85 Billionaires and the Better Half

by Michael Parenti

An urban slum in Hanoi, Viet Nam. (Photo: Flickr / United Nations / Creative Commons)The world’s 85 richest individuals possess as much wealth as the 3.5 billion souls who compose the poorer half of the world’s population, or so it was announced in a report by Oxfam International. The assertion sounds implausible to me.  I think the 85 richest individuals, who together are worth many hundreds of billions of dollars, must have far more wealth than the poorest half of our global population.

How could these two cohorts, the 85 richest and 3.5 billion poorest, have the same amount of wealth? The great majority of the 3.5 billion have no net wealth at all. Hundreds of millions of them have jobs that hardly pay enough to feed their families. Millions of them rely on supplements from private charity and public assistance when they can. Hundreds of millions are undernourished, suffer food insecurity, or go hungry each month, including many among the very poorest in the United States.

“The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.”

Most of the 3.5 billion earn an average of $2.50 a day. The poorest 40 percent of the world population accounts for just 5 percent of all global income. About 80 percent of all humanity live on less than $10 a day. And the poorest 50 percent  maintain only 7.2 percent of the world’s private consumption. How exactly could they have accumulated an amount of surplus wealth comparable to the 85 filthy richest?

Hundreds of millions live in debt even in “affluent” countries like the United States. They face health care debts, credit card debts, college tuition debts, and so on. Many, probably most who own homes—and don’t live in shacks or under bridges or in old vans—are still straddled with mortgages. This means their net family wealth is negative, minus-zero. They have no  propertied wealth; they live in debt.

Millions among the poorest 50 percent in the world may have cars but most of them also have car payments. They are driving in debt.  In countries like Indonesia, for the millions without private vehicles, there are the overloaded, battered buses, poorly maintained vehicles that specialize in breakdowns and ravine plunges. Among the lowest rungs of the 50 percent are the many who pick thru garbage dumps and send their kids off to work in grim, soul-destroying sweatshops.

The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population—whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest  individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.—can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down?  Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities, especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc? We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are.

Millions of children who number in the lower 50 percent never see the inside of a school. Instead they labor in mills, mines and on farms, under conditions of peonage.  Nearly a billion people are unable to read or write. The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.

But for now, let me repeat: the world’s richest 85 individuals do not have the same amount of accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent. They have vastly more. The multitude on the lower rungs—even taken as a totality—have next to nothing.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.

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Running Down The Walls 2013 – Los Angeles

The Free Association of Anarchists will be participating in an event hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation in collaboration with RAC-LA in an effort to raise needed funds for political prisoners. Below is more information regarding the event.

LA-ABCF’s Annual Running Down The Walls 5K Run/Walk/Bike

On Sunday, September 8th, 2013 at 10 a.m., RAC LA and the Los Angeles Anarchist Black Cross will host a 5K Run/Walk/Bike around MacArthur Park. This Run is designed to raise much-needed funds for the Anarchist Black Cross Federation’s Warchest program and for Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC).

We are attempting to reach the goal of $3,000 with the run. Funds will be divided between the two programs:

ABCF Warchest:
The ABCF Warchest program was created in November of 1994. Its purpose is to send monthly financial support to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War (PP/POWs). The Warchest funds are divided and distributed through monthly stipends to political prisoners who receive little or no financial aid. Prisoners use this money to cover the basic necessities of everyday living. These funds have been used by prisoners to pay for stamps, shoes, clothes, as well as assisting their families with what little they can.

Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC):
In the aftermath of the May Day 2007 police riot targeting migrant workers who dared stand up for our human rights, members of the MacArthur Park area and others joined together to support those with no papers and those with no means. RAC-LA came forward to aid the community in self-organizing such that with the help of each other we might make an inhuman way of living a bit more bearable while at same time acquiring the means to one day transform this system into an image of our own humanity.

Solidarity Runs:
Every year, prisoners and supporters of political prisoners organize solidarity runs with Running Down the Walls. In Sync with each other, we will collectively pound the pavement with our feet and bike tires as we exhibit our strength and stamina as examples of our tireless effort to free our imprisoned comrades. In past years we had runs in: Albuquerque (NM), Arcata (CA), Ashland, (OR), Bellefonte (PA), Boston (MA), Connecticut River, Dannemora (NY), Denver, (CO), Detroit (MI), Elmore (AL), Guelph (CAN), Inez (KY), Los Angeles (CA), Marion (IL), Mexico City (MEX), New York City (NY), USP. Navosta (TX), Pelican Bay (CA), Phoenix (AZ), Sandstone (MN), Tucson (AZ), USP Tucson (AZ), and Toronto (CAN).

