Episode editorial 7 – Cooperation

On our minds this week

This week in the politics of geopolitics and interesting division was exposed. As anarchists we should think on this division as it is of concern to us too. This divide is characterized as globalism (or neo-liberalism) or nationalist (aka protectionist). Many authoritarians land on the globalist/neo-liberal side of this split arguing that diversity, climate change, and free trade are somehow friendlier to a position hostile to the State than racism, hostility to scientific consensus, and trade sanctions.

This week we reflect on the fact that the divisions between statists are not our divisions. If a revolution against big power were to occur it would be safe to say we’d have a global perpective in our heads but our locality in our daily lives. We’d be deeply ambivalent about anything that looked like trade. And our diversity argument would look entirely different than they do today.

On mind this week is a pox on the house of the Nation and the house of the neo-liberal. We can safely stand on neither side of this stupid fight, we have stupid fights of our own.


Editorial – Cooperation

It used to be taht the anarchist space was small. It was possible to know everyone. It was possbile for one event to host most of the anarchists at once. The Battle of Seattle grew the number of anarchists exponentially, The War in Irag, and the Internet has done it a few times more. One of the confusions about this rapid growth is the assumption that just because we are thousands instead of hundreds that we are all on the same team.

That is not how teams work. Teams work because it feels special to be on one. One feels like a privelaged few and not a faceless horde. The reasons affinity groups plus is still a primary organizational technique for anarchists is because we know each other as special individuals and not abstractions. If you subscribe to the form of anarchism that says that we should remain anonymous in most situations your social circles, the people you work with, will be necessarily small.

Like many other topics, the Internet has changed this. Many anarchists now have a far larger vaguley social circle than they ever did before. Personal intimacy is laregely gone but there is a larger sense that you have fellow travelers. This has meant that rather than anarchism in north america being mostly red, mostly friendship circles, and most intimate it has become mostly positional (red, green, insurrectional, transhumanist, etc), mostly around allying around positions, and mostly impersonal. It is far easier to insult strangers who don’t share your positions today because you don’t need them for a future action or as a friend.

There has to be something positive about this change. Perhaps one of those things is we are now bigger than cliques. We are now bigger than one big mans personal agenda or personal problems. Perhaps it means we can start trying to do more than one thing at once. Perhaps being ninjas at every highly publicized event isn’t a requirement for entry in our secret club. Perhaps you don’t need to read every book written by bearded men in the 19th century. Perhaps we can begin a set of conversations about how each of us, how each type of personality and skillset can add to a complex social environment that shares a love of the Beautiful Idea and respects others who do the same. Perhaps that respect can mean something more than the Internet is capable of demonstrating. I know that for me, the projects of this large group of people, striving for the Beautiful Idea always interest me, even if I disagree with them.

Episode editorial 6 – Associative Crimes

on our minds

On our minds this weekend is the shadow of a new horrorshow of violence and war cast by the US Administration over the country of Syria. Six years into a Civil War that finally seemed like it was winding down there is word of another Sarin gas attack by Assad and now a military intervention by the US Military.

As anarchists we unconditionally oppose war. We do not deny that it occurs and that in its footprints lay destruction and possibility. The Syrian Civil War, in particular, has opened the very real possibility of a anti-authoritarian socialism in the form of a liberated Kurdistan. But that is a footnote to the thousands of deaths caused by this Civil War.

Our hearts go out to these people and our fury is reserved to all the heads of state, and their minions, that wage war on human life for nothing other than political gamesmanship and a sick value system that believes that the only way to defend human life is to destroy human life.



Editorial – Associative Crimes

The past few weeks has brought an interesting conversation to the anarchist space. There are many ways this conversation has played out, as about specific individuals behavior, as to whether or not fascist entryism is occuring, or as a sectarian attack about, or considering, a particular political tendency being susceptible to manipulation. The details herein are extremely tedious and boring. The question is not. Here is how I read this question. Is it possible that a generational shift is occuring that escapes our capacity of understanding? Moreover is this change happening so fast that we as individuals, in the flux of this transition, are incapable of seeing, knowing, or controlling it as it occurs?

