velasquez-Thompson, who is an active member of
the Fraternal Order of Police and the Detective Endowment Association, was one
of the parole officers assigned to Jalil’s parole hearing in 2012. This shows
the clear connection between the police and parole board. This is similar to the
parole hearings of The Move 9, where two of the parole officers involved in
their hearings are former police officers.
People should be outraged by this, especially if you live in New York State,
because your tax dollars are paying the salaries of these legalized terrorists
called The New York State Parole Board. Instead of the interest of the community
calling for parole for Jalil being taken into consideration, the opinion of the
police – the same police who brutalize, murder, and maim Blacks, Latinos, and
poor whites – is given a platform at Jalil’s and other political prisoners
parole hearings. They get the say so on this because they are the police.
At this point Jalil is not only held as a political prisoner. He is also now a
hostage of the New York State Parole Board and the New York City Patrolmen’s
This has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with hate and
vengeance. Jalil is being made to pay for taking a stand against this corrupt
government just like the rest of our imprisoned freedom fighters who took a
stand against this rotten corrupt government.
It’s time to stand up and fight back. If we are as loving and courageous as our
Freedom Fighters, we will be able to bring them back to their community and
their loved ones, where they belong.
The PBA wants to retroactively sentence our beloved Freedom Fighters to life
with parole, but this is not what the law says.*Jalil, Herman Bell, Robert Seth
Hayes Mohamman Koti and Maliki Shakur Latine have all been denied parole
multiple times due to the pernicious influence of the PBA over the parole
board.* Even their own propaganda against Jalil proves that it is his ideas they
are truly afraid of.
The system tries to create the illusion that it is omnipotent, but there are a
lot of cracks in the wall, so let’s keep pushing until all the walls come
Free Jalil Muntaqim and All Political Prisoners and POWs!
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/1lG9HuV
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
At the last May Day protest, police repression was brutal and a lot of protesters were hurt. Bobette was specifically targeted by the SPVM because of her political activities; they physically attacked her and psychologically harassed her. You can read a summary of what happened to Bobette on May Day afterward. Due to her injuries, Bobette has since then been force to cancel her contracts as a circus artist, which deprives her of income.
Police Impunity Must Stop!
In order, for Bobette, to sue the SPVM for bodily harm as well as moral and material damages, she must raise 4000$ for a medical expertise for her defence. So we are launching a campaign to raise the necessary amount for the expertise and to assist her financially until she can work again
We’re asking for the financial support of people, groups and organizations to help Bobette win her lawsuit against the SPVM.
For more information, you can contact us at email@example.com
To make a donation for Bobette’s lawsuit against the SPVM, please write a check for:
Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes
Please indicate “Solidarité Bobette” on the memo line, and send it to the following address:
c/o QPIRG Concordia
1500 de Maisonneuve West, #204
To make a donation by PayPal, click the button on the CLAC Legal web page.
Summary of what happened on May Day
On May 1st, 2014, around 8:45PM, in a parking lot near the corner of St-Antoine and St-Laurent, Bobette was illegally detained and arrested by several officers of the SPVM. She was viciously thrown to the ground by an officer with the badge number #5269 of the SPVM, and then punched and kicked repeatedly by several police officers among them police officer badge number #5269 and police officer badge number #6162.
She was then dragged over fifty meters by SPVM police officers. These officers smashed her head against a wall, twisted her right thumb, pushed their knees behind her legs, all that while constantly hitting her as they handcuffed her with tie wraps. They kept insulting and mocking her, using recent painful events related to her personal life.
Afterward, Bobette was transferred to two other SPVM police officers, who conducted an illegal search of her belongings. These officers continued acting violently before taking her by car in the vicinity of 600 Fullum street, in Montreal. She was then transferred to a police van where more SPVM officers harassed and took pictures of her against her will.
