Dear Emma

Dear Emma

An anarchist advice columnist? You bet! Ask "Dear Emma" a question and it might get answered by our crack panel of anarchist advice columnists. Having a difficult problem in your collective? Can't figure out how to get more people to come to your meetings? Need to talk about the joys of being an anarchist in a non anarchist world? Ask Emma a question and she just might be able to help you out!

Ask Emma a Question

Dear Emma,

I have a lot of anarchist friends, and I like the ideas I've heard, but having attained a censored education under our FANTASTIC school systems, I don't feel like I'm informed enough to make solid opinions and responsibly debate with people. I see a lot of resources too, but they seem to be for people already established on these tracks and with at least some knowledge. What would you recommend as a good starting point for someone truly devoid of all socio-political information? Is there an "Anti-establishment for Dummies" book? Thanks.


Dear Almqu,

No "Anti-establishment for Dummies" that I'm aware of- maybe you can read a few different authors and then write your own. Though many zines are a good way to get started; but check their sources and be skeptical if the don't source their material in some way. There are a great many authors that might help you get started reading. Howard Zinn's The People's History of America [or his other history books] is a good way to counter your schools version of American history-I always recommend it first and then encourage reading of his other works. Noam Chomsky may be what you need for current international analysis- though he can be a bit advanced in places. Bell Hooks should be understandable to you- and has wonderful analysis of the USA. Check out Crimethink books such as Days of War, Nights of Love for cultural criticism and some analysis. “We Are Everywhere- the irresistible lies of global capitalism” edited by Notes >From Nowhere is not too bad for basic knowledge of the modern, current anti-globalization movement. Vandana Shiva's anti-globalization books are also excellent. And “No Logo” by Naomi Klein is good. These and other “starter” books can be found listed in Breaking Glass Press's media guide “What you don't know ...”  Keep reading- you'll find you understand more everyday.

Solidarity, Emma

Dear Emma,

I agree with the ideas behind the anarchist position on not voting. However, even though government and the established court systems are things we do not want, they are a part of our world. If Bush is re-elected and a supreme court justice were to die, he would probably pick a very conservative religious-right justice to take that position. If Kerry is elected, however, even though he wouldn't be much better than Bush, he at least would probably choose someone who would at least uphold Roe Vs. Wade and civil rights (to the extent that we have them in present society, anyway).

While I agree that Supreme Court justices shouldn't be telling people how to live and there shouldn't be laws in the first place for them to uphold, in practicality, it would still be better to have justices that would facilitate safe abortions and separate church and state in the meantime. I'm wondering if perhaps people should keep that in mind and quietly vote for Kerry if only to stop the Bush administration. It seems naive to think that not voting and letting Bush get elected will help matters any. Kerry, granted, will not be much better, but he certainly won't be worse, and maybe the religious right's stranglehold will be loosened a bit. I know it sounds hypocritical, but it just seems like a practical thing to do in the short term. It seems like it would help more than hurt as long as people don't go around acting like voting for Kerry will make everything better, but just do it quietly for preventative reasons. We want a society that has no need of a supreme court, but we do have one, and it just seems to me that with a few really old justices, some scary things could happen if one of them were to die and Bush appointed someone who is in the religious right's pocket. I don't know.

I'm very conflicted.


Dear Jill,

Let's concentrate on getting rid of the Supreme Court- not on packing it. Really scary things are being decided by the current Supreme Court every day- and not for the general good. Do you really think that a conservative democrat is going to appoint someone better then what we've got? Just take a look at the federal judge pool he'd get to choose from. Add into that Kerry's “proud” vote to confirm Justice Scalia and you get a situation as bad under Kerry as under Bush. He has already stated during his campaign that he was not going to use the abortion issue for a litmus test for any Supreme Court nominations so you're already wrong on that score. Abortion is just one of a handful of regular social issues used to divide the population and which play a major role in elections, primarily because this allows the public to be distracted by these issues while larger, deeper issues are neglected.

But let's get to the meat of the matter; you want me to advise you, an anarchist presumably, about your potential vote for Kerry. Do you honestly believe that Kerry would be better? Are you an ABBer? [Anybody But Bush] If you've caught that general insanity- ease your conflict. Vote in the national election and help chose and legitimize the puppet we get to see and hear for the next 4 years. Get it out of your system, if you simply must. I wouldn't criticize you [much] for masturbating in public, so I won't criticize your vote. An act of will on my part as they are about the same; only masturbating would at least not cause any harm. Here are a few articles that may help you change that ABB view but if you are not swayed by them- just go vote.

Bill Clinton and the "Anybody But Bush" Movement Kerry: What He Stands For, And Why He Doesn't Deserve Your Vote Just Say "No" to Democracy John Kerry and the Democrats' Project for a New American Century Imperialism and the Democratic Party

But for me to advocate for an anarchist voting in this or any non-local, non-referendum election- well, I did tell some who are not anarchists that if they were going to vote that they should vote for Leonard Peltier – he's running on the Peace and Freedom ticket– and a couple eventually said they would. Others I have attempted to persuade to vote for Noneof TheAbove. Other than something like that, to participate in an election- especially this election- is to legitimize it. To advocate for doing so this November is to betray all those currently murdered or oppressed by the systems and institutions around us. And all those who will continue to be murdered or oppressed whichever puppet tool gets into office. I will not do it and I deplore those who are doing so.

If you are one of the deluded ABB types who are putting effort into getting votes for Kerry- don't. That's my advice, just don't. Do something real with your efforts. Something that doesn't give legitimacy or support to the system. Sabotage something institutional, create something beautiful, protest something- say the current massacre in Falluja. Frankly, this election is showing who the radicals are. And who is a closet progressive. It is showing who has already thrown off their masters are. You are going to have to decide who you are and where you really stand- no wonder you're conflicted.

It is just as effective to convince an opponent not to vote as it is to vote on your own. If you convince 10 Republicans that elections are a sham, or even just to not vote for Bush, then you are ten times as effective in changing the election's outcome as you would be if you had just voted on your own -- and you have made ten people rethink their participation in the system, which you certainly do not do if you just vote once every 2 or 4 years. That's a worthwhile bonus, I think.

Solidarity, Emma

Dear Emma,

I am an anarchist, in practice and ideal. A couple of friends and I who share the same ideals meet from time to time and discuss opportunities for action, academic research, putting out the 'zine, etc. Now, we're few, and since lately we've become close to people in other organizations (socialists, to be exact), we've started wondering something. If an opportunity to make a change for the better presents itself, should anarchist abandon totally libertarian ideals and temporarily join other organizations so as to strengthen a movement, or should we stick to ideals and not take part?

