Anarchist News

Solecast: Black Rose Federation Building Grassroots Working Class Power

From Solecast

On today’s episode of the Solecast, I speak with a member of the Black Rose Federation. Black Rose Federation has chapters across North America and utilizes an anarcho-communist tendency called “Specifismo:” which (according to wikipedia) has been summarized as:

Listen and Download HERE

  • The need for a specifically anarchist organization built around a unity of ideas and praxis.
  • The use of the specifically anarchist organization to theorize and develop strategic political and organizing work.
  • Active involvement in and building of autonomous and popular social movements via social insertion.

In this interview we discuss:
-Their organizing principles
-Their approach to building working class power from below
-Grass roots power vs local politics vs electoral politics
-The need for a rigorous educational program within movements
-Discussions on anarchist infrastructure projects
-Thoughts on “protest,” their limitations and what they are good for
-The life of Bakunin much more

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In Defense Of A/S: Is Anarcho-syndicalism Outdated?

via Libcom

This article will be the first in a consistent series on this blog that will be updated as ideas come to the author. It’s title is “In Defense Of A/S”. The aim will be to evaluate counter-arguments to Anarcho-syndicalism and sufficiently defend Anarcho-syndicalism against these arguments. One can think of it as a sort of frequently asked questions pertaining specifically to criticisms of Anarcho-syndicalism. In this vein some criticisms addressed in this series will be commonly made criticisms of Anarcho-syndicalism. Some criticisms will be less commonly made and may only come from a specific individual, or group of individuals. The ambition is to provide a hefty counter-weight to theories and practices opposed to Anarcho-syndicalism that acts as a resource which Anarcho-syndicalists can draw from in making convincing arguments for our cause. The argument addressed in this addition of In Defense is the argument that Anarcho-syndicalism is outdated.

This was all prompted by a comment that was left on my recent article about Noam Chomsky. I will quote the comment in full:

“As much as I agree with the author here, isn’t calling someone or oneself nowadays an ‘Anarcho-syndicalist’ somewhat like wearing a bowler hat? Just like ‘capitalism’ is so dramatically changed from that era that one really should use a different word (though we keep using the same one). Syndicalism is highly relevant historically, but today consider the diminution of actual (human) production jobs, rise in bullshit jobs, along with the exponential debt enslavement, acute wealth extraction, and annihilation of the planet – problems that were slight back then. The article author keeps rolling back to reference the 1930s as if it is the handbook for 2018. I get it, but I also feel like it is spinning the tires a bit. Perhaps the idea of scaling down productivity and abandoning it altogether is a strategy for saving the earth. Maybe this would mean less emphasis on traditional unionization and syndicalism and more on general assemblies based around job obsolescence, debt, and climate crises.”

This is a common criticism made of Anarcho-syndicalism. Since traditional Marxism and Anarcho-syndicalism first developed at a relatively early stage of capitalism’s existence which is depending on how you chart the development of these ideas, between one and two centuries ago, both are viewed as fossils of bygone leftist politics. When comrades from my organization, Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, published a critique of Center For A Stateless Society one of it’s major figures, Kevin Carson, argued in turn that Anarcho-syndicalism is a “dinosaur”. To quote Corson; “It’s ironic that they describe my practical vision as “far removed from reality” — and use the term “fantasy” in their title — because those are exactly the terms I’d use for the anarcho-syndicalist model they advocate. This is a heroic Old Left fantasy based on an obsolete mass-production technological model that resembles the real world less and less every day. And the authors ignore left-wing currents around the world that have developed specifically in response to the obsolescence of their model.” Ecologist Murray Bookchin made very similar arguments in 1992. According to Bookchin Anarchist proximity to Marxists in the first International Workingmen’s Association lead Anarcho-syndicalism to develop out of Marx’s preoccupation with an industrial proletariat concentrated in European factories in the 19th century. “Marx and Engels personally eschewed terms like “workers,” “toilers,” and “laborers,” although they were quite prepared to use these words in their popular works. They preferred to characterize industrial workers by the “scientifically” precise name of “proletarians” — that is, people who had nothing to sell but their labor power, and even more, who were the authentic producers of surplus value on production lines (an attribute that even Marxists tend to ignore these days). Insofar as the European proletariat as a class evolved from displaced preindustrial strata like landless peasants who had drifted toward the cities, the factory system became their economic home, a place that — presumably unlike the dispersed farmsteads and villages of agrarian folk — “organized” them into a cohesive whole. Driven to immiseration by capitalist accumulation and competition, this increasingly (and hopefully) class-conscious proletariat would be inexorably forced to lock horns with the capitalist order as a “hegemonic” revolutionary class and eventually overthrow bourgeois society, laying the foundations for socialism and ultimately communism. However compelling this Marxian analysis seemed from the 1840s onward, its attempt to reason out the proletariat’s “hegemonic” role in a future revolution by analogy with the seemingly revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie in feudal society was as specious as the latter was itself historically erroneous (see Bookchin, 1971, pp. 181–92). It is not my intention here to critically examine this fallacious historical scenario, which carries considerable weight among many historians to this very day. Suffice it to say that it was a very catchy thesis — and attracted not only a great variety of socialists but also many anarchists. For anarchists, Marx’s analysis provided a precise argument for why they should focus their attention on industrial workers, adopt a largely economistic approach to social development, and single out the factory as a model for a future society, more recently in particular, based on some form of “workers’ control” and “federal” form of industrial organization.”

The chestnut is that since Anarcho-syndicalism was developed first in the late 19th century and was carried forth in major ways in the early 20th century that it is only suited to deal with the economic and social reality of that time. If this were true then Anarcho-syndicalists all around the world might as well pack it in. If our ideas can’t be applied to the modern world, then what’s the point? Luckily for us just because a school of thought and practice was developed a long time ago, doesn’t mean it stopped developing since then. If one can seriously, and in good faith, claim that Anarcho-syndicalism is “outdated” and not significantly developed since the Spanish Civil War, then one clearly has not familiarized oneself with modern Anarcho-syndicalism.

