The Golden Barley School

an anarchist, a communist & a feminist walk into a bar…

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‘No Comfort in a Colonised Country’ zine

A zine about resistance to racism and white supremacy in Australia, 2015.

Made by a couple of us in Sydney and Melbourne. You should be able to print from this link: no comfort


Interview w/ Robbie Thorpe of First Nations Liberation.

Interview w/ Viv Malo of First Nations Liberation.

Reflections on: Australia and internalised colonialism, racism and white supremacy.

1000 Paper Cuts: Resisting the damage of white supremacy.

Whack Australia.

Feedback to or

Published here is my article ‘1000 Paper Cuts’. 

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Discomfort, non-violence and race

Context for this post.

At a recent fundraiser in Sydney, an Aboriginal man heavily involved in indigenous struggle and performing at the fundraiser, was attacked by another man from the crowd. The attacker was ejected from the venue, however there were numerous issues with how this occurred. A couple of particular things that were said on the night have given reason to think a bit more critically about the meaning of anti-racist solidarity and the organisation of spaces/events such as fundraisers. What we want to think about here are about two aspects of the racial politics that emerged during the response to the attack, but that give an insight into broader problems in anti-racist solidarity: that there is a racialised politics to space and comfort, and that this is connected to a fetishized conception of non-violent direct action (NVDA).

Comfort and safety.

In our efforts to make spaces in which people feel safer and more comfortable we need to constantly ask ourselves to what degree do we succeed in challenging and transforming hierarchical social relations, and to what degree do we fail at this? More specifically, we need to constantly question why it is that certain bodies and people get to feel most comfortable, and how do they get to be comfortable. It makes sense that we would desire spaces of safety and comfort and indeed, a significant amount of political organising and language has been framed in such terms. For example, safer spaces are often framed as aiming at the eradication of dangerous forms of behaviour from the spaces and worlds we create. Or at least, given that this is in itself actually impossible, safer spaces are characterised as a measure to better prepare us for dealing with the shit that animates our lives. In this sense safer spaces are not about the eradication of conflict, but the better organisation of it.

However, while we can see why comfort appears to be a desirable response to a conflicted world, it is also necessary to question how comfort works. We think that there is a politics to comfort that can be framed in terms of who gets to be comfortable, when and how. When we think about comfort and safety, we ought to think about on whose terms is comfort established? What are the racialised norms that underpin our understandings of comfort? And what happens when these norms become unsettled and challenged? We also think, and this comes back to the incident at the fundraiser, that when norms become unsettled and when those who have felt most entitled to comfort feel themselves out of place, that the desire for comfort can be a reactionary impulse. It is reactionary because it emerges as a result of having to experience a discomfort that could previously be taken for granted specifically because the individual is, in this case, white. In this way, the spaces we create and the modes of comfort that characterise them are not removed from the social conditions from which they are produced. As a result, if our impulse in the moment of discomfort is to do anything to re-establish the existing mode of comfort, then we risk complicity with reproducing the subtle but no less felt politics of racialised comfort. Continue reading

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Casting Spells: Women, Austerity and Revolt

The following is a guest post from Annette Blanka. ‘Women, Austerity and Revolt’ was the opening paper from the ‘Casting Spells’ panel presented by the Feminist Discussion Circle at the 2014 Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. See also the previous post by Princess Mob here for another of these papers.

This piece argues passionately for a ‘reversal of perspective’ among radicals on the question of work. It argues that those of us who desire social change need to come to terms with the vast expanse of invisible and unwaged labour that women perform non-stop within capitalism, including in social movements. It outlines the context of austerity which makes this re-think all the more urgent, in light of the current demolition of welfare, and affirms possibilities for struggle.

Women, Austerity and Revolt
The other day when I was talking with a friend about doing this presentation, he noted how the assumption is often that you’re there to present “the Answer.” Well I hate to disappoint anyone but I’m not going to do that. What I want is to prompt us all to ask better questions.

My aim in this talk is to show how austerity makes it all the more urgent for those of us who desire social change to engage in what I’d call a “reversal of perspective” on the question of work. That is, to come to terms with the vast expanse of invisible and unwaged labour that women perform non-stop. I’ll outline the context for the current demolition of welfare, and affirm the prospects for struggle and emancipation.
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Casting Spells: on structural sexism in ‘the movement’

This is a speech from a panel discussion by by the Feminist Discussion Circle at the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair. The panel was called “Casting Spells: a feminist discussion of contemporary forms of exploitation” and had four presentations: austerity, women and revolt; current attacks on women’s services; the dangerous journey of a Middle Eastern feminist; and this one. An audio recording of the panel will be uploaded somewhere soon. [Trigger warning for mention of sexual violence.]

Ok, so my part of the panel is on structural sexism in “the movement”. As the opening speaker said, I’m not here to give The Answer but to ask some question, and maybe reframe some of the questions we already ask.

I don’t normally get too worried about public speaking, but I have to admit: this one has made me nervous. But I didn’t want for us to have a panel discussion that saw sexism only as abstract and political, as something that only comes from bad capitalists or, you know, college boys – as something that only happens outside this room.

