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Updated: 5 hours 47 min ago

TOTW: the legs of the table

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 14:47

Back in the day, I attended a few meetings with people in Bring the Ruckus (the group started by Joel, not any of the many other Bring the Ruckus's). And one of the things I took away from those meetings was their metaphor of the table of The System, a table that rests on multiple legs, the most significant of which is racism. So BtR was going after that leg of the table, as a way, so they said, to bring the whole table down. It's unclear to me at this remove, if that leg was most significant in their eyes because it was bearing the most weight (a table that was heavier on one corner than on the others? was there more loaded on top of that part of the table? If so, what were these heavy... packages? and how do they fit into the metaphor? etc) or because that leg is easier to attack (it's made of wood and the other legs are made of metal? ok ok, never mind).

I think that metaphor has stuck in my mind because for me it stands for a lot of things: people's desire to be effective; people's wishful thinking; people's limited metaphor/imagination capacity; people's manipulations--including of themselves--in the name of activism; and along all those, an underlying way of thinking about the fight that we're in, the metaphors that we rely on without even thinking about or recognizing them, because the table one I think is pretty normal, though rarely made (so) explicit.

So this TOTW is about what metaphors you rely on, which ones work for you, which ones you've left behind as unhelpful, what you've seen other people use, either well or poorly...

What metaphor would you use to illustrate how you live your life, how you live your anarchy, how anarchy works in the world, how the world works on us: any or all of the above.

People have called systems-that-are-problems an octopus (Frank Norris), leviathan (Perlman), the totality (folks), etc.; how do those different names influence how we imagine combating them?

Tags: totwmetaphor spacestories we tell ourselvesmotivationthe enemycategory: Other
Categories: News

Arman Sagynbayev: I Was Tortured by the FSB

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 14:44
Arman Sagynbaev

Antifascist and anarchist Arman Sagynbayev, who was arrested and remanded in custody as part of the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, had until recently admitted his guilt. On September 4, he withdrew his confession, explaining that initially he had been tortured into testifying against himself and other young men arrested in the case, and then had been afraid to go against case investigators. His defense counsel has sent a statement to the Russian Federal Investigative Committee. Mediazona has published Sagynbayev’s deposition to his lawyer, in which Sagynbayev recounts how FSB field agents tortured him after detaining him in Petersburg.

In November 2017, officers of the Russian FSB [Federal Security Service] used unlawful investigative methodw (torture) against me. The circumstances were as follows.

On 5 November 2017, at approximately six o’clock in the morning, the doorbell of an apartment at [omitted] in St. Petersburg, where I was located at the time, rang. I opened the door, since when I had asked who was there, I was told the neighborhood beat cop was at the door. As soon as I opened the door, at least four men burst into the apartment. They yelled that they were from the FSB. They pushed a weapon (pistol) into my face before making me face the wall and handcuffing me with my hands behind my back. The men searched the apartment.

When the search was over, I was taken to a burgundy colored minivan parked next to the house whose address I have given. I would be hard pressed to name the vehicle’s make and model. A cloth sack was put over my head when I was in the vehicle. One of the men hit me in the body and head, demanding I tell them where I actually lived in St. Petersburg.

I could see through the fabric of the sack over my head that the man beating me was thickset and had blue eyes. I also made out the tattoo on the backside of his left hand: “For the Airborne Forces.” Later, I heard the other FSB officers call him [omitted].

Unable to withstand the beating, I told them where I actually lived in St. Petersburg: [omitted]. I was taken to the address I gave them, and there the men conducted a search without producing a warrant and without having official witnesses present [as required by Russian law].

When the search was finished, I was again put in the minivan and the sack was put over my head. At some point, I realized we were leaving St. Petersburg, but I had no way of knowing where we were going. I had a sack over my head and was handcuffed during the entire trip.

As we drove, I noticed that the man with the Airborne Forces tattoo, who had assaulted me, pulled a brown box from under his seat. There were two switches of some kind on the sides of the box. I cannot say what they were for. It is possible they controlled the intensity of the electrical current. Two wires came out of the box, which were attached to my thumbs. I was told they would check whether they had a current or not. I then experienced agonizing pain. I realized they were shocking me with electric currents. Meanwhile, the men in the vehicle asked me different questions. For example, I was asked to identify people whom I did not know, and when I said I did not know them, I would be shocked with the electrical current.

The men also hit me hard over the head with an object that resembled a day planner. When they realized I could not identify the people they named, they asked me other questions, for example, how to manufacture explosive devices and what parts were used in those devices. When my answers did not satisfy the men, I was hit over head and shocked with electrical current until I told them what they wanted to hear. They also told me that if I were not cooperative, they could do anything whatsoever to me and my loved ones, and they would get away with it, because I was a terrorist. They told me they could rape (“gang-bang”) my girlfriend [omitted], cut off her hands and my hands, and burn us with a soldering iron.

The torture lasted for around four hours, but I cannot say for sure, since I had no way of keeping track of the time, and I was in a great deal of pain.

When I was delivered to Penza Regional Remand Prison No. 1, there were burns from the electrical shocks on my hands, but no one paid any mind to these injuries, and the doctors did not record them when I was given a medical exam. Since I have been in custody in Penza Regional Remand Prison No. 1, no more illegal actions—beatings, torture, etc.—have been taken against me.

Fearing for the lives of my close relatives, for the life of [omitted], and for my own life, due to my health, which has worsened due to a serious illness, and due to the torture I endured, I testified against [Dmitry] Pchelintsev and myself, saying we had organized the so-called Network, which was not really true.

Attorney Timur Miftakhutdinov: Did you report the circumstances you have described and the unacceptable investigative methods used on you to the public defender and the case investigator?

Saginbayev: I told attorney O.V. Rakhmanova everything and showed her the injuries from the electrical shocks on my hands. But I flatly refused to file a statement about the incident, since I still feared for the lives and safety of my relatives and the people I love. I thus forbade attorney O.V. Rakhmanova from reporting the incident to anyone and especially from sending complaints to the prosecutor’s office and the Investigative Committee. That was why I wrote to you in February 2018 that I had not been subjected to torture.

Miftakhutdinov: What position do you now intend to pursue with regard to the criminal case?

Saginbayev: My position, which I communicated to the case investigator when I was interrogated, has not changed for now. I ask you to stick to it.

The deposition was conducted on May 31, 2018. Since then, Arman Sagynbayev has changed his stance. On September 4, 2018, he denounced his confession and decided to file a torture complaint.

The Penza-Petersburg “Terrorism” Case
The criminal case against the so-called Network “terrorist community” was launched by the FSB in October 2017. Over the course of a month, Yegor Zorin, Ilya Shakursky, Vasily Kuksov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, and Andrei Chernov were detained in Penza. Arman Sagynbayev was detained in Petersburg and extradited to Penza. Two Penza residents, Maxim Ivankin and Mikhail Kulkov, left Russia and were put on the wanted list.

In January 2018, Viktor Filinkov and Igor Shiskin were detained in Petersburg as part of the same case. On April 11, 2018, charges were filed against another Petersburger, Yuli Boyarshinov.

Most of the young men charged in the case are antifascists and anarchists, and many of them share a passion for the game airsoft. The FSB claims that all the arrested men belonged to an underground organization known as the Network and, allegedly, had plans to “arose the popular masses to further destabilize the political situation” in Russia and instigating an armed revolt by setting off a series of explosions during the March 2018 Russian presidential election and the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Network supposedly had cells operating in Moscow, Petersburg, Penza, and Belarus.

The relatives of the accused in Penza have related that when the young men were detained, weapons were planted in their homes and cars, and late they were tortured. Viktor Filinkov, Dmitry Pchelintsev, and Ilya Shakursky have provided detailed accounts of their torture at the hands of the FSB. Ilya Kapustin, who was released as a witness, also spoke of being interrogated by the FSB as they tasered him. Like Filinkov’s wife Alexandra, Kapustin subsequently left for Finland, where he requested political asylum.

Pchelintsev and Shakursky claimed FSB officers tortured them with electrical shocks in the basement of the Penza Remand Prison. Shishkin made no statement about torture, although doctors found that the lower wall of his eye socket had been fractured, and that he had suffered numerous bruises and abrasions. Members of the Petersburg Public Monitoring Commission who visited him in remand prison noted numerous traces on his body of what looked like electrical burns.

The Investigative Committee has refused to open criminal cases in connection with Filink and Kapustin’s claims of torture. The lead investigator decided that in Filinkov’s case the taser had been employed legally, while the spots on Kapustin’s body had been caused by flea bites, not electrical burns.

Valery Tokarev heads the team of investigators handling the case in the FSB’s Penza office, while in Petersburg the investigation has been led by Investigator Gennady Belyayev.

The relatives of the accused have formed a support committee known as the Parents Network.

The accused have been charged with violating Russian Federal Criminal Code Article 205.4 Part 2, i..e., involvement in a terrorist community, which carries a punishment of five to ten years in prison.

Translated by the Russian Reader


What can you do to support the Penza and Petersburg antifascists and anarchists tortured and imprisoned by the FSB?

Donate money to the Anarchist Black Cross via PayPal ( Make sure to specify your donation is earmarked for “Rupression.”
Spread the word about the Network Case aka the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case. You can find more information about the case and in-depth articles translated into English on this website (see below),, and openDemocracyRussia.
Organize solidarity events where you live to raise money and publicize the plight of the tortured Penza and Petersburg antifascists. Go to the website It’s Going Down to find printable posters and flyers you can download. You can also read more about the case there.
If you have the time and means to design, produce, and sell solidarity merchandise, please write to
Write letters and postcards to the prisoners. Letters and postcards must be written in Russian or translated into Russian. You can find the addresses of the prisoners here.
Design a solidarity postcard that can be printed and used by others to send messages of support to the prisoners. Send your ideas to
Write letters of support to the prisoners’ loved ones via
Translate the articles and information at and this website into languages other than Russian and English, and publish your translations on social media and your own websites and blogs.
If you know someone famous, ask them to record a solidarity video, write an op-ed piece for a mainstream newspaper or write letters to the prisoners.
If you know someone who is a print, internet, TV or radio journalist, encourage them to write an article or broadcast a report about the case. Write to or the email listed on this website, and we will be happy to arrange interviews and provide additional information.
It is extremely important this case break into the mainstream media both in Russia and abroad. Despite their apparent brashness, the FSB and their ilk do not like publicity. The more publicity the case receives, the safer our comrades will be in remand prison from violence at the hands of prison stooges and torture at the hands of the FSB, and the more likely the Russian authorities will be to drop the case altogether or release the defendants for time served if the case ever does go to trial.
Why? Because the case is a complete frame-up, based on testimony obtained under torture and mental duress. When the complaints filed by the accused reach the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg and are examined by actual judges, the Russian government will again be forced to pay heavy fines for its cruel mockery of justice.

Russian Reader

Tags: RussiaAnarchist Black Cross MoscowArman Sagynbaevpenza casecategory: International
Categories: News

Activist refuses guilty plea in court, describes police torture

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 14:13

via Freedom News

CONTENT WARNING: descriptions of police brutality and torture.

After admitting his guilt to the police during the investigation, Arman Sagynbaev, one of the people arrested in Russia in relation to the “Penza case“, refused to plead guilty in court and explained that he was forced to his initial confession under torture.

In a statement released by his lawyer, Sagynbaev describes his arrest in May 2017 and the horrific treatment he received to extract guilty confession from him.

On 11th May 2015, at about 6 o’clock in the morning, the bell at the flat located in St. Petersburg where I stayed rang. I opened the door, because the people on the other side told me that the district police officer had come. As soon as I opened the door, at least four men immediately burst into the apartment. They started shouting, they pointed a gun at me, after which they put me face to the wall, handcuffed me and began to search the apartment.

After the search, I was taken to a burgundy minibus parked near the house. I do not know the model of the car. In this car, a textile bag was put on my head, and one person began to beat me all over my body and head demanding that I disclose the address of my actual residence in St. Petersburg.

Through the fabric of a bag on my head, I saw that I was beaten by a man of solid build, with blue eyes, and a distinctive tattoo on his left hand. (…)

Unable to withstand the beatings, I gave them my actual address. I was brought to the apartment I named, and it was searched without a warrant and witnesses.

After the search, I was again put in a minibus with a bag on my head. At some point I realized that I was being taken outside of St. Petersburg, but I didn’t know where. During the trip I was with a bag on my head and handcuffs.

While we were driving, I saw through the fabric of a bag that the man with the tattoo, the one who had beaten me before, pulled out a box from under his seat. There were two switches at the top of the box. The tattooed man took out some wires out of the box and attached them to my thumbs. I was told that they will check if there is an electric current before they discharged electricity through the wires. It was very painful. (…) Along with this, the people in the car began to ask me various questions, including the questions about people I have never met. When I said I didn’t know them, I received another electric shock.

Also, I was hit hard on the head with a great force by some kind of thing, like a diary book. They asked me a lot of questions, including how to make explosive devices. When they didn’t like my answers, they beat me on the head and subjected me to more electric shocks until I gave them the answers they wanted.

I was also told that if I’m not compliant, they can do anything to me and my loved ones, and there will be no consequences of their actions, as I’m a terrorist. I was told that they can rape my girlfriend, cut off her hands and burn her with soldering iron.

All these tortures lasted about four hours, but I can not say for sure, as I had trouble to keep track on time and I was very hurt.

When I was finally brought to prison, there were signs of electric current discharges on my body, but nobody paid attention and it was not recorded.

Out of fear for the lives of my relatives, loved ones and myself, I testified against myself.

Arman Sagynbaev is one of the accused in the fabricated by the Russian Special Services large-scale criminal case against anarchists and anti-fascists, whom they declared members of the terrorist organisation called “The Network”. Russian authorities allege that “The Network” planned and prepared terrorist acts to be conducted during the presidential elections in March 2018 and the World Cup over Summer the same year.

Source and pic: Avtonom

If you want to help, you can find out how to transfer money for the needs of the ABC Russia .

Tags: RussiaArman Sagynbaevpenza casecategory: Prisoners
Categories: News

Joaquin Garcia and Kevin Garrido declared guilty

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 14:06

via act for freedom now!

“The pride and conviction of placing ourselves as revolutionary entities forges an indestructible unwavering dignity in us, these are not elements exhumed to be used as weapons, but are part of a constant praxis in our actions.” – Joaquin Garcia

Again, those who take the stage as possessors of life, namely Nelly Villegas Becerra, Hernán García Mendoza and María Leonor Fernández Lecanda, have decided on someone’s life dealing out years and years’ prison, as always, in accordance with their job.

