“Anarchy is For Lovers”: On Progress and Conflict, Friendship and Fighting: Winter Social Movement Reading, between Adorno and Benjamin, Women’s Marches, and a Few Notes on This Moment

On my way home from one of the crazy trips I took to DC over the Kavanaugh confirmation battle in the fall of 2018, I wondered about all the years of actions in DC.

Our trips to fight wars, presidents, and looming fascism, to try to make democracy work for people. Most of the time, the best conversations of the day take place after we are arrested, in booking, or waiting to be released, the adrenaline receding as we find time to reflect on what we’re doing. Sometimes we talk all the way home; others we nap or read on the bus. Usually, I bring a paperback. Sarah Schulman’s People in Trouble, about the early AIDS years, saved me after an AIDS action that fell apart in 2005. The bus broke down on the way to the action. By the time we arrived, the action was over. And all I wanted to do was turn around and read my paperback. “People don’t become what they were brought up to be, people become themselves,” Schulman wrote, reminding me these actions were a part of something I hoped we could become –a bit less invested in the apartheids of sex or gender, a bit more abundant, more inclusive.[1]

On the way home from one of those trips last fall, I picked up a copy of my friend L.A. Kauffman’s new book, How to Read a Protest, in which Kaufman compares the top down 1963 March on Washington to the bottom-up style of the Women’s March of 2017 – a thrilling story from someone who has been present through my years of activism in New York. L.A. and I had been at the Supreme Court a couple of days before the confirmation of Kavanaugh, standing by. We were both feeling physically sick about the rightward tilt of the court, as we sat in the sweltering DC heat. Speeches were droning on. Plan A, to go to the Capitol, fell apart. Finally, a group of us from Rise and Resist went to plan B, an act of civil disobedience inside the Senate office building. Inside some of my heroes, activists I’ve known for literally decades, acted up, screaming our lungs out about what was happening. We were eventually arrested. After processing, the first person to greet me was Kauffman. We chatted about the day, the actions, and where it was going, extending a conversation which we had been having for years now.

Our actions are like community gardens, Kauffman imagined in 2003. “Protests gain in power if they reflect the world we want to create,” L.A. Kauffman elaborated as the optimism of the global justice movement was ebbing into a peace and justice movement. “And I, for one, want to create a world that is full of color and life and creativity and art and music and dance. It’s a celebration of life against the forces of greed and death.” Rather than “the angry shouting shrill position,” which simply offers opposition, “having a carnival is a way of saying yes. Actions thrive when they grow organically, with lots of color, life, and creativity.[2] There are a lot of ways to bringing these sentiments to bear, reconciling the darkness and the light, the connections and separations, the things we oppose and hope to create. Friends such as Kauffman, novels by Schulman, they remind us, stories and friendships overlapping.

“My dissent is cheer / a thankless disposition,” confessed Grace Paley. The struggle is omnipresent.

The following is a review essay about some recent works on and experiences in social movements, books that have been piling up in my room, reflections on the debates about friendship and fascism, the meaning of conflict, the limits of our models, critical theory, and the hope to achieve something more sustainable, in between it all, the rocks we roll up the hill over and over throughout our lives. Several of these works are by activist writers, a few of whom I have known for decades in the streets, in collectives long passed, others I have never met. In their own way, each asks:

How do we stay engaged?

What of the friends, hopes, and conflicts?

Can we reconcile differences and imagine better worlds together?

How do we handle the schisms?

Writer and activist Grace Paley suggests: “When you write, you illuminate what’s hidden, and that’s a political act”.[3] This act of imagining, of creating is very much what activism and writing are all about, dreaming with a cohort of likeminded comrades. “The buoyancy, the noise, the saltiness” of feminism informed Paley’s writing and activism, providing a community of support. She “required three or four best women friends” observes Alexandra Schwartz in a recent profile in The New Yorker; these were confidants she could “tell every personal fact and then discuss on the widest, deepest, and most hopeless level the economy, the constant, unbeatable, cruel war economy, the slavery of the American worker.” This theme of kindship – of friendships that “deepen or become strained with age” – can be traced throughout her writing.[4] Yet, why do some friendships deepen, while others become strained? Why do some follow one direction vs another?

In Conflict is Not Abuse, Sarah Schulman posits that: “Like authentic, conscious relationships, truly progressive communities, responsible citizenship, and real friendship… the peace-making that all these require,” asks “that you be interactive.”[5] Certainly, this can be said of the rebel friendships traced throughout this review. Friendships take shape in just such an interactive, dialectical manner, through cycles of formation, inevitable conflict and questions about resolution. Some end up in a rupture, others with a stronger foundation, born of the process of creating the cheerful dissent Paley describes.[6]

“…[S]ometimes walking with a friend I forget the world,” writes Paley, her liberatory imagination dueling with imperatives of survival, contradicting forces dancing through the possibilities of the everyday.[7]

For almost a decade I drafted notes for my book Rebel Friendships: ‘Outsider’ Networks and Social Movements, exploring the meanings of friendship, groups organized around affinity, rather than the kinds of institution that encircle us in the “iron cage of despair” that Max Weber described. Over time, many of the affinity groups and direct action groups I was a part of came and went, falling prey to familiar organizational tensions and inevitable downturns in the life cycle of community organizations that typically last little longer than two or three years. After that, all that is solid melts away posited my old mentor Stanley Aronowitz, who suggested we build institutions and organizations, not just the incremental activist wins I was stacking up with comrades such as Kauffman and Kelly Moore, my biking, union, and ACT UP buddies. But why did the groups I was working with fall apart? Could we have handled the conflicts we endured in a more productive way?

In community organizing class last fall, I asked students what they wanted to see in their world. One student in a hijab raised her hand.

“Less conflict,” she insisted.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Less conflicts between people, between groups, countries. Less conflict.”

Another student, also in a hijab, said she did not agree:

“There is no way around conflict. It can’t be avoided.”

It is these sorts of interactions that create change argued another student. Progress is built through clashes, conflicts, oppressions and antagonisms, destroying and creating. Like waves of water on the beach, forces intersecting and contradicting themselves.

“I may have liked you then but I really like you now,” noted Aretha before she died.

Clashes are just part of the life and the process of social change. Mark Anderson, one of the authors of We Are The Clash: Reagan, Thatcher, and the Last Stand of a Band That Mattered (cowritten with Ralph Heibutzki), described the dynamic during a talk at the Howard Zinn bookfair in December 2018, referring to one of my favorite bands, The Clash. The group crumbled, “in a paradox of revolutionary conviction, ambition, and drive, crash[ing] headlong into a wall of internal contradictions,” explained Anderson. “George Orwell’s 1984 loomed. The world teetered on edge of the nuclear abyss. British miners waged a life-or-death strike, tens of thousands died from US guns in Central America, members of the band were fighting. The band shattered just as its controversial final album, Cut the Crap, was emerging,” Anderson reminded us. I bought the first single from the record in 1985. And played it over and over again. But something was amiss. The band was over, but the clash remained, its meanings reverberating, as a crash of music, when two guitars clash, between the ideal vs the real, what is and what could be. Paul thought of the name. He saw the word in the news, the riots in Brixton. It’s not just music. It’s not just a look. It’s this big idea: The clash between generations, between the rulers and the ruled, black and white, colonizers and the colonized. It started as a reaction, an antithesis to all that was plastic, rejecting monoculture in favor of world beats. The group’s lead musicians were not sure where music was going: toward more guitars or beats? We’d spend the rest of our lives listening, moving backwards and forwards, between the records and CDs, live bands and tracks on Spotify. But few of us could quite make sense of the conflict the band named.

“Another way to think about conflict,” argues social movement theorist and activist Kelly Moore, “is that it is indeed the means of creating something else.” The passion to destroy is also a passion to create Bakunin famously put it in 1842.

In the years to come, we’d see the clash in T-shirts, music, protests, anarchism, and even in ourselves. I found the process uneasy, especially within the countless schisms within the social movements in which I took part. The clashes were everywhere. Revolted with top down, bureaucratic organizations, I idealized movements based on affinity groups, later watching them dissolve after conflicts. Even a cursory look at the history of social movements suggests this is a common experience. People fight over everything. ACT UP nearly split when treatment activists cut a deal with drug companies in the early 1990s. People fight about ideology and control, process and direction, strategies and tactics. Bayard Rustin was purged from the Civil Rights Movement over homophobia in the 1950s, only to be invited back in in the early 1960s.

Eldridge Cleaver and Huey P. Newton publicly clashed, airing their grievances about the future of the Black Panther Party, trading invective and threats in a COINTELPRO fueled fight over who was included, who was to be excluded from the movement during the early 1970s.[8] The conflict was never resolved.

In Beautiful Trouble, veteran troublemakers Andrew Boyd and company succinctly identify a few of the debates among organizers:

“Everyone is an artist -vs- Auteurs make things rock
Be the change you want to see -vs- By any means necessary
Just do it! -vs- More theory needed
Clicktivism can save the world -vs- The revolution will not be tweeted
Long march through the institutions -vs- The revolution will not be elected
The problem is inside ourselves -vs- The problem is in the world around us
Identity politics -vs- Class politics.”[9]

Reflecting on these conflicts, Boyd et al suggest: “In political life, some debates, after much struggle, finally get settled: Is slavery an absolute moral evil? Yes. Should only people with penises get to vote? No. Other debates — for example, ‘Do the ends justify the means?’ or ‘Do you try to change the system from the inside or the outside?’ — remain eternal. These debates are less right vs. wrong than they are a recognition that the truth usually lies somewhere in between, in an artful synthesis that takes into account the specifics of the given context. These debates express two sides of an important, often dialectical question, two poles of a ‘design tension’ that must be constantly considered, navigated, and wrestled with.” At some point or other, every organizer is forced to contend with them. “Is the controversy dysfunctional? Or is it useful for coming to some kind of greater understanding?” wonder Boyd and company.[10]

The Duty to Stand Aside?

