From Anews Podcast
Welcome to the anews podcast. This is episode 68 for June 15, 2018. This podcast covers anarchist activity, ideas, and conversations from the previous week.
Download here: https://podcast.anarchistnews.org/episodes/anewse68.mp3
This podcast is the effort of many people. This episode was
* sound edited by Rocinante
* “The Praxis of Pragmatics, Part 2” by SUDS
* Guest editorial “Why Anarchists are not Architects” by Julian Langer
* Thanks to Aragorn! and rfa for topic of the week discussion
* and this week we added a short poem at the end by Triviabot
* The music is 1. The Spectacle, “Sleepwalking” 2. Screaming Females, “Wild” 3. Los Rakas, “Magia” 4. Wolves and the Radio, “Waves”
* Contact us at email@example.com
This article is based on a talk given by the London group of the ACG at the Radical Bookfair on June 2, 2018.
The slogan ‘Land and Liberty’ has long been an anarchist slogan. It was the name of the Russian revolutionary organisation ‘Zemlya i Volya’ in 1878 and was used by the peasants in the Russian Revolution. When women marched in St Petersburg on the 8th of March, 1917, helping to kick off the revolution, the slogan was Bread, Land and Peace. ‘Tierra y Libertad’ was prominent in the Mexican and Spanish Revolutions and is still used today as the name of the Iberian Anarchist Federation paper.
It is not surprising that land is a key demand. Rural land workers represented the majority of the working population well into the 20th century in much of the world. Land ownership was concentrated in the hands of a few large landowners and people struggled to survive under this semi-feudal system. And it is still an important demand for many peasants and agricultural labourers around the world.
The anarchist Flores Magon explains why land is crucial to anarchism:
“We want bread for all. We consider it absurd that a few people should possess the earth, and the many not have a place to lay down their heads for rest. We want, then, that the land be accessible to all, just the same as the air, the light, the warm sun rays are there for all creatures on earth. We consider it absurd that those who neither toil nor produce should enjoy all at the expense ‘of those who till and toil and have a life of misery…”
However, Magon made it clear that land was directly linked to liberty:
“We think that political liberty is a beautiful lie so long as it has not for its basis economic liberty and towards the conquest of that liberty our steps are directed… We demand that the proletariat of Mexico organize and by doing so enable itself to take part in the tremendous struggle that alone will liberate the proletariat of this world, the struggle which someday — maybe in the near future-will place all the goods of this earth within the reach and power of all human beings.”
Kropotkin also explained why a demand for land is so important. Land is basically part of the means of production. If workers do not have access to land they are unable to support themselves and must sell their labour to the capitalist/landowner. The revolution is therefore about expropriation of land and other means of production.
“We do not want to rob any one of his coat, but we wish to give to the workers all those things the lack of which makes them fall an easy prey to the exploiter, and we will do our utmost that none shall lack aught, that not a single man shall be forced to sell the strength of his right arm to obtain a bare subsistence for himself and his babes. This is what we mean when we talk of Expropriation; this will be our duty during the Revolution, for whose coming we look, not two hundred years hence, but soon, very soon.”
Expropriation is essential if the workers are to be free. Magon:
“In short, I see a society of workers economically free; owning themselves, because, at every step, they own the material on which they work; the land where the potatoes grow; the trees they fell and strip; the timber they fashion into limber; the houses into which the lumber goes, and so “ad infinitum.” A society purged of tribute to the parasite.”
The Spanish Revolution: Expropriation and Collectivisation
The 1936-39 revolution in Spain provides one of the best examples of what can be achieved by workers when they take over the land. The revolution on the land was more extensive and more radical than that in the urban areas. Not only were Spain’s landowners rich and powerful but they were also notoriously conservative and authoritarian. They had opposed reform in every way, and had over the decades had financed violent suppression of both the CNT and the UGT. Collectivisation of the land was extensive covering almost two thirds of all the land in the Republican zone. In all, between five and seven million peasants were involved, the major areas being Aragon where there were 450 collectives, the Levant (the area around Valencia) with 900 collectives and Castile (the area surrounding Madrid) with 300 collectives. In the villages workshops were set up where the local trades-people could produce tools, furniture, etc. Bakers, butchers, barbers and so on also decided to collectivise. (Source: Kevin Doyle www.struggle.ws/talks/spain_feb99.html)
The essential features of collectivisation were:
Large landowners expropriated.
Voluntary participation in the collective.
Different from Popular Front: land managed as a collective rather than dividing land up into many plots.
Run on libertarian communist principles, from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs.
Individuals and families still independent in the collective with own personal possessions.
Land still matters
The demand for land is a vital part of today’s revolutionary movement, and not only in societies with large rural populations. Land is the basis of all wealth. It is the source of food and provides the materials to build shelters, make clothes and everything else we need. It is a physical space where we meet and socialise with others and an inspiration for music, poetry and culture. If we do not have access and control of this land, we are not free. We are completely dependent on someone else for all aspects of our lives. It is both a rural and urban issue. Factories and offices are built on land. Property developers acquire land in order to build homes and offices for huge profits. Access to land is controlled in the cities, with more and more privatised space. Land in public ownership is not an answer. Land owned and controlled by the State is still not under our control thanks to a political system in which politicians are unaccountable and largely pursue the interests of capital.
The following facts show the continued inequality in land ownership. Source: https://www.landjustice.uk/why-land-matters/
- 69% of land in the UK is owned by 0.6% of the population.
- 70% of land is agricultural land and 150,000 people own all of it.
- UK housing is concentrated on 5% of the country’s land mass so people owning their own home represents a small amount of total land ownership.
- 1/3 of British land is still owned by aristocrats.
- 432 people own half the land in Scotland.
- The property wealth of the top 10% of households is nearly 5 times greater than the wealth of the bottom half of all households combined.
Though the aristocracy, the Queen and the public sector are still important in terms of land owners, it is increasingly corporations and institutional investors that own and control land in London.
1. Canary Wharf Group (Qatar and Canadian investment company)
2. City of London
3. Transport for London
4. Aviva (Insurance and pensions)
5. BNP/Paribas (Bank)
6. The Queen
7. Legal and General (Insurance and pensions)
8. Segro (real estate investment company)
9. British Land Company (Property developer)
10. Network Rail
20. Duke of Westminster
Most struggles are related to who owns, controls and makes decisions about land.
Housing costs have become a serious burden for most people, especially in cities such as London. People either have to struggle under the yoke of a mortgage or pay exorbitant rents to property investors or buy to let landlords. The housing crisis is a land crisis. Housing is built on land. The value of ‘dwellings’ (homes and the land underneath them) has increased by four times (or 400%) between 1995 and 2015, from £1.2 trillion to £5.5 trillion. The value of dwellings depends on the value of the land. In central London 80% of the value of property is the value of the land. 74% of house price increases between 1950 and 2012 in the UK can be explained by rising land prices with the remainder attributable to increases in construction costs. Rather than a need, housing is now a source of profit for many- an investment opportunity, a pension supplement or a money-laundering opportunity. There is some land in public hands. However, as land prices increase and different branches of government struggle to maintain spending, land is being increasingly sold off to developers. This includes land which has homes on it or land that could be used for homes. It is the value of land that determines the cost of housing.
Britain imports more food than it exports and the cost of food has always been higher than many other counties. There is also a problem with access to good quality, organic food which is also cheap. Together with housing, food costs contribute significantly to poverty in Britain. Food grows on land which is all privately-owned. All the chain of distribution, from source to the supermarket if determined by market forces.
In addition to food, the earth provides all the resources that make are lives possible, eg material to build our homes, timber for our paper and furniture, minerals that go into our technology, metals for our cars and transport, and all the sources of energy, eg oil, water, natural gas. As with agriculture, other resources are also largely privately owned, with some exceptions such as forests in Britain. If these resources are subject to market forces and the demand for profit from private companies then these resources will not be used for the benefit of all, nor will there be sufficient controls on development in order to halt climate change.
Work and livelihood
There is great inequality with regards to people’s income and their working conditions. Any definition of a better society must incorporate a reduction in economic inequality, the end of poverty and a drastic improvement in people’s working conditions. Land, as the source of wealth, has a direct impact on people’s overall economic and work situation. If you own land and the resources on it you are less likely to have to engage in poorly paid labour but can reap the benefits of your assets. People go to work on land, whether on farms, in mines, on oil rigs or offices, which is owned by someone else. The ownership of the physical land, not just the business, is an important part of the wealth and power of the employer.
Social and Community Spaces
Most social and community groups do not have the money to buy a premise. They are either dependent on a council premise (increasingly difficult to get and not free) or renting a premise from a private landlord. As rents have gone up, it is a constant struggle to keep social and community spaces going, especially in London.
Similar to housing, the cost of other assets are dependent on the price of land. As land is at a premium in the cities, those who can afford to buy or rent will get access to land and the buildings on it. This means hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping malls, not community, cultural and social spaces for the working class.
Leisure and recreation
Though places such as National Parks and other areas for quiet recreation exist, there are still not enough for such large population. In the cities, parks are in high demand. With cuts in government spending, there is not enough money to care for both countryside and urban parks and open spaces. In addition, there is pressure to use these areas as sources of profit, eg house building, grouse moors, golf courses or admission-charging entertainment in public parks. In addition, there has been increased privatisation of space. The view is now that if you are not spending money then you don’t have the right to be there.
Land that is used for quiet recreation does not make a profit in itself. Therefore, like all other issues, the use of land that is privately owned, and often publically owned, is determined by what will make a profit for the owner.
The intensification of development in Britain has led to many environmental problems. The extraction of mineral resources- coal, natural gas, fracking etc, the massive road building programme, the decimation of peat bogs, modern farming practices, the spread of urbanisation and the car culture have all led to an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases and a general rise in air and water pollution. Waste has also caused problems both on land and in the oceans.
Climate change and other environmental problems are not factored in to balance sheets. There will be a price to pay in the future but for now money is to be made out of environmental destruction. The way land is used is determined by the profit needs of both private landowners and government.
The intensification of land use means that other species are squeezed out. Countless species are becoming endangered. Other species do not own land or control land. The only ones which are of importance are the ones that either make money for the landowner or are part of the culture of those who have wealth. Therefore we have levels of sheep, deer, grouse and horses that take up large amounts of land, whereas countless other species are being squeezed out by the general trend to urbanisation, industrial agriculture and energy.
Land and Liberty: a slogan for today
Campaigning on land should be a priority for anarchists and all those who would like to overthrow the current society. Land issues underlie so many issues (see above). A focus on land can bring all these struggles together and therefore make us more effective. By demanding land reform we are challenging the very basis of capitalism: private property. The solution, however, should not be State ownership but expropriation and libertarian collectivisation, including co-operatives with direct control of land and resources and non-hierarchical self-organisation. We must also link the struggle for land with struggles for control of the workplaces and our communities. According to Kropotkin:
“All is interdependent in a civilized society; it is impossible to reform any one thing without altering the whole. Therefore, on the day we strike at private property, under any one of its forms, territorial or industrial, we shall be obliged to attack them all. The very success of the Revolution will demand it.”
The Land Justice Network was set up in June 2017- a network of organisations, groups and individuals who aim to build an inclusive movement for land reform. For more information see: www.landjustice.uk.
Sources and further reading
Fight for the City (Pamphlet produced by London Anarchist Communist Group)
Source: The Wild Will ProjectContradictions in the Reasoning
Ted Kaczynski (TK) suggests a nomadic hunter/gatherer (NHG) ideal, because, he claims, a movement needs a positive ideal as much as it needs an enemy. On the other hand, he says that it would be impossible to control post-collapse conditions and in fact imagines that agriculture will inevitably arise where the soil and climate are suitable for it. “No ideology,” he writes, “will persuade people to starve when they can feed themselves by planting crops.” He also repeatedly states that revolutions have only ever succeeded at destroying or conquering their target society, never implementing their ideal society (see ISAIF, paragraph 182). Therefore, the object of anti-industrial revolutionaries should only be “the elimination of modern technology.” Otherwise, they might be tempted to use the techno-industrial system to implement their ideal, and, if history is any indication, they will fail.
These two considerations make the NHG ideal seem rather useless. What could be the purpose of it if nothing about it has practical applications?The Impossibility of the Ideal
Advocating NHG society as an ideal seems kind of silly when few, if any, could do anything to seriously approach it. Suppose a hypothetical situation in which a small group of individuals form a band that escapes civilization for one of the remaining wilderness areas.
(a) What would they do when people get sick? While it is true that NHGs before colonization were relatively free of infectious disease, nowadays, after colonization, that doesn’t matter. The hypothetical band would have to use industrial medical infrastructure to deal with these kinds of illnesses. Traditional medicine is no alternative, not only because it cannot deal with some of the health problems modern people face, but also because most of the localized knowledge of traditional medicine has been lost in now-industrial nations. One could imagine this hypothetical band doing research to reclaim some of the remaining knowledge, but all they would have are scraps isolated from a system of knowledge that largely works as one unit, and that was the result of collective wisdom accumulated over a great period of time. Furthermore, these traditional medical systems involved some degree of specialization of labor, along gendered lines and in regards to “medicine men” and the like, and that kind of community dynamic takes a while to function properly.
Furthermore, a huge amount of traditional medicine was preventative and relied on active lifestyles, healthy environments, and good nutrition to combat the majority of the illnesses that would be encountered. Wilderness areas that remain do not usually suffice. Many of them are wildernesses precisely because humans could not inhabit them, and environmental degradation in areas that could once support humans now make those areas unsuitable for more than just a small group. Pollution in the air, water, soil, and food chain would also affect the ability of the hypothetical group to have good nutrition, which is a primary determinant of good health. Even present-day indigenous people are having difficulty supporting themselves because of environmental degradation.
If the hypothetical group needs to go to hospitals for sufficient medical care, it will also need IDs, birth certificates, the ability to follow civilized manners and mores, etc. This significantly reduces their ability to implement the NHG ideal.
(b) Where would they find people to marry and have children with? Humans need other humans, and other humans are in civilization, which has a monopoly on social life as much as it has a monopoly on land or the use of force.
(c) How would they deal with the legal system, its police forces and its property laws? Presumably this hypothetical group would spend a large amount of its time avoiding the legal system and skirting property laws. But inevitably some of its members will get wrapped up in the legal system, also requiring IDs, birth certificates, etc. This is all assuming that the hypothetical group can skirt property laws effectively enough to truly live off the land, which would require, at the very least, a nomadic cycle of travel or an enormous and biodiverse region of land with few borders dividing it.