This time, after a trial lasting several weeks, the members of the 6th Penal Tribunal issued a verdict against Joaquin and Kevin, which runs as follows:

Comrade Joaquin Garcia:

1) Sentenced according to the law on arms control for placing an explosive device against the 12th carabinieri barracks, which was defused by GOPE.

2) Sentenced according to the law on arms control for carrying a 22-calibre pistol along with bullets in September 2016, when he was captured after he went into hiding.

3) Acquitted of the placing of an explosive device against the Chilectra firm on 16th October 2015.

Kevin Garrido:

1) Acquitted of placing an explosive device against the Chilectra firm on 16th October 2015.

2) Sentenced according to the law on arms control for placing an explosive device against the 12th carabinieri barracks, which was defused by GOPE.

3) Sentenced according to the law on arms control for placing and detonating a device against a gendarmerie training centre in San Bernardo on 19th November 2015.

4) Sentenced for carrying a cutting weapon, allegedly on 19th November 2015.

5) Sentenced for possession of over 600 grams of gun powder in his home, found by police in the raids after his arrest.

This stage being completed, hopefully on 5th September at 1pm the tribunal will declare the sentences.

We recall that the treacherous south prosecutors  asked for 18 years and 6 months for comrade Joaquin and 29 years for Kevin.

Offensive, insurrectional and anarchist solidarity!

Translated from Italian by act for freedom now!

Tags: Chilejoaquin garciakevin garridoanarchist prisonerscategory: Prisoners
Categories: News

Aftonomi Space in Yogyakarta: Fundraising for complete equipment in our Infoshop!

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 14:02

via act for freedom now!

Aftonomi Space will be held by several anarchists who are currently in Yogyakarta. Space is certainly beneficial and anti-authoritarian, which is managed jointly in an autonomous, egalitarian and non-hierarchical manner. The issues we will discuss include: News of anarchist prisoners, Prison Strike, economic equality to the abolition of the work, gender and freedom of sexual orientation, and other socio-ecological problems, whether in the form of writing, art, or further social movements.

We openly say an anarchist group and of course we are not dogmatic about religious fundamentalists today. We are open to the participation of everyone, regardless of their background. However, we don’t want to be involved with any political parties, NGOs, or institutions. We are committed to making grassroots communities and communities organized properly.


Yogyakarta is a fairly large city in Indonesia and is one of the cities dubbed as a student city, which has many educational institutions from the elementary level to the university level, besides that Yogyakarta is also called the “Special Region” with their slogan (Yogyakarta is Special) due to the existence of a culture of monarchy-feudalism (Sultanate) which is sacred by the existing society and feudal hegemony that is so massive that it biases the political views of some activists who actually have “class consciousness” in Yogyakarta to the dominant ideology (Ideology that was agreed by the Sultan).

There is no doubt that Yogyakarta, which is dubbed as this student city, has several groups of people who understand about anarchism. Seeing so much a collective space in Yogyakarta is in line with the idea of anarchism but they are quite embarrassed or afraid to say they are part of the ideology. This is what has completely fragmented this anarchist movement (Yogyakarta and including all cities in Indonesia)

With that, we decided to set up a small coffee shop and Infoshop: Aftonomi Coffee and Book (Coffee, Books, Tshirt, and Infoshop). Aftonomi is inspired by the word Autonomy, more precisely in Greek (αυτονομία). We saw so massive the anarchist movement in Greece that we tried to find an autonomous translation in Greek.

Aside from being inspired by the anarchist tradition of making infoshops, we were also inspired by previous infoshop in Yogyakarta, namely: Libera Coffee and Book/Libera Community Space which previously became an gathering place for anarchists in Yogyakarta (especially in the North). This space will be the same as Libera Coffee and Book/Libera Community Space which organizes various activities, such as: meeting places for cultural and political initiatives, film screenings, libraries, publishers/sellers of anarchist literature, and building a more massive anti-authoritarian movement.

What are we doing

Aftonomi will also become a publisher and seller of anarchic literature, we are currently republishing the book Armed Joy – Alfedo M. Bonanno, and we are currently trying to translate “Stirner’s Critics – Max Stirner, Industrial Society and Its Future – Ted Kaczynski, and A Critique of Syndicalist Methods – Alfredo M. Bonanno, An Anarchist Manifesto – Max Nettlau. In addition we also work with several anarchist publishers and sell the books they publish. Aftonomy Space also functions as information for people who are interested in anarchist and radical thinkers.

Until now, individuals who will be active in Aftonomi Space are involved in many projects such as:
– Palang Hitam Indonesia/Indonesian Anarchist Black Cross
– Mayday (1 May 2018) in Yogyakarta which burned the police station and ended up with 69 comrades who were captured and 11 comrades became prisoners
– DIY Street Library
– An alternative school (Sekolah Langit) in the village of Gunung Kidul, Yogyakarta.
– Book publishing
– Running counter-info sites: (not optimally active)

Libera Coffee and Book/Libera Community Space was previously a meeting place from various backgrounds: local anarchists and those from outside Indonesia, students, feminist activists, Marxists, even curious people. However, the Libera Coffe and Book/Libera Community Space cannot continue because of various things, one of which is related to the Mayday Action (May 1, 2018 in Yogyakarta. Since then we have started to separate because we have no alternative space and it is difficult to find a meeting place to share anything (including if there are anarchists from outside Indonesia who will come to Yogyakarta, for example in the near future: Australia, England and Sweden). Therefore, we restart to present an alternative space (Aftonomi Space) to carry out our various work projects.

Some people who will be involved in Aftonomi Space, mainly work as writers, freelance translators, illustrators, and baristas. Most of our income has managed to contribute a portion of our personal income to Infoshop.

We hope this brief introduction can convince you to help us.

What we need

At the moment we already have a place to do our activities (Nangka III Streets, Number 204, Krodan, Maguwharjo, Depok Districts, Sleman Regency, DIY), but we have obstacles to fill some of our needs to run our work projects saati (short term and long term). We need tables, bookshelves and some Coffee equipment to run Aftonomi Space into an autonomous and independent space. Which results we can expand our work projects.

Estimated cost of around USD 1,000. Therefore, we want to use your solidarity, either in the form of books, financial assistance, or assistance in spreading words.

There will be a thank you sign if you decide to help us. We will send a T-shirt from the Aftonomi or Prisons are for Burning by Palang Hitam Indonesia/ Indonesian Anarchist Black Cross. If you want to claim it, please contact:

Please donate here:

Link :

More information,
Instagram account: @aftonomi
Email: or

Tags: IndonesiaYogyakartaaftonomicategory: International
Categories: News

Steps Towards a Strategy of Popular Power: BRRN 5th National Convention

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 13:54

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation / Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra

Report on the 5th Black Rose/Rosa Negra National Convention, Los Angeles

By Alex Isa and Tanya H.F. with contributions from Agüey Baná and Adam Weaver

Note: This version has been updated since the original posting.

Amidst heated discussions, mostly due to warm California weather and packed rooms full of enthusiastic militants, 60 members of Black Rose/Rosa Negra Anarchist Federation (BRRN) met August 3-5 in Koreatown, Los Angeles for the organization’s 5th National Convention. The weekend included three days of discussion and strategy sessions aimed at strengthening the organization and focusing on our goals at a time of rapidly evolving mass struggles and passionate debates about the direction of revolutionary politics in the Americas.

Collage of convention related photos

The Struggle Continues

At last year’s Convention in 2017, members received the news about events at Charlottesville – the death of Heather Heyer and the many activists injured by white supremacists. In stark terms, 2017 represented the continuation of repressive and reactionary policies at various levels with the legal harassment of J20 protesters, the detainment of migrant children, further attacks on organized labor, and the political challenge represented by growth of left electoralism and sectors of the left seeking institutional power. This marked the context in which BRRN members have been building a broader analysis of political events while also working to build popular power where we live, where we work, and where we study.

One of the strongest messages at the Convention were the examples of involvement in dynamic organizing work despite often difficult circumstances. The Friday night panel presentation event, “A Year in Popular Power,” featured four BRRN members discussing their organizing work over the past year and will soon be released as a four part Youtube series.

Enrique in North Carolina presented on organizing with fellow public school teachers in a one day strike as part of the larger #RedForEd movement. Markie, based in Los Angeles, shared their experiences organizing a Rapid Response Network through Koreatown Popular Assembly, an initiative to quickly mobilize community members in Koreatown – many of whom are undocumented – against ICE raids and incursions into their neighborhoods. In Central Illinois, Tariq described their experiences organizing University of Illinois graduate students – a highly exploited but part of a rapidly growing and increasingly militant sector of labor – while resisting the siren song of opportunistic politicians. Stephan, based in Portland, described the formation of a grassroots fast food workers’ union aligned with the IWW (the Burgerville Workers Union). Despite being one of several campaign leaders fired during the the campaign, they described how during a time when glossy labor initiatives such as Fight for $15 have been relatively unsuccessful in winning concessions from fast food behemoths, the union landed a series of important victories to become the first recognized fast food union in the US.

This range of projects, representing different communities and locations, joining in a common struggle against exploitation and oppression, shows the importance of specific anarchist organization as a powerful tool for work within larger social movements and reflecting both a theory and practice of our shared libertarian socialist ideals. The panel also highlighted the growing internal diversity of BRRN as an organization.

Photo of audience at the "A Year in Poplar Power" panel. Link to Youtube series.

Expansion and Diversification

At a time when sectors of the left have much work to do representing and centering the communities implicated in political and social struggle, one of the bright spots of the Convention was that it highlighted an increasingly diverse membership both in terms of race and gender. One member from the Bay Area estimated that attendees consisted of 50% women and over 50% people of color. This isn’t a matter of optics for us. When we talk about building popular power, we don’t mean a project where cisgender white males dictate the terms of revolutionary transformation, asking sex workers, incarcerated folks, queer and transgender comrades, undocumented comrades, people of color, and working class comrades to wait patiently for the next election, the next podcast, or the next journal publication for their demands to be represented. What we envision is an organization of committed militants representing oppressed communities and fighting by their side.

The growing diversity of BRRN could also be felt geographically. Since the organization’s 2017 Convention new locals have formed in Seattle, Albuquerque, and the Bay Area, while nearly all locals experienced membership growth.

Photo of delegates and members during convention session.

Towards an Americas Coordinator

BRRN was extremely excited to arrange for and welcome several comrades from sister organizations in Latin America as observers to the Convention. Their presence signaled our strengthened ongoing personal and organizational ties between those of us struggling in the belly of the beast of the US empire and the global south of Latin America. International comrades present at the Convention represented Solidaridad (Chile), Movimiento político Socialismo y Libertad – SOL (Chile), Acción Socialista Libertaria – ASL (Argentina), and the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira – CAB (Brazil). As members of anarchist and political organizations in countries with rich traditions of mass revolutionary struggle, they contributed their insight to our discussions.

Far from being observers, our international comrades also contributed to a discussion and proposal to establish the creation of an ‘Americas Coordinator,’ which would act as a coordinating body for similar revolutionary groups in northern and southern America. The defined purpose would be “to formalize political relationships with organizations across the Americas that share similar political programs, social insertion work, analysis, and outlook.” Concretely the purpose would be to organize exchanges among militants, develop shared political analysis and perhaps even stimulate the formation of new political organizations. Convention delegates overwhelmingly expressed their support for this project before hearing more from a panel of the international attendees on their local struggles. During the Convention, members of BRRN recorded messages of support for ongoing struggles against the criminalization of abortion in Argentina and Chile as an expression of solidarity.

Following the Convention, members of BRRN’s International Relations Committee held a day long meeting with the international comrades from Solidaridad, ASL and CAB to exchange analysis and discuss the creation of an anarchist coordinating body across the Americas. Members from each organization discussed the political climate of each respective country, setbacks and internal struggles within the organizations, as well as political struggles members had been active participants in. At the end of the meeting, some of the organizations agreed to create a proposal producing a shared analysis to build the Americas Coordinator with the purpose of understanding the social, political and economic systems and structures each country faces and which we seek to dismantle. After the shared analysis is created, the Coordinator will discuss how we can move forward.

Developing a Shared Strategic Framework

Much of the work done by Convention attendees over the weekend consisted of reviewing and revising the goals and objectives divided along various “sectors” of social movement work such as labor organizing, territorial or neighborhood/community based organizing, education struggles, anti-criminalization work against the prisons and police, and analysis based committees such as the Radical Ecology Committee. A large portion of the first day was devoted to breakout sessions where members were able to share specific experiences and ideas related to these sectors – an energizing experience that brings members together to build common analysis and to build a sense of the big picture and work against the tendency of being “siloed” in local struggles and campaigns.

Important documents that emerged from discussions leading up to the Convention include a follow up piece to “Below and Beyond Trump: Power and Counterpower” that would present a revised analysis of the current political terrain (known as conjunctural analysis or análisis de coyuntura) and with greater emphasis on a detailing a strategic framework around building popular power. The working title to this is, “Popular Power in a Time of Reaction.”

Another important organizational document that was approved, after over a year of discussion, clarifies expectations of BRRN members and the character, or profile, of the organization and it’s members or “militants.” Each member of BRRN goes through an integration process of 3-6 months consisting of meeting with active members and reading a wide range of materials reflecting on anarchist theory and practice. The new document affirms that BRRN members should continuously strive to meet a certain standard when it comes to their social movement work. In other words, we must do more than attend meetings and dabble in theory.

Illustration with ink and water colors showing LA's iconic Union Station. Corner has logo and text "Black Rose Rosa Negra Los Angeles convention 2018"Conclusion

After three days of discussion, panels, breakouts, debates and votes the Convention concluded with the singing of the classic anarchist Spanish Civil War anthem, “A las Barricadas.” Overall the Convention left attendees inspired that the organization has continued to grow and mature in its level of political discussion and in developing a shared sense of continuity and purpose. For new members Conventions are always important opportunities to connect with the larger organization through meeting members from other locals to participating in wider discussions and plugging into national level committee work. This year, as before, we are reminded of the important role of political organization in providing a common vehicle in building a new world, one where, “power and participation flow from the bottom upwards and society is organized for peoples’ aspirations, passions, and needs rather than profit, white supremacy, and racial domination, patriarchy, or imperialism; and where we live sustainably with the planet.”

