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Shane Burley and FASCISM TODAY on tour!

By AK Press | June 13, 2018

Shane Burley, author of Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It, will be on the east coast for a few days giving talks in three cities on, you guessed it, understanding today’s fascist forces and how to defeat them. Here’s the low-down, along with links to the events on Facebook:



Bluestockings Bookstore, NYC, Saturday, June 16 at 7 PM

Wooden Shoe Books, Philadelphia, Sunday, June 17 at 7 PM

The Potter’s House, Washington DC, Tuesday, June 19 at 6:30 PM

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“Can the State Be Used for the Emancipation of the Workers?” An excerpt from Modern Science and Anarchy

By AK Press | June 4, 2018

Modern Science and Anarchy coverThe following is an excerpt from the first English-language edition of Peter Kropotkin’s Modern Science and Anarchy—which we’ve just published! A portion of the book is devoted to Kropotkin’s study of the nature and origins of the State. This brief excerpt comes at the end of a lengthy critique of the State-form. You can order the book itself here.


[F]ollowing an error of judgment which truly becomes tragic, while the State that provides the most terrible weapons to impoverish the peasant and the worker and to enrich by their labour the lord, the priest, the bourgeois, the financier and all the privileged gangsters of the rulers—it is to this same State, to the bourgeois State, to the exploiter State and guardian of the exploiters— that radical democrats and socialists ask to protect them against the monopolist exploiters! And when we say that it is the abolition of the State that we have to aim for, we are told: “Let us first abolish classes, and when this has been done, then we can place the State into a museum of antiquities, together with the stone axe and the spindle!” [1]

By this quip they evaded, in the fifties of the last century, the discussion that Proudhon called for on the necessity of abolishing the State institution and the means of achieving this. And it is still being repeated today. “Let us seize power in the State”—the current bourgeois State, of course—“and then we will make the social revolution”—such is the slogan today. [2]

Proudhon’s idea had been to invite the workers to pose this question: “How could society organise itself without resorting to the State institution, developed during the darkest times of humanity to keep the masses in economic and intellectual poverty and to exploit their labour?” And he was answered with a paradox, a sophism.

Indeed, how can we talk about abolishing classes without touching the institution which was the instrument for establishing them and which remains the instrument which perpetuates them? But instead of going deeper into this question—the question placed before us by all modern evolution— what do we do?

Is not the first question that the social reformer should ask himself this one: “The State, which was developed in the history of civilisations to give a legal character to the exploitation of the masses by the privileged classes, can it be the instrument of their liberation?”

Furthermore, are not other groupings than the State already emerging in the evolution of modern societies—groups which can bring to society co-ordination, harmony of individual efforts and become the instrument of the liberation of the masses, without resorting to the submission of all to the pyramidal hierarchy of the State? The commune, for example, groupings by trades and by professions in addition to groupings by neighbourhoods and sections, which preceded the State in the free cities [of the Middle Ages]; the thousand societies that spring up today for the satisfaction of a thousand social needs: the federative principle that we see applied in modern groupings—do not these forms of organisation of society offer a field of activity which promises much more for our goals of emancipation than the efforts expended to make the State and its centralisation even more powerful than they already are?

Is this not the essential question that the social reformer should ask before choosing his course of action?

Well, instead of going deeper into this question, the democrats, radicals, as well as socialists, only know, only want one thing, the State! Not the future State, “the people’s State” of their dreams of yesteryear, but well and truly the current bourgeois State, the State nothing more and nothing less. This must seize, they say, all the life of society: economic, educational, intellectual activities and organising: industry, exchange, instruction, jurisdiction, administration—everything that fills our social life!

To workers who want their emancipation, they say: “Just let us worm ourselves into the powers of the current political form, developed by the nobles, the bourgeois, the capitalists to exploit you!” They say that, while we know very well by all the teachings of history that a new economic form of society has never been able to develop without a new political form being developed at the same time, developed by those who were seeking their emancipation.

Serfdom—and absolute royalty; corporative organisation—and the free cities, the republics of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries; merchant domination—and these same republics under the podestas and the condottieri; [3] imperialism—and the military States of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; the reign of the bourgeoisie—and representative government, are not all these forms going hand in hand striking evidence [of this]?

In order to develop itself as it has developed today and to maintain its power, despite all the progress of science and the democratic spirit, the bourgeoisie developed with much shrewdness representative government during the course of the nineteenth century.

And the spokespersons of the modern proletariat are so timid that they do not even dare to tackle the problem raised by the 1848 revolution—the problem of knowing what new political form the modern proletariat must and can develop to achieve its emancipation? How will it seek to organise the two essential functions of any society: the social production of everything necessary to live and the social consumption of these products? How will it guarantee to everyone, not in words but in reality, the entire product of his labour by guaranteeing him well-being in exchange for his work? What form will “the organisation of labour” take as it cannot be accomplished by the State and must be the work of the workers themselves?

That is what the French proletarian, educated in the past by 1793 and 1848, asked their intellectual leaders.

But did they [their leaders] know how to answer them? They only knew how to keep on repeating this old formula, which said nothing, which evaded the answer: “Seize power in the bourgeois State, use this power to widen the functions of the modern State—and the problem of your emancipation will be solved!”

Once again the proletarian received lead instead of bread! This time from those to whom it had given its trust—and its blood!

To ask an institution which represents a historical growth that it serves to destroy the privileges that it strove to develop is to acknowledge you are incapable of understanding what a historical growth is in the life of societies. It is to ignore this general rule of all organic nature, that new functions require new organs, and that they need to develop them themselves. It is to acknowledge that you are too lazy and too timid in spirit to think in a new direction, imposed by a new evolution.