One of the key tenets of feminism is that the personal is political. The political is personal. The nexus between our lives and broader politics is crucial, I think – but it’s also very difficult. We have an analysis of sexism as a broad social force, but it’s also something that happens in our lives: and, for those of us for whom political work is part of our lives, it’s an issue there too.

So, over and over, when I’m in anarcha-feminist meetings or feminist reading groups, or just with friends, we have these same conversations about specific incidents, about specific individuals, and about the patterns. Continue reading

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This post contains letters that 2 comrades wrote reflecting on the Journal LIES.

Princess Mob reviewed LIES here


Nancy was reading LIES #1 and thought of her friend Nick’s thinking about love and the family, so she asked him what he thought of the journal. Here’s their letters to each other in turn.

Hi Nancy,

I have been reading the Lies journal intermittently since you said you’d be interested in my thoughts about it. While you will see that I’ve concentrated on my criticisms of the Journal articles, I hope you appreciate my intention is to be constructive, to respond to your request in an attempt to develop our understanding and commonality – to help produce love. As you say, the Journal is “a provocative and important engagement within Marxist thought.” While I appreciated much of it, my main concerns are the use value of some of the provocations and the potential reinforcement of problematic areas of Marxist/militant thought.

As a provocation it clearly works and at times I wondered how much of the contents was in fact satire. For a number of the articles my general criticism would be that, as with much Marxist work, there is too much concentration on subsumption, the power of patriarchy/capital, and the resulting despair. Much of my own writing aims to counter/challenge this tendency. So here are a few thoughts about some of the articles.

Undoing Sex: Against Sexual Optimism Continue reading

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Film Screening – United in Anger: A History of ACT UP

United in Anger: A History of ACT UP is an inspiring documentary about the birth and life of the AIDS activist movement from the perspective of the people in the trenches fighting the epidemic. Utilizing oral histories of members of ACT UP, as well as rare archival footage, the film depicts the efforts of ACT UP as it battles corporate greed, social indifference, and government neglect.

Saturday February 22, 8pm for 8.30 start. Free screening.

Junior Gazette, 91 Railway Parade, Marrickville NSW 2204 (just near Sydnenham Station)

A note on (in)accessibility: Junior Gazette is up a split level stair case and has no lift.


Fail again. Fail better. Notes in the interests of continuing conversations and some unfinished thoughts on withdrawing from the Historical Materialism Australasia Conference 2013

The original intention for writing this was to clarify my reasons for withdrawing from the HM conference in Sydney this year. However, what has actually been written has grown broader than the original intention, and the following may not clarify things as much as I would have liked. My sense is that this is the case due to the nature of the question at hand. Nonetheless, given that I have been struggling to find the time to get any of these thoughts down, and that writing about this could feasibly go on for a long time, these incomplete ideas are put here as they are, to be put aside for now, and so that conversations may continue more openly.

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Stranded in an ocean of individuals, or rescuing collective practice from liberal multiculturalism. Part 2

Part 2 of a very long article i put together about race, religion and liberalism…  Also to be found at my own blog And thanks to the other editors of this blog who all at some point helped with this…

The collective pulls

I began with religion, and despite the distance between that simple anecdote to where I am at now, religion is the base to which this argument must return. It is important to spell out now why it is the crux of the problem I am getting at. In the face of the institutionalised racism I have described, as well as the displaced sense of identity that migrants face, religion is a cultural marker, an affirmation of being within a community that can be clung too. Additionally, as a traditional cultural form that migrants might cling too, it only works in the collective form – its importance clearly being much more than simple faith, but as a site to meet in commonality with others, a site of practical and emotional support – and therefore in some opposition to the alienated individualism of liberal capitalism. Lets call on Zizek again to sum up how religion as a traditional cultural form is treated within liberalism:

“If the subject wants it, he or she can opt into the parochial tradition into which they were born, but they have first to be presented with alternatives and make a free choice amongst them” (Zizek, p.123).

At this point I am going to take a detour through Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Black Album, which although set in early 90’s London, precisely deals with this conflict between the need for collective safety in the form of traditional cultural practices and the allure of the liberal idea of ‘free choice’ and individuality. Continue reading

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Stranded in an ocean of individuals, or rescuing collective practice from liberal multiculturalism. Part 1

Part 1 of a very long article i put together about race, religion and liberalism…  Also to be found at my own blog And thanks to the other editors of this blog who all at some point helped with this…


Lets start with a simple moment, nothing more than a passing word and a flicker of a smile, a polite thanks but no thanks, but really it’s nice you’re out here trying to talk with people. It’s Islamic week at the university where I work, and the woman with the headscarf nods and smiles back. Rewind a few months when the geeky kids with the Evangelical Union t-shirts are out in force and my reaction to being approached is one of unconcealed hostility in the hope that one of them dare take me on and give me a chance to launch into a stinging rebuke about the violence and regressiveness that underpins everything they hold dear. If only.  Continue reading