One of the challenges that anarchists face, when somone outside the milieu inquires, is that we both identify power in its excesses while having a vague attitude towards eliminating power. We desire an end to power but recognize that end would involve great horrors, in the form of the destruction of the state by way of its infrastructure and of violence towards human lives dependend on that same infra. We are expressing a anti/political position that entails a thousand unforseen consequences, most of which are probably authoritarianish and possibly horrible. The tension between political reality, as in how things work in the real world, and a dreamy desire for an anti-authoritarian world is real and any anarchist that denies it is either lying or hasn’t thought about it long enough.

In the old days (prior to the word anarchism-as-a-political-position) this topic fell under the auspices of the kind of sacrifices one had to make for the securities one received from the nation state. If one wanted health care, national security, and some care for the elderly and whatnot one had to accept, as part of a faustian deal, a type of contract usually called a social contract. Today we live on shifting sands. We cannot argue that there is any contract in place. We cannot count on health care or that we will be cared for as we grow old. We can only count on change. On flux.

Anarchism can be described as a simple position. It is a desire to live in, and work for, a world without the state or capitalistic exchange relations. But anarchists are not historical artifacts. We recognize that the world is changing and want to be part of that change. This means associating with what is here and now and not just a set of static first principles. Social media and the capacity to argue about everything, all the time, has meant that it is very easy for an author or an essay to associate things, taht are not otherwise similar, easily and to spread that false association broadly.

Name calling is confusing. On the one hand it is very useful to have conceptual tools (ie names) to understand people, positions, and our place therin. On the otherhand one has to have great trust in another person to trust that the way they use language, and names, is the same as yours. As an anarchist I want to trust other anarchists but also as an anarchist I have to realize that words and the gamesmanship around them is a kind of power relationship I want to be an active actor in and not just the subject to someones superior political savvy.

Editorial episode 5 – A Failure to Communicate

on our minds

This weekend is April First. Obviously anarchist do not have a sense of humor and anyone who would say we do is a dirty liar but it sure would be nice if we did. We could see our project, the total transformation of daily life, as a hysterical absurdity. We could see our comrades as human (all too human) beings and not revolutionary robots set to kill, kill, kill. Like most things, the Internet has coopted and killed the devilish pranks of April Fools day but let’s hope our own little silly pranks are read in the spirit they were intended and not in the spirit of indignant poops.



A failure to communicate

We’ll talk about our friend Shawn Wilburs blog post about this topic later but suffice it to say that I agree broadly with his description of some anarchists willful failure to communicate but I perhaps am less interested in being as fair minded as Shawn is.

Anarchism has changed in the nearly thirty years I’ve been involved in it. And obviously by the time I became part of this tradition borne of the beautiful idea it had changed several times prior. By the time I took part in it anarchism was starting to grow beyond the anarchism of Crass and punk rock politics. It was starting to federate and look towards greener pastures than subculture and youthful zeal. Murray Bookchin was still alive and, unbeknownst to me at the time, was kind of a big deal.

I share most of the post-left criticisms of Murray and, in particular, on re-reading Social Anarchism vs Lifestyle anarchism find it to be a uniquely corrosive document in terms of attempting to communicate but I do think it is useful on this topic, both as a model of how not to do it, and as a template some have used ever since to win an unwinnable fight and to say a piece about some imagined Other.

And of course I will say the same things, maybe worse about the writing of Bob Black who has always used communication as a cudgel.

The point here is that we have chosen to balkanize anarchism. We, on occassion, have pretended we are all on the same team and write wide-eyed innocent essays misunderstanding how other factions could have ever come to the positions they have and how our faction wouldn’t do anything like that at all. I’ve mostly seen those who refer to internecine conflicts put on the defensive as if they have to explain why an underemployed social anarchist professor and a traveling antisocial anarchist rewilder could possibly ever disagree.

