Joaquin Cienfuegos, Latest “Political Prisoner” for the Anarcho-Left

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I am still subscribed to some anarchist listservs, a holdover from my days in “the movement.” The most recent alert concerns “political prisoner” Joaquin Cienfuegos. According to his comrades, Mr. Cienfuegos was driving without a license when the police attempted to pull him over. Rather than pulling over, Cienfuegos continued to drive until reaching his a friend’s residence. Then, when finally pulled over, Los Angeles police discovered a loaded weapon in the trunk of his car. Cienfuegos was charged with carrying a concealed weapon and had bail set at $40,000.

Accordingly, the international anarchist “movement” has rallied around Cienfuegos as a “voice of militancy and reason in the Los Angeles area” and a “political prisoner.” Here is a comment at Anarkismo.net:

One of Joaquin’s comrades gave illvox.org permission to post his account of what went down:

At around 11 p.m. we were driving down Lexington Avenue, where were we passed by the two pigs, who were looking at us as we drove by them. Before we got to the end of the block (Lexington and Cahuenga), they hit the lights on us.

Joaquin said “they’re pulling us over” as we were turning down my block (La Mirada Avenue). I told Joaquin not to stop until we got in front of my house, because if they were going to kill us or beat our asses, it was going to happen on my block and in front of my house where people could see.

As he slowed down in front of my house, the pigs came to each side of the car and one ask, “what took you so long to pull over?” and I said, “Because I told him not to stop until we got in front of my house, where we know we’re safe.” The pig said, “you are safe.” I told them “we were in front of my house” and what my address was.

At this point, they asked Joaquin for his drivers license. He didn’t have it because just three or so weeks ago he was robbed and had his his wallet, cell phone taken. They told him to exit the car, where they put cuffs on him right away and asked me if I was on parole or probation and I told them no.

I also told them Joaquin needed to get my wheelchair out of his trunk so I can get out of his car. The pig came to the driver’s side of the car and popped the trunk, went to the back and put the wheelchair together. At that point the pig saw a machete in the trunk and asked Joaquin “what was he doing with a machete?” Joaquin said that “he does gardening work from time to time and it shouldn’t be ‘illegal’ to have a machete in his trunk.”

As I exited the car. they told me I could go home. So I crossed the street and observed them from in front of my home. From afar, I hear the pig ask Joaquin, “what’s in this case?” He lifted the case out of the trunk and went to the back of the squad car… I went into my house to make some calls and then came straight back out, and saw one of the pigs searching the car and ask, “are you going to tow his car?” The pig said “that he has a suspended license” and yes he was.

He then asked me, “did I know that he had an illegal gun in the trunk?” I told the pig, “that’s not my business and how was the gun illegal when I went with him to Turners to buy the gun?” he then said that “It was loaded.”

A couple of members of CW-LA guerrillas showed up with cameras and they took Joaquin off to the Hollywood Division.

I attempted to post a comment at Anarkismo.net as well as Indymedia but my comments were deleted.

Militancy and reason rarely, if ever, go hand in hand. Militants are radicals and radicals are not known for being reasonable. They tend to be self-righteous and self-centered while pretending to care about some sort of common good. There is plenty of evidence Cienfuegos is not a reasonable individual.

First, if this individual were truly reasonable he would not have driven without a license. Driving a car is a privilege throughout the United States (even California). It is not a right.

Second, if this individual were truly reasonable he would have pulled over when the police hit their lights. He’s lucky he was not stopped with a P-I-T maneuver.

Third, if this individual were truly reasonable he would not have been rolling around Los Angeles with a loaded firearm in his trunk. Any reasonable person would know that is considered a concealed weapon in California:

California Penal Code section 12025 does not prevent a citizen of the United States over 18 years of age who is not lawfully prohibited from firearm possession, and who resides or is temporarily in California, from transporting by motor vehicle any pistol, revolver, or other firearm capable of being concealed upon the person provided the firearm is unloaded and stored in a locked container [emphasis mine].

