A week of presentations & discussions with cartoonists Stephanie McMillan & Ted Rall, and more!
On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/1565076077047113/
(All are at CSUN except 1 p.m. Wednesday @ LA Valley College. All are free and open to the public.)
18111 Nordhoff St, Northridge, California CA 91330-8207
“Capitalism vs. the Climate”
4-5:15 p.m., USU Northridge Center
with Stephanie McMillan & CSUN Prof. David Klein
Part of Sustainability Day
“Art is a Weapon”
7-9 p.m., Kurland Auditorium, Valley
Performing Arts Center (VPAC)
Political art + recent work
by Ted Rall, John Quigley & Stephanie McMillan
“Art is a Weapon”
1-3 p.m., Monarch Hall, Campus Center at LA Valley College
Political art + recent work
by Ted Rall & Stephanie McMillan
“War, Imperialism and Oppression…and Resistance”
7 -9 p.m., Sequoia Auditorium, Sequoia Hall
with Ted Rall, Stephanie McMillan & Prof. David Klein
“Capitalism vs. the Climate”
3:30 p.m., Pasadena Room, USU
(University Student Union)
with Stephanie McMillan & Prof. David Klein
“Art is a Weapon”
2-3:40 p.m., Nordhoff Hall 113
Political art + recent work
by Stephanie McMillan & Ted Rall
“Organizing at the Intermediate Level — Toward Building a Mass Movement”
2 p.m. Art & Design, Room 211
with Sarah Cruz
Sponsored by the CSUN Art Department, Journalism Department, Institute for Sustainability, and Office of the Provost.
We really need to understand the methods used by NGOs* to undermine radical political organizing efforts and divert us into political dead ends. The People’s Climate March is a good case study because it’s so blatant.
In South Florida, we saw the exact same process after the BP oil spill. Once the NGOs came in to the organizing meetings and were given the floor, all potential resistance was blocked, strangled, and left for dead. NGOs will descend on any organizing effort and try to take it over, dilute it, and bring it eventually to the Democratic Party. We can also see an identical set-up with the established labor unions and many other organizations.
If organizers are being paid, usually they are trapped in this dynamic, whether or not they want to be. While combining a job with organizing to challenge the system sounds very tempting and full of potential, it’s overwhelmingly not possible. They are two fundamentally incompatible aims, and those funding the job definitely do not have the aim of allowing its employees to undermine the system — the very system that allows the funders to exist, that they feed off of. Capitalists aren’t stupid, and they know how to keep their employees chained to a post, even if the leash feels long. With NGOs, capitalism has set up a great mechanism for itself both to generate revenue, and to pacify people who might otherwise be fighting to break the framework. “The unity of the chicken and the roach happens in the belly of the chicken.”
Another problem is that the rest of us attending an activity or a demonstration have to wonder: when organizers are being paid to say whatever it is they’re saying, how do we know whether or not they believe it? They follow a script, and can’t reveal their true feelings. They attempt to promote their cause in a convincing way, but if their funding was cut off, would they still be involved? Would their orientation still be the same? It’s hard to believe anything said by a paid spokespuppet — it’s like interacting with an embodied list of talking points. There can be no real trust, that the person could be relied upon when the money is no longer there.
Of course people need jobs, and NGOs provide them. I’m not blaming those who work for NGOs any more than who work for any other capitalist institution. We’re all trapped in the enemy’s economy. Instead, what I’m arguing for is to be aware of the nature of it, its severe limitations, and to do real political work outside the framework provided by the job.
We should attend demonstrations like the climate march, because a lot of sincere people will be there who want to make a difference. But we should remain autonomous within them, bringing our own message targeting capitalism as the root of the problem, exposing the uselessness of working within the political frameworks it sets up for us, and building our own organizations with the people we meet.
To challenge, weaken and ultimately destroy capitalism, we need to build a strong, organized, broad, combative mass movement outside the influence of capitalist interests.
* (NGO: Non-Governmental Organizations, or “non-profits,” usually in fact funded by governments and/or corporate foundations).
Please join me tonight (online/phone) at 9 pm ET/6 pm PT, for the first installment of an approximately-monthly event. I’ll moderate discussions of various issues in the context of capitalism and imperialism. Tonight it’ll be on water access and quality. The description and list of speakers is below. Hope you can make it!
To register for the call go to: http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/JWKOI3SLQZQ2MWG3
Invite your friends to join us! https://www.facebook.com/events/357969924358146/
Details behind the cut… ↓ Read the rest of this entry…
Wednesday, August 21, online
“Brought to You by Capitalism: Water Should be Free”
The first in a monthly series of panel presentations via conference call, addressing various effects of capitalism and resistance. This month the call will feature David Soll (author of “Empire of Water,”), a member of the Detroit Water Brigade, and possibly another speaker. I will be the moderator.
6 pm PT/ 9 pm ET
Hosted by InterOccupy.
Register here: http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/JWKOI3SLQZQ2MWG3
Thursday, August 28, Miami
“Capitalism Must Die!”
A slideshow presentation (with cartoons) explaining what capitalism is and why it must be eliminated.
Florida International University, South Campus, GC 343
Free; presented by One Struggle/South Florida.
Wednesday, Sept. 27, online
“Brought to You by Capitalism: Climate Change”
The second in a monthly series of panel presentations via conference call, addressing various effects of capitalism and resistance. The call this month will feature David Klein (professor at CSUN/California State University at Northridge), and other speakers. I will be the moderator.
6 pm PT/ 9 pm ET
Hosted by InterOccupy.
Register here: http://myaccount.maestroconference.com/conference/register/JWKOI3SLQZQ2MWG3
November 22-23, San Francisco
“Earth at Risk”
I will participate on a panel on “Capitalism and Sociopathy,” part of a conference which includes Vandana Shiva, Chris Hedges, Derrick Jensen, Dahr Jamail, Richard Manning, Diane Wilson and many others.
Presented by Fertile Ground Institute.
Jan. 20-Feb. 14, 2015, Minneapolis
My comics will be included in a multimedia group show.
