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“A Critique of Ally Politics,” an excerpt from TAKING SIDES.

By AK Press | October 27, 2015


Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism, edited by Cindy Milstein, promises to piss a lot of people off. Not that the essays it contains all agree with one another, but each of them does challenge some familiar aspect of activism-as-usual. Below are some fighting words from “A Critique of Ally Politics,” by M. [Oh, and you can get the whole book here.]


A Critique of Ally Politics

The liberal concept of allyship is embedded in a rights-based discourse of identity politics. It works with the ideas that there are fixed groups of people (black people, women, gay people, and so on) that have been wronged by the structural oppressions of our society, that we must work across these differences to achieve equality for all, and that this responsibility falls especially on those who most benefit from structural oppressions. It centers on the idea that everyone has different life experiences that are shaped by our perceived identities, and so if you have an identity that is privileged in our society, you cannot understand the experiences of someone with an identity that is oppressed.

According to ally politics, in order to undermine whatever social privileges you benefit from, you must give up your role as a primary actor and become an ally to the oppressed. A good ally learns that if you can never understand the implications of walking through this world as an oppressed [fill in the blank with a person on the receiving end of a specific oppression], the only way to act with integrity is to follow the leadership of those who are oppressed in that way, support their projects and goals, and always seek out their suggestions and listen to their ideas when you are not sure what to do next.

It starts to get real complicated, real fast, however, as you discover that there is no singular mass of people of color—or any other identity-based group—to take guidance from, and that people within a single identity will not only disagree about important things but also will often have directly conflicting desires.…

In an attempt to find brown folks to take direction from, white folks often end up tokenizing a specific group whose politics most match their own. “What does the NAACP, Critical Resistance, or the Dream Team think about X?” Or they search out the most visible “leaders” of a community because it is quicker and easier to meet the director of an organization, minister of a church, or politician representing a district than to build real relationships with the people who make up that body. This approach to dismantling racism structurally reinforces the hierarchical power that we’re fighting against by asking a small group to represent the views of many people with a variety of different lived experiences. When building an understanding of how to appropriately take leadership from those more affected by oppression, people frequently seek out such a community leader not simply because it’s the easiest approach but also because—whether they admit it or not—they are not just looking to fulfill the need for guidance; they are seeking out legitimacy, too.…

To be an ally is to shirk responsibility for your own actions—legitimizing your position by taking the voice of someone else, always acting in someone else’s name. It’s a way of taking power while simultaneously diminishing your own accountability, because not only are you hiding behind others but you’re also obscuring the fact that you’re in control of making the choices about who you’re listening to—all the while pretending, or convincing yourself, that you’re following the leadership of a nonexistent community of people of color or that of the most appropriate black voices. And who are you to decide who the most appropriate anything is? Practically, then, it means finding a black voice who agrees with your position to justify your own desires against the desires of other white people—or mixed-race groups.

Perhaps you’ve watched or participated in organizing that seeks to develop the leadership of  individuals who live in a specific neighborhood or work in a particular kind of labor force. This language seems to offer the benevolence of the skills of the organizing group to those who haven’t been exposed to such ideas. It is coded language describing a reductive and authoritarian approach to imposing an organizing model on a community of people from the outside. It also conveniently creates spokespeople who can then be used to represent the whole of that (often heterogeneous) body of people. Over the last several decades, an entire elite class of politicians and spokespeople has been used to politically demobilize the communities they claim to represent.

I frequently hear from antiauthoritarian “white allies” that they are working with authoritarian or nonpartisan community groups, sometimes on projects they don’t believe in, because the most important thing is that they follow the leadership of people of color. The unspoken assertion is that there are no antiauthoritarian people of color—or none who are worth working with. Choosing to follow authoritarian people of color in this way invisibilizes all the anarchist or unaligned people of color who would be your comrades in the fight against hierarchical power. Obviously, there is at least as broad a range of political ideologies in communities of color as there are in white communities.

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An Interview with Grace Lee Boggs

By AK Press | October 5, 2015

“We need to recognize that we are at a very special time on the clock of the world when we need to make a huge leap forward in what it means to be a human being.”

As you have probably heard, Grace Lee Boggs died today. She was 100 years old. We were lucky enough to publish a great interview with her in Uses of a Whirlwind, edited by the Team Colors Collective. The interview was conducted by Stevie Peace and captures Grace in all her energetic glory. You can read it in PDF format here.

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New Afterword to Dawn Paley’s DRUG WAR CAPITALISM

By AK Press | September 26, 2015

The good folks at Sur Plus in Mexico City will soon be publishing a Spanish edition of Drug War Capitalism. Dawn Paley has written a new afterword for the book, which brings the story up to date, including the many horrific events, massacres and disappearances, since we published her book. We’re sharing the English version of that Afterword here, because we all need more analysis from Dawn whenever we can get it. You can read it below in good ol’ html or download a PDF for reading here or a PDF for printing here. Oh and you can get our English edition of the book here.