Tags: Black Rosecategory: Other
Categories: News

From Embers: New content in August, 2018

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 13:45

via north shore info

From Embers is a regular anarchist podcast produced in Kingston Ontario. We produce a few episodes a month about actions and projects going on in so-called Canada that inspire us, or about topics that we think will be relevant to anarchists living north of the border.

This month, we’ve produced four original episodes. They are:

Is Anarchism For Me Or For Us?

An interview with a comrade who recently published a critique of Max Stirner’s The Ego And Its Own. We discuss anarchist morality and ethics, why we hate the state, whether anarchism means building a world with no masters or slaves, egoism, individualism, killing the cop inside your head, and whether dead philosophers matter.

85 Years Since The Christie Pits Riot

85 years ago this week, in the midst of another long hot summer, a series of anti-semitic and xenophobic provocations in Toronto escalated into a full blown riot at Christie Pits.

Burnside Jail Protest and Prisoner Justice Day

Conversations about prison organizing in Canada – interview with a Halifax organizer about the Burnside Jail protest and conversation about Prisoner Justice Day organizing in Nova Scotia and Ontario.

Rent Strike Update and Eviction Resistance in Ontario

We return to the rising wave of renters struggles across the province of Ontario.

On May 1st, tenants in the Stoney Creek Towers in Hamilton declared a rent strike, demanding that their corporate landlord drop an above-guideline rent increase of almost 10% over three years, and that the property managers perform numerous needed overdue repairs to their units.

You can tune in to From Embers in the Kingston area on CFRC 101.9 FM between 8 and 9 PM on Wednesdays. You can also stream episodes directly at or subscribe and download them via any major podcatching app on your smartphone.

If you have feedback for us, or ideas for future episodes, please get in touch! You can email us at

Tags: podcastfrom emberscategory: Projects
Categories: News

Post-Anarchism on the State—An Anarchist Critique

Sun, 09/09/2018 - 12:30

From Anarkismo by Wayne Price

Response to Saul Newman, "Anarchism, Marxism, and the Bonapartist State"

A review of the nature of the State as understood by anarchists, especially as proposed by the tendency called "post-anarchism." This is done through a review of the opinions of Saul Newman, a leading proponent of post-anarchism, in his work, "Anarchism, Marxism, and the Bonapartist State." The post-anarchist view is opposed by the class theory of the state, versions of which are raised by traditional, revolutionary anarchists and by Marx.

A key question for any political theory is its conception of the state. This includes the view of the state by the trend calling itself “post-anarchism.” This name does not refer to being “after” or “beyond” anarchism. Mainly it refers to attempted integrations of anarchism with the philosophical views of post-structuralism and postmodernism, as developed by certain French philosophers (May 1994; Russell & Evren 2011). According to Ruth Kinna,“Anarchism’s third, post-anarchist, wave [is] usually dated to the rise of the alter-globalization movement in the late 1990s….” (Kinna 2017; 25) It was not so much a change in organizing strategies as a new theoretical approach. “Post-anarchism is not only one of the most significant currents to emerge within contemporary anarchist thought in recent years, it also has ‘evident affinities’ with small-a anarchist movement politics.” (36) In this paper, I am looking at the post-anarchists’ political thinking and not on their background philosophies (in philosophy, I prefer a radicalized version of John Dewey’s pragmatism; Price 2014).

One of the most prominent post-anarchist theorists is Saul Newman. He has written a number of important books and essays on the subject. One essay (Newman 2004) concentrates on the nature of the state. It directly confronts the class theory of the state (also called the “materialist” or “historical materialist” theory of the state). This is a subject on which I have recently written (Price 2018). His is different from many other post-anarchist writings which emphasize that the state is not the only source of power, but that power is created in many places. “Foucault argues that the state is a kind of discursive illusion that masks the radically dispersed nature of power….” (Newman 2004; 23) Newman does not quite agree with this. He takes the state seriously. Whether or not a network of power is a useful model of society, the state still exists and needs to be analyzed. For this reason, I think it would be useful to examine this particular post-anarchist work.

In his essay, Newman never actually defines what he means by the state. I have found the same to be true in other post-anarchist writings. Let me then define the state as a bureaucratic-military social machine, composed of specialized officials, bureaucrats, and armed people, separate from and standing over the mass of people. This is a different matter than just any possible social system of coordination, policy deciding, dispute settling, or even defense from anti-social aggression. All these things existed for thousands of years among humans before the state arose and will exist after it is abolished. It is the state as an elite socially-alienated bureaucratic-military institution which is connected to the capitalist system and all other systems of oppression.

Anarchism and Marxism on the Class Theory of the State

It would be easy to contrast anarchism with Marxist-Leninism, that is, with the recent and current Stalinist states of the USSR, Maoist China, North Korea, etc. These states were founded by people calling themselves “Marxist” and supposed champions of the “working class.” Yet they were state-capitalist, mass-murdering, totalitarianisms. But Karl Marx, a radical democrat, would have been as horrified by such states as are anarchists. The issue is to show what there was about Marxism which led to such results, despite Marx’s intentions. Consistent with that focus, Newman directs himself primarily to Marx’s views, with little to say about post-Marx Marxism (just a few comments on Lenin).

Still, the paper presents itself as a dispute between anarchism and Marxism. In part, this binary is modified by some indications that anarchists have found aspects of Marxism useful. “For anarchists, Marxism has great value as an analysis of capitalism and the relations [of] private property which it is tied to.” (19) “Bakunin perhaps represents the most radical elements of Marxist theory.” (17) (10) Newman himself repeatedly expresses appreciation of the “post-Marxism” of Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe, whose work comes out of the Marxist tradition.

However, the main problem with Newman’s anarchism-versus-Marxism approach is that the traditional anarchist movement also had a class theory of the state. Peter Kropotkin, the great theorist of anarchism, wrote, “The State has always interfered in the economic life in favor of the capitalist exploiter. It has always granted him protection in robbery, given aid and support for further enrichment. And it could not be otherwise. To do so was one of the functions—the chief mission—of the State.” (Kropotkin 2014; 193) In Kinna’s view, Kropotkin thought “political institutions reflected the nature of economic power, which was fundamental….The state was designed to protect the strong against the weak, the rich against the poor, and the privileged against the laboring classes….Bourgeois government [was] a special vehicle for the protection of commercial and industrial class interests.” (Kinna 2017; 86—88) “Bakunin had advanced the same argument, crediting Marx with its most sophisticated scientific articulation.” (86)

Newman’s attack on the class theory of the state is not only an attack on Marxism but also on the traditional mainstream anarchist view


Newman seeks to deny this. For example, he cites Bakunin’s support for the class theory of the state but then tries to turn it on its head. “Bakunin…takes Marx seriously when he says that the state is always concomitant with class distinctions and domination. However there is an important difference….For Marx the dominant class generally rules through the state, whereas for Bakunin the state generally rules through the dominant class….Bourgeois relations are actually a reflection of the state, rather than the state being a reflection of bourgeois relations.” (Newman 2004;17)

This acknowledges that Bakunin, the principal initiator of the movement for revolutionary anarchism, believed that “the state is always concomitant with class distinctions and domination.” That is different from seeing the state as distinct and autonomous from the class structure. Actually, Bakunin saw the state as interacting with the economy, in a back-and-forth, dialectical, manner. The modern state causes capitalism and capitalism causes the modern state.

This is similar to Marx’s concept of “primitive (primary) accumulation,” in which the state played a key role in initiating capitalism. The state expropriated the British peasants from their land, conquered and looted foreign countries, supported slavery, and defended theft from the environment. Theses actions accumulated capital on one side and propertyless workers on the other, the essentials for capitalism. In Capital, Marx wrote of “the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode….Force is…itself an economic power.” (Marx 1906; 823-4) Kropotkin criticized this “primitive accumulation” only because it may imply that this is a passing phase, understating the continuing influence of the state in maintaining capitalism. Recognizing that “Force is itself an economic power”is not a rejection of the class theory of the state.

Newman presents two alternate views: “the state represented the interests of the most economically dominant class—the bourgeoisie.” (Newman 2004; 6) This is ascribed to Marx. Or: “Anarchism sees the state as an autonomous institution—or series of institutions—that has its own interests and logic.” (9) “It is independent of economic forces and has its own imperative of self-perpetuation….Anarchism sees the state, in its essence, as independent of economic classes….” (14) This last view is his opinion, that of post-anarchism, but not that of the “classical” anarchists.


Newman points out that Marx developed his concept of the state further. This was expressed in his analysis of the French dictatorship of Louis Napoleon III in his 1852 The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (Marx 2002). He developed a concept of “Bonapartism,” which was also expressed in Engels’ and his writings on Bismarck in Germany and on other historical states (Draper 1977). They noted that the state balanced among various class forces. Even within the upper class there were fractions of classes and agents of fractions of classes, which put conflicting pressures on the state. They saw that the state had its own interests as an institution and so did its bureaucratic, political, and military personnel. Sometimes the bourgeoisie had mostly direct control of the state, as under parliamentary democracy. At other times, they were shut out, as under Louis Bonaparte’s “Empire” or under Nazi totalitarianism. But even without democratic rights, the bourgeoisie continued to exploit their employees and accumulate profits. This “right” was still defended by the dictatorial state! “According to Marx…the Bonapartist state served the long term interests of the capitalist system, even if it often acted against the immediate interests and will of the bourgeoisie.” (Newman 2004; 7)

There is a tendency for the state—especially its executive branch—to develop increased independence relative to the rest of society, even under bourgeois democracy, but which reaches its height under political dictatorship. In Newman’s terms, cited above, it may be acknowledged that “the state has its own interests and logic…and has its own imperative of self-preservation.” But it is not true that the state is “independent of class forces.” Rather it balances among them and still maintains the overall interests of the bourgeoisie. This has been referred to as the state’s “relative autonomy.” (5)

Newman claims that anarchists (or at least post-anarchists) took the concept of Bonapartism to its rightful extreme. “Anarchism took Marx’s notion of the Bonapartist State to its logical conclusion, thus developing a theory of state power and sovereignty as an entirely autonomous and specific domain….” (38—39)

Does this make sense? Does not the state, as an institution with a drive for “self-preservation,” have an absolute need to keep the economy going? Under capitalism this means the continued accumulation of capital; it means the exploitation of the working class to produce ever increased amounts of profit. Without this, there is no state, no society, and none of the other oppressions of race, gender, etc. Can there be “an entirely autonomous” state, unrelated to economic oppression? Neither Bakunin nor Kropotkin believed that. I quoted Kropotkin above as believing that protecting capitalist exploiters “was one] of the functions—the chief mission—of the State.” Not the only function or mission, but 'one of the functions” and “the chief mission.”

If we look at the state as a “specific domain,” then it has a great many social forces, economic and otherwise, class and non-class, pushing on it. (Non-class forces include racial tensions, gender conflicts, not to mention organized religion.) Yet these forces are of differing strength and impact. The class theory “involves a claim that the capitalist class is able to wield more potent power resources over against pressure from below and the capacity for independent action on the part of the state itself….The political sway of the capitalist class [is] not exclusive but predominant.” (Wetherly 2002; 197) Even the most autonomous of totalitarian fascist states still must take into account the needs of its capitalist class—or it will not survive. Even the bureaucratic Stalinist states of the Soviet Union, Maoist China, etc.—which had entirely disposed of their stock-owning bourgeoisie—still had to maintain the exploitation of the workers and the accumulation of capital: the capital-labor relationship.

Summarizing the most mature and sophisticated views of Marx (and traditional anarchists)—with which he disagrees—Newman writes, “Rather than saying that, for Marx, the state is the instrument of [the] bourgeoisie, it may be more accurate to say that the state is a reflection of bourgeois class domination, a institution whose structure is determined by capitalist relations. Its function is to maintain an economic and social order that allows the bourgeoisie to continue to exploit the proletariat. “ (11) Or, for the Stalinist states, for someone “to continue to exploit the proletariat”—in this case, the collective bureaucratic class (until it collapsed back into traditional capitalism).

I think that this makes more sense than either a view of the state as a passive puppet of the bourgeoisie (should anyone hold such a crude theory) or as “entirely autonomous” and ”independent of class forces.”

Political Implications

Political analyses have no meaning unless they lead to differences in strategy or tactics. “A difference which makes no difference is no difference,” as the saying goes. Newman contrasts the differing potential “revolutionary strategies” that go with the alternatives of the “neutral” or “autonomous state” or the (class) “determined state.” He discusses which (theorized) state should be seen as the “tool of revolution” and which as something “to be destroyed in revolution.” (8) Rather than summarize his discussion, I will go through the issue as I see it.

(1) The idea that the state was integrally tied to the capitalist class and could not be otherwise, led to the revolutionary belief that this state had to be overturned, smashed, dismantled, and replaced by alternate institutions. In a new preface to the Communist Manifesto, Engels quoted Marx, “One thing especially was proved by the [Paris] Commune, viz., that ‘the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery and wield it for its own purposes’.” (Marx & Engels 1955; 6) This did not deny the value of fighting for reforms, but the ultimate goal was a state-destroying revolution.

But two different conclusions were drawn. One was that the working class, when overturning the capitalists’ state, also needed its own class state, a “workers’ state,” the “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”—if only for a while, until a fully classless society could be instituted. This could be interpreted as an ultra-democratic state, similar to the Paris Commune or the early soviets, which would ”immediately” start to “wither away” —which is how Lenin presented it at the beginning of the Russian revolution. Or, alternately, as the justification for an increasingly authoritarian, one-party, police state, which is what Lenin developed over time. This soon evolved into Stalin’s state-capitalist totalitarianism.

On the other hand, anarchists argued that the state, by its very structure (as I defined it above), was an instrument of the capitalist class, or of some other exploiting class. Throughout history, ruling minorities needed a state to maintain their rule over the big majority; a self-managing majority would not need it. If a new state were to be created after a revolution, it would only put a bureaucratic class in power, ruling over a state capitalist economy. (As we know, these warnings came true.) Instead, anarchists argued for networks and federations of workplace councils, neighborhood assemblies, and voluntary associations. The workers and all the oppressed needed to replace all states with the self-organization of the emancipated people.

(2) The alternate theory of a neutral and wholly autonomous state was (and is) championed by reformists, liberals, and social democrats. The state, they claimed, was a machine which could be used by anyone, capitalists or workers, white supremacists or People of Color, oppressors or oppressed. Therefore radicals should fight to take over the existing state and use it to do good. (This is the view of Laclau and Mouffe, the “post-Marxists” whom Newman admires.)

