The Institute for Anarchist Studies’ (IAS) and AK Press’s new book series, called Anarchist Interventions, begins with the publication of two books: Cindy Milstein's Anarchism and Its Aspirations and then Andy Cornell's Oppose and Propose!: Lessons from Movement for a New Society. (1) Milstein's book is a thoughtful primer on anarchism in the vein of Alexander Berkman's The ABC of Anarchism. (2) Cornell's book is a historical case study of an anarchist-inspired organization called Movement for a New Society (MNS), which analyzes and evaluates the many lessons the organization lays out for current anti-capitalist organizers. Using Cornell's book as a case study, readers are able to get a concrete example of many of the aspirations Milstein covers in her writing and see some of the limitations of those aspirations.
The world cries out for resistance: glaciers melt, species go extinct, poor youth are shot down in the streets by police or warehoused in prisons, families are evicted from their homes, queers are beaten down, and workers labor long hours at miserable jobs for too little money. Across the planet, power exploits and brutalizes the lives of most people. People do, of course, resist. In China, workers riot against oppressive conditions. Palestinian youth throw rocks (or rockets) at Israeli soldiers, refusing occupation. In India and the Philippines, Left-wing guerrilla armies build power and wage war against conditions they describe as semi-feudal. In Chiapas, the Zapatistas continue to develop autonomous politics to empower the indigenous. Globally, people are organizing to fight back. Most recently, the people of Tunisia and Egypt rose up and, through mass mobilizations and community organization, overthrew corrupt US-backed regimes. We may well be seeing the beginnings of a new period of upsurge and popular struggle against oppression and exploitation.
I. The Resurgence of Anarcho-Sexism
“From a girl’s point of view the important thing to remember about the 60s is that it was totally male dominated. A lot of girls just rolled joints – it was what you did while you sat quietly in the corner, nodding your head. You were not really encouraged to be a thinker. You were there really for fucks and domesticity. The ‘old lady’ syndrome. ‘My lady’. So Guinevere-y. It was quite a difficult time for a girl."(1)
Britain belonged in the 1960s to the young. It belonged to a generation that knew nothing of the shackles of war time austerity experienced by their parents, leaving them free to express their most radical social, political and sexual desires. Both men and women were brought together in pursuit of their new worlds producing a flourishing countercultural movement that was inspired by the New Left ideology of Maoism, Trotskyism and anarchism.
The second title in the IAS's Anarchist Interventions book series, Oppose and Propose!: Lessons from Movement for a New Society by Andy Cornell, is out now on AK Press!
Where do the strategies, tactics, and lifestyles of contemporary activists come from? Movement for a New Society, a radical pacifist organization active in the 1970s and 1980s, pioneered forms of consensus decision making, communal living, direct action, and self-education now central to antiauthoritarian movements. Brimming with analysis, interviews, and archival documents, Oppose and Propose!: Lessons from Movement for a New Society recovers a missing link in recent radical history, while drawing out crucial lessons on leadership, movement building, counterculture, and prefigurative politics.
Andrew Cornell is an educator, writer, and organizer living in Brooklyn, New York. His writing has appeared in the collections Letters from Young Activists, The University against Itself and The Hidden 1970s: Histories of Radicalism.
“Solidarity requires that one enter into the situation of those with whom one is in solidarity, it is a radical posture.”—
Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Roberto Arenas is a small tseltal(1) community of twenty-three subsistence farmer families located in the Chiapas Lacandon Rainforest, a six hour drive from the nearest major commercial center, the market town of Ocosingo. The occupants, adherents of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN, its Spanish acronym), formed a nuevo poblado, a new community, here about three years ago. The land makes up part of the territory that was taken over or 're-cuperated’ by the Zapatistas in the midst of the January 1st 1994 uprising, as the land owners fled and the rebels took control of the zone. Under the mantle that the land is owned by those who work it, the Zapatistas began slowly dividing out the vast swathes to Zapatista militia and support base families – usually landless indigenous peasants or campesinos who previously labored on large fincas under difficult conditions. About 300,000 hectares of land were recuperated by the insurgent Zapatistas after the tumultuous state-wide uprising. The newly formed community of Roberto Arenas, fell under the jurisdiction of the Francisco Gomez Autonomous region, a self-governing Zapatista municipality where there is no state authority and, as the sign entering the municipality announces, “Here the people govern and the government obeys!”
“I know it's difficult in this country,
but we've got to think more clearly than the State allows.”