International Anarcho-syndicalism was destroyed by the second world war. Fascist governments repressed Anarcho-syndicalist organizations, the war destroyed their homelands, and the International Workers’ Association which organized the Anarcho-syndicalist movement into one international organization essentially fell apart. After World War Two the international re-organized itself and it’s member organizations got back on their feet with new organizations sprouting up. Throughout much of the 20tth century since the Spanish Civil War Anarchism had been marginalized by State Socialism, War, and Fascism to a few small groups in different corners of the world. In the 1980s Anarchism sprouted up once again as a popular alternative to State Socialism and neoliberal capitalism.

In the new era Anarcho-syndicalism adapted to questions of racism, patriarchy, and the environment. The aforementioned international used to be called the “International Workingmen’s Association” as a nod to the first international of Marx, Engels, Proudhon, and Bakunin, but changed the name out of consideration for gender equality. A variety of Anarcho-syndicalism has cropped up called “green syndicalism” which puts defense of the environment from capitalism on the agenda of the revolutionary libertarian workers’ movement. Anarcho-syndicalist environmental activist Judi Bari worked to synthesize defense of the earth with working class organization working with workers to help them see their exploitation as workers and the exploitation of the earth as intertwined. The International Workers’ Association is still thriving today despite recently going through a major split. It regularly puts out statements arguing against racist anti-immigrant sentiment and for international solidarity among workers. Recently, in Bangladesh, an Anarcho-syndicalist federation has been organized. The polish revolutionary union, ZSP, has been organizing postal and supermarket workers against attacks by bosses. With the help of Anarcho-syndicalists in Indonesia of PPAS a militant union called “Kumon” was set up for Uber drivers and a large scale Uber strike took place. We could go on.

The reason that the Anarcho-syndicalist movement has carried forth into the 21st century is because the relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism is not dependent on the particular stage capitalism finds itself in. It is only dependent on the existence of capitalism itself. Bookchin claims that Marx’s argument about the proletariat is based on workers being congealed into large factories during the industrial revolution. This is a misreading of Marx. Though Marx and Marxists after him would underestimate the role of the peasantry in revolution, Marx’s argument for the working class as the “revolutionary subject” was far more fundamental than the specific conditions of the time he conjured up his theories in. Marx’s argument was that the working class is deprived of all means of subsistence in capitalist society. They have no control over the tools of production and must rent out their time to those who own production as private property in order receive an income that allows them (workers) to live. This means workers have every interest in organizing together to abolish capitalism and take control of and then run production themselves. Volume 1 of Marx’s capital states “The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process incomparably more protracted, violent, and difficult than the transformation capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property”. He goes on; “In the former case, we had the expropriation of the mass of people by a few usurpers; in the latter, we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of people”.

The relevance of Anarcho-syndicalism lies in the fact that workers would do much better to organize in their own self-managed associations to struggle against capitalism and institute a world where they collectively control the means of living then continue to suffer the exploitation and domination of capitalist relations of production. This will be the case as long as capitalism exists.


The Ghost of Anarcho-syndicalism, Murray Bookchin

1860-Today: The International Workers’ Association

Green Syndicalism – An Alternative Red-Green Vision, Jeff Shantz

Capital, Volume 1, p.296


Lecce, Italy: Anarchist Publishing Fair

via act for freedom now!

Anarchist Publishing Fair

Two days of circulation and propaganda of anarchist ideas

Two days of books, meetings, presentations and discussions to talk about the history and topicality of anarchist ideas and action, of the indissoluble link that unites them and their ability to bear on the world in the perspective of changing it.

Lecce – Anarchist Publishing Fair

Saturday 22nd September 

3pm: Opening of the fair and anarchist publishing stands and aperitifs

5pm: Anarchists of Bialystok 1903-1908, ed. Bandiera Nera, 2018.

Presentation of the book by the editors and discussion

7pm: Daring ones, not gendarmes! From the trenches to the barricades: ardour of war and the people’s daring ones (1917-1922), by Marco Rossi, ed. BFS, 2011.

Presentation of the book by the author and discussion

9:30pm: Benefit dinner

Sunday 23rd September

11pm: Opening of the fair and of anarchist publishing stands

1:30pm: Benefit lunch

5pm: (Minimal) counter-investigation on the ‘incurable disease’ by one who has it. On social pathogenesis and political aetiology of the cancer-demon, by Franco Cantù, ed. Nautilus, 2017.

Presentation of the book by the author.

To vaccinate our children? Three doctors’ points of view, by doctor Françoise Berthoud, ed. La Tana, 2018. Presentation of the book with the editors.

Discussion on medicalization and the control of the body perpetrated by the institutions and scientific authority as a form of social control and repression of individual freedom.

7pm: On DNA sample-taking and codification of existence.

An analysis of forced DNA sample-taking in prisons and the project of mass filing of individuals, by Anarchists against genetic filing.

9:30pm: Benefit dinner.

Occupied Anarchist Library ‘Disordine’

Via delle Giravolte, 19/a – Lecce


Translated by act for freedom now!


Book Extract: World War, and Freedom’s nadir

via Freedom News

When the Great War broke out in 1914 most anarchists took their customary anti-militarist position, but the conflict also led to two of its heaviest hitters, Errico Malatesta and Peter Kropotkin, throwing down in the pages of anarchist journal Freedom. In the following extract from A Beautiful Idea: History of the Freedom Press Anarchists, Rob Ray outlines how the founding father of anarcho-communism was rebuked over his pro-war stance, and eventually sidelined from the movement he helped build.