The whole of history is there to prove this truth, that each time that new social strata started to demonstrate an activity and an intelligence which met their own needs, each time that they attempted to display a creative force in the domain of an economic production which furthered their interests and those of society in general—they knew how to find new forms of political organisation; and these new political forms allowed the new strata to imprint their individuality on the era they were inaugurating. Can a social revolution be an exception to the rule? Can it do without this creative activity?


1. [A reference to the famous 1884 work by Engels, Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State, which argues: “The state, then, has not existed from eternity. There have been societies that managed without it, that had no idea of the state and state authority. At a certain stage of economic development, which was necessarily bound up with the split of society into classes, the state became a necessity owing to this split. We are now rapidly approaching a stage in the development of production at which the existence of these classes not only will have ceased to be a necessity, but will become a positive hindrance to production. They will fall as inevitably as they arose at an earlier stage. Along with them the state will inevitably fall. Society, which will reorganise production on the basis of a free and equal association of the producers, will put the whole machinery of state where it will then belong: into the museum of antiquities, by the side of the spinning-wheel and the bronze axe” (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 26 [London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1990], 272). (Editor)]

2. [A reference to, for example, Engels’s arguments from 1883 that while he and Marx saw the State’s “gradual dissolution and ultimate disappearance,” the proletariat “will first have to possess itself of the organised political force of the State and with its aid stamp out the resistance of the Capitalist class and re-organise society.” The anarchists “reverse the matter” by advocating revolution “has to begin by abolishing the political organisation of the State.” For Marxists “the only organisation the victorious working class finds ready-made for use, is that of the State. It may require adaptation to the new functions. But to destroy that at such a moment, would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the working class can exert its newly conquered power” (Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 47 [London: Lawrence & Wishat, 1993], 10). (Editor)]

3. [Podesta were high officials (usually chief magistrate of a city state) in many Italian cities beginning in the later Middle Ages; Condottieri were the leaders of the professional military free companies (or mercenaries) contracted by the Italian city-states and the Papacy from the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance. (Editor)]

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Excerpt from An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre

By AK Press | May 31, 2018

An American Anarchist coverAs you probably know, we’ve just re-issued Paul Avrich’s long-out-of-print biography, An American Anarchist: The Life of Voltairine de Cleyre. It’s an amazing study that Robert P. Helms, in a new foreword for this edition, rightly points out is “as readable as a novel.” Below, we’re sharing a portion of Avrich’s preface to the book, which outlines the interests and incidents that led him to this particular biography. If you want to read the rest of the book, you’ll find it here.



This biography of Voltairine de Cleyre, one of the most interesting if neglected figures in the history of American radicalism, is designed to be the first of several volumes dealing with anarchism in the United States, a project on which I have been engaged for the past six years. When I began my work, I expected to treat the entire subject between the covers of a single volume, in which Voltairine de Cleyre would occupy a modest place. My intention at the time was to produce a comprehensive history of American anarchism from its seventeenth-century origins until recent years, embracing the individualists and collectivists, the native Americans and immigrants, the pacifists and revolutionists, and their libertarian schools and colonies.

A study of this type was badly needed. For while there were a number of useful works on American socialism and American communism, the history of American anarchism remained largely unwritten. Two well-known surveys of anarchism as a whole, George Woodcock’s Anarchism and James Joll’s The Anarchists, contained brief accounts of the movement in the United States, in addition to a longer discussion by Max Nettlau in his multivolume history of anarchism, written half a century ago but never published in its entirety. On American anarchism itself most available studies were tendentious and unreliable. There were, however, a few creditable works, such as Eunice M. Schuster’s pioneering Native American Anarchism, which, if largely out of date, was still of some value, and James J. Martin’s Men Against the State, an authoritative treatment of the Individualist school, of which Josiah Warren and Benjamin Tucker were the outstanding exponents. Moreover, one of the leading Anarchist-Communists, Emma Goldman, had been the subject of a sympathetic biography by Richard Drinnon, Rebel in Paradise, in addition to which The History of the Haymarket Affair by Henry David and The Mooney Case by Richard Frost merited special attention. But much remained to be done, particularly on the immigrant groups; and in many areas scholarly explorations were completely lacking, sources uncollected and often unknown, and historical works, with few exceptions, encrusted with political and personal bias.

It was considerations such as these which led me, at the beginning of the 1970s, to contemplate the writing of a general history of American anarchism. At an early stage, however, my plans began to alter. For a fuller examination of the materials at my disposal, together with the discovery of new sources, aroused a growing sense of the complexity of the movement, of the richness and diversity of its history. Again and again, I encountered important figures begging to be resurrected, tangled episodes to be unraveled, neglected avenues to be explored—too many, it was clear, to be treated in a single volume. A larger design was required to do the subject justice and to incorporate the findings of such recently published works as Lewis Perry’s Radical Abolitionism and Laurence Veysey’s The Communal Experience, which have filled conspicuous gaps in our knowledge of American anarchism and enabled us to begin to separate historical legend from historical reality. To a significant extent, moreover, the need for a general history was met in 1976 with the publication of William O. Reichert’s Partisans of Freedom: A Study in American Anarchism, a work of 600 closely printed pages with useful bibliographical references.

I found myself, as a result, less and less inclined to produce an exhaustive chronological history of American anarchism. Besides, as my work happened in the movement had been due to the personal characteristics of its adherents, and that the nature of American anarchism might be profitably explored through the lives of a few individuals who played a central role in the movement and set the imprint of their personalities upon it. From most existing accounts, unfortunately, one gets little understanding of the anarchists as human beings, still less of what impelled them to embark on their unpopular and seemingly futile course. Anarchism, as a result, has seemed a movement apart, unreal and quixotic, divorced from American history and irrelevant to American life.

