Posts by kate

New book on Puerto Rican Anarchism needs your support

Our comrade Jorell is raising money to help support the publication of a new book on anarchism in Puerto Rico. Check it out, and consider donating if you have the capability!


Editor Kate Khatib Reflects on We Are Many, our new Occupy book (#WeAreMany #Occupy)

I remember sitting in Minneapolis last November chatting with a dear friend, talking about upcoming book projects, and him asking: So who do you have doing an AK Press book on Occupy? It was a good question. I thought about it, weighed the options, talked to authors, activists, and organizers, and came to the conclusion that, in fact, it somehow made sense for me to do the AK Press book on Occupy. It was a moment of insanity, and I’m not sure why no one talked me out of it. See, I don’t have a lot of free time, and my AK workload on top of my Red Emma’s workload and my organizing commitments means that I already don’t get enough sleep, am always behind on everything, and am constantly on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. Why I thought that taking on the project of pulling together a book on Occupy, written by (very busy) activists, was something I had the time to do, I don’t know. How I thought that I’d be able to get it done in nine months – in time for the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street on September 17 – I really don’t know. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in my quest; I was fortunate to be able to draft two of my very favorite people (who are also far too busy all of the time) as co-editors: Baltimore-based global justice organizer Mike McGuire, and nomadic author and activist Margaret Killjoy. And, thanks to the amazing work of my co-editors, to the dedication of our group of contributors, and to the faith placed in this project by the AK Press collective, nine months later, We Are Many: Critical Reflections on Movement Strategy from Occupation to Liberation is born. The printer assures me copies will arrive in Minneapolis and New York for our launch events this weekend – and you can order a copy here from AK Press (or Amazon, or Powells, or your local indy bookstore).

When we named this project back in January, we chose We Are Many because it was a nice blend of old and new. We liked the referents it implied, but it was a phrase that hadn’t been taken up and over-used yet by the movement. (Our first choice was 99 to 1, but someone else managed to announce a book with the same name before we did, sending us back to the drawing board, and searching for something that wouldn’t have the same results!) As the project grew (and grew, and grew), to encompass the contributions of over fifty authors and even more artists and photographers, we started to joke about the name: We Are (Too) Many. But once we’d made our final selections, staring at all of the contributions written down on index cards and arranged in various configurations on my floor as we tried to set the final order, we started to realize exactly how apt that title is.

We Are Many is a multiplicity. It doesn’t seek to present a single party line, doesn’t pretend to have solved all of the problems, or resolved all of the conflicts. It presents multiple perspectives on the same question, sometimes contradictory ones, sometimes just different ones. It’s a hodge podge of ideas, perspectives, tactics, contexts, and ideologies. Just like the movement it seeks to reflect. For me, reading this book from cover to cover is sort of like the feeling I have attending a General Assembly: confusing, chaotic, overwhelming, fascinating, frustrating, exhilarating, and very, very real.

We are many: we speak as individuals. We are many: we speak as one. I don’t know that I really considered the double nature of the phrase when we originally chose that title so many months ago, but as we’ve pulled the project together over the last eight weeks, it has really come to signify the way that I think not just about this project, but about Occupy itself, and really about contemporary social movements as a whole.

Let me be clear: We Are Many is only a start. It’s the beginning of a much larger, and sorely needed, conversation about movement strategy: about what works, and when, and why; about respect for each other’s opinions; about understanding difference; about the need for revolutionary zeal; about new ideas that we have pioneered this past year; about the new things we’ll do in the next. Those conversations are happening all around us. This book captures only a few of them, a representative sample of a much, much larger multiplicity of perspectives. It’s up to you – all of you, or perhaps all of us – to carry that conversation on. To take this book as a jumping off point, as an invitation into the conversation, as a challenge to keep the discussion and the debate going as we look towards the second year of this still-nascent, ever-changing social explosion that we’ve come to think of as Occupy.

