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Welcome to our latest update of workings in the world of Return Fire, where we are still determined to bring you our thoughts and selections of theory, actions, reviews, poems, conversations, history, interviews, criticism, announcements and repression news – feeling our way towards anarchisms that indigenise. We will proceed in a fairly unorthodox (to anarchists) way, and one that despite the cynicism of our days we will try not to be embarrassed by, however trite it may seem (to those same anarchists).
1. Acknowledgments and Gratitude
We thank and acknowledge the various powers, processes and entities with which we find affinity, that house us in this world. At this turning of the wheel, we contemplate the boundaries stretching and flexing between the known and the unknown, the familiar and the strange, the imaginal and the dream. We thank everything we feed from (whatever toxicities it has been through to end up in the form it often reaches us in), and everything we will sooner-or-later go on to feed. From the seas to the cliffs, from the lichens to the wildflowers, from the heron to the bat, to our human families and collaborators, and the ancestors (also of our path and our place) for their various lessons, protections and warnings – we even acknowledge our enemies for the advice we find within the hostility provoked between us. We also acknowledge that we are here and writing from within a dense meshwork of energy exchanges, relations of care and support, and enablement that comes from people (of all species and forms) near and far to us in our everyday lives. Whether or not they share (all) our goals or tensions, this project is (also) in a state of becoming because of them.
2. The Project So Far
We completed the first volume of Return Fire in early 2013 (followed by its online version by the end of that year, which has continued to accompany each release it its own timeframe). Return Fire started as fanzine of comprehensive non-leftist (and non-rightist) anarchism as it stands in this decade; with heavy anti-civilisation leanings, but with an awareness of its origins beyond this.
While the initial hope was to publish offline reports from ongoing local and international struggles and to fill the gap left here in the U.K. by latter-day Do or Die journal for a long-form and eclectic eco-centric anarchist publication of theory and reflection, other obvious influences – especially in the action listings they would throw in – were the now-deceased U.S.-based Green Anarchy papers (though unfortunately the only thing Return Fire convincingly emulates thus far of their beautifully layed-out pages is their density!) and, initially, the unabashed conflictivity of 325 magazine (now seemingly discontinued too).
Now, we feel that the relationship between our later releases and the above currents (activism, anti-civilisation theory, insurrectionism and/or armed strugglism) has grown in nuance and qualifications, as we tried to engage (often through these pages) with colonialism, counter-insurgency, spirituality, converging technologies, hetero-patriarchy and environmentalism, and more, in both their legacies and continuities.
We’ve hosted new articles on ‘personality disorder’ diagnosis here in the U.K., anarchist practices of attack as they actually play out in our daily lives, smart city infrastructure and philosophy as it arrives in an English city, moments of conflict during previous generations on these isles, the industrial degradation of everything we know and love, poetry as a means to continue our visionary anarchic path, and more. We’ve brought out translations from territories in struggle as well as those languishing in capitalist normality, on the friends and enemies that comrades meet on our paths, and those reflecting on the macro-processes of state-building and state-avoidance as well as on the many mouldings and separations that we experience in the world today at the most intimate level. We have kept some writings that we considered classics (from anti-industrial manifestos, to situationism, to anarchist critiques of ecologists, to the Machete school of Italian insurrectionalism) in circulation in our editions, and sampled current theory and reportage (whole or in extracts) from forest gardens in Japan, barricades in Greece, bedrooms, prisons and workplaces from one side of the globe to another. As well as these texts we occasionally include the more interesting end of internet commentary exchanges on relevant topics… and, of course, a whole lot of action reports.
While a big part of our project is bringing material from the rest of the English-speaking world to our U.K. readership, also the reverse is true: hence we’ve hosted materials we picked from other U.K. print publications (from Affinity to Dark Nights), street-level intervention texts from Random Anarchists of London or by Wayne Spenser, and selections from U.K. web projects like Rabble, The Black Plume, The Acorn, or Fire on the Horizon.
We have tried to keep our beloved more-than-human cousins present in these pages, whether as subjects for medicinal or culinary interaction, exploration of the ways their often-unruly lives unfold, exposure of threats to them (and so to us too), mythical or imaginal significances they hold to us (and also some pitfalls of the above!), and so on.