Freedom had, from its earliest days, been strongly anti-nationalist and heavily critical of imperialist conflicts — it courted significant unpopularity by denouncing the Second Boer War in 1899 as an imperial scam. In an 1896 article, ‘War’ the paper was explicit in arguing that State conflicts have repeatedly been used to distract the fighting spirit of the workers from the class struggle and the growing revolutionary ferment. Further, it published many articles along the lines proposed by Elisée Reclus, including a translated piece by the renowned French writer in 1898 suggesting that in order for war to stop, it would be necessary to prioritise the resolution of the social question — abolishing the need to fight over private property. As of October 1911, in ‘An Open Letter to a Soldier’ the paper was urging desertion in the ranks of armies everywhere.

So when war broke out in 1914 the lead article Freedom carried in September was a predictable one, and in theory not at all problematic. ‘Blood and Iron’ cast curses on both houses, Allies and Central Powers, thundering to workers:

The same powers that deprived you of the fruits of your labour, and compelled you by hunger and starvation to create riches for a minority of privileged thieves and idlers — the same powers will now take away the lives of your sons and brothers, and force you with their guns to die for their interests.

It was rendered controversial in short order however by Kropotkin’s sudden announcement that Germany must be defeated at all costs. This must have been something of a surprise to then-editor Tom Keell, as on the back page of that very September issue was an advert for a new pamphlet written by Kropotkin, Wars and Capitalism, which was unequivocal in suggesting the masses must not be distracted from social revolution by the belligerent maneuvering of States, colonialists, financiers and business tycoons. Jotting down his memories of the time, Keell described meeting Kropotkin “in a noisy Lyons cafe in Oxford Street” where the old soldier was drawing up military movement maps, supported by the (very ill) Freedom stalwart Alfred Marsh. Keell refused point blank to run Kropotkin’s pro-war essay, and instead a bodged article on communal kitchens appeared.

He could not keep the Russian’s new leanings quiet for long though, and in a letter to Swedish professor Gustaf Steffen, published by the paper in October, Freedom’s core theorist plumped publicly for the Allies, writing: “The territories of both France and Belgium MUST be freed of the invaders. The German invasion must be repulsed — no matter how difficult this may be. All efforts must be that way.” Rejecting the possibility of using labour stoppages to deter the onset of the conflict, he argued that the anti-militarist’s duty must therefore be to support the invaded nation, or risk through inaction supporting the invader. In particular, he voiced his fears that a victorious Germany would impose a hardline “Bismarkian imperialism” which would cause irreparable damage to workers’ power. He noted:

The last 43 years were a confirmation of what Bakunin wrote in 1871, namely, that if French influence disappeared from Europe, Europe would be thrown back in her development for half a century. And now it is self-evident that if the present invasion of Belgium and France is not beaten back by the common effort of all national of Europe, we shall have another half-century or more of general reaction.

Writing later, historian Max Nettlau would argue it was inevitable that even among the anarchist movement many would take sides on the Allies vs Central Powers question. Kropotkin’s love for French enlightenment and fear of Germanic aggression pushed him into precisely that mode.

As editor Keell was left in a difficult position. Anti-war in his own views, he initially went to some pains to provide impartiality and carried Kropotkin’s articles verbatim, along with criticism from many other writers, but would ultimately place himself squarely against the “secular saints” who were advocating getting behind the Allies.

One of the most significant essays published under Keell’s editorship was to arrive that November from Errico Malatesta. ‘Anarchists Have Forgotten Their Principles’ was a powerful reiteration of the case against support for State militarism and a scorching, prescient riposte to Kropotkin’s position:

I have no greater confidence in the bloody Tsar, nor in the English diplomats who oppress India, who betrayed Persia, who crushed the Boer republics; nor in the French Bourgeoisie, who massacred the natives of Morocco; nor in those of Belgium, who have allowed the Congo atrocities and largely profited by them — and I only recall some of their misdeeds, taken at random, not to mention what all governments and capitalist classes do against the workers and the rebels in their own countries …

Besides, in my opinion, it is most probable there will be no definite victory on either side. After a long war, an enormous loss of life and wealth, both sides being exhausted, some kind of peace will be patched up, leaving all questions open, this preparing for a new war more murderous than the present.

Keell was denounced as “unworthy” of his editorial role by Kropotkin for his troubles and effectively asked to resign. He was backed primarily by the Freedom-linked Voice of Labour publishing collective, including George Barrett, Fred Dunn, Mabel Hope, Elizabeth Archer, Tom Sweetlove, W Fanner, and Lilian Wolfe, but would not be exonerated of accusations that he was disgracing his office until the next national anarchist gathering in April 1915 at Hazel Grove, Stockport. There he would face off against George Cores, speaking on behalf of Tcherkesoff, former Freedom publisher John Turner and others to denounce what they regarded as a unilateral bid for total control over the paper. The delegates however, including influential Irish Liverpudlian Mat Kavanagh, took Keell’s side, approving his actions in keeping the paper on an anti-war path.

Following this Kropotkin and others in the pro-Allies camp, notably Jean Grave, became thoroughly hostile to Keell’s Freedom, and they would go on to write the Manifesto of the Sixteen in 1916. The manifesto, eventually signed by a little over 100 anarchists including a number of leading international figures, but denounced across the rest of the movement, notes:

To speak of peace while the party [Germany] who, for 45 years, have made Europe a vast, entrenched camp, is able to dictate its conditions, would be the most disastrous error that we could commit. To resist and to bring down its plans, is to prepare the way for the German population which remains sane and to give it the means to rid itself of that party. Let our German comrades understand that this is the only outcome advantageous to both sides and we are ready to collaborate with them.

They would again be rebuked by Malatesta, marking a permanent rift between him and Kropotkin, never healed, marking “one of the most painful, tragic moments” of his life.

And with that, Kropotkin largely left the stage of Freedom’s story, though Freedom Press would continue to republish his old works for years to come (and still does). Isolated from the living movement, the father of anarchist-communism nevertheless retained many friends and would go on to live in France before returning to Russia at Lenin’s invitation towards the end of his life.


Maximum Potential

via The Anarchist Library
by Max Res




      maximum potential

I started this essay with a dilemma – though my intent was to write about anarchists doing fitness, it didn’t seem like there were any. Searching yielded very little, and despite going to the gym myself my motivations are less political praxis and more trying to minimize some of the negative health impacts of late capitalism on my body. Yes, I lacked anything particularly profound to say on the subject matter, but surely in this age of people clamoring for physical conflict in the form of antifascism there was someone writing or doing something relevant.

Maybe the problem is our aversion to the markers of fitness culture? Jocks, hypermasculity, competition, vanity, perhaps the lingering trauma of being pushed into a locker in high school all combine to make fitness potentially unattractive to anarchists. And yet there were other, not-anarchist nerds who were engaging with working out in ways that I found relevant to this essay. The first is from the website Ultra, which describes its contributors as “…those who have been transformed by the recent crises and the sequence of riots, blockades, occupations and strikes that followed” and includes “life weights” on its list of central tenants[1]. In it, Kyle Kubler’s “Auto Body” gives us a fascinating genealogy of fitness culture in the US rooted in the impromptu bodybuilding culture of Santa Monica’s Muscle Beach in the 40’s and 50’s to the development of its commodified, yuppy heir CrossFit today. The second is also a history, this one written by Adam Curtis, and if you’re familiar with his work at all you’ll be hearing his voice as you read it as it comes though quite clear. In his signature style, he uses “Bodybuilding and Nation-Building” to connect the seemingly disparate elements of yoga and the roots of the 2003 invasion of Iraq and in doing so looks at a culture (one of the body, the other of imperial fantasy) that was obsessed with the fantasy of a purer, stronger way of being. Both of these pieces are great and I would encourage the reader to seek them out, but neither of these are written by anarchists and I wanted to say a little about what we’re thinking and doing for us, today.

This proved more easily said than done. Given the spirit of our era, the little discussion about anarchists doing fitness that I could find was so steeped in the language and goals of anti-fascism that the a-word was hardly present. Which, if you consider anarchy and antifa the same thing (or if you’re into lifting weights next to statists) isn’t much of a problem, but this is all to say that there isn’t a whole lot of stuff out there that puts “anarchist” and “going to the gym” in the same sentence without completing it with “to get better at punching Nazis”. But for a look at how some anarchists are doing fitness, this essay will consider Haymaker, which describes itself as a “popular fitness & self-defense gym”[2] located in Chicago. In examining Haymaker’s attempt to create a radical culture of fitness and self-defense we’ll see how they challenge the practices of mainstream fitness presented to us by Kubler and Curtis while also resembling them in its desire to shape and mobilize bodies. To do this, we’ll consider the three points listed on their homepage around which they organize themselves: strength, solidarity, and autonomy.


People associated with Haymaker frequently cite the desire to remove oneself from a culture of fitness defined by machoness and normative body types as incentive for starting a different kind of space. This culture of getting big and the celebration of the ideal body is explored in both the Ultra and Curtis essays, and the latter’s exploration of the weird history of yoga in particular is filled with all sorts of priceless overblown advertisements from the turn of the last century filled with shockingly muscled men in loincloths promising to return the reader’s body to some sort of perfection lost in corrupt modernity. Set decades later, Kubler profiles CrossFit gym-goers as solidly upper-middle class and ranks the popularization of the exercise routine alongside “beards, tattoos, “work” boots, and lumbersexuality” in the culture of late capitalism.

In opposition to this, Haymaker gives us a different interpretation of strength:

“Strength is not primarily being able to resist or overcome forces outside of us. To us, strength means overcoming our own weaknesses – it means changing ourselves, together. Such strength is necessary if we are to become a force capable not only of self-defense, but of social transformation.”[3]

Expanding on this, in their promotional video they also express the intent to create their “own ideas of fitness that don’t mean fitting in with status quo body norms”[4]. Here and elsewhere we can see an array of people who are just that—different body types, differing gender presentations, and differing cultural practices (including a prominent selection of clips showing people in hijab). A look at their calendar of events also shows a number of “liberatory mixed martial arts” sessions specifically for “trans, queer, and women-aligned folx”[5]. And while they place themselves firmly in the world of anti-fascist physical training, this concept of a radical gym space is also conceived of as an alternative to a macho European antifa culture as mentioned in their Final Straw interview.

This critique of strength as muscle mass and the culture of machoness which can surround it isn’t all that novel – “Auto Body” shows us a history of fitness in the US that moved away from the rougher, bigger bodies of Muscle Beach and the first Gold’s Gym towards something more accessible to the masses in which “you can get strong, but not too big”. This is manifest in Planet Fitness’s “Judgment Free Zone,” which even comes with a “lunk alarm” to shame people if they’re throwing weights and is accompanied by a description of a “lunk” which could easily describe any of the average denizens of these earlier spaces who, in additional to slamming weights, is wearing a bodybuilding tanktop and drinking out of a gallon jug of water. It is also manifest in the mantra “strong is the new skinny” which calls for a more holistic and personalized concept of strength[6]. With a nod to the fact that the “inclusivity” of these mentalities and spaces often falls short of even their own modest advertised goals, nevermind what one might consider desirable in an anarchist space, what makes Haymaker’s critique different is the emphasis on getting strong together, which brings us to our second point.


No less important to Haymaker’s critique is the alienation embodied in much of commercial fitness culture, something which is reflected in my own experience of going to the gym. Planet Fitness is about as far from macho gym culture as you can get – surrounded by mottoes like “You Belong” and “Judgment Free Zone,” much of the crowd when I go is older people and especially older women. However, it and similar chains are an embodiment of the shift identified by Kubler away from the DIY community at Muscle Beach (where bodybuilders were improvising training routines and some even living together) and the first iteration of Gold’s Gym (where the front door was locked to keep out those who weren’t in the know) and towards a mass product dominated by machines with operating instructions and populated by consumers and staff members. A typical workout consists of me talking to one person – the employee at the desk who checks my card and says goodbye when I leave – with the rest of my routine spent listening to music and working out alone in a room of people, most of whom are doing the same (though you do see a regular gathering of old men around the stationary bikes – clearly some of us are more alienated than others).

Community is an attractive commodity in a world where alienation is the norm, and this is no less true in the world of fitness. Beyond Planet Fitness’s “You Belong” and halfhearted monthly pizza nights and bagel breakfasts, Kubler shows us how CrossFit sells the experience of an intense camaraderie through working the body which acts as a commodified version of the long since extinguished days of Muscle Beach (extinguished, by the way, by the long, flabby arm of the law). Compare this to Haymaker’s concept of solidarity:

We believe in solidarity because we know our personal transformation is also a collective transformation and, as the saying goes, an injury to one is an injury to all. We vow to care for each other in times of vulnerability and to keep each other safe as we become dangerous together. [7]

The sell here is an attempt at constructing a community very different from the examples given above – access is free, classes include a section where participants improvise exercises together rather than learning from an instructor, and their promotional video even includes the promise of a juice bar and donation-based food pantry. Haymaker is conceived of as the convergence of a “multitude of different bodies” in a gym that will “cut across social divisions”[8] that they claim are being worsened under the Trump presidency, and a place where, as they put it in their promotional video, “leaving wouldn’t mean leaving alone”[9].

But the primary way that solidarity and mutual aid are expressed at Haymaker is in the form of self-defense training, something that’s emphasized again and again in their interviews and promotional materials to the point where they refer to themselves as a “popular fitness and self-defense gym”. Self-defense here is a physical response to “a political climate that’s increasingly violent, especially towards marginalized peoples”[10], language which mirrors the general antifascist stance since the election of Donald Trump and a practice to which the gym traces a lineage going back to physical defense training among Jews during the second world war and Indian nationalist physical culture gyms under British colonialism[11]. Training at Haymaker is advertised on the premise of reactive violence which is intended to protect people endangered by racists and abusers and those entering into street fights at antifa demos. It is through this violence and the community which it’s suggested emerges from training for it that community is formed. It’s this vision of community that leads to the third point.


It’s easy to see how practical this all is, at least to a certain social set. If you’re concerned about physical conflict and feel unprepared, training to respond physically gives you another tool to deal with an attacker. If you’re in a protest situation where you may end up in a fight, knowing how to fight better than the person you’re in conflict with is to your advantage. Having a space to learn those skills or just work out that’s free and maybe make some friends sounds great, although this seems like it may be the kind of space where friendship is mandatory, and the juice at the juice bar in the promotional video looks… well, you’d have to watch it and decide for yourself.

But all that said, the point of Haymaker isn’t the juice or even the self-defense and strength training. At its heart is the concept of “social transformation” that’s come up in each of the previous points, and which they put forward clearly in their third organizing point:

We believe in autonomy because strength and care cannot grow amidst institutions that disempower us. In this precarious world, we don’t expect anyone to come and save us. We have to fight for ourselves and each other, because we’re all we’ve got.

This definition is a little complicated, in part because, like the concept of “social transformation” mentioned in their point about strength it implies a lot without stating anything clearly. Or to put it another way, its use of simple-sounding language and concepts muddies the radical implications of the ideas driving the establishment of such a space. While this makes a good talking point if you’re trying to hook a socially-minded outsider, this essay is for grown-ups and therefore we’ll use the gym’s interview with Final Straw Radio to draw out a more substantial definition of this term.

The interview with Final Straw is important for a number of reasons – it’s one of two places I could find where, as opposed to the vague, popular language used in interviews with people like Buzzfeed or their website, Haymaker is identified as an anarchist project (the other being the promotion on It’s Going Down)[12]. It’s also during this interview that we’re told the deeper intentions of their project – where, despite all the emphasis placed upon antifa tactics and self-defense in response to violence under Trump in other interviews and promotional material, antifascism is described as “a practical way to make ourselves visible to others” and “an important and significant framework but also to a certain extent quite limited for what we want to try to achieve”[13].

A fair bit of this interview is spent discussing the concept of autonomy, and the guests provide us with a couple of definitions. In the face of a state by which we have become dispossessed and helpless and which perpetuates violence against people though police killings, “autonomy through collective organizing shifts our focus to what we can control and prepare for and builds a politics of our own values” — these values being communization, sharing, and care for each other. Autonomy is also considered as a more precise term for anarchy, in which they’re “creating the conditions of living together that capitalism doesn’t provide”. The gym here acts as one of those conditions, a material grounds for establishing this autonomy as part of a greater project to “reclaim and reappropriate territory” that we’ve been dispossessed of and a “nodal point” at which friendship is supposed to turn into a culture of resistance.

All of this is a far cry from the limited scope of confrontational violence through antifa tactics that characterizes much of the public face of the gym. It’s also refreshing to hear some critique of antifa coming from people who are still located very close to that milieu! But I’m also left somewhat confused, because even in this interview the concept of violence is still framed as defensive, something that appears at odds with the stated goals of the project. If we imagine a group of people starting a gym and attempting to reclaim something that they’ve been dispossessed of by the state and capitalism, what kind of resistance might they run into? Things like gym spaces and equipment or food to make juice for the juice bar – attempting to reappropriate these (that is, without someone paying for them or picking them out of the garbage) will almost inevitably lead to some resistance in which violence will end up being used, most likely the violence of the state as the police are called by one’s landlord or some unhappy store manager. What does it look like to face physical conflict with the state rather than, as Los hijos del Mencho put it, “live-action role playing in the streets and hitting each other with sticks”[14]?