-This year’s Running Down the Walls solidarity runs will be held on the Sunday, September 1st, 2013, with the exception of Los Angeles and Vermont, these events are scheduled for Sunday, September 8th

Support the Struggle:
We must remember that many of those arrested in the past or present are not far from us. Many of them were and are community and labor activists, queer, and environmental activists; people who decided to speak out against various forms of oppression and paid the price of their freedom for their actions. We must remember that anyone of these people could have at one time stood beside us in a demonstration, at a speak-out, or even at an organizing meeting. At any given moment it could be us who finds ourselves in this situation, so it is imperative that we ensure that a strong enough community of support exists for these people as well as ourselves. The strength of our movement is determined by how much we support our fallen comrades. As Anarchist and former POW Ojore Lutalo says, “Any Movement that does not support its political internees, is a sham movement.” So please help us, help them! Help us help you!

We encourage people to participate in helping us raise funds for the Warchest, which can be done in the following ways:

Be a runner:
We are asking people or groups who are running to collect as many sponsor for the run as possible. Remember the money received is going to help imprisoned comrades who need your help. The person who collects the most amount of funds will be given a prize for their involvement and dedication to helping our fallen comrades.

Sponsor a runner:
This can be done through a flat donation to the runner of your choice, each flyer is a sponsor sheet. We ask from those who wish not to run to actively support those who are running in hopes of collecting as much for our comrades as possible.

Sponsor Running Down the Walls:
Any amount helps. Contact the Los Angeles Anarchist Black Cross if you wish to simply donate money to the cause.

Donate to:
-The Warchest:
Send funds directly to the Los Angeles ABCF (PO Box 11223, Whittier, CA 90603) or to the Philadelphia ABCF (PO Box 42129, Philadelphia, PA 19101) make checks or money orders out only to Tim Fasnacht.

-Revolutionary Autonomous Communities (RAC): http://revolutionaryautonomouscommunities.blogspot.com/

Get involved in the planning of Running Down the Walls:
We always need help with organizing the event and we encourage people to contact us if they would like to get involved. You can do this by contacting the LA Anarchist Black Cross, www.abcf.net/la, la@abcf.net

-Jaan Laaman, UFF Political Prisoner Statement of Solidarity

October 19th 2002
“My Brothers,
Thank you for running at this special event that means so much to many of us all over the world, both free and imprisoned. In a relative way, we are all political prisoners because it is the politics of this system of things that is exploiting, crushing, imprisoning, and destroying the masses all over the world and the earth itself. Then there are those who know this and take actions against those who seek to deny us our rightful place on earth as common human brethren. Those are the ones we run for and seek to help… whom sacrificed their family, freedom and lives, so that our lives may be better! The fact that you ran with us is a sign that when the red-hour comes, you will not be caught asleep. You are conscious and you too are willing to represent. The potential in you is great. Thank you for running for the cause!”

“As we ran we were thinking and talking about all the runners in Los Angeles and how we’d love to be out there running with them. We also spoke about the other political prisoners who were running with us in at least some other prisons.”

Running Down the Walls 2013
When: Sunday, September 8th, 2013, 10 am – 5 pm
Where: MacArthur Park, (West corner), 2230 W. 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90057

Registration fees: $12 preregistration; $15, the day of the run. (Make checks out to Tim Fasnacht)

Or for paypal:

Log in to your PayPal account and send your donation online to the email address “timABCF@aol.com” (Tim Fasnacht). Make sure to add in the notes section that your donation is for RDTW 2013. If you’d prefer to stay anonymous or are donating in the name of an organization, let us know.

For more information contact the Los Angeles Branch Group of the Anarchist Black Cross Federation
PO BOX 11223
Whitier, Ca 90603


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Mask of A Multitude

This is the complete version that was included our most recent Black Flag Newsletter.