Katherine E. Nash Gallery, University of Minnesota
TBA (details still being worked out):
Oct. 9-12: San Francisco
Week of Oct. 13: Los Angeles
Week of Nov. 3: Sudbury, ON
Future topics for “Brought to You by Capitalism” will include workplace organizing, the World Bank, clinic defense, and revolution.
18″x24″ Poster: Affirmations for Revolutionary Proletarian Militants
Stay motivated to keep on fighting to change the world, with the help of this poster with 20 inspirational messages!
$19 — FREE shipping in US (international shipping is an ADDITIONAL amount; please add it from the shop)
1. Contentment is for people in denial. I do not accept social injustice, exploitation, or ecocide.
2. My purpose is not for petty gains, but for radical social transformation.
3. I’m committed to the struggle for the long haul. It isn’t a game or hobby; it’s my life.
4. When I face a choice, I decide what to do based on the interests of the revolution.
5. I take every opportunity to help people understand the nature of the system and to join the struggle.
6. I don’t engage in self-destructive habits. I remain strong and alert for the struggle.
7. I am willing to listen to constructive criticism, so I can rectify my errors.
8. I avoid distractions and focus on my fundamental goal.
9. The problem is not me; it is the global capitalist/imperialist system.
10. I don’t blame individuals for social problems. Yet it is our responsibility for ending the system that causes them.
11. Everyone has a skill, talent, experience or insight that can contribute to the struggle.
12. I surround myself with sincere people who share common goals of ending exploitation and domination.
13. We will never be satisfied with reforms to the existing system. Our goal is nothing less than a classless and sustainable society.
14. Even when I’m alone, I stand up for what I understand to be true.
15. I do not avoid struggle; it is how people and history advance.
16. I don’t argue for argument’s sake. Instead I engage in political struggle so as to better understand reality.
17. Our nature is cooperative. If we work collectively, we can overcome the system that is crushing us.
18. I don’t jump to premature conclusions. Before making a judgment I investigate a matter fully.
19. I realize my loved ones are ideologically dominated, and have compassion for them as I struggle with them.
20. As I face each day, I determine my priorities, based on my long-term goal of proletarian revolution.
To see it in its natural habitat: http://www.pasadenaweekly.com/cms/story/detail/left_coast/13407/
I’ll show slides of a broad range of political art, and talk about art’s political role and impact, historically and today. The presentation will be followed by open discussion.
We’ll do an art project together, too! (Hint: start thinking about a specific aspect or incident of imperialism that especially angers you). Also, if you’re an artist, please bring work to share.
The presentation addresses several questions: How does culture advance political aims? How do we use our art as part of the
anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist struggle? Why does the bourgeoisie love abstract expressionism?
8 p.m. tonight!
1480 SW 9th Ave, (just south of Davie Blvd).
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33315
We will be in room 8, upstairs in the courtyard.
Free; donations welcome.
If we are to have any hope of winning, we need to build a powerful mass movement capable of asserting and fighting for the interests of the masses. To become strong enough to defeat the capitalist class, we need to become even more powerful, more organized than them. We outnumber them, so it will be possible, if we do the work. It’s hard work, but there’s no other way. If we sincerely want to end capitalism and imperialism, and not just pay lip service to that goal, not just cry and drink and pray and protest symbolically, then we need to dedicate our lives to organizing a movement that can be effective and WIN. It is the most meaningful and important thing we can do.
My first editorial cartoon for the Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA) appears today! Look for one each month. http://www.pennlive.com/opinion/2014/06/in_the_pa_legislature_whats_15.html
Comics for the Struggle
6 p.m. Saturday
La Difference Auto School
836 Rogers Av, Brooklyn, New York 11226
Free; donations welcome.
Stephanie McMillan will present comics with a talk about how capitalism works and why we need to destroy it, based on her book “Capitalism Must Die!”, and Greg Farrell will present his comics about a labor dispute at the famous Strand bookstore (where he works), from his new book “On the Books.”
Open discussion will follow.
See more of Greg’s work: http://www.strandaskus.blogspot.com/
Ten Affirmations have been translated by George Poulados.
See the rest behind the cut…
Original post (with images): http://funologist.org/2014/05/25/best-kid-present-ever/
by Paxus Calta-Star
Some years back political cartoonist Stephanie McMillian did a visitor period at Twin Oaks and I had fantasies of one of the communities new industries being radical humor. She is a clever, quirky, cartoonist with an impossible message to deliver and just the right tool to do it. Her latest salvo in this on-going public education and activation campaign is on target and at exactly the right price.
Your kids deserve this book
I discovered Stephanie’s work while I was staying at an amazing squat in Barcelona called Can Masdeu. The squats library had a copy of the book she illustrated, As the Word Burns: 50 simple things you can do to stay in denial. Which is a quick read, if it does not cause your brain to explode.
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“That joke about the capitalist saying ‘My Suit!’ was really funny. We should do a questions & comment section for kids.”
— Tala Socco, age 6, about the “Capitalism Must Die!” Coloring Book (34 pages; you choose what to pay, available at https://gum.co/coloring)
Photo by Katrina Socco, National Programme Coordinator for AF3IRM (a transnational feminist org.) who writes on non-feudal parenting.
Translated by Aleksandra Žikić
Kapitalistička proizvodnja hrane: vodeći uzrok gladi, bolesti, ekocida, eksploatacije i imperijalističke dominacije
Autorka: Stephanie McMillan
Prevod: Aleksandra Žikić
Kapitalizam je disfunkcionalni ekonomski sistem koji donosi korist malobrojnima dok eksploatiše i zanemaruje većinu. Ali nije samo to. To je takođe društveni odnos dominacije, gde mala klasa kapitalista ostvaruje vlast nad čitavim društvom kroz privatno vlasništvo sredstava za proizvodnju. U kapitalizmu, cilj sve proizvodnje robe (uključujući i hranu) nije da zadovolji potrebe ljudi, već da ostvari profit. Proizvodnja hrane postala je ogromni izvor profita, kao i sredstvo dominacije, i lokalno i globalno.
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Capitalism Must Die!
by Katie Frank
Reviews may contain information that could be considered ‘spoilers’. Readers should proceed at their own risk.