But post-anarchists argue that the state has its own drives for oppression, regardless of the class system it is associated with at any time. To use it to get rid of one system of exploitation would only leave the field open for the state’s own oppressive dynamics. It would only replace capitalism with some other method of exploitation, such as the rule of a bureaucratic class. Therefore the state must not used to make a revolution nor to solidify a new society after one.

Those who identify with the revolutionary anarchist tradition do not really disagree with the last argument. The state has authoritarian and oppressive tendencies which make it unusable for a genuinely popular, democratic, revolution-from-below. However, I do not separate these tendencies from the state’s essential attachment to the rule of a minority exploiting class. These are not distinct dynamics.

Which leads to a response to the question of why Marx’s Marxism led to Stalinist totalitarianism, despite Marx’s own democratic-libertarian tendencies. At least one part of it was his program of replacing the bourgeois state with a new state of the working class and its allies, if only for a time. This transitional state was supposed to expropriate the capitalists and centralize all their property into its own hands. No matter how democratic, popular, and temporary in conception, the use of a socially alienated bureaucratic-military state machine was bound to lead to a new form of exploitation and oppression. This was argued by Bakunin, Kropotkin, and other revolutionary class-struggle anarchist-socialists at the time of Marx and immediately after, and has repeatedly been proven true, alas.

Whether Saul Newman is for revolution cannot be told from this essay (it may be clearer in other works). Most of the other post-anarchists, like the “new” or “small-a” anarchists, advocate building alternate institutions, small scale actions, and different lifestyles, without focusing on an ultimate goal of direct popular attack against the capitalist class or the state. (Price 2016) The post-anarchists usually justify this by arguing that the state is not the only source of power in society, but merely one among many. Therefore anarchists do not need to focus on the state as the main enemy. It can be worked around, chipped away, or just ignored. The capitalist class is seen as a disjointed, pluralistic, entity, with society overall best understood as a network of forces without a center. All of which leads to a rejection of overturning the state as a main goal. In fact “revolution” is usually regarded as the fantasy of a single (bloody) upheaval which would immediately change society—which is rejected as the nonsense it is (and is not a model held by serious revolutionaries). However, revolutionary anarchists regard as a dangerous fantasy the idea that the capitalist class and its state would permit a peaceful, gradual, transformation of society—in which they would lose their wealth and power—without attempting to crush the people (through savage repression, fascism, civil war, etc.).

No Working Class Revolution

Whether Newman is against revolution, he is against working class revolution, because he is against a focus on the working class. He would deny that the “proletariat” is the necessary (but not sufficient) agent to transform society, or even that it is one of the three to five most important potential forces.

Newman repeatedly merges the idea of the working class with the idea of the Leninist vanguard party, objecting “to the central role of the proletariat—or, to be more precise, to the vanguard role of the Party.” (37) But revolutionary anarchists who looked to the working class did not advocate such authoritarian, elitist, parties. Among Marxists, Rosa Luxemburg rejected Lenin’s concept of the vanguard party, and there is a long history of libertarian-autonomist Marxists who orient to the aspects of Marx’s work which are radically democratic, humanistic (anti-alienation), proletarian (anti-bureaucratic), and scientific (anti-scientistic). This trend, neither social democratic nor Marxist-Leninist, does not share a concept of the elitist vanguard party. It has raised libertarian socialist politics which can be in dialogue with revolutionary anarchism (Prichard et al 2017).

The post-anarchists have been criticized for their negative approach to class concerns and how they deal with them. An “emerging critique is that the post-anarchists have given up on the notion of ‘class’ and have retreated into obscure and intoxicating academic diatribes against a tradition built of discursive straw.” (Rousselle, in the Preface to Rousselle & Evren 2011; vii) Indeed, Newman’s rejection of a working class orientation is sometimes on a rather high plane of abstract post-structuralist philosophizing. He denounces “the perspective of a universal epistemological position—such as that of the proletariat….” (37)

At other times, Newman raises empirical problems, which I think are the real issue. He refers to “…the empirical reality of the shrinking of the working class…” (32) and to the “concrete social conditions of the shrinking working class in post-industrial societies….” (29)

It is true that there are fewer industrial workers in the U.S. (although still a big minority), but the population is overwhelming working class. That is, most adults are employed by capital or the state, producing goods or services for pay, without supervising others. Blue collar, white collar, pink collar, in construction or slaughterhouses, cleaning houses for others or waiting tables, writing code or teaching children, in animation or accounting, this is the modern proletariat. The class, in addition to waged workers, includes their children, full-time homemakers, adult students, and those unemployed and retired. Meanwhile one reason for the decline in industrial jobs in the U.S. is that many jobs have been sent overseas. There has been an enormous expansion of industrial workers throughout the “Third World,” for this and other reasons. This is not a proof of the irrelevance of the working class.

It is also an empirical fact that most workers and their families are not revolutionary—and many are even reactionary. This is cited by post-anarchists (and others) as disproving a supposed prediction that the working class must inevitably become revolutionary. Actually the “prediction” is only that the working class is potentially revolutionary, and able to shake the whole society when it is. This is evidenced by a two-centuries long history of workers’ struggles and upheavals. In any case, it is not that we could reject the (currently) non-revolutionary class for some other grouping which is revolutionary. Since such a large proportion of the world’s population is working class, the non-revolutionary consciousness of most of the working class means that most of the general population is not revolutionary, that most women are not revolutionary, nor are most People of Color, nor is any other category we could name. For now.

Perhaps Newman’s major discontent with a working class perspective is his belief that it would suppress all other sources of discontent and rebellion. “Radical political struggles can no longer be limited to the proletariat alone, and must be seen as being open to other classes and social identities.” (33) “The movement…rejects the false universality of Marxist politics, which denies difference and heterogeneity and subordinates other struggles to the central role of the proletariat….” (37)

There is no doubt that there have been wooden Marxists and wooden anarcho-syndicalists who have denied the importance of everything but the class struggle. (There have also been feminists who have subordinated all issues to that of women’s freedom, and Black activists who have put everything aside but Black liberation. But that is not the question here.) However this is not an inevitable result of a class perspective. On the contrary, it can be seen as strengthening the class struggle if the revolutionary workers support each and every struggle of oppressed people. The socialist Daniel DeLeon once said (quoting from memory) that socialists’ support for women’s liberation could unify the working class and split the ruling class.

To cite an authoritative (and authoritarian) Marxist, Lenin opposed “economism,” the strategy of only supporting bread-and-butter labor union issues. Instead he argued that socialists should defend every democratic concern, no matter how apparently far from class. This included supporting big groups such as peasants, women, and oppressed nations, but also students, draftees, censored writers, and religious minorities. “To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without…a movement of the… masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc. – to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, ‘We are for socialism’, and another, somewhere else and says, ‘We are for imperialism’, and that will he a social revolution!” (Lenin 1916) I cite this sarcastic comment even though Lenin was not a libertarian-autonomous Marxist, to demonstrate that even such a Marxist as Lenin could advocate that working class socialists should give support to all popular struggles against oppression—by all classes, on all issues. (In any case, the problem anarchists have with Lenin is not that he gave too much support to democratic struggles.)

“The Global Capitalist State Order”

Newman sees a model of the kind of radical movement he wants in “the emergence of what is broadly termed the ‘anti-globalization’ movement….” (Newman 2004; 36) He describes this movement as distinct from either a “universalized” working class or from a bundle of unrelated identity-based struggles. The distinct struggles are linked to each other and have a common enemy, which turns out to be….capitalism! and the capitalist state! “The ‘anti-globalization’ movement [is] a protest movement against the capitalist and neo-liberal vision of globalization….” (36) The movement “puts into question the global capitalist state order itself….It problematizes capitalism….targetting specific sites of oppression—corporate power and greed, G-M products, workplace surveillance, displacement of indigenous peoples, labor and human rights abuses, and so on.” (37) This only makes sense if we realize that these issues, overlapping with each other, are all directly or indirectly due to capitalism and enforced by the state. (For example, environmental, energy, and climate problems are due to the insatiable drive of capitalism to accumulate and grow quantitatively, regardless of the need of the ecosystem for limits and balance. The anarchist Bookchin explored this before the present ecological Marxists.)

We are living in a historical moment…dominated by capitalism, the most universal system the world has ever known—both in the sense that it is global and in the sense that it penetrates every aspect of social life and the natural environment….The social reality of capitalism is ‘totalizing’ in unprecedented ways and degrees. Its logic of commodification, accumulation, profit-maximization, and competition permeates the whole social order….” (Woods 1997; 13)

If the problem is ultimately capitalism, then what is capitalism? (Newman does not define it any more than he defines the state.) Capitalism is the capital-labor relationship in the process of production. Capital commodifies everything it can, including the ability of the workers to labor. Capital buys this labor-power and squeezes out as much surplus wealth (value) from the workers as possible, accumulating profits and expanding production. All the other issues and struggles against aspects of oppression are real and must be addressed, but the central issue of capitalism as such is its exploitation of the workers. And who will oppose capitalism? Is it in the immediate interests of the rich, the managers, the police, or various indeterminate “citizens” to revolt against capitalism? No one has a greater immediate interest in fighting capitalism than those who directly confront it day by day. No one has a greater potential ability to fight it, with their hands on the means of production, distribution, and services.

That is what makes the class struggle—if not “universal”—then central to the fight against “the global capitalist state order.” It is central, and necessary—but not sufficient by itself, since all sections of the oppressed need to be mobilized, on every issue, “against the capitalist and neo-liberal vision of globalization.”

Conclusion: The State Serves the Class Enemy

In recent years there has been a bitter and vicious class war, on an international scale. It has been waged by the capitalist class, using all its resources, most especially its state. There has been a remorseless attack on the working class in both the industrialized (imperialist) nations and in the rest of the world. Hard-won welfare benefits have been slashed, austerity has been enforced, and unions have been cut in number and power. As part of this class war, there has been an attack on the rights of women, of African-Americans, of immigrants, and of LGBTQ people. For the sake of profits, the environment has been trashed and looted, until the survival of civilization (even such as it is) is threatened.

This is hardly the time to deny that capitalist exploitation is at the center of all issues. And that, while the state is intrinsically oppressive, it serves the class enemy.


Draper, Hal (1977). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1; State and Bureaucracy. NY: Monthly Review Press.

Kinna, Ruth (2017), Kropotkin: Reviewing the Classical Anarchist Tradition. Edinburgh UK: Edinburgh University Press.

Kropotkin, Peter (2014). Direct Struggle Against Capital; A Peter Kropotkin Anthology (Ed.: Iain McKay). Oakland CA: AK Press.

Lenin, V. I. (1916). “The Discussion On Self-Determination Summed Up.”

Marx, Karl (1906). Capital; A Critique of Political Economy; Vol. 1 (Ed.: F. Engels). NY: Modern Library.

Marx, Karl (2002). “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (Trans.: T. Carver). In Cowling, M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern Interpretations. London: Pluto Press. Pp. 19—109.

Marx, Karl, & Engels, Friedrich (1955). The Communist Manifesto. (Ed.: S.H. Beer). Northbrook IL: AHM Publishing Co.

May, Todd (1994). The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism. University Park PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Morris, Brian (1993). Bakunin; The Philosophy of Freedom. Montreal/NY: Black Rose Books.

Newman, Saul (2004). Anarchism, Marxism, and the Bonapartist State. (Originally published in Anarchist Studies, 12, 1; 2004.) Retrieved on 2011.

Price, Wayne (2014). “Anarchism and the Philosophy of Pragmatism.” The Utopian.

Price, Wayne (2016). “In Defense of Revolutionary Class-Struggle Anarchism.” Anarkismo.

Price, Wayne (2018). “An Anarchist View of the Class Theory of the State.”

Prichard, Alex; Kinna, Ruth; Pinta, Saku; & Berry, David (eds.). (2017). Libertarian Socialism: Politics in Black and Red. Oakland CA: PM Press.

Russell, Duane, & Evren, Sureyyya (eds.) (2011). Post-Anarchism: A Reader. Pluto Press/ Fernwood Publishing.

Wetherly, Paul (2002). “Making Sense of the ‘Relative Autonomy’ of the State.” In Cowling, M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern Interpretations. London: Pluto Press. Pp. 195—208.

Wood, Ellen Meiksins (1997). “What is the ‘Postmodern’ Agenda?” In In Defense of History; Marxism and the Postmodern Agenda. NY: Monthly Review Press. Pp. 1—16.

*written for

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Categories: News

Solecast: w/ Margaret Killjoy on Anarchist Sci-fi, The Cultural War, & Prefiguration

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 20:15

From Solecast


Todays episode is with Margaret Killjoy. Margaret is an anarchist science fiction writer and electronic producer. Her latest album "Always Forever" by "Nomadic War Machine" is available now on bandcamp. Margaret has published several short stories and books, is currently working on a novel and releases a sci fi short story every month through patreon.
In this podcast Margaret also reads one of my favorite short stories she has written called The Northern Host about a civil war in the year 2035, with some incredible plot twists.

In this interview we talk about:

The tension between insurrection and prefiguration
Her new project Nomadic War Machine by Always, Forever
The role culture plays in building revolutionary potential
Living off the land and how it fits into a revolutionary strategy
The importance of infrastructure
Our relationship with technology
The writing process, the format of short stories
Weaving anarchist themes into science fiction and fantasy writings
The importance of radical honesty
and much more

Tags: podcastsolecastfictionsci-ficategory: Projects
Categories: News

Gaining Ground, Not Losing It: Questions from a Revolutionary Anarchist

Sat, 09/08/2018 - 14:14

Note: A slightly different version of the following was first published by It’s Going Down (

Art Burbridge

How do we turn revolt into revolution today?

Anticapitalist resistance is surging in the face of a stagnating capitalism and the ruling class’s desperate turn to fascism. But from Occupy and Ferguson to the anti-ICE movement, uprisings are dissipating rather than escalating into fundamental, widespread challenges to ruling class power. Radical movements have struggled to develop the mass organizations and shared revolutionary strategy needed to create such challenges. How can revolutionary anarchists help transform revolt into a crisis of class rule?

A central task for revolutionary anarchists today, I argue, is multiplying and connecting spaces for (a) combining disconnected but sympathetic radical struggles, and above all (b) hammering out shared ideas of mass organizing and planning.

Finally, I ask: how would we create a shared revolutionary program for organization and strategy? What kinds of questions would we need to answer? What specifically could revolutionary anarchism bring to such a program? I end by sketching some of those questions.