Still, we are only as strong as our social ties. Inevitably, movements are forced to contend with dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, friendship and self-interest. Each friendship has a certain dialectical quality, beginning with a formation and growth, followed by inevitable tension and conflict. The question is what happens during that conflict. Do those involved cast aspersions, or do they learn from each other and watch ties extend as result of the catharsis? I’ve experienced the former and the latter. I’m not sure of the best way to handle these moments. So I read the books in this essay, following up with countless interviews with other activists about these dynamics.

“If you are interested in getting involved in community work, you are going to spend time more time on conflicts than creating something. That is that,” lamented a friend, in a wild under estimation.

In her autobiography, Eleanor Roosevelt posits smart people talk about ideas not people.[11] I must admit there are some days I am better at this than others. I love gossip, particularly a good story, and even some schadenfreude. I love our movements and the groups propelling them. I regularly find myself in the middle of online fights. I try to avoid them, with varying degrees of success.

For me, the friends make the process fun and more often than not, perhaps the most concrete outcome of movement involvement. But there is more to it than that. These friendships also become strained in the face of large historic forces, of moral and philosophical conflict when people assume there is a clearly a right and a wrong way. It’s not always easy to keep things light in debates about war and fascism. I experienced this early in the Trump administration. A friend commented on Facebook that he felt like people who do not support militant antifascism are in essence, to borrow Orwell’s parlance, “objectively pro fascist”. His page blew up with comments, many agreeing. Others disagreeing. What about a diversity of tactics? I wondered, referring to the debates about violence after the Battle of Seattle, supporting multiple points of engagement, from lobbying to direct action, occasional property destruction and non-violent civil disobedience. My friend’s dismissal of less militant tactics struck me as a betrayal of this principle. We need more approaches to engagement, not less. This was certainly the spirit after Seattle in 1999 when a conversation about civil disobedience expanded into this debate about diversity of tactics, anarchism, situationism, anti-capitalism, reform vs revolution, historical materialism, and so on as a new generation engaged in a theory and practice of activism dovetailing between decades of movements. Yet, like so many things with this movement, they become cloudy as history intervened.

“[N]ew forms of civil resistance embody a critique of prevailing forms of organization, participation, representation, and action in Canadian social movements,” writes Janet Conway.[12] “Respect for diversity of tactics emerged as a non-negotiable basis of unity in this context.” Yet, “by June 2002, this stance had hardened into an ideology that functioned to restrict genuine diversity and threatened democracy and pluralism in the movement.” This rigidity was part of what I was feeling about this notion that we were either militants or “objectively pro fascist.”

Kelly Moore suggests we do everything we can to support movement cultures which include multiple tactics, considered with open-mindedness and flexibility. “For this simple reason: depending on constitutionalism to save us (i.e., law) is what is most at threat at this point, and we need all hands on (the not-slave ship) on deck. Example: it is absolutely critical for people to be in the streets, even if they don’t vote or do anything else. We NEED To know that others think like us. And it is critical that we vote and call and all that, as a means of harm reduction. And create poetry and dance (they come for the artists first—remember the frenetic and sick cop destruction of puppets in Philly at the 2000 Republican National Convention) and make love and ride bikes and file lawsuits. We are in deep right now, and we need to keep pushing on many fronts, if not with love for other people, at least with the continual reminder that we are fragile, imperfect and joyful beings.”
“More than ever, the movement and the world needs the creativity and courage of this new generation of activists in advancing non-violent strategies for social transformation,” writes Janet Conway. “But in the face of unprecedented forces of power and domination, we also need to nurture the movement as a space of freedom and democracy, genuine diversity and pluralism, respect for life, and a love of peace in prefiguring the world we want.”[13]

While anarchists have long resisted forms of “oppressive or destructive authority” even among revolutionaries, there are those who suggest pacifism is not enough, especially in the face of particularly violent opposition.[14] Militant condemnation of pacifism has long roots. We saw it in the late 1960s when the SDS splintered and the Weather Underground contemplated deploying more controversial tactics, including sacrificing some of their principles of nonviolence. Bill Ayers’ memoir Fugitive Days offers a detailed account of the difficult turn away from Ghandian principles. The shift began with a number of quiet conversations. Why don’t we really bring the war home? Because if you use violence you became what you are fighting, the oppressed become the oppressors. “You know you can catch the very disease you are fighting…you want to stop the war, you become warlike. You want to fight inhumanity, and you become inhumane. It’s a contagion through combat,” Diana Oughton, Ayers longtime lover, advised, ever the voice of reason. But in the face of the political assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a still escalating war abroad, the idea of bringing the war home never lost steam. Tom Hayden and the better part of the old SDS leadership called for activists to expose the violence of American democracy at the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1968, and the results were spectacular. The whole world watched. Nixon was elected, the Vietnam war continued, and the secret domestic war (COINTELPRO) by the U.S. secret police forces, both FBI and CIA, moved into high gear. The tension mounted everywhere, and most of all within that faction of SDS now committed to the project of “bringing the war home.” A year later, Ayers led a rampage through the streets of Chicago during the “Days of Rage,” smashing police cars and being beaten by the police. Ayers paints a picture of losing himself as an adrenaline junky, “I was on a freedom high, and all I needed to feed my habit was one more bit of action.” Yet, by the time he started losing friends to this pursuit, the jittery buzz became a “high octane combination of panic and pain.”[15] Along the way, his role in the movement shifts from struggling for America’s hearts and minds to being part of a guerrilla war. Friends were incarcerated and people died. Oughton, whom Ayers had known since his days at the Children’s Community, was blown up in the February 1970 townhouse explosion on Greenwich Village’s West 11th Street, along with Weathermen Terry Robbins and David Gold. And no one really knows what happened. Bombs were being made, and it seems clear that the intended victims were not war criminals but anonymous citizens. Before this crime could be committed, the bombs went off. Did Oughton ignite them early to avert looming disaster? In the years to come, those who eschewed principles of non-violence would spend more and more time in jail.[16] I’d see it here in New York.

Debates about the merits of pacifism have deep roots. Sometimes the conflicts can be very personal. In The Duty to Stand Aside, Eric Laursen traces one such clash, the conflict between libertarian socialist George Orwell and anarchist pacifist Alex Comfort, over the appropriate response to the war with Nazi Germany. “[T]he heart of this story is the relationship between two passionately committed defenders of freedom, the unexpected twists and turns it took in the years after the war, and its strange and long hidden end in the years after the war,” writes Laursen.[17] A story about friendship, Laursen’s book traces the story of a little-known but fascinating literary-political feud: the arguments that divided Orwell, future author of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Comfort, poet, biologist, anarchist-pacifist, and future author of the international bestseller The Joy of Sex. “[B]oth… grasped the larger implications of their government’s actions in World War II but took opposite sides in the debate over how critics should respond,” writes Laursen,[18] an anarchist who I met as the world was taking sides over how to respond to claims that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.” We agreed to disagree about tactics, especially when a group of us, including one of the writers considered here, charged certain sects who uncritically supported all those opposed to the US, no matter how extreme, forming a group tongue and cheekily dubbing itself, “International Authoritarians Who Cozy Up to Genocidal Dictators for Peace.com.” We tried to find some humor in the clash.[19] The same could not be said of Orwell and his debate with Comfort.

“[T]he two men attacked each repeatedly in print,” writes Laursen. Comfort, who opposed militarism, “distrusted his government’s intentions,” finding himself one of the enemies Orwell labelled “objectively pro fascist.” For Orwell, standing aside, opposing the war against fascism, was essentially an endorsement of fascism. On the other hand, Comfort suggested those who failed to denounce their own government’s atrocities—in Britain’s case, saturation bombing of civilian population centers—had “sacrificed their responsible attitude to humanity”. Heavy charges for a political debate, but the kind one hears leveled in anti-authoritarian organizing circles today, especially if one disagrees with certain anti-authoritarian tactics. Examining their debate, Laursen offers us a meditation on conflict that transcends time. About WWII, it could be a story about today or tomorrow. Even as they attacked each other, their underlying political concerns were coming into synch: especially over the meaning of the increasing power the State, as Stalinism gained influence and the Cold War raged. Orwell got things started with a review of Comfort’s first novel. The dialogue continued in Partisan Review, Tribune, and later in the form of verse in 1943, “that became a minor classic in English polemic poetry”. All the while the two corresponded. Gradually, “they developed a cautious friendship based on Orwell’s admiration for Comfort’s poetry… and Comfort’s respect for Orwell’s incisive political commentary as well as his conduct as a Loyalist volunteer in the Spanish Civil War”. And, “[t]heir friendship grew into an active collaboration when the government began persecuting anarchists and anti-militarists toward the end of the war. It cooled when the Cold War again highlighted their ideological differences. Still, it endured, at least so far as Comfort knew, until just before Orwell’s death in 1950”.[20] Comfort lived another half century, deeply admiring Orwell, “as a friend.”

Over time, Comfort confessed he regretted the tone of their long-term quarrel, coming to see the two as fellow travelers. “But in the 1990s, it became known that … Orwell drew up a list of notable individuals he believed had pro-Soviet or insufficiently anti-Soviet tendencies. He entrusted the list to an employee in the propaganda branch of the Foreign Office. Included were writers and economists, political activists and broadcasters, and celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Michel Redgrave.” Sadly, Laursen writes: “One of the names was that of Alex Comfort,” who Orwell described as “pacifist-anarchist… Main emphasis anti-British. Subjectively pro-German during war, appears temperamentally pro-totalitarian. Not morally courageous. Has a crippled hand. Very talented.”[21] Laursen’s book says as much about our era – as war is replaced by undeclared “conflicts,” civilian bombing is even more enthusiastically practiced, and moral choices between two sides are rarely straightforward – as it does the 1940s. In the final years of his life, Orwell would come closer and closer to Comfort’s anarchist-pacifist position. “Orwell and Comfort both, for similar reasons, dreaded the world that would follow the war almost as much as the war itself. They were right,” concludes Laursen.[22] Like Benjamin and Adorno, Comfort and Orwell grappled with the moral and philosophical questions about – war and peace, pacifism and anarchism, aesthetics and social change and a debate about very nature of conflict, their dialogue exposing the best and worst of what friendships could become.

