Demystifying forces of the state, gangs, and revolutionary violence.
In Gang Politics, Kristian Williams examines our society’s understanding of social and political violence, what gets romanticized, misunderstood, or muddled. He explores the complex intersections between “gangs” of all sorts—cops and criminals, Proud Boys and Antifa, Panthers and skinheads—arguing that government and criminality are intimately related, often sharing critical features. As society becomes more polarized and conflict more common, Williams’s analysis is a crucial corrective to our usual ideas about the role violence might or should play in our social struggles.
Kristian Williams is the author of six books, including Our Enemies in Blue: Police and Power in America. Williams has been actively writing and leading discourse on anarchism in historical and present-day contexts, social inequalities, and critiques on police and political force since the 1990s. He lives in Portland, Oregon.
PHILADELPHIA 07/03 Wooden Shoe Books @ 5PM 704 South Street Philadelphia, PA 19147 Registration Details TBA
The Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair is an annual event that brings together people interested and engaged in radical work to connect, learn, and discuss through books and information tables, workshops, panel discussions, skillshares, films, and more! We seek to create an inclusive space to introduce new folks to anarchism, foster a productive dialogue between various political traditions as well as anarchists from different milieus, and create an opportunity to dissect our movements’ strengths, weaknesses, strategies, and tactics.
Revolutionary Organizing Against Racism (ROAR) started as a conference in 2017 during the anti-fascist movement to translate the street protests that were happening all over the U.S. into a more radical analysis about racism’s key role in our entire social structure. We know it’s not enough to oppose street-level white supremacy and that ICE and the prisons are much more efficient institutions at upholding white supremacy and that if you are anti-racist, you must turn your attention to revolutionary politics. We’re happy you are here, and we hope you enjoy our revolutionary content.
This summer, investigative journalist and author Robert Evans will be on tour to promote the release of After the Revolution! Registration details below.
What will the fracturing of the United States look like? After the Revolution is an edge-of-your-seat answer to that question. In the year 2070, twenty years after a civil war and societal collapse of the “old” United States, extremist militias battle in the crumbling Republic of Texas. As the violence spreads like wildfire and threatens the Free City of Austin, three unlikely allies will have to work together in an act of resistance to stop the advance of the forces of the Christian ethnostate known as the “Heavenly Kingdom.”
Robert Evans, the author of A Brief History of Vice, has had an eclectic career as an investigative journalist reporting from war zones in Iraq, Syria, and Ukraine, and reporting on domestic radicalism in the US. He hosts the podcasts Behind the Bastards and It Could Happen Here for iHeartRadio, is a writer for the humor website Cracked, and an investigative journalist for Bellingcat. He resides in Portland, OR.
PORTLAND 05/03 Powell’s City of Books 1005 W Burnside St. Portland Portland, OR 97209 *RSVP Not Required
SEATTLE 05/09 Third Place Books 17171 Bothell Way NE, #A101 Lake Forest Park WA 98155
LOS ANGELES 05/12 Chevalier’s Books 133 N Larchmont Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90004
05/17 Firestorm Co-op Virtual Event with Margaret Killjoy
NEW YORK 05/19 Strand Bookstore 828 Broadway 3rd Floor, Rare Book Room New York, NY 10036
Music is a huge part of everything that I do. I spend most of my time listening to music and looking for new music. It informs all of my politics and has been a radicalizing force in my life from my earliest days growing up in the church. Music isn’t a hobby or convenient distraction, it’s at the core of my being. I have been making playlists for years to try to help people through hard times with songs that inspire, comfort, and push me to action. I started doing this when I was working with the Praxis Center at Kalamazoo College as an editor for the race, class, and immigration section of their blog. I also made two during the pandemic when I was organizing, teaching, and writing. So, naturally, I made one to go with my book. You’ll see a few references to music throughout the text if you pick it up, but not nearly as many as I could have put. I think I’m going to have to write a book that’s strictly dedicated to music. It means too much to me not to. So, I’ve attached an accompanying playlist of songs related to this text. These are songs that inspired The Nation on No Map. Some complement the text and others conflict with it. Others are simply different songs I enjoyed while things were coming together on my journey to the last page. And some are symbolic. Hear me out!
If you’re willing to listen to my musical
selections, please also consider a short reading list of texts that could be
read alongside this book too. Many of them influenced this book and my thinking
about the topics at hand.
Featuring: An essay by William C. Anderson on ideology, Black anarchism, and his forthcoming book The Nation on No Map: Black Anarchism & Abolition.
one thing I learned from Black anarchism, it’s
to transcend. I am not just a Black anarchist because I want to systematize or
institutionalize Black anarchism. I’m
not wed to it and I’m
not dedicated to any cause like that because the entire point is not to be.
