Interview of Max Wilbert ― Resistance Radio

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Hi, I’m Derrick Jensen and this is Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network. My guest today is Max Wilbert. He is a third-generation organizer who grew up in Seattle’s post-WTO anti-globalization and undoing racism movement. He is a co-founder of the group Deep Green Resistance and longtime board member of a small, grassroots environmental non-profit with no employees and no corporate funding. His first book, a collection of pro-feminist and environmentalist essays, was recently released.He is also the co-author of the forthcoming book “Bright Green Lies” (with Derrick Jensen and Lierre Keith) which looks at the problems with mainstream so-called “solutions” such as solar panels, electric cars, recycling, and green cities. The book makes the case that these approaches fail to protect the planet and aim at protecting empire from the effects of peak oil and ecological collapse.

So first, thank you for your decades of good work, and also, thank you for being on the program.

MW: Thank you so much, Derrick. It’s really great to be here.

DJ: So tell me about your new book, which is called “Voices of Resistance.” Tell me about it.

MW: Sure. About five or six months ago my friend Boris Forkel, whom you know as well, who lives in Germany and does some organizing work there with Deep Green Resistance, contacted me and said “I’m interested in putting together a collection of your essays into a book form.” I was very flattered, and he wanted to take the idea and run with it. So he’s now done so, and it’s published. I have some copies here at home and have been giving a few to friends and family and selling a few to people who are interested in buying them. So, it’s now published, and this essay collection is about 200 pages long and includes essays written over a five or six year period between 2013 and this year. I’m only 30 years old so 2013 was quite awhile ago for me. So this spans a period and one thing that’s kind of interesting, I think, about the collection is you can start to see my political evolution over time as my ideas become more solid.

One thing that you said years ago, Derrick, that I still remember is “I don’t agree with everything I’ve ever written.” I thought that was so great, because in the era of social media and books, and where everything is recorded, oftentimes people are really taken to task for things that they wrote or believed in the past. And I don’t necessarily agree with everything I have ever written that’s in this collection, but I think it’s really interesting to look at these over that span of time and see how they’ve changed.

DJ: You know the person who really is my hero for changing his mind is Lewis Mumford. He was very pro-technology in the 1930’s, and then along came World War II and he realized, huh, maybe there are some problems with the modern machine-based society. So I have gained great courage from watching him do it.

MW: Wow. He had quite a flip there. Yeah. I think that’s interesting. I was actually talking to somebody the other day who was at a booth promoting solar power, and one of the things I said was I used to be a big believer in solar energy. When I was a teenager, global warming was becoming a much bigger issue in the news and I was reading a lot about it, and I could see that none of the older people, none of the political leaders were doing anything about it, and so that was one of the few solutions that was presented to me that was out there in the press, and so I grabbed onto that as a lifeline. And now I’ve flipped 180°.

DJ: So let’s talk about what’s wrong with solar in a little while. But I would like to talk more about your book first. What would you say is the overarching – if you had to condense the book into two sentences, what would they be? What is your book about?

MW: Well, I would say, if I had to condense it down … the real points that I am trying to hammer home are first that industrial global society is destroying the planet. That’s unimpeachable fact. Nobody can avoid that reality anymore. And the second part of that sentence is that nothing that has been done thus far to address that problem is working. So whether you’re looking at political solutions, or petitions, or technological solutions, efficiency and so on, activism in general – none of it’s working because in the big picture, everything’s still getting worse. And so, given that, how do we address these problems? How do we stop the destruction of the planet, which I think is intimately tied in with racism, with patriarchy, with white supremacy, with capitalism, with all these other systems of power. So that’s what the book is about, is exploring how we address these issues.

My background – you said in my bio in the intro that I grew up in Seattle in the post-WTO era and began to gain political consciousness during that period. And it was a good time to get that education, because there was sort of a ferment of radical and revolutionary political ideas circulating in the community there. So I would say that I have been a revolutionary person for a long time. And so this book is trying to explore some of those ideas in more depth, and look at a variety of ways that they can be addressed.

If you’d like, maybe we could dive in now and speak about some of the individual essays.