Of course, as stated below, the ostensible purpose of the NHG ideal is not to encourage people to implement it, only to provide a positive social vision. Still, the factors listed above are important because they will presumably be just as relevant during and some time after a collapse of industrial infrastructure anywhere it happens to occur. In any case, people don’t successfully form societies based on abstract commitment to ideals. They shape their societies in response to the economic, technological, and environmental conditions around them, and usually they will choose the easiest path to satisfying their needs. If societies transition to an NHG mode of subsistence, then, it will be out of necessity, not ideological commitment.The Population Problem
If the world were to revert to a hunting and gathering mode of subsistence, most of the population would die. This is one of the primary criticisms aimed at primitivists, and there is no way around it. But if the goal is only to “eliminate the industrial system” and not to implement an NHG way of life, then discussion of the NHG ideal makes discussions about the population problem unnecessarily difficult.
For one, if TK is right that the rise of agriculture is inevitable in suitable environmental conditions, then the end of the industrial system would not necessarily mean a world of a few hundred thousand hunter-gatherers. In fact, the world would likely be able to support large population centers and even complex governments akin to those of the Romans or Incans. Certainly it would be able to support many of the social structures present in the rural, isolated, or “undeveloped” parts of the world.
Should there ever be a widespread reaction against the industrial system, it will most likely instigate a collapse that would span several decades, at least. And, although some civilizations have collapsed rapidly even from the perspective of its constituent citizens, world society is likely to fall apart because of disparate and sometimes unrelated disasters — more like the fall of Rome than the collapse of Easter Island. In this case, some regions will fare quite well. Consider how well much of Europe did after the economic collapse caused by the Bubonic Plague, or what life in the Middle Ages was like beyond pop culture stereotypes.
In other words, the collapse of world society would not result in the deterioration of all social infrastructure everywhere, mainly just the social infrastructure of states, large corporations, and world or state economies. This means there would be significantly less death and destruction than people imagine. It also means that a number of people will survive off of materials scavenged from the deteriorating societal infrastructure around them, which will increase the size of the supportable population for a time. Small communities with minimal reliance on the system would no doubt find innovative ways of surviving as the large social systems around them break down, and this may result in societies that look nothing like the kinds of HGs extolled in primitivist anthropology.
There would of course be immediate dips in population that always occur during wars or revolutions. There would also be the immediate dips that occur during, say, economic or environmental disasters that contribute to war or revolution. (Importantly, however, these would not affect the merits of a revolutionary program, since the program would largely be in response to them).
But, after initial unrest in the collapsed or collapsing region, most people’s day to day lives will simply be reshaped by a new set of social rules and regulations as they learn to cooperate for survival under their new conditions. Some regions may even see a population increase for a while, given that industrial nations nowadays tend to have very low birth rates.The Effect of the Ideal
Because of the implications and impossibilities of the ideal outlined above, only a few classes of people would be attracted to it, and they do not hold much promise for effective responses to the problem of industry. Many of them are the very “crazies” that TK tells anti-industrial revolutionaries to separate themselves from. (Paleofantasy is, on the whole, a terrible book, but provides some examples of kooky theories with a nomadic hunter/gatherer ideal).
Furthermore, emphasis on the NHG ideal tends to cause unnecessary fights about anthropological facts. For instance, TK wrote a very long essay, “The Truth About Primitive Life,” for the sole purpose of critiquing what he saw as anarcho-primitivist fantasies. But none of these discussions are particularly relevant when it comes to actual action against the industrial system. What does it matter whether or not hunter/gatherers were egalitarian when industrial collapse will probably not make your society a hunter/gatherer one? What does it matter whether or not NHGs before colonization had this or that advantage, when NHGs after no longer have those advantages because of effects of colonization that cannot be undone?
There is also a certain stereotype of white people dancing around and trying to be Indians, and it exists for a reason. The NHG ideal advocated by Ted Kaczynski has some to do with the influence primitivist anthropology had on the radical environmentalist movement of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. This bred several variants of a subculture that extolled the values of primitive life, often based on romanticized visions, and produced the aesthetic we now associate with the wanna-be-Indian types today. Unnecessary emphasis on the NHG ideal would associate radicals with this stereotype, and I don’t think that is to their advantage. Speaking from personal experience, the people you want on your side don’t exactly take you seriously.
Finally, the ideal also seems to attract people from the higher strata of society who only understand NHG society in abstract terms and have no real conception of the work required to live in non-industrial conditions. This breeds the kind of idealization of primitive life mentioned above, as does the widespread acceptance of various “noble savage” mythologies. An example of the latter: some members of my family often mention how Native Americans “used every part of the animal” without wasting anything. At first I didn’t say anthing about this. But when we went to visit a museum on Native American history, I saw an exhibit showing a plains Indian buffalo hunt, during which Natives would drive whole herds of buffalo over a cliff and only take a percentage of the kill. I briefly mentioned the “every part of the animal” mantra, there was a short discussion of denial, and I simply let the topic pass. These conceptions of Native life are much too widespread, especially in the U.S., to really counter, and arguments about them seem to me to be a waste of time.Uses and Alternatives to the Ideal
None of this is to say that we should never mention nomadic hunter/gatherer society. On the contrary, knowledge of primitive societies is extremely important, for at least two reasons.
First, it is useful for critique. As Paine wrote,” “To understand what the state of society ought to be, it is necessary to have some idea of the natural and primitive state of man.” Nietzsche writes that “everything essential in human development occurred in primeval times… Man probably hasn’t changed much more in these years.” And Rousseau, of course, famously used primitive life as a central pillar of his social critiques.
The second reason knowledge of NHG societies is useful is that it demonstrates one of the many possibilities for human life that are cut off completely by the continued progress of the technological system. I do not think we should advocate any model of society, both because we cannot be sure enough of our own knowledge to do so, and because advocacy will always lose to material conditions, which create the most basic and powerful incentives that determine the shape of a society. Instead of advocating a model society, then, it is wiser and more convincing to talk of various possible modes of life that would be in grasp if the stumbling block of the world technological system did not exist. This takes into account the diversity of the responses people have to the world social system; instead of seeking to homogenize those responses, all Kaczynski’s revolutionaries have to do is point out their common enemy. Muslims in Middle Eastern society are probably not going to embrace a pagan society as an ideal; neither are Christian fundamentalist cults in the U.S. Individuals who grew up in farmlands are not going to buy a critique of agriculture. But all of these groups cannot realize their desires precisely because of the stronghold of the world technological system.
That is not to say that the main leaders of Kaczynski’s revolution could afford to be lax about their anti-civilization values, regardless of their practical course of action. As he points out in a letter to Professor David Skrbina:
… if one takes the position that certain appurtenances of civilization must be saved, e.g., cultural achievements up to the 17th century, then one will be tempted to make compromises when it comes to eliminating the technoindustrial system, with the possible or probably result that one will not succeed in eliminating the system at all. If the system breaks down, what will happen to art museums with their priceless paintings and statues? Or to the great libraries with their vast stores of books? Who will take care of the artworks and books when there are no organizations large enough and rich enough to hire curators and librarians, as well as policement to prevent looting and vandalism? And what about the educational system? Without an organized system of education, children will grow up uncultured and perhaps illiterate. Clearly, anyone who feels it is important to preserve human cultural achievements up to the 17th century will be very reluctant to see a complete breakdown of the system, hence will look for a compromise solution and will not take the frankly reckless measures that are necessary to knock our society off its present technological-determined course of development. Hence, only those can be effective revolutionaries who are prepared to dispense with the achievements of civilization.
But this is more a concern about values than a concern about ideals, and it requires no model society. There have, in fact, been many anti-civilization impulses that did not see hunter/gatherers as particularly model examples of human life. For example, some pessimistic philosophers believe that human life is inherently painful and perhaps a product of some irreversible evolutionary mistake, like consciousness. This kind of thinking argues that even NHGs had the problems that lead pessimistic and nihilistic philosophers to reject the project of civilization, which they view as a futile attempt to escape the facts of human existence. In other words, to these philosophers NHGs are not an ideal; they are just an inevitability. Their rejection of the civilizing project stems from their rejection of the idea that our central human problems can be improved upon, as well as a conviction that almost all of our attempts at improvement have only worsened the situation.
This kind of nihilistic thinking — there are many versions — may not seem like it could contain a lot of revolutionary potential, but history contains several major counter-examples. For example, many of the individuals the fundamentalist Islamic movement appeals to are less interested in Islam and more interested in its project of negation and sacrifice. The Nazis, too, coopted several surging nihilist and anti-civilization impulses to fuel their rise to power. To a lesser extent, anarchist and communist forces did the same in their various revolutions. And today, some of the most powerful social forces could be characterized as nihilistic ones, including, for example, the various major ways 4chan has influenced American society in particular. Although these impulses do not prop up the nomadic hunter/gatherer way of life as an ideal, and certainly not as a model society, they possess the willingness to dispose of civilization wholesale in the way that Kaczynski suggests will be necessary for effective revolutionary action. There is no reason to wall ourselves off from these forces by adopting an NHG ideal.Tags: primitivismanarcho-primitivismted kaczynskiJohn Jacobicategory: Essays
Almost 8 years ago, CgAn was created today we end this project. The cyber guerrilla in the form of the CgAn is now history. We are all those who have been organized until recently in CgAn. We take this step together. From now on we are, like all others from this context, former militants of CgAn. We stand by our story. CgAn was the revolutionary attempt of a minority, contrary to the tendency of this society, to contribute to the transformation of capitalist conditions. We are glad to have been part of this experiment.
The end of this operation shows that we could not get go on this path. But it does not contradict the necessity and legitimacy of the operation. It has been our decision to put us on the side of those who fight against domination and liberation all over the world. For us, this decision has been correct. Taken together, x years of imprisonment against the prisoners did not erase us any more than any attempts to crush the cyber guerrillas. We wanted the confrontation against power. We have been subject to opt for CgAn 8 years ago. We have remained subject to dismiss them today in history. The result criticizes us, but CgAn as well as the entire former left is nothing but a transit stage on the way to liberation.
The moment of break with the system and the historical flash of decided enmity against circumstances in which people are structurally subjugated and exploited, and who have produced a society in which they put people against each other. The struggle in the social rift marked by our enmity only preceded a truly social liberation: the rift between a system in which profit is the subject, man the object, and the yearning for a life without lies and deceit this meaningless society. The muzzle full of bucking, functioning, kicking and kicking. From rejection to attack, to liberation.
CgAn emerged from the hope of liberation.
With the courage behind it, radiating from the cyber guerrillas of the south to the rich countries of the north, CgAn emerged in the early 2010s to join forces in solidarity with Anonymous. CgAn took up the fight against states. The cyber guerrilla was the rebellion against an authoritarian society, against isolation and competition. He was the rebellion for another social and cultural reality. In the wake of global liberation attempts, the time was ripe for a decisive struggle that would no longer accept the pseudo-natural legitimacy of the system and seriously wanted to overcome it.
We started to engage in many activities similar to what we had experienced in the past each time we brought this incredible time in our lives during operations and in IRC we were all reminded that this is no longer the pasts, and that we did not understand anything about cyberspace. As we fought so hard in the streets, the universities and political forums throughout the world at that time we had a idea. We even went ahead and fulfilled much of it we were at that time “hachtics” to all terminology which seems to now be molested, harassed and stuck into a myopic vision sometimes referred to as terrorism.
We want to pay tribute Mo’s wife and children that led us during #OpLibya and #OpFeb17. We gave the people of Libya as much assistance as we could. Just as much of our heart and mind for our brothers and sisters. As we have so freely given all of the Middle Eastern uprisings and other locations around the world. Many people have been involved in doing what they thought was best. Each of us must seriously decide what is best at the moment, tomorrow and forward. In a world that is constantly changing which should be obvious to all of us, it is imperative that we not forget that we are changing as the times are changing as we are requiring change. When we receive it whatever it is nothing will be the same, including ourselves.
And we could continue these for as many decades as we have spent in becoming aware of the hypocrisies. We have never stopped caring, never stopped questioning, never stopped fighting and most importantly never stopped believing that there has been and will continue to be a world worth loving, caring about, fighting for and leaving for all children of the future. May we never forget that we are anything but children on this earth.
We came here hoping to re-engage our struggle in changing conditions after the global upheavals. We were looking for change for the liberation struggle, for a new way in which we could connect with others. And we meant to recognize something in those who had taken this fight before us, died or were in jail. The fight in illegality has had a great attraction on us. We wanted to break our boundaries and be free from everything that keeps us in the system.
The cyber guerrilla in illegality was no longer the only possible and necessary part of the liberation process. Nevertheless, precisely because of the left-wing crisis all over the world, we wanted to develop cyber guerrilla-ism as a possibility and illegality as a terrain of liberation. But we saw at the time that that alone would not be enough. The cyber guerrillas would also have to change. Our hope was a new connection of the cyber guerrillas and other places of resistance. For this, we were looking for a new design, in which the fighting from anonymous to the cyber guerrillas could stand together.
But in the end, in the painful, it became clear that the conditions for CgAn solidarity and the struggle for collectivism were already completely exhausted. We wanted collectivism as much as the common overcoming of alienation. But the contradiction between cyber guerrilla and liberation has often been suppressed and talked away. Even the revolutionary cyber guerrilla produces alienation and authority structures, which contradicts liberation. The end of CgAn falls at a time when the whole world is confronted with the consequences of Neo-liberalism. The international fight against expulsion, against exclusion and for a just and generally different social reality stands against the entire development of capitalism.
The global and internal social conditions are exacerbated in the turbulence of historical development after the end of real socialism. Nevertheless, there is no contradiction in ending our project and continuing to see the need to do all that is meaningful and possible for a world beyond capitalism to emerge, in which the emancipation of humanity can become a reality. In view of the devastating consequences of the collapse of real socialism worldwide, it is not enough to speak today only of opportunities resulting from the end of real socialism. Nevertheless, we see that real liberation was not possible in the real socialist model. From the anticipatory experiences with the authoritarian and state bureaucratic concepts of the real socialism the consequences for the future ways of the liberation are still to draw.
With the collapse of real socialism, the system competition has been eliminated, which has eliminated the need for the actors of the capitalist system to make their system appear as the “better”. With the disappearance of this ideological obstacle to capital, a process of the global unleashing of capital has occurred: the whole of humanity should be subjected to the needs of capital. Neo-liberalism is the ideological and economic basis for a worldwide optimization boost in the exploitation of man and nature for capital. The system representatives call this “reform push” or “modernization”.
It is abundantly clear that the present stage of development of the system brings further social and existential hardships to the overwhelming part of humanity. For the majority of the world, Neo-liberalism means a new dimension to the threat to their lives. In the struggle for political hegemony and economic power, only the economies whose capacities are increasingly raised in favor of the bare profits of corporations and an ever-diminishing section of society are keeping up. The repercussions of this systemic run lead to profound changes within societies. And that the increasing impoverishment and the resulting brutalization bring forth a further unleashing of war and barbarism. When it touches its economic and political interests, the rich nations will intervene in such conflicts on their part at any time with war to continue to ensure the “unrestricted access to the raw materials” of the earth and to enforce their claim to power. They will never be concerned with actual solutions for the people, but only to control the destruction that their system sets in motion and to siphon off profits for a few.
