Polyvalent Power: A Review of the “Power” Issue of “Perspectives on Anarchist Theory”

Originally published on It’s Going Down.

“A Love Supreme,” by Erin Bree of Gallery of the Streets, from issue 32 of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory.

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.”[1] 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.”[2] 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.”

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Tobi, Anarchist Compañero from the Biblioteca Social Reconstruir, Passes Away

Originally posted on It’s Going Down.

A translated statement from Noticias de Abajo and the Biblioteca Social Reconstruir (Social Reconstruction Library – an anarchist library and social space in Mexico City), on the passing of longtime anarchist organizer Tobi.

“…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.

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The Unexpected Consequences of Anarchy in relation to Feminism in Mexico

Originally published on It’s Going Down.

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 came to 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[1]

“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.

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Update and Letters from Anarchist Prisoners on Hunger Strike in Mexico

solidarity-mexico-us-prison-strike

Mexico: Anarchist Prisoners End Hunger Strike but Remain Fasting
From Anarchist Black Cross – Mexico
Translated by Scott Campbell

Day 15 of the anarchist prisoners’ hunger strike.

After two weeks on hunger strike, due to the health of some and in order to avoid serious complications, anarchist prisoners Fernando Bárcenas, Luis Fernando Sotelo and Abraham Cortés, as well as activist Jesse Montaño, have decided to continue their collective struggle inside the prison with indefinite fasts and have ended the hunger strike.

We are reposting the text signed by Fernando Bárcenas.

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Combative October 2: On the Institutionalization and Autonomy of Social Protest

combative-tlatelolco-march-feature

Originally posted to It’s Going Down
From Radio Zapote
Translated by Scott Campbell

Forty-eight years after the Tlatelolco massacre we continue demanding justice for the murdered, disappeared, persecuted, tortured, defamed, and imprisoned, as even though the killers and masterminds have not been tried and punished, those compañeros who fell in the militant struggle remain present in the popular and social struggles today as part of our memory, solidarity, guidance, dignity, strength, inspiration, rage and courage. Today, no one doubts that IT WAS THE MEXICAN STATE who planned and carried out that mass murder, just as it did with the disappearance of 43 teaching college students on September 26, 2014, as from Tlatelolco to Ayotzinapa one can trace a historical continuity that affirms the totalitarian character of the state that today we can characterize as “narco and terrorist.”

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Mexico: Some Disruptive Reflections on the Murder of Compa Salvador Olmos

protest-huajuapan-chava-salvador-olmos-anarchistOriginally posted on It’s Going Down
From Contra Info
Translated by Scott Campbell

We write this after reading the “Statement from the Huajuapan Libertarian Bloc on the police murder of compañero Salvador Olmos ‘Chava’[more on Chava in English] as we believe given the escalation of the war and advancing repression on anarchist/libertarian settings it is necessary to clarify our positions in the interest of identifying the enemy’s multiple forms, as they are often reduced to criticisms of “government injustices” or simply “to believe that evil is embodied in a person or politician” and not the reality that it is the entire system of rulers and ruled who together actively participate in the maintenance of the capitalist social order.

Let it be clear! The following words are in no way aimed at tarnishing the memory of compañero Chava or to start polemical bickering, nor to cause fighting amongst ourselves, this is above all a reflection from compañeros for compañeros and we hope it is taken as such.

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Insumisión: From Teachers’ Strike to People’s Rebellion

Originally published by It’s Going Down
By Scott Campbell

With the ongoing teachers’ strike that has morphed into a widespread rebellion, primarily in Oaxaca and Chiapas, we haven’t put together a more general roundup of resistance and repression in Mexico in some time. While that struggle is very much alive and well, the intensity with which it is unfolding has diminished some. This column will first take a look at the past three weeks of that conflict (if you need to get up to speed, check out this piece) and then cover some of the other recent events around the country.

The teachers belonging to the National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE) have now been on strike for more than two months. Since the massacre by federal and state forces in Nochixtlán, Oaxaca on June 19, in which eleven people were killed, the conflict has taken on an increasingly popular dimension. This has looked like direct actions, marches, material support and expressions of solidarity from across Mexico and beyond, in numbers far too large to recount individually.

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Statement from the Oaxaca Libertarian Bloc

"We go towards life"

“We go towards life”

From Proyecto Ambulante
June 24, 2016
Translated by Scott Campbell

 

In the context of the most recent acts of repression and violence that have arisen in the country, as different anarchist collectives and individuals we have decided to show solidarity by going into the streets and carrying out various actions in the different parts of the country that are suffering the brunt of the state, and resisted with the people.

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Statement 0.2: Ungovernable Oaxaca. Black June, Oaxaca de Magón

oaxaca-ungovernable-molotov

In solidarity with the uprising in Oaxaca, Avenida Insurgentes Sur – a major thoroughfare in Mexico City – is blocked on Monday near the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Published by Proyecto Ambulante
June 21, 2016
Translated by Scott Campbell

Our rage cannot be contained by police bullets, by the State’s jails, by the media’s lies. Our dead will not be forgotten, their combative spirit has spread so that we may take justice into our hands.

Nochixtlán and Oaxaca resisted as the Isthmus region has resisted, demonstrating to the powerful that we don’t fear them, that we will confront them, we will defeat them; in the cold Mixteca the frontline has not been neglected. In spite of the pain that invades the people, they know the worst way to remember those who died in battle is to abandon the war.

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Towards an Anarchism with Principles: A Response to “Freely Disassociating”

The below is the introduction to a piece I wrote, published today on the Institute for Anarchist Studies’ website. Please check out the full essay there.

I read with interest Kevin Van Meter’s recent essay, Freely Disassociating: Three Stories on Contemporary Radical Movements published by Perspectives on Anarchist Theory on the Institute for Anarchist Studies website. In it, he discusses the current climate within the anarchist movement, painting a grim picture where increasingly meaningless labels and judgments get tossed about like political hand grenades, shutting down discussion, utilizing guilt-by-association, fomenting an atmosphere of anti-intellectualism and devolving into moralizing-outrage-as-activism. In his third of the three anecdotes he shares, he also elaborates how association with the anarchist movement can lead to unreasonable expectations and standards being placed on an individual. As a result, the radical movement has largely become a void consumed by the loudest voices or the latest controversy, leading people to disassociate from it.

Facing this scenario, Van Meter argues for developing an “anarchism with principles” based in a milieu of “working class, and revolutionary, intellectual culture.” The principles would emerge through dialog, debate, organizing and application in struggle.

Hopefully my summary fairly characterizes his piece, though I suggest people read it themselves. As I am currently undertaking an evaluation of how I personally engage with radical politics, events and movements, I am drawn to the concerns he raises and his proposal of an “anarchism with principles.” In the spirit of dialog, I would like to offer up some thoughts of my own on the topic.

Read the full essay.