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Breaking through the domestication of the #Stonewall Riots

‘Q’ then, will never be a coherent letter tacked as a bridge on some list of identities. The past decade shows the poverty or ruin of every attempt to do so. We’ve said already that these words are magic. We might add that they are wyrd – the Old English for fate and all the other invisible and nonlinear causalities we are woven into and which gives us the modern word ‘weird’. The queerest insurrection demands the weirdest, the most enmeshed in the unseen, the most in relationship with all that teems just beyond the normative filter we are still fighting to unlearn. Find those who straddle that filter, a foot in each world. Share your methods, share what you’ve learned, share the stories of your dead. The dead we hold in common make us family – some other form of kinship than the Norm and its terror. We need each other today more than ever. We want to win this time, to win all the time, and the dead want that too.
Mary Nardini Gang

Originally published by Autonomies

In June of 1969, the Stonewall Riots of New York City marked the beginning of an open contestation of institutionalised heterosexuality in contemporary radical politics. It was by no means the first gesture of rebellion against hetero-normativity, but with time, its resonances have served as a potentiality for proliferation of similar and multiplying rebellions. But on this, the 50th anniversary of the riots, gay-lesbian, or more broadly today, LGBTIQ insurrection, has never been more subject to political and market appropriation. The rebellious have been made an identity, becoming thereby representable. And if resistance continues to their in the “liberal West”, today, even an Oreo Cookie can try to pass as gay friendly, no doubt to be consumed by homo-nationalists.

The caricatural obscenity of the commodification of “pride days” is stripped bare by the ongoing parade of violence that is directed at LGBTQI populations throughout the world, including in the “West”, where the government of sexuality and demographics cannot abandon the safeguarding of heterosexuality to something as unpredictable as desire.

Surreptitiously or openly, LGBTQI insurrections are increasingly policed, domesticated and/or repressed. And to then hope that all of this can be addressed through petitions, boycotts, appeals to established politicians, is to ignore the vital lesson of the Stonewall Riots: that they were riots for a new world.

To celebrate “pride” in our own way, we share two texts by the Mary Nardini Gang, a third by Nova Ishtar Daggers-Drawn, in defence of queering revolution and a video re-telling of a story of oppression, one story, of human desire …

Toward the queerest insurrection

Mary Nardini Gang (Anarchist Library)

I

Some will read “queer” as synonymous with “gay and lesbian” or “LGBT”. This reading falls short. While those who would fit within the constructions of “L”, “G”, “B” or “T” could fall within the discursive limits of queer, queer is not a stable area to inhabit. Queer is not merely another identity that can be tacked onto a list of neat social categories, nor the quantitative sum of our identities. Rather, it is the qualitative position of opposition to presentations of stability – an identity that problematizes the manageable limits of identity. Queer is a territory of tension, defined against the dominant narrative of white hetero monogamous patriarchy, but also by an affinity with all who are marginalized, otherized and oppressed. Queer is the abnormal, the strange, the dangerous. Queer involves our sexuality and our gender, but so much more. It is our desire and fantasies and more still. Queer is the cohesion of everything in conflict with the heterosexual capitalist world. Queer is a total rejection of the regime of the Normal.

II

As queers we understand Normalcy. Normal, is the tyranny of our condition; reproduced in all of our relationships. Normalcy is violently reiterated in every minute of every day. We understand this Normalcy as the Totality. The Totality being the interconnection and overlapping of all oppression and misery. The Totality is the state. It is capitalism. It is civilization and empire. The totality is fence post crucifixion. It is rape and murder at the hands of police. It is “Str8 Acting” and “No Fatties or Femmes”. It is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. It is the brutal lessons taught to those who can’t achieve Normal. It is every way we’ve limited ourselves or learned to hate our bodies. We understand Normalcy all too well.

III

When we speak of social war, we do so because purist class analysis is not enough for us. What does a marxist economic worldview mean to a survivor of bashing? To a sex worker? To a homeless, teenage runaway? How can class analysis, alone as paradigm for a revolution, promise liberation to those of us journeying beyond our assigned genders and sexualities? The Proletariat as revolutionary subject marginalizes all whose lives don’t fit in the model of heterosexual-worker. Lenin and Marx have never fucked the ways we have. We need something a bit more thorough something equipped to come with teethgnashing to all the intricacies of our misery. Simply put, we want to make ruins of domination in all of its varied and interlacing forms. This struggle inhabiting every social relationship is what we know as social war. It is both the process and the condition of a conflict with this totality.

IV

In the discourse of queer, we are talking about a space of struggle against this totality – against normalcy. By “queer”, we mean “social war”. And when we speak of queer as a conflict with all domination, we mean it

V

See, we’ve always been the other, the alien, the criminal. The story of queers in this civilization has always been the narrative of the sexual deviant, the constitutional psychopathic inferior, the traitor, the freak, the moral imbecile. We’ve been excluded at the border, from labor, from familial ties. We’ve been forced into concentration camps, into sex slavery, into prisons. The normal, the straight, the american family has always constructed itself in opposition to the queer.

Straight is not queer. White is not of color. Healthy does not have HIV. Man is not woman. The discourses of heterosexuality, whiteness and capitalism reproduce themselves into a model of power. For the rest of us, there is death. In his work, Jean Genet [1] asserts that the life of a queer, is one of exile that all of the totality of this world is constructed to marginalize and exploit us. He posits the queer as the criminal. He glorifies homosexuality [2] and criminality as the most beautiful and lovely forms of conflict with the bourgeois world. He writes of the secret worlds of rebellion and joy inhabited by criminals and queers.

Quoth Genet,

“Excluded by my birth and tastes from the social order, I was not aware of its diversity. Nothing in the world was irrelevant: the stars on a general’s sleeve, the stock-market quotations, the olive harvest, the style of the judiciary, the wheat exchange, flower beds. Nothing. This order, fearful and feared, whose details were all interrelated, had a meaning: my exile.”

