It surprised me, a little bit, to notice the other day on wikileaks, a website that anonymously publishes classified government documents, that my name is mentioned in the recent Virginia Terrorism Threat Assessment. Under the heading “Anarchist Extremists,” I am singularly identified as an anarchist of note. We “anarchist extremists” make the top of the list for Virginia’s domestic terrorism threats, well above white supremacist groups that have actually killed people. Polluting factories, weapons companies, negligent employers, the nuclear power plant, the prison guards union — none of these even make the list, although they too are responsible for death counts infinitely higher than the state’s m... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Our assertion that the major print and broadcast media serve the interests of state and capital prevent us from being surprised that their coverage of the current crisis in Iraq leaves the public confounded and misinformed. To Americans, Iraq is an inexplicable episode best ignored, a tragic quagmire somehow lacking the moral clarity that until recently surrounded the US invasion of Afghanistan. It is highly troubling, for Americans bred with a galactic sense of entitlement, when God does not come out on our side, so the ruling politicians attempt to soothe the public confusion with assurances about specific tactics, while opposition politicians criticize the chosen strategies — there weren’t enough troops on the ground, or: the... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) If the Green Capitalist response to climate change will only add more fuel to the fire, and if government at a global scale is incapable of solving the problem, as I argue in previous articles  , how would anarchists suggest we reorganize society in order to decrease the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and to survive an already changed world?
There is no single anarchist position, and many anarchists refuse to offer any proposal at all, arguing that if society liberates itself from State and capitalism, it will change organically, not on the lines of any blueprint. Besides, the attitude of policy, seeing the world from above and imposing changes, is inextricable from the culture that is responsible for destroying the pla... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) It Works When We Make It Work
The many people who conspired to commit these rebel stories to paper and get them into your hands have been thoughtful enough to provide you with one parting example of anarchy: the book itself. Imagine the decentralized network, the harmonious chaos, the confluence of liberated desires, that made it possible. With passion and determination millions of people breathed life into the stories we present, and many of them struggled even past the point of certain defeat in the hopes their utopias might inspire future generations. Hundreds of other people documented these worlds and kept them alive in our minds. A dozen more came together to edit, design, and illustrate the book, and even more collaborated with pr... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) It is a testament to the horror, the boundless horror of capitalism, that after decades of its triumph, of changelessness, of the end of history, of a famine of other possible futures even in the minds of children, that those of us alive today who will see this world change forever cannot count ourselves lucky. We stand at the brink, and all the petty squabbles, all political programs and narrow affinities fall into insignificance.
The estimates vary as to exactly when we reach the point of no return, it could be 2015, it could be 2020, but climate scientists have reached a consensus that since the Industrial Revolution humans (I would be more direct and say capitalists) have caused global surface temperatures to raise 0.7 degrees Celsius,... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The last two weeks have seen both the impending crash of various retail stores, which threatens to make the lives of millions of workers even more precarious, as well as major military interventions in Syria and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, fights between proto-fascist and “economic nationalist” Steve Bannon and those within the Trump administration more aligned with neo-conservatism came to a head. Wanting to make sense of both of these predicaments, we turned to Peter Gelderloos who offered some analysis on the situation in the US.
IGD: What do you make of the newest bombings in Afghanistan? Is this a shift from past US policy or just a continuation? What do you think the administration is trying to accomplish? From the outside, i... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In the escalating crisis surrounding Catalunya’s October 1st independence referendum, both sides are legitimizing their actions through exclusive claims to democracy, insinuating or explicitly stating that they are democratic whereas their adversaries are anti-democratic. Meanwhile, in the media shadows cast by the two major players—the Spanish government and the Catalan government—anti-capitalist movements have hitched their dreams to the independence process, seeking to build not just a new country but a new kind of country. In the asymmetrical tug of war between these three positions, we can evaluate different models of democracy and political action.
To do so, a bit of historical grounding is necessary.
In 1978, the ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In the eventuality capitalism maintains its stranglehold on the planet, the official histories of the present moment of resistance, decades from now, will claim that the battles raging around us began with the economic recession of 2008 and were further exacerbated by a second recession in 2020. The reason for this framing is fairly obvious: it obscures longer histories of revolt, particularly the exact forerunners of greater rebellions; and it portrays us, the plebes, as simple mechanical accessories that only enter into dysfunction when the economy fails to produce abundance, as though we were just puppets dancing on the strings of finance.
