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Rethinking Crimethinc.

category international | anarchist movement | debate author Monday September 04, 2006 03:03author by W. Report this post to the editors

"Your politics are bourgeois as fuck"

There are two ways out of capitalism, revolution or death. Anybody who tells you otherwise is simply wrong. The US based sub-cultural cult "Crimethinc" (CWC) who mix anarchism with bohemian drop-out lifestyles and vague anti-civilisation sentiment would have you believe that capitalism is something from which you can merely remove yourself by quitting work, eating from bins and doing whatever "feels good". They carry on the legacy of prize-idiot Abbie Hoffman, printing books and zines which fetishise scams, petty crime and useless activist/punk sub-cultural activity like food not bombs, squatting, etc. They are anarchists by name only with little relevance to the rest of the anarchist milieu and no class analysis, let's venture into their secret underground "anarchy club".

Crimethinc claims to not exist in a failed attempt at being both mysterious and poetic, we'll have to start by stating that it does exist, it has a few addresses, a number of books in print and an online shop as well as a number of websites. It is a loose organization which represents a variety of political views a mish-mash of post-leftism, situationism, primitivism and all those "introducing.." philosophy books you don't tell people you read. Anyone can publish under the name or create content using their logo and each "agent" or group operates individually. There is no formal structure, membership or decision making process. One has to wonder whether it's as decentralised as they claim to be, while the hundreds of kids who post on the forum have as much legitimate claim to call themselves part of crimethinc there are really only a vanguard of 20 people maybe less who have had the pleasure of being published under the CWC title and who run the entire show. Calling yourself a crimethincer allows you the illusion that you're a part of something much grander though, when you're a bored suburban teenager that's very important and the well designed publications and impassioned prose in their texts makes for a very inspiring read. The problem is that once you analyse them critically you quickly realise they're barely saying anything at all.

Many aspects of crimethinc reference the Situationist Internationale and a large chunk of their ideas are based around the Situationist concept "the transformation of everyday life". The Situationists were heavily influenced by Marx and CWC are heavily influenced by American consumer culture it would seem. The call to transform everyday is a call to smash the current exploitative system, to participate in the class struggle, an ongoing historical conflict between the proletariat and the ruling class. Crimethinc substitute this class struggle with a teenage individualistic rebellion based on having fun now. Shoplifting, dumpster diving, quitting work are all put forward as revolutionary ways to live outside the system but amount to nothing more than a parasitic way of life which depends on capitalism without providing any real challenge. The arrogance of middle class kids (just like the hippies) supposing to change by world by roughing it as "poor" people for a few years is captured perfectly in the quote on the back cover of their book evasion.

"Poverty, unemployment, homelessness - if you're not having fun, you're not doing it right!"

Condescending, privileged, middle class crap. The only people who could think that poverty is in any way fun are wealthy kids playing at being poor for a few years, the daily reality of poverty, unemployment and homelessness for the average person is very serious and something anarchists should always organise against rather than mock.

The reality of the situation is that you can't boycott your way out of capitalism, dropping out of the system is never going to bring it down if anything you just re-enforce the system by recuperating people’s alienation and desire for revolution by selling them a new lifestyle under the same system. Capitalism is a system of coercion and control, we don’t work to support the system, we work because we need food and shelter and healthcare and the only way to get that under capitalism is with money. The only way we can get money is by selling our labour - the alternative is to rot, that’s Capitalism. I don't want to feed my kids out of a dumpster or have to scam free healthcare if I get cancer, it's not appealing or practical. There's nothing revolutionary about using your white, middle-class, western privilege to remove yourself from the system at the expense of those who remain trapped in it. None of us are free until we all are.

This idolisation of the grifter and scam as a somehow revolutionary tactic has led their followers, and they are followers they certainly don't have much say in the running of the sites and the shop, the informal organisational structure "we're all crimethinc" enforces this, to be mostly bored teenage boys. A quick browse around will show you this. The more worrying aspect is the "us against the world" mindset many of these youths have. Many view people who work regular jobs as an enemy complicit in the capitalist system, a system they don't fully understand and which crimethinc’s literature never fully explains. They have an embarrassingly liberal interpretation of capital and the struggle against it,

"By your 'support the working class' logic, I guess y'all should feel guilty every time ya boycott any megacrop like Wal-Mart - after all, they've got "working class" clerks workin' there too" – DizzIE

In this quote from a row over a scam to rob tourists (or neo-colonialists as some bizarrely called them), a crimethincer shows up the dangerous lack of understanding of class struggle. Boycotts of multinationals, much like drop-out lifestyles, will do little to bring about the fall of Capitalism which is a social relationship based on wage labour. I do not wish to deny them their right to be drop-outs and live out of bins so long as they realise they will change nothing by living like this. An inflated sense of self importance has convinced them that their chosen path is righteous and all others are brainwashed by the system or are revolutionary beauraucrats.

