Book Review: Fire and Flames: A History of the German Autonomist Movement

  • Posted on: 24 September 2012
  • By: worker

<table><tr><td>From <a href="">Vancouver Mediacoop</a> - Review by Zig Zag

<p>by Geronimo, PM Press, Oakland 2012</p>
<p>Back when I was first becoming involved in the North American anarchist movement, in the late 1980s, the W. German Autonomists were to us what the Greek anarchists are to today&#39;s generation of militants: a source of new ideas, tactics, slogans, and above all inspiration.</p>
<p>I worked with comrades that translated texts from German, including communiques and discussion papers, with the hope of spreading Autonomist ideas and methods throughout N. America. This included <i>Resistance</i> (published in Vancouver) and <i>Arm the Spirit</i> (published in Toronto). By 1992, in fact, there was already a copy of <i>Fire and Flames</i> translated which we distributed and planned on one day publishing.</p>
<p>What was perhaps most inspiring about the W. German Autonomists was their power as a radical force in that country. Black blocs were a regular practise, frequently clashing with riot cops in the streets, from occupied buildings (such as the Hafenstraase), or in the forests surrounding the construction sites of industrial projects (especially nuclear plants). Clandestine groups proliferated, carrying out hundreds of low-level sabotage attacks each year (i.e., Autonomous Cells, Militant Cells, etc.), alongside &ldquo;higher level&rdquo; actions carried out by urban guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Cells, Rote Zora, and Red Army Faction.</p></td><td><img title="to what end?" src="
<p>Originally published in Germany in 1990, <i>Fire and Flames</i> is now considered a classic history of the Autonomist movement up to that time. Until now, one of the primary English language accounts of this radical resistance movement has been the writings of George Katsiaficas, a university professor (see <i>The Subversion of Politics</i>). Now an account written by an actual participant is available in English, thanks to Oakland&#39;s PM Press.</p>
<p>Writing under the pseudonym &#39;Geronimo&#39;, the author traces the movement&#39;s origins from Italy, during massive revolts in the 1960s and &#39;70s involving primarily students and workers (where it was referred to as <i>Autonomia</i>), and the New Left that emerged in W. Germany at this time. He also provides historical context of the situation in West Germany during this same period, and how elements of the anarchist, squatting, feminist, and anti-nuclear movements adopted the theories and practise of autonomy from Italian comrades.</p>
<p>Unlike Katsiaficas&#39; more academic writing, Geronimo&#39;s account of the movement&#39;s history and development is not that of a professional writer but of an active participant. He presents this history in a highly readable and accessible manner, with short sections devoted to particular campaigns that had considerable impacts on both the movement and W. German society (i.e., the anti-nuclear, squatting, and urban guerrilla struggles).</p>
<p>Included in this history is the development of street fighting techniques from the 1970s to the black bloc tactic of the 1980s (a tactic that first emerged in W. Germany), a fact that led to W. German cops becoming some of the most experienced in riot control in all of Western Europe. There are also accounts of the inherent conflicts with social democrats, liberal pacifists, etc. during campaigns and mobilizations. Along with the text are numerous graphics, photos, and posters from the movement.</p>
<p>According to Edition ID Archiv, a German radical publisher, &ldquo;The target audience is not the academic middle-class with passive sympathies for rioting, nor the all-knowing critical critics, but the activists of a young generation.&rdquo;</p>
<p>One of the reasons myself and other comrades placed so much focus on W. German radical resistance in the 1980s was the basic similarities to the US and Canada. The Autonomists provided an example of organizing resistance in an advanced industrialized nation-state, and they did so with an impact. The black bloc may be one of the more obvious examples, but there are many other lessons to be drawn from the W. German Autonomist movement. For these reasons I highly recommend that all radicals acquire this book and study it.</p>
<p>Fire and Flames is available from <a href=";p=310" rel="nofollow">PM Press </a></p>
<p>In Canada, you can order the book from <a href=";p=1036" rel="nofollow">Kersplebedeb</a></p>


Odd. Can one imagine a connection between the leftists so upheld and any acknowledgment or respect for indigenous struggles?

wat, can you imagine writing sentences

can one imagine you not making the word "leftist" useless

Marxists used to field some impressive forces back in the day. I remember watching on TV and being impressed.

Fast forward 30 years(!) and its a case of ' objects in rear-mirror may appear larger' type of thing.

Why so much nostalgia here? Its like 1982!

Where are all the articles on Anonymous and cryptoanarchy?

yrs autonomously


What emile have to do with this? Anyway, the review given makes the book appear interesting, and will try to get around to reading it. I am wondering what people think is a better, that is to say more coherent analysis of this history: Fire and Flames, or Subversion of Politics by George Katsiaficas. Individuals have recommended the later to me, so I am unsure what to delve into first. Plus, I want to read the varying takes commentators have on these two analysis, as well as recommendations for other histories out there.

"Fire and Flames" is written by someone within the movement.

"The Subversion of Politics" while well written, and a good historical account is written by a leftists who tries to inject almost a kind of "dual power" analysis throughout the book.

That would be the main difference...

'dual power'?

I'd go with "Subversion of Politics" first. It's a good overview of the autonomen. It will give you some helpful context that makes "Fire and Flames" easier to understand.

I'd second that!

How many of the “higher level” actions that were claimed by urban guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Cells, Rote Zora, and Red Army Faction were actually CIA/NATO/Operation Gladio dirty tricks?

Operation Gladio and the "strategy of tension" took place in Italy, not Germany. That's important because Italy during the late 60's/early 70's had a robust radical movement, while Germany didn't (although the Red Army Faction at one point had pretty significant popular support). In Italy and (briefly) in France, the radical movement managed to fuse itself to varying degrees with the overall labor/worker's movement; in Germany this never happened. So there wasn't nearly the same need to try and empower the elements in Italy under Operation Gladio.

Quite false. *Operation Gladio* was simply the Italian name for a NATO/CIA sponsored action that took place all over Western Europe.

Yeah, looks like I was wrong about that. My bad.

But still, the lions share of activity still took place in Italy.

Don't worry about being wrong. This is a very complex subject and few people know a lot about it.

As for Italy, it was indeed a hotbed for this kind of counter-revolution, but don't forget Greece between 1967 and 1974!

Interesting. So back to the earlier question about which groups were possibly apart of operation Gladio. I am one of those who know very little about this subject, and does anyone have any suggestions for further reading? And again, which book do people suggest as a better place to start regarding The Autonomen: Black Flame, or The Subversion of Politics?

In Italy, the Red Brigades especially after 1974. In France, Action Directe. In Germany, Red Army Faction. In Spain, Grupo Anti-Terrorista de Liberacion. . . . .