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Some last words

We think that these ideas are important and worth discussing and would like to continue exploring them, but to be meaningful this project needs to become a conversation. We’re really keen that readers respond to and involve themselves in the project by contributing to this conversation in whatever way seems appropriate. Submissions for future publication, criticism and new ideas are all very welcome.

Contact us at dangerousconversations(at)riseup(dot)net.


You can pretend we didn’t come here, pretend nothing was said.

You can purposefully misunderstand us.

Or you can ask yourselves why we came, what we meant, and whether we’ll come back again.

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Some resources

Things we like/found interesting
[Doesn’t mean we necessarily endorse everything they say]

Blogs & Zines
The Angry Black Woman
Black Feminists
Black Looks
Dark Matter
Dealing with Our Shit
Hack Gender
The Fword
Muslimah Media Watch
Questioning Transphobia
Race Revolt
Shotgun Seamstress
Vegans of Color
Zero at the Bone

Anarchist People of Color: Senzala or Quilombo
Feminism Needs Transfeminism
Checked Your Human Privilege Lately?

“Intersectionality” is a Big Fancy Word for My Life

Other things
Are You a Manarchist?
How Not to Be Insane When Accused of Racism (A Guide for White People)
How to Suppress Discussions of Racism

Privilege checklists
Non-trans (cis)

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As a child I smashed cash machines, robbed students, broke into fancy houses, and set fire to stolen cars. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone; sometimes it was planned and sometimes it was a spur of the moment thing. I couldn’t articulate it then, but now I can. I/We wanted to send a message to everyone who was having it better than us, whoever had the money, the power, whoever was included in the thing (whatever that thing was) that we were excluded from. The message to them was always “Fuck you, fuck you and your world. Your world which keeps you safe and me/us at the mercy of how things are.” These actions also had a direct impact on our lives – money from the students to buy us drugs and booze, cool shit from houses to take home or sell to our neighbours, fires to warm us on the nights we were too scared to go home and the smashing of a cash machine gave us a giddy glow a sense of control over our external world, which did not exist anywhere else. These were acts of resistance, before we knew what resistance meant, when it was just about taking back a bit of control, a bit of freedom and directly improving our immediate lives. Those friends I carried these acts out with I found in stairwells, under bridges, at raves and at school. We didn’t have consensus meetings we didn’t need to, we already knew were we stood.

Two decades later and my immediate life has changed, I don’t have the same worries about where my next meal will come from or whether I’ll be able to go home at night. I’ve been accepted into the world of the included, where hot baths are run easily and it’s not necessary to lie in bed with one eye open. But I still want to send that message, I still want to cause as much damage to the world which creates the included and excluded through state and capital. I want to use my position inside the included as place to attack from. My reasons for this are in many ways the same. Left over animosity for the damage this society did to me, and the damage it still does. Because I am under no illusions that just being on the inside, just because I have those hot baths and comfy beds, that I am not being systematically fucked over by this society and the conditions it cannot help but create.

As a child I found my accomplices in attack, and as an adult I’ve found accomplices in defence. I’ve found people who want to have as much control over their day to day substance is possible within the confines of the system. Through collective housing and workers’ co-ops, collective housing and workers’ co-ops, through semi-autonomous social spaces, it has been possible that those who do not wish to collect as much capital as possible can still sustain themselves. We are able to do this, because it poses no threat to the established order of things. In merely minimizing our participation in capital we pose it no threat and are allowed to continue do so. Our aims of encouraging others to reduce their participation is equally of little threat as a reduction in participation is still participation. Despite this I cannot entirely dismiss this way of living, as it creates spaces in which some accomplices in attack can be found. Those that want to minimize their participation in capitalism are occasionally also those who want to see its destruction. However, they should not be viewed as the only place to find accomplices. Those that find themselves in permanent structures which enable them to minimize their participation in capital will often find themselves dependent on those structures, and those structures depend on capitalism.