This kind of interaction is described to us by one of its members in an interview with a media outlet for Dick’s Sporting Goods of all places, where he talks about how physical self-defense training didn’t help him when he was brutalized by the police except that he felt more prepared to “mentally react”[15] to the assault. This is something I again can see the usefulness of, though it probably doesn’t make getting beaten up by a cop at a protest any less unpleasant. More, mental preparedness for getting beaten or tortured isn’t going to bring down the institutions that disempower us any more than training to fight as a Jew in the Roman Ghetto ended the functioning of that ghetto, never mind the machinery of the Holocaust as a whole. While it may feel good to claim that “strong people are harder to kill” — a slogan, by the way, that’s also present on the Ultra website – our present reality is one in which that’s just not the case when it comes to the state exercising power over our bodies, and to think otherwise is to risk falling into the posivist self-improvement mentality that characterizes so many dietary regimens and workout routines.

But let’s assume that the people around Haymaker understand this, aren’t looking for direct conflict with the state (at least not yet), and that, despite the fact that it characterizes this project so thoroughly in its public image, antifascism and training around defensive violence is just an opportunity to pull a wide swath of potential allies to get involved in the deeper project of building an autonomy that doesn’t (yet!) mean taking over buildings or driving the cops out of neighborhoods. Let’s also assume that the statement of autonomy isn’t a description of a lived reality but rather a goal towards which establishing a gym is one part of a many-linked chain. After all, the Breakaway Social Center with which the gym is affiliated stresses patience in the process of realizing a “strategy of giving ourselves the means to be more powerful and to face up to the need for another way of life”[16]. Still, it’s hard to look forward to the day when Haymaker and its cousins stop paying rent or needing to collect donations when that day seems so far away, and I’m also not sure who will defend those spaces when the state objects. I’m also somewhat curious about how many people who get pulled in because of the antifa sales pitch and increasing violence under the current president (rhetoric or reality) will stick around when the wind goes out of those sails.

maximum potential

To repeat the point, I like Haymaker as a response to the dominant culture of fitness. Even in this critique I hope that the reader is able to pull some of their strong points about redefining strength and offer a space which is free, lacks some of the hierarchies of typical training spaces, and open to all sorts of people while also not open to cops or the extreme right. Beyond the criticisms already mentioned in this essay, though, there is an underlying presumption about bodies and their potential to save us that overlaps with Adam Curtis’s look at the history of yoga.

In “Bodybuilding and Nation-Building,” Curtis observes that the physical cultures of both Britain and colonized India arose as a reaction to an undesired present – for Britain, an escape from a waning empire filled with factories and slums, for Indian nationalists an escape from what they perceived to be a weak, decadent body that characterized its colonial past. For both Britains and Indians, the body formed a site at which revolution could be affected. And while Haymaker’s approach to fitness isn’t in search of some mythic past, it too looks to the body – which they’ve referred to as “the most intimate of material forces”[17] — as a tool for revolution, and strength as a means by which to change the world.

I also wonder at this celebration of the material – the terms “material force” and “material resistance” can be found in many of their interviews and promotions. Can we draw a line between this and the Indian physical culture described by Curtis as trying to escape what they perceived as the weakness of their past? Out of physical culture came revolution in yoga that transformed it from a practice which centered around a limited set of poses and emphasized spiritual development to a yoga that showcased muscular bodies and feats of strength – a change considered necessary to end British colonial rule and escape the burden of the past. In Haymaker’s description of the material, they make some explicit attempts at differentiating themselves from both ““critical” posturing that puts one on the sidelines of every situation”[18] and what they observe as an anarchist fetish for form and process rather than the material conditions which shape interactions in a space. While the former is likely a shot at their critics within anarchist discourse who aren’t interested in getting organized, there’s also a sense of self-criticism here – looking back with a critical eye upon the wave of insurrectionary anarchist activity in the US towards the end of the last decade which emphasized movement, discreet, temporary projects, anonymity, and the riot as a point in which people are changed and community is formed. This wave crashed around Occupy, and it’s telling that in their interview with Final Straw Occupy is singled out as an example of anarchists favoring form over substance. It’s not much a stretch to consider Haymaker and related projects as offering a vision of winning, muscular anarchy which provides the substance which its own weak past (or querulous cousins in the present) do not, one which is necessary to change the world.

As opposed to this, I would offer that strong bodies can’t necessarily change the world in the way Haymaker wishes. As mentioned earlier, the goal of becoming a “material force” which establishes itself as autonomous from the institutions that rule us doesn’t really follow from the practices of defensive violence or strength training at Haymaker. Even if they were doing combat training, there’s no amount of physical strength or confidence that’s going to create the kind of “collective transformation” they’re interested in. The kind of potential they see in the body runs into the trap of futurity – where they see progress we could consider it akin to running on a treadmill, the body getting stronger but tiring over time, the great goal of autonomy from the institutions that oppress us always out of reach.

I’ll end this essay with some open thoughts – I don’t know if there’s a better way to run an anarchist gym, but it’s worth further considering what anarchist fitness could look like when not motivated by revolutionary goals or a defense mentality.

— What if training focused on training the body for avoidance and stealth rather than face-to-face confrontation? What does training to avoid security cameras or act casual when questioned by airport security look like? After all, blending into a crowd while one’s adrenaline is rushing after doing something dangerous and highly illegal is also a study in bodily movement and mindset all of its own.

— That said, I feel like a lot of skill training ends up being less about immediate ends and more about making the person who’s training feel like they’re accomplishing something and giving them the comfort that they’re in control of their lives. Fitness consciously motivated by totally mundane incentives (confidence in one’s body, avoiding some of the unpleasant health impacts of living in Society, etc.) in some ways feels more honest.