I almost forgot! Check out this amazing list of contributors. There are so many people in this book who have inspired me with their words and their actions, not just this past year, but for many years. I’m honored to have had the opportunity to edit their essays for this project:

Michael Andrews, Michael Belt, Nadine Bloch, Rose Bookbinder, Mark Bray, Emily Brissette, George Caffentzis, George Ciccariello-Maher, Annie Cockrell, Joshua Clover, Andy Cornell, Molly Crabapple, CrimethInc., CROATOAN, Paul Dalton, Chris Dixon, John Duda, Brendan M. Dunn, Lisa Fithian, Gabriella, David Graeber, Ryan Harvey, Rachel Herzing, Gabriel Hetland, Marisa Holmes, Mike King, Koala Largess, Yvonne Yen Liu, Josh MacPhee, Manissa M. Maharawal, Yotam Marom, Cindy Milstein, Occupy Research, Joel Olson, Isaac Ontiveros, Morrigan Phillips, Frances Fox Piven, Vijay Prashad, Michael Premo, Max Rameau, RANT, Research & Destroy, Nathan Schneider, Jonathan Matthew Smucker, Some Oakland Antagonists, Lester Spence, Janaina Stronzake, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, Team Colors Collective, Janelle Treibitz, Unwoman, Immanuel Wallerstein, Sophie Whittemore, Kristian Williams, and Jaime Omar Yassin.

I hope you’ll all check out the book, and that you’ll find something in it to appreciate. I look forward to continuing the conversation in the months and years to come …

A Punk Writer: Vijay Prashad remembers Alexander Cockburn

(This essay originally appeared on Frontline:

The whole thing is a blur to me. It was sometime in 1985 or 1986, a warm night, when a band member from either Black Flag or the Circle Jerks told me about Alexander Cockburn. We were standing in one of the side alleys near Los Angeles’ Roxy Theatre, smoking, when he told me about Cockburn’s fulminations against Ronald Reagan and contemporary America. Reagan’s jarringly brutal wars were a preoccupation for me. My political friends and I took our lessons from the cyclostyled sheets produced by the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) and the various solidarity committees for divestment from apartheid South Africa. Their content was of the essence, but the papers were dreary to read.

Events seemed to drain the ink of human vitality: massacres of Salvadorian peasant farmers and police firing at black workers did not require embellishment, only the dry tones of an activist’s pen. Finding Cockburn was a treat. He was no less moved by the outrages of our time, and he seemed to be reading the same activist broadsheets as I did. But his stylistic translation into his columns of those events and the rage that should greet them for The Village Voice and The Wall Street Journal, for The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair took my breath away. As my musician friend told me, this guy was a punk writer.

Already known as a superb left-wing stylist in England, Alexander came to the United States in June 1972 to escape what he called “the relics of an empire corrupted far beyond the reach of popular indignation”. He arrived in the U.S. at the time when President Nixon’s burglars broke into the Watergate hotel, and when the bombardment of South-East Asia had discomfited U.S. allies, who had begun to leave its side (the Thai army left in January and New Zealand’s forces left in December).

Washington and its hypocrisies provided sufficient material for his acidic pen. Alexander took up residence at The Village Voice, the counter-cultural journal of New York City, where he hosted the “Press Clips” column and (with James Ridgeway) wrote “The Moving Target” reports. As the American media gasped for breath between the claustrophobia of its ulcerative political landscape and of its corporate-induced “balanced” journalism, The Village Voice became a life raft. Old-school municipal journalism came from Wayne Barnett, vibrant essays on imperialism, socialism and gay rights came from the witty pen of Andrew Kopkind, amusing music journalism and bold essays on abortion rights and feminism came from Ellen Willis, and sharp and witty film reviews came from J. Hoberman. This was good company.

At The Village Voice, and in his forays into EsquireHarper’s and The New York Review of Books, Alexander fired volley after volley against the mendacity and mediocrity of the corporate media and against the powers that be. Old traditions of American journalism that fearlessly derided the powerful had declined by the 1970s. Muckrakers such as Ida Tarbells and Nellie Bly, Jacob Riis and Ida B. Wells no longer found mainstream homes. Razor-edged columnists such as H.L. Mencken and I.F. Stone had not been reproduced. Alexander perched in this gap.

The broad contours of Alexander’s political view had been formed within a decade of his residence in the U.S. His columns in The Village Voice and in, of all improbable places, The Wall Street Journal provided the weekly diagnosis of the emergence of Reaganism. In 1987, Alexander’s inquest yielded the following summary: “Reaganism is shorthand for a particular culture of consumption, a reverie of militarism, of violence redeemed, of a manic, corrupted and malevolent idealism. The priorities of this culture at the directly political level have been simple enough: the transfer of income from poor to rich, the expansion of war production and an ‘activist’ foreign policy, traditional in many ways but as Noam Chomsky has said, ‘at an extreme end of the spectrum: intervention, subversion, aggression, international terrorism and general gangsterism and lawlessness, the essential content of the ‘Reagan doctrine’.”

