Posts by uri

Whose Streets? Anarchism, Technology and the Petromodern State

This is the guest editorial from the new issue of Anarchist Studies on the politics of technology, co-edited by Michael Truscello and myself. The articles in this issue can be read here: The authority of the modern state cannot find a solution, of course, because it has come to encompass every aspect of the [...]The post Whose Streets? Anarchism, Technology and the Petromodern State appeared first on Anarchy Alive!.

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Islamophobia and Anarchism – call for articles

(English and French version below – contact ديصوفيا هي مجلة أناركية مستقلة وذات ميزانية قليلة تنوي متابعة بحثها الناجح في موضوع معاداة السامية وذلك من خلال استكشاف قضايا حول الإسلام والعنصرية المعادية للإسلام من منظو أناركي. نحن على وعي كناشطيين مقرهم في المملكة المتحدة أن هناك الكثير من النقص لنقاش ذا نطاق أوسع [...]The post Islamophobia and Anarchism – call for articles appeared first on Anarchy Alive!.

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The Zapatista Army of National Liberation Announces Next Steps

reposted from My Word is My Weapon – translation by Kristin Bricker Mexico December 30, 2012 To the People of Mexico: To the Peoples and Goverments of the World: Brothers and Sisters: Compañeros and compañeras: This past December 21, 2012, in the pre-dawn hours, tens of thousands of indigenous Zapatistas mobilized and we took over, peacefully [...]

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Categories: Politics
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Review in Dutch

The Dutch anarchist magazine and blog Libertaire orde has published a review of the French translation of Anarchy Alive! written by Thom Holterman.

Het voorgaande maakt duidelijk dat op het ‘oude’ anarchisme wordt voortgebouwd, waarbij er tevens een nieuwe invulling ontstaat, die zich als hedendaags anarchisme laat herkennen. Daarbij geeft Gordon aan het boek niet te hebben geschreven als een pleidooi voor het anarchisme. Zulke boeken bestaan er al genoeg. Hij probeert dan ook niet wie dan ook te overtuigen dat anarchie mogelijk of wenselijk is, zoals hij zegt. Hij wil juist nadenken, vanuit de vertrouwde thema’s over de dilemma’s waarmee activisten (overigens een deel van zijn eigen levensgeschiedenis) worden geconfronteerd.

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Daoism and Anarchism out now

Just received my two copies of Daoism and Anarchism – Critiques of State Autonomy in Ancient and Modern China by John Rapp, the latest in the Continuum series Contemporary Anarchist Studies which I’m co-editing. Advance praise hass referred to this volume as “magnificent and insightful scholarship”. Please consider ordering for your library!

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Social Movement Studies on Occupy movement

Free access to new issue of Social Movement Studies on the global Occupy Movement (got a piece in there)…

pdf flyer

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James Horrox on A. D. Gordon and anarchism

There is very little good material online about A. D. Gordon, even less in English, and none that discusses his anarchism. So I am very pleased to be able to post the following essay, adapted by James Horrox from his book A Living Revolution (AK Press, 2009), on the inspiring life and ideas of this [...]

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Frankfurt Update: Individual bans withdrawn, Actions start


Blockupy-actions are starting now. Police have announced to want to evict (‘temporarily’, but if they do not collaborate it might be for good) the occupy camp in front of the ECB that has been there since October 15 last year. Occupiers have declared that they will ‘resist peacefully’ and Blockupy called for solidarity. On Tuesday police started to surround the camp with fences.

Also the surroundings of the neighbouring ECB has been fenced off with barbed wire.

Latest newsletter with handy info (in German)

There is also (more) good news: police decided to withdraw the ‘personal bans’ that more than 400 people got sent home, forbidding them to be in the Frankfurt area from May 16-20. The reason to withdraw the ban is the fear that the bans might not hold in court.

Meanwhile many meanstream media report that the blockades are already functioning. The ECB is organising police escort for some of their personnel, and changing venues for some of their activities (Reuters: – The European Central Bank plans to hold its mid-month policy meeting early, move staff out of its headquarters and shift a farewell event for one of its board members out of town, all to avoid clashes with anti-capitalist ‘Blockupy’ protesters.

(…) The ECB has also shifted a farewell event for outgoing board member Jose Manuel Gonzalez-Paramo, due to be attended by policymakers from around the world. It was originally to be held at one of Frankfurt’s plushest hotels, just a stone’s throw from the ECB’s headquarters. Instead it will now be held out of town with guests to be told the exact location only hours beforehand.

Other banks decided to close down completely

The Commerz Bank is closing its offices from Thursday on

Others are boarding up, or removing signs from their buildings, in the hope that demonstrators don’t recognize them. Some smaller businesses have declared to be on the side of the demonstrators and to have made good business with demonstrators. One of the occupy-activists appears to be a trader himself.

Then there is this hilarious report that bankers have been instructed to ‘dress casually’ and not come to work in their usual dress (= suit and tie for men, women can be a bit more frivolous) but wear ragged jeans instead.