Pesky Artist

Mask of a Multitude: Staging Anarchy in the City

In a society of discipline and control, is it possible to perform acts of resistance and defiance that challenge the status quo? How is it that any group poor in resources, though perhaps rich in spirit, can grapple for power? In The Practice of Everyday Life, Michel de Certeau discusses the relationship between power and resistance by introducing his concepts of strategy and tactics. For de Certeau, institutions assert power strategically by relying on the physical presence and occupation of space. Institutional strategy therefore regulates the practices of subjects by controlling those structures within which we interact. Strategy is the exercise of power of the dominant. The weak, he contends however, must utilize tactics to express constituent power. Where strategy relies on space to control time, tactics focus on opportune moments in time to momentarily control space. While tactical power is ephemeral, it is afforded mobility and flexibility that strategic power lacks. de Certeau writes “The space of the tactic is the space of the other…What it wins it can not keep” (37). But what if the tactic does not set out to win or keep anything?

Among anarchist collectives the tactic of Black Bloc has become a staple. A quick and dirty definition of Black Bloc would be a grouping of individuals masked in black, often carrying shields though sometimes batons also, who march at the external margins of a larger marching population in order to insulate and protect the march through self-defense. By manning the front line, Black Blocrs confront police units who obstruct and control public space to suppress the mobility of the march, in order to stage a demonstration of State violence. This is an important distinction to make clear. A black bloc does not set out to deploy violence but rather stage a performance of violence. As a performance, the Black Bloc tactic meets the State within the spectacle that Debord argues “presents itself as a vast inaccessible reality that can never be questioned. Its sole message is: “What appears is good; what is good appears.” The passive acceptance it demands is already effectively imposed by its monopoly of appearances, its manner of appearing without allowing any reply” (2). To question the State, the Bloc seeks to stage violence by wagering on the assumption that when the State is confronted by dissent, it will use force and intimidation to restore order. In other words, the State temporarily suspends rights to public space, rights to association and speech in order to enforce its authority. An authority that is instituted, maintained, and demonstrated through sanctioned acts of violence.

So why Black Bloc? I have introduced the tactic of Black Bloc as a way to discuss some of the larger aspirations and limitations of the politics of anarchisms. First, the tactic represents a confrontational ethic necessary to any challenge of authority, this afterall is the goal tied to the etymology of anarchist politics, to be without rulers. However, the bloc in my opinion, is symptomatic of a tactical inertia that limits the political/symbolic traction infecting some anarchist collectives. After reflecting on/reading through the significance of blocing, I will suggest an alternative means of staging defiance in this way.

To begin our inquiry into the Bloc and by extension anarchisms we should consider the origin of their otherness. Taking Hegel’s Master/Slave dialectic as a guide, otherness is manifest in the confrontation between anarchists and the State or more specifically, the Black Bloc and the Police. During this confrontation the reaction of the police, hostile suppression, demonstrates the arbitrariness present in any contract between the State and those it represents by acting on behalf of the People against a people no longer recognized as such. In other words, the Bloc is excluded, no longer identified as the acceptable makeup of the body politic, they are free radicals.

In this initial contact we witness major critiques on the liberal tradition insofar as it limits itself to a delineation between The State and The People on whose behalf the state operates. In contrast to the State, the Bloc as a divided remainder of the People, is a manifestation of a multitude. The clash between the police and the Bloc can be read as the differentiation between The People and The multitude. Where the people indicates a represented unity forged by the State, a multitude by Hardt and Negri’s estimate is a multiplicity of singularities uninterested in coalescence with the State (259). Or as Virno’s reading of Hobbes states, the multitude exists prior to the unification of a state. However, once the state unifies, the multitude comprises a remainder that can never fully be summed into the people. To quote Virno from the Grammar of the Multitude, “it (the multitude) is the debris which sometimes jams the big machine”(24).  Here we see a point of unity between anarchisms and a theory of the multitude which deploys tactics in order to achieve what David Graeber argues for as goals of  “exposing, de-legitimizing, and dismantling mechanisms of rule” (2).

Furthermore, the Bloc symbolizes a breach in the state boundary as a multitude permeates through the midst of a city reappropriating space in its own way. The bloc becomes a pervasive borderland challenging the coherence of state space, a temporary autonomous zone opened at the eye of a storm. By wearing black they are a physical representation of political antagonism. If white is symbolic of peace and surrender as in a white flag. Black indicates continued defiance. If white symbolizes a reflection of the desire of the Law, than black is the denial of any such reflection. It is an absorption of the gaze. The collective black mask represents a refusal to signify, to make oneself knowable. This collective opacity refuses to play by the traditional liberal rules valuing political transparency and exposure in public. An exposure which leaves the dissident in handcuffs. At least this would be the political/symbolic/theoretical motivation for anarchisms to become post-hegemonic, that is, to reject any reconciliation with a unified State or People.