Shortly after her release, she lost consciousness and was hospitalized for injuries from her beating at the hands of the police. Bobette suffered a concussion, whiplash, a sprain, permanent damage to the joints on her right thumb, and many bruises on her hands, wrists, shoulders and calves. Her neck needed to be immobilized in a cervical collar for thirteen (13) days. She has not recovered the full use of her right thumb. She still suffers from lingering pain to her neck, her back, and from throbbing migraines.
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/1vR1A6l
Saturday, May 17, 2014
The Struggle Within is an accessible yet wide-ranging historical primer about how mass imprisonment has been a tool of repression deployed against diverse left-wing social movements over the last fifty years. Berger examines some of the most dynamic social movements across half a century: black liberation, Puerto Rican independence, Native American sovereignty, Chicano radicalism, white antiracist and working-class mobilizations, pacifist and antinuclear campaigns, and earth liberation and animal rights.
Berger’s encyclopedic knowledge of American social movements provides a rich comparative history of numerous social movements that continue to shape contemporary politics. The book also offers a little-heard voice in contemporary critiques of mass incarceration. Rather than seeing the issue of America’s prison growth as stemming solely from the war on drugs, Berger locates mass incarceration within a slew of social movements that have provided steep challenges to state power.
What People Are Saying
“The Struggle Within powerfully demonstrates that the issue of political prisoners is not about individuals but about the deep and enduring bonds of community resistance. Berger’s beautiful synthesis of more than fifty years of people’s history places the prison at the center of contemporary freedom struggles. This book is necessary reading for all who wish to revive a radical tradition in the face of the prison’s coercive attempt at erasure. The Struggle Within is a vital and moving contribution, rooted in the power of collective history.“ —Angela Y. Davis, author and former political prisoner
“Before the U.S. had today’s mass incarceration, it had political prisoners. Dan Berger’s excellent book shows how political repression produced the human rights nightmare that exists today in America’s prisons. More, the book tells the history of the hundreds of activists who have been incarcerated here—and most important of all, the stories of those who remain inside. This historical account tells the truth not only about political incarceration but also about how movements can act to dismantle the U.S. prison nation. Wherever you find your place in social justice activism, this much-needed book will help enrich your work and make it more effective.“ —Laura Whitehorn, former political prisoner and editor of The War Before
“Dan Berger has provided scholars and activists alike an untold and unfortunately too easily forgotten history of political incarceration and the struggle to free political prisoners in the U.S. Berger deftly grapples not only with the resilience of the incarcerated and the movements seeking their freedom, but more importantly with the roots of political incarceration in modern colonialism and its primary justification—racism. More than stirring our hearts and minds, this timely book should move us to action!“ —José López, executive director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center
“When the radical New Left crashed and burned, most participants resumed more or less conventional life trajectories. We too often forget that many of our brothers and sisters are still behind bars with no assurance of release. In The Struggle Within we are told about not only Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier but dozens of other political prisoners whose names we may not know. These men and women ’raised the stakes’ in confrontation with the Powers That Be and are behind bars not just for their ideas but because they were ’active participants in resistance movements.’ The author describes this book as an ’introductory and incomplete sketch,’ but it is, in fact, the most comprehensive survey of imprisoned Movement activists known to me. I deeply admire the author’s efforts to tell it like it is without excessive adjectives. While these souls are imprisoned, we are not free.“ —Staughton Lynd, author, educator, prison activist
“This vital piece connects not only an insightful academic reflection with lessons which radical movements would do well to learn, it connects past history with current realities in the service of a more just future. All intellectual pursuits should be so rooted in the service of building campaigns and organizations for the people’s liberation; Berger’s must-read book is a gift to social change activists everywhere.“ —Matt Meyer, coeditor of We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America
About Dan Berger
Dan Berger is an assistant professor of comparative ethnic studies at the University of Washington Bothell. His work on race, prisons, media, and American social movements has appeared widely in popular and scholarly journals. He is the author of Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era, forthcoming from the University of North Carolina Press (2014). Berger is also the author or editor of three previous books: Letters From Young Activists, Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity, and The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism. A longtime activist, Berger is a cofounder of Decarcerate PA.
About Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Ruth Wilson Gilmore is a professor of geography at the CUNY Graduate Center. She is a member of the founding collective of Critical Resistance, one of the most important national anti-prison organizations in the United States. She examined how political and economic forces produced California’s prison boom in Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California, which was recognized by ASA with its Lora Romero First Book Award.
About dream hampton
dream hampton has written about music, culture, and politics for twenty years. Her articles and essays have appeared in The Village Voice, The Detroit News, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence, and a dozen anthologies, most recently Born to Use Mics: Reading Nas’s Illmatic, edited by Michael Eric Dyson. A longtime member of the human rights organization Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, hampton helped to organize the Black August Hip Hop Concert Benefit to raise awareness about U.S. political prisoner for ten years. hampton directed The Black August Hip Hop Project, a film about the concert series, political prisoners, and MXGM.
This book can be purchased from leftwingbooks.net
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/S4lImZ
It is with great pleasure that i can tell you that leftwingbooks.net — the webstore associated with kersplebedeb — has been completely overhauled.
For the longest time, the previous shopping cart system was giving my grief. It was not flexible enough, and was not able to be tweaked and modified in the ways i wanted. Not only that, but even the people who made the software seemed unable to help make the necessary changes.
The new store is not 100% there yet, but it is up and running, and hopefully you’ll find it to be better and easier to navigate that what i had before. Check out the search features, new FAQ, and all the products we now have uploaded.
Users who had accounts on the old system will need to create new accounts on the new system, and that means bookstores and distros will need to do so and then let me know, so i can make sure you get the discounts you’re used to…
We’ll still be cleaning things up and making things more shiny and sparkly over the weeks to come, but in the meantime, check it out!
on the main Kersplebedeb website: http://ift.tt/1t27G2a
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
On April 8, two Islamophobic attacks were carried out in Montreal. In the first case, in the early morning hours, an axe was thrown through a window the Centre communautaire islamique Assahaba with the words “Fuck Liberals” and “we will exterminate Muslims” written on it. Then, later that day, someone rode up on their bicycle, took out a baseball bat, and smashed the windows of three cars in front of the Madani mosque as their owners were inside saying their evening prayers.
The April 8 attacks came the day after the right-wing Liberal Party had defeated the equally right-wing incumbent Parti Quebecois in a provincial election. The PQ’s election campaign was built on racism and xenophobia, specifically targeting Muslim women, a bogus “Charter of Quebec Values” having been central to its failed attempt to win a majority government.
In the context of the “Charter debate”, which began in the summer of 2013 and snowballed as autumn turned to winter, countless acts of violence and harassment were directed at “foreign” groups in Quebec, identified by their adherence to specific “foreign” religions. (The proposed legislation actually made this explicit, exempting religious symbols and names that form part of Quebec’s “heritage.”) The primary targets throughout were Muslims, especially Muslim women, who were accosted while taking the metro or walking down the street, insulted, told to “go home”, and physically assaulted, often by people trying to forcibly remove any head covering they might be wearing. (An informal online survey of Muslim women in the province in December found that of 338 respondents, 300 said they had suffered verbal abuse since the charter controversy began.) Muslim women daycare workers in Montreal’s St-Henri neighbourhood received death threats and threats of rape after a photograph of them wearing niqab went viral on facebook; halal butcher shops were vandalized, as were mosques (with spraypaint and pig’s blood). Pro-Charter forces held demonstrations of tens of thousands of people mixing secularist, feminist, anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant concerns. For many people in Montreal, our longest winter in years was a season of constant racist aggression and harassment.
