Welcome to the fifth issue of the Anarchist Review of Books, produced by a collective based in Atlanta, Chicago, Exarchia, New York, Oakland, Richmond and Seattle.
The Situationist International believed that authentic human desire is inevitably in conflict with capitalist society, that increasing worker pay did not decrease worker exploitation. They believed in workers’ councils, and fought to create spaces and situations where people could interact without the burden of spectacle and commodities.
Their critique of the effects of consumerism and alienation under capitalism, both at work and in Everyday Life, has been borne out. Raoul Vaneigem and Guy Debord presaged social media, artificial intelligence, and the smartphone, positing that a profound state of alienation was coming and that people would one day treat even themselves as commodities. Debord critiqued a media culture that provided cover for the oppressive nature of capitalism, and infiltrated the most basic aspects of living.
“Just as early industrial capitalism moved the focus of existence from being to having,” wrote Debord, “post-industrial culture has moved that focus from having to appearing.”
The Situationist International wanted genuine joy in a world drowning in advertising jingles, big-screen car crashes, and illusions of a better life though a better façade, a world where objects were protected over human life. “We must destroy the Spectacle itself,” wrote Debord, “The whole apparatus of the commodity society…We must abolish the pseudo-needs and false desires which the system manufactures daily in order to preserve its power.”
While they were primarily artists, writers, workers and social critics who worked to decentralize even their own power, the SI had no qualms with violence, to fight bosses, cops, or any restraint on the imagination. They knew what was at stake.
“The dominion of the concentrated spectacle,” wrote Debord, “is a police state.”
We bring this issue to print in the midst of a global rejection of this police state. More than four hundred large scale anti-government protests are happening world-wide.
These are not isolated events, but simply people pushing back against ubiquitous attempts by governments and corporations to steal or poison land; restrict freedom of movement and bodily autonomy; hasten climate change; exert hegemony by dividing us through ethnicity, race, and sex; penalize the poor with fines and restrictions; and murder in the name of the state. These protests are against the work of government itself—to control, extract, occupy, intimidate and divide. That there have been tens of thousands on the streets every day in cities throughout Europe, Africa, the Americas, the Middle East and Asia since last summer is good news. Banners are unfurling with messages of support as people stand with one another, whether they are forest defenders in Atlanta and Brazil; farmers in Uruguay and Peru; feminists in Ecuador, Alabama, and Iran; queer people in Warsaw and Uganda; or poor people in every nation.
In Exarchia, where the ARB Collective has its office in Europe, anti-authoritarian protesters have been fighting a police occupation of the historically autonomous neighborhood for seven months, enduring CS gas, beatings, water cannons, and arrests. Exarchia won its autonomy after the fall of the US-backed dictatorship in Greece and now thrives as an example of how people came together to rebuild and care for one another—to meet the needs of the people, to live without police presence. It has long been considered a heart of the international anarchist movement and the reach of its tactical approach has shown that what happens on the streets of Exarchia can determine the course of a nation or a continent.
In this issue we bring you reporting from resistance movements in the forests of Georgia and the streets of Exarchia; Marc Lepson reports on migrants in the Mediterranean; Peyton Alexandre examines Black exceptionalism in the work of William C. Anderson; Nick Mamatas writes about Jarett Kobek’s revelatory investigations; Owen Hill brings us a dispatch from a Wobbly victory and Shellyne Rodriguez shows us how it’s done. All of this, and the poetry of CAConrad, fiction by James Hannaham, the political abstractions of Carrie Moyer, incendiary drawings by Diana Settles, and collage by N. Masani Landfair, Michael Byron, and Scott Treleaven.
ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION
ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE
Cara Hoffman, February 2023