Lessons Regarding Warfare: On Confronting J20 Repression

  • Posted on: 3 November 2018
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

From It's Going Down

A critical and at times biting look back on the fight against J20 repression. This text will hopefully lead to more reflections, responses, and above all – critical reflection as we look back and assess our own activity.

I’m a former J20 defendant.

Off the bat, I want to say that I only speak for myself. I’ve learned this is important. No one has permission to speak for me, and I don’t permit myself to speak for anyone else. I think this is the common mistake made by “organizations” of any form, all these tiny Leviathans that pick up this or that cause, on behalf of such and such people: their project is still representation, the creation of subjects and sovereigns, still business as usual. In the end, I think they manage our struggles for us.

Our struggles need to be direct. They have to emerge directly from within our own lives, our particular situations, and we need to embrace a willingness to confront them. No one is coming to liberate us but ourselves. I think this is a good thing however, it means there’s no one to wait for.

I’m not going to discuss what happened on January 20th, 2017. The majority of ex-defendants had their charges dismissed without prejudice, and in addition to possibly placing them at risk, recounting a few (allegedly) shattered windows during a largely symbolic protest doesn’t mean nearly as much to me as the last eighteen months of concentrated, intense state repression.

These reflections are about that time and that repression: what I’ve seen and done; the spaces, projects, bonds, and communities that have forged me into a lifelong practitioner of anarchy; the ideological bullshit I’ve peeled away from “anarchism” and the weapons I’ve found hidden beneath; the lessons I’ve learned for future battles.

A lot of this is about what I felt I did wrong. I think that’s perfectly fine. I think we need to reflect upon and share our lessons of failure: our mistakes mean everything, so learn from them and don’t make the same mistake twice.

In the Beginning, There Were “Spokescalls”

“US anarchists would need to exchange an emphasis on decision-making for one on initiative-taking. The open assembly does not exist to ratify a decision, because it would never dream of stopping its constituents from making all the decisions they wanted. And, I would argue it doesn’t exist either to impel action because it is assumed and promoted that its constituents are already taking action, and need the assembly in order to share.

-From Movement to Space, the Anarchist Open Assemblies

“We just have to keep in mind that nothing different can come out of an assembly than what is already there.”

-To Our Friends, the Invisible Committee

After my release from jail, I was greeted by anti-capitalist chants, boxes full of fresh clothes, the first warm food in over twenty-four hours, and what have become some of my dearest friends. I can’t possibly stress what this meant to me. When we’re in the streets, our first priority should be to protect either other and prevent as many arrests as possible, but when our friends are kidnapped from us by the state, jail support is one of the most critical logistical projects and gestures of solidarity. That shit meant everything to me. Seeing my friends and comrades fighting for us on the outside set the tone for the next year and a half, and I came out of my cell spiting fire.

A small nucleus of local DC activists ran the logistical support for arrestees on the ground: keeping track of releases, contacting the National Lawyers Guild, getting us fed with pizza, shuttling us across precincts to collect our stolen possessions, etc. From what I can remember, this group of people eventually coalesced into an official organization called the Dead City Legal Posse.

If I recall, this organization, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (MACC) was also responsible for setting up one of the most important early acts in the struggle against our charges: the coordination of a regional spokes-council between defendants, or in our case, a “spokescall.” This call placed dozens of defendants, from across just as many states, in contact with each other for the first time and established critical lines of communication between us. Those early calls opened up the spaces for us to find each other. Without them, it’s possible that the majority of us would have remained isolated from each other throughout the case.

In this sense, I found the initial spokescalls invaluable for generating collective resistance and struggle.

Over the coming months, I also found that it regularly devolved into a routine decision – making body – a legislative body, to speak the language of government – that would suppress projects and manage defendants’ struggles.

I think that there are two ways of conceptualizing assemblies, the first could be called “anarchist” and the second could be called “anarchic.”

The former considers them as a kind a political organ constructed for the sake of ratifying and legitimizing (certain) decisions – a kind of brain, set with the intention of “thinking” and “reasoning” for the body-politique, the political-body, the artificial animal comprised of human bodies and social roles. The spokescalls, in my experience, often operated this way, and when it did I noticed a few things:

  • Proposals formed within the calls themselves, with no outside momentum to drive them, often never materialized. The clearest example of this remains our attempt to organize a collective plea strategy, meant to provide those most vulnerable with some support by securing every defendant the same non-cooperating plea offer in the case. The first proposal was drafted within the call itself by the ~20 defendants on the call, and sent back with delegates to regional pockets of other defendants (at the time, it made sense to group into formations of defendants based on our geographic region; eventually, this would change to within our trial blocks). While the project was clearly important for those on the call, we never received much feedback from the larger groups of defendants, and when we did most felt that they wanted their day in court rather than a plea offer. However, instead of proceeding with the numbers/initiative we did have (small though they were), the proposal was re-drafted. And then again, and then again…a half dozen times: rewrite, re-establish consensus, re-share. This process finally deadlocked and descended into a bizarre spectacle of politics, where some folks struggled to decide on a proposal to ratify a decision-making policy for future proposals…Needless to say, enormous amounts of time were wasted on this shit, the project never got off the ground, and the defendants most at-risk were left with no cover.
  • At the same time, this process was effective in terms of actually mothballing certain projects that did have initiative, but were deemed potentially risky or dangerous by particular people in the spokescall. Another example: the early-trial strategy. Our prosecutor, Jenny “Lowblow” Kerkhoff, initially setup a “Group One” of alleged breakers, alleged inciters, and moving defendants for the first trial scheduled in March ’18. We considered that her hope was to secure easy convictions and build momentum for future trial blocks within the courts and the press. Recognizing this, we moved to disrupt her scheduling by having defendants with much weaker cases request trials for November/December ’17. One defendant personally reached out to over a hundred other defendants, organized a conference call to analyze the strategy, and found folks willing to talk to their lawyers. But when this person shared all of this with the spokescall, they were told to wait: they hadn’t submitted a proposal for this, there was no consensus on it by the spokescall, it hadn’t been shared by the regional delegates – ignoring the fact that the delegates had by bypassed through direct contact with the regional defendants themselves. In the face of this, and the past failure of the collective-plea proposal, the defendant expressed their frustrations: they weren’t issuing a proposal, or looking for consensus, and they would proceed as intended, alone or otherwise. They had come seeking comrades, not politicians. The result of that work, in combination with the bravery of the November defendants, were six acquittals and 129 subsequent dismissals.

It’s this last examples that points towards the second way of understanding the assembly or spokes-council, the “anarchic” way: not as a political organ, but as a form of open space to find new people and a tool for sharing. The assembly is a weapon for coordinating initiatives to amplify their efficacy – a weapon to pick up or put down as the situation demands. This tool is only effective when (a) we already have developed projects outside of the assembly and want to share them, or (b) we are looking for others with similar projects to coordinate with or join.

Anyone who remembers the good calls we had (and we did have them) knows that they took place after defendants got updates from their lawyers and wanted to strategize, or after really important motions were filed worth sharing, or after a round of situational analysis following some new gambit from Kerkhoff. When the calls worked like this, I think we all found it invigorating and refreshing. But when they didn’t it was deeply demoralizing, contributed to burn-out, and attendance dropped of rapidly.

I think that more important than play-acting as politicians, or forming legislative bodies, is spreading the assembly-tactic as a general practice for when the situation calls. This way, it becomes a tool among anyone we share space with, and can be deployed when the time comes to open up space on the margins to find each other.

The Anarchic Desert

“As such, the necessity of organization depends on the density of anarchist activity in a space or region. The most basic unit that conforms an anarchist density is the project. Too often, proposals are raised in the anarchist desert – regions with little activity. These are destined to fail. Organization itself does not generate more activity if there is nothing to organize.”

-A Wager on the Future

What is the anarchist (or rather, anarchic) desert? I think this phenomena deserves some discussion in relation to the struggle against our charges. The anarchic desert describes a space or terrain or struggle with either a low-density or total absence of anarchic organizing, with the project as the base unit of organization. The more projects within a certain space, the higher the anarchic density and the opacity of the space.

Some really brilliant projects were developed in the course of this case: a model for peer-led emotional support groups; community festivals with flaming limos and dinners for supporters; auctions to raise defense funds; all the Weeks of Solidarity; Kerkhophony Vol.I (still waiting on Vol.II). But overall, I can’t recall a time when I saw more than 35-40 defendants working on unique projects at once, out of ~235 people. I think this could be considered an anarchic desert of mild intensity.

Why did this happen? I’d love to see other reflections from ex-defendants come out regarding this, because I can only speak to my own experiences: the last year and half were extremely exhausting, and brutally traumatizing. In many cases I found my own fear paralyzing. I found myself cycling through sustained periods of burn-out and paranoia, followed by manic, sporadic bouts of organizing. I think there were multiple reasons for this:

  • A lack of personal clarity about my own goals. What did I want? Finding yourself in a direct confrontation with the state, when you don’t consider the state’s existence legitimate, is a bit bizarre. Did I want my charges dropped, and did that seem possible? Did I just want a good, non-cooperating plea to cut my losses (which I considered many times)? Did I want to use my case as “propaganda of the deed” and sacrifice myself for “the cause”? Did I actually want to go to prison, into the deepest pits of the beast to wage my war, and do I still find it inevitable even now? Did I want to desert into political exile (a choice I heard ridiculed among other ex-defendants, which I consider fucked up)? Did I want to keep planning my escape? I never arrived at a clear answer. Without one, how could I think strategically or move effectively? Without objectives, strategic thinking is locked out of access, and fighting the state can become very surreal very quickly.
  • Geographic distance from the site of struggle. More than once I thought about moving to Washington, DC. Wasn’t this the battleground of our struggle? I often felt, “yes, DC is the place to be.” Where else could we promote a subversive campaign of jury nullification, or disrupt the operations of the US Attorney’s Office, or work to legitimize property destruction as a tactic for resistance, or connect with other struggles against the Metropolitan Police Department? The idea of actually being in DC made things feel possible. But I never went. There were multiple reasons: it was financially and logistically inaccessible; it would strain my commitments and my relationships; the fear was overwhelming – of returning to DC, and of escalating the struggle. I thought above going over and over again throughout the case, but I just never took the leap. Towards the end of the case, a small group of defendants really ran with the initiative to secure a communal house for defendants just out of DC to act as a base of operations, but it also never happened. I think it would have been a good idea.
  • Burn-out and trauma. I found quickly that within the desert, you could build social capital by “bottom-lining” the majority of needs, and you could set informal social hierarchies by framing the “needs” within the spokescalls. I spent time assuming a “leadership” position and bottom-lining more than I could handle. Part of this came from a felt urgency to “be productive,” part came as a response to anxieties and a desire for control of the situation (an authoritative impulse I ultimately had to reject). Part of me liked the praise. But not only did I find myself unable to keep all of my commitments, the over-extension led to poor execution of the projects I did follow through with. This also contributed as feedback to the burn-out cycle. Likewise, the fear of more repression kept me from pursuing other projects that felt important to me.