It is more unsettling, though far from surprising, when such framings of our history come from wit... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) On 7 October, masked gunmen opened fire on student protesters in Caracas, Venezuela, who were returning from a protest against President Hugo Chavez’s proposed Constitutional reforms. Thousands of students marched on the Supreme Court protesting the reforms, which Chavez proposes to pass by referendum and critics say consolidate executive powers, giving the President control of the Central Bank, abolishing presidential term limits, expanding state of emergency powers, and creating new provinces to be governed by centrally appointed officials. These authoritarian changes are paired with populist measures like reducing the voting age and decreasing the hours of the maximum work day.
After the protest, as students were returning to the ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The commons are a world apart from capitalism. They are a source of livelihood that people share. Before the spread of capitalism, most of the planet was commons. Cultures that treated the commons as a gift from nature that had to be treated with respect, tended to have the most bountiful commons and therefore the fewest problems of survival. Cultures that treated the commons as property or an exploitable resource generally exhausted them, and either brought about their own collapse or had to resort to warfare and conquest to survive. Some of these cultures would eventually form capitalism.
Capitalism theorizes and creates scarcity. Capitalism has thrived by destroying or privatizing the commons wherever they arise. As long as people have ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The uprising that has spread across the United States since the police murder of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis has, like any rebellious movement, met with police strategies for counterinsurgency. It is well documented how modern police forces systematically use counterinsurgency strategies against their own populations.
The most visible counterinsurgency measure so far has been the campaign of straightforward, brutal repression: the thousands of people arrested and injured by police and National Guard across the country, as well as the handful of Black people who have been murdered since May 25, shot to death by cops or white vigilantes.
Nonetheless, people have courageously held their own, staying in the streets, redistributing w... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The message went out to a thousand phones on Monday morning, the 3rd of October: the first of the arrests from the Parliament blockade had taken place. Four undercovers snatched him up as he left his house. A protest was called for the same day, at 7 o’clock in the evening, Plaça Catalunya. Two more arrests soon followed. The news quickly spread via telephone, internet, and word of mouth. Several meetings are called to share information and organize the response. By the time people started gathering in the hundreds for the protest, a fourth arrest had occurred.
Back in June, the popular rage that has been growing in Barcelona, in tandem with other parts of the world, coalesced once again as 200,000 people blockaded the Catalan... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Culture, Communication, and Organization in an Anarchist Soup Kitchen
Every Friday at 4 PM, a motley group of people come together at a Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and eat a free meal cooked from dumpstered and donated food. They are young and old, black, white, and latino; workers, students, and unemployed. The event is called Harrisonburg Food Not Bombs. Some people think of it primarily as a free meal; others think of it as social time; some experience it as a duty, and others consider it a radical act. Amid all these varying perceptions lies an experiment in anarchist organizing that has succeeded roughly as much as it has failed, and if we dig deeper, a veritable dumpster-full of lessons for anarchists trying to orga... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The apocalypse looms like a dark tempest on the horizon. Things are serious now. If we are to get through this Crisis we have to forget all old grudges and past wrongs, leave behind all dissent and rebellious activity, and gather in support of our leaders. “Come,” they smile at us in the green-shimmering full-page advertisements from a future where new technology and new markets have saved the planet, “only together can we solve this”.
But wait a minute... Their proposal for how we are to be saved from ruin seems sickeningly familiar. Haven’t we heard all this before? What is it they are hiding? What is it they are trying to distract us from?
As the faith in the proposed future crumbles, an increasingly clear... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Part I
Since its publication, I have come across two reviews of Worshiping Power that I would like to respond to, not to bat a discursive ball back and forth, but to engage with the flow of conversations that form an integral part of our interaction with the world around us. One is William Gillis’ “The Tangled Paths of State Formation and Resistance,” and the other is Kristian Williams’ “Mystifying: An Anarchist View of Early State Formation.”
