Tag Archives: Painting

La Última Barricada: : New painting for Oaxaca rebels

14 Jun

la barricada final

La Última Barricada: Lxs compañerxs en la barricada de Cinco Señores

To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Oaxaca Rebellion of June 14, 2006, I’d like to share a new painting, “La Última Barricada: Lxs compañerxs en la barricada de Cinco Señores.” The painting – made with oil and sand on canvas – depicts the opening moments of the November 2, 2006 battle for the Cinco Señores intersection in Oaxaca city. After five months of rebellion, the Federal Preventative Police (PFP) had invaded Oaxaca City to put down the uprising block by block. The morning of November 2nd, the PFP approached the barricade guarding the important rebel-held Radio Universidad. But the defenders at the barricades stood strong, and thousands more came to fight and defeat the police in an hours-long running battle. You can read more about the historic context below, in passages from my book, “Nine Years of Anarchist Agitation: The History of the Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement and other Essays.”

Today, Oaxaca’s teachers and rebels have risen once more. Teachers launched a major strike again this year in Oaxaca and elsewhere in Mexico. In May, Oaxaca City teachers established an encampment. Reminiscent of 2006, police struck the encampment on June 12, and teachers set up barricades (https://vimeo.com/170358399) in the streets. As I write this, Oaxaca teachers and students are marching with thousands of other compañerxs on a “mega marcha.” More on today’s struggle:


This painting is dedicated to the fearless and tireless Oaxacan teachers, who have fought for decades for freedom and dignity: for themselves and for all of us. Forward to revolution!

Love and solidarity from Boston, MA.

-Jake Carman    www.JakeCarman.com

Funding by the Freeman Society for the Revolutionary Arts.



The Oaxaca Rebellion, 2006

By Jake Carman

Oaxaca, a state in Mexico’s south, has a long tradition of resistance going back to the arrival of the Spanish. Strong anti-authoritarian currents exist, and it was Oaxaca that produced the first prominent anarchist protagonist of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, Ricardo Flores Magón. On June 14, 2006, three thousand police attacked the teachers’ yearly strike and encampment in the main city plaza (Zócalo) of Oaxaca City, the state capital. This encampment was different from those of the past twenty five years, because it called for a raise in the minimum wage for everyone in Oaxaca, Mexico’s poorest state. When the police attacked, the people of Oaxaca came to the teachers’ defense. Poor workers and Indigenous people flooded the streets of Oaxaca City, driving the police out and building barricades to keep them out. Then they went further. They ran out the politicians, occupied government buildings, radio and television stations, and created the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO), demanding the ouster of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) of the conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

APPO assemblies sprang up all across the state. URO responded by raising paramilitaries from those he could convince to take up arms against the rebellion. Cops, city councilmen, workers, and even judges formed URO’s right-wing paramilitaries and attacked the barricades by night with machine guns from pickup trucks. They sabotaged radio stations and abducted revolutionaries. Yet in the face of this violent repression, the people came out in mega-marches of up to 800,000. When paramilitaries evicted a women’s group from the state television station, people responded that night by taking over every commercial radio station. When vigilantes killed a rebel in an attack on occupied “Radio La Ley,” the people expanded their barricades into the hundreds. They held the city for five months, fending off helicopters with the sun’s glare off of mirrors and fireworks shot from PVC pipes.

For the most part, the confrontational actions of the Oaxacan rank-and-file revolutionaries stood in contrast to the developing central leadership of APPO, which included more than just anarchist and Indigenous Magónista groups. Leftists of all brands, the PRD (the Party of the Democratic Revolution, Mexico’s mainstream liberal party), and even Stalinists used the revolt to push their agendas and to build political careers. APPO leadership insisted on only non-violent resistance and on October 29, two days after paramilitaries killed four Oaxacans and an anarchist journalist from New York, Oaxacans painted their hands white and filled the streets to attempt to peacefully halt the procession of thousands of Federal Preventative Police (PFP). Police carried automatic weapons, wore riot gear, and came with tanks that tore through barricades. By the end of the night, the PFP had dislodged the APPO encampment from the Zócalo. There was little violent resistance, or at least not enough to keep the PFP out of Oaxaca City….

However, there were instances when the people matched the violence of the state, and came away with victories. At one point, rebels popped all four tires and smashed the windows of a bus carrying the PFP, forcing a retreat, but APPO leadership denounced this and other confrontational actions. On November 2, thousands of rebels successfully defended APPO’s main radio station, Radio Universidad. They won an hours-long running battle at the barricades, and again forced the PFP to retreat. But one by one, barricades and radio stations fell….