For these reasons, I have decided to tell the story of American anarchism through the lives of selected figures who, in large measure, shaped the destiny and character of the movement. In arriving at this decision, I have been guided by the assumption that by focusing on key individuals, their dreams and passions, failures and successes, weaknesses and strengths, I can make the movement as a whole more comprehensible. I have not, however, ignored the social and economic developments of the age, but have tried, as the story unfolds, to include sufficient historical background to make the lives of the anarchists intelligible.


What began then as a chronological survey has become a series of interrelated studies which, taken together, will form a kind of biographical history of a movement that included figures as striking and diverse as Josiah Warren and Alexander Berkman, Benjamin Tucker and Johann Most, Emma Goldman and Voltairine de Cleyre. By assigning Voltairine de Cleyre a separate volume, I do not mean to overstate her importance. Yet for twenty-five years she was an active agitator and propagandist and, as a glance through the files of the anarchist press will show, one of the movement’s most respected and devoted representatives, who deserves to be better known. Besides, there was so much rich drama in her life that a full-length biography was needed to do it justice. As a freethinker and feminist as well as an anarchist, moreover, she can speak to us today, across a gulf of seven decades, with undiminished relevance. For, in a remarkably detailed and articulate fashion, her writings anticipate the contemporary mood of distrust toward the centralized bureaucratic state. She was one of the most eloquent and consistent critics of unbridled political power, the subjugation of the individual, the dehumanization of labor, and the debasement of culture; and with her vision of a decentralized libertarian society, based on voluntary cooperation and mutual aid, she has left a legacy to inspire new generations of idealists and reformers.


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Release Events for As Black As Resistance: Finding the Conditions of Liberation

By AK Press | May 16, 2018

As Black As Resistance will be released on June 5th, and we’re already getting excited! Here’s where you can catch the authors Zoé Samudzi and William C. Anderson discussing the book next month:

Mark your calendar now, and stay tuned for more details and events to come!

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Release Events for May Made Me: An Oral History of the 1968 Uprising in France

By AK Press | April 13, 2018

May Made Me is hot off the press, and author Mitchell Abidor will be doing a series of launch events on the east coast of the US as well as in the UK! Here’s when and where you can find him discussing the book:

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Prisoner 155: Simón Radowitzky (A Sneak Peek!)

By AK Press | April 6, 2018

We’re eagerly awaiting the release of our new graphic novel Prisoner 155: Simón Radowitzky by Agustín Comotto, and in the meantime we thought we’d get you excited about it too! So we’ve put up a few sample pages for you to flip through to get a sense of the beautiful artwork and Comotto’s storytelling.

You can preorder the book now for 25% off list price, and get your hands on a copy as soon as it’s released!

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Anarchism in Latin America, (an excerpt)

By AK Press | February 24, 2018

We’ve just published the incredibly important (if we do say so ourselves) English translation of Anarchism in Latin America, Ángel Cappelletti’s sweeping overview of the movement’s origins and development across the region, from the Caribbean to Mexico and Central and South America. It’s hard to choose an excerpt, given the varied histories Cappelletti shares, but this snippet of a few pages from his Preface should give you a good sense of the book—and of Gabriel Palmer-Fernández’s wonderful translation.


As with other ideas of European origin, anarchist ideology was a product imported to Latin America. But ideas are not simply products. They are also living organisms and, as such, ought to adapt themselves to new environments; in so doing, they evolve in lesser or greater ways. To say that European immigrants brought anarchism to these shores states only the obvious. And to take that as a kind of weakness is plain stupidity. Like the very ideas of nation and of a nationalistic ideology, anarchism comes to us from Europe.

Anarchism is not merely the ideology of the working and peasant masses who, arriving in the new continent, are robbed of their hopes for a better life and witness the exchange of oppression by the ancient monarchies for the no less brutal oppression of the new republican oligarchies. Soon some of the native and also indigenous masses adopt the anarchist view of the world and society, from Mexico to Argentina, and from Francisco Zalacosta in the Chalco to Facón Grande in Patagonia. It is seldom noted that the anarchist doctrine of self-managed collectivism has a close resemblance to the ancient ways of life and organizations of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and Peru, ways of life that were practiced prior to the imperialism of not only the Spanish, but also the Aztecs and Inca before them. To the extent that anarchists reached the indigenous, they did not have to inculcate exotic ideologies but only to make conscious the ancient peasant ideologies of the Matagalpan calpulli and the Andean ayllu.[1]

At the same time, a tendency towards liberty and indifference towards all forms of statist structure was already present in the Creole population. When that tendency was not usurped by the ways of the feudal caudillos, it proved fertile soil for a libertarian ideology. Few mention the existence of an anarchist gauchaje in Argentina and Uruguay, or its literary expression in libertarian payadores.[2] But those matters aside—undoubtedly they will be looked upon as having little consequence by academic and Marxist historians—without hesitation we can say that anarchism took root much more deeply and extensively among indigenous workers than did Marxism, perhaps with the exception of Chile.

It is important to note that from a theoretical perspective, even if the Latin American movement did not make fundamental contributions to anarchist thought, it did produce forms of organization and praxis that were unknown in Europe. For example, the Federación Obrera Regional Argentina (FORA), a labor union that was majoritarian (becoming almost the only union), never conceded to syndical bureaucracy, and developed an organizational form as different from the Confederación National del Trabajo (CNT) and other European anarcho-syndicalist unions as it was from the North American Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). A second example, typically Latin American, is the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM). Primarily through the efforts of Ricardo Flores Magón, within a few years of its founding it adopted an ideology that was unquestionably anarchist, nonetheless keeping its name while continuing as a political party, and thereby earning sharp criticism from some European orthodox thinkers like Jean Grave.

