Anarchist & Radical Book Club discussion

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message 1: by Joe (new)

Joe Defiant I'd love to take part in the next book being read by the group. How many people usually take part in discussing the books being read by this group?

I'm reading The Politics of Heroin CIA Complicity in the Drug Trade by Alfred McCoy right now which is a very interesting book if you are at all interested in the history of colonialism, intelligence agencies and drug smuggling. Western military/intelligence agencies have been involved for hundreds of years in this going all the back before the Opium Wars in China. British and French colonialism has been using the drug trade to subjugate people and finance their operations since the 17th century and the CIA basically took over the operations that French/British intelligence created. I am about a third of the way into the book so I haven't gotten to recent times yet.


message 2: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Book discussions? There's never been one here, to my recall. Participation is token; minimal. You'll be left wanting, I'm sorry to say.

Really, the entire 'groups' section of this website is dying. It's not just this group, its practically every group. Readers only get minor use out of 'groups' these days; when once they were the best part of the site.

There's simply too many other distractions, too many pictures to aimlessly browse (with one's brain turned off). No one has the attention-span or dedication to 'have a discussion' anymore. Its a picture-based society now. Just flip through pictures. No one has any curiosity, no one has any opinion or cogitation to offer.

Now me--I've read and very much enjoyed the book by McCoy you're reading now. It's a milestone of journalism.

But --just like everyone else--I suppose I don't see the point of chatting about it. That would only deflect me from 'consuming' the next item on my list (whatever that is).

:(


message 3: by Joe (new)

Joe Defiant I guess I misunderstood the title "anarchist book club" I thought it was a group where books were discussed. When you enter the group it even has a "currently reading" book title on the home page. It is a shame that technology is so wasted. Imagine what groups like the Circle of Tchaikovsky could have accomplished if they could have discussed things in real time no matter where in the world they were.

I guess we are supposed to leave these things for the experts nowadays while we mindlessly consume "content" and ads.


message 4: by Joe (new)

Joe Defiant I will invite some of my friends here to do what I was asking about there is no need to build a new place when this already exists and is not being used. We will squat in this group, you are welcome to join us...


message 5: by Benjamin (new)

Benjamin Fasching-Gray Feliks wrote: "Book discussions? There's never been one here, to my recall. Participation is token; minimal. You'll be left wanting, I'm sorry to say.

Really, the entire 'groups' section of this website is dying..."


There are a number of active feminist book groups on goodreads, and there are groups that I am sort of aware of that I think are still active. I think the main problem with this group is that there a lot of keyboard warriors out there, the kinds of anarchists who are too anarchist for a group... "don't tell me what to read..."

my problem is I am always in the middle of too many books and even when I commit to a book club read, by the time I get to it the group is already on to the next book.


message 6: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) If one wanted to put a positive spin on things, one might assume that web-activity which was once 'hot' (like reading groups) has diminished because maybe people are spending more time reading books.

But somehow I don't believe that's the case. Even Goodreads groups with 5,000 members--I've seen them--float listlessly off course, dead in the water.

'Discourse' in this country is dropping across the board, on and off the 'net. People are isolated --made atomistic--by the plethora of choices they've been given; games and videos have taken on too much prevalence. Low-hanging fruit is the easiest to reach.

'Keyboard warriors' is an apt term, and a new one on me. I recall some vicious, sprawling combats waged on the net only a few years ago. Now its as if there are no issues anyone cares about; everyone behaves as if drugged. Zoned-out. Cruise-control.

After all, when all the media one could possibly imagine is clustered together at your fingers, why strain or toil over anything? When every single person you encounter is doing that very same thing, how much harder is it to exempt yourself and do something different?

Individuals making sacrifices or committing themselves to changing the world around us--this has fallen by the wayside. Everyone loves their comfort and convenience instead.

I myself would participate in anything the web offered if participating in it, if it would actually lead to a difference or a change in the real world. But it never seems to. Unwillingly, I'm made part of the very problem I'm talking about.

My only gratification is that I still do 'work on projects' and 'get things accomplished' separate from the virtual world entirely, I'm a writer and I sink all my energies into my writing goals. It might be a phyrric endeavor but it feels a lot better than spending years of my life committing puny keystroke-opinions into an ether where they will never matter. Whether anyone ever cares or not, I am making physical products that I can hold in my hands. Ehh--not much of a solace but it's something.


message 7: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Joe wrote: "We will squat in this group, you are welcome to join us..."

