Tuesday, May 5, 2015
In two previous essay, I discussed the role of the Left in protecting the police through cautious reformism, and the effectiveness of a pacified, falsified—in a word disarmed—history of the Civil Rights movement to prevent us from learning from previous struggles and achieving a meaningful change in society.
The police are a racist, authoritarian institution that exists to protect the powerful in an unequal system. Past and present efforts to reform them have demonstrated that reformism can’t solve the problem, though it does serve to squander popular protests and advance the careers of professional activists. Faced with this situation, in which Left and Right unwittingly collude to prolong the problem, the extralegal path of rioting, seizing space, and fighting back against the police makes perfect sense. In fact, this phenomenon, denounced as “violence” by the media, the police, and many activists in unison, was not only the most significant feature of the Ferguson (and Baltimore) rebellion and the solidarity protests organized in hundreds of other cities, it was also the vital element that made everything else possible, that distinguished the killing of Michael Brown from a hundred other police murders. What’s more, self-defense against state violence (whether excercized by police or by tolerated paramilitaries like the Klan) is not an exceptional occurrence in a long historical perspective, but a tried and true form of resistance, and one of the only that has brought results, in the Civil Rights movement and earlier.
What remains is to speak about possibilities that are radically external to the self-regulating cycle of tragedy and reform. What remains is to speak loudly and clearly about a world without police.
We don’t want better police. We don’t want to fix the police. On the contrary, we understand that the police work quite well; they simply do not work for us and they never have. We want to get rid of the police entirely, and we want to live in a world where police are not necessary.
Far from being a naïve position, I believe it is the only one that can withstand serious scrutiny, whether in the form of a comprehensive historical analysis of the role and evolution of police and the effectiveness of reform movements, or of an examination of the breadth of possibility that human societies have already demonstrated.
No one can effectively argue that the police are necessary in an absolute sense. They are a relatively recent invention, as far as institutions go. The only question is what kind of society needs police, and whether that kind of society makes the systematic murders, torture, beatings, and surveillance worth it.
Dennis Sullivan and Larry Tifft have compiled a great deal of information on societies that use various forms of conflict resolution in which an organization such as the police has no place. From the Diné (Navajo) to the Semai, there are dozens of societies—all of them impacted to varying degrees by Western colonialism—that have practiced restorative or transformative justice, dealing with cases of conflict or social harm without ever having to be so brutal as to lock people up in cages or create an elite body designed to surveille people or mobilize organized violence against those who transgress set laws. They compare neighboring societies that face similar socio-economic conditions but use different strategies for dealing with harm, as well as Western societies that make minimal usage of policing and judicial apparatuses.
A pattern that becomes immediately evident is that police and prisons are only necessary in societies that are based on exploitation and inequality. The police are not an instrument fit to protect a society; on the contrary they are an instrument fit to protect an elite, parasitical class from society. Any society with a minimal practice of cooperation and solidarity can protect itself from individuals who would harm others. A hierarchical, militarized force such as the police, or an institution like the prison designed to remove conflict and transgression from the social sphere, only makes sense where there is a parasitical social class that exists in antagonism with the rest of society, and needs to manage social norms of right and wrong and monopolize violent force in order to preserve its power. Such a class also needs a justice mechanism, such as courts and a legislative body, to formalize its conception of right and wrong, and a propaganda mechanism, whether a state religion or mass media, to ensure that the exploited majority identify with their masters and reproduce the norms of the elite. When a normal person speaks out against throwing rocks at the police or destroying businesses, they are expressing values that originate at the top of the social pyramid.
Of course it gets more complicated when you realize that interests are always subjective, and people often get more out of identifying with a larger community, no matter how fictitious, than they do out of having food to eat or a roof over their heads. In the end, everyone from the CEO to the news anchor to the taxi driver or homebum with conventional ideas all participate in reproducing the same system, and they probably all sincerely believe in the positions they espouse, but some clearly have more influence than others, and can be identified as originators of certain aspects of the present system.
Therefore, we are not speaking for the masses when we assert that the police and the prisons exist to control them, but we should also not shy away from espousing a radical position just because it will be unpopular. We need to have faith that a great many people might eventually come to support radical positions regarding the police. Many people already support parts of these positions intuitively or implicitly, and the reason that more people don’t, at least not expressly, is that so few people currently dare to declare the police an intractable enemy of freedom or to openly advocate a world without police. At this juncture, the last thing that we need is for more people to espouse tepid, inane suggestions for reform that are completely untenable and unrealistic. But as long as proposals for meager reform are taken seriously, that’s what we’ll get.
We can’t get rid of police brutality without getting rid of the police, and we can’t get rid of the police without getting rid of an entire system based on exploitation, oppression, and hierarchy. There is no easy, band-aid solution to this problem, and bandying them about only perpetuates the problem. Foregrounding difficult, far-reaching changes does not mean, however, fixating an abstract gaze on a pre-designed future and blinding ourselves to immediate problems. On the contrary, we need to focus on how we fight now for a better world, and part of that means avoiding forms of action that make real changes even more improbable.
As I argued in Part II, most of what was achieved in the Civil Rights movement in terms of short-term changes was achieved when people armed themselves, took over their streets, and fought back without worrying about ruling class taboos against lower class violence. If we fight for total social transformation without proposing naïve reforms, those in power will trip over themselves trying to buy us off with quick fixes and opportunities to participate in the system.
This in fact is how most social movements in history have gone down. Whatever improvements have been won were actually won by those who fought for radical positions, using uncompromising methods and aggressive tactics, though the victories were claimed by the reformers, who tend to be a combination of dissident members of the ruling structures, opportunists who wish to climb the social ladder, and sincere people who have been duped by a discourse of pragmatism. Their own methods are too sedate to shake things up and force a change, in fact their timidity demonstrates to authority that they are ultimately a loyal opposition undeserving of repression. They must ride the coattails of the radicals in order to be in position when the rulers realize that some change is necessary in order to avoid an actual revolution. The reason that these movements always stop after an incomplete reform, and that the most ineffective sectors of these movements tend to get the credit, is because the reformers have a tendency to throw the radicals under the bus, helping the State eliminate them in exchange for access to power in its newly reformed configuration. After all, who better to discern what reform will best fool the people on bottom than someone who has recently come up from the bottom?
I previously mentioned that a police apparatus cannot exist without a hierarchical society, a prison system, a justice system, and some kind of culture industry, whether religious or mediatic. All of these institutions defend a ruling structure against the conflicts generated by its antagonistic position towards society. Modern democracies go a step further, however; if conflict with society is inevitable, why not manage it rather than trying to suppress it?
In Ferguson, the managers of social conflict were in large part those activists who preached nonviolence and denounced the rioters, as I mentioned in Part I. But there is an important kind of management I neglected to mention.
Those of us who are critical of the mass media may have a hard time explaining the sympathetic position that Time Magazine or Rolling Stone occasionally took with the rioters. Of course, a couple articles hardly make up for thousands of syndicated columns objectively refering to rioters as some kind of pathological parasite, radio hosts calling looters “idiots” and worse, TV spots spreading fear about savage hordes of demons and outside agitators, days long NPR marathons urging peaceful protest, and so on. Nonetheless, the phenomenon is curious as well as significant. In the case of Rolling Stone, we could suppose that this old establishment rag is afraid of all the ground it has lost in the risqué news niche to dynamic newcomers like Vice; however the explanation would be insufficient.
The seemingly subversive behavior of a few outliers is hardly unprecedented. In the recent insurrection in Greece, a large part of the media expressed sympathy with the rioters, albeit in a very formulaic way. In the media lens, young students were justifiably protesting in the streets after the police murder of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, anarchists were hijacking the event to burn police stations, and immigrants were taking advantage of the situation to loot stores. None of these characterizations are based on fact. Millions of young people and old, Greeks and immigrants, participated in the uprising, in a variety of ways. Many students looted, many immigrants walked along with protests. A frequently expressed sentiment was that participation in the insurrection blurred all of these pre-established identities, in which case the media operation clearly intended to reassert them. With all three subjects, the media caricature refers to a prefabricated figure that the entire population was already familiar with—the socially concerned student, the pyromaniac anarchist, the criminal immigrant—that only ever existed on the glowing screen, because it was the media themselves that created it. That’s the brilliance of the media: they rarely have to verify their claims, because they operate within a virtual universe that they themselves have created.
In the Greek example, it is obvious why the media would sympathize with student rioting: to discourage non-students from participating or identifying with the uprising; and to establish a limit of acceptable tactics, implicitly criminalizing the looting and the attacks on police stations. After all, the intensity of street fighting over three uninterrupted weeks was forcing the government to consider calling in the military. They were willing to tolerate burning barricades and illegal protests if things didn’t go further.
Likewise, when people start to bring guns to protests as in Ferguson, there will be those among the forces of law and order who begin to see the wisdom in tolerating the smashing of banks. It’s noteworthy that the media only begin to stomach property destruction when talk of shooting back begins to resonate throughout society. And though within the confines of American dialogue, it feels like a breath of fresh air that Time Magazine would sympathize with rioters, it is a more or less calculated move that functions to limit the growth of resistance. Even if the editors of a magazine are not scheming consciously and explicitly about how to maintain social control, they are still individuals with a vested interest in the current system. People fighting fiercely for their freedom, unlike those who compulsively walk in circles or stage die-ins, often force a recognition of their humanity and win a limited sympathy from their enemies. They also make the existence of a social conflict undeniable. In such a case, people in power may come to accept tactics that they had previously condemned, to acknowledge errors they had previously denied, but their condemnation of forms of rebellion that are irreversibly destabilizing will only crystalize. People can be permitted to blow off steam, even in illegal ways, but they cannot be permitted to blunt or sabotage the instruments of the State. And when the police confront an armed population, they are suddenly much less effective.