VI

A fag is bashed because his gender presentation is far too femme. A poor transman can’t afford his life-saving hormones. A sex worker is murdered by their client. A genderqueer persyn is raped because ze just needed to be “fucked straight”. Four black lesbians are sent to prison for daring to defend themselves against a straight-male attacker. [3] Cops beat us on the streets and our bodies are being destroyed by pharmaceutical companies because we can’t give them a dime. Queers experience, directly with our bodies, the violence and domination of this world. Class, Race, Gender, Sexuality, Ability; while often these interrelated and overlapping categories of oppression are lost to abstraction, queers are forced to physically understand each. We’ve had our bodies and desires stolen from us, mutilated and sold back to us as a model of living we can never embody.

Foucault says that

“power must be understood in the first instance as the multiplicity of force relations immanent in the sphere in which they operate and which constitute their own organization; as the processes which, through ceaseless struggles and confrontations, transforms, strengthens or reverses them; as the support which these force relations find in one another, thus forming a chain or system, or on the contrary, the disjunctions and contradictions which isolate them from one another; and lastly, as the strategies in which they take effect, whose general design or institutional crystallization is embodied in the state apparatus, in the formulation of the law, in the various social hegemonies.”

We experience the complexity of domination and social control amplified through heterosexuality. When police kill us, we want them dead in turn. When prisons entrap our bodies and rape us because our genders aren’t similarly contained, of course we want fire to them all. When borders are erected to construct a national identity absent of people of color and queers, we see only one solution: every nation and border reduced to rubble.

VII

The perspective of queers within the heteronormative world is a lens through which we can critique and attack the apparatus of capitalism. We can analyze the ways in which Medicine, the Prison System, the Church, the State, Marriage, the Media, Borders, the Military and Police are used to control and destroy us. More importantly, we can use these cases to articulate a cohesive criticism of every way that we are alienated and dominated.

Cooper’s Donuts was an all night donut shop on a seedy stretch of Main Street in Los Angeles. It was a regular hangout for street queens and queer hustlers at all hours of the night. Police harassment was a regular fixture of the Cooper’s, but one May night in 1959, the queers fought back. What started with customers throwing donuts at the police escalated into full-on street fighting. In the ensuing chaos, all of the donut-wielding rebels escaped into the night.

Queer is a position from which to attack the normative more, a position from which to understand and attack the ways in which normal is reproduced and reiterated. In destabilizing and problematizing normalcy, we can destabilize and become a problem for the Totality.

The history of organized queers was borne out of this position. The most marginalized transfolk, people of color, sex workers – have always been the catalysts for riotous explosions of queer resistance. These explosions have been coupled with a radical analysis wholeheartedly asserting that the liberation for queer people is intrinsically tied to the annihilation of capitalism and the state. It is no wonder, then, that the first people to publicly speak of sexual liberation in this country were anarchists, or that those in the last century who struggled for queer liberation also simultaneously struggled against capitalism, racism and patriarchy and empire. This is our history.

VIII

If history proves anything, it is that capitalism has a treacherous recuperative tendency to pacify radical social movements. It works rather simply, actually. A group gains privilege and power within a movement, and shortly thereafter sell their comrades out. Within a couple years of stonewall, affluent gay white males had thoroughly marginalized everyone that had made their movement possible and abandoned their revolution with them. It was once that to be queer was to be in direct conflict with the forces of control and domination. Now, we are faced with a condition of utter stagnation and sterility. As always, Capital recuperated brick-throwing street queens into suited politicians and activists. There are logcabin Republicans and “stonewall” refers to gay Democrats. There are gay energy drinks and a “queer” television station that wages war on the minds, bodies and esteem of impressionable youth.

The “LGBT” political establishment has become a force of assimilation, gentrification, capital and statepower. Gay identity has become both a marketable commodity and a device of withdrawal from struggle against domination. Now they don’t critique marriage, military or the state. Rather we have campaigns for queer assimilation into each. Their politics is advocacy for such grievous institutions, rather than the annihilation of them all. “Gays can kill poor people around the world as well as straight people!” “Gays can hold the reigns of the state and capital as well straight people!” “We are just like you”. Assimilationists want nothing less than to construct the homosexual as normal – white, monogamous, wealthy, 2.5 children, SUVs with a white picket fence. This construction, of course, reproduces the stability of heterosexuality, whiteness, patriarchy, the gender binary, and capitalism itself.

One weekend in August of 1966 – Compton’s, a twenty four hour cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood was buzzing with its usual late-night crowd of drag queens, hustlers, slummers, cruisers, runaway teens and neighborhood regulars. The restaurant’s management became annoyed by a noisy young crowd of queens at one table who seemed to be spending a lot of time without spending a lot of money, and it called the police to roust them. A surly police officer, accustomed to manhandling Compton’s clientele with impunity, grabbed the arm of one of the queens and tried to drag her away. She unexpected threw her coffee in his face, however, and a melee erupted: Plates, trays, cups and silverware flew through the air at the startled police who ran outside and called for backup. The customer’s turned over the tables, smashed the plate-glass windows and poured onto the streets. When the police reinforcements arrived, street fighting broke out all throughout the Compton’s vicinity. Drag queens beat the police with their heavy purses and kicked them with their high-heeled shoes. A police car was vandalized, a newspaper box was burnt to the ground and general havoc was raised all throughout the Tenderloin.

If we genuinely want to make ruins of this totality, we need to make a break. We don’t need inclusion into marriage, the military and the state. We need to end them. No more gay politicians, CEOs and cops. We need to swiftly and immediately articulate a wide gulf between the politics of assimilation and the struggle for liberation.

We need to rediscover our riotous inheritance as queer anarchists. We need to destroy constructions of normalcy, and create instead a position based in our alienation from this normalcy, and one capable of dismantling it. We must use these positions to instigate breaks, not just from the assimilationist mainstream, but from capitalism itself. These positions can become tools of a social force ready to create a complete rupture with this world. Our bodies have been born into conflict with this social order. We need to deepen that conflict and make it spread.