This pretending is also the source of our failure to communicate because it is in the interest of some to own the conversation. It is in the interest of some to emphasize the qualities of civil discourse while minimizing the passions of the shout. Some people get to speak at bookfairs, even though they have nothing to say, and are going to blame the republicans for our unique moment rather than clearly build something small that could grow with people we know. We’d rather pretend we were never in subculture, for fear to not be seen as a serious adult. We’d rather fail than be seen trying. We’d rather only communicate in cliques and to crowds we know already agree with us than communicate dangerous ideas that might not be popular.

Episode editorial 4 – Projects

on our minds

On our minds this weekend: The possibility of bookfairs!

This weeks podcast is being recorded a little early because the time when I’d normally be recording I’ll be spending at the Orange County anarchist bookfair. This evening is holding down it’s third annual event and this year the guest speakers include Dana Ward of the Anarchy Archives, Alexander Reed Ross of the EF! Newswire, and Zoé Samudzi “On a Black Feminist Anarchism”

What is the possibility of bookfairs? Well, they aren’t going to be the cause of the revolution but they are places where people can meet with anarchists and talk about anarchist ideas without fear of being arrested. They often are events where anarchists dress to impress and do everything in their power to show off their good side. They are often places where you can eat cheaply, find inexpensive anarchist artifact, books, and t-shirts. They are often funny, and the more you know the funnier they are.

What is the possibility of bookfairs? Perhaps this is as far as we go. This is all we are capable of. smashing windows when we are grumpy and selling books to each other when we are calm. The bookfair has become yet another aspect of north american anarchism to fight over. Some claim that anarchists that devote energy to bookfairs, like your esteemed commentator, are somehow less hardcore than those on the street. And it is easy to see anarchists as an anachronism, dedicating energy to books, arguably an anachronistic way to transmit information in a time when images tell a thousand words and I don’t even have enough time in my day to check my instagram feed.

What is the possibility of bookfairs? It is best stated as the opportunity to meet strangers in a conflict free area. To glare at anarcho-liberals under the Southern Ca sky. and to introduce new, up and coming, anarchists to the depth of material they will need to be proficient at quoting from. I love talking about anarchism with people who dont have ideological preconceptions about which is why I still go.


Anarchist projects

There are several different types of anarchists and it can be challenging to keep them straight. The kind of anarchists that anarchist news tends to devote energy towards are anarchists that work on projects. This is a different type than one that works on organizations or one that just hangs out in a scene. A projectual anarchist organizes their time in terms of bite-sized projects that may be oriented around a bigger project but just as often have value for their own sake.

Often time our anarchist news is a series of different people advertising their new project, be it a new literature distrobution, or a new video project, and inviting others, perhaps strangers or close comrades to join. There is no central committee driving these different projects and often times is can seem like they are temporary, emphasize outreach more than practical or revolutionary goals, and a little embarassing. But that embarrment is important. My first zine was a embarassing. It was called kill your parents and told a story against the existent order, represented by parents, from the perspective of a child. Showing it to people taught be the value of expressing an opinion, especially a hostile and silly one. It gave me a lot of the feedback I needed to do future projects, ones that were decidedly less silly.

Feeling out the texture of doing projects anon vs under your nom de plume or your actual name is another aspect central to how to practice an anarchist politics. There is a strong anarchist current that says that the only anarchist activity has no name, no identity, and may even have to speak for itself. This is a hard line in an environement like we have in teh US that is so saturated with social media and where self-representation is considered a hobby for most young people. Another position is on the opposite side of the spectrum. The only ethical behavior is stating your position with an open face and by your name. Thereby you can be held accountable for what you say and can develop relationships with others who feel the way you do. Short term and discrete anarchist projects are a great way to test out these different ideas about how to do identity, responsibility, and anarchist practice.

This week i was struck by how our anarchist news cycle could be a copy of one a few years or even a decade ago. New media projects, calls for support to distant lands and people, attacks on the existing order, and debates about tactics. Many people might see this as a bad thing. I do not. I see new friends testing out their strength, old timers experimenting with their mediums, and getting better, and the width and breadth of anarchist imagination. These are the things I want my life to be full of, attack, communication, disagreement, and solidarity.

Editorial episode 3 – Waves of anarchy

on our minds

On our minds this weekend: The possibility of infoshops!