Meanwhile, the internet, mass media, and government public hearings all provided a bully pulpit for racist conspiracy theories and hatemongering; i.e. the idea that there is a secret “Kosher tax” imposed by Jews, or that Saudi Arabia and Iran are funding feminist organizations that opposed the Charter, or that religiously-mandated circumcision is somehow the equivalent of rape – and the list just goes on. In one particularly horrendous case, when 47-year old Montrealer Naima Rharouity fell and died in a freak accident in the city’s metro system (her winter clothing got caught in an escalator and she was strangled to death), the Quebecor media machine reported for days that she was in fact killed by her hijab.
For all the pain and suffering that they caused with their racist ploy, the PQ’s gambit failed, and the Liberals won last week’s election.
In some quarters, the election results are viewed as a shift “back” to the right, the Liberals having been the proud architects of austerity measures and repression for years. Others see this as an “anti-racist” vote against the Charter, the Liberals having been the only political party to take a strong position against the racist legislation. (On the “left”, Quebec Solidaire completely failed in the most basic way to show solidarity with the targets of racism in Quebec, opportunistically criticizing the PQ’s charter while reassuring Islamophobic voters that it would pass a charter of its own if elected. Those comrades who are still enthusiastic about this Frankenstein’s monster clearly understand the concept of “anti-racist solidarity” in a very creative way.)
But explanations reading the PQ’s defeat in such clear-cut terms are overly simplistic, and ignore the fact that many different people voted for many very different reasons. More than that, such “all or nothing” analyses ignore several inconvenient facts, for instance that it was the Liberals who from 2006 to 2008 presided over a similar racist crisis with their “Reasonable Accommodations” hearings; that a majority of those polled just before the election (including many who did not vote for the PQ) still supported the idea of legislating discrimination against specific religious minorities; or that there was no effective opposition to neoliberalism during the 18 months that the PQ held power, while austerity measures continued to be introduced without pause.
There is a tendency – understandable and perhaps inevitable in movements where a small number of activists are trying to respond to a large number of pressing issues – to speak out and organize public opposition to oppressive projects when they are on the table and being discussed by the government or other social actors, but when they are seemingly defeated (as is the case now with the Charter) we redirect our meagre energies to other areas. Broadly speaking, this makes sense.
However, as evidenced by the April 8 attacks, it would be dangerous to assume that the explosion of racism that accompanied the Charter “debate” has run its course. This will depend on how various parties – our side, the far right, the PQ, the Liberals, and the targeted communities themselves – all choose to respond to the changes in the political terrain.
Even if the level of racist aggression and propaganda does temporarily subside, we should also remember a certain Prussian general’s military observation that “the most decisive losses on the side of the vanquished only commence with the retreat.”1 In a society where racist, patriarchal, and capitalist ideas are hegemonic, in and of itself the “retreat” of the Charter as the result of an election campaign will do nothing to weaken the social and cultural context from which this racist offensive sprang. In order for the Charter’s “retreat” to translate into an antiracist victory, it needs to be capitalized upon by ongoing antiracist organizing, propaganda, and analysis. Those of us who don’t vote should know: like all other struggles the fight against racism will be won or lost in in struggle between people – in our streets, neighbourhoods, communities, schools and workplaces, and even in our families. Now is the time in which we have to inflict those “decisive losses” on the enemy – or in which we fail to do so, and as such play our part in preparing the stage for the next racist upsurge.
It would be nice if someone had issued a public statement of solidarity with the people who attend and work at the Assahaba community centre and Madani mosque. Maybe someone will. i hope so. Now more than ever, i think we have to prioritize being loud about our intention to fight for a world in which all forms of colonial, capitalist, and patriarchal violence and oppression finally come to an end – and about the fact that to be effective, this is a fight that has to be waged without police or politicians, outside of and against their governments and rival capitalist agendas.
- Carl von Clausewitz, On War: “Now it is known by experience, that the losses in physical forces in the course of a battle seldom represent a great difference between victor and vanquished respectively, often none at all, sometimes even one bearing an inverse relation to the result, and that the most decisive losses on the side of the vanquished only commence with the retreat, that is, those which the conqueror does not share [page] with him.”
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