What began as an early morning raid on June 28th 1969 at New York’s Stonewall Inn, escalated to four days of rioting throughout Greenwich Village. Police conducted the raid as usual; targeting people of color, transpeople and gender variants for harassment and violence. It all changed, though, when a bull-dyke resisted her arrest and several street queens began throwing bottles and rocks at the police. The police began beating folks, but soon people from all over the neighborhood rushed to the scene, swelling the rioters numbers to over 2,000. The vastly outnumbered police barricaded themselves inside the bar, while an uprooted parking meter was used as a battering ram by the crowd. Molotov cocktails were thrown at the bar. Riot police arrived on scene, but were unable to regain control of the situation. Drag queens danced a conga line and sang songs amidst the street fighting to mock the inability of the police to re-establish order. The rioting continued until dawn, only to be picked up again at nightfall of the subsequent days.

IX

Susan Stryker writes that the state acts to

“regulate bodies, in ways both great and small, by enmeshing them within norms and expectations that determine what kinds of lives are deemed livable or useful and by shutting down the space of possibility and imaginative transformation where peoples’ lives begin to exceed and escape the state’s use for them.”

We must create space wherein it is possible for desire to flourish. This space, of course, requires conflict with this social order. To desire, in a world structured to confine desire, is a tension we live daily. We must understand this tension so that we can become powerful through it – we must understand it so that it can tear our confinement apart.

On the night of May 21st 1979, in what has come to be known as the White Night Riots, the queer community of San Francisco was outraged and wanted justice for the murder of Harvey Milk. The outraged queers went to city hall where they smashed the windows and glass door of the building. The riotous crowd took to the streets, disrupting traffic, smashing storefronts and car windows, disabling buses and setting twelve San Francisco Police cruisers on fire. The rioting spread throughout the city as others joined in on the fun!

This terrain, born in rupture, must challenge oppression in its entirety. This of course, means total negation of this world. We must become bodies in revolt. We need to delve into and indulge in power. We can learn the strength of our bodies in struggle for space for our desires. In desire we’ll find the power to destroy not only what destroys us, but also those who aspire to turn us into a gay mimicry of that which destroys us. We must be in conflict with regimes of the normal. This means to be at war with everything. If we desire a world without restraint, we must tear this one to the ground. We must live beyond measure and love and desire in ways most devastating. We must come to understand the feeling of social war. We can learn to be a threat, we can become the queerest of insurrections.

X

To be clear: We’ve despaired that we could never be as well-dressed or cultured as the Fab Five. We found nothing in Brokeback Mountain. We’ve spent far too long shuffling through hallways with heads hung low. We don’t give a shit about marriage or the military. But oh we’ve had the hottest sex everywhere in all the ways we aren’t supposed to and the other boys at school definitely can’t know about it.

In 1970, Stonewall veterans, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera founded STAR Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries. They opened the STAR house, a radical version of the “house” culture of black and latina queer communities. The house provided a safe and free place for queer and trans street kids to stay.

Marsha and Sylvia as the “House Mothers” hustled to pay rent so that the kids would not be forced to. Their “children” scavenged and stole food so that everyone in the house could eat. That’s what we call mutual aid! In the time between the Stonewall Riots and the outbreak of HIV, the queer community of New York saw the rise of a culture of public sex. Queers had orgies in squatted buildings, in abandoned semi-trucks, on the piers and in bars and clubs all along Christopher street. This is our idea of voluntary association of free individuals! Many mark this as the most sexually liberated time this country has ever seen. Though, the authors of this zine wholeheartedly believe we can outdo them.

And when I was sixteen a would be bully pushed me and called me a faggot. I hit him in the mouth. The intercourse of my fist and his face was far sexier and more liberating than anything MTV ever offered our generation. With the pre cum of desire on my lips I knew from then on that I was an anarchist. In short, this world has never been enough for us. We say to it, “we want everything, motherfucker, try to stop us!”

let’s get decadent!

filth is our politics!

filth is our life!

[1] Jean Genet was a queer, criminal, vagabond who spent his early life traveling around Europe leaving a trail of sordid affairs in his wake. He was sentenced to life in prison after nearly a dozen arrests for theft, prostitution, vagrancy and lewd behavior. While in prison he took up writing and inspired Sarte and Picasso to petition the French government for his release. After his release, he was drafted into the military, only to be released for fucking fellow soldiers. The remainder of his life was marked by flirtations with various revolutionaries, philosophers, uprisings and intifadas. Genet’s life is a beautiful example of revolutionary criminal queer decadence.

[2] “homosexuality” used only as Genet uses it. When speaking of queers, we mean infinitely more.

[3] See the New Jersey 4. And let’s free everyone else while we’re at it.

Be Gay Do Crime: An Introduction

Mary Nardini Gang (Anarchist Library)

For Quincy Brinker, who, by disrupting the talk of yet another washed-up academic trying to write Marsha and Sylvia out of Stonewall, reminded us that not even the dead will be safe if our enemy is victorious.

For Feral Pines, last seen by some of her friends throwing rocks at police, by others in an assembly plotting psychic warfare against the fascists, and by others dancing and then defacing some fascist insignia in the moments before her death.

For Chris Chitty, who would surely use this opportunity to insult the insulters while transmitting some brilliant insight about where we have been and where we are going.

For Ravin Myking, whose beauty caused the pastor of a homophobic megachurch to froth at the mouth and declare the arrival of wolves to hunt his sheep, and caused the sheep to fall to the ground, speaking in tongues and praying for their absent god.

For Scout and the fires of memory.

For Vlad, ai ferri corti!

For all our friends on the other side, we present these reflections.


Ten years ago, we were seized by a frenzied spirit and, in a trancelike state, received a set of ten weapons for a war we were only just finding the words to describe. We were a cabal of teenage runaways, ne’er-do-wells, what Genet called criminal children, coming ex nihilo, from and with nothing but each other. We experienced the whole social order as inimical to freedom, desire, and our preferred relations, but suspected we were not alone in our visceral hatred for this world. So we encoded these tools – visions of excess and otherness – into a slim zine and sent it to the ends of the earth. For a decade we’ve followed it, across borders linguistic and militarized, to find the comrades (in a sense inalienable from, as Chris Chitty argued, the word’s originary homoerotic implications) who received this same transmission: queer insurrection.

