Defiant Memories

“And it’ll burn, burn, burn like they did to the anarchists…”

-Against Me!, “BurnCrimes as forgiven by Against Me! EP [2001]

I’ve been reading Defiance: Anarchist Statements Before Judge and Jury, and not only is it interesting to read the words of anarchists from as long ago as the 1870s, those who took part in and defended the Paris Commune, but the act of remembering them is an act of defiance. Anarchism has come a long way since the defining of the concept in the mid 19th century, but the tenet of freedom and liberation has not changed, only evolved to become more inclusive.

Every anarchist is an enemy of the state, whether they are actively opposing the system or not, whether they think they are or not. Thought criminals exist, and among them ranks we stand proudly. Fighting the system takes many forms, some are more effective than others, but they are all important. The state and its cohorts reach many with their propaganda and the constructions of reality that they create. This may sound like a paranoid fantasy, however it is not a new idea and is in fact relatively easily verifiable.

“As long as there have been anarchists, we have come into conflict with the law. From the workplace to the street, our actions have put us before judges and juries time and again. Many of us have chosen to maintain our defiant opposition to the law, despite the threat of punishment. This anthology collects the words of anarchists facing condemnation by a court system we don’t believe in.”

-Detritus Books, Defiance: Anarchist Statements Before Judge and Jury [2020]

As a result of the government’s overt actions and desire to destroy anything and everything to do with anarchy, anarchists and anarchism, it becomes so clear that there exists an imperative to make sure that we remember our people. If it were up to those in charge, we would be wiped from the earth and from all memory, disappeared from the world now and the world to come. The methods the governments of the world use to achieve this goal vary.

In addition to the efforts of media and the state to assign a new meaning to the word anarchy (chaos, disorder, violence, etc), there have been many instances of more extreme repression across the globe and throughout history. In the united states, anarchists who’ve taken action have been subject to extreme state repression as a result—see for example the lives of Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond, Marius Mason, Eric King, Michael Kimble, and so many more. In soviet Russia, anarchists were imprisoned and killed, and even today in Russia many of those practices still exist. Repression of political dissidents remains a function of governments throughout the world.

This great country will not fall into anarchy, and if anarchists should ever become a serious menace to its institutions, they would not merely be stamped out, but would involve in their own ruin every active or passive sympathizer with their doctrines.

-Theodore Roosevelt, First Annual Message to Congress [December 1, 1901]

The whole speech by Teddy Roosevelt, 25th vice president and 26th president of the united states, is in response to the killing of president McKinley by Leon Frank Czołgosz, a steelworker and anarchist. On the murder, Leon said, “I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people, the good working people…I am not sorry for my crime…I am sorry I could not see my father.” His statement is not represented in the book Defiance, but excerpts from which can be read here.

If we don’t remember our people who came before us, our people who were killed by the unjust rulers, our people who died in prison, our people who remain in captivity, we are failing them and we are failing ourselves. Without a willingness to defiantly remember, we allow the destruction of the history of our people—we cede victory to the state.

-someone refuses to forget

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