What do I mean by accomplices? In my case they are those who wish to attack the entirety of social structures, they are those who view this society as endlessly interconnected, those who do not see multiple issues that need to be resolved nor situations which merely need to be improved, but those who see those issues and situations as inevitable results of the current society. I may find connections with those who wish to attack a particular issue or change a specific situation, but it should always be known by all involved that in attacking an arms manufacturer, government cuts or a fur seller, my goal is not to end the existence of the thing that we are attacking, but to create space to discuss further targets and find more ways in which our lives are connected. It is from these connections that accomplices are to be found. The connections maybe limited and thus we will not be accomplices for very long, or the connections may grow and expand and we will be accomplices for many years, whether that be intermittently or constantly.

Why do I need accomplices? I don’t. I can, and always will attack with all that comes from me, but this society thrives on atomizing us, refuting our collective impulses, and because of this attacking with others is that much more powerful. In finding long term accomplices, those who share the same to desire to attack society in its entirety I am able to share my autonomy, to act with others in a way which represents the desires of all of us, where each of us is acting for freedom and against domination in a way which is true to each of us and without coercion. Each of us knowing that if further connections aren’t made then we’ll not need act together again.

How many accomplices? One. Six hundred. Nineteen. The quantifiable amount does not matter, what matters is the quality of the connection. If it takes eight thousand of us to act together to burn parliament to the ground, then let each of us know one another. I have no wish to be one of those eight thousand if half of them want to build a new parliament in its place. My thoughts here, if they are not clear, are that I wish to struggle for my freedom with people I know, specifically people who wish to struggle for their own freedom and in solidarity with others fighting for their own.

For me the largest difficulty here is that it is easy to limit myself to working alongside only those who I socialize with, those who attend the same bars, go to the same houses for dinner, watch the same films, listen to the same music i.e. those who have the same points of reference to me. I see the answer to this is to enter into different circles, primarily other areas of confrontation with authority, where particular individuals have identified an aspect of their life in which they wish to confront authority, and act alongside them, not for them or on behalf of them, nor as an ideological ambassador, but as an individual who sees their struggle as connected to his own. In order for this to occur in a way which is mutually beneficial then I must take particular care to listen to the opinions of all those involved, and articulate myself and my motivations clearly, so no confusion or coercion occurs. If I am unable to work directly with the group of individuals, due to differing understandings of power and collectivity then I am always able to express my solidarity in other ways. In taking part in activities which are full and vigorous acts towards my own freedom from authority, but which are done with empathy for others involved in the same struggle. Participating in different circles will allow different connections to be made and opens up the possibility of new accomplices to be found.

But I cannot participate in movement building, in the development of a mass fighting under one banner, one ideology or one identity as this is a process of homogenisation, a process which will lead to the silencing of individual voices and the erosion of autonomy. There are those that identify as anarchist who believe in permanent formal structures for organising themselves. It is important for me to say that whilst I disagree fundamentally with this, that I still wish to act in solidarity with them and to act alongside them when to act in such a way would be appropriate. I do not view them, nor for that matter any other organisation or individual which wishes to destroy the current social order as an enemy. They are often friends with whom I have many connections with, and as such I hope to have ongoing and honest conversations with them, without ideological stagnation or defensiveness.

There is no one true way to confront all forms of domination and oppression, no single strategy or tactic which is applicable in every context. And I don’t dare to presume I ever know the correct way to act in any situation. I am however able to know which way is most appropriate for me to act and know that this might change depending on the context I find myself in. The challenge is to learn as I act, to embrace my autonomy and allow it to be an open expression of my ideas, needs and aims. I don’t believe this can be done in permanent formal organisations nor in isolation, thus the need for making connections and finding accomplices, thus the need to listen carefully to myself and to the others who I cross paths with.

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Strengthening anarchism’s gender analysis: Lessons from the transfeminist movement

By J. Rogue
(Full article available at Runagate Rampant)

Transfeminism developed out of a critique of the mainstream and radical feminist movements. The feminist movement has a history of internal hierarchies. There are many examples of women of color, working class women, lesbians and others speaking out against the tendency of the white, affluent- dominated women’s movement to silence them and overlook their needs. Instead of honoring these marginalized voices, the mainstream feminist movement has prioritized struggling for rights primarily in the interests of white affluent women. While the feminist movement as a whole has not resolved these hierarchal tendencies, various groups have continued to speak up regarding their own marginalization – in particular, transgendered women. The process of developing a broader understanding of systems of oppression and how they interact has advanced feminism and is key to building on the theory of anarchist feminism.