With a subtitle like “A basic introduction to capitalism: what it is, why it sucks, and how to crush it,” Capitalism Must Die! is a book with a clear sociopolitical agenda. If you think you will hate it based on the title alone, you probably will. With that said, the book provides an overall well-written, easy to understand introduction to anti-capitalism in the Marxist tradition. It defines terms without using a lot of jargon, and uses short comics and cartoons to introduce and illustrate difficult concepts with real-world examples. The tone of the writing is forceful and impassioned without being overly preachy or antagonistic toward the reader, which can often put people off of explicitly political books. McMillan has clearly spent a lot of time in activism and political education, and it shows in how fluently she translates high theory into everyday language.
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Review: ‘The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance To Ecocide': Don’t let the cute bunny fool you
A comic review article by: John Yohe
Don’t let the cute bunny fool you, The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance To Ecocide is a radical and much needed (comic) book on how to save ourselves, and our world, from capitalism.
Writer/Artist Stephanie McMillan uses each of her cartoon characters, human and non, to represent different aspects of, or different philosophies within, the environmental movement, or within its more radical edges. Mainstream environmental activists, the kind that, say, listen to NPR and recycle their Starbucks cups, do appear, but only to be mocked mercilessly by her main characters—McMillan isn’t wasting time with those basic useless ideas, and she assumes her readers don’t either.
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Left Forum, New York, May 30-June 1, 2014
Details to come
“Capitalism Must Die!” book release
May 1, 2014
This will be part of the One Struggle May Day event/rally after-party,
which includes music by Kazoots and Unity Rise!
39 NW 54 ST. Miami, FL 33137
Environmental Art Exhibition (group show): April 18-May 10, 2014
7th Circuit Productions/Moksha Gallery
228 NE 59th ST MIAMI FL 33137
Opening April 18:
“Moksha Roots Live”, the official after-party for The Rhythm Foundation’s “Big Night in Little Haiti”. Come out and vibe with us, support the gallery opening, live music, DJs, and a drum jam that bring together the diverse cultural roots of Miami.
Everglades Awareness Benefit May 10:
Ploppy Palace Productions and The Miccosukee Tribe will be hosting a concert to raise awareness and funds for Everglades protection and public education. As part of this three stage extravaganza, some of South Florida’s top bands, spoken word artists and community activists will join together to raise awareness for this vital natural resource.
No Restraint: Activist Zines and Comics (group show)
April 24 – May 16, 2014 | Reception: April 24, 6:00 – 8:30 pm
Eastfield College. 3737 Motley Drive. Mesquite, TX. 75150
If you’d like to support my work through Patreon, you’ll get everything a day early, plus lots of special perks like Q&As, cards, prints and more. I just made a video and started the campaign. I won’t push it a lot right now… I’ll see how it goes.
It’s kind of like Kickstarter, except ongoing, and with no penalty for not reaching goals. The minimum pledge is just $1 a month. You can stop your pledge any time.
Check it out: Patreon Subscriber Page
This is to specifically address class struggle as it relates to the ecological crisis. It will not address all the other (many!) reasons that working class struggle must be waged and supported.
First, we must recognize the fact that global capitalism is driving ecocide.
The problem reaches much farther back than capitalism itself. The combination of an early gendered division of labor with the adoption of agriculture and corresponding formation of permanent settlements set the stage for class divisions and the private accumulation of surplus wealth. Maintaining this arrangement required the development of states with armies, social oppression and repression to weaken internal opposition, and ideologies to make it all seem normal and pre-ordained. And as land was degraded and resources used up faster than they naturally replenished themselves, expansion became imperative, leading to conquest and forced unequal trade. These intertwined and matured over time into an ever-more complex tangle, culminating in late-stage capitalism: the all-encompassing, all-devouring, spectacular horror that is our current global social living arrangement.
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A couple days ago, after 3 years of working on it, I finally finished the ebook version of “Capitalism Must Die!”
Here it is: https://gumroad.com/l/hOGG
Feel free to download it and share it with others. I want it to be widely distributed and contribute to the fight against capitalism, so I’ve made it “pay anything or nothing” and used a Creative Commons license. I hope it is useful. We really need to bring the system down, or all could soon be lost.
The print version should be available by the end of the year or so.
I’ll be spending the week at CSUN (California State University, Northridge), near Los Angeles. If you’re in the area and interested in organizing against capitalism, email me and we can talk. Some of the events are as follows:
The Political Art of Stephanie McMillan
An exhibition of cartoons from a range of work, including environmentalist editorial cartoons, comics journalism about the global garment industry, and comics exposing the evil nature of capitalism.
The show will be up Oct. 19-24.
A reception with the artist will be held 5-7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21.
A lecture on politics and art will be presented 2:30 p.m. Oct. 23.
In the CSUN West Gallery.
California State University, Northridge.
Capitalism Must Die! Our Planet is Not Expendable!
Tuesday, 10/22, 2 p.m.
As part of CSUN’s “Sustainability Day” (a series of workshops from 11 a.m.-3:15 p.m.), Stephanie McMillan will present a talk (with cartoons!) about how capitalism works, why it’s destroying the environment, and what we need to do to stop it.
USU, Northridge Center; csun.edu/sustainability
Capitalism Must Die!
3:30 p.m. Saturday, 10/26
Just & Sustainable Economics Conference (9 a.m.-5 p.m.)
From the event description:
“The Just and Sustainable Economics Conference is a project of Leftist, Left-leaning organizations of the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. Members of the Valley Socialists and the Valley College Socialists are trying to help develop the beginning of the dialogue for critical thought and analysis of our present day economic structure and how we, as an organized mass, will create a new society that solves the contradictory structure of Capitalism!”
“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is now available! Full color, 159 pages, $16.95 (free shipping in US). A group of friends is determined to stop the destruction of the Earth for capitalist profits. They try everything from protest to community gardening to sabotage to murder. An exploration of tactics and strategy.