In the 1990s the US attempted to emulate the infoshop movement of Europe. Over the next decade dozens of places to read, discuss, and meet opened and closed. The logistics of keeping radical space open in big and small cities, the exhaustion of being unpaid providers of socials services, and the internet have changed what it means to have space and meet face to face. Our infoshops today have to answer different questions than before.

The Base in Brooklyn NY has quite a few listing for direct action training including first aid, several different kinds of fighting (both self-defense, gender determined, and others). This evolution of the traditional infoshop towards a more specifically direct action training center is greatly encouraging and appreciated.


One of the stories I like to tell is about the first and second wave of anarchism. The first is the glorious story about a Beautiful Idea that involved the conscious acts of the working class striving together towards a better world that died on teh fields of Catalon in 1937. The second wave was an attempt to be realistic by demanding the impossible and was seen on the streets of Paris & Chicago in 68 and in Northern Italy in the following years.

If one were to quantify these two stories as I am now one could say that the first wave of anarchism envisioned a revolution that could save the human race. The second wave aspired to something akin to an insurrection, still a grand re-evaluation of the way we lived, but perhaps the scale of a city or town and not the whole of society.

This week these two anarchisms were confronted with a new vision of anarchism. One we’ve seen glimpses of in both of the first but that I’d like to evaluate on its own terms. In some ways this new kind of anarchist practice is a return to DIY or do-it-yourself politics with an anarchistic gloss. In some ways it exemplifies the kind of prefigurative politics associated with Bookchin and his contemporaries. Finally it represents a fascinating threat against internet shit talkers and do-nothingists…

I present you the Portland Anarchist Road Care group

The concept is simple. Portland Oregon has shitty roads and the state is, at the very least, slow to do anything about it. Direct Action means do the things that directly impact your life regardless of their legality or whether specialists dominate the terrain. Quikrete is inexpensive (about $15) commercial grade black top repair (also called asphalt cold patch). From the pictures on their facebook group they used little more than a jackhammer with an attachment to tamp down the asphalt. They dressed in bloc, took some pictures of themselves, and wrote their communique.

“Successful preliminary action today. We patched 5 potholes on SE Salmon, between 37th and 39th. We will observe them over the following days and weeks to see how lasting our patches are.”

Beyond the social media storm about this action is a host of interesting anarchist conversations. Before getting to them it is worth saying that this is the perfect anarchist moment. Soon there will be interviews, exposes, and more details about PARC but for now we only have their simplist of statements about themselves.

“Because we believe in building community solutions to the issues we face, outside of the state. Because society portrays anarchists as only breaking windows and blocking roads. Because when faced with anarchism as a political theory, statest often ask “But who will fix the roads.” Because the city of Portland refuses to adequately repair roads in a timely manner.

We are Portland Anarchist Road Care. We believe in community oriented direct action. We believe the state cares more about funding a militarized police force to suppress free speech than caring for and repairing the roads.

The city of Portland has shown gross negligence in its inadequate preventative care through this winter’s storms, and through its slow repair of potholes as weather has improved. Daily, this negligence is an active danger to cyclists and causes damage to people’s automobiles, and an increased risk of collision and bodily injury.

Portland Anarchist Road Care aims to mobilize crews throughout our city, in our neighborhoods, to patch our streets, build community, and continue to find solutions to community problems outside of the state.”

For whatever other criticm I, or anyone else, makes of their action they have made the anarchist case simply and clearly here. More importantly they have demonstrated a nearly perfect insurrectionary action. They could never repair another pothole again and this project could be considered a success because they demonstrated how easy it is for nearly anyone to fix their own potholes.

Up to now I’ve been quite reticent to consider that the second wave of anarchism, what could be called the post-revolutionary wave, or even the insurrectionary wave, may be receeding. I’m still not quite there but the idea of anarchists using insurrectionary methods to create a group that does community repaired potholes seems like a first step towards something new. Clearly I don’t care two bits for the PARC project on its face but anarchists that no longer think and talk big and instead put on some boots and do something that mostly isn’t for their own benefit but is. I don’t know what to think about that.