My opinion is that we should, in fact, cooperate, if the results of said action are going to be "good" for society in general. For example, I don't believe in delegating authority to a member of the higher political class (voting) but if a chance to solve the status problem where I live (Puerto Rico - where we're still deciding whether to become independent, stay as property of the US or become a state) ever come, I'd vote on that.

Then the problem is, if we become associated with this other organization, our ideals may be compromised as we would have a spokesman among other things we don't agree with, and we'd be labeled as socialists by people who don't know the difference (even though its rather small).

So, ideals before action towards good or the actions that'll bring results before ideals? I'd like to see the opinion of more knowledgeable people than me in this case.

Thank you for your time,

Dear Miguel,

First and foremost, it seems to me as there is a great deal of difference between cooperating towards common goals on common projects and joining. To cooperate as a group, with its own set of ideals, in a coalition with other groups who don't share all of those same ideals is a common, acceptable tactic to strengthen a movement. To make joint actions that brings good results. Joining completely and submerging your identity as an anarchist completely [say by becoming a card-carrying member of the socialist party] is not. Perhaps you and your friends need to consider yourselves from the point of view that you are your own small “group” that might merit inclusion in a coalition.

If you want to know if I think it's OK for you each as individuals to get a socialist membership card and still consider yourselves anarchist while actively working towards a state, ect- I do not. But, if what you are asking is if you should cooperate as a group in coalition with a socialist group for specific projects that you share in common, I would say it sounds like good movement building to me. If the goals are ones you would support as anarchist, go for it. Compromises will have to be reached in things such as spokesmen, and the messages put out by the coalition. But as long as a separate and distinct identity is held by your group that retains your ideal and you put forth your efforts toward common goals founded on your shared beliefs, it should be helpful to have such a coalition.

However, a watchful eye will have to be kept on maintaining your own integrity, and making sure that your efforts are not subverted and diluted by your allies. That you don't end up putting out effort and supporting thing that actively work against your own beliefs. And remember that the anarchist principle of free association also includes the ability to disassociate if need be. One only has to look at the recent Republican convention protests in New York to see how dilute and weak an effort can get when too much attention is paid to the sensibilities and fears of allies. The anarchist movement itself has become infected with the ABB [Anybody But Bush] way of thinking.

As to labeling as a socialist, there are efforts you can make to maintain your visibility as anarchists and to educate others as to the differences. Keep your own literature and signage available; make sure you identify yourselves as anarchist in any press, and make sure any joint coalition statements hold to your joint viewpoint or explicitly outline where the groups differ.

On a side note, Emma has to wonder about your indication that the difference between socialists in general and libertarian socialists [anarchists] is in your eyes “very small”. I would say opposition to the state and all hierarchy is a vast difference from the average socialist political stance. While Emma knows of a few socialist groups that are somewhat similar to anarchists, the difference between most socialist visions of the future and anarchist visions seems like night and day to me. It's like saying the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist is small. Perhaps you would like to explain your position.

Also, you note that your numbers are few. Perhaps your group ought to think about a “membership” drive. Ways to expand your group and to connect to those who are not already clued in to your group should probably be explored.



This is not a question but a response to the two writers who mentioned having a detective for a father and a friend who wants to become a cop. Back in 1998, I got my security license and entered that field because I was naive enough to think that I would actually work to make a positive difference in the lives of the people. To make a long story short, I was sorely disillusioned. In 2000, I was forced from my job due to false accusations against me since I did not fit into the corporate politics. All I can say is that my opinion regarding this type of career and corporations changed drastically after this horrible experience. I am a different person than I was five years ago and would never go back into law enforcement work even though I have been really poor.


Dear B.,

Emma welcomes alternative or additional responses to her column. Thank you B. for your taking the time to respond.


Dear Emma,

When does someone know they are an anarchist?


Dear She,

This is an interesting question. One that seems self-evident once you have read a little anarchist literature. But it is a question that this Emma has come back to repeatedly this year.

First, Emma suggests you read the Anarchist FAQ found here on Infoshop so that you can see the basics about anarchist thought and principles explained in a full manner. There are many different types of anarchism (from individualist anarchism to communist-anarchism). But all anarchists consider it essential to create a society based on three principles: liberty, equality and solidarity. Additionally, there always have been two common positions at the core of all of them -- opposition to government/hierarchy and opposition to oppressive economic systems. (Currently mostly capitalism.) Out of those positions and principles, come various anarchist concepts that are universal. They include such concepts as mutual aid, free association, anti-hierarchal organization, anti- capitalism.

So, the easy, glib answer is once you come to agreement with basic anarchist principles and concepts such as mutual aid, and free association, ect., and choose to label yourself as an anarchist than, abracadabra, you're an anarchist. Just like that. There has been some trouble with groups and individuals who adhere to most but not all the principles calling themselves anarchist -often libertarian capitalist types. But for the most part that's all that's needed to be anarchist: the principles and the conscious decision to apply the label to oneself.

But Emma is beginning to reflect on the need to include action and resistance as a part of being an anarchist. That to examine all the ways in which one personally submits to hierarchy, to stop submitting wherever possible, to take action are all vital to being an anarchist. That a deep self-analytical examination of ones own oppression of others and ones support of societal oppression is essential to being an anarchist.

There is many an arm-chair “anarchist”, who chooses to spend much of their political time and effort in intellectual argument over fine points of political thought. Some who post on this very website. They never or rarely leave the intellectual, theoretical kibitzing to apply anarchist principles to their own or even others interactions with the world.

Additionally, Emma sees many who change their “life-style” and even resist the state in the street in some battle with the police, who would never think of not going to college to get or stopping payment of all income taxes. Who just don't contemplate their own submission to institutions on a daily basis, in order to minimize it as much as possible. That doesn't mean that we anarchists should all resist college or taxes- just that maybe those questions of person support of institutions should be repeatedly contemplated, consciously and with deliberation. And that the deliberation and withdrawal of personal support of the state and institutions where possible needs to be part of what makes an anarchist.

Thoughtfully in solidarity,

I am an 17 year old high school student and newly from anarcho-communist. In August I am returning back to school and I feel I must proliferate Anarchist thought throughout the minds of my peers but the school that I am attending is located in the core of the religionist right ( my house is five minuets away from Bob Jones University). So how can I proliferate anarchist thought in this very politically conservative and socially Christian fundamentalist area without being pressured into altering my belief from the physical force of others that have no class consciousness?

In Solidarity,
Anarchy Bob

Dear Anarchy Bob,

You are going to get flack from your fundamentalists no matter what you do. Just your existence is a threat to their way of life. That does not mean you need set out to antagonize them. Though there will undoubtedly be hostility. One thing that may help you is if you concentrate, at least for a while, on those aspects of anarchist thought and action that are most comprehensible to the religionists.