However, I have internalized its lessons and that’s why I wrote The Nation on No Map. The lessons
Black anarchism offers can help show us how to transcend the pre-arranged narratives
that hold us back. I believe that Black anarchism has done so in many ways and
provided a framework that we can observe. Social movements have long been
plagued with orthodoxy, cultism, and limitations that I feel have poisoned the
roots. People have put ideology before liberation at the expense of progress
and it’s blatant how much this is deterring us in a world that’s facing rapidly compounding unimaginable crises. I
learned a long time ago that a lot of people don’t actually want liberation, they just want control,
authority, and power. Furthermore, they don’t
make any distinctions between these things. Oftentimes with oppression, people
start thinking that having what the oppressor has (the ability to oppress) is
the goal; it’s
not. Ultimately, I think it’s
time to gather what we need from the history we’ve been offered and move beyond the stories we like to
tell ourselves about the past and the present for the realization of something
far greater. Black anarchism can provide helpful insights.
Founding Black anarchist Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin familiarized me with the task at hand to “raise the contradictions.” He was talking about exposing the inconsistencies between what the state, society, and what the world promises but does not deliver. I’d already been thinking about something similar in terms that expanded beyond ideological positions to something much deeper. I was beginning to ask questions about things that Marxism, classical anarchism, and doctrinaire politics could not answer. They have always had to be reshaped and extended in ways by those that are most marginalized within their ranks. This led me to interrogate questions of contradictions within ourselves and how we internalize them. Autonomous Black radicalisms of all sorts gave me a model and method which I found most useful in guiding my own political growth to do so.
The Nation on No Map is a humble attempt to use my own understanding and the lessons I’ve learned to trace a liberatory path. I believe that challenging the supposed necessity of the nation-state and removing the ways of thinking that feed into it are top priorities. I examine different relationships that Black America has with certain aspects of the past and use Black Anarchism to interrupt and trouble them as I look around. I can see clearly that the importance of an actual radical struggle is more important than just having the appearance of one. That is to say, some of the radicalism and revolutionary politics around us are held back by a lack of imagination. And we’re certainly going to need new ideas amid the flourishing discussions of abolition which I believe need an anti-state emphasis. A free future remains out of reach when antiquated, conservative ideas get repeatedly recycled. For Black America, the problems we experience as it relates to things like citizenship, migration, and nationhood illustrate the point I hope to make. The truth is in the mirror.
so much to talk about but there are barriers getting in the way of our growth
because people assume we’ve
already figured things out. We haven’t,
and we should call everything into question if we’re willing to admit as much. There are a wide array of
self-proclaimed liberatory politics we have before us that impede liberation
when they become cloaks for rigidity, religiosity and unthinking reformism. If
the answer to questions about the future is to endlessly parrot the dead
politics of yesteryear, we’re
failing. Not knowing things (yet) isn’t
always bad, but assuming we know everything already because we don’t want to question
prescribed beliefs is dangerous. What history gets overlooked? What questions
go unanswered? Whose stories get erased? Which ones get revised, edited, and
written over? The questions that go unanswered because some are unwilling to
ask are many.
I try my best to highlight this in my work. For example, this is a problem that plagues the Western left and radical movements who are drowning in their own dogma because of a staunch unwillingness to rise above doctrine. The left is stuck because it cannot get over the idea of itself and its self-centered infatuation with its past, and this prevents it from overcoming oppressions that are constantly reconfiguring. Our worst nightmares reorganize themselves while leftists desperately await the return of a dream they once had. They long to stay asleep, anticipating that the same heroes, villains, and storyline will reappear so they can reclaim the past fantasies they cling to. Sometimes when they can’t find victory around them, they’ll even excuse the very forms of violence they claim to be against as a means of defending ideological delusion, not oppressed people. Oppressors are warmly embraced by those who haven’t yet figured out, or are unwilling to admit, that tyranny can change clothes.
It’s this sort of orthodoxy and hagiography holding back our hopes of achieving liberation because they force creativity to fall by the wayside. Furthermore, they gloss over limitations and contradictions in favor of faithful dedication to ideas that may very well be expired, exhausted, or even lifeless. The new must be born so that we can overcome, but the movements and traditions I lament are overly obsessed with venerating what’s bygone to such an extent that they preserve too much of the old. That history is usually only recalled to be praised despite the horrors, killings, and betrayals that would tarnish the reputations of radicals’ favorite heroes if they even believe those things happened at all. Growth is lost because there are no recognizable problems to grow from. You can’t fix a historical issue you refuse to acknowledge. Patriots are patriots no matter where you go.
Maybe some critics will dislike my text and will attempt to make
it an ideological conflict, but the real confrontation is inside of us. It lies
in the hurdles we fail to surpass because we’re
more dedicated to supposedly being right than admitting what’s wrong. To make any of this simply about ideological
disagreements, is to attack a house The Nation on No Map is not even in.
This is one reason I find great parallels in the study of Zen Buddhism, which
carries strains of thought dedicated to a needed self-destruction. Those
insights underscore this entire book. The Nation on No Map is a
self-immolating text that I truly struggled to finish. I felt aflame while I
was writing it and the fear that arose imagining plumes of smoke around me made
it hard to focus. I fought amongst past and present versions of myself in a
furnace of my own making. When I completed this attempt and the ashes settled I
came across the death poem of the Zen monk, Kogaku Soko, who died at 84 years
of age in 1548 saying:
My final words are these:
As I fall I throw all on a high mountain peak –
Lo! All creation shatters; thus it is
That I destroy Zen doctrine.
