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Book Review: "Anarchy Alive!: Anti-authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory"

By       Message Hans Bennett       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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Anarchy Alive!: Anti-authoritarian Politics from Practice to Theory, By Uri Gordon, Pluto Press, 2008, 183 pages.

Book Review by Hans Bennett

When Israeli anarchist Uri Gordon first moved to Europe in the fall of 2000 to begin his doctoral studies at OxfordUniversity, he was planning to study environmental ethics. However, Gordon explains that "the IMF/World Bank protests in Prague had just happened, the fresh buzz of anti-capitalism was palpably in the air, and I was eager to get a piece of the action." After attending a report-back from locals that had traveled to Prague, he quickly became involved in protests locally and around Europe. "I soon ended up doing much more activism than studying," writes Gordon, who had now been "tear-gassed in Nice, corralled in London and narrowly escaped a pretty horrible beating in Genoa." He soon decided to shift the focus of his PhD thesis to anarchist politics. The completed thesis has now been published as Anarchy Alive!

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Gordon boldly declares: "In case anyone hasn't noticed, anarchism is alive and kicking. This past decade or so has seen the full revival of a global anarchist movement on a scale and on levels of unity and diversity unseen since the 1930s. From anti-capitalist social centres and eco-feminist farms to community organizing, blockades of international summits, daily direct actions and a mass of publications and websites -- anarchy lives at the heart of the global movement that declares: 'another world is possible'"Its euphemisms are legion: anti-authoritarian, autonomous, horizontalist"but you know it when you see it, and anarchy is everywhere."

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A major strength of this highly-recommended book is Gordon's ability to write both for the seasoned activists as well as readers new to anarchism and the various resistance movements that have sprung up this decade. It is also a useful tool for US activists to learn more about the various struggles throughout Europe and in Israel. The first few chapters (which Gordon himself advises the veteran anarchists to skip) focus on the basics of what anarchism is, and what role it has played in various global struggles. The later chapters will be more interesting to the seasoned activists, where he looks self-critically at the movement from his perspective as a participant in various struggles, including work with such groups as Peoples' Global Action, Earth First, and the Dissent! network resisting the 2005 G8 summit.

Thankfully, Gordon transcends the divisive and self-righteous "I'm more of an anarchist than you are!" attitude that unfortunately has infected much of anarchist literature today. Instead, his book is a sincere attempt to establish common definitions and begin an honest and constructive dialogue about the most controversial issues facing the movement today. This approach by Gordon is seen in his chapter "Peace, Love, and Petrol Bombs," which addresses issues of violence, non-violence, and the "diversity of tactics" strategy for large protests. He shows how activists on all sides of this debate have been dogmatic, and have twisted definitions to support their views. As a result, most dialogue is unproductive. So, by laying out the different arguments and definitions around the use of violence (ranging from corporate property destruction to actual armed struggle), Anarchy Alive! will hopefully make a significant contribution to the development of activist strategy.

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Hans Bennett is a multi-media journalist mostly focusing on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners. An archive of his work is available at insubordination.blogspot.com and he is also co-founder of "Journalists for Mumia," (more...)

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