Stephanie McMillan is an important voice. She is doing her part to make this a better world through her activism and her comics. And, fortunately for us, those two passions turn into some very compelling work. Her latest collection of comics, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide,” is published by Seven Stories Press. This book is a 160-page trade paperback priced at $12.71 and is set for release on October 8, 2013. Be sure to visit our friends at Seven Stories Press here and visit Stephanie McMillan here.
The following is an extensive email interview that I hope you’ll enjoy and be inspired by. What really motivates our actions? What sort of world do we accept and what sort of world could we aspire to? These are some of the ideas up for discussion in this interview.
HENRY CHAMBERLAIN: Stephanie, thank you for doing this interview. You are an activist, a journalist, and a cartoonist. You have created significant work, like “The Beginning of the American Fall,” which gives readers an inside look at how the Occupy movement came into existence. You have an ongoing comic strip, “The Minimum Security Chronicles,” that combines humor and discourse on being an activist. Your background is very interesting. You studied film and animation and you’ve always been an activist. Would you give a look at how you came to use words and pictures?
STEPHANIE McMILLAN: My artwork has always been political, with the purpose of delivering a message. My first public illustration was in 1982 for my high school newspaper, accompanying an article I wrote on the dangers of nuclear war. It was a drawing done in blue ballpoint pen of a screaming family being incinerated in a nuclear blast. From that point on, as I became politically active, I drew many images on banners and leaflets, and as graffiti and murals.
After college, I realized the process of animation, which I’d studied there, was too slow to say everything I wanted to (it was all done by hand in those days, and it could take a year to make a 3-minute film), and the audience was very small. In the late 1980s there was no internet, and only one annual showing of short animated films at a New York art theater. And when Reagan cut the NEA it became much more difficult to be an independent filmmaker. I didn’t want to work in advertising or for Disney, the only other viable options at the time, so I gave up my childhood dream of being an animator. In 1992 a newspaper editor suggested I draw regular editorial cartoons, and gave me a venue to do so.
HC: We are both from Generation X. And while these are generalities, I do think there’s something to be said for the fact that our generation grew up with a distinctive bent towards being alienated, ironic, and cynical. Do you think that this mindset, among other factors, contributed to the lack of any robust protest movements for so many years?
SM: Absolutely, it has. And this is not accidental. These are the attitudes corresponding to postmodernism, an ideology that has knocked out our class consciousness like a brick to the head. This has been decades in the making, and has severely damaged our capacity to fight capitalism. Deconstruction, an element of postmodernism, started out as a progressive initiative in the universities during the late 1960s, as a challenge to the dominant eurocentric, white-male-dominated ideology and culture. But like so many other things that start out combative, it has been tamed by capitalism and harnessed into its service.
Postmodernism asserts that meaning is not inherent in anything. What has emerged from this is the notion that each person’s—or subject’s—perception of reality, and their response to this perception, is equally valid. But when we live in a situation of ideological domination, where the majority of the population doesn’t recognize capitalism as our enemy, this approach (whatever its initial intent) can only end up serving the existing system. It opens the door only far enough for cynicism and irony to get through, but not class struggle.
We must reclaim our ability to judge, and to make assertions according to our class interests. Not everything is equally valid. Not everything is acceptable. There is right and wrong. There is reality and illusion. There is truth and falsehood. There are some ideas that serve life, and other ideas that facilitate exploitation and murder. We have to be able to strongly assert that for the broad masses of people and for life on the planet as a whole, capitalism is evil.
HC: I do remember there having been a brief anti-nuclear movement after Three Mile Island but nothing took off. There were protests of some significance against the invasion of Iraq. The WTO protest in Seattle, which I witnessed, was a sign of things to come. And, like you’ve written, it wasn’t until Occupy that we came to see something bigger emerge. Do you think a fresh energy coming from the Millennial Generation is a big factor in this new protest movement or is it more a case of so many chickens having come home to roost?
SM: This young generation has been thrown to the wolves, sacrificed to finance capital. They’ve been offered no way to make a living, much less to pay off the enormous debt they’ve been burdened with. The promises about the future lifestyles they expected to enjoy have evaporated, and they face nothing but economic hardship and ecological catastrophe. Occupy was mainly an initial response to the shock of facing this reality.
The protests have been an important, necessary step. But if we are to actually build the kind of revolutionary movement that can challenge the domination of capital over us, then we need to go much further. We need to go beyond “protest mode,” and build the kind of organizations strong enough to actually take power and run society.
HC: The one key factor that you return to in seeking a solution to our current state of economic dysfunction is to completely destroy global capitalism. But how would we ever accomplish such a thing? That, Stephanie, would be my main question to you now and in any future interviews–because I’m sure it is a question with an evolving answer.
First, what do you mean when you refer to global capitalism? Are we talking bad capitalism vs. good capitalism? Multi-nationals vs. small family businesses? We need some form of capitalism, don’t we? I mean, we need to keep brining in some sort of income for ourselves to function in society as we know it.
SM: I’ll answer these two questions together, since our response to a problem is determined by our understanding of that problem. We need to thoroughly understand capitalism if we are going to be able to overcome it. And everything we’re taught from the day we’re born is designed to thwart our understanding of it and cement our allegiance to it.
These are the two fundamental questions of our current era: what is the nature of this system, and how do we destroy it? Marx laid the foundation for understanding capital, and countless others have offered their analysis and opinions about the system and about what to do. But there are no formulas. Theory is a living process, developing and constantly changing along with reality itself.
I’ve wrestled with these questions for my entire adult life, and have made many mistakes and wandered onto dead end paths. I believe I’m on a more productive path now, but history will tell. As part of my own effort at clarification and applying theory, I’ve written another new book (with text and cartoons) that I’m just finishing up now, called “Capitalism Must Die!” It will be out soon. It has two sections. One defines capitalism and explains how it works, and why it’s inherently expansionist and irredeemable. The other part talks about class struggle and how to organize to defeat capitalism.
But here are some short answers for right now:
Capitalism is a specific historical mode of production in which labor is a commodity, sold for wages. Workers produce more value (called surplus value) than the amount they are paid. This surplus value is appropriated by capitalists, who own the means of production (factories, raw materials, land, etc).
Surplus value is reinvested as new capital. Capital has the tendency to accumulate and expand, and has become an integrated world system.