Another way that exceptional dissent might manifest is in the realm of discourse and research. I am by no means the first person to express the idea that the police should be abolished, nor is this idea entirely strange in acceptable discourse among people who are much better dressed than I am. However the elaboration of these discourses must be couched in certain ways to signal their usefulness to the State, and their separation from communities in struggle.
If we assert that it is not permitted to speak of a world without police, this is only true if we understand the police as one function in an interlocking system of domination, and the abolition of the police means the abolition of that entire system. Otherwise, there is a great deal of research and debate that maps out the possibilities of prison abolition or an end to policing as we know it. But what is the actual meaning and effect of this discourse?
I would start by arguing that the vast majority of those who conduct this theoretical labor have good intentions. But we also know what they say about good intentions, and the paving stones on the road to hell are not nearly as substantial as the ones being thrown at cops in Ferguson and elsewhere. With this facile figure of speech, I actually mean to suggest a different criterion for evaluating our actions.
I gladly admit that the information produced by academics or activists who theorize about prison abolition or a world without police is thought-provoking and useful. I have cited a few examples of it in this essay. But just as we must ask why Time Magazine would sympathize with rioters, we should ask why there exist paid positions for people to study prison abolition. Either capitalism isn’t a totality, or the prisons and the police are not an integral part of power, or power benefits somehow by studying its own abolition.
I believe the answer lies between the second and the third possibilities. Even though the abolition of prisons is not a likely future, from the present vantage, democratic capitalism increases its chances for survival by exploring contingency plans for extreme cases, and by giving opponents employment opportunities. The advantage is increased if “prisons” or “police” can be discursively transformed from an integral element of a whole system into a particular appendage that can be discarded or modified. And there are few methods of discourse more suited to carrying out this transformation than the academic—which favors specificity and an analysis of parts over wholes—and the activist—which tends towards single-issue messaging that favors the myopic over the radical.
Someone in the academy or in the world of professional activism can study the police for all the right reasons, personally holding a global analysis of the integral role of police within a greater whole, but the institutional formulae of applying for grants, publishing articles, and claiming concrete improvements all modulate those individuals’ activity to favor a piecemeal worldview and to direct discourse at other power-holders.
It may sound like a platitude but I believe experience in struggle bears it out: you cannot abolish that with which you dialogue. State authority above all thrives on being present in every social conversation. A conversation with employers, legislators, grant-writers, or experts about the abolition of the police necessarily assumes the replacement of one form of policing with another.
The modern prison was born out of the abolition of the scaffold. Community policing was a survival mechanism after the defeats and the unpopularity of the police caused by the struggles of the ’60s. The danger is real.
Even without a far-reaching reform that allows the powerful to regenerate their methods for accumulating power, radical discourses in professional channels present other problems. One I have already hinted at can be thought of as misdirection.
Let’s imagine an organization that focuses on prison abolition. Their employees are sincere, dedicated activists, some of them proven veterans of past struggles. Nearly all of them are college graduates, and some might be academics; otherwise they stay in close contact with the experts who produce facts that make it easier to argue for prison abolition in polite circles. They produce many valuable materials that can be useful for supporting prisoners or changing people’s opinions about the prison system, and they may even have a pilot project on a couple blocks in a specific neighborhood, designed to decrease reliance on the prison industrial complex.
Taken individually, all of these things are great. We need more people who are talking about a world without prisons. But the ideas that this hypothetical organization spreads, how do they direct people’s attentions, particularly in a moment of social rebellion?
When such an organization, with paid staff, non-profit status, cred, but also rules to play by and bills to pay, proclaims that “We need to abolish the police and the prisons,” what is the practical implication? “Therefore this organization should receive more grants and this law should not be passed,” or “therefore these people who took up arms against the police deserve our support”? Clearly, it’s not the latter.
A professional approach to tackling the social problems underscored by Ferguson rarely returns people’s energies and attentions to the streets, where real change is created. True, most of the time, we don’t have something like Ferguson going on, so a patient, gradualist method seems to make sense. However, the conservatism of the professional approach often leads activists to play a pacifying role when a moment of intense struggle arises, as we abundantly witnessed this August and again in November. All across the country, even where they refrained from denouncing rioters, activist organizations called for vigils and speak-outs, when it was clear that the time for mere words had passed. Directly or indirectly, these mobilizations allowed a middle-class constituency to monopolize the social response and prevent rioting, at a time when an unprecedented number of people were ready to fight back.
What’s more, the assumptions are all wrong. Ferguson is only exceptional in its extension, not in its spirit. Not a month goes by when someone does not shoot back at the police in America. Most of the time, however, they are a lone shooter, they often kill themselves or die in the act, and the media always publish unsavory details about their personal lives, true or invented. They also portray the cops as heroes, no matter what kind of people they actually were, and they never entertain the possibility that the shooters were justified, as they always do when it’s cops doing the murdering (actually, this is too charitable a description; many media outlets assert from the beginning that the killing was justified, not even allowing a debate). The recent shooting of the two cops in NYC fits the pattern perfectly, but earlier cases like that of Christopher Monfort in Seattle, Eric Frein in Pennsylvania, or Christopher Dorner in LA also apply. None of this should be surprising. There is a certain schizophrenia in a society that glorifies the police and suppresses or distorts any honest conversation about what people actually experience at the hands of police and what sort of countermeasures are adequate or justified. If large numbers of alienated people feel entirely alone in their brutalization and dehumanization by police, collective resistance becomes impossible. The only people to express an active negation of the police will be individuals who reach a certain limit and then snap. By the very nature of the problem they are not going to be the stable ones, especially if mental health is defined as an infinite capacity to accomodate misery.
In Ferguson, rioters spraypainted the QT with the phrase, “free Kevin Johnson”, referring to a black man from an aggressively gentrifying St. Louis suburb who is on death row since 2008. Johnson shot to death an infamous bully of a cop who refused to help his kid brother as he lay dying from a heart condition. There is a direct connection between what are portrayed as isolated outbursts of senseless violence, and the massive rebellions that force society to at least stop and pay attention. I don’t, however, see the professionals making this connection. Typically they are either silent or help pathologize the lone wolves. The tragedy is, such incidents are only isolated as long as people in power AND people in social movements continue to actively isolate them.
Recognizing the basic legitimacy of these acts isn’t to glorify the shooters as heroes. There is something sad in any death, no matter who the victim is, and we’re in dire straits when the only available means of resistance that people think they have are directly suicidal. The point is, there is a direct connection between the systematic brutality of police and the appearance of people who shoot back. Denying it only maintains the schizophrenic condition that forces us to pathologize a sensible human response to systematic abuse, preserves our psychological loyalty to a system that treats us like fodder, and prevents the development of collective measures.
There have been attempts in the US to develop and spread methods of resistance to police that are collective, that brook no compromise, and that are less dangerous, less suicidal, than the method of the lone gunmen. The best known is probably the “black bloc.” And though it is clearly an imperfect tool, the bloc typically faces blanket denunciations by people who make no attempts to propose alternatives. In NGO-land, the trope that has been circulated is that the black bloc is the domain of young white men. Never mind that there are many testimonials by women, queer, and trans people attempting to counter this lie (and at great personal risk, since it requires speaking about personal involvement in an illegal activity); never mind that American anarchists have learned about the tactic not only in Europe but also in Latin America, where it is widely popular. The denunciations cannot be taken seriously as criticisms because they do not rely on realistic portrayals of the black bloc, they are formulated to silence rather than to engage, and they do not propose any alternatives for seizing space or collectively fighting back against police.
The extent to which this trope has been circulated by the corporate media reveals just how liberatory the thinking behind it truly is.
But the black bloc is just one possibility among many, and while it helps demonstrators protect themselves in rowdy street confrontations, it does not suggest to most people the vision of another world. Talking about a world without police in the here and now, without paving the way for our own co-optation is a big order to fill. Fortunately, the conversation is already ongoing.
We have the examples of societies that thrived without police, which I mentioned towards the beginning of the essay. Those stories belong to other cultures. I don’t think Westerners should use them as models or as ideological capital, but I think we should recognize their existence, to break the stranglehold that Western civilization has over definitions of human nature and human possibility, and we should also recognize that those other forms of being were violently interrupted by processes of colonization that are still ongoing. They are not marginal, idyllic stories of “primitive” societies with no bearing on modern reality, they are histories of peoples who are still struggling for survival. If, in the worlds we dream of, there is no room for them to reassert themselves independent of our designs, then whatever we create will only be a continuation of the thing we are fighting against.
More appropriate as inspiration for our own action are a number of stories of struggle in Western or westernized countries in which people created police-free zones on the ground. After all, a holistic critique of the police means that by the very nature of the problem, we cannot ask government to institute the needed changes. Real steps towards a world without police can be found in the riots in Ferguson and other cities around the country where people surpassed their self-appointed leaders and actually fought back, rather than just manufacturing yet another spectacle of symbolic dissent. The riots in Ferguson were not only important in an instrumental way, forcing all of society to consider the problem; they also suggested the beginnings of a solution as neighbors came together in solidarity, building new relations amongst themselves, and forcefully ejecting police from the neighborhoods they patrol.
