During the height of the movement against neoliberal globalization in the U.S., numerous chants and sayings emerged or were resuscitated, such as, “This is what democracy looks like” or “The whole world is watching.” Fortunately, along with the phenomenon of summit-hopping itself, these utterances have largely fallen into disuse. A particularly nonsensical saying from that moment was “Speaking truth to power.” First coined by Bayard Rustin for a pamphlet he co-wrote in 1955, called Speaking Truth to Power: A Quaker Search for an Alternative to Violence, the notion has been rightfully critiqued by the likes of Noam Chomsky, who stated, “power knows the truth already, and is busy concealing it.” Yet even this does not go far enough, as it maintains the presumption latent in the slogan that there exists a binary between those with power and those without it, or that power as such is a thing one can speak to.
Theorists from Spinoza to Gramsci to Foucault have attempted to wrestle with the question of what power is, arriving at no agreement aside from the fact that power is no one thing. In this sense, power can be understood as being “overdetermined,” a Freudian concept appropriated by Marxist theorists which, as explained by Stuart Hall, allows that “an idea, a symptom, or a dream symbol can itself be the condensation of a set of different chains of meaning, which are not manifest in the way in which the symbol is given.…One has to conceive of it as overdetermined; that is, the same symbol can be determined at different levels, by different kinds of discourses.” The exploration of this discursive malleability of power, as well as the capacity of power to reify certain discourses, is at the heart of the most recent edition of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory, volume number 32, published in May of this year by the Institute for Anarchist Studies and oriented around the theme of “Power.”
“…when I die, my friends may write on my grave: Here lies a dreamer, and my enemies: Here lies a madman. But there will be no one who dares engrave these words: Here lies a coward and traitor to his ideas.” – Ricardo Flores Magón
On January 10, 2021, we learned of the passing of anarchist compañero Tobi, one of those responsible for continuing the Biblioteca Social Reconstruir after the loss of Ricardo Mestre. Tobi was a social activist from the punk and anarchist movements who participated actively in the spreading and promotion of anarchist ideals.
We are sharing a message circulated by the Library regarding this moment of mourning for the worldwide anarchist movement, as well as video clips from “Workshopping Anarchy,” a project held at the Alicia Cultural Multiforum with the participation of the Library and other allies, in order to remember the feeling-thinking (sentipensar) of our dear friend Tobi.
The following article, written by Afinidades Conspirativas and translated by Scott Campbell, examines the recent wave of feminist protests and actions throughout Mexico and the role of anarchism amidst these mobilizations. All footnotes and photo captions are from the original Spanish version, which can be found as a PDF here.
After this article was written, it cameto light that those involved in the occupation of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), in particular the Okupa Black Bloc, are trans-exclusionary radical feminists (TERF). IGD condemns the transphobic politics of those involved in the Not One Less Okupa. Given the scope and analysis of the article, we have decided to leave it up and encourage readers to keep this information in mind when reading the piece.
“You’re a big shot, drawing on my painting…I hope your action fixes everything” José Manuel Núñez A., painter of the Madero portrait
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” Emma Goldman
“If we can’t be violent, it’s not our revolution” Manada de lobxs [Pack of wolves]
The multiplicity of forms that anarchisms have taken in recent decades leads us to reexamine the tendencies and strategies that are reconfiguring themselves or emerging from these forms, as well as their influences on other struggles. Here it is necessary to distinguish a principle held among anarchisms that sets them apart from the liberal or leftist groups that are assumed to be anarchist. We could define this principle as an ethic that, created from an individuality in common, becomes an affront to any form of hierarchical power. As such, to understand anarchism today as an ideology would be a myopia that allows for the development of aberrations such as “anarchocapitalism” or an understanding of Zapatismo and of many forms of feminism as anarchist. Thinking about the latter, it would be worth remembering Emma Goldman, who ranted against the suffragettes of her time (the first wave of feminism), based on the understanding that freedom could not be achieved at the ballot box. Today’s feminisms are very diverse: there are the reformists with sympathy for the State, with authoritarian and essentialist views about the body; as well as others that are completely liberal, united under the banner of lacking a convincing critique against power; but also among them are some that come together under an anarchist ethic.
