I played a pivotal role in the early history of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS). I conceived of it, drafted all the founding documents, selected the initial Board of Directors, led early fundraising campaigns, and anchored it as a whole. Although I have had little to do with the IAS since leaving it in 2005, my years with the organization were an important—and positive—experience for me. I appreciate that Perspectives editors asked me to share my reflections on the occasion of the group’s twentieth anniversary.
When we were first getting started, I often thought about the IAS’s future. I assumed that the years ahead would be riven by crisis but also contain opportunities for radical social change; the challenge was to create an organization that could navigate those fissures while pushing toward substantive revolutionary alternatives. Although it should have been obvious to me, I never realized that one day I would wrestle with the IAS’s past. However, after two decades, those of us linked to the project now have the obligation to make sense of its history.
“Beauty is in the Streets,” Paris, 1968.
This essay appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, available from AK Press here!
As anarchists look for genealogies of principles and praxis in a variety of social movements, from the anarcho-pacifists who spoke out against World War II to anarchists who joined the Black Power movement, so too should they look for their feminist foremothers, not only in the early 20th century anarchist movement but in the radical women’s movement of the 1970s. Many radical feminists shared anarchist goals such as ending domination, hierarchy, capitalism, gender roles, and interpersonal violence, and utilized and influenced the key anarchist organizational structure of the small leaderless affinity group. They grappled with the questions of how to balance autonomy and egalitarianism and create nonhierarchical organizations that also promoted personal growth and leadership. In 1974 Lynne Farrow wrote, “Feminism practices what anarchism preaches.”1
This three part piece by Cindy Crabb appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N.29), and is available from AK Press.
This is the introduction to the anarcha-feminisms issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N.29). It is available from AK Press here!
Ok, editorial collective. Let’s talk this through. So, what are anarcha-feminisms and why do they need their own Perspectives issue?
Well, because these questions persist: what’s the relationship between anarchism and feminism? What critiques do feminists have of anarchists, and vice versa? Are anarchist spaces also feminist spaces, and if not, why not? Isn’t feminism supposed to be implicit within the meaning of anarchism, and therefore unnecessary to specify?
Supposed to be, yes. Maybe. Depends. Anarchist organizing and socializing environments are NOT always feminist (eyeroll if you agree–we thought so). The need to confront one another on the persistent failure of practices to live up to proclaimed ideals, suggesting that anarchist cultures haven’t always been able to sufficiently break free of the patterns of the society they’re trying to oppose and replace, is in itself enough of a reason for stating it explicitly.
But it may be even more than that. A certain ideal of anarchism may be feminist, and a certain ideal of feminism may be anarchist, but not all the polymorphous forms of anarchism or feminism fit that description, even at the level of principles and ideals. Just as there can be feminisms whose aim might be, for example, to insert women into state and corporate power structures, or traditional religious leadership, there can be anarchisms which promote individualist machismo in the name of autonomy, or which essentialize gender binaries in the name of “nature.”
In their 1971 manifesto, “Anarcha-Feminism: Two Statements,” the Red Rose and Black Maria Black Rose Anarcho-Feminists define anarchism as “the affirmation of human freedom and dignity expressed in a negative, cautionary term signifying that no person should rule or dominate another person,” and they encourage libertarian socialist feminists to cultivate “all the groovy things people can do and build together, once they are able to combine efforts and resources on the basis of common interest, rationality, and creativity” (15). In a radical response to the repressive, violent, and “pathological structure” of the State, they conclude this manifesto with a demand for “ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION!” (17) Anthologized within the Dark Star Collective’s Quiet Rumors: An Anarchist-Feminist Reader, the Red Rose and Black Maria Black Rose manifesto opens the collection as a reminder of the need to be ever creative in our feminist approaches. Also, to collectively imagine and manifest complex transformations in how people might relate to one another outside the crushing structures of power and hierarchical notions of human value.
In a time when money and power are concentrated into ever-fewer hands, the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS) stands out. For two decades, the IAS has been providing grants to radical organizers and thinkers, allowing them to take time to reflect and write about their experiences in struggles for social transformation.
This book review appears in the current issue of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (N. 29, on anarcha-feminisms) available here, from AK Press.
Too often I find myself giving into the urgency of organizing, of how this struggle now takes priority over pausing, imagining, reorganizing, reorienting, creating and recreating new worlds, new ways of relating. Of course organizers everywhere are also, everyday, creating many other worlds within this one, but too often it feels as though what takes center-stage in our struggles are the analyses, critiques, and (of course) the too many, too long meetings that stand in for building something different. Spaces for risky, non-utilitarian creativity and inspiration are too often sidelined as inessential. Maybe the appearance of two sci fi books (both from radical presses whose mainstays are political non-fiction) suggests that sci fi is resurfacing as a relevant touchstone for contemporary political movements, signaling perhaps a bit more recognition of creative expression in explicitly political spaces. What exactly is the connection between sci-fi and radical movements and organizing? This question (and some ideas about how to answer it) emerged for me while reading these two humbling anthologies, which I’ll get to in a moment, but first, a little more about these books.
While Octavia’s Brood (2015, AK Press/IAS) and Sisters of the Revolution (2015, PM Press) appear initially as similar offerings from similar presses, their differences are quite profound. While both are compilations of overtly politically-engaged sci fi, the only near-overlap of content is that Sisters of the Revolution includes a brilliant story (one of the strongest in the collection) from the other book’s namesake, Octavia Butler. Beyond this, they both specifically include writers ‘on the margins’ of mainstream science fiction; in this way, many of the stories in each could be included in the other. The likening of one to the other is otherwise quite superficial, however, as the spirits that animate each anthology as a whole are clearly very different. Sisters is an historical compilation of pieces identified as “feminist speculative fiction” by its editors, Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, and seeks to bolster a feminist archive of science fiction, whereas Brood is “visionary fiction,” highly cultural production emerging from and meant to feedback into contemporary social justice struggles. Taken each as collections, they each task science fiction with a different function in contemporary politics, and in doing so fill very different niches, and leave the reader with different orientations towards social change and how it happens.