We don’t need capitalism at all, in any form. There’s no “good” capitalism. It’s all evil. It’s destroying us. Families who survive by running small businesses suffer in this system too, and are almost always eventually out-competed or eaten up by larger capitalists.
We do need, as your question addresses, a way for us to reproduce ourselves, a way for our society to exist from one day to the next. We need to produce food, clothing, shelter and other necessities. There’s no reason whatsoever that this has to be done under the domination of capital. In fact, for the vast majority of people, it could be more easily and better accomplished without such domination. Our species has managed to thrive—and to avoid destroying the Earth—without class divisions, and specifically without capitalism (the current form of class-divided society), for most of our existence.
The fundamental contradiction of capitalism is between capital and labor. The entire capitalist economy, including speculation and banking and everything else, is built on the surplus value stolen from workers in the process of commodity production. So the working class is in a unique position: their interests are fundamentally in opposition to capital, and they are placed strategically at the point of production. If they refuse to work, surplus value—and thus capital—doesn’t’ get produced.
So the most direct way to destroy capitalism is for the working class to seize and control the means of production, and to run it for the benefit not of capitalists, but for society as a whole. For this to happen, we need a revolution of all the popular classes in an alliance against capital, led by the working class.
We can accomplish that by starting organizations wherever we are: in schools, workplaces, and neighborhoods. Plus, we need to appropriate working class theory. With these elements we can build our collective capacity to resist and weaken capital, with the ultimate goal of overthrowing it.
HC: What, at this point in your research and thought, would you describe as the ideal way of living, locally and globally? Is an activist thinking in terms of one lifetime or generations?
SM: We should be thinking in terms of the long-term future, the opposite of the capitalists’ restless and destructive quest for short-term gains. Of course for human society to be sustainable, production must be completely transformed so that it’s not net extractive, and instead beneficial for the health (measured in thriving biodiversity) of the planet overall. A new way of life can only be determined and built collectively, by society as a whole, as we break down class divisions. We’ll make that path as we walk it.
HC: This is a bit morbid, but isn’t everything rather a moot point as long as we have the threat of nuclear weapons all over the world? We can enjoy rich, healthy, satisfying lives but those in control will…well, remain in control, won’t they? There’s global warming is keep us busy fighting against and then there remains the whole nuclear issue.
SM: Indeed. Both the ecological crisis and threat of nuclear weapons are effects, or consequences, of capitalism. If we focus our fight on these (or other) effects, then we’ll never win. Capitalism is extremely innovative and dynamic. It can always absorb losses and go around them. For example, while everyone’s attention was focused on stopping the Keystone XL pipeline, energy companies developed enough rail capacity to transport even more tar sands oil than Keystone would.
We need to strike at the core of capitalism, its engine, rather than keep trying to puncture its tires. That means we need to push its fundamental or central contradiction, capital vs. labor, forward toward a rupture.
HC: Well, there is no end to the struggle. What would you suggest in the way of reading and participation, to move closer to a better world?
SM: First, observe reality and think critically. How is capitalism manifesting itself currently, and in various places? How is resistance struggling to come into being, how are the masses expressing their interests, and what can turn that into a social force? How do we organize when there is such an overall low level of combativeness and consciousness? We can only learn these things by participating in struggle. It’s like learning any other skill. You can’t learn how to play a guitar by reading about it; at some point you have to pick one up and start plucking the strings.
If there are no organizations where you are that are addressing these questions effectively, then it’s your responsibility to start one. It starts with you and one other person. Then one more. But someone has to take that initiative.
Read lots of history and political theory, of all types and from all sources. This is how we begin to think critically, to analyze, to learn from all the many and diverse experiences of our class. We have to do this on our own, in spite of all the institutions (schools, mainstream media, religions, entertainments) that work so hard to keep us ignorant.
HC: I am sure it’s rewarding to discuss these big issues in your comic strip, “Minimum Security Chronicles.” The latest collection is out October 8, published by Seven Stories Press. Are the any final thoughts or new projects on the horizon?
SM: Yes, I do always like to discuss the big issues. We all need to be engaged with them, if we are to have a future at all. We have to have our priorities straight, and not get caught up in trivialities. There isn’t anything more important than emancipating the world from the omnicidal system of capitalism.
I’m hoping to have the book “Capitalism Must Die!” done in the next month or two. I’m also presently working on a series of comics about the struggles of workers in the global garment industry. After that, I have a book in mind on revolutionary proletarian ideology. All of this is secondary to, and in service of, my actual political work. At the revolutionary level, I’m participating in a project called Idées Nouvelles, Idées Prolétariennes (New Ideas Proletarian Ideas) (look here). At the intermediate/mass level, I work with an anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist group called One Struggle (look here). If you or anyone reading this is interested in either one, I’d be happy to discuss them further (firstname.lastname@example.org).
HC: Stephanie–thanks so much. I hope these questions stir up some good discussion.
SM: Thank you, Henry! Please feel free to follow up on anything you’d like to continue talking about.
HC: Thank you, Stephanie! We will definitely continue this discussion.
Win a free copy of my new graphic novel “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” from Seven Stories Press! They’re giving away 8 copies here: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/63999-the-minimum-security-chronicles-resistance-to-ecocide
By Henry Chamberlain
“The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide” is full of whimsy and wisdom as it follows its characters on a journey to save the planet. It’s all up to a group of friends to figure out if they can smash the capitalist system or just give up and go shopping. What makes Stephanie McMillan’s comic strip such a page-turner is her ability to find the right mix of humor and intelligent discourse.
Stephanie McMillan’s sense of urgency and comedy is irresistible. She has placed a whole new generation with the burden of saving the planet but they’re pretty clueless. There’s Kranti and Bananabelle, who just barely know the struggles from the past. Kranti, an African-American, is quick to join a protest rally and yell, “By any means necessary!” And Bananabelle, intuitively, recognizes that won’t go over well with the “mainstream liberals.”