The merit of this idea--well, its not my place to say either way--but just remember, there is still an owner/founder and there are still moderators of this group. Whatever you are your chums would like to do here, it must still fit into the guidelines laid down by those individuals. That's simply a wise courtesy to keep in mind...


message 8: by Joe (new)

Joe Defiant just trying to read and discuss some books. i can't imagine it would be a problem with the moderators. they are free to join us as well.


message 9: by Joe (new)

Joe Defiant Benjamin: "There are a number of active feminist book groups on goodreads, and there are groups that I am sort of aware of that I think are still active. I think the main problem with this group is that there a lot of keyboard warriors out there, the kinds of anarchists who are too anarchist for a group... "don't tell me what to read..." "

If there are actual people interested in anarchism and they are not trolls who would say "don't tell me what to read" they would be people perfect to join a anarchist book club and learn about the ideas behind anarchism. I wouldn't mind letting them select the first book to kick things off. You reminded me of the David Rovics song "I'm a better anarchist than you"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Vo32...


message 10: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Joe wrote: "just trying to read and discuss some books. i can't imagine it would be a problem with the moderators. they are free to join us as well."

Of course.

I guess the choice of phrase 'squatting' caught my ear. Just wanted to say that it's not a 'dead' group, rudderless, there's still a hand at the wheel.


message 11: by Matt (new)

Matt | 4 comments Joe,

If you do get a discussion going, I'd quite likely be interested in participating! Though I am also reading about 7 books at a time and making slow progress in all of them, haha!


message 12: by Matt (new)

Matt | 4 comments Is this the Edward Abbey of "Desert Solitaire"? He's quite fascinating, and as you say, unique for coming more from an American tradition of anarchism than European.

Terrific quote, btw!


message 13: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Good catch there Matt. I missed that myself.

Here's another unusual American character: Robert Anton Wilson

Read his bio on wikipedia too


message 14: by Matt (new)

Matt | 4 comments Feliks wrote: "Good catch there Matt. I missed that myself.

Here's another unusual American character: Robert Anton Wilson

Read his bio on wikipedia too"


Wow--he's got a pretty wild story! Interesting. I hadn't heard of him before, so thanks!


message 15: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Doyle (kevindoyle1) | 7 comments Hey there. I am anarchist writer here in Ireland. Together with illustrator, Spark Deeley, we published the book The Worms That Saved The World in 2017. AK Press distribute the book in the USA and the UK/ Europe.

Although a book for kids, the subject matter is such that parents/ adults/ carers etc enjoy it a lot too. I am wondering if any one knows of an active groups on Goodreads where we could introduce the book. This group seems to be low in activity - sadly. Although our book is influenced strongly by ideas of direct action and mutual aid, it appeals to the wide left - so any broader left groups are people we are interested in letting our book be known to.

Storyline: “Their lives are turned upside down when a luxury golf course invades their headland. The worms try to negotiate but their efforts are met with insecticide. Our long, wriggly friends have had enough! They decide to take action… A story for children and (ssssssh) adults too.”

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3...


message 16: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) H'mmm. Thinking. Myself, I moderate 7-8 Goodreads reader groups here but it wouldn't fit in any of mine. If I were you I would just scroll or search through the directory listing for all groups. Then, locate candidates by 'recent activity' and 'interest'.


message 17: by Kevin (new)

Kevin Doyle (kevindoyle1) | 7 comments Thanks Feliks.


message 19: by Alan (new)

Alan W. | 14 comments I check the notifications when they come if i have time. If there's an interesting discussion, i'll sound in. Discussing general left books doesn't interest me. I'm down for the very specific range of content i consider germane to anarchist struggles today, in USA and EU.
Maybe a way to revive discussion -- useful discusson -- on this group (which there has been in past) is simply to ask: "Whatcha reading?" I read and tried but failed to review Mark Bray's book "Antifa", a history of that movement. That's an important book, given all the liberal pushback on antifa in USA. To tell the history of it, and its effectiveness. I'm hoping very soon to read Alex. Vasudevan's "The Autonomous City: A History of urban squatting". What's urgent now is effective tactics, and mobilizing popular struggles in USA. And proposals -- e.g., workers' co-ops, promise and pitfalls. What's become of the post-anarchist theoretical strain can be interesting. Another way to juice it up would be to post abstracts and book summaries of things you've dug, e.g. -- ANTIFA THE ANTI-FASCIST HANDBOOK
MARK BRAY
“Bray’s book is many things: the first English-language transnational history of antifa, a how-to for would-be activists, and a record of advice from anti-Fascist organizers past and present … Focused and persuasive.” — Daniel Penny, The New Yorker

In the wake of tragic events in Charlottesville, VA, and Donald Trump’s initial refusal to denounce the white nationalists behind it all, the “antifa” opposition movement is suddenly appearing everywhere. But what is it, precisely? And where did it come from?

