Something has come unstuck. The common sense about policing has abruptly changed.
This shift was a long time coming: Prison abolitionists — a movement of scholars and activists, notably spearheaded by Black women such as Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore — have spent decades organizing toward a goal of abolishing the prison system. The Black Lives Matter movement and a new generation of Black-led organizing have kindled a new moment in which a world without police feels truly possible.
After decades of expanding police power — bolstered by a hegemonic “law and order” discourse and a bipartisan “tough on crime” agenda — something snapped when Minneapolis police were filmed callously suffoc... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Albert Camus’ novel The Plague offers a portrait of a town under quarantine, ravaged by an epidemic. It tells us of life arbitrarily constrained and unjustly shortened, of human beings isolated by law and by disease, of panics and shortages, of despair and heroic sacrifice. It presents a grim picture of human life, but an affirming picture of human beings. It ends with a clear moral, that “what we learn in time of pestilence” is that “there is more to admire in humanity than to despise.”
The book follows the lives of several men—most notably Rieux, a doctor; Rambert, a Spanish Civil War veteran now working as a journalist; and Tarrou, a Communist turned pacifist—as they do what little they can, ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Review & Response: Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century, By Andrew Cornell, University of California Press, 2016, 300 pages.
No matter how one feels about it, the current state of anarchism has represented something of a mystery: 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 white middle class.
Andrew Cornell's Unruly Equality: U.S. Anarchism in the Twentieth Century supplies the first convincing account of that transition. Beginning in 1916, just before the Red Scare, and closing in 1972, just as our present movement was taking shape, the book serves as "... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Anarchism and the English Language
George Orwell, in his classic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” makes the case that “the English language… becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.”
The vices Orwell cataloged—vague phrases, dying metaphors, jargon, and general pseudoscientific pretentiousness—all help to sustain our boring prose. But worse, they also produce a stagnant and stifling mental atmosphere in which thought is commonly replaced with the automatic recitation of certain prescribed words or phrases “tacked together,” as Orwell memorably put ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) 1
I work for the government. That is ironic, for an anarchist, but the actual job involves relatively few compromises. Specifically, I work as a drawbridge operator for Multnomah County, one of three counties comprising the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. A week or so after the local advent of the coronavirus crisis, I started telling people that—though my day-to-day job was much the same—working for the government felt like watching state failure from the inside.
The County started off on the wrong foot, sending a memo to every employee assuring us that no cases of Covid-19 had been detected in the area—a full day after Oregon Health Sciences University announced its first coronavirus patient. This snafu was follo... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Why were the modern police created?
It is generally assumed, among people who think about it at all, that the police were created to deal with rising levels of crime caused by urbanization and increasing numbers of immigrants. John Schneider describes the typical accounts:
The first studies were legal and administrative in their focus, confined mostly to narrative descriptions of the step-by-step demise of the old constabulary and the steady, but often controversial evolution of the professionals. Scholars seemed preoccupied with the politics of police reform. Its causes, on the other hand, were considered only in cursory fashion, more often assumed than proved. Cities, it would seem, moved inevitably toward modern policing as a conse... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) “One of the quickest ways for an Afro-American to lose some of his white friends is to advocate self-defense against white racist savages.... Our belief in this principle has cost us some of our phony white friends, however, we have also gained some true ones.”
-Robert F. Williams, writing in The Crusader, 1960
Conventional wisdom identifies gun control as a “liberal” agenda and gun rights as “conservative.” In practice, history demonstrates a telling unity between the two “opposing” camps on gun control policy. The current debates reflect historic and contemporary struggles over race, class, and the politics of violence and power in society as a whole.
The Second Amendment reads: &ldqu... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Mainstream Democrats are in a hawkish mood when it comes to “domestic terrorism.” That is bad news for the left.
Immediately upon taking office, President Biden “tasked the director of national intelligence, in coordination with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, with compiling a comprehensive threat assessment on violent domestic extremism,“ according to The Washington Post. This request was prompted by the right-wing attack on the Capitol on January 6.
The resulting report, “Domestic Violent Extremism Poses Heightened Threat in 2021,” was submitted on March 1, and its executive summary was released publicly a few days later. While its list of findings include some obvious observations &m... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) To lose oneself in a book is a pleasure. In Worshiping Power, however, one feels instead simply lost.
Gelderloos wanders through thousands of years and across several continents without any clear direction or obvious destination. The subject is state formation, but the approach is opaque and the final product confused. This book is neither a history, nor a taxonomy, nor a theory, nor even simply an argument, but a mountain of evidence piled together willy-nilly. It is occasionally fascinating, but more usually perplexing. Slowly, obliquely, some underlying themes emerge, but it is not until the final chapter that we encounter anything as definite as a thesis statement.
Gelderloos’ point, it turns out, is that there is nothing necess... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Foreword: Police and Power in America
What are police for?
Everybody thinks they know. But to assume that the police exist to enforce the law or fight crime is akin to beginning an analysis of military policy with the premise that armies exist to repel invasions. The ends an institution pursues are not always the same as those it claims to pursue.
I begin, then, with a call for skepticism, especially about official slogans and publicly traded justifications. Let us focus less on what the police say they are doing and instead assess the institution based on what it actually does. We should ask, always, who benefits and who suffers? Whose interests are advanced, and who pays the costs? Who is protected and served? Who is bullied and brut... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A year ago, on February 28, 2013, at an event titled “Patriarchy and the Movement,” I watched as a friend of mine attempted to pose several questions based on her experience trying to address domestic violence and other abuse in the context of radical organizing.
“Why have the forms of accountability processes that we’ve seen in radical subcultures so regularly failed?” she asked. “Is there a tension between supporting a survivor’s healing and holding perpetrators accountable?”
At that point she was, quite literally, shouted down. An angry roar came up from the crowd, from both the audience and the panelists. It quickly became impossible to hear her and, after a few seconds, she simply stopp... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The title of Oscar Wilde’s essay “The Soul of Man Under Socialism” has long perplexed readers, especially anarchists who rightly feel that the essay belongs in their canon rather than that of the Marxists, the Fabians, or the Labor Party.
What Wilde presents to us in the essay is a vision for a new society and, as important, a sample of a model for political thought. Both stand in marked contrast to the unseemly connotations that attached themselves to the word “socialism” over the course of the twentieth century — faction fights, show trials, gulags, paternalism, bureaucracy, cultural sterility, and uniform thought.
The society Wilde imagines is in all respects the opposite of that. It is one in whi... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) A video from the uprising in Kenosha, Wisconsin, shows police giving water to a group of armed white men. One officer uses his vehicle’s loudspeaker to tell them, “We appreciate you guys. We really do.” Soon thereafter, one of the group, 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, shot three protesters, killing two.
Among the many effects of the ongoing wave of protests against police violence and racial inequality, one of the most striking is the increasingly overt cooperation between the police and armed right-wing groups, surpassing anything we have seen in decades.
Cops in Portland, Oregon, stood by while Proud Boys and militiamen, some brandishing guns, attacked anti-fascist protesters; when the Proud Boys retreated, the cops fir... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Introduction
In the three essays making up this pamphlet, I do my best to explain my current thinking about anarchism.
In the first, “My Anarchism,” I try as simply as possible to say what anarchism means to me, to convey my idea of what it is and my own reasons for adhering to it as a political philosophy. The second, “Whither Anarchism?” draws from recent histories and considers how today’s anarchists relate to (or rather, fail to relate to) the ideas that originally animated the movement. Logically speaking, it ought to be possible to see a direct connection between these two pieces. But the gap separating them is exactly the problem I’m trying to point to. For my own short statement of belief in t... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)