Posts by Zach


Living Ghosts Not as ghost of Moloch dead, But as ghost of Moloch living, Speaks the State in accents dread, Stones instead of life-bread giving; Shall we falter, cringe, and kneel ’Neath its heavy iron heel? On, on! drink unto the lees! Martyrs lead the way with pride, Conqu’ring death e’en when they died: PARSONS! [...]

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Poet’s Corner

An unsolicited poem was sent to us by Benjamin B. I haven’t a clue what our friend is referring to here. But it’s just too good not to share:


occupy oakland you broke my heart
i tried to love you from the start
this is not egypt or arab spring
in california we need our own thing
parents, teachers and working types
not those anarcho-libertarians on bikes

thank you black block
for spoiling the fun
narcissistic time and again
yes you’re the ones
food not bombs and ak press
destroyed occupy oakland and created this mess

The bizarre verse was accompanied by this even stranger cartoon. It’s horrifying with all the literature produced and distributed by AK Press that Benjamin and Andy Singer can still be this ignorant.

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Some Recent Foreign Editions

Here’s a few recent foreign editions of AK Press books that have been published. It’s always a thrill to see our titles from another publisher. Book design and presentation vary greatly around the world but these three editions look top notch. If any readers of the blog are fluent in German, French, or Turkish then you are in luck!

We are An Image From the Future, ed. VOID Network and AG Schwarz, from Laika Verlag.

Outlaws of America, by Dan Berger, from L’échappée.

Chomsky on Anarchism, by Noam Chomsky, ed. Barry Pateman, from Sammakko.

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Flash Launch in San Diego

flashcvrWe had the pleasure of launching AK’s latest book—a (gasp) novel—last weekend at the San Diego City College International Book Festival. Jim Miller’s Flash arrived fresh from the printer for the weekend’s festivities (it’s not even here in Oakland yet). As usual, the fine folks from San Diego City Works Press put on a great event. It’s nice to be a part of an event so well organized and borne of such camaraderie. Folks in San Diego bemoan the conservative atmosphere and lack of bookstores and radical cultural spaces so this annual event seems to really rally the troops and raise spirits. Congrats on another fun year.

Below is a shot of Jim reading at San Diego City College. Sharing the stage is musician Gregory Page who accompanied Jim with a great mix of Wobbly and related labor songs.

And be smart and order your copy today for 25% off and see what all the buzz is about!

flash launch

Carlo Tresca and the fight against Fascism in the US


(Above photo of Tresca addressing workers, likely in PA in 1904 or 05,
from the collection of N. Pernicone)

Hot off the press this week is a new edition of Nunzio Pernicone’s biography Carlo Tresca: Portrait of A Rebel. We are pleased to announce this revised paperback edition (the hardcover edition was published back in 2005) that contains two new sections: “Tresca and World War II” and an addendum, “Tresca and the Sacco-Vanzetti Case: Innocence or Guilt?” The book is orderable now at a 25% discount. Don’t miss out.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 12 “Early Anti-Fascist Activities.”


Fighting Fascism became the great crusade of Tresca’s life, the struggle in which he achieved unrivalled preeminence among Italian-American radicals and reached the pinnacle of his career. The fight against Italian-American Fascism represented a new phase in the class struggle Tresca and other sovversivi had waged against the consuls, prominenti, and Catholic Church since the turn of the 20th century. No compromise with the enemy was possible; no quarter given and none expected. Tresca’s war against Fascism was a fight to the death.

Testimony to Tresca’s unique status and formidable abilities as a resistance leader was provided repeatedly by the Fascists themselves. Italian ambassador Giacomo De Martino reported to Mussolini in 1926 that Tresca topped the list of “three renegades” (Vincenzo Vacirca and Arturo Giovannitti were the others) whose deportation would most benefit the Fascist regime. By 1928, Tresca had distinguished himself as such a dynamic and implacable foe of Fascism that the Political Police in Rome dubbed him the “deus ex machina of anti-Fascism” in the United States. That same year, overjoyed that Tresca was the target of a smear campaign intended to undermine his status, the consul general of New York, Emilio Axerio, notified Ambassador De Martino that “the definitive liquidation of Carlo Tresca, imposed upon his followers as well, would administer a mortal blow to anti-Fascism, which depends so much on Tresca.”