Ayotzinapa, Paradigm of the War on Drugs in Mexico: New Afterword to Drug War Capitalism

Mexico one year after Ayotzinapa

“It is necessary that we take action now, because they are annihilating us. It is necessary that we do something.” Nadia Vera, social anthropologist, tortured and assassinated alongside journalist Rubén Espinosa, Alejandra Negrete, Yesenia Quiróz and Mile Virginia Martín on July 31, 2015, in Mexico City.[1]

In the year since we put the final touches on the manuscript for the English edition of Drug War Capitalism, the campaign of terror directed against the people of Mexico in the name of fighting drugs has continued. This essay will serve as the epilogue for the forthcoming Spanish edition of the book, and looks back over the 10 months since it was published.

As the first edition of Drug War Capitalism was in its last stages before printing, there were rumblings that the army had massacred 22 people in Tlatlaya, in Mexico State, in June, 2014. Initial media reports presented the killings as having taken place during a firefight, and the governor of Mexico State initially claimed the army had, in “legitimate self-defense, taken down the criminals.”[2] One witness, whose daughter was among the dead, later claimed that soldiers had in fact lined up 22 before executing them one by one. The eyewitness said she told the soldiers not to do it, not to kill those being interrogated. Their response, she said, was that “these dogs don’t deserve to live.”[3] The cover-up that ensued involved bureaucrats from various levels of government. It was only because of reporting by Esquire magazine and the work of local journalists in Mexico that the truth came out. Eight soldiers are believed to have been directly involved with the killings in Tlatlaya. Seven soldiers have been charged, three of them for murder.

After the emergence of the army’s role in slaughtering civilians in Tlatlaya came the disappearance of 43 students and the murder of three others in Iguala, Guerrero. On the night of September 26, 2014, six people were killed, three of them students at a nearby teacher-training college. One young man who was killed had his face pulled off and yanked down around his neck. Others were wounded and denied medical treatment. By the next day, 43 more students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa were missing. The students were last seen as they were arrested by municipal police, allegedly for participating in taking over buses to use for transportation to a march in Mexico City. The police handed off the students to a local paramilitary group that the media dubbed Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors). Read the rest of this entry »

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Important and Unpleasant News From AK Press

By AK Press | September 25, 2015

About six months ago, we started hearing some disturbing rumors that one of our authors, Michael Schmidt, was an undercover fascist. Soon after, another one of our authors, Alexander Reid Ross, provided us with actual evidence. We helped him investigate further for several weeks and then put him in touch with another writer. Over the past months, we have received and compiled what we consider to be incontrovertible evidence that Michael Schmidt is a white nationalist trying to infiltrate the anarchist movement.

Alexander will soon be publishing an article that presents all the details in a more comprehensive manner, but we are not comfortable sitting on this information any longer. We have always drawn strength from the history of anarchism as an internationalist movement concerned with the destruction of capitalism, the state, and hierarchal social relations. Those social relations clearly include racism and white supremacy. We are committed enemies of fascists and their sympathizers. The anarchist movement won’t tolerate their sick credo and, when they are found hiding in our midst, they must be dragged from the shadows.

We have cancelled Schmidt’s upcoming book and have put the two books of his that we’ve already published out of print. Please stay tuned for the whole story.

In Solidarity,

The AK Press Collective

Alexander Reid Ross can be reached at areidross[at]gmail[dot]com

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Excerpt from Davide Turcato’s “Making Sense of Anarchism: Errico Malatesta’s Experiments with Revolution, 1889–1900″

By AK Press | September 2, 2015

It’s somewhat difficult to choose an excerpt from Davide Turcato’s new book, because a) there’s so much goodness in it and b) Malatesta’s ideas evolve so much over time (always as a result of his “experimental” revolutionary method). But the following seems like a decent choice, for it’s relevance to questions many of us are trying to get our heads around today. Enjoy the taste. And, really, get the book: a few of us read it when it was still a $90 academic hard cover and it blew us away. We knew that we had to create an affordable paperback version for you guys!


The indeterminacy of social action

The theoretical foundations of the insurrectionary tactics that underpinned Malatesta’s action of the early 1890s were illustrated in a series of articles that appeared in L’Associazione. In these articles Malatesta explained his positive outlook on uprisings. His outlook was based on theoretical notions, such as the indeterminacy of collective action and the precedence of deeds over ideas, that were already implicit in the tactics of propaganda by the deed that Italian anarchists began advocating in the mid-1870s. In L’Associazione Malatesta reiterated his belief in propaganda by the deed, at the same time that he thoroughly reviewed this concept, in the light of past experiences and changed conditions.