The arrogance of orthodox ideology is the assumption that someone can know everything about the outside world while refusing to step outdoors to gain an internal critique. Self-reflection is crucial, but far too many among us are scared of the uncomfortable realization they might find. We will have to tear down idols and be willing to tell the truth about the monuments we’ve built. We will have to get over ourselves because a lot of us may very well be blocking our own path. Black anarchism can help us trace how that happens and give us organizing principles to fight back, meet material needs, and transcend radicalisms that are not taking us far enough, and that may not even be so radical at all. Much has to be overturned and some of that will occur from within. In order for revolution to happen, we will actually have to think and do things revolutionarily.
William C. Anderson is a writer and activist from Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of The Nation on No Map and the co-author of As Black as Resistance. He is the co-founder of Offshoot Journal and also provides creative direction as one of the producers of the Black Autonomy Podcast. His writings have been included in the anthologies, Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? (Haymarket 2016) and No Selves to Defend (Mariame Kaba 2014).
Register here to attend the first webinar Lessons In Liberation: Grounding Education in Abolition on September 1, 2021 at 4:00pm PST.
All webinars will be streamed via YouTube and Facebook. ASL Interpretation will be provided by Certified Deaf Interpreters and Deaf Interpreters. We will also provide CART Captions. Please contact Sheeva (she or they) at email@example.com for any additional accessibility needs or accessibility questions.
Featuring: An excerpt by abolitionist educator Sagnicthe Salazar
Just in time for the back-to-school season, Lessons In Liberation: An Abolitionist Toolkit For Educators, a resource that establishes foundational knowledge on incorporating abolition and liberation in, by, and through our education system, will be available this September. You can preorder your copy now!
Lessons In Liberation is a collaborative work, a labor of patience and love, and more than five years in the making with contributors including but not limited to Education For Liberation Network, Critical Resistance, Black Organizing Project, Chicago Women’s Health Center, Mariame Kaba and the MILPA Collective, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, Bettina L. Love, and so many more.
This reader is essential for teachers, organizers, parents, students—and pretty much anyone interested in increasing the reach of abolitionist ideas. It consists of a collection of tools and essays from a variety of abolitionist organizers, healers, and educators who have done and continue to do the work: effectively illustrating and breaking down the endless possibilities of intentional liberation and collective abolitionist movement. Each contributor emphasizes how it is crucial to support our communities, our youth and young people, and our educators with the political vision of a shared goal in mind—to eliminate all forms of policing and creating a sustainable world for us all. It is both deeply understood and conveyed that the role that the education system as we know it feeds and sustains carceral punishment and prison industrial complex in all its forms. Despite this, we know that another world is possible.
Lessons In Liberation is structured in three parts: Openings And Groundings, Everyday in Every Way, and Growing Our Work. In each, the book examines the varying yet interconnected ways of building our analysis, knowledge, and power.
Lessons In Liberation is a love letter to all those who came before, as well as those who will grow, learn, and unlearn as a result of that radical love.
Reflections from a Dean of Transformative Discipline: What Abolitionist Education Means to Me
by Sagnicthe Salazar (an excerpt from the book Lessons in Liberation)
A part of our job as abolitionist educators is to break the system that is working perfectly well as a
tentacle of imperialism that needs the prison industrial complex for its ongoing success.
As teachers, we must break that system and break the hegemonic notion that Black and Brown
bodies are naturally inclined to crime or to violence. We must break the myth that Black and Brown
bodies don’t value education. We must end the idea that Black and Brown bodies engage in activities
that require cops, prisons, policing, or detention centers.
Once we break with these ideas, we must begin to talk as a school system, as educators, with young people and with our families about safety: Safety from what? For whom? How do we keep our folks safe from poverty? How do we keep our folks safe from houselessness, joblessness, from food deserts, from the perpetual stress that they live with on a day-to-day basis with these helicopters circling overhead, and having to fight for basic necessities that should be human rights?
Talking about these questions together helps to illuminate other crucial threads: there’s a reason why there’s so many Black and Brown folks in homeless encampments and prisons. There’s a reason why the number of Black and Brown bodies being killed by police is so high. There’s a reason why white supremacists march down the street, feeling all fine and dandy while our folks can’t even breathe. Building a thread between those things—why our people are dying in prisons and dying in poverty—helps us to begin to see the crucial need to also heal.
Business as usual won’t help.
This reality has impacted our bodies for hundreds of years, for generations. We need to be able
to talk about what’s happening with our children, with our teachers, in our schools. We must take a pause and actually engage around what is happening and have a conversation with each other about
our material conditions. And we need to think, talk, feel, and dream: what does it mean to have a
world without police, without prisons?
The education system has worked so goddamn well that our babies, our families, our folks tend
to be the most punitive people, because we’ve internalized the state’s line and we have internalized
the belief that we need to hurt people that hurt us. We need to punish. What to do when someone
breaks a class agreement or gets into a fight? Often we are the first to say suspend, expel, punish—all
these things. We haven’t given our children, our families, our communities an opportunity to dream
of something different. If punishment is all you know, then you can’t begin to do the work to build
something different. And so, first and foremost, we need to create the space to say it is possible; let’s
dream of what is, and how it is, possible.
