Absolutely essential reading for anyone who hasn't yet read it. It is a genuinely radicalizing text, serving to undermine myths and put radicals todayAbsolutely essential reading for anyone who hasn't yet read it. It is a genuinely radicalizing text, serving to undermine myths and put radicals today within a solid historical context, and showing that struggle has a rich history in the US.
This book was one half of my radicalizing process. As a new anarchist, starved for perspectives that mirrored my own and ignorant of the depth of anarchist and radical thought, I was groping around in the dark. I can remember, first bitten by the anarchist bug, "googling" "anarchist" every day. I read Crimethinc books because someone told me that anarchists read those books. Entirely ignorant, I was left thinking that my generation was the first to stumble upon anarchism, and that we'd have to create the entire world anew, with nothing in history but misery to look back on.
This book changed that in me. I could draw on hundreds of years of struggle against empire, capitalism, and the state. That the soil was rich with the blood of people who struggled for the same thing that I wanted to struggle for. I found out by asking that my family has its own radical history, both of my parents were in SDS, my father went on a Freedom Ride, my grandfather was involved in the 1199 Hospital Workers' strike of 1968, my great grandmother worked in the triangle shirtwaist factory, etc. etc.
I know so many folks who were radicalized because they read this book in high school. I only wish I was one of them, that I could have tapped into the bountiful resource of history as a starting point for my radicalism, instead of having it retarded by ignorance of history....more
The author is part of the International Socialist Organization, and so his whitewash of Leninist Russia in the first chapter is totally ahistorical. HThe author is part of the International Socialist Organization, and so his whitewash of Leninist Russia in the first chapter is totally ahistorical. He does not give the Vietnamese Communist Party the same kidglove treatment, however; the criticism is deserved and fair.
The book's strong points lie in the description of everyday life for a Viet Cong guerilla, and the resistance to the war within the United States. Shockingly, the author gives credit to anarchists in the US where it is due (in the creation of coffee shops, in "salting" the military to organize, and in fomenting mutiny), something ISO folks rarely do....more
This book really challenged my views on sexuality, sex, and radical feminist and queer thought. Theory, story, interview and case study blended togethThis book really challenged my views on sexuality, sex, and radical feminist and queer thought. Theory, story, interview and case study blended together to create a coherent radical queer agenda against assimilation into the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. The hot topics of the "gay rights" white gay male "movement" are Gay Marriage, Adoption, and the Right to Military Service. These all benefit the system more than they benefit queer liberation, so that even if you win, you lose.
One of the highlights of the book for me was the story of PISS, the campus movement to create gender-neutral and handicap accessable bathrooms. To have things as simple as being able to go to the bathroom be a serious complication with your body and identity is heartbreaking. It was inspiring to read about what I had previously thought of as disparate movements working together for a common goal and supporting one another.
Another highlight was the article stating that Gay Marriage is racist. Marriage is seen as the route to assimilation and acceptance from the hetero world. The interviewee made the case, however, that black families and mixed-race families often have the "foundation" of marriage. Black people have done the experiment of marrying for acceptance within the larger society, but the state sees them as "queer" (as in, part of the "other" that isn't white and wealthy). The state destroys their families by jailing the father, refusing welfare to the mother, and putting up children for adoption or foster care. Therefore, marriage is an ineffective route to acceptance, and even if it were effective, it would be selective acceptance based on race, as black people are systematically denied family and marriage.
After reading this book, I was embarassed that I put HRC stickers on my class binders in university to show that I was a queer ally....more
Eight years ago I listened to this book during Insurgent Summer, an effort to get a anarchists in the US to engage with the ideas in this book. The idEight years ago I listened to this book during Insurgent Summer, an effort to get a anarchists in the US to engage with the ideas in this book. The idea was that I would get together with comrades in my area and discuss the content. Instead, I listened to it alone, and cheered. I hungered at the time for this ultra-left politics. So much so that I shrugged off the really warped shit that in memory took up a small portion near the end of the book.
Eight years later, I listened to a podcast where one of the readers of the audiobook breathlessly recounted its importance. I have a job with a 45 minute commute, so I downloaded the audio files again and jumped back in.
The book is a series of straw-man arguments between a pretty impressive catalog of ideologies you might come across in your local anarchist infoshop: tankie leftist, classical anarchist, syndicalist, lumpenprole, primmie, pacifist, new-age hippie, medicine (the stupid straw-man argument from the book on this one would have drawn the most ire from me if it wasn’t for, uh... the other thing we’ll get to), transhumanist, academic, post-68 ultra-left. Each of these are ridiculed in turn, held up as a standard to which we are to compare with the book's golden ideology of insurrectionary incestuous pedophilia.