Transfeminism builds on the work that came out of the multiracial feminist movement, and in particular, the work of Black feminists. Frequently, when confronted with allegations of racism, classism, or homophobia, the women’s movement dismisses these issues as divisive. The more prominent voices promote the idea of a homogenous “universal female experience,” which, as it is based on commonality between women, theoretically promotes a sense of sisterhood. In reality, it means pruning the definition of “woman” and trying to fit all women into a mold reflecting the dominant demographic of the women’s movement: white, affluent, heterosexual, and non-disabled. This “policing” of identity, whether conscious or not, reinforces systems of oppression and exploitation. When women who do not fit this mold have challenged it, they have frequently been accused of being divisive and disloyal to the sisterhood. The hierarchy of womanhood created by the women’s movement reflects, in many ways, the dominant culture of racism, capitalism and heteronormativity.

Mainstream feminist organizing frequently tries to find the common ground shared by women, and therefore focuses on what the most vocal members decide are “women’s issues” – as if the female experience existed in vacuum outside of other forms of oppression and exploitation. However, using an intersectional approach to analyzing and organizing around oppression, as advocated by multiracial feminism and transfeminism, we can discuss these differences rather than dismiss them. The multiracial feminist movement developed this approach, which argues that one cannot address the position of women without also addressing their class, race, sexuality, ability, and all other aspects of their identity and experiences. Forms of oppression and exploitation do not exist separately. They are intimately related and reinforce each other, and so trying to address them singly (i.e. “sexism” divorced from racism, capitalism, etc) does not lead to a clear understanding of the patriarchal system. This is in accordance with the anarchist view that we must fight all forms of hierarchy, oppression, and exploitation simultaneously; abolishing capitalism and the state does not ensure that white supremacy and patriarchy will be somehow magically dismantled.

Tied to this assumption of a “universal female experience” is the idea that if a woman surrounds herself with those that embody that “universal” woman, then she is safe from patriarchy and oppression. The concept of “women’s safe spaces” (being women-only) date back to the early lesbian feminist movement, which was largely comprised of white, middle-class women who prioritized addressing sexism over other forms of oppression. This notion that an all-women space is inherently safe not only discounts the intimate violence that can occur between women, but also ignores or de-prioritizes the other types of violence that women can experience; racism, poverty, incarceration and other forms of state, economic and social brutality.

The Transfeminist Manifesto states: “Transfeminism believes that we construct our own gender identities based on what feels genuine, comfortable and sincere to us as we live and relate to others within given social and cultural constraint. (1)”

The concepts espoused by transfeminism help us understand gender, but there needs to be an incorporation of transfeminist principles into broad based movements. Even gay and lesbian movements have a history of leaving trans people behind. For example, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act does not protect gender identity. Again we see a hierarchy of importance; the gay and lesbian movement compromises (throwing trans folks under the bus), rather than employing an inclusive strategy for liberation. There is frequently a sense of a “scarcity of liberation” within reformist social movements, the feeling that the possibilities for freedom are so limited that we must fight against other marginalized groups for a piece of the pie. This is in direct opposition to the concept of intersectionality, since it often requires people to betray one aspect of their identity in order to politically prioritize another. How can a person be expected to engage in a fight against gender oppression if it ignores or worsens their racial oppression? Where does one aspect of their identity and experiences end and another begin? Anarchism offers a possible society in which liberation is anything but scarce. It provides a theoretical framework that calls for an end to all hierarchies, and, as stated by Martha Ackelsberg, “It offers a perspective on the nature and process of social revolutionary transformation (e.g. the insistence that means must be consistent with ends, and that economic issues are critical, but not the only source of hierarchal power relations) that can be extremely valuable to/ for women’s emancipation. (2)”

1. The Transfeminist Manifesto by Emi Koyama (2000)
2. Lessons from the Free Women of Spain an interview with Martha Ackelsberg by Geert Dhont (2004)

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No Pretence: Ideas into reality and what’s in between?