With the exception of that singular case, anarchism in Latin America is nearly always anarcho-syndicalism and is essentially linked to workers’ and peasants’ organizations. To be sure, there were some anarcho-individualists in Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, and other places, as well as anarcho-communists, the latter foes of the syndical organization in Buenos Aires in the 1880s and 1890s. But the vast majority of Latin American anarchists were adherents of a revolutionary and anti-political syndicalism—not, as some say, a-political. That is an important difference between Latin and North American anarchism. An anarchist syndicalism was evident in the United States and its greatest witness was the sacrifice of the Chicago martyrs. It represented the continuation of the anti-slavery movement into the industrial context, and was promoted by Italians, Germans, and Slavic immigrants, with the German Johann Most as its revolutionary prototype. Later a revolutionary syndicalism emerged (anarchist or quasi-anarchist) among the working classes, organized through the IWW. There was also an earlier movement unrelated to the working classes, represented by important literary figures such as Thoreau and Emerson. Its predecessor is found in the liberal radicalism of Jefferson and other eighteenth century thinkers, and is perhaps represented today by what is known as “libertarianism.” While it was not an anti-workers’ ideology—although today there are Right-libertarians—it developed along lines quite alien to the struggles of the working classes, and its principal concerns include individual human rights, anti-militarism, and the abolition of bureaucracy and the State.

But anarchism developed in different ways in the various Latin American countries. In Argentina, FORA was sufficiently radical to be considered extremist by the Spanish CNT. In Uruguay it tended to be nonviolent, as Max Nettlau notes, perhaps because it was less persecuted, except during the last dictatorship. In Mexico it influenced government not only because of Magonist participation in the revolution against Porfirio Díaz, but also because La Casa del Obrero Mundial provided Venustiano Carranza his “red battalions” in the fight against Villa and Zapata, and because the leadership of the Confederación General del Trabajo (CGT) engaged President Obregón in public political debates. In Brazil, on the other hand, it was always at the margins of the state, and the military-oligarchic republic did nothing but persecute, ostracize, or assassinate its leaders. A phenomenon common in several Latin American countries between 1918 and 1923 was anarcho-Bolshevism. Following the Bolshevik revolution many anarchists in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, and especially Mexico supported Lenin and declared their unconditional support of the Soviet government, yet still considered themselves anarchists. With Lenin’s death this trend disappeared. Those who still chose to follow Stalin no longer dared to call themselves anarchists.

In addition to a vast newspaper propaganda and extensive bibliography, anarchism in all Latin American countries produced many poets and writers who were among the most prominent in their respective national literatures. They were not, however, equally numerous and important in all regions. It is safe to say that in Argentina and Uruguay most writers publishing between 1890 and 1920 were at one time or another anarchists. Likewise in Brazil and Chile, where during this time there were more than a few literary anarchist writers, though not as many as in the Río de la Plata region. In Columbia, Venezuela, and Puerto Rico, if a properly anarchist literature did not fully flourish, the influence of a libertarian ideology was greater among writers and poets than in the workers’ movement. But even in those places where literature and anarchism were nearly synonymous, as in the Río de la Plata, anarchist intellectuals never played the role of elite or revolutionary vanguard, nor did they have any dealings with universities or official culture. In this respect anarchism’s trajectory differs profoundly from that of Marxism.

The decline of the anarchist movement in Latin America (which does not imply its total disappearance) may be attributed to three causes. First is a series of coups d’état, mostly fascist, in the 1930s—Uriburu in Argentina, Vargas in Brazil, Terra in Uruguay. All are characterized by a general repression of the workers’ movement, Left-leaning groups, and particularly of anarchists. In certain cases (e.g., Argentina) the state achieved the total dismantlement of the organizational and propagandistic structure of the workers’ anarcho-syndicalist federations. A second factor is the founding of communist parties (Bolsheviks). The support of the Soviet Union and of affiliated European parties gave them a strength sorely lacking in anarchist organizations, which had no other resources than the dues paid by their own militants. Some anarchists chose to join the communist party, more in some countries (Brazil) and fewer in others (Argentina). Finally, the emergence of nationalist-populist sentiments more or less linked to the armed forces and, in a few cases, with the promoters of fascist coups completes the factors that caused anarchism’s decline.

The unique situation of dependence in which Latin American countries found themselves with regard to European and, above all, North American imperialism caused the class struggle to be substituted by struggles for national liberation. Consequently, workers conceived of their exploitation as arising from foreign powers. The bourgeoisie, both domestic and foreign, together with various sectors of the military and the Catholic church, convinced them that the enemy was not Capital and State as such, but foreign Capital and State. Skillfully manipulated, this very conviction was the principal cause of the decline of anarchism. All else is secondary, even the intrinsic difficulties faced by anarchist organizations in the actual world, such as the need to make unions function without bureaucracy or the impossibility, real or apparent, of concrete proposals.



1 In the language of the Matagalpan Indians calpulli refers to a group constituting the fundamental unit of Aztec society. Ayllus were the basic political and social units of pre-Inca life (Trans).

2 In Argentina, Uruguay, southern regions of Brazil, as well as in parts of Paraguay and Chile, a musical form accompanied by guitar (Trans).