Malatesta articulated his appreciation of uprisings as steps on the path of revolution in the article ‘La sommossa non é rivoluzione’ (An uprising is not a revolution) of October 1889. This was Malatesta’s response to an article by the same title published in the Italian socialist revolutionary periodical La Rivendicazione, in which N. Sandri claimed that ‘every partial uprising is an aborted revolution’. Malatesta retorted that uprisings played an immense role in provoking and preparing revolutions. For Malatesta, ‘it is always deeds that provoke ideas, which in turn act upon deeds, and so on’. He pointed to the history of past revolutions, which were all preceded, provoked, and determined by numerous uprisings that prepared people’s minds to the struggle: ‘The great French revolution would not have occurred if the countryside—worked up by a thorough propaganda—had not started to burn castles and hang masters, and if the people of Paris in tumult had not committed the sublime folly of attacking the Bastille with pikes.’ The history of socialism itself provided further evidence with the Paris Commune, which arose from an uprising in Montmartre, and which in turn originated a splendid movement of ideas, and a whole period of feverish socialist activism. Revolutions had nowhere to start from than uprisings: ‘Certainly, while all uprisings make propaganda, only few have the good fortune to arrive at the right time to determine a revolution. Yet who can say what is the right time?’

The key concept outlined here by Malatesta is the indeterminacy of collective action. No one can fully foresee the outcome of one’s intentional social action, nor is the outcome of collective action necessarily what its participants had initially envisioned.

Similar ideas dotted Malatesta’s writings from 1889 on. Commenting upon the Rotterdam strike of September 1889 Malatesta had remarked that ‘history shows that revolutions start almost invariably with moderate demands, more in the form of protests against abuses than of revolts against the essence of institutions, and often with displays of respect and devotion to the authorities’ (‘Altro’).

In 1894 he expressed the same concept, with reference to the French Revolution and to the recent movement of the Sicilian Fasci: ‘Let us remember that the people of Paris started off by demanding bread to the king amidst applauses and tears of affection, yet—having received bullets instead of bread, as it was natural—after two years they beheaded him. And it was only yesterday that the Sicilian people were on the verge of making a revolution while cheering to the king and his whole family’ (‘Andiamo’).

Malatesta still reiterated the idea in writings of two decades later. In 1914 a strike of the railway workers in Italy was creating serious difficulties to the government. In the article ‘É possibile la rivoluzioné’ Malatesta started by claiming, ‘Naturally we do not know what could happen in the near future.’ He then emphasized how a minor issue over salaries had escalated into a serious crisis, and pictured a hypothetical scenario, which really looks like a disguised call for action: ‘If really—people wonder—the railway workers refused to work; if ill-intentioned people made even a limited service impossible, sabotaging the rolling stock and the railway tracks; if the most conscious part of the proletariat supported the movement with general strikes: what would the government do with its soldiers, even supposing that the latter failed to remember that they are forcefully enlisted proletarians, and that their fathers, brothers, and friends are among the strikers? How could the current order continue?’ Malatesta argued that revolution would impose itself as a necessity, for it alone could ensure the continuation of social life. ‘Perhaps this will not happen today. Still, why could not it happen tomorrow?’ After maintaining that nobody knows in advance when the times are really ripe and that the fateful hour could strike at any moment, Malatesta concluded: ‘Everybody keep ready for tomorrow . . . or for today.’ Only a few weeks later the insurrectional movement of the Red Week broke out, in which Malatesta had a leading role. It would be problematic to retrospectively determine whether Malatesta’s prediction should be read descriptively as that of a perceptive sociologist or prescriptively as that of an effective agitator.

Get the book here:


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“Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab” reviewed in Perspectives on Anarchist Theory

By AK Press | June 24, 2015

Field Notes From an Archipelago: A Review of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab (AK Press, 2014), edited by Alexander Reid Ross
by Will Munger

A land and water grab is happening in the canyons and plateaus where I live in rural Utah.  Several Canadian corporations backed by transnational investors are moving in to extract tar sands and oil shale on public lands. These outfits are the spear tips of a host of operators who are trying to strip mine the world’s dirtiest oil in the headwaters of the Colorado River, one of North America’s most endangered rivers.

In a region already hit by more than a decade of drought, the mining corporations are drilling deep into underground aquifers to pump water for their processing operations. At the ranch where I work, the springs in the canyon downstream from the initial mine are drying up. The ranching family is one of the first to be impacted by the mine, but there are bigger implications, as waste discharged from the mines will impact more than 30 million people who rely on the Colorado River for drinking water and irrigation.

And then there are the climate change consequences. According to industry backers, there are more potential fossil fuels in the Green River formation that stretches across Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado than the Alberta tar sands. If the infrastructure for these types of megaprojects is completed, there is an almost certainty of being locked in a path toward catastrophic climate change.