“more speech, not less”

Reading about Orwell and Comfort’s fight, it’s hard not to think of our current moment. A few weeks into the Trump Administration, the same friend who was quoting Orwell earlier in the year, noted that he was tired of hearing that ACT UP style organizing was going to lead the resistance. I had just gotten back from DC, taking parts in the direct action to disrupt the inauguration with my comrades from Rise and Resist, with many veterans of ACT UP and the Yes Men. My friend felt a more explicit, militant style anti-fascist form of engagement, including deplatforming and research on speakers, was needed. If the state was not going to stop neo-Nazi’s, activists would respond with force. My friend recoiled at the idea that ACT UP and its offspring Rise and Resist would birth a new kind of movement up for the task. Or maybe he just didn’t want to be told. Unlike past quibbles – we’d had many that were usually resolved over honest conversation and a few beers over the previous decade – solutions and compromises were not forthcoming, not this time. We talked past each other. Over the next few months, I congratulated him when he went to Charlotsville to face down the Nazis. But I wanted to learn more about the issue and talk it through. I was of two minds about deplatforming. On the one hand, I was around when Robert Mappelthorpe and David Wojnarowicz saw their work censored. And I didn’t want to see justifications for restrictions on speech, even by the left. Just as I protested the Smithsonian keeping David Wojnarowicz out of its portrait show a few years prior, I didn’t feel comfortable with activists deciding what kinds of speech were appropriate or justifying restrictions on speech. That can cut both ways, often leading to less speech, not more. It can also backfire adding unwanted publicity. The alt-right had a right to speak and we had a right to throw tomatoes and ridicule or ignore. But what do you do when a president openly spews venom, inciting racist, nativist rhetoric, seemingly condoning violence, undermining protections for speech, and attacks on your friends? Many people I greatly respected support more militant approaches, including deplatforming, to take on the rise of what looked like fascism. But the process could be messy.

Mayday of 2017, I rode my bike to Union Square where conflicting forces were bubbling, immigrants and the Black Bloc. The police were out blaring their sound system warning people not to step into the street or they’d face arrest, policing the space, watching the walk signs and crosswalks like their lives depended upon it. A group in black masks started jeering at a blond journalist.  “She’s a fascist. Get out of here!!!” they screamed, policing the space like anything but forces of liberation. It looked like a group of dudes screaming at a woman. A healthy society tolerates wide ranges of opinions. Donald Trump has called for restrictions on the First Amendment.   Arguments that certain people should not have platforms to speak, seem to echo the administration’s calls for restrictions on speech. The answer to offensive speech is more speech, not less, more debate, not less.  As Sarah Schulman put it on her list of things she hopes will happen in the Trump age: “Confused American leftists realize that stopping people from talking is not as effective a tactic as saying what kind of world we DO want to live in.”

“[M]y take on all efforts at destroying the humanness of anyone we disagree with:  a Trumpian, neoliberal, masculinist form that emerged from (fill in all efforts at violent othering),” argues Kelly Moore. “A winner-take-all vision of society, one in which ‘even’ on the left (which, after all, has PLENTY of experience with using the dehumanization and humiliation of others as a method) enables and expresses the disgusting hope and dream that somehow, by “Calling out” and “making others accountable” and resorting to carceral feminisms (#metoo folks, I mean you), we might be noticed for our own suffering and hopes and dreams for the future.  NO.”[23]

Rather than dehumanize opponents, or take hard and fast ideological sides, I hope we can embrace a flexible, less ideological position open to multiple forms of engagement.   We need everyone out there doing all sorts of organizing, respecting the different ways people contribute. Some people make calls and others put their bodies on the lines. Some resist with direct action. Others take part in permitted actions.

In July 2017, activists around the country, including Housing Works, ACT UP, National ADAPT, Rise and Resist, disability activists, and liberals put all their skills together to stop the bills to kill the Affordable Care Act.

L.A. Kauffman posted a note congratulating them: “Wow, let’s hear it for the heroes who won this health-care fight and showed not only that resistance works, but HOW it works. I’m thinking of the disabled people from National ADAPT who were the first to put their bodies on the line to block these hateful bills, and who took bold action time and time again. I’m thinking of the people with HIV and the people who rely on Medicaid, organized through CPD ActionHousing Works Inc.Rise and Resist, and other groups, who lobbied and sat in over and over again to fight for all of us. This was a battle led and won by the most vulnerable among us: disabled people, queer folks, HIV+ folks. One key organizer told me she estimates that women made up 70% of those on the frontlines — and a great many of the men who joined them were either gay or HIV+ or disabled or all of the above. They got on buses in the middle of the night, put their bodies directly right in the way of a government hellbent on depriving us of basic care, endured miserable hours in police custody, and then returned to do it all again. All the phone calls and all the local protests around the country played a big and crucial part, too, but direct action set the tone and led the way. I am in awe of all who fought so hard, and so grateful.”

The organizing served as a useful testament to the utility of open, engaged direct action. There is no one right way to respond to the crazy position we find ourselves in. But with a democracy deficit, a little more democratic engagement does not hurt. There are multiple ways to engage and support each other. We need people putting their bodies on the line, picketing, making phone calls, keeping their sense of humor and pranking. We need ACT UP zapping and antifa taking on the fascists when they meet in public. We need masses of bodies resisting. Activism is situational. The Seattle WTO meetings two decades ago – in which activists in black masks broke windows of corporate targets, in coalition with environmentalists and trade union activists – opened a space. But quite often such actions close space. The White Night Riots of four decades prior – in which activists burnt police cars signaling a willingness to fight back – opened space. Afterall, my friend Rachel wrote, ‘there is a place for rage.’ But there are limits. Still we show up. The activists who showed up Charlottesville in August of 2017 to face down the Unite the Right rally were courageous and heroic, literally putting their bodies and lives on the line. We can all take countless approaches, thanking militants, appreciating varied approaches, and engaging in multiple positions, recognizing that violence and peacefulness are never singular answers.

Over the next year, the actions continued, trip after trip to DC, around New York.

Sometimes all it took was a phone call or a personal email to get someone to come to a rally.

Checking my email an hour after getting off the plane from London in August of 2018, I saw a message from my buddy Monica inviting me to join a creative bloc in DC to counter-protest the alt-right rally scheduled for Sunday. On August 10th, 2018 she wrote:

“I would not exist today if my Polish grandfather hadn’t escaped from a concentration camp and hid on a ship headed to New York City. Nazis are still around- different name, same ugly thing. They are having a rally in Charlottesville and DC this weekend, on the anniversary of Heather Heyer’s death, the young activist who was run over at the last big white supremacist rally. In 2017 several US states tried to pass bills which would protect drivers who kill protestors. Thankfully all those bills died on the floor but some frightening anti-protest laws did pass. If you don’t use your rights, you lose them. #KnowYourRights I won’t strongly encourage you to join the protest because it could be dangerous. But if you are willing and able, if, like me, you can use your white privilege to stand up against hate, fear and ignorance, there are ways to get involved this weekend. Stay safe, friends. in solidarity and love.”

I’d spend the next two days mulling over going. Sure, the rally could and would be fine without me and I was tired from travelling. But this is my country too. And I happen to love this place that calls the Statue of Liberty home, the one that supports freedom of assembly, diversity, and democracy, not the country that says not today, get in the back of the bus, immigrants not welcome, forget about slavery. Still an amnesia grasps it. We forget about the historic fights against fascism that our grandparents fought, or the civil war our great great grandparents fought, whose lessons seem to elude us. Generation after generation, wars get fought, kids starve, and the collateral damage gets forgotten.

On August 11th – 12th, 2018 a group of racist alt-right, white nationalists would be holding a march and a rally in Washington DC. And activists vowed to stop them. I drove up from NYC that morning, parking at Union Station. The taxi driver who brought me from Union Station to the rally cheered me on: “Go remind them this is wrong. When I first came to the US it was paradise.  Everyone was welcome.  Now, I don’t know what has happened.”

I arrived as the march was just getting started, strolling about greeting friends. A man was carrying a sign declaring: “Make America Kind Again.” Another sign quoted from Martin Luther King’s Nobel Prize Acceptance speech: “I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…”

Marching to Lafayette Park, cohorts of socialists and Black Lives Matter activists, Quakers, young queers, and countless others joined.

“Stop Pretending Your Racisim is Patriotism!!! #OneLove!”

“Love, not hate, that makes America great” chanted the crowd.

“Hate has no home here, Black Lives Matter!”

“Get up, get down, take the Nazis out of town!”

“No borders, no nations, stop the deportations!”

One man was carrying a sign referring to the old Dead Kennedys song: “Nazi Punks Fuck Off,” declaring: “Nazi Trumps Fuck Off!” In the middle of it all, the crowd started singing “Stand By Me” as a homage to solidarity, something we need deeply. “We are not afraid,” declared two black men walking arm and arm. “We are not afraid.” While most of the crowd appeared ready to maintain commitments to non-violence, many were also ready to pop a few Nazis if they had a chance.

“We are many, they are few. It starts right now. It’s up to you!” chanted the socialists.

“Black Lives They Matter!” screamed everyone. “I love being black.  Whose lives matter? Black Lives Matter!”

“No Nazis No KKK, No Fascist USA!”

By the time we got to Lafayette Park, we were completely separated from the alt-right rally.

Monica and Jessica suggested there was about a one to 500 ratio of alt righters to counter protesters.

