In February 2015, after months of confrontations in response to the murder of Michael Brown, a number of anarchists from the St. Louis area gathered to reflect on their experiences in the streets, their role in predominantly black struggles, and the ramifications of arson and gunfire in protests. We had sent some discussion questions to get the ball rolling, but mostly they let the conversation take its own course, speaking with admirable frankness and vulnerability. The result is an important historical document, of interest to anyone who might one day participate in something similar.
This transcript originally appeared in the 12th issue of Rolling Thunder, which examines the movement that spread across the United States from Ferguson in great detail. It is the first of a series of texts we will be publishing this week to commemorate the anniversary of the uprising.
We’re organizing a US tour for this September and October including anarchists from the groups that have produced versions of To Change Everything in Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Balkans, as well as North America. Together, they will present a panel discussion comparing experiences from the recent global wave of uprisings and exploring the significance of anarchism in the 21st century. We’re excited to facilitate this exchange of perspectives across different continents and struggles, in hopes of helping to foster more global connections and solidarity.
But we need your help! If you are able to host an event, please contact us at email@example.com. We’re especially interested in setting up events outside the usual venues. We would love to hear from student groups, community centers, and anyone else with a good idea.
This May, to support the Czech, Polish, and German versions of To Change Everything, a rotating cast of participants from the US, Czech Republic, Germany, and the Balkans are presenting a series of speaking events in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Germany.
Coinciding with this, we have added the Polish and Czech versions of To Change Everything to the website, including PDFs of the print versions.
We are planning a full US tour for the fall, bringing together participants in To Change Everything from several continents. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you can help set up an event.
On May 1, following a week of riots and demonstrations, Baltimore’s chief prosecutor filed charges against six police officers for the death of Freddie Gray—an almost unprecedented development in a nation in which police kill hundreds of people a year with impunity.
Does this prove that the system can work, provided we make our demands forcefully enough? One could conclude from these events that the best way to address injustice is a sort of hyper-militant reformism. Yet it is also possible to draw the opposite conclusion—that the only way to make any progress whatsoever is to stop petitioning the authorities and take action outside the structures of governance, as the courageous people of Baltimore demonstrated. The fact that it took such a massive upheaval simply for charges to be brought against Freddie Gray’s captors—to say nothing the fundamental changes that are desperately needed in this society—suggests that it is unrealistic to think we could reform the existing institutions one riot at a time.
In that case, what is promising about these moments of rebellion is that they could serve as steps towards determining what happens in our communities autonomously, in defiance of the state, its police, and hand-wringing newscasters. Perhaps the Baltimore Uprising doesn’t show us how to present demands to our rulers, but points the way beyond the politics of demands.
This is an old debate, but it has become more and more urgent through the global uprisings of the past decade. We present our contribution, the result of months of discussions with participants in movements around the globe.
Tomorrow, April 15, is tax day: the day by which you are required to file income tax returns so the US government can extort some of your earnings, the greatest part of which traditionally goes to funding the military and police without which such banditry would be impossible. Thanks to the tax breaks available to the wealthy, your employers may pay less in taxes than you, even as they take more profit home. Many corporations—like Citigroup and Bank of America—pay no federal taxes whatsoever.
In addition, April 15 is a nationwide day of protest under the banner Fight for $15, aimed at winning workers $15-an-hour wages and the right to unionize. Now, we’d love to think that a few protests would suffice to make corporations treat their employees better, or to make the government that exists to protect those corporations suddenly change sides… but we’re not holding our breath. If you’re participating in those actions, we wish you success; just don’t get so comfortable negotiating the details of our exploitation that you come to take it for granted. Even $150 an hour couldn’t justify the humiliating jobs many of us are forced to hold. Real dignity isn’t a question of getting higher wages to do the same thing; we deserve complete self-determination, not better compensation for squandering our lives.
April 15 is also the sixth annual Steal Something from Work Day. Whether or not your employer raises your wages or permits you to unionize, you can conspire with your fellow employees to expand your take-home pay yourselves. You can that do right now, on your own terms, without waiting for legislation, without opening negotiations with your enemies, without the assistance of paid organizers or condescending nonprofits, without struggling to get the attention of politicians who answer to the highest bidder. Sure, stealing from your workplace is dangerous, but it’s no more dangerous than the kind of pressure campaign it would take to win a living wage for everyone nationwide—consult the bloody history of the old US labor movement if you want to know how people won the right to unionize in the first place. And what is more likely to equip us to move towards a real revolution, collective illegal activity or legal reform campaigns? Not that you necessarily have to choose—try both, if you like.
In summer 2013, we published an interview with the Turkish group Revolutionary Anarchist Action (Devrimci Anarşist Faaliyet, or DAF) about the uprising that began in Gezi Park. At the end of summer 2014, we learned that DAF was supporting the fierce resistance that residents of the town of Kobanê in northern Syria were putting up to the incursion of the fundamentalist Islamic State.
In hopes of gaining more insight into the situation, we contacted our comrades of DAF once more. After months of waiting, we are finally able to present these two interviews—one offering general background on the struggle in Kobanê, the other delving into analytical detail about the geopolitical context and implications.
Since 2008, Greece has been a bellwether of crisis and resistance around the world: whatever happens in the social movements there is a pretty good indication of what lies ahead for the rest of us. Syriza, a new political party, took power in Greece last Sunday with the promise to rescue Greece from austerity programs in defiance of the international bankers and finance ministers at the helm of global capitalism. While conservative economists wring their hands, similar parties all over Europe are hailing this as a new model offering hope and change.
But in the long run, Syriza cannot solve the problems created by capitalism and the state, and their electoral victory may only hinder the revolutionary movements that could solve them. Here’s why.
The movement that began in Ferguson in response to the murder of Michael Brown has spread around the United States, setting off nightly clashes in the Bay Area. Scrambling to keep up with events, our contacts in Oakland have composed this overview of the past 17 days of anti-police revolt. They describe the trajectory of die-ins, marches, riots, blockades, barricading, and looting, and explore the implications for the future of protest movements around the country.
From the initial revolt in Ferguson last August to the demonstrations in Oakland and Berkeley last week, property destruction has been central to a new wave of struggle against police violence. But what does vandalizing businesses have to do with protesting police brutality? Why break windows?
First, as countless others have argued, because property destruction is an effective tactic. From the Boston Tea Party to the demonstrations against the 1999 World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, property destruction has been an essential part of many struggles. It can pressure or punish opponents by inflicting an economic cost. It can mobilize potential comrades by demonstrating that the ruling forces are not invincible. It can force issues that otherwise would be suppressed—we would certainly not be having a nationwide conversation about race, class, and policing were it not for the courageous actions of a few vandals in Ferguson. Finally, it conveys an uncompromising rejection of the prevailing order, opening space in which people may begin to imagine another.