As long as there has been fascism, there has been anti-fascism — also known as “antifa.” Born out of resistance to Mussolini and Hitler in Europe during the 1920s and ’30s, the antifa movement has suddenly burst into the headlines amidst opposition to the Trump administration and the alt-right. They could be seen in news reports, often clad all in black with balaclavas covering their faces, fighting police at the presidential inauguration, on California college campuses protesting right-wing speakers, and, most recently, on the streets of Charlottesville, VA, protecting, among others, a group of ministers including Cornel West from neo-Nazi violence. (West would later tell reporters, “The anti-fascists saved our lives.”)

Simply, antifa aims to deny fascists the opportunity to promote their oppressive politics, and to protect tolerant communities from acts of violence promulgated by fascists. Critics say shutting down political adversaries is anti-democratic; antifa adherents argue that the horrors of fascism must never be allowed the slightest chance to triumph again.

In a smart and gripping investigation, historian and former Occupy Wall Street organizer Mark Bray provides a detailed survey of the full history of anti-fascism from its origins to the present day — the first transnational history of postwar anti-fascism in English. Based on interviews with anti-fascists from around the world, Antifa details the tactics of the movement and the philosophy behind it, offering insight into the growing but little-understood resistance fighting back against fascism in all its guises.


message 20: by Derek (new)

Derek Minno-Bloom | 12 comments Alan,

Great thoughts, and a great books. Much of the anarchist movement today holds on to the tradition of anti-fascism.

I also loved Marks new book and saw him speak on it, it certainly worth reading:

Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A Francisco Ferrer Reader


message 21: by tout (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
Alan wrote: "I check the notifications when they come if i have time. If there's an interesting discussion, i'll sound in. Discussing general left books doesn't interest me. I'm down for the very specific range..."

While I think Mark Bray's book is strategically useful (or was especially in the moment of a resurgent right) for making a straight forward case for militant anti-fascism and giving it as broad of an appeal as possible, I found the book a little basic. This is fine. It's what it probably needs to be as an entry point for many people.

At the same time, in my opinion, the force of anti-fascism is not anti-fascism, but revolutionary life. I don't mean this to say that having a street presence isn't important or that fascists shouldn't be fought and communities not defended, but 2017 was a moment of myopia that often lost site of the content of its struggles through being absorbed in a feedback loop of conflict. This conflict did arguably push the right off the streets and crush much of its public activities, but why not both?

What am I reading?

-Creation and Anarchy by Giorgio Agamben
-Endnotes volume 4
-Nietzsche and the Vicious Circle by Pierre Klossowski
-The Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante
-(Also trying to get into Spinoza)


message 22: by Alan (new)

Alan W. | 14 comments Yes, "revolutionary life." Bray notes that many antifa groups come from squats, especially social centers. That's revolutionary life for real. It -- rent-free collective rule places to live and work -- was the basis for so much activism. I wanted to review the book for "Trespass" journal (https://www.trespass.network/?lang=en) but didn't get it written. And yes, "why not both"? Here, in USA, it isn't happening, or at least not aboveground. That's quite key to EU social centers, is to be public and open to all who would come.
For what US antifa did, as chronicled in IGD website, I'll say they did it well, and were a tactical success in blocking a Trumpist street movement. They are defensive formations, when they work well. The arguments against them in liberal/left press has been that they are politically ineffective, can be turned against mainstream left, etc. Bleah.
Building a "revolutionary life" seems now to be beyond USAians now. EUians too, maybe. Everyone seems to be on defense. A revolutionary life at any rate, in any event, seems always to be a life of the mind.

Agamben I haven't bitten for a decade, since 16 Beaver people were lovin' on him. No patience for philosophy. Now reading on art, NYC of the '70s and '80s for a writing project.


message 23: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) I'm currently readin' Kropotkin


message 24: by Lewis (new)

Lewis Ward | 4 comments Derek wrote: "Alan,

Great thoughts, and a great books. Much of the anarchist movement today holds on to the tradition of anti-fascism.

