FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Stories From the Underground

The concept of underground political activism in the United States is currently a remote fantasy. I say that without making a judgement one way or the other about the morality or political efficacy of such activism. Despite the efforts of the FBI and other government agencies aligned with the Department of Homeland Security to entrap unsuspecting (or emotionally unstable) citizens to perform armed acts against the corporate state, the fact is there really is no organized left-leaning underground political movement of any substance in today’s United States. Even if one considers the entrapment, trial and convictions of a couple groups of young men charged with conspiracies to blow up bridges and the like earlier this century (the five young anarchists arrested for conspiracy and NATO 3 come to mind), those cases do not represent a movement. The same can be said for the sporadic cases involving young people who have converted to Islam, are opposed to US military intervention in predominantly Muslim nations and are then set up by federal agencies.41DCwCwIqKL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_

This was not the case in the 1970s and early 1980s. The Black Liberation Army, Puerto Rican independentistas, the Weather Underground, SLA, and other similar groups not only made headlines with their actions, they also enjoyed some popular support. Indeed, as something of an indication of their numbers, dozens of their former members are in prison around the nation. Most of these political prisoners will never get out of prison, especially in today’s political climate where virtually all extralegal (and a fair amount of legal) political activity from the left is considered terrorism by the powers that be.

This is the context of Diana Block’s new novel, Clandestine Occupations: An Imaginary History. Block, who spent over a dozen years underground because of activities related to her political activity in the Puerto Rican independence movement and was also a member of the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee—a group which began as an aboveground support organization for the Weather Underground, has written an emotionally taut and politically discursive tale. Centered around the lives of three generations of women whose lives are entangled in a web of love, politics, work and children, Clandestine Occupations takes the reader on a journey over four decades, at several cities, and numerous political groups. Over the course of this journey, the reader is exposed to a thought process where people of all races, genders and ages put ideals of social justice and liberation ahead of their own individual desires and goals.

Not only is this book informed by Block’s political life and her involvement with the Puerto Rican independentista movement of the 1980s, it also plucks events and individuals from today’s news. The case of her character Rahim, a Black Panther once known as Clarence Jackson, reminded this reader not only of the political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, but also of the recently acquitted defendants in the case known as the San Francisco Eight. Additionally, by setting some of the book in the antiwar protests of 2003 and the Oakland Occupy encampment of 2011, Block simultaneously reminds the reader of the omnipresence of political protest, its similarities and differences, and the never ending determination of the powerful to neutralize those who oppose their designs.

Working with a subversively restrained prose that evokes powerful emotions, Diana Block tells a heartrending and intellectually appealing story of a group of modern women interconnected through politics, family and love.  Multi-generational, the women’s stories weave in and out of a loom created by forces often beyond their control. Intellectually and spiritually informed by a woman’s perspective, Clandestine Occupations is reminiscent of the best work of writers like Doris Lessing and Marge Piercy—who have also tread the path of fictionalizing revolutionary struggle in the belly of the modern Empire. By the same token, it is more than women’s literature. Indeed, it is revolutionary literature of a very high order.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

August 11, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
Why Capitalism is in Constant Conflict With Democracy
Paul Street
Defund Fascism, Blue and Orange
Richard C. Gross
Americans Scorned
Andrew Levine
Trump and Biden, Two Ignoble Minds Here O’erthrown
Patrick Cockburn
The Rise of Nationalism Has Led to the Increased Repression of Minorities
Sonali Kolhatkar
Trump’s Presidency is a Death Cult
Colin Todhunter
Pushing GMO Crops into India: Experts Debunk High-Level Claims of Bt Cotton Success
Valerie Croft
How Indigenous Peoples are Using Ancestral Organizing Practices to Fight Mining Corporations and Covid-19
David Rovics
Tear Gas Ted Has a Tantrum in Portland
Dean Baker
There is No Evidence That Generous Unemployment Benefits are Making It Difficult to Find Workers
Robert Fantina
War on Truth: How Kashmir Struggles for Freedom of Press
Dave Lindorff
Trump Launches Attack on Social Security and Medicare
Elizabeth Schmidt
COVID-19 Poses a Huge Threat to Stability in Africa
Parth M.N.
Coping With a Deadly Virus, a Social One, Too
Thomas Knapp
The “Election Interference” Fearmongers Think You’re Stupid
Binoy Kampmark
Mealy-Mouthed Universities: Academic Freedom and the Pavlou Problem Down Under
Mike Garrity
Emperor Trump Loses Again the Northern Rockies in Big Win for Bull Trout, Rivers and the ESA
Alex Lawson
34 Attorneys General Call to Bust Gilead’s Pharma Monopoly on COVID Treatment Remdesivir
August 10, 2020
Gerald Sussman
Biden’s Ukrainegate Problem
Vijay Prashad – Érika Ortega Sanoja
How the U.S. Failed at Its Foreign Policy Toward Venezuela
Daniel Warner
Geneva: The Home of Lost Causes
Mike Hastie
The Police Force Stampede in Portland on August 8, 2020 
Jack Rasmus
Trump’s Executive Orders: EOs as PR and FUs
Rev. William Alberts
Cognitive Without Conscience
David Altheide
Politicizing Fear Through the News Media
F. Douglas Stephenson
Is Big Pharma More Interested in Profiteering Than Protecting Us From Coronavirus?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Money Plague
Howard Lisnoff
Revolutionaries Living in a System of Growing Fascism
Ralph Nader
Donald Trump is Defeating Himself
Lynnette Grey Bull
The Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women Human Rights Emergency is Not a Photo-Op for Ivanka Trump
Victor Grossman
Some Come, Others Go
Binoy Kampmark
Death From the Sky: Hiroshima and Normalised Atrocities
The Stop Golden Rice Network
Why We Oppose Golden Rice
Michael D. Knox
After Nagasaki, the U.S. Did Not Choose Peace
Elliot Sperber
A Tomos 
Weekend Edition
August 07, 2020
Friday - Sunday
John Davis
The COVID Interregnum
Louis Yako
20 Postcard Notes From Iraq: With Love in the Age of COVID-19
Patrick Cockburn
War and Pandemic Journalism: the Truth Can Disappear Fast
Eve Ottenberg
Fixing the COVID Numbers
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Every Which Way to Lose
Paul Street
Trump is Not Conceding: This is Happening Here
Robert Hunziker
The World on Fire
Rob Urie
Neoliberal Centrists and the American Left
John Laforge
USAF Vet Could Face ‘20 Days for 20 Bombs’ for Protest Against US H-Bombs Stationed in Germany
Andrew Levine
Clyburn’s Complaint
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail