This past year, 2021, concluded with our mail-order space in Olympia burning to the ground while everyone around the country came down with COVID-19.
Still, it was a hell of a lot better than last year.
By the close of 2020, Donald Trump was tweeting that anarchists were responsible for rioting around the country, the New York Times was platforming a conspiracy theorist who alleged that the violence was our fault personally, and social media corporations were systematically cutting our lines of communication with the public while fascists ramped up street attacks around the country ahead of a coup attempt. So if 2021 has been a little bit quieter, that’s not entirely unwelcome. It has given our collective a chance to focus on some of our long-term projects, some of which we hope to debut next year.
But have we used it to prepare properly for what’s ahead? That’s the question—because none of the tensions of 2020 have been resolved.
We review our publishing efforts this past year, to ensure that you have all the resources you need to learn about the innovations of 2021 and prepare for 2022.
The United States
The year 2021 was a year of reeling and recovery in the United States, as practically every political and social faction recuperated from the demands of 2020.
Echoes of 2020 part I: January 6
The year 2021 opened with the belated, farcical culmination of the far-right momentum that had been building throughout the second half of 2020: a bungled coup attempt intended to keep Donald Trump in office by brute force—or at least to accustom Republicans to such stunts. As with Trump’s election, we had noted the signs that this was on the way, but it still took us by surprise when it occurred. It was hard to believe Trump would burn all his political capital with the center on such a long-shot attempt to stay in power. In retrospect, once he was no longer going to get to remain president, he had no incentive not to try to carry out a coup, as far-fetched his scheme was.
On January 7, we published an analysis of the events that has not aged badly:
Our own interpretation is that earlier in 2020, Trump indeed took steps to see if he could take power regardless of the outcome of the election—but, likely fearing the the George Floyd uprising was just a foretaste of what would result from an actual coup attempt, important elements of the ruling class chose not to support him, with the result that by January 6, there was no real possibility of a coup, and all that remained possible was for Trump to have his supporters throw one last tantrum to punish the rest of the political class for not permitting him to retain power and to show that, even out of power, he and his supporters could be a dangerous force.
Afterwards, we followed up with “Why We Need Real Anarchy,” identifying the ways that both the far right and centrists were using the failed pro-Trump putsch as an opportunity to confuse the issue of what counts as genuine revolt.
There remains a lot more to say about the events of January 6 and the precedent that they set for the future, especially as prominent Republicans have, if anything, ceased to distance themselves from the spirit of that day in the year that has followed. We will get into the details of what there is to learn from these developments this Thursday, on the anniversary of the botched coup. Our colleagues at Unicorn Riot have published a helpful overview of what is currently known about Trump’s ill-fated plan to seize power that day.
Echoes of 2020 part II: Minneapolis and Elsewhere
On April 11, 2021, a police officer in the Twin Cities suburb Brooklyn Center pulled over Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man, allegedly on account of expired tags—and murdered him. This tragedy occurred in the midst of the trial of the police officer who murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020; the authorities were already bracing for unrest. The murder of Daunte Wright showed that nothing had really changed in policing, even after all the protests; rather, as we argued, many different forces were conspiring to blunt the force of the revolt that had called attention to racist police violence in the first place.
In June, immediately after the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd and the beginning of the rebellion that bears his name, Minneapolis city officials made their first attempt to evict George Floyd Square. At the same time, US Marshals shot and killed Winston Boogie Smith Jr., a 32-year-old Black father, nearby—once more underscoring the continuity of police violence from 2020 to 2021. On June 13, a driver attacked a demonstration in remembrance of Winston Smith, killing Deona Marie Erickson. This tragedy was the predictable result of years of right-wing efforts to normalize—and even legalize—vehicular attacks.
In the end, the city government succeeded in evicting George Floyd Square—in no small part, by mobilizing independent groups that had played a role in the groundswell of May 2020 to do the work that the police could not. In “How (Not) to Abolish The Police,” we explored the ways that the movement to abolish the police was slowly supplanted by reformist efforts to make other institutions take on the same roles that the police currently perform without fundamentally changing the underlying logic.
For those who wish to study how liberal politicians, police PR campaigns, liberal non-profit organizations, and corporate media used counter-insurgency strategies to suppress the movement against police that exploded into the public eye on May 26, 2020, we also recommend this analysis.