During that time, we stole away on trains with forged documents, on fraudulent flights, and in the cars of strangers who picked us up en route to one encounter after another. We found each other in forest encampments, communes at the center of cities, at blockades against the storm called progress, and in revelry within the hollowed out shells of deindustrialization. We fought enemies minute and gargantuan on streets and in alleyways. We were there when cities were burned, buildings occupied, boutiques looted, ports blockaded, wanna-be bashers humiliated, nazis punched. We delivered an empty coffin to the doorsteps of a killer cop, threw fire into the home of a john who killed a trans woman, and more through bank windows in the name of those imprisoned for refusing a similar fate. We instigated the wildest queer riots in a generation outside the gates of summits of the global elite, and again when an apologist for fascism emerged as a “dangerous faggot” in the hallowed halls of the intelligentsia.

We found our way into reading groups and meetings, waited for the men to stop speaking, and spoke only to be misunderstood. Misunderstood except by our friends, for whom we stockpiled pepperspray and stunguns because we wanted them alive, turned tricks to pay bail because we wanted them free, walked out of grocery stores because we wanted them fed, scammed universities to bring them to our cities, sold our time at strategic institutions so we could give them everything, got really good at showing specific forms of care (so good we found better hustles), waited with cigarettes and blankets outside the jails because we hated the idea of them in there alone, prepared for attacks like we would for a night with lovers, dedicated books to each other and our beloved dead because these words mean nothing outside of the relationships which give them traction. We swore oaths to keep each others’ secrets and keep each other alive. To hold fiercely to that brilliant intimacy we shared in moments of which we can never speak, to never speak our names either, to always speak sideways in handwritten letters on the sides of buildings, delivered by hand between traveling friends, or mailed innocuously under the eyes of guards and censors.

In the long tradition of queer criminality, we’ve expropriated literally everything we could. We wrote anthems and journals of exegesis, tended archives and prison distros, scammed pages by the thousands. We filled parcels with stolen fineries and sent them with love notes to distant friends. We determined each other deserving of the ten thousand things. We’ve fumbled through learning a thousand techniques of healing our broken bodies and spirits. We mastered the art of the dérive, wandering by instinct alone through the darkened streets of the varied metropoles seeking some ineffability we still can’t name. We’ve experimented with every permutation of drugs and hormones to find the alchemy that opens us up to the world. We developed addictions chasing highs between one uprising and the next, and later helped one another find other ways. We experimented badly with dozens of models for new relations, but continued even at our worst, because we learned the hard way that disposability isn’t an option. Eventually, aching flesh and the plant kingdoms revealed their secret languages. We learned love languages too: the inimitable joy of gifts and quiet declarations and eternities of now-time spent in affinity and in affection.

Now-time: a hard-won concept we only learned by way of a sequence of loss. We’ve hurt each other and had to learn to pick up the pieces of shattered relations. We’ve been betrayed too, but are disinclined to spill much ink on sellouts and turncoats. We’ve run away and we’ve returned humbled. Our friends and lovers have been taken from us, locked in cages, suicided by cops, burned up in dance parties at the margins of gentrifying cities. We know that our time with each other is fleeting, so we fight for every moment of interdependence and complicity.

This spring, along with the flowers, an image bloomed within some small nodes of the world wide web. A skeleton, dressed as a pirate, bearing a torch named ‘anarchy,’ with ‘communes’ emblazoned upon her chest, ‘round bombs’ around her hat and ‘free love’ on a pin. A sword hangs from her belt and she bears a scroll proclaiming “be gay! do crime!” The skeleton is frenzied.

At the bottom of the page run the lines: “Many blame queers for the decline of this society – we take pride in this. Some believe that we intend to shred-to-bits this civilization and its moral fabric – they couldn’t be more accurate. We’re often described as depraved, decadent and revolting – but oh they ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Here at the foundation of the image, we found words which rang familiar. After a slight slippage in time, we remembered the feeling of those words and having written them. They were initially published as a communique issued by a criminal queer association in an underground periodical published by anarchists in Milwaukee called Total Destroy.

Both the gang-form known as Bash Back! and this publication were expressions of a milieu based in Riverwest, a discreet (and at times not so discreet) anarchist neighborhood since the end of World War II. After the war, the nascent bohemian anarchist subculture that had been developing in the war resister camps among writers and art freaks, and some christians, splintered in a diaspora that bore the newly freed mystics to New York and San Francisco. A small enclave ended up in Riverwest and stayed, joining the Galleanist anarchist lineage rooted in the city. The neighborhood remained a constant site of struggle, sometimes armed, with the forces of law and order. In the neighborhood one can find a certain crossroads at which a variety of struggles have intersected: queer struggles, struggles against racism and fascism, against the police, for the liberation of foodways, along with a dense layering of underground cultures. Distinct anarchist currents consistently cohabitated that neighborhood, debating positions and ways. Around the time of the Nardini Gang communiques, insurrectionaries, queers, race traitors, and eco-extremists came together under the roof of an anarchist space. This particular infoshop (the Cream City Collectives) was one of the many anarchist spaces that had stood at that exact intersection going back decades.

This is the place where we found ourselves when, a few months after the initial publication of “Toward the Queerest Insurrection,” emissaries from the future spoke through fires set across the seas. Insurrection broke out. Not in Milwaukee, but in Greece. Civilization died within the bounds of the nation-state mythologized as the epicenter of its birth. The police executed a teenage anarchist named Alexis Grigoropoulos in another long-term anarchist neighborhood, Exarcheia (ex-, out of; -archeia, rulership). Exarcheia is a place where anarchy, the Beautiful Idea, had never gone quiet, and so when a cop murdered a youth – an encounter so devastatingly routine in the US – there at the crossroads which is now Alexis’ hero-shrine, the whole world caught fire. The insurrection had come.

The fires that burned there for seventeen nights sent embers to the far corners of the world, and these found places where the flame could catch. That flame caught in our obscure neighborhood wrapped in rivers, and it changed everything for us. Those seventeen days opened up a narrow gate such as Walter Benjamin proposed existed in each moment. That gate opened up in the bizarre, internationalist, mycelial web woven by anarchists across the globe. All throughout the anarchist galaxy, the messiah came. We bore witness. We saw the river flow backwards. We saw the Event, the Open. The fires lit in Greece spread across the globe as metropoles and suburbs and unceded territories all throughout the world in a non-linear, expanding and evolving polyvalent front, a border between an old world decaying and a new one emerging.