“There they are!” laughed one woman, pointing to a dozen or so other white people across the park, who the police had escorted by way of the subway, I wondered why the alt-right were getting a police escort. Certainly, everyone has a right to speak out. But if your views are so extreme – hostile to communities of immigrants, queers, people of color – that you put your life on the line for saying them, it might be time to rethink things or at least to face the communities you are threatening. And you certainly need to face them. But none of that was happening. The DC cops were separating the groups with a fence.

Walking out of the park, a couple of young activists offered free cold water.

“Free snacks for solidarity,” said their sign. “Thanks so much,” I said to them. “I really appreciate it.” And kept on walking over to Pennsylvania Ave and 17th, where the antifa were lined up, dressed in black, with gas masks. Singing, “Solidarity Forever” they waited on the corner in front of a sign declaring, “It Takes a Bullet to Bash Fash!” “Anti-fascists in the rain,” they chanted, looking like they are getting amped up for a football game, ready for a fight. Everyone was milling about waiting for the alt-right rally to exit.

“Those statues are the reason we are in this shit today,” noted one man, referring to the Confederate statues still up around the US.  In Germany it’s illegal to put up Nazi swag. In the US, we accept statues of those who support slavery who lost our greatest war. “We were too soft on the South after the Civil War, just getting back to business. And now we’re in this boat.”

A commotion ensued with everyone rushing up to the black bloc in the middle of the square.

“Any time, any place, punch a Nazi in the face,” chanting the activists starting to burn a confederate flag.

“Spread the love,” noted a couple of black activists. “Spread the love everyone. If you use violence you are just as bad as them.”

“We kindov missed an opportunity here,” lamented Lisa Fithian, the veteran direct-action trainer. “We could have stopped them even getting to the park.” We talked about why they would never depart from this exit, in a direct confrontation. Police sirens start blaring. The antifa crowd start to light flares shooting them in the air, with lots of smoke and cracks, creating a spectacle.

“You are protesting the wrong people,” noted one black activist. “The police are staying calm for now.”

“They are getting an escort,” a couple of activists screamed at the cops. Gradually we find out the activists have left via subway, escorted to and from the action. For a day, it looks like the alt-right were not united or able to mobilize. Tyrants thrive on secrecy. Without it, they were not willing to show up, apparently too ashamed to show their faces. And we’re all still out in the street, riding the ebb and tide of history.

Later that night, Lisa Fithian reflected. “Today about 10,000 people turned out in Washington DC to say no to Nazi’s. Only about two dozen Nazi’s showed up and needed an escort by DC police to get anywhere. Why are the police escorting Nazi’s? The people were clear… “You are not welcome here.” It was a good day – no one hurt, no one arrested. We completely overwhelmed them. It felt great to be out in the streets with so many people from all walks of life standing so strong. So glad I was here! Another world is possible and we are making it every day!”

It’s very difficult to argue that militant anti-fascism isn’t the reason the far right has largely lost much of its street-level army and organizing presence. Make racists scared again, many declared that day. Germany outlawed Nazi images after WWII. Yet, the US condones our US swastika, the Confederate flag, symbolizing sympathy for lynching, that people put their lives on the line to stop. And people continued to do so.

Scott Crow, the author of Black Flags and Windmills, puts it: “The idea in Antifa is that we go where they (right-wingers) go.” Crow specifically addressed the issue of prefiguration, the active process of creating a world of the new within the shell of the old. “There is a place for violence. Is that the world that we want to live in? No. Is it the world we want to inhabit? No. Is it the world we want to create? No. But will we push back? Yes,” argues Crow.[24] And certainly the pushback is valuable.

“[F]olks don’t always want to play nice with others they suspect,” notes Kelly Moore. “I feel the same way, at times, about some men.”

The coalition of anarchists and sanctuary activists that beat back the alt-right that afternoon in DC serve as a testament to the things activist coalitions can achieve together. Still, the conversation about tactics and unintended consequences that I wanted to have did not happen. I invited my friend out for drinks to talk. He ignored my requests and unfriended me on Facebook. Friends from high school football stopped corresponding over my opposition to the Trump-Pence regime. And these conflicts are certainly not new or unique. Yet, the dynamic suggests there is something about power and differences of opinion that bears reflection.

 “Not Sufficiently Dialectical?”

Such debates date back decades even centuries. Karl Marx learned about politics, as Hegelians clashed with Hegelians – right, center and left – critiques flying, with former comrades accusing each other of this or that philosophical failure, orthodox Marxists clashing with Marxist humanists, liberal reformers squabbling with anarchists, who have their own histories of replicating larger social dynamics.[25] The conversation would continue over the years, the clashes becoming central to debates among Critical Theorists,[26] with discussions and papers about whose interpretation was too rigid or doctrinaire, economically determined, too orthodox or not orthodox enough still being written.[27] Alex Ross (2014) suggests: “The worst that one Frankfurt School theorist could say of another was that his work was insufficiently dialectical. In 1938, Adorno said it of Benjamin, who fell into a months-long depression.” Ross notes the word “causes endless problems for people who are not German, and even for some who are. In a way, it is both a philosophical concept and a literary style. Derived from the ancient Greek term for the art of debate, it indicates an argument that maneuvers between contradictory points. It “mediates,” to use a favorite Frankfurt School word. And it gravitates toward doubt, demonstrating the “power of negative thinking,” as Herbert Marcuse once put it. Part of the appeal of the term is that it informs our understanding that history is not static. All good has a grain of bad; no one of us are ideologically pure. Without certainty, we grapple for meaning however we can find it. And not everyone is magnanimous about these contests over meaning.

“Texans like a degree of certainty,” posits philosopher Fred Sontag, reflecting on the political dynamic in the US. “They think they have it, and they want to stand for it. That’s a very nice thing, but if it gets you so you can’t be co-operative, you can’t stand to compromise with ideas that are different from yours, then you’ve got a problem. It’s always been a problem in the U.S., but we have managed pretty well. We have tolerated a lot. Seems to me we need to get back more to that.”[28]

“There is perhaps no phenomenon which contains so much destructive feeling as ‘moral indignation,’ which permits envy or hate to be acted out under the guise of virtue,” writes Eric Fromm.[29] We find it everywhere today. Life is full of contradictions; humans are both a part of and separate from nature, and by extension, each other. Out of these interconnections and multitudes, contradictions and connections, debates take shape, some of which are productive, many are not. Fromm was a part of the Frankfurt School of Social Research, which included members such as Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse and Walter Benjamin.[30] In their own ways, each of these writers sought to make sense of the contradictions of their time. They aspired to socialism and found themselves coping with National Socialism. They looked to Hegelian philosophy to help make meaning of these contradictions, tracing a history of ideas through debates about the nature of living, theology, philosophy and faith. Dialectical thinking helped them come to grips with the history of thinking. Progress is an unfinished project, noted Adorno in Critical Models. It signals humanity has arrived, ever dueling between notions of reconciliation, redemption, and cancer-like regression. The split is everywhere, the clash between what is and what could be becoming increasingly vexing. Countless movements and ideas would grow out of this tension.

The experience of the Frankfurt School theorists, who conceptualized and wrote under the extreme pressures of developing world fascism, has important lessons to teach us. Humanity is a work in progress, notes Adorno. To get there is going to be messy. Adorno, Horkheimer, and Marcuse all imbibed the lesson of the Nazis, noted Stanley Aronowitz in a reading group in the fall of 2018. If you can have Beethoven and Hitler from the same country, then you have a problem. Set to Schiller’s poem ‘Ode to Joy’, the 9th Symphony brought choral and vocal soloists, a first for the genre, suggesting a notion of progress, a “universal brotherhood,” that humanity had moved forward; “kiss to the entire world” – welcome everyone.[31] The composer was unable to hear the roars of applause for his startling work. Yet, a hundred years after its first performance on the 7th of May, 1824, the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, generally referred to as the Nazi Party, was making legislative strides, elected into power by 1933, pointing to a world that condemned outsiders, pointing to how far we had come. After the war, many wondered if we’d stepped forward. For Adorno, progress was a process. “Progress means: to step out of the magic shell, even out of the spell of progress that is itself nature,” he posits, seeming to offer a warning about the ecological impact of humans on our natural habitat; “humanity becomes aware of its own inbred nature and brings to a halt the domination it extracts upon nature and through which domination by nature continues. In this way it could be said that progress begins where it ends.”[32] Even in 1963, Adorno was aware that the domination of nature, the depletion of natural resources, especially in the Western capitalist world did not offer a sustainable future. Alex Ross suggests that for Frankfurt theorists, “the genocidal state was not merely a German problem, something that resulted from listening to too much Wagner; it was a Western problem, rooted in the Enlightenment urge to dominate nature.” It was an idea rooted in culture. “Anti-Semitism was, from this perspective, not merely a manifestation of hatred but a means to an end—a ‘spearhead’ of societal control,” posits Ross. “Therefore, the defeat of Mussolini and Hitler, in 1945, fell short of a final defeat of Fascism: the totalitarian mind lurked everywhere, and America was hardly free of its influence.”[33] One could see it in our cultural institutions, the perpetual war machine, the influence of corporations on democracy. Adorno could see it in the idea of progress in our social and cultural lives: “In this experience of terror, the terror of the system forcibly coalesces into appearance; the more the system expands, the more it hardens into what it has always been,” writes Adorno. “What Benjamin called “dialectics at a standstill” is surely less a Platonizing residue than the attempt to raise such paradoxes to philosophical consciousness. Dialectical images: these are the historically-objective archetypes of that antagonistic unity of standstill and movement that defines the most universal bourgeois concept of progress.”[34]

It is hard to read Adorno refer to Benjamin, who perished on his way to the Pyrenees as the Nazis moved through France. When the border with Spain closed, Benjamin took his own life in 1940. The next day the border opened. There are some who suggest Adorno could have done more to get Benjamin out of trouble and into a secure full time position in academe, perhaps at Institute for Social Research, itself. (At the time of his death, he had a US entry visa, that the Institute had procured for his passage). There are no simple explanations for suicide.