Christiania is an autonomous neighborhood of Copenhagen that has been squatted since 1971. The area, with nearly a thousand inhabitants, organizes itself in assemblies, maintains its own economy and infrastructure, cleans up its trash, produces bicycles and other items in collective workshops, and runs a number of communal spaces. They also resolve their own conflicts, and with the exception of some aggressive incursions and raids, Christiania has been a police-free zone for most of its existence. Initially, the Danish government opted for a soft strategy, hoping that Christiania would eventually fall apart on its own. In the same era, the autonomous movement in the Netherlands and Germany was fighting major battles to defend their squatted spaces, sometimes defeating the police in the streets or burning down shopping malls in retribution for evictions. In context, the Danish approach made sense. However, Christiania thrived. Some suspect that the government was behind the crisis that threatened the autonomous neighborhood’s existence in 1984 when a motorcycle gang moved into the police-free zone to begin selling hard drugs (soft drugs have always been widely used in Christinia, while addictive drugs are vehemently discouraged).
Earlier in Christiania’s history, there had been a fierce debate about how to deal with the problem of drugs. Over intense opposition, a part of the neighborhood decided to request police assistance, but they soon found that the cops were arresting the users of non-addictive drugs and ignoring or even protecting the proliferation of hard drugs. After that, Christiania decided to keep the police out, and their autonomy was well established by the time the motorcycle gang moved in. The gangsters thought they had picked an easy target: a neighborhood of hippies who not only disavowed making use of the police, they actively kept the police out. These drug-pushers, however, had fallen for capitalist mythology, which presents us all as isolated individuals, vulnerable to organized delinquents, and therefore in need of the greatest protection racket of them all, the State. Christiania residents banded together, exercising the same principle of solidarity that was at work in all the other aspects of their lives, fought back, and kicked the motorcycle gang out, using a combination of sabotage, public meetings, pressure, and direct confrontation.
It is no coincidence that the same tools and capacities that allow us to fight back and free ourselves from policing are also the ones we need to protect ourselves from the forms of harm that capitalist democracies prosecute under the rubric of “crime”. Crime and police are two sides of the same coin. They perpetuate each other, and they each rely on a vulnerable, atomized society. A healthy society would have no need for police, no more than it would lock people in cages and hide its problems out of sight rather than deal with the conflicts and deficiencies that led to an act of harm being committed in the first place.
The mutual relationship between police and crime was exquisitely revealed during the popular uprising in Oaxaca in 2006. In June of that year, police viciously attacked the massive encampment staged annually by striking teachers. But the teach ers fought back tooth and nail, quickly joined by many neighbors. They pushed police out of Oaxaca City, which remained autonomous for five months along with large parts of the countryside. People built barricades, which became an important space for socialization as well as self-defense, and they organized topiles, an indigenous tradition that provided volunteers to fight back against police and paramilitaries as well as to look out for fires, acts of robbery, or assault.
The defenders of Oaxaca soon learned that the police were releasing people from their prisons on the condition that they go into the city to commit crimes. In protecting their neighborhoods against these acts, the topiles did not function like Western police forces. They patrolled unarmed, they were volunteers, and they did not have a prerogative to arrest people or impose their will, the way cops do. Upon coming across a robbery, arson, or assault, their function was not only that of first responders, but also to call on the neighbors so everyone could respond collectively. With such a structure, it would be impossible to enforce a legal code against an activity with popular participation. In other words, the topiles could stop a stranger who was robbing the store of a local, working class person (as were many of the neighborhood stores in Oaxaca), but they couldn’t have stopped the neighbors themselves from looting a store they already had an antagonistic, classist relationship with, as was the case in Ferguson.
People in Oaxaca also had to defend themselves from police and paramilitaries, and they did so for five months. The topiles and many others were unarmed. They had to fight back with rocks, fireworks, and molotov cocktails, many of them getting shot in the process. Their bravery allowed hundreds of thousands of people to live in freedom for five months, in a police-free, government-free zone, experimenting with the self-organization of their lives on social, economic, and cultural levels. All the beautiful aspects of the Oaxaca commune are inseperable from their violent struggle against police, involving barricades, slingshots, molotov cocktails, and thousands of people who faced down armed opponents, over a dozen of them giving their lives in the process. In the end, the Mexican state had to send in the military as the only way to crush this flourishing pocket of autonomy.
If we learn from examples like Christiania, Oaxaca, and Ferguson itself, we can fight for a world without police and everything they represent, beginning here and now by creating blocks, neighborhoods, or even entire cities that are at least temporarily police-free zones. Within these spaces we can finally experiment and practice with solutions to all the other interrelated forms of oppression that plague us.
There is something beautiful about people finding the courage to fight back against a more powerful enemy, and people also flourish in surprising ways when they liberate space and take the power to organize their own lives. Neither of these things can be overemphasized. But neither should we romanticize. In the streets of Ferguson and other liberated spaces, much of the ugliness that infuses our society rears its head. But dealing with what had previously been invisible or normalized is an inevitable part of any healing process, and our society is nothing if not sick. Calamities like uprisings and riots can be important catalysts in processes of social healing, and liberated spaces, by forcefully casting aside the previous regime’s norms and relationships, that only functioned to reproduce and invisibilize all the ongoing forms of harm, can give us the opportunity to create new, healthier patterns, and engage in conversations that previously had been impossible. Empowering ourselves to fight back against those who have traumatized us, like the police, can be an important step in upsetting oppressive relations, healing from trauma, and restoring healthy social relations.
This is, however, a dangerous proposition. Fighting back against the police, especially shooting back at them, as was happening in Ferguson, is not a safe activity. Change is never safe. And if we can successfully overcome the police to create a liberated zone, the State will eventually send in the military. Are the soldiers still loyal enough, after these last wars, to open fire on us? Has enough been done to encourage dissension in the ranks, or is the government firmly in control? There is only one way to find out.
It is understandable that many people would not want to face the extreme risks involved with uprooting the oppressions that grip our society. There is nothing wrong with being afraid, so long as you have the courage to admit it. Some people, however, do a great disservice by muddying the waters with myopic proposals that have no hope of making an actual difference.
In the streets, we need to learn how to seize space, to make sure that those who fight back are never isolated, to make collective responses possible so no one has to react in an individual, suicidal way again, and to build a struggle that has room for young and old, for the peaceful and the bellicose, for those who know how to fight and those who know how to heal. It will be a long process, and in the meantime, there is a great need to speak loud and clear about a world without police, so everyone will know there is another way, beyond the false alternatives of obedience or ineffectual reform.
Peter Gelderloos has participated in various initiatives to support prisoners and push the police out of our neighborhoods. He is the author of several books, including Anarchy Works and The Failure of Nonviolence.
He is a comrade and friend of Void Network from 2007 until today
Sunday, April 26, 2015
Morning Star: Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situation-ism, Utopia.
Introduction by Donald LaCoss (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009).
When members of the surviving old guard of surrealism declared the movement over in October 1969 in Le Monde, there were many dissenters. International adherents to the idea that surrealism is a state of mind rather than a historical movement affirmed their continued loyalty to its revolutionary principles. Lowy locates these at the intersection of Marxism and anarchism, a mix that aims to pose a counterweight to capitalist rationalism and disenchantment (Max Weber) by re-enchanting the world. Myth, poetry, art created in a spirit of revolt by the unleashing of the forces of dream and the unconscious – these have been liberatory gestures and practices that are common to the subjects of Lowy’s engaging essays, from Benjamin to Debord, from Pierre Naville to Vincent Bouonore and Claude Cahun.
It is well known that Andre´ Breton, the founder and leader of the surrealist movement, embraced revolutionary Marxism in the “Second Manifesto of Surrealism” in 1930; at the same time, the founder of the surrealist movement, who insisted that “language has been given to man so that he may make surrealist use of it” was unlikely, from the start, to adhere to any party line. Lowy characterizes Breton’s Marxism as “libertarian,” a mix of the revolt against Western civilization and bourgeois norms of morality and normality, combined with the explosive force of poetry (Lautre´amont, Rimbaud) and the English gothic novel. When Breton visited Trotsky in Mexico in 1938, the important text they co-authored was the call “For an Independent Revolutionary Art,” which asserts the anarchist ideal of absolute freedom for artists. Breton conceived of this freedom as dialectical in the sense that artists were called to break away from the confining circles of rationality, decorum, and the “beautiful.” Breton was a Hegelian as much as a Marxist. In place of the old hegemonic myths (surrealists excoriated their civilization which had put in place the “myth of money”), they proposed the “morning star” that they linked to the mythical rebellion of Lucifer. Myth without religion – surrealist texts and exhibitions were well-known for proposing a new pantheon, many of its notables drawn from the figures of alchemy and the tarot which Carl Jung had already exposed as allegories of self-transcendence.
The ideal of freedom, which Lowy links to surrealism’s revolutionary romanticism, is the common thread that runs through all the essays. When allied with real political activism, surrealism is a force to be reckoned with, as the chapters on Claire Cahun and Guy Debord show. Cahun had joined the surrealist movement in 1932; two years later she penned the defense of revolutionary poetry, Les paris sont ouverts (“The bets are on”) in which she advocated the use of poetry for “indirect action,” leaving the reader open to draw his/her own conclusions. Literature will be most effective, she argued, if it is subversive and not propagandistic.
The next chapter in Cahun’s life – which many readers will discover for the first time in these pages – is a source of astonishment for all those who hear of it. When the German forces occupied the Channel Islands in 1940, Cahun and her life-companion Suzanne Malherbe put theory into action. Under the cover of appearing as harmless older women they circulated subversive anti-Nazi texts to the occupying soldiers, signing their names as the “Nameless Soldier.” In some cases they even produced anti-fascist photomontages whose source material was the Nazi magazine Signal. Their texts – hidden inside newspapers and magazines, deposited in Nazi mailboxes, left on parked cars or attached to fences – called on soldiers to desert or kill their officers. Remarkably, the two women operated for four whole years before they were eventually denounced by an informer. Only the end of the war saved them from the death sentence that had been meted out to them.
