The IAS Blog

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"A Diversity of Tactics: A Diversity of Opinions" - a panel discussion on the 2010 Olympics Protests

From Vancouver Media Co-op

A panel discussion co-hosted by and working TV, Saturday February 20, 2010 at W2 Media Arts Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Moderator: Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight

Harsha Walia, No One Is Illegal activist and
Derrick O'Keefe, author and activist

Some Thoughts on the Ongoing Student Struggle from Someone Who is Not a Student

From Fires Never Extinguished

The grandfather of a friend of mine was a forced Jewish laborer in the Nazi munition camps during World War 2. When reparations were finally paid to the survivors, his grandfather refused them. My friend asked his grandfather why. "Because as it is now, I was a forced laborer against my will, but if I take the compensation, then I was just an employee of the Nazi state."

It's interesting. During one of the more curious exchanges between the Greek government, now in deep financial crisis, and the German government, who most elites are expecting to bail the Greeks out, the Greek Deputy Prime Minister evoked the history of Nazi occupation of Greece during the Second World War. He said: 'They took away the Greek gold that was at the Bank of Greece, they took away the Greek money and they never gave it back. I don't say they have to give back the money necessarily but they have at least to say "thanks".'

Anarchism and Its Aspirations — Book Excerpt

From Revolution by the Book

Cindy Milstein’s new book, Anarchism and Its Aspirations, has been printed and is on its way to our warehouse. It’ll be available at the Bay Area Anarchist Bookfair this weekend (where Cindy will be giving two talks).

For those of you who can’t make the bookfair, you can order it now (at a 25% discount!).

Wherever you are, here’s a taste of what’s in store: two brief excerpts lifted from the book’s title essay. Enjoy!


The aim of anarchism is to stimulate forces that propel society in a libertarian direction.
—Sam Dolgoff, The Relevance of Anarchism to Modern Society, 1970

Classical anarchism’s aims were no bulwark against the brutal transformations that swept the globe with the rise of actually existing communism and fascism. Historical forces drove society in a murderous direction. Anarchism did not disappear during this time. Yet its ranks were decimated. Touchstone figures were killed, including Gustav Landauer by protofascists following the Bavarian Revolution in 1919 and Erich Mühsam by Nazis in the Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934. Others died in prison, like Ricardo Flores Magón in 1922, and some committed suicide, such as Alexander Berkman in 1936. Anarchists were increasingly isolated. Kropotkin’s death in 1921 marked the last mass gathering of anarchists—for his funeral procession, and then only with Vladimir Lenin’s permission—in Russia until 1987. Thousands of anarchists worldwide were incarcerated, exiled, or slaughtered. They were victims of repressions like the Red Scare in the United States and purges of radical opposition by numerous Communist parties. As a result, anarchism became far less vibrant, a ghost of itself. This made it difficult for people to discover the politics, further reducing the number of anarchists and anarchistic efforts. It was as if the antiauthoritarian Left skipped a generation or two.

At the same time, the world itself was transformed—but in a polar opposite way from anything that anarchists had advocated. Fascism, Bolshevism, and Maoism; the rise of the United States as a world superpower; the birth of multinational financial institutions along with the “advancement” of capitalism; the cold war with its nuclear threat: these and other emergent phenomena dramatically expanded the forms of domination that any liberatory politics needed to address. Attempts to rebuild anarchism were slow going, but never truly disappeared. In the postwar era, through the 1960s and beyond, anarchism struggled to tailor itself for the late twentieth century. It gained insight from other overlapping or like-minded movements, such as radical feminism and queer liberation, or the Autonomen in Germany and Zapatistas in Mexico. It inspired, both explicitly and in less obvious ways, everything from the playful urban politics of Amsterdam’s Provos to new forms of radical ecology like the antinuclear movement and Earth First! to the British poll tax rebellion.28 While anarchism seemed behind the curve on some issues—the collapse of Communism and the subsequent rise of unipolar neoliberalism, for instance—it continued to grow and develop.

