Posts by AK Press

A Spanish Revolution Reading List

 

On this day in 1936, fascists in Spain launched a coup to topple the country’s Republican government. They got more than they bargained for: within days workers and peasants across the country fought back for a world without government.

This, of course, seems like a good time to share a sampling of the many, many titles we carry that study and celebrate history’s most thoroughgoing anarchist revolution. Let’s start with books:

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[click on the image to go to a book's web page]

Ready for Revolution: The CNT Defense Committees in Barcelona, 1933–1938
Agustín Guillamón

 
The Story of the Iron Column: Militant Anarchism in the Spanish Civil War
Abel Paz
 
Anarchism and Workers’ Self-Management in Revolutionary Spain
Frank Mintz
 
The Spanish Anarchists: The Heroic Years 1868-1936
Murray Bookchin
 
We The Anarchists! A Study Of The Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) 1927–1937
Stuart Christie
 
Anarchism and the City: Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Barcelona, 1898–1937
Chris Ealham
 
Free Women Of Spain: Anarchism And The Struggle For The Emancipation Of Women
Martha A. Ackelsberg
 
Durruti in the Spanish Revolution
Abel Paz
 
The May Days Barcelona 1937
Emma Goldman, Augustin Souchy,  Jose Peirats, Burnett Bolloten
 
Anarchist Organisation: The History of the FAI
Juan Gomez Casas

And here are some pamphlets from the Kate Sharpley Library, which can always be counted on to find untold stories and underrepresented angles on all aspects of anarchist history:

  Valeriano Orobon Fernandez: Towards the Barricades
Salvador Cano Carrillo
  News of the Spanish Revolution: Anti-authoritarian Perspectives on the Events
Stew Charlatan
  Free Society: A German Exile in Revolutionary Spain
Werner Droescher
  Anarchism in Galicia: Organisation, Resistance and Women in the Underground
Eliseo Fernández, Antón Briallos, and Carmen Blanco
  Wrong Steps: Errors In The Spanish Revolution
Juan Garcia Oliver
  A Day Mournful And Overcast
An ‘uncontrollable’ from the Iron Column
  Unknown Heroes: Biographies of Anarchist Resistance Fighters
Miguel Garcia
  My Revolutionary Life
Juan Garcia Oliver interviewed by Freddy Gomez

 

Interview with Mark Bray about End of the World as We Know It.

 The New Significance recently posted this nice interview with author Mark Bray about his contribution to the book The End of the World As We Know It?

TNS: Hi Mark, and thanks for taking the time to respond to some questions. Before we begin, can you tell readers a bit about yourself and the various projects you’ve been involved in over the years?

Mark: My pleasure! Well, I’m from New Jersey and I’m a member of the new Black Rose Anarchist Federation, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and a PhD Candidate in Modern European History at Rutgers University. Over the years I’ve been involved in the global justice movement, the anti-war movement, student and immigrants’ rights work, labor organizing, and other campaigns. I was also an organizer with the Press and Direct Action working groups of Occupy Wall Street in New York City. I recently published Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street about the role of anarchism in the movement based on my experiences and 192 interviews with organizers in NYC.

TNS: In your contribution to The End of the World As We Know It? (AK Press, 2014) you talk about the “strategic presentation” of the politics of Occupy Wall Street that you and others tried to mobilize as organizers within the Press Working Group. Can you describe what you mean by that?

Mark: Essentially the article discusses how organizers involved in framing the politics of Occupy attempted to transcend popular disdain for the words and language of radical left ideology (such as ‘anarchism’ or ‘communism’) while maintaining their anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian politics and attempting to target the underlying affinity that many Americans feel for the content of anarchist politics when understood without its often cumbersome ideological baggage. In other words, many working class Americans distrust the federal government, reject the notion that politicians are looking out for the interests of everyday people, understand that the banks and corporations have played a destructive role in the economy over the past years, are very sympathetic to the concepts of local autonomy, participatory democracy, etc. but when they’re initially presented as components of ‘anarchism’ or more broadly anti-capitalist politics the conversation often ends there.

So those of us in the Press Working Group, for example, framed talking points and wrote press releases that presented an anti-authoritarian message that focused on issues and values that people already shared in order to get them involved and expose them to opportunities for further radicalization.

TNS: One of the tropes that you point out that is used to justify austerity, in particular, but also capitalism generally is the idea that we need to “live within our means.” This is a genius talking point for liberals and conservatives, who argue for cutting social spending all the while syphoning wealth upwards (indeed, the top 7% of earners actually got richer during the crisis, while the rest of us were told to tighten our belts). But you and the organizers you worked with repurposed this slogan creatively. Can you describe that for us?