Guy Debord is another artist who put the arsenal of language and art in the service of revolution. Today, as Lowy acknowledges, the father of “situationism” is often dismissed as a superficial critic of mass media, or as a mere litterateur. Just as Cahun’s work is now being rediscovered, Lowy urges us to take another look at Debord, whose concept of the “society of the spectacle” was nothing less than a critique of “the whole economic, social, and political system of modern capitalism.” Situationism, he argues, lies at the base of the most audacious dreams and aspirations of ‘68. Debord’s nostalgic turn away from modernity was intended as an explosive and subversive force that had much in common with surrealism. Once again, the strategies are textual – Debord’s lengthy screenplay In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni (a palindrome that roughly translates as “we wander in darkness and are consumed by fire”) cannibalizes existing texts and films and infuses them with new meaning.
The dark side of romantic rebellion that Lowy identifies in all his subjects is also linked with revolutionary pessimism, which is the core subject of the book’s longest and most central chapter on Pierre Naville, whose landmark essay “Revolution and the Intellectuals,” written in 1925–26 and read by the surrealists even before its publication in 1928, gave the impetus for the alliance between surrealism and Marxism. Lowy recounts that it was Naville’s infiuence that led Breton and other surrealists to join the Communist party in 1927. “Revolutionary pessimism” in Naville’s formulation meant an active, revolutionary engagement, a spirit akin to Goethe’s Mephistopheles (who describes himself as “the spirit that always negates”). In this chapter Lowy charts a clear course through the internal debates between different factions of the surrealists as they interfaced with different factions of the Communist Left in France and the Soviet Union in the 1930s. Along the way, Naville, who had embraced the Trotskyist Left Opposition, fell out of favor with Breton, who actually excoriated him in the dramatic turn toward Marxism that runs through the Second Manifesto of Surrealism in 1930. A reconciliation finally took place in 1938 when Naville facilitated the meeting between Trotsky and Breton.
Naville’s concept of organized, revolutionary pessimism impressed Walter Benjamin, who published the epochal essay “Surrealism: The Last Snapshot of European Intelligence” in February 1929. Benjamin correctly estimated the vast infiuence that surrealism would come to exert; in the opening lines of his essay, he compares himself to the observer of the vast energy generated downstream from what had appeared, in France, as a mere trickle. In a continuation of that metaphor, Benjamin writes that surrealism “harnessed the forces of intoxication for the revolution,” although he criticizes its “undialectical conception of the nature of intoxication” and the neglect of “the methodical and disciplinary preparation for revolution” (Selected Writings, Vol. II, Harvard University Press, 1999: 217). Thinking is for him a narcotic of the first order, and its “profane illumination” should make it possible for the “revolutionary intelligentsia to overthrow the intellectual predominance of the bourgeoisie and to make contact with the proletarian masses” (217). (Unfortunately the editor, has left out the more detailed chapter on Benjamin that appeared in the original French edition, so that the discussion of his important writings on surrealism is limited to some remarks in the Naville chapter.)
For those already interested in surrealism and its infiuence, many of these chapters provide welcome information on the fate of the surrealists, and Surrealism, after WWII. A final chapter on “the surrealist international since 1969” gives a historical account of the more recent surrealist publications, among them the Bulletin de liaison surre´aliste and Surre´alisme (Vincent Buonore, who with several French and Czech Surrealist friends put together La Civilisation surre´aliste in 1976, gets a chapter to himself). Today there are surrealist groups in Paris, Prague, Stockholm Madrid, Chicago, and Sa˜o Paulo, along with half a dozen new journals devoted to surrealism.
An appealing feature of this volume is the presence of art work by many of Lowy’s international surrealist friends, as well as some of his own drawings. Several of these amplify the themes of the book – Guy Girard’s “Rosa Luxemburg in front of the Tour St. Jacques” from 1993 imagines her in the context of Breton’s peregrinations in Paris with their multiple references to alchemy and the marvelous (Nadja) while Jean-Pierre Guillon’s “Couronne´e de Commune” from 1980 works as an illustration of Benjamin’s statement about revolution and intoxication.
The art work also comprises many contributions by women surrealists – the Prague surrealist Eva Svankmajerova and the Canadian Marie S. (alias “Ingatta”) whose “illuminated envelopes” are beguiling contributions to mail art. By themselves, these point to a salient aspect of present-day surrealism – the presence of impressive women artists and writers. A whole chapter is dedicated to the surrealist artist Ody Saban, a welcome supplement to the French edition.
Unlike the usual art “movements” destined to replace one another, Lowy argues, surrealism is a transhistorical cultural innovation like Romanticism. Its marginality is also its force, since its aims are necessarily subversive. The dominant metaphor continues to be that of the “starred mole,” a mythical creature who burrows underground, creating passageways and connections that eventually lead to the collapse of the superficial and visible world above. Lowy’s engaging book invites us to the positive labor of “re-enchantment,” providing models for active engagement and stimulus for further reading.
2010 Inez Hedges
Surrealism, Marxism, Anarchism, Situation-ism, Utopia. by Michael Lowy
YOU CAN READ AND FREE DOWNLOAD THE BOOK HERE:
Sunday, April 5, 2015
There is a clear case to be made for the connection between ecology and anarchism.1 Many philosophers, academics, and radicals have elaborated this over the past two centuries2. But reviewing the history of this theoretical relationship is not the goal here. The movement surrounding anarchism in the past 200 years has certainly included its fair share of theory, yet what has rooted anarchist ideas so deeply in human society is the prioritization of action. It is this action-based relationship between the ecological movement and anarchism that we explore.
How has anarchism inspired and shaped ecological action in recent history, and how might it continue to? The experience of Earth First! over three-and-a-half decades embodies the most critical aspects of this question.
While Earth First! (EF!) has never considered itself to be explicitly anarchist, it has always had a connection to the antiauthoritarian counterculture and has operated in an anarchistic fashion since its inception3. In doing so, it has arguably maintained one of the most consistent and long-running networks for activists and revolutionaries of an anarchist persuasion with the broader goal of overturning all socially constructed hierarchies.
In Oppose and Propose: Lessons From Movement for a New Society, which covers an under-acknowledged antiauthoritarian history, author Andrew Cornell makes a case about MNS carrying the legacy of nonhierarchical radical activism from the civil rights and anti-war era of the ’60s into the anti-nuke era of the ’80s. Cornell points to MNS essentially carrying the torch just long enough to spark what would become the global justice movement of the late ’90s.
A similar case can be made for Earth First!, particularly within the decade between the formal end of MNS and the 1999 uprising against the World Trade Organization in the streets of Seattle. Except rather than formally calling it quits, as MNS did in ’89, EF! stuck around, stumbling through several waves of internal strife and state repression to continue into its 35th year as a decentralized, horizontally-organized, anticapitalist, antistate force to be reckoned with.4
As many anarchist-oriented projects come and go, it is worthwhile to explore how and why those efforts that persist over decades are able to do so. Even more importantly, in this time of global urgency surrounding an escalation of overlapping ecological crises (extinction, extraction, climate change, etc.), and the recuperation of environmentalism by a “green” industrial economy, the story of Earth First!—for all its imperfections and baggage—has crucial lessons for ecological revolutionaries.
When Earth First! had its first peak of notoriety in the mid-to-late ’80s, it was swarmed by academics and journalists looking to study its motivations, culture and worldview. Countless research papers and several books surfaced to explore the movement from its infancy to its initial split. The split, as it has thus-far been presented in the vast majority of the published history, was between the original narrowly-focused faction advocating explicitly for wilderness protection, and an opposing faction oriented towards a broader analysis focused on challenging the capitalist system along with its pillars of patriarchy, racism and other forms of domination.
While the latter faction got tagged with the label of being “the anarchists,” there are plenty of examples of anarchism being a significant inspiration to both camps. The cause of the split was a divide between folks with a strongly US-flavored individualist tendency, à la Ed Abbey,5 and the more classically socialistic mass-movement-types who might best be represented by the organizing of Judi Bari.6 On one side was the group rallying around the iconic identity of the “rebellious redneck,” attempting to capture rural support in a practical, populist style.7 The other is often credited with a familiarity with the theoretical writings of Murray Bookchin, originator of the theory known as social ecology and its political program, libertarian municipalism.8 Many of this second group came with the stigma of being “urbanites.”
The record shows the black-clad socialist-leaning end of the anarchist spectrum as victors over the cowboy-hat-and-belt-buckle rugged individualists, with a climax at the 1990 EF! Rendezvous, resulting in a burned American flag and a changing of hands for the movement’s mouthpiece, The Earth First! Journal. At this time the EF! Journal shifted hands from co-founder Dave Foreman’s control to a formal editorial collective. This ushered in a stronger sentiment of autonomy and decentralization in the minimalist structure of EF!, as there was no longer a central figure associated with its primary means of communication.
Yet there are also plenty of examples showing overlap between the two factions since day one. For example, the frequent use of the pen-name Leon Czolgosz—the anarchist assassin of US President McKinley—appeared prominently throughout EF! Journals in the early-to-mid ’80s, and Dave Foreman’s co-authorship of Ecodefense with the ghost of famed IWW organizer “Big Bill” Haywood, who was exiled from the US to Russia along with Emma Goldman in 1917.