This isn’t a new movement. Let’s give credit to the people who are doing this work already. In the Bay Area some schools have been mobilizing to not have cops in schools, not have security guards, not have JROTC. These organizations—particularly the young people in them—are doing the overt work of removing the prison state from our schools. This work is crucial, but often we’re missing the work of challenging and dismantling the many ways—often more covert—in which communities and also schools devalue humans, and particularly Black and Brown bodies. We devalue children, perpetuate isolation and punishment, and make some of our children disposable. How do we recognize and challenge how our families replicate these systems? The deep work within is to shift our thought process so that we actually value life and breathe life into the building through our practices towards every warm body in the school building, from teachers to students to families to administrators.
One of the things that we do at our school, every time that we look at our data, is look at the
racial disproportionality: Is the number of students that are having disciplinary issues proportional to our population? And often, we see that that’s not the case. So we got to go back to the drawing board
and think about and question: How are we replicating the system? How are we devaluing life, and
how can we breathe life through the day-to-day systems?
As a Dean of Discipline, and in my particular role as Dean of Transformative Discipline, I also like to share with folks that being an abolitionist educator is also about having both super high expectations and also zero tolerance for hurting each other. Our children, our communities, have infinite capacity to meet our high expectations. To have zero tolerance for hurting each other means that we need to hold a high line that leads towards love, towards care, towards compassion. When a student or an adult kind of goes past that line, how do we actually walk with them with support? How do we actually bring that loving care that we want them to reverberate in building, and how do we have consistent practices to show that love to each other? How do we want people to relate to each other in their day-to-day, so that when they’re outside the school walls they are relating in a way where love reverberates? A part of our practices needs to be to have zero tolerance for hurting each other, and we can get there through showing consistent intense love and the true valuing of each other’s lives.
Recently released in collaboration with the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), Intersectional Class Struggle: Theory and Practice by Michael Beyea Reagan is a study on the diverse experiences of working-class people. He answers questions that come into play when we think about class:
What is class?
Why is it often connected to conflict and struggle?
What is the working class?
Why are class analysis and movements of the working class seeing a resurgence right now?
Reagan articulates that in light of Trump’s election and in the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the core problems of discussing class was the inability to easily define it. But the corrective that is offered and explored in depth is the concept of intersectionality, and the idea that social factors including race, class, gender, immigration, and disability colonialism must all be considered in how we analyze and understand class. This book presents concepts of racial capitalism, the experiences of farmworkers, factory workers, Black feminist thought, and how they apply to popular movements, as well as our ever-evolving understanding of class struggle.
It is not a coincidence that the freedom struggle for Black Americans has fueled other movements in the nineteenth century, such as labor, women’s liberation, and Indigenous sovereignty. Reagan points out that the concept of self-emancipation is often credited to white thinkers. While this is only one of the ways that white supremacy distorts society’s perspective on radical history, it also conveys that liberation movements seep into one another.
While Intersectional Class Struggle offers a thoughtful analysis and historical approach on intersectionality, the book serves as a tool for society — to restore a tradition of liberation and self-emancipation. Collectively, the working class consists of teachers, laborers, office workers, homemakers, parents, victims of systemic oppression, refugees, and migrants.
Together, the working class must create a better world free from exploitation and oppression.
Nobody will free us but ourselves.
An excerpt from Chapter 1 of Intersectional Class Struggle: “Experience”
“Like slaves.” That’s how Jessie de la Cruz remembers their time as an agricultural worker in California’s San Joaquin Valley in the early part of the twentieth century. “The farmers treated the horses and the cows . . . better than the farmworkers,” de la Cruz said. “At least they had shelter . . . but the farmworkers, we lived under the trees.”
Then, as now, agricultural workers faced difficult and dehumanizing conditions. Paid by the piece, the volume of crop they harvested, workers like de la Cruz moved at a frenzied pace to collect as much as possible. At a penny a pound, on a very good day, harvesting 200 pounds of cotton, a worker could hope to bring in $2.00. The piece-rate system “acted as a built-in speed-up mechanism” compelling workers to move faster and faster, despite cracked and bleeding hands, stooped backs with deep aches, blisters, sun stroke, dehydration, and other limits from one’s body. It was no accident that Central Valley farms were known as “factories in the field.” Farmworkers and their families, who often worked in the fields together, lived in labor camps that lacked “beds, ovens, toilets, showers and running water.” Belén Flores remembered, “We suffered a lot, working in the camps.”
Luis Lima, another farmworker and labor organizer, framed their conditions as part of the system of capitalism: “All of the companies that were here in the San Joaquin Valley were strong companies that were protected by Wall Street. Only the people in charge here and the landowners—these were the ones who had the power. And so we got nothing . . . You were a voluntary slave. Around here, we meant nothing to the ranchers.” “Voluntary slaves” or “like slaves”; the metaphor these workers used to define their own conditions, slavery, is commonly used by wage workers. Cotton has a long history with slavery, of course. It was the primary crop American slavery produced in the nineteenth century. But this was not nineteenth-century chattel slavery, this was something different, a new kind of labor, with new kinds of workers and new class relations. Capitalism and wages were producing new forms of exploitation, new classes, and new sites of struggle that were in some ways comparable to slavery.