In an interview with two activists from an antifascist organisation we can also read about the propaganda from the side of the authorities. One of the arguments for all the repressive measures, is the fact that an anti capitalist demonstration on March 31 turned violent. One police officer was hospitalised, as media don’t stop repeating, claiming that he was ‘severely wounded’. He was, but it turned out that it was mainly pepper spray he got, and he could leave the hospital the next day after they examined him and had that outcome. Police sprays pepper spray on demonstrators as a habit almost, and in large quantities, but not one of the victims got any media attention.

John Holloway in the Guardian: Blockupy Frankfurt is a glimmer of hope in times of austerity (Popular protests such as Blockupy offer an alternative to capitalism for those facing a life hunting through garbage cans)

As the famous folksinger B.Dylan once wrote: You don’t need to be in Frankfurt to block a bank

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Nice review in Capital and Class

David Bell from the University of Nottingham has published a positive review of Anarchy Alive! in the journal Capital and Class. Quite nice for a Marxist journal! Here it is:

In 2004, David Graeber (2004: 2) noted that although ‘anarchism is veritably exploding right now’, academia has failed to keep up, offering little other than caricatured understandings of a complex movement. Whilst he was perhaps overstating his case a little, even then, Uri Gordon’s Anarchy Alive! Anti-Authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory shows that a thoughtful, nuanced understanding of contemporary anarchism is not an impossibility in the university. Developed from his Ph.D. thesis (written at Oxford University, no less) it offers a compelling vision of an ideological movement whose relevance now is even stronger than it was in 2004.

The subtitle of Gordon’s work talks of a move ‘from practice to theory’, inverting the more standard approach of books which proclaim the relevance of a particular political ideology. Yet Gordon’s book actually goes further, undermining the dichotomy between practice and theory: it is perhaps best thought of as a work of praxis, in which theory and practice are irreducibly bound together in a mutually reinforcing relationship. It is a work which puts ‘organisation, action and lifestyle on the same footing with ideas and theories’ (p. 27), and what results is that each of these facets of anarchism asks awkward questions of the others such that a precise definition of ‘anarchism’ can never be established. Any initial fears that encoding key issues in anarchist practice into a work of theory might bring about an ossification of the movement are thus unfounded, and despite a cautiously optimistic tone throughout, Anarchy Alive! is bookended with assertions that its purpose is to ask ‘relevant questions’ (p. 7), and that ‘there are more questions than answers’ (p. 164). Indeed, the book’s refusal to fix the meaning of anarchism once and for all – and the liveliness of the debates it draws on – perhaps offers an answer to the questions Sartre posed in Critique of Dialectical Reason, where he wondered how it was possible for revolutionary politics to avoid ossification into bureaucratic forms of organisation, killing its vitality (Sartre, 2004).

It may seem odd, then, that Gordon considers anarchism an ‘ideology’ – a concept often seen by many anarchists as the site of precisely such ossification (see McQuinn, 2011; Landstreicher, 2001). Yet drawing on the work of his Oxford supervisor Michael Freeden, Gordon instead argues that ‘ideologies are not irrational dogmas or forms of “false consciousness”’ but rather are ‘paradigms that people use … to handle ideas that are essentially contested in political language’ (p. 20). This view of ideology poses no threat to Rudy Rocker’s understanding of anarchism (which Gordon quotes approvingly) as offering ‘no patent solution for human problems … It does not believe in any absolute truth, or in definite final goals for human development’ (p. 43).

It is to the current framing of the paradigms central to anarchism that Gordon turns in Chapter 2, where – as throughout the book – he draws predominantly on his experiences in anarchist struggles across Europe and the Middle East, and on the literature developed from these struggles: webzines, photocopied pamphlets, Indymedia postings and diy documentary films. From this, he argues that the three core concepts for the ideology of anarchism are domination, prefiguration and diversity/open-endedness, but that the meanings and relationships of these ‘are constantly reframed and recoded in response to world events, political alliances and trends in direct-action culture, evolving through intense flows of communication and discussion, and through innumerable experiences and experiments’ (p. 28).

Gordon’s familiarity with the multifarious debates of contemporary anarchism means that his work is imbued with an intrinsic understanding of the subtleties of anarchism that is lost in the caricatures of which Graeber speaks sorrowfully. In Chapter 3, ‘Power and Anarchy’, for example, he notes that ‘anarchists are hardly “against power”’ (p. 49), and continues to explain how anarchism seeks to maximise the individual’s ‘power-to’ by developing the communal ‘power-with’ (p. 50, 54-5). The complexities of this process are then examined with reference to anarchist practice of groups including Food not Bombs (p. 58) and Reclaim the Streets (p. 72-3), where factors not traditionally considered in works of ‘political philosophy’ must be considered: sparse finances, the self-confidence of activists, a lack of equipment and so on. Equally nuanced is Gordon’s argument that anarchism must not be seen as the logical conclusion of democracy, since it is philosophy that lacks the ability to force decisions upon others (p. 68-9); although, whilst he makes a compelling case here, it is one of the rare occasions on which his reflections are grounded in abstract theorising rather than in the movement itself. I am sympathetic to his claims, but would argue that it is for the movement to decide whether the term ‘democracy’ should be dispensed with or not – perhaps it is a concept that can be remade, rather than rejected.