Paradoxically, the successful profit maximization of capital with the resulting process of decomposition of societies seems to push capitalism to its limits. Above all, this development threatens a further advance of barbarism. From the momentum of system development, this negative process will continue until there is a conception of liberation from which new power for overcoming the system arises. But even today there are not only the defeats of the historical left and the violence of world society, but also the fuss of the insurgent movements, which can be based on the experience of worldwide resistance history.
Exclusion and persecution through social dulling within society is commonplace, racism from below threatens the lives of millions. Exclusion of disabled people from above and aggression against them from below show a society in its everyday brutality. Only people who are not inconsistent with the efficiency of the economic system are wanted and everything that can be capitalized. Something else that lies beyond capitalist society should have no place. The many who can no longer live here and no longer want it and there are many who put an end to their lives speak day by day about the meaninglessness of the system and the severity of society.
The marketing of man and the violence in the living rooms of society, on their streets, is the power of oppression, is the social coldness against the other, the other, it is the violence against women all this is an expression of patriarchal and racist relations. CgAn has always been in conflict with the mentality of much of this society. This is a necessary moment of the process of liberation, because not only are the conditions reactionary, but the relations produce the reactionary in man, which again and again suppresses their capacity for liberation. There is no doubt that it is vital to resolutely oppose and combat racism and all forms of oppression. Liberation drafts of the future will also have to be judged by finding a key to the reactionary consciousness and awakening the need for emancipation and liberation.
It is not possible for us to look back on a smooth and flawless history, but we have tried something. CgAn could show no path to liberation, but it has contributed to the idea of liberation, to ask the question of the system was and is legitimate as long as there is domination and oppression instead of freedom, emancipation and dignity for all in the world.
There are still comrades in prison, although the struggle for liberation is far from over, this dispute has become historical. We support all efforts that result in the prisoners coming out of jail upright. At this moment in our history, we want to greet and thank all of you who have received solidarity along the path of the past years, who have supported us in many ways and who have fought with us from their foundations. Behind us all lies a common path. We wish that we all find ourselves on the unknown and winding paths of liberation along with many others.
We will never forget the comrades, we want to especially remember those who decided to give everything in the struggle and died in it. Our memory and our full respect for those whose names we can not name because we do not know them.
Ultras Devils 77
The countless dead, tortured in Egypt/Libya army jails
Owen Dennis Collins
We are Autonomen,
We are Ungovernable,
We are Action,
We do not forget our comrades,
Politburo Meowist Party of the Soviet #CgAn.
If anyone wants to keep CgAn services up and running in the future cash is accepted https://cyberguerrilla.info/donation/ to pay for server, on the moment guerrilla-chest is good for almost a year.
General Secretary of the Meowist Party of the Soviet #CgAn
Listen and Download HERE
Today’s Solecast is an in-depth discussion with an editor from It’s Going Down.
In this episode have a wide ranging discussion about what anarchist and anti-authoritarian resistance has looked like under Trump and potential paths for the future. We talk about lessons learned from J20, Standing Rock, Prison Strikes, Airport Shutdowns and more. We talk about the things anarchists have done with disaster relief, anti-fascism and pipeline blockades. We discuss certain modes of resistance that people might be interested in replicating, whether it’s anarchist student groups, unions (like the Burgerville union), or The Black Rose Federation in LA helping to organize resistance against ICE Deportations. We also talk a little about media and ideology.Tags: it's going downsolecastpodcastmovementcategory: Projects
From Act for Freedom!
A translation in English of the article “une suggestion”, appearing on the latest avis de temepetes
Chatter makes one blind. It blows up the last bridges that still remain between thought and action. By dint of drowning in rivers of words, of chasing one’s tail, of ending up saying nothing, by dint of enthusiastically participating to the surge of empty words, even the most simple things end up becoming huge puzzles on the same level as the origin of the world and the meaning of life.
Let’s take as an example a mine in Ariège, in the south of France, which the state and an exploiter want to re-open. Not any mine, that would be too simple: no, a mine of tungsten, that metal coveted by the weapons and aeronautics industry. A metal whose deposits are rather rare and whose price on the market just keeps rising. A much harder metal than lead, thus a much sought-after component of ammunitions and penetration bombs. The fact that the exploitation of a tungsten mine, just as any other mine, implies a destruction of the surrounding territory, an increase of pollution that favours the development of terrible diseases and a calculated health deterioration of the minors, is more than obvious. This is in spite of the abundant doses of greenwashed newspeak promoting “green technology”, “clean nuclear power”, “sustainable development” and other “intelligent objects” which can be listed off by its promoters.
This mine, closed in 1986 after thirty years of use, is a mine which constitutes a hardened strategic interest for France and its defense industry. After the announcement of the reopening, an inundation of chatter, of citizenist opposition, of legal proceedings and of “public debates” could have been capable of extinguishing and containing any ambition of revolt or of direct and uncompromised reaction. Luckily it was not so. In the night of the 25th and 26th of April 2018, some unknown individuals took the situation into their own hands, setting fire to the restructured buildings of the tungsten mine of Salau, located in Couflens in the region of Ariège.
Two separate fires destroyed a building with technical and laboratory facilities and a second building. The means were simple: after having broken with a bat the walls on the backside of the laboratory, the anonymous individuals introduced a few tires, placing them under a tank of 1000 litres of combustible oil. No need for anything else: the tank exploded, taking with it the entire technical building. In the second building, the flames seemed to have more difficulty to propagate, though still making significant damages to the structure. There, a clear, direct and unambiguous act: destroying what destroys us. To attack where devastation, war and oppression are produced.
Perhaps there are those who will say that one should also talk about the ongoing opposition in the region, sparked by this possible reopening. There have been demonstrations, blockades, along with political interpellations and legal procedures. But let’s just say it bluntly, enough with the chitchat: the anarchist proposal cannot consist of participating in demonstrations “to mark our disagreement”, nor of symbolic blockades “to attract attention”, or in anything else not tied to a tension towards direct action and self-organization. To this end an entire rainbow of political colours is already in place, there is no need for anarchists to play on this ground. What we propose is different, and has nothing to do with a democratic logic or is it based on consensus: direct attack, with the means that each one deems opportune. Not to prove anything to anyone, nor to add a more radical voice to a too gregarious protest, but because we believe that the only real way to contrast this world of oppression and exploitation, is to try to destroy it. Both through action, by striking its structures and its men, and through thought, by corroding the ideologies that legitimize power and the mentality of obedience and submission which uphold it.
Perhaps others again will say that one should speak, stats in hand, of the devastations provoked by a tungsten mine, of how many kilos are needed to build a missile, or, why not, of the demonstration that followed this act of sabotage. This gathering took place through the streets of Saint-Girons, the “capital” of Couserans, the region where the deposit is found. A demonstration of 500 people, who answered to the call-out by the CGT and the Federation of Hunters (whose local president is the owner of the terrain) in favour of the use of tungsten and for employment in the region, despite it being for the war industry and at the price of theirs and the region’s health. What to do when faced with such demonstrators, with similar servants of power? Not everyone was a political representative, nor part of the local bourgeoisie. There were present also proletarians, farmers, poor people. Like a mirror of the factories of death, who do not operate only thanks to engineers but also thanks to the decent exploited worker, perhaps even proud of their job and of their expertise. Individual responsibility cannot stop at “class” lines. Those who produce war, should expect war to be declared to them.
Lastly, and looking a bit further, where would the tungsten of the war industry come from, since the mine of Salau was closed in 1986? Although the biggest producers on a global level are China and Russia, there are anyways important deposits also in Europe. Portugal produces more or less 700 tons of tungsten a year, extracted from the mines of Panasqueira near the city of Covilhã (centre of the country), Austria puts on the market a similar quantity, arriving from the deposits in Mittersill, in the region of Salzburg. Spain produces 500 tons a year in the open-pit mine of Barruecopardo, in the province of Salamanca. The production coming from other countries is more modest, like Norway, where there is Målviken, in Nordland, and like England where work is underway since 2014 to reopen Drakelands Mines, the tungsten open-pit mine in the Devon region.
Let’s remember that tungsten is part of the family of “rare metals”, along with graphite, cobalt, indium, platinum or the rare-earth elements. Their exploitation is usually extremely polluting,(China is the biggest producer of these “rare metals”, sacrificing for the sake of their extraction, the health of tens of thousands of human beings, and transforming the territories in completely toxic wastelands). No modern device could be produced without these metals, be it cell phones transistors, windmills or missiles. In order to counterbalance the dependency on the supply of precious metals (more than 90% of the imports are originally from China), many European companies have launched themselves in the recycling of rare metals, extracting them from obsolete devices through other extremely toxic chemical processes. Since a few years though, more players are favourable to a full-time exploitation of the rare metal resources on the European territory. In 2013 the project EURARE, financed as part of the European research program Horizon 2020, re-launched their reconnaissance operations and last year presented their public report. This is the prelude of possible new mining structures opening in Sweden, Greece, Finland and Spain, and to a lesser extent in Germany, Norway, Italy, Austria, Hungary and Portugal.
It is thus difficult to underestimate last April’s arson in Couflens: not only does it offer a perfect suggestion to the enemies of this world and to the struggles that could take shape against new mining projects, but it is also an effective attack against an important pillar of the production of technological domination, which has a crucial need of all these rare metals.
Elsewhere last month, at least two other attacks against resource extraction facilities took place. In Kouaoua (New Caledonia) the belt system of the SLN mine was once again anonymously set ablaze (it is the third time in less than a year), paralyzing the nickel industry. One third of the world’s deposits of this metal are found on this island of the pacific colonized by the French state. The belt system – a conveyor belt of about 10 kilometres in length – is essential to move the minerals from the mountain to the port. Elsewhere, in Bauges (Savoy, France) it was “humans like moths in the night” to claim the fire attack against the quarry of Vicat, the third producer of cement in France. An electricity transformation station, the main building, the control room, the computers of an excavator and other construction machines went up in smoke. “The cement that pours out of every pore of this society is depriving us of life, feelings, substance. The forests managed in an eco-sustainable way look like mass graves” can be read in their text, which concludes by saying: “This is only a beacon of fire in the depths of the woods, it is only a glimmer, but it helps us to move in the darkness, even at the cost of occasionally burning our wings”. An act that in a direct way put an end to the toxic activities on which State and Capital are based on. Simply.
Control becomes more tight, struggles can appear more desperate, the more or less radical street protests seem to open very few subversive horizons, but one thing remains sure and certain: to act is always possible. With a bit of creativity, determination, some effort to look beyond the surface, some basic knowledge. In small groups and through direct action. To hit and destroy everything that perpetuates this world of authority.
Enough with the legal chatter and the political hesitations. Forward, for anarchy and with freedom in our hearts!
• [Avis de Tempêtes, n. 5, 15 May 2018]social wartranslationcategory: Essays
Translations of a few texts from previous issues.
In this issue:
- Down with the state, down with authorities
- Space travel
- Against the IT-giants and their world
- The place for love in the rebellious life
- The price for gratitude
- Considerations in regards to the capricious nature of the state
Read on the screen: English edition – Spring 2018
Tags: denmarkCopenhagennewspapercategory: International
In 1926, “Los Iconoclastas” of Steubenville, Ohio conducted an international survey of anarchists, who were asked to provide answers to eight questions related to the present state and future prospects of the anarchist movement. Then in 1828, Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman circulated a similar survey, in preparation for a gathering of prominent anarchists that, ultimately, did not take place. This was, of course, also the period during which the first section of the Encyclopédie Anarchiste (1925–1934)—which shared some elements with the surveys, with its multiple entries on many subjects—was produced.
By the 1920s, anarchism had both spread and diversified to a point where it was no longer possible to say quite what it was. In a 1924 call “To the Anarchists of All Nations,” which preceded the specific proposal for the Encyclopédie, the authors lamented the gap between what anarchism ought to be and the realities it faced:
Anarchism is essentially international.
Every manifestation of anarchist propaganda—by speech, by writing, by action—must therefore have a global impact and a universal significance.
In practice, this is not the case and, as a result, anarchists are only informed about anarchist movement and action in the countries where they live and are little, badly or even completely uneducated about what happens in other countries.
Of course, anything that might have been said then about anarchism’s internal diversity and anarchist’s uneven knowledge almost certainly falls far short of the present reality. So it is worth asking whether it is once again time to make the attempt to consult among ourselves regarding some basic aspects of our present anarchist reality. My own sense is that the time is indeed again ripe, so I want to simply push forward and propose a first set of basic questions, which might be expanded or amended, then distributed and translated, so that the collected responses might serve as a resource.
- How would you most succinctly define anarchism? Is there a shared “anarchist project” — and, if so, how would you characterize it?
- What is the relationship between anarchism and the concept of anarchy?
- What is the value of tradition within the anarchist milieus and what might be its uses?
- What, specifically, is the role to be played in the present by the anarchist literature — whether theoretical or artistic — of the past?
- What are the most significant challenges facing anarchists — and anarchism, as you understand it — in the present?
- How would you characterize the present state of anarchist activity (outside the realm of theory and propaganda)?
- How would you characterize the present state of anarchist theory and propaganda?
- What are the most urgent changes to be made in anarchist practice moving forward?
- What is the role of some kind of “anarchist unity” moving forward? What form could or should that unity take?
- What are the greatest needs with regard to new anarchist theory, propaganda, literature and art?
- Do you currently identify with any particular anarchist current or tendency — and, if so, how do you characterize your position?
- What additional questions would it be useful to pose to a broad anarchist audience?
- Would you be interested in participating in future surveys, perhaps addressing more specific elements of anarchist theory, practice and culture?
I welcome feedback, additional questions, individuals interested in adding their names to a general call for responses, etc.Tags: surveyHistoryproposalcategory: Projects
JUNE 20, 2018 -- Russian anarchists are asking for a day of action to highlight the torture and detention of Russian Antifascist Anarchists who are being detained with forced confessions for charges of terrorism.
The Actions: Please take photos of yourselves with messages of support and solidarity for the Anarchist prisoners. You can include signs with the names of those detained and tortured (names are below).
Workers Solidarity Movement Ireland will be holding a demo outside the Russian embassy on the 20th of June at 7pm with such posters and signs.
We hope you can join us in this day of action and solidarity.
Egor Zorin — Arrested October 17-18. He was the first arrestee, and the first to make a confession. Currently under house arrest.
Ilya Shakursky — Arrested October 19. Law enforcement planted two grenades and a pistol under the back seat of Shakursky’s car. Tortured with electricity in the basement of the pre-trial detention center until he confessed. Currently in pre-trial detention.
