About This Issue – ARB #6 Summer/Fall 2023

Welcome to the sixth issue of the Anarchist Review of Books, produced by a collective based in Atlanta, Chicago, Exarchia, New York, Oakland, Richmond and Seattle.

This summer—of floods and fires, of capsized migrant boats, air quality alerts, and deadly temperatures across the globe—the words of Diane di Prima keep coming to mind. “I have,” di Prima wrote “just realized that the stakes are myself. I have no other ransom money, nothing to break or barter but my life.”

The climate crisis, and global climate predictions for the coming decades, cast this existential dilemma in bold relief. Amid weeks of punishing heat from the American southwest to the Middle East to Europe and Asia, The United Nations is now pushing away from the climate pessimism reinforced by IPCC reports and decades of reporting, and rebranding the climate crisis as “a race we can win.”

The idea of a race against time, against greed, against propaganda, against poverty of ideas; and the language of competitions and battles, apt though that language may be, distracts from holding corporations and governments accountable for violations against all life on earth.

Di Prima’s words remind us that each of us, all of us, have nothing but our bodies and minds to bring to the barricades. As anarchists, ideas of individual autonomy and collective action reinforce one another. The struggle to understand and protect the environment has been central to anarchist philosophy from the beginning—from the anarchist scientist Kropotkin’s earliest work on mutual aid as a factor in evolution, to Murray Bookchin’s Institute for Social Ecology, to the militant acts of the Environmental Liberation Front—who sounded the alarm and took direct action against the fossil fuels and logging industries decades before the average citizen understood the stakes.
In Greece, anarchist fire brigades from Exarchia are putting out blazes in the Athens suburbs. In Atlanta, anarchist forest defenders are holding strong against clearcutting and construction of a massive militarized police training base. In Canada, anarchists—as part of an Indigenous-lead movement against the $40 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline project near Houston, B.C.—have taken direct action against the pipeline’s machines and security forces.

Direct action tactics used by anarchists since the mid-twentieth century have been essential for protecting life and land and will continue to be in this new era of climate emergency.

Of equal importance are anarchist tactics for protecting and fortifying hearts and minds against state propaganda. The state will offer two mutually exclusive alternatives: a surrender to the “new normal” of extreme weather, and a dependence on state regulation of capital…with the regulations written by capital. It hardly matters that these claims are contradictory; the point is to paralyze and demobilize, to make thinking deeply and creatively about the climate emergency impossible.
As di Prima writes in Revolutionary Letters

The only war that matters is the war against the imagination
all other wars are subsumed in it
The ultimate famine is the starvation of the imagination.

As the climate crisis progresses, we will necessarily have to create new ways of developing and sustaining community, for both fighting back and simply living in the day-to-day. It is essential for us to be able to imagine another world instead of receiving dictates of what that world is doomed to be.

This issue we bring you dispatches from artists and activists fighting in Exarchia, Ella Barnes writes about the fiftieth anniversary of Revolutionary Letters, Yasmin Nair illuminates on class and organizing in Chicago, Payton Alexandre reminds us that our tactics are etffective—even cops use them, and Andreas Petrossiants looks at the enduring power of the Young Lords. We also have fiction by Nate Lippens, poetry by Claire Wahmanholm, critical analysis by Carrie Laben, transformative and transgressive art by Joey Terrill, Chitra Ganseh, Scott Treleaven and Erin M. Riley.


Cara Hoffman, August 2023