Who knows which cause was primary, but in the end, all of them affected my capacity and willingness to fight back, and I wonder if that’s a shared experience among my fellow ex-defendants. In the end, the desert persisted.

If I tried to point out the anarchic desert, I was told multiple times by co-defendants and supporters that my method of organizing was too “informal.” That having people pursue their own projects and attempt to coordinate efforts themselves lacked structure (or more accurately, discipline), and that people would be best served by the formality of the spokescall and its working-groups.

In truth, I find the question of “formal vs. informal” as pointless as the one between “violent vs. nonviolent.” What matters isn’t the degree of formality used to plan our coordinations. What matter is whether there is something to coordinate. What matters is whether people are doing something that matters to them. Often, I found this discourse to be a way of covering up the clear dynamic at hand – a lack of initiatives and projects coming from ourselves as defendants – while also trying to (re)capture people within the larger body-politique of the spokescalls: the “collective.” But the formation used to execute projects doesn’t matter so long as there are actual projects being organized and the formation can operate effectively. The important thing is that shit is getting done. And all of this ties back to each of us developing our own vision of liberation for ourselves.

Without our own projects – our own projectuality and a sense of the direction we want to move in – there is no such thing as “support.” To be supported, first of all, we need to want someone’s help. From there we can ask ourselves what that help needs to look like and we can communicate that to our friends. If this isn’t the case then we’re not being supported, we are being managed. Part of liberation is that we can’t be told what to want, or how to be, or what to do: we have to take the responsibility to look at the situation ourselves, figure out what we want, and then do what needs to be done. Our supporters can’t do this for us. I don’t need people to fight for me, I need people to fight with me. There’s a big difference.

A crucial example for me happened in court during one of the trials, where I witnessed a “supporter” shut down an attempt by a defendant to speak out against the testimony a particularly disgusting pig. The supporter, witnessing a potentially dangerous situation develop, decided it was best to step in and stop the defendant in order to “protect them from themselves.” This exploded into a serious conflict, one in which I backed my co-defendant for one simple reason: they did not ask for the supporter’s help, nor to be saved. This situation was nuanced. I don’t think this co-defendant thought about their comrades on the stand right next to them, or the danger it could have put them in as by jeopardizing the biases of the jury. I think they would have been responsible for that. And I can recognize that the impulse to “protect” emerges from a place of anxiety, concern, and fear. But that shit is patronizing and paternalistic as fuck, and it’s definitely authoritarian in character. If I need backup, I’ll ask you for backup. If you see me heading towards a dangerous situation, know that I recognize this and respect me enough to let me make my own choices.

“Good Protesters” and Bad Press

This is the only reflection where I feel the need to get truly salty. But as a friend recently said, the salt brings out the flavor, so here it is.

The narrative constructed around this entire case was some reformist, liberal ass bullshit. And, quite to the point, I’m not “innocent” in this regard either. I worked within the “public relations” (oh, hello red-flag…) working-group from the jump, and from the outset the framework used to craft media involved erasing/minimizing the militancy of the march and the property destruction that took place, highlighting the “indiscriminate” nature of our arrest (i.e. how the cops couldn’t sort the “real protesters” from the “criminals”), and centering a narrative of police misconduct as opposed to a rejection of policing as an operation of government.

Had the MPD used surgical precision by deploying their “snatch squads” and arrested discrete actors in the demonstration, I would still fucking hate them.

The public relations working-group was, without a doubt, one of the most active combinations of supporters and defendants. For over a year they consistently churned out op-eds, interviews, podcasts, videos, blog-posts, press-releases, etc. They got busy and they stayed busy.

But facts are facts: this narrative completely sold out the defendants most at-risk from these charges, especially the alleged breakers. Not only in the press, but even within some of the arguments from the defense attorneys themselves in court. I know this to be a shared sentiment. At every point, the media in this case was focused on trying to hide the property destruction that took place, and instead affirm that the police “broke their own rules,” didn’t separate the guilty from the innocent, and just rounded everyone up. It should be pretty obvious how this narrative fucks people over, never mind the irony of anarchists complaining that the laws were broken.

Deploying this strategy in court made sense for the moving defendants (see the November trials), so I can understand the decision even if I don’t agree with it: loopholes and fuck-ups are apparently critical to destroying a legal case. But do to this in our media?

