Reviews of Recipes for Disaster
“Blasting the axiom that you can't blow up a social relationship, CrimethInc.'s latest lexicon delivers way more fireworks than the dubious incendiaries of the original Anarchist Cookbook. Where the latter was an unreliable, DIY guide to explosives and firearms, Recipes for Disaster gathers a polymorphous introduction to the direct-action heart of anarchism. It deserves to be read far beyond the circular networks of true believers, for in the grace of its plain-spoken sedition it succeeds not just as provocation, but as a masterpiece of radical propaganda.
“The black bloc is here, alongside dozens of anonymously penned chapters on everything from forming affinity groups to helping survivors of sexual violence heal. Making the best of unemployment doesn't compete with building independent media and dealing with government repression—every recipe is given the dignity of its own moment, held together by the demand that what we dream of being is what we are. Liberation is not a zero-sum game, it's a 'movable feast.'
“Direct action is cast by its detractors as little more than a code word for smashing windows, but rebellion in the streets is only the most confrontational aspect of a philosophy that seeks life in hand, not the pie in the sky of religion or the crapshoot of organizing for political change. Each recipe is a viral revolt that tries to show how easy it is to live, to skip off the well-traveled and desiccated roads of pre-digested food and pre-determined elections. It's the common-sense of utopian longing, beautifully laid-out over 600 pages.”
excerpted from Clamor, spring 2006, #36
“It's an act of unrivaled chutzpah to bring the idea of an anarchist cookbook back now, at a time when the anarchist movement is growing beyond its recent association with juvenile rebellion. The allure of such a manual can't be denied, but it needed to be tempered with some critical thinking—the CrimethInc. Collective has done precisely that with its new book, Recipes for Disaster, an alphabetized compendium of revolutionary strategies and tactics gathered from far and wide . . .
“At a time when the spectacle has reached a new and previously unimagined level of ubiquity, under a capitalism whose necessary frontier is the colonization of the imagination, CrimethInc. concern themselves precisely with discovering and creating unmediated experience. This brings us to illegalism-as-self-help, but also to topics you wouldn't expect out of a book like this: non-monogamous relationships, DIY gynecology, etc. . . The book nicely balances tactics for empire-smashing with ones for community-building . . .
“We might say this is the "bible of direct action," except that religious manuals don't often remind you that the authors are fallible, and that you should experiment on your own. For all the collective brilliance that's on display here, there's also a great deal of humility sorely absent in most anarchist discourse. Although there's no entry on the topic, CrimethInc.'s previously articulated notion of "folk science" underlies all the material here: an aesthetic of tinkering, of taking the methods of science out of the hands of ivory-tower professionals . . .
“Perhaps the section on mental health most characterizes the marvelous things about CrimethInc.: It's written clearly and frankly, free of confusing jargon or unexplained theory. It's shot through with a commitment to taking mental health out of the hands of institutional authorities and back to the community, and commitment to voluntary ossification and mutual aid. It addresses an often taboo subject. And most importantly, it creates a space for human frailty, free from macho posturing and the Spartan pretensions of invulnerability that often plague radical movements . . .
“Outsider art—a wealth of idiosyncratic techniques, many of them ripe for adaptation to radical purposes—has been too frequently overlooked. Its appearance here is a testament to CrimethInc.'s eclectic, undogmatic approach.
“In a certain sense, the nine-page section on unemployment is at the heart of the book. In many ways, this continues the "Work" section in CrimethInc.'s last encyclopedic tome, Days of War, Nights of Love. It points to many of the other sixty sections in this book—personal liberation, the authors suggest, is always the first step, the one that makes everything else possible. They offer dozens of strategies, small and large, for living without wages. While some of these strategies are parasitic, many are concerned with reduced consumption, self-sufficiency, and mutual aid.
“It's entirely likely that this book will become a classic to replace the original 'anarchist cookbook,' and we're overcome with glee as we contemplate these ideas in the hands of mischief-makers everywhere.”
excerpted from fifth estate , spring/summer 2005 issue
“The short review, for anyone who has read Days of War, Nights of Love, is this: Days of War is the theory, while Recipes for Disaster is the practice. As such, the new book is full of inspiring and visionary prose and wonderful graphic design, like in the previous tome, but arranged into more practical step-by-step directions, and interesting accounts of actual applications of the methods described.
“I bought the book immediately as soon I saw it—that's how much high regard I hold for Crimethinc. But after I got it home and started really reading it I thought, wait a minute, I don't do black bloc actions, sabotage, or shoplifting. Why did I get this? However, I soon realized that, contrary to the original Anarchist's Cookbook, Recipes for Disaster is about much more than "fucking shit up." There are entries on affinity groups, dealing with the media, security culture, collectives, undermining oppression, and all sorts of other very useful activities for any radical activist, things that aren't necessarily oriented toward explicitly illegal activities.