There will be no future for the anarchist movement if it doesn’t also identify as an anarcha-feminist movement. Anarcha-feminist organisational structures must exist within the movement to make anarcha-feminism an integral part of it. And you don’t need to identify as a woman to be an anarcha-feminist – every anarchist should be able to participate in the struggle against sexism.

The state’s incursion into our private lives and the relationship between sexuality and productivity from which it profits affects people of all genders. The gender binary system violently allocates us roles on the basis of our anatomy. A refusal to accept even these basic precepts will be a great hindrance to the movement.

You ask, ‘Can we find common cause despite our differences?’. We will only find common cause if we recognize that our differences are structured by numerous oppressive systems, and together fight to end each of these systems, wherever we find them.

Our feminisms must be plural, they must be anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-homophobic.

Our inspiration must come from the actions of feminists who have helped self-identified women reach revolutionary consciousness.

Our feminisms must be revolutionary.

Mbuya Nehanda

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Against prison society

To act deliberately in this society; to attempt to live free from coercion and control; to be genuine and authentic to one’s desires; to act truthfully and with honest reflection; all of this means to risk prison. The physical infrastructure of the prison system provides the means to contain those who elude the infinite mechanisms of control that permeate our society; those tools and instruments that attempt to order and restrain the misery, anger, and frustration of civilised life.

And yet prison is more than the bricks and mortar of physical buildings, the metal of iron bars and cell-doors. It is also a social condition, made manifest each time we submit to the regimentation of work, each time our faces appear on the screens of a security camera, each time we act on fear rather than desire. To struggle against prison is not to struggle against a singular institution; it is to struggle for the dismantling of the entire control apparatus that has spread like a spiked mist into almost (almost) all corners of our society.

The experience of prison, of the acute oppression and restriction of freedom, is but a more extreme form of the experience of everyday life in civilised society. We all experience containment; the only variable is the size of the container. Indeed, the management of prison complexes reveals in stark colours the modes of operation of the state and its instruments of oppression. It is here that the spectacle of society outside is stripped bare, and the repressive measures that everywhere prevail are left uncovered and clear. For example, a reflection on prison labour reveals many of the underlying logics of oppression characteristic of society at large. So when the British Justice Secretary explains that the idea of prison labour is to ‘give these guys the idea that work is a normal part of life’ and that if they want to escape the vicious circle of being taken in and out of prison ‘they’d better get used to working’, he reveals how prison forms just one part of an inter-locking web of institutions that work together to oppress us. Thus prison becomes a means by which people are coerced into the system of work (a much more cost-effective form of control for the state).

When one of the expressed aims of prison industries is to ‘ensure dynamic security by providing purposeful activity at relatively low cost’, this is but an expression of the underlying logic of all work, with coerced activity draining any energy that could be used in ways which threaten the dominant system (i.e. which pose a security threat). Similarly, the government’s attempts to re-establish control after the prison rebellions of the 1980s and 1990s by introducing competition for limited jobs and the privileges that come with them merely reflects the wider divide and rule logic of capitalism.

For those of us who have never set foot in a prison, the thought of doing so is a great source of fear. It is this fear that stops us from doing what we believe needs to be done. It is this fear that eats away at us because it can’t help but make us feel that they’re winning. It is this fear that stretches the gulf between our heads and our hearts. It is this fear that keeps us languishing in nervous hesitation with consequences writ large and blocking out motivations. It is this fear that must be overcome, but weighs us down like an anchor keeping us from just below the surface of the water, stretching to catch a breath. It is this fear that provides the fuel for our prison society, that keeps it functioning.

In order to overcome this fear, we must build secure communities of resistance that place the struggle against prison at their heart. As well as developing a robust security culture, this means building a solidarity network with prisoners to continue the struggle against oppression both inside and outside the walls. Effective resistance will face repression, which means we have to be ready to continue the struggle within the cages they force us into. We must also destroy the illusion of freedom on ‘the outside’ that keeps us so compliant and controlled.