The time to build revolutionary power is now.

I. Why a revolutionary program?

We have the chance to strike a powerful blow against a stumbling enemy.

Capitalism has been stagnating since the financial crisis 11 years ago. It is lurching towards another crisis.[1] Segments of the ruling class are turning to fascism in desperation to crush working-class resistance and restore its profit margins.

Crisis, stagnation, and repression—these are sparking a massive upsurge of revolts like the anti-ICE movement, anti-racist struggles, and militant antifascist, anarchist, socialist, and communist organizing.

But the recent explosions are more widespread and more powerful than we know what to do with. We don’t have the tools we need to connect uprisings into a revolutionary challenge to ruling class power. For instance, the important “Occupy ICE” movement is being swept away without a clear, mass, coordinated plan to build on its gains. The prison strike now faces this danger. “Occupy Wall Street” confronted the same problem. We remain largely reactive to the latest outrage. We struggle to channel radical power in durable ways for definite, large-scale, revolutionary strategic goals.

Too often, radical struggles focus on tactics. We hope that a revolution will come eventually, the accumulation of small-scale victories. Ending capitalism requires more. A systemic problem calls for a systemic solution.

But we also seem to be overwhelmed with revolutionary plans. Many anarchist, socialist, and communist groups have ready-made ideas about tactics, strategy, and organization. Their answers are often disconnected from the concrete mass revolts we are witnessing. Revolutionary programs tend to stay in the activist “silos” that have characterized radical organizing since the 1970s.

And to create a revolution, struggle must be on a mass scale. Capitalist firms exist only by extracting as much surplus as possible from the working class. At the same time, the ruling class pits groups of workers against each other—nation against nation, white workers against workers of color, men against women, cis-gendered people against non-binary people, the employed against the unemployed. White supremacy, patriarchy, transphobia, ableism—these help cement the racist, patriarchal bourgeoisie’s power. When workers fight each other, the ruling class can continue exploiting, dominating, colonizing, and waging imperial war. Radically challenging capitalism means widespread, intersectional class power that refuses to play capital’s games of domination.

The task ahead is combination, not isolation, of revolutionary efforts to help build the intersectional organizations we need. Combination here doesn’t mean an insipid “left unity.” It means connecting the various antiauthoritarian (even if not explicitly anarchist) currents that often lie at the heart of the most powerful struggles against capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy, and white supremacy today. More broadly, it means coordinating, across far left ideological and community divides, the radical struggles that can work effectively together without endless bickering—and that often informally overlap anyway.

All of this means the most pressing questions for radicals today are about strategy and organization. One of the most important things revolutionary anarchists can do, I suggest, is help create, multiply, and federate experimental spaces to hammer out collaborative answers to those questions. (Some of us in RED have begun experimenting with such spaces; see this and this).

I don’t offer my own revolutionary program here. Members of RED have a few contributions on this front—see this, this, and this. And for an interesting response and critique, see this.

My goal here is only to help spur the kind of shared, widespread discussions we need for building mass revolutionary plans.

II. Towards a revolutionary program: some questions

What are some of the basic questions we would need to answer together to create shared, mass, revolutionary organization and strategy? Here are a few.

(a) Understanding capitalism: How does capitalism work today? What and where are its weaknesses?

-How does capitalism function—internationally and nationally?
-How is capitalism developing and changing?
-What weaknesses does that development show? How can revolutionary anarchists and their allies best exploit those weaknesses?
-How do its structures and developments play out where I am organizing?

(b) Understanding the ruling class: Who is our enemy? What are their strengths and weaknesses?

-How is the ruling class organized—internationally and nationally?
-How does it enforce its rule and command obedience? Where and how specifically does it wield the power of the state and the economy against the working class?
-How is the ruling class’s power developing? How is the state, as its most direct weapon, developing? What weaknesses and strengths come with these changes?
-What are the most important sectors of the ruling class to target?
-How can revolutionary anarchists and their allies best exploit those weaknesses?
-How do the ruling class’s structures and developments play out where I am organizing?

(c) Understanding the working class: How is the working class structured today? Where is it the most radicalized? Where does it have the most potential power?

-How is the working class structured—internationally and nationally?
-How is the working class developing and changing?
-What strengths come with that development? How can we help to seize and enhance those strengths?
-How do the working class’s structures and developments play out where I am organizing?
-Where are the working class’s most militant and powerful sectors? What “layers” within important sectors are the most militant and powerful? What is their relationship to other, more conservative “layers”?
-How do those structures play out where I am organizing?
-How can we help more militant and powerful sections of the working class infect the other layers and draw them into the struggle?
-What non-working class/non-bourgeois sectors exist? Which parts of the petty bourgeoisie, for example, or the mass of students, could be won over to the cause of revolution? How?
-Where and how is the working class best organizing itself against capitalism—internationally, nationally, locally? What lessons can we draw from that resistance for the future?

(d) Strategy and tactics: What are our long-term and medium-term goals? How do we work towards them in our short-term actions?

-How do we picture the overall, long-term strategic goal of a world without capitalism? What would that kind of society look like? If we can’t decide on this now, can we create spaces to continue discussing and experimenting with long-term ideas as part of our struggle, to stay inspired and excited?
-What intermediate or medium-term goals do we have? What parts of local, national, and international capital are we going to target for revolutionary action—what sectors, what firms? Why and how? How will their power be radically disrupted? What are the desired results and how do they fit into the larger plan?
-What short-term tactics do we need to build towards our intermediate and long-term goals? What “molecular,” small-scale tasks will build towards intermediate and long-term ones?
-As we hammer out answers to these questions: what dominant strategies and tactics are guiding revolutionary organizations today? What works best and what doesn’t?
-What lessons can we draw from past organizing for the present? Where are the most inspiring and relevant struggles to be found and how can their ideas be best incorporated into the present?

(e) Organization: What kinds of organizations will help us build the strongest possible working class power and achieve our goals?

-What organizations do we need to achieve our short-, medium-, and long-term goals?
-How can we ensure spaces that are safe, caring, and nurturing for our comrades, especially those who are the most punished by capitalism and targeted by the state? How can we learn from each other to make sure our organizing is perfectly hostile to sexual assault, racism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism, and all other forms of domination? How will grievances be handled and accountability maintained?
-How should decision-making work on a mass scale? Will consensus—the “common sense” for many groups today—work to build something mass and revolutionary? Are there other kinds of decision-making that could be more effective? What works for other groups and what doesn’t? How can we make sure we’re not overly dogmatic about decision-making—perhaps by using hybrid models that ensure we’re the most powerful we can be?
-How can our organizations cut across the silos we often find ourselves in? How can they be deeply intersectional in order to combat the intersectional domination of the ruling class?
-How can we best avoid harmful versions of “left unity” that only paper over irreconcilable differences between radical groups (some communists and some anarchists, e.g.) only to create schisms later?
-As revolutionary anarchists, how can we help push mass organizing as far left as possible? How can we be non-dogmatic, and yet help challenge many radicals’ fixation on the state and elections, wholly reject liberalism and liberal influence, and build radically equal federations of horizontal power?

[1] See Michael Roberts, The Long Depression: Marxism and the Global Crisis of Capitalism (Chicago: Haymarket, 2016); Andrew Kliman, The Failure of Capitalist Production: Underlying Causes of the Great Recession (London: Pluto Press, 2011).

Tags: anarchismrevolutioncategory: Essays
Categories: News

Anarchy: What It Is and Why Pop Culture Loves It

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 17:14

via teen vogue

Writer Kim Kelly is an anarchist based in New York City and an organizer with the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC).

In a pop-cultural sense, at least, the idea of anarchy has been characterized by either a middle-fingers-up, no-parents-no-rules punk attitude, or a panicky, more conservative outlook used by national and state sources to represent violent chaos and disorder. Today, we can see an extremely serious, radical leftist political philosophy on T-shirts at Hot Topic.

So what is anarchism? What do those people raising black flags and circling A’s really want? Here’s what you need to know:

What is anarchism?

Anarchism is a radical, revolutionary leftist political philosophy that advocates for the abolition of government, hierarchy, and all other unequal systems of power. It seeks to replace what its proponents view as inherently oppressive institutions — like a capitalist society or the prison industrial complex — with nonhierarchical, horizontal structures powered by voluntary associations between people. Anarchists organize around a key set of principles, including horizontalism, mutual aid, autonomy, solidarity, direct action, and direct democracy, a form of democracy in which the people make decisions themselves via consensus (as opposed to representative democracy, of which the United States government is an example).

“I would define anarchism as the nonhierarchical, nonelectoral, direct-action-oriented form of revolutionary socialism,” Mark Bray, a lecturer at Dartmouth College and author of Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, tells Teen Vogue.

As the New York City-based anarchist group Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC), of which I’m a member, writes on its website it, “We demonstrate a vision for a society in fundamental opposition to the brutal logic of contemporary capitalism — a society based on mutual aid, cooperation, and radical democracy.”

Where did anarchism come from?

Anarchism has ancient roots, with the word itself stemming from the ancient Greek anarchos, or "without rulers," but it fully bloomed as a political philosophy in Europe and the United States during the 19th century. At the time, Communist thinker Karl Marx’s writings had become popular, and people were searching for alternatives to the capitalist system. The Paris Commune — a brief period in 1871 when Paris was controlled by anarchists and communists — helped spread the message of anarchism further, and inspired more young radicals to take up the cause, sometimes to violent effect when they embraced the philosophy of “propaganda by the deed.” By the early 20th century, anarchism had spread throughout the world, but government repression often made it difficult for anarchists to organize and achieve their goals.

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon is generally recognized as the first self-proclaimed anarchist, and his theories continue to influence anarchist thought today — if you’ve ever heard the phrase “property is theft,” that’s straight from Proudhon’s 1840 book What Is Property? But Proudhon was far from the only prominent thinker to advance the cause of anarchy. William Godwin’s 1793 treatise, An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice, is hailed as a classic of antistate, proto-anarchist thought. Other famous contributors to anarchism’s development include Peter Kropotkin, Mikhail Bakunin, Emma Goldman, Lucy Parsons, Voltairine De Cleyre, Max Stirner, Johann Most, Buenaventura Durruti, and Alexander Berkman. In addition to these names, countless others, whose identities have been lost to history, have helped refine and spread the ideology of anarchism. Today, anarchism is a fully global, intersectional philosophy, with particularly strong roots in Latin America, Spain, Germany, and, as of 2012, the Middle East, due to the 2012 Rojava Revolution in occupied Kurdistan.

How does anarchism intersect with other political philosophies?

Anarchism as a philosophy lends itself to many ideas. There is no one way to be an anarchist.

Classic anarchist traditions include mutualism, which is situated at the nexus of individual and collectivist thought; anarcho-communism, which favors community ownership of the means of production, and the abolishment of the state and capitalism; anarcho-syndicalism, which views unions, the working class, and the labor movement as potential forces for revolutionary change; and individualism, which has similarities with libertarianism, and emphasizes individual freedom above all. More recent, more post-modern schools of thought, including anarcha-feminism, Black anarchism, queer anarchism, green or eco-anarchism, and anarcho-pacifism, have found firm footing in today’s anarchist communities.

Anarcho-capitalism, which is interested in self-ownership and free markets, is much rarer, and is considered by most anarchists to be illegitimate because of anarchism’s inherent opposition to capitalism.

What is the difference between anarchism and communism?

“When [most people] think of communism, they inevitably think of the states that were formed in the 20th century based on various interpretations of Marxism-Leninism, and the difference between anarchism and those states and those theories and those ideas is their perspective on the state,” Bray tells *Teen Vogue. “In orthodox Marxist theory, the state is an institution that is politically neutral, and it can be used for different purposes, depending on which class controls it; therefore, the orthodox Marxist goal is to capture the state, turn it into a dictatorship of the proletariat, and suppress the capitalist class. Once they do that, the state will wither away and you’ll have communism. The anarchist argument is that the state is not neutral, it is inherently hierarchical, it is inherently an institution of domination; therefore, anarchists oppose the state as much as they oppose capitalism.

“Another important difference is that, historically, in Marxism, economics were the fundamental building block,” Bray continues, “whereas anarchists have historically formed a critique of domination and hierarchy that is broader and not as one-dimensional. Marxist-Leninist parties advocate a vanguard model of organizing with a small group at the top, and anarchists are about horizontal, directly democratic kinds of politics.”

How does antifascism intersect with anarchism?

Since fascism is an antidemocratic ideology that thrives on oppression, and anarchism is explicitly against oppression in all forms, and for direct democracy, anarchism is inherently antifascist (much like all anarchists are by necessity anti-police and anti-prison). Not all antifascists are anarchists, but all anarchists are antifascist, and have been fighting against fascist forces for centuries. During the Spanish Civil War, most of the country was under anarchist control, and thousands of anarchists joined the International Brigades, a volunteer militia numbering in the thousands, who traveled to Spain to fight against General Francisco Franco and his fascist forces. It’s no coincidence that there are black flags waving in many photos of masked antifa, who have been very active in widely resisting what they view as oppressive policies across the U.S.

How else has anarchism made an impact on pop culture?

“I am an antichrist, I am an anarchist!” Delivered in doomed Sex Pistols vocalist Johnny Rotten iconic snarl, that simple phrase struck fear in the hearts of respectable adults throughout Great Britain and traveled across the Atlantic to thrill America’s nascent punk rockers. “Anarchy in the U.K.,” the Sex Pistols’ lean, mean, irreverent debut single, sent shockwaves through the bloated 1970s rock scene — and introduced millions of angry young kids to the idea of anarchy as an option, or even an ideal. Although Sex Pistols songwriter John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon explained in the 2000 documentary The Filth and the Fury that he’d only brought up anarchy because he “couldn’t find a damn thing to rhyme” with “antichrist” (and later said in a 2012 interview that he’d never been an anarchist at all), the damage had already been done. Sid Vicious aside, anarchism has also made a broader impact on global pop culture, from the work of Noam Chomsky to Joe Hill’s union songs to Ursula K. Le Guin’s beloved anarchist sci-fi novels. Famed 1984 author George Orwell fought alongside anarchists in the Spanish Civil War; Irish playwright Oscar Wilde became an anarchist after reading the work of Peter Kropotkin; deaf and blind activist Helen Keller was a socialist who palled around with Emma Goldman and other anarchists. Countless bands and artists have drawn inspiration from anarchist ideas, from anarcho-punks Crass and crust-punk godfathers Amebix (whose 1982 song “No Gods, No Masters!” remains a rallying cry) to Rust Belt punks Anti-Flag, U.K. black metallers Dawn Ray’d, hip-hop artist MC Sole, and Laura Jane Grace-fronted indie punks Against Me! (who basically wrote anarchism’s unofficial theme song with 2002’s “Baby, I’m an Anarchist”).