With these stunning contradictions in mind, and with all legal options exhausted, local people and climate justice rebels took matters into their own hands in the summer of 2014 by establishing a resistance camp on the mine lease in order to halt mining operations.  Amidst a summer of blockades, police repression, and the stresses of day-to-day rural resistance, it’s been a challenge to maintain a global perspective. It’s clear that our fight is being driven by capital and technical knowledge generated through the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands.  It’s also clear that there are financiers intending to export these mining operations around the world using corporations deeply tied to the military industrial complex.

But what are the strategic and tactical implications as to how we should carry out our struggle? What are our relationships and responsibilities to other communities fighting exploitative land grabs around the world? How can we use our collective power to fundamentally transform the political and economic structures that facilitate this ecocidal rush?

While thinking through these questions, I came across a copy of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab. This compilation is billed as an “illustrative field guide to the way people power responds to the global land grab.” It ranges from pieces written by voices new to me, like Yangtze River Delta Earth First!, to long time writers and movement elders, like Grace Lee Boggs, Max Rameau, Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, and Silvia Federici.

Editor Alexander Reid Ross starts the introduction by describing the global land grab as a contemporary phenomenon where large transnational corporations based in the North Atlantic countries, the Saudi states, and the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) are grabbing millions of hectares of land from small farmers and indigenous people in Africa, South America, and Asia.  By his estimate, the land grabs that have taken place around the world since 2009 would encompass the entire Western United States.

Reid Ross describes five main origins for the global land grab as climate change, financial speculation, the Great Recession, resource scarcity and the ideology of ‘extractivism’1 and the history of colonialism.

This collection is based on a “macro- and microanalysis of land-based struggles in constant tension with the principles and values of capital.” It takes the reader on a far-ranging journey of reading global capital politically by examining the drivers of dispossesive and violent conflict around land use. Grabbing Back is edited in a dialectical manner, weaving between describing the causes of contemporary land struggles as well as introducing us to the people fighting to defend their land and construct ways of life that subvert capital’s logic.

The approach of combining writings from frontline conflicts and academic authors gives the reader a bird’s eye view of the issues as well as a fine-grained picture of reality on the ground. The best articles of the collection are reflections by seasoned organizers and street fighters looking back on recent years of struggle while explaining how their thinking is evolving. AK Press has been putting out several of these sorts of collaborative collections recently, such as Undoing Border Imperialism, Life During Wartime, Uses of a Whirlwind and Sparking a Worldwide Energy Revolution. Hopefully this publishing trend continues to create intersectional cross-movement dialogs that result in strategic and tactical innovation.

The stories and analysis in Grabbing Back helped contextualize our local struggle in the global flows and dynamics of capital. Coming back to Utah, I’m writing on land that was grabbed from the indigenous Ute barely a century ago. So to what extent is the so-called Global Land Grab a historically unique phenomenon?

According to the collection, what is historically unique is that the forces of capital have encompassed the entire world; the narrative of the powerful is that there is no “outside” and there is no alternative.  Yet capital is a dynamic force needing new markets and Grabbing Back describes a current moment defined by new attempts at accumulation. “The global land grab can be circumscribed in three interlocking economic spheres: the foreclosure crisis “freed up” capital to expand agrarian holdings in the Global South, while producing the apparent necessity to buoy up the economy through increased resource extraction in the North and South.”

The analysis in the editor’s introduction describes the links between expanding global agricultural speculation and new pushes to extract unconventional fossil fuels.  When it comes to displacing small farmers and indigenous peoples while securing profits for investors, plantation agribusiness and tar sands are different sides of the same coin. The book backs up this claim with well-researched case studies in Ethiopia, Indonesia, Paraguay, and more.

The narrative of global land grabs also helped draw my attention to resistance against neoliberal approaches to mitigating climate change such as carbon markets. For example, a recent investigative article by Nafeez Ahmed describes how carbon trading projects like the World Bank-sponsored conservation program in western Kenya has conducted a relentless scorched earth campaign to evict the 15,000 strong indigenous Sengwer community from their ancestral homes in the Embobut forest and the Cherangany Hills. The implication is one advanced by indigenous activists at numerous climate summits: our approach to mitigating and adapting to climate change must advance, not destroy, indigenous and poor peoples’ control of their land, water, housing, work, culture, and food systems. As La Via Campesina recently wrote, “a global effort to give small farmers and indigenous communities control over lands is the best hope we have to deal with climate change and feed the world’s growing population.”

So how is it to be done?