Where were the articles about the history of property destruction as an effective/essential tactic for struggle? Or the analysis of policing as an explicit counterinsurgency operation, one developed throughout all of the so-called Americas specifically as a method of suppressing insurrections? Where were the articles affirming why people shouldn’t give a shit about a Bank of America or a Starbucks getting its windows smashed up? Who gives two shits about a corporation that explicitly bribes your politicians, funds colonialism and genocide through pipeline development, and helped collapse the economy? I sure as fuck don’t, and I can’t imagine why anyone else would beyond the ridiculous notion of “public decency.” It was magnificent to watch people decide, even if only symbolically, that they weren’t going to sit back and accept the absurdity of life governed by this system anymore.

But where was that in the media? My lawyer told me verbatim that, “95% of DC residents hate Donald Trump, but they don’t want to see things broken over it.” This position remained unchallenged for our entire case.

I mentioned this issue in the working-group a few times, but the direction never changed. I ultimately left. At this point, the failure to change the narrative falls on me. The initiative was mine to take from that moment, but by then I’d become exhausted, paranoid, and paralyzed by the fear/trauma of my approaching trial. I couldn’t find the will to act, and no one can do that for us. I think we need to find that courage and drive within ourselves.

Still, I’m disappointed by this aspect of our struggle. I know I could have done better, and at this point I expect better from supporters. The statements from comrades in Hamilton over the Locke Street Riot give me fucking life: an outright rejection of “innocence”; unwavering support for the property destruction that took place; a real, complicated conversation about gentrification as literal acts of warfare against certain people. I think these folks have set a solid example of what solidarity can look like in practice within our media.

Commune Against Statecraft

“Nature is, by the art of man, as in many other things, so also in this imitated, that it can make an Artificial Animal. For by art is created that great Leviathan called the common-wealth, or state, which is but an Artificial Man; though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defense it was intended; an in which, the sovereign is an artificial soul, as giving life and motion to the whole body; the magistrates and other officers, artificial joints; reward and punishment are the nerves; equity and laws, an artificial reason and will…lastly, the pacts and covenants, by which the parts of this body-politique were at first made, set together, and united.

-Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes

At the beginning of our repression, a kernel of defendants got together to draft certain “points of unity” – a pseudo-constitutional contract or a set of laws – that were then shopped around and agreed to by several dozen defendants, myself included. This collection of agreements served as the charter, as the “pacts and covenants”, of a new body-politique, a “collective,” that evolved into DefendJ20 Resistance.

It’s only now that I can recognize all of this for what it was: the primordial stages of statecraft, and a policing operation called “unity.” As the sovereign, the “collective” (with the defendants as its subject); as the magistrates and officers, the members of the collective itself armed with a decentralized method of policing; as reward, social capital, and as punishment, excommunication and snitch-jacketing; as equity and laws, consensus democracy and the points of unity.

All of this felt very cozy at first – a contract, signed by dozens of defendants swearing to work together, to play by the rules, not to snitch or cooperate with the prosecution. And more than that, a group, a security blanket of bodies to feel safe among.

But over time, I started noticing some weird shit: I never heard from people who hadn’t signed the points of unity, and never established contact with them; people who “violated” the points of unity – say, through a shitty news interview and a lack of willingness to respond to constructive criticism – were pushed out of the collective, ostracized, and nearly called out as snitches; by first setting the agendas and then “bottom-lining” the majority of the work, certain people acquired enormous amounts of social capital within informal hierarchies; in my own home, I was told that the “collective” had no space for a multiplicity of working-groups crafting media, and that only one would be “recognized” by the collective as legitimate.

I watched anarchists refer to the “collective” the same way Communists refer to the “party” without so much as batting an eye, and I saw projects snuffed out of existence under appeals to remain united because “we’re all defendants, right?”

Except that after a year of dealing with this, I decided I didn’t want to remain “united” as one of many corpses within this weird political machine. I decided that the collective was a lie, as fake an institution as any other piece of statecraft. And it was statecraft, Hobbesian down to its entire conception and operation.

See, I think our concept of “collective” isn’t helpful. We’ve inherited too much bullshit from the last several hundred years of empire, even within our language and our thinking. Right now, most folks consider “collective” to be a noun, sort of the same way they consider “community” to be a noun. For most people, both words refer to just “a group of people,” a set configuration of people, a patch-work machine of bodies sewn together by artificial ties. And so every time we try to embrace this idea of “acting collectively”, the only thing we can imagine is the same shit we’ve been doing for a while now: reproducing state-forms, over and over again.

But there are other ways of defining these words. “Collective” can become an adjective to describe that which is shared between us: a certain struggle, a position within the situation, a strategy, a gesture of attack. “Community” can stop referring to some discrete set of people, and can point towards an affective experience of resonance between bodies, a sensible feeling of being connected to others across the empty space. Similarly, we can redefine “commune” and change it from being a noun, specific unit of socio-geographic organization, to a verb that describes the act of sharing things openly.

I think these re-definitions offer a path towards a different way of moving through the world. A more anarchic way, one that is counter to the logic of statecraft, policing, and the performance of politics. One that involves a deepening practice of commune – of openly sharing with others to produce collectivities, living (and dying) expressions of free sharing, as a rich tapestry of communities, experiences of connection, that can take an infinite variety of forms simultaneously as they come together and then break apart. This practice demands attention, trust, risk, uncertainty, danger, the discovery of friends and enemies, and experimentation – the antithesis of suspicion, alienation, security, control, neutrality, and hegemony that defines life under the state.