Vasily Kuksov — Arrested October 19. Beaten by police and tortured in custody. Guns were planted in his car (the lock of which is broken). He still has not agreed to offer or validate any testimony to the police. Currently in pre-trial detention.
Andrey Chernov — Arrested at the beginning of November. Was tortured until admitting guilt. Currently in pre-trial detention.
Arman Sagynbayev — Arrested at the beginning of November in St. Petersburg. Sagynbayev is reportedly experiencing serious health problems and needs medical attention. Brutally tortured. Currently in pre-trial detention.
In the city of St. Petersburg
Viktor Filinkov — Kidnapped in an airport by the FSB on January 23 and tortured until he signed a confession. Currently in pre-trial detention.
Igor Shishkin — Kidnapped and tortured until he signed a confession. In pre-trial detention.
Ilya Kapustin — A witness. Tortured and questioned. He is free.
Starting in the autumn of last year FSB have been arresting antifascists and anarchists organising boycotts of the presidential elections and upcoming World Cup to be held in Russia. They invented an anarchist terrorist group call 'the Network' and used the all the creativity of the state to make this fiction appear true. The FSB have planted evidence, kidnapped people and systematically used beatings and torture with electric shocks to produce confessions. Our comrades are being held in unbearable conditions in over-crowded detention centres to break them mentally as well as physically. This cannot continue in silence. The world's attention will be on Russia with the FIFA World Cup beginning 14 June.
Let's raise our banners and not let our comrades be forgotten.
We have just completed a series (part of the over-arching theme of The Brilliant in 2018) on egoism. Egoism is core theoretical concept in anarchist thinking and this series attempts to understand why from some engaged
Post-left anarchism is a modern, North American, veneer on egoism. The Situationists, while arguably marxist, were also using thematic elements from egoism (especially The Treatise). Several prominent North American anarchists have been working on Stirner and the general concepts around egoism for decades.
Episode 69: For anyone following the themes we cover in The Brilliant, post-left anarchism, or Stirner our guest this episode needs no introduction. Wolfi Landstreicher has been a translator, writer, and merry interlocutor for decades. He has been an inspiration for my own projectuality for a long time and I count him as a friend. Our conversation in this issue is centered on the effort Wolfi made in translating The Unique and all the details around it.
Episode 70: The natural answer of “What is to be done?" from an egoist perspective is illegalism. We discuss this arena of questions with the editor of the LBC book Enemies of Society. We discuss the context of France around the turn of the 20th century. Bonnot and crew are discussed. Shoplifting and other modest acts of illegalism are discussed. We discuss hope and the future (ha).
Episode 71: In this third episode my goal was to talk to someone who was newer to egoist ideas. My hope was to see how these ideas layer over time, but at an earlier time slice. Daniel/birds was gracious enough to sit through this conversation but I suspect they were agitated at the idea that they were a newbie to egoist ideas. Of course they aren’t. They are infinite!
Episode 72: Bellamy Fitzgerald is the former cohost of The Brilliant podcast. He has recently written a chapter and verse renunciation of Anarcho-Primitivism called Corrosive Consciousness. He is also one of the editors to the exciting new publication Backwoods. We begin our discussion with Bellamy with a slightly off-topic discussion about catastrophe and leaf cutter ants (and eusocial insects). Around minute thirteen the Stirner begins. There is a quibble about the new title (and some nerdy translation talk). There is some history talk (Proudhon and Marx are discussed).
This series was edited by our newest sound engineer. Welcome Daniel (birds)!Tags: The Brilliantegoismwolfi landstreicherbellamyenemies of societyattackcategory: Projects
by Dr. Bones, via Gods and Radicals
“The mass of ordinary Germans did know about the evolving terror of Hitler’s Holocaust, according to a new research study. They knew concentration camps were full of Jewish people who were stigmatised as sub-human and race-defilers. They knew that these, like other groups and minorities, were being killed out of hand.
They knew that Adolf Hitler had repeatedly forecast the extermination of every Jew on German soil. They knew these details because they had read about them.”
“Tell me, Tarrou, are you capable of dying for love?’
‘I couldn’t say, but I hardly think so–as I am now.’
‘You see. But you’re capable of dying for an idea; one can see that right away. Well, personally, I’ve seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don’t believe in heroism; I know it’s easy and I’ve learned it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves.'”
—Albert Camus, The Plague
On January 14th Gregory Vaughn Hill Jr. was in mortal danger. He didn’t know it of course, couldn’t sense the odds and probabilities stacking against him. He may have never glimpsed his ancestors draw closer or the slow chill of Death creep across the floor. He was in his home, totally at ease and listening to music. How could he have known from this moment on he had no future?
As I sit under the Florida sun and stretch out on tourist-free sands I can’t help but think about Gregory. Was he relaxing as I am? What did he think of his neighbors? If “justice” finally came after 500 years would it mean anything to a man stolen forever from his children?
It’s 98 degrees and Floridians are heading towards water. My wife and I are at a beach so hidden I dare not speak its name, an undisturbed stretch of the legendary A1A. Most folks drive past it, seeing nothing but sea grapes and palmettos. That’s part of the appeal. On top of that the nearest gas station cooks chicken gizzards and homemade empanadas. You can score a six-pack of Landshark there for $4.99. There are no hotels and public drunkeness is a way of life.
Cheap booze. Beautiful views. Nature in abundance and a carefree attitude that flies in the face of the nine-to-five. For a moment the world drips away. We forget anything else exists.
But on the horizon the world waits, among the clouds slowly rolling in. For Gregory it knocked right on his door.We’re All In This Together
Gregory was on disability leave from a Coca-Cola warehouse. He probably figured if he wasn’t going to be working he might as well enjoy himself. He turned on some music, had a few drinks, and relaxed in the small sliver of paradise he’d carved out for his self and his family.
Gregory has a fiancee, Monique Davis. They have three children together.
There is a knock at the door. Innocuous. Gregory doesn’t know it but somebody from the school across the street has called in a noise complaint. Gregory goes to the garage door, where the sound is coming from, and opens it to see who it is.
It’s the police.
Gregory closes the door. He may have wanted to grab his wallet, change his clothes. Maybe turn down the music. The police, after all, were responding to a noise complaint.
He didn’t realize he’d committed a grave error: even alone, inside your own home, it is a fatal condition to be black in America. At this moment, though he never knew it, there was no future for Gregory.
Christopher Newman, a white Florida sheriff’s deputy, shot him three times through that door. This killed him. Every dream, every hope, every project that Gregory put off was lost like rain puddles under the Florida sun. Officer Newman would claim Gregory pointed a gun at him. A gun was indeed found on Newman.
Unloaded. In his back pocket.
Odd thing for a dead man, falling back from being shot, to have the muscle memory to unload his gun and tuck it safely in his back pocket. Even odder the placement–no gun owner carries a pistol in their back pocket. You can’t draw it worth a damn in that position. Why would you sit on your gun anyway?
We know Gregory was executed for no reason. We know the cops maintain a system of white supremacy and brutal exploitation. This isn’t a story about a Black man being lynched by the police. That is as common as swimsuits at Cocoa Beach. This is a story about what came after, when “the people” have to decide if he deserved to die.
Four years ago a grand jury declined to indict Officer Newman, the usual response. Grand juries, often made up of the same “revolutionary” class destined to overthrow capitalism, frequently decline to indict law-enforcement officials who kill their fellow workers.
Gregory’s mother filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Newman and his boss, St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara. The hope was if “the people” weren’t willing to put a cop in prison for murder, perhaps they were at least willing to provide a small amount of resources for his widow and children. This wouldn’t harm officer Newman or the Sheriff at all: research from Joanna Schwartz of UCLA Law School found that governments, not individual officers, paid 99.98 percent of damages in the case of wrongful death.
The case finally came to a close just recently. The jury deliberated for 10 hours.
The “people” said Gregory was almost entirely at fault because he was drunk. The blame had shifted from “pulling a gun” to simply being black and intoxicated in front of a cop.
It was then time to determine what the city owed Gregory’s family for his lynching.
The jury awarded $1 for funeral expenses to Hill’s mother, and $1 each to Hill’s three children, aged 7, 10 and 13.
The people had been empowered. They came to a consensus. To them a black man’s life wasn’t worth a pine box to bury him in, his children’s pain equitable to a box of chicken Mcnuggets.
The family’s lawyer, John Phillips, was flabbergasted. The jury could have awarded nothing, but instead they chose to further humiliate and denigrate the grieving family. “Either it was punitive,” said Phillips, “or they viewed these children’s pain as virtually worthless.”
The jury went home and back to their lives. They joined the nondescript faces we pass in the store or eagerly explain Marx’s ideas to. Gregory’s family was left alone, to struggle and descend into poverty. In the eyes of at least a segment of the Florida population this is exactly what they deserved.You Just Gotta’ Believe!
What does the Left plan to do if “the people” don’t want a revolution? Don’t want an end to racism?
A storm has chased everyone off the beach, a massive one that throws lighting at the ocean and kicks boogie boards like soccer balls. The power is raw, visceral; there are no trees or buildings to break the wind, to filter the experience. This is what a storm really is, I think, how it really feels. Trees bend and birds flee. Paradise reveals itself to be an illusion and the storm’s fingers reach for more territory.
— Dr. Bones (@Ole_Bonsey) June 4, 2018
Finally the rain comes and my wife and I retreat to the car. Powerful bolts of energy are hurled at the water, the crashing sound echoing across miles and miles of wide open ocean. I stand transfixed. These same lightning bolts are an essential part of the Florida ecosystem: when they hit dry land they start wildfires, setting the state ablaze. New life rises from the ashes and nutrient-deprived soil feeds on the corpses of animals.
Humanity is inoculated against this harsh reality. We move from climate-controlled room to climate-controlled room, visit stores where the people are expected to treat us like royalty and smile on command. We expect to die of disease, not violence(unless you’re black of course), and if we believe in an afterlife it’s all sunshine and rainbows. Heroes always win, good ideas never lose, and above all karma/the dialectic/human nature will right the wrongs that seem impossible today. History is about progress. Rainy beach days and thunder storms will eventually be corrected.
This mindset is alien to the Conjurer. Violence, death, this is the very essence of existence. Terrible, terrible things happen to good people everyday. Hoodoo does not wait for justice but demands you make it: if you want your neighbor to move you have to hotfoot them, if you want a job you gotta burn gravel root candles and go out looking, if you want your rapist to feel the fires of hell you gotta HEX THAT MOTHERFUCKER and put his ass in the graveyard.
Hoodoo is about influencing present conditions, amplifying or changing them for the practitioner in their own life. There are no spells to “advance” in some spiritual hierarchy or gain a better seat in some far off underworld. Our perspective is focused on the here and now.
Can the Left say the same? How does it deal with a portion of the population who is not only hostile to their ideas but hostile to the very lives of those empowered by them?
The jury in this case could be called “revolutionary” in a sense, no doubt made at least in part by members of the “working class.” According to many Leftist theorists the working class holds the keys to the liberation of planet Earth and the death of Capitalism. The idea is Capitalism can not survive its own contradictions and that, above all, it will grow to the point where the people would have no choice but to overthrow it.
Our present predicament stands in stark contrast to these religious myths.
We are the forgotten children of an age once thought impossible, trying to re-tool theories that thought history would end by the time we were born. Capitalism has not ended. It has become all the more pervasive while the working class, as a commodity-producing caste whose labor turns raw material into “value,” is ceasing to exist.
Within 10 years nearly half of the 145 million employed Americans — about 65 million workers — will be “independent workers” with no benefits and a precarious employment determined by a platform. Some timetables even have a full 40% of U.S. workers joining the “contingent workforce” by 2020, freelancing to make ends meet and depending on hyper-capitalist enterprises like Uber, Airbnb, and Instacart to survive.
These industries transform no new resources. If anything they shuttle around existing constructions into new commodities based on ease. The working class has little to no leverage, and does not even touch the very platforms they come to depend on. How can one “occupy” the Instacart app? How does one keep scabs from working with Uber if drivers go on strike? The means of production aren’t owned by the capitalist but rented from workers at wages below the poverty line–some less than $3 an hour. There is nothing to seize. You already have it.
The grand historical narrative that guided anti-capitalism is going the way of the spinning-jenny and unpolluted water.
The prophecies have failed. What remains? Faith.
For some it is a matter of education: if only enough people heard the gospel of [INSERT THEORY/AUTHOR HERE] the people would come to their senses. The people who voted for Trump were all just momentarily confused, secret Anarchists just waiting to blossom! Inside each of them the Kingdom of God awaits, an essential good nature bestowed on them by benefit of being reduced to a commodity. Humanity has suffered, like Christ on his cross, and their pain promises an eventual reward and salvation for planet Earth.
This of course is Christian thinking: that the gospel is so true, so perfect, that when exposed to it people must come around. People have heard of Christ, of Feminism, of Mao. No one idea has yet to dominate the planet. Capitalism may be the strongest ideological paradigm but it is far from gospel: each State has tweaked it to its own preferences in ways that might render it unrecognizable to Adam Smith or Karl Marx. Small groups have fought against its “truth” in every way. Why would our ideas be any different?
For some it is a matter of force: if we give the “vanguard” enough power they’ll force the workers to behave in the “right” way. This includes mass prisons, forced re-education, and unparalleled violence in the hands of a small minority. Once this power goes up it never comes down, and results in such wonderful fractal expressions as the “People’s Republic” of China reducing citizens to state property and funding the execution of Maoist guerillas in the Philippines.
These same vanguards assure us that our sunny beaches are just around the corner–as soon as the whole world agrees to the Holy Gospel. Until then stringent measures and obedience are required until Capitalism is defeated world-wide. The Vanguards fall into the same religious tradition the Educators do, with the added benefits of a Revolutionary Inquisition alongside a violation of human dignity. The Vanguards though are strictly atheists through and through. The historical record shows zero “communist” governments that believed in a classless, stateless society enough to actually try it.
Both theories promise an approaching redemption. Gregory is gone forever today. We assure his children everything will be fine in an impossible future but can’t promise they won’t meet the fate of their Father. “People get hit by lightning now,” says the True Believer, “but eventually lightning won’t exist…”Saving Lives Or Waiting For Jesus?
We’ve got to deal with concrete realities and step away from any Red Heaven. For Black Americans playing music today can result in a death squads being dispatched to your house. There is a section of the American population today that not only sees this as justified but takes pleasure in it.
Faced with this monumental task many easily grow bitter. They retreat online to ever smaller circles, screaming at a digital void as if it determined the price of their rent. They laugh and mock as the bodies pile up around them, cheer on countries and struggles millions of miles away; history will absolve their own miserable fates and so they let the passage of time do their fighting. They refuse to deal with the outside world and gleefully piss both in the face of those that can be convinced and those who despise them.