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For the freedom of myself

The liberation of myself from all that attempts to mediate, alter, and control my thoughts and actions is the most important struggle I can be involved in. This struggle is fought from an understanding of this society as an abusive, white-supremacist, patriarchal and capitalist system, which leads to a knowledge that in struggling for my own liberation means to struggle against those entwined systems. I am aware that having lived in this society without this awareness for over two decades means that these systems are embedded within me. However, self-improvement or challenging the way these systems play out inside of me is not enough. It must be done in order for me to avoid reinforcing those systems, but equally important is that I confront them. Similarly, this confrontation must not only be played out in the act of creating spaces, communities, ways of living which reject those systems, but the confrontation must be explicitly offensive. The importance of creating spaces, communities and ways of living should not be ignored, but it must be done with the knowledge that the more successful the creation of these things the more likely they are to come under attack. This attack will be both insidious and obvious, the obvious distracting us from the insidious. These attacks responded to on the front foot, that is to say, I must hit back before I’m hit at all. What I’m suggesting for myself is an existence which responds to the world in numerous ways at the same time, never privileging one more than another.

This society’s system is abusive, white supremacist, patriarchal and capitalistic; it mediates, alters and controls my thoughts and actions through a myriad of oppressions. The culture it creates encourages a uniform behaviour and the worship of property and ownership. It is not possible to live a life untouched by this culture; cultures are living things which are re-appropriated, reproduced and recreated by all those living within them. The same is true for the dominant culture of the current society, it does not exist without those who live within it. It is for this reason it is of importance that we challenge its fundamental characteristics in our everyday lives, taking none of its assumptions.
The most ubiquitous of these challenges currently are eco-friendly living and vegetarianism. However, these have been co-opted by capitalism and have become merely “ethical consumption” choices. Whilst there is a certainly a place for living a day to day life which minimizes ecological harm, it does not on its own challenge the abusive social relationships we exist within and reproduce on daily basis. Further challenges need to take place, limiting the ways in which we uphold white supremacy and patriarchy are amongst them. There is no easy litmus test where these are concerned, to a certain degree they will occur, but their vigour and viciousness can be limited by regularly assessing the role we play in their reproduction. Unlike the lifestyle options of eco-friendly living and vegetarianism there are fewer opportunities to hide behind consumption choices. Instead honest self-assessment is needed, this can be made possible by small groups of friends who are comfortable enough to be honest with each about the reality of their behaviour, but more importantly they need to be internalised. This task is not a small one, and neither is its importance if we are to work towards the total destruction of all oppression. It is a task which we must take on with utmost fervour and desire, at the same time recognising that it is only through practical experimentation that we will find a way that is true. Focusing ourselves and our energies on this alone, however, will not fully address all domination and mediating factors in this society.

Internalizing an anti-domination practice must work in tandem with the claiming and creation of physical spaces that overtly challenge capitalist, sexist, racist, classist, and ableist assumptions. These spaces can be, and perhaps should be, both temporary and permanent. Temporary spaces like discussion groups or meeting spaces which last for as long as they are needed, and allow individuals to come together for brief periods of time to discuss and assess the ways in which mainstream cultures assumptions dominate their lives are a place where those assumptions can be challenged. Alternatively, permanent spaces, such as community centres and homes can be made and developed in order that we are able to have permanent locations of resistance against the dominating forces of capitalism, civilisation and the state. Ensuring that these spaces are genuinely challenging to dominant culture is incredibly difficult. They will be inhabited by people like myself who have spent the majority of their lives in a society which has so many different hierarchies and assumptions based on race, class, gender, etc that they are walking talking versions of those hierarchies and assumptions. This is why any resistance to dominant culture, any hope of liberating myself, must include working on internalising anti-domination ideas and ensuring that those ideas are also challenged within the spaces that I inhabit. We must be vocal about these ideas, encourage others to challenge us when we reinforce dominant culture through our actions, as well as creating and maintaining spaces where those actions are not accepted.