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“On Specialists and Specialties”: an excerpt from The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage

By AK Press | February 13, 2018

If you’re someone who hasn’t yet picked up a copy of our recent title The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Final Public Speeches of Subcommander Marcos, then here’s a glimpse of some of the poetic and political wonders that await. We’re proud to have helped editor Nicolas Henck and translator Henry Gales get this one out into the world and, hopefully, refocus attention during these dark days on the struggles and social experiments in Chiapas.




On Specialists and Specialties
[excerpted from the speech "Seven Winds in the Calendars and Geographies of Below

A serious historian could certainly pinpoint the moment in human society when specialists and specialties appeared. And maybe that historian could explain to us what came first: the specialty or the specialist.

Because, in our looking out at and being astonished by the world, we Zapatistas have seen that oftentimes people define their ignorance or shortsightedness as a specialty and call themselves specialists. And they are praised and respected and paid well and ceremonies are held in their honor.

We do not understand. For us, someone with limited knowledge is someone who should push themself to learn more. But it turns out that in academia, the less you know, the more research funding you receive.

Old Antonio, on one of those mornings that surprised us walking downhill, laughed about this when I told him and said that back then the first gods, those who birthed the world, were specialists in specialties.

Anyway, it is well-known that our limits with intellectual production are encyclopedic, so now we would like to briefly talk about a special species of specialists: professional politicians.

Later on in this festival, tomorrow I believe, we will have the opportunity to listen to—in the voice of Insurgent Lieutenant Colonel Moisés—some portrayals of internal political tasks in Zapatista communities.

One of these political tasks, not the only one, is governmental work. There is also, for example, political work of the Zapatista women—which Commander Hortensia will tell us about—and much more.

And it turns out that this work not only is unpaid, it is also not considered a specialty. In other words, someone who is autonomous municipal president one day was in the fields the day before, or on the coffee plantation, planting or harvesting. Many of our Zapatista leaders did not even go to school or do not even know how to speak Spanish; in other words, they are not specialists in anything, much less in politics.

And, nonetheless, our autonomous municipalities have more advances in health, education, housing, and nutrition than the official municipalities that are governed by professional politicians, by political specialists.

Anyway, we’ll wait for those talks by my compañeros to try to understand us. Right now, I only want to point out some of our inabilities to understand the political tasks of above, at least in Mexico.

For example, we do not understand how it gets decided, accepted, and made law for congresspeople to make more than construction workers. Because construction workers do something: they work, they build houses, walls, buildings. And they know how to make the mixture, how to place bricks or blocks.

Here, for example, you have this auditorium that we are in. More people can fit right here than in the City Theater here in San Cristóbal de las Casas, and they tell me it was built—from its design to its completion— by indigenous hands. The floor, the levels, the walls, doors and windows, roof, metalwork, and electrical installation were done by nonspecialists, indigenous people, who are compañeros of the Other Campaign.

Well, going back to construction workers, they work. But congresspeople . . . congresspeople . . . well, could someone maybe tell us what congresspeople do? Or senators? Or secretaries of state?

Not long ago we heard a secretary of state say that the economic crisis, which had been dragging on for several years, was nothing more than a common cold.

Oh, we thought. A secretary of state is like a doctor who diagnoses a disease. But, we were left thinking, why would someone with the least bit of sense pay a doctor who says that someone has a cold and it turns out that they have pneumonia and the doctor gives them hot tea with lemon leaves to feel good as new. But it looks like the secretary of state in question gets paid well, and there is a law that says that he has to make a lot of money.

Someone will tell us that congresspeople and senators make laws and that secretaries of state make plans for those laws to be implemented. OK. How much did it cost the nation to do, for example, the indigenous counterreform that violated the San Andrés Accords?

And several months ago, a PRD lawmaker, questioned about why he voted in favor of an absurd and unjust law (like the majority of laws in Mexico), said in his defense . . . that he had not read it!

And when there was a debate about oil in the country’s nerve center (that is, in the media), did the Calderón administration not say that people should not be consulted because it was something that only specialists understood? And did the so-called oil-sector defense movement not act the same way when it entrusted a group of specialists with crafting its proposal?

Specialization is, according to us, a form of private property for knowledge.

Those who know something treasure it and—complicating it to the point of making it look like something extraordinary and impossible, something that only a few can access—refuse to share it. And their pretext is specialization.

They are like sorcerers of knowledge, like the old priests who specialized in talking with the gods. And people believe everything they say.

And this happens in modern society, which tells us indigenous people that we are the backward, the uneducated, the uncivilized.

In our lengthy tour through the Mexico of below, we had the opportunity to directly meet other native peoples on this continent. From the Mayas on the Yucatán Peninsula to the Kumiai in Baja California, from the Purépechas, Nahuas, and Wixaritari on the Pacific coast to the Kikapus in Coahuila.

Part of what we see will be better explained by our compañeros from the Indigenous National Congress, Carlos González and Juan Chávez, when they accompany us at this table. I only want to note a few reflections on this issue of knowledge and Indian peoples.

− In the meetings prior to the Indian Peoples of the Americas Continental Gathering,[1] the different cultures of Indian leaders did not vie for supremacy or hierarchy. With no apparent difficulty, they recognized difference and established a type of deal or agreement within which they respect one another.

On the other hand, when two different conceptions of reality—two cultures, that is—confront each other in modern society, the issue of one’s supremacy over the other is usually brought up, a question that is not infrequently resolved with violence.

But they say that we Indian peoples are the savages.

− When the ladino or mestizo world encounters the indigenous world within the latter’s territory, the former develops what we Zapatistas call “evangelizer syndrome.” I do not know if it was inherited from the first Spanish conquerors and missionaries, but the ladino or mestizo naturally tends to take the position of teacher and helper. Due to some strange logic that we do not understand, it is held as self-evident that ladino or mestizo culture is superior to indigenous culture in breadth and depth of wisdom and knowledge. In contrast, if this contact between cultures takes place in urban territory, the ladino or mestizo assumes a defensive and distrustful position or a position of contempt and disgust when around indigenous people. The indigenous are backward or peculiar.

