We’ve survived 2022—and with it, the ebb tide following the upheavals of 2019 and 2020. Both in the United States and around the world, this has been a year of challenges and reversals. In the following overview, we revisit how we got here, explore the events of the past twelve months, and review our own efforts to contribute to movements for liberation.
As for our collective, we reach the end of 2022 embattled but unbowed. We began the year with our warehouse in ashes and concluded it by getting permanently suspended from Twitter by Elon Musk—at that time the world’s richest man—at the request of a notorious pro-fascist troll. Yet in response to the fire, our comrades raised tens of thousands of dollars to support us and we were able to go right back into action; likewise, thus far, our suspension from the chief corporate social media platforms has only multiplied the number of people visiting our website and ordering our materials.
We didn’t expect this to be easy. We go into 2023 ready for the next round and we hope you’ll be right there beside us.
The United States: From 2020 to 2022
In the United States, the George Floyd Rebellion of 2020 and the subsequent far-right counter-mobilization remain the most significant political events of our time. The events of 2021 and 2022 have played out in their shadow. To understand the developments of the past year, we must begin in 2020.
As we argued in our retrospective on the fiasco of January 6, 2021,
When police murdered George Floyd, public trust and respect for law enforcement plummeted to unprecedented depths. Demands to defund or even abolish the police migrated from the extreme political margins to become serious proposals that were widely debated in the mainstream. Fox News and its imitators continued their racially charged crime alarmism, but with diminishing returns; efforts by police unions, PR firms, and liberal corporate media outlets to feature stories of cops doing good made little headway against the widespread suspicion that had taken hold from the left all the way to the center.
In this environment, the failed coup of January 6 was a godsend to the state. Police could pose as both victims and heroes again, the National Guard as saviors and bulwarks against chaos; even the Federal Bureau of Investigation was doing its part to protect democracy from right-wing thugs. Liberals and mainstream media outlets seized upon these interpretations and ran with them, with extraordinary success.
When Joe Biden took office in 2021, he didn’t have a solid enough grip on power to crack down on the networks that made the uprising of 2020 possible, nor on Donald Trump himself. Instead, Biden, the New York Times, and other centrists joined the right wing in calling for more police and re-legitimizing the judicial system. They succeeded in reconstructing a social consensus—or at least the appearance of one—around support for the coercive institutions of the state.
Anarchists and other rebels were already exhausted before Biden came into office—witness the attrition in attendance at demonstrations in the waning months of 2020. (Ahead of January 6, 2021, Trump tried to arrange for the National Guard to keep anti-fascists from interfering with the march on the Capitol, apparently regarding them as the chief threat to his coup attempt—but by that time, the anti-fascist movement was so overextended that very few anti-fascists went to Washington, DC at all.) The massive mutual aid projects that had emerged in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the routines of confrontation dating from spring 2020 had largely collapsed by mid-2021. But the same thing happened to the far right: after January 6, 2021, it took them a long time to regain their footing.
The centrist grip on power remained tenuous until the 2022 elections. Democrats were convinced that, if previous precedents were any indication, they would be trounced by Republicans—that the polls were not capturing the strength of Trump’s continuing popularity and they were essentially in an interregnum between fascisms. Perhaps as a consequence, throughout 2022, the Biden administration did little to crack down on Trump himself, instead continuing the spectacle of investigation that has been running since at least 2017—which chiefly functions to help both parties solicit donations.
In fact, Democrats outperformed their expectations in the elections of November 2022. This may embolden them to crack down on social movements, but it probably won’t shift their approach to Trump. If he remains weak, they won’t want to prevent him from becoming the Republican frontrunner in 2024, and if he regains his political footing, they will be back in the situation they were before, in which they are powerless to do anything besides wring their hands about his bad behavior.
The outcome of this election bears further comment. In fall 2020, the New York Times and other centrists had spread fear that street protests would cost Biden the election, attempting to overwrite the popular memory of the George Floyd uprising with their own defeatist narrative. Yet when the votes had been counted and New York Times correspondents crunched the numbers in a report that was not widely circulated, they had to admit that the majority of those who cited the protests as a factor in their decision had voted for Biden. In other words, if anything, the demonstrations in response to the murder of George Floyd helped keep Republicans out of power. If not for the burning of the Third Precinct, most people would never have heard George Floyd’s name—nor been prepared to respond to a potential Trump coup—nor participated in a movement that shifted public discourse. Let no one say that confrontational anti-authoritarian movements inescapably drive people to support the right wing; in a polarized and deadlocked society, the opposite is probably true.