Any kind of meaningful change in the survivability of Gregory’s children is going to take difficult, arduous work. It is going to be done surrounded by enemies, real ones that will kill you and not “problematic” lecturers at the local college. It will be fought and built on a street-by-street level by people with names and addresses rather than historical concepts like “workers” or “bourgeoisie.” It will involve alliances of real human beings with personal relationships looking outside of ideology and onto a planet of nightmares.
The smiles or tears of children will be the measure of their success.
We have Ancestors. The Dead surround us and whisper their secrets. The Underground Railroad did not depend upon an awakening of humanity to carry out its work, yet neither did it refuse to spread the idea of abolitionism to the people. In a country that showed no intention of changing, facing the grim truth that not everyone could be saved, unafraid to rebel against a society that loved all they stood against, this multi-gendered and multi-racial network put themselves to work.
Bit by bit, they counted victory in individual souls. Small groups, independently run and loosely connected, freed 100,000 slaves between 1810 and 1860. Harriet Tubman, one of its most legendary stationmasters, fought to make the world she believed in, refusing to wait for it to arrive or be accepted by society. It was not a matter of abolishing slavery. It was about tearing it apart with your own hands.
The dreams of a racially just society held by the abolitionists have failed, and one wonders how much more militant they might have been if they could glimpse our present time. If they had kept organizing beyond the Civil War and into Jim Crow…where might we be now? Regardless of their failings, the daring and practical work they carried out saved lives. On a decaying planet increasingly hostile what more can one hope for? How many more people need to die while the American worker waits to be convinced?
Nobody is going to abolish the police. Nothing will stop the sadistic murders carried out in the name of “law and order” and nothing will convince everybody. Step out of some invisible march of history and start focusing on the breathing bodies around us. Alternative services to calling the police must be built rather than new slogans or “movements.” Territory must be claimed and protected. There must be methods to convince the people the police are not their friends and there must be methods to deal with vile scum who would endanger the lives of our loved ones. Through it all, rather than trust in the innate “rightness” of our cause, our idea, our future, we must begin to measure our success in lived human experience.
We have failed Gregory, we have failed his family. Before the year is over more tears will be shed, more blood will fill the streets. Ask yourself how so many Germans could stand by and be complicit in Hitler’s crimes.
Oh you pious ones, you devout believers in far off salvation! You blabbering priests vomiting forth the One True Faith! How many more broken lives will you allow in the name of heaven on earth?DR. BONES Tags: dr. bonesstrugglecategory: Essays
via Contra Info
Today, June 11, is the international solidarity day with anarchist prisoners. That’s why, last week, we put posters up in The Hague, the Netherlands and hung a banner today with the text: ‘Freedom for all anarchist prisoners’.
The solidarity day with anarchist prisoners arose to draw attention to comrades held in the dungeons of the state, to show that they are not forgotten and to make fight against the prison society.
Solidarity with Lisa, who is serving a prison sentence of seven and a half years on suspicion of a bank robbery in Germany. Solidarity with Peike, who is serving a prison sentence of two years and seven months because of resisting against the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany. Freedom for all anarchist prisoners!
Against a world of banks, the state, prisons and the world that needs them!
For anarchy!Tags: june 11ththe netherlandsthe haguecategory: International
One year ago, 12th of June 2017, we shared the first public statement of the Internationalist Commune of Rojava, presenting our project to the world. Today, after one year of non stop working, we look back and see the big steps we have achieved in this year.
After the public presentation of the commune under the slogan ‘learn, support, organize’, we started to develop our work and our projects, putting in practice the ideas and dreams we had, and searching for a place to build the first internationalist academy of the Democratic federation of Northern Syria. After a few months, we finally found the right place, and at the end of summer in 2017, we started to build of the academy. Since then, we have been working mostly focused on 3 main lines: internationalism, women liberation and ecology.
Concerning internationalism, our main task has been the construction of the Internationalist Academy, the place to debate, study, research and also to host new internationals who also want to learn, support and organize the Rojava Revolution. At the same time, we have also been working on the up building of the Internationalist Commune itself, as the organizational frame for us and other internationals who want to join, developing a system and a network to integrate and strengthen the international dimension of this revolution.
Concerning ecology, we launched the ‘Make Rojava Green Again’ campaign in coordination with other institutions working topics related with ecology. We wrote a book that we will start to publish soon in different languages, presenting our project and what motivates us to carry it out. Our main goal is to spread an ecological perspective of the revolutionary life, building our academy with a sustainable approach and starting a tree cooperative to help to reforest the arid lands of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria.
Concerning the liberation of women, the women of the commune are organized as an autonomous group, connecting directly with the different institutions and structures of the women’s movement in this revolution. We also supported different projects and campaigns of the women movement, taking part in the work developed by Jinwar, the women’s ecological village. We also studied and organized education programs about jineolojî and the women liberation movements.
In the middle of this first year of life as a Commune, the Afrin war erupted. We know that the revolution will be in defense of the land or there will be no place for the revolution, so we saw the need to slow down our normal projects and take part in the Afrin Resistance, mostly doing translations, international solidarity work and other kind of media work.
The Afrin invasion was hard and brutal. It’s very sad to see the Turkish army and other islamist armed forces destroying the most beautiful region of Rojava. The war in Afrin affected us in ways we were not able to imagine before. The invasion, the struggle, the resistance… it opened for us processes of debate and reflection about what should be, and what can be, the role of internationalism today. Also about how can we help and contribute, as internationalists, to the Rojava Revolution and to all the resistance movements and struggles around the world. A lot of friends lost their lives fighting to resist the fascist invasion, and also several internationalist friends fell sehids in this war. In their memory we will continue walking their path.
In this last month of May, after several months building the academy, we have finally finished. We have decided to name it the ‘Internationalist Academy Sehid Hêlîn Qereçox’ in memory of Anna Campbell, the British YPJ fighter who became sehid in Afrin. With sadness for her loss, but at the same time with the will to continue her struggle against fascism and patriarchal oppression, we started the first education course of our academy. We also continued the ecological work for the Make Rojava Green Again campaign, translated and published in different languages an article about the importance of the women struggle in the revolution, started an internationalist radio project in collaboration with other internationals in Rojava, published different articles and letters of international solidarity in our website, etc. But of course, our main project this month has been to organize this first education course.
Now, after one very intense year of work, we have succeeded in organizing a one-month education course for the new internationals, together with the ones who have been here since the beginning of the commune. The education included Kurdish language lessons, ideological debates, knowledge about the society, the history of Midle East and the Kurdish people, and of course, debates about internationalism and the history of the Commune. A few days ago we finished this first education course, and a new wave of internationalists from different parts of the world are just starting to work and travel around Rojava, taking part in the Commune’s work. We are really happy to see how this project is growing and evolving, consolidating and step by step turning into reality the dreams and ideas that one year ago were just in our minds.
Today, we are proud to say that the Internationalist Commune of Rojava is stronger than ever, and that this is just one step more towards the democratic and revolutionary movement that is growing and being connected all around the world. For all those reasons, we invite all the internationalists, revolutionaries and democratic forces once again, all those who want to walk with us, to learn, support and organize this revolution. Because we know that Rojava can be the spark that ignites a new way of understanding life, of developing a society outside capitalism, patriarchy and Nation-States. And because we know that this is just the beginning. As sehid Hêlîn once said:
You should fight with us, and light the fires of resistance.
Biji Soresa Rojava!
Long live international solidarity!
From the network of Anarchist Individualis Yogyakarta, in International Day of Solidarity with Marius Mason, Ucil, Oza, Azwar, Cedar, the J20 protesters and All term anarchist prisoners!.
Banner reads ‘Abolish the Prison! Freedom for Mason, Ucil, Oza, Azwar, Cedar, J20 & All Anarchist Prisoners’.
International Solidarity to Marius Mason an Anarchist militant from Earth Liberation Front (ELF) who is serving a 22-year prison term. Imprisoned for burning the University of Michigan Laboratory conducting research on genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) funded by Monsanto.
International Solidarity to class war prisoners in Yogyakarta who is undergoing legal process, after being arrested while protesting against the monarchy-feudal society and the repression of the apparatus in building the New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) infrastructure mega project that rid the peasants of Kulonprogo.
Solidarity to Cedar (Peter) Hopperton who had been arrested and indicted for the property damage that occurred in Locke Street, Hamilton.
International Solidarity to approximately 200 J20 prisoners in the US who are threatened of up to 60 years in prison after protesting against Trump’s presidency and the hegemony of the economic-political system of capitalism.
The last, International Solidarity to all long-term Anarchist Prisoners.
YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN, and NOT ALONE. WE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU IN ANY SITUATION.IndonesiaYogyakartaanarchist solidaritycategory: International
The 2018 Malmö Anarchist Bookfair is set to be held this weekend from the 15 to 17. Below is a description of the event from their website, you can find more information including the schedule on their website here.ABOUT US
In a time when social struggles face increasingly harder state repression, we felt the need to organize a forum where we can meet to discuss, create and strengthen each other's diverse forms of resistance. The Malmö Anarchist Book-Fair aims to be a meeting place and a platform for spreading anarchist ideas and informing about ongoing struggles both in Sweden and internationally. In the process of organizing the book-fair, there is a continuous discussion and effort to work in a self-organized, anti-authoritarian, feminist, anti-racist and revolutionary way. We who work with the book-fair believe in horizontal and non-delegative forms of action, organization and dissemination of knowledge/information, based on equality and solidarity.
Without equality there is no freedom and without freedom there is no equality. As anarchists, we believe in a society with a new social structure, a classless society where everyone can take place and live independently of ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or ability, beyond hierarchies in an environment where everyone has the right to economic and social security. Anarchism opposes the state and its monopoly to violence as a tool for maintaining capitalist structures.
Being part of the the workgroup that organizes the Malmö Anarchist Book-Fair 2018 does not mean that we live up to our ideals. Unfortunately, we are still living in a capitalist, exploitative, patriarchal, and racist class society, but we wish the book-fair to be a place where we meet and inspire from each other's struggles against state and capital. With the Anarchist Book-Fair, we want to give space to these ideas through presentations of books and publications within the anarchistic spectrum, but also talks, discussions and workshops. Spreading theory and practice strengthens our movement locally and globally.
We aspire that the book-fair will be a safe space, free from the structures and oppression we are fighting against and we hope that all participants will help us create such an environment. During these days, we hope that we share a feeling of communality and we identify similarities and shared goals, but also understanding of where and how our individual projects and wishes diverge.
The book fair-represents a tiny attempt to make anarchism a threat to the current political system!Tags: malmoAnarchist bookfaircategory: International
The long awaited Halifax Anarchist Bookfair is set for Sept. 8th, 2018!
For anarchists, and those curious about anarchism.
Calling all co-conspirators and collaborators, lovers of freedom and books, haters of capitalism and government. Join us in our efforts as we launch the first annual Halifax Anarchist Bookfair. We are currently looking for accomplices in the form of tablers, presenters, performers, event organizers, volunteers, promoters, community endorsers, and more.
In a world teetering on the brink of disasters due to industrial capitalism, and experiencing the rising power of authoritarian populists and nationalism, we feel it is vitally important that anarchist gatherings take place. We must create spaces for ourselves to share our stories and ideas, connect our struggles, build our movements, and deepen our affinities, and lay plans for the trying times ahead. It is equally important for us to create openings at this juncture in history for the broader public to join us in our various struggles and to explore and meaningfully engage with the idea of doing away with coercive force, and building a world based on mutual aid, solidarity, and freedom for all.
The Anarchist Bookfair isn't only about books! With your help we hope to incorporate art installations and creative interventions, shows, parties, games, actions, performances, films, assemblies, DIY skill-shares, a rad kids zone, and autonomous events throughout the weekend. Please get in touch with your proposals, inquiries, table requests, and wildest dreams at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com by July 20th, 2018.
The bookfair itself, and most workshops, will take place Saturday Sept. 8 at the Shambala School in Halifax's North End on unceded Mi'kmaqi territory.
For a more Anarchic Halifax, and a freer, more joyful, and just world!
ps. We know Halifax is far from most other major cities, get in touch if you want to participate but distance feels like a barrier. We'll try to work out creative solutions to this issue.International
From Crimethinc - by Uri Gordon
Does the Idea of “Prefiguration” Offer False Reassurance?
Anarchists such as David Graeber and Cindy Milstein have used the term “prefigurative politics” to describe the anarchist principle that the ways we organize in the present should reflect the sort of society we hope to create in the future. Yet the concept of prefiguration is drawn from a Christian theology that presumes a future salvation so certain that it radiates backward through time, generating its own precursors. Many Marxists, too, see history as the inevitable unfolding of an ordained process—a sort of secular second coming of Christian millenarianism. Most anarchists, by contrast, take nothing for granted about the future, especially in today’s context of ecological collapse—so it may behoove us to revisit the concept of prefigurative politics to see whether it still serves our needs today. We are pleased to present the following text by Uri Gordon, in which he rigorously explores the origins of the concept of prefiguration and its emergence in anarchist discourse.
“ΕΙΜΑΣΤΕ ΕΙΚΟΝΑ ΑΠΟ ΤΟ ΜΕΛΛΟΝ” (We are an image from the future)
- Graffiti, 2008 Greek riots
“Prefigurative politics” is commonly used to express a radical ethos of unity between means and ends. Less attention has been given to the peculiar way of imagining time that this concept invokes. On the one hand, there is the familiar ethical revolutionary practice, chiefly indebted to the anarchist tradition, in which the fight against domination is connected to the immediate construction of social alternatives. On the other hand, however, this concept is based on “prefiguration”—a temporal framing, drawn from Christian theology, in which the future is thought to radiate backwards on its past.
Where does this idea come from? Is the idea of projection from the future necessary to maintain unity between means and ends? Or should the terminology of prefiguration be abandoned on account of the false reassurances it offers?
First, Gordon uncovers the theology of prefiguration, tracing it from the Church Fathers to politicized resurfacings in the Diggers and the New Left. He argues that this temporal framing is indeed connected to a mental “process of reassurance,” common among many revolutionaries who drew confidence from the notion that they were realizing a pre-ordained historical path. Second, he offers the first systematic review of means-ends unity, as expressed in the anarchist tradition. Here, Gordon argues that in contrast to “prefiguration,” such expressions were framed in terms of a generative temporal framing, in which the present influences the future, and not the other way around. The third and final part argues that the idea of prefiguration—even if not taken literally—may nevertheless serve as an echo of false reassurance. This may conveniently sidestep a generative disposition towards the future, now that traditional promises of revolutionary transformation are replaced with prospects of eco- and industrial collapse. In closing, Gordon suggests replacing the concept of “prefigurative politics” with “concrete utopia”—an idea that lacks reassurance, but can offer hope even in the face of anxiety and catastrophe.