For many, the realization was brought by disaster or insurgency in response to the hidden daily disaster of policing. In the US, the idea spread through the infrastructure of the various nodes created by the insurrectionary anarchists of the preceding decade. The first real encounter with the fire itself, on this continent, occurred in the opening days of 2009 when the city of Oakland burned in response to the police murder of Oscar Grant. By way of solidarity actions and the stories of travelers, anarchists who were present for that opening of the door on the west coast of this accursed nation, spread word that the insurrection had come and everyone should act accordingly.

Bash Back! was one of many currents which took that message to heart. In the context of the network’s emergent praxis, a proposal surfaced which insisted on a new form of life: criminal, queer, anarchist. In short, devotion to the new world emerging, indifference to the social order dying, and war with those who would defend its memory or attempt to reanimate its corpse. We realized that time and identity are fictions, but that we are bound to our ancestors and can only heal from the violences by addressing generations of trauma. We realized that the moment was always immanent, and that we simply needed to shift perspectives to access it. Anarchy had always been there beneath the paving stones. And we saw it, and were forever changed, and now had to live according, not in the time that remains, but in the time after. The distribution of the anonymous text “Desert” through green anarchist nodes put forward the proposal that the world would not end in one single gesture of revolution or collapse, but would die as a patchwork, and from that humus would rise new worlds, plural.

In the clash with the alt-right we are encountering another of those worlds. Diane di Prima said it best in her revolutionary letters:And it seems to me the struggle has to be waged on a number of different levels:
they have computers to cast the I Ching for them
but we have yarrow stalks
and the stars
it is a battle of energies, of force-fields, what the newspapers
call a battle of ideas

Since the moment when the Bash Back! network encountered the clash of the new world breaking into existence, we’ve experimented in ways to live in this new world with which we’re bound up in some divine act of co-creation. We, and these words, have gone to the corners of the world, announcing, as the frenzied skeleton above, our magic: Be Gay! Do Crime!

This development of means of living and fighting in this new world has looked different for each of us. We have suffered unimaginable losses and learned a thousand ways of healing. We studied to become specialized practitioners of these varied modalities. We built networks of care to support each other through betrayals, repression, and the death of our friends. We learned to care for each others’ wounds and cover each others’ rents. Many of us work with spirits and ancestors. Some people got into publishing. Some moved to the wilds and are learning its mysteries. We have abolitionist fanatics. We have antifascist researchers who’ve committed their lives to documenting the movement of our ancestral enemy. We’ve learned to fight, to attack, to hold space afterwards. We have been at every uprising in the last decade and have shared understandings by way of them. Those of us who continued the path of sex work are now struggling against the State’s deployment of new repressive and cybernetic techniques. Some people have gone entirely underground. Some have learned the sacred methods of altering the body. As we speak, people are studying the stars to find their way. Some messengers are still wandering, many have stayed put and are now deepening their animistic relationship to place (yes, in the cities too). We have among us practitioners of sado-masochism, queer performance, afro-futurism, chaos magic, “public health,” herbalism, diasporic traditions, long-form prisoner correspondence, poetry.

This panoply could be looked at as a set of tactical discussions, but this view must be turned on its head. These are not methods to bring about the new world, these are ways of living that assume its immanent being. We have continued from the proposal published ten years ago in “Criminal Intimacy” that our relationships are our strength and that those relationships were forged in the moments we found each other while the doors stood open. Strategy does not precede the moment but emerges in its aftermath. Insurrection is the messiah and it has already come. The question since has been how to proceed. It is no surprise that anarchists who turn toward mysticism (Fredy Perlman, Ursula Le Guin, or Diane di Prima) at some point come to study the Tao – the way.

We proceeded, despite the end of the world, seeking joy everywhere we could. Our communiques took the ruins for granted and we insisted upon dancing amid them. Sex parties, dance parties, street parties, reading parties – partying emerged as a central form in that frenzied moment. Our later inquiries into the sacred nature of the revel – into the bacchanals and nighttime sabbats – revealed an intrinsic relationship between partying and the world-making arts. In our parties, we opened onto connection with each other, onto other realms and other gestures.

The realization of the insurrectionary dimension of the party proved dangerous precisely for its potential to be reified as the party of insurrection. By way of the circulation of a small blue book,[1] some who reveled in flames alongside us became fixated on the proposed re-emergence of the party form, the very structure of synthesis that had dominated the revolutionary imaginations of lost generations. Where we came to understand the party as spiritual, they desired a political party. Where we sought forms of connection, they submitted to an apparatus based first and foremost upon separation. The party as proposed by those who penned the little blue book was to be invisible and thereby avoid the failure of the past century’s party form. We remain unconvinced. We had already experienced the death of the party, and had already dealt with the authoritarian cult tendencies that followed from it. When the formal dimension of the Bash Back! network had run its course, we quickly analyzed the moment so as to move beyond it. Following an excerpt from “Criminal Intimacy,” a section of the conclusion to Queer Ultraviolence titled “On the Party” put it this way:

In describing those participants in Bash Back! as a form-of-life, I’m making an effort to discard a whole range of concepts and ways of thinking that should be entirely useless to us moving forward. In particular, I want to totally be done with the notions of identity politics and identity activism. BB! shouldn’t be understood as a sequence of activist endeavors, nor as an articulation of a militant identity politic (to the extent that it can, it was a failure). BB! was never about queer issues or queer politics. Instead, the project took as its issue the lives of its participants. Rather than the motifs of victimization and charity regurgitated ad nauseam in activist circles, the BB! tendency took as its starting point queer life itself. Those within the tendency organized a space within which they could genuinely live, and a network by which to defend that space. I experienced BB! as an amalgamation of desires, dispositions, acts, processes, gestures, and complicities. BB! is as much wrapped up in sexual practice as in criminal act, as much in strategy as in style. The process of BB! and the emergence of its corresponding form-of-life demands to be read less as a what or a who but instead as a how. This how, is the how of organization, but also as much of survival, of violence, of love, of life itself. And so, whatever the limitations of what Bash Back! was, it is the how (the way) that truly demonstrates the insurrectionary potential that I celebrate.