Had Tresca still lived in Italy, his “liquidation” would have been physical rather than figurative. His presence in the United States, however, was no guarantee of security. Since paranoia is endemic to all police states, the Fascist regime in the 1920s consistently over-estimated the strength of the anti-Fascists, worrying that their activities might undermine Mussolini’s prestige and influence among Italian Americans and jeopardize his cozy relations with the American government and the Wall Street moguls. The anti-Fascist who caused Rome its greatest concern during the early years of the regime was Tresca. Directly or in collusion with American authorities, Mussolini’s official representatives and local disciples caused Tresca to suffer periodic harassment, several arrests, loss of his Italian citizenship, a four-month prison term, a narrow escape from deportation, destruction of his property, and a bomb attempt on his life. But Tresca never relented.

Tresca’s principal weapon against Mussolini and Fascism was Il Martello, described by the consul general of New York in 1925, as “the most dangerous [anti-Fascist newspaper], because of the skillful manner in which it is edited, and because of its influence over certain elements of the people.” A consummate political analyst, Tresca understood that propaganda and myth were the indispensable props of Mussolini’s regime. Therefore, nearly every issue delivered “hammer blows” (martellate) to dismantle the false image of idealism and heroism with which Fascists enveloped themselves, and to dispel the notion that the Blackshirts had turned back the red tide.

The voices of anti-Fascist opposition required amplification from outside sources abroad, as the free press in Italy was progressively stifled. Tresca therefore placed Il Martello at the disposal of many prominent radicals who lacked publication outlets. Once Il Martello became distinguished as an anti-Fascist organ, letters from Italy requesting the newspaper poured into Tresca’s office; he responded by sending free copies to comrades throughout the country. Alarmed, the Italian Postal and Telegraph Ministry banned the importation and circulation of Tresca’s newspaper in May 1923, prescribing stiff penalties for violators. Tresca attempted to circumvent the ban by asking Italian Americans to send copies to friends and relatives (a risky proposition for recipients) and by establishing clandestine operations to smuggle Il Martello into Italy. By 1928, for example, he was sending 100 copies of each issue to a former lover in Locarno, who ferried them by boat across Lake Maggiore. Tresca’s efforts were greatly appreciated, as indicated by the legendary anarchist Errico Malatesta: “I receive Il Martello very irregularly, because it gets through only when it escapes the police bloodhounds; however, I have read enough to admire the energy and fighting courage you sustain against Fascism, which torments us in Italy.”

Interdiction of Il Martello in Italy did not prevent Tresca from utilizing his newspaper to raise vitally needed funds for the anti-Fascist opposition. Channeling money to comrades in Italy was a long-standing practice of the sovversivi. By raising funds, Tresca helped sustain the Italian anarchist press until its complete suppression in 1926. Funds were also collected on a regular basis to help the victims of Fascist violence and persecution. Over the next two decades, countless anti-Fascists in Italy, Europe, and South America would have found themselves in hopeless circumstances if not for the financial support of Italian immigrant workers in the United States, a factor of major importance invariably overlooked by Italian historians of the anti-Fascist resistance.