I do not believe that internalizing anti-domination practices, nor creating truly anti-domination, anti-capitalist spaces will result in the liberation of myself from all that attempts to mediate, alter, and control my thoughts and actions. They must occur, but without direct confrontation with the dominating man made systems of this planet they will not be enough. The spaces that we can create will always be under attack from systems of power, particularly if those spaces expand and grow to include more people. Those spaces will be merely a pseudo utopian ghetto, as they will still exist within the context of society as whole which will mediate who has access to those spaces and who does not. The internalisation of ideas will be under constant threat, because unless I am to spend my time only within those spaces (pseudo utopian ghettos that they are), I would forever come into contact with a society which is devoted to having its inhabitants internalize and reinforce ideas which maintain the status quo of domination, capitalism, racism and the patriarchy. It would be a life led entirely on the defence, thus one which is not liberated but one that is quite clearly trapped. Only in attacking the system and the forces that maintain it can I possibly find moments of liberation. How long these moments last depends on the strategies and tactics that I choose to use, whether the attacks are forceful enough, whether they occur combined with those of others, whether my actions, along with those of others, are able to rupture this society for long enough to experience liberation for prolonged periods of time. However long these moments last I think they are the only moments when I am actually free, when the threats, the coercion, the fear of retaliation and the silent oppressions of this civilisation are not enough to hold me back.

I do not want to privilege these types of action over creating spaces and internalizing ideas. If these actions are organised and occur within a group of people where sexism, classism or racism exist then they will shorten the length of my moments of liberation. Likewise the more these three elements interact, the stronger and more affective each will be. Attacks against the system should be accessible to all, not merely the white male whose privileges are born out of this society’s hierarchies and oppressions. Internalizing processes, and creating genuinely non-hierarchical spaces develop the possibilities that all can participate in self-defence, self-liberation, and the destruction of domination.
The things that I need to do in order to be permanently liberated are immense and I do not believe they can be achieved on my own. If I merely view the struggle for liberation as an individual then I have already lost. My struggle is entwined with the struggle of others and a part of the struggle is making connections with others. One facet of state and capitalist oppression that reaches us all is the breaking down of those connections. The most obvious methods of doing this are class, race and gender, but they exist in the ways we form our subcultures, the ways in which we find personal and collective identification through our consumption habits, whether they be the food we eat, the clothes we wear and where we get those clothes from and the jobs/social functions we perform.

I live, and spend most of my time in a subculture which places great emphasis on it’s ethical choices. Inclusion and exclusion to this social group is often predicated on performing certain “ethical” habits. These include, but are not limited to: veganism/freeganism, freeshopping, permaculture, recycling, cycling, renewable energy, composting, home brewing, having an allotment, and art and education projects based around gardening or recycled materials. A lack of participation in these, or an overt rejection of these, makes inclusion into the social group that much more difficult, unless you have a regular supply of ketamine and dub step. That these habits have become so closely associated with anti-capitalist movements is to these movements’ detriment. I don’t believe any of them have anything to do with building a movement which will destroy capitalism, and everything to do with white university educated men and women carving out an identify with which they can view themselves and each other as women and men of conscience and ethics without ever having to challenge the pro-capitalist racism, classism, and sexism that they have had ingrained in them through living in this particular time and place in history. This behaviour is an act of domination, it is a refusal to internalise anti-capitalist, anti-state, and anti-domination ideas. A refusal to participate in spaces which encourage and facilitate such behaviour is an active attempt to generalize and spread the amount of attacks on capitalism and the state.

It’s because of this that I feel this subcultural baggage damages my struggle for liberation. If “ethical” work and “ethical” consumption remain as dominant as they are then there will always be a barrier between those who participate in them and those who do not. The simple answer at this point is to reject the subculture, for me to step out of it, but this does not take into account the fact that, like many subcultures, this one has created a supportive and protective environment where friendship and affinity can/has occurred. As well as this, much of the subculture has stemmed from genuine movements of resistance. The road protest movements, Reclaim the Streets, J18 and the G8 in Stirling all have their critics, but for me it is clear that they, at the very least, resisted capitalism and the state in some way. For these small reasons alone I think it would be foolish to reject them wholesale, but I am under no illusions that there are people within the subculture (whether you want to call it activist or environmental or whatever) who rely far too strongly on their privilege, and with whom I will never find any affinity, and am actually in a very profound state of conflict with.