— I feel a reflexive unease at the concept of my body as a tool or weapon for struggle. If we want to call it my most intimate material, I don’t find the idea of making it serve “the struggle” very attractive. I also think that the body can be undependable, when it can appear as a stranger to me. While strength can be a nice idea, I think understanding the world through weakness (that is, my limitations, where my strength and the strength of others fails) is more informative.

— While I appreciate the potential usefulness of violence in response to the violence of a friend, partner or stranger, I also think it has an attraction that can be misleading. This attraction comes in part from the sense of having a simple answer to a complicated problem, one which anarchists (along with the rest of society) often handle badly. I think that violence used against an abusive partner or friend who has hurt us can achieve some desired outcomes, but can also complicate things and produce undesired outcomes which are neither simplifying nor worth celebrating.

[1] Ultra (n.d.). Retrieved from

[2] Haymaker Gym (n.d.). Retrieved from

[3] Ibid.

[4] [Haymaker Gym]. (July 12th 2017). Haymaker Official Video [Video File]. Retrieved from

[5] Haymaker Gym April 2018 calendar (n.d.). Retrieved from

[6] See for example Amy K. Mitchell’s “Why Strong is the New Skinny, and Why That’s a Good Thing” in The Huffington Post:: “The bottom line is, weight aside and skinny aside, you won’t be happy unless you are holistically strong: Strong in body, mind, and spirit”. Retrieved from

[7] Haymaker Gym (n.d.).

[8] viiiHaymaker Official Video.

[9] ixIbid.

[10] [Mong Phu]. (July 3rd 2017). Original Haymaker Collective Video from Unicorn Riot [Video File]. Retrieved from – note that this is not a friendly source, the original has been deleted from the Unicorn Riot website and this video now lives through circulation by alt-right-ish people. Why this was deleted is unclear (it’s nowhere in Haymaker’s promotional material either), but the quote and sentiments expressed in it are reflected other interviews with members as well. The (now dead) source URL is here:

[11] Anonymous contributor. “Announcing Haymaker: Popular Fitness and Self-Defense in Chicago.” It’s Going Down, April 11th 2017. Retrieved from

[12] During this interview we’re told that not everyone associated with Haymaker is an anarchist so perhaps this is part of the term’s absence, but the fact that neither it nor autonomist, appelista, etc. appear on their site or in most other interviews or promotional material where they’re describing themselves makes this decision appear to be more about salesmanship rather than inclusivity.

[13] The Final Straw Radio. (June 4th 2017). Podcast special: Haymaker Gym in Chicago [Audio Podcast]. Retrieved from Of interest is the fact that this critique of antifa also occurs in one of the few interviews they have with an anarchist source (though not on IGD, for obvious reasons).

[14] Los hijos del Mencho. “Against the World-Builders: Eco-extremists respond to critics.” Anarchist News, January 14th 2018. Retrieved from

[15] Sarit Luban. “The Chicago Gym Using Fitness As Political Resistance.” Good Sports, September 19th 2017. Retrieved from

[16] Breakaway Autonomous Social Center (n.d.). “Who we are.” Retrieved from

[17] Antifascistfront. “Introducing Haymaker, Chicago’s New Anti-Fascist Gym.” Anti-Fascist News, April 19th 2017. Retrieved from See also their interview with Final Straw where similar language is used.

[18] Breakaway Autonomous Social Center. “Who we are.”

This essay is part of a pamphlet by the same name published by Viscera Print Goods and Ephemera in Rhode Island. For inquiries, feedback, or discussion you can contact or their website, The other essays referenced in this article can be found here: Auto Body by Kyle Kubler ( and Bodybuilding and Nation-Building by Adam Curtis (

The Hotwire #37: September 19, 2018

From CrimethInc.

Evictions in Hambach—Aid & Disaster Relief after Florence—Strikes!

Evictions in Hambach—Aid & Disaster Relief after Florence—Strikes!

Listen to the Episode



The world is a dangerous place in 2018-Botham Jean is murdered in his own home by a Dallas cop and police are actively raiding the rebel encampment in the Hambach Forest. There’s inspiring strike resistance in Central and South America where striking dockworkers in Chile caused thousands of dollars in damage and a general strike in taking place in Costa Rica. Hurricane Florence took Wilmington by storm and we interview anarchists on the ground doing disaster relief. There are quite a few prisoners who need support and we read excerpts from a heartfelt statement issued by prisoners at the Burnside Prison in Halifax who are ending their strike. Anarchists in London are trying something new! And there’s lots of events coming up! Send us news, events, or ideas on how our show can better serve anarchist activity in your town by emailing us at

Notes and Links


Communiqué for September 9th Burnside Jail Noise Demo

from it’s going down

Anarchists in so-called Nova Scotia detail a noise demonstration in solidarity with the prison strike on September 9th.

On the evening of Sunday, September 9, 2018, a group of anarchists and prison abolitionists marched onto the premises of the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (more commonly known as the Burnside jail) to communicate a message of love and solidarity to the prisoners inside. September 9th was the last day of the Black August North prisoner strike organized by people on the inside, which had started three weeks earlier. The initial prisoner statement and strike demands are outlined here. Their statement at the end of the strike is found here.

The strike started on August 21, the 47th anniversary of George Jackson’s death in 1971, and ended on September 9, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising in the same year.

Our group first approached the women’s wing, which is where we turned on our sound system, unfurled our banners, started lighting fireworks, and began chanting as loud as we could. They responded by banging on the windows. We did not stay too long before we marched further to the men’s wing where strike organizers were locked up. We were there for about twenty minutes. We showed them a grand fireworks display, and some participants climbed up the fence, either to wave to people inside or tie flowers to the uppermost chain links.