DJ: Sure. Would you like to start with the essay “We Choose To Speak” or would you rather start with “Everyday Violence of Modern Culture”?

MW: Let’s start with “Everyday Violence of Modern Culture.” That’s a “fun” one for me. This essay, I wrote in I think 2014, 2015. And it picked up a lot of steam. Basically my goal was to tell a story of an everyday life in this culture and how we’re always surrounded by violence. So maybe I can read a little section here from it.

DJ: Great.

MW: “First you wake up on top of a foam mattress, offgassing toxic VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) that will not biodegrade in 10,000 years. You sit up and put on your clothes, all with tags reading “Bangladesh” and “Puerto Rico” and “Dominican Republic.” These clothes were made by virtual slaves.

You walk downstairs and fill a glass with water from a tap. The water comes from a local river that was dammed 127 years ago. Ever since, native species in the watershed have been in decline.

You drink the water. You pour yourself a bowl of cereal. The cereal is made of wheat and corn, grown in what was once the tall grass prairie of the eastern Great Plains. 99% of that habitat, millions of acres, was plowed and utterly destroyed to grow these crops. The soil is often gone now. Your meal is only possible through fossil fuel fertilizers.

You add milk. It comes from a factory farm nearby, where cattle are packed next to each other in squalor, and pumped full of antibiotics and rGBH, genetically modified growth hormone, to increase production.

The cows are in pain. Their imprisonment is fouling the land around them. The cereal tastes good.

It’s almost time for work, so you walk down to your car. You’re somewhat environmentally conscious, so you’ve bought an electric car. It makes you feel a lot better. The car has 1000 pounds of lithium-ion batteries under the hood. The lithium for those batteries was strip-mined in the Peruvian desert; the pollution and land destroyed by the mine has devastated local people’s traditional livelihoods. You get inside the car and start the engine. It’s a push-button startup system; there is a fancy LCD screen inside. It’s modern and sleek; you pull away from the curb.

You drive on paved streets to your destination. Under those streets are indigenous burial grounds. There used to be thick old-growth forest here; now it’s a trendy, up-and-coming neighborhood. There are a few run-down houses here and there; the poor people who used to live in this neighborhood and are being forced to move, many after generations here; they’re just the latest set of refugees that have walked through this place.”

And so, to skip on to towards the end of this article, I write:

“This was a very partial description of the violence in modern society. Make no mistake: this is a war.

When we are honest about the level of violence in this culture, not resisting becomes a sickening thought.”

And so, in the essay, after the section that I just read, I continue. The person drives to their work, which is at a hospital, and the hospital was built on a meadow, which was destroyed to build this massive building. And I talk about the oil that’s used to make the paints, the pesticides that are used all around the building, the native habitat that was destroyed to make the parking garage. I talk about the old growth forests that were cut down to make the chipboard and particle board furniture in the waiting room, the materials in the computers and where those came from. And so the idea is just to help people understand the amount of violence that we’re surrounded by all the time in this culture. If you look at the origin of basically any artifact of this civilization, you’ll find a trail of devastation in its wake.

DJ: It seems that what you’re talking about is recognizing context. Recognizing chains of supply. In some ways, you have just described much of our book Bright Green Lies, because that book – you know, it’s great! I’ve got groovy solar panels here! This is wonderful! I’ve got a groovy electric car! But then when you follow back the chain of supply, you find that it’s intimately associated with, and necessarily associated with, destruction in Mongolia, destruction in South America like you were saying, and that’s inherent in all of these processes.

MW: Right. And I think the important thing for me, too, is to think about it systematically, because people like to isolate these individual things. You know, I was talking to that solar panel person I mentioned a minute ago, and he was saying the biggest benefit that he feels from having solar panels on his house in the woods in southern Oregon is that he feels really independent and separated from the grid. And I said “Well okay, that’s fine but what about the solar panel production facility? What about the global supply chain that exists to mine the silicon and smelt it and fabricate that into solar panels and assemble it and deliver it to your location?” You can’t just say “I feel independent” and completely ignore that part of the equation. Nonetheless, that’s what the mainstream environmental movement, and really most people in this culture, are doing on a day-to-day basis. So I think once you start to trace those supply chains, then you start to get a sense that no, these aren’t sort of unnecessary byproducts of the modern way of life. This is really fundamental to the structure of this civilization. And it’s not even really dependent on technology. You can go back to Ancient Rome, for example, and look at their food supply, and they were largely getting their grain from North Africa, with agricultural practices that completely destroyed the northern coastline and the northern plains of Africa. This very extractive model of agriculture. And that was what fed the empire. That was what kept the armies marching.