In addition to covering the developments in Minneapolis throughout the year, we released We Are Now: The Story of an Armed No-Cop Zone in Atlanta, documenting the perspectives of Black demonstrators who occupied the site where Rayshard Brooks was murdered.
To coincide with the ultimate removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee in Richmond, one of the last major Confederate statues to be removed after the 2020 uprising, we published a chronology of all the statues toppled during the George Floyd rebellion. For Columbus Day, we revisited the subject, presenting an essay about what should replace those statues.
This year, a quarter of a century after we first took an anti-work position at a time when it was hardly thinkable, anti-work sentiments finally took off in a big way. Well over a quarter of the work force quit their jobs in the course of the year, and a popular anti-work reddit page has drawn over 1.5 million subscribers.
We will engage substantively with the new wave of anti-work sentiment soon. In 2021, in addition to celebrating Steal Something from Work Day, we published two older texts about labor, an analysis of why traditional labor unions and union organizing models have produced diminishing returns and a worker’s-eye-view report on where sugar comes from.
After Hurricane Ida devastated communities along the Gulf of Mexico, we published an interview with a nurse in New Orleans and an essay titled “Disasters on the Horizon,” appraising the colonial roots of the ongoing catastrophes that the hurricane exacerbated in Louisiana and exploring what it would take to create truly resilient infrastructure for all.
Ecological disasters are going to continue to occur on a greater and greater scale, with forest fires, extreme weather events, infrastructure failures, and other factors combining to displace people within the United States as well as around the world. Developing effective networks and horizontal institutions to respond to these crises will be essential to weathering the years ahead.
Generally, we just comment on the social movements that we participate in, but occasionally we publish calls to action, as well.
At the beginning of January, to close out the Trump era, we published a call to immediately push back against authoritarian border policies starting from the day Joe Biden was inaugurated. This call helped inspire people to gather in the streets of Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Bloomington, and elsewhere around the country on January 20 to assert their continued determination to fight for a freer society, even under a centrist Democrat.
As on every April 15, we celebrated Steal Something from Work Day with an essay entitled What Work Steals from Us.
The rest of the world was somewhat less quiet in 2021 than the United States, though not reaching the levels of unrest we saw in dozens of countries in 2019.
Africa and the Middle East
Around the ten-year anniversary of the revolution in Tunisia, another movement was coming to a boil there, which we explored in “Tunisia: From the 2011 Revolution to the Revolt of 2021.” Eventually, in July, after many months of pressure, the president of Tunisia suspended the parliament and dismissed the prime minister.
In May, following a popular uprising in Palestine and in refugee communities abroad, we published “The Revolt in Haifa,” an eyewitness report of the events.
Beginning on July 9, 2021, when the high court upheld the conviction and sentencing of former South African president Jacob Zuma, looting and rioting broke out in two provinces in South Africa for nine days. We published a perspective from a South African about how to interpret the different agendas expressed in the unrest.
Finally, on the last day of 2021, we released an interview with anarchists in Sudan who have been confronting the military dictatorship that took power via a coup last October. Arguably, the most instructive element of the Sudanese organizing is the local resistance committees, which have demonstrated how a precarious and predominantly unemployed youth population can become a powerful force.
Europe and Asia
This year, the European continent has been riven by conflicts over state lockdowns and vaccine mandates, but conspiracy theorists and fascists have gained the upper hand in many of these; we recommend this text from Greece about why. Movements for liberation have been caught flat-footed in much of Europe, as the extreme right gains ground in France and the police intensify their attacks on the few remaining autonomous spaces in Germany.
We published a report from the forest occupation movement in Germany, discussing different strategies of resistance. As climate change intensifies, many people are hoping that a new generation of fierce ecological movements will emerge.
Greece has long been known for its powerful anarchist movement, but anarchists have faced brutal repression under the right-wing New Democracy government. We published fully six updates from Greece in the course of the year, charting the course of Greece under the pandemic from the beginning of 2021 through the hunger strike of Dimitris Koufontinas, a prisoner from the November 17 movement, to anti-police demonstrations, the end of the lockdown, the summer wildfires, and the demonstrations observing the historic dates of November 17 and December 6. It is our hope that the anarchist movement in Greece will outlive the current reactionary government, emerging stronger from these battles.