Lastly, the Los Angeles police work in an incredibly dangerous environment. The anarchists Cienfeugos runs with are keen on revolutionary imagery and rhetoric (“Pedro’s Got a Pipebomb Set for the 4th of July”) that went out in the 60s. For future reference, when you kids play militant revolutionary games you should be prepared to deal with the consequences.

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15 responses »

  1. Whoops!

    I saw the comment above (since deleted) from Eric Lee and thought it was Eric Lee from Labourstart.org, an excellent site that I have been visiting since the days of dial-up.

    After I followed the link I saw it was a blog for…celphones.

    Sorry, Mr. Lee. No free advertising here. If you want to discuss politics, history, etc. this is the place to be but please don’t SPAM my blog.

  2. The world must look very strange through the eyes of these radical types. So when you are speeding and are asked to pull over, you to keep driving until you arrive at your destination, and then act like a great injustice has taken place when the police give them extra scrutiny? What a way to see the world.

    I remember a strike my union was involved in back when I was a maintenance man, and this college radical type was asked by the lone police officer patrolling the protest area to not jump out in front of the street to stop or slow traffic. The kid went over to a stage some group had set up, and gave this longwinded speech describing how he was the victim of police injustice and racial profiling due to what the officer had just told him! Having seen the whole altercation between the protester and the officer, I couldn’t believe that this kid actual saw the whole situation through that framework. But when you place such importance on yourself and your “struggle,” you can start to see the world as a Greek tragedy with you at the center.

  3. I don’t know if they were speeding or not. That is not clear from the report given by Cienfuegos’ comrade:

    “we passed by the two pigs, who were looking at us as we drove by them. Before we got to the end of the block (Lexington and Cahuenga), they hit the lights on us.”

    Whether they were speeding or not, they should have pulled over when the police hit their lights. That is what law-abiding citizens do. Criminals, by contrast, do not.

    If the report above is accurate, they did not speed off after the police hit their lights, but Cienfuegos did continue to drive. This is unusual behavior and told the police the occupants of the vehicle were either under the influence, had something to hide (weapons? warrants?) or both. Anyone involved with Copwatch, let alone an experienced activist, should expect the police to behave in this manner when they refused to pull over.

    But no, they are so surprised and shocked to be treated this way. The same way every other driver would be treated in a similar situation. Imagine that. The horror. What an unjust world we live in. We need to protest this!

  4. Upon re-reading it, I see that it doesn’t mention speeding. My mistake.

    The real sad thing about cases like this is how so much energy is spent fighting for someone who is clearly in the wrong and not a political prisoner, while real ones sit in jails (or worse) throughout the world.

  5. Yeah, about the only right this guy has is the right of him and his fellows to complain endlessly about their rights being violated…

    The right to complain is one that is often abused. 😉

  6. “And if you murmur, jokingly embarrassed, ‘He has it in for us!’ the true nature of the scandal escapes you; for we have nothing in for you at all; our work — red-hot for some — in what concerns you is as cold as ice; we speak of you often, never to you.”

    Ulcer In the belly of the beast

  7. Oh, yeah, the cops are always so honest and upright that they can be automatically trusted, give me a break. Lets ingore the Rampart Scandal, COINTELPRO, and every other illegal abuse of police power that has ever been foisted upon dissidents and activists in the good ole US of KKK. But I guess such programs would seem to be reasonable measures to narrow minded self-centered nationalists who are incapable of seeing anything from the viewpoint of those outside their class or nationality, especially those who are trampled by their class and nationality, better not look to deep or wide or you may not like what you see, may put the lie to the beneficence and righteousness of your cause and existence.

    The United States is a colonial enterprise that moved almost straight to global imperialism once it annihilated and pacified the indigenous population in it’s stolen territories. The whole modern European state model was predicated upon the need to protect the victors spoils gained of war and conquest. In my eyes the United States and every state modeled on the European model is illegitimate criminal racket. As another noted in essence a organized protection racket with a thin but misleading veneer of legitimacy.