One of crimethinc’s more recent publications "recipes for disaster:an anarchist cookbook", is indicative of the massive problems with them. The book is a somewhat interesting list of pranks, scams and activist information. Proclaimed as the follow up to "Days of war, Nights of love" this book has many serious shortcomings. Recipes (little more than DIY guides) range from how to organise a black bloc to gynecology, Squatting, and “how to make a bicycle into a record player”. An eclectic mix of information, most of which is crap the rest of which is useless without political understanding. This is meant to be the practice where "days of war" was the theory but unfortunately DOW had no real theory beyond drop out and do what feels good. Organising a black bloc out of a handbook without any understanding of the social conditions which necessitate mass militant anarchist direct action is not just dangerous it's counter-productive to our entire movement. The book shies away from serious revolutionary information like how to organise a union in your workplace, how to organise at school, how to make contact and work with communities in struggle, how to break out of the activist ghetto, how to set up a social centre, how to provide prisoner support or how to support asylum seekers etc. All the activities amount to little more than activist busy-work, something to waste your time with while being a "drop-out", ease your social conscience and not have to do any hard work or compromise yourself by working with people who are complicit in the system. The Antifascist Action guide is well meaning but pathetic, it amounts to a bunch of kids masking up and getting their rocks off by confronting the cops before running off again. This is a common element throughout, these things are listed because they are exciting and dangerous and make you "feel good", not because they are effective forms of revolutionary organising.

Ramor Ryans review of Days of War.. is spot on and does not really need expanding on. DOW is massively plagirised, full of inaccurate and offensive accounts of radical history and tends to define things in very basic terms like good and bad without any solid ideas backing up most of their claims.

"Text, ideas, and graphics are borrowed and pilfered from the Stoke-Newington fanzine Vague, British graphic artist Clifford Harper, French situationist Raoul Vaneigem and indeed, the whole of the Situationist pantheon. They sack the archives of radical sub-culture to compound a falsehood, the basic premise of this book, that it is an instrument for “total liberation.” In reality, CrimethInc’s vision seldom rises above that of a suburban kid rebelling against authority. Mired in the punk rock and crusty sub-culture, the practical application of all this revolutionary theory is apparently realized by forming a band, fucking in a park, going vegan or—oh my God now we’re really fucking doing it!—giving out phony free tickets to the local cinema.9 It soon becomes clear that the real crime here is the way they plunder some of the finest and most invigorating ideas from the end of the 20th century, and render them dull and inchoate." – Ramor Ryan

When thousands of french students recently occupied their universities and trashed their cities in opposition to the introduction of the CPE law one crimethincer had this to say about the organised students;

"When I looked at the situation in France, I often thought that they were not enough dumpster divers collectives!"

What purpose or relevance this person thinks a dumpster diving collective would have served to a mass radical movement beyond getting some old sandwiches which could be looted anyway is beyond me. When mass struggles emerge crimethincers are of course thin on the ground, mass struggle means working with squares and allowing workers to be part of their revolutionary subculture, which just wont do. The book “Anarchy in the age of dinosaurs” published under Crimethinc by the Furious George collective (who each deserve a bullet for crimes against anarchism) is short and poorly written arguing against the idea of mass organisation and for “chaos” and “butterfly wings”, apparently.

“"Folk Anarchy is the name we have given to the arrow aimed at the heart of every dinosaur. We are replacing the mass movement with a scrappy multitude of mutineers, gypsies, sprawling shanties, thieves in the knight and mad scientists”

The lack of any critical analysis and focus on spontaneity are serious shortcomings for crimethinc which lead me to believe they do not believe in revolution and are quite possibly happy to be the kids living on the "edge" of Capitalism, a system whose excess supports their drop-out lifestyles anyway. This would explain why crimethinc have no theory for revolution, how to build to overthrow this system and how to make sure that once we do we hold on to our gains, how to organise a post-revolutionary world so that we don't repeat the failures of the CNT and other historical precedents. A spontaneous revolution leaves the working class no means to defend itself from reactionaries and state socialists. Crimethinc call for a revolution in everyday lifestyles and not life, they seek to define a subculture of individualists who care only about themselves and those immediately around them. A revolution of restless and spoiled middle class Americans that is contemptuous of workers and organised anarchists because in them they see the greatest threat to their bourgeois lifestyles.

