Cindy Milstein On Mending The World As Jewish Anarchists

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Cindy Milstein On Mending The World As Jewish Anarchists

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This week, we air a conversation between Scott and anarchist, author and organizer Cindy Milstein. The conversation is framed around the most recent compilation that Milstein has edited and contributed to, “There Is Nothing So Whole As A Broken Heart: Mending The World As Jewish Anarchists” (AK Press, 2021). During the conversation, they speak about walking through the world as queer, non-binary Jewish anarchists, Palestine and Israel, Milstein finding increasing healing and ritual among diasporic Jewish anarchist and other communities, antisemitism from the right and the left, argumentation and Cindy’s relationship with Murray Bookchin and more. [00:10:28 – 01:44:47]

And Sean Swain speaks about the recent meeting between Vlad Putin and Joe Biden [00:01:48 – 00:10:26]


BAD News #46

Just to briefly mention, the latest episode of BAD News: Angry Voices From Around The World for June 2021 from the A-Radio Network is now up and downloadable. Hear anarchist perspectives in English from Thessaloniki and Athens in Greece as well as Colombia and Ethiopia! Keep an eye out the middle of each month for the next episode!

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  • Sun Is Shining by The Upsetters from Soul Revolution Part 2 Dub

There are 30 Comments

I am a liberal. I am a self-involved liberal. I am a liberal. Oh, and did I somehow forget to mention that I am a liberal?

how can one woman be so singlehandedly deleterious for anglophone anarchism? and she's been doing it since she was Bookchin's grad student way back in the 90s... she would be totally boring and useless if she weren't so well connected with various media, from AK Press to her own IAS/Perspectives, to her pals over at Agency (are they even still a thing?). she epitomizes everything wrong and stupid about leftist anarchism -- both in her tunnel vision about "social anarchism" and her inability to understand why those farther to her left (and that's pretty much every other anarchist in the world) characterize her as a liberal masquerading as an anarchist. to be fair, though, she's not as pernicious as Chomsky.

I'm actually interested in what your critique actually is. Can you replace "deleterious" "wrong" "stupid" and "liberal" with actual ideas?

well, since you asked nicely...
1. despite being Bookchin and Biehl's pet grad student, Cindy has said nothing (publicly) about Bookchin's abandonment/dismissal of anarchism
2. she co-organized and promoted the hell out of the Hope Bloc
3. she continually insists that anarchism is coterminous with radical democracy
4. she is a polite and reserved public speaker, never admitting the possibility that anarchy might actually contain a fair amount of chaos

from it's going down:
As the anti-war movement waned and protest activity lulled in 2006-2007, the “anybody but Bush” coalition turned their sights to the next presidential election. The Obama campaign successfully appropriated most of the energy that had been directed into grassroots social movements previously, leaving anarchists largely alone in dissenting from the rhetoric of electoral “hope and change.” However, as the Obama campaign crested, the emerging economic crisis prompted a new wave of resistance, as anarchists roused themselves to organize anti-capitalist marches and participate in eviction defenses. Using a model of decentralized, coordinated consultas to build momentum around the country, anti-authoritarians mobilized extensively to protest both the Democratic and Republican conventions in 2008 through the Unconventional Action network, which persisted in some areas as a foundation for future resistance. With Obama triumphant, how would anarchists respond to the inauguration?

Unfortunately, anarchists collectively failed to take a strong stand by undertaking visible and confrontational protest at the inauguration. In the weeks after Obama’s victory, considerable debate erupted over whether or how to protest. Would a protest by a (majority white) group of anarchists against the first Black president be perceived as a slap in the face to Black communities? Or even be mistaken for white supremacists, who were rumored to be planning protests as well? While some constructive conversations about strategy, messaging, and white supremacy did take place, it became clear that many anarchists would forego counter-inaugural activity altogether.

One effort to salvage some anarchist presence amidst the ambivalence led to a dismaying statement of anarchist liberalism and compromise. Cindy Milstein and other anarchists authored a call titled “Hope From People,” calling for an unmasked “presence rather than protest” in the form of a “Celebrate People’s History and Popular Power Bloc.” This convergence was intended to form links with the “true rainbow coalition” of pro-Obama attendees by artistically celebrating forms of popular resistance. Contrasting “breaking things” with serious movement building and meaningful anti-racist work, the “Hope From People” call acknowledged that although anarchists oppose all presidents, “not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.” That barely a dozen anarchists turned out to distribute flyers to the jubilant crowd reflected the true irrelevance of this approach. Yet the call attracted the signatures of dozens of prominent anarchists and radicals from Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn to groups such as Unconventional Denver and Wooden Shoe Books. By diverting experienced organizers into an equivocal non-event, the “Hope From People” mishap splintered any chance of concerted anarchist resistance to Obama’s inauguration.

“...the “Hope From People” call acknowledged that although anarchists oppose all presidents, “not all heads of state are alike, and if we fail to recognize both the historical meaning and power of this particular moment, we will ensure our own irrelevance.”


stand in awe of the meaning and power of the Barack Obama moment.

So much anarchist. Very freedom.