    War Making and State Making as Organized Crime – Charles Tilly
    https://netfiles.uiuc.edu/rohloff/www/war%20making%20and%20state%20making.pdf

    Oh and just one example of the LAPD in action:
    “White Former LA County Sheriff’s Deputy Says Superiors Ordered Him to ‘Take More Blacks To Jail’”
    http://www.lawattstimes.com/articles/2007/04/02/news/front%20page1.txt

  8. Your comment reads like it was written by someone stuck in the 1970s. “US of KKK”? LMFAO.

    As you can read above, my account was not based on what the police said. I do not have a copy of the police report. My post was based on an account provided by Cienfuegos’ comrade. I expect this account by a friend to place Cienfuegos in as positive a light as possible. Yet, according to this account, Cienfuegos behaved in a manner likely to cause suspicion by police in any jurisdiction.

    Rolling with a loaded AR-15 in your trunk in L.A. is criminal, regardless of your politics. It’s also stupid. If you folks want to roll around with loaded guns in your trunk, deal with the consequences or change the law. But I know you are too good for that. You are real “revolutionaries” who disobey the law as part of your resistance to the “US of KKK.” Good luck with all of that…

    Yes, the COINTELPROs went over the line in some cases but not in others. Any organization that is dedicated to the violent overthrow of the state should expect the full force of said state to be used against them. Thought you would have learned that from Tilly.

  9. “New Centrist” : I found this website by searching for “Joaquin Cienfuegos” after I saw on the Anarchist People of Color website that he had been arrested.

    Regardless of the wisdom of his specific course of actions I find it sad that you, apparently a former anarchist, would resort to such victim blaming arguments. “Any organization that is dedicated to the violent overthrow of the state should expect the full force of said state to be used against them” is basically the moral equivalent of saying that a rapist is justified in killing a woman who is fighting back. The State is in a state (ha ha) of de facto aggression. It’s very existence is aggression. It exists for its own sake. The biggest gang in town.

    And that you justify the abuses of the Los Angeles Police Department, among the most vicious terrorist organizations on the planet, by saying that they “live in a very dangerous area,” well, I find that repugnant. The victims of the LAPD have as much right to resist it as did the participants in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

    This brings me to another point. It seems that you have gone from being a left-wing anarchist to a supporter of John McCain and the racist, fascist state of Israel.

    You are quite right to condemn the long history of anti-Semitism on the left. The past didn’t go anywhere. I’ve seen and been appalled by that creepy “counterfeit Jews whispering to the devil holding the world” picture, taken by the monumentally arrogant and ignorant “zombietime” person in the Bay Area, who, for one thing equates the I.W.W. (of which I am a member) to the Spartacist League (of which I am NOT. Yuck.)

    http://www.zombietime.com/iraq_war_fifth_anniversary_protest/commie_can_you_hear_me/

    Anyway, so I think I kind of understand where you’re coming from. However, the existence of leftist anti-Semitism hardly merits excusing Israel’s brutal apartheid of the Palestinians.

    The equation of Jewish identity to support for Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government is a pretty good way of providing ammo for GENUINE anti-Semites who can point to this conflation and use it to blame “the Jews” as a whole for supporting Israeli atrocities.

    Furthermore, I, like you, do not hold the modern anarchist movement, nor the left in general, in very high regard, for various reasons. They are fairly well-elaborated here, in an essay by Keith Preston that made me take a very hard look at myself a few years ago (at one point I was way more sucked in by the hysterical identity politics and guilt-tripping so common to the eft.) He’s a pretty good critic of the modern left (including its anarchist wing), “political correctness”, the policies of the U.S./Israel/the West in general, the State itself, well, a lot of stuff.

    http://attackthesystem.com/canning-reactionary-leftism/

    Feel free to fling whatever you want my way. I will confess that I started writing this out of a bit of anger. I usually do not like to debate people whose politics I regard as the polar opposite of my own over the internet, because, well, for one thing, does anyone ever change their mind? Most people seem to change their minds on their own, if ever. And for another thing, I have noticed that people are typically far more rude while communicating via internet than they might be otherwise.

