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Maia Ramnath is an author and anarchist activist based in New York City. Her latest book is called "Decolonizing Anarchism: An anti-authoritarian history of India's liberation struggle", published by AK Press.
From the book's website, "Decolonizing Anarchism examines the history of South Asian struggles against colonialism and neocolonialism, highlighting lesser-known dissidents as well as iconic figures. What emerges is an alternate narrative of decolonization, in which liberation is not defined by the achievement of a nation-state". In this interview, Ramnath discusses how her book fills a double purpose - relating a history of South Asian social movements, as well as reflecting on lessons for anarchists or anti-authoritarian activists in North America towards building active solidarities with these movements. In particular, she reflects on current struggles in India in Indigenous or Adivasi communities who are fighting against mining, land grabs, and Indian state power in general.
From AK Press
Decolonizing Anarchism examines the history of South Asian struggles against colonialism and neocolonialism, highlighting lesser-known dissidents as well as iconic figures. What emerges is an alternate narrative of decolonization, in which liberation is not defined by the achievement of a nation-state. Author Maia Ramnath suggests that the anarchist vision of an alternate society closely echoes the concept of total decolonization on the political, economic, social, cultural, and psychological planes. Decolonizing Anarchism facilitates more than a reinterpretation of the history of anticolonialism; it also supplies insight into the meaning of anarchism itself.
Against the Grain recently ran a podcast exploring Anarchism in relation to the Occupy protests. Check it out here.
Anarchist principles inform much of what is happening at Occupy Wall Street and beyond. So what does anarchism, a rich tradition of political thought, mean? Martha Ackelsberg, Cindy Milstein, Tomas Moniz and Roger White discuss anarchist ideas and dynamics. Milstein also describes "anarchism in action" at Occupy Philly.
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Michael Schmidt and Lucien van der Walt’s book Black Flame: The Revolutionary Class Politics of Anarchism and Syndicalism published by AK Press in 2009 has caused considerable debate within the anarchist movement. While the debate itself is refreshing, it might not always be conducted in the most productive of ways.
Walking through the camp of Occupy Portland, it is hard to believe it has only been a few weeks since it began. The transformation of the space is nothing short of miraculous: from a few scattered tents, some cardboard signs, and a tarp or two, a miniature city has arisen, crafted with the energy, creativity, and good intentions of us all. Together, we are learning first-hand the difficulties, frustrations, and joys of democracy and of the experience of power.
Reposted from Turning Wheel of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship.
Virtually anywhere I turn, I hear one of two criticisms about the Occupy Wall Street movement: a lack of organization, and a lack of demands. A visit to Zuccotti Park (or any of its offshoots from Nashville to Cape Cod to Beirut) quickly dissolves the first claim. As a member of the Education & Empowerment Working Group for Lower Manhattan’s occupation, I easily burn through 2-3 hours in each of our thrice-weekly meetings. These meetings manage multiple daily workshops, trainings and teach-ins proposed by a vast array of people, by way of multiple Google calendars and Twitter feeds, liaising with no fewer than five other working groups, in accordance with principles laid out by a face to face general assembly that meets twice a day. Few institutions can boast such tedious organizational commitments. Indeed, rather few would want to.
From Outside the Circle
Seems like some really bad, bad people called me a terrorist on Twitter today, to try to destroy Occupy Philly by creating a straw person (“the anarchist”), and of the many words of solidarity, I have say that Kotu Bajaj put it best, “Cindy’s the kinda of terrorist that kills with kittens and hugs”–although I’d substitute “convinces” for “kills.”
And just when I thought it couldn’t get better, the occupation in Philly amazes me yet again. After a day of vicious attacks on anarchists, often including me by name, as a divide-and-conquer strategy to destroy this beautiful movement/space, the outpouring of people showing solidarity was incredible; but much more incredible was the fact that people knew this was meant as an attack on all of us, on our occupation, on how well it’s actually making & taking its own collective power. The sign that we’re doing well is that we not only are targets of such tactics but that we can also withstand them; that they bring us closer. So many people hugged me tonight, from all political persuasions and of many colors, genders, ages, backgrounds–all to say, we have each other’s backs. So many people asked me how I was. I kept answering: “Great! Just great!” And I meant it. I mean it. We’re only being attacked–so far, primarily people of color and anarchists–because we seem easy targets to stir up hatred around in order to subdue and dismantle this uprising; but we’re only being attacked because we’re winning, because we have power together, not power over, and increasingly, achingly hard as it is sometimes, we’re doing the hard work of undoing ourselves and our socialization to become, faster than I ever imagined, new people who can be trusted to begin to stand with and for each other.
From Outside the Circle
First autonomous action at occupied city hall in Philly: we brought a couch, chatting “occupy the couch” and “there’s going to furniture working group!” Some folks replied, “our home!”
And now, an hour into Philly occupation, there are probably about 1,000 to 1,5000 people already. I never thought I’d be able to say this, at a space that instantly become a do-it-ourselves community: it’s working; we’re working; this us really what direct, confederated democracy looks like, in actuality. Or as one sign declared, “This is real!”
As the occupation began, a bunch of us anarchists hung banners, painted the night before: “Commons Not Capitalism,” read one; and another (my favorite, because it’s true today) proclaimed, “We’re Occupied with Direct Democracy.” Our occupation engaged in two general assemblies on this first day of occupation—where thousands worked though proposals and made decisions together—and implemented the “CoCo”—the coordinating council for all the working groups, which daily will send delegates (rotating regularly) before each general assembly to work out issues and send proposals to the general assembly, for decision making by the GA. Confederation works! Direct democracy works! And among so many folks who have never, ever done it.
Despair has come over me in the last few years. Normally this manifests itself as exhaustion and frustration. To understand it this time, though, you’d have to understand that the last few years haven’t been so good to my family.
My dad lost his job a few years ago, and from there, we lost our house on Christmas of 2009. We had an emotional conversation about what it means to lose a home, the place where we played soccer in the hallways, and the windows, the ones we snuck into after staying out too late before mom could catch us. This loss of home and income, class, and most importantly to some, status, all led to some pretty serious depressive symptoms that have lasting impacts on a family. Some would de-politicize the moment and say ‘life is about more than politics,’ or some vague sentence about how this is ‘real life not politics.’ But that can’t be further from the truth. These moments are the key reminder that capitalism exists in our daily lives and isn’t just beyond the walls of our homes or in our theory texts. It’s in our workplaces, our schools, and unfortunately, our social relationships. That is to say, capitalism has a way of not just stealing your labor as Marx taught us, but also stealing your spirit and meaning, and teaching us to treat each other in these ways as well; as my good friend and fellow anarchist Cindy Milstein reminds me.
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