Mark: So in the article I focus on four axiomatic, ‘common sense’ political/ethical perspectives that many Americans hold that OWS organizers had a fair amount of success mobilizing in order to redirect away from their reactionary popular usage toward a much more radical direction including: “Shining City Upon a Hill,” “A Fair Day’s Wage for a Fair Day’s Work,” “You Will Always Have the Poor Among You,” and, as you mentioned, “Living Within Your Means.” The right mobilizes around the concept of “Living Within Your Means” in order to capitalize on the commonly held belief that individuals and families should balance their budgets and apply that adage to the affairs of state thereby glossing over the vast differences that separate the two examples. This rhetoric has the effect of silencing protest because it makes people think that their sacrifices are shared across class and strengthen their character.

But Occupy organizers continually emphasized that the ruling class was not enduring any sacrifices, despite the fact that they were to blame for the crisis, while working people suffered although they ‘played by the rules.’ So, as the well-used Occupy slogan went, “Banks got bailed out/We got sold out.” The financial institutions got rewarded for living beyond their means while working people got punished for living within them.

So the potential strength of these kinds of arguments is that they start with already shared premises to demonstrate how the rich habitually thumb their nose at them.

TNS: It was also interesting that you note that the term “austerity” never really gained traction in the US, particularly in press reporting on the economic situation after the market collapse. This is fascinating for a couple of reasons, not least of which is that the US has definitely seen similar trends as Europe, where “austerity” is a common signifier for a certain set of political priorities (i.e. state-sponsored supply-side economics, where wealthy elites are given massive amounts of tax dollars because their operations are deemed “too big to fail”; funding for those bailouts provided by the evisceration of social spending and the repurposing of those dollars as handouts to the rich; etc.). Why do you think the terminology never took hold in the States?

Mark: Yeah, definitely. Well I’m not entirely sure, but I think a part of it has to do with a well-orchestrated effort to drain the financial crisis of any historical context and portray the issues it raised as essentially eternal questions of the role of government in the economy. The politicians and talking heads present the issue as a continual tug of war between liberals and conservatives over how much the government should ‘interfere’ with the free market. From their perspective, this struggle sometimes sways one way, sometimes another, but it transcends historical eras. Therefore, this outlook is at odds with the more historical interpretation of the recent crisis having ushered in an era of austerity that, to one extent or another, has affected many different governments around the world especially in the global north.

Therefore, government cuts are portrayed as victories for the right in this morally charged battle rather than concessions to a broader historical ‘mandate’ to cut back on social services. Also ‘austerity’ is just not a well known word in the United States, relative to many other places, so that may have something to do with it also.

TNS: And would you mind telling us a bit about your recent book, Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street? You catalogue some of these issues in the book, correct?

Mark: Yes, Translating Anarchy is a political analysis of the organizers of Occupy Wall Street in New York City based on 192 interviews with organizers and my own experience. Based on the interviews I document the fact that approximately 72% of organizers had explicitly anarchist or implicitly anarchistic politics despite the mainstream media claim that Occupy was a liberal movement whose aspirations were limited to reforms such as campaign finance reform or a millionaire’s tax.

So the book documents this contrast between the anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian organizers that made the movement happen and the larger liberal base of support that generated so much hype for Occupy with a focus on how the radicals at the core of the movement managed to bring people into the movement by orienting their radicalism in accessible language. Ultimately Occupy Wall Street was successful because it brought together this revolutionary core with a liberal support base, and so moving forward those of us serious about transforming society need to put more effort into promoting our ideas outside of left circles. Translating Anarchy reflects on the successes and failures of that project in New York and situates Occupy within a larger historical context of previous social movements and revolutionary struggles.

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Saving Detroit from Capitalism and the State

“The story of land in Detroit is the story of people re-imaging productive, compassionate communities. The land, poisoned and abused by industrial capital for much of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, holds the relics of mass production. As technologies advanced and capital became more mobile, Detroit and its people were abandoned. Yet within this devastation, people began to see the opportunity to create something new. Calling on the deepest resources of memory, spirit, and imagination, abandoned land is being reclaimed as urban gardens; old factories hold the possibilities of aquaponics, art studios, and bicycle production; neighborhoods ravaged by drugs and violence are organizing to create peace zones where people take responsibility for public safety and personal problem solving. Detroit, once the symbol of industrial mass production, holds the possibility of becoming a new kind of self-sufficient, productive, creative, and life-affirming city.” [from "A Detroit Story"]

When you read mainstream media accounts of the “options” available to Detroit, remember those are generally only the options that take capitalism as a given. Matthew Birkhold, Grace Lee Boggs, Rick Feldman, and Shea Howell contributed a great chapter to our new book Grabbing Back…which offers a different take on the historical and present-day options available to Detroit, and the rest of us.

Read their chapter, “A Detroit Story: Ideas whose Time Has Come,” here.

Get the book here.

 

What are our plans for fall and winter, you ask?