On the contrary, when the indigenous come across or encounter a different culture outside of their territory, they naturally try to understand it and do not attempt to establish a dominant/dominated relationship. And when it is within their territory, the indigenous assume a position of curious distrust and a zealous defense of their independence.

“I’ve come to see what I can help with,” mestizos tend to say when they get to an indigenous community. And it may come as a surprise for them when, instead of having them teach or lead or command, they are sent to go get wood, or carry water, or clean the pasture. Or wouldn’t it be very strange for the indigenous to respond, “And who told you that we need you to help us?”

There may be cases, but as of now we do not know if anyone has gone to an indigenous community and has said, “I’ve come so you can help me.”


1 This event was held in Vícam, Sonora, from October 11 to 14, 2007, and brought together more than 570 indigenous delegates representing sixty-six indigenous peoples from twelve countries.

Get your copy of  The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Final Public Speeches of Subcommander Marcos.


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Interview With Kevin Doyle about The Worms That Saved The World

By AK Press | January 13, 2018

At AK Press, we’re always on the lookout for good kids’ books to distribute. One of the recent stand-outs was The Worms That Saved The World, which is always fun to hand off to a kid when we’re tabling somewhere. Here’s an interview with the author, Kevin Doyle, about how the ideas in the book were spawned by real-life struggles in Cork, Ireland. And if you’d like a copy of the book itself, just click here.

Q: The image on the cover of The Worms That Saved The World shows a big group of earthworms marching along a headland. There’s lots of them and they look happy. Some are holding placards announcing ‘We Live Here Too!’, ‘The Headland for All’ and ‘Free The Old Head’. So what’s this all about? Who are these happy protestors?

A: This is a storybook for kids. We decided that a direct appeal to their natural rebellious instincts was what was required. In our book a community of earthworms must fight for their home and their lives. Struggling to win a better world brings them together so that’s in part why they’re happy. Also, in the end, they win too – so they are happy for that reason as well. Oops, spoiler alert there!

Q: Too late. So a happy ending. But apart from that this is not the usual fare for a children’s book?’

A: No, but then the book market does need shaking up. All those celebrities writing children’s books is making things worse not better.

Q: It’s a crowded market.

A: Not content wise. Our book is about the environment and standing up for your rights. In reality there’s not that much around in the book-market that tackles those sorts of things and ideas for the age group we’re interested in anyway. Loads of books about princes and princesses of course! Maybe we can help reboot an old trend, fun books about rebellion.

Q: The earthworms in The Worms That Saved The World are very cuddly. You could almost take them home with you. How did you come to choose earthworms for this story?

A: The idea for the book came around the time I was reading stories to my own children. My daughter, Saoirse, had a wormery in the garden that had a glass window in it that you could look through and see what the worms got up to. To be honest the worms were always vanishing. They didn’t like being cooped up. So that was there that aspect came from.

Q: Earthworms get a lot of bad press don’t they. You’re rehabilitating them?

A: We’re big fans. Did you know that in one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms! I could go on. They are also essential to composting too. Listen, without worms this planet would be kaput.

Q: We hear you.

A: Obviously we have taken liberties. Our worms are able to do lots of things. They can read and write and they know how to draw up a manifesto. In addition they can do complicated maths calculations.

Q: Brainy! There’s a long history of animals and species being used to point up some of the injustices in our world?

A: Yes, by using animals or birds and plants one’s able to create stories that deal with all sorts of complex and interesting ideas. Children of course identify strongly with all sort of unusual birds and animals and their imaginations are open to these creatures doing this, that and the other. It’s lovely to write for children in that sense.

Q: In your story the earthworms come face to face with a ruthless enemy.

A: Yes. A bunch of greedy developers who buy their home and turn it into a luxury golf course. So ours is a bit of a David versus Goliath story in a sense. The golf club owners have no interest in anyone other than themselves and their clients. The worms don’t think that this is right and they ask for a meeting. Things start to downhill for the worms when the developers try to eradicate the worms. The worms realise that they must fight back.

Q: How do they do that?

A: You have to read the book to find out! No, only kidding. As mentioned above there are lots of worms under the ground. They band together. Strength in numbers and all of that. Our worms are smart as well. They know that some of the other animals and birds living on their headland are being affected by the golf course development too, so they ask them for help!

Q: There’s one scene I like a lot. The seagulls are moaning about the helicopters arriving on the headland. One of them is nearly blown out to sea.

A: Yes, in our story the worms get help from the seagulls, the foxes and the badgers. The different animals and birds on the headland are affected in different ways. Even the ramblers are affected. They are prohibited from walking on the headland because if might affect the golfing experience.

Q: The worms lead the fight on behalf of everyone.

A: Sort of. One of the ideas that is explored in the book is the idea of cooperation. These days we often only hear about the survival of the fittest. But the anarchist Kropotkin explored the cooperative nature of life on earth and how interdependence and mutual aid that is also part of survival. So that idea is in our story. By cooperating we can overcome obstacles. It dovetails with the wider idea that it is crucial to respect the environment and not destroy life and diversity.

Q: So is this an anti-capitalist book?