While Foreman became a lightning rod in the debate, particularly highlighting his increasingly conservative views on immigration, his initial anarchist tendencies that inspired the founding of EF! are present in passages throughout his autobiography, Confessions of an Eco-Warrior.9
Unfortunately, most of the well-documented and published research on EF! ends around the time of this split. Books like Coyotes and Town Dogs by Susan Zakin, Green Rage by Chris Manes, Eco-Warriors by Rik Scarce, and essays by academics like Giorel Curran10 and Bron Taylor11 all taper off in the mid ’90’s. Even books that were published more recently, such as Treespiker (2009), written by EF! co-founder Mike Roselle, lose track of the EF! movement by the early ’00s.
Others have opted to ignore EF!’s role in the ecology movement completely, such as the documentary film by Mark Kitchell A Fierce Green Fire, released in 2013, and the 2011 book Deep Green Resistance, co-authored by Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith and Aric McBay.
Kitchell’s film is an excellent historical overview of the environmental movement and the influence that direct action has had on it, including features on Greenpeace, Sea Shepherd and the seldom talked about Love Canal hostage-taking incident12 that sparked the modern concept of environmental justice. But the film fails to even mention the undeniable impact that EF! had in the trajectory of the movement.
The Jensen, et al, Deep Green Resistance (DGR) book, which inspired a parallel organizational effort, also left EF! out of their narrative. While there is much content of interest, Deep Green Resistance essentially presents a revisionist history of ecological struggles, painting DGR as the only radical option in the environmental movement, and further indicating the strong Maoist influences that anarchists have suspected of the organization since its inception.
For these reasons alone, an EF! movement overview from a grassroots perspective, particularly highlighting the past decade-and-a-half, is much needed.
Thoughts on EF! Strategy and Context
EF! has often been lumped in with non-violent movements, even though “nonviolence” has never been a guiding tenet (with the exception of a very few EF! groups.)
The most often discussed example of this was in the midst of anti-logging campaigns in Northern California, where famed organizer Judi Bari made headway in bridging the interests of working class loggers and anti-corporate environmentalists by convincing EF!ers in the region to swear off tree spiking, and embrace a rhetoric of non-violence.
But the larger debate has manifested in a much more general way, most visible in the chosen tactics of EF! affinity groups. The overwhelming number of EF!-affiliated actions involve classically executed civil disobedience, where EF!ers establish blockades or occupations in which people depend on the police to react with a certain amount of restraint and caution in the process of evictions, resulting in quite predictable arrests. Often, small-scale property damage and disruptions of the less civil sort also occur publicly, but these tend to be peripheral to the planned actions.
This approach can seem strange for people who live in countries where engagement with the state tends to occur on much different terms. Perhaps it is this reason that organizing under the EF! banner has been seen primarily in “first world” countries.
EF! affinity groups have shown that blockades can be an effective form of resistance because they take a financial toll on industrial opponents, not only in the form of forced work stoppages, but also in significant costs associated with increased security and insurance premiums and most of all, the expense of dealing with negative public relations.
There are other important aspects of this form of resistance as well. For one, it allows an opportunity to attract a broader base of public support. Even in places and times where militant revolutionary sentiment is not present, EF!’s style of resistance allows space for a larger spectrum of allies, particularly from impacted local communities and mainstream environmentalists who are receptive to the need for direct action. In many cases, these groups may lack the courage, skills or privileges that allow for effective action, but will contribute towards campaigns in many other ways: food, supplies, monetary assistance, and so on.
And perhaps most importantly, the civil disobedience style of action that EF! is most known for allows deeper relationships of affinity to form through shared experiences of public confrontation. Time and again, we have heard stories of these relationships in the streets or the backwoods giving birth to stronger affinity groups capable of greater organized attacks that do not rely on civility and expectations of arrest, as in the case of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which grew almost simultaneously in the 1990s from the anti-roads occupations in the UK and anti-logging blockades in the US.
Ironically, another example of the issues surrounding nonviolence rhetoric can be seen in the guidelines adopted by the organized factions of the ELF.
The connections between EF! and the ELF are quite clear. Though the organizing of each occurred independently, we still see much crossover in culture and attitude, including strategy, tactics and philosophy. Yet while the ELF presents a more militant approach, they also take the rhetoric of nonviolence more seriously than EF! has, articulating a definition of violence (essentially, direct impacts to living beings) and a position against engaging in it. All printed materials produced by ELF cells, their support groups and their press offices stress not intentionally harming living things. This language did not come from EF!, but from the animal liberation movement, specifically the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
It’s at this juncture where we can see another significant cross-pollination between the modern anarchist movement and EF!
Earth First! and Animal Liberation
Since the earliest days of EF!, there have been both staunch vegans and committed hunters involved. But there has been sufficient commonality, and a shared rejection of anthropocentrism, to avoid much conflict. As a result, the nuances and contradictions—such as prioritization of sentient animals over the integrity of whole ecosystems13—have gone unexplored, perhaps in an attempt not to upset the tenuous dynamic.
But there are some noteworthy challenges over the last couple of decades. As Judi Bari’s anti-capitalist analysis increased EF!’s appeal to crowds of college students and anarcho-punks, the prominence of animal liberation activists co-mingling with EF!ers increased.
And just as Bari herself didn’t fit the label of the urban-dwelling-university-Marxist, neither did some of the anarchists who brought animal liberation into EF! circles. The most prominent of these was Rod Coronado, a Native American of the Pascua Yaqui Nation, who participated in EF! gatherings during the ’80s and gained notoriety for acts of sabotage that sunk half the Icelandic whalers fleet costing them $2 million, in addition to an arson at Michigan State University which caused $125,000 worth of damage and destroyed 32 years of fur industry research as part of the ALF’s “Operation Bite Back.”
Coronado’s roots in the animal liberation movement are illustrative of the movement itself. Coronado got started by sabotaging trophy hunters with other anarchists while visiting the UK. Similar hunt sabotages in the ’70s are how the ALF began. His specific involvement in these actions make up a large part of the initial cross-pollination between anarchism, animal liberation and Earth First!
Through the ’90s and ’00s, these overlapping movements became a prominent force in direct action struggles. In the US, the FBI identified each of them as constituting significant “terrorist” threats, though none had actually caused bodily harm, only economic damage.
While the ambitious direct action culture surrounding the ALF can be credited with lending inspiration and courage to radical environmentalism, and EF! specifically, valuable questions should also be asked about this relationship. Such as:
Does the philosophy of animal liberation contradict biocentrism by prioritizing sentient animals over plants, mountains, rivers, etc.?
Does this philosophy create limitations on EF!’s long-term biocentric goals by encouraging rigid guidelines on violence and sentience?
Does it lessen EF!’s connection to land-based communities by dismissing the interests of animal farmers and hunters that are often at the forefront of threats from industrial expansion?
These are subjects with plenty of gray areas. Yet, these topics have also been increasingly divisive among those engaged in eco-resistance. The divisions have been fueled in large part by DGR co-author Lierre Keith’s other book, The Vegetarian Myth. Unfortunately Keith’s authoritarian attitude and anti-transgender position have stifled what could have been a much more productive discussion resulting from her book.
Yet it is possible to explore disagreements between animal liberation philosophy and EF!’s biocentrism, while continuing to deepen commitments to fighting together on common goals.
A Review of Insurrectionist Tendencies in Earth First!
The rise of insurrectionary anarchism has been one of the most frequent crossovers between EF! and the anarchist movement over the past decade.
At the 2013 Earth First! Rendezvous in North Carolina, a small pamphlet addressed to Earth First! was circulated under the title “The Issues Are Not the Issue: A letter to Earth First! from a Too-Distant Friend,” credited to the pseudonym ST (an author affiliated with CrimethInc.) A discussion group accompanied the pamphlet on the topics addressed by the writer, who acknowledged that “none of this [was] particularly new,” hearkening back primarily to the essay “Earth First! Means Social War,” a popular but rambling piece of prose published by the EF! Journal in 200714. The “Issues” essay can be summed up as: EF! spends too much effort on organized campaigns and not enough on fomenting general revolt.
While there is merit to this idea, the critical tone is played out. At its worst, it’s dangerous to those aiming to sustain an ecological resistance—not dangerous as in exciting (as are many of CrimethInc.’s rants15) but dangerous as in potentially dragging EF! back through the mud, which played a negative role in periods of stagnation and repression, and worse, paved the way for blunders like the development of the cult of DGR.
The sentiment in “Issues” actually predates the “EF! Means Social War” article by seven or eight years. ST makes a vague reference to similar critiques that surfaced earlier in British EF! circles. These references point to another essay, called “Give Up Activism,” which circulated as a pamphlet, and was later published, ironically, in the Earth First! Journal.
In the following years, the influence of Green Anarchy (GA), both as an ideology and a publication, also coming to the US via the UK, began reshaping Earth First! The GA movement and its magazine contributed significantly to developing the theory that surrounded EF!’s basic tenets. But it also included GA folks attending EF! gatherings to convince other participants to abandon activism and organizing, which people affiliated with Green Anarchy view as perpetuated by a civilized mindset.16
Green Anarchy attempted to narrow the definition of direct action to militant acts of sabotage, either carried out by underground groups or by mobs, opposing any efforts at publicly organized resistance, calling it “Leftist.” While many insurrectionary anarchists might balk at a claim that they are influenced by GA, they would be hard-pressed to deny its influence.