Reaganism would become the general doctrine of the Republican Party, and it would draw the Democrats into engagement and then mimicry. What was the antidote to this national malaise? In 1976, Alexander and James Ridgeway followed Jimmy Carter and Reagan through the corn of Iowa and the thickets of New Hampshire. Carter would win that election, but there were already indications of how the Democrats would falter before the rise of Reaganism, and then lurch to the Right under Bill Clinton. “It is absurd that a Democratic candidate is not triumphantly conquering all before him with a powerful reforming message,” Alexander wrote. “But 1976 does not seem to be 1932, and currently no such Democrat is in view.” This prognosis holds to this day: the Republicans have withdrawn into the furthest corner of the Right, and the Democrats are eager to edge as close to them as possible while mouthing earnest liberal sentiments.

While at The Village Voice, Alexander got into his share of scuffles. It was hard to stay at his desk when his own paper began to slip into the arms of Reaganism. In 1977, Rupert Murdoch bought the parent company of The Village Voice, whose new management threatened to get rid of Marianne Partridge, the much loved, smart editor of the magazine (now publisher of the Santa Barbara Independent). The sports writer Jack Newfield asked Alexander if he had Murdoch’s home number, which he did, and so Alexander fixed a meeting for the three of them to discuss the changes at The Village Voice.

Murdoch, who was not comfortable with a woman at the helm of his publication, welcomed the men into his apartment, “Relax, fellows. We’re back to square one. Marianne will remain the editor. Have a drink, please.” Murdoch then told them stories about his own time at Oxford, when he was Red Rupert. Not long after this, the publisher fired Marianne Partridge anyway, but her staff fought back. They walked Marianne Partridge and her dog to work each day. Alexander did not let the old Oxford tie or the steak and red wine cloud his vision. He would later call Murdoch a “world class monster” and write bitingly that Murdoch dispensing with his newspapers would be like “Dracula selling his coffins.”

In 1973, the black ink of censorship covered over Alexander’s first essay on Palestinians. The New York Times briefly reported that Palestinian guerillas fired on an Israeli army post and so “Israeli planes flew north and dumped high explosives on a refugee camp in Lebanon, killing a dozen or so men, women and children”. Alexander wrote this up for his “Press Clips” column and wondered about the “lack of moral disquiet in the Times’ story about the lethal retaliation inflicted on innocent refugees”. Dan Wolf, The Village Voice’s editor, called Alexander, asked him to reconsider, and then simply dropped the story. This got under the skin of Alexander, who would then throw his entire arsenal of sarcasm and wit at the blockade around the Truth when it came to the Middle East (West Asia), and mainly Israel.

On November 19, 1980, Alexander published an extended interview with the Israeli dissident Israel Shahak, who laid out the basic parameters of Israeli colonialism, and whose translations from the Hebrew press over the course of the next decade revealed the dynamics: roads and walls to cut off Palestinians from each other, settlements and military posts to link the occupied territories to Israel proper, and a thirst for the water that lay under the Palestinian aquifer. Alexander wrote about all this, and it got to be too much for his employers. What galled the Israel lobby was Alexander’s column from August 10, 1982, where he wrote in the context of the invasion of Lebanon, “The Israelis are behaving like war criminals.”

In 1984, The Village Voice editor David Schneiderman found the reason to remove Alexander (Schneiderman, who was Murdoch’s man, would later recall Murdoch marvelling “how a bunch of Communists could manage a paper so well”). The Institute for Arab Studies had in 1982 given Alexander $10,000 to fund a trip to Lebanon so that he could write a book on the Israeli invasion. He had not disclosed this to his editor. The muck flew that the Institute and Alexander were anti-Semites. It was rubbish. Still, Alexander was suspended from The Village Voice. It would not be the last time that Alexander would be accused of anti-Semitism. As he put it, “Anti-Semitism has become like a flit gun to squirt at every inconvenient fly on the window pane.”