The following text involves a somewhat abstract discussion of ideas and their histories, but a discussion that has a bearing on our struggles and the attitudes we bring to them. At best, readers will be able to take a fresh look at their disposition towards the future as it relates to their current actions.
An extended academic version of this piece is available here. For their helpful comments, thanks go to Ben Franks, Francis Dupuis-Déri, and audience members at the House of Bugaboo and the Sydney Anarchist Bookfair, where earlier versions were presented.
Prefiguration, Recursion, and Reassurance
The term “prefigurative politics” did not emerge among activists. It was introduced by two social theorists: Carl Boggs, who published two articles in 1977 referring to a prefigurative tradition, model, or task, and Wini Breines, who reformulated the term two years later as “prefigurative politics” in her discussion of the New Left. The concept’s recent popularity reflects attention to the radical end of the alter-globalization protests of the early 2000s. Unlike the trade unions, NGOs, and political parties who also participated in these protests, radical groups rejected top-down organization, lobbying, and programs aimed at the seizure of state power. Instead, they promoted anti-hierarchical and anti-capitalist practices: decentralized organization in affinity groups and networks; decision-making by consensus; voluntary and non-profit undertakings; lower consumption; and an effort to identify and counteract regimes of domination and discrimination such as patriarchy, racism, and homophobia in activists’ own lives and interactions. “Prefigurative politics” is typically associated with these practices and orientations—not with any temporal framing.
Many authors who discuss these practices do so in ethical terms, without temporal implications. In such discussions, the idea of “ends” is understood in terms of goods and values (as in, “an end in itself”), rather than as a potential future state of society (as in, “an end result”). Benjamin Franks, for example, emphasizes the intrinsic value of means, contrasting this to the instrumental or “consequentialist” valuation found among authoritarian vanguards. Gabriel Kuhn also uses ethical rather than temporal language in associating prefigurative politics with “the belief that the establishment of an egalitarian society enabling free individual development is dependent on political actors implementing the essential values of such a society immediately, in their ways of organizing, living, and fighting.” Finally, Cindy Milstein’s ethical statement is explicitly dissociated from the future:
“We’re not putting off the good society until some distant future but attempting to carve out room for it in the here and now, however tentative and contorted… consistency of means and ends implies an ethical approach to politics. How we act now is how we want others to begin to act, too. We try to model a notion of goodness even as we fight for it.”
Still, a temporal sense of prefiguration does surface in some statements, which directly relate current practices to a possible future. Brian Tokar defines the concept of prefiguration as “the idea that a transformative social movement must necessarily anticipate the ways and means of the hoped-for new society.” In their book Anti-Capitalist Britain, John Carter and Dave Morland write that it is “a strategy that is an embryonic representation of an anarchist social future.” Finally, using terms that are very significant to our discussion, sociologist Steven Buehler defines prefigurative politics as a strategy in which “pursuit of utopian goals is recursively built into the movement’s daily operation and organizational style.”
These statements introduce terminology that goes well beyond the ethical: anticipation, hope, maturation, recursion, representation, utopia. To begin unpacking this future-orientation, I would like to expose the roots of the idea of prefiguration, which may not be familiar to activists using the term.
The prefigurative idea entered the Western imagination through Christian biblical interpretation. Since its beginnings, Christian theology has approached the Hebrew bible as an Old Testament “having a shadow of good things to come” (Heb10:1). Stripped of its normative and national character, the Hebrew bible’s Christianized significance lies in its foreshadowing of the Gospel, such that, in the words of Cardinal de Lubac, “Christ appears to us preceded by the shadows and the figures which he himself had cast on Jewish history.” Thus Paul the Apostle says that Adam was “a figure [τύπος, typos] of him that was to come” (Rom 5:15), and that the trials of the Israelites in the wilderness “became examples [τύποι, typoi] for us” (1Cor.10:6). In his seminal essay on the term “figura,” literary scholar Erich Auerbach identified Tertullian (c.160-225CE) as the earliest Church Father to develop Paul’s occasional references to prefiguration into a systematic approach to the interpretation of scripture, known today as Typology. Thus, among many other examples, in Adversus Marcionem, Tertullian treats Moses’s naming of Joshua (Num. 13:16) as “a figure of things to come” [figura futurorum fuisse], linking Joshua to his namesake, Jesus of Nazareth, and Joshua’s leadership of the Israelites to Jesus’ leadership of the “second people”—the Christians—into the “promised land… of eternal life.”
According to Auerbach, “from the fourth century on, the usage of the word figura and of the method of interpretation connected with it are fully developed in nearly all the Latin Church writers.” The earliest usage I could find of the specific term “prefigure” is in the Latin translation of Against Heresies by Irenaeus (made around 380 CE). Here, he writes that “the first testament… exhibited a type [typum] of heavenly things… prefiguring [præfigurans] the images of those things which exist in the Church.” Soon after, St. Jerome (347-420) centered his 53rd Epistle (to Paulinus, De studi Scripturarum) on how Christ is “predestined and prefigured [prædestinatus autem, et præfiguratus] in the Law and the Prophets.” Thus, Deuteronomy is a “prefiguration of evangelical law [Evangelicae legis praefiguratio]”, and Jonah “calls the world to repent, his shipwreck prefiguring the Passion of the Lord” [passionem Domini præfigurans]. Many other examples use different terminology, from Joshua’s lay of the land “describing the celestial spiritual kingdom of Jerusalem,” to Esther who “in the figure of the Church [in Ecclesiae typo] liberates her people from danger.”
It was St. Augustine of Hyppo (354-430), however, who “developed this idea… profoundly and completely” according to Auerbach. Auerbach gives many examples, to which we may add Augustine’s statements in City of God that Cain, “founder of the earthly city… signifies the Jews who killed Christ the shepherd of men, which Abel the shepherd of sheep was prefiguring [præfigurabat]”; and that “the kingdom of Saul… was the shadow of a kingdom yet to come” and therefore David passed over the opportunity to slay Saul (1 Sam 24.1-7) “for the sake of what it was prefiguring” [propter illud, quod præfigurabat].
Prefiguration, then, is a recursive temporal framing in which events at one time are interpreted as a figure pointing to its fulfillment in later events, with the figure cast in the model of the fulfillment. In the statements just reviewed, the interpretation is backward-looking: both the figure and its fulfillment (i.e. Old Testaments events and the events of the Gospel) precede the interpretation. In the same retrospective way, we could say that Paul’s statements “prefigured” the fuller accounts of typology in Jerome and Augustine. However, prefiguration can also be forward-looking, with current events said to prefigure future ones. This prospective sense is the one in which John the Baptist anticipates “he that comes after me” (Matthew 3:11)—announcing his own prefiguration of Jesus. Equally important to the Christian scheme, such prospective prefiguration is carried over to notions of End Times, with each figure-fulfillment pair pointing to a third, final fulfillment and completion in the Second Coming. In this light, argues Auerbach,
“the history of no epoch even has the practical self-sufficiency which… [in the modern view] resides in the accomplished fact… the event is enacted according to an ideal model which is a prototype situated in the future and thus far only promised… every future model, though incomplete as history, is already fulfilled in God and has existed from all eternity in his providence.”
The Diggers, depicted by anarchist artist Clifford Harper.
Given how central this temporal framing was to the Christian worldview, it is not surprising that oppositional movements in medieval and early modern Europe often used prefigurative language. A case in point is Gerrard Winstanley, the Diggers’ leader, for whom prefiguration became the cornerstone of a complete revolutionary theology. In his 1649 pamphlet The True Levellers Standard Advanced, Winstanley explicitly justifies the Diggers’ direct action strategy—expropriating formerly-common lands and withholding of wage labor—in terms of its supposed fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Winstanley believed that the Kingdom of God could be brought into being, not through divine intervention, but through human action—by establishing an equal society in his own time. Instead of a literal Second Coming, he expected the final rising of the “Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of universal Community and Freedom” to take place in the persons of those who “lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury.” Therefore, he declares, “they that are resolved to work and eat together, making the Earth a Common Treasury, doth joyn hands with Christ, to lift up the Creation from Bondage, and restores all things from the Curse.” Later on, Winstanley uses his own typology in addressing concerns about repression and hardship:
“And we are assured, that in the strength of this Spirit that hath manifested himself to us, we shall not be startled, neither at Prison nor Death… For by this work we are assured… that Bondage shall be removed, Tears wiped away, and all poor People by their righteous Labours shall be relieved, and freed from Poverty and Straits; For in this work of Restoration there will be no begger in Israel: For surely, if there was no Begger in literal Israel, there shall be no Begger in Spiritual Israel the Anti-type, much more.”
Winstanley’s final statement (which does not, in fact, refer directly to scripture, but to an observation he himself made frequently in his writings) describes the work of the Diggers as a fulfillment of an Old Testament figure. In the terms defined above, Winstanley’s prefiguration is backward-looking, albeit in the present perfect tense. The Diggers and their actions are not a figure, but the fulfillment of the “Spiritual Israel” prefigured in the Bible. As we shall see, however, an explicitly forward-looking use of prefiguration is also a feature of the revolutionary imagination.
Gerrard Winstanley, depicted by anarchist artist Clifford Harper.
In the meantime, however, I would like to argue that Winstanley’s prefigurative thinking is an example of the “process of reassurance,” identified by historian Reinhard Koselleck among numerous “groups of activists who wished to… be part of a history moving under its own momentum, where one only aided this forward motion.” In his essay On the Disposability of History, Koselleck describes the process of reassurance as “a means of strengthening the will to hurry the advent of the planned future.” This certainly applies to Winstanley’s assurance that the Diggers’ actions are the foretold fulfillment of biblical figures. It is a framing that, according to Koselleck, “serves… as a relief—one’s will becomes the executor of transpersonal events—and as a legitimation which enables one to act in good conscience.”
I would like to point to a resurfacing of this process of reassurance in Andre Gorz’s “The Way Forward,” published in the New Left Review shortly after the French uprising of 1968. This article stands out because its use of prefiguration predates Boggs by almost a decade, while strikingly integrating the term into an authoritarian Marxist framework. This gives us a unique opportunity to examine a secular and political version of prefigurative reasoning in isolation from the anarchistic ethical strategy which the term normally refers to. Indeed, Gorz employs familiar stereotypes of anarchism as “relying on mass spontaneity, seeing insurrection as the royal road to revolution” and as “the theory of all or nothing according to which the revolution must be a quasi-instantaneous act.” Arguing also against “the immediate construction of socialism and of communism,” Gorz calls for a “Guevarist” strategy, in which the revolutionary vanguard becomes an educator of the masses. The vanguard party “prefigures the proletarian State, and reflects for the working class its capacity to be a ruling class.” In Gorz’s scheme, means do not prefigure ultimate ends, but other means. Rather than prefiguring a “post-revolutionary society,” the party’s “central organs, by their cohesion and capacity for political analysis, will prefigure the central power of the transitional period.”
Gorz’s repeated use of prefiguration cannot be dismissed as mere literary flourish. It relies, no less than Winstanley’s theological framing, on a universal point of view that bridges past, present, and future within an unfolding plan. In his case, this is the orthodox Marxist revolutionary program. His framing is clearly forward-looking, with a present figure looking towards its future fulfillment. The desirable role of the vanguard in the present is thus worked out backwards from the endgame in which it seizes state power. Only the grand narrative grounding this program, with its specific account of class and party, can offer a clear enough image of the future (the workers’ state) to form a model for the present. Only a revolutionary scenario that is a “given” can make such symbolic projection from the future intelligible. This is not to endorse ambitious claims about a messianic streak at the heart of Marxism. The point is that in this prefigurative scheme, the one possible—if not guaranteed—path towards revolution is already decided.
Even more importantly, Gorz uses prefiguration as an almost-transparent conceit. The educative role Gorz describes is supposed to strengthen the workers’ movement and lead it to fulfill its potential. Why not place such a process of education within a generative temporal framing, developing forward in time without recursive projection from an imagined future endgame? Gorz wants the party to educate by modeling the given image of its victory, hurrying on the development of class consciousness. In other words, the prefigurative language is openly intended to activate a process of reassurance among the working class.
As we shall see later on, it is the absence of reassurance that prefiguration now papers over. For now, though, I would like to look more closely at the generative temporal framings which have accompanied the ethos of means-ends unity. These appear earliest and most consistently in the anarchist tradition, which none of the originators of the concept “prefigurative politics” served very well.Ethical Practice and Generative Temporality
Carl Boggs published his article “Marxism, Prefigurative Communism, and the Problem of Workers’ Control” in the ten-year double issue of Radical America, a magazine started in 1967 by Paul Bhule and members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), but which “long outlived its seedbed” to become “an eclectic left publication, bound to no single strategy and certainly to no organization.” The article’s primary interest is in council insurgencies in Russia, Italy, and Germany between 1917-1920, and it defines the term “prefigurative” as “the embodiment, within the ongoing political practice of a movement, of those forms of social relations, decision-making, culture, and human experience that are the ultimate goal.”
Boggs’s definition above may be called a formal definition, limited to the very correspondence between ultimate goal and ongoing practice, while remaining silent on their actual content. Contrast this to his statements in the article he published in the academic journal Theory and Society the same year, “Revolutionary Process, Political Strategy and the Dilemma of Power.” Here, he refers to the prefigurative task as one “which expresses the ultimate ends of the revolutionary process itself: popular self-emancipation, collective social and authority relations, socialist democracy.” Here, instead, is a substantive definition, which unlike the formal one gives particular value-content to both practices and goals. A substantive definition is also used by Wini Breines, in her paper first presented at the 1979 annual meetings of the American Sociological Association, revised for publication in Social Problems and later expanded into her book Community and Organization in the New Left, 1962-1968. Brienes, who credits Boggs, defines prefigurative politics as the “attempt to embody personal and anti-hierarchical values… to develop the seeds of liberation and the new society (prior to and in the process of revolution) through notions of participatory democracy grounded in [non-capitalist and communitarian] counter-institutions.”
Notice that the formal definition leaves prefigurative politics open to association with widely varied practices, from the courts-in-waiting of crown pretenders to parliamentary shadow cabinets to white nationalist groups who “prefigure” Aryan dominance. What bridges the formal and substantive definitions, however, is a particular political context. This is the opposition to authoritarian variants of Marxism, whose ends and means do not correspond in this way. On its opponents’ account, while authoritarian Marxism does posit a stateless communist society as its end-goal—in Lenin’s own words, one “without force, without coercion, without subordination”—it proceeds via top-down structures and the seizure of state power. There is no correspondence between means and ends, and revolutionary organization and action are approached instrumentally. This critique and the alternative now identified with “prefigurative politics” were first worked out, not by the New Left, but by anarchists starting a century earlier.