Shifting our attention a few miles north and east, we published two reports from Russian anarchists discussing the protests of January 23, 2021, in which tens of thousands of protesters across the country rallied in response to the arrest of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny—expressing an anger that runs much deeper than support for any opposition candidate. We also were proud to publish a thoughtful analysis from anarchists who participated in the revolt in Belarus of 2020, discussing why it succeeded at first—and why the regime and its liberal opposition were able to undermine the movement before it could topple the dictatorship.
When the United States military finally withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving the Taliban in control of the whole country, we published “The Taliban Victory in a Global Context,” a perspective from a veteran of the US occupation of Afghanistan. From the veteran’s perspective, the Taliban, the occupation, and its consequences are all elements in a worldwide wave of fascism and fundamentalism that is also gaining ground in the United States.
India, too, has suffered under this wave of fascism and fundamentalism. Yet in November, after a year-long struggle, farmers achieved a stirring victory against the far-right government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, setting a hopeful precedent for the region. An author in India described the horizontal and anti-authoritarian aspects of their mobilization in “How Farmers Defeated the Government of India.”
In the culmination of our series on mutual aid during the pandemic, we began the year by publishing a feature on self-organization in Puerto Rico.
Looking elsewhere in the Caribbean, in response to the protests that broke out in Cuba on July 11, we published two interviews with Cuban anarchists and translated a statement from an anarchist initiative in Cuba. Those who oppose the imperialism of the United States government but support the imperial aspirations of Russia and China, or who at least sympathize with the embattled governments of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Iran even when they set about brutalizing the people they claim to represent, are often exasperated—to say the least—when we support social movements that oppose their preferred rulers. From our perspective, we owe our solidarity to ordinary people who are standing up for themselves, not to bureaucrats or police of any nationality.
In 2021, we published two lengthy expositions of the situation in Brazil under Trump’s Latin American equivalent, Jair Bolsonaro—”Brazil, Epicenter of the Virus of Populism” and “Only Revolt Can Bring Down Bolsonaro.” Brazilian anarchists understood Bolsonaro’s intentionally genocidal approach to COVID-19 in the context of a legacy of military rule, arguing that the conditions in Brazil can only be fundamentally changed by means of autonomous organization and revolt, not a mere electoral victory.
In 2021, Colombians initiated a massive uprising that culminated in a weeks-long standoff with one of Latin America’s most notoriously violent and oppressive governments. Working with anarchists in Cali, we published “Colombia Has Lost Its Fear” and “Instead We Became Millions,” including translations of reports from within the struggle and interviews with participants.
One essential innovation of the movement in Colombia were the gathering points variously referred to as “puntos de concentración,” “puntos de resistencia,” or “puntos de paro”—literally, “concentration points,” “resistance points,” and “strike points.” These points simultaneously served to block commerce, to provide for the free distribution of food and other necessities, and to provide space for free expression. They were spaces of encounter and social life beyond the bounds of state and capital, developed for an era of increasing precarity and isolation.
The uprising in Colombia offered an instructive example of what a “general strike” looks like in the present day. As we wrote,
This is a 21st-century strike. In a country where the majority worked precarious jobs in an informal economy, now devastated by the pandemic and government restrictions, this strike is less about not going to work than about actively shutting everything down. Blockades have managed to halt commerce in many cities, but they serve a double role: these points are also where people gather and experiment with new ways of living together and caring for one another, outside of dictates of capitalism and the state.
At the southern and western extremity of the continent, Chile had experienced a tumultuous uprising in 2019. This period of tremendous potential concluded with electoral victories for the left and a significant concession—the opportunity to revise the constitution that remains from the times of Augusto Pinochet’s blood-soaked dictatorship. In “The Hot Potato Changes Hands,” our Chilean correspondents asked what new challenges electoral victory might pose to autonomous movements in Chile, drawing from the example of Brazil, Greece, and the period of conflict that set the stage for the accession of Pinochet himself.
They also authored a eulogy for Luisa Toledo Sepúlveda, an important elder in popular anti-state movements in Chile, and an inspiring report from her funeral.
We published a lot of historical material in the course of 2021, looking back in order to get oriented for the future. We started the year with a chronology of resistance throughout the Trump years, reviewing the history we had all just lived through.
In February, we published an interview with two longtime Brazilian anarcho-punks, “From Punk to Indigenous Solidarity,” tracing anarchism and indigenous solidarity across four decades—starting with the reemergence of anarchism in Brazil in the 1980s after the end of the military dictatorship and tracing it through the rise and fall of the Workers Party government to Bolsonaro’s regime today.