Victor Navasky of The Nation (founded in 1865) poached Alexander on the advice of Andrew Kopkind. Alexander began to write Navasky a column, which he wrote until his death: it was the longest-running column in the history of this venerable magazine. If you read Alexander’s essays, you know that an immense influence on him was his father, the former Communist, journalist and newsman Claude Cockburn. It was his father’s novel Beat the Devil (made into a film by John Huston in 1953) that provided Alexander with the name of his column. At The Nation, Alexander went after the same old scoundrels. The columns from The Village VoiceThe Wall Street Journal and from The Nation sit on my shelf in his great collections: Corruptions of Empire (1987), The Golden Age Is In Us (1995), Washington Babylon (1995), and one that I anticipate, Colossal Wreck (2012).

In 1994, with the U.S. convulsed by the madness of the Republicans and the neoliberalism of the Democrats, Alexander joined with Ken Silverstein and later Jeffrey St. Clair to produce an alternative, Counterpunch. I remember taking out a subscription to the hard-copy newsletter (before the website was produced) and enjoying the honest journalism. It tells you something about the integrity of Alexander that he forsook fame and fortune for the small magazine, preferring to keep to his opinions and build his audience than to align himself to the advantages of corporate power.

Within 10 years, Counterpunch’s website would receive three million daily hits, with 100,000 unique visitors and 300,000 page views. The website scintillated after 9/11, when Counterpunch was one of the few U.S.-based harbours for critical thinking around the War on Terror, the war on Afghanistan, the growth of domestic surveillance, and the emergence of a new kind of political arithmetic that favoured free markets and unfree citizens. Alexander found writers from across the political spectrum who were willing to stand sentinel against the madness.

For two years Alexander battled his cancer privately, letting only his daughter, Daisy, and a few friends know of what had begun to overrun his body. His suffering remained private, but his own thoughts continued to appear in Counterpunch until his last week. He missed only one column during his last month.

Nostalgic for Nothing: Emerging Authors Tackle the New Left at Pegasus Books, 7/20

A conversation with authors: Michael Staudenmaier, Jason Ferreria, Amy Sonnie, and labor organizer Carole Travis. Moderated by James Tracy.   What: Nostalgic for Nothing: Emerging Authors Tackle the New Left When: Friday, July 20, 7:30 pm Where: Pegasus Books Downtown What else: Wheelchair accessible; refreshments served. This event is free.

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Michael Staudenmaier at The Green Arcade in SF, 7/21

Truth and Revolution author Michael Staudenmaier discusses the history and legacy of the Sojourner Truth Organization – a revolutionary Leninist group active in the 1970s with an interesting critique of whiteness. Don’t miss it!

Founded in Chicago in 1969 from the rubble of the recently crumbled SDS, the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) brought working-class consciousness to the forefront of New Left discourse, sending radicals back into the factories and thinking through the integration of radical politics into everyday realities. Through the influence of founding members like Noel Ignatiev and Don Hamerquist, STO took a Marxist approach to the question of race and revolution, exploring the notion of “white skin privilege,” and helping to lay the groundwork for the discipline of critical race studies.

Michael Staudenmaier is a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Illinois-Urbana.

About the Author

Michael Staudenmaier: Michael Staudenmaier has been an active part of the anarchist movement in the United States for over twenty years. Currently pursuing his PhD in History at the University of Illinois-Urbana, Michael’s activist work centers around supporting and encouraging resistance to white supremacy. he has published extensively in anarchist and academic journals, and is a contributor to The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism (Princeton UP, 2010), and The International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest, 1500 to the Present (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). He lectures widely on a variety of topics related to struggles around issues of race and whiteness.

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This Thursday: Demand Reinstatement of Friend of a Friend!

For our readers in Baltimore:

On Thursday June 21st 2012 at 9am community and student organizations will host a demonstration to demand the immediate reinstatement Friend of a Friend program at Jessup Correctional Institution following its arbitrary indefinite suspension.   The demonstration will take place at 300 East Joppa Road in Towson, Maryland.  Please join us, and bring signs and placards that read Reinstate Friends!

The Friends program was founded by a group of concerned men in the prison system, including political prisoner Eddie Conway, to provide mentoring to young prisoners. The program began with an attempt to identify the problems, expectations and daily needs of prisoners – many of whom are of African descent – and excluded from full participation in the social and political process.

Following a graduation ceremony for program participants at the Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI) we were informed that the project was being “dismantled” with no explanation except that contraband was found on the premises. There is no evidence that the Friends volunteers were involved in the smuggling of the contraband, nor is there any evidence that our incarcerated participants were involved.  We are asking the entire community to attend this demonstration and support our incarcerated brothers, to demand immediate reinstatement of this program that has helped hundreds of prisoners and former prisoners, and more transparency in the Maryland Office of Public Safety and Correctional Services. We are asking concerned community members to email and/or fax the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services Gary Maynard and the fax number is 410-339-4240.