Brienes credits anarchism and radical pacifism as the “real forerunners” of the New Left, but does not go beyond naming Paul Goodman and Murray Bookchin as influential representatives. In his article for Theory and Society, Boggs dedicates all of one page to the anarchist contribution, dismissing it as having merely “emerged in response to organized Marxism… flailing away helplessly from the outside,” “trapped in its own spontaneism” and “preoccupation with small face-to-face ‘organic’ institutions.” In Radical America, while acknowledging that the prefigurative tradition “begins with the nineteenth century anarchists,” he outdoes himself (and Gorz) in alleging that the anarchists “scorned politics,” showed “contempt for ‘theory’ and ‘organization’ in any form” and were “basically romantic and utopian,” looking “to an idyllic past rooted in a primitive collectivism”—all without a shard of evidence. What is more, having first commended prefigurative strategy for viewing “statism and authoritarianism as special obstacles to be overturned,” Boggs seems to recoil from the consequences of his own argument, and almost immediately refers to prefigurative structures as “a nucleus of a future socialist state,” while praising Councilism for not “contemptuously dismiss[ing]” the “contestation for state power.” While recent writers on prefigurative politics have done more to acknowledge its indebtedness to anarchism, what follows is a systematic examination of key utterances on means-ends unity in the anarchist tradition. As we shall now see, these consistently used a generative temporal framing, as opposed to recursive prefiguration.
The formative conflict between the authoritarian and libertarian factions in the First International came to a head after the fall of the Paris Commune of 1871. When the closed General Council of the International resolved that workers must form their own political parties, anarchists held a counter-conference at Sonvilier (Bernese Jura). They produced a circular that defined the counter-program of the social revolution as “’Emancipation of the workers by the workers themselves,’ free of all directing authority, even should that authority be elected and endorsed by the workers.” The Circular closes:
The society of the future should be nothing other than the universalization of the organization with which the International will have endowed itself. We must, therefore, be careful to ensure that this organization comes as close as possible to our ideal. How can we expect an egalitarian and free society to emerge from an authoritarian organization? Impossible. The International, as the embryo of the human society of the future, is required in the here and now to faithfully mirror our principles of freedom and federation and shun any principle leaning towards authority and dictatorship.
This argument, with its embryonic metaphor, refers to what today might be called a “path dependency” between revolutionary practices and results. The road one travels determines the destination one reaches. Choices about revolutionary organization (top-down or bottom-up) end up determining both the form of the revolution (seizure of state power or abolition of the state) and its end result (modified hierarchical structures or free communism). Note that, although connected to “principles,” the Circular’s argument from path dependency actually justifies means-ends correspondence in instrumental terms. The seizure of state power is not rejected solely on ethical grounds, despite being deemed an effective revolutionary means. Rather, it is rejected as ineffective, since it does not result in a classless society but in dictatorship.
Bakunin speaking at the Basel Congress 1869.
In the same year, Bakunin also insisted that the International should organize “from the bottom up, beginning with the social life of the masses and their real aspirations” and “not by forcing the natural life of the masses into the straitjacket of the State.” This led him to praise the Communards’ disinterest in seizing state power:
“Our friends, the Paris socialists, believed that revolution could neither be made nor brought to its full development except by the spontaneous and continued action of the masses, the groups and the associations of the people… [society] can and should reorganize itself, not from the top down according to an ideal plan dressed up by wise men or scholars nor by decrees promulgated by some dictatorial power or even by a national assembly… [but] from the bottom up, by the free association or federation of workers.”
By “spontaneous,” Bakunin does not mean impulsive or improvised, but self-directed and voluntary. Such social reorganization, carried out directly at the grassroots, is therefore opposed to artificial top-down structures, which maintain the same alienation of power against which revolutionaries are struggling. Like the Jura anarchists, in calling for immediate social reorganization, Bakunin is thinking about the long-term effects of present actions and structures, and the choices that become locked-in once a certain path is taken. By extending and defending their own bottom-up forms of organization, revolutionary masses can directly achieve some of their objectives. In instrumental terms, such organization not only avoids the pitfalls of authoritarianism and bureaucracy, but also creates a stronger social base for strikes and insurrections.
The rue de Rivoli after the suppression of the Paris Commune.
This emphasis on immediate implementation would later become part of the central anarchist concept of direct action. This concept goes beyond disruptive tactics to a wider principle of action without intermediaries. Through direct action, a group or individual uses their own power to prevent an injustice or fulfill their desires, as opposed to appealing to an external agent to do so for them. Kropotkin thus called on workers to expropriate productive resources and infrastructures, as “the first step towards a reorganization of our production on Socialist principles.” While Kropotkin had a mass uprising in mind, more localized examples of direct expropriation include land and factory occupations, urban squatting, and digital piracy. With equal importance, direct action includes immediate reconstruction of social roles and relationships, to the extent possible. The expansion, deepening, and defense of equality and non-domination achieves its aims immediately, just as a mass trespass directly stops fracking. In both cases, the achievement may be temporary or fragile, but it does not involve intermediaries. There is an evident parallel between this wider sense of direct action and current movements’ preference for “prefigurative politics” over lobbying, litigation, and party politics. At stake in all cases—disruption, expropriation, and reconstruction—is the non-alienation of collective power and a rejection of the politics of representation.
The aftermath of the October revolution vindicated anarchists’ warnings about means and ends, occasioning Emma Goldman’s landmark statement in her Afterword to My Disillusionment in Russia. Concluding her memoir, Goldman asserts that “No revolution can ever succeed as a factor of liberation unless the means used to further it be identical in spirit and tendency with the purposes to be achieved”:
All human experience teaches that methods and means cannot be separated from the ultimate aim. The means employed become, through individual habit and social practice, part and parcel of the final purpose; they influence it, modify it, and presently the aims and means become identical.
This is again a statement of path dependency. Notice, however, the abundance of temporal allusions in these final passages (original emphases):
To-day is the parent of to-morrow. The present casts its shadow far into the future…Revolution that divests itself of ethical values thereby lays the foundation of injustice, deceit, and oppression for the future society. The means used to prepare the future become its cornerstone… the ethical values which the revolution is to establish in the new society must be initiated with the revolutionary activities of the so-called transitional period. Revolution is the mirror of the coming day; it is the child that is to be the Man of To-morrow.
Like the embryonic metaphor in the Sonvilier Circular, Goldman’s account of means gelling into ends has the present generating the future. With the possible exception of the mirror metaphor, this is a generative temporal framing situated in forward-looking time, without recursion. Revolutionaries’ visions for the future are themselves things of the present—drawn from current mental experiences and discursive exchanges. More importantly, the interpretation of the present is self-contained, dependent on ethical values rather than on a promised or imagined prototype. Maturation is not guaranteed (the child “is to be,” not “will be”). Yet what is already accomplished has the “practical self-sufficiency” which Auerbach associates with the modern view.
This is shown to be a major difference, rather than a matter of mere phrasing, when we consider how lived ethics have an experimental and novel quality, which undercuts the possibility of recursive reasoning. Rejecting the assured blueprints of utopian socialists and Soviet planners alike, anarchists have tended to privilege repeated, concrete experiences of social struggle which give rise to unexpected forms of collective power and solidarity. Goldman thus describes revolution as “first and foremost, the transvaluator, the bearer of new values. It is the great teacher of the new ethics, inspiring man with a new concept of life.” She employs the Nietzschean term “transvaluation” (Umwertung) without mentioning the philosopher’s name, yet it is clear that she took from Nietzsche an attitude that embraces radical open-endedness in the creation of new social visions and practices. The emergence of relationships transcending domination is an uncertain process, playful as well as dangerous. However, this implies that the ends expressed in practice undergo constant re-evaluation. Such an open-ended politics makes it hard to sustain any fixed notion of a “future accomplishment,” rendering it too unstable to coherently act as a source of recursive prefiguration. Such a partial indeterminacy of ends only makes sense within a generative temporal framing, in which the future is seen as the unknown product of the affordances and contingencies that will have preceded it.
Today, it has become hard to point with assurance to a bright future to come.
So far, we have seen that the temporal framings accompanying anarchist accounts of ethical strategy have been generative rather than prefigurative in the temporal sense, seeking to shape an as-yet-unknown future out of the present. Its experimental nature pulls such a framing away from the “process of reassurance,” and towards a more modest view of future-oriented designs. However, if non-hierarchical social relations are to be extended and defended with neither the assurances of historical momentum, nor a full determinacy of ends, what remains of activist imaginations of the future?
One response—”perhaps nothing”—marks a recent strand in activist expression that attempts to absorb revolutionary accomplishment entirely into current ethical practices, dissociating it from the future altogether. To take a few illustrative examples:
The revolution exists in every moment of our lives… in the present, not in some mythic possible future. -“Monkey,” 1999
It is crucial that we seek change not in the name of some doctrine or grand cause, but on behalf of ourselves, so that we will be able to live more meaningful lives… rather than direct our struggle towards world-historical changes which we will not live to witness. –CrimethInc., 2000
The revolution is now, and we must let the desires we have about the future manifest themselves in the here and now as best as we can. When we start doing that, we stop fighting for some abstract condition for the future and instead start fighting to see those desires realized in the present… as a flowering of one’s self-determined existence –Hodgson, 2003
Approvingly, anarchist geographer Simon Springer theorizes such outlooks as a micro-political anarchism, which rejects “end-state politics,” prefers “permanent insurrection” to “final revolution,” and “abandons any pretext of achieving a completely free and harmonious society in the future and instead focuses on the immediacies of anarchist praxis and a prefigurative politics of direct action in the present.” Furthermore, in such expressions the very desire to inhabit non-dominating social settings is often presented as the main motivation for constructing them. In such statements, individual liberation and social struggle each supplying the other’s motivation. Recalling the slogan also attributed to Goldman —”If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”—this approach to anarchist practice turns away from a politics of self-sacrifice towards a politics of self-realization and revolutionary lifestyle.
The turn to the present has often raised controversy, being described as a symptom of activist networks becoming mere cultural scenes, abandoning revolutionary politics for self-seeking pursuits. Another critique has been that the short-term focus on both cultural reproduction and confrontational tactics neglects movement-building and class solidarity. My own critique is a bit different. I would like to argue that such expressions of “presentism,” in their eagerness to avoid a Leninist deferral of revolutionary ends, also conveniently sidestep the consequences of a generative temporal framing. While the statements above dismiss the future as “distant,” “mythical,” or “abstract,” no threat to lived ethical practice is actually posed by imagining long-term social scenarios, or thinking generations ahead. Instead, I would suggest that presentism covers for a reluctance to confront the absent promise of revolutionary accomplishment, as well as the bleak prospects that become evident once activists approach the future generatively.
For transformative movements, the imagination of the future is no longer structured by traditional revolutionary expectations. A century or more ago, anarchists like Bakunin who had experienced the revolutions of 1848 and 1871 could still [expect](bit.ly/2oziXdd0 that “when the hour of the People’s Revolution strikes again” it would raise the “simultaneous revolutionary alliance and action of all the people of the civilized world” against reaction. Kropotkin too was convinced that “a great revolution is growing up in Europe” which would see “a rapid modification of outgrown economical and political institutions” and “a displacement of wealth and political power,” over a short period “lasting for several years.” Such expectations did not require an appeal to historical inevitability; they were based on an instinctive understanding of cycles of contention, and an appreciation—too high, in hindsight—of the generative power of mass movements invested in their material and cultural base. Today, however, even such a guarded promise of revolution in advanced capitalist countries seems far-fetched. The past century has continued to see democratic and socialist political revolutions, as well as military coups and civil wars, but none have achieved a classless society. The tremendous growth in states’ military and surveillance powers, the continuing appeal of nationalism, and the understanding that there is no keystone center of power open to definitive attack, have also rendered such optimistic expectations obsolete.
Even more crucially, any generative disposition towards the future must now account for industrial civilization’s transgression of multiple planetary tipping points, as global resource-use continues to grow unabated. Hence, any expectations for social change must be projected into a future shaped by runaway climate change, energy depletion, ecosystem collapse, inequality, deprivation, and conflict. My argument is that prefigurative language may offer false comfort in the absence of revolutionary promise, papering over the awareness of converging planetary crises. The affective space attached to disposition towards the future, long vacated by reassurance and even expectant optimism, is now filled with anxiety, frustration, and guilt. “Prefigurative” terminology sidesteps this crisis by avoiding an explicit disposition towards the future while at the same time hinting, however vaguely, at the reassurance that the accomplished future is already radiating backwards on activists’ actions today.
Readers can decide for themselves whether I am on to something here, or whether I am overthinking. Either way, the urgent task in this area would seem to be a reworking of generative framings to account for protracted, uneven, and irreversible collapse.
But if the term “prefigurative politics” should indeed be abandoned, what could replace it? A focus on substance, as in “anti-hierarchical politics,” could certainly go quite far. But can means-ends unity and ethical practice be framed even more productively, in a way that (a) suggests generative, rather than recursive temporality and (b) encourages an attitude other than reassurance, which can still sustain the confrontation with converging crises? In closing, I would like to offer initial thoughts on one possible way to address this question, drawing on Ernst Bloch’s concept of “concrete utopia.”
In his greatest work, The Principle of Hope, Bloch charts a utopian and non-authoritarian variation on Marxist thought. He looks beyond “utopia” as a literary description of a model society to what he calls the “positive utopian function” of imaginings that “extend, in an anticipating way, existing material into the future possibilities of being different and better.” The anchoring in present reality separates such imaginings from what Bloch calls “abstract utopianism,” which ranges from social blueprints to personal daydreams. This is because concrete utopianism “does not play around and get lost in an Empty-Possible, but psychologically anticipates a Real-Possible.” Theological prefiguration and its lingering resonances clearly belong in the abstract category. In distinction, Bloch’s “not-yet” faces all possible future states of the real world, while drawing hope from the tendencies and latencies of a self-transforming present. As a result, he writes, concrete-utopian impulses correspond not to fantasy, but to hope and action:
Utopian function as the comprehended activity of the expectant emotion, of the hope-premonition, maintains the alliance with all that is still morning like in the world. Utopian function understands what is exploding, because it is this itself in a very condensed way: its Ratio is the unweakened Ratio of a militant optimism. Therefore: the act-content of hope is, as a consciously illuminated, knowingly elucidated content, the positive utopian function.