“In fact, even in the chapters like Surviving a Felony Trial and Sabotage, the authors are surprisingly even-handed and calmly wise. Cautionary words about being absolutely certain you are comfortable with the level of risk and involvement that you're participating in, and advice to fully examine the consequences of what you're planning "if everything went completely wrong," are liberally (oops, no pun intended) spread throughout the book. This book is no irresponsible manifesto intent on riling up the kids with no regard for their safety. It's an extremely measured, intelligent take on how to do direct action and other radical activism in smart way that will keep you in the game for the long haul, not burned out, in prison, or dead in a couple years. And advice along those lines is extremely important for the movement right now.
“I think everyone—whether you explicitly identify as an ‘anarchist’ or not—who is engaged somehow in the very real battle against oppression and global capitalism can get something out of this book, from the nuts and bolts of Molotov cocktail design to tips on starting an independent media center.”
Portland IMC , written by Steev Hise, March 2005
“‘This is a handbook for direct action. It’s not the only one – there are thousands: every gardener’s guide is a direct action handbook, as is every cookbook. Any action that sidesteps regulations, representatives, and authorities to accomplish goals directly is direct action.’
- From the Preface of Recipes for Disaster
“I have been intrigued by the writings of the CrimethInc (Ex-)Workers’ Collective since their previous missive, Days of War, Nights of Love. That collection encouraged me to think deeply about issues scampering through my mind (identity, capitalism, plagiarism, technology). I adopted some of their suggestions, ignored others, and modified some. This is part of what CrimethInc expects of you – to use their ideas as a starting point, make them your own, and then teach others how to use these skills to re-gain control over their lives.
“In their new brick-like book (600+ pages bound along the short side and weighing two pounds), Recipes for Disaster, CrimethInc presents a portable skillshare of techniques for direct actions. Recipes for Disaster is not necessarily to be read linearly, from cover to cover, but consulted for ideas, instructions and inspiration. It’s extremely engaging reading, especially the “Accounts” of the direct actions in action (especially those of Antifascist action, Infiltration, Classroom Takeover and Newspaper Wraps). Above all, it’s a handbook, an idea book, a D.I.Y. manual that you should highlight and scribble in the margins of (nice and wide!), dog-ear and just plain use. It should be marked up, bent back and battered.
“Recipes for Disaster provides instructions and advice for an alphabet of direct actions, from A (Affinity Groups, Antifascist Action, Asphalt Mosaics) to . . . W (Wheatpasting). (A minor quibble: Where’s Z for Zine? Guess I’ll have to write that one myself.) Clear instructions are provided, and diagrams when needed. Some of the direct actions are more physically extreme than others (e.g. Blockades and Lockdowns, Infiltration, and Utilities (hijacking of)), but there is a myriad of techniques presented, so there’s sure to be something for everyone to try. You’re not going to agree with every recipe presented—and that’s fine. There are many actions here that I am not extroverted, skilled, or ballsy enough to perform myself. The recipes that I’m excited about are crafty ones, such as Stickering, Screenprinting, Newspaper Wraps and Stenciling, just to list a few. However, if I ever want to organize a Reclaim the Streets party or make an Effigy, I’ll at least have basic guidelines.
“Also included are discussions of topics that do not at first seem to fall under the category direct “action”, such as Health Care, Behavioral Cut Ups and Unemployment. The Mental Health chapter is especially balanced regarding their opinions about medication and therapy. A significant portion of Recipes for Disaster is dedicated to building various forms of community, stressing the importance of working together through Affinity Groups, Coalition Building, Collectives, Solidarity, Thinktanks and more. Most every recipe benefits from group direct action, as opposed to working solo. The CrimethInc contributors are aware of dissent and discord among activist groups—even if the end result or benefit is the same, people have different views of how to accomplish it. In the Preface, the contributors refer to this as a “Diversity of Tactics”. In part (a bit lengthy, but important):
Communities that practice direct action are often plagued by conflicts over which tactics are most effective and appropriate. Such debates are usually impossible to resolve – and that’s a good thing. Instead, to the extent it is possible, the activities of those employing different methods and even those pursuing different goals should be integrated into a mutually beneficial whole.
Accepting a diversity of tactics provides for the broad diversity of real human beings. Every individual has a different life history, and consequently finds different activities meaningful and liberating. Insisting that everyone should adopt the same approach is arrogant and shortsighted – it presumes that you are entitled to make judgments on others’ behalf – and also unrealistic: any strategy that demands that everyone think and act the same way is doomed to failure, for human beings are not that simple or submissive. . . .