    I do not wish to seem overly hostile. However, if I may say so, it seems that you are severely mistaken in the course you have chosen and I feel compelled to reach out to you, even if only because, at some point, you must’ve been attracted to the ideal of a completely voluntary society, free from coercion, which I regard as the noblest aspiration possible.

    If you would like to discuss these issues with people who are both more revolutionary and more articulate than I, please feel free to come to Preston’s internet forum, where “diversity on steroids” and incredibly open discussion reigns.

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/attackthesystem/

  10. Josh, your comments are far less aggro than some others that ended up in my spam filter. But you sound like you seriously need to grow up.

    LAPD “among the most vicious terrorist organizations on the planet”? Please. When was the last time they blew up a swap-meet or cut off the heads of local activists?

    To even compare the police in this country to terrorists displays how out of touch with reality you are. Back when I was in the scene we called them “death squads” which was just as juvenile. And I was ashamed that I used that sort of rhetoric when I met people who were targets of actual death squads.

    In a similar vein, anyone who thinks Israel is fascist, how shall I put it, has no idea what the term means. Israel has a stronger democratic-socialist movement than the United States, independent trade unions, a free press, numerous outspoken critics of Zionism in the universities, etc. etc. etc.

    You sound educated enough to know the difference between totalitarianism and pluralist democracy. If not, there is a huge difference. Maybe not to the radical left here in the U.S. but people who have actually lived in these regimes are quick to recognize the difference.

    Sorry, I don’t buy into the “state as gang” theory. Intelligent people as far back as Thucydides realized we achieve freedom via the state. Without the state—including the police—you would not be able to live as you do. The state maintains your way of life. I know this sounds authoritarian but it is the truth. If you take a look around at the places where there are weak states on this earth, they are far from anarcho-communist utopias.

    I don’t know Zombietime personally but I think s/he understands that there are sectarian differences between the IWW, Sparts, CPUSA, ISO, etc. However, when viewed within the larger political context you are all part of the same loony radical left milieu. You all despise capitalism, support revolution, think Israel is “fascist” and so on.

    Also, if you don’t want to be lumped with these screwed up groups, why does the IWW (as well as anarchist orgs) routinely demonstrate with these people? Back in the day people like Carlo Tresca would have been fighting these communist scum in the streets. Today you all march together.

    “The equation of Jewish identity to support for Zionism or the policies of the Israeli government is a pretty good way of providing ammo for GENUINE anti-Semites who can point to this conflation and use it to blame “the Jews” as a whole for supporting Israeli atrocities.”

    Yes, if Jews organize for their national liberation and collective defense it will cause people who hate Jews to hate Jews even more. Do you realize how insane of a formulation this is?

    “at some point, you must’ve been attracted to the ideal of a completely voluntary society, free from coercion, which I regard as the noblest aspiration possible.”

    Then I grew up, Josh. Utopian aspirations always devolve into dystopian realities.

    Had a look at the Attack the System blog and it definitely is not my cup of tea. But the posts provide ample evidence of the convergence of the paranoid left and paranoid right in the U.S.

  11. Well, I gotta say you don’t seem quite as crazy or aggro as I thought you’d be either, but I don’t feel like I’m the one who’s out of touch with reality and needs to grow up.

    What I’m saying with the thing about genuine anti-Semites is, all the denunciations of anti-Zionist Jews and critics of Israel as “self-hating Jews” and “anti-Semites” and all that creates the impression that all Jews support (which isn’t true) or should support (which is, I guess, “controversial”) the state of Israel, which then unfairly deflects the hostility that Israel deservedly provokes onto Jews as a whole. I was listening to a radio interview with Mike Marqusee who just wrote a book called, “If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew” and he said that he was talking to a person from a Middle Eastern country (can’t remember which one, sorry) who couldn’t understand why the U.S. would attack Afghanistan and Iraq since “Americans are such nice people,” and he figured it was because of “the Jews,” which he supposed was about 50% of the U.S. population. Marquesee is actually where I got that line of argument from, although I’ll admit I didn’t phrase it quite as well as he did.