However, I find the Black Bloc as commonly practiced limiting due to its interaction with the State. Assuming that Foucault is correct in arguing that Power/Resistance always exist in tandem than the only tactics which challenge power are those that confuse it temporarily. By this estimate, an annual Black Bloc every May Day is reduced to an expectation at best, but more likely it is just a concession made within the hegemonic game. By chanting as they march or yelling at the police, I argue, the Bloc has failed to move beyond the politics of hegemony. To vocalize their grievances they have fallen into the trap of a politics of recognition by stating “Grant us this and we will surrender.” A politics of recognition reproduces the logic of hegemony by providing a concession that if granted will facilitate consent. Why wear black? Why maintain opacity if one wants to be granted recognition. Herein lies the paradox of the black bloc tactic: It renounces recognition while forgetting that it is a performance that requires an audience to recognize it. If they deny visibility, how could they deny vocality afterall? What choice do they have?

In the Fragile Absolute, Slavoj Zizek maintains that “when confronted by a situation of forced choice, the subject makes the crazy choice, striking at himself, at what is most precious to himself… By cutting himself loose from the precious object through whose possession the enemy kept him in check, the subject gains the space of free action.”

With this in mind, in order to maintain the power potentialized in a multitude engaged in Black Bloc tactics, I will advance the suggestion of a silent march. As a multiplicity of singularities marching against State unity, there is nothing to be requested. Silence is a rejection of any simple negotiation of rights. Silence stages an unsettling confusion. Silence provokes questions. Who are they? What do they want? Why are they doing this? Questions posed to which no reply is given. The anarchist propaganda collective know as Crimethinc. asserts that it is the project of anarchism to pose questions. “If the hallmark of ideology is that it begins from an answer…then one way to resist ideology is to start from questions rather than answers. That is to say—when we intervene in social conflicts, doing so in order to assert questions rather than conclusions…The term anarchy is itself useful not because it is an answer, but because it is a question” (Crimethinc 4) Marching as a multitude of potentiality, a collective embodiment of power rather than strength, a Black Bloc can stage defiance by reframing the spectacle of State authority. Rather than challenging the State monopoly on violence, a tactic which poses no real threat to the strategic superiority of the state, the silent bloc challenges a state monopoly on inscrutability.

To return to the Master/Slave parable, when the people meet the multitude on the road, who will defer to who? If deference means recognition at the expense of enslavement the multitude must pass in silence for their existence precedes authority. In this way the bloc becomes the debris that can irritate the state.


Works Cited

Certeau, Michel De. The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California,             1984. Print.

Crimethinc. “Against Ideology?” (CrimethInc.). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Day, Richard J. F. Gramsci Is Dead: Anarchist Currents in the Newest Social             Movements. London: Pluto, 2005. Print.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. Web.

Foucault, Michel, and Sylvère Lotringer. Foucault Live: (interviews, 1961-1984). New             York, NY: Semiotext(e), 1996. Print.

Goldman, Emma. “The Individual, Society and the State.” (Emma Goldman). N.p., n.d. j            Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Graebner, David. “Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first             Century.” (Andrej Grubacic & David Graeber). N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2012.

Hardt, Michael, and Antonio Negri. Commonwealth. Cambridge, MA: Belknap of             Harvard UP, 2009. Print.

Negri, Antonio, and Antonio Negri. Time for Revolution. New York: Continuum, 2003.             Print.

Virno, Paolo. A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of             Life. Cambridge, Mass: Semiotext (e), 2003. Print.

Žižek, Slavoj. The Fragile Absolute, Or, Why Is the Christian Legacy worth Fighting             For? London: Verso, 2000. Print.


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Black Flag Newsletter

Please enjoy and let us know what you think. Just click on the link and “save as” to download.

