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The Institute for Anarchist Studies at Twenty, by Paul Messersmith-Glavin

Perspectives offers this reflection on the IAS’ first twenty years from the current anarcha-feminisms issue, available here, by an IAS member who has been involved since the beginning. In order to assemble a growing history of the IAS that’s as rich and multi-vocal as possible, we are inviting additional reflections from those who have been involved as board members, authors, grantees, and readers, which we can post throughout the year.

 

The Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) has received applications for writing grants throughout various waves of organizing over the last two decades. From Zapatista solidarity organizers in the nineties, to anti-capitalist globalization activists in the early ‘00s, Occupy folks over the last several years, and most recently from those working under the banner of Black Lives Matter. In 1996, the IAS was established to do just that.  We have offered material support in the form of funds that allow people to take time off work or hire childcare, so they can devote time to reflection and writing.

Some time in 1995 my friend and comrade Chuck Morse asked me to join a new organization he was forming to support the development of anarchist theory.  He was inspired by right-wing think tanks that funded the development and dissemination of their ideas, and thought the antiauthoritarian Left would benefit from something similar.  What he envisioned, he explained, was a group that would raise money and award grants to people to devote time to thinking and writing, thereby assisting anarchism to live up to its full potential.  He felt that contemporary anarchists needed financial help in the task of elaborating an anarchism that adequately responded to current conditions.

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IAS Meeting, June, 2000 in NYC. (Left to right, back to front: Rebecca DeWitt, Michelle Renee Matisons, Maura Dillon, Paula Emery, Cindy Milstein, John Petrovato, Paul Glavin, Chuck Morse, Dan Chodorkoff, Shaka Shakur Jr.)

I immediately said “Yes” to Chuck, and became part of the group that founded the Institute for Anarchist Studies.  The idea of developing structured, directly democratic organizations was important to us, and founding an institute made sense. Chuck incorporated the IAS as a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization and away we went. We raised money through contributions of anything from twenty dollars from movement organizers, to several thousands from well-off radicals, and began soliciting applications for writing grants.  The next year we also began publishing our newsletter, Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, the name for which came from a brochure Chuck had seen at his bank, Perspectives on Banking.

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Behind Design: Perspectives, N. 29

This is an excerpt of a piece Josh MacPhee wrote for the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative blog “Behind Design.” In it he describes the thought and work that went into the current cover art for Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.

I wanna show what went into the creation of the cover design for the new issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, which went on sale in the Justseeds store this week. Perspectives started out a simple 4-8 page newsletter for the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) almost twenty years ago. Twelve years ago it merged with the publication The New Formulation: An Anti-Authoritarian Review of Books to become a traditional magazine-sized (8.5″ x 11″) publication, running 48-60 pages per issue. This format stuck for a couple years, then their were multiple single-issue attempts to convert it into a journal-sized format. I joined the board of directors of the IAS in 2009, and it was decided to relaunch it once again as a journal, but this time to have an editorial board that was connected to, but not the same as, the board of directors of the IAS. I took over design duties, and Perspectives v.12 n.1 was the first issue I did the cover for. It quickly sold out, and it was decided that this was the format we were going to stick with.

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The first issue of Perspectives created by the current collective (2010)

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Breaking the Waves: Challenging the Liberal Tendency within Anarchist Feminism, By Romina Akemi and Bree Busk

From the new Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, this is one of many pieces on anarcha-feminisms. The whole issue, including full-color artwork, is available from AK Press here! 

The Black Rose Anarchist Federation sent a delegation to participate in AFem2014, an international anarchist feminist conference developed by a committee of anarchists organizing in the UK. The goals of AFem2014 were to challenge sexism and other forms of oppression within the anarchist movement and to create a “safer space” to start conversations around individual and collective experiences that could be translated into organizing work. The conference committee hoped that the energy generated by this event would reinvigorate anarchist feminism as a whole, and would be reproduced as an ongoing series of conferences with a global impact. When viewed from this perspective, AFem2014 was an important political development that highlights the growth of anarchism and the need to advance the theory and practice of feminism within it. However, the Black Rose delegation left AFem2014 with more questions than answers, the foremost being, “What is anarchist feminism?”