Tresca was not content to attack Mussolini’s regime merely with “propaganda of the word” and by assisting political victims with money. The best means of subverting Mussolini was to strike where the regime was most vulnerable—the Italian economy. Rising unemployment and taxes, falling wages, the declining value of the lira, military expenditures for the re-conquest of Libya, and the unresolved dilemma of war debts all added up to one inescapable conclusion by 1923: the Fascists could not make good on their promises to improve the lives of the Italian people. Convinced that Mussolini’s prestige at home and abroad would suffer if recovery failed, Tresca advocated economic sabotage and boycotting of Italian financial and state institutions that generated income for the government. He urged workers in Italy to employ obstructionist tactics on the job, abstain from state monopolies (tobacco, salt, lotteries) that generated revenue, purchase food and other provisions only from merchants friendly to the anti-Fascist cause, avoid luxuries and other non-essential expenditures, and boycott all bourgeois establishments. On his own turf, Tresca sought to deprive the Italian economy of the benefits derived from the remittances sent to family members back home by immigrants in the United States. Tresca urged immigrant workers to boycott all Italian financial institutions that operated in the United States, to deposit their savings in American banks, and to avoid utilizing Italy’s Cassa Postale and other agencies that collected fees for transferring remittances. He also exhorted immigrant workers to boycott every Italian American—doctor, lawyer, shoemaker, grocer, barber, etc.—who was a Fascist. Adoption of his boycott strategy, Tresca acknowledged, would inevitably impose hardships upon Italian workers and peasants, but in his words, “war is war.” Mussolini’s government viewed Tresca’s scheme with genuine concern, and the consul general of New York was instructed to remain vigilant for any sign that the plan was gaining momentum. It never did.

Given the unlikelihood of undermining Mussolini’s regime from abroad, Tresca and other anti-Fascists were obliged to conduct their anti-Fascist activities mainly within the Italian-American community. The struggle, however, was never fought on terms even remotely equal. Anti-Fascists numbered not more than 10 percent of the Italian American population, if that. The majority of anti-Fascists within the political spectrum that spanned middle-class liberal to conservative were neither organized nor generally active. Only a handful of bourgeois liberal democrats, like Gaetano Salvemini and Dr. Charlo Fama, functioned as important resistance leaders prior to 1938, when a sizeable contingent of professionals, intellectuals, and former political leaders—known collectively as the fuorusciti (exiles)—were admitted to the United States and assumed a dominant role. The most numerous and dedicated anti-Fascists were working-class sovversivi, and the chieftains of the movement were generally the same radicals and labor leaders who had led Italian immigrant workers prior to the advent of Fascism: Tresca, Giovannitti, Girolamo Valenti, Vincenzo Vacirca, Luigi Antonini, the brothers Frank and Augusto Bellanca, and many others.

But a resistance movement based on workers could not possibly generate resources comparable to those available to the Fascists, assisted as they were by Mussolini’s regime, the prominenti, and the Italian-American middle classes generally. Moreover, the radical and labor movements were significantly weaker in the 1920s than before World War I, thanks in large measure to wartime and postwar repression. Many of the most important radical leaders and hard-core militants, who would have contributed significantly to the resistance, had been deported or imprisoned. Some had returned to Italy of their own accord, hoping to participate in the revolution that beckoned, while others sought refuge in clandestine life underground or became completely inactive. Another factor that weighed against the resistance was the ongoing hostility of the American authorities, who generally regarded Fascists and pro-Fascists as good, conservative patriots, while the anti-Fascists were considered dangerous Reds. Accordingly, fear of arrest and deportation often limited the effectiveness of anti-Fascist activity, for without such dangers hanging over them, many of the sovversivi—anarchists and communists especially—would have been far more aggressive in their methods.

A new levy of anti-Fascists arrived in the United States between 1919 and 1924, before the new immigration quota system effectively barred Italians. Some newcomers entered the United States illegally or arrived with provisional status as political refugees. Others had previously returned to Italy or had been deported after World War I but managed to re-enter. The most important of them would play leadership roles in the resistance: the socialist Vincenzo Vacirca; the communists Giovanni Pippan and Vittorio Vidali; and the anarchists Raffaele Schiavina, Armando Borghi, and Virgilia D’Andrea. The fuorusciti, the last contingent of newcomers, arriving in 1938 and 1939, included some very prominent liberal and democratic anti-Fascists (Carlo Sforza, Randolfo Pacciardi, Alberto Tarchiani, Lionello Venturi, and others) who had long resided in exile in Europe or were refugees fleeing from Mussolini’s recently promulgated anti-Semitic laws in Italy. Although few in number, the fuorusciti provided the Italian-American resistance with an important infusion of much needed energy and talent.