I wish I was kidding. The first go around, the incest and pedophilia was a quirk that I chose to ignore. The second round I knew what to expect, and I found the book to be so infatuated and saturated with incest and pedophilia that I found it entirely unignoreable. To the point where it crowds out other incredibly important things about the book. The book doesn’t just contain incest between brother and sister and father and daughter. It insists upon them. One of the protagonists initially resists fucking his own daughter. But through consistent browbeating by the other characters, in the climax of a global revolutionary moment, where people are throwing off their shackles and pursuing their desires, he gives in and fucks his own daughter. No, really. He is ridiculed for having social mores like not wanting to fuck his own daughter, they are compared to mores like wage slavery and capitalism, and he is accused of counterrevolutionary behavior for resisting fucking his daughter. “If you can’t see past what’s weird about fucking your own daughter” his brotherfucking wife tells him “then you’re the same person who would construct a global economic system that brutally oppresses billions of people and you would run tank treads across anyone’s face who dared question whether there should be police and prisons.”
What the actual fuck? How do you recommend this book to someone? It’s not subtle, it’s not some part at the very end thrown in. It’s alluded to throughout the book, and the incest writ large is pervasive.
Letters of Insurgents:incestuous pedophilia :: Atlas Shrugged:rape
This metaphor stacks up pretty well. Disturbing fucked up sex shit that is beaten into the reader in the middle of a book whose everyone-is-wrong-except-me worldview would most closely appeal to 19 year-olds. The fact that the politics are worlds better in the former doesn’t do it any favors, because, really, if a politic excuses (no! INSISTS on) incestuous father-daughter pedophilia, it’s also really shitty politics.
In seeking some reason for the inclusion (the saturation!) of incestuous pedophilia, I have read and heard others talk about how that is the risque conclusion that one should pursue all of their desires: that one inevitably comes up against a taboo like this one. I'm not so sure. First of all, that taboo is not nearly dealt with in the text. The character in question never deliberates on why one might not have this desire to fuck his daughter, other than that he is an uptight counterrevolutionary. Secondly, surely there are thousands of other taboos to breach. Why was this one chosen? I can't answer that honestly....more
Delving into movement theory, philosophy, and cultural criticism as well as providing a case study in autonomous politics in post-industrial Europe, GDelving into movement theory, philosophy, and cultural criticism as well as providing a case study in autonomous politics in post-industrial Europe, Georgy Katsiaficas has written a book very important to emerging movements in the 21st century. This book will be especially helpful to those new activists who seem confused about why leftist activity seemed to disappear after 1968: it didn't. Katsiaficas excoriates the models of Marxist Leninism, criticises the New Left for self-marginalizing into covert guerilla action, and embraces the autonomous movements of Western Europe from the late 70s to today. He doesn't shy away from pointing out the movements' weaknesses, its eccentricities as well as outright alienating factors, but finds their models of resistance to be among the more promising breakthroughs in resistance to capitalism, imperialism, and the state.
Marxist-Leninists are portrayed as stodgy and prudish across Europe, often discouraging the working class from self organization, and making themselves arbiters between classes or between movements and the state. When pressed for opinions on the emerging squatting movements in Italy, they declared “[real:] workers don't break the law.” Essentializing working class students as workers and pushing studies of production and economics, they often directed young working class students away from their interest in culture and feminism. Their stale “revolution” was dowdy and full of antiquated modernist thinking, preaching uniformity and the “new” ideas of a century before. Katsiaficas blames the death of the New Left era in countries like the United States in part on the ill-fitting adoption of Leninist revolutionary forms: Maoism and Guevarism. In contrast, the continuing revolutionary movements in West Germany after the New Left era could be attributed to East Germany, which "provided ample daily evidence of the bankruptcy" (215) of past revolutionary movements.
Katsiaficas offers another interesting criticism of New Left movements: the repression and escalation of violence that distilled mass movements into the armed revolt of the Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and others is self defeating. Popular movements that once brought hundreds of thousands into the fold against the state and capitalism are rendered impotent by guerilla actions. Past participants become sidelined into spectators, whose support wanes, enabling the state to crush the movements with impugnity. The "bitterness of confrontation" (116) cannot become the primary focus of a popular movement. Secrecy cuts a movement off from its own constituents: as fewer people are intimately involved in the movement's processes, they have less invested in the movement. The guerillas dwindle from hundreds to tens, and then to nothing. Autonomous at their best, in contrast, do not engage in the pissing match of attacking the state where it is strongest, but undermine its legitimacy and popular support while building new structures that would replace it.