  
 
We’ve got eight amazing books scheduled for the upcoming Fall and Winter seasons. We’ll share more detailed news in the future, but for now, here’s the list:

Dispatches against Displacement: Field Notes from San Francisco’s Housing Wars, James Tracey

Drug War Capitalism, Dawn Paley

I Belong Only to Myself: The Life and Writing of Leda Rafanelli, Andrea Pakieser

Militant Anti-Fascism: A Hundred Years of Resistance, M. Testa

Educating for Insurgency: The Roles of Young People in Schools of Poverty, Jay Gillen

Underground Passages: Anarchist Resistance Culture, 1848–2011, Jesse Cohn

Storm in My Heart: Memories from the Widow of Johann Most, Helene Minkin

Complete Works of Malatesta, Vol. 3: A Long and Patient Endeavour—The Anarchist Socialism of L’Agitazione, 1897–1898, edited by Davide Turcato

 

 

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Get ready for THE NEW BRAZIL

Remember when Lula’s election in Brazil offered some pretense of hope to certain folks on the international left? Remember how the liberals and reformists just stopped referring to him as the New Great Hope once his policies became clear? Brazil has since emerged as a powerful new player on the geopolitical stage, with Lula embracing the legacy of the country’s oligarchic past, paying off huge IMF loans years ahead of schedule, and placing Brazil at the center of political and economic power in the region.

Raul Zibechi’s The New Brazil: Regional Imperialism and the New Democracy is on it’s way back from the printer. Get your order in today, get 25% off, and get schooled not only on exactly how Brazil became the poster child for neoliberal capitalism, but also on how unrest is growing in Brazil to a point that questions the very foundations capital and the state.

Click here for a look at the book’s Table of Contents.

Click here for an excerpted section discussing the upcoming World Cup games in Brazil.

Click here to order the damn thing!

Look what’s inside the new issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory…

Did you know that some of the folks involved with the Institute for Anarchist Studies (anarchist grant-givers extraordinaires, and also the co-publishers of our Anarchist Interventions series!) put out a journal, too? Well, now you do—and if you’re the journal-reading type, you should really check it out. It’s been looking pretty snazzy as of late, thanks to some new cover designs and illustrations by Josh MacPhee. And it’s not just good looking! It’s got substance, too—including, in their new issue (#27), contributors’ different takes on the idea of “strategy.” You can see more about the issue, and order your copy (or back issues) HERE.

To give you just a taste of what’s included in the new issue, here’s part of an interview by Perspectives editor Lara Messersmith-Glavin:

An Excerpt from “OCTAVIA’S BROOD: SCIENCE FICTION STORIES FROM SOCIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENTS—An Interview with Walidah Imarisha.”

Co-editors adrienne maree brown and Walidah Imarisha are compiling an anthology of science and speculative fiction, fantasy, horror, and magical realist short fiction, all written by activists working for social change. Under the umbrella of what they call ‘visionary fiction,’ the editors seek to draw from the imaginative and creative potential that exists in the realm of literature to inspire and guide the strategies and dreams of the radical movement.

Can you talk a little about the importance of thought experiments and prefigurative dreaming in the development of political praxis?  What are some examples of this?

My co-editor adrienne has said that sci fi is the perfect “exploring ground,” that it gives organizers the opportunity to play with different outcomes and strategies before we have to deal with the real world costs. Based on that, adrienne has been doing Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Sessions across the country, coming out of a Transformative Justice space at the Allied Media Conference a few years ago. In the Transformative Justice Science Fiction Reader a collective of folks put out, they wrote, “We are four power geeks who come to the Allied Media Conference every year, and we have been developing a space for conversation around science fiction as a tool for our organizing and futurizing… Over the past few years we found each other out, as people thinking about TJ, and as sci fi geeks seeing interesting examples of potential futures rooted in TJ approaches in our isolated reading experiences.”

Emergent strategy focuses on the idea of strategizes that arise organically. You collectively have a shared vision and values, but rather than having a five year strategic plan, you recognize that in a constantly changing landscape, your strategies must be fluid and flexible, must react to the surroundings. It also allows you to use the resources around you, to find value in things that previously you may have dismissed as trash. This idea is really encapsulated in Butler’s book Parable of the Sower, which follows the main character Olamina, who is a young Black woman who lives in a slightly more dystopic future in a gated community. She begins studying skills needed to survive outside of the walls, packs a survival kit bag, and begins envisioning other ways the world could be. When the community is attacked and the walls fall, she finds herself on the outside with her bag, her knowledge and her dreams. She finds people along the way who collectively dream with her to imagine what a new community can look like.

I wrote an article “Science Fiction and Prison Abolition: Lessons To Build Our Futures” for an upcoming issue of The Abolitionist, because I feel that sci fi is actually an ideal place to explore something like prison abolition. Many folks are completely unfamiliar with the idea of community accountability processes that do not depend on the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. So this is a great opportunity to have that exploring ground adrienne talked about, to say, without confining us to reality at first, what else is there?

One of our stories in Octavia’s Brood does just that – Kalamu ya Salaam’s story “Manhunter” (an excerpt from a larger piece) focuses on a community of women warriors and leaders who are attempting to keep the human race alive. One of the warriors kills another, and they have a gathering to decide what is to be done with her. It is a powerful scene that shows the complexities of community accountability, and offers solutions rooted in healing rather than retribution.