I also loved Marks new book and saw him speak on it, it certainly worth r..."


"Anarchist Education and the Modern School: A Francisco Ferrer Reader " Been considering picking up a copy. Read the Avrich book on The Modern School Movement. Around 1983 I attended an anarchist historians conference at NYU that Avrich put together. Several people who attended the Modern School in Stelton participated in the discussion. Two of the participants were from my hometown and I knew their son. Later reading Avrich's work provided context for understanding attempts at creating an an anarchist education, communities, and how they fit into the anarchist movement in America. One of the short lived communities (as anarchist) was in my hometown.


reply | flag *


message 25: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Babino (scientificglassguy) | 4 comments Reading Guy Debord's The society of the Spectacle. Decent read, hard to follow at times.


message 26: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) Aye. A discourse on quite some subtle and obscure aspects of Marxism. Little at all to do with media. This is startling when you pick up the book expecting something else (as I did). Ultimately, though, he has become one of my favorite thinkers for the intricate stuff he examines and the eloquence of his words. I'd read something else from him anytime.


message 27: by tout (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
Aaron wrote: "Reading Guy Debord's The society of the Spectacle. Decent read, hard to follow at times."

It gets easier the more times you read it. But it also might depend on what translation you're reading. I like the Donald Nicholson-Smith version, but the Ken Knab version is supposed to be really good and has a lot of added notes that would be helpful for connecting the references and concepts that are often a bit obscure.


message 28: by Aaron (new)

Aaron Babino (scientificglassguy) | 4 comments Wow, thank you so much for letting me know that, tout! I was really hoping there was something like that.


message 29: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) I partook of the Nicholson-Smith


message 30: by Feliks (new)

Feliks (dzerzhinsky) anyone have an opinion on the history or the concept of Tontines?


message 31: by tout (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
Feliks wrote: "anyone have an opinion on the history or the concept of Tontines?"

Nope


message 32: by tout (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
It doesn't look like there has been an actual book discussion on here for seven years? We could probably change that if people would like. What would people want to discuss?


message 33: by T.C. (new)

T.C. Weber (tcweber) | 8 comments tout wrote: "It doesn't look like there has been an actual book discussion on here for seven years? We could probably change that if people would like. What would people want to discuss?"

I'll bite. What do you think is the most significant anarchist book written in the 21st century, and why? (I'm not sure I can name one, which is why I ask).


message 34: by Micah (new)

Micah | 9 comments The Anarchist Who Shared My Name

I'm reading this right now and it's super interesting. A fictionalized biography of one of the anarchists who tried to spark a revolution in Spain in 1924, along with Durruti and other well-known figures. It seems extremely well-researched and is a great read.


message 35: by tout (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
T.C. wrote: "tout wrote: "It doesn't look like there has been an actual book discussion on here for seven years? We could probably change that if people would like. What would people want to discuss?"

I'll bit..."


I think the fact that it's hard to name one says something. It could be argued that anarchism has never had a strong focus on theory and has instead emphasized an ethics of being against all forms of domination and hierarchy. This isn't to say that there aren't great theoretical works produced as anarchism or by anarchists, but maybe this isn't it's strength.

Additionally, in the last twenty years it has been the case, from my perspective that shorter texts (in the form of zines or articles), also perspectives from outside anarchism have had a greater impact on anarchists than something specifically called anarchist theory.

We should also clarify what we might mean by "significant". Does this mean significant in having an impact within or outside anarchist networks? Writings by Chomsky and crimethinc both in different ways brought many people into the world of anarchist ideas, but they are also differently scorned by various anarchist currents.

For me personally, the most significant book felt to be 'The Coming Insurrection', which is not self identified as an anarchist book (it's often label that is put upon the authors who don't claim any identity) and yet it still is incredibly useful for anarchists. This book was significant because it felt to be both seductive and strategic in a way that I hadn't felt previously aside from certain Insurrectionary Anarchist texts like 'At Daggers Drawn'.


message 36: by tout (last edited Aug 02, 2020 08:28AM) (new)

tout | 100 comments Mod
Some texts that have been important for me and the networks I'm a part of in the last couple of years are:

-The Undercommons by Fred Moten and Stefano Harney
-Hinterland by Phil Neel
-Carceral Capitalism by Jackie Wang


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