The second half of the book sees Gordon apply his approach to a number of key issues of debate in contemporary radical politics and features chapters on the role of violence, technology, and the politics of Israel/Palestine. This section of the book, I wish to suggest, is particularly fruitful, both for those involved in the movement and those seeking an understanding of how it operates. The former can take inspiration for Gordon’s call for a ‘diversity of tactics’ (p. 78) and the unstinting tolerance for a diversity of opinions which is a frequent marker of this book. For the latter, it helps to flesh out how the machinations of anarchism play out on a ‘day-to-day basis’ far more effectively than any work grounded solely in theory ever could. I do not always agree with Gordon’s pronouncements (I think he is too pessimistic about the radical potential of technology, for example); others I found persuasive (his claim that no form of politics can escape violence, and that anarchism needs to bear this in mind when debating when violent struggle is ethically acceptable): but to take debate at length with these in this review would miss what makes this book so vital, for Gordon is not limiting anarchist theory to his beliefs on these issues, but rather showing how anarchism is ‘a dialogue’, which discusses real people’s ideas and practices with them: which ‘speak[s] – not from above, but from within’ (p. 9). These chapters should rather be read as invitations to reflect on and engage with Gordon’s claims from within the movement, using the same generosity of spirit Gordon shows in developing his arguments.

That is not to say that this book is beyond reproach, and I have concerns that the vision of the anarchist ‘movement’ Gordon offers (unintentionally) sets up a dichotomy between the ‘inside’ of that movement and the ‘outside’: with the inside appearing somewhat intimidating to penetrate. ‘Our archetypal anarchist’, we are told, ‘could pull up genetically modified crops before dawn, report on action through emails and independent media websites in the morning, take a nap, and then do a bit of allotment gardening in the afternoon and work part-time as a programmer in the evening’ (p. 109). Inspiring stuff, undoubtedly, but due to issues such as childcare, timidity, depression, disability, imprisonment or financial woes – not to mention a whole host of other late-capitalist anxieties – not an approach that is open to all. I worry that setting up such an intense body of activity as ‘anarchism’ risks alienating people who cannot offer that much to the movement. It might, perhaps, be more productive to think of anarchism as a culture which, at times, we all embody – the approach taken by Colin Ward (1982) (and which Gordon himself acknowledges: 41). Yet this is not perfect either, and runs the risk of depoliticising anarchism, reducing it to a series of generous gestures and leading to a situation in which ‘your archetypal anarchist helps an old lady across the street in the morning, illegally downloads some music all afternoon and then dumpster dives with his mates in the evening’. To avoid potential activists succumbing to this rather individualised fate, the anarchist movement must display not only the internally generous spirit exemplified by Gordon’s book, but also appear outwardly attractive to those who have much to offer the movement.

If the anarchist movement can find a way to solve this conundrum and move forwards with the clarity, honesty and enthusiasm that Gordon’s book displays then I would be tempted to share the optimism with which it closes and agree that many of the questions anarchists must now face are indeed ‘new questions … questions about winning’ (p. 164).


Graeber D (2004) Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Ceros Press.

Landstreicher W (2001) How then do we go wild? Anarchy: A Journal of Desire Armed 52.

May M (1994) The Political Philosophy of Poststructuralist Anarchism. Pennsylvania State University Press.

McQuinn J (2011) Post-left anarchy: Leaving the left behind. Online at www.theanarchistlibrary. org, accessed 14 June 2011.

Sartre J-P (2004) Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1: Theory of Practical Ensembles, trans. Smith A. London: Verso.

Ward C (1982) Anarchy in Action. London: Freedom Press.

Author biography

David Bell is a writer, artist, educator and musician. Drawing on radical political theory, poststructuralism and works of musicology and art theory, his work seeks to reimagine utopia as a space of non-hierarchy and becoming. He is currently studying for a Ph.D. at the Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice (cssgj) at the University of Nottingham.

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French translation out now!

Just received a few copies of the French translation of Anarchy Alive!, translated by Vivien Garcia and published by Atelier de Creation Libertaire. Hopefully we’ll be able to arrange a book-tour in France for the summer/autumn.
AA!_fr cover

From the back cover:

Non seulement l’anarchisme est bien vivant, mais il est en bonne forme. Uri Gordon le proclame dès le titre de son ouvrage. Qui pourrait n’y entendre qu’une vaine allégation trouvera dans cette lecture de quoi dissiper ses doutes. Elle lui offrira d’abord un instantané présentant une bonne part des pratiques libertaires en vigueur aujourd’hui. Elle l’introduira ensuite à quelques débats qui en sont issus et les accompagnent. La vie dont il est ici question prendra tout son sens. Elle a si peu à voir avec la perpétuation de fonctions qui, essentielles dans la seule mesure où elles évitent le trépas, ne préservent en rien de la répétition mécanique, des rituels vides et de l’ennui généralisé. Cette vie se dévoile au contraire sous les traits d’une multitude en mouvement qui, luxuriante, brille d’inventivité. Et le livre qui se loge entre vos mains, en même temps que d’en offrir un panorama encore sans égal, y contribue pleinement.

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