My partner David Walker, whose story “The Token Superhero” also appears in Octavia’s Brood, wrote, “Life would be easier if people understood that you can be a hero without having a villain.”

Our ability to tell stories shapes how we view our reality around us. If we only hear stories that neatly package good and evil with no understanding of the complexities of situations, how can we begin to see the world through lenses that take into account complexity?

As Black feminist thinker and poet Alexis Pauline Gumbs (also an Octavia’s Brood contributor) said when asked how abolition and science fiction connected to her, “For me prison abolition is a speculative future. It imagines a species with a set of fully developed powers that are right now only fledgling. We are that species.”

Your forthcoming collection owes a great deal of its framework to the thought and writing of Octavia Butler.  Ursula LeGuin is often cited as a sci fi writer who explores issues of gender (Left Hand of Darkness) and anarchist social organization (The Dispossessed); Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy grappled with revolution and coalition-building on a planetary scale; Marge Piercy contrasted utopian and dystopian possible futures (Woman on the Edge of Time.)  Who are some of the writers that have moved you the most, politically speaking, and what kinds of issues or insights did they address the most successfully?  Which issues remain untouched?  

Yes, we definitely owe much to Octavia Butler. We call ourselves her brood (a nod to her collection of books Lilith’s Brood) – her children; we do not claim to be Octavia or to do what she would, but we believe we are carrying on that work in countless multitudes of ways, just as she carried on the work handed down to her.

One of our contributors Alexis Pauline Gumbs quotes from an interview Octavia Butler did in the 1980s, where she was asked how it felt to be THE Black female sci fi writer. And she said she never wanted that title. She wanted to be one of many Black female sci fi writers. She wanted to be one of thousands of folks writing themselves into their present and into the future. We believe that is the right that Octavia claimed for each of us – the right to dream as ourselves, individually and collectively. But we also think it is a responsibility she handed down – are we brave enough to imagine beyond the boundaries of “the real,” and then do the hard work of sculpting reality from our dreams?

And we also want to honor many other writers, especially those living at the intersections of multiple identities and oppressions, who have dreamed new worlds and then set about the hard work of making them reality. We know WEB DuBois wrote visionary fiction in 1920, using it as another avenue for discussing the racial landscape of this country, and we want to honor that this lineage of work is long. It is actually ancient. Specifically for adrienne and myself as two Black women, we know that our enslaved ancestors were visionary fiction creators; while in chains, they dreamed of us, their children’s children, free, which was complete science fiction at that time. And then they bent reality to create us. It’s vital for those of us from communities with historic and collective oppression to remember each of us is science fiction. And as such, this is part of that responsibility Octavia laid down for us – we have a responsibility to those who came before, and to those who come after.

To read the rest of the interview—and lots more—check out the new issue!

Revolution Is a Real Riot

We’re counting the minutes. At some point today, a truck will arrive with newly minted copies of our Malatesta anthology: The Method of Freedom. We’re all big fans of Malatesta’s thought and writing, his tactical insights, his no-nonsense approach, and his uncommon ability to remain generous and comradely even as he debates opponents into smithereens. We like him so much that this anthology will be followed, year by painstaking year, by our ten-volume The Complete Works of Malatesta.

For now, we offer an excerpt as evidence of Malatesta’s continued relevance. It’s his take on the relationship between riots and revolutions (turns out he’s a fan of both), with a few additional paragraphs addressing the question of police infiltration, the nineteenth-century version of snitchjaketing, and how a vital movement should deal with both.

 

Click here for the excerpt.
Click here to learn more
about the book.
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Against Equality goes on tour!


Members of the Against Equality collective have an impressive list of events lined up this spring throughout the U.S. and Canada, to celebrate the release of Against Equality: Queer Revolution, Not Mere Inclusion. If you’re lucky, you can catch an event near you. And if you’re not so lucky this time around, you can always get in touch with them and invite them to speak on their next tour!

 

SPRING 2014 EVENTS:

Apr 12 @ 10:50am: Radical Archives Conference, Cantor Film Center Theater, New York University (NYC)

Apr 16 @ 4:30pm: Kagin Ballroom, Macalester College (Saint Paul, MN)

Apr 19 @ 7pm: Bureau of General Services – Queer Division (NYC)

Apr 22 @ 4:30pm: Axinn 229, Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT)

Apr 23 @ 6:30pm: Concordia Coop Bookstore (Montreal, QC)

Apr 24 @ 8pm: Queer Possibilities Lecture Series, Alteregos Cafe (Halifax, NS)

Apr 26 @ 7pm: Calamus Books (Boston, MA)

May 2 @ Time TBA: Bates College (Lewiston, ME)

May 4 @ 6pm: Artists at Work Space, Maine College of Art (Portland, ME)

May 5 @ 4pm: UC San Diego (San Diego, CA)

May 6 @ 4pm: MultiCultural Center Lounge, UC Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA)

May 10 @ 7:30pm: Stories Books & Cafe (Los Angeles, CA)

Keep an eye on the Against Equality website for the most up-to-date tour news and event information.