One of my most cherished memories of my arrest was the singing that took place inside the jails, between rooms and across the concrete and steel. This act of commune, this gesture of care and defiance that we shared together, preceded any kind of decision-making process and produced a collectivity so rich, so ripe with the sense of community, that I still think fondly on it right now. That moment, and other moments like it, forged the real bonds that carried me through this case, the kind that can never be substituted by fucking contracts or points of unity. I’ll never forget it.

By forming this collective, I think we ignored the vast, untapped potential bonds that could have actually existed between us had we practiced more communing. Instead we affirmed a constructed, lowest-common-denominated identity – the “defendant,” one traumatized and criminalized onto our bodies by the state itself – and used it to build a political artifice. An artifice that brought over two-hundred strangers together as strangers and then tried to force them to work together. What kind of bonds could have really existed between us at this point, besides those forged in the streets and the jails?

I will never do this shit again. I affirm death to every state-form, including the “collective.” But in spite of itself, genuine collectivities did express themselves: in nights spent with co-defendants, sharing weed and war stories, becoming actual friends; in benefit shows, ventriloquist acts, musical albums, and laughter shared mocking our enemies’ stupidity; in Signal threads for sharing nudes and group sex on the living room floor; in support groups for sharing our tears and trauma; even in the early Impact Space meetings, where we shared our analysis of the situation and learned each other’s faces.

If I regret anything, it’s that I didn’t open up more of these spaces where we could have shared more with each other, elaborated these collectivities, and deepened the bonds between us. Because it’s these bonds, and not some bullshit political structure, that makes us ready to risk everything and fight for each other in the face of seventy-five years in prison. What else possibly could?

Not “Anarchism”, but Anarchies

“We take what we want from a bunch of radical ideas and tendencies, while rejecting any aspects of them that we don’t find useful or worthwhile. So we want to reject becoming messiahs of any category, label, or ideological division…our lives are our own and we have to begin by defining our own course of action.

-Anarchy, Activism, and Insurrection, A Murder of Crows

“The main idea of my way of strategy is to win. There is nothing else. Attack with one purpose and one purpose only – to destroy the enemy.

-The Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Mushashi

“How can we put an end to this? That’s the real question, isn’t it? Magic is about doing. Revolution is much the same: you’ll never really learn anything until you actually do it.

-Starting Your Own War to Get Free, Dr. Bones

This is my last reflection. It feels like the most important.

Prior to my arrest, I could properly be called an “anarchist.” By this, I mean that I subscribed to an anarchist program of ideology (at the time, insurrectionalism), was part of the local anarchist milieu, maintained its aesthetic, and beyond that, believed in its promises. My introduction to struggle happened via theory and the academy, and I became an anarchist by the way of Bookchin and Bakunin. What I understood of struggle, largely, was limited to what I had read in the history books and thought in my own head.

Anarchism is a world-wide phenomena. It’s spread across the planet and interacted with countless liberation struggles over centuries, cross-pollinating its methods, practices, and tactics with others. It has a rich history of rebellion, revolt, and a rejection of capital’s putrid world, and a proud lineage of ancestors who I affirm and keep in my heart for guidance.

That said, it is still a deeply Euro-centric/colonial/industrial ideology that is wrapped up in utopian schemes of social engineering, “human progress,” the hegemonic project of the missionaries, and an image of “revolution” that looks more like a secular re-imagining of the Judgement Day than anything resembling liberation: one day, the wicked will be properly struck down in a fire of righteous punishment and justice, and the meek and dispossessed with re-inherit the earth. Sound familiar?

It wasn’t until I feel feet-first into a direct, concrete struggle against the state that I learned just how useless all of this is. Proselytizing for an ideology isn’t going to get your charges dropped, a new “social order” becomes repellent when you realize it will still require policing, and waiting for the “rev” feels pretty fucking stupid when your trial date is breathing down your neck.

As I’ve noted extensively above, all of the processes, formalisms, and politics of anarchism were not helpful in this situation. It’s at the point where I actively question whether I continue to call myself an “anarchist” or “revolutionary,” because maybe these things are best left in the trash-heap of capital’s identities – the ones it uses to manage us. Anarchism didn’t help me. Although some amazing people who call themselves anarchists did, and I’ll never forget that.

However, buried beneath all the ideology I found weapons: my personal ethics, projectuality, strategic thinking and situational analysis, direct action, operational theory, decentralized initiative, chaos magic, assembly and dis-assembly in the pursuit of community. All of these weapons and ideas form my concept of anarchy, which I consider very different from “anarchism.” I use them all because I find them effective.

What is anarchy? I find most definitions of the world useless, since they’re all still wrapped up in socialism and the social promise: “a world without domination,” “a society free from coercion,” “a world with rules, but no rulers.” How does that last one even make fucking sense? Who makes the rules if there are no rulers? None of these accurately describe anarchy for me, so instead I offer my own definition.

Anarchy: a methodology for engaging in direct struggle, a framework for embracing conflict, an art of war towards liberation.

Liberation is a crime. At some point, those of us looking to desert the Leviathan of capital will have to reconcile with this. It will always be a crime for a slave to free themselves. Our desires exist outside of the law by default, and by extension, at war with the hostage situation called civil society. Not war as in “military carnage,” but war as in “strategic conflict.” We have a game to win, with clear obstacles in our path and enemies on the other side of the board.