Grabbing Back is not a set of policy recommendations aimed at speaking truth to power with the intent of changing the minds of politicians and technocrats. The collection is geared instead toward sharing stories and lessons between grassroots struggles. The book is divided into two sections. “Part One: Struggle in the South” is both an analytic look at the global land grab’s drivers as well as case studies of how this phenomenon is playing out, and being resisted, in Africa, South America, and Asia.  Part Two moves to North America where the chapters explore conflicts around foreclosures, disaster response, gentrification, and unconventional fossil fuel extraction like tar sands, fracking, and mountaintop removal.

One of the major contributions of Grabbing Back is sharing stories of current resistance from around the globe.  From the Mi’kmaq blockades of fracking operations, to the 2009 overthrow of the government in Madagascar, to the incredible “mass disturbances” of contemporary China, there are certainly revolts, insurrections, and revolutions occurring globally around the question of how people will relate to land and to each other.

As a whole, the collection arcs across an enormous amount of territory and some readers might find the book sprawling and circuitous. The resistance side of the narrative reads like an archipelago, each story its own island and, on the surface, it’s sometimes hard to see the details of what connects them because the described resistances are geographically, culturally, and politically disparate. The challenge and potential of this collection is whether it provides readers with the stories and analysis to understand how they are connected by common enemies: sometimes abstract, sometimes concrete.

Reid Ross proposes in the conclusion that these resistances are “united in attempts to gain popular sovereignty over the machinery that displaces people from their homelands and threatens to wipe out humanity through climate change.”

This is a valid description, and I am still hungry for prescriptive advice.  How can we actually stop a tar sands mine from destroying the land we love? How can local communities and movements disrupt the ability of land grabs to take place? How do we learn to practice autogestation, or, as Javier Sethness-Castro, author of Imperiled Life: Revolution Against Climate Catastrophe (AK Press/IAS, 2012) writes in Grabbing Backs forward, “socio-ecological self-management.” How do we combine autogestation with an insurgent practice of militant, massive, direct action against capitalist depredation? Across the archipelago of resistance, how do we learn to act together?

I found the best guidance came from articles written by movement elders whose years of experience is fertile soil to young upstarts like myself. Place-based articles like “A Detroit Story” and “Taking Back The Land” are compelling because of their keen understanding of where their struggle is happening and its inseparability from the historic moment it inhabits. However, there is no prescriptive silver bullet here, no field manual for easy victory. But there is notable insight on how the perspectives of several long-haul radicals have evolved to see intersections between struggles around class, race, gender, land, indigeneity, education, agriculture, and ecology.

Other articles read like field reports from local fights against fossil fuel infrastructure, bank foreclosures, and responding to a climate disaster. To those unfamiliar with these stories, the collection is a solid introduction. To active participants in these struggles, the articles reflect the reality that there is still a great deal of learning and experimenting to happen.  My hope is that readers will take from these articles the inspiration to keep fighting and to keep asking each other hard questions.

We are not alone and we are indeed everywhere. We are also just beginning. This is why Grabbing Back ends with an honest acknowledgement that this is an unfinished story.

Get a copy of Grabbing Back: Essays Against the Global Land Grab.

Get a copy of the most recent Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.

Will Munger lives, loves, and works on the Colorado Plateau.  He is an editor and contributor to Life During Wartime: Resisting Counterinsurgency (AK Press, 2013).

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DIXIE BE DAMNED! Read an excerpt!

By AK Press | May 15, 2015

Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South is here!. One of the most exciting things about this book is how well it combines solid (and largely unknown) history with both damn good storytelling and a radical analysis that keeps the contemporary relevance of those stories in continual focus.

Here’s a little taste:

The Stockade Stood Burning:
Rebellion and the convict lease in Tennessee’s Coalfields

On the night of July 14, 1891, in eastern Tennessee, a band of about one hundred armed coal miners and local citizens marched on a newly built prison stockade owned by the Tennessee Coal Mining Company. The miners and their allies compelled the guards to release the forty inmates imprisoned there, put them on a train, and sent them to Knoxville. Without firing a shot, the miners disappeared back into the darkness.[1] Over the next thirteen months, the workers would repeat this scene over and over, eventually torching company property, looting company stores, and aiding the prisoners’ escapes. The miners were rebelling against the use of convict labor in Tennessee mines, which was being used to cut company costs and disastrously undermine the employment prospects and solidarity of free laborers. In the words of the president of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, “We were right in calculating that the free laborers would be loath to enter upon strikes when they saw that the company was amply provided with convict labor.”[2] But, as David Oshinsky writes in his book about the development of early southern prison systems:

Something happened in Tennessee, something almost unimaginable to the mine owners and politicians of that State. When the companies tried to intimidate their workers by bringing in convict labor to take over their jobs, the workers responded by storming the stockades, freeing the prisoners, and loading them onto freight trains bound for Nashville and Knoxville and places far away.