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Health Care Workers Picket in London

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Taking Sides on Taking Sides: A Response to Arun Gupta’s Review of Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism (AK Press, 2015), by Michael Staudenmaier

Here is a response to Arun Gupta’s review of Taking Sides. It is written by Michael Staudenmaier, author of Truth and Revolution: A History of the Sojourner Truth Organization, 1969–1986 (AK Press, 2012). Michael wrote an original essay, “Brave Motherfuckers: Reflections on Past Struggles to Abolish White Supremacy” that opens and introduces Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism (AK Press, 2015). This is the type of discussion we were hoping would be generated by Arun Gupta’s review. We encourage you to continue the discussion in the comments section. Perspectives Eds.

 

Early on in Arun Gupta’s review of Taking Sides, “A War of All Against All,” which appeared here in Perspectives, he writes, “The exact purpose of the book is hard to glean, other than gushing white-hot rage.” Replace “book” with “review” and you have an apt description of his essay. It is clear that Taking Sides made Gupta angry, but it is not at all clear why. Nor does he offer much of an alternative framing for a set of issues he acknowledges are important.

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Spring, 2016 IAS Newsletter

Here’s our latest newsletter with lots of updates! Right Here!

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PLAY: A Call for Submissions for the Next Issue of Perspectives

Are you an organizer or activist currently engaged in movement work? Are you interested in taking time to reflect on the lessons and ideals of this work in order to help advance anarchist praxis? Are you a self-taught thinker with a particular interest or expertise in some aspect of radical history or practice? Are you willing to share your insights to contribute to our collective memory? Do you have ideas, experiences, or questions that you would like to develop and share with a wider audience?

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(photo by Abbey Volcano)

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, the Perspectives on Anarchist Theory editorial collective would like to hear from you. We believe it is crucial that those of us with visions of a free society share our work and ideas so that we can create a solid, common foundation on which to build a better world. We value underrepresented voices, accessibility, complexity, and the rigorous investigation of ideas.

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THOUGHTS ON AN ANARCHIST RESPONSE TO HEPATITIS C & HIV, by Alexander McClelland & Zoë Dodd

Editors’ Note:

We regret that, due to an editorial error, an incorrect version of the following piece appears in the print edition of Perspectives, N. 29, on “Anarcha-feminisms.” Please read and share this version of McClelland and Dodd’s essay, as it demonstrates the language and ideas they intended to represent. We are grateful to the authors for their grace and understanding with this error, and apologize for any confusion this may have created.

“As a woman living with HIV, I am often asked whether there will ever be a cure for AIDS. My answer is that there is already a cure. It lies in the strength of women, families and communities, who support and empower each other to break the silence around HIV/AIDS and take control…” – Beatrice Were, Ugandan AIDS activist ₁

Introduction

In the early days of the HIV epidemic, within a context of massive and systemic state neglect, people who were impacted and affected by HIV came together out of desperation and urgency to help care for and support their own communities, friends, and families. This care and support took many forms. Some helped people die with dignity in non-stigmatizing environments, while others pooled medications in buyers’ clubs and distributed them to one another outside of official healthcare systems of access. Still others established collective community clinics, developed community prevention, support and care organizations, and distributed sterile equipment for injecting drugs, even when it was deemed illegal by the state, or opened supervised consumption sites without official institutional forms of medical or public health approval. Despite these productive examples, which undoubtedly saved many lives, the devastating past of the AIDS crisis is not one to be romanticized. This is not our intention. In looking back at history, we can see that many of these radical actions were inherently anarchist. At the time, people’s intentions may not have been rooted in an anarchist worldview. People did what they needed to do to maintain their own survival despite what higher authorities deemed appropriate. These examples are the active realization of mutual aid, spontaneity, trust, and collaboration—all tenets of anarchism. While anarchism was not central to those organizing in the early days of the AIDS movement, there was an anarchist component to New York City’s AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP), Toronto’s AIDS ACTION NOW! and there have been many smaller anarchist AIDS activist initiatives over the years. We aim to help reconnect the work of these past movements to what is happening today, or what could happen in the future, with liberatory concepts and ideas brought forward through anarchism.