Bloch’s temporal framing of concrete utopianism is generative. It is a thought-behavior that “contains within it the forward surge of an achievement which can be anticipated.” To be sure, Bloch maintains fealty to the Marxist tradition and some attachment to its determinacy can be felt in his account of concrete utopia. True to colors, he puts his erudite gloss on the obligatory dismissal of anarchism, personified in Stirner and Proudhon’s “petit-bourgeois” sensibilities and in Bakunin’s “complete monomania of hatred of authority.” Alongside its individualism, Bloch asserts, the anarchist image of freedom is “a bit of future in the future, for which no present prerequisites exist anywhere at all,” while “certain anarchic themes” are “already to be found in Marxism, sensibly enough not as present postulates but as prophecies and conclusions.” Here Bloch does himself a true disservice by failing to link his concrete utopia to what Boggs would later call the “prefigurative tradition” of anarchism and councilism. Even more than the mental act-content of hope, it is the construction of living alternatives that concretely expresses the positive utopian function. With Marxist prejudices at arm’s length, however, a “politics of concrete utopia” might indeed replace “prefigurative politics” as a colorful descriptor for means-ends unity.
While the idea of concrete utopia successfully binds ethical practice to a generative temporal framing, Bloch’s attached principle of hope, drawn from the not-yet, requires further modification. What becomes of this principle, once anticipation addresses itself not only to the fruition of concrete-utopian efforts, but also to the inevitable consequences of industrial and neoliberal over-reach? A promising answer may be found in the ideas of “anxious” and “catastrophic” hope, elaborated by Bürge Abiral in her work with practical sustainability activists in Turkey. Unsurprisingly, activists promoting community sustainability, bioremediation, energy transition, and permaculture system design are among the most attuned to prognoses of collapse. Abiral thus associates the idea of “anxious hope” with the grain of anxiety always attending the “belief that small actions matter… that it is not too late to act.”
Instead of being an opposite of hope, anxiety is a companion to it. This hope rests on thin ice. The desired results attached to hope, and the effects that are hoped for may never materialize, and the permaculturists are well aware of it… Instead of driving permaculturists to despair, the anxiety that they feel about the future accompanies their hopeful condition and all the more pushes them to act in the present.
Coexisting with anxious hope is catastrophic hope, an affect that “combines a catastrophic vision of the future with the conviction that good things will continue to happen despite and because of approaching disasters.” Catastrophic hope serves as a fallback, providing succor even as it attends to worst-case scenarios short of extinction. Such hope can look forward to the adoption of radical alternatives out of the urgency and necessity of a decaying world, and to the revolutionary openings these may involve. Taken together, anxious and catastrophic forms of hope suggest promising alternatives to the temptations of reassurance, prefiguration, and denial.
Hope is in what we do: Occupy the Farm in 2012.
Concepts travel accidental paths. “Left” and “Right” are obvious examples of how pure contingency has shaped our political vocabulary. A concept often becomes institutionalized, not because of its inherent richness or explanatory power, but only because of its emergence or appropriation in a certain context and at a certain time, with the ensuing irreversible process of dissemination and repetition across writers. This is also the case with prefigurative politics. In an email conversation, Boggs attested to me that he arrived at the term on his own, inspired at the time by the ideas of Gramsci and Bookchin, but unaware of its use by the Church Fathers or by Gorz. But even if we grant that the term has reached social movements through a broken line of transmission, its temporal resonance remains preserved in its literal pre-fix, and continues to raise troubling questions for those who employ the term.
Following the ethnologist Jane Guyer’s influential discussion of temporal framings as an area in which individuals and groups seek intelligibility, this piece has tried to examine what she called the “still-lingering and newly emergent entailments and dissonances that escape their terms of reference” in the concept of prefigurative politics. In exposing the term’s background, I have sought to wrest lived ethical practice out of the ghostly hand of recursive temporality. To reconceive such practice in terms of concrete utopia allows us to better capture its generative framing in the anarchist tradition, while casting off the confusing theological ideas of recursion attached to the term “prefiguration.” The approach I have offered seeks to confront a toxic future despite the absence of revolutionary promise, drawing on the anxious and catastrophic hope that accompany efforts to build spaces of freedom, equality and solidarity. Facing forward, we have only one another to rely on.References and Further Reading
Abiral, B. (2015) “Catastrophic Futures, Anxious Presents: Lifestyle activism and hope in the Permaculture movement in Turkey”. Masters dissertation, Sabancı University
Auerbach, E. (1944/1984) “Figura”, in Scenes from the Drama of European Literature. Manchester University Press.
Bakunin, M. (1866), “Revolutionary Catechism”. in Bakunin on Anarchism, ed. S. Dogloff. New York: Knopf. bit.ly/2oziXdd
Bakunin, M. (1871a), “The Program of the Alliance”, in Dogloff. bit.ly/2oph5rs
Bakunin, M. (1871b), “The Paris Commune and the Idea of the State”, in Dogloff . bit.ly/1X61E2J
Bloch, E. (1959/1995) The Principle of Hope (vol. 3), trans. N. Plaice, S. Plaice and P. Knight. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press
Boggs, C. (1977a) “Marxism, Prefigurative Communism and the Problem of Workers’ Control”, Radical America 11(6)/12(1), pp.99-122.
Boggs, C. (1977b) “Revolutionary Process, Political Strategy and the Dilemma of Power”, Theory and Society 4(3), pp.359-93
Bookchin, M. (1980) “Anarchism Past and Present”, Comment 1.6. bit.ly/2wxJNLg
Bookchin, M. (1995) Social Anarchism and Lifestyle Anarchism: An unbridgeable chasm. Oakland: AK Press
Breines, W. (1980) “Community and organization: The New Left and Michels’ “Iron Law””, Social Problems 27(4), pp.419-429
Breines, W. (1982) Community and Organization in the New Left. New York: Praeger
Brucato, B. (2013) “Toward a Peak Everything Postanarchism and a Technology Evaluation Schema for Communities in Crisis”. Anarchist Studies 21(1), pp.28-51
Buechler, S. M. (2000) Social Movements in Advanced Capitalism. Oxford University Press.
Carter, J. and D. Morland (2004) “Anti-capitalism: Are we all anarchists now?” in Anti-capitalist Britain, Gretton: New Clarion Press
Center for Digital Scholarship (n.d.) Radical America – 1967-1999 (online archive). bit.ly/1sAXvqQ
Cohn, N. (1957) The Pursuit of the Millennium. London: Granada
CrimethInc. (2000) “Alive in the Land of the dead”. In Days of War, Nights of Love: CrimethInc. for beginners. Olympia, WA: CrimethInc. bit.ly/2pwUEBg
Danowski, D. and E. Viveiros de Castro (2017). The Ends of the World. Cambridge: Polity.
Davis, L. (2010) “Social anarchism or lifestyle anarchism: an unhelpful dichotomy”. Anarchist Studies 18(1), pp.62-82
De Lubac, H. (1938/1988) Catholicism: Christ and the common destiny of man. San Francisco: Ignatius Press
Eckhardt, W. (2016) The First Socialist Schism. Oakland: PM Press.
Evans, S. (2009) “Sons, daughters, and patriarchy: Gender and the 1968 generation”. The American Historical Review 114(2), pp.331-347.
Firth, R. and A. Robinson (2014) “For the Past Yet to Come: Utopian conceptions of time and becoming”. Time & Society, 23(3), pp.380-401.
Franks, B. (2014) “Anti-Fascism and the Ethics of Prefiguration”. Affinities 8(1).
Futrell, R. and P. Simi (2004). “Free Spaces, Collective Identity, and the Persistence of US White Power Activism”, Social Problems 51(1), pp.16-42
Goldman, E. (1925) Afterword to My Disillusionment in Russia. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. bit.ly/1qvPiSP
Gordon, U. (2008) Anarchy Alive! Anti-authoritarian politics from practice to theory. London: Pluto. bit.ly/2oJT9hM
Gorz, A. (1968) “The way forward”, New Left Review I/52, pp.47-66.
Groves, C. (2016) Emptying the future: on the environmental politics of anticipation. Futures 88. bit.ly/2nww1Dw
Guyer J. (2007) “Prophecy and the near future: thoughts on macroeconomic, evangelical, an punctuated time”. American Ethnologist 34(3): 409–421
Haraway, D. (2016) “Tentacular Thinking: Anthropocene, Capitalocene, Chthulucene”. e-flux 75. bit.ly/2oLmB5y
Harvey, W. W., ed. (1857) Sancti Irenaei episcopi lugdunensis libros quinque adversus haereses. Cambridge: Typis Academicis. bit.ly/1ONDTsY
Hill, C. (1986) “The religion of Gerrard Winstanley”, in Collected Essays (vol.2). Brighton: Harvester
Hodgson, T. (2003) “Towards Anarchy: The Revolution is Now” (blog post). bit.ly/2fHCXbw
Howard, N., and K. Pratt-Boyden (2013) “Occupy London as pre-figurative political action”, Development in Practice 23(5-6), pp.729-41.
Jura Federation (1871), “La Circulaire de Sonvilier”, in J. Guillaume (1905) L’Internationale: Documents et Souvenirs, 1864-1878. Paris: Société Nouvelle. bit.ly/2oppf3h
Juris, J. (2008) Networking Futures. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Knott, J. R. (2011) The Sword of the Spirit. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock
Krøijer, S. (2010) “Figurations of the Future: On the Form and Temporality of Protests among Left Radical Activists in Europe”. Social Analysis 54:3, pp.139–152
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Kropotkin, P. (1886) “What Revolution Means”, Freedom 1(2). bit.ly/29kdEqM
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LISTEN HERE: http://archive.org/details/AnarchyRadio06122018
Two offerings on "The Case Against Philosophy." Suicide news...a culture of suicide?
Fires, drought, water woes, indoor pollution. Horror movies, comic book movies. Anti-
work, anti-voting. Ever more isolation. The novel Break.Up. Swedish kid drowns while
crowd takes photos, blocks rescue. Driverless cars to increase congestion as Hyundai
proclaims advent of "a new era of mobility." Verizon: We Didn't Wait for the Future. We
Build it. Enormity of tech, of distrust of it. One call.
From El Libertario
by Cruz Negra Anarquista México - translated by thecollective 1.8
After spending the last 4 and a half years kidnapped en the North Prison of México City (DF), on the night of June 11th Fernando Bárcenas, returned to the streets! A group of around twenty libertarian anarchist friends traveled to the outside of the North male preventive prison (ReNo) [in DF] in order to wait for the departure of Fernando Bárcenas after four years and six months of prison.
He was arrested at the age of 18, while studying at the College of Humanities and Sciences and working in a furniture factory. He was arrested on December 13th, 2013 and accused of burning a Christmas tree belonging to Coca Cola during a protest against fare increases on the metro in DF. During his imprisonment, Fernando participated in various hunger strikes. He has also suffered reprisals for his rebellious attitude in prison: solitary confinement, transfers, assignment to cells with hostile prisoners. In the last few months he was trying to create a libertarian library in the North Prison called Xosé Tarrío González, working with those on the outside to help deliver donated books to the library.
We were notified in the afternoon today, Tuesday June 12th that Fernando was released before they were notified in court that his proceedings were canceled and the charges dropped. It should be noted that his departure, doesn’t follow the protocol of other prisoners being released; the director of the prison who went and told him that he has to go, passing him along to the legal area, and immediately releasing him. Until midnight, family and friends gathered to celebrate freedom with the symbolic burning of one’s prison uniform while shouting slogans against prisons.
We remember that in México there are still anarchists in prison: Abraham Cortés, Luis Fernando Sotelo, Miguel Peralta, as well as many other activists from indigenous, anti-development and communal movements.Tags: Mexicotranslationanarchists in troublefreedomjune 11june 11th
There are many ways in which the recent Ontario election is disappointing, and the new leader is barely even one of them. No – though Doug Ford is a despicable rich jerk whose own entitlement to power was strong enough to persuade others to give it to him, the situation is actually much worse.
As the election approached, the political system deployed every trick to get people to put aside their disgust and participate. It’s understandable that someone trying to sit in the halls of power would claim that Ford is so bad that you’re wicked too if you don’t grab a ballot and try to stop him. But to see this kind of lazy thinking and moralistic manipulation repeated by so many who should know better is truly depressing.
Because vote or don’t vote, it doesn’t really matter. As a political act, it ranks about equal with other gestures that take ten minutes and are mostly symbolic: like holding up a protest sign as a camera pans across a crowd, taking the time to argue your opinions with a stranger, or throwing up a few agitational stickers on a bus shelter. Vote or don’t vote, because we’re going to fight hard against whoever gets in, right?
And yet it seems like many people transformed into actual NDP supporters for a month or so there, sounding as if that party wasn’t just a lesser evil, but could actually act on your behalf to bring about the kind of world you want to live in. Which is unsurprising if you’re a social democrat or a middle-of-the-road progressive of the kind that make up the baseline Canadian political position. But so many of the election season orange-coloured shapeshifters wouldn’t say that about themselves: “we’re anarchists”, they might say, or “we’re socialists”, “we’re revolutionaries”.
I believe you, I want to believe you’re radicals and that I’m not so alone, which is why I’m bothering to write to you and not to those folks who feel perfectly represented by the views on CBC radio. I was genuinely shocked how many people were repeating things along the lines of, “Go vote because the blue team wants to hurt marginalized people so you’re super fucked up if you don’t”. I’m not trying to say there was no difference between the positions of the parties, but if your desires go any further than cautious income redistribution, there is nothing for you to vote in favour of in Ontario politics. So why such insistence?
And for those of us who call ourselves anarchists or anti-authoritarians, how change comes about matters. It’s not that I oppose the specific choices made by leaders; I oppose the ability of anyone to control the lives of others. I’m against leaders. I push back against Trudeau for exactly the same reasons I did Harper, like how my pals in the States were no less hostile to Obama than they are now to Trump.
Yeah, my income went up when Wynne raised the minimum wage and I’m thinking about going back to school because I’d get tuition free now. But I don’t actually want either of those things – I don’t want a boss, I don’t want a wage, I don’t want a diploma, I don’t want job training. These measures promote equality within the existing system, so go ahead and vote for them if that feels worthwhile. But don’t forget that they also legitimate the system as a whole: better wages let the wage relation itself off the hook; better access to education contributes to the illusion of a meritocracy.
So if you care so deeply about some (frequently hypothetical) ultra marginalized person who needs your protection from Doug Ford, don’t pretend your advocacy for voting does anything to get that person out of the situation where they need protecting, where they are dependent on the benevolence of voters or of the powerful. It’s going to be a long four years and I expect things will heat up quite a bit before they’re through, so we need to be clear about where we stand. Are we fundamentally comfortable with the system and just asking for moderate reforms? Or are we anti-capitalists and anti-authoritarians who carry the seed of something radically different? Are we making requests of the powerful, or are we working for a world in which there are no rulers or ruled? These choices have consequences in how we live and how we organize, and if Horwath had been elected instead of Ford, none of that would be any different.Tags: Ontarioelectioncategory: Essays