What began as an isolated protest in the company town of Coal Creek spread quickly across the Cumberlands to engulf most of eastern Tennessee. Thousands of miners took part in these uprisings, and thousands of armed State guardsmen were sent to face them down. The Tennessee convict war was one of the largest insurrections in American working-class history. And yet, unfolding at exactly the same time as the more publicized labor wars in Homestead, Pennsylvania, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, it was largely ignored.[3]

At a time when the post–Civil War South was trying to reinvent its economy, penal institutions, and racial caste system, the actions of the miners and their allies, combined with the resistance of convicts, created a perfect storm. Within a couple of years of the rebellion’s beginning, it was clear that the brutal system of convict leasing, by which state and county prisoners were literally sold off to private railroad and coal companies, had become totally unsustainable. Again and again, all across eastern and mid-Tennessee, miners released prisoners and burned company property to the ground. The costs of militiamen needed to guard the prisoners, along with the sabotage, work slow-downs, and rebellions by the convicts, made the system cost-prohibitive both to the state and coal companies. By December 31, 1895, Tennessee became the first state in the South to abolish the tremendously lucrative convict lease.

The convict wars symbolized the continually violent transition of chattel to wage slavery in the South, in terms of both the southern states’ attempts to industrialize as well as in the violent reactions of a newly industrialized proletariat to such efforts. Miners’ participation in this insurrection also catalyzed a change in the thinking of many poor whites, who went from using forms of rhetoric traditional to a Jeffersonian Republic and commonwealth to those of class war. As shown by both the wildcats of the 1960s and ’70s and the modern resistance to mountaintop removal mining, an uneasy combination of these different modes of thinking still remains in Appalachia to this day, creating the potential for movements that are at once quintessentially American yet simultaneously radical, violent, and autonomous in nature.

The convict lease sought to preserve the benefits of enslaved Black labor in the “New South.” This insurrection can therefore be seen as an indirect assault by white and Black miners upon older notions of white identity and loyalty to the racial caste system. Though this form of race treason never became more than a secondary factor in the miners’ economic self-defense, it would be wrong not to consider the meanings of such a self-interested racial solidarity, particularly at a time when the racist prison-industrial complex has now grown to such gargantuan proportions, and neoliberalism has eliminated so many of the industrial manufacturing jobs once occupied by white workers. For those of us interested in kindling future insurrections, there are many things worth considering in the convict wars.

1 Karin A. Shapiro, A New South Rebellion: The Battle Against Convict Labor in the Tennessee Coalfields, 1871–1896 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), 79–81.
2 Ibid., 45.
3 David Oshinsky, Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice (New York: Free Press, 1996), 81–82.

[Get your copy here.]

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A Quick Update on Fire Recovery Fundraising

By AK Press | May 5, 2015

Thank you all so much for your support since our warehouse fire. We’re making some progress but it’s going to be a long road ahead for all of us, and we couldn’t do it without all of you.

We are still fundraising to cover the costs of damaged stock, ongoing disruption to our business, and of course to help out our neighbors in the building who were also affected by the fire. To that end, we wanted to let you know that some very generous friends and comradely projects have organized a few great ways to help you help us in the coming weeks:

Again, we really can’t thank you enough for all of your support thus far—whether you’ve donated to our online fundraiser, signed up as a Friend of AK, organized a benefit event, ordered a book, or just helped us spread the word. With your support, we hope to be back on our feet soon.

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Read the Introduction to Militant Anti-Fascism!

By AK Press | April 21, 2015

Militant Anti-Fascism is back from the printer! This is book is an important one, a veritable weapon against the far-right. It’s 25% off for the time being, so get yours now. In the meantime,  here’s a look at the Introduction…



This history of militant anti-fascism has, in part, been excavated from the orthodox histories of fascism in order to produce a coherent anti-fascist narrative. We celebrate the activities and achievements of militants in Europe from the late-nineteenth century to the present day, and we make no apologies for advocating the use of physical force as part of a political strategy. Anti-fascism can be proactive as well as defensive, and we have, with considerable help from militants past and present, identified three of the successful elements in the century of struggle against fascism: physical resistance, political organization and propaganda. The use of physical activity to confront or pre-empt fascist activity, along with organization within the workplace, local communities, and links with other working-class organizations, can present a successful opposition. The maintenance of an anti-fascist media presence, particularly in the digital realm, to put forward the arguments for militancy, to publicise activities and successes, to expose fascists, and to encourage others to join the struggle, be it in print media, music, or social networking sites on the net, all are important. We do not advocate one form of action above another; people must use whatever tactics they see as appropriate. Militant anti-fascism also argues for a non-partisan approach wherever possible whilst recognising that popular fronts have met with mixed success and that liberal anti-fascists cannot be relied on most of the time. Neither can the law.