Anarchist symbols like the black flag and the circle A are easily recognizable when scrawled on desks or spray-painted on walls, but they have also become ubiquitous in music and film, from SLC Punk to V for Vendetta to the punk rock slasher flick Green Room (though the biker-soap Sons of Anarchy has nothing to do with the political ideology itself). Even hip-hop queen Cardi B rocked a big circle A patch in the video for her smash hit “Bodak Yellow”.

Anarchism and anarchists are everywhere, and hopefully now you’ve got a better understanding of what they’re fighting for — and against.

Tags: MSMcategory: Essays
Categories: News

North Shore Counter-Info at Six Months: Trends so far and call for submissions

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 02:27


North Shore Counter-Info launched six months ago with the goal of serving as an online hub for anti-authoritarian and anti-capitalist ideas and actions in Southern Ontario. In that time, we’ve published 80 articles and dozens of events and comments, which feels like a pretty good start. The project launched the weekend of the Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair on March 3rd 2018 and proved its usefulness almost immediately, as the mini-riot that night left anarchists in that city with an urgent need for a secure, anonymous place to put forward analysis and discuss. Mainstream media stories about the Locke Street affair linked to communiques on North Shore, and we received tens of thousands of visits in our first week (we have since disabled all traffic analytics to increase user security).

We’re glad to have been able to provide that, however it has meant North Shore was associated from literally day one with the most combative and controversial aspects of our politics. We don’t intend to shy away from this, but it perhaps created a sense that we are exclusively focused on street action. We want to keep making space for a wide range of different kinds of activity – a goal of the project is to make visible the many kinds of organizing and action taking place across the region by encouraging people to tell the stories of what they’re up to. The recent post out of Peterborough offering a brief reportback on a fundraiser show, the reportback on anti-Canada Day activity in Guelph, or the banner drop at the same time in Kingston are all examples of reproducible, fun actions that put those crews in dialogue with others across the region.

In terms of geography, about half of the posts on North Shore are tagged “Hamilton”, with “Kingston”, “Toronto”, “Ontario”, and “Ottawa” making up most of the other half. One goal moving ahead will be to continue trying to involve people in cities and towns throughout the region. Want some North Shore stickers to put up in your area? Get in touch and we can mail some your way. Hosting a discussion, holding a rally, putting up some posters, intervening in a local struggle? Consider writing about your experience and sharing it – some people say their activity doesn’t feel “reportback-worthy”, but highlighting the creative and diverse ways people are acting on anarchistic ideas is what this project is all about.

As well, about three quarters of content on North Shore could broadly be termed action-based, grouping together reportbacks, analysis of actions, and calls to action. This is probably as it should be, but it can contribute to an activist mindset, where the urgency to act doesn’t leave much space for a broader look at strategy, context, and shifts in how power operates. We’ve been excited to receive some very good analysis pieces, such as the two-part series on Bill C-75, as well as some opinion pieces, like the one on refusing to vote for the NDP If you feel an urge to write content like this, either just go for it or get in touch first and pitch us the idea.

If you want to contribute content but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ideas for the kinds of things we would love to publish:

Reportbacks on things you might think don’t deserve it, like discussions or gatherings

General updates on your town and what kinds of struggles or tensions exist there

Analysis of larger political and social developments across Ontario or Canada

Answer back to mainstream media, providing a different take on events

Sharing resources, like poster and pamphlet designs or online graphics

Photo posts of interesting stickers, graffiti, posters, or banners

Another option if you don’t feel like writing a whole essay is to make use of comments on North Shore. Unlike some other counter-info websites, we feel that making it easy to respond to articles with a different perspective or further context is crucial. Commenting on North Shore is anonymous and comments are moderated before posting, so although that causes a delay, it also eliminates the “fuck you commie fags” comments and spam – (although we are saving our favourite high-quality hate mail for our scrapbooks).

Finding ways to expand discussion on the site and to encourage event submission is a goal of ours for challenging reliance on on social media. At the very least, we would like it to be possible for people to engage with movements locally without having to use these platforms which compromise our security and produce the most alienated forms of relating to one another. Submitting events and moving discussion here are great ways to contribute to building up North Shore as a grassroots communications infrastructure project. Ultimately, we are just a website, and want to strongly encourage anarchists and anti-authoritarians to prioritize building and maintaining face-to-face relationships and networks, which cannot be replaced on the internet, other than in impoverished forms.

Over the next six months, you can look forward to a redesign of the site that will hopefully improve its look and useability. As well, we will be experimenting with hosting video and audio content ourselves. Currently, we do not allow any embedded media as runs runs external scripts that can may use cookies or track IP addresses. But there is tons of value in such content, so finding security-conscious ways of presenting it will be a priority

If you have any reflections or suggestions, leave them below. North Shore is still quite new, but we intend to be around for years and want to grow into a useful tool in the fight against hierarchy and exploitation.

Tags: OntarioNorth Shorecategory: Essays
Categories: News

Shane: an undercover cop in Hamilton, ON

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 02:20

From an anonymous submission to North Shore Counter-Info

He was here – on and off – for about 2 years, first appearing in the Summer of 2016.

His name is “Shane”.

That’s his undercover name, and his real name. “Shane Bond”, is what he told us – with “us” being the different communities and circles in Hamilton he tried to infiltrate.

Shane was just another dude when he showed up. To be honest most of us didn’t take notice – at least not at first. There were no leading or intrusive questions. He didn’t incite divisive arguments or spread gossip. He was quiet – maybe even boring. And while he did persistently harass some women in our community to grab a beer despite rejection it didn’t scream “cop” so much as misogyny – an experience that’s unfortunately still somewhat normal in our circles.

To those who engaged or paid attention, Shane presented himself as a bicycle riding part-time painter, complete with a shitty ‘supercycle’ bike and painting pants. He had an apartment at 20 Emerald Street North – a Hamilton Housing building for folks with low income – that was furnished with a leather couch, some photos, and some paintings. Shane had “a girlfriend” who “worked at a private day care” who no one met, and a muscular feminine presenting friend with below-shoulder length brown hair “from Dundas” who came to at least one event.

Shane’s arrival came after several years of dedicated anti-pipeline organizing and heightened anti-gentrification efforts. He was known to attend The Tower for events and socials, Hamilton 350 meetings, anti-pipeline events and a handful of public demos including an antiracist rally and a solidarity demo at barton jail.

Mostly, but not completely, Shane failed at his job.

For all the time he spent here trying to build relationships and ins he didn’t get far. It took some time to connect with people who interacted with Shane, verify their stories, and write this text but with some reflection we know that Shane didn’t have much more to offer his higher-ups than that which any casual observer could. He wasn’t successful in his intended infiltration. The only exception to this was that after having been around for two years, he was in the right place at the right time. Shane was shown a flyer for a demonstration against gentrification on Locke Street, which he attended, and he appears to be giving evidence against people charged in connection with it.

Ultimately Shane was best at was avoiding cameras – or at least ours. We had a hard time finding a picture of him. But as it turns out; back in 2011 Rick Mercer hung out with Hamilton Police and Shane – a then-yellow-jacketed ACTION cop – made a promo video with Mercer where you can see him shortly after minute 2:12. Since embarrassing shit never really disappears from the internet, we grace you all with his rat goof face anyway.

In His Words: Shane’s Backstory

Shane told folks he was from Saskatoon and BC. He seemed to know a good amount about both places, including detailed climate and geography. He said he painted part-time and sometimes attended events “right after work” in painter’s pants. His apartment was mostly-furnished, had art on the walls “painted by his mom” and what we understood to be personal photographs. He said he enjoyed loose-leaf tea – but almost always had shitty steeped tea with him.

At one point Shane went somewhere during his undercover operation here in Hamilton for approximately 6 months. Whether that was to actually be by his mom’s side in BC as she died, as he explained, or to infiltrate another community, we don’t know – but we strongly encourage those organizing around gentrification or pipelines to share his photo and any experiences they’ve had with him.

What we do know is that Shane isn’t the only undercover cop working throughout Turtle Island; if you’re doing anti-pipeline organizing or other rad organizing, then expect and plan for the possibility of this kind of infiltration and surveillance too. We know it can be tempting to dismiss or rationalize otherwise – but this isn’t just happening in the U.S. or abroad. This isn’t just happening in BC. And it’s not just happening in the lead up to summits. The state is throwing their resources towards effective organizing against industry and the state – period.


Shane’s political analysis was lacking and never really evolved despite attending workshops and events. He’d often try to relay ideas or sentiments using common terms or slang, but out of context. The result was abrupt, unsettling interactions like a sudden proclamation of “I’m so glad I’ve found someone else who hates the pigs!”

He was also seen more than once hovering around an area or group of folks listening in on conversations, and when he returned from his “trip to BC” Shane could recognize and recall people’s names perfectly, whether they’d previously conversed much or not.


Recently the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network (MISN) released a great reflection on their experiences & reflections with an undercover in Toronto. It talks a bit more in depth about how some indicators may not be enough to warrant expulsion from a community, but certainly a good reason to get to know someone more. Importantly, it also talks about ways we might be able to identify and confirm undercover. It’s worth reading.

Another pic is available on the North Shore page

Tags: hamiltonundercovercategory: Other
Categories: News

New Anarchist Publication! "entanglement: on anarchism & individualism"

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 01:51
 on anarchism & individualism"

We are excited to announce the release of a book-length writing project called “entanglement: on anarchism and individualism.”

From the introduction:
“What you hold in your hands is an experiment in collective analysis and writing. It is also a critical engagement with the place individualism does hold and/or should hold in anarchism.
Initially, one person asked some friends to come together and co-create a collection of texts against individualism. Whether the project is actually against individualism is still up for debate. We’ve done a lot of playing with language and some of us prefer “on individualism” or “critically engaging with individualism.” In reality, it is all of those things and also other things too – defenses of duty and futurity, critiques of some old philosophers, calls to reconsider oppression and social position, some explorations of the interdependence of all forms of life, and thoughts on our wider interstellar context.”

Entanglement is a collection of five pieces that critically engage with individualist politics in anarchism and anarchist communities. They are:
A defense of responsibility, duty, and sacrifice;
A critique of Nietzschean anti-morality and a reflection on anarchist ethics;
A story that weaves together many of the interdependent threads that make us up, and along the way looks at the feminist rejections and hypervalorizations of care, and what they have in common;
A critique of Stirner and egoism; and,
An exploration of what it means to understand our relationships as the basis of our freedom, rather than something which limits its possibilities.

To find it online check out For paper copies, write to us at!

Tags: individualismegoismstirnercategory: Projects
Categories: News

Callout for international Solidarity from the “Hambacher Forst”

Fri, 09/07/2018 - 01:30

source: contrainfo

Callout for international Solidarity from the “Hambacher Forst”

Right now a large scale police action in the Hambach Forest occupation is taking place! The protest camp fighting against energy company RWEs destruction of land and climate must be sustained until the last tree is standing! The eviction of the occupation is coming ever closer, and the struggle is becoming clearer every day now.

Climate change does not stop at the borders, and neither does our movement! Therefore we are calling for actions of solidarity to take place all over Germany, all over Europe, and all over the world!

The Hambach Forest occupation has become a focal point in the struggle for climate justice worldwide, and now, as we are preparing for the struggle to come, we need all your support!

So whether you are climate activists, anarchists, anti­police­brutality organizers, or you simply believe in fighting for justice, the callout is clear:

Organize yourself, take action, and show your solidarity!

Tags: hambach forestanarchists in trouble
Categories: News

An Anarchism of the Working-Class

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 14:07

by Miriam Pickens, via The Institute for Anarchist Studies

I appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place. This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces. Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.

Williams’ pamphlet is made up of three essays: “My Anarchism,” “Whither Anarchism?” and “Conclusion: Revolutions, Scientific and Otherwise.”

In Williams’ first essay, “My Anarchism,” he shares his belief that “the core of anarchism [is] to be captured in the proposition that decisions must be made by those most affected by them.” He further states that “that belief, in turn, relies on a pair of values, those of freedom and equality.” He develops his understanding of these values by defining equality as meaning “that we are all equally human, and equally entitled to the respect and consideration worthy of a human being.”(3-4) He stresses that “[B]y freedomI mean simply that people can live their lives without interference, arranging their affairs according to their own best judgment – and . . . enjoy practical opportunities to widen the scope of their possible activities.” (4-5)

These are the values Williams cites as the basis of the society he wants. I agree with these values. I understand that there has never been a society that embodies these ideals, so I see them as something to strive and to fight for. I see them as values that our current system, world capitalism, gives lip-service to, but defines in a way that does not value people as equals and that limits our freedoms so that we cannot even conceive of freedom in the same way we would if we were free. That is, our understandings and consciousness are also determined and limited by the system we live within, something Williams understands. We should know that we can grow and develop beyond our current understanding of what is possible.

The attainment of these ideals is also collective. We not only cannot gain them as individuals, we cannot experience them individually. The denial of these rights is systemic and collective. Therefore, our fight for them must also be system-wide and collective.

Williams centers the relationship that control of resources has to power by stating that

“The accumulation of resources brings with it a large measure of power, and to the degree that this power is accepted as legitimate, authority as well. Likewise, the accumulation of power grants one the ability to acquire and control additional resources. Sometimes this power is used to directly coerce individual people, but more routinely its application is impersonal, establishing policies and making choices which shape the conditions under which we all must live.” He develops the impersonal and structural nature of capitalism by showing that “even those at the very top often feel their decisions to be dictated by the internal logic of the system itself.” (5)

Williams ties power and authority, the ability to give/take away freedom and equality, to the control of resources. I agree with this. It is why I think our fight has to center around the fight for material resources and to be centered within those who need the resources and are fighting for them. I call this the working class in its most inclusive definition. That is, not just people who have jobs, but also including the families and communities that are also without power, without capital, and who have resources withheld from them.