- Rick Turner
IF I WAS YOU, I MIGHT NOT...
”Human beings can choose. They can stand back and look at alternatives.
Theoretically, they can choose about anything.
They can choose whether to live or to die; they can choose celibacy or promiscuity, voluntary poverty or the pursuit of wealth, ice-cream or jelly. Obviously they can’t always get what they choose,
but that is a different question.(1)
− Rick Turner
Instead of a book review column written by one person, we invited several folks to review their favorite recent books. Three responded: Cindy Crabb, author of the 'zine Doris, John Dudda of Red Emma's Bookstore Coffeehouse, and Joshua Stephens from the IAS board.
A review of Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution: Social Struggles in the Transition to a Post-Petrol World, edited by Kolya Abramsky. (Oakland: AK Press, 2010).
One of the most intimidating aspects of climate change is its scale. When we imagine it as a thing in itself, it becomes monstrous, far out of proportion to our ability to stop or even slow it in its path of influence. We cannot petition or strike against it. We cannot use rocks or molotovs or even guns to slow it down. It is already happening: the earth is warming, little by little, and with that shift we witness a seemingly endless chain of results, from catastrophic storms and droughts to changes in human and animal migration patterns, disappearance of species, and altered ocean chemistry. In the face of these effects, it is easy to feel overwhelmed, and to turn one’s attention to those problems which seem more solvable, and less apocalyptic. Yet it is important to remember that the engine behind this global dilemma is human activity, and is therefore human in scale. The better we are able to break the issue down to its parts, the closer we will be to understanding how we can fix it, and thereby confront the enormity of the issue in a manageable, intentional way. In the process of examining the sources of climate change, we find the sources of many other human issues as well. Not only does this effort trace a map of the way out of ecological disaster, but it may also lead to a more just and equitable world order.
Gary Snyder is not a philosopher, nor does he “consider himself particularly a ‘Beat.’”(1) Snyder is a poet, an essayist, an outdoorsman and a practitioner of Buddhism. But despite his reluctance to identify with the Beat title, he has been an undeniable influence on the Beat generation and its writers. He was fictionalized as the character Japhy Ryder in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums(2) , and helped initiate the San Francisco Renaissance by organizing poetry readings with his close friend Allen Ginsberg, among others, thus ushering in the Beats as a recognized social force. Although not technically a philosopher in the traditional or academic sense, his writings contain a very complex treatment of modern society’s relationship to the natural world. Snyder’s chief concerns are protecting nature from the ravages of civilization, putting humans back in touch with our “wild” selves and returning us to a sense of self-contemplation, community and embeddedness in nature.
Snyder puts his philosophical views into practice in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where he has made his home since 1970. Eschewing publicity, he sits za zen every day, and is a life-long proponent of ecological thinking. Snyder also draws from Mahayana Buddhism, bioregionalism and social anarchism in developing his perspective and philosophical orientation. Snyder most clearly spells out the beliefs he conveys through his poetry and practices in his essay work and interviews.
Late September. It's just another day in the community of Juana Millahual. Jose Llanquileo is driving a team of oxen pulling a heavy iron plow, clearing furrows in the hillside for a spring crop of potatoes, barley, and onions. Nearby, Angelica is starting a fire to burn away the last traces of pine and eucalyptus planted by timber companies on stolen Mapuche land. Today, the sun shines and the wind blows softly through the tepa trees on the banks of Lleu Lleu, one of the cleanest lakes in South America. On another day, it wouldn't be at all out of place to see a hundred heavily armed police backed up by jeeps, helicopters, and armored personnel carriers, knocking down the doors of one of the small houses to conduct a raid or search for a fugitive. The rural indigenous communities on the banks of the lake, peaceful as they seem on any day when the police don't come around, are a source of fierce resistance to capitalist investment and neoliberal development.
This community, similar to many of its neighbors, is in a process of forcefully recovering hundreds of hectares of their traditional lands which have been usurped by timber companies. Forestal Mininco, which is controlled by one of the richest families in Chile and partners with the IFC, the private arm of the World Bank, operates thousands of hectares of pine and eucalyptus plantations just around Lleu Lleu. Where there used to be farmland or native forests, the timber companies have planted genetically modified pine and eucalyptus in homogenous rows, at great detriment to the health of local soil, watersheds, and biodiversity. The exotic tree plantations, which produce mostly for export, drain the water table and steal food directly from the mouths of indigenous communities.
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