In organizational terms that probably translates into Food Not Bombs and Homes Not Jails type actions and philosophies. It will be harder for the religionist types to argue with feeding the those who are hungry as it is something that they themselves are supposed to promote. The political and moral discussions around these type of actions can be debated on their "level" and with terms and experiences that some of them can understand and if delicately phrased enough they might even applaud. And support. Example: St. Francis of Assisi was one of the first western vegetarians; the Diggers and the early Christians were communal; Christ committed property destruction of the temple and moneylenders are all possible starts to discussion that could prove fruitful and lead into peaceful and successful debate of anarchist theory and philosophy.

Though I have been in opposition to fundamentalists all my life and am myself without religion, I do believe that anarchists in general have a deplorable tendency to dismiss others religious beliefs to the extent that they alienate what could otherwise be our biggest supporters, allies and sometimes even those who would otherwise have become anarchists. I have witnessed the most appalling anarchist dismissals of important political action, when that action was taken by ministers. I have seen anarchist intolerance of activist participants, who merely wished to pray for our success and safety, blow apart chances of alliance with many poor and people of color who are religious.

So to be successful in your educational, you will have to shed any of those tendencies you might have. Learn to refer to those aspects of their beliefs that support your actions. Communal aspects of anarchist thought can be emphasized. And for your sake, please avoid any impulse to scream out "No Gods, No Masters!" with your fist in the air. Be safe and be wise.


I agree fully with anarchist ideas and would love to take action in supporting the case for anarchy. I also love to make movies. I can see that trying to be an anarchist and wanting to go into movie making are pretty different ends of the spectrum. I don't want to make movies to be a millionaire or work with big name actors or any of that jazz; I love the artistic side of it all. Is it possible to strike a balance, or do I have to pick one or the other?


Dear Fabbrini,

Movies are an artistic expression of life. Movies are not inherently "bad". Nor are they inherently "un-anarchistic." Just because you will make movies does not mean you have to submit to the product placing, violence promoting, trivialization of human life that is most of corporate Hollywood film-making. Even some corporate films can be stimulating- Fight Club is an example. Good film-making can be good propaganda or just good entertainment.

Many independent film makers are making incredible movies that stimulate political thought and life. Everything from documentaries like Super-size Me which vividly illustrated the negative effects of eating fast food by documenting 30 days of eating only at McDonalds to fictional films such as Hans Weingartner's "The Edukators." It tells the story of three idealistic youths who break into rich people's villas and move around their furniture, leaving behind notes with messages such as: "You have too much money."

Some movies are just plain fun and that is something that we all need sometimes. Some films even manage to promote anarchistic principals quite well. Just look at the recent film from the anarchist collective subMedia: JOIN THE RESISTANCE: FALL IN LOVE at it is a great example of what can be done with the medium politically while still being entertaining.

So take your talents and inclinations and make them into something that can entertain and educate us!


Dear Emma,

I am a junior in highschool, and see myself as an anarchist. My gpa is 4.0.....however it is required to take government. my friends take it, and say it's a brain wash. I dont know what I should do. should I study the crap or stand up for what I believe in and not try.


Dear i2theran,

This will undoubtably be hard for you but I believe that, as you are required to take the class, you must make an effort- but without compromise of your viewpoint. Use the class to both further inform yourself of the brainwashing propaganda and misconceptions that are being promoted in our schools and to promote a truer anti-propaganda dialogue with your classmates and teacher.

Expose the lies and propaganda publicly in your class and encourage debate. Bring materials into the class such as histories from Howard Zinn and analyses from the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill. Debate class "lessons"and learn from those debates what of your arguments are most persuasive to others. Write your essays as if you were writing them for us here at Infoshop. [And don't forget to send us the ones that you think are best.] For you this class will take a large effort and may end in a "bad" grade or another "A" if your teacher is honest and open to ideas. But it is an opportunity if you make it so. Good Luck.


Dear Emma:

i am an anarchist, but my dad is a detective. he is pretty liberal with his views but he gets pissed off when i talk of revolution, or criticize the state or the protectors of the state. do you have any advice?

thank you longliveanarchy

Dear longliveanarchy,

You are in a tough situation. As you must realize, your dad is one of those protectors of the state that you are criticizing! One of the oppressors, so to speak. One of those expected to help STOP all revolutionary acts. One of those tasked with the protection of property. And if he has made detective, it is probable that he does it well. Of COURSE he "gets pissed off" when you talk of what you believe. It challenges some of the most significant choices that he has made about his life. It is highly unlikely that you will find a way to open his mind about what he does. Not impossible mind you. But definitely unlikely.

I can't tell from your letter why you are talking about revolution ect. to your father the cop. To persuade him as to the evils of his job and why he should quit it? Or just to explain your personal beliefs. If it's about his getting out of the injustice system as a career, you might want to try an intervention style discussion. See my advice on intervention for a prospective police officer in my May 15, 2003 reply to Hurt and Confused for ideas.

If, however, you are not trying to persuade him to actions of his own at this time, then you might want to ask yourself if these conversations are really necessary. Then don't bring the subjects up in dialogue with him, instead talk about more positive aspects of Anarchism. The works of solidarity such as Food Not Bombs or Homes Not Jails may be a start. If HE Brings the subjects up, then you should say: " Dad, you don't choose to respect my opinion or even my right to have it, where it differs from your own on this topic. Instead you just get angry. So I don't think we should have these conversations at this time." And then change the subject. Walk away rather then let him engage you. Be firm but polite and respectful in your tone. If this happens a few times, he might then promise to treat your opinion with more respect. If so, try him. If he then maintains his calm, you can then try for intelligent debate on these issues. If he loses his temper again, then remind him of his broken promise and go back to avoiding the subject. Keep it up. If he is fair then he will have to at least consider your views sometime. But that time might not be now. I hope this helps.


Dear Emma:

I simply can't have a discussion on anarchism with my brother. He is convinced that government is necessary to prevent crime and without it, crime would be constant. He is also convinced that the government is benevolent and exists to serve the people and that every law is for our own good. He says that I'm crazy because I don't have faith in the government, as though it's some kind of religion.

As for capitalism, he also supports that. He thinks that it's perfectly fair because he thinks anyone can get rich. What would you advise?


Dear etg,

Clearly your question is related to longliveanarchy's question. Again, why is this conversation important for you to have? If you are seriously trying to alter your brother beliefs then there are ways to go about it. Arguments that can refute his. But if you are sharing your life with your family and the topic just comes up, you might want to stop it with some version of what I advised longliveanarchy.