Honoring a diversity of tactics means refraining from attacking those who chosen approaches seem to you to be ineffective, and instead focusing on what missing elements you can add to make their efforts effective. This, it reframes the question of strategy in terms of personal responsibility: at every juncture, the question is not what somebody else should be doing, but what you can do.
Although not a formal “recipe”, this discussion of diversity of tactics may just be the most important part of this book. After all, cooking is much more fun and rewarding with friends working together.
“Recipes for Disaster is a welcome addition to any activist’s book collection, but why stop there? Give it to people who don’t expect it.
“Then see what happens. You might be surprised.”
Time Enough At Last , written by AJ, May 2005
“If you buy one book this year, I suggest it be Crimethinc's An Anarchist Cookbook: Recipes for Disaster. I have not read such an inspiring book since Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book back in the 1970's. This book should be in every motel room replacing bibles. This book belongs in your medicine cabinet. It is the strongest of anti-depressants. The reason this book is so very important is two pronged, in my opinion. For one, it is based on cheap ingredients so poor folks can play. Many of the things used in the recipes for disaster in this book can be salvaged as society's waste. And that is part of the point, using the excesses capitalist societies produce in its own monkeywrenching. It is social aikido. The second importance of this book is its emphasis on direct and immediate action. Much as it is hard to stand still when a good beat is going, it is seriously hard to stay home after reading chapters of this book. It inspires to action, and that is priceless.
“Who does not enjoy the image concocted when reading about dressing up like Santa, going into a department store, handing out presents to the kids, and then watching their confusion as the store manager explains the kids have to give back the toys Santa just gave them (Guerrilla Performances Chapter)?! That is some precious imagery. Even thinking it breaks old prisons of thought in our minds. The ability to repeatedly think outside the box is a strong point throughout this book. Everyday scenes are repeatedly tweaked, creating political art and agit-prop at every turn. Many of the chapters brought me to tears due to their depth and sincerity. The class consciousness present throughout, for example, was refreshing, and endearing. I found the chapter on Portrait Exchanges, about giving away portraits on the street while providing community grievance boards in a social class experiment, and the chapter on Surviving Felony Trials to be quite touching, for instance.
“The chapter on Mainstream Media was hilarious. The author recommends being really boring for the mainstream press so they do not get a chance to exploit folks when reporting on protest actions. I also liked the suggestion to just answer the question you wished the reporter asked! The chapter on Effigies had me rolling with laughter. The author reports on an effigy they made of Bush and how the crowd shocked them with their violence towards the figure. "With a little coaching and encouragement, chuckling liberals would give a symbolic tap on the nose - but most folks took it to the Prez with vicious abandon. The tightly fitted mask was knocked clean off the "dummy" too many times to count." The moral of the story? "As keen observers, we feel that it is our patriotic duty to report what could be construed as latent feelings of violence, resentment, and readiness to brawl directed at the President of the United States of America." Ah, those wide "no protest zones" that follow Bush around are making more sense every day!
“It is comforting to know there are people thinking outside the box, but it is also comforting to know you are not alone. To know you are not the only one who sits around thinking up wild things to do on the street for public education and edification is a form of sanity. Much of the depression and frozen inaction in modern society is the disempowerment we get from being isolated and marketed as competition against each other at every turn. To derail from the corporate machine, to go out with crude materials, and make art that makes people think, for free, is beautiful. To see, and to do. Even viewing such art has a participatory feel to it. It takes away the disempowerment feeling, the isolation feeling, which lifts the depression. Many of the actions outlined in this book are like secret messages scrawled on the streets for anyone who can read the code of freedom. Which is why I say this book is one powerful anti-depressant. I went through some serious depression while reading it, and it never failed to lighten my mood and give me endurance, patience and perseverance, not to mention it emboldened me to stand up to oppression publicly, creatively, and aggressively. This book is dangerous shit for that reason alone. It teaches us to enjoy each other, it teaches us to create our own entertainment and art, it reinforces fearlessness and guerrilla media, it teaches us to stop consuming and wasting, and it teaches us to SHARE. Nothing could be more dangerous to Homeland Security.
“Often people just need to know of the existence of something to do it. I did not street perform until I saw a street performer. Many of the underground experiences I have had required exposure to an alternative grassroots culture. I did not even know midwives existed growing up, but once I found out about them, I did not want, and would not settle for, anything but a home birth. I grew up on fast and frozen foods but as soon as I was exposed to wholesome food and proper health knowledge, I began to eat consciously right away. And I have to admit, I have upped the quality of my activist imagination and actions after reading this book. I mean, why write in chalk on sidewalks, when you could permanently impale a tile-asphalt graffiti piece right into the street (Asphalt Mosaics Chapter)?