Here are some of the things we chanted:

“Burnside Jail to Collins Bay, fighting back is the only way.”

“They can take our lives away, but not our dignity! Our hearts will pound against these walls until we all are free!”

“Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons!”

Our banners read: “Prison is Revolting” and “Against Prison”

At moments when we stopped making noise, we were able to hear rhythmic banging on the windows. Some prisoners waved, and others flicked the lights on and off in their cells. At one point, the chant of “You are not alone” was taken up spontaneously in our group (it wasn’t on our chant sheet), and that turned into an especially powerful moment of connection and tears. Eventually, we ran out of fireworks, and so we waved goodbye and left the way we came in.

It was as we were approaching the women’s wing again, with the intention of communicating to those prisoners for a little while longer before calling it a night, that a Halifax PD paddy wagon arrived. The vehicle screeched to a halt 20 or so feet from us, and two cops came out and charged us. What followed was a short scuffle in which the cops laid hands on several people, many people were pepper sprayed, and one person was brought to the ground and put in handcuffs. A third cop jumped out of the back of the van with a dog, which was used to intimidate and clear away the crowd. Though the presence of a trained-to-be-vicious and unpredictable-seeming police dog did cause our group to back up, we continued to yell at the pigs together and stayed tight. It was clear to us that the cops were intimidated by our collective rage and defiance.

What we were doing on September 9th was, of course, an effort to confront prison by connecting with the prisoners inside and showing our solidarity with their struggle. It was not planned as a combative action, we were not prepared for a fight. Based on our collective experience of attending dozens of previous noise demos outside jails in so-called canada, we did not predict such an immediately escalated response from the police. At the very least, we expected to be told to leave before being attacked and having a friend put in handcuffs. It’s not at all surprising, though, that Halifax cops would respond to our demonstration with aggression. That’s what cops do.

In the words of the Burnside jail prisoners, from their statement at the end of the strike:

“To the protestors who came right down through the woods to the back of the jail, risking their freedom to stand in solidarity with us, you gave us the most liberating feeling. We want you to know, we could hear you, and we believe you: we are not alone. Thank you. We love you, and are grateful to have you by our sides.”

This demonstration fully achieved what we set out to do – express our love and solidarity with those locked up, connecting despite the seemingly impenetrable prison walls. Our experiences strengthen our resolve to act in solidarity with those struggling against the cruelty of prison. The police response strengthens our rage against them, and against all State institutions of social control and criminalization.

– some anarchists

(because nothing ever happens in Halifax and it’s news-worthy, plz share)


Fire Ant: Anarchist Prisoner Solidarity #1

[PDF for Printing]
[PDF for Reading]

Fire Ant is a new publication focused on spreading the words of anarchist prisoners and generating material solidarity for our imprisoned friends. Begun as a collaboration between anarchist prisoners and anarchists in Maine, Fire Ant seeks to raise material aid for anarchist prisoners while fostering communication between anarchists on both sides of the walls.

Issue #1 contains writings by Michael Kimble, Jennifer Gann, Eric King, and Sean Swain, as well as a text in solidarity with Marius Mason.

If you would like to support Fire Ant and wider efforts in solidarity with anarchist prisoners, please print and distribute this publication or donate to Bloomington ABC’s Anarchist Prisoner War Fund.

The Fire Ant collective can be contacted at
Fire Ant
PO Box 164
Harmony, ME 04942


Anarchy Radio 09-18-2018


e-sex doll brothel in Toronto closed! Super storms, gunfire (pig and otherwise). Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair, BASTARD conference: almost dead? Horrific impacts of air pollution, obesity. Read from superb BAGR submission “Wolf Encounters.” Black and Green podcast now at
Action briefs.


It’s a Sin to Kill a Mockingbird: writings on Scout Schultz, Queer Anarchist Killed by Georgia Tech Police

On Friday, September 16 2017, 21-year old Scout Schultz was shot and killed by police at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Scout was active in campus LGBT groups and identified as intersex. Scout was a part of local organized antifascist initiatives and was an anarchist. When news spread of their death, friends, family, and classmates near and far began scrambling to understand the events. In video surfacing online, it is possible to watch Scout scream at officers to “shoot me,” which they thoughtlessly do. In the coming days, a flurry of statements, rationalizations, and arrests are unleashed after mourners set fire to a police cruiser and clash with cops following a vigil on campus.

In the wake of the repression as well as the suffocating culture on campus, wherein students, faculty, and cowards of all stripes came out to defend the shooting, or to oppose those who sought proportional response to it, Scout’s former partner Dallas took their own life. Following a series of arrests and detentions, a friend and comrade of Scout’s, Kirby Jackson, took their own life as well.

As of this publication, the arrestees from the night of the riot have either had charges reduced or dropped and none are set to serve jail time. No one has been convicted for vandalizing squad cars or burning the police cruiser. The officer who killed Scout, Tyler Beck, is still on duty.

The legacy of this tragic sequence is in your hands now, dear reader. For Scout, for Dallas, for Kirby, and for the rest of us: be fierce, be swift, be cruel.

The Contemporaries Project is an organ of the Atlanta commune. Under other names, and sometimes under none at all, we have produced posters, leaflets, reports, and a newsletter. We operate in the autonomous areas of life and revolt, where control breaks down, where representation is routed, and where worlds are in formation. This pamphlet has been produced to respond to a general need among many comrades for greater historical perspective. As the global sequence of events have rushed forward with greater and greater frequency since the late 90s, and especially since 2011 – from the riots against globalization in Seattle and Genoa to the explosions in Ferguson, Istanbul and beyond – it has become difficult to transmit historical lessons to the newer comrades at a time when it is most desperately needed. This pamphlet is one of many contributions to the situation, responding to sensible needs and not to ideological reflex.




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