CrimethInc.

crimethinc

convergence

CrimethInc. is a decentralized anarchist collective of autonomous cells. It emerged in the mid-1990s, initially as the hardcore zine ‘Inside Front,’ and began operating as a collective in 1996. It has since published widely read articles and zines for the anarchist movement and distributed posters and books of its own publication.

In their own words, ‘Crimethought is not any ideology or value system or lifestyle, but rather a way of challenging all ideologies and value systems and lifestyles—and, for the advanced agent, a way of making all ideologies, value systems, and lifestyles challenging.’

CrimethInc. cells have published books, released records and organized national campaigns against globalization and representative democracy in favor of radical community organizing. Less-public splinter groups have carried out direct action (including arson and hacktivism), hosted international conventions and other events, maintained local chapters, sparked riots and toured with multimedia performance art or hardcore anarcho-punk musical ensembles.

In 2002, a cell in Olympia, Washington staged a five-day film festival with skill-sharing workshops and screenings.[8] Cells have also supported various large-scale campaigns with publicity work, including the ‘Unabomber for President’ and the ‘Don’t Just (Not) Vote’ election campaigns as well as the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas of 2003 in Miami, Florida.

Individuals adopting the CrimethInc. nom de guerre have included convicted ELF (Earth Liberation Front) arsonists, as well as hacktivists who successfully attacked the websites of DARE, the Republican National Committee, and sites related to U.S. President George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign.

In 2010, several CrimethInc. cells worked in collaboration with other anti-capitalists and anarchists to launch international ‘Steal Something From Work Day,’ which coincides with the United States Tax Day.The creation of propaganda has been described as the collectives’ core function.

Several websites are maintained by individual cells, including Crimethinc.com, operated by the Far East Cell, which hosts propaganda, excerpts from available publications, and a blog of the activities of other cells. CrimethInc. is connected to publishing collectives/organizations with similar ideas, notably the ‘Curious George Brigade,’ which has written a number of publications including ‘Anarchy in the Age of Dinosaurs.’

In 2005, CrimthInc. began publishing a half-gloss journal, ‘Rolling Thunder,’ with the byline ‘An Anarchist Journal of Dangerous Living,’ which released its eighth issue in 2009.

Since the summer of 2002, CrimethInc. has hosted annual conventions, termed ‘convergences,’ open to anyone. Typically featuring the performances of traveling theatrical troupes, musicians, direct-action and mutual-aid workshops from individual participants, the few-days-long camping trips have initiated multiple ‘Reclaim the Streets’ actions, mobilized large ‘Critical Mass’ bicycling events, and catalyzed many other activities.

The 2007 convergence in Athens, Ohio saw an impromptu street party which resulted in arrests on minor charges. The Athens News characterized the convergence as ‘a sort of networking, resume-swapping opportunity for would-be radicals, free-thinkers, Levellers, Diggers, Neo-Luddites and other assorted malcontents.’ It is typical of these gatherings to demand that all attendees have something to contribute to the momentum: whether it is bringing food or equipment to share, leading a discussion group, or providing materials with which to write to political prisoners. There has been a pattern of promoting convergences as festivals, reminiscent of barnstorming flying circuses and traveling sideshows.

Harper’s journalist Matthew Power described the 2006 convergence in Winona, Minnesota as follows:

‘Several hundred young anarchists from around the country had train-hopped and hitchhiked there to attend the annual event known as the CrimethInc Convergence…Grimy and feral-looking, the CrimethInc kids squatted in small groups around a clearing….[they] were in the middle of several days of self-organized workshops, seminars, and discussions, ranging from the mutualist banking theories of the nineteenth-century anarchist philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, to an introductory practicum on lock-picking, to a class on making one’s own menstrual pads….CrimethInc’s adherents had come together there because they wanted to live their lives as some sort of solution. They saw ‘the revolution’ not as a final product but as an ongoing process; they wanted not just to destroy the capitalist system but to create something livable in its place.’

These convergences have been hosted by different groups within the collective each time, typically based on the initiative of local enthusiasts. Every year a different set of policy requests is released from locals in the field, typically encouraging a sober, consensus-based space in which no financial transactions are made. The one firm rule has been ‘No police informants,’ a regulation which has been ignored by the FBI.

Information gathered by FBI informants at CrimethInc. convergences (in 2004, 2005, and 2008) contributed to the convictions of Eric McDavid and his associates, as well as 2008 Republican National Convention protester Matthew DePalma.

In 2010, CrimethInc. announced the ‘We Are Everywhere’ campaign of national tours and events in lieu of the traditional convergence.

CrimethInc. as a loose association represents a variety of political views, with ‘no platform or ideology except that which could be generalized from the similarities between the beliefs and goals of the individuals who choose to be involved—and that is constantly in flux.’ CrimethInc. is an anonymous tag, a means of constructing dynamic networks of support and communication within the anarchist movement, and as such anyone can publish under the name or create a poster using the logo; each agent or group of agents operate autonomously.

As well as the traditional anarchist opposition to the state and capitalism, agents have, at times, advocated a straight edge lifestyle, the total supersession of gender roles, violent insurrection against the state, and the refusal of work.

CrimethInc. is influenced by the Situationist International, and has been described by scholar Martin Puchner as ‘inheritors of the political avant-garde.’ Situationist Ken Knabb has criticized CrimethInc. for presenting simplistic and in some cases false accounts of history in their manifesto ‘Days of War, Nights of Love,’ and for mythologizing themselves as ‘a pole of international subversion.’ For their part, the authors of the book criticized the ‘exclusive, anti-subjective’ nature of history as ‘paralyzing,’ advocating in its place a non-superstitious myth.

The collective has expressed a strident anti-copyright stance and advocacy of the appropriation of texts and ideas of others, which has attracted criticism from academic philosopher George MacDonald Ross as an endorsement of plagiarism.

The active participants of CrimethInc. characterize it as a mindset and a way of life first and foremost, rather than as an organization per se. Its main goal is to inspire people to take more active control of their own lives, becoming producers of culture and history instead of passive consumers. Those who ascribe to the CrimethInc. philosophy advocate radical ways of living one’s life to the end of eliminating the perceived inequities and tyrannies within society.

Contributors to publications are generally not credited in respect of an anonymity asserted by participants to be one of the organization’s primary values. The name ‘CrimethInc.’ itself is a satirical self-criticism about the hypocrisy of revolutionary propaganda (and other ‘margin-walking between contradictions’) and a direct reference to the concept of ‘thoughtcrime’ developed in George Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four.’

The collective’s perceived focus on the ‘terminal boredom of consumer culture’ at the expense of the real world condition of the working class, and fetishizing of ‘the narcissistic side of the 1960s’ has led others in the anarchist movement, such as Libcom.org, to decry the collective as ‘lifestylists:’

‘CrimethInc begins with the brand name, and ends with the relentless merchandizing of ‘radical’ products on their website. In between there is…an individualist, selfish, and inchoate rebel ideology that eschews work, political organizing, and class struggle. In a world at war and facing terminal crisis, CrimethInc’s transcendental philosophy and ahistorical lightness is a form of intellectual masturbation. Like rootless ex-pats unconnected to the daily life around them, CrimethInc’s lifestylism is a form of self-imposed exile within their own society.’

Defenders have claimed that regardless of the group’s politics, ‘you have to give them credit for helping revitalizing two very vital traditions of radical writing: on the one hand, they’ve kicked out enough all-encompassing, no-holds-barred, just barely still prose polemical manifestos to make Guy Debord proud, on the other hand, they’ve also produced some stunning personal narratives of living free in the boxcars and margins of late capitalism.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.