This suggests that the suppression of the social movements of 2020 will not ultimately benefit the institutional left or political centrists. While Trump’s star is passing, sooner or later a more centrist Republican Party will probably take the seat of state power that the Democrats have effectively prepared for it by re-legitimizing the police, crushing rebellion, and framing Trump as exceptional.
In short, at the end of 2022, we are finishing up the classic ebb phase that always follows a high point of struggle. This is to be expected. Once people have seen their long-cherished fantasies play out beyond their wildest dreams, discovering in the process what the limitations and shortfalls of those fantasies were, it takes a while to develop and pursue new visions. At the same time, the authorities have learned from the last round of revolt and are putting the pieces in place, one after another, to prevent history from repeating itself.
Still, the events of 2022 have continued to erode faith in the authorities and the state, especially among young people. At this point, a large proportion of both Democrats and Republicans are chiefly voting out of fear rather than hope. Most of the widely discussed “political issues” of 2022 have been framed as matters that only the state can address: gun control, inflation, student debt, abortion, what instructors can teach in schools, and the like. This is calculated to sideline ordinary people. But as soon as grassroots movements can show that ordinary people can address their needs directly without recourse to representatives, there will be another wave of social movements.
The post-2020 lull has been exacerbated by the fact that social atomization and the digital erosion of our attention spans have rendered it difficult to retain any gains from 2020, in terms of both organization and collective memory. Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter is another step towards the ruling class consolidating control of digital communications, which will create new challenges for future movements. Our species is in a race against time as capitalists implement new repressive technologies and clamp down on the possibilities that digital connectivity opened up.
Musk’s buyout of Twitter shows how far the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few billionaires has gone: they can now buy major infrastructure themselves as private individuals, rather than as corporations. This extreme accumulation of power is contributing to the shift towards authoritarianism across the board—as people have less and less power relative to those who claim to represent them, they become angrier at the same time that it becomes harder for them to imagine egalitarian relations or doing without a representative.
In any case, the problems that caused people to get unruly in 2020 have not been resolved. There’s still tremendous potential, tremendous need.
In this context, anarchists in the United States are still grasping for new models. There has been a boom in interest in labor organizing, but we have yet to see workers overcome the structural impediments that have made it so difficult to build a contemporary labor movement with teeth over the past several decades.
We have sought to contribute analysis to these efforts, exploring the emergence of anti-work sentiments in the wake of the pandemic and studying what we can learn about how the economy has changed by comparing the general strikes of 1946 and 2011. On the same theme, we published an interview with Antijob, a Russian anarchist labor defense platform, and a history and analysis of graduate worker organizing at Columbia University, documenting how confronting the union bureaucracy has been essential to every victory across two decades.
Besides labor organizing, most of the newer struggles in the US in 2022 have been defensive projects focusing on public space—protecting homeless encampments, resisting sweeps, defending wilderness. The defense of the Atlanta forest represents one of the most promising of these experiments, bringing together an array of different issues and tactics and producing new constellations of diverse social bodies. The participants succeeded in establishing a months-long autonomous zone, building a movement that is affirmative and generative as well as defensive.
The Threat of Fascism
Although their electoral efforts have failed to secure them a firm grip on legislative or executive power in the United States, the far right has succeeded in solidifying their control in certain parts of the country. The same thing has occurred in France, Brazil, and other parts of the world, while outright fascists came to power in Italy this year. While centrists reign triumphant, the far right has consolidated a position as the chief alternative to the prevailing order, marginalizing those who would counterpose the possibility of revolutionary transformation and thereby serving centrists as a threat to keep potential revolutionaries in line. Future revolutionary movements will have to figure out how to overcome this challenge.
In the street, elements of the far right have continued to experiment with new models of their own. In January 2022, a truck convoy established occupations and blockades along the Canadian border on the pretext of opposing COVID-19 lockdown measures, initiating a weeks-long standoff. (For our part, we were most sympathetic to the students who organized walkouts against institutional carelessness in the face of the pandemic.) Later, supporters of Bolsonaro emulated Canadian and Chilean truck blockades after he lost the Brazilian election of 2022.
The year is ending with an ominous series of attacks on power stations in North Carolina and the Northwest. There are indications that these, too, may be the work of white supremacists experimenting with a new tactic to destabilize society and exert pressure. While the anti-social nature of such tactics might prevent fascists from building legitimacy with society at large, they would serve to play the role of terrorizing people into the arms of the reigning authorities.