Despite acquiring some new blood during the interwar period, the Italian-American resistance undoubtedly lost more adherents than it gained. The primary reason was the failure of the sovversivi to produce a second generation large enough to replace the departed. This was a problem of long standing for Italian-American radicalism. The offspring of the sovversivi were generally more assimilated into American society than their parents, accepting American values and rejecting the ideas and principles of their elders. Political and cultural discontinuity between parents and children was also a function of the disproportionate number of male to female radicals, a deficiency fatal to the movement because marital unions generally occurred between a radical father and a non-radical mother, who raised the children Catholic and conservative.

Numerical weakness might not have mattered so much if anti-Fascists had been unified and equally militant. The resistance was multi-factional: anarchists of various orientation; communists of the newly-established Communist Party; revolutionary syndicalists of the moribund IWW; left-wing and right-wing socialists of the FSI (SP); social-democratic trade unionists (particularly leaders of the ILGWU and ACWA), and a small contingent of Mazzinian (i.e., democratic) republicans. All were committed to the anti-Fascist struggle. The crusade against Fascism, as Rudolf J. Vecoli correctly asserted, was the raison d’être of Italian-American radicalism between the wars. Yet, while commitment to the cause might have been equal in the abstract, the zeal and tenacity with which the various radical elements fought against Fascism often differed from group to group. Moreover, the internecine conflicts they incessantly waged were so ferocious and divisive that an outside observer might have concluded that the anti-Fascists devoted more time and energy to fighting among themselves than they did to combating Fascism.

Tresca always pursued his anti-Fascist mission with singular commitment and intensity, excelling at more roles than any of his radical contemporaries: journalist, public spokesman, lecturer, strategist, agitation leader, and front-line fighter. Tresca’s pattern of struggle was set in the early 1920s, when the resistance existed in little more than name. High on his list of targets were local Blackshirts and visiting Fascist leaders and dignitaries. As potential opponents, Tresca held the Blackshirts of the fasci in low regard. Having confronted every imaginable combination of policemen, private detectives, company thugs, and vigilantes during his years as a strike leader, Tresca would not so much as flinch in the face of Blackshirts, whom he considered strutting bullies and cowards afraid to battle the sovversivi on even terms. If the Blackshirts dared to move against them, Tresca and his “boys” would know how to deal with them. To demonstrate his contempt for the Blackshirts, Tresca in July 1923 moved the offices of Il Martello to 304 East 14th Street, a mere stone’s throw from the headquarters of the New York Fascio founded in 1921.

The presence of Giuseppe Bottai between August and October 1921 provided Tresca and the anti-Fascists with their first opportunity to make life miserable for a prominent Blackshirt visiting the United States to win favor for Mussolini and Fascism. A deputy and political secretary of the Fascist parliamentary group prior to the “March on Rome,” Bottai was a particularly vicious Blackshirt who later would become a major figure in the regime. Bottai’s ostensible purpose of his visit was to raise funds for blind war veterans, but he admitted to the American press that his mission as a representative of Fascism was to help fight “Bolshevism” among Italian Americans—a theme repeated endlessly by visiting and indigenous Fascists to win acceptance and support from American society. In every city he visited, Bottai was feted by consular officials and prominenti, a clear sign of Fascism’s popularity within the highest circles of the Italian-American community more than a year before Mussolini assumed power. That he should receive the red carpet treatment was galling enough, but anti-Fascists were seething because a socialist deputy had recently been murdered by Fascists, a crime that prompted Bottai to boast at a local fascist meeting that he personally had killed five communists in Rome.