“Issues,” “Social War,” and Green Anarchy were all also predated by another similar trend and its accompanying publication, Live Wild Or Die (LWOD). Like the others, it was militant, anarchist, anti-Left, and anti-civilization. It was also well-circulated at EF! gatherings. Rumor has it that it may have actually been edited and produced by anonymous collective members of the EF! Journal. Unlike the others, it wasn’t trying to coax people away from organized campaigns, sustained road blockades, and Earth First!’s unique activist culture in general, but rather hoped to accentuate these.
In the years following the circulation of LWOD, when EF! was at its peak, the Earth Liberation Front flared up across the US—often in tandem with public ecodefense campaigns. Much of the anti-globalization movement that gridlocked urban streets during the trade summits of this time also descended from regional EF! campaigns. Not to mention Ted Kaczynski, dubbed the Unabomber by the government for his targeting of university professors involved in questionable technological research, made use of LWOD’s published target list, as well as drawing inspiration from articles in the EF! Journal.
In comparison, a couple years into the publication of Green Anarchy magazine, the ecological movement experienced a lull accompanied by the most severe repression it had experienced. Unfortunately, folks had created a movement that was learning how to skin roadkill, dream of insurrection, and cheer for indigenous uprisings in faraway lands, but was too ideologically isolated and marginal to effectively withstand the wave of FBI repression that hit among key players in the rising ecological resistance efforts of the mid-2000s.
The median age range of participants in EF! dropped by nearly a decade in those years. By the 2007 Round River Rendezvous (EF!’s annual summer gathering in the US), also the year “EF! Means Social War” was published, there was hardly a person over thirty in attendance. The following year, at the Rendezvous in Indiana, there was a well-attended discussion led by young anarchists out of the insurrectionist milieu on whether or not EF! should continue to exist at all. Earth First! endured two hard blows over the last ten years: many newer activists became convinced it wasn’t as cool as it had been in the ’90s; and many older activists became convinced that affiliation with it wasn’t worth the surveillance and repression.
As a result, with the exception of a few groups and campaigns across the US and UK, very few were using the Earth First! banner. In its place, myriad groups became more prominent, further fragmenting what was left of EF!. Examples include Cascadia Forest Defenders and Mountain Justice in the early 2000s; Root Force and Rising Tide in the mid-2000s; and Tar Sands Blockade and Appalachia Resist! in the last few years.
While most of the local or issue-specific manifestations that spiraled out of EF! were tamer and media-friendly, most noteworthy Rising Tide, an opposite effect also occurred. A glimpse of this could be seen in the short-lived Root Force project. Root Force, birthed through the EF! Journal in 2006, sought a more targeted movement strategy focusing on stopping the expansion of key global infrastructure projects. The project was modeled on Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), an animal liberation campaign targeting companies affiliated with vivisection giant Huntingdon Life Science (HLS), which successfully applied pressure via direct action to sever contracts that supported the operation of HLS.
Inspired largely by Derrick Jensen’s Endgame books, Root Force’s ambitious, militant rhetoric resulted in a semi-vanguardist organizing approach that soon faded into a scaled back effort, and eventually became just a website offering anti-infrastructure news, strategy and analysis.
Enter Deep Green Resistance
While tension between EF! and Deep Green Resistance (DGR) has primarily concerned criticism of DGR’s rigid structure, represented most clearly by a mandated rejection of transgender people,17 there is something deeper.
In several ways, EF!ers participated in allowing DGR to develop, some even subtly nurturing it in hopes that it might be able to fill the niche that was left by what appeared to be EF!s fading, perhaps pushing the no-compromise envelope even further than EF! had been able to.18
But that’s no longer the case—EF! no longer appears on its way out, and DGR does not appear to be growing, at least not outside of Facebook. Still, seeing the success that DGR enjoyed momentarily leaves one guarded of critiques like the ones in “Issues.”19 Not because EF! is too thin-skinned to be criticized, but because the organizing that appears in the vacuums that we leave is, at least in part, on us.
A Voice for the Underground and for Caged Warriors
One of the things that sets EF! apart from other eco-groups is the consistent vocal support for incidents of ecological armed struggle around the world, including the US.
While most environmental groups have generally shied away from militant actions, dismissed them—or worse, falsely accusing them of being done by state provocateurs—EF! has consistently stood up for militant underground groups’ actions, celebrating their attacks and publishing their communiqués.
Since the inception of the Earth Liberation Front, which appeared in the early ’90s, first in the UK, then in the US, it has always had ties to EF!. Essentially, EF! operated as an aboveground support network and mouthpiece for ELF actions. The same can be said to an extent for the ALF, though it was initiated in the late ’70s, prior to the existence of EF!, and has always maintained a larger base of support among the mainstream animal rights movement.
In the wake of the Green Scare—a phrase used to describe a series of events in which both underground and aboveground Earth and animal liberation activists were arrested and accused of terrorism—the stories of individuals from active cells of the ELF have become public knowledge. The relationship between the ELF and EF! was exposed by these cases to be very strong, with direct connections between people who were involved simultaneously in major EF! blockades, the EF! Journal and some of the most notorious instances of ELF sabotage.
One take on this situation is that this relationship was too close, and that people involved in underground actions should have avoided the aboveground movement entirely. But a more realistic assessment of the Green Scare is that while many major ELF actions seemed to be undertaken by superheroes of fictional proportions, they were actually carried out by small groups of normal people, just like anyone else. In many cases, they may have once stood next to us at a campfire or protest.
We now know that many of those indicted for ELF crimes knew each other from their participation in aboveground direct action campaigns or participation on the Earth First! Journal collective, where they built enough trust and respect for each other to undertake attacks that caused over a hundred million dollars in damages to corporate and government targets in over 1,000 reported actions in the US alone.
The largest of known ELF cells, what the media referred to as “The Family,” operated with more than a dozen active members, torching a lumber company headquarters, a US Forest Service office, genetic engineering test sites, a ski resort and a slaughterhouse, among others. Members of the cell were only arrested after it had disbanded and one of the members with a heroine addiction, Jake Fergusen, became a government informant.
Despite the wave of indictments, grand juries, new laws aimed at Earth and animal activists, and accusations of terrorism, the ELF continue their strikes to this day, claiming recent actions in the US and in several other countries, including Russia, Mexico, Indonesia, England and Germany.
In communiqués from ELF cells in these other countries, it has not been uncommon in the last few years that an action will be claimed by both the ELF and another explicitly anarchist group, most commonly an ad-hoc faction of the Federation of Informal Anarchists (or FAI in the Italian acronym).
There are countless peasant and indigenous groups who choose the path of armed self-defense and rebellion around the world that get direct support from people involved with EF! or coverage in the pages of the EF! Journal and Newswire. Even considering strategic and ideological differences, EF! continually offers these groups a public voice to amplify the feelings of urgency and anger that their actions express, particularly in the moments when members of these groups have been captured by the state.
While prisoner support has been a long-standing tradition of anarchists worldwide, EF! is one of the few environmental groups to acknowledge the existence of ecological political prisoners. It has been a source of support for many ecologically oriented prisoners over the past 30 years by publishing addresses and stories to encourage correspondence and circulating the EF! Journal to prisoners around the world.
In the past decade, the numbers of these prisoners has spiked, resulting from the increase of state resources and policies directed at labeling ecological saboteurs as terrorists. This is done partly at the behest of industrial corporations profiting from creating ecological crisis, as we have seen in the agenda of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).20
This repression is not only targeting underground activists. For example, ALEC is responsible for creating and lobbying for laws to generalize the criminalization of dissent, such as the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA21) which sent six members of the SHAC group to prison on charges related to their aboveground organizing.
While this sentiment is very strong in the US, we are seeing it spread to other countries as well, such as in the Il Silvestre cases of Swiss and Italian eco-anarchists accused with the legal language of terrorism for planning to attack a nanotech laboratory owned by IBM. The trend has also spread to Latin America, where environmentalists are working with indigenous groups to resist industrialization.
The practice of political prisoner support has also seen friction between Earth First! and anarchists on several occasions. In one example, the long-standing Anarchist Black Cross (ABC) Federation was hesitant to accept eco and animal prisoners onto their national listing of prisoners to support, starting with the imprisonment of Rod Coronado in the mid-90s. When the Green Scare hit in 2005, this tension resurfaced and ultimately, the culture of the ABC network shifted, with many supporters of eco-prisoners taking active roles in the organization.
Eco-Liberation Against Oppression
While EF! gained a reputation in the ’80s as beer-swilling macho guys, in part rightly so, there is certainly more to the story. The women involved at that time also speak of a powerful feminist presence.22 And there is ample evidence that expressing active solidarity with indigenous and land-based communities has been a priority for many EF!ers since day one.23
Still, along with much of the early environmental conservation movement, EF! came out of largely white, middle-class, single-issue oriented activism. That’s left a lot of baggage to unpack. EF! has had rocky moments in its history, namely with xenophobia and racist misanthropic ranting about population control.
Today, the movement’s most prominent organizers have worked to confront that history as well as more recent manifestations of similar attitudes, and worked to strengthen EF!’s affinity with marginalized communities and individuals with whom they share basic values.
In the past decade, groups like Trans’ and Women’s Action Camp (TWAC) and Rising Tide, both beginning as offshoots of EF!, continue to have much crossover with the organization. These groups represent an important piece of EF!’s recent history, and they also point to the likely future of EF! and the broader ecological resistance movement.
TWAC formed as a pro-feminist, queer-and-trans-positive space outside of the patriarchy and gender norms that often surfaced at EF! gatherings and actions. Beginning in 2004, TWAC was initially an “all womyn’s24 affinity groups and action camp” established in forest defense campaigns in the Pacific Northwest. In the following years, the name TWAC appeared and spread from the Pacific Northwest to Florida, with TWAC-oriented affinity groups also appearing at all recent EF! gatherings.