Anarchy is a framework for engaging in this war, a methodology for breaking out of this literal prison-world. As a framework, it makes sense then not to speak of “Anarchy”, but rather of anarchies – plural, multiple. Everyone who engages in this war for liberation will develop their own anarchic framework as they wage their struggles directly. These frameworks will overlap, intersect, cross-over and collide with each other, but they will never be mass produced like a fucking Ikea chair.

Well, that’s all. I’m not terribly good with endings. Please forgive me. Again, I’d love to see more ex-defendants share their own reflections. That kind of practice of communing could be very fruitful, even if conflictual.

We got away this time. Let’s make the most of it. Until next time.



I am very glad you beat the rap here. However, beating the rap on getting busted at a negligible protest events doesn't make you the Durutti Column.

Before anyone descends into rapturous fantasies about "war," you would have to have a protracted society-wide upheaval before sufficiently vast enough numbers of people would be on the side of a revolt to give a revolt even the faintest chance of overwhelming the heavily armed and usually very well organized other side.

That somehow never seems to be a part of the picture with stuff like this. And I hate to be ageist -- and I don't want to see an excessively specific answer to this question -- but, how old is the author, anyway?

Yep! Have to agree. I've been in the streets with the riot detail a few times, they like to hurt you, gets them off and of course they're mandated to make an example of some of you for the cameras. People get maimed, lose teeth, eyes, bones get broken, occasionally somebody gets killed and of course, the long, costly legal battles afterwards. Basically a public service announcement by power. "This is what happens."

BUT, it's not war: it's not full-on, lethal violence flowing in both directions. More of a strange limbo between the social peace and its opposite. In pig language, they're using "pain compliance" to convince you to shut up and get back in line, go to work on monday or get back under the bridge where you've been sleeping or whatever.

The euromaidan revolts of 2013 provided a bleak illustration of the whole process, most of it on video. Peaceful marches escalated to widespread revolt and when the protestors (mostly far-right nationalist militants) were starting to get the better of the riot detail in pitched melees, the cops said "fuck it" and started shooting everybody. So … yeah. That would be literal war, although there's room for more whimsical definitions? For the sake of chest-thumping rhetoric in grand old anarchist tradition? haha

"Peaceful marches escalated to widespread revolt and when the protestors (mostly far-right nationalist militants) were starting to get the better of the riot detail in pitched melees, the cops said "fuck it" and started shooting everybody."

Huh? You mean that sniper who from a hotel started shooting random protesters? That sniping terror politics had been used before in the Russian area of influence. Back in 1993 it potentially change a whole chain of events where the capitalists secured themselves power for the years to come.

You're right that in the U.S. it's more a spectacle of brutal violence than the violence itself, even if the murderous violence does happen. The passive element like prisons and militarized pigs is mightier than a few butcheries, and if even the National Guard would get to extensively use violence on random people, this would degenerate badly. Like on a geopolitics scale, the State forces don't wanna destabilize the plantations. The goal of the brutal violence is to keep the poor into line.

"That sniper" was almost certainly in collusion with and/or working for state security forces, just as certain factions of the far-right in the US seem to have a jaw-droppingly cozy relationship with local police. There was literally a far-right sniper team placed on a rooftop in portland recently, only difference being that they didn't activate it.

I largely agree with what you're saying, especially the last part but I'm suggesting to you that the only difference is the level of combativeness from "the poor" (your reduction, not mine). When the level of resistance rises past a certain threshold, this shit always plays out the same way because that's what the pigs are for. It's their primary function.

You bet your ass they will "destabilize the plantation" rather than cede meaningful power in the streets. They know not what they do, everything looks like nails to a bunch of dumbass hammers, etc. Sooner or later, the dogs come off their leashes.

because some of the things armies have to do to suppress sniper fire leave a lot of damage behind. Shooting people really IS an act of war, and when people shoot back at snipers they often find it necessary to use the sort of ordnance that gets the snipers but trashes the building.

i'd assume that based on how and what this is written about the author isn't talking about war in the sense of armed parties clashing, or even guerrilla war, but the insurrectionist idea of social war. the conflict between power and rebellion along anti-authoritarian lines.

either way i'm glad the critiques of innocence/respectability ("optics") and lack of/suppression of initiative. the emphasis on projectuality was good to see as well. so many anarchists get caught up in a group and forget (or didnt even know to begin with) why they joined it in the first place

Right but … even those ideas of insurrectionary war DID originally assume some normalized lethal violence though. Sorry to split hairs but I honestly feel like this is a pretty important distinction between the history and the present.

like 70s italy? armed robbery, sabotage, intense class clash stuff out front of factories, etc?

I honestly don't know how that all looked, it's before my time. i guessed there was at least some guns and lethal stuff within a larger milieu of less escalated conflictuality. i'm not too sure if that's when/where you're talking about.

Yeah, pretty much. Basically, start of the last century, europe was awash in crazy war veterans and by the 70s, you see faint echoes of a time when the anarchist and broader leftist milieus were full of hardened killers. This is a pretty important contextual distinction imo, the big answer to a lot of questions about what will and won't work today and why.