The voices of de la Cruz, Flores, and Lima reflect a collective experience, a class consciousness, that is both specific to their circumstances and transcends their particular moment in the history of working-class struggle. Myriad factors all shaped their understanding of the class-structured society in which they struggled for dignity, recognition, and a better life. These factors included experiences of exploitation, racism, and violence on the job; ethnicity, immigration status, and labor militancy; the impact of transnational companies; and their own personal experiences, ideas, and aspirations. This intersection—of material factors made from social structures and working conditions, and cultural or ideological factors made from experiences and identities—is the foundation of class. With other voices, their class analysis shares a critique of capitalist labor regimes as a form of slavery and in some instances it has been the foundation of an emancipatory movement, part of a larger project of human emancipation from exploitation and oppression.
This chapter and the next explore the insights and consciousness of workers themselves as they came to understand modern capitalism and class society. The very first industrial workers in Britain and the United States developed a penetrating anti-capitalist movement that placed waged exploitation and property ownership at the heart of their critique. In the American context, industrial work regimes resembled slavery in the loss of control of our labor, so much so that wage labor was debated as a form of slavery in the early abolitionist press. Wages carried a twofold curse similar to the American slave system: a careful accounting to maximize the exploitation of laborers, and racism and racial divisions designed to make class solidarities more difficult. In fact, as the theorist Cedric Robinson points out, tensions between English and Irish workers made race a crucial part of class formation in every context; he argues that race is always co- formed with class. From its very foundation then, capitalism created racial processes of class formation.
In addition to race, women’s role as workers and members of the working class adds further complexity to the totality of class. Women were the first industrial labor force in the United States. Their double exploitation as women and workers led them to develop a form of class militancy, expressed in the identity of the “factory girl” that simultaneously challenged capitalism and patriarchy and created an early working-class feminism. Women excluded from the workforce were still part of the working class in the form of exploited “reproductive labor” that allowed profitable accumulation to continue; in fact, their unpaid labor greatly contributed to the profit-making process. They came to see capitalism and patriarchy as mutually reinforcing systems of control that needed to be struggled against holistically. Here capitalism and class emerge in the experiences and articulations of working-class women as co-formed with patriarchy and gender constructions.
It must be noted here, in these two chapters, that we analytically make distinctions between gender constructions of class versus ones based on race or property. But these divisions are abstractions meant to elucidate aspects of class and class formation for didactic purposes. Even though we start with English male workers, they are being “racialized” and gendered by the same material and cultural factors as are women, Black workers, and other workers of color. Therefore, racial formation for white male workers is just as much a phenomenon as it is for racialized “others,” as we’ll explore later in this book. Another factor we’ll explore later is the concept of social “totality,” that all these factors come together to make a complementary whole of capitalism, race, gender, and class, even though we separate them here for the purposes of explanation. This totality is reflected in people’s lived experiences, in which they commonly make these connections on their own in their critique of the totality of capitalism. It is difficult, however, to express this totality in writing without abstracting so that we can more easily explore the component parts.
Given this diversity, all these workers faced very different circumstances and developed their own particular, intersectional varieties of class consciousness. But they also encountered similar systems— capital—that gave elements of their experiences a shared core experience—class—despite their differences. One part of that shared experience was the institution of the wage. Workers came to see wages as fundamentally antithetical to human freedom. Held within the wage was a “permanent antagonism,” a conflict between workers’ wages and employers’ profits. At the root of this conflict was property. For employers who controlled property, its ownership did not come from a just division of work and responsibility but a relationship of power that kept workers from seeing the full return of their labor. Through wages and property, owners were able to extract profits, to the detriment of working people. This was a system somewhat like slavery in its compulsion of laborers who were not fully compensated for the wealth they created. As more people encountered capitalism and wages, the dissatisfaction with wages was developed into a systematic critique. It was not just wages and property that was injurious but the whole system of capitalism and its core supports in racism and patriarchy.
1) You’re a voracious reader. What are five books we should be reading alongside Why We Fight to help us understand the current moment?
That’s a really good question. I would start with a great recent book from AK Press called There’s Nothing So Whole as a Broken Heart, an anthology of Jewish anarchism edited by Cindy Milstein which I feel like shares a spiritual bond with my book. Then I would add Culture Warlords by Talia Lavin, which was the best book on the subject out last year and one of the best ever written on the far-right. I would also add Vicky Osterweil’s book In Defense of Looting, which is a groundbreaking look at the ecstatic piece of protest movements, which is a critical part not just of them achieving gains but of opening up a space of freedom. William C. Anderson and Zoé Samudzi’s As Black as Resistance is basically always on my mind these past few years, it had a huge influence on the way I think about all forms of resistance. And of a completely different world, I’ve been really enjoying Judaism for the World by Rabbi Arthur Green, who is this sort of seminal figure in neo-hasidism and whose work I just devoured while writing this book. I also have piles of fiction that are, again, a completely different universe, so I’ll save those for another list.