As to those arguments I mentioned when asking how serious these conversations were to you, you will have to do a little research and get hard facts for your brother. Some of the topics that might help you would be the facts around blackouts like the one New York City had last year. Violent crime went down during that period. People did better on their own, then they did with the intravetion of the state. Also you could look at small band societies as to how they deal with disputes and antisocial behavior. Anthropologists have observed many varieties of band societies each with their own methods of social control without the use of police or policing type behavior. Check out Politics & History in Band Societies by Elenor B. Leacook or some of the works of Richard B. Lee, among others.

I'm sure you will have no problem digging up some facts as to why the government is NOT benevolent. There are multitudes of examples of terrible things that governments, particularly the US Government has done that are hard for the most fervent patriot to explain away. From historical examples such as THE TUSKEGEE SYPHILIS EXPERIMENT to modern day ones such as the targeting of reporters that the US disapproves of in Iraq [see Spinelessness of US Journalism], history [ the the non-corperate news] is full of such examples. As to anyone getting rich, show him the facts on generational wealth. You can start your research on wealth inequity with: or search for articles like this: and search for rebuttal facts from there.

So gather your facts carefully and calmly refute his opinions one by one. Show him there are realistic alternatives to capitalism, materialism, and greed and government. As to your brother's implying you are crazy for not having faith in the government; you can always point out that his arguments are that you can't have faith in other people.

If you find a successful or even partially successful argument; the sort that opens his mind a little, please share them with other anarchists. Make a zine [or a book]. Send a copy to Infoshop or Crimethink. Or me!


Dear Emma,

I am very much an anarchist, and extremely against large corporations and using large amounts of money for things that aren't really needed. However, I am a musician. I mainly play bass and flute, and good instruments cost a lot of money and are usually from big companys. For example- the flute I want is a yamaha. Yamaha makes incredibly good instruments. (I apologize for rambling)

Anywho, to cut it short I suppose that I have come to a conflict between my ideals and what I love more than anything else in life. I see music as freedom and expression, and as something beautiful. And I know (from reading Emmas "Living My Life") that art and anarchism dont have to conflict. But . . . I need a good instrument in order to improve my playing and, for flute, play in a symphony someday, for bass, spread my ideas through music.

I am not asking permission, but, rather, something to perhaps ease my conscience. Is it hypocrisy to have a nice instrument from a big company?


Dear Morwen,

It is sadly true that it is almost an impossibility to completely eliminate all products made by a major corporation from your life if you live in the industrial world. Or if you aspire to certain callings apparently. Music of a certain type may be one of them. I am not a musician though I admire the creativity of spirit that is required to make music. I do know given the nature of the corporate world's attempts to dominate the world, it is important to make and recycle what you can.

That even is true for one who is making marvelous music. I've been told that there is many a fine instrument that has only been “slightly” used and that some types of instruments get better as they age. [Of course, that may not be the case with YOUR type of instrument.] So look at professional musical equivalents of “ebay” and at small craft shops ect. Then look deeply at the difference between excellent and brand new. And between what you desire and what you need. Then ask yourself- “Is it possible for me to get a first rate instrument of the sort I need to fully realize my creative aspirations by using an older or secondhand, slightly used instrument?” If the answer is STILL “no” then go ahead- buy what you need from a big company. Buy Yamaha if that's the one for you.

I know that to be most effective in fighting the corporations and the government, there will be times in your daily life where you will be party to the purchase of corporate goods. Accept it! You just have to do the best you can. No one can ever ask for more.


Hello Emma!

I live in a small town on the west coast of Sweden and I'm with a few friend are trying to start a autonomous group. We've put up a homepage ( and done a plattform. The thing is that one of us is doing drugs, like weed. This has done that he sometimes doesn't show up on meetings that we've said that we would have and we wait for him but he doesn't show up. Me, myself is drug free and we've talked about it but he feels that it is his life and he does what he wants with it. I think his messing it up for the group and I want to count him out but the others wont. What should I do?


Dear Emma V.,

There seems to be two separate issues here that are bothering you. One is that someone you are working with is using drugs. The other is that this same person is delaying the work of your autonomous group through behavior such as not showing up for agreed-upon meetings. These issues are not the same.

There are many reasons for a person to miss meetings other then just drug use. They are many of the same reasons someone may choose to use drugs: depression, estrangement from family or friends, work troubles, money problems [which can lead to transportation problems], relaxation from stress, pain [physical or mental], family problems, or others. Have you considered those possibilities as potential reasons for his absences or just assumed that the drug use itself is responsible for his tardiness?

It seems to me that the issue of his drug use is yours not his. That is to say as long as his drug use does not infringe upon YOUR health or endanger YOUR freedom in anyway [or that of others you have common interest with] then it is none of your business. You say that you are drug-free. Does that mean that you are judging that everyone should be drug-free? If so why do you think you have the right to judge? It is his life and frankly he should do what he wants with it.

What is infringing on your life and the work of your group is that this one member of the group is causing delays to your meetings and presumably your decision-making processes. It doesn't matter if he is skipping out on meetings due to an aged mothers erratic health issues or due to him sitting stoned in his living room. Important collective work must be able to continue whatever his problem is. You have every right to ask [or even insist] that this problem be resolved. You should do so immediately.

If you cannot resolve the problem of this member's absences and tardiness with one-on-one discussion[s] [and without mentioning anything about drug use as it truly is irrelevant to the issue] then you need to attempt a mediated solution. This means asking one or more neutral parties to be present at discussions of the problems and to help all of you through the issues.

Creative solutions should be contemplated. Flexibility in what constitutes a forum for the group may be a solution. In other words, maybe 100% of the group is not needed to make every decision. Maybe participation in action is enough for him most of the time. Why count someone out when other options may exist. More information on collectives and their associated problems can be found at and I think that this site may help your collective solve it's problems.

Only if the problem cannot be solved through mediation or other methods should more extreme measures then be considered. His continued participation in the group as a “full” member or yours may have to be called into question at that time.

Solidarity Emma

PS can someone translate this to Swedish?

How do you feel about dating people who are not anarchists? Is it ok to maintain a relationship with a partner who is not inclined to politics at all?


Dear JC,

Being an anarchist is not the same as being the member of a cult or some communist or socialist groups. There is no requirement and never has been regarding who you socialize with and based on anarchist beliefs there never can be. It just sometimes seems that way when you are part of one of the anarchist driven subcultures. It doesn't seem to matter if that subculture is that of political punk or hippie or others. There still seems to be all sorts social disapproval when dating out of your “scene”.

I am not one who has any patience with that disapproval in any of its manifestations. The one of the most basic tenets of anarchism is that of Free Association. This tenet goes beyond that of political and economic association to include that of the social. Free Association is the idea that individuals should not be forced into social arrangements against their will. After all, anarchy can only exist when individuals or social groups are NOT subject to domination; whether that domination comes from outside forces or from within their own organizations and systems.