Anyway, I personally have a lot more in common with the J20 defendants than the Durruti column, like the OP said but maybe that's why I'm belaboring this point.

fair enough. 1890s to 1920s was some wild shit. but yea context matters.
i don't think twice about the war language stuff from it being thrown around in so much insurrecto stuff. that said i'm personally fine with it for talking among anarchists (where there seems to be a common understanding of what's meant by war, social war, etc), i say struggle a lot more when i'm talking to everyone else.

Hahaha, like in the 2000s, the meth epidemic hasn't created the largest percentage of damaged psyches which makes them an army of paranoid psychopathic combatants fighting all social relationships.

Yeah, all of this unsurprisingly fails to notice that the United States is in its long-awaited pre-collapse phase. The extreme political polarization of people who identify with the conventional decision-making apparatus is a surface level expression of many much deeper converging explosive problems. Occupy was a mile wide and an inch deep, and a flash in the pan to boot, but it was the first tentative hint of a much more far going opposition to the existing state of things in a society that no longer promises anything to anybody other than the rich.

Getting your ass kicked by cowardly thug police, then consuming your own time, worry and limited resources and those of many others just to end up exactly where you were to begin with is clearly not a good idea, but if you are more afraid of surprises than anything else, keep at it. The vicarious-living-via-Alfredo-Bonano's-antics crowd will offer you their enthusiastic approval from a safe distance.

(Durruti; the name is Euzkara [Basque], not Italian)

Oh we're meant to benefit from this Euro Marxist Nationalist trivia in what way?

If you call THIS>>>>
"It is we [the workers] who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. [...] That world is growing in this minute."

— Buenaventura Durruti

< a benefit!
I call this syndicalist recuperation and Marxist in origin, and has nothing to do with the real anarchist
Bolsie should finetune his distinctions!

"Oh we're meant to benefit from this Euro Marxist Nationalist trivia in what way?"

IGTT 1/10

Communes over individuals. Period.

Cafeteria porridge vs wild fruit diet.

The whole point of "the commune" was that it was comprised of individuals, to be contrasted with the monarchy owning us like cattle. Devil in the details, sure but still, that was the original point.

Let's see:

1. You were prosecuted for events at a protest that no one other that fellow protesters was aware of, or paid any attention to,

2. You were nearly victimized big-time by the government,

3. Having narrowly escaped victimization in this, you write at stupefying length to show how little you've learned from this experience.

I hope your experiences liven up your dating life, but you streety-philosophy posturing show you've learned poorly from this.

This is the kind of deluded grandiosity that takes place inside a very small and aggressively self-marginalizing echo chamber. Rinse and repeat. Or maybe try getting out more often.

Nice analysis, especially the numbered points. It’s probably about time you applied them to yourself and the MYEP, dontcha think?

This is a good example of making lemonade out of lemons. It's good to see there's still some life left in the NA insurrectionist tendency. If you ever wanted a coherent application of insurrecto critique to a present day real world context, here it is. I don't agree with all (or even most) of the conclusions reached, but this is insightful, thorough writing that the author clearly spend a lot of time on. I predict we'll see this in zine form.

It's good to see there's still some life left in the NA insurrectionist tendency.

Izzat so? Where, where?

Like I said, I largely disagree with the conclusions reached, but I'm nonetheless glad to see the anti-politics of the Italians taken seriously by those in the NA milieu. There are some relics of militancy and activism here, but I can still see some interesting paths forward from taking those critiques (rather than just the aesthetics) and aiming them at *everything*. I'll happily admit that I have a pragmatic midwestern sensibility, and that I never understood the insularity of the coastal anarchisms. I see many paths to anarchy.

The Alfredo Bonnano type of thing has all of the down side of terrorism -- major legal problems for the ones doing it -- minus the (highly dubious) plus side. Terrorism aims at communicating a message. The insurrectionary (sic) approach communicates nothing to anybody -- other than, as people I met a few years back in Italy and Greece sarcastically noted, a fondness for jailhouse cuisine.

And that's in Southern Europe, where some people act on this sort of thing, as opposed to the West Coast of the United States, where they passively applaud it and think this makes them fierce outlaws.

The Euromaidan was a righteous revolt against a vicious century of red-fascist colonialism. Along with the last big Tahir manifestation this set the bar high for any anarchic insurrectionary activity outside of Greece. Left-fascists and Nazi's ( and Nazbols) spread a lot of lies about a " Rightwing Euromaidan " and these same rotten creepy lying fascists also claimed Syria was so full of Jihadists that its better not to say anything against the Pooter and his local Puppet. They also lied through their rotten teeth about the last Tahir as a " Coup"! Fascist liars gonna lie!
Now Amerikkka may be ripe for something big like Hamburg - I would love to see this, with one caveat - I don't see much thought being given to coordinating street and hacktivist actions. I think a big Euromaidan and/or Tahir could happen - it could also fail for want of ' air-support' ie loads of net activity from around the world aimed at helping combatants and hampering cops/ corpse-media. Yrs in violent revolution and DEATH to AMERIKKA!

The "Outlook" section of the Nov 4 Washington Post was all about the current political situation. The cover photo, taking up most of the top half of that page, was a volcano going off in a "grey" eruption. These are the highly dangerous and explosive eruptions that go off with so much force you never even see the lava, just a gigantic column of grey volcanic dust. Mt Vesuvius was a good example of this kind of volcano, as is Mt St Helens.