Learning from the Movement for a New Society: An Interview with George Lakey

From Visions of Spring

In 1971 a group of Philadelphia-based activists formed the Movement for a New Society, a network of collectives dedicated to radical pacifist, feminist, and libertarian socialist politics. Over the next 18 years the organization grew to a peak of approximately 300 members in more than a dozen U.S. cities and made important contributions to anti-nuclear, radical ecology, and gender and sexual liberation struggles. The Movement for a New Society (MNS) sought to combine organizing campaigns that utilized direct action tactics with a commitment by its members to “live the revolution now” by transforming themselves and their social relationships, as well as by living collectively and establishing alternative institutions such as food co-ops. Many movement norms and forms of activism that contemporary anti-authoritarians often take for granted—the consensus process, the use of spokescouncils, internal anti-oppression work, and a focus on prefiguring in daily life the world one hopes to win—were either pioneered or heavily promoted by MNS. In 1988 the group dissolved due to the inhospitable political climate and to conflicts and challenges that arose out of MNS’ own innovative group process and strategy. (Read an historical account of Movement for a New Society here.)

Though its experiences are directly relevant to challenges facing radical organizers today, MNS remains relatively unknown. In the summer of 2008 Andy Cornell and Andrew Willis-Garcés interviewed founding member George Lakey as part of an effort to begin evaluating the MNS experience and drawing out lessons for contemporary social justice struggles.

Never Art/work by Stevphen Shukaitis & Erika Biddle

From Journal of Aesthetics and Protest

Everyone is an artist. This would seem a simple enough place to begin; with a statement connecting directly to Joseph Beuys, and more generally to the historic avant-garde’s aesthetic politics aiming to break down barriers between artistic production and everyday life. It invokes an artistic politics that runs through Dada to the Situationists, and meanders and dérives through various rivulets in the history of radical politics and social movement organizing. But let’s pause for a second. While seemingly simple, there is much more to this one statement than presents itself. It is a statement that contains within it two notions of time and the potentials of artistic and cultural production, albeit notions that are often conflated, mixed, or confused.By teasing out these two notions and creatively recombining them, perhaps there might be something to be gained in rethinking the antagonistic and movement-building potential of cultural production: to reconsider its compositional potential.

The first notion alludes to a kind of potentiality present but unrealized through artistic work; the creativity that everyone could exercise if they realized and developed potentials that have been held back and stunted by capital and unrealistic conceptions of artistic production through mystified notions of creative genius. Let’s call this the ‘not-yet’ potential of everyone becoming an artist through the horizontal sublation of art into daily life. The second understanding of the phrase forms around the argument that everyone already is an artist and embodies creative action and production within their life and being. Duchamp’s notion of the readymade gestures towards this as he proclaims art as the recombination of previously existing forms. The painter creates by recombining the pre-given readymades of paints and canvas; the baker creates by recombining the readymade elements of flour, yeast, etc. In other words, it is not that everyone will become an artist, but that everyone already is immersed in myriad forms of creative production, or artistic production, given a more general notion of art.

KDVS Interview with Lucien van der Walt

From Revolution by the Book

Richard Estes and Ron Glick interviewed Lucien van der Walt, co-author of Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism, on their show “Speaking In Tongues,” KDVS, 90.3 FM, University Of California, Davis. The interview took place on September 25, 2009.

The transcript (which I’ve edited slightly for clarity) is below. If you’d like an audio recording of the interview, go here or here. For a higher quality recording of the entire show, go here.

And thanks to Richard and Ron, who have interviewed several AK authors and collective members on their show.


A refuge unto ourselves: An anarchist reading of The Dhammapada Pt. 1

From Everything is Dangerous

What I perhaps foreground least in my approach to the world is the influence I've drawn (for over half my life) from the Dhamma -- the teachings of the historical Buddha -- or what early western orientalists popularized as Buddhism. It circulates in what seem obvious ways for me, but due to its rather shallow (and increasingly commodified) depiction in mainstream, western environments (due in no small part to the role of rather visible western practitioners), I suppose its impact on me is not always altogether apparent. I'm not a Care Bear, I'm notoriously argumentative and critically-inclined, and demanding when it comes to principle -- all in ways that likely clash with the typical associations people have with the tradition. And to be totally honest, often enough, they clash with what I know well to be a more skillful life, myself. Hence, perhaps, the impulse to undertake this process in a rather visible medium, as a reminder to myself.