Michael Schmidt on the Global Impact of Revolutionary Anarchism

 The interview below was conducted and published by the group Anarchist Affinity, in Melbourne, Australia. You can read the original (and check out their site) here.

Global Fire – South African author Michael Schmidt on the Global Impact of
Revolutionary Anarchism

 

Michael Schmidt is an investigative journalist, an anarchist theorist and a radical historian based in Johannesburg, South Africa. He has been an active participant in the international anarchist milieu, including the Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front. His major works include ‘Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (2013, AK Press) and, with Lucien van der Walt, ‘Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism’ (2009, AK Press).

In your recent book, Cartography of Revolutionary Anarchism (AK Press, USA, 2013), you argue that anarchists have often failed to draw insights from anarchist movements outside of Western Europe. What lessons does the global history of anarchism have to offer those engaged in struggle today?

The historical record shows that anarchism’s primary mass-organisational strategy, syndicalism, is a remarkably coherent and universalist set of theories and practices, despite the movement’s grappling with a diverse set of circumstances. From the establishment of the first non-white unions in South Africa and the first unions in China, through to the resistance to fascism in Europe and Latin America – the establishment of practical anarchist control of cities and regions, sometimes ephemeral, sometimes longer lived in countries as diverse as Macedonia (1903), Mexico (1911, 1915), Italy (1914, 1920), Portugal (1918), Brazil (1918), Argentina (1919, 1922), arguably Nicaragua (1927-1932), Ukraine (1917-1921), Manchuria (1929-1931), Paraguay (1931), and Spain (1873/4, 1909, 1917, 1932/3, and 1936-1939).

The results of the historically-revealed universalism are vitally important to any holistic understanding of anarchism/syndicalism:

Firstly, that the movement arose in the trade unions of the First International, simultaneously in Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Egypt from 1868-1872 (in other words, it arose internationally, on four continents, and was explicitly not the imposition of a European ideology);

Secondly, there is no such thing within the movement as “Third World,” “Global Southern” or “Non-Western” anarchism, that is in any core sense distinct from that in the “Global North”. Rather that they are all of a feather; the movement was infinitely more dominant in most of Latin America than in most of Europe. The movement today is often more similar in strength to the historical movements in Vietnam, Lebanon, India, Mozambique, Nigeria, Costa Rica, and Panama – so to look to these movements as the “centre” of the ideology produces gross distortions.

The lessons for anarchists and syndicalist from “the Rest” for “the West” can actually be summed up by saying that the movement always was and remains coherent because of its engagements with the abuse of power at all levels.

How is anarchism still relevant in the world today? What do anarchist ideas about strategy and tactics have to offer people active in social movements today?

I’d say there are several ways in which anarchism is relevant today:

1) It provides the most comprehensive intersectoral critique of not just capital and the state; but all forms of domination and exploitation relating to class, gender, race, colour, ethnicity, creed, ability, sexuality and so forth, implacably confronting grand public enemies such as war-mongering imperialism and intimate ones such as patriarchy. It is not the only ideology to do this, but is certainly the main consistently freethinking socialist approach to such matters.

2) With 15 decades of militant action behind it, it provides a toolkit of tried-and proven tactics for resistance in the direst of circumstances, and, has often risen above those circumstances to decentralise power to the people. These tactics include oppressed class self-management, direct democracy, equality, mutual aid, and a range of methods based in the conception that the means we use to resist determine the nature of our outcomes. The global anti-capitalist movement of today is heavily indebted to anarchist ethics and tactics for its internal democracy, flexibility, and its humanity.

3) Strategically, we see these tactics as rooted in direct democracy, equality, and horizontal confederalism (today called the “network of networks”), in particular in the submission of specific (self-constituted) anarchist organisations to the oversight of their communities, which then engage in collective decision-making that is consultative and responsible to those communities. It was the local District Committees, Cultural Centres, Consumer Co-operatives, Modern Schools, and Prisoner-support Groups during the Spanish Revolution that linked the great CNT union confederation and its Iberian Anarchist Federation (FAI) allies to the communities they worked within: the militia that fought on the frontlines against fascism, and the unions that produced all social wealth would have been rudderless and anchorless without this crucial social layer to give them grounding and direction. In order to have a social revolution of human scale, we submit our actions to the real live humans of the society that we work within: this is our vision of “socialism”.

In sum, anarchism’s “leaderless resistance” is about the ideas and practices that offer communities tools for achieving their freedom, and not about dominating that resistance. Anarchists ideally are fighting for a free world, not an anarchist world, one in which even conservatives will be freed of their statist, capitalist and social bondage to discover new ways of living in community with the rest of us.

Is it important to advance anarchism explicitly? Or is it enough to engage in social movements whose objectives we support without adopting the anarchist label?