There are several identifiable kinds of ‘anti-fascism’: militant, state legislative, and liberal. Militants cannot rely on state legislation against fascism, as it will inevitably be used against anti-fascists; urging the state to ban far-right groups and activities merely supplies a pretext for banning radical left ones. The state, in its bid for self-preservation, legislates against extremism of any kind. Anti-fascists need to organise themselves to defend against fascist incursions into their communities, not ring the cops.

Liberal anti-fascism is useful at times, for political connections, denigration of fascist activity in the mainstream press and mobilising numbers. Liberal anti-fascism is ‘respectable’ and has the backing of MPs, and political, religious, and community groups, as well as the ear of the mainstream media. The liberal hope of trying to ‘understand fascists’ or ‘convince them that they are wrong’ is appeasement that has had a less than successful history—as Neville Chamberlain found out. Fraser quotes the ironic slogan of German liberals before the Nazis took over: ‘We are so liberal that we even grant the freedom to destroy liberty’, and Goebbels made his intentions perfectly clear: ‘We have come to the Reichstag in order to destroy it. If democracy is stupid enough to reward us for doing this, this is the problem of democracy.’[1] Unfortunately, many anti-fascists can testify to occasions when liberals have identified militants to the police, which have resulted in time-consuming court cases. In times of difficulty, liberal anti-fascists tend to gravitate towards police protection, which militants cannot do.

It is possible for different kinds of anti-fascists to work together successfully, be they community groups, liberals, or militants, and anyway, the far right views opposition as all the same and does not differentiate between the array of political opponents. The massed and mainly peaceful blocking of fascist march routes by anti-fascists proved to be a very successful tactic against the English Defence League in Brighton, Bristol, and Walthamstow in 2012. This frustrates the fascists, hinders the progress of their marches, and sends a clear signal that they are not welcome in our communities—which seriously demoralises them. Birchall writes, in Beating The Fascists, that ‘I had no problem with the use of political violence, it was the fighting I didn’t like’. [2]

Fascism is imbued with violence and secures itself politically through the use or threat of it, so it is inevitable that anti-fascists have to countenance some involvement in violence themselves during the struggle. This is not to say that anti-fascists should like violence or seek it out in the manner of political hooligans. Far from it, but it is true to say that for many militant anti-fascists violence is an unpleasant method to achieve a greater political goal. It is not fetishized the way that fascism fetishizes violence, and it would be much more preferable to rely on passive resistance, but we cannot guarantee that what Trotsky referred to as ‘flabby pacifism’ will effectively inhibit fascist encroachment. Fascism views passivity as weakness, not as a political strategy; it will crush peaceful protests and the will to resist, and their violence must be met head on. In Italy, socialists, communists, and anarchists organized against the increasing violence of Mussolini’s squadristi and met force with force in order to protect their institutions. In Germany, fascism was met with equal violence by communist militants who at first responded defensively to intimidation but eventually used violence as a preventative strategy in a bid for self-preservation. In Spain, the militias of anarchists and socialists who fought back against Franco’s coup attempt would view non-violence with immense skepticism. What else could they do? Resort to sarcasm?

This is not to say that violence is the only option for anti-fascists. Physical resistance is not simply hitting someone with a plank. Physical resistance means blocking routes, picketing meetings, and turning up to oppose fascism on the streets. It means being there. This is only one element of anti-fascist strategy. Anti-fascists need to respond politically to the socio-economic conditions that birth fascism, and maintain a strong presence on the streets in demonstrations, in counter-demonstrations, and wherever else fascist groups attempt to organise.

The physical force tactics that Anti-Fascist Action used so well in the 1980s and ’90s are difficult to employ against the Euro-fascist entryism of the BNP and other ‘respectable’ fascist outfits. However, with the recent rise and fall of the English Defence Leagues and their splinter groupuscules, a physical counter-presence has played an effective part in demoralising them. The large amount of police from many different forces, the CCTV, the DNA samples, the FIT squads, and the harsh legislation mean that violent opposition remains mostly opportunistic, but a mass physical presence preventing fascist marches can be just as effective.

Fascism [3]
This book is for and about militant anti-fascists, so we are not overtly concerned with an analysis of the various ideological and practical differences between the European fascist, national socialist, and ultra-nationalist organizations. There have been a wide variety of ‘fascisms’ over the years that have embraced all, or most of, the following ideas.

The Fuhrer Principle is an absolute subservience to, and belief in, a leader, like Hitler and Mussolini, whose mediocrity was shrouded in mystique as the figurehead of a nation. Fascism excludes minority groups, whether Jews, Muslims, or Roma, whilst claiming that these ‘others’ receive preferential treatment regarding access to money, housing, or work.

Members of political, ethnic, or religious groups are blamed for the greater problems of capitalism and are removed from positions of power or influence—for example, doctors or teachers. Other points of view apart from the leader’s are excised.