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Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2012. 160 pp. $14.95. paper.
by Rosalie Morales Kearns
Years ago I attended a women writers conference where a woman in our fiction-writing workshop read aloud to us from a novel she had started. As I recall, the plot involved members of a book group, all women and all survivors of domestic violence, who agreed to a revenge pact. Each one, they decided, would kill a man who had abused someone else, a man with whom she had no connection.
It was a hot, sunny day, I was a bit drowsy from lunch, I was being read aloud to. Violent men were about to meet their doom in deeply satisfying ways. What stands out in my memory is how soothing the experience was.
I don’t know whether the writer ever finished her novel, but of course it leapt to mind as I read The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, a satire by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan. The title handily telegraphs the novel’s plot: as members of a knitting group start confiding in each other, they find out that they’re all survivors of rape, and the rapists in question (high school counselors, relatives, clergymen, ex-husbands) have never even been arrested, let alone prosecuted. The women avenge each other by killing those rapists. With their knitting needles.
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October 8, 2013 is the official publication date of my new graphic novel, “The Minimum Security Chronicles: Resistance to Ecocide.” It’s a compilation of comic strips that ran from April 2010 to October 2012, which together make up the story of a group of friends who try different strategies and tactics to stop ecocide. During this process, they hear of a particular geo-engineering project being planned, and focus their efforts on preventing that. It’s not only a thrilling story of trying to save the world, but also a thought experiment gaming out different revolutionary strategies.
I received advance copies, and they look pretty good! Full color throughout, 160 pages, Seven Stories Press.
Watch this space for order info!
Batay Ouvriye (Workers Fight) is an autonomous workers’ organization—not run by establishment unions, NGOs, students, or other outside groups, but by workers themselves. In 1995 it launched a struggle against Disney contractors who were paying workers 30 cents an hour to stitch together Pocahontas t-shirts. It has branches in most geographical areas of Haiti, organizing garment workers in assembly factories of the Free Trade Zones, agricultural laborers, unemployed workers, and others.
Batay Ouvriye also organizes amongst other sections of the popular masses, such as small peasants, and builds alliance with other organizations. They fight for better conditions, livable wages, and for an end to occupation by UN military forces.
The garment industry is a global web of nightmares, where suppliers compete to offer their products at the lowest possible cost to stores like Walmart, The Gap and J.C. Penney.
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Coming up: a multi-media presentation (with cartoons!), explaining the basics of how capitalism works, why it’s evil, and how to stop it.
Please come if you’re in the area!
99% contro il potere
Interview in Italian about my book “American Fall”
by Mattia Gallo
1) What is the current situation of the Occupy movement in America? What were the developments after the first months of its birth until now?
Only a couple of months after Occupy began, federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, worked with the mayors of major cities to coordinate police repression and shut down the camps. So Occupy didn’t dissolve willingly; it was crushed by a greater force, a hostile force. Because Occupy was mainly spontaneous and not organized, when most people were dispersed, they did not return.
Some of the participants re-grouped and went on to try other organizing projects, such as protecting foreclosure victims from eviction, providing debt relief, and responding to disasters (for example, after Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast). Many others were co-opted by the Democratic Party. Some of the more radical elements attempted a general strike the following May Day, and while some protests occurred, there was nothing like a general strike.
Some people, who expected Occupy to be the beginning of the revolution, may have been disappointed enough to give up when the revolution didn’t happen. But others continue to be active in various capacities. Widespread anger against the crimes of the system continues to increase, and resistance will be expressed somehow. No one knows what form it will take next. But certainly the social problems that sparked Occupy in the first place have not been resolved; they are only intensifying. So there will undoubtedly be other uprisings. The state understands this, which is why they are solidifying a horrifyingly thorough surveillance and repressive apparatus.
2) In your book you talk about the “need to create organizations openly anti-capitalist.” Why? How much anti-system and in anti-capitalist policy is present in “Occupy”?
If we are to change society, we have to understand what makes our society what it is, and how it works. The various problems addressed in Occupy — economic crisis, ecocide, war, oppression, unemployment – are all caused by a system, the capitalist system. If we address each issue as distinct, without connecting them to their root cause, we cannot hope to solve any of them. Only by identifying and combatting their common source, can we have that chance.
Capitalism is inherently exploitative, ecocidal, and expansionist. Even the nicest capitalists in the world can’t change its cruel and destructive nature. For me, to put it bluntly, the only alternative that can decisively eliminate capitalism is for the working class to emancipate itself – to seize political power and control over the means of production – and eliminate surplus value (which is how capital reproduces) by abolishing the wage system and private accumulation. Only through this process can we end the atrocities that capitalism inherently generates, and overcome class-divided society in general.
3) You are part of an organization called “One Struggle”. When and where was it born? What are your basic values? What are its activities?
One Struggle was born and then re-born. The first time, it started at the “US Hands Off the Haitian People Coalition,” a group active in the 1990s in Miami. I was a member then too. We worked to oppose US intervention in Haiti and the forcible return of people fleeing the murderous Cedras regime, and to build solidarity with workers’ struggles, particularly in garment factories. After a few years it expanded its scope to become anti-imperialist in general, and changed its name to One Struggle. The group dissolved at the end of the 1990s due to various factors.
In 2010, several of the original members revived it. It is not a revolutionary organization, but an intermediate-level organization. Its goal is to build a broad, non-sectarian, combative, anti-capitalist/anti-imperialist mass movement. As of today, we have chapters in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and New York. Our projects include a newspaper and a Rapid Response Network, which builds support for struggles of workers with whom we have organized ties. We give presentations to expose how capitalism and imperialism function (for example, how they use NGOs as tools of domination). The website is onestruggle.net.
4) Some of the most famous American cartoonists like Matt Groening and Charles Schulz are able to look deep and with satire to the reality. The beginning of the history of comics is due to the “Yellow Kid”, proletarian comic published at the end of the nineteenth century in the “New York World”, which was shut down by building properties in New York because the comics were drawn the slums of the city. Do you like Schulz and Groening? Do you think there’s a real school of American comics able to look critically at reality? What are the comics that you like most and that are important to you? What do you think about the encounter between politics and comics?