In the years before, the two maintained a dynamic correspondence, which served a centerpiece of the debates within German Marxism in the years before Benjamin’s death. “Your dialectic is lacking one thing: mediation. You show a prevailing tendency to relate the pragmatic contents of Baudelaire’s work directly and immediately to adjacent features in the social history, and, whenever possible, the economic features, of the time,” Adorno wrote Benjamin on the 10th of November, 1938, in a severe, cutting letter.[35] The two met in grade school. At first, Adorno admired Benjamin, who looked for praise from Adorno; gradually they became friends who fought.[36] Benjamin and Adorno grew together through their mutual dialogue. “Adorno acted like a Benjamin disciple, virtuosically interrogating culture high and low,” notes Ross. “Later, he behaved more as master than as follower.” Adorno came to the United States in 1945 with Horkheimer. For Adorno, the dialectic assumes conflict, oppression and antagonism, destroy and create, moving toward praxis. For Benjamin, the impact of dehumanization, of people dominated by machines, dialectics stand still with progress, with reforms that make life tolerable in capitalism. Aronowitz points out that from 1945-1973, the US enjoyed a business labor accord which produced increasing wages, reductions in poverty, and improvements in public health[37] (although many of the most vibrant and important movements erupted in the 1960s in the 1970s were composed of individuals largely left out of that accord, particularly women and folks of color). Yet for the last 46 years these advances have been deteriorating, with wages remaining stagnant, as poverty rates increase, and ice caps melt, as conflict ebbs and flows. Can we find a way out?

Conflict is an inevitable part of life. And quite often, it is resolved with more not less of it, sometimes spilling into physical violence. Yet, why? Why not a chess game? Why this reflection of anger? Watching the violence inflicted on black people, Michael Brown and Eric Garner’s murders at the hands of the police, Ray Rice’s brutal assault on his wife, the mass murder of 2000 civilians in Gaza, Sarah Schulman argues: “The methods we have developed collectively, to date, to understand these kinds of actions in order to avoid them, are not adequate.”[38]

All the while, the US teeters on the verge of fascism, locking up children, panicking about the other, embracing cruelty as official policy. One step up, two steps back, the “cultural evolution of late capitalism” is best seen “dialectically, as catastrophe and progress all together” posits Fredric Jameson. [39]

Still we linger, contending with questions about the how we got here and what we are to become. What will democracy become? We are more interconnected than ever. Yet, can we learn to see what is unique in the stranger or the friend? I and thou, can we see the interconnection between ourselves and others? “No purpose intervenes between I and You, no greed and no anticipation,” writes Martin Buber in I and Thou. “Only where all means have disintegrated encounters occur… Inscrutably involved, we live in the currents of universal reciprocity.”[40] Can we learn from the conflict, seeing the part of ourselves moved by the other in the fight? The subject needs the object, just as the city needs the outsider. The subject produces the object, posits Adorno. Yin and yang, you cannot know the object until we have made it, until we have created the other.

“You will do foolish things,” Collette gushed, “… do them with enthusiasm.” 

It’s never easy becoming an active subject in history. That was Stanley’s point, leading us through a reading of Adorno’s essay “On Subject and Object” in Critical Models. What’s the point of the essay? Mediating between subject and object, me and you, us and something out there – you and me, subject object. With history and material conditions mediating what goes on between us. Our world is shaped in our ever becoming, our observing. Between the yin of you and yang of me, ever reversing. Pregnant with their opposites, shadow play between puppets and reflections. What is real, never quite revealing itself, ever differentiating. “The distinction between subject and object is both real and illusory” writes Adorno.[41] It’s his great defense of historical materialism, notes Stanley, connecting generations of Critical Theory.

“The act of consciousness overthrows the objective form of its object” argues Georg Lukács in History and Class Consciousness.[42] For Lukács, regular people only find a route beyond reification through struggle with a means of production, a cultural system, creating art, writing novels, performing, telling stories. Instead of merely seeing ourselves as individuals, separate from the totality of our world, alienated from our means of production, we engage a totality of concrete history, finding ourselves as active subjects, mediating differentiation without domination. Doing so, we become a part of the object, seeing the subject in the object, getting to the totality. Easier said than done. The challenge is to “be objective toward oneself and subjective toward all others,” counsels Søren Kierkegaard. Instead of lapsing into reification, can we see the other and learn from their subjectivity? Can we learn from the stranger or the person with whom we are fighting? Can we have democracy under capitalism? The primacy of the object doesn’t exist. We are both object and subject, like the shadow play, with its illusions, blurring lines between subjects and objects, ever the subjects of history.

In Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds, Adrienne Marie Brown reminds us that we emerge through an ongoing engagement between what we hope to be and what we are. Hopefully there is a love in this emerging strategy, a little flavor, some color, some spice. How do we listen to others as if they were our teachers, she asks. How do we practice new futures together? Brown’s parents showed her: “And it was quick – a noticing each other, a flirting without words, talking, laughing, and, four months later, eloping. I showed up a year and half later. Love overcame racist socialization, creating more possibilities between two people who had been taught the other was dangerous….”[43] Reading the book with my reading group, none of us were really sure what this emergent strategy was, but we all felt inspired. I have danced with most of my friends, most of my tribe at one point or another. When we dance together, we become subjects, even as the city tries to turn us into objects, even as it commodifies our dissent. Reification is everywhere. But the brass bands we shake to convey the negative. They remind us, bouncing up and down into the air, we are more powerful and purposeful. Our ridiculousness is our weapon, especially as our world retreats from the business labor accord through an ever-eroding shift from a welfare to a warfare state, to borrow Marcuse’s 1964 argument in One Dimensional Man.[44]   The end of history is either crisis or the achievement of living democracy in capitalism. Yet, can we have friendships here? As the economy shifts, our lives become more routinized and our interactions with computers increase. No one interacts with a machine without being changed. Alienation increases. People bowl alone. Yet, no one is an island; we all grapple to comprehend a totality of social relations. The struggle for unity and survival seem to depend on each other. We need the protection for our own survival. Victor Frankly reminds, we need each other to survive. Yet, we do not always treat each other well, especially in this period of high capitalism when people look at each other in transactional ways, as commodities, wondering who can help who benefit, rejecting the other, the stranger.[45]

Benjamin died before his debates with Adorno could be sufficiently resolved. “Perhaps, on a peaceful day, they would have accepted the compromise devised by Fredric Jameson,” wonders Alex Ross, wondering if state regulated capital and social democracy could coexist. Still, progress feels elusive.[46]

We need mutual aid more than ever, even if the practice feels elusive. Mutual aid, that concept so deeply developed and explored by the anarchist prince, Kropotkin (1987 [1902]): “[T]here is in Nature the law of Mutual Aid, which, for the success of the struggle for life, and especially for the progressive evolution of the species, is far more important than the law of mutual contest.”[47] It is one of the great ideas of the anti-authoritarian social movements. And yet it is not only elusive, but often tossed away and lost.

Anarchy is for lovers…

Walking down the street the other day, I saw a piece of graffiti declaring, “Anarchy is for Lovers!!!!” Is it, I thought, reflecting on the violence, assassinations, and abundance of this anti-authoritarian movement. It has not felt like that lately. I love the history of the movement and its moments of wanderlust and irreverence, the beautiful non-violent anarchist revolution of the Living Theater, the Sex – Pols, the mujeres libres of the Spain, free lovers, and countless other manifestations of anarchism I’ve seen in New York City (Goyens, 2017). I recalled laughing singing “We all live in a Military State, a Military State, a Military State,” to the tune of the Beatles anthem “Yellow Submarine,” when we were surrounded by police during the World Economic Forum protests in 2002. While the people called for increased expression, the police called for repression. Faced with a police force that had betrayed every guarantee it had made in negotiations prior to the action, the crowd of anarchists lead the crowd in a collective, playful jeer. We all felt alive. I loved its image of a more abundant alternative, instead of shrill opposition.

During the Clinton years, I railed against the right wing, and the global justice movement helped us reimagine what social relations could be – all power to the imagination. During the Bush II years, I railed against the liberals who cozied up to the president, passing the Patriot Act and authorizing war. During Obama, we cycled, imagined sustainable urbanism, shared mutual aid in Zuccotti park, occupied and fought each other. Under Trump, I’ve seen the models of mutual aid we’d sustained come crumbling apart as we battle each other. Solidarity is our solution when we find it. But it can be elusive.   Some chose to Rise and Resist; others tried to shut things down, condemning and rejecting long established tenets, such as respect for diversity of tactics. Instead of creating a world we wanted, one community garden and squat at a time, we shut things down. Friendships frayed.

“I do not know if the liberation of humanity depends on the success of the anarchist movement,” Kristian Williams writes in his timely tome Whither Anarchism.[48] “On the whole, I hope that it does not. For that movement at present does not serve its cause well. It is insular, directionless, and often delusional, characterized internally by purity tests and fractional fights, externally by ineffectual militancy and moral outrage.” He wonders: “How do we prevent new tyrannies from arising, especially tyrannies established in the name of libertéégalitéfraternité?”[49] Anti-authoritarian movements find themselves dominated by authoritarian tendencies “[T]he society that our present ‘anarchist communities’ would seem to prefigure is not on the whole a place where sensitive people would want to live. Such scenes are as status-obsessed, gossip-ridden, and cliquish as any private school, as prying and sanctimonious as any country church, as prone to splits and purges as the most rigid Leninist sect. Their chief virtues are that they are too small and disorganized to actually succeed in being particularly oppressive. … Trying to simply will the new society into being by means of personal virtue and exemplary group process, we become harsh with each other for the smallest missteps. Each moment, every action, every word, every thought takes on an outsized importance, and a philosophy of total liberation produces instead a kind of totalitarianism writ small.”[50]

“Certainly, a lot of this same critique could be made about every white-dominated protest-politics movement of the past 50-plus years, from sectarian Marxists to the SDS to segments of the environmental movement to post-Seattle activists, whether they identified as anarchists or not,” notes Eric Laursen. “As activists we struggle in a state-capitalist system that pressures us in countless, often very subtle ways. Additionally, in many circles, anarchism itself has changed and, anarchism is far more open to people of color. We wouldn’t be discussing anarchism at all if anarchist thinking, forms of organizing, etc, hadn’t affected (in many positive ways) the organizing that a wide range of activists do today.”   Still the purity tests and blind spots remain. “You can blame structurelessness,” concludes Laursen.  “But only so much?”