This is primarily a tactical question, because the approaches adopted by anarchists have to be suited to the objective conditions of the oppressed classes in the area in which they are active, and the specific local cultures, histories, even prejudices of those they work alongside. The proper meaning of “anarchist” as a democratic practice – a practical, not utopian, one at that – of the oppressed classes clearly needs to be rehabilitated in Australia and New Zealand. Just as the Bulgarian syndicalists who built unions in the rural areas relied upon ancient peasant traditions of mutual aid to locate syndicalist mutual aid within an approachable framework, so you too must find a good match for anarchism within your cultures. We, for example, have relied heavily on traditional township forms of resistance to explain solidarity, mutual aid, egalitarianism, and self-management. Yet, it is also a strategic question because in my opinion, where you have the bourgeois-democratic freedoms to organise openly and without severe repression, it is important to form an explicitly anarchist organisation in order to act as:

a) a pole around which libertarian socialists, broadly speaking, can orbit and to which they can gravitate organisationally – though it is important to recognise that there can be more than one such pole; and

b) as a lodestar of clear, directly-democratic practice, offering those who seek guidance a vibrant toolkit of time-tested practices with which to defend the autonomy of the oppressed classes from those who would exploit/oppress them.

It is the question of responsibility that compels us to nail our colours to the mast. This is for three reasons:

a) firstly, because we are not terrorists or criminals and we have nothing to be ashamed about that requires hiding, even from our enemies (we should be able to openly defend our democratic credentials before mainstream politicians);

b) secondly, that by forming a formal organisation, people we interact with are made aware that none of us are loose cannons but are subject to the mandates of our organisation (with those mandates being public, fair and explicit); and

c) lastly, but most importantly, that the communities we work within, whether territorial (townships, cities, etc), or communities of interest (unions, queer rights bodies, residents’ associations etc) know that we are responsible to them, that our actions, positions and strategies are consultative, collaborative, responsive and responsible to those they may most immediately affect.

schmidtWe’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Counter Power Volume 2, Global Fire: 150 Fighting Years of Revolutionary Anarchism, is there any news on when it will be released? What ground will you be covering that people might not expect?

Global Fire is really a monstrous work: in research and writing for close to 15 years now, it’s really an international organised labour history over 150 years, tracing the organisational and ideological lineages of anarchism/syndicalism in all parts of the world. We have a lot to get right: we need to have a theory, at least, for why the French syndicalist movement turned reformist during World War I, or why the German revolutionary movement as a whole, both Marxist and anarchist, collapsed over 1919-1923, paving the way for the Nazis. These are issues of intense argument among historians, and we have to be able to back up with sound argument our stance in every case, from the well-known, like the Palmer Raids against the IWW in the USA in the wake of World War I, to the fate of syndicalism in Southern Rhodesia in the 1950s, or of the near-seizure of power in Chile by the syndicalists in 1956, and their fate under the red regimes in Cuba, Bulgaria and China, or the white regimes in Chile, South Korea, or Argentina. We need to understand the vectors of the anarchist idea in a holistic, transnational sense, but have often been hampered by the narrowness of national(ist) perspectives. Even within the Anarchist movement, histories have been more anecdotal and partisan than truly balanced and rigorous assessments, and have often been very disarticulated by language differences. With lengthy delays incurred by us trying to make sure that Global Fire is the best (in fact only) holistic international account of the movement. You can be assured that Lucien is working on refining the text, which if published in its current format would weigh in at a whopping 1,000 pages, and that we have a pencilled-in release date for 2015, though perhaps 2016 is more realisable.

 

original url: http://www.anarchistaffinity.org/2014/03/global-fire-south-african-author-michael-schmidt-on-the-global-impact-of-revolutionary-anarchism/

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The Winter We Danced: a new book on Idle No More!

The Winter We Danced is a brand-new collection of writing on the Idle No More movement. We at AK Press Distro have been anxiously awaiting getting this new book from our friends at Arbeiter Ring Publishing, ever since we first heard about it. And we weren’t the only ones—we’ve been fielding lots of calls and emails from other folks eager to read the words of the folks involved in this inspiring moment of Indigenous organizing. The waiting is over: the book is here in our hands, and can be in yours too! The publishers were gracious enough to give us permission to post the editors’ introduction to the book here, to give you all a better sense of the book so that you, too, can be excited about it. So here it is, we think it speaks for itself.

Idle No More:
The Winter We Danced
The Kino-nda-niimi Collective

Indigenous peoples have been protecting homelands; maintaining and revitalizing languages, traditions, and cultures; and attempting to engage Canadians in a fair and just manner for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, these efforts often go unnoticed—even ignored—until flash-point events, culminations, or times of crisis occur. The winter of 2012-2013 was witness to one of these moments. It will be remembered—alongside the maelstrom of treaty-making, political waves like the Red Power Movement and the 1969-1970 mobilization against the White Paper, and resistance movements at Oka, Gustefson’s Lake, Ipperwash, Burnt Church, Goose Bay, Kanostaton, and so on—as one of the most important moments in our collective history. “Idle No More,” as it came to be known, was a watershed time, an emergence out of past efforts that reverberated into the future. The clear lesson regarding this brief note of context is that most Indigenous peoples have never been idle in their efforts to protect what is meaningful to our communities—nor will we ever be.