We took life itself as our project. Whatever rhetoric it may employ, no Party can say the same. The very function of the Party is to expand its own operation by vampirizing the life energy of all subsumed within it. We took that organizationalist dead end as a point of departure and had already begun other experiments. Sadly, by this point the straight comrades already stopped paying attention to that process of clarification.

We’ve learned a great deal in the last decade, most of which can be summarized by simply saying that we did not know what we were doing. Finding ourselves now in this position to speak across time, having an opportunity to reissue these words to some who might find them for the first, we have a responsibility to clarify: These initial words are not political; they are magical.

The most studied practitioners of magic will tell you something remarkably similar to the lifelong insurrectionaries: the secret is really to begin. Between the inquiries of the chaos magicians and the shared reflections of insurrection oriented anarchists, a whole host of techniques emerge in common: the means to choose a story and make it real by applying energy, the invocation of the dead, queer ancestral working, necromantic visits to Emma Goldman’s grave, the reproduction of apocryphal texts, conjuration by way of magical language, the necessity of abundant sacrifice, fires set to purify, rendezvous below the moon’s fullness and attacks carried out beneath its dark, rites of mourning & revenge, raising hell at the pulpits of the false priests, the interpretation of dreams and omens, the secret names of our beloveds and their encrypted sigils scrawled across city walls, the visionary states of jouissance and spirit-contact by way of dance, the decentering of the self and the openness to the other, the pacts made at the crossroads – these are keys to an otherworldly litany, a grammar of worldmaking by way of ritual action.

Worldmaking, because we actually effect the web of power – experientially and reciprocally – by way of our engagement. You see, the world really did end for us in December of 2012 when we lost Ravin. While the world waited out the clock to see if the machines would self-sabotage, we scrawled ‘No Future’ as epitaph for this world we were leaving, not as an effort to preemptively snuff out our light, but rather to light up another world which was already in germinating, there beneath the skin. We needed skillsets to engage our friends among the dead, and they in turn gestured toward an animist worldview, toward the enspirited world. We live in a world haunted by all the ghosts of a genocidal leviathan, where the land is full of bones screaming out for vengeance and the very architecture of these cities filled by all the dead who built it, where every spectacle of inclusion is wracked by the evil eyecast by the excluded. We’ve learned to be in relation, that any space has only been taken back for enchantment and reciprocity in co-creation with these spirits.

When we look at the transmutations which the anarchist galaxy has undergone in the dreamtime of the past decade, it is undeniably other than the heteronormative, boring void into which we first issued these enchantments. Strong, varied and dynamic queer currents course through our space, tracing previously unimaginable constellations of thought and lives. All the best and all the worst of what we wrote, all our illuminations and our omissions, came true. The most dismissible and petty conflicts in our little world have been elevated to a global and even cosmic stage. The locks we picked opened doors we could barely imagine in strong hearts wherever they lay. If only we had already internalized Diane di Prima’s insistence that “you can have whatever you ask for” so “ask for everything.”

Because these are magical words, and because our accomplices hear them and respond even beyond the veil of death, we cannot afford to miscommunicate. Let’s hold a mirror up to our ten weapons and supply them with their necessary caveats. These ten, taken together, form a sort of minor arcana:

  1. Queerness in its negative sense
  2. Normalcy
  3. Social war
  4. Queerness as conflict
  5. The other, the excluded
  6. Repression, force relations
  7. Attack!
  8. A subterranean riotous inheritance
  9. Space, terrain, excess
  10. Refusal, the self-described anarchist

In furtherance of this tarot, we present the reversals:

X

Hold onto that moment when you first called yourself an anarchist. Whatever your story, surely it was a refusal, a preference not to, saying “no.” You may not realize it, but this is the first time in your life you set a boundary with a world that attempts to erode your capacity to do so. Find that moment and that affect and hold firmly to it. Whatever else may be taken from you, they cannot take this. Let’s dispense with the tired conversation about the individual and the collective. We need each other and still each of us needs recourse to that intimately personal affect. Can we leave it at that? In the trying times, when we feel alone against the world, we will always have that initiating refusal. If we tend that little candle, we can always find our way, back to each other if necessary. The anarchist tension adapts to whatever comes next.

IX

We received and will do our best to transmit this mystery: queer criminality. This is an ancestral current, a we, inherited from a long and varied line of rioters, thieves, writers, hustlers, mystics, ranters, freaks, and artists. Like the descendants of any ancestral line, we are the currently incarnated members of that spirit house. Nothing began with us: we are simply the present bearers of that weak messianic potential to make it whole again, to redeem all our dead, by way of heaven on earth. In all that we do, we are in co-creation with these spirits. Let’s learn to do it well. When we try to take space – or more realistically, to hold onto it against the annihilating flows of progress – it is for these reciprocal relationships between each other and all of our ghosts. We are fighting for the survival of a way of life: one criminal, queer, anarchic, mystic, other. Each of these predicates a source of strength, a lineage, a collection of techniques for the survival of people this world has tried thoroughly to destroy. This is why we strive for excellence and excess in all that we do. It has always been about queer forms of life. Beware those who speak about other lives but not of the corpses in their mouth, or of the screaming bones upon which they walk.

VIII

The critique of assimilation is still only understood halfway. The dominant line within the radical queer corners of the professional activist world and the school-to-publishing pipeline holds that it is enough to simply take the right political positions. So long as one speaks the right language, ethical (here meaning happy) life exists within Leviathan. The impulse to critique assimilation, in its first instance, refuses this acquiescence. Be wary of any who remind too quickly that we all make sacrifices under capitalism. That is true, of course, but remember that to sacrifice is to make something sacred, to give it up for the spirits. This world conditions us to lose things easily because it is always taking them away. We choose to take back power over what we give up, for whom, and why. You’ll recognize your true friends by the way they answer these three questions. There is a subtle difference between careerist and conspirator-within-a-given-institution. One way or another, those with nothing to lose but each other, and by extension a whole world to gain, remember one another and act accordingly. It’s a matter of priority: this dead world, or the ones we are cultivating.