The Dhammapada is probably the most central and common collections of the Buddha's teachings. The name translates as a compound of Dhamma and Pada, the former referring (depending on who you ask) to everything from "experience", to "the world as it is", to "the teaching", to "the law", and the latter referring to a footpath. I personally like the idea of it referring to the path of what one learns from experience -- kind of a School of Hard Knocks handbook.

Why an anarchist reading of it? I don't terribly mind that my day to day practice is not altogether evident or visible, and I'm not undertaking this so as to assert my own identification with the tradition or stake my claim to what I think is its authentic "core". Rather, I was sort of piqued by the Dharmacore blog's series on the Dhammapada, re-reading it and elaborating on its contemporary relevance. Especially since, upon routine return to the text, I find it exceedingly pragmatic, and likely under-appreciated in its resonance with the liberatory praxis of my non-Dhamma peers.

Excerpts from We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008 edited by A.G. Schwarz, Tasos Sagris, and Void Network

From Revolution by the Book

The following is an announcement for a surprise book AK Press is releasing in February. This Sunday marks an anniversary but this revolt and its continued fallout is not history. Things are heating up in Greece already as we post. Read on to be inspired, educated, and motivated by the comrades in Greece.

We Are an Image from the Future: The Greek Revolt of December 2008
edited by A.G. Schwarz, Tasos Sagris, and Void Network

In February 2010, AK Press will release a comprehensive book on the insurrection that occurred in Greece in December 2008 following the police assassination of 15-year-old Alexis Grigoropoulos, looking at its historical roots, its multiple forms and manifestations, and its continuing effects through the repression around the national elections in October, 2009. With dozens of photos, nearly forty original interviews with participants and observers of the revolt, and dozens of translated texts, articles, and communiqués from a variety of groups, We Are an Image from the Future explores the history of Greek social struggles and the anarchist space in particular, while trying to give multiple answers to the questions about where insurrections come from, what role do anarchists play, to what extent is the State able to repress them, what obstacles prevent insurrections from maturing into revolutions, and in what ways do they change society when they stop short of total revolution?

In commemoration of the one year anniversary of 6 December, in memory of Alexis and Tony and Mohamed and all the others, in memory of the prisoners of the struggle, we’re releasing several of the interviews from the book, so they can begin circulating now, before the book itself comes off the presses.

To read them click here.

The only way to learn if we can swim is to jump in the water… (announcement by the occupied Theatre school in Thessaloniki)

From After the Greek Riots

The only way to learn if we can swim is to jump in the water…

If we could keep something from last December this is the end of silence. The social explosion was not alone on the streets of Greece, but it came out together with the need for dialogue. The fact, which we are told for years now that “democracy” has no dead ends, was proven brutally to be a cheap lie of the authority. The dead ends are a lot. They materialize in the tenths of our day-to-day problems, in our society’s sickness.

Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down: A Statement on the Greek Counterinsurgency by flesh machine// ego te provoco// comrades

From After The Greek Riots

During the last two months, the strategy of counterinsurgency developed by the greek state since December has passed to a new phase of totalisation. If we speak of counterinsurgency and not of repression it is because the former in contrast to the latter is not so much a military type intervention, as an integrated political and social technology producing consent, fear and defeatism. It aims not at the immediate annihilation of the insurgents, but at the removal of their living space: the conceptual, affective and cultural plane of the insurgency. This is a preventive strategy whose object is the wealth of possibilities that sprouted out of the insurrectionary event. It is a low intensity warfare, a politico-psychological warfare, in the sense that its goal is the corrosion of the political, social and psychological consistency of the insurgency. The basic principle of counterinsurgency is, on the one hand, to “win hearts and minds”, and, on the other hand, “not to take the fish out of the sea, but to dry the sea where the insurgents swim like fish”. And it does this by “separating and uniting”. Separating the insurgents from their possibilities, separating the insurgents from their political and social affinities, separating the insurgents from each other. And at the same time uniting social discontent with the call of reform, by representing the insurgency as a cause of backwardness, and uniting the forces of repression with wide segments of the population, by presenting the former in as both humane, pro-people and effective.

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