Reproductive Freedom and Gender Autonomy
This year saw a steady assault on gender and reproductive autonomy from Republicans and fascists across the United States, while heads of state like Vladimir Putin have made homophobia into one of the chief points in their program. Rhetoric about “groomers” has helped fascists to continue polarizing people towards transphobia and homophobia, though their attacks on drag queen story hours and the like have not brought out anything comparable to the mobilizations of fascists in Washington, DC and the northwest in late 2020.
The Supreme Court decisions of 2022 contributed to the impression that we are still living in the Trump era, while the lackluster grassroots response showed the extent to which the spirit of 2020 has been successfully suppressed. When the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, for example, the ensuing protests were divided distinctly into passive liberal street marches and clandestine invite-only direct action. This a classic symptom of a waning movement, in which professional organizers dictate what happens in mass gatherings while a few isolated radicals continue to try to escalate out of contact with a social base that could join them.
For our part, in response to the assault on abortion access, we produced a poster, proposed a strategy to employ direct action to push back on the authorities, and published an interview with activists who assist people in accessing abortions in defiance of draconian Polish anti-abortion laws in hopes of equipping people in the United States to defend and extend abortion access here.
In response to the wave of legislation, mass shootings, and fascist mobilizations targeting trans and queer people, we published an analysis spelling out the case for gender self-determination and proposing a framework for resistance. We also published a do-it-yourself guide to producing transdermal estrogen in hopes of making it easier for people to take the care they desire into their own hands.
Around the World
As in the United States, people in many other parts of the world are caught between an unsatisfactory ruling capitalist centrism and a far right that is not quite powerful enough to achieve supremacy but still poses a credible threat. The global wave of revolts of 2019 was undercut by the pandemic, which largely benefitted the center and the far right—in that order—outside the US. Since then, war, environmental catastrophes, and other disasters have mostly immobilized people rather than remobilizing them. In France, last October, many people anticipated a new round of protests about the rising cost of living, hoping that these might become a sequel to the Yellow Vest movement of 2018-2019. Yet the demonstrations turned out to be underwhelming. Perhaps, when the government can blame all economic problems on Russia, it is difficult for outrage to gain traction, especially with far-right presidential candidate Marine le Pen having done so well in the last election.
In this situation, it appears that no one on the statist left has any bold new ideas or proposals. This is most dramatically evident in Brazil, where Workers Party presidential candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva won the 2022 election—but by a much narrower margin than he did in 2002 and with much of the promise that he originally represented discredited almost a decade ago now. Instead, in Brazil, the chief function of the Bolsonaro years has been to discipline those who voted for Lula out of the aspirations that inspired them to revolt in 2013.
It seems to be a defining feature of our era that the difficulties of survival regularly provoke revolt on a scale that exceeds any particular subculture or demographic, but that these movements have thus far almost universally failed to bring about fundamental changes. None of the pat answers for this conundrum (e.g., that it indicates the supposed need for a centralized authoritarian party) have helped anyone to produce different results. It still remains to us to hit upon new ways of living and fighting that are adequate to the crises of our times.
Consequently, the most significant new development of 2022 has been the spread of war.
Starting on the very first day of 2022, the rising cost of living and the end of fuel subsidies sparked protests in Kazakhstan. Within days, an insurrection erupted in Almaty, the country’s largest city. The armies of six nations coordinated to suppress it.
The uprising in Kazakhstan was only the latest in a long chain of events indicating how much pressure people are under in the former Soviet Union, both from economic privation and authoritarian domination. It was preceded by the brutal suppression of various protest movements in Russia and Belarus; in summer 2022, unrest also broke out in Uzbekistan. This situation came to a head with the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.
In the buildup to the invasion, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko and Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin cynically lured refugees who were fleeing armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other parts of Asia and Africa by promising them a safe migration route through Belarus to the European Union. While the European Union made some provisions to receive Ukrainian women (and trans men) who were permitted to flee the war, they heartlessly left refugees from other parts of the world stranded at the Belarusian border, starving and freezing in limbo between the two power blocs. We published an article detailing anarchists’ efforts to defy Polish law to get assistance to these refugees.
Panning back, we can see the invasion of Ukraine continued a process of militarization and displacement that had already gotten underway in Syria. Amid ecological collapse and war—the side effects of capital accumulation and its consequences—more and more people are being forced into exile around the world. One thing anarchists can focus on doing better in the future is to help refugees—whether from Ukraine, Central African Republic, or New Orleans—to develop political agency wherever they end up. Towards that end, we published an interview with Syrian refugees who managed to establish a collective in Paris and to continue to organize on an international scale.