When printing words by prisoners or news of their cases, we choose either situations with significant implications for the cycles of contestation they are connected to, or those we feel a particular affinity to: sometimes because their cases are still actively evolving and sometimes not. We do not try to do an information bulletin that is in any way to be relied upon as up-to-date, like those you can find online. But those cases we feature, we try to commit to continue updating on volume-to-volume.
We have also released (and will continue to release) works of selected non-anarchists when it has suited us, including polytheistic anti-capitalists, various ecologists, lootings from our raids into academic archives, indigenous folk who may or may not hold affinities with our project, and some poets of romanticism.
We are products of the (soon sadly to be bygone it seems) do-it-yourself underground ethic, and unapologetic about our style – we emphasise what we liked on any particular page regardless of the original, and we strip most referencing out of the few more academic (or academic-leaning) sources we take from, to let the arguments stand naked to be assessed by anyone regardless of whether they have access to privileged sources (i.e. paid-for journal access etc.). For similar reasons, in our referencing we don’t follow conventions that arise from academia, and when including material from those sources we try to balance it with addition of our own notes, explanations, and sidebars arising from street-level struggles and non-academic theorists, to keep referring it back to a fight within our own hands.
We don’t doubt have we been accused of conscripting work of those we’ve extracted texts from into our agenda (some of them *gasp* not even anarchists!) when surely disagreements exist between us. We are transparent on that topic, and are fine with that.
3. What’s New?
We are now hosting a website at https://returnfire.noblogs.org/ where you can download our publications. This now includes new, chapterised versions of the previously-released volumes 1–5 of Return Fire, allowing for printing and distribution as batches of smaller magazines and/or with specific themes in mind. This would be a good point to offer our sincere thanks to the counter-information projects that have previously hosted our publications for us; including (but not limited to) actforfree.nostate.net, anarchistnews.org, contrainfo.espiv.net, and 325.nostate.net.
We are honoured to have learned that a German-language book Die Smartifizierung der Macht (‘The Smartification of Power: contributions to an offensive against the technological network’) includes a new translation of our essay-supplement to volume 4, ‘Caught in the Net’, as well as the previously-translated ‘Smarter Prison?’ that we had put out.
In other news, more texts that have appeared in Return Fire (some for the first time) have been uploaded to The Anarchist Library web-archive, and can be browsed under the tag https://theanarchistlibrary.org/category/topic/return-fire and easily printed for reading or distribution.
The long-promised web version of the long-form glossary entry essay written to accompany Return Fire vol.5 – our reevaluation of ‘Individual Will’ – is delayed while we correspond with publishers about our hope to turn it into the book it really always should have been. We are currently slowed by the disastrous crash of a file system in winter 2017-2018 (back your documents up, comrades!) which we are reconstructing the manuscript from, but once we have worked out the plan, a web version will of course follow at some future point. Contact us (see below) for more details.
4. What’s Next?
We are considering the future of our lives and projects – one option is winding down Return Fire, but inviting participation to make last releases undertaken under this banner as vital as possible, designed to hopefully stay interesting for future collaborating distributors, and to influence what comes next after the better part of a decade of slinging out print and electronic copies into the world.
We have a backlog of material that we are excited to (re)present – so after the longer-than-usual break we left for people to digest the contents of Volume 5, we will continue to release the present volume (and subsequent ones) in a series of shorter chapterised forms – aiming to have PDF releases close to or concurrent with print runs – to be concluded with a compiled electronic version, then decide what directions the project will or will not take.
We will include a growing focus on including interview transcriptions (especially noteworthy ones captured from the ephemeral world of internet radio/podcasts – which only continues to grow – that we felt should be put down and kept in circulation by other means) to bring the tone of the discussion towards something more organic rather than essay material or report-backs alone, as well as printing texts along with responses that they elicited, or putting different articles into conversation with each other in these pages by including them alongside. Here we aim to link resonant themes, provide historical or contextual information along with extracts from suggested sources (and references to the topics in previous volumes) that could be read alongside. In other words, trying to counter the eternal alienated present that the internet inculcates us with as much as (or often more than) the mass media which in past generations we more successfully kept ourselves more insulated from in our own little subcultures, which today seem flimsy defences indeed.
Every chapter should contain new material such as fresh articles or translations/transcriptions not previously online, as well as our selections of existing articles, editorial commentary we’ve pitched in, chronologies we’ve compiled, etc.
