Townie guide to... anarchy in the LK

Dave Strano, school bus driver, enjoys community organizing and getting arrested

Years in Lawrence: 8

A twist on an old question: You-ineffectual or counter productive?

"I guess the real answer would depend on what the question is in reference to. Am I effectual at trying to make a positive change in Lawrence and in the larger world? I hope so. It's hard to gauge. I do know that I've been an active part of projects here that people tell me have changed their lives. I guess that would make me effective at something. As far as being counter-productive, I think I am indeed counter-productive when it comes to the greater social and political systems. However, it is my goal to be counter-productive. Anything that stifles the progress of the minority of rich people to further rob the rest of us and continue to destroy and pillage the rest of human society and this planet is counter-productive to the agenda of those in power. So, in this way, I would pride myself in being counter-productive."

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Most people hear "anarchist" and assume you're a race of subterranean bomb-making sewer people that killed Jesus and bathe in bean curds-anything you'd care to add? Maybe "America hating" or "baby eating"?

"Man, I can't believe I missed my daily bath of bean curds this morning! In all seriousness, anarchism is a political theory that has been around since at least the late 1700's, when William Godwin started to tout the benefits of a society in which there was no ruling minority of people dominating the rest of society. Since that time, the anarchist movement has obviously changed, as has the economic and political systems that anarchism rejects. Anarchism's main tenets include the abolition of hierarchical power structures and the creation of voluntary, horizontal political, economic, and social systems. This theory has seen a huge reemergence in the Global South, and particularly in places like Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, and even South Africa. So in short, what are anarchists fighting for? An end to all exploitation, and the chance to create direct and participatory democracy in all facets of our lives."

What are Solidarity and Kansas Mutual Aid?

"The Solidarity Revolutionary Center is a community center located at 1109 Massachusetts Street. It offers a lending library full of books critical of existing social and political structures, offers free internet access and a computer lab, a zine library of independent and small press literature, and also hosts dozens of events every year. For six years, it's been a seven day a week place to come in and get information on anarchism and other social justice movements, and a place for people to plug in locally with movements fighting oppression.

Kansas Mutual Aid is one of the local organizations that utilizes the Solidarity Center, and is one of the most active anarchist organizations in the region. KMA maintains many local projects including community gardens, countering military recruitment and other war efforts, publishing a free quarterly newspaper for prisoners that now reaches 1200 prisoner for free, and hosts and implements a variety of other local programs. In 2007, we helped with rebuilding efforts in Greensburg, worked with folks at Haskell that are organizing around a variety of Native sovereignty issues, and helped organize demonstrations and marches against the Occupation of Iraq, in favor of migrant and farm worker rights, and against police misconduct. KMA is really a catchall anarchist collective that works on whatever issues affect working class and marginalized communities and are pressing at the moment".

How does one become a member of Solidarity or KMA? Do you have to burn something as part of an initiation? Flags? Underwear? The United Nations?

"Well, we ask all new members to burn all of their clothes and streak through downtown while hailing the advances of the revolution. We feel that this initiation process breaks the individual and prepares them for collective societal relationships. In reality, anybody that is interested can volunteer at the Solidarity Center or get involved with Kansas Mutual Aid or any number of local anarchist or radical organizations. The best way would be to just drop into the Solidarity Center and ask... just like with any other organization."

What sort of activities could one expect to participate in at KMA and Solidarity, and should they bring their own giant puppet of Hillary Clinton with devil horns?

"It's so hard to find people who can make good puppets, especially of Hillary or other leading presidential contenders. It's hard to really get the fangs and other facial features so they are recognizable. While sometimes we make puppets, people who work with Solidarity can expect to sit behind a desk for three hours a week, sometimes checking out books, fixing computers that aren't cooperating, cleaning, and mostly staring at the internet and the latest edition of lawrence.com. KMA is a bit more exciting, as we are usually sitting through long meetings with lots of bickering. Occasionally, however, members are gardening, working with neighborhood associations to stop development projects, sitting behind tables giving away free information and literature, and marching in the streets. KMA folks tend to go to jail or get threatened with disappearance a lot. That's always a fun time."

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Jordan Ferrand-Sapsis, left, prepares to plant marigolds as Dave Strano, right, picks ripe vegetables at the Kansas Mutual Aid Community Garden in the 800 block of Vermont Street. The garden project began last year.

What are your plans for the presidential election? Actively campaigning for Mike Huckabee?

"I guess a major problem of the political process is that it's a product of a society that is inherently based on inequity and imbalances of power amongst different classes. Why would I vote when I disagree with a whole system that is based on granting power and privilege to the select few? I think people really have a messed up view on voting, as if because I refuse to participate in such a rigged process that I somehow don't have a right to speak about any political issues. The reason I don't vote is because I disbelieve in top down forms of decision making. The reason I don't vote is because I really do believe that my daily actions make more of an impact on the world around me rather than whoever is elected. The social ills that we believe politicians will solve are inherent side effects of the social, political, and economic systems that we live under.

The people of this country have such an unhealthy relationship with politics, a collective amnesia. Every four years they march off to the ballots swearing that this time it'll be different, that we'll end up with someone who can change everything. Well, after hundreds of years of elections, there's still war, poverty, hunger, class inequity, racism, and sexism. And those things don't seem to be going away, no matter who is in power. The dogmatic views people have about voting do the most to remind me that it's all a sham. I believe democracy exists 365 days a year, with every action I take, not just once every two or four years."

What's the best way to bring about change?

"Wow-the million dollar question. I guess I would believe that if everyone took the same amount of time and money that they spent every four years on electoral politics and reinvested that time and money into their local communities, we'd be light years ahead of where we are now. Change always comes from below, from day to day actions and community organizing. I guess the first step is to stop thinking that we can just make jokes about how stupid Bush is and to actually critically think about what we have to do to change our own lives and the lives of the people around us. That's the most basic tenet of anarchism. I don't have all the answers and don't pretend to. However, a group of us challenging each other and making decisions together do have the answers, and only needs to implement them."

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