I appreciate Kristian Williams’ pamphlet, both the thought put into it and the challenge it represents. I learned a lot from its history, and in particular gained insight into the behavior of anarchists I meet today. Williams traces some practices of contemporary US anarchism back to pacifism, looking at how contemporary anarchists unthinkingly accept much of that philosophy. In my view, that influence led to the movement prioritizing providing comfort to its participants, rather than organizing to change the circumstances that led to the discomfort they feel with society in the first place. This emphasis accepts the inevitability of capitalism and is therefore a strategy to live within its parameters. But I don’t think capitalism will allow us these spaces. Instead, it has to be overthrown and not allowed to come back.
The Beyond Anti-Fascism, But Not Without It statement was circulated in December, 2017, generating a number of both positive and negative responses.
Positive responses include Hillary Lazar’s piece, Connecting Our Struggles: Border Politics, Antifascism, and Lessons from the Trials of Ferrero, Sallitto, and Graham, in the forthcoming print issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N.30, “Beyond the Crisis”), as well as other writing we’ll be sharing on-line soon.
Negative responses included critiques that the call was, a) being improperly essentialistic about identity politics and b) disregarding the fact that some of the white men writing about fascism/anti-fascism are Jewish and therefore it was insulting to say they don’t understand the history of fascism.
In light of these responses, we have rewritten the statement and are including it in the new print issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory. Below you’ll find this new version, followed by a reflection on how we got from the original to this one, and what we still find inadequate and needing in our discussions of fascism and anti-fascism. And here we really want to encourage you to use our comments section for discussion, or send us your thoughts to be considered for posting on-line.
(Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative)
All issues feature cover art and design by Josh MacPhee, of Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, and art by Justseeds’ artists. Take a look at which issues are available, and some of each issues’ highlights below!
Alexander Riccio, a labor organizer based in Corvallis, Oregon who co-hosts the podcast LabourWave Revolution Radio, talks with Kevin Van Meter, author of Institute for Anarchist Studies/AK Press book Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible, available here!
Alexander Riccio: Some have read your book, Guerillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible, as an attack on organized labor in general, or as one that poses an either/or decision between supporting Left organizations, such as unions, versus championing forms of everyday resistance. What do you say to these criticisms?
Kevin Van Meter: I don’t see my work as an attack on organized labor per se, but as a critique of where organized labor has been and how it is currently functioning. I think one of the major problems with organized labor, at least in regards to business unions, is their inability to innovate, their inability to learn from their own historical lessons, and their inability to listen to the actual needs and desires of the working class outside of the union’s organizational frame.
Unions have a very particular way of going about organizing: a steward system, a contract vote, provide services, conduct a corporate campaign. For thirty years, labor unions have hired people predominately out of college rather than from within their own ranks, and during the same period, there has been a focus on corporate campaigns rather than building substantive relationships on the ground. The fact is that building relationships on the job and in communities is necessary for the Left to bounce back, pass legislation, organize unions, and be successful in the streets against forces like fascism. All of that means it’s necessary to reweave the social fabric, but unions have largely ignored this necessity.
For this interview we (carla and Nick) sent Marina Sitrin a ‘preamble’ outlining some of the ideas behind our book Joyful Militancy (available here!), and then included a couple questions based on Sitrin’s other writings (especially Horizontalidad: Voces de Poder Popular en Argentina). We do not include the preamble here because as time went on in the researching, interviewing and writing of the book our ideas and articulations shifted. For that, we are deeply indebted to all our interviewees who offered new insights and shed light on areas that needed reworking. Instead we have added a short overview about the book, below, so the interview can stand alone. Our website also includes the book’s introduction and other excerpts.
Joyful Militancy Overview
Why do radical movements and spaces sometimes feel laden with fear, anxiety, suspicion, self-righteousness and competition? In Joyful Militancy, we call this phenomenon rigid radicalism: congealed and toxic ways of relating that have seeped into radical movements, posing as the “correct” way of being radical. In conversation with organizers and intellectuals from a wide variety of currents, we explore how rigid radicalism smuggles itself into radical spaces, and how it is being undone. Rather than proposing ready-made solutions, we amplify the questions that are already being asked among movements. Fusing together movement-based perspectives and contemporary affect theory, Joyful Militancy traces emergent forms of trust, care and responsibility in a wide variety of radical currents today, including indigenous resurgence, anarchism, transformative justice, and youth liberation. Joyful Militancy, by carla bergman and Nick Montgomery, foregrounds forms of life in the cracks of Empire, revealing the ways that fierceness, tenderness, curiosity, and commitment can be intertwined.
April 6 – 8, 2018
Oregon State University
The Opening Space for the Radical Imagination conference, co-sponsored by the Institute for Anarchist Studies, will explore formats to address, fabricate and discuss social transformation that challenge the standard model of an academic conference. The conference invites participants to create a common space for radical imagination and social justice that goes beyond a skill-share for radical organizers. Radical Imagination invites us to engage in a profound critique of what seems obvious (radical = that goes to the roots of something) and to explore alternative ways of living together – producing, loving, shaping spaces and time, inhabiting the land, working, using, struggling. It is an appeal to decolonize social relations and the dominant imaginaries that justify oppression and injustice. Radical Imagination is not just about dreaming alternative futures. It lures us into embodying alternatives in practices, actions, and thinking.
Eberhardt Press is community print shop and small press in Portland, Oregon, founded in 2004. Named in honor of anarchist writer and adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt, the shop provides design and printing services to zine publishers, worker co-ops, musicians, artists, small publishers, anarchist organizers, non-profit organizations, activist groups, local independent businesses and lots of other folks. For the last ten years they have printed Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, often donating some of their labor and adding enhancements like color for free. Now they are being evicted, and need our help to successfully relocate and continue producing.
Gary Snyder is not a philosopher, nor does he “consider himself particularly a ‘Beat.’” 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, 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.
Thank you to those who have responded to the Beyond Anti-fascism, But Not Without It statement/call put out by the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory journal collective. Clearly there are many people pursuing this conversation in a variety of networks. Stay tuned for pieces coming from Perspectives on the Institute for Anarchist Studies website and in our 2018 Beyond the Crisis print issue.
“The subtle and deadly change of heart that might occur in you would be involved with the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked but only that they be spineless.”
― James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
(Anti-fascist demonstration, London, 1935)
Since Trump’s election, fascism has barged onto center stage, moving more brazenly into public space, mainstream media and public discourse than it has in decades. This renewed and emboldened presence of overt fascism has been met by an explosion of analysis and discussion about its history and politics, and the conditions necessary for its emergence. A proportionally growing attention is also being paid to the history and politics of anti-fascism.
This is welcome, and it is crucially needed. However, it’s also true that the bulk of the writing and speaking on fascism and anti-fascism—the better-selling books, the high-profile interviews–are being done by white men.