Autonomous movements are post-modern: influenced heavily by the revolutionary intercommunalism of the Black Panther Party - a world in which many worlds can exist, beyond the concepts of nation-state - and the feminist tendencies to use personal statements - not “for the workers” - and focus on everyday needs, autonomous movements strive to create asylum from some of the horrors of late stage post-Fordist capitalism. Though they are not wedded to any specific ideology, Katsiaficas attempts to construct a politic from the autonomists’ actions. Autonomists work with marginalized communities where they live, and as an international movement, attack local manifestations of international institutions in solidarity with other movements across the globe. Autonomists are integral to the struggles against politically and environmentally disastrous projects in their locale.
But Katsiaficas is especially impressed with the how autonomous movements prefigure their struggles with the decolonization of every day life. Capitalism in this post-modern era turns "love into sex, [...:]sex into pornography. Labor becomes production, production a job; free time [...:] into leisure, leisure into vacation; desire [...:] morphed into consumerism, fantasy into mediated spectacle." (221) Essentially, in this era, the front line is everywhere. The author finds the autonomous movements fairly exemplary in fostering decolonization of every day life: creating space for people to live and experiment with other ways of living outside of the aforementioned capitalist tendencies. Franz Fanon’s post-colonial writing tells us that we will have to decolonize ourselves even as the colonies of empire fall, so as to prefigure the new humanity we want to create.
Autonomous movements are not exempt from Katsiaficas' criticism, however. He is quick to point out the self-marginalization within the autonomous movement that severely detracts from its effectiveness: infantile actions that serve only one's conscience, little care within anti-imperialist politics for the popular support of their own societies, and self-righteous rejection of other forms of resistance that inhibits the successes of both their movement and the Green electoral movement that share a common origin. Katsiaficas seems convinced, however, that the worst of the autonomous movements is not where they have taken their practices too far, but where the vestiges of old social relations and values show themselves.
Katsiaficas uses this case study not to romanticize the experience of the autonomists, but to point out the necessities of moving forwards. We can look to movements of the past to know what works and what to avoid. A successful movement cannot fetishize one human activity over all others (Marxists with production, or punks with culture) but must embrace all facets of human activity. A successful movement cannot fetishize one tactic over all others (nonviolent arrogance in the German Green Party, militant resistance of the autonomists, or armed struggle of guerilla groups) but must embrace all tactics that are effective and encourage mass participation. A successful movement cannot fetishize one oppression over all others (class oppression, patriarchy, white supremacy), but must understand the intersections of oppression and how the struggle against oppression can bring us together as a species. Capitalism of the post-modern era requires a totalist view that embraces the participation of all in order to overthrow it (or outgrow it). Because past movements have attempted to ignore them, the struggle to subvert patriarchy must be integral, as well as the struggle against white supremacy and the struggle against environmental devastation. The freedom of all to create their own lives is paramount. The movement requires feminism, intercommunalism, biocentrism, and, crucially, immediatism. We need tangible institutions that can transform our everyday lives and liberate public space in the here and now. These are the lessons we can take from the autonomous movements.
The popular narrative that social movements began and ended in the 1960s is something we should be actively undermining. Of course there were significant moments in the 1960s. But social movements in the 70s, 80s, and 90s all made significant impacts of their own, and deserve their recognition as well. This book is one of many that can help you fill in the blank spots on your movement history timeline....more
If the liberation of New Afrika, and an anarchist revolution didn't happen (and it didn't) in the 70s and 80s in the U.S., it was not due to lack of eIf the liberation of New Afrika, and an anarchist revolution didn't happen (and it didn't) in the 70s and 80s in the U.S., it was not due to lack of effort by Kuwasi Balagoon. He never gave up, he never gave in, he never compromised, and he never stopped fighting as hard as he could. An organizer inside the US Army while stationed in Germany, Balagoon started an anti-racist self-defense organization called De Legislators with other black soldiers, in which De Legislators would beat the shit out of white GI's who would gang up on black GI's. When he returned from Germany, he became a tenant organizer in Harlem, where he became radicalized through increasing frustration with exploitative landlords and their state lackeys. He realized then that in order to free his people, the internal colony of New Afrika, relegated to reservations called ghettos, there would have to be revolution.
He joined the Black Panthers, got swept up in the New York 21 case, and then moved on to clandestine armed-struggle with the Black Liberation Army. Balagoon was "arrested for menacing a 270 pound colonial building superintendent with a machete, who physically stopped the delivery of oil to a building [...he] helped organize." Balagoon was not known for serving the jail sentences given to him. On two occaisions, Kuwasi escaped from prison, and on one of those occaisions he returned to the prison later, armed, to free other prisoners. Caught during a shootout after a bank robbery, Kuwasi wrote his best works for use in his trial. He refused to participate in his trial, choosing instead to frame himself as a prisoner of war, and that the criminal court has no jurisdiction against him. He used his opening, closing and sentencing statements, not to plead innocence or attempt to get off with a guilty plea. He used the witness stand as a pulpit from which to preach revolution and the liberation of his people.