From time to time, all groups are subject to the tyranny of structureless that Jo Freeman once worried concealed power dynamics. “A ‘laissez-faire’ group is about as realistic as a ‘laissez faire’ society,” writes Freeman. “… the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others… Thus structurelessness becomes a way of masking power.”[51] And systems close. Dialogue ends. For Freeman, informal structures are the problem: “As long as friendship groups are the main means of organizational activity, elitism becomes institutionalized.”[52] Friendship obviously has its limitations as an organizational model. To some degree, most movements oscillate between formal and informal structures, some more open than others to dialogue. On the one hand, many, including myself, mostly organize through networks based on affinity, seeing the vitality of friendships as mechanisms for social change; on the other hand, I see that the process leads to informal leadership networks which can preclude others, excluding those outside these networks. Affinity groups remain a vital part of organizing, especially as spaces to where people with differing points of view remain committed to communicating through problems and differences of view. Ideally healthy movements support such engagement.

“Healthy movements nurture intellectual growth,” Williams concludes. “They also need it. If anarchism is to thrive, either as a political force or as a body of thought, we will first need to take on the arduous task of creating circumstances under which honesty is possible, and decency is expected, and critical thinking part of the common work of the movement.”[53]

“Reading Kristian Williams’ Whither Anarchism? has inspired a great deal of reflection and soul-searching on my part,” wrote Nathan Jun, August 28, 2018 on Facebook. “Although I didn’t explicitly self-identify as an “anarchist” until about 2001 or so, I have been involved with radical politics in some form or fashion for about 20 years. Throughout that time intermittent sparks of revolutionary fervor have punctuated the escalating horrors of the neoliberal world order—many of which were inspired to varying degrees by anarchist(ic) politics. Why is it, then, that the anarchist “movement” itself—at least in the United States—has largely failed to evolve, let alone gain appreciable ground?” Jun wonders about the “the political vision that motivates them implicitly or explicitly abjures “activism” and “movement-building” in favor of “attack” or “exodus.” I do not doubt that this vision reflects sincere anti-authoritarian sentiments that have some degree of affinity, however superficial, with the anarchism of yore. But does it actually oppose—authority, domination, oppression, etc. in practice?” Rather, he suggests, “it is difficult to view them as anything other than symbolic *displays* of opposition.rather than genuine threats to the existing order..[I]n what relevant sense is *retreat* a form of opposition—let alone RADICAL opposition? Indeed, how is it anything other than defeatism and capitulation? There is considerable daylight between aspiring to build a mass anarchist movement, on the one hand, and relegating anarchism to ineffectual subcultural ghettoes, on the other… Anarchists who organize with non-anarchists around concrete issues in their local communities may not be explicitly preaching “anarchy” or self-consciously marshaling their activism in the service of “the Revolution”—but if we consider the issue historically, on the few occasions that anarchists have succeeded at building genuine movements (or came close to it), it is precisely because they were engaged in activism of this sort…Even so, if organizing in one’s community can actually make people in that community a little more free, a little less oppressed, isn’t that better than cloistering oneself in a self-absorbed radical ghetto and doing nothing? …there can be no such thing as “failure” for those who pursue them patiently, block by block, house by house, shop by shop, in ways that make people better off than they would be otherwise….”

And certainly these quirky collaborations take place in countless forms, between anti-authoritarian and immigration activists practicing mutual aid, fighting off deportations, gardeners and neighborhood activists, building and defending community, offering free meals, sharing space. Afterall, a ‘diversity of tactics’ means allowance for not just militancy but also non-militant approaches – but even those who argue “we don’t make demands” are usually involved in movement work in some sense. And this is part of the ongoing work of building a more inclusive movement, yet there has to be a space for dialogue about differences of strategy and tactics. There’s a need for good faith on all sides of these debates.

Jun’s comment generated a large number of comments, including my sentiment that, part of the problem is that “people treat each other like shit.” Ben Brucato followed noting, “Anarchists include among them a few of the better people I’ve ever known, and many of the opposite… Nathan replied, “Benjamin: I would like that comment a hundred times if I could. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve had to endure (or, then again, maybe you would!)”

Still, the need for subcultural movements remains imperative. “I know a lot of people who felt isolated and whose lives have been saved by finding a political subculture group that made them feel like they weren’t alone, they were strong, and could make a difference,” noted Eric Laursen. “I suspect that a lot of vibrant political movements started out as subcultures. What is an extended circle of friends if not a subculture?”

New York City activist Craig Hughes and I referred to some of this debate during an interview. We discussed the ways anarchists seem to replicate existing power hierarchies. “I’ve seen that a lot over the last couple of decades. I remember after Occupy some anarchists were really dismissive and had pretty reactionary takes on the really terrible ways homeless people were often treated in Zuccotti,” he told me. “I remember feeling a lot, particularly after Occupy where there was so much discussion of wealth inequality, that some anarchists were missing how class composition and activist-ism were actually playing out and had developed. Like, here, involved in these struggles in this park, you have a ton of folks who’ve been excluded from access to much of the formal economy, some of whom are surviving at the intersections of criminalization and mental illness, for example, and they’re being treated in these really fucked up and dismissive ways by other, more middle class activists, and by some activist/academics, who wrote and spoke loudly about the liberatory potentials developing. Like, many of the folks on the margins were being seen as a problem or contributing to a problem, rather than an asset and key part of movement projects. You could see a sort of synchronicity between the Daily News or the Post condemning homeless people, or people struggling with clear mental health difficulties, and what some of these more middle-class activists were doing. And that was really a key weakness in the class composition of Occupy – the powerful cracks between the more middle class activists who had more recently lost access or were scared of losing access to their status and quality of life, and many of those who never had access in the first place, or had been struggling to survive on the margins in New York for years before Zuccotti was occupied. Some of those replicating that dynamic were anarchists. And it was illustrative to me. I’ve often thought anarchists replicate very judgmental, hyper-moralistic, very conservative mainstream social dynamics that miss the nuance of people’s humanness, the complexity of coping with the world as it is, and who are, to put it simply, too open to discarding people off to the four winds.”

And certainly, the anarchists are not the only movement contending with these dynamics. As Sarah Schulman writes: “The trajectory from oppressed to oppressor is central to the content of this book. Just as unresolved, formerly subordinated or traumatized individuals can collude with or identify with bullies, so can unresolved, formerly subordinated or traumatized groups of people identify with the supremacy of the state. In both cases the lack of recognition that the past is not the present leads to the newly acquired power to punish rather than to the self-transformatory necessary to resolve conflict and produce justice.”[54]

Our Activist Informed Reading Group discussion of Adrienne Marie Brown’s insightful tome, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Shaping Worlds, took countless turns at these themes. The writer addressed the theme of “call out culture” – a dynamic in which people identify political errors of others publicly.

“I have never seen activists shit on each other so much,” noted Emily reflecting on Occupy Wall Street, of which she was a participant. “Why do activists have to take each other down?” She paused, “I remember hearing people bragging about getting arrested in occupy,” she continued, referring to how people fetishize one tactic at the expense of everything else. Yet, these conflicts were anything but unique, repeating themselves over and over again through the years. Process and tactics seemed more important than a larger conversation about strategy. She read a section from Emergent Strategy entitled:

“We Are Still Beginning,” writes Brown, “I’ve been thinking a lot about transformative justice lately.

In the past few months I’ve been to a couple of gatherings I was really excited about, and then found myself disappointed, not because drama kicked up, which is inevitable, but because of how we as participants and organizers and people handled those dramas.

Simultaneously I’ve watched several public takedowns, call-outs, and other grievances take place on social and mainstream media. Some of those have been of strangers, but recently I’ve had the experience of seeing people I know and love targeted and taken down. In most cases, very complex realities get watered down into one flawed aspect of these people’s personalities, or one mistake or misunderstanding. A mob mentality takes over then, as evisceration of character that is punitive, traumatizing, and isolating.

This has happened with increasing frequency over the past year, such that I’m wondering if those of us with an intention of transforming the world have a common understanding of the kind of justice we want to practice, now and in the future.

What we do now if find out someone or some group had done (or may have done) something out of alignment with our values. Some of the transgressions are small – saying something fucked up, being disrespectful in a group process. Some are massive – false identity, sexual assault.

We then tear that person to shreds in a way that affirms our values. We create memes, reducing someone to the laughingstock of the internet that day. We write think-pieces on how we are not like this person, and obviously wouldn’t make the same mistakes they have made. We deconstruct them as thinkers, activists, groups, bodies, partners, parents, children – finding all the contradictions and limitations and shining bright light on them. When we are satisfied that that person or group is destroyed, we move on. Or sometimes we just move on because the next scandal has arrived, the smell of fresh meat overwhelming our interest in finishing the take-down.”[55]

Certainly, this could have been written word for word in 1969 or 1971. For the purposes of this essay, it opens up a host of questions: Why haven’t we learned? What role does racism, middle class background play? What role does the larger state-capitalist social order, and the pressures it exerts, play? While one can’t blame anarchism, capitalism, or structurelessness, for the whole these dynamics, one can wonder why activists feel comfortable tearing each other to shreds over and over again? Why do some movement cultures emphasize that some ideas are right and others are wrong, without room for dialogue about the messy spaces in between?  Maybe it has to do with the old point by Morris Berman: “An idea is something you have; an ideology is something that has you”. They grip at us, holding us, leaving us unable to adapt.