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A War of All Against All: A Review of Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism, Cindy Milstein, ed. (Oakland: AK Press, 2015), by Arun Gupta

In the introduction to the book Taking Sides, the editor extends “an invitation to constructively debate the many thorny questions for which none of us have the answers.” In that spirit, and viewing our publication as a forum for vigorous and open debate, Perspectives presents the following review, and has specifically invited the book’s editor to respond in our pages. We also encourage you to join the discussion. We want to host debate and constructive engagement with the important issues that Taking Sides raises in our comments section. You can participate by leaving a reply at the bottom of the review. – Eds.

It was in a dusty lot in a residential corner of Albuquerque, New Mexico where Amalia’s story came spilling out.1 “This is the earliest memory of my mother,” she said, her eyes locked on a row of greens pushing through sandy soil under an open-faced hoop house. “I was less than two years old. She was picking a row of beets.” The last of ten children of Mexican and indigenous heritage in a family of farmworkers, Amalia says her mother was diagnosed with late-stage cancer while pregnant and given a few years to live.

“We were very poor and my mother felt I wouldn’t survive as a baby. My father worked constantly to feed our family and buy shoes for us once a year. My mother was friends with a white woman in a Jehovah’s Witness church who was married but couldn’t have children.” After her mother died the white couple adopted Amalia when she was still a toddler. “Right away they took me to a doctor because I was malnourished.”

“Then the woman who adopted me, a gracious and wonderful woman, was killed two years later in a car accident. So I lost my mom again.” Her adoptive father, Jack, became her primary caretaker. “He encouraged me as a woman to not let things limit me. He encouraged me to embrace my culture. He made relations with indigenous people in the area so he could take me to ceremonies. He really loved me.”

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From Oblivion to Political Responsibility: An Anarchist Sister Reviews Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence (AK Press, 2014), reviewed by Sara Rahnoma-Galindo

This review appears in the new issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, N.29, on the theme of anarcha-feminisms.  It is available from AK Press here!

Radicals, including many anarchists, are involved in actively organizing against gender and sexual violence around the world. For example, Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment/Assault in Egypt; Las Kallejeras in the shantytowns of Santiago, Chile; the Colectiva de Gafas Violetas in Mexico; and countless other local initiatives all confront perpetrators in workplaces and organizing work. Yet, the task of addressing sexual violence, even in anarchist circles, continues to be singled out as primarily the job of survivors and their most immediate circles, instead of as a collective political responsibility. As an issue that we are socialized to meet with silence and stigmatization, sexual violence is commonly underemphasized or obscured amongst both radicals and society at large. Take for instance, ignorance of the fact that one out of three women in the world will be raped at some point in their lives. Or that, in the US, ninety-one percent of reported rape survivors are women, the most vulnerable being queer and gender nonconforming youth and people with physical disabilities, and fifteen percent of children are survivors of rape and incest. It is critical that our politics be aware of and address this. We need to be more diligent and active in both understanding sexual violence and linking it to radical organizing.

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Consider reading Dear Sister: Letters from Survivors of Sexual Violence (AK Press, 2014), an anthology containing fifty insightful pieces, written by survivors from all walks of life, as part of this process. The book features an introduction by African-American incest and rape survivor and filmmaker Aishah Shahidah Simmons, and is edited by Philipina-American feminist author and survivor advocate Lisa Factora-Borchers. Known for having extensive involvement with survivors via coalition work, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education before piecing together Dear Sister, Lisa Factora-Borchers was first approached by Black feminist author Alexis Pauline Gumbs who asked her to write a letter of support to a friend who had just been raped. Not knowing the survivor’s situation, her name, or much else about her, Lisa Factora-Borchers nevertheless acknowledge the situation and communicated support. Hence the idea for the book was born.

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Perspectives, N. 29 on Anarcha-Feminisms, Now Available!

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