Much of Gillis’ review focuses on a very interesting question that I want to save for last. First, there are a couple more technical matters. To begin with, I would disagree with the characterization that “The fight between authoritarianism and anti-... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Diagnostic of the Future
It is no secret that both democracy and capitalism are in crisis. For more than half a century, state planners and their pundits only had to justify democracy as “better than (state) communism.” For the 1990s and most of the ’00s, they didn’t have to offer any justification at all. Democracy was the only possibility imaginable, the teleological destiny of all humankind.
Today, that is no longer the case. On the world stage, democratic institutions of interstate cooperation are in shambles, and the emergence of new alliances and new postures suggests that an alternative is beginning to coalesce. At the level of specific nation-states, the central ground that allowed for a broad social cons... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) I recently had the opportunity to participate in the international academic conference, “Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations,” put on by the Russian Academy of Sciences, in Moscow. I was on two panels focused on building alternatives to hierarchy and current state repression of social movements. I find this amusing because I am a college dropout: I didn’t even finish three semesters of university, I generally dislike academics, and I believe the academy is one of the institutions of power that need to be abolished. Of over a hundred participants, I think I was one of only two who were not a PhD or a PhD candidate (and the other lowbrow was on the same panels as I) and the only one without any university deg... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) When the bus drivers of Barcelona took to the picket lines under the red and black flag, not seventy years ago but just these past months, it was an occasion for excitement and an opportunity to learn about the relevance of radical syndicalism in a post-industrial world. Catalunya has a culture and history that make it a likely spot for a major anarcho-syndicalist transportation strike, but on the other hand we should not romanticize it so much to imagine it as much different from the rest of the hyper-consumerist, alienated Global North.
The CNT was a major force in Spain and Catalunya in the 1930s, with over a million members and a leading role in the war against fascism. During the Franco years, they played a major role in coordinating ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The problem of elitist language often comes up when people from a middle-class, university-educated background attempt to communicate with ‘the general public.’ If those attempting the communication are engaged in a commercial venture, they can simply dumb their language down to the common denominator shared by the median target audience, perhaps appropriate some of that audience’s slang and cultural symbols, and they are assured of a good sell.
However, if the motive is more altruistic, for instance that of middle-class activists attempting to communicate with activists from other backgrounds, or to share information, resources, and opinions with some General Public, the problem becomes more complicated. For good reason ... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Chapter 3. The Revolutions of Today
After demonstrating that the historical victories of nonviolence have not been victories from a revolutionary standpoint, that they did not bring an end to oppression and exploitation, they did not fundamentally change social relations, much less create a classless, horizontal society, one often hears the rebuttal, But violence has never worked!
Moving past the moralistic simplemindedness contained in the belief that “violence” is a method, this statement conceals an important fact. Unlike the proponents of nonviolence, we (and here I only mean to speak for anarchists who believe in revolution, though many other anti-authoritarian anticapitalists as well as indigenous people fighting for t... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Fascism is widespread in many industrial and postcolonial countries, existing as extreme nationalism, neo-Nazism, or some other extreme authoritarianism. In nearly all cases, the rank-and-file of the fascist movements tend to be dispossessed members of a privileged group in society (e.g. poor whites). In pre-WWII Germany, most working-class Germans were impoverished by the Depression, in contrast to their self-image as a wealthy, powerful nation. In modern Germany, neo-Nazi political parties win the most votes, often more than 10% of the total, in states where unemployment is highest. In the US, poor southern whites who do not enjoy the wealth promised to white people of the richest nation on earth often join the Ku Klux Klan. In Rwanda the... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In modern republics, the function of prison is said to be correction. When individuals break laws that uphold the common good, the conventional wisdom goes, they need to be punished or otherwise taught to be more socially cooperative and generous. In my experience with incarceration, however, the only thing that prison teaches is obedience. A “corrected” citizen is one who internalizes prison bars even on the streets.
Prison serves as a constant threat against all who would oppose what governments and corporations do with our collective resources. A critic might point out that prison is only a threat to dissidents who break the law, but what it comes down to is that there are no legal means to fundamentally change the governmen... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Nonviolence is Deluded
Ward Churchill has argued that pacifism is pathological. I would say that, at the least, the advancement of nonviolence as a revolutionary practice in the present context is dependent on a number of delusions. Where to begin?