The supposedly self-critical analysis in crimethinc’s 10 year report never touched on their failures as listed here. Perhaps this is something these kids will address now and hopefully other anarchists will add to the debate. I spent a few years uncritically spewing out empty crimethinc rhetoric and wasting time with their ineffective tactics and don’t wish to see another generation fooled. I would urge all comrades to seriously consider the easy solutions being peddled by CWC. The world can’t wait while serious revolutionaries are side-tracked by poor ideas and poorer tactics.

“Our demands most moderate are – We only want the earth!”
- James Connolly

Related Links
Post Left Critique of Violence Includes scathing critique of crimethinc
Days of Crime and Nights of Horror Ramor Ryan's review of Days of War
Ken Knabb on crimethinc

 #   Title   Author   Date 
   nice one     Mr C!    Mon Sep 04, 2006 05:44 
   Well Done     @lt    Mon Sep 04, 2006 05:46 
   Excellent.     Mad G    Mon Sep 04, 2006 09:08 
   crimethinc is depressing     girl    Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:37 
   wah, my revolution is better than yours     enigma    Mon Sep 04, 2006 14:00 
   reply.     W.    Mon Sep 04, 2006 20:12 
   Is Crimethinc not just some kind of front?     T    Mon Sep 04, 2006 21:46 
   hmm.     W.    Mon Sep 04, 2006 21:54 
   critics ;)     l.    Tue Sep 05, 2006 06:10 
 10   funny?     Paddy Rua    Tue Sep 05, 2006 07:14 
 11   sake.     w.    Tue Sep 05, 2006 08:11 
 12   for w.     for w.    Tue Sep 05, 2006 09:04 
 13   make a point please.     w.    Tue Sep 05, 2006 09:12 
 14   Rethinking Scapegoting     A Prole    Tue Sep 05, 2006 18:04 
 15   Balance     Andrew    Tue Sep 05, 2006 18:49 
 16   UUUUUffffffffff     José A. Gutiérrez    Tue Sep 05, 2006 18:53 
 17   don't swallow     Chinaski    Tue Sep 05, 2006 18:58 
 18   ...     unclescams    Tue Sep 05, 2006 19:55 
 19   Credit.. etc.     w.    Tue Sep 05, 2006 20:38 
 20   Circulation etc     Andrew    Tue Sep 05, 2006 21:15 
 21   I was pretty sure it was '06     LS-crimethinc sympathiser    Wed Sep 06, 2006 07:20 
 22   A rose by any other name...     Harrison Bergeron    Wed Sep 06, 2006 11:03 
 23   re: Harrison Bergeron and LS     Joe Black    Wed Sep 06, 2006 20:52 
 24   just a sketch     communist    Thu Sep 07, 2006 02:42 
 25   Dennis the Menace was an anarchist!     José Antonio Gutiérrez    Thu Sep 07, 2006 03:58 
 26   re: joe black     LS-crimethinc sympathizer    Thu Sep 07, 2006 04:09 
 27   A Reliable Signpost     Pat Murtagh    Thu Sep 07, 2006 13:49 
 28   Self-criticism     Ois    Thu Sep 07, 2006 19:13 
 29   In reply to LS     Ois    Thu Sep 07, 2006 19:31 
 30   uh...?     DIzzIE    Thu Sep 07, 2006 20:12 
 31   on boycotts     prole cat    Thu Sep 07, 2006 20:37 
 32   dizzle     W.    Thu Sep 07, 2006 21:11 
 33   H',mm     Joe    Thu Sep 07, 2006 21:50 
 34   This critique is inaccurate and useless     Jeez    Fri Sep 08, 2006 09:32 
 35   I'm with "Jeez"     Yes    Fri Sep 08, 2006 09:45 
 36   The Crimethink Partnership:Beginning A Forensic Audit     Pat Murtagh    Fri Sep 08, 2006 13:41 
 37   Unity!?     headmuzik    Sat Sep 09, 2006 00:28 
 38   CrimethInc Plants the Seeds.............     Anarchist    Mon Sep 11, 2006 08:03 
 39   anyone involved knows...     involved individual    Mon Sep 11, 2006 09:48 
 40   to "headmusic"     jeez    Mon Sep 11, 2006 18:40 
 41   what a lot of bullshit     ....    Mon Sep 11, 2006 19:05 
 42   Interesting discussion     Joe    Tue Sep 12, 2006 00:03 
 43   for Joe, who seems like a smart fellow     about crimethinc    Tue Sep 12, 2006 07:54 