Responding to these dynamics, Li Dahlstrom, aptly argues: “By making these public attacks on each other, we are engaging in the same disposability politics of capitalism and the prison industrial complex that we purport to be against while feeding into state surveillance tactics that are monitoring how we are tearing each other down. Enough is enough. We need each other now more than ever.”

For Kelly Moore; “[t]he attacks on the humaness of people, the effort to humiliate as a form of power and discipline, again, long history + Clinton/Obama/Bushes/Trump’s rejection of care for others (no more nanny state: welcome soldier-citizen! get ready to have your ass kicked, and then do some “self-care” to responsibilize your self back into the battlefield)…” The stuff of relationship building, the practice of friendship is urgently needed. “[I]t is that relationship–the not knowing, the not liking, and disagreeing, the feelings of anger, rage, shame, powerlessness, etc.—that we super need to work out how, foundationally, we relate to each other as imperfect and lovely and muddled and creative beings.” Afterall, posits Moore, “the slagging on individuals: that is, indeed, how power keeps us down.”

In Brown’s facilitation and mediation work, she has found three questions which help around such issues.

“’Why?’ Listen with ‘why’ as a framework?”

“Ask ourselves: what can I/we learn from this?”

‘How can my real-time actions contribute to transforming this situation?”[56]

Brown sees emergent strategy as “a way of describing [a] relational leadership model…. that relies on the strength of relationship for adaptation…”[57]. This model of “dialectical humanism” opens space for a “cycle of collective transformation of beliefs…”  As we listen, we open ourselves to “understand and hold position[s] that we previously believed to be wrong…” The key is a willingness to listen. Doing so, we grow in relationship with others. “[R]elationships are everything” [58]

Pleasure activism and the joy of protest?

Brown was a friend of my old comrade Keith Cylar, a legendary AIDS /harm reduction activist who taught us all to be pleasure activists. “It has expanded for me over the years as I have come to believe that facts, guilt, and shame are limited motivations for creating change, even though these are the primary forces we use in our organizing work,” writes Brown, reflecting on the philosophy of pleasure activism. “I suspect that to really transform our society, we will need to make justice one of the most pleasurable experiences we can have.”[59]

Yet, can rebellion feel compelling? Can social eros spread in the streets, connecting possibilities, actions and movements, as George Katsiafakis saw?[60] “H]ow does everyday resistance express the desires of those who are exploited and oppressed, dominated and controlled by capitalism and the state?” wonders Team Colors Collective member Kevin Van Meter in an interview with Shane Burley for Viewpoint Magazine. For most of us, the “beloved community” we aspire to is a space with joy and justice, community and abundance, with less pain and exclusion. Getting there, we organize collectively, hopefully with a joy and patience for countless points of view.

Yet, we’re all human. Egos get in the way. Some become stars. Activists market themselves and their issues, gathering twitter followings, writing grants, opening consulting groups for their efforts, identity and indignation expanding, hashtags and brands reifying messages and ideas, commodifying our dissent.

People differ in their visions, plans and tactics. Reflecting on struggles before the 1963 March on Washington Movement historian L.A. Kaufman (2018) draws a distinction between top down and bottom up approaches in How to Read a Protest. Every sign was controlled for the 1963 march. Every message, in a tight discipline that both created space and restricted it. Activists responded in varying ways. Many shrugged and got on the bus. Others recoiled at the top down directives. For example, Malcolm X, “characterized the handling of the signs as one of numerous reasons why he decided to boycott the [1963] march.”[61] Direct action groups were disappointed with plans to cancel acts of civil disobedience. “Malcolm X went much further, emphatically refusing to participate in an event that allowed so little political autonomy. There wasn’t a single logistical aspect that went uncontrolled,’ he explained in his 1964 autobiography. ‘The marchers had been instructed to bring no signs – signs were provided… They had been told how to arrive, when, where to arrive, where to assemble, when to start marching, the route to march.’ He had a point. The sea of uniform signs at the March on Washington reflected a certain key quality to the march organizing: a directive leadership style that in many respects stood at odds, quite deliberately, with the impatient and restive grassroots.”[62]

In contrast, Kaufman points out leaders of the 2017 Women’s March “eschewed top-down structures and charismatic leadership in favor of more collaborative approaches,” embracing a “leaderful movement where there isn’t a single person whose vision creates the strategy, but rather many people who can be visionary leaders” writes Kauffman.[63] The first Women’s March in Washington DC the day after Trump’s inauguration was one of the most powerful actions I have ever seen. The mall was literally filled shoulder to should with people of all walks of life, all genders, colors, signs a splendor. The same thing the next year when I attended the New York City march, but we were even more penned in. By march three this January, fractions started showing. Conflicts arose over questions of inclusion and exclusion, interpretations of oppression, leading to dueling 2019 Women’s Marches. Talking with people the day of the march, everyone had an opinion about which of the three marches to attend and what was wrong with the others. I lost track of competing arguments, walking to the closest one to our house. One of the women I spoke with at Foley Square suggested the conversation stunk of the sort of COINTELPRO inspired clash that haunted the Black Panthers almost five decades prior, as agents and provocateurs sowed division within the movement. Others suggested the splits within the Women’s March movement between able and otherwise abled bodies people, people of color and white activists were serious and denoted problems that have festered in the women’s movement for many years without being fully addressed. To chalk them all up to COINTELPRO was trivializing.

Throughout January, debate roared forward and three marches were planned for New York. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, a founding editor of Ms. Magazine, sent a letter to the New York Times, responding to the earlier Times article, Anti-Semitism Accusations Roil Women’s March” (front page, Dec. 24): “For more than 35 years I’ve witnessed leftists form a firing squad in a circle while our mutual enemies ride off into the sunset unscathed,” she wrote aptly highlighting the dynamic. “In 1982 I wrote an investigative article for Ms. Magazine that detailed many of the same fevered schisms among Jewish women and women of color that your article discussed… Some Women’s March leaders say they’ve been educating themselves about the evils of anti-Semitism, as if they missed the memo until Jewish women expressed pain and shock at their exclusion from organizing efforts and their omission from the published “unity principles” enumerating which groups of women in particular should be “free.” “[R]acism and anti-Semitism are the same toxic madness split at the root…” concludes Pogrebin.[64]

Others would point out that this was nothing knew. The women’s movement has long had blind spots around the specific issues that women of color face, just as it once had them around those of sexual outsiders. Recall American feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson contending that lesbianism was antithetical to the feminist agenda because it “involves roleplaying and, more important, because it is based on the primary assumption of male oppression”.[65] By the early 1980s, attempts by one branch of the women’s movement to weed out oppressive patterns, sexual abuse, and sexism were seen as stifling another segment’s need for creativity, experimentation, and play.[66] Still women kept on organizing, coping as conflicts on class, race, and gender lines popped up again in the Women’s March, much as the organizers wanted to paper them over in the interest of forming a united front against Trump.[67] Despite the controversies, “the impact of the Women’s March on America is undeniable,” notes Anna North. “The march established women as leaders of the opposition to Trump, and helped set the stage for the wave of female candidates who ran and won in 2018. It also introduced the concept of intersectional feminism — the idea that women’s equality is interconnected with justice for other marginalized groups — to a wider audience and helped make it a part of mainstream left-wing politics. And it helped strengthen a movement of women agitating for the civil rights of all people that, the Women’s March and its critics agree, will continue no matter what happens with the latest scandal.”[68]

All the while, the debates about how to define and operationalize intersectionality would intensify,.   In when they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir, Patrice Khan -Cullors and Asha Bandele Asha aptly identify guiding principles for the movement, including: “embodying and practicing justice, liberation, and peace in our engagements with others.”   Still, how we get there counts. One step up, two steps back. But to err is to be human. There has to be a place for radical forgiveness and seeing the innocence in our mistakes.[69]

In Conflict is Not Abuse, Sarah Schulman posits: “Conflict, after all, is rooted in difference and people are and always will be different. …[M]ost of the pain, destruction, waste, and neglect towards human life that we create on this planet and beyond, are consequences of our overreaction to difference. This is expressed through our resistance to facing and resolving problems, which is overwhelmingly a refusal to change how we see ourselves in order to be accountable. Therefore how we understand Conflict, how we respond to Conflict, and how we behave as by standards in the face of other people’s Conflict determines whether or how we have collective justice or peace…” For Schulman, “the community surrounding the Conflict that is the source of the resolution.”[70]

Community is the source for our solutions, it’s the politics of living in a city together.   Can we can learn from each other and identify new possibilities, new emergent strategies? We have to. After all, Adrienne Marie Brown suggests, “The crisis is everywhere, massive massive massive. And we are small. But emergence notices the way small actions and connections create complex systems, patterns that become ecosystems and societies. Emergence is our inheritance as a part of this universe; it is how we change… how we intentionally change in ways that grow our capacity to embody the just and liberated worlds we long for, plans of action, personal practices and collective… Small is good, small is all (The large is reflection of the small… When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle… Change is constant. (Be like water).”

The Judean People’s Front vs the People’s Front of Judea

Hopefully, there is a place to laugh at ourselves and our ageless squabbles. At movie nights at my house, two of the all-time crowd pleasers are the philosopher’s soccer match and the Life of Brian, both from Monty’s Python. Early in The Life of Brian,four members of the Judean People’s Front meet Brian in the forum, discussing politics, ridiculing their splinter group, the People’s Front of Judea, the camera panning to a lone person sitting two rows away looking bitter. Later the Judean People’s Front plans a top secret raid against the Romans. To their surprise, another anti-imperial group, the Campaign for Free Galilee have been planning the same thing. The groups start fighting.

“Brothers, brothers! We should be struggling together!” declares Brian.

“We are!”

“We mustn’t fight each other!  Surely we should unite against the common enemy,” Brian follows.

“The Judean People’s Front,” they scream in unison, echoing the left’s proclivity to bicker instead of finding common ground.