“The Peasants’ Revenge” – Painting, Oil on Canvas, Oct 2013. For the Ocassion of N. Makhno’s 125 Birthday

26 Oct

A new painting! I’ve been working on this one for over a year, and finished it just in time for Nestor Makhno’s 125th birthday (today). Here are two articles from the BAAM Newsletter, reedited for my book, about Nestor Makhno and the Ukrainian Peasant anarchists (the subject matter of my painting). I hope to get a better photo of this, anyone out there with a good camera and some time?

Click here to check out details of the painting!

Happy Birthday Nestor Makhno: You are not Forgotten
The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, Issue # 3 – October 2007

Nestor Ivonavich Makhno, peasant leader of the 1917-1921 Ukrainian anarchist revolution, was born on October 26, 1888, 119 years ago this month. Makhno was, as Alexander Berkman wrote in his essay, Nestor Makhno, the Man who Saved the Bolsheviki, a “[t]rue child of a revolutionary epoch…it is more than probable that but for him and his insurgent army of Ukrainian peasants Soviet Russia might now be only a memory.”

Born to a poor peasant family in 1888, Makhno joined the anarchists early and at the age of seventeen, he found himself condemned to death for revolutionary activities. Because of his youth, his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment at a notorious Moscow prison. There he stayed, reading and fighting off tuberculosis, until the February Revolution freed him. Makhno immediately returned to his hometown of Guylia-Pole and raised a peasant army to resist a Prussian invasion of the Ukraine. His enthusiasm and dedication quickly gained him mass support. His devilish military cunning helped rid the Ukraine of the Prussians, and the peasants and workers launched an anarchist social revolution. As Berkman writes, “He had organized communes…and a large part of the Ukraine, covering hundreds of miles, with millions of population, live a free life and refuse to submit to the domination of any political party.”

In 1918, Makhno’s 25,000-strong insurgent army joined with the Bolshevik Red Army and succeeded in routing the reactionary White Army. The insurgents even saved Moscow from a White Army offensive in 1919. Immediately after this victory, Leon Trotsky—general of the Red Army—and the Bolsheviks capitalized on a widespread disease that had put Makhno in a coma and infected much of the insurgent army. When Makhno awoke some weeks later, the Red Army had occupied much of the Ukraine, outlawed Makhno, destroyed the soviets (workers’ councils) for not submitting to Bolshevik authority, and arrested and executed many insurgents.

Makhno jumped from his sick bed and hastened to rebuild his forces to take the fight to both the Reds and the Whites. He rode into battle, as Berkman describes, “Invariably at the head of his light cavalry…[h]e was reputed never to have lost a battle and never to have been wounded, though his favorite method was hand-to-hand combat with a sword or sabor.” In very little time, using creativity and the element of surprise, as well as convincing whole units of the enemy’s armies to join the insurgents, Makhno’s Black Army had succeeded in liberating Guylia-Pole and a large portion of the Ukraine.

In the absence of the insurgent army to resist them, the White Army had fought back to Moscow’s doorstep. Trotsky again begged Makhno for aid, and the anarchists agreed on the condition that anarchist prisoners be freed and the Ukraine granted autonomy. The Makhnovtchina again saved the Bolsheviki from certain defeat, and Trotsky invited the anarchist leaders to a celebration. It was a trap: Makhno was shot off his horse upon arrival and many of the anarchists were arrested or killed. When Makhno and a few others made it back to the Ukraine, they found it occupied by 150,000 Red Army soldiers who were no longer worried about the defeated Whites. The Ukrainian anarchists fought every day for almost a year, constantly surrounded on all sides and vastly outnumbered. Makhno realized his cause was lost and that the fighting was only destroying the Ukraine. He fled in 1921 and finally settled in Paris in 1925.

Makhno lived on, heartbroken and forgotten, hated by many of his comrades who believed the Bolshevik myths about the Ukrainian Revolution. He died in 1934 from tuberculosis. The Bolsheviks tried to eradicate the memory of Makhno and the anarchist social revolution, but they have failed. He will live on and inspire revolutions to come, and encourage rebel leaders to lead by example, from the front of the charge, as he did.

Walking, We Make the Road: An Account of the Crossroads of Ukraine and Spain’s Anarchist Revolutions
The Boston Anti-Authoritarian Movement Newsletter, Issue # 2 – September 2007

In Paris, in August 1927, while Sacco and Vanzetti were waiting to die here in Boston, Buenaventura Durruti and Francisco Ascaso—Spanish rebels who would later play a vital role in Spain’s anarchist revolution (1936)—met with Nester Makhno, the exiled leader of the failed anarchist revolution of the Ukraine (1918). Durruti and Ascaso were on the run, wanted by the governments of Spain, Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, and several other Latin American countries for stealing from the rich to fund revolutionary workers’ unions, papers, and schools. Still in their early thirties, Durruti and Ascaso were men of action, full of energy and life. They stood on the threshold of a revolution they had spent the previous decade agitating for.