VII

Attack! Because it is always available, and because it is the real marker of the boundaries of our little propulsive heterotopias – worlds plural. World-making gives us the ability to move our prefer-not-to into a sideways gesture, a preferring differently, otherworldly. The question of opacity (the closet, passing) is an old one for us. The queers who came before us navigated with several strategies, and it’s up to us to look critically at all of them. It’s all drag: a mask on our emergent world. The mask conceals the real in order to make attack possible. Realness is always a game played with normalcy. Those who haven’t realized this are dangerous indeed. An attack of whatever intensity is a small door through which the real and its world enters. Its world is animistic – take this into account when choosing your target. All the cosmos is alive and watching and actually matters. If you’ve followed us this far into the labyrinth, you can always call to presence the energy for even the smallest attack. Let that possibility be Ariadne’s thread as we go further. Let these rituals signal to conspirators, embodied and not.

VI

Repression is the attempt on the part of a decaying world to smother new ones in their infancy. We’ve withstood them all. The Holocaust and the aids crisis respectively destroyed two moments in the preceding century when our world outgrew their comfort for it. In both cases the revolutionaries and the otherwise marginalized died first. Entire generations of our elders have been stolen from us. Remember this when you forget who you are. Remind your friends, too, if they forget. The state has soft means at its disposal. The criminalization of public parks goes hand in hand with the proliferation of cybernetic cruising apps. The benevolent campaigns of “trafficking reformers” keep sex workers on the streets or worse. The wealthy will afford their prep while people with aids continue to die on their doorsteps. The circulation of the images of particular bodies through social media numbs us with blue light and distracts from the systematic execution of those same excluded bodies. We’ve only made it this far by fighting repression in all its forms. Pay attention to those worlds that are fighting it differently. Learn from those who fought it before. We’ll need all the various techniques against our shared enemy. We need the healing techniques too. We’ve inherited so much trauma from these failed attempts. But we can choose to heal in these lifetimes, to not pass the shit on.

V

The core of our world is an otherness, and so each of us liminally navigates the other worlds. We stand between, always a little extra, too much for any world but the one we’re building between us. Pay attention to where you feel other and whom you feel at home with. This is affinity: knowledge of another, and of their desires and capacities. This isn’t deterministic; ancestral traumas can be overcome, but only by those committed to that overcoming. This is a matter of hospitality, of the response of a world to the other at its gates. Never separate any concept of reconciliation – for example, tikkun olam – from its spiritual grounding in the vision of a living world, of an enchanted materialism. Resist the impulse for homogeneity. Circulate through whatever worlds will have us. Jailbreak the others.

IV

To recognize queerness in conflict means to address the residue of a dead world within us – trauma in our bodies, possession by egregores, lies on our tongues. Be humble; know that you are addressing wounds inflicted upon countless generations. Be gentle with yourself and each other in these matters, but remember that healers often have the bloodiest hands.

III

Social war, understood as a movement to expand upon this or that limited conception of struggle, gestures welcomingly to the other, includes the stories of resilience and subversion which disorder any tendency toward a scientific (read: systematized) fetish on the part of militants.

II

We do this because we remember that Normalcy is itself our enemy. Avoid those who read the backs of Foucault books while gleefully flaunting their normalizing impulses. In any insurrectionary space, attend to the freaks. The Norm arms itself with terror, because some truly believe in it. The devotees of Normalcy – in its psychic, libidinal, affective, disciplinary or ideological forms – will be cops when the insurrection dies.

I

‘Q’ then, will never be a coherent letter tacked as a bridge on some list of identities. The past decade shows the poverty or ruin of every attempt to do so. We’ve said already that these words are magic. We might add that they are wyrd – the Old English for fate and all the other invisible and nonlinear causalities we are woven into and which gives us the modern word ‘weird’. The queerest insurrection demands the weirdest, the most enmeshed in the unseen, the most in relationship with all that teems just beyond the normative filter we are still fighting to unlearn. Find those who straddle that filter, a foot in each world. Share your methods, share what you’ve learned, share the stories of your dead. The dead we hold in common make us family – some other form of kinship than the Norm and its terror. We need each other today more than ever. We want to win this time, to win all the time, and the dead want that too.

0

Here. Now. In this place and time. The mirror of our current inquiry faces the mirror that this project always carried within itself. Mirrors upon mirrors; we are not strangers here. Our enemies have always mobilized the myth of Narcissus against the criminal and queer. These inquisitors and specialists in torture can only do this by subtracting this myth from the enchanted worldview whence it emerges, a view wherein other worlds exist, there are windows between them, and true communication is possible. In the notes to his translation of The True Grimoire, the faggot sorcerer Jake Stratton-Kent suggests that this story is in fact an early encryption of scrying – the magical technique in which one uses a mirror to communicate with other spirits and places. Narcissus gazed too long at the underworld and was immortalized as a delicate flower with such a fixed gaze. This is the sign of the immortality of the vegetable world, of the cycle between life and death, of the infinite. Each is slightly other, each a different variation on the story. We possess the freedom of discernment, choice. Theorists of games refer to the magic circle – the boundary within which the players agree upon the objectives and the rules. Zero: the magic circle. Zero: the space of all potential. Be careful what you say in this space; have your wits about you. What happens here extends to all levels. Zero: from nothing and returning to it. Zero: always the Fool, a stranger entering seemingly from nowhere. Who are you? Where are you from and where are you going?

The skeleton has been here, frenzied, before. The meme described above detourned a bit of propaganda from California dating back to the 1880s that vilifies the queer and anarchist currents then present on these shores. The skeleton has never left. She remains present along the diasporic threads which have always undermined the southern border. She is the Holy Death. The patron of criminals and queers, of exiles from worlds. She wears other robes but she insists as the constant reminder of our own mortality and of those we’ve already lost. If the messianic currents within western magical traditions are true – and that the final judgment is the return of the dead – then the passing of that moment means our dead are among us, the ancestors have returned and they are insisting that we have a chance to make it all whole again. The task remains to put our ways in common.

[1] The Coming Insurrection, the Invisible Committee.