Many anarchists have written on this subject from Bakunin to Emma Goldman to Kropotkin. I think one of the more important writers on this subject was the anarchist poet Lev Chernyi. He suffered imprisonment under the Russian Czarist regime for his revolutionary activities and was shot in 1921 by the Communist regime without hearing or trial as an "anarchist bandit". He also wrote a book entitled Associational Anarchism, [1907] in which he eloquently advocated the "free association of independent individuals."

None the less, anarchist social groups, like social groups everywhere, are often cliquey and disapproving of those who do not share all their values. [Its something every anarchist needs to examine and consider combating.] It can be hard to fly in the face of that when engaging in the building of a deep and loving relationship. Many believe that in a relationship, one should share all likes and dislikes, all hobbies, all commitments. Some even go so far as to share their life work. But it is certainly not a requirement.

Many a successful relationship has been built between individuals with distinct differences in many if not all of those things. Differences in politics can be the same. Successful partnerships can occur between anarchist and non- anarchist. Sometime our political beliefs can even sink in after time, patience and living example.

It can be hard to be a committed anarchist and be in a deep relationship with someone who is apolitical. Or liberal or conservative for that matter. If you are taking direct action it can be even harder. They often cannot understand the risks you take or security needs you might have. They may resent harassment you encounter or have fears [some well founded] that they will suffer things like job loss or social estrangement because of your political beliefs and actions. But when people really care about one another and are committed to the other[s] in the relationship, all that can be overcome.

What's important about a relationship is whether or not it's composed of mutual respect, support and caring. In this world with all its death and destruction and heart-ache, this “Emma” believes that as long as people are better off together then apart, as long as they encourage each other to grow as human beings, as long as they love each other, then they should share their lives.


Dear Emma,

Considering that "property is robbery," is stealing against anarchistic principles? For instance if instead of buying a book I steal it when the book store owner isn't looking is that considered exploitation or am I fighting the system in this way?

Steve Anarchy

Dear Steve,

This question is not as easy as it looks. Quite frankly, there are quite a few factors that need to be taken into account. Is the property being stolen a possession or private property? Are you stealing it from a corporate source or a small one-store business owner or collective? What type neighborhood resource is the store? Have all possible racial and class inequity angles been considered? What will you do with the book? To start, we shall have to examine the political theory behind your "property is robbery" quote.

It is true that anarchists define "private property" as state-protected monopolies of certain objects or privileges which are used to exploit others. "Possession," on the other hand, is defined as "ownership of things that are not used to exploit others" (e.g. a car, a refrigerator, a toothbrush, etc.). Thus many things can be considered as either property or possessions depending on how they are used. The most commonly used example is that a house that one lives in is a possession, whereas if one rents it to someone else at a profit, it becomes property. Similarly, if one uses a tool to make one's own living, the tool is a possession; whereas if one employs others at wages to use the saw for one's own profit, it is property.

As Alexander Berkman stated this distinction, anarchism "abolishes private ownership of the means of production and distribution, and with it goes capitalistic business. Personal possession remains only in the things you use. Thus, your watch is your own, but the watch factory belongs to the people. Land, machinery, and all other public utilities will be collective property, neither to be bought nor sold. Actual use will be considered the only title -- not to ownership but to possession."

The difference between property and possession can be seen from the types of authority relations each generates. Taking the example of a capitalist workplace, its clear that those who own the workplace determine how it is used, not those who do the actual work. This leads to an almost totalitarian system. As Noam Chomsky points out, "the term 'totalitarian' is quite accurate. There is no human institution that approaches totalitarianism as closely as a business corporation. I mean, power is completely top-down. You can be inside it somewhere and you take orders from above and hand 'em down. Ultimately, it's in the hands of owners and investors." *

So anarchist theory would seem to bear out the idea that theft from centers of private property could be a way to fight the system. But it is not so cut and dried in real life.

A large exploitive corporate bookstore and its wares would certainly be an example of personal property and could be an example of fighting the system in some small way. But beware the fact that many times it is not just the bookstore that gets "ripped off". Depending on the different contracts between the bookstore in question and the publishers [some of whom are small collective-run publishers] and their contacts with the authors it may be the authors and/or the publishers who get hit.

On the other hand, theft from a small bookstore, owned and run by the same family, would be probable not be a blow for anarchist theory. Depending on the ownership and neighborhood, it could be a serious classist or racist act. Consider all angles. Ultimately, you have to decide in each instance where the justice of the act lies....and don't get caught.

Solidarity, Emma

* adapted from An Anarchist FAQ

Dear Emma,

I am pretty sure that we will not see anarchism rise during our life time. Futhermore, I don't belive that our children will see it, neither our grandchildren. Looking to the world as it is now, and thinking about all History, there is no chance for anarchism to become a reallity for a substantial period of time. I now that anarchism is the best answer to society, and I know that the fight for the destruction of all power is the greater fight.

But... Victory is impossible.

Should we... Keep on ?

Thank you.


Dear Graco,

This is a question that I hear too often. Too many seem to want to lose hope, thus excusing themselves from what is a lot of effort for sometimes too little visible gain. But I assure you, we are gaining ground.

Enough ground, in fact, that I'm not as sure as you are that anarchism cannot be achieved in our lifetime. Or at least our children's. I think it is achievable, starting with ourselves. And just what is to be achieved? After all, as Emma has said before, we "are not fighting to "win" a single revolution that will magically transform the world and human civilization into an idealized perfectly efficient, totally safe, womblike place... Our revolution is perpetual. And it is both outside ourselves and within. It is against all shackles; those of inequity, poverty, statehood, hierarchy, cruelty, and even ideas and concepts that we have been programmed with." Or you may be right and anarchism cannot be achieved by anyone for generations.

I do know that without our continuing efforts it will never be achieved in anyway, anywhere. I also know that our radical anarchist ideas and ideals have already influenced the world in many important ways and serve as an inspiration to millions. That we must live and strive to do the best we can, fight the system, finding joy in every facet of life. That the only alternatives are to be part of the problem, as either an ostriches or an oppressors. I also know that anarchist efforts in the areas of protest and mutual-aid have made and continue to make the world a much better place for ourselves and others. That is why it is essential that we continue. And we shall. What else do we have to do?

Love and solidarity


Dear Emma:

I am currently a senior in high school at a conservative, private Catholic school. Also, as you might have guessed by my presence on this site, I am an anarchist. My anarchist and radical friends all advise me to drop out of school, but my parents (Who, in general, support my anarchism and actually help me with it) as well as a few other normally cool comrades of mine, suggest that I finish high school. Every day is a monotonous misery for me, but I only have a few more months until I am free from the prison.