2) You have a fascinating essay in Why We Fight called “How Racists Dream: Metapolitics and Fascist Publishing.” Metapolitics seeks to change the way people think on a cultural level engaging, as you say, “paths of identity, morality, values, nostalgia, [and] relationships” as a means to prime the pump, so to speak, for eventual political change. In recent years people have mainly come in contact with fascist metapolitics through online culture and social media. What are the best ways to counter fascist metapolitics and in what ways can antifascists, those supporting trans rights and free gender expression, antiracists, and feminists make better use of the concept?
Part of this is to first actually engage in metapolitics, to bring our whole selves into artistic, cultural, and spiritual spaces, and to see them as a terrain of struggle. These often get sidelined from what is “properly political” in that they really aren’t forward facing, they aren’t necessarily a piece of a mass movement, and it is difficult to see material “gains” as you would in a traditional organizing campaign. Instead, it helps to address these issues as they intersect holistically, how they define our sense of self and the way we explore meaning. To do this I think we should encourage radical art, music, and spiritual formations for what they are: incredible pathways to human creativity and subjectivity but also aiders and abettors of revolution. Material conditions only go so far, we also have to pair on-the-ground organizing with shifts in ideological frameworks. Those have to work in tandem. And we can’t always just see our lives as part of an instrumentalist struggle, we have to see our future world as pieced together with other types of work—cultural and spiritual work—because those are the things that can give us the wholeness necessary to have a life worth living.
Second, those are contested spaces as well. Inside of subcultures, whether music or religious or otherwise, you will often find people fighting for a type of ideological hegemony. Many ostensibly left or anarchist subcultures found themselves beset by actual Nazis in the 1970s–80s as there was a clash of the far-right and the far-left inside punk rock. The choice was whether or not to leave that space and cede it to the far-right or to fight inside of it, to make it antiracist hegemonic, and to boot out the fascists. This is happening in musical, artistic, spiritual, and other subcultures all around the world right now, such as in black metal, neofolk, or pagan groups. People are fighting to push out the presence of the far-right, which is building a metapolitic of its own, and replace their ideas with a more liberatory vision. This is a critically important piece to antifascism and prefiguration, and it should not be ignored in favor of just one particular style of organizing.
So we need to push them out, and we need to build our own. If we don’t have a world we are building then antifascism is simply an incomplete process, we have to fill the void with ourselves.
3) The internet, airwaves, and TV are bringing white nationalist talking points into people’s homes. There’s a mainstreaming of fascist and fascist-adjacent ideas at a time of increasing adherence to unhinged conspiracy theories. To what degree do you see distinctions or growing similarities between contemporary fascists, conservatives of the MAGA ilk, and those falling into the conspiracy theory trap?
There is crossover for sure, but what is happening is not really in line with what a lot of antifascists have dealt with. Antifascism, like most social movements, is best when it’s focused on what it does well. While those in the group are likely ideologically opposed to everyone on the political Right, they specifically are going after open fascists and those on the far-right who present a unique threat beyond the beltway, more establishment Right. They may go after the GOP in other ways and other issues but antifascists are confronting a particular type of dissident Rightist politic.
Those divisions have broken down as the fringes have entered the center, and white nationalism has seen major buy-in from the GOP. The notion that “antifa attacks conservatives” comes merely from the fact that fascist and allied people are welcome inside of Republican spaces now, so naturally the antifascists are engaging with people who traditionally would not have interfaced with them. White nationalist ideas are now common in sectors of the Right, particularly around immigration, and antisemitic and other conspiracy theories are a defining feature of the GOP.
The GOP is still not synonymous with something like the National Socialist Movement, but there is heavy crossover. There always has been this crossover, more or less, at different points, but we are living at a particularly egregious point in this and GOP gatekeepers are unwilling, or unable, to close the gates. So now the differences are largely in how self-aware and honest these people are: are they going to be clear that they are fighting for a white ethnostate, or are they hiding behind talking points and civic nationalism? We will continue to see this America First contingent in the Republican Party fighting for some type of hegemony. It has yet to take any kind of majority but with the rest of the party totally willing to placate them because they know that these conspiracy radicals are the source of their base’s energy, they have undue influence.
All of this to say that fascist organizations have seen some level of decline because of a mix of antifascist pressure and their own ineptitude (and a steady dose of deplatforming), but they have left a lasting imprint on American politics that will be hard to undo. And it is important to know that even if they are fully pushed back under a rock, they will reappear because fascism is baked into our system of government, economics, and colonialism. Until we take a hard and radical look at the systems our society is built on we will never be able to take on fascism in a serious way.
4) You’ve been researching the far-right for some time and your work has been closely associated with the antifascist movement’s intellectual and strategic development as of late. In hindsight—aside from the many victories—do you see any particular missteps or missed opportunities that have been made in the last five years in building a movement against fascism?
There has been a massive growth in antifascism from all types of people, organizations, and communities, which creates a real ideological and tactical diversity, which is great and necessary. There has been less connection between a lot of these groups and older, more experienced antifascists to provide any kind of direction and mentorship. One thing that marks many older antifascist groups is their commitment to unquestionable accuracy and tactical efficiency. When they publish information, it is ironclad, and that info goes along with a campaign that applies particular types of pressure to see particular types of victories. They do not, for example, just do mass dumps of info on random people out of context because that does not necessarily lead to the results they want. So I think one thing that is missing in some cases is that connection to historical memory, though I am often surprised by how wonderful new people and organizations are and the incredible innovation they bring.