___

Queer Revenge: The Social War, Queer Negativity, and All the Things You Were Never Supposed to Think About

Nova Ishtar Daggers-Drawn (Anarchist Library)

Anti-Politics

Politics is about a reconciliation that brings the systems of domination into greater levels of legitimacy and relevance.

The truth is that the institutions of our society are shot through with rapists, racists, homophobes, abusers, misogynists, eugenicists, and any other kind of nasty shit you could imagine.

Kavanaugh is not an exception, nor are any of the many people this system was happy to sacrifice. As long as the system marches forward all incremental work toward an equal society can be erased later. New shitheads will be hired (or elected). New policies, laws and rulings passed.

They can just wait for us to forget and try to build a better cage in the meantime. Or until our coalitions are absorbed and sterilized, to be kept as pets to corral their more unruly fellows.

And toward what? Global apocalypse? Toward planetary specicide on a level never seen before in human history? And we just… negotiate?

I want no eco-politic. No queer politic. No anarchist politic. Especially no worker’s politic. I only seek the power to destroy this system and that’s not a power to be found in compromise and reconciliation.

Natalism

Patriarchy carries with it a generalized anxiety– the institutions of our society cannot guaranteedly manufacture sexual combinations capable of reproduction. They cannot totally control the production of a replacement workforce.

Homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, natalism and eugenics– the oppression and exploitation of woman, gay, feminine, transgender, gender non-conforming, autistic and disabled people and people of color ; these are the other end of the fear. The terror that the system could break at the most basic level.

Natalism is beliefs, customs, and systems that have been constructed to ensure high birth rates of “desirable” children– aka children who will grow up to be loyal workers.

What natalists would often like to avoid is the existence of “undesirable” or “degenerate” elements. That means women who refuse to keep natalist and other dominant social values, but also LGBT people and unassimilated populations (usually people of color).

This makes eugenics simply the most advanced and most scientific front in the natalist regulation of bodies. It isn’t the most powerful tool in the continuation of the natalist regime tho– that award goes to patriarchal violence.

Patriarchy is the “rule of fathers”, itself seated in the family and in the so-called community that is overseen by formal or informal male elders. Purely this is seen in the Catholic and Mormon churches, whose structure literally incorporates a panel of symbolic fathers.

But it’s also in the modern Republican and Parliamentary States, themselves modeled in part on the Roman State– which in its republican form offered shared power to the Patricians (fathers of prominent families) in the Senate.

So when the fascists attack LGBT, feminists, BLM, leftists and other movements they are in a large part doing so to maintain the natalist system and thus cisheteropatriarchal white supremacist capitalism.

Negation, not Negotiation

What could we add to this disgusting society that would undo its continuing genocides and slavery and concentration camps and exploitations of the earth and all its life? What could we add to this society that would stop its call to global extinction?

It declares war on us, why shouldn’t we return the favor?

“Radical activism” has taken the form of social advertising for so long that we don’t understand what it means to seize power outside of the marketplace of ideas or the spectacle in general.

Our power isn’t big and showy. It’ll happen in little places where a person suddenly overcomes their harness of imposed anxieties and acts to disrupt.

In the blood of the beast we are a cancer. In each machine we are the dud circuits and faulty wires. In every tree we’re a spike catching the blades of a chainsaw. In every city we are vandals tearing down the edifices of the system to reveal bloody teeth with human corpses hanging out of them.

We have declared an absolute war on this society and everything it represents.

If you are a servant of this society: know that we will make it even more undependable. Your gods will be unseated.

If you are a friend of ours: Fuck Politics, Seize Power.

Queer Negativity

Queerness is not a contribution to this society but the negation of one of its colonial dimensions– the cisheteronorm. This dimension is the capture and capitalization of human bodies to create pairs that will reliably generate individuals who can be subsumed to the needs of productive forces.

These ideal bodies are binarized, heterosexual, white, able, and educated– that is, they are domesticated. They become the kind of people who aspire to make new workers who will perform more strenuous acts of self-sacrifice in devotion to capital and the extractive-productive complex.

This system does not exist for our sake, we are grown and trained like cattle for its slaughter; for the slow bleeding of hours that happens between punches in the timeclock. That some of us seem to pull levers and strings hides the gears of ideology that guide them in turn. It’s the phantom of this system that possesses all of their bodies and seeks to possess ours.

So then on one dimension of this, our queerness says “Our bodies are not to be defined for the benefit of this system. We can engage in all kinds of sexual combinations, self-define our roles, and break out of these ruts of pre-determination. Our bodies do not simply produce for the State or capital. We are not the belongings of great fathers or factories to be manned. My life is my own.”

It is the burning of the false family. The family as corporation, wed to the State by charter– attempting to form the uberprole of tomorrow, the newest product in the line.

It is injury to the patriarch, who in blue jeans beat us in hopes of instilling the violence of patriarchy that we were so slow to learn and in church robes tortured our bodies to drive out the demons– that is to force us to abandon our own bodies to their control.

I confess then, father. We are the demons. We have come to destroy this all.

And you cannot stop us.

Squad Up

When I say that every queer person needs a squad to operate with I mean a set of friends, lovers, and accomplices.

I mean no separation between the acts of living and the social war. No politics; only power.

I mean that our existence will be snuffed as soon as we aren’t a threat, so our very way of life should be absolute struggle with the systems of domination with the full intention of their destruction.

___

Lasting Marks – the 16 men put on trial for sadomasochism in Thatcher’s Britain

The story of 16 men put on trial for sadomasochism in the dying days of Thatcher’s Britain was told by the police, the prosecution and the tabloid press – but not by those in the dock. Told through court documents and newspaper reports of the time, Lasting Marks is a window into Operation Spanner and a fight for LGBTQ rights that resonates to this day.

  • Director and editor: Charlie Lyne
  • Producers: Catherine Bray, Anthony Ing and Charlie Lyne
  • Executive producers: Matt Diegan, Jono Stevens, Laura Poitras and Charlotte Cook
  • Commissioners for Guardian documentaries: Charlie Phillips and Jacqueline Edenbrow
  • Commissioned by Just So and Field of Vision, released by the Guardian
  • Length – 15 mins
  • Source: Loop / Just So / Field of Vision / the Guardian

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