Recently, a few pieces of writing I’ve done have become available in printed form. In the interest of propagandizing, I’m sharing them here.
Earlier this year, I wrote two articles for It’s Going Down critiquing the eco-extremist group Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS) and their supporters. They caused a bit of an uproar in one corner of the internet and led to numerous other articles, statements, podcasts, and death threats. The two pieces have since been put together in a zine that can be found here.
At the end of last year, I conducted a podcast interview with Sofi, an anarchist compañera from Mexico City deeply involved in solidarity work with anarchist prisoners in Mexico. The interview covers a lot of ground, discussing various prisoners, conditions inside Mexican prisons, and the incredible autonomous organizing prisoners and their supporters are carrying out on both the inside and outside. The translated transcript has been made into a zine. Check it out here.
We can bear almost anything when it is worked through collectively. Grief is generally thought of as something personal and insular, but when we publicly share loss and pain, we lessen the power of the forces that debilitate us, while at the same time building the humane social practices that alleviate suffering and improve quality of life for everyone. Addressing tragedies from Fukushima to Palestine, incarceration to eviction, AIDS crises to border crossings, and racism to rape, the intimate yet tenacious writing in this volume shows that mourning can pry open spaces of contestation and reconstruction, empathy and solidarity.
With each passing day, it feels like a volume such as this is increasingly necessary and urgent. Alongside powerful works addressing a variety of subjects, both inspiring and heartrending, I’m honored to have a few words of my own included that introduce the translation of a letter by Mirtha Luz Pérez Robledo. The letter was written on the one-year anniversary of the murder of her daughter, social justice organizer Nadia Vera. Nadia was killed along with four others in 2015, in all likelihood by the state, in what is known as the Narvarte Massacre. Mirtha’s words weave an aching portrait of personal and collective loss within a context of pervasive injustice and impunity. I encourage readers to pick up a copy of the book in order to engage with them and the other resonant contributions found within.
Back when I first began selling my labor for a wage in the wasteland of suburbia’s strip malls, I can recall the tedium of stocking shelves, summoning up insincere courtesy in the face of entitled customers and obnoxious bosses, comparing the stacks of money counted at the end of the day with the totals on our paychecks, and feigning adherence to whatever motivational façade management cooked up to mask the reality of our exploitation.
Yet I also remember, much more vividly and fondly, the latent and occasionally eruptive defiance among my co-workers. This included the constant collective complaining about the job, taking more and longer-than-approved breaks, working as little as possible, fudging time sheets, stealing, and the intermittent screaming matches with the boss in the middle of the store. Underpinning all these actions was an unspoken but broadly understood code of silence when it came to such transgressions and, when appropriate, expressions of support for them.
At the time, I didn’t think much about this, it was just how things happened and I’ve encountered similar experiences to varying degrees in every workplace since. Our actions weren’t guided by a political framework nor was there any attempt to organize them in a directed manner. It was more a spontaneous, innate reaction to experiencing the coercion of capitalism. I had cause to reflect upon this anew while reading Kevin Van Meter’s new book, Guerrillas of Desire: Notes on Everyday Resistance and Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible, published by AK Press and the Institute for Anarchist Studies.
In May of this year, the eco-extremist group Individualists Tending Toward the Wild (ITS) issued a statement claiming responsibility for the murder of two hikers in the State of Mexico and the femicide of Lesvy Rivera at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, providing as justification for these acts their belief that “every human being merits extinction.” In response, I wrote “There’s Nothing Anarchist About Eco-Fascism: A Condemnation of ITS” for It’s Going Down, denouncing both ITS and the U.S.-based anarchist platforms that disseminate and promote the group’s activities.