I think all social movements sometimes have missed opportunities. I hope to see even more coalition building and collaboration, and to build alliances between groups doing mutual aid work, fighting police violence, and antifascist organizations. Integration and collaboration is what is most needed because none of the dire features of our current situation are independent from one another, and we need to be aware of these different responses and to collaborate with each other. We cannot reproduce social movements without having our needs met, which is why mutual aid is critical. And we can’t really confront the effects of the far-right without also looking at the epidemic of racist police killings. We also need to stand with unions and workers organizing, against ecological destruction, to block evictions, to work in solidarity with international liberation movements; all of these are pieces of a larger puzzle, and so I think it is important that, while focusing on what we are best at, we find ways of being a part of this larger matrix.
5) Antisemitism is a subject you’ve been researching and writing about quite a bit in recent years and you’ve included an original essay in Why We Fight called “The Continuing Appeal of Antisemitism.” How do we best raise the visibility of antisemitism in left, anarchist, and antiracist circles?
There’s a couple of things here that should change right off the bat. The first is to build a culture of trust so that when someone says they think that they are experiencing antisemitism, we believe them first. This is not the standard response on the left right now, partially because of disingenuous accusations coming from the right and pro-Israel groups, and also because of historic trends of antisemitism that still linger in some left spaces. Another is to recognize the severity of antisemitism, which often gets reduced to singular spectacular incidents of violence (like that at Or L’Simcha) or is downplayed. Antisemitism remains prevalent, including structurally, and so we need to not reduce our understanding of oppression to define it out of its marginalization. We have to see antisemitism. On top of this, we have to have a better understanding of what it actually is, which may be the toughest piece of this since its contours are confusing and complicated, have a lot of historical baggage, and have been intentionally confused by the right.
On the left, we need to have a hard line on conspiracy theories. Even when Jews are not explicitly named, most conspiracy theories have antisemitic foundations and play into antisemitic worldviews that reproduce underlying societal narratives about Jewishness. When confronting class, we need to not reduce important class antagonisms to just caricatured images, which often are constructed on hyperbolic images of “Jewish bankers” or other bigoted portrayals. Instead, we need to focus with more clarity on the systems of capital and the actual class that controls it, which cannot be reduced to Rothschilds or Soros or other types of shadowy cabals. When it comes to confronting Israel, we shouldn’t let anything stop us from the fight to free Palestinians from the violent occupation, yet we should take care to clarify our language, push out any lingering antisemitism, and hold it with complexity so as to not erase historical oppression and genocide against Jews. This is where this process becomes particularly disconcerting since Israeli groups regularly level accusations of antisemitism to deflect from the movement to confront that state’s crimes, so we have to undercut their behavior by taking antisemitism seriously on our own so they have no claim on that argumentation.
6) Resilience is a theme that crops up in your new book. You say that “tragedy … can be the story of our resistance.” As bad as things are we’re seeing a growing, multilayered movement addressing State violence, misinformation, the prison industrial complex, capitalism, gendered violence, and climate chaos. How hopeful can we be while mired in the shit?
Oh I’m very hopeful. I know people will think it’s funny since I just wrote a book about the apocalypse, but I’m filled with hope. My entire adult political life I have only seen a steady increase in organizing and revolutionary activity. I couldn’t have dreamed ten years ago we would have a mass militant movement against police violence, much less to see “antifa” become a household name. Mutual aid networks are growing all across the world, uprisings are happening on almost every continent, and the labor movement is seeing its biggest spike in fifty years. Yeah, things are really tough, from the collapsing economy to the devastated biosphere, but we have the energy to confront it. And we have all the tools to fix it. I used to be unsure if we actually had the ability to change things, but I now have a lot of faith. We won’t be able to just turn the ship around, it’s too late for that, but we can live in this crisis and build something better on the other side. I think by acknowledging that no one will do it for us, that no deus ex machina is coming, we can live in the present where a new society is the culmination of our acts of survival and resistance. That gives me a tremendous amount of hope. We are living in the middle of an inferno. We are living in the future.
We recently published Salvador Puig Antich: Collected Writings on Repression and Resistance in Franco’s Spain, a book we’re very proud to have helped bring into the world. It uses the life and writings of Salvador Puig Antich as a doorway into an entire forgotten history of resistance to the authoritarian state. This uncovering in itself—the work of editor Ricard de Vargas Golarons and translator Peter Gelderloosis—is something to be proud of. But the book’s insights are not simply historical, they tackle questions of anarchist theory and strategy relevant to us today. Below is an excerpt from Peter’s Introduction to the book. You can purchase the book here: https://www.akpress.org/salvadorpuigantich.html.
It was the Juventudes Libertarias (FIJL), the anarchist youth, who reanimated many of the neighborhood struggles starting already in 1939, when Franco came to power in the entirety of the Spanish state. Starting as teenagers, a generation of youth who had not served in the militias and had not emigrated to France launched a campaign of bold actions, including rescuing hundreds of radical prisoners awaiting execution in Franco’s concentration camps. Throughout the ’40s and ’50s, the FIJL would be at the forefront of the resistance, just as they had during the Civil War after the CNT’s conservative turn in ’36.