The arrival of this despised Blackshirt represented one of the few occasions when most anti-Fascists acted in accord. A protest campaign was launched at a mass meeting in New York, at which Tresca, Pietro Allegra, Arturo Giovannitti, Nino Capraro, and Luigi Antonini, head of the ILGWU’s Local 89, each denouncing Bottai in turn. A more dramatic confrontation followed in Utica, New York, where Tresca was scheduled to address an anti-Fascist rally at the same time Bottai would address local admirers. En route to their own meeting place, Tresca led a column of several hundred anti-Fascists past the theater where Bottai had just finished his speech. Shouting “Abbasso Bottai!,” “Morte a Bottai!,” “Assassino!,” anti-Fascists had to be held back by police lest they attack the fascist celebrity and his hosts. During his next engagement, in New Haven, a threatening crowd of anti-Fascists so unnerved Bottai that he spoke for only ten minutes before leaving the theater under police escort. A week later Bottai was scheduled to speak in Philadelphia, home to the largest Italian immigrant populations outside of New York. On hand to greet the Fascist were the Italian vice consul; the wealthy publisher of the daily L’Opinione, Charles Baldi; and a host of other prominenti. But the audience also included some 2,000 anti-Fascists. The orchestra attempted to play the Italian “Marcia Reale” and the American “Star Spangled Banner” but was drowned out by cries for the musicians to play the “Internationale.” Bottai spoke for ten minutes, repeatedly interrupted by shouts of “Abbasso Bottai!” and “Morte a Bottai!” before police drove the anti-Fascists from the theater with clubs. Outside, another 4,000 anti-Fascists joined the demonstration but were dispersed by mounted police who charged the crowd.

Livid with rage as he fled the stage, Bottai was overheard muttering that the demonstration had been organized by “that vulgarian Tresca” and “if only we were in Italy.…” Tresca answered the implicit threat:

To be sure, if we were in Italy, you would already have had the Fascist royal guards stab us in the back. But here in America, you had to reply on your own forces or those few cowards who surround you. Here we forced you to take to your heels ashen faced, as in Utica, or to protect yourself with Cossack horsemen, as in Philadelphia.

Then Tresca issued a threat of his own: “The four fascist scoundrels in New York [leaders of the local fascio] know it: we will never permit them to raise their heads. We will never permit the lying consuls, the thieving bankers, the exploiting bosses to raise their heads from the swamp—never, never.”

Uses of A Whirlwind at AK Press

Here’s a couple pics of last night’s event for our new title Uses of A Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States.  (l to r) Kevin Van Meter, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Chris Carlsson, and Stevie Peace. Wish you could have been there…


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Telling it like it is

Anyone out there read Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War by Joe Bageant? It was published back in 2007, but the book has legs. I read it a couple years ago and have passed it off to numerous friends. If you haven’t read it, pick up a copy.

I keep up with Joe’s writings here and there and came across this clip of him. Hopefully a couple minutes of Joe telling his truths will convince you to check out the book. You’ll either “get it” or you won’t (and if you don’t, maybe you should). After reading the book you might see why Joe and the people of his community aren’t anarchists. …And you just might realize that they would be, if so many anarchists weren’t so distant from their everyday concerns. Enjoy.

Tobocman in the Bay

UtcWe in the Bay had the pleasure of hosting two events with Seth Tobocman last week. He doesn’t get all the way out west that often so it’s always a treat when he makes the voyage.

On Tuesday, June 29th, Seth and Eric Laursen were at Modern Times promoting their new book Understanding the Crash (AK Press doesn’t have any stock right now because the publisher is out, but you’ll be the first to know when we get copies). Eric and Seth gave an overview of how the crisis came about, how it is affecting communities across the country, and what some groups are doing to fight back.