For years as a child, I was obsessed with the comic strips of Charles Schulz. I learned to draw by copying Snoopy. I read every Peanuts book, and learned that the combined power of words and images can be more compelling than either of these elements alone. I decided at age 10 that I wanted to be a cartoonist too. As for Matt Groening, yes, I’ve admired his work since I began reading “Life in Hell” in the Village Voice in the early 1980s. He was one of those who first developed the “alternative” cartoon form, popular in the alternative press newsweeklies, which inspired me to develop my own regular cartoon, “Minimum Security.” So both of these artists were very influential for me.
There are various comics that have appeared in the US that do shed light on reality. I have always liked comics with strong political or social messages, rather than simple gag cartoons or empty entertainment. In my formative years I read “MAD” magazine, “Love and Rockets,” and the magazine “World War 3 Illustrated.” As a political activist, I felt connected to the topics and characters they portrayed, in an immediate and visceral way. Some contemporary editorial cartoonists who use their work to expose the system include Ted Rall, Matt Bors, Jen Sorensen, and Ruben Bolling. I follow these regularly.
It’s important to make a distinction between workers who produce surplus value and service employees, because the entire capitalist economy rests on the surplus value generated in the production of commodities. This is the only new value produced in capitalist society, and it is generated in the labor process itself, as the worker is making physical commodities that can be bought and sold. That’s what exploitation is: taking this value produced by the worker.
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Here’s an interview I did for the largest Athens (Greece) daily paper, about “The Beginning of the American Fall.”
What I sent them, answering their questions, is below (I’m not sure what, from this, was actually used)…
1) How does it feel to be one of the few women in the cartoon world?
It’s hard to make a living as a cartoonist, no matter the gender. In the last decade or so, being female has become much less of a novelty in the cartoon/comics world. I actually don’t think about that very much. In some instances it has probably been one factor (secondary, among others) when I’ve been passed over for jobs or received lower pay, but I can’t control that, so I move on, and keep trying a lot of different things to get my work seen and to find ways of making an income from it. My (far left) political views are actually much more of an obstacle to achieving the traditional view of “success” than anything else. Not to mention the collapse of print media. These have been much more significant factors for me.
2) Politics and cartoons. An uneasy bond?
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Here’s an article I wrote for Salty Eggs.
Our worst nightmares reverberate with the prediction of respected scientist James Hansen: if we don’t stop TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, then it’s “game over” for stabilizing the climate. With final US governmental approval (or not) to complete the pipeline looming, struggle over it is intensifying.
In late January, representatives from more than 25 First Nations in what is currently known as Canada and the US met in South Dakota to pledge mutual support in halting all Alberta tar sands oil production projects, including specifically the Keystone XL pipeline.
On February 17, tens of thousands rallied in Washington, DC, to demand that the Obama administration reject the XL pipeline. Even the members of the Sierra Club were sufficiently alarmed that the staid ENGO had to lift its 120-year ban on civil disobedience.
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Thanks to a lot of great and generous readers, the upcoming book of cartoons-with-texts, “Capitalism Must Die!” is only $60 away from reaching its $6K goal– and with 10 days left, may even surpass it!
[EDITED: Made it just a few minutes later!!]
I’ve launched a fundraiser on Indiegogo for a cartoons-with-text book I’m putting together called “Capitalism Must Die! How to Kill Capitalism Before it Kills Us.” It will last through February 15. The book will contain some of the cartoons and text that appears here on this website, plus other content. Contributors will receive books, artwork and more. I’d very much appreciate it if you could spread the word to your readers, friends, and contacts. Thank you!!
Thanks so much to those who have already contributed!
Here’s the text from the Indiegogo page:
Capitalism Must Die! How to Kill Capitalism before it Kills Us will be a short (approximately 124 pages), simple book (with text, comics and illustrations) explaining capitalism: how it works, why it’s evil, and how to crush it. It’s very basic and accessible theory for the beginning revolutionary. The book will be printed in black and white, as cheaply as possible so more people can get it and use it. There will also be an ebook in full color.
With the funds I raise here, I’ll be able to focus for the next few months on producing this book, without needing to do additional freelance work. If I don’t make my goal, I will still take partial funding and produce the book no matter what (and you will still get your rewards). If I receive extra funding, I have more books planned (two books on general revolutionary concepts, and one on essential principles & practices for effective revolutionaries) and any extra funds will help me produce those too!
As an organizer, I often need materials that will help clarify basic concepts, to assist myself and others in understanding this nightmare of a system, as well as to introduce the theories – the guidelines – that could help us end it. We need to fashion our own tools to build a revolutionary movement. I haven’t been able to find all materials I need, so I decided to make some myself. If I need them, others might need them too.
For this book, I will combine my skills as a long-time organizer, writer, and award-winning cartoonist (RFK Journalism Award 2012, Society of Professional Journalists’ Sigma Delta Chi 2010, Adbusters Creative Resistance Award, among others). I’ve learned through my 20-year career as a cartoonist (published in hundreds of venues including the Los Angeles Times, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Daily Beast, Z Magazine and the Occupied Wall Street Journal) that editorial cartoons must be sharp, to-the-point, and easy to understand. Revolutionary theory can be all those things as well.
Topics to be included:
What capitalism is, and what it is not
How capitalism functions: its economic mechanisms and social dynamics
Why capitalism is inherently expansionist
Why war, ecocide and poverty are inevitable effects of capitalism
Why no one – even capitalists themselves– has the power to make the system more humane or less destructive
What must be done to destroy capitalism
Who is in a position to damage and destroy it, and who are their allies in that struggle
What is the difference between profit and surplus value, and why that is important
Why attacking capitalism’s awful effects is not a viable strategy
What are the structural weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the system
This book is an expanded version of a talk and slide show I gave last year at a day-long event called Earth at Risk, at the University of California at Berkeley, organized by Derrick Jensen, with Arundhati Roy and several other speakers. Many people approached me afterward to ask if I would make the talk widely available. This book is the result.
Here’s some recent reader feedback:
“I like what you’re doing with this series of graphic presentations. Very educational, while still remaining fun to look at.”