Demonstration Co-sponsors include: Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, Students Against Mass Incarceration-Howard University, The Social Justice Committee of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church, Red Emma’s, the Baltimore Free School, The Youth Resiliency Institute, and Nommo Theater.

New sale titles & ebooks from AK Press!

Join the AK Press mailing list to get announcements of sales and special items just like this in the future! New E-books from AK Press! Some of you may have noticed that we’re going a bit e-book crazy lately. We’ve been producing e-books for a while now, but finally with our awesome new website, we [...]

Continue reading at Revolution by the Book …

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Friends of AK Press: Now available as DRM-free ebooks!!

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Imperiled Life: Read an excerpt from the latest Anarchist Interventions title!

The latest AK Press release, and the fourth in our popular collaboration with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, is Javier Sethness-Castro’s Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe.

Check out what readers are saying:

This is an extremely well-researched and well-written book, providing both a history of our awareness of the coming global environmental collapse, and a plausible and even inspiring plan for present and future action. The more people who read it, the better humanity’s chances will be.
—Kim Stanley Robinson, author of  Green Mars

Imperiled Life is an angry and urgent dissection of the omnivorous economic system that is mercilessly turning the planet into a death camp.
—Jeffrey St. Clair, coeditor of Counterpunch and author of Born Under a Bad Sky

In a climate change debate pumped full of duplicity and evasion, Javier Sethness-Castro blasts in air-clearing testament to the calamity facing humanity. Sethness-Castro argues boldly that humanity is the asteroid this time, responsible for one of the great extinctions in earth’s history. Imperiled Life is no halfhearted call to shuffle the lightbulbs on a sinking terrestrial Titanic. It demands we rethink our philosophies, reorganize our societies, and rework our economies if we are to escape a fate of being survived only by valleys of bones and mountains of garbage.
—Arun Gupta, cofounder of the Indypendent and the Occupied Wall Street Journal

Javier Sethness-Castro here importantly diagnoses the ways in which today’s dominant trends toward fascist authoritarianism, casino capitalism, and cataclysmic militarism ominously intend a planetary future predicated on widespread genocide, ecological collapse, and the enclosure of moral progress. Moreover, Imperiled Life provides hope that social movements around the world are actively struggling to find common insurgent cause together—to democratically occupy the global power structure, work for human, animal, and earth liberation, and create sustainable community alternatives. May this fundamentally change the political climate of our future such that justice, peace, and happiness on Earth are more than just utopian urges or filthy privileges of the super affluent!
—Richard Kahn, author of Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, and Planetary Crisis

Want to know more? Click here to download an excerpt from the book: CLICK TO READ!

Convinced? Be sure to buy a copy on our website – 25% off through the end of the month: CLICK TO BUY

Vijay Prashad on NPR’s Weekend Edition!

Vijay Prashad, author of our new Arab Spring, Libyan Winter joined the hosts of National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition last Sunday to discuss NATO, and contextualize the counter-protests in Chicago over the weekend. Speaking in response to Ivo Daalder, current US ambassador to NATO, Prashad questioned NATO’s efficacy and suggested that it’s time for the organization to be retired:

PRASHAD: For instance, you know, you have to imagine that from 1949 to 1991, NATO was largely a defensive pact. For the first 10 years after the Soviet Union had dissolved, NATO went through an internal debate so that in 1999, the council decided to allow NATO to be used for so-called offensive operations, not just as a defensive pact.

And shortly thereafter, NATO went into operation in Bosnia. But the danger here is, I think, along three axes. The first is NATO has demonstrated kind of a, you know, very peculiar strategy of encircling Russia and China. You know, they’ve begun a very interesting policy called Partners Across the Globe where from Mongolia to Iraq – in other words, the countries that rim the Asian continent. You know, the Russians and Chinese see this as a threat to their security.

And rather than produce a new kind of world order not dominated by threats and by, you know, escalation of military spending, this is a superb opportunity to reach out a hand to the Chinese, to the Russians and see if there can be a de-escalation of militarism on the world stage. And NATO is contributing, actually, to the very opposite of that.

Visit the Weekend Edition website to listen to the whole broadcast or read the transcript!