    As for the state of Israel, it may be democratic for Israeli citizens but I’m sure it seems fascist to the Palestinians. I have no special objection to the state of Israel beyond that. And while we’re at it, I know a Palestinian Jew whose family was expelled in the Nakba who is as you might guess pretty hardcore anti-Zionist, where do people like that fit into your analysis?

    Also, this brings to mind my problem with “pluralist democracy” more generally: the mere existence of relative freedom of speech, the press, etc. is no justification for a militarist foreign policy. And the victims of a “democratic” regime aren’t any less dead than those of a totalitarian one.

    Personally, I don’t think that protesting (or street-fighting, for that matter) is a very effective tactic, so yeah, I wish that the I.W.W. and anarchist groups wouldn’t associate with the crazy commie cults. I just joined, actually, so I have not marched in any of the big stupid parades.

    As for “capitalism” I think that the most just economic systems would probably be mutualism or syndicalism, which would preserve the “freedom of economic association” that the Right tends to think of capitalism as meaning while destroying the “vast concentrations of viciously acquired wealth” that the Left tends to mean by the term.

    As to the supposedly “utopian” nature of anarchism, the mere absence of a state isn’t really what it’s about (for me anyway), it’s about replacing coercion with voluntary associations. “Intelligent people” as far back as Socrates recognized that the only legitimate foundation of a political order was the explicit consent of the individual members within it combined with the right to emigrate with their property. I find that a more convincing argument than any “Divine Right of Kings” or “Social Contract” sophistry.

    Unlike a lot of other anarchists, I guess, I realize that this goal can’t ever be completely fulfilled, but like Proudhon I view the goal as to minimize authority. I’d suppose you’ve seen this one, y’know: “It is scarcely likely, however far the human race may progress in civilization, morality, and wisdom, that all traces of government and authority will vanish.” A lot of people, most famously Noam Chomsky, have recognized that classical anarchism is really just the logical heir to classical liberalism.

    You claim to have become a “centrist,” but it doesn’t seem that way to me. I mean, John McCain? Yikes. And I’M part of a loony radical milieu?

    As for the convergence of the “paranoid” left and “paranoid” right, well, to quote Kurt Cobain, “Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you.”

    I regard whatever services the state does provide in the way of police protection, environmental regulation, social programs, etc. as raw meat it throws us to enable its real function as a way for the unproductive to live at the expense of everyone else, and commit wars of conquest.

    I will concede that the “one of the most vicious terrorist organization on the planet” crack was a bit of rhetorical excess in the heat of the moment, but the police commit some truly despicable crimes on a daily basis. At the very least they’re fighting the domestic civil war that is dignified by the name “War on Drugs.” Honestly, I take the “state as a criminal gang writ large” argument as a GIVEN.

    Here’s a calmer individual on the subject.

    http://www.sobran.com/reluctant.shtml

    I don’t suppose that we’ll convince each other of anything but I would hope you’d at least refrain from denouncing me as needing to grow up, out of touch with reality, etc., etc., ad nauseam. If anarchism is so utopian and childish, then why have its adherents and sympathizers included Mohandas Ghandi, Henry David Thoreau, Bertrand Russell, Aldous Huxley, J.R.R. Tolkein, George Orwell, Leo Tolstoy, and Oscar Wilde (not to mention all the ones famous specifically for being anarchists)? Were they all idiots under the grips of false consciousness or something?

  12. By the way, I didn’t mean to have that stupid smiley face thing in there, it just came out that way because of the way I typed the “)” or something.

  13. Adherents of anarchism and all radical political ideologies in the 21st century U.S. are largely childish. The people who are involved with these projects (can’t even call it a movement) are doing so for the self-validation they receive. It is all about reaffirming their identity. It is not about actually changing things politically it is about membership and belonging.