Never before have I seen the mainstream press use the volcano as a symbol of the US as a whole. I've seen it used in wartime propaganda (e.g the "Euprates Volcano" anti-DAESH alliance) or references to 1980's era uprisings in Central America, but now we see it used for the US.

Hell, if the US blows it could be a fucking Yellowstone, not just Mt St Helens...

I would say it's more about the latter. If you agree with this then anarchy should be primarily focused on divergence from an established homogenized order. Stirner essentially sees insurrection in this way. I don't really see struggle as an emphasis for doing this, essentially you are dealing with belief enforcing psychologies and the entrapping apparatuses that come out of this. It's a combination of confrontation and avoidance more then anything not struggle, strategy and negation though these things can play bit parts not big parts.

Anarchy is primarily meant to be realized and actualized and there are many ways to do this that do not involve any type of constituted struggle or strategy.

DC Activist: you are noting something profound here: one way or another the despicable United States is barreling towards collapse and into a period of possible mass revolutionary upheaval.

Is there anything in the U.S. anarchist subculture that has anything to contribute to this? If so, what and where?

And there is no ground of being for any kind of revolutionary upheaval(civil cultural war perhaps).

Here's what's going to happen: Trump may very well get two terms, he'll fuck up the country but not beyond new deal repair. There will likely be a Justice Democrat type politician who gets into office and implements an aggressive green, energy substitutional, new deal probably along a modification of the Jeremy Rifkin 3rd industrial revolution plan.

A significant transformation to be sure and one that will probably lead to the US losing considerable Leviathan standing in the world(though I think they will only just hold off China) but hardly a collapse. What traditional non progressive radicals need to do is prepare a counter generational strategy to these changes and not be caught with their pants down like the 1st international structured radicalism of the past. If this is done right then you at least mitigate the damage of a creeping 21st century technocratic corporatism and create some regional federated alternatives, something that was not done after 1945.

IF you pull this off right then you will be in better shape to do something during a recalibrated epoch likely between the quarter and mid 21st century mark. What will not works is continuing to riff off of outmoded 1968 frames of reference. Ironically if things go the way I hope the 21st century could be structured something like the 19th century. That is better news for anarchism and anarchy.

SirEinzige, how did one as wise as you find yourself with so much free time that you are able to grace us every single day, multiple times per day, with your deep wisdom on every single topic? It's remarkable! Please teach us. Thank you, wise one.

Also ziggles, think you completely forgot about climate change somehow, whilst gazing in to your crystal ball.

I just don't think it's going to provide the civilization KO that some people think is coming. A lot of you Desert lot underestimate machineological solvents and their mitigating effect. The recent Ethiopia drought in 16 was a good example, it was actually worse then the 84 drought but structural governance(no communist clown show) and improved machineology mitigated what on paper would have been catastrophic IF solvents simply stay the same in modernity which they of course do not. I expect the same thing to happen with the climate change story, it's happening and there will be bending moments, but I doubt this civilization will break. If anything the deleterious effects of climate change will probably provide the broken window impetus to execute some Rifkin like energy substitutional new deal. You'd have to look for something more novel like an electric solar storm or something like that. THAT would KO modern machineological civilization as it stands right now with its current grid structure.

Thanks for taking the time to write this out. I was with you to the very end, but i think you're off base on your last point, where you try to define anarchy based on what it does for you.

You wrote "anarchy didn't help me" -- but how has it ever helped you? For me, it was first a way of understanding that it wasn't that i was (just) a fuck up, but that the shit in my life was part of larger systems and that these could be up opposed. I've been dragged through big casesa couple of times and usually ended up in jail, and for me the hardest thing is always the way i get bogged down in the daily slog of coping with stress and sadness, feeling frustrated with the system and our stupid lawyers, trying to look after my friends... Repression shrinks those big understandings anarchy brings back down into our own personal lives. Keeping the big visions alive in our heart at least some times also lets us keep things in perspective, puts the meaning back into our acts and shows the significance of our choices.

you talk about it as a way of thinking about (social) war, which isn't quite true. Anarchism isn't the tension -- it's the way of seeing that exposes the tensions, which is necessary for engaging them outside the limits of politics. But it's not only that.

You mention a few anarchist ideas (rules and rulers) in order to dismiss them, which is fine, there are always more. But to me the fundamental question is what is possible --it's when we push ourselves to answer it that we can see most clearly the ways to engage those tensions. Struggle is permanent, so what forms of social relations will we cultivate within it? The strongest part of your text is your critique of the social relations the structures you attempted produced, and the most beautiful part is the ways you still managed to find and be there for each other, to go beyond those limitations. To organize yourselves differently, if you will, on the basis of friendship and joy rather than decisions and process.

And anarchism is that too - the same way of seeing that exposes tensions also can reveal the richness of what we might create. Every time I've had to deal with repression I've lost two thirds of the people in my life, but those who stay grow into deeper relationships that less and less resemble the mediated forms society offers and that we so often reproduce when trying to organize.

Just a few thoughts, and thanks again for yours. It feels urgent to me to have a better conversation about how to deal with and think about repression among anarchists in north America --such a big part of what we so is to find ways to act autonomously of the left or progressivism, it's tragic that we are so quick to melt back into it when the pressure is on.

I'll be grateful to anyone who lets the author know about this post. Soli from southern Ontario.



Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
Enter the code without spaces.