Often, after showing that the victories of nonviolence were not victories at all, except for the state, I have encountered the simplistic counterargument that because some particular militant struggle or act of violence was unsuccessful, “violence” is equally ineffective. I don’t recall ever hearing anyone say that the use of violence ensures victory. I hope everyone can see the difference between showing the failures of pacifist victories and showing the failures of militan... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) To say I am a Star Wars fan would be an understatement. In high school, I could win the Star Wars Trivial Pursuit board game in one turn: I didn't get any answers wrong and kept going around the board until I had collected all the tokens (yeah, not many friends). Of course, as I got older, I realized that the Jungian archetypes, Daoist philosophy, and tale of rebellion against authority that had so enchanted me were mixed in with a democratic storyline of restoring a “rightful” government, along with plenty of racial stereotypes and settler tropes. Nonetheless, it is hard to disavow the fantasy worlds one grows up with. The total conversion of Star Wars into a “franchise” is occasion enough to comment on how we might... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Criminalizing public meetings, expanding police powers and weaponry, and applying anti-terrorist measures to street protests: it sounds like Spain in the Franco years, but all of these measures have been proposed in Spain in just the last couple of weeks. Far from being a throwback to the years of dictatorship, these repressive developments go hand in hand with the current economic crisis. Considering the connection between the 15M plaza occupation movement and the subsequent Occupy movement that spread to several countries around the globe, between the March 29th general strike in Spain and the upcoming May 1st general strike called in the United States, between the brutal austerity measures implemented already a year or two ago by the gov... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Reflections from Greece on a Pointless Schism
“I consider it terrible that our movement, everywhere, is degenerating into a swamp of petty personal quarrels, accusations, and recriminations. There is too much of this rotten thing going on, particularly in the last couple of years.”
— out of a letter from Alexander Berkman to Senya Fleshin and Mollie Steimer, in 1928. Emma Goldman adds the postscript: “Dear children. I agree entirely with Sasha. I am sick at heart over the poison of insinuations, charges, accusations in our ranks. If that will not stop there is no hope for a revival of our movement.”
Fortunately, most anarchists in the US avoid any ideological orthodoxy and shun sectarian divides. Un... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) [ed. – We present this interview, conducted early last year by the Spanish-language site A Las Barricadas, releasing it now in what may or may not be last days of Donald Trump’s U.S. presidency. Intended for those of us viewing events on that continent from afar, this provides a good look at the dynamics set off after the 2016 election and ongoing struggles which have led to wide-spread social unrest (the return of the anti-police riots that the interviewee notes below had subsided at the time of this interview) and looming threat of civil war that the so-called “United States” now face.]
We spoke broadly with Peter Gelderloos, activist of North American origin based in Spain. Peter is the author of numerous article... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) Justice is a multifaceted concept, and thus perhaps a cumbersome one to negate with one stroke of the pen. One might say that justice has a discrete, defined institutional existence, in Euro/American states generally referred to as criminal justice, as well as a popular, informal existence in public opinion and the values claimed by social movements — social justice. These two aspects are subject to different forms of contestation, change, and formulation, but generally when they are not in agreement there is cause for social conflict, and social movements attempt to influence the forms of institutional justice as much as agents of institutional justice attempt to influence public opinion of what constitutes justice. I argue that just... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) The Nature of Police, the Role of the Left
A young black person was killed, many people brave enough to take to the streets in the aftermath were injured and arrested, and the only real consequences the police will face will be changes designed to increase their efficiency at spinning the news or handling the crowds, the next time they kill someone. Because amid all the inane controversies, that is one fact that no one can dispute: the police will kill again, and again, and again. A disproportionate number of their targets will be young people of color and transgender people, but they have also killed older people, like John T. Williams, Bernard Monroe, and John Adams, and white people too. The Right has seized on a couple cases of white... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.) In Life Under the Jolly Roger (PM Press 2009), Gabriel Kuhn takes on the far flung sources regarding golden age piracy (primarily in the Caribbean at the end of the 17th century and beginning of the 18th) not in order to establish a definitive truth about them but to dispel myths, clarify what we can know for sure about the pirates and what realistic questions remain, and to elucidate what the pirate legacy might mean for people today who also see themselves as excluded by or at war with the developing global order.
With a mastery of social theory and a comfortable deployment of the great body of research he has mined, Kuhn examines the pirates ethnographically and sociologically and subjects them to the theories of Clastres, Foucault, Nie... (From: TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)