Along with providing more inclusive spaces for discussion and action trainings, TWAC actions can also be credited with pushing back the boundaries of conventional activist media strategy, coordinating actions that use the language of anti-oppression prominently. In a way, this has succeeded in demystifying public discourse around liberatory language.
Rising Tide also surfaced in the mid 2000s, first in the UK, then in the US. The US group, which started as the Earth First! Climate Caucus in 2006, soon became Rising Tide North America (RTNA), including contacts in Mexico and Canada. The group focuses primarily on supporting environmental justice struggles of communities on the front lines of issues related to climate change and carbon extraction, with a secondary focus on exposing false solutions to climate change, in particular the market-based approach of making carbon offsets into a capitalist commodity.
Some initial concerns were raised regarding Rising Tide drawing people and energy from EF!. While that did happen to a certain extent, there have also been benefits, including increased movement building and organizing experience with frontline communities. Rising Tide reaches people that EF! has historically had less successful relations with—namely the environmental justice movement, led by people of color and low-income folks. Today, there may be more people from EF! organizing as Rising Tide than EF!
Disappointment with DGR
When Deep Green Resistance (DGR) came on the scene, it was not uncommon to hear EF!ers expressing high hopes that they would bring new energy and strategic thinking … and boy was that a let down!
The people at the top of DGR consistently disrespect potential allies in transgender, anarchist25 and animal rights circles, then preach ad naseum against “horizontal hostility” (meaning the denigration of other activists’ efforts) whenever they were challenged.
In 2013, the EF! Journal Collective adopted a position explicitly taking issue with the persistent anti-transgender attitude of Keith and Jensen, and the policies they enforce for DGR, using their influence as renowned authors. DGR’s position against trans people stems from adherence to a theoretical trend of second wave feminism. This view thinks that if gender is a social construct designed to repress women, any expression of gender is therefore an affront to women. While EF! has long held a critique of patriarchy, seeing it as having cleared a path for industrialism, it takes more than the absence or presence of a penis to maintain patriarchy. The controlling and dominating behavior exemplified by DGR’s authority figures is a far greater concern than the fabricated threat of transgender people against a particular sect of feminism.
Thankfully the debate surrounding DGR has presented another opportunity for today’s anarchist and ecological resistance movements to clarify and strengthen its position of solidarity with trans people. Making strides towards the queering of activist counter culture has become a priority for many EF! organizers.
Despite the disappointment with DGR, the primary reason that people were drawn to it—a desire for deeper strategic thinking— remains largely unsatisfied. Sadly, DGR has lost all the credibility it may have had. Even Aric McBay, the primary author of the strategy sections in the book upon which the movement is based, parted ways with the organization, citing frustration with the group’s anti-transgender policy.26
An Image from the Future of Ecological Resistance
Around the world, both ecological consciousness and rebellion against the state are becoming more the norm. In the last year, uprisings in Turkey, Brazil, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Ferguson28 (to name but a few) have at times dominated news’ headlines. Two years prior, capitol squares were occupied in Spain and Greece, riots occurred in England, and First Nations’ blockades erupted across Canada. Even glimmers of revolt in the belly of the US Empire, with the Occupy encampment on Wall Street, an attempt at a general strike to shut down Oakland’s ports, and over 400 Occupy-related direct action camps in public spaces across the country. And shortly before that, of course, was the Arab Spring.
This news was often side-by-side with stories of the rise of the global hydraulic fracking industry; the nightmare of expanding and exporting tar sands oil; the boom in pipeline construction and subsequent spills or explosions; poisoned water from mining disasters; outrage against Monsanto’s biotech mega-farms; failure after failure in UN and other international bodies’ attempts at addressing the crises surrounding climate change, etc.
The relations between these uprisings and these harsh ecological realities have been peripheral at best (except for Turkey, where the rebellion was spurred from the clearing of trees in a public park). But the potential for drawing out these connections is staring us in the face. The vast majority of Earth First! campaigns stem from a microcosm of the same power dynamics that tend to spark rebellions around the world: greed, corruption, land and power grabs, resource control, and brutal repression that often fan the flames of resistance.
Earth First!, with all its affiliates and offshoots, clearly has a contribution to make in that discussion, but there are other places outside of EF! worth a look as well, especially regarding the relationships between mass movements and affinity groups, and more specifically, aboveground and underground participants.
The following is only a brief glimpse of some recent campaigns and social struggles that deserve the attention of movement strategists.
Anti-Gold Mining Resistance in Greece
Over the last 10 years, opposition to the construction and expansion of gold mining operations in northern Greece has shown instructive examples of community-led militancy. Villages in the mining region, in particular Skouries, have led the struggle with a series of road blockades, conflicts with the police and large-scale acts of sabotage. Part of the recent history of the anarchist movement’s relations to anti-gold mining struggles goes back to an underground action in the late 1990s by Nikos Maziotis, a well-known figure today who was arrested in 2011 in connection to the armed anarchist group Epanastatikos Agonas.29 Along with underground support, the effort to stop the gold mines has generated widespread support, connecting itself with the mass movement opposing the greed and corruption associated with social cuts and austerity measures being pushed by the European Union.
The ZADists of France
Out of a decades-long effort by local farmers to stop an airport from clearing around 4000 acres of farms and forests, an anarchist-led occupation of the land turned into an inspiring model of ecological resistance. ZAD, a play on the airport project’s acronym, was a village-scale squat. After a series of eviction attempts in 2012 – 2013, where farmers would arrive at the protest camp using their tractors to prevent excavators from destroying the squatter camps, the project was delayed. The spirit of the ZAD has since been revived in an occupation of a site slated for dam construction. The most recent occurrence at this site was the murder of a ZADist during a confrontation with police attempting an eviction, which sparked an international outpouring of solidarity actions.
Defending Land from Coal Mining in Germany and Scotland
Once again, a long-term community-led struggle gives way to anarchist land defense camp offering a glimpse of the potential for militant ecology. In two recent cases, the Hambach forest occupation in Germany and the Mainshill camp in Scotland, anarchist and environmental organizers showed an ability to embrace a wide range of tactics in resisting coal, an issue which has become a worldwide hot button over the past decade due to the climate crisis. In the case of Mainshill, a compiled list of action between 2009 – 2010 includes a dozen acts of sabotage intermixed with roadblocks, home demos and community organizing. The Hambach campaign, which is fighting the largest coal mining operation in Europe, has seen a similar range of tactics.
Fifteen Years of Resistance to Shell in Ireland
Before pipeline resistance became all the rage in North America, the folks from the Rossport area of County Mayo, Ireland, were setting the stage. A mix of community activists who trace their roots to anti-colonial Irish struggle and young anarchist climate justice organizers combined to inspire on ongoing opposition to pipeline and refinery construction which has been able to embrace acts of sabotage in broad-daylight against surveying and construction materials, amidst months of ongoing daily road blockades, all the while expressing solidarity with Shell’s worldwide opposition, namely those resisting the oil and gas industry in the Niger Delta.
Anti-Road Forest Defense: Khimikhi in Russia
Amazing accounts of a forest defense in 2010 against a road between Moscow and St. Petersburg boasted of blockades, tree spiking and arson to construction equipment, where anti-fascist groups got involved to confront the fascist thugs brought in to support the development company’s security. The resistance seemed to climax at a solidarity protest in which masked anarchists trashed the local city hall building—in the middle of the day—where the construction was approved.
Anti-Pipeline Fights in Canada
The last several decades of collaboration and crossover between anarchists, ecologists and Indigenous communities in the occupied territory of Canada has offered inspirational guidance to the direction of a revolutionary, militant, non-authoritarian environmental movement. While there has been many examples to cite, especially amidst the anti-2010 Winter Olympics campaign and the 2012 explosion of Idle No More organizing, a specific case which stands out is the fracking resistance in Elsipogtog, where Mi’kmaq warriors from the First Nations in what is known as New Brunswick fought against plans with a full spectrum of tactics, including the confiscation and arson of company equipment, along with barricades where cops cars were set on fire during a stand-off in 2013.
There are many more examples as well, all around the world,30 of underground actions effectively running concurrent with aboveground movements—some with explicit ecological aims, others with general anti-system rage. Most of these actions go underneath the radar of people not reading the dozens of communiqués posted online at international anarchist and insurrectionary sites like ContraInfo or 325.NoState. (Worth noting is that for every person arrested in relation to underground activity, actions multiply in their honor.)
While few, if any, of these groups embrace a strict policy relating to the use of violence, their actions tend to target property, not people.
The skills, experience and culture of groups such as EF!, who straddle the line of aboveground and underground action, can play a significant part in creating contexts where things like anti-industrial blockades and office occupations occur in tandem with generalized uprisings, providing inspiration and social space for militant attacks and strategic sabotage to also take place.
It’s not exactly a new formula for subverting society. And contrary to common sentiment among cynical US anarchists, it’s not something that only happens outside the US. That is illustrated by a 2013 document leaked by the FBI, Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) and Pennsylvania State Police.31 In the document, a presentation intended to profile groups seen as threats to fracking companies, the JTTF creates a timeline of regional opposition to fracking in which several EF! blockades and tree sits are interspersed with a drive-by shooting and multiple alleged attempts at incendiary device attacks on fracking sites, between July 2012 and May 2013.
The future of ecological resistance is not something that needs an elaborate blueprint, rigid structure or dizzying intellectual dogma. It’s not some fantastical super hero comic book or bad movie plot (where you have to share a communal meal in straightjackets with the mates in your clandestine cell to prepare for the jam, as depicted in the film The East 32).