In March, to observe the 100-year anniversary of the Kronstadt rebellion, we published an overview and chronology of the struggle, including the entire text of all 14 issues of the newspaper published by the rebels. This was one of our most ambitious projects of the year.
We followed up with an analysis of the composition of the Kronstadt revolt—a subject of longtime debate—by a Russian anarchist historian. Exploring the afterlife of that revolt in cinema, we went on to publish a discussion of Maggots and Men, a film that reimagines the Kronstadt uprising as a queer and trans utopia, and an interview with Cary Cronenwett, the director of Maggots and Men. We also published an introduction to La Commune de Paris, 1871, Peter Watkins’s daring assault on spectatorship from within the medium of film itself, which brings the Paris Commune of 1871 back to life along with all the questions it posed.
To celebrate Peter Kropotkin’s birthday, we published an account of his escape from prison, a glimpse into our forthcoming ambitious historical narrative. This story unexpectedly appeared on hacker news, drawing untold thousands of readers in a very short time.
Finally, we published “Every Flag Is Black in a Fire,” a selection of images and quotations exploring the meaning of the anarchist black flag across a century and a half.
Revisiting the Counter-Globalization Movement
In 2021, we put particular effort into using the anniversaries of the counter-globalization mobilizations of the turn of the century to educate newer anarchists about the movements that came before them.
In “Epilogue on the Movement against Capitalist Globalization,” we describe the global wave of organizing that built up to the era of massive protest convergences at international trade summits. In “The Revolutionary Anti-Capitalist Offensive,” one participant dramatically recounts the battle of Québec City in April 2001, when anarchists from all around North America converged to oppose a transcontinental summit intended to establish a “Free Trade Area of the Americas.”
In the end, the Free Trade Area of the Americas was soundly defeated.
In “Memories from the Front Lines,” we present a composite account of the front lines of the clashes at the notorious G8 summit that took place in Genoa in July 2001. The demonstrations in Genoa arguably represented the high-water mark of an era of global protest, in which both confrontational tactics and police repression reached their apex.
When the attacks of September 11, 2001 occurred, they interrupted the momentum of the movement. On the twenty-year anniversary of the attacks, we published an account by two young anarchist organizers who had come to DC to prepare for the mobilization against the IMF. They describe their experience of the September 11 attacks, during which they stood before the flaming Pentagon, looking into the burning future that we now inhabit.
Finally, as an homage to the culture of the time, we prepared a poster version of an illustration from those days and presented it with the history of its various components.
We began 2021 with “A Demonstrator’s Guide to Understanding Riot Munitions,” an introduction to the chemical weapons and “less-lethal” projectiles police use.
The next month, after a winter storm knocked out electricity to millions of people in Texas, we saw via social media that some comrades were using a guide from our book, Recipes for Disaster, to make a rocketstove in order to boil water and cook food. We scrambled to put that chapter online for others in the same situation.
In addition, ahead of students going back to school in the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, we finally put two old texts of ours online: “Deschooling,” about anti-authoritarian educational alternatives, and “No Gods, No Masters Degrees,” a memoir about how university students can engage in class mutiny, weaponizing their access to resources in order to contribute to broader struggles against capitalism.
In the course of 2021, we largely focused our efforts on print projects we hope to complete in 2022. In the meantime, we made an effort to get some of our older material back into print.
In February, we reprinted 25,000 more copies of To Change Everything, our anarchist outreach project, bringing the total print run in English to 175,000.
In November, we undertook a campaign to reprint two of our books, Days of War, Nights of Love and the Contradictionary. The campaign was successful, but towards the end of it, a catastrophic fire destroyed our mail-order space, along with thousands of our books, posters, and stickers and other necessary equipment and supplies. Thankfully, we immediately received a tremendous outpouring of support, as people raised enough money for us to reprint everything and secure another space within a few days. We begin 2022 full of profound gratitude to everyone who has helped us to keep doing this.
Finally, although we released few new zine designs this year, we recommend our zine version of “The Anarchists versus the Plague,” our narrative recounting the efforts of Errico Malatesta and his fellow anarchists to organize a grassroots response to the cholera epidemic in Naples. History repeats itself—both the bad parts and the good parts.
2012: The Empire Has No Clothes