So obviously there are plenty of examples of cultures that haven’t lived in that extractive, destructive way. But I need to think about it systematically in order to see that the problems aren’t isolated. They’re not technical problems. They’re broad, structural problems.

DJ: You know, have you noticed that oftentimes if you say solar panels are destructive, or choose whatever example you want. Have you noticed that oftentimes people respond by saying “Well, why don’t you just kill yourself?”

MW: Yeah.

DJ: This huge jump from pointing out that something required slavery, to suggesting you kill yourself. I’m sure that’s happened to you, right?

MW: Yeah, and a similar one, again, to continue the story of this guy I was talking to about solar just this past weekend. We were chatting for awhile and I was trying to pick out the root of his beliefs, and he said something like “Growth is going to continue and accelerate, and get faster. We’re going to have population growth. We’re going to have expansion of the society. So given that, let’s use solar to reduce the amount of harm.” And my response was “Whoah whoah whoah. Given that, if you give up that point, then you’ve lost everything.” I mean, there is no use fighting at that point. So that’s what these people are thinking, is because they’re not willing to grapple with these fundamental issues of growth and the sort of death culture imperative that this empire, this global civilization is running on, or has at its core. Because they’re not willing to grapple with that core idea in a serious way, then their only options are either kill yourself or work on these “harm reduction” approaches that are really tepid and end up often, almost always supporting the system rather than reducing impacts.

DJ: So, given all this, what do you propose? Or would you rather – maybe this is what you propose. Do you want to talk about your next essay?

MW: Sure. So I’ll jump through two here real quick. There’s an essay in here called “Utah: The Next Energy Colony.” I wrote this in 2013. At the time, I was living in Utah and I was involved in resistance to a tar sands extraction project in northeastern Utah in what’s called the Uinta Basin, which is a region of a massive amount of oil extraction and fracking. The air quality in the Uinta Basin, which is this very rural county – I’d be surprised if the population is over 15-20 thousand in a large one or two county area – the air quality is worse than in Los Angeles and the infant mortality is off the charts. And it’s because of these types of operations, especially the fracking. They’ve got a tar sands project in there that companies have been trying to figure out how to extract in a profitable way for a long time, and just recently news broke about a new project by the company Enefit, which is an Estonian company, to do 13,000 acres of strip mining in this region, northeastern Utah. And this one project would produce 200 million tons of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent of 50 coal-fired power plants per year. It’s one of the most carbon-intensive fuels on earth.

So given that the oil companies are moving towards these sort of last dregs of the oil that they can find on the planet, it’s no surprise to me that solar and wind are increasingly popular, because they’re just looking for any sort of power to fuel their empire.

DJ: Can you stop for a second? Can you do like two paragraphs on that right there? Because that’s a hugely important point.

MW: Sure. One of the things that I always like to say about this is that Barack Obama had an energy policy that was called “The All of the Above Energy Policy.” And by that he meant that his government was going to facilitate and work to promote oil extraction, fracking, coal, natural gas of all sorts, as well as hydro, wind energy, solar energy. They wanted it all. And I actually think this is the most rational policy for empire to have. When you contrast that with the Republicans, for example Trump; one of the first things he did was slash some of the subsidies for solar manufacturing in this country. And that’s not a very rational policy. It’s an ideological position that the Republicans are taking because that’s sort of the culture that they’ve created, this intentionally “anti-environmental” culture.

