As an anarchist who participated in the larger Occupy phenomenon (in my case, Occupy Grand Rapids) I never really followed much of what was happening with Occupy Wall Street in New York City. When the occupations spread across the country, my inspiration came from elsewhere, cities like Oakland, Seattle, and St. Louis seemed to offer more interesting forms of anarchist involvement. By contrast, what I saw coming out of New York City—such as the “Declaration of the Occupation of New York City”—was generally not that exciting. Its political analysis was overly simplified and anarchist ideas were more or less nonexistent.
Socialism and capitalism seem like natural antagonists, but their rivalry is Oedipal. To many, the relationship appears straightforward. Capitalism, they would argue, created the modern industrial working class, which supplied the socialist movement with its staunchest recruits. This story, variations of which reach back to Karl Marx, has been repeated so often that it seems intuitive. But it gets the lines of paternity backward. Capitalism did not create socialism; socialists invented capitalism.
Volume 2 of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings examines a series of explosive social movements in East and Southeast Asia of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries that are largely neglected in Western circles, even among radicals—hence, “unknown” (though presumably not to the millions who participated in them). One recurring principal theme of the work, as in Katsiaficas’s previous writings, is the concept of the “eros effect,” which he takes in part from his mentor Marcuse: that is, the sudden eruption among participants in revolutionary movements of spontaneous, popular decision-making processes, genuine solidarity and cooperation, and the suspension of previously regnant social hierarchies.
Following the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 -- which started with the housing bubble in the US, in 2006, and then gradually developed into a full blown world-wide recession between 2008-2012 -- a series discussing politics and alternative political positions like 'anarchism', 'communism', 'individualism', 'liberalism', 'socialism', 'economy', 'ethics' and concepts like 'property', 'ownership', 'hierarchy', 'community', 'exchange', 'free currency', 'progress', 'evolution' and 'ecology', we can certainly say it is good timing.
John Zerzan is now one of the most well-known of contemporary North American anarchist writers and theorists, along with Noam Chomsky and Hakim Bey (and formerly, prior to his definitive renunciation of his already questionable anarchism, also Murray Bookchin). Zerzan is best known as one of the major proponents of anarcho-primitivism and green anarchy, along with Fredy Perlman and others. Beginning with his essays appearing primarily in The Fifth Estate in the 1980s (collected in his central and still most important work, Elements of Refusal, Zerzan has built an impressive edifice of documentation, critique and speculation ranging over the lifeways of nomadic paleolithic gatherer-hunters to the origins of symbolic culture and civilization to the intensification of contemporary alienation in runaway technology, hyperurbanization and the emptiness of everyday life in mass consumer society and post-modern culture.
There is a paradox to Marxism, a central contradiction. Like anarchism, it originated in the 19th century movements for democracy, socialism, and working class liberation. Its stated goals were the end of capitalism, of classes, of the state, and of all other oppressions. Hundreds of millions of workers, peasants, and others have mobilized under its program, aiming for a better world.
More than just an anthology of essays, Chris Crass's Towards Collective Liberation is a coming-of-age tale for the modern activist. Crass chronicles his growth as an organizer, illustrating how the rewards and challenges of being a college-age activist with Food Not Bombs has shaped his current endeavors in feminist work with men and anti-racist work with majority white groups. In tracing his own evolution as an activist, Crass examines his involvement in half a dozen activist groups, showing how current sociopolitical issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US wars abroad are linked to struggles at home.
This year, Black Powder Press released a compilation of essays by Seaweed, an author whose writings I have enjoyed for years, which reimagine land-based struggles and propose building autonomy from a regional perspective. Land and Freedom is Seaweed’s first published book. The compiling of these nine essays has really helped me to hash out some of the core ideas and theories behind their writing.
Squatting in Europe: Radical Spaces, Urban Struggles is a collection of 10 essays edited by the Squatting Europe Kollective (SqEK). SqEK is a network of activists and scholars that formed in 2009 and has been remarkably productive over the past four years, convening nine gatherings and supporting the development of numerous research projects. This is their first book. SqEK’s organization mirrors that of the movements they study: horizontal and open. Both the SqEK project and this volume have intertwined activist and political aims, and these authors see the production and dissemination of knowledge about squatting as an essential part of their activism. In the service of that goal, the book is available as a free download, but has also been published as a printed volume.
It’s a good bet a culture is in trouble when its best-known intellectuals start ransacking the cultural inventory of its ancestors and its contemporary inferiors for tips on how to live. The malaise is all the more remarkable when the culture in question is the modern American variant of Enlightenment rationalism and progress, a creed not known for self-doubt or failures of nerve. The deeper the trouble, the more we are seen to have lost our way, the further we must go spatially and temporally to find the cultural models that will help us. In the stronger versions of this quest, there is either a place – a Shangri-la – or a time, a Golden Age, that promises to reset our compass to true north.