First up is a picture of Seth presenting artwork from his book You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive
Next is Seth and Eric during the question and answer session.
Then on Friday was Seth Tobocman and Eric Drooker at Station 40. If you were sitting all alone on Friday night pondering the meaning of life then you should add yourself to the events list at Station 40 and spice things up a bit (Station40events[at] These two old friends, co-conspirators, and great performers aren’t under the same roof that often, so we have to thank the events committee at Station 40 for putting it all together.
Seth showed pieces from Understanding the Crash and You Don’t Have to Fuck People Over to Survive. Keep up with more of Seth’s art and action here. Eric gave us a crash course in working with media moguls like the New Yorker (who often use his artwork), showed stories from Flood and Blood Song, showed some “concept art” for the animation he recently completed for the Howl movie, and narrated a pictorial tour of Palestine that he took not long ago. See more from Eric here.
Thanks to everyone who came out. We’ll see you again soon.
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Justice for Oscar Grant

Most readers of Revolution by the Book are probably familiar with the case of Oscar Grant. Well yesterday the BART cop who killed him, Johannes Mehserle, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter. It’s been a tense issue in the Bay for the last eighteen months and will certainly remain so. Much of downtown Oakland was boarded up all week while we waited to hear the verdict. Despite the pathetic coverage coming out of local news sources about “professional anarchists” coming to “pimp” local youth, people took to the streets tonight to have their say… though we may not have heard the last from Oakland’s youth.

For up-to-date news on the case and demonstrations, check out Indybay.

As the police worked to regain control of downtown and protesters melted back into the night I took the opportunity to walk the empty streets. By one a.m. you would have thought it was Christmas Eve in Oakland, except for the nature of the gifts left behind. Here’s a look at the aftermath of today’s demonstrations. No telling how much of it will be painted over and replaced by morning so here’s your own personal tour through the post-riot zone.

[p.s. dear readers it's late and I added lighthearted captions, sorry if they take away from the severity of the actions]

Oscar Grant mural
We want to hear your story (as long as it doesn’t include violence)
Riot for Oscar
It was nice of the police to add targets
Footlocker got looted
Somebody decided to wear theirs right away
Sears always seemed so impenetrable before
Outdoor living
Hayward police van
Riot squad looking for sensible shoes
Board meeting is canceled
Banks get all the breaks
Welcome to the future
Direct and to the point
Somebody has an awful sake hangover this morning
There’s a hole in Whole Foods!
Fight usury
Stay cool
Sure to become a permanent fixture of the Community Bank of the Bay
Black Bloc, Gold Fronts
Somebody was after both
The guy on the right wanted to know if he was going to be on youtube
Down but not out
Charred dumpster, possibly containing the remains of a hipster
Someone didn’t see the sign
Maybe they should have put signs facing all directions
Paint bomb, what a mess
Must be after hours
Looting is hell
It worked!
Done and Done

Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Purpose, Structure, and Contents — Book Excerpt

AK Press’s newest book, Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-petrol World will arrive at the warehouse any second (and remember to take advantage of the 25% discount through the next month). In the midst of the global rage against BP and their catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf, it’s our distinct pleasure to present this exciting new collection. At 688 pages, it’s an ambitious book. The energy sector is changing dramatically and if we want to avoid being led by panics, peaks, and disasters, we’d better start investigating our options. Sparking provides no easy answers but it does map out the complex relationships between energy production and consumption, technology, and the capitalist relations that drive them. There’s nothing else like it. Read on for an excerpt from the Introduction, by Kolya Abramsky.


As the many chapters in this book show, a wide range of social struggles are emerging in relation to energy. An understanding of these struggles is important in order to assess both short-term priorities for collective action, as well as longer term strategic orientation within struggles that may take several years to bear fruit, if indeed they ever do. The book aims to pose strategic questions as to how to open up spaces that can bring about and mobilize the kind of mass social and political force that is necessary for an accelerated transition to a decentralized, equitable, and ecologically sensitive energy system, which contributes to a wider process of building emancipatory relations. In particular, an important aim of this book is to highlight the importance of ownership, labor, land, and livelihood in relation to a discussion of energy resources, their infrastructures, and technologies. The different chapters point to the fact that in order to get to the root of the problems, struggles in the North and South have to develop a collective global process to take decisions concerning energy.