But in reality, I think the Obama policy is actually worse in a lot of ways, because empires are powered by energy. There’s a professor out at the University of Utah, a climate scientist named Tim Garrett who created a climate model that basically looks at industrial civilization as a heat engine. And the more energy you put into it, the more pollution and destruction it creates. And that model has actually been more accurate than a lot of the other climate models that are being used in the climate science realm. So, again, I think the All of the Above energy policy is the most rational policy if you’re trying to grow the economy, expand population, expand consumption and increase the power of your empire. So to me it’s no surprise that as oil supplies become increasingly stretched, and as oil companies are forced to move further and further to the fringes in search of deepwater drilling in the oceans and tar sands and oil shale and fracking; all these things are very expensive, they have low margins; it’s no surprise that wind and solar and other so-called renewable energy sources are booming, because it’s highly profitable and this society needs energy to run everything. Data centers – the U.S. military is actually a big promoter of so-called “green energy” because it allows military bases to be more self-sufficient and not as dependent on fuel convoys, which have been a major target in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. So any time the U.S. military is on board with technological “solutions,” then I think we need to be really wary of that.

DJ: So what you’re suggesting is that the rise in subsidies for wind and solar is not, propaganda aside, so much a response to global warming as it is a response to ever-increasing energy demands, along with the peak production of easily accessible oil.

MW: Yeah, absolutely. And if you look at – there’s a professor here at the University of Oregon – I live near Eugene in western Oregon – there’s a professor here, Richard York, who’s done a lot of research on this. And most people assume that if you bring online a solar generation facility, that allows you to turn off a fossil fuel power plant, for example. Because that’s the goal after all, right? That’s what people assume is the goal.

DJ: That’s the stated goal.

MW: Right. But the reality is that there is essentially very little to no displacement. That’s what this effect is called. So in practice, in order to turn off, say, a fossil fuel power plant, you have to bring on 11 times that amount of power in so-called “green energy,” wind and solar and so on. And what that means in practice is that the fossil fuels aren’t getting turned off at all. The new so-called “green” energies are just being added on top of what was already there. So, once again, it’s all about escalation and growing the system. It’s not about trying to protect the planet in any way.

DJ: Thank you for that. And I interrupted you a long time ago when you were talking about the Uinta Basin.

MW: Yeah. So I can just read a quick excerpt from that article.

“Looking out across a landscape that might soon be a wasteland, my gaze wanders across the juniper, scrub oak, and sagebrush that wrap gently over the hillsides and drop into the valleys. The setting sun casts waning light on the treetops, and a small herd of elk climbs a ridge in the distance and disappears into the brush. Overhead, the few clouds in the broad sky fade from red to deep purple, then to darkness.

The last birds of the day sing their goodnight songs, and the stars begin to appear, thousands of them, lighting up the night sky and casting a dull glow across the countryside. I take a deep breath, tasting the cool night air spiced with the scents of the land.

The bats are out, flitting about snatching tasty morsels out of midair. I can hear their voices. They are calling to me. Tiny voices carrying across miles to whisper in your ear like the tickle of a warm breeze. ‘Fight back,’ they say. ‘Please, fight back. This is our home. We need you to do what it takes to stop this. Whatever it takes to stop this.’”

So when I wrote that article, the place that I wrote about was actually right next to the mine, which at the time was only about three acres. It was a test mine. Since then, it has expanded to I believe over a hundred acres, and has destroyed all the locations I was writing about in that article. So like I said, things are getting worse.

DJ: You know, a question I ask all the time is: if delta smelt could take on human manifestation, how long would the pumps on the Sacramento River last? Or if sea turtles could take on human manifestation, how long would the factories producing plastic last? It seems that so much of our response to the murder of the planet is so disconnected.

You know, I see, a lot – for the longest time, people were sort of denying the analysis that you make here, the analysis that seems so obvious, that this culture is inherently destructive. I mean, there are people who have seen it, all the way back to Tertullian and before. And it seems that so often, when people get to the stage of actually doing what’s necessary to protect that, or the Colorado River, or delta smelt or sea turtles; there is at the last moment a failure of connection.