Makhno, though only thirty-eight, was by then already a ghost of his former self. He was battered and burnt out from his years of leading from the frontline through the Ukrainian Revolution and Russian Civil War. In 1918, he helped build an army of 25,000 anarchist peasants and workers. Makhno soon proved to be a brilliant, daring, and creative military leader, as well as a visionary. While successfully fending off German invaders, Ukrainian nationalists, and White Army reactionaries, the anarchists inspired a vast social revolution based around communes and soviets (the Russian word for workers’ councils). The people claimed the land of the rich and the bosses, facilitated free exchange and solidarity between rural peasants and city workers, and worked to implement anarchist communism.
These Ukranian worker and peasant soviets differed from the Bolshevik soviets. They were not ruled by the Bolshevik Party, nor any other party. Instead, they were organized through democratic assemblies.
The Bolsheviks couldn’t stomach this example of soviets based on freedom and equality. Lenin and Trotsky, breaking a pact of alliance with the Makhnovtchina, sent 150,000 red soldiers to assert their control over the Ukrainian soviets. Makhno and his comrades were forced to fight both the Red and White armies simultaneously. The anarchist peasants proved themselves formidable warriors in this endeavor, but once the White Army was thoroughly defeated, the Kremlin was able to commit the bulk of the Red Army to crush the Ukrainian anarchists.

In 1921, the anarchists were finally overwhelmed. Makhno decided to flee rather than continue a futile war that was ravaging his country. He ended up in Paris in 1925, where he lived a tormented existence plagued by tuberculosis and battle wounds.

Makhno was undoubtedly relieved to find kindred spirits in Durruti and Ascaso, and honored when they told him of the Ukrainian Revolution’s influence on the Spanish anarchist movement. Standing on the other side of the revolutionary experience, Makhno gave Durruti and Ascaso invaluable advice for their own struggle. Even today, we should consider his words.

According to an account of this meeting in Abel Paz’s Durruti in the Spanish Revolution, Makhno told the Spaniards, “You have a sense of organization in Spain that our movement lacked; Organization is the foundation of the revolution….But,” he warned, “You have to work hard to preserve that sense of organization, and don’t let those who think anarchism is a theory closed to life destroy it. Anarchism is neither sectarian nor dogmatic. It is a theory of action. It doesn’t have a predetermined world-view….It’s a force in the march of history itself: the force that pushes it forward.”

Makhno, Ascaso, and Durruti believed in an anarchism of action, but they were not exclusively insurrectionaries. They understood that the ideas, needs, and efforts of the people must genuinely be the moving force behind the revolution. Fighting is but only one part. Makhno told the Spaniards that in the Ukrainian communes, it was “the revolutionary participation and enthusiasm of everyone, which made sure that a new bureaucracy didn’t emerge. We were all fighters and workers at the same time. In the communes, the assembly was the body that resolved problems and, in military affairs, it was the war committee, in which all the units were represented. What was most important to us was that everyone shared in the collective work: that was the way to stop a ruling caste from monopolizing power. That’s how we united theory and practice.”

Durruti and Ascaso, like Makhno, were toilers by trade. All three desired and fought for what amounted in both cases to a short attainment of successful and practical anarchist communism involving millions of people. However, they were successful because they first participated in the organizations of the masses, be they the peasant organizations of the Ukraine, or the syndicalist unions of Spain. They participated in these not to demand ideological purity of the masses, but to empower the millions of working and oppressed people to raise their voices and ideas, and to struggle for their collective liberation. Without these efforts, the anarchists never would have succeeded in building the popular movements that gave birth to two great anarchist revolutions that still inspire us.
The same applies today, eighty years later. We anarchists hold many different ideas, but anarchism is not the realization of one idea held by a political minority: it is the collection of the ideas and actions of a whole people, striving to solve the problems of society. So let’s join together, put aside sectarian infighting, and get to work within the existing social organizations of the people, as did Makhno, Durruti, and Ascaso. Let’s not let those for whom anarchism is a dead theory, a collection of old books, or a single, decided ideology, derail our efforts for a united popular movement for the liberation of all, with the theoretical input by all. Through our work within popular struggles, we anarchists can help bring cohesion through solidarity, and prove the worth of our ideas by our efforts. As Francisco Ascaso used to say, “Walking, we make the road.”

Paz, Able. Durruti in the Spanish Revolution. AK P, 2007.
Skirda, Alexandre. Nestor Makhno: Anarchy’s Cossak, the Struggle for Free Soviets in the Ukraine, 1917-1921. AK P, 2004.