A: Guilty as charged really. Our planet is now under extreme pressure. The pursuit of profits motivated by untrammelled greed – essentially that’s what capitalism is about – is at the root of this. The very world that we all rely and depend on is being exploited to the point of exhaustion. In our story that way of thinking is represented by the luxury golf course. We’re not suggesting that all golfing is the enemy, of course. But golfing as an industry is super exploitative in regard to land and water. Many golf course over-indulge in the use of chemicals, insecticides and pesticides too. There was a fine film made only recently about the luxury golf industry and the antics it gets up to. It’s called A Dangerous Game and is widely available. Well worth a look at.

Q: I was reading that your book was inspired by a campaign to oppose such a development near where you’re from in Cork, at the Old Head of Kinsale. What happened there?

A: The Old Head is one of Ireland’s natural treasures for sure.  A beautiful place, with walking trails and bird sanctuaries but now – since the 2005 – annexed for the sole and private use of a select group of well-heeled golfers.

Q: I saw a promo for the Old Head of Kinsale on an Irish tourist film about Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, so how can it be annexed as you say.

A: It is! It’s still heavily promoted as a site to visit but you can only look at it from a distance. Or take a cruise boat and tour around the seas off the headland. But no walking!

Q: But it was open to the public once?

A: Completely. Many people talk of it and walked there. Then in the late eighties the headland was purchased by a millionaire developer who had this dream of putting a luxury golf course on the headland. He wanted it to be exclusive and only for those who had a lot of money. He made no bones about this – it was his dream. And that’s how it is now. It’s €30,000 to join for a year. To play there for just the day costs a lot. So it was that and the campaign that emerged to fight the injustice that sparked the idea for the book.

Q: What did the campaign actually fight for?

A: For the right of the public to walk on the headland as they had always done. The public right of way was what was at issue. It was brave campaign, initiated by a coalition of socialists, anarchists and environmentalists. In was always going to be an uphill battle to win though. We were up against people with deep pockets. They went to the courts, took on Cork County Council and Ireland’s Planning Board and eventually they won. Once they did, the cops rowed in to enforced the rule of law. It was touch and go after that. We really needed more public support and it didn’t arrive. Even so I felt myself though that the campaign had a lot of very positive aspects to it.

Q: What struck you as positive about the campaign?

A: The willingness of people to defy the law. Unjust laws must be broken, we all know that but to go ahead and do it is another thing. The centre piece of the protests was a mass trespass. This involved a lot of people scaling a high wall to gain access to the traditional walks. It was quite amazing to witness these protests.

Q: Why a children’s book as opposed to say a pamphlet or book about the campaign? It seems like that might have been an option too?

A: I thinking standing back from the actual events at the Old Head itself, a children’s book about the issues is probably more valuable. It’s an investment for the future too. See, when the campaign was going on at Kinsale, I was a bit immersed in children’s books as I had young daughters. There are lots of great books about but you notice that the selection is narrow too.

Q: What do you mean exactly?

A: So many story books re-enforce and uphold traditional values. Right now those books dominate the book-market. Why? For me it’s plain, simple bias. Partly it is the market re-enforcing itself with the repetitive use of the formula books that work. But clearly there’s lot more to it than that as well. For example some recent studies have looked at gender roles. The video “The Ugly Truth About Children’s Books” is a great example. It’s on YouTube and well worth a look. A mum and her daughter remove books from a bookcase using the following criteria. Is there a female character? Does she speak? Do they have aspirations or are they just waiting for a prince? In the end there’s not a lot of books left for them to read. One bald fact tells you a lot: 25% of 5,000 books studied had no female characters at all.

Q: And we wonder why women are sometimes less visible.

A:  Precisely. Across the broad range of children’s media, less than 20% of products showed women with a job, compared to more than 80% in respect to male characters. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out what the situation in going to be like around topics poverty, exploitation or challenging authorities. It’s a very limited market in many ways.

Q: Let’s turn to the illustrations. People have remarked on them. They are so vibrant and some on their own are almost stories in themselves. How did this come about?

A: So Spark Deeley is the illustrator. She has written and illustrated her own books. She worked on all the illustrations for our Worms book in her spare time. She did an amazing job.

Q: Did you know one another and how did the collaboration begin?

A: I didn’t know Spark at the time that I was thinking about the story idea. I actually looked around for illustrators who might have an interest but not that many did. I got to know Spark from a few protests that were happening around Cork at that time. Spark also attended the Free The Old Head protest picnics but I’m not sure if I met her at any of those. Here own book Into The Serpent’s Jaws came out and I knew from that about the quality of her work. So I asked her and she was enthusiastic from the outset. The key thing, I feel now, is that we had shared sense of what the story was trying to talk about. We are both socialists in that sense, from somewhat different perspectives, but with loads in common. In the time that we worked on the story we both grew to appreciate that books that elaborate on socialist and radical ideas are vital in a world that is increasing under the sway of neo-liberalism.

Q: So you had the story idea and Spark was interested in doing the illustrations, what happened from there?

A: It all took a long time really. Initially we looked into idea of trying to interest some publisher in it. We felt the environmental theme would be attractive to publishers but we had no luck. We must have sent out about twelve packages. That all takes time and money and you have to wait ages to hear back and often you never hear at all. Crazy. It was frustrating and we came away from it thinking it’s down to us. Publish or be damned sort of. We looked  into ideas like of crowd-funding too but in the end we felt we could get the money together and publish it via Chispa Publishing. The big thing was for Spark to find time do the illustrations. The finished book is testimony to her commitment and talent.

Q: What was the publishing experience like?