MW: Yeah. And that’s actually in some ways what the next article is about. This is an article I wrote this past winter called “Lost in Pocatello,” and the article is basically about unpleasant work. This past winter I went up to the Buffalo Field Campaign base camp in Montana on the border of Yellowstone National Park, where they work to protect the last remaining migratory buffalo from destruction, which is largely being perpetrated by the National Park Service. And as part of getting up there – I didn’t have access to a car, flights were incredibly expensive, there was no bus option or any public transit option. So I rented a car to Pocatello, a one-way car, and I drove it up there and arrived early in the morning, and then my friends who were also going up to the camp were going to pick me up. So I dropped the car at the rental place, and this article sort of tells the story of what happened next, which is that I had eight hours or so to kill in Pocatello, which, if you’ve been in Pocatello in February, it’s not the most happening place. And I had a big backpack and a second backpack and a big box of food that I was bringing up there. So I got lost walking around the city and I ended up walking for miles and miles, and getting exhausted and hungry, and the wind was just whipping through there. I kept dropping my box.

Long story short: it was just really uncomfortable. It wasn’t really that big a deal in the end. I was totally fine, but the theme of the article, or the reason I wrote it, was to impress on people that a lot of the work in organizing and resistance is not that exciting. It’s not that glamorous. A lot of it is just really hard and tedious. Sometimes it’s traveling and not sleeping, sometimes it’s writing. Sometimes it’s meetings, or moderating conflicts. Sometimes it’s training. And the point of this essay is to prepare people to put in that real hard work, without glamorizing things. And you know we live in such a culture of self-gratification and short-term thinking that most people aren’t willing to make sacrifices. I think most people are just so traumatized, too. It’s hard to even think about resisting. I think a lot of people just want to be at home in their beds, in their safe places, and not get out there and do anything.

DJ: You know, decades ago now, I saw, I think it was Michael Parenti – gosh, this was like 1991 or something. He was talking about the stuff Mike Parenti talks about, and he did this aside where he just started, he goes off on comic books. His complaint was that he thought that superheroes are basically a neoliberal model of problem solving.

MW: Oh, yeah.

DJ: In that it’s one individual – most of us don’t do anything. Most of the people in Gotham – is Gotham the one with Batman?

MW: Yup.

DJ: So most of the people in Gotham don’t do anything, and they leave Batman to create all these sort of technical fixes and to solve all the problems.

MW: Yeah, absolutely. I think you could look at Iron Man as another great example of that. It’s this sort of neoliberal libertarian fantasy of the ultra-rich misogynist asshole CEO saves the whole world with his money, basically.

DJ: Wait! Did you just say “Atlas Shrugged”?

MW: (laughing) No. I’m not sure what you misheard there. But I was talking about Iron Man.

DJ: No, I think what I heard correctly was a rich libertarian saving the world.

MW: Oh yeah. I’m glad to say I haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, so that’s why it went over my head.

DJ: So this reminds me of – there’s a great line by Kathleen Dean Moore where she – if you ask her what can one person do, in terms of stopping the murder of the planet, she always responds “Don’t be one person.” And what she means by that is organizing. So can you talk about organizing a little bit?

MW: Sure. So one quick point on that, that I’ll make, and then I’ll jump ahead to a whole essay that’s about it. One of the essays in this collection is sort of a book reflection on a book called “I Write What I Like,” which is about Steve Biko and the anti-apartheid struggle. Biko was the anti-apartheid organizer in South Africa who was killed at age 30 after being beaten severely by the police while he was in custody.

So this is the quote. “A number of organizations now currently ‘fighting against apartheid’ are working on an oversimplified premise. They have taken a brief look at what is, and have diagnosed the problem incorrectly. They have almost completely forgotten about the side effects and have not even considered the root cause. Hence whatever is improved as a remedy will hardly cure the condition.”

And I think that that’s a great quote to throw out whenever we talk about organizing, because from the beginning, if we’re organizing around those false premises, if we have not considered the root cause, then our organizing is not even going to lead us in the right direction.

So I have a whole essay in here about organizing. This essay is called fifteen points on organizing. And I can just share a few of the points. Like I say in this article, I’m by no means an expert but I have gained some experience. So this list is not to be considered definitive or faultless by any means, but these are a few things I feel like I’ve learned.