This most recent link in this very long chain of resistance was forged in late November 2012, when four women in Saskatchewan held a meeting called to educate Indigenous (and Canadian) communities on the impacts of the Canadian federal government’s proposed Bill C-45. The 457 pages of multiple pieces of legislation, an “omnibus” of new laws, introduced drastic changes to the Indian Act, the Fisheries Act, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, and the Navigable Water Act (amongst many others). Entitled Idle No More, this “teach-in” organized by Sylvia McAdam, Jess Gordon, Nina Wilson and Sheelah Mclean raised concerns regarding the removal of specific protections for the environment (in particular water and fish habitats), the improper “leasing” of First Nations territories, as well as the lack of consultation with the people most affected even where treaty and Aboriginal rights were threatened. With the help of social media and grassroots Indigenous activists, this meeting inspired a continent-wide movement with hundreds of thousands of people from Indigenous communities and urban centres participating in sharing sessions, protests, blockades and round dances in public spaces and on the land, in our homelands, and in sacred spaces.

From the perspective of our collective and based on the curated articles in this book, the Idle No More movement coalesced around three broad motivations or objectives:

  • The repeal of significant sections of the Canadian federal government’s omnibus legislation (Bills C-38 and C-45) and specifically parts relating to the exploitation of the environment, water, and First Nations territories.
  • The stabilization of emergency situations in First Nations communities, such as Attawapiskat, accompanied by an honest, collaborative approach to addressing issues relating to Indigenous communities and self-sustainability, land, education, housing, healthcare, among others.
  • A commitment to a mutually beneficial nation-to-nation relationship between Canada, First Nations (status and non-status), Inuit, and Metis communities based on the spirit and intent of treaties and a recognition of inherent and shared rights and responsibilities as equal and unique partners. A large part of this includes an end to the unilateral legislative and policy process Canadian governments have favoured to amend the Indian Act.

Admittedly, the movement goes beyond even these issues. The creativity and passion of Idle No More necessarily revealed long-standing abusive patterns of successive Canadian governments in their treatment of Indigenous peoples. It brought to light years of dishonesty, racism and outright theft. Moreover, it engaged the oft-slumbering Canadian public as never before. Within four months, Idle No More moved beyond the turtle’s continental back and became a global movement with manifold demands.

Idle No More is, in the most rudimentary terms, a culmination of the historical and contemporary legacies emerging from colonization and violence throughout North America and the world. These involve land theft, treaty violations, and many misunderstandings. There is therefore much to talk about, reflect upon, and take action to redress. In this way, Idle No More represents a unique opportunity: a chance to deepen everyone’s understanding of the circumstances and choices that have led to this time and place; and a forum for how we can come up with solutions together. This movement represents an important moment for conversations about how to live together meaningfully and peacefully, as nations and as neighbours.

That being said, the nature and enormity of Idle No More meant that it was sometimes bewildering in scope and complexity. As it grew, the movement became broad-based, diverse, and included many voices. There were those focused on the omnibus legislation, others who mobilized to protect land and support the resurgence of Indigenous nations, some who demanded justice for the hundreds of missing and murdered Indigenous women, and still others who worked hard to educate and strengthen relationships with non-Indigenous allies. Many did all of this at once. Idle No More adopted a radically decentralized character, having no single individual or group “leader.” Instead, communities would join together for distinct purposes, temporarily or for long-term activism. Events were local, regional, and wide-scale. This often confused and frustrated those (particularly in the media) who looked for the “voice” of the movement or somebody who could—or would—speak on behalf of all participants. Idle No More, however, was inherently different. It defied orthodox politics.

Indigenous women have always been leaders in our communities and many took a similar role in the movement. As they had done for centuries when nurturing and protecting families, communities, and nations, women were on the front lines organizing events, standing up and speaking out. Grandmothers, mothers, aunties, sisters, and daughters sustained us, carried us, and taught through word, song, and story. When Indigenous women were targeted with sexual violence during the movement, many of us organized to support those women and to make our spaces safer. Many also strived to make the movement an inclusive space for all genders and sexual orientations and to recognize the leadership roles and responsibilities of our fellow queer and two-spirited citizens. The movement also didn’t escape the heteropatriarchy that comes with several centuries of colonialism. We have more work to do collectively to build movements that are inclusive, respectful, and safe for all genders and sexual orientations.