    As far as Israel, I know it is hard to understand but Israel’s neighbors, including the Palestinians, are the ones who have declared war. Israel has continually attempted to establish peace. It isn’t the Knesset saying “we will never recognize Palestine,” so, please, educate yourself a bit.

    I know all the anarcho-talking points but after spending some time in Israel as well as studying the history of the Zionist movement, the Yishuv period, the establishment of the state, and the subsequent Arab wars, I have come to different conclusions. I am less than interested in a sports journalist’s opinions about this topic, I am interested in historical analysis.

    Anti-Zionism, the denial of Jewish self-determination, is defacto anti-Semitism. That does not mean that all self-described anti-Zionists are raving Jew-hating loons (although there are plenty of those). It does mean that anti-Zionists view the self-determination of the Jewish people as “racism,” Israel as an “apartheid state” and all of the rest of the lies that are part and parcel of anti-Zionist ideology.

    Self-hatred is a sad aspect of the Jewish psyche in the Diaspora. Many Jews in revolutionary movements are more committed to some vague notion of proletarian internationalism than the survival of their people. Self and group preservation are hardwired into the human species. When people deny that aspect of human nature in the name of ideology (anarchist, socialist, communist, or whatever), some extremely complex pathologies develop.

    In the context of American politics, Senator McCain is a centrist as he is not on the right-wing of the Republican Party (in contrast to someone like Rick Santorum, for example). He has a reputation as an independent thinker who is not in lock-step with the party line. Look at the vitriol heaped on him from the religious right and other activists who consider themselves “movement conservatives.” Senator Lieberman is a similar case only the people demonizing him are from the loony left wing of the Democratic Party (Moveon.org, Daily Kos, and the rest of the nutroots).

    You may not like their positions re: defense, but both senators are closer to the center than to the extreme left or right. The reason these politicians do not seem like centrists to you and other anarchists is your political perspectives are so far out there. I’d say anarchist ideas are on the extreme margins of political discourse but, the fact of the matter is they are off the chart. Their ideas do not even register for vast majority of folks in this country.

    “As to the supposedly “utopian” nature of anarchism, the mere absence of a state isn’t really what it’s about (for me anyway), it’s about replacing coercion with voluntary associations.”

    Take a look at Mancur Olson’s “The Logic of Collective Action”. It might open your mind about the possibility of this voluntary association happening on any large scale:

    “This book develops an original theory of group and organizational behavior that cuts across disciplinary lines and illustrates the theory with empirical and historical studies of particular organizations. Applying economic analysis to the subjects of the political scientist, sociologist, and economist, Mr. Olson examines the extent to which the individuals that share a common interest find it in their individual interest to bear the costs of the organizational effort.”

    Look, I like the idea of mutualism and syndicalism but these ideas were birthed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and have little, if any, relevance today. Proudhon was writing in an economy dominated by craft production and artisans. We have moved way past that. As far as syndicalism, the United States, or California, or San Francisco will never be run by “One Big Union,” it’s an escapist myth. I understand the appeal but it is a fantasy.

    I examine anarchism as a radical political movement in particular times and places. The nineteenth century U.S., when anarchism was a significant part of the left, a vibrant element of working-class immigrant communities, actively engaged with unionism and working-class organization, is a much different time from today when anarchism is largely relegated to middle-class drop-outs, dreamers and people far moved from the concerns of most Americans. The excellent historian of anarchism, Paul Avrich, noted that anarchism was a victim of the American dream. As the sons and daughters of anarchists got better jobs, went to college and generally improved their economic situation, anarchism rapidly lost its appeal.

    I don’t think there is any such thing as “false consciousness”. It is Marxist clap-trap. But the individuals you listed, while they may have been sympathetic to some aspects of anarchism, were not anarchists themselves. Orwell in particular recognized the danger of utopianism and the tendency of utopian aspirations to devolve into dystopian realities. Remember, “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

    The paranoid style is a reference to Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” When Hofstadter wrote the article, he located this style primarily on the far right. Today, it is prevalent on both far left and far right.

    “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind. In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics., In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

    The smiley faces appear automatically in WordPress…

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