This kind of exclusionism is used to further belief in the purity of race and genetic superiority whilst traditional gender roles are enforced: women are seen as mothers of workers rather than workers themselves (although this is not exclusive); non-reproductive sex is seen as decadent; and the family unit is sacred. Fear of the sexual prowess of the other is propagated along with unsubstantiated myths like ‘they’re taking our women’ and the indigenous culture being ‘outbred.’ Heterosexuality is normalised and the preservation of the gene pool is a priority.

This kind of nationalism desires a new ‘Golden Era’ and the destruction of diversity, degeneracy, and decadence. Cultural work is state-sanctioned, and although there were often fascist intellectuals (Gentile, Marinetti, Speer), anti-intellectualism is stressed: the material over the abstract, action over ideas, and belief over knowledge. Mass media are controlled and the state determines cultural discourse: cabarets are closed, newspapers are silenced, music is state sanctioned, jokes and certain writers are banned. Fascism emphasizes the glorification of violence as a method of achievement and empowerment, and this idea is represented in both militarism and para-militarism. National security is prioritised with a build-up of armed forces to protect territories, take over new ones (the Nazi Lebensraum), or encroach on ‘lost’ ones (Mussolini’s Abyssinia). The military is used to secure power whilst the paramilitaries maintain their threatening presence on the streets through ‘extra-legal’ endeavours, or gangsterism. A hard line on crime and punishment is pursued but only for select criminals. Industry is focussed on building military strength, the corporate state benefits big business, and the state adopts capitalism when it is suitable. Working-class organizations are suppressed, unions are banned or controlled by the state, and workers are forced to collaborate. Whether they call themselves fascists, national socialists, nationalists, or patriots, fascist organizations embrace some or all of these principles, and anti-fascists must recognise and respond to them.

This book is divided into two parts and examines how anti-fascists have organised against fascist aggression in the hope of drawing lessons for the future.

Pre-Fascist Parties and Fascism in Europe
The first section of this book looks at the growth of ultra-nationalism and fascism across Europe from the late-nineteenth century to the 1940s. Italy, Austria, Germany, and Spain became fascist states whilst Hungary, Romania, Poland and France experienced an upsurge of fascist violence, and militants were forced to organise and counter this, with varying success. In all these countries, anti-fascists fought and died to protect their communities and institutions. The situation for anti-fascists in 1930s England was less drastic, and certainly less murderous, but still saw anti-fascists meeting violence with violence. It is surprising how few fatalities there have been in the battles pre-1939 and post-1945 in the UK.

Post-War British Anti-Fascism
The second part of the book specifically looks at anti-fascism in Britain and Ireland following 1945 when, despite the defeat of the fascist bloc (excluding Spain, of course), fascists still maintained a presence on the streets. Several waves of post-war fascism in Britain have been successfully countered by one of the strongest and most successful anti-fascist movements in Europe. The confrontations with Mosley, the NF, the BNP’s street campaign and the EDL are all testimony to a tradition of anti-fascism that is too little acknowledged, let alone documented, by political historians. But, as ever, even though the fascists may be defeated, they never really go away, and as we have seen so many times they merely reinvent themselves whilst their poisonous ideology remains relatively unchanged.


1 Nicholas Fraser, The Voice Of Modern Hatred: Encounters with Europe’s New Right (London: Picador, 2000), 75.
2 Birchall, Beating the Fascists, 314.
3 Many thanks to Rachael Horwitz who wrote most of the section on fascism.


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An update from AK Press after our warehouse fire.

By AK Press | April 3, 2015

It’s been almost two weeks since the fire at our warehouse and we know some of you have been waiting for an update and wondering how you can plug into the relief efforts. Very briefly, here is where things stand: our building is still red-tagged by the City of Oakland. We are hopeful that, after more inspections and some repairs are completed, we’ll be able to stay. In the meantime we have been able to get some access to our stock and so we have been able to send out orders for titles that weren’t damaged. We are still waiting for insurance inspectors to come and review the damage in our unit, and until that happens, we can’t make any more progress with clearing out destroyed stock. So at this point there is just a lot of waiting, which we can’t do much about, and it means it’s going to be a while still before our work can return to any semblance of “normal.”

We can’t thank you enough for all of the support we’ve gotten in the last two weeks. Your generous donations to our crowdfunding campaign add up to almost $45,000 so far, and that money will be shared with 1984 Printing and our neighbors in the building who have been displaced by the fire. We plan to give out the first round of checks this week. We’re not quite to one-third of our goal, so if you can still donate, please do! Recovering from the fire is going to be a long and difficult process, and your support will help us all get back on our feet sooner.

Besides donating, here are a few things folks can do to help (since some of you have been asking!):

Thanks again, so much, for your support.
-The AK Press Collective 

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