So: point one. Reliable, self-motivated people are irreplaceable. One solid person is worth a dozen who don’t follow through on commitments or who never act with initiative. Two: beware of abusive and toxic people, as well as those who have nothing to bring but drama and distraction. Set boundaries.

DJ: Okay, hold on a second. Years ago I had two surgeries done at Scripps Green Clinic just north of San Diego. And one of the things that blew me away is every single person, from janitor to surgeon, to everybody else, was remarkably kind. And when I go into the local hospital, sometimes the technicians are pretty nice, but a lot of times a lot of the people there just aren’t very nice.

MW: Right.

DJ: So I’ve thought a lot about institutional personality. And you know we’ve all experienced this, where you go to one store and everybody’s always really nice, and you go to another store and quite often people are not so nice. And I happened to be at a board meeting (this is going to have a point) I was asked to be at a board meeting for Patagonia. And everybody there seemed really nice, and I had a chance to talk to their human resource manager about this exact question. And he was saying that basically it’s really crucial that you choose the right people in the first place. That for them, creating a culture – sure, it starts with people being nice to each other in general, but also, when you recruit new members, one of your criteria, one of your goals has to be to make sure that the people who come in are going to fulfill numbers one and two. This is a long way of saying that I think that what you’re saying is absolutely crucial. I think that’s more important than technical skills.

MW: Yeah.

DJ: Sorry. That was a long distraction.

MW: No, thanks for that. So, just to – I can throw out a few more of these and then maybe we can move on. But number three is social skills are profoundly important for organizing. Cultivate these skills, avoid stereotyping or dismissing people based on their lifestyle, job, or any first impression you may have. Number seven is humility, respect, and appreciation for others are the foundation of relationships. Shared hardships, struggle and joy are the mortar that cements these bonds. Build friendships and caring relationships with the people you organize with. Number eight is do what you say you will do, follow up on commitments and responsibilities, and don’t give your word lightly. Number twelve is sometimes you have to take risks. Number thirteen is never stop learning. Deepen your wisdom and plan to become an elder and mentor as you age. And then number fifteen, the last one, is be so stubborn they’ll never stop you. Never give up.

So those are a few of the points, but with that article I was just aiming to give people some really concrete recommendations for how to approach organizing, a mental attitude to bring to it, and a few practical pieces of advice as well.

DJ: You know, I was thinking about number seven, the one about build friendships and caring relationships with the people you organize with? That reminded me of something that Vince Emanuele says. He says somebody will call up and say “Hey, do you want to go to a protest?” And he’ll respond “We haven’t been to lunch.” The point is he wants to know who you are before he goes to a protest with you. I think there’s something to that.

MW: Yeah. Absolutely. It’s about trust. When you’re talking about engaging in serious political work you really need to have a high level of trust for people. That’s a huge barrier in today’s atomized society. Everyone spends more time with their machines than they actually do with each other, and that’s not our individual fault really, of course. That’s what the society is set up to do. Alienate us all and get us all addicted to the screens and so on, and break down the social relationships. People buy more when they’re unhappy, so it strengthens the system.

DJ: So we have about ten minutes left. Do you want to talk about one or two more essays and then we’ll start to give conclusions?

MW: Sure. Let’s see. So the next essay that I’ll talk about here is a quick one, which is the importance of skills and equipment for resistance movements. One of the things that’s interesting to me about this essay collection is; there’s a saying in military strategy that something like “Those without experience talk about strategy, those with a little bit of experience talk about tactics, and those with a lot of experience talk about logistics.” And the basic idea is that it’s easy to talk about how something might happen, but once you’re getting down to the actual boots on the ground logistics of how exactly we’re going to carry it out, steps a b c d, how’s everyone going to eat? How are they going to get to where they’re going to be? Where’s everyone going to sleep? What sorts of supplies and skills do we need? Then you’re really getting to the meat of what you’re trying to do. And so one thing that’s interesting to me about this essay collection is over time I can see my work shifting from the more theoretical, sort of big picture stuff to more focused logistical work. And that’s what this essay is about.

