Discussions in Boston

My starting point for the 'Building a Popular Anarchism' tour is Boston, I stayed with some of the Boston NEFAC members who have organised the tour for the five or so cities around Boston before heading to New York. As an Irish anarchist arriving in Boston I'm pretty soon drawn into discussion of the history of Irish American racism in the city.

On a coffee table of the house I'm staying in there are a couple of books on the school desegration struggle of the 1970's when a significant sections of the Irish American population of South Boston fought to prevent the desegregation of the school system. There is a photo in one book of a long haired hippie wearing a peace symbol around his neck carrying a racist effergy.

The Boston Irish have a reputation in left wing circles in Ireland as racists who while supporting the 'struggle' in Ireland seem completly oblivious to the fact that in their own city they occupy an almost identical position to the loyalist working class in Belfast. On my third night here I got to see this in action in an Irish bar in the city centre when some drunken older Irish guy took objection to another patron and when he was thrown out barged back in ranting about 'A white Irish man being thrown into the laneway for muggers while muslims were tolerated'. The barman (from northern Ireland from his accent) was having none of it and a couple of the NEFACers who were also of Irish extraction helped ensure he quickly left again. I was assured the actions of the barman in throwing out the racist guy was not typical.

Race tends to slip into every political conversation you have about organising in the city whether its how to deal with someone who brings up racist stuff while your door knocking for a community campaign or activity in the construction unions. Like most US cities there is a lot of de facto segregation with many working class areas being strongly defined along ethnic lines. To be fair to the Boston Irish I was also told that their immigrant campaign groups did turn up on the migrant rights marches.

On my second evening in Boston I attended an 'Appreciation Benefit' for the Boston Workers Alliance -http://www.bostonworkersalliance.org/ - a "a community organization whose members are led by unemployed and underemployed residents fighting for employment rights". The venue was in Doncaster at a Freemason hall that (judging from the photos in the lobby) has an excluisvely black membership. The BWA was thanking those who had helped it out over the year and there was a buffet of ribs, chicken and greens as well as corn bread and spagetti. One issue they focus on is the reform of the CORI laws, any employed can request a criminal record and apparently while what someone is charged with is in plain English the fact they were subsequently aquitted is in not readily understandable code.

One of the other issues NEFAC members in the city are working on is evictions that are happening because of the prime lending crisis in the US. What I hadn't realized was this effects not just home owners but also people who are renting as it their landlord gets foreclosed on they'll probably find themselves out in the street. Much of this work involves going door to door to discover who is under threat and bringing such people together. There was a possibility of an eviction blockade in the period I was there but this didn't materilise as the balif didn't serve the papers. I recorded an interview with Boston NEFAC members in which a lot of this is discussed in more detail, see http://www.indymedia.ie/article/86458

WORDS: Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )


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