Above all, the aim of this book is to contribute to a process of ensuring that any future transition to a new energy system is part of a wider movement to construct non-capitalist relations that are substantially more egalitarian, decentralized, and participatory than the current relations. It strives to offer long-term perspectives in order to discern where axes of conflict and rupture lie, as well as where possibilities for common struggle in the short term might exist. In addition to the crucial question of which energy sources and technologies are the most suitable, there is also the question of how energy is used (or not used), in what quantities, and for what purposes.

If we make these decisions through capitalist markets, we end up stressed out, overworked, and murdered, divided and pitted against one another, while the planet goes to hell. If we make these decisions through the capitalist state, we end up repressed, silenced, and manipulated into believing that the sacrifices that are required of us to deal with this “emergency” and “crisis” are worth the suffering, since it will be the final crisis, and there will never be another “crisis” again, while in fact it will merely open up a new cycle of more of the same.

The book seeks to contribute to an appreciation of the open and political nature of the “energy crisis” and its “solutions,” and to question the idea of “transition” as something fixed and predetermined. While technology is, and will surely continue to be, of great importance, the process of building an emancipatory post-petrol energy system will not be the inevitable result of technological fate. If such a system is to emerge, it will largely be the result of collective human activity and choices, intentional or otherwise. There is no single “transition” process waiting to unfold that already exists in the abstract. Multiple possible transition processes exist, and the actual outcome will be determined through a long and uncertain struggle. These struggles are already rapidly taking shape, and in all probability we are only in the very early phases of this process. This book seeks to help orientate people within these emerging conflicts so that they can actively anticipate, prepare for, and sharpen these struggles.

Many different actors and voices play their part in the energy sector, and the sector is criss-crossed by multiple conflicts and alliances. This book seeks to create a space where different voices from around the world, who come from different areas the energy sector, can share information and listen to one another. In doing so, the aim is to contribute towards the building of a critical common analysis, or rather map, of the current worldwide “energy crisis.” It is hoped that this can help strengthen people’s ability to act collectively in order to intentionally shape future developments in the energy sector in ways that contribute to a rapid and smooth transition process, in the face of worldwide economic-financial and political crisis.

However, it is hoped that this book will go beyond information exchange and the development of common analyses. By bringing organizational processes that are frequently working in isolation into contact with one another, or at least making them known to each other, it is anticipated that the book may be able to contribute to concrete organizational processes, both in the short and longer term. As such, it is intended to be a networking tool that can contribute to building the kind of collective social force that is capable of bringing about an emancipatory “transition process.”

Rather than appealing to politicians and “official decision makers,” this book especially seeks to reach self-organized grassroots organizations with similar ideas and principles and from all continents, in order to contribute to the emancipatory potential of renewable energy within the context of wider social change. It is hoped that the book can make a significant contribution towards already existing networking processes between organizations, and the development of common communication tools to encourage increased exchange and knowledge of each other’s work, foster ongoing links and the creation of longer term collaborative initiatives. For this reason, to ensure it has a maximum impact possible, Sparking A Worldwide Energy Revolution is being published under a Creative Commons License. Translation into other languages is encouraged.

It is hoped that this collective work might contribute to strengthening people’s collective capacity for exchange and support between different struggles in defense of livelihoods, rights, and territories related to the global energy sector. This includes several aspects: on the one hand, rural communities throughout the world, including indigenous communities and communities of African descent, who are struggling against the negative impacts of extraction, processing and transportation of energy resources and the associated infrastructures. And on the other, workers in the existing energy sectors, as well as energy-intensive industries, and their communities and dependants who are struggling to protect their livelihoods in the face of the far-reaching structural changes that have begun and that are likely to intensify in the years ahead.

Another aim is to encourage people’s capacity for exchange and mutual support of different struggles in defense of common/collective/cooperative or public ownership and control of energy resources, infrastructures, and technologies. This includes fossil fuel resources and associated infrastructures (such as electricity generation and distribution), which are being privatized due to bilateral, regional, or multilateral free trade and investment agreements. And it also includes renewable energy resources, infrastructures, and technologies, which are coming into the sights of investors. A big challenge is to develop proposals and interventions collectively that allow these vital resources to aid in the collective self-reliance of community organizations.

The book also seeks to create a conceptual framework for laying the foundations for solidary, upward-leveling relationships between workers in different branches of the energy sector, and the avoidance of downward-leveling competition between them. A key question resulting from all this is: how can workers in the different areas of the sector avoid being pitted against one another in competition (which would almost certainly result in a downward-leveling relationship)? It will be important that workers across the different branches are able to build a process based in solidarity and mutual support, which aims at upward leveling between them.

This collection also seeks to create a framework for thinking about what kind of long term collaboration and cooperative projects and initiatives in non-commercial renewable energy technology transfer, open source technology research, education, training, and grassroots exchanges might be both useful and possible. This is especially important in relation to three broad social groupings: a) rural communities (communities and communities of African descent) whose territories contain abundant renewable energy resources; b) urban tenants and home owners, who could implement major changes in residential energy production and consumption patterns, c) energy sector workers in the fossil and nuclear industries, as well as workers in energy-intensive industries, whose livelihoods may be directly threatened by a transition to a new energy system.

Finally, the book also seeks to contribute to a long term strategic debate about how, and for what purposes, wealth is produced and distributed in society, and how people’s subsistence needs are met, as part of a shift to a new energy system. The key means for generating society’s wealth and human subsistence include: land, water, energy, factories, schools, etc. Especially important in this context are energy-intensive industries, such as transport, steel, automobiles, petrochemicals, mining, construction, the export sector in general, etc. The kind of far reaching change in the relations of production and exchange that are necessary for the scale and pace of the required energy shift, are difficult to imagine without these key means of generating wealth and subsistence being under some form of common, collective, participatory, and democratic control that is based around serving human needs rather than the profit needs of the (currently existing) world-market. However, following years of market-led reforms, and immense concentrations of wealth and power, we are very far from this reality. The dominant political strategy for achieving change is now, for the most part, rooted in a discussion of how to achieve minor regulatory reforms (at best including state ownership) rather than a more fundamental shift in control and ownership structure. This is true even in quite progressive and radical circles. Consequently, we urgently need to discuss what kind of short term interventions might help make such a political agenda more realistic to achieve in the near and medium term future.

The book is constructed in four sections, with fifteen parts and sixty chapters. The chapters combine analysis with stories of concrete developments and struggles. It starts by documenting the conflictive nature of the existing, predominantly-fossil-fuel-based energy sector, and then moves on to trace the emerging alliances, conflicts, and hierarchies that are starting to define the globally-expanding renewable energy sector. The final section of the book poses the question of whether a transition to a new energy system will take place within the framework of capitalism or as part of a process to create new social relations that seek to go beyond capitalism.

The book has been carefully structured to be read as a whole, from beginning to end. In this way, it seeks to build a collective map, based on the view as seen from some of the many different players within the sector. The chapters have been ordered in such a way as to trace relationships step-by-step in order to construct, from the bottom up, a view of the energy system. The result is an understanding of the worldwide energy system as a self-organizing, emerging whole that consists of many interrelated parts but which is larger than the sum of any of these individual parts. At the same time, it seeks to show that the future of this system is inherently uncertain and open. The focus of the different chapters moves back-and-forth between particular local dynamics within the energy sector to this wider systemic and global whole. Through this back-and-forth process a clearer understanding of the overall energy system is created, and is actually constructed through the very process of tracing the relations that exist between separate but interdependent parts that shape one another.

For this reason, readers are strongly encouraged to read the book in its entirety, from start to finish, but of course it is also possible to browse the book, as one would with an encyclopedia. Each chapter is a self-contained piece and can be read on its own and in whatever order the reader chooses. However, it is worth bearing in mind that reading it in this way will not give an overall sense of the world’s energy system as a whole, so an important goal of the book will be lost.

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