What should I do?

Black Eye Anarchy

Dear Black Eye Anarchy,

You are right--it is a prison. So is a public high school. So are most jobs. I am not one to think that a diploma is of such worth that you must subject yourself to mindless monotony in order to receive it. However there are a couple of factors you might wish to weigh in making your decision as to dropping out or staying in.

First, you've already indicated that your parents are supportive about your political stance and work. That is rare and special. You may wish to give extra consideration to their wishes in this; just as they have to your lifestyle wishes.

Second, you have an opportunity to observe the "Conservative" mindset from the inside. To measure what these people believe, pay lip service to, dismiss, and what makes them sit up and take notice. This can all be important infomation that is valuble to have when you are shaping the direction of political actions. Additionally, you have the opportunity to affect these people. To help expose your fellow students and teachers to ideas and perspectives that they would otherwise not get. To radicalize everyone you can.

So my advice is for you to stay in school if you can stand it. It really is just a few more months. Use your time there for your ends. Bring Howard Zinn's books into your history class and Noam Chomsky's into your Current Events, and early Peter Plate or Voltarine de Cleyre or Revolutionary Letters by Diane DiPrima into your English class. Stimulate discussion on classism and racism. Write radical articles or bring protest pictures in for the school newspaper. Organize. Reclaim your school. Help wake up the others from the monotony of the school system.


Dear Emma,


I have a few questions involving other leftest groups and their influance to Anarchist. Such as greens. They are great they have a lot of good ideas and many anarchist i no voted for Nader in the last election. But they still want goverment and they still want to do trade to a degree. Now their enviormentalist platform is good but like i said they still trade. Would you consider as an anarchist a green to be a freind or ally.



Dear Sean,

You ask about groups such as the Greens. They are often friends or allies in our respective attempts to challenge to political and social status quo. Many socialists and other leftists can be considered as such. Many of us organize and socialize with them. But when we join with them in political action we must always remember that the traditional left does not ever question, in either its strategies or ultimate goals, the existence of the ruling order.

Parties, like the Green Party, explicitly imply that simple adjustments of current politics are sufficient to trigger a better world. The vision of a non-hierarchal world is not what they are attempting to achieve. This affects their every stratagem and tactic. Anarchists who join them [or conversely allow them to join with us] must keep this in mind as plans for action are formed and shaped. We must make sure that what projects we join with them in making are not fully co-opted by these groups.

For more reflection on this you can read : From Politics to Life: Ridding Anarchy of the Leftist Millstone by Wolfi Landstreicher, or go to Infoshop's Anarchy After Leftism page.



Dear Emma,

I drive an SUV. It is a small one that gets fair to good gas mileage. As an anarchist and a human being that wants to breathe clean air, I am not comfortable with this. This vehicle was given to me as a gift and I can't decide whether or not to get rid of it. i have seriously considered selling it and purchasing something smaller and more efficient ever since i recieved it. I have a bike now and I drive as little as i can within my town. If I sell it that means that someone else is going to be driving around. I just cannot figure out what my the best option is. any suggestions?

Emma replies:

Emma can well understand why you are not comfortable with this! Suv's are obviously not the only vehicles that pollute but have become the symbol for polluting vehicles. Anarchist activist movements like ELF are to a large extent responsible for that. What irony!

But as you pointed out if you sell it, it will only be driven by someone else. I have a solution or two but I can almost guarantee you will not like them. Too bad.

First option is for you to do the research and hard work of finding out environmentally friendly options for your SUV. Fuel conversion [to alcohol if you are more comfortable supporting bio-engineering of corn- which Emma is NOT at present] is an option. Methane produces less carbon dioxide the standard gasoline. Fuel cells might also be an alternative.

The best option you have, in Emma's opinion, is for you to publicly renounce your ownership of this death machine and destroy it. Set an example for all the other SUV drivers out there! People, anarchists, have gone to jail and sacrificed large portions of their life to try to get rid of these things; certainly you can sacrifice your vehicle. You HAVE a bike.

Do it as publicly as you can! Get a permit or permission for an empty lot or street as close to an SUV dealer as possible. The first amendment may have to be invoked. Call TV stations, speak on the radio as to what you're doing and why, educate yourself and others, call out your closest radical groups, be sure to have plenty of flyers and literature, publicize on your local high school and college campuses. Make it a real event. [Don't burn it; it's bad for the environment.] Publicly invite other people to donate their SUV's to smash. Make it huge. See if the scraps can be recycled into something cool- art maybe or just put into a recycling plant. If you decide you need a replacement vehicle [and Emma suggests you closely examine the difference between desire, convenience, and real NEED], you can even hold a fundraiser for an environmentally friendly vehicle by charging 10 dollars for a few sledgehammer swings at the SUV. One college group I know of raised thousands of dollars that way and also made the point that SUV's must be taken of the road.

It's your decision but political convictions demand responsible behavior. Be responsible- don't own or enable others to own a SUV.


Dear Emma,


im just surfing by on a luck out...

im having a paper about Anarchy and i have truble to make it short...

it soo manny things i have to write..

and all the other sites i have bin to have like 5000 pages of writing about it and by stile should be about 1-5...hmmmm?

do you now anywere i can find stuff...(shorter stuff..)

i dont know if this is the kinda questionstthat you should ask but..

?????help please?


Dear diddi,

Here is a very basic FAQ that might give you the information you need. Or look around Infoshop and the Infoshop favorites pages.

Good luck!


Dear Emma,

I recently got put on porole (is that how it's spelled?) and as part of my "rehabilitation" my po has asked that i write an essay on the topic:"how would you like to live in a world without rules or govenment?" Now, as an anarchist i know exatly what i want to write (smash the state, fuck the system,etc.) but i can be punished if the po thinks i'm "just doing it to be a punk" ( i assume that means being a smart ass). moraly, i think it would be wrong to say anything other than what i really think, but if i do i may get even more mindless punishments. what should i do?


Dear Parolee,

In answer to your first question, my spell check [and memory] says that it is spelled parole. As to the second, the best I can tell you is what I would do if I were in your shoes. I am known as a "pushy bitch" and am usually proud of it. I would write exactly what I wanted to convey, with a thoughtful, respectful [to the hypothetical reader not to the "establishment] tone to the document. I'd cite intellectuals or historically famous individuals who agreed with me or at least with whatever point I was making at the time. And I would make sure to open with someone like Patrick Henry or someone else that is often held up as a hero by more mainstream sources. Just to challenge their beliefs a little more. Then, I'd turn it in with a cover page and references and a smile. And let the chips fall where they may. I would do it with two things in mind. First, that I was being true to my beliefs and that any extra punishment would be worth it to me. And second that, anarchist thought needs further exploration and original writings thus anything I write could probably adapted for an anarchist magazine or website. [Infoshop maybe.]