I do not think we have to limit our fights to these issues, however. In fact, I think we need to take on the entire social complexity that limits or diminishes us. But our basic struggle is for resources: land, food, shelter, clean air and water, public space, time, along with the respect and dignity due us as human beings. Williams breaks down the arguments of the inevitability of the way things are by separating organization from hierarchy. “[I]f society is to survive there must be some means of organization, but our organizations need not be hierarchical and need not be driven by the profit motive.” (6)

Williams spends quite a bit of time laying out his vision of how a new society might be organized: “as a decentralized network of democratically-run institutions and voluntary associations.” He sees the need for flexibility by stating that “there may yet be some sorts of activities most effectively or efficiently pursued by creating a single central clearing house, or adopting a level of standardization, or appointing a steering committee. Leadership, supervision, and even coercive authority may sometimes still be necessary. The important thing is that any such position, or the exercise of such power, would need to be understood as requiring at every stage a kind of justification.” His vision clearly states that “the democratization of both power and resources would spell an end to capitalism and class society. So too would it mean an end to the state . . . and also demand of us all that we eliminate any stratification based on race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, ancestry, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, or any other prejudicial or extraneous consideration.”(6-7)

What Williams does not say is that the active fight for revolution, for a violent overthrow of the capitalist system, is what would provide the basis for the type of society he outlines. A new society does not just result, nor does democratization happen, without a fight. It is in the course of this struggle that change occurs, both in the minds of the people doing the struggling and in the concrete circumstances of their lives.

Reading Whither Anarchism?, I appreciate the way Williams unmasks the subtleties of how we are impacted by the society we live in. For instance, I came of age politically in the 1960s and 70s, when a mass movement was alive in our cities and streets, everyday working-class people were reading, discussing, and thinking about the big issues of the state, revolution, and the role of organization. My early development as a Jewish-Communist child in 1950s Compton, California led me to value the organization and collective activity of working-class people. I saw multiracial groups challenging both the large and small expressions of oppression and power. I was a part of picket lines, demonstrations large and small, and cultural gatherings that were multiracial, of all ages, and from all parts of the world. We were united in our opposition to “the system,” although my childish understanding was far from complex or nuanced.

My activity inside Marxist organizations (Independent Socialist Clubs, International Socialists, Revolutionary Socialist League) and my thirty years inside a Detroit auto factory put me in the middle of a movement that sought to understand and challenge power.

We incorporated insights gained from the Black freedom struggle, feminism, the emerging gay movements, and the intersectionality of the Black women’s movement, and used them to broaden and deepen our ideas of “the working class,” so that we spoke of the working class as specifically not only white men, but of all races, all genders, and all orientations. We began to develop understandings of how skilled workers and their families were given more middle-class opportunities, better housing and education, than those workers on the bottom. We saw how demands for “respectability” were used to control and contain our movements and to divide our class. We focused our attention on the lowest paid workers, with the idea that if they get their needs met, all the rest would too.

Williams says that “our habits of difference and entitlement may rule us more subtly and thus more firmly, and may prove the greater obstacle to our own liberation. Equality, in other words, must be alive in our minds as a positive ideal. It is not merely the absence of inequality or subordination. It requires a new sociability, perhaps a new subjectivity, formed both within and between us as we work together to re-order society and discover new ways of relating – as we, in short, learn both to exercise and to respect freedom.” (7)

This does not happen in a vacuum, nor simply because we want it to though. These power relations are understood and overturned in the course of struggling together for common goals, where the exercise of power between people gets in the way and limits our struggles. We are forced to break out of old habits, because they hold us back. It is this understanding that girds us to fight for everyone’s freedom and equality, not just because it is our values, but because our own freedom and equality, our chance to survive, develop and grow, depends upon it.

In some ways, Williams recognizes this:

“For as social barriers fall, as the stigma of inequality fades, our ability to relate to one another improves, becomes more natural, less fraught. We all profit from the contact with a wider array of perspectives, experiences, insights. The creation of this sort of society, or anything like it, would require a kind of revolution, and that is true no matter what means are used to bring it about. For revolution denotes the extent of social change, not the method for achieving it. Progress will come erratically, unevenly, and not according to anyone’s timetable. Likely it will not even look like a revolution as it unfolds, but as a series of crises, small miracles, wrenching compromises, painful defeats, stupid missteps, heroic sacrifices, frustrating reversals, bold experiments, regrettable excesses, ridiculous half-measures, reckless gambles, and righteous refusals – until finally, slowly, the overall shape of the new society begins to emerge, and the direction of events becomes clear.” (10)

Williams’ view of revolution here seems unreal to me, as if we live in a vacuum. Where is the ruling class, with all its police and armies, in this scenario? What are they doing while we are building our new society? They are attacking us, dividing us, killing us. They are fighting our revolutionary movement with all the resources available to them! If we are not prepared to meet their violence with all the resources at our command – our organization, unity, our vision, along with a practical material struggle – we will certainly lose. Our revolution is a form of self-defense. We must withhold the labor and resources they take from us. We must organize strategically and tactically to fight them: for resources, including land, territory, food, water, what we need to survive. Do not think this will not be violent. On their part, willful violence, as we have seen our whole lives, taken out on individuals as police murders, on communities as the bombing of the MOVE organization in Philadelphia showed, on the taking of entire countries and land. On our part, an armed defense of ourselves, our families, our communities, our neighborhoods, our land, our revolution. Power is never given away. It must be taken. This is not a gradual unfolding, this is a wrenching away, a destruction of the state apparatus, a burning of prisons and records of debt. The existing power must be destroyed root and branch before we can gradually build anything. When we encourage people to join our fight and do not prepare for this, we are being negligent and dishonest. This is an either-or situation. We cannot have a free society as long as capitalism continues to exist.

One of the main lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is that seizing state power is not enough. They ended up with capitalism controlled by the state in the name of “the worker’s state.” Despite its names and propaganda, it remained capitalist, and unfree. Power, hierarchical relations, must be destroyed, not taken over or redirected or given to someone else. Our attempts will be violently resisted, and we must be prepared.

My experience with Marxists is that they were always analyzing capitalism, but that anarchists almost never had discussions about the economy, its direction, and how it affects the ways we need to focus our struggles. Marxists, however, tend to fit what they see into predetermined boxes and that almost always leads them to support the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie. As anarchists we are trying to promote a view that our enemy is the entire capitalist class, both its reactionary and its reformist elements, including its state capitalist manifestations, like the former Soviet Union. In fact, it is the reformist element we need to watch out for in particular ways, as it is always trying to rope us in to support of its section of the ruling class. At this point in time, the reactionary section is letting loose and is enabling the organization and development of a mass fascist base. We need a theory that can put us in opposition to both sections and strategies of the capitalist class, reformist and reactionary.

I began to identify as an anarchist after meeting anarchists during the 2011 Occupy movement. I agreed with how their expressions of antiauthoritarianism resonated within me and how they talked about not just seizing state power, but doing away with the state, and with hierarchy and power relations as a whole. I joined First of May Anarchist Alliance (M1) as an intentional revolutionary group and through that, the Direct Action Committee of Occupy. We focused our energies on an ongoing struggle in Detroit to keep people in their homes. We used direct action tactics such as blocking streets with dumpsters and laying down in the doorways of banks. We also used social media and, of most importance, direct democratic forms of organization and participation. We fought hard against elitists and saviors, many nonprofits and Democratic Party representatives, who wanted to take leadership of our movement. We insisted that no one is coming to save us and that it was the people affected who must decide the best ways forward. We argued that direct democratic meetings with open participation was the best way to ensure that people affected could voice their concerns and determine their course of action. It was the homeowners losing their homes, their friends, family and communities who came out to support and defend our fight. Detroit Eviction Defense exists today as a result of that effort. Not just anarchists, of course. Union people, social democrats, Marxists, radicals and liberals, all ages, races, and genders came together to fight for material needs: housing. The neoliberal plan for Detroit has included turning homeowners into tenants. We fight this.

Williams recognizes that his vision of a new society is “related to how the new society is to be brought about. How can it be defended and sustain itself? How are disputes to be settled? How do we prevent new tyrannies from arising? I think we have to say that we don’t have answers to these questions. And I agree with Williams that “to translate our ideals into reality requires a strategy. It will not be enough to rely on our ethical sense and our desire for freedom.” (11-12) The need for a strategy to prevent the reemergence of capitalism is precisely why a revolutionary anarchist organization is necessary. To set out from the beginning our commitment to going all the way to defeat capitalism. We must have confidence that in the course of struggle, people will learn and develop skills that will enable them to define a new way of living that promotes a new culture.

In his second essay, “Whither Anarchism?,” Williams focuses on the history of anarchism in the United States in the 20thcentury, observing that “What was once a mass movement based mainly in working-class immigrant communities is now an archipelago of subcultural scenes inhabited largely by disaffected young people from the declining middle class.” (13) Williams uses Andrew Cornell’s Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century and Spencer Sunshine’s dissertation, “Post-1960 U.S. Anarchism and Social Theory,” as guides to his discussion of how this change occurred.

Williams points out that “American anarchism . . . saw itself as a movement of the working class, fighting for the liberation of humanity from capitalism and the state, and it presented the labor union as the means by which workers could both overturn capitalism and organize the future society.” He stresses that the Wobblies, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), were the primary organization pushing this agenda in the early 20thcentury, “But the Red Scare of 1917-1920 all but destroyed the IWW, and with it the movement.” What this resulted in was

“What remained of syndicalism was occupied primarily with legal defense, and other anarchists came to focus more on education and creating counter institutions, rather than mass organizing. Hence, anarchists were on the sidelines during the upheavals of the 1930s. Then, during the Second World War, the remaining movement split over the question of militarism, with pacifism becoming the dominant strain. At the same time, increasingly much of anarchist activity was in the cultural sphere, and the movement became wedded to the emerging counterculture.”

All of this resulted in the type of anarchism all-too-familiar today, with, as Williams quotes Andy Cornell observing “[R]eadings, performances, and exclusive parties (having) moved to the center of anarchist praxis.” (14) Williams concludes by lamenting that “Anarchists deserted the class war at precisely the moment that the largest number of workers were clamoring to enlist in it.”(15)

This “desertion of the class war” was also the result of immigrants, primarily seeking to be identified as “white,” establishing themselves on the upper levels of the working class as skilled workers and in the lower rungs of the middle class, as educated professionals. This represented an acceptance of capitalism and a value system that put themselves above, and different from, other workers. The failure to demand that the whole class move forward is an acceptance of the capitalist program of divide and rule, giving white workers benefits and securities not allowed people of color who were also working class. Racism, intertwined with the capitalist system, allowed the ruling class to co-opt sections of the working class without protest by anarchists. The communists also accepted many ruling class divisions and elitist practices, but they fought racism and valued that fight, even while some of their pro-capitalist policies misled many struggles, primarily by supporting pro-capitalist forces inside the movement (popular front support for politicians) and limiting the struggle of the workers themselves (no strike pledges during WW2).

It was easier for the immigrant communities to fight for assimilation and cultural ease than to maintain a struggle and identification with the entire working class, made up of many different races and ethnicities. They gave up on their “all or none” motto, which led to their defeat.

Unfortunately, Williams keeps his analysis to the US. As a result, he misses out on one of the greatest bodies of anarchist work, the Spanish Civil War. Here, in the crucible of struggle, we can learn from the situations faced by anarchists, what might work again, and what are now obvious failings and mistakes. It is in struggle that we learn. We can and should theorize, discuss, write. But to remove this process from the struggle itself and from the people doing the actual work, is to miss the point of theory as well as to miss the opportunity to test our theories in the real world.

Williams takes issue with the anarchist emphasis on prefiguration, which he identifies originating with the influence of pacifism, which “locked the anarchist movement in a particular ‘prefigurative’ orientation.”(15) Williams shows how this orientation has limited our movement, resulting in an attempt to compensate for our underdeveloped politics with an overdeveloped moralism, and anarchists (becoming) preoccupied with the minutiae of individual choice rather than organizing collective action.”(16)

The heart of prefiguration, in my mind, is that we can act as if we are free and thereby become free. But Williams argues that:

“Freedom cannot simply be chosen, it must be created. Were we capable of behaving as we would in a society without capitalism and the state, then there would be no need to abolish either. Instead, it is only possible to act as free and equal beings under conditions of freedom and equality; we cannot create those conditions simply by pretending they exist” He therefore argues that an emphasis on prefiguration “turns our attention away from the structural features of our society and toward the moral character of individuals within the movement.” (16)

I agree with Williams. The anarchist scene is very much as he describes it, and “not on the whole a place where sensible people would want to live.”(16) There is also almost a fear of reaching out to working class communities – a desire to remain on the other side of the professional desk – a willingness to do service for, but a reluctance to organize with, working class communities, as equals in our common struggle. This is defended as “being allies” or as ”letting the ones affected lead” or “whites can only support people of color, not put out counter ideas.” This is an approach that guarantees the separation of the class, because it absolves one section (white) of taking responsibility for the whole class. It also results in tokenizing people of color, and allows for a cult of celebrity, with people being accepted and promoted as “leaders” without a constructive dialogue and debate. We should counterpose a leadership of ideas so that leadership and direction become collective endeavors.

Williams describes the movement of the 1970s by highlighting the radical pacifist Movement for a New Society, noting its activity in anti-war, environmental, and anti-nuclear work, brought “an explicitly anti-racist, feminist, class-conscious perspective.” But, he observes,

“After a few decades of pacifist-anarchist cross-pollination. . .we are left with the structure and culture of the pacifist movement without its commitment to nonviolence . . . There is an ethos common to all surviving brands of anarchism . . . It consists of a prefigurative insistence on modeling in our lives and our communities the values and practices of the society we wish to create; a ritualized emphasis on ‘direct action’ tactics . . . a strong affinity for . . . a specific subculture or counterculture, and a tendency to view ourselves as outside of and apart from society as a whole.” (17-18)

While this all may be true, this discussion excludes Black anarchists, who cut their teeth in the Black freedom movement, women and gay anarchists who fought for their right to be open and self-defined, Latinx anarchists who fought for their right to stolen land, etc. all within movements of that same period – the 1970s—that are largely ignored by white anarchists. So who gets to call themselves an anarchist and claim traditions?