We are also choosing themes that our next volumes will be loosely based around.
5. The Current Theme: Leftism
Since summer 2018, we have been preparing the collated material for this staged release, still on an irregular basis. The topic that we hope to tease out a little more in detail in Volume 6 of Return Fire is the political and cultural practices and ideas of the Left; including historical and ideologically (because even if the Newest-of-the-New Left disowns, ignores or re-writes it, context matters…), but also contemporary and anarchist-adjacent forms. The aim is to see what serves us or not, rather than name-calling and guilt-by-association as anti-/post-left critique has so often been practiced (sometimes by us!). For example, this overall volume tackles common leftist discourses such as (its own forms of) ecologism, street confrontation as political ritual, indigenism, activism (from ‘mass-based’ to ‘urban guerrilla’ versions), polyamoury, prison abolition, as well as the appearance of leftism (and, behind that, Christianity) in unexpected places – anarcho-primitivism, for example, and some of more common arguments against identity. Some of these critiques are far from new (though we feel the authors did a better job than the general standard during these fraught conversations), while others are born of this present moment and currents flowing through it.
What do we even define the Left as? Is it something we categorically must avoid the slightest whiff of so as not to repeat the worst mistakes of anarchism’s first 150 years, or is there some grey area inbetween (for example) institutions or organisations and actual individuals? Towards considering this question, roughly every chapter will include a piece by some species or another of leftist whose words we both agree and disagree with in interesting ways, with our own critical notes. These will include strands such as radical municipalism, ‘nihilist communism’, pagan Marxism, ‘communisation’ insurrectionaries, post-situationists, class-struggle historians, anti-industrial critics, anarcho-democrats/populists, and anti-fascist watchdogs.
When all the chapters of Volume 6 are released, we will accompany the combined PDF version with the release of our own essay on the theme, inkeeping with our ‘glossary’ series of pieces on fundamental concepts to the contemporary anarchist milieu.
Thanks to those who’ve helped us and submitted material for the next phase of our publishing.
(The provisional theme for the volume after that is the society of the spectacle; what is it, and how has it changed since Guy Debord’s 1967 book by the same name?)
6. Our Relationship with You
Now being more established, we hope to attract submissions as an avenue for diverse and critical anarchist publishing. As before, our emphasis will be on the value we find in any given piece rather than its timeliness, with the hope that our new or old volumes can find value in circulation at any time, and in deference to the fact that today it is very hard for a print publication on the international level to in any way compete with the internet as a means for keeping abreast moment-to-moment.
We already have most content lined-up ready or undergoing translation, but Return Fire vol.6 can potentially include submissions and/or suggestions (including but of course not limited to articles on the stated theme of leftism). Get them sent in to us for our editorial selection process as soon as possible so we can correspond, explore the ideas, etc.; don’t worry about them being too polished if that’s a barrier to you. Another option is letter-to-the-editors-type pieces on either our framing of the theme or specific pieces released in the previous chapters. When the glossary entry essay on leftism is released, we will either engage with this correspondence in the text, or reprint them as a supplement publication.
We can’t say we honestly have high hopes for this wish to generate discussion working out, but along with the suggestions we already proposed in ‘Caught in the Net’ to counter the down-spiraling of an anarchist discourse we witness falling victim to technological enthrallment, we thought we can’t give up and accept that conversation is something that now only happens on social media. As a firmly internationalist project, there’s a possibility we could help get submitted texts translated into English from other languages: however, with this work often falling on already-overburdened shoulders, we’d prefer authors find someone their end for a first basic rendering, to which we can suggest amendments to from there.
We will continue to welcome the autonomous printing and distribution of our volumes and related publications. Those already doing print-runs or those interested in doing so can contact us (see below) to co-ordinate about their needs. We also encourage feedback as to what use our magazine format (as opposed to online PDFs only) has had in your area or networks.
Thanks to the various printing crews for their patience, and apologies again to them (and others awaiting responses) for our slowness in communication and low online presence.
7. Contact Us
Public key below for those using PGP encryption for email communication (please note that it is not registered to the above email address, which apparently causes problems for some people using the less-secure automatic decrypting plug-ins on their internet browser):
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Act for free receved by email 28/11/19