Black Flag vol. 5 Spring 2013

 Black Flag vol. 4 Winter 2013

Black Flag vol. 3 Fall 2012

Black Flag vol. 2 Summer 2012

Black Flag vol. 1 Spring 2012

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Slandering Anarchists is the Only Disease

Slandering Anarchists is the Only Disease
a critique of Chris Hedges’ recent comments about Black Blocs

During a panel discussion on May Day, Amy Goodman asked Chris Hedges
about his recent article titled “The Cancer within Occupy”. After
strong criticisms on his website, an interview in which he admitted to
not having interviewed any Black Bloc participants, a piece by David
Graeber warning of the dangers of violence against a group portrayed
as cancerous, and even a critique by the International Bolshevik
Tendency, Hedges maintained that “You do not want to have
demonstrations where you permit people to cover their faces.”
As others have pointed out, the central flaw of the article lies in
treating black blocs as a coherent movement. The Wikipedia page linked
from his article warns against this mistake in its second paragraph,
stating that black bloc “is, rather, a tactic that may be adopted by
groups of various motivations and methods.” Hedges repeatedly refers
to Black Bloc anarchists as a movement, and attributes to them a
disdain for organization and organized groups like the Zapatistas. But
there is no ideological prerequisite for joining a Black Bloc: they
are composed of well-prepared groups, unprepared individuals
interested in militant action, and perhaps some police agents, who are
likely present in tamer areas also. Most members are anarchists, most
support the Zapatistas, and most are interested in organizing, which
is why they come in groups and sport similar gear.
Members of a Black Bloc sometimes do act unwisely, usually drawing
the strongest criticism from other members. Hedges could have
criticized the few who occasionally provoke police and endanger
non-confrontational protestors. Instead he attributes to the black
bloc the smashing of a coffee shop window in Oakland by an unmasked
possible provocateur, then extends this false characterization to
anyone wearing a bandana over their face. An entire movement of
organization-hating violent machistas certainly makes for a more
interesting story, but the genre should be fiction, not journalism.
This is what happens when a journalist writes about people without
ever talking with them. Hedges listened to a few hours of anarchist
radio in Eugene, Oregon, then read some blogs. He could have come to
any Occupy General Assembly and asked to interview people with
intimate knowledge of Black Blocs. Instead Hedges turned to someone
who opposed Black Blocs, Derrick Jensen, as his sole expert. Like
Hedges, Jensen fails to notice the heterogeneity of activists using
black bloc tactics, and ignores the origin of these tactics as an
effective response in Europe to police brutality and
corporate-controlled media.
For many who use them, black bloc tactics are not about terror, they
are about self-defense. A black bloc often acts to protect peaceful
marchers. Members of a bloc use shields, gas masks, and bandanas
soaked in vinegar to defend against clubs, projectiles, and tear gas.
They may be ready with gloves and buckets of water to throw back hot
tear-gas canisters or douse them. They also take great risks in
de-arresting fellow marchers. When asked about this important role of
Black Blocs, Hedges replied, “Let’s not paint these people as the
Boy Scouts, come on.” When Boy Scouts start de-arresting protesters
and protecting them from tear gas, I’ll start encouraging my son to
join up.
Even the mainstream of the occupy movement is embracing many Black
Bloc tactics. When members of our group, the Free Association of
Anarchists, brought shields to Occupy L.A., no one else had them. As
the eviction drew near, a majority of occupiers carried shields, and
the phenomenon was apparently nationwide. This represents a possible
transformation from an ethic of victimhood to one of self-defense.
Hedges argues that mainstream people will be turned off by
confrontation. I argue that historically oppressed people will be
turned off by statements like, “Our greatest strength is our
The worst thing about criticizing “violence” from activists is
that it fails to recognize where real violence comes from. As “TD”
commented on the “L.A. activist” website, “we carry signs and
chant slogans. The police carry guns, batons, tear gas and bean bag
rifles.” Anything carried out by a Blac Block pales in comparison to
what Occupier Jen Waller described on Democracy Now!:
“I was violently arrested with my friends and watched as
bloodthirsty cops stomped on their faces, knelt on their necks, pulled
them by their hair, and slammed them into windows. I watched as one
friend was treated as a battering ram as they carried him into an MTA
bus, slamming his head on every step and seat as they went along. I
watched as a young woman’s rib was broken, as she hyperventilated,
convulsed and seizured in the middle of the street.”
When mainstream news outlets fail to report such brutality against
protesters employing civil disobedience, other means are necessary.

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