Sure this is a small and furtive effort but, among other things, this action challenges our preconceptions about whether our project should be entirely negative. Even if they did a shitty job in repairing their local road they made as good as an effort as food not bombs makes at feeding people, the black bloc does at being heard by the body politic, or anarchist theorists do at being heard telling people to demand freedom. What is creative about PARC isn’t their answer to the age old question about who will fix the roads but the fact that they took the punchline and made it theirs. Filling five potholes is a more serious intervention into the question of contemporary anarchist practice than 1000 comments on anarchist news.

Editorial episode 2 – Radical Notions

On our minds

On our minds this weekend: http://nativenationsrise.org/ Native Nations March in WDC

Because the hardest lessons have to be learned over and over again yesterday the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and grassroots Indigenous leaders marched in prayer and action on WDC from the Army Corp of Engineers to Layafette Square

The Native Nations Rise march was organized by Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Native Organizers Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network to support the Standing Rock fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and raise awareness to other indigenous issues. Thanks to the participation of protesters the march generated headlines and raised the spirits of Native activists and their allies. “Water is life, and we’re going to fight for what’s rightfully ours,” said Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Chairman Aaron Payment. “We’re going to keep bringing information so that they’re going to have to do something. We’re going to remind them of their trust responsibilities, and our treaty rights to protect our natural resources, and sacred sites.



A central question to having a radical notion about the world and the world you would prefer to live in is who are you in that world and in that notion. This is especially true because this world, the world, doesn’t allow you a lot of flexibility in who you get to be and you capacity to have notions of your own.

The internet has been an interesting intervention in this question because, while in some ways it doesn’t mean a thing, for most people the internet has been taken at face value. Here is a place where you get to define yourself from a blank slate. Are you a black masked rioter? Are you a person with an integrated plan about every aspect of how society should be organized? Are your ideas more important than how they get put into practice?

There are several different anarchist approaches to this question about how to put radical notions into practice as many as there are different ideas about how to test those ideas first. The part of this I’d like to focus on this week is whether these different perspectives have different amounts of merit based on whose mouth they come out of, rather than the ideas themselves.

Last week we discussed a critique of the Black Bloc that attempted to place it within the measure of privilege politics. While clearly the author had the liberal bias of statist politics their question of whether it is possible to show support for a community while anonymous is interesting. Their extra dig that white bodies will take measure to prevent their own arrest, while possibly leaving colored bodies to be arrested, is also interesting. What does solidarity look like if you aren’t interested in, and are in fact hostile to, the state that does the measuring?

I don’t want these editorials to just ask probing questions so I’ll answer mine from the last paragraph. I don’t think it is possible for the Black Bloc (full well knowing it isn’t a singular thing) to show solidairty for a group while remaining separate from that group. I don’t think that is usually the goal of the individual members of the BB either. I think they, in the hypothetical scenario the original critic is implying, are showing the limited solidarity that outsiders are capable of showing when something terrible happens to people you feel empathy towards but nothing more substantial than that. I also don’t think the criticism that outsiders can only show outsider levels of support is particularly fair or interesting. There are many other flavors of people, who are perhaps not as performative as BB, that are also outsiders showing empathy but little else. I rarely hear BB express a moralistic superiority over those other empathy-showers. I hear plenty of moralism against those who do not perform empathy at empathy-events but that is a topic for antoher time.

The rule of thumb that I think is missing from the liberal state apologist critic is that one should not judge others by ones own criteria. If one thinks that solidarity should look like getting arrested and judges those who do not get arrested one has drawn a clear line around the type of solidarity they are interested in. The critic is correct that “those with privilege” are not going to magically shed it becasue of /their/ criteria but there are plenty of examples of privilege being shed. Those stories are interesting but are, mostly, not because of politics as much as the individual stories of how politics get translating into lived human experiences. Usually that is not by judgment, shame, or acrimony.

For my own part the part of the critic’s attitude that I agree with to be the same as the central question of radical notions. The world does not allow one a lot of flexibility in participating in it. This means we have to create our own ways of being radical, and of having notions of acting in the world. Sometimes that looks like finding people who we find attractive and doing what they do. Sometimes it looks like something else entirely.