A: It’s rewarding for sure but there’s a lot of work that you need to do to make it happen. There are lots of things that you need to get right too. We wanted tour book to be a quality book so we tried from the outset to hit a high mark with layout and printing. Lots of people read and looked at mock-ups of the book and made suggestions. We went to a few young readers too and asked them for their views. As the book was for them their views were especially welcome. A friend of mine who works as a copyeditor went thought the manuscript for us for free. Even with all of that the big issue is distribution. We’ve done most of the distribution in Ireland ourselves but we’ve been really lucky that AK Press, in Scotland and in the States, have taken the book under their wings. That’s a breakthrough for a small production like ours.

Q: I saw a promo piece for the book and it went something like ‘Direct Action For Kids’. Did that raise any hackles?

A: Surprisingly few so far. When it does get raised we’ve countered by reminding people about all the prince and princess books. Of course some people don’t see these as ‘political’ at all. The point in a way is that there are lots of values embedded in all children’s books. But I would say that, for us, the book is really a positive exploration of interesting ideas. The book presents a series of situations and scenarios: the luxury golf club owners actually try to eradicate the worms at one stage; the worms asking other animals and birds for help; the idea of having to stand up for your rights. If you are reading this book and you get to talk to the young people in your life about these sorts of things, it can’t be bad.

Q: What has the reception been like so far?

A: Very positive. It’s not easy to publish in today’s inhospitable book market but we think we’ve done quite well. Our launch in Cork was mighty. Lot of people turned up from various campaigns which have happened over the years. Our most recent news is that we are on the shortlist for this year’s Indie book awards in Ireland. So happy days!

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Fascism Today: An Interview with Shane Burley

By AK Press | December 27, 2017

We recently chatted with Shane Burley about his new book Fascism Today: What It Is and How to End It. Given the current political situation, both the book and Shane’s strategic suggestions are important for all of us to consider, debate, and expand upon. 


Q: I know that you’ve been at this a while. Could you give us some background, your previous efforts as an antifascist organizer and researcher?

A: This traces back many years for me, though I have to be honest in that my primary organizing work has been in labor and housing justice.  Those who have done the hard work of antifascist organizing over the years often go unheard, so I tried to bring those voices into the book and my journalism.

Back when I lived in Eugene, Oregon, the University of Oregon started a forum that was bringing controversial speakers that were supposed to have “challenging” views.  Most of these at the start were communist party organizers from decades past, deep green ecological types, and alternative science proponents, and many around the area were supportive of this project, and I and others would help to promote their events.  They were especially active in Palestinian solidarity, despite being widely unpopular with certain student and faculty groups.

 Then they brought a Holocaust Denier, then another, and another.  The organization was the Pacifica Forum.The Southern Poverty Law Center, who tracks hate groups, now lists it as a white nationalist organization.  They eventually became more and more public about their anti-Semitism, their allying with Third Positionist fascist projects, and were enthusiastically embraced by neo-Nazis of the area.

 What made this transition so horrifying for so many nearby was that they really could not see it coming until it was fully formed, and even then the rhetoric was baffling.  The pathway the Pacifica Forum took to full fledged fascist politics was not through the traditional path of far-right conservative Americana.  Instead, it really sidestepped through popular areas of the left, including anti-capitalism, international solidarity, anti-war politics, and environmentalism.  Our protest actions, small at first and led by local synagogues, did little to shut down the organization, which continued for years until finally petering out.

 A couple of years later, in 2011, a community organization I had worked with in Rochester, New York began an organizing plan to confront an incoming appearance of David Irving.  Irving is the most famous Holocaust Denier in the world, starting out as a mainstream, yet far-right wing, historian who slowly shifted his public opinion to one that sees the major claims of Holocaust historians as a hoax.  Irving, who has served time in places like Austria for hate speech, now has to have private events when promoting his books, which he was having in the neighboring Syracuse, New York.  While we were only able to get the final hotel location hours before the event started, our actions to have the hotel intervene were met with little concern.  Even though the meeting hall was packed full of open neo-Nazis and KKK members, no one seemed concerned.  This was exactly the response organizers often got from much of the left when forming antifascist committees to confront public neo-Nazi shows or organizations on the fringes of the GOP, which were then trying to move into mainstream discourse through the Tea Party phenomenon.  The idea was repeated to us over and over, that fascism was no longer the real issue, global capitalism, neoliberalism, American imperialism, environmental destruction, and all the normal oppressions of the status quo were important.  Fascism was unstable reactionary mass politics, something a capitalist class would never allow again.

 In preparing for those actions, I was focusing in on researching the growth of white nationalist projects like the American Third Position Party (now the American Freedom Party).  I stumbled on a podcast named Vanguard Radio with a young and articulate host, Richard Spencer.  His website was unfamiliar to many of us, and from first glance it might even look like some type of leftist publication.  Criticisms of capitalism.  Heavy focus on paganism.  Environmental treatises.  We have had the “suit and tie Nazi” types for years, but this was a step further away from the American white nationalist political program.  They were taking inspiration from the academic fascists in the European New Right and the “identitarian” street movement pushing against Muslims and immigrants in France.  They were taking the language of post-colonialism, anti-capitalism, environmentalism and the like for making a philosophically fascist argument, stating that humans were unequal, that democracy was the rule of the weak over the strong, and that we needed to rediscover identity.  While it seemed as if this Alternative Right could never have currency in the U.S., I got a feeling that, given the right circumstances, this new brand of fascist politics, which really attempted to create a philosophical foundation and a whole “meta-politics,” could have legs.  It was in 2015 when we saw the return of “white identity politics” and Trumpism that the foundation was laid, and we finally saw what a mass fascist movement could look like in the U.S.  One that did not try to hide from its politics, but embraced the most horrifying positions openly.

 Q: Related to that, what do you see as the relationship between research and organizing, and more specifically, the relationship you intend/hope for between Fascism Today and the struggle against fascism. Read the rest of this entry »

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