Kuwasi Balagoon never compromised. His history is clear, and his rhetoric is crazy: he wanted to take on the full machinery of the state in guerilla armed uprising for the decentralization of wealth and the redistribution of the land. And yet he was the first to put himself on the line to accomplish these goals. If there were 100 Kuwasi Balagoons, they might have done all of that. The other highlight (other than his opening, closing and sentencing statements) for me was the essay "Anarchy Can't Fight Alone" about the necessity of working together to overthrow this imperialist government by any means necessary, and providing concrete examples of how anarchists can provide immediate needs to oppressed people and organize for overthrow.
Kuwasi did everything he could, risked everything he had for his people and the anarchist revolution. When he died in 1986 of AIDS, he left behind a world that desparately needed him and hundreds of others like him. I'll end this review with the words Kuwasi Balagoon used to end his letters: Love, Power & Peace by Piece...more
The concept for this book is amazing. And, on the surface, it is a hilarious critique of "nanny-state" big-C Communism (centrally planned by Stalin'sThe concept for this book is amazing. And, on the surface, it is a hilarious critique of "nanny-state" big-C Communism (centrally planned by Stalin's heir Superman), and "nanny-state" centrally planned "democracy" (as created in the US by Lex Luthor).
And the concept of an anarchist-terrorist Batman, whose mission was to create the chaos necessary to demolish the state and its all-seeing all-knowing father, Superman, is amazing and totally badass.
It falters however. This is not your regular "what if..." Elseworlds. There is far too much the reader needs to suspend disbelief on, from the shrinking of Stalingrad, to Superman's infallable omnipresence. Then, when Superman finally falls (sort of), Luthorism (where everything is centrally planned by Lex Luthor) takes things to beyond ridiculous. I appreciate comics for their relation to the real world. If I have to suspend disbelief for a character with superpowers, then OK, but it is interesting to watch the REAL world react to that superhero.
Also, the Batmen (anarchist freedom fighters) only paved the way for Luthorism in the former Soviet empire: "Freed from Superman's all-seeing eye, the Soviet Empire descended into chaos for a while until the batmen reappeared and brought justice to the streets again. Within six months, Luthor was running the economy. Within a year, even Moscow had signed up with his Global United States." Then we never hear from them again. For literally a billion years. That is some bullshit. Anarchists, knowing that "democratic-centralism" under Luthor is no better than "democratic-centralism" under Superman, should have been there to fight the United States as well. *sigh*
This book is worth reading for sure, but borrow it from someone, because you will probably regret buying your own....more
This book is spectacular. Not once did I pick up the book and put it down without crying in between. This should be required reading for anyone considThis book is spectacular. Not once did I pick up the book and put it down without crying in between. This should be required reading for anyone considering joining the military: if it doesn't happen to you, you might make it happen for someone else. War is unimaginable hell....more
Eric Schlosser holds up marginally better fast food to counteract the horrible fast food industry. Great in depth reporting on all angles of the fastEric Schlosser holds up marginally better fast food to counteract the horrible fast food industry. Great in depth reporting on all angles of the fast food industry, but the proposed solution has no imagination:
Just don't go to the bad restaurants, liberals, and they'll shut down. Go to vaguely better fast food places, like In & Out Burger. Work with other yuppies in your gated community to keep the worst offenders out. Yecch.
If you removed the last chapter of this book and replaced it with a chapter about subverting, sabotaging, destroying currently existing fast food chains, planting, cultivating, growing neighborhood gardens that can feed families for free, as well as educating, agitating, and organizing poor people to fight for time in their lives to cook slow meals that are healthy and create a sense of family, then I would have given this book 5 stars. As it is, it has very little revolutionary potential....more
This is a wonderful beginner's guide to Feminist thought and theories. It is really phenomenal for this purpose.
As a reader who already considers himsThis is a wonderful beginner's guide to Feminist thought and theories. It is really phenomenal for this purpose.
As a reader who already considers himself a feminist, I felt as if the book was an introduction: a thorough introduction, sure, but at the end only an introduction. bell hooks leaves the book at just over a hundred pages. Thus, if you aren't interested, it is over within a reasonable time; If you are interested, it ends way too soon. For this reason I will be picking up some other bell hooks books in the near future....more
with barely any mention of Ricardo Flores Magon or his PLM (save for one or two paragraphs), I found this history to be sorely lacking. But it was faswith barely any mention of Ricardo Flores Magon or his PLM (save for one or two paragraphs), I found this history to be sorely lacking. But it was fascinating to learn about these two figureheads of the Mexican Revolution of 1910....more