At almost every event, we collectively embodied our diverse and ancient traditions in the round dance by taking the movement to the streets, malls, and highways across Turtle Island. The powerful events and emotions of the round dance are captured beautifully in SkyBlue Mary Morin’s poem “A Healing Time”—which is why we started off the book in this way. It is also worth remembering how the dance started. Cree Elder John Cuthand explains the origin and significance of the dance:

The story goes there was a woman who loved her mother very much. The daughter never married and refused to leave her mother’s side. Many years later the mother now very old passed away. The daughter’s grief was unending. One day as she was walking alone on the prairie her thoughts filled with pain. As she walked she saw a figure standing alone upon a hill. She came closer and saw that it was her mother. As she ran toward her she could see her mother’s feet did not touch the ground. Her mother spoke and told her she could not touch her. “I cannot find peace in the other world so long as you grieve,” she said, “I bring something from the other world to help the people grieve in a good way.” She taught her the ceremony and the songs that went with it. “Tell the people that when this circle is made we the ancestors will be dancing with you and we will be as one. The daughter returned and taught the people the round dance ceremony.” [1]

In the winter of 2012-2013, our Ancestors danced with us. They were there in intersections, in shopping malls, and in front of Parliament buildings. They marched with us in protests, stood with us at blockades, and spoke through us in teach-ins. Joining us were our relatives, long-tenured and newly arrived Canadians, and sometimes, when we were lucky, the elements of creation that inspired action in the first place.

Speaking of inspiration, the impact of Chief Theresa Spence’s fast on the movement—which many in this book speak about—cannot be understated. We also danced to honour and protect the fasting Ogichidaakwe, who went without food for six weeks on Victoria Island in Omàmìwinini (Algonquin) territory, Ottawa, to draw attention to unfulfilled treaties and the consequences on her community. While originally unrelated to any legislation or to those four Saskatchewan women, her simultaneous protest galvanized the movement. Her commitment provided an urgency that motivated our communities and our leaders to confront the legacy of this colonial relationship. Her sacrifice encouraged so many others to act.

A unique aspect of Idle No More is that the movement often went around mainstream media, emerging in online and independent publications as articles, essays, and interviews. This was the first time we had the capacity and technological tools to represent ourselves and our perspectives on the movement and broadcast those voices throughout Canada and the world—we wrote about the movement while it was taking place. Through social media—but also through good old word of mouth and discussions in lodges and kitchen tables
—these words spread quickly and dynamically, trending through venues like Twitter and Facebook. Never before have Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers and artists presented to Canadians such rich art, stories, and expressive forms to others in such personal, intimate, and dynamic ways that provoke and evoke visions of the past, present, and future. During the winter we danced, the vast amount of critical and creative expressions that took place is like the footprints we left in the snow, sand, and earth: incalculable. And, for the most part, it was full of a positive, creative, and joyful energy that continues to spark critical dialogues.

The Winter We Danced is a collection of much of this important work and a hopeful contribution to the new trajectories of Idle No More and the new movements to come. This book reflects what the movement represents in our history and asks critical questions about the state of Indigenous activism today. More importantly, it also gifts us a look into our future. Like a round dance, readers are invited to reflect upon this beautiful and significant moment, to remember, celebrate, think, and contribute to change we all can benefit from. The Winter We Danced hopes to serve as a space for everyone to join in, and maybe even inspire some more movement.

The Winter We Danced brings together the writings of both actors and activists within Idle No More but also Indigenous and non-Indigenous thinkers, organizers, leaders, artists and advocates—all of whom in various ways are embedded in community and their homelands. We begin with “First Beats”—a group of writing that captures the origins of the movement. “Singers and Dancers” builds upon these beginnings with a series of critical perspectives on core issues and events throughout the movement. “Image Warriors” features some of the most influential and powerful visual art emerging during the movement. “Friendships” reflects our relationships with supporters and allies across lines and borders, while “Next Steps” considers where we might collectively go from here. The resulting volume is an ambitious primer on the history of Idle No More and its implications, but also provides a platform for responses to the movement’s very existence. This collection has been curated by a group of Anishinaabeg and Neyihaw editors who were part of the movement at various stages and, in some cases, helped shape it. We reached out to colleagues and friends in the north, the west and the east to bring their issues and voices into the book. There are, however, some unfortunate absences in the book as a result of time constraints.

Finally, it should be stated that The Winter We Danced is not a complete body of work documenting the movement nor a comprehensive analysis of Idle No More. We have included as many voices as possible from the many who acted and danced and sang and lived in an incredibly diverse movement. At the same time, we have tried to provide a detailed overview of major events over a very complex time. Intended to be read by diverse audiences, this collection is ensconced with distinct politics and perspectives that do not always represent the ideas of all members of the collective. The text will serve as an invitation for those within Indigenous nations, Canada, and elsewhere to learn about Idle No More, reflect on this moment in history, and consider possibilities for the future of Indigenous and non-Indigenous relationships. The spirit and the work of the winter we danced continues, like it always has, into the future.


[1]      See: creeliteracy.org/2012/12/19/elder-john-cuthand-shares-the-story-of-the-round-dance/

You can learn more about the book HERE.