While by no means the first anarchist condemnation of ITS, it did garner a bit of attention, facilitated in part by the responses of ITS and its supporters, which we will turn to in a moment. Shortly thereafter, strong critiques emerged from other quarters, in particular from insurrectionary anarchists such as L from the UK, Eat from Indonesia, and a joint statement from former members of Anonymous Anarchist Action, Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, the Mariano Sánchez Añón Insurrectional Cell and others in Mexico.
“When horror knocks at your door, it’s difficult to hide from. All that can be done is to breathe, gather strength, and face it….I shared news of the woman found in University City. From the first moment, I was angered and protested the criminalization of the victim. The next morning I woke up to the horror and pain that she was my relative.”
– Statement from the family of Lesvy Rivera to Mexican society
“[W]e take responsibility for the homicide of another human in University City on May 3rd….Much has emerged about that damned thing leaning lifeless on a payphone… ‘that she suffered from alcoholism, that she wasn’t a student, this and that.’ But what does it matter? She’s just another mass, just another damned human who deserved death.”
Some things shouldn’t have to be said, but as is too often the case in this disaster of a world, that which should be most obvious often gets subsumed to the exigencies of politics, ideologies, money, emotion, or internet clicks. The purpose of this piece is to condemn the recent acts of eco-extremists in Mexico and those who cheer them on from abroad.
This is a special IGDCAST with Sofi, an anarchist compañera from Mexico City who is deeply involved in a variety of solidarity and organizing efforts with anarchist prisoners in Mexico. The audio interview is in Spanish, while below is an English transcription, along with two song MP3s you can download separately. If you want to see more in depth reporting on what is happening in Mexico, be sure to support our Mexico trip fundraiser.
We start off this episode with a recorded greeting from the Cimarrón Collective in North Prison in Mexico City. Then Sofi discusses the persecution and repression facing the anarchist movement in Mexico City as well as a review of the situation of four anarchist prisoners currently being held by the Mexican state. We look at the corruption, exploitation and neglect that occurs in Mexican prisons and what compañeros on the inside are doing to fight back. In particular, there is a focus on the Cimarrón Collective, a formation started by anarchist prisoner Fernando Bárcenas that has autonomously reclaimed space inside the North Prison and self-manages a variety of initiatives. For listeners, perhaps the most intriguing one will be their punk band, Commando Cimarrón. A couple of their songs are included in the podcast.
The interview then wraps up with discussion of a proposed amnesty for prisoners being put forward by “leftist” political parties in the Mexico City government and the response of our anarchist compañeros. Lastly, there are suggestions for how the struggle for their freedom can be supported from outside of Mexico. Throughout this post, we include links for more information, primarily in English, and photos of some of the art produced during workshops organized by the Cimarrón Collective.
Following a calamitous event such as the election of Donald Trump, the first reactions are often visceral. Those who view it positively gloat and interpret it as greater permission to act according to their more base impulses, seen in the increase in anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and racistattacks since November 8. Those who view it negatively experience a kind of shock and anger. In an attempt to process the unexpected, those emotions frequently are vented in the form of projection, utilizing shame and blame in an attempt to shore up a challenged worldview. Social media exacerbates this by permitting us all to become unfiltered pundits, clicking the “post” button to bestow legitimacy upon any thought that may pop into our heads or trying to acquire social capital by presenting oneself as the holder of the correct analysis.
I’m of course of the opinion that Trump’s election is a negative occurrence. The thousands who have been militantly taking the streets all around the United States are an encouraging sign, especially heartening are the youth, disenfranchised by this system yet perhaps the most at risk from it, organizing walkouts of their schools. The immediate and spontaneous rejection shown in the streets establishes an important oppositional framework for the long road that lies ahead and serves as a way to communicate to one another, to those most at-risk under a Trump regime, and to the rest of the world that the fight back is already underway. But as we are all aware, street actions are never enough. From an anarchist perspective, this moment calls for reflection along with action. In my view, I see three main tasks: a) problematizing electoral politics; b) understanding Trump’s victory; and, c) planning for the long haul.