This essay starts with looking at, for example, Standing Rock. So many people were watching the news at Standing Rock, and what you saw was giant crowds of protesters and resistance figures, and the police and the National Guard, or the BIA, and all the other federal agencies on the other side. And the difference in the amount of training and skills and equipment is stunning in those situations. The cops have their communications systems, their radios. They have their weapons, their armor. They have vehicles, they have command and control networks. They have crowd control. They have StingRay devices. They have helicopters. They have SWAT teams. And meanwhile, most of the protesters have pants and a t-shirt, basically. Maybe a cellphone. So this essay is all about how we need to work to even the playing field by gaining real skills and acquiring and practicing with equipment that’s necessary to be more effective in conflict situations, especially when you’re talking about an asymmetric conflict where one side has much more power than the others, which is pretty much every situation that we’re going to find ourselves in. We really need to be prepared, and that’s something that we haven’t really seen from resistance movements thus far. And I think if we’re starting to talk about moving from protest and making our voice heard to actual resistance and revolution, then we need to start talking about supplies and equipment and skills.

DJ: I’m thinking about a couple of quotes, having to do with the quartermaster question. Three quotes. Maybe four. One of them is the classic “An army fights on its stomach.” Two by Rommel. I believe he said something like “Most battles are won by the quartermaster.” And then another by Rommel is “When two soldiers are fighting, the one who put the extra cartridge in his rifle is the one who wins.” I can’t remember the last one now, but they’re all saying the same thing. Everything we’re talking about is leading to the question of moving towards a serious resistance movement. To use a cliché: moving out of our comfort zones and into a serious resistance. It seems to me that that’s much of what your essays are about.

MW: Yeah. And, just to highlight that, probably the most discomfiting article in this collection is the one called “Ecological Special Forces.” This article is about the need for people to operate in a professional, even military-like fashion, for effective resistance, and especially similar to how Special Forces commandos operate, given that these groups are usually operating in a situation where at least locally it’s an asymmetric situation. They’re outnumbered and they don’t control the area.

So the first official commando units were created in the 1940’s by the British military, but they were just emulating people who had been doing it for a long time. They drew a lot of direct inspiration from Palestinian fighters who were able to tie down these large, much more powerful Imperial British Army units in the 1930’s. And so this article looks at; what are the characteristics of Special Forces units? And it’s things like physical fitness, training with infantry weapons, focus on stealth, being comfortable operating in darkness and all kinds of weather, capability to operate on the water, flexibility and self-direction, operating in small units. I think that’s a really interesting case study when you look at something like Standing Rock, where you have thousands and thousands of people coming from all over the country to participate in this resistance, and many of the most effective direct actions that were taken against the pipeline were run by groups of five to ten people, or even fewer in many cases. So oftentimes smaller is better.

And, again, the commandos or Special Forces units; they really focused on things like target selection and intelligence; having the right information at the right time to make the critical decisions.

So I think we need to start thinking more like revolutionaries, and one of my favorite quotes in regards to this is from Michael McFaul, who was a Rhodes Scholar and a professor at Stanford, and he was on the National Security Council. And the quote is: “Beforehand, all revolutions seem impossible. In retrospect, all revolutions seem inevitable.” And I love that quote because when it seems impossible, which it often does to me, I go back to that quote and I hope that in a year or in five years or ten years or fifty years, people will be looking back and saying “It was inevitable that some people were going to take things into their own hands and dismantle this global industrial empire, because it was murdering the planet and that was the only option people had for survival. So some people were brave enough and smart enough to organize and make it happen.”

DJ: So thank you so much for that. Two things before we close. One of them is how can people get this book? And the second is how can people join you in this struggle?

MW: If people want to learn more about the book and order a copy, my website is So people can connect with me there. And the other way people can support or get involved is look up the group Deep Green Resistance. I would really recommend people do that. I want people to give moral support, but I want people to go beyond that. I want people to take responsibility for learning the skills themselves that are necessary for carrying out effective resistance, to normalize those skills in our communities, and to really build a true revolutionary sentiment and to take action.

DJ: Well thank you so much for all that. And I would like to thank listeners for listening. My guest today has been Max Wilbert. This is Derrick Jensen for Resistance Radio on the Progressive Radio Network.

Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen
No Responses — Written on September 9th — Filed in Interviews by Derrick Jensen

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