– Sean Michael Dodd
“I look forward to the new cartoons. Sometimes they are revelatory and I perceive a new insight into something I thought I already had a full understanding of. You are able to encapsulate big concepts in succinct and thoughtful ways.”
“Yours is an especially tough message to hustle — that all these feel good recycling type things individuals are doing mean nothing if we dont shift systemically. We collectively dont actually want to hear this message, we are trying to dodge it. But then your clever cartoons come along. And we like cartoons and we read them, and we are shaken up and we can’t just go back to pretending.”
– Paxus Calta-Star
Please spread the word about this campaign to your friends and contacts.
Thanks in advance to everyone who donates! And to Indiegogo for providing the platform, and to Ted Rall for his very nice narration.
See more of my work here at stephaniemcmillan.org. See the work of One Struggle at onestruggle.net.
CONTACT: I’d be happy to answer any and all questions from potential backers. Please email me at email@example.com
For anyone who has the impulse to say: “Isn’t it hypocritical to be raising money when you’re against capitalism?!?”, I would like to point out that as long as we do live under capitalism, there is still rent to pay, food to buy, printers to pay, etc. I’m seeking subsistence and production costs only, and there’s little danger of me using the money to open a book sweatshop where I put desperate writers and cartoonists to work on my assembly line, while I lie around sipping mojitos… Hm… wait a minute….can I do that?
The official publication date of my new comics-journalism book about the Occupy movement, “The Beginning of the American Fall,” is Tuesday, November 13, 2012. If you are planning to purchase it from Amazon anyway, I’d like to ask you a favor: if you buy it there on Tuesday (tomorrow), you’ll bump up the sales rank on that site, making it more visible and increasing sales overall.
Also, I’d really appreciate it if you can spread the word about it, add reviews to Amazon, and encourage publications and websites to review it as well.
Here’s the Amazon link:
One of Publishers Weekly‘s Top Ten Graphic Novels for Fall 2012!
“American Fall is the definitive, thrilling and inspiring account of the beginning of the first major street-level protest movement since the 1960s: the Occupy Wall Street movement. Stephanie McMillan’s stunning illustrations, personal accounts and first-hand analysis documents the most exciting event in U.S. politics in generations.” —Ted Rall, author of The Anti-American Manifesto
“Stephanie McMillan is an important and courageous political philosopher. This book movingly shows important lessons we can learn from the Occupy Movement and apply as we move forward toward the revolution we so desperately need.” —Derrick Jensen, author of Endgame, and A Language Older Than Words
Can a cartoonist and millions of random strangers change the world? The initial stages of their attempt are chronicled in this book of comics-journalism and written observations.
Stephanie McMillan, long-time activist and cartoonist, has waited her entire life for the American people to rise up. Sparked by uprisings around the world, a new movement bursts onto the national scene against a system that denies the people a decent life and puts the planet at risk.
With delightful full-color drawings, interviews, dialogue, description, and insightful reflections, this book chronicles the first several months of the fragile and contradictory movement. It situates detailed personal experiences and representative narratives within the broad context of a truly unique and historical global conjuncture. This book will stand as a record of the emerging movement in accessible comics form.
2012, Seven Stories Press.
“With delightful full-color drawings, interviews, dialogue, description, and insightful reflections, this book chronicles the first several months of the fragile and contradictory movement. It situates detailed personal experiences and representative narratives within the broad context of a truly unique and historical global conjuncture. This book will stand as a record of the emerging movement in accessible comics form.”
$16.95 – FREE shipping in US
Please note: for international shipping of one book, please add $10. For other quantities, please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org).
I just got my copies yesterday from the publisher of my new novel, The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, co-authored with Derrick Jensen. $15, signed, free shipping. Described as a combination of Monty Python and the SCUM Manifesto.
The patch, pictured on the cover, is also available for $6 each (5 for $25).
Details and order information here: http://stephaniemcmillan.org/shop/
Minimum Security is about to shift gears. The current story, wherein a group of friends attempts to save the world by stopping a geo-engineering project, will draw to a conclusion on September 28.
Following that will be a week long intermission, during which readers are invited to enjoy an original silent ballet interpretation by Victoria guinea pig, performing scenes from Maxim Gorky’s Mother.
Then, starting on October 8, Minimum Security will begin a phase entitled “Proletarian Theory is a Revolutionary Social Force.” Dusty books of heavy academic theory aside, revolutionary politics can be amusing!
The purpose of this project is to promote and popularize the construction of proletarian theory, in an accessible form, as a contribution to the elimination of capitalism and for a classless society liberated from all forms of domination, exploitation and oppression. The cartoons will be linked to supplementary texts.
This is partly an exercise for me to achieve clarity for my own political work, and partly to share what I think — I don’t have all the answers (no one person or group can). So constructive input and exchange of ideas will be appreciated. You are welcome to share the work freely. You could, if you find it useful, use it as an organizing tool.
Topics will include definitions of theoretical concepts, class analysis, forms of organization, and ideas for beginning to develop a political line.
Many efforts are being made. I offer this one small stream to join the mighty river that will sweep capitalism off the face of the Earth!
I want to thank everyone who offered to contribute to Code Green, and who helped promote my fundraising campaign, and who sent notes of encouragement. I appreciate your efforts very much!! I’m very moved by your level of support and by your very kind words.
The campaign did not succeed, so I won’t be drawing that particular cartoon any longer. And I’m going to begin seeking some other kind of way to make a living than being a cartoonist. However, I will continue to draw and write cartoons and other things as a complement to organizing, as my contribution to the social change that we so urgently need. Plus Minimum Security continues to run at gocomics.com.
I’ve been thinking of quitting drawing “Code Green,” my weekly editorial cartoon about the environmental emergency. My income from paying clients has crashed; if I’m going to continue it, it needs to be supported by readers.
So I’ve started a fundraising campaign.
I’m not going to be pushing this much at all. This is the only post I’m going to make about it. I’m okay with quitting this cartoon. But because some readers seemed dismayed when I talked about quitting, I didn’t feel right about ending it without giving you a chance to keep it going.
So… please support and share if you wish.
(BTW, I’m going to continue my comic strip “Minimum Security” — soon in a new form).