I think that deep within the movements that exist (and their subcultures) is a need to reject capitalism and the state. Unfortunately the privileges that we have, which have been given to us by capitalism and the state, have not been challenged vigorously enough. We pay lip service to those privileges, we can talk a good talk, but in placing such a great emphasis on “ethical” work and “ethical” consumption we betray ourselves. And as I said previously, this betrayal damages my struggle for liberation. If instead of being evangelicals of “ethical” low impact living, we detected the things which stop us from being fully free, un-mediated human beings and challenged those things, whether they be inside of us, or inside our communities, or inside society as a whole, IF, after asking questions of ourselves, we then explained to others what we found, IF we did this, and then talked to others, without attempting to persuade or cajole, without making assumptions on what their needs and wants might be, we might find that we can make deep connections with people outside of our subculture. Then we can work on developing those connections, whether they are with one person or a hundred and we might be able to do something with those connections.

The anti-domination practices, actions and movements that I seek to be part of will always be short lived whilst those within the supposed anti-capitalist subculture/movement use their privileges to dominate the discourse. I don’t want to stay part of a subculture, never mind one which is ignorant of its flaws. Those of us who want to bring this capitalist society down must challenge those who attempt to distract everyone with notions of ethical work and consumption. If they ignore this challenge, then they are guilty of maintaining the shackles and chains of capital and the state which imprison us all.

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No Pretence: Resistance or are we futile?

If the anarchist movement doesn’t recognize the power structures it reproduces, its resistance will be futile. For as well as fighting sexism ‘out there’ we must fight sexism ‘in here’ and stop pretending that oppressive systems disappear at the door of the squat or the social centre. Only a movement that understands and fights its own contradictions can provide fertile ground for real and effective resistance.

Ask yourselves this – do you believe sexism exists within the movement? When a woman comrade says she’s experienced sexual abuse or assault from a male comrade – what do you think? That it’s an individual or an isolated case? Or that it can happen – and disproportionately to women – because there is a system which allows it to develop and gives it life? Can we honestly say that our own autonomous spaces do not play a part in upholding this system?

Ask yourselves this – Why do fewer women speak in meetings? Because they think less? What is the gender of the factory worker? Why do more women do the washing up and run creches at meetings/events? What is the gender of the carer at home?

Now tell us if you believe sexism exists: tell us why men rape; why more women are battered than men; why more women are used by the state to do free and unwaged work. Tell us – are you a feminist?

We believe that in the anarchist movement, the strongest evidence of sexism lies in the choice we’re told to make between ‘unity’ and what-they-call ‘separatism’, between fighting the state and fighting sexism. Fuck that! We refuse to be seen as stereotypes of ‘feminists’ you can consume – like fucking merchandise in the capitalist workplace.

Gloria Anzaldúa

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For the privileged ones: Moving on

Anarchists who are serious about getting rid of hierarchies need to see how they individually benefit from different types of privilege and work towards dismantling the systems that enable those privileges. However, when privilege is pointed out to people that have it, it is rare that they are willing to engage. Anger, defensiveness, dismissal of the issues raised and switching to examples of their experience of prejudice (awkward conversation successfully derailed) are more common. Alternatively, people are closed to criticism and feel that they’re fully aware of all issues faced by <insert particular marginalised group here>, that they’re getting it right. In fact, they have done so well, members of <the marginalised group> should be grateful to have them on side. Both kinds of response are hugely patronising and further embed privilege while pushing people away.

It is essential that anyone who has their privilege challenged accepts that the person who challenged them had a reason for doing so and to at least try to see the situation from their viewpoint. The answer is not to engage in guilty hand-wringing but to genuinely acknowledge what the issues are and take steps to tackle them as/if necessary. This isn’t to do a favour to people from that particular group, it’s just what you do if you want a world without systematic domination by privileged groups. Oh and the people who are dealing with the fall out of the systems that ends up benefiting you, they’re not responsible for making it easier for you to deal with your shit.

Privilege may be complicated but this doesn’t change the fact that some groups benefit massively from it. If you are in one of those groups, it’s up to you to take steps to make your community one that invites participation by all. And if you are not willing to take those steps, maybe this means that you don’t actually want a movement that is for everyone, just one for people that are like you.

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