“This book does a good job at embodying the feel of, and therefore exposing people to, the current underground direct action culture. This is a handbook about anarchist collective beliefs, humor, lifestyles, and tactics. This book really is a historical document in that way. It is one of the best documentations of the anarchist and radical political underground I have seen. It is not bogged down in impenetrable jargon. It is written in everyday speech, yet, I have to say, these street activists are a damned literate bunch! The editing and voices throughout the book are professional quality and provide a smooth and humorous read. Even the writing style in this book is indicative of the underground DIY political culture prevalent right now. This book is basically the narrative of a political revolution brewing under the skin of society, internationally, and off the radar, being fueled by the Bush regime's escalating insanity, and the desperateness of the poor people of the world, to find ways to organize and make their voices heard over loud bombs and media censorship.
“‘Make the lackeys of capitalism regret they ever let you get out alive, and the communities you care for grateful you managed to survive.‘ - Recipes for Disaster
“So enough gushing about this book's utility, importance and profundity. What the hell is this book about?! It is about health (mental health, relationships, sex…), living together on earth (collectives, coalition building, thinktanks, hitchhiking, parades, festivals…), DIY media (billboards, banners, fake newspaper covers…), and direct action tactics (wheatpasting, stenciling, stickering, shoplifting, squatting…). The book is full of practical advice such as putting a line of cayenne pepper at your door to confuse police dogs, throwing carpeting over barbed wire to make it more accommodating, and planting flower seeds in a pattern to make living graffiti. Practical advice borne of experience lines the margins, such as the advice to paint the red circle with a line through it, before the image you are protesting. The book recalls one protester who got high atop an area in plain sight of all at a demonstration, drew a swastika, and then ran out of paint for the circle to say NO! to fascism! And who does not crack a smile at the thought of putting hand-written "Out of Order" signs on Coca-Cola machines, to help the boycotts in solidarity with Columbia Coca-Cola workers, etc.?
“Aren't some of these activities illegal? Yes. There are illegal things mentioned in this book, just as there were in Abbie Hoffman's Steal This Book, which is sold on Amazon.com and housed in the Library of Congress, and is considered a classic. But there are many more legal activities mentioned than illegal in this book. Every person has to weigh out what they are willing to live with. Is the Iraq war illegal? Yes, in my opinion. So is a strong anti-war action that breaks the law really ‘illegal?’ Hmmm. These are the choices each person must make for themselves. Civil disobedience is a longstanding protest technique. Abbie Hoffman was a master at the type of direct action that much of this book outlines, and he is considered a respected and essential historical figure now. The folks who take action now are part of the stepping stones for our future and are creating history. What you do today DOES affect our future, whether you take direct action in protest or follow the mindless consumer sector, your actions and inactions today matter. And thus, you need to decide for yourself what you are willing to risk, in all directions. You also need to know what your own required safety level is. For instance, I would not feel comfortable, myself, with the torches made from the book's instructions because I am not familiar enough with fire on cloth like that. But others may be more comfortable with that. You need to judge for yourself. That is the beauty of free speech, free thought, and self-rule.
“Are you willing to trade your own personal safety for a few days, years, or decades, for the planet's environmental health for millennium? Are you willing to trade following laws in America to allow your country to break laws internationally? And how much isolation, depression, oppression, and poverty are you willing to accept? How much freedom, empowerment, courage and creativity are you willing to court, dance and give birth to? How much fear are you willing to be crippled by? How much does freedom excite you, lure you, lead you, towards creating your own reality, your own world, your own life? This book is more than a guidebook for political actions, it is a blueprint to free your mind, and that is why this is one of the most dangerous books on the market today.
“‘Motherf*cker, you're already caught. Better ask yourself - what if you get free?’ - Recipes for Disaster”
mostly water , written by Kirsten Anderberg, July 2005
[Wholesale copies are $7 each]
“It deserves to be read far beyond the circular networks of true believers, for in the grace of its plain-spoken sedition it succeeds not just as provocation, but as a masterpiece of radical propaganda.”
“Each recipe is a viral revolt.”
“The book nicely balances tactics for empire-smashing with ones for community-building”
“A testament to CrimethInc.'s eclectic, undogmatic approach”
“This book will become a classic.”
“It's an extremely measured, intelligent take on how to do direct action and other radical activism in smart ways that will keep you in the game for the long haul, not burned out, in prison, or dead in a couple years.”
“The authors are surprisingly even-handed and calmly wise.”
“This book belongs in your medicine cabinet. It is the strongest of anti-depressants.”
“Much as it is hard to stand still when a good beat is going, it is seriously hard to stay home after reading chapters of this book. It inspires to action, and that is priceless.”