I'm not saying that this is the best course for you! There maybe circumstances in your life that calls for a more cautious approach to the essay. Think before you act, but remember that an honest exchange of ideas can create miraculous change. [If you are called a punk for what you write, be sure to point out that what you were trying for was an honest exchange if ideas.]


Dear Emma,

I've been away from my home town for a few years now and in those few years have become an anarchist. I, like everyone, had many friends in the place I grew up with a few really good friends. The trouble is yesterday one of my best friends from back home gave me a phone call and told me I might be contacted by my home town's police department. You can image how weirded out I was by this but then he goes on to tell me he has stopped going to school (he was studing some sort of political science) and is going to join the local police department and they might contact me because I am his reference. I was shocked. I didnt know what to say - one of my best friends, who Ive spent hours and hours of my time with, who helped shape the person I am today has desided to serve and protect the State that I want to destroy!

So, Emma could you please give me advice on this. Im just not sure how to approach him in conversation. Should I stop being his friend (we rarely talk anymore anyway because we live so far apart) or should I confront him on how bad I think his desicion is? What else should I do?

Hurt and confused

Dear Hurt and confused,

I have been asked about similar painful events from anarchists for years. Many anarchists have found once trusted family or friends turn to the mind-controlled comfort of the military or the police force. Here is what I advise those facing this crisis.

If you deeply care about this individual then you must NOT write him/her off. He can be reclaimed from the dark side. Treat this as you would anyone about to join a dangerous gang or cult. First, explain your feelings and ask for him to not join and have your reasons thought out beforehand. Sometimes a simple request from someone who matters can turn the tide. Believe it or not, this may work. It is extraordinary how many times this has not been done because of a belief that nothing was ever going to change someone's mind. And if this has not been done, it should always be the first step before any more involved form of intervention is embarked upon. (Occam's razor)

If that does not work, perform a cult intervention if necessary. A voluntary "deprogramming". There is no "right way" to intervene in someone else's life. Some argue that any form of intervention is abhorrent, a violation of free speech and of an individual's right to choose. Nevertheless, as individuals and as a society we are always influencing others whether or not we want to, and sometimes we decide to intervene purposefully. In this case your intervention would be focused on getting him thinking critically again. Trust me, this is an act of community.

Most people either write people off or continue to attempt to change a person or situation through reason and discussion, one-on-one. When this fails, frustration often leads to anger and disappointment. This can go on for years. On the other hand, an intervention that includes several people meaningful to the person, that is executed in a controlled and logical way, which focuses on educating everyone present, is highly effective.

An intervention often involves several people preparing themselves, approaching a person involved in some self-destructive behavior, and talking to the person in a clear and respectful way about the behavior in question with the immediate objectives being for the person to listen and hopefully later change his intentions/behavior. You convene as large a group as you can; include all the friends and family that share your concern. Friends and family member should gather to discuss the details and gather information in advance. The more information you gather, the better. Then jointly decide what form the intervention will take, identify who should be included in the intervention, develop education and treatment plans, develop an intervention plan and schedule, and then execute the plans.

Now surprise him with the group showing up. [fiquue out a place where the intervention will not be interrupted] Then the group should express their feelings, facts, and ask him challenging questions. Use testimonies of ex-members [yes, some ex-cops/ ex- military deeply regret their actions], court records, depositions, audio and videotapes dealing with the activities of the police/military. These may include evidence of illegal and corrupt activities, suspect training methods, ill treatment of outsiders, members and experiences of ex-members and their families. Even an interview or series of interviews with articulate ex-members of the cult/police/gang/military. People who cannot be present for the intervention can write letters for the group to share effectively. Keep him off balance emotionally and force him to begin questioning, to open his mind. When the mind gets to a certain point, he may see through all the lies and justifications for what he is trying to do. His mind may start working again. If your friend begins to volunteer information and contribute spontaneously to the discussion, this may signal a significant turning point in the session.

An intervention can sometimes be quite stressful. Remember the fundamentals. First of all, no one can predict with certainty how someone will react. Acceptance, anger, relief, hope, confusion are all usually present to some degree, and sooner or later each will emerge. How each will manifest prior, during and following intervention day varies considerably. Second, reduce your investment in the outcome of what occurs on "intervention day." It may work well or not, but it probably won't work immediately. Give it time. Finally, the intervention is always done with love and respect. No matter what happens on intervention day, it will most certainly get the person's attention.

The purpose of the intervention is not to keep someone out of the police/military. While that may be a desired outcome, the purpose is to give your friend the information that enables them to make a fully informed choice. There always is a risk of increased isolation and possible hostility if the intervention fails--this may include a subsequent period of strained communication. However, more often than not, any strained communication usually will only last for a relatively brief period. Keep in mind, the information shared through the intervention may have a positive effect later. An intervention is a lot of time and effort but if this person is your friend, he is worth the effort.


Emma: I'm feeling like no one in my city cares about anything other than a liberal anti war movement. i've been trying to organize with other anarchists for over a year now and it seems as though me and one other person always get stuck doing the bulk of the work. both of us have decided to go on temoprary hiatus; mainly due to lack of energy and drive. what can we do to combat this? how do we get other people involved to build a strong anarchist pressence?

Dear Cynical: Emma shares these frustrations. In the last few months, I have found myself overwhelmed in the feeling that the liberal or sectarian led anti- war obsession has been at best a diversion from the global justice movement; at worst a disastrous set back for the radicals who had begun to make headway in the fight against capitalism and the state. Surely we realize by now that as long as there ARE states there will be imperialism and war. So that any effort to merely stop a war or war itself is doomed to failure if it does not address that fact of "state" itself. Well, now that the USA is at an occupation stage, hopefully radicals will be able to bring their focus back to more enduring issues such as racial and economic justice, locally and abroad, getting rid of capitalism and the state or the ever more quickly approaching environmental crisis.