“No the Romans,” Brian replies.[71]

I guess we’re always fighting the Judean People’s Front.

As this essay concludes, we’re left with what seems more questions than answers. Reflecting on these conflicts, I wonder: How do we cope with the eternal debates Boyd and the others identify, the conflict in movements, in our lives, watching our friends come and go, our movements cycle through time? Why do some friendships thrive and sustain us, while others recede?

“How do organizers express the desires of those who are exploited and oppressed?” as Kevin Van Meter wonders.

Movements form in countless ways.

“[T]he waves should rise and fall, and ebb and flow unceasingly,” writes Melville toward the end of Moby Dick. “[M]illions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumb.” No one can conquer nature. It is better we dance with mixed shades and shadows.[72]

We all do.

Friends elevate and pull at us, lulling and reminding us of our limits.

“[W]ho of you are capable of friendship?” wonders Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. “…There is comradeship: may there be friendship!” [73]

What we come to see are cycles of groups and movements, ideas and people, aspirations and conflicts, steps toward resolution, stumbles backward, and still more questions. Grace Paley describes these cycles through her body of work, wondering how we protect those we love from stumbling or “falling onto the hard floor of man-made time”, shuffling through this life, friendship ebbing and receding.[74] “Some adored children, raised by parents committed to giving them a better world, are lost to drugs, or jail, or even to … political extremism; others thrive…Men and women keep driving each other crazy in bed and in the head, but with more mutual sympathy and gentleness. Political urgency rattles the soul. And then, like life, it all abruptly ends,” concludes Alexandra Schwartz, writing about Paley. So what are we to do or feel?[75]  How do we make sense of what it all meant? We still have so much more to learn about each other, if we can be open, if we can be curious. After all, each other has something to teach us.


[1] Schulman, Sarah. 1991. People in Trouble. Plume. p. 146

[2] Kauffman, L.A. 2004. “A Short, Personal History of the Global Justice Movement.” In Confronting Capitalism: Dispatches from a Global Movement. Ed. Eddie Yuen, Daniel Burton-Rose, and George Katsiaficas. New York: Soft Skull Press.p. 380–81

[3]Schwartz, Alexandra. 2017.The Art and Activism of Grace Paley. She spent her life as a protester. How did she find time to reinvent the American short story? New Yorker.


[4] Schwartz, 2017

[5] Sarah Schulman 2016 Conflict is Not Abuse, Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 19.

[6] Paley, Grace, 1994. “Friends” in The Collected Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

[7] Denes, Melissa. 2004. Keeping the Faith. The Guardian. 29 October. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/oct/30/featuresreviews.guardianreview17

[8] Caldwell, Earl 1971. Newton‐Cleaver Clash Puts Party’s Future in Doubt. New York Times,   March 7 Page 26. Nelson, Stanley. 2016. The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.


[9] Boyd, Andrew; McGillivray, Brittany; Byers, Chelsea;   Mitchell, Dave Oswald; Smucker, Jonathan Matthew; Jones, Hannah; Bloch, Nadine; and Kuttner, Paul. Beautiful Trouble: A Toolbox for Revolution; Study Guide. https://beautifultrouble.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/04/BT_StudyGuide_Interactive.pdf

[10] Boyd et al

[11] Roosevelt, Eleavor. 1961. The Autobiography. Harper Perennial

[12] Conway, Janet. 2003. “Civil Resistance and the Diversity of Tactics in the Anti-Globalization Movement: Problems of Violence, Silence, and Solidarity in Activist Politics.” Osgoode Hall Law Journal 41.2/3: 505-530. https://digitalcommons.osgoode.yorku.ca/ohlj/ vol41/iss2/18. p. 505

[13] Conway, 2003, p. 530.

[14] Goyens, Tom. 2017. Radical Gotham: Anarchism in New York City from Schabs Saloon to Occupy Wall Street.   Chicago, Ill, University of Chicago Press, p. 144

[15] Ayers, B. 2001. Fugitive Days. Boston, MA: Beacon Press

[16] Varon, Jeremy. 2004. Bringing the War Home. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[17] Eric Laursen, The Duty to Stand Aside 2018, AK Press.p.4

[18] Laursen p. 3

[19] For more on this period, see Shepard, Benjamin. 2011. Play, Creativity and Social Movements: If I Can’t Dance Its Not My Revolution. New York: Routledge.

[20] Laursen p. 9

[21] Laursen p. 11

[22] Laursen p. 152

[23] For a critique of carceral feminisms, see Press, Alex. 2018. #MeToo must avoid “carceral feminism” Our country has an ugly history of using police and prisons to stop sexual violence. https://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2018/2/1/16952744/me-too-larry-nassar-judge-aquilina-feminism

[24] Seurth, Jessica. 2017. What is Antifa. 15 August CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2017/08/14/us/what-is-antifa-trnd/index.html

[25] Lukács, Georg, 1966/75. The Young Hegel. The Merlin Press London

Marcuse, Herbert. 1941/1960. Reason and Revolution: Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory. Beacan Press: Boston.

[26] Jay, Martin. 1973. The Dialectical Imagination. Little Brown. Boston MA.

Jeffries,Stuart.   2016. Grand Hotel Abyss: The Lives of the Frankfurt School. Verso

[27] Lukács, Georg (1923/ 1971) History and Class Consciousness.   . Livingstone (trans.), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

[28] Whittaker, Richard. 2002. Interview: Frederick Sontag: A Time of Searching. Works and conversations. 10 April. https://www.conversations.org/story.php?sid=19

[29] Fromm, Eric. (1947/2013).   Man for Himself: An Inquiry Into the Psychology of Ethics. Open Road Media.

[30] Jeffries, 2016; Jay, 1973

[31] Stratford, Michael. 2017. What is the meaning of the Poem ‘Ode to Joy.’ The Pen and the Pad. 9 March. https://penandthepad.com/meaning-poem-ode-joy-3627.html

[32] Adorno, Theodore. 1963. Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 2

[33] Ross, Alex.   (2014) The Naysayers Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and the critique of pop culture. 15 September. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/15/naysayers

[34] Adorno,1963p. 160

[35] Adorno, Theodore. 1958/2017. An Introduction to Dialectics. London: Polity Press. P. 281. Also see: Adorno, Theodore; Benjamin, Walter; Bloch, Ernst, Brecht, Bertolt; Lukacs, Georg. 1977. Aesthetics and Politics: The Key Texts in the Classic Debate within German Marxism. New York: Verso.

[36] Eiland, Howard and Jennings, Michael W. 2014. Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

[37] Aronowitz, Stanley. 1973/1991. False Promises: The Shaping of American Working Class Consciousness. Duke University press.

[38] Sarah Schulman 2016, p. 15

[39] Ross, 1914.

[40] Buber, Martin. 1958. I and Thou.   Scribner.

[41] Adorno (1963, p. 498).

[42] Lukács, 1923/ 1971, p. 178

[43] Adrienne Maree Brown. 2017. Emergent Strategy, AK Press

[44] Marcuse, Herbert. 1964. One Dimensional Man; Beacan Press: Boston.

[45] Frankly, Viktor E. 1946 Man’s Search for Meaning. Touchstone Books

[46] Ross, 2014.

[47] Kropotkin (1987 [1902]). Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution. https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/kropotkin-peter/1902/mutual-aid/introduction.htm

[48] Kristian Williams 2018. Whither Anarchism? AK Press p. 2

[49] Williams 2018.p. 12

[50] Williams 2018. p. 16-17

[51] Freeman, Joe. 1970. A Tyranny of Structureless. https://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm

[52] Freeman, 1970.

[53] Williams, 2018,p. 40

[54] Schulman, 2016: 18

[55] Brown. 2017, p. 144-45.

[56] Brown. 2017, p. 147-9

[57] Brown. 2017,p. 23

[58] Brown. 2017, p. 28.

[59] Brown. 2017, p. 33

[60] Katsiaficas, George. 2000. Eros and the Battle of Seattle. Accessed 1 January, 2009 from eroseffect.com

[61] Kaufman, LA 2018. How to Read a Protest, University of California Press P. 29.

[62] LA Kauffman, 2018, p. 29.

[63] LA Kauffman, 2018, p.73

[64] Pogrebin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin. 2018. Letter to the Editor, Re “Anti-Semitism Accusations Roil Women’s March” (front page, Dec. 24). 27 December. New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/27/opinion/letters/anti-semitism-womens-march.html?fbclid=IwAR3_ykM0ZnM8G4aIbT3eE7IxpAaTl8J_BIEDfWeTuZKs5RRbZ8SM7pSfgOI+

[65] Echols Alice. 1989. Daring to be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-75. University of Minnesota Press. P.211

[66] Echols 1989, 211

[67] North, Anna (2018).The Women’s March changed the American left. Now anti-Semitism   allegations threaten the group’s future. The complicated history, contentious present, and uncertain future of the Women’s March, explained. Vox 21 December. https://www.vox.com/identities/2018/12/21/18145176/feminism-womens-march-2018-2019-farrakhan-intersectionality

[68] North, 2018

[69] Kha-Cullors, Patrice and Bandele, Asha. 2017. when they call you a terrorist: a black lives matter memoir. St Martin’s Press

[70] Schulman 2016, p. 20)

[71] Monty Python 1979. The Life of Brian Script. https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=life-of-brian

[72] Melville, Herman. Moby Dick. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2701/2701-h/2701-h.htm

[73] Nietzsche, Friedrich.Thus spake Zarathustra.

[74] Paley, 1994, Denes, 2004

[75] Schwartz, 2017


The author would like to acknowledge those who took the time to speak out, speak with me about or comment on this piece, including Kelly Moore, Eric Laursen, and Craig Hughes.


Benjamin Shepard is the author of Illuminations on Market Street and ten other nonfiction books, including Rebel Friendships. He is writing a book about friendship and fighting.


Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1

Latest Issue

2024: Vol. 23, No. 1