Obama was a symbolically important prez to some and it did have historical meaning as far as the race spook deep meme goes. The issue of course is giving value to that presidency. Also, please stop calling Chomsky an anarchist. He's the most important anarchist in the word who isn't an anarchist as Bob Black would say.

i'll just say this to be devil's advocate--remember when emma talked about sex as an anarchist topic? and remember how most of her contemporaries were upset with her about that?

i AM NOT comparing cindy to emma, but bringing up topics that are meaningful (like grief, whatever) to life, even if not generally included in what is empowring... couldn't there be room for that in anarchism? if not, why not? or if you're hating on how she does it, not what she does, then explain.

She came to town and did a workshop on grief and it was only in English and she charged $20 to get it but if you were a cool anarchist you knew you could get in for free... this struck me as pretty tasteless so I did not attend... she is endlessly putting out heartfelt anthologies with GOOD writers as contributors... so the nicest thing I can say about her is she's got nice/smart friends and the meanest thing I can say about her is she's constantly cashing those relationships in for social currency. Also I don't feel her strategic or tactical suggestions are ever very useful. I'm usually left wondering what she does concretely beyond building a kind of personal brand.

"She came to town and did a workshop on grief and it was only in English and she charged $20 to get it but if you were a cool anarchist you knew you could get in for free... "

Do you object to bands charging at the door, but letting their friends in for free? or do you think that spending years writing a book is somehow less worthy of payment than spending a summer kind-of- learning to play guitar?

And who do you think pays the expenses for touring authors? Usually it is the author.

Milstein milks the movement circles for poignant experiences and traumas then commodities them into workshops. Where I live $20 is a lot for an evening of presentation and if it's about radical "grief" it's very clear who the audience is... woke, middle class, English speaking, probably white. I've done lots of speaking tours about things I've written and published and things I care about. I pay for those projects by working inbetween them,, so I don't have to compromise the political content of those collaborations by trying to break even. I'm not special, my opinions aren't wildly unique, I don't get to be a sage or officiant of movement strategy 24/7... no one needs to only be a writer... learn another skill.

I don’t like Cindy’s writing or approach to anarchy but you sound like a butthurt failure that’s upset someone is making a living off their writing, when you are not, and doesn’t abide by your set of rules for how a writer should act. Here’s a lesson for you: don’t push your failures into others. The ressentiment is real.

”no one needs to only be a writer... learn another skill.”

Fuck off. No.

Lol part time writers aren't failures, not commodifying everything you're good at isn't sign you're a loser, and even if it were easier to do what anarchist thinks making money signifies success?... No anarchist writers make a living off their books anyway lol. That's why you either have to learn other skills and get a job to support your projects or churn out workshops for the intrigued profressive, and affluent, or beg for followers on patreon. But Milstein would get more of a pass for her specific branding if it weren't slightly spiced up liberalism, i'll admit that much. Touring communities deeply affected by state violence and wanting to be paid for your expert opinion about grief just isn't my jam. Taking the time to do political work as well as write instead of always being the opinionated one makes contributions meaningful. Milstein comes off as tactical milk toast to me.

You have no jam. Your story is complete fabrication. You just hate to see successful women. Writing full time supplemented with crime is fun. Too bad you haven’t figured it out. Get gud, brow.

"Crime" is indeed another skill set. You're proving the point. Writing that challenges the new world order won't pay the bills. If success means shilling hokey workshops as an expert then yeah no.... but I get it you think people who don't like Milstein and her white liberalism are misogynistic. How original.

is the definition of giving someone enough rope to see where they go and then watching as they hang themselves.
your arguments are so bad that i almost think you're a sock puppet used by the other anon to make a point or two.

but if not, you did get the other anon to flesh out their argument, so... a role for every anon, i guess.

The only illegalism cindy milstein is fuckin with is charging 20$ for a “grief” workshop.

How about you pay ME 20$ to attend your workshop, and even then... I’ll think about it.

”no one needs to only be a writer... learn another skill.”

Fuck yeah!

As if writers and lecturers is what's been lacking in NA anarchoid milieus... wtf, where've you been? Ever heard of book fairs? I didn't see as many skillhare events or autonomous camps going on over the past 10 years or so, and no, whatever ultra-liberal bullshit EF! has become, it doesn't count.

Okay, there seem to be people not to happy about Milstein. Can someone explain for me who don't know about her what makes her a liberal?

how dare you suggest anon formulate and think their own thoughts. how. dare. you.

Yes, I completely agree with that. I would like to hear others points, tho.

It's a synthesis of liberalism and Burkean conservatism in a radical direction. Proudhon and Stirner(who are 2 of the 3 founding sources of modern anarchy with Godwin being the 3rd) both rejected revolutionary change and probably agreed with Burke and the conservatives critique of the inevitable Jacobinian turn in revolutions.

I think she's referring to classical, Enlightement-era liberalism here. It's true in a way that anarchism in the West has grown as the "enfant terrible" of liberal republicanism, yet has moved way beyond.

Still, the mistake Milstein did here is the same than so many other anarcho-left authors and activists are doing... to be drawing anarchism as a system, or just a more liberal kind of socialism. This is Reddit anarchism and we absolutely gotta get rid of this old corpse, and MIlstein could be at least directly criticized for maintaining this same-old Frankenstein anarchy.

It's over the Hope Bloc, mainly. I don't know that she's done anything too uniquely embarrassing since, and she seems nice enough, but I know that's why I roll my eyes at the mention of her name

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