The invasion of Ukraine is likely an indication of things to come. Over the past several decades, governments worldwide have invested billions of dollars in crowd control technology and military equipment while taking precious few steps to address mounting inequalities or the destruction of the natural world. As economic and ecological crises intensify, more governments will seek to solve their domestic problems by initiating hostilities with their neighbors. Now that Russia is too distracted to call the shots in its previous sphere of influence, we are already seeing signs of this in Turkey’s eagerness to resume invading Rojava and in new conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia and, further to the east, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At the same time, we are seeing saber-rattling in Serbia about Kosovo, in China and the United States about Taiwan, and elsewhere around the globe.
Though the war in Ukraine has generated difficult debates among anarchists, we had better take these seriously if we are likely to confront similar situations elsewhere in the future. For our part, we have continued to report on anti-war protests and draft resistance in Russia. We also published an interview with a clandestine collective of anarchist combatants carrying out sabotage actions against Putin’s war effort.
Elsewhere, 2022 was less eventful, for good or ill. With the exception of Ecuador, which experienced a reprise of the uprising of October 2019 in 2022, and Sudan, where street mobilizations have continued periodically all year, most of the places that saw uprisings in 2019 have been quiet this year. The powerful movement in Hong Kong that helped set the tone for autumn 2019 has effectively been suppressed, though unrest has finally begun to spread in China. The movement in Chile, which arguably achieved the most out of all the 2019 uprisings, was effectively channeled into electoral politics via the promise of replacing the Pinochet-era constitution, and consequently ran aground as the right wing finally regained the initiative.
This past summer and fall, we published analyses from the Philippines and Brazil about the ways that electoral politics have served to strengthen the extreme right while giving centrists a pretext to discourage anarchist and anti-fascist organizing.
This year’s most promising movements have taken place outside the epicenters of wealth and power. The revolt in Iran has initiated change in Iranian society at large, if not within the Iranian government, while the occupation movement in Sri Lanka succeeded in temporarily chasing the head of state out of the country. These victories will be reference points for the struggles of 2023.
This year, we published a collective oral history of the historic protests against the World Bank and International Monetary Fund of April 2000. We also published a retrospective on the Gezi Park uprising in summer 2013, recalling a moment of optimism and possibility in Turkey and analyzing the ways that Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan consolidated autocratic power in the years that followed.
In response to a destructive police raid on People’s Park, the longstanding commons in Berkeley, California, we produced a poster honoring Rosebud Abigail Denovo, an anarchist who was murdered by police while defending the park against an eviction threat in 1992.
Finally, one of the texts we most enjoyed putting together this year is “Punk: Dangerous Utopia.” This has just appeared as the foreword to a book about the intersections between punk and anarchism, published in the United Kingdom by Active Distribution. Punk was profoundly influential in introducing hundreds of thousands of people to participatory, horizontal, and decentralized models for organizing and culture, and there is still a lot we can learn from it today.
Social Media, Print Media
Before we knew that Elon Musk would personally boot us off Twitter, we published a history tracing the trajectory of Twitter from its origins as a street protest tool to the billionaire’s acquisition of the platform.
But long before that particular debacle, we knew we should not permit our access to the general public to depend on the good will of corporate executives. In 2022, we produced three new posters and twelve new zines in a total of ten different languages. This coming year, we’ll continue to publish new print projects.
In December 2008, after the Greek insurrection, a small number of anarchists intentionally promoted two tactical proposals as a way to break out of the impasse that summit-hopping and other approaches from the so-called “anti-globalization era” had reached. These were university occupations and anti-police revolt. Although both of these had occurred in the United States before, these anarchists believed that they had untapped potential.
These experiments began humbly, with a few dozen people occupying buildings at the New School in New York and a few hundred people rioting in Oakland after Oscar Grant was murdered. The former led indirectly (via the “Occupy Everything” slogan of the student occupation movement and the subsequent occupation of the capitol building in Madison) to Occupy; the latter set a precedent for the revolts in Ferguson and later, in May 2020, Minneapolis. The long-term potential of those models was not immediately apparent in their awkward beginnings, nor were the permutations that the movements arising from those initial examples would undergo.
We are once again at the beginning of a new era that will pose new challenges. This is the time to propose new tactics, new strategies, new horizons for experimentation.
As you undertake projects of your own this coming year, imagine that these are not just ways to address immediate needs or respond to emergencies, but also opportunities to shape the imaginations of thousands of others like you. Imagine what it would look like to develop new models for revolt in an era of scarcity and ecological crisis, when people desperately need new ways to access and share space and resources. Imagine that your efforts could give rise to new experiments that will be infectious and that these will evolve in unpredictable ways. How can you contribute to this process? How can you accelerate it? How can you approach your own humble efforts as a step towards the movements of the future?