Williams continues, using Sunshine’s dissertation, to examine the course of anarchist thought, with Sunshine complaining that: “Anarchist theory has become detached from its foundations in Classical Anarchism and instead has increasingly relied on ideas borrowed from other traditions, re-oriented toward anti-state conclusions. Anarchists fostered cooperation with other radicals, and even liberals, where it was possible to find common ground.” This ran parallel with the phenomenon of action taking “precedence over ideology.” Williams sees all this resulting in this “formalist anarchism-as-practice-not-theory approach (reaching) its logical conclusion in the 2011 Occupy movement. There the focus on how activists do things completely eclipsed any consideration of what they were doing or why . . . with no coherent strategy or even agreed-upon aims.” (20-21)

After a discussion of the larger changes within anarchism and the world, Williams notes that “Anarchists stopped thinking of themselves as a social force potentially capable of organizing millions of people, destroying the existing power structure, and reconstituting society. The anarchist vision shrank, from the One Big Union and the General Strike, to the affinity group and the poetry reading.”(23)

Despite all this, Williams looks to the future. He believes “current attempts to create broad, public, formal anarchist organizations,” such as the Black Rose Anarchist Federation/Federación Anarquista Rosa Negra, and the May First Anarchist Alliance, are a “hopeful sign,” because they “represent efforts to raise anarchism up from the underground, to break it out of its subcultural confines, and to engage again with the public at large without the mediating filter of the black mask.” While encouraged by the formation and work of these organizations, he cautions that, “while new organizations may be needed, they are clearly not all that is needed. For they will inevitably have to answer in practice the exact questions that anarchism has been evading with its peculiarly patchwork approach to theory. Capitalism, the state, social stratification, and the left have all changed – and both our theories and our movements need to address themselves to those changes.” (24-25)

For this task, Williams thinks the “place any new anarchist theory should start is with re-centering the old ideals of freedom and equality.” (25) He recognizes that “the very attempt at reformulation would demand a fundamental shift in anarchism as it is presently conceived, as essentially a philosophy of refusal. The negative formulation of anarchism is responsible for a lot of our present theoretical underdevelopment.” (26) Williams concludes his second essay with the warning that “Without substantive changes within anarchism, it will never produce another revolution, much less a new society.”(32)

In his final essay, “Conclusion: Revolutions, Scientific and Otherwise,” Williams outlines the scientific method of Thomas Kuhn, which takes account of evidence and incorporates anomalies into a coherent system. In contrast to the method of Kuhn, Williams writes, anarchists are prone to

“simply ignoring the evidence that does not fit.”(33)He describes our current movement as having “entered a phase that Kuhn did not describe, in which one paradigm has collapsed, but no new paradigm has replaced it. All that remains are propositions and platitudes, lacking any unifying structure, common premises, shared vocabulary, or agreed-upon methodology. What once promised to become a coherent philosophy capable of inspiring individuals, guiding a broad movement, and restructuring society, has become instead a collection of unsorted half-remembered, often borrowed axioms and arcane cultural practices delineating a self-limiting in-group.”(33-35)Williams’ main point is “that we must reinvigorate our tradition, beginning with a careful and demanding examination of our own premises.”(35)

Williams thinks that “the revolution in anarchist thought will emerge, if at all, from a loose association of politically engaged scholars in sustained dialogue, building on one another’s theories, challenging each other’s ideas, considering questions and addressing problems that sometimes overlap and sometimes dovetail.” To do this, “what we need is an intellectual community, joined together not by points of common doctrine, but by a shared commitment to developing and refining our thinking.”(36) But this is

“almost the opposite of the political culture that we inhabit. The culture that we actually have is one characterized by norms borrowed from fundamentalism: the tendency to assume conclusions at the outset, to disregard contrary evidence, to refuse to consider competing views, to cast all those who disagree as mortal enemies, to transmute every issue into a test of virtue, to ignore all nuance and flatten all complexity and deny even the possibility of doubt. This approach is limiting in innumerable ways. It prevents us from hearing each other, from taking in new information, from challenging ourselves, from learning. We can still cast aspersions, dismissively sneer, talk past one another, or prejudge arguments without considering them. But we have lost the ability to properly disagree. Nearly every political discussion begins and ends as an exercise in cementing or policing group loyalties.”(36)

Williams continues, “It is not enough to develop the ideas, we need also to develop the thinkers who are ready for the ideas . . . We have to create the structures that will enable us to re-learn the necessary intellectual skills and to circulate, scrutinize, and refine our theories about the world . . . such intellectual work is part of how political agency is formed, common interests discovered, and solidarity built.” (37)

Williams ends by asserting that “if anarchism is to thrive, either as a political force or as a body of thought, we will first need to take on the arduous task of creating the circumstances under which honesty is possible, and decency expected, and critical thinking part of the common work of the movement.” (40)

I like that Williams is advocating for the opening of discussion, and recentering our primary values, and defining them. We are for freedom; we mean this to be for all people, without exception. We are for equality as human beings. Each of us deserves respect, to be treated fairly. We are against authoritarianism: bosses, masters, supervisors. None of this is possible under capitalism; we can attempt to treat each other rightly, but there are many structural indignities and unfairness, including the ones we have internalized.

But I part with Williams in that I don’t think we can leave this intellectual work only to “scholars,” unless we are clearly stating that working-class people can be included in this category of intellectuals and thinkers. Our society has limited this category of thinkers to the middle class and has not allowed working class people the time, energy or support to fully participate. As a result, the people most affected are not the ones whose ideas are accepted. Middle-class scholars are eager to substitute themselves for the working class. I am not against academics and those who make their livelihood within the realm of learning and teaching, however, I do think they need to be clear on the class basis from which they see the world. Theory will be developed by discussion, as Williams outlines, but who is doing this theorizing? If it is not working-class people engaged in working class struggle, it remains the province of an elitist middle class seeking, as always, to control, speak for, represent, and substitute themselves for the working class.

A leadership of ideas, rather than a leadership of cult celebrities, can cut through a lot of the pretension of the current anarchist movement, as described so aptly by Williams. However, we need people who are committed to organizing for these ideas, taking responsibility within the movements of which we are a part. In fact, this is a part of how we test our ideas against reality, refining our understanding of splits and differences within the capitalist class, evaluating which existing pressure points are to our advantage, etc.

Because of racism and ongoing segregation, white anarchists in the US often don’t look at people of color. They talk about themselves and each other as if their experience is universal. People of color, in turn, are themselves tokenized and their experiences discounted. This has led to a segregation of the movement which will doom us to defeat if it is not corrected. Fascists in the US include the Klan. They have terrorized African Americans through mob action, lynching, rape, murder, stealing businesses and homes, running them out of public space, with calling the police on them only being the current iteration. Yet when anarchists come out against fascists, as Antifa, they don’t even talk about this history. They talk about Nazi Germany and Europe. When Mark Bray wrote Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, he didn’t say anything about people who fought the Klan. He presented a very Eurocentric view of fascism. Why don’t we identify fascism in this country and fight it? Why don’t we join with African Americans who are fighting the Klan, and the police, and develop an understanding that this is the same struggle?

A final point of difference I have with Williams is that I don’t think revolution is a slow chipping away at power. I think a revolutionary upsurge must take power away from the bourgeoisie, and smash that power, do away with it: root and branch. This is violent, and it must go all the way. Any small hesitation will allow the reaction to overpower our forces and turn back our attempts to take power. History shows us, from the days of Versailles, that the streets will run with our blood if we neglect this.

Anarchism needs to be pulled back to its working-class roots, to its involvement in material struggles, to its direct condemnation of all attacks on the entire, international working class and all of its most vulnerable sections. Capitalism must be identified as the systemic cause of the violence, oppression, lack of freedom and equality experienced by all people. When this system is abolished, by the direct action of the working class of the world, we will have begun to lay a basis for true freedom and a possibility of living our lives as we freely choose.

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The Brilliant Podcast Episode 78: Layla AbdelRahim

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 23:17

From The Brilliant

Layla is a pleasure to talk to and so the fact that she is in this series of podcasts is a bit of a misnomer. Which is not to say that we agree so much as to say that our disagreements aren't the focus of our conversation here. I'm happy to, and ended up, set Layla up to present her ideas and projects for the general anarchist space. I think they are interesting and more importantly, how she came to this place is very interesting. That is the bulk of this episode.

That said, if I were going to try to articulate how I think we should disagree with each other I'd start with information/data. Most of the "hot takes" I see on social media and whatnot start a disagreement off my misrepresenting someone else's position. Layla is a vegan anarcho-primitivist but I am not, in fact, interested enough in either topic (especially from the perspective of trying to somehow win them) to talk about them. But Layla is interested especially in how these principles (or ideologies depending on your point of view) apply to children, raising children, and literature around children. This is very interesting to me (especially as a non-breeder) and I really appreciated the chance to think about something deep and different than I would normally absolutely fulfilling.

Check out Layla in her own words
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We appreciate correspondence

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The Hotwire #35: September 5, 2018

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 22:51

From CrimethInc.

Trans Mountain pipeline paused—Chemnitz: antifa block Nazis—fuck a school board

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In this Hotwire we bring you two interviews: one from an anarchist organizer involved in indigenous-led anti-pipeline struggles in Canada about the recent announcement that construction will be halted on the Trans Mountain Pipeline; and we speak with an anti-fascist who was on the streets of Chemnitz, Germany on Saturday when anti-fascists blocked the latest Nazi mobilization there. We also ruminate on common sense anti-racism, whether political campaigns figure into anarchist strategy, and an anarchist approach to school dress code policies. There are plenty of updates from the #PrisonStrike and LOTS of announcements for action in September, so listen until the end! Send us news, events, or ideas on how our show can better serve anarchist activity in your town by emailing us at

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Categories: News

Anarchy Radio 09-04-2018

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 21:47


Caller-host etiquette, the Mighty international reach of Anarchy Radio. JZ reads BAGR submissions on human nature and outreach. Resistance news (mostly ALF). Anti-Pinker "Rise of Organized Brutality' by Sinisa Malesevic. Birds on Prozac, thickest Arctic sea ice melting. Google moderates 2 billion, its Smart Reply thinks, replies for us. Kids conditioned by robots.

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Under the Radar: review of A People's History of Civilization

Wed, 09/05/2018 - 19:53


by Doug Harvey

I first realized I was an “anarchist”—somebody who doesn’t believe in government—when I first heard the word, probably when I was 11, right around the same time I figured out I was an “artist.” (I didn’t have to look that one up, though I probably should’ve.) I didn’t know what kind of an anarchist I was, though, until I first ran across, then started searching out the writings of John Zerzan, whose most recent book—A People’s History of Civilization—was one of the last titles released by Feral House before our friend, the publisher Adam Parfrey died.

I learned that I was in fact an “anarcho-primitivist”—somebody who thinks that our species took a potentially fatal wrong turn somewhere around, oh I don’t know, agriculture?

Through Zerzan and his ilk I learned that I was in fact an “anarcho-primitivist”—somebody who thinks that our species took a potentially fatal wrong turn somewhere around, oh I don’t know, agriculture? It seems hard to imagine in the digitally mediated labyrinth through which we all wander aimlessly these days, but for millions of years humans—whose brains were as highly evolved as yours and mine—lived in peaceful equilibrium with the planet—without cops, tax collectors, real estate agents, chief curators, deans of academic affairs, or presidents of the United States of America.

Despite discursive roots extending back to Henry David Thoreau’s proto-ecologism or even Rousseau’s “noble savage,” anarcho-primitivism is subject to the same tsunami of programmatic institutional contempt that faces any philosophical postulate that doesn’t have the preservation of tenure as an inviolable—if unspoken—core tenet. Call it the “Shut up, stupid hippy!” defense.
Yet some of the most intellectually brilliant nonacademic literary/philosophical statements of our time—from Ursula Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching to Gary Snyder’s The Practice of the Wild to Feral House author Theodore Kaczynski’s Industrial Society and Its Future—are anarcho-primitivist classics, and considerably more persuasive and coherent than anything that has emerged from the academy since at least the early 1970s.

To this list we can tentatively add A People’s History of Civilization—tentatively, because I feel that Zerzan’s magnum opus—A Child’s Introduction to Anarcho-Primitivism maybe—could still be forthcoming. Like most of Zerzan’s half-dozen books, this is a collection of autonomous essays jostling around an ostensibly unifying theme. In this case the perennial question you may ask yourself: “Well, how did I get here?”

Zerzan’s answer: one authoritarian revolution at a time, dragging your feet all the way. Civilization literally means citification, so Zerzan begins by pointing out that “the move from forager to farmer, the move to domestication of plants and animals—and ourselves—was the most deeply qualitative shift in the history of our species.”

Proceeding step by step from the Neolithic forward, Zerzan meticulously places the blame for citification’s discontents—including hetero-patriarchal normativism, urban isolationism, oligarchical privilege, warfare, lousy sex and crappy consumer goods—squarely at the feet of their host organism, and its reproductive mechanism: the exponentially metastasizing parasitical alien intelligence known as Technology.

Zerzan swings between detailing little-known historical episodes of resistance (the Luddite uprisings in early 19th-century England), providing skeptical, citation-rich counter-narratives to schoolbook historiographies (The Fall of the Roman Empire; the causes of WWI), and ranting, with tangible frustration, about what he clearly considers to be the self-evident truths underlying the perfect storm of ecological, socio-political, psychological and epistemological crises into which we are currently steering. One more load of swordfish and everything will be okay, right Marky Mark? Aye, Cap’n Clooney! Full speed ahead!

Where was I? Oh yeah, epistemology. One of the major hitches in anarcho-primitivist discourse (apart from using the internet—or indeed, the printing press—to disseminate it) lies in the fact that, taken to its logical conclusion, anarcho-primitivism has to challenge the validity and authenticity of the very cognitive tools with which its critique is constructed—the abstract symbolic languages that emerged in the Neolithic as the building blocks of capital-H History.

Zerzan gamely tackles this paradox in his penultimate chapter, the jauntily titled “Civilization’s Pathological Endgame,” but it is in his brief afterword that he hits nonlinear paydirt. I find it comforting that in spite of his assertion that Art is an inadequate consolation prize for our demolished communality, the cover design uses an image of the accumulated prehistoric handprint-stencils on the walls of the Cueva de las Manos in Santa Cruz, Argentina to signify pre-industrial community (countered by a flock of chickens awaiting slaughter; us now).

In his “Concluding Anti-History Postscript,” Zerzan reproduces a much more recent artwork—Paul Klee’s 1920 monoprint Angelus Novus—alongside Walter Benjamin’s celebrated interpretation (later the basis for the Laurie Anderson hit The Dream Before) which sees the subject as “the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past… one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it… irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”

Melancholic? Sure. Pessimistic? WhatEVER. As someone who never signed on for this whole “civilization” thing in the first place, but hasn’t ever given up on art, I find it reassuring that our species’ current untenable position is framed by paintings standing at either end, outside of History.

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