In the meantime, though, most of the anarchist movement was in exile in France, where World War II had broken out in earnest. Catalan, Spanish, and Basque anarchists were instrumental to the French resistance, helping organize the partisans and liberating cities like Tolosa (Toulouse). In 1945, unaware that the future NATO countries wished an alliance with Franco, they expected the Allies to continue and sweep the fascists out of power in Spain as well. When the democratic West let them down, the maquis, or guerrilla combatants, kept on fighting. The CNT organized itself in exile in Tolosa and hundreds of militants adapted their smuggling routes over the Pyrenees to support a guerrilla struggle in Catalunya. There were also important guerrilla movements in much of the rest of the Spanish state, though they did not attain the intensity and penetration of the movement in Catalunya.
The guerrillas supported strike actions by workers, spread anti-Franco propaganda, sabotaged capitalist infrastructure, and organized assassination attempts against police figures or Franco himself. A key precedent to the MIL and the OLLA, they continued the practice of “armed agitation,” developed by the anarchist affinity groups in the 1920s. “Armed agitation” is wholly different from the strategy of “armed struggle,” in which a specialized armed group acts as the vanguard of the movement by constituting the nucleus of a future army (e.g. Castro and the 26 July Movement), serving as the military wing of a clandestine political party (e.g. ETA [Euskadi Ta Askatasuna]), or by carrying out the most spectacular actions and using its position to attempt to influence and direct a mass movement (e.g. the Red Army Faction or the Weather Underground). On the contrary, the groups that carry out armed agitation understand themselves to be simply a part of a broader movement, increasing that movement’s capacity for communication, self-defense, and self-financing by organizing and funding clandestine printing, attacking the forces of repression, and expropriating money from capitalists to support the families of strikers, prisoners, and the victims of the police. They also seek to generalize their practice rather than centralize it, distributing weapons among the lower classes and encouraging the horizontal proliferation of armed groups.
A key example from this period helps illustrate the difference. On more than one occasion, a group of anarchist maquis would break into a factory to assault an infamously brutal manager. Whereas a vanguardist armed struggle group would assassinate the manager in such a circumstance, the maquis would strip the manager down in front of all the workers, perhaps beat and humiliate him a little, and loudly warn him, for all to hear, that if word got to them that he continued to be abusive, they would come back and kill him.
The former action creates a spectacle, turning the workers into passive spectators and instilling in them the clear message that the armed group were the protagonists, the saviors, the ones who would deliver the solution. And for any workers who disagreed, perhaps the only saviors were the police, since there is little use debating with one who is better armed than you and executes their opponents.
The latter action, however, maintains the workers as the protagonist of the struggle, putting them on a stronger standing but making it clear that it is up to them to get rid of the bosses. In this view, the most important struggle is that of the workers themselves. It places a lower premium on illegal action and a more accessible ladder towards the more powerful tactics: not all workers are armed at a given moment, but with a little creativity they could all find a way to beat up their bosses. In this way, armed agitation creates a stronger complicity between everyone in the struggle, whether they are regular people trying to make a living and sometimes raising their voice in protest, or those who dedicate their entire lives to the most dangerous aspects of a struggle. Armed agitation makes it clear that everyone’s contributions are needed: the workers could be inspired to form their own such groups, or they could continue fighting in the workplace and the realm of daily life, fighting harder, more bravely, knowing they are not alone.
The difference in the lethality of the two actions is also significant. Though the practitioners of armed agitation—the affinity groups in the ’20s and ’30s, the maquis in the ’40s and ’50s, and the autonomous combat groups like the MIL and the OLLA—sometimes did take lives, they never did so lightly or gratuitously. This reticence towards executing those who could easily be identified as enemies is no small matter: anarchism has always distinguished itself as an ethical revolutionary current that does not make excuses for separating ends and means, and it is no coincidence that it has not resulted in the totalitarian States or systems of gulags and mass executions created by other revolutionary currents.
The anarchist guerrilla movement had far-reaching consequences that have been left out of a hostile historiography. In fact, anarchists who participated in the revolutionary experience in Spain, and then the resistance in France, and then the maquis, wrote one of the first chapters in the book on guerrilla struggles in the twentieth century. Exiles who fled to Cuba, Mexico, and Uruguay shared their experiences with the movements that would blossom there over the next two decades; one exiled anarchist, Abraham Guillén, wrote one of the two principal manuals on urban guerrilla warfare. ETA got their first weapons from old anarchist resistance fighters who had fought Franco in Spain and Hitler in France. The Tupamaros and the Red Brigades got their forged documents from CNT counterfeiters. Many of those first armed groups on two continents after World War II followed an anarchist model, but some of them made key changes to prop up their vanguardist politics. Subsequently, these were the only groups to be remembered in the histories written both by establishment academics and by professed anticapitalists.
 Arguably, this experience constituted one of the two main roots. The other, arising in parallel and having more of an impact in the rural sphere, were the anticolonial struggles waged by Indigenous peoples as well as peasant/ bandit resistance throughout the world, which merged with anarchist movements in places like Mexico, India, Ukraine, and Korea.