In short, we need to continue doing much of what we’ve been doing. We have the basic elements for fomenting ecological rebellion. It’s the scale of our opposition that is lacking. As we’ve been seeing in recent uprisings around the world that can all change very quickly. With this in mind, the following questions are offered to those desiring to take steps toward heightened ecological, anti-authoritarian struggle.
How do we amplify ourselves further? How do we make our actions more easily replicated?
And perhaps most importantly, how to we personally move our relationships from acquaintances at a protest to co-conspirators in ecological resistance?
These are questions that anarchists have grappled with over the course of the past 150 years in the movement’s modern history—a history that essentially paralleled the rise of industrialism. Viewed in that context, the ambitions of Earth First! can easily be seen as a continuation of anarchist ambitions, as there is little doubt that the coming generation of struggle for a free society will need to be more deeply rooted in ecology.
Panagioti Tsolkas has been an EF! organizer and on the EF! Journal’s Editorial Collective since 2010, though he is currently taking a hiatus. He has been a part of both Earth First! and anarchist movements in the US since the mid ’90s. He grew up in a Greek-American immigrant family and currently lives in the Everglades bioregion of sub-tropical south Florida. He’s never attended university and believes credibility in presenting an analysis of a movement should come primarily from lived experience rather than deskbound study.
Details about EF! gatherings, contact info for local groups, updates from actions, and general news/analysis can be found at: earthfirstjournal.org
Posted by Perspectives on Anarchist Theory (anarchiststudies.org/perspectives/ ) on the Institute for Anarchist Studies website ( anarchiststudies.org).
1 The perspectives presented come from a first-hand perspective. The author has no credentials in academia. On the contrary, he doesn’t have a High School diploma.
2 A few familiar, albeit very Eurocentric, examples might include: Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid; the writings of French geographer Elisee Reclus, transcendentalists like H.D. Thoreau and Romantics such as William Blake; Emma Goldman’s naming of her publication Mother Earth; the earlier experiences of the Diggers, Luddites and other rurally-based radical movements, and more recently, the writings of Murray Bookchin who has been explicitly exploring anarchist theory and social ecology since the 1960s.
3 This is the case particularly in the US, UK and Australia. Although there is a history of EF!-affiliated activity in other countries, including Japan, The Philippines, Sierra Leon, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy and France, I have found much less background information in these places to make as clear a case.
4 The Center for Consumer Freedom and the FBI has considered EF! a primary domestic threat for many years. As recent as Oct 2013, the US Army has released a manual listing Earth First! as terrorist threat. Source: http://earthfirstjournal.org/newswire/2013/10/14/u-s-army-lists-earth-fi...
5 Abbey was the author of cult classic The Monkeywrech Gang, a fictitious book that inspired environmentalists in the ’70s to rally around sabotage as a tactic, spurring the start of EF! While Abbey was consistently anti-authoritarian in most of his views, he also dabbled in some questionable rhetoric regarding immigrants and borders. In particular, an essay on immigration included in a collection of his work, entitled One Life At A Time Please, has been frequently referenced by notoriously bigoted right-wing xenophobes affiliated with the racist John Tanton network in attempt to maintain a foothold of influence and credibility in the environmental movement.
6 Bari was best known for her staunch position as an IWW labor organizer who brought loggers and environmentalists together to fight the Maxxam corporation, a multinational company which was liquidating its “assets” (jobs and trees), after getting caught up in the Savings & Loans scandal. She wrote a popular booklet “Revolutionary Ecology” calling for a more thorough anti-capitalist analysis from EF! She was later injured in a car bomb that pointed to FBI involvement, and died in 1997.
7 Ironically, this group was also more deeply embracing of the hippy-esque spirituality of Deep Ecology, perhaps imagining themselves capable of tapping into the religious fervor of rural Baptists.
8 This clash manifested in a book, Defending the Earth, which was co-authored by Bookchin and EF! co-founder Dave Foreman in 1991.
9 Take this example of Foreman’s thoughts on borders and bioregions: “One of the key concepts of bioregionalism is that modern political boundaries have no relationship to natural ecological provinces. Bioregionalists argue that human society—and therefore, politics and economics—should be based on natural ecosystems. They find affinity with Indian tribes and with Basque, Welsh, and Kurdish separatists, and have no sympathy with the modern nation-state, empire, or multinational corporation.” From Confessions of an Eco-Warrior. (Harmony Books. NYC, 1991. pp. 43)
10 Curran’s 2006 book 21st Century Dissent: Anarchism, Anti-Globalization and Environmentalism includes several chapters regarding EF! and its offshoots
11 Taylor’s recently wrote “Resistance: Do the Ends Justify the Means” published by Worldwatch Institute in their State of the World 2013 book
12 Two government representatives from the EPA were held hostage in New York, May 1980, by low-income homeowner who were being poisoned from the dumping of toxic chemicals. Two days later, their demands were met.
13 The most glaring example: are the lives and freedom of mink caged for fur worth the immediate risk posed to the populations of songbirds and other small prey by large, sudden releases of predators into an area?
14 The author of “EF! Means Social War” went on to publish Politics is Not A Banana in 2009, making the EF! Social War piece seem dry and textbook-like.
15 The CrimethInc. magazine Rolling Thunder, for example, calls itself “a journal of dangerous living.”
16 This occurred most notably during the EF! Round River Rendezvous of 2005, in the Mount Hood area of Oregon, ironically the same time and location where the FBI began Operation Backfire, later known as a starting point of the Green Scare (see below), by sending a wired informant to secure evidence against ELF participants.
17 “[M]y group and the other [DGR] chapters were presented with a choice: put up with trans phobia or hit the road.” Source: http://www.decolonizingyoga.com/how-derrick-jensens-deep-green-resistanc...
18 For example, the EF! Journal published a section of the DGR book in its pages in 2012, and EF! organizers of the 2012 Winter Rendezvous in Utah invited discussions from DGR organizers.
19 During the writing of this essay, a new publication inspired by GA, entitled Blackseed, released a first edition featuring an all-too-familiar slam of EF!, this time focusing on a hollow position that EF! is allegedly fortifying the rhetoric of nonviolence to pacify ecological resistance.
20 ALEC is an alliance of politicians and businesses formed to lobby the government for right wing and capitalist interests.
21 Leaked documents from ALEC show that this law was initially intended to have an even broader scope as the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act,” but it ended up being tested out on animal activists first, likely for fear that broadly including environmentalists may have triggered a stronger backlash.
22 Karen Pickett and Karen Coulter, both prominent organizers involved with EF! since the early ‘80s, often speak to this at EF! gatherings.
23 The first EF! action on record involved erecting a monument to Apache warriors who raided a mining camp. In 1980 Earth First! erected a monument dedicated to Victorio for his successful raid on Cooney and the killing of Cooney and his men. It read, in part, “ This monument celebrates the 100th anniversary of the great Apache chief Victorio’s raid on the Cooney mining camp near Mogollon, New Mexico, on April 12, 1880. Victorio strove to protect these mountains from mining and other destructive activities of the white race. The present Gila Wilderness is partly a fruit of his efforts…
24 The spelling “women” was initially used by the organizers in this group, though most TWAC organizers have opted to drop the “y” spelling, as it has come to be associated with anti-trans sentiments of a second wave feminist trend.
25 Jensen: “The Black Bloc spends more time attempting to destroy movements than they do attacking those in power…” “The anarchists are liars. It’s what anarchists do.” Sources: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_cancer_of_occupy_20120206 http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/blog/insurgent-g/17597
26 McBay: “I find these transphobic attitudes to be disgusting and deeply troubling”. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Green_Resistance.
28 As this article goes to print, the US is experiencing a nationwide response to multiple racist police killings, including riots and road blockades in many states simultaneously, going on for several months sparked by the uprising in Ferguson, MO.
29 The case of Epanastatikos Agonas (EA) is one of the clearer recent examples of the potential for aboveground and underground resistance as part of a mass revolutionary movement influenced by anarchism. For instance, as an October 2011 trial date approached for members of EA facing charges related to a decade of attacks on government and corporate targets, nearly 3,000 supporters reportedly marched down central Athens in solidarity with the imprisoned members chanting “The State is the only terrorists! Solidarity with the guerrilla fighters!” Their widespread support was visible all over the country in demonstrations, graffiti, posters and postings on dozens of websites. The EA members were eventually released on a technicality in 2012, and fled underground. Maziotis has since resurfaced and been returned to prison. The Earth First! Journal and newswire covered struggles in Greece extensively over the last several years.
30 Mexico, China and Indonesia all come to mind as places where recent militant environmental movements, indigenous struggles and anarchist groups (above and under ground) have been able to open space for what may be the future of environmentalism and anti-capitalism.
32 Yes. This scenario really happens in the terrible 2013 eco-terror thriller film The East. And yes, they call their actions “jams.”
source: Institute for Anarchist Studies
About the IAS
The Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), a nonprofit foundation established in 1996 to support the development of anarchism, is a grant-giving organization for radical writers and translators worldwide. To date, we have funded some ninety projects by authors from countries around the world, including Argentina, Lebanon, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Nigeria, Germany, South Africa, and the United States. Equally important, we publish the Anarchist Interventions book series in collaboration with AK Press and Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, the online journal Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, and the new Lexicon pamphlet series as well as organize the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition conference and offer the Mutual Aid Speakers List. The IAS is part of a larger movement to radically transform society as well. We are internally democratic and work in solidarity with people around the globe who share our values.