I also have seen in many communities that all to often a few bear the brunt of the hard labor of both political organizing and community building. First you must recognize that you are not alone in this. Next you and your friend should examine the dynamics of why you are always doing the "scut" work. Does your community truly lack enough people with commitment on the issues? This could mean there has not been enough outreach or outreach only to a small segment of the population {-ex. outreach to punk youth or -ex. outreach to convert middle class liberals} or outreach is of an ineffective kind {-ex. wheat-pasting when classes for community groups would do better} Or is it lack of commitment to the projects? This could mean that the meetings where project ideas are decided are not empowering enough to others. You will have to be ruthless in your analysis of this - this can include painful self-examination. Or is there initial interest by people but no follow through? Perhaps a few voices dominate or there are subtle discriminations or cliques power structures. {Lots of examples here - examine each and think of a few of your own -ex. project ideas are almost always originated or refined in a social setting or -ex. there are only one or two people comfortable or trained to facilitate or -ex. consensus is not fully understood or worked towards or -ex those not familiar to anarchism or activism or not part of the dominant social paradigm are not taught/ welcomed/ encouraged or -ex. meetings/work sessions are not set on a regular basis or at a easy-to-access site or reset so often that those without internet or clique access or whose lives are not completely devoted to activism i.e. those with children or hobbies are not able to attend.} Or it could be as simple as the projects are not " right" for the area or need to be more "fun". Many people are motivated to anarchism by the need to find fun and need to turn political work into " play" work. Look at all the puppeteering at the big anti- globalization protests. If this is the problem then projects need to be designed with those community needs in mind just as much as other needs.[ex. a picnic atmosphere at your Food Not Bombs feedings or ex. a themed Reclaim the Streets rather then a more traditional protest] Or [and this one is hard] that by volunteering too much or panicking and nagging are you turning people off the projects? Others need to feel respected, encouraged, and trusted to want to work on projects. So examine what could be the problem and discuss your feelings openly. Additionally projects, meetings, and events that promote a supportive community or aid community infrastructure are essential to maintaining sustained social change activities. Retreats, skill shares of all types, affirmation exercises, picnics, group conversations on political or no-political subjects, group games in or out of meetings or protests are all important community building efforts. Don't get too discourage. Take breaks and have fun to ensure less burnout.

Emma: I read about issues, think about the issues and realize the issues. And what i conclude is that we are screwed. I'm sure you all realize our status as of now: held hostage by nuclear-armed countries. I continue to read about anarchy/civilization, but I fail to see why we strive for an egalitarian society (even if it will benefit us for a short while). We could go live in nature (what's left of it) and keep to ourselves for the rest of our lives, but when they drop the bombs- obviously we will be subject to the consumptive technology, even if we oppose it for the rest of our being. And I understand the process of trying to disarm anything that can pose a threat to natures original creatures, but do you think this is even possible- to spend your life fighting for a lost cause?

Dear Hostage: Whew! It sounds to me like you need something more then a little advise. You need some joy! Animals and plant species having been being, existing in "harmony" with other species or devastating their own environment, and going extinct because of changes in that environment, sometimes changes they have brought about, for as long as life has existed on this planet. It's nothing new. It is part of the natural cycles of life and death. We might die out tomorrow from "the Bomb" or a "Planet Killer" meteorite. Or something we cant even pretend to foresee. Or we might not. Maybe sanity can spread like a disease. But no species is immortal or should be. In that sense all life is a "lost cause". The problem is you are stuck in some win/ lose, success/ failure modern, western, capitalist perspective. What you do not understand is that there is no winning or losing to life, there is just being and doing. There is Joy. And pleasure. And work and fun. And hope for others and ourselves. And striving for a better world. Which should all be wrapped up together to make a life? And let's not forget the knowledge that you are not part of those people making this world a less pleasant, less joyful, more dangerous place.

Anarchists are not fighting to "win" a single revolution that will magically transform the world and human civilization into an idealized perfectly efficient, totally safe, womblike place. Leave that for the socialists and communists, please! Our revolution is perpetual. And it is both outside ourselves and within. It is against all shackles; those of inequity, poverty, statehood, hierarchy, cruelty, and even ideas and concepts that we have been programmed with. The idea of winning or losing in the way you are referring to is one of those concepts. What you are faced with is, despite the odds and maybe even inevitabilities, living and striving to do the best you can, fight the system, and finding joy in what you do. The only alternatives are to be part of the problem, as either an ostrich or an oppressor, or to lie down and die right now. So my advice is to fight what you can, make your best effort in what you do, and find a little joy.

Dear Emma: As people deal with the troubles of life and living it in this world many of us fall prey to addictions of all shapes and sizes. Any advice on how to help others and ourselves with the difficulties and temptations of drugs and general self-destruction?

Dear Troubles of Life: One of the reasons vast numbers of people turn to addictive or destructive behavior is the strong sense of pressure, isolation and depression that we feel. Our current society is designed to divide us, depress us, pressure us, frighten us and isolate us in an effort to control us and make us better consumers. Families have grown nuclear and our sense of mutual responsibility to each other has become eroded, particularly in urban and suburban communities. Part of our fight against this is the creation of new non-hierarchical communities based on the power, freedom and responsibilities of each individual. We must therefore be designing and putting into place support networks of all types. Some will be informal networks of friends or neighbors that check in with each other and with obviously at risk community members such as the elderly, those recovering from loss, or just those who seem to have withdrawn. Others will be more formal like the radical revamped version of AA on the West Coast, which I recently heard about. Fostering community through potlucks, talent shows, and community fun times will also help. Consider starting one or more of these in your area. Another reason, internal to the movement, that people become isolated and depressed is that we get involved with so many causes, so much internal dynamics and political correctness that we create too much pressure on ourselves and others. We forget that we must protect each other's back. So we must each take care to not let political attacks become personal and to not let our internal dynamics become caustic to ourselves, others, and to our community.

Dear Emma: Being an Anarchist fighting against corporate greed, am I being a hypocrite if I'm buying products made by a corporation, even if I have no other alternative?

Dear anti-corporate anarchist: No. Of course it is almost an impossibility to completely eliminate all products made by a corporation from your life if you live in the industrial world. It is important to make and recycle what you can. Buying or trading for local items made by small local companies or individuals is also good, whenever possible. [I am a strong supporter of the Small Black Farmers Union in my local area and make a large effort to get my produce and meat from them for example.] Steal from the corporations when you can. And when you won't get caught. But I believe that to be most effective in fighting the corporations and the government, there will be times in your daily life where you will be party to the purchase of corporate goods. Accept it! Do the best you can. Use the opportunity to educate other shoppers about the corporation. Damage goods to make them un-saleable. Support worker strikes and participate in and spread the word about boycotts. And keep fighting.

Dear Emma: My collective is rapidly increasing in size to the point where our original political vision is getting muddied. There is also lots of tension in the group. What should we do?

Emma responds: Some group polarization is not just about political differences, sometimes it's about the social interactions that collective members have experienced over time. Therefore, I suggest that new members are intimidated by the relationships that old members have with each other. Try getting outside of the political situation for a while and work on the social interactions. Have a big potluck as a group or throw a party or play soccer. Get to know each other more individually, thus allowing for more informal political discussions to find common grounds in a more relaxed setting.

Ask Emma a Question