 44   re: about crimethinc     Joe    Tue Sep 12, 2006 23:37 
 45   Rethink »Rethinking Crimethinc.«     brib    Wed Sep 13, 2006 06:22 
 46   to Joe     b    Wed Sep 13, 2006 18:04 
 47   a few words on anonymity     1/4 drop out    Sat Sep 16, 2006 00:40 
 48   On anonymity     Joe    Sat Sep 16, 2006 00:57 
 49   "Serious Revolutionaries"     mo5tar    Tue Sep 19, 2006 16:38 
 50   still waiting for serious discussion     b    Tue Sep 19, 2006 18:06 
 51   re: b     Joe    Tue Sep 19, 2006 23:26 
 52   my problem with W's piece     b    Wed Sep 20, 2006 13:19 
 53   How to submit an article and other stories     Joe    Thu Sep 21, 2006 21:20 
 54   Sure the article was virulent, but...     Kim    Sat Sep 23, 2006 02:23 
 55   Article     dropout?    Sat Sep 23, 2006 09:24 
 56   Kim...     b    Sat Sep 23, 2006 16:23 
 57   I agree     WES    Sun Sep 24, 2006 05:24 
 58   Contextualising Crimethink, and anarchism in No(r)way     Kim Keyser    Sun Sep 24, 2006 06:06 
 59   shout out to wes and chloe     prole cat    Sun Sep 24, 2006 23:17 
 60   An Interesting Discussion...     Verdant    Sat Sep 30, 2006 10:12 
 61   I think     now former    Sun Oct 08, 2006 06:15 
 62   YES! Easy on FNB though...     Jonathan    Fri Oct 27, 2006 05:54 
 63   Socialists in anarchists clothing.     Ehnnah    Wed Nov 01, 2006 07:38 
 64   .     ehnnah    Wed Nov 01, 2006 08:43 
 65   "Living on the edge of capitalism is a LOT better than living within it."     retired    Fri Nov 03, 2006 01:27 
 66   Any serious Crimethinkers?     Kim Keyser    Fri Nov 03, 2006 16:50 
 67   Comments     Cary    Sun Dec 03, 2006 02:53 
 68   collectivity and mass movements?     m    Sun Dec 10, 2006 01:14 
 69   In defense     Jack    Tue Dec 12, 2006 12:36 
 70   "primitivism"     anarchist    Mon Dec 18, 2006 14:11 
 71   kool     Weston    Thu Feb 01, 2007 07:15 
 72   This discussion is freedom of speech     Joe    Thu Feb 01, 2007 19:08 
 73   Wow     Justin Operable    Fri Feb 02, 2007 17:10 
 74   encouragement     Tom O'Bedlam    Sat Feb 24, 2007 10:47 
 75   BUMMER!     P. H. Madore    Tue Feb 27, 2007 20:19 
 76   Post-Notes     P. H. M.    Tue Feb 27, 2007 21:00 
 77   anything but bourgeious here     P. H. M.    Tue Feb 27, 2007 21:08 
 78   .     ehnnah    Sat Mar 03, 2007 13:34 
 79   unclear on the concept     retired    Sun Mar 04, 2007 01:25 
 80   I am so sincerely disappointed...     here's why    Sun Mar 04, 2007 18:20 
 81   Crimethinc. does plant the seeds.     Pow!    Wed Mar 14, 2007 23:59 
 82            Mon Mar 19, 2007 06:40 
 83   The big problem     Joe    Mon Mar 19, 2007 23:39 
 84   The one thing you, and most people here seem to overlook     Just Someone    Thu Apr 26, 2007 16:25 
 85   Ehnnah, what?     Gavin    Tue Jul 03, 2007 12:01 
 86   but what now?     Holly    Fri Jul 06, 2007 09:03 
 87   where to start     Jonathan    Wed Jul 18, 2007 00:36 
 88   German translation     Jonathan    Fri Aug 03, 2007 23:42 
 89   and a year went by....     a23    Mon Aug 06, 2007 03:46 
 90   Step Back     Gamble    Sat Aug 11, 2007 01:10 
 91   amused     Paddy Rua    Sat Aug 11, 2007 18:30 
 92   Tools for ignorance     Amelia    Mon Sep 17, 2007 15:38 
 93   Kids can't be legitimately angry; they're just immature. . . (sarcasm)     NO DANCING!    Mon Nov 12, 2007 23:04 
 94   Serious discussion please     Anarkismo Editorial Group    Tue Nov 13, 2007 04:55 
 95   Hahaha     Responder    Tue Nov 13, 2007 23:08 
 96   From IRS to Postanarchism What this fight really is     Halo    Wed Nov 14, 2007 02:43 
 97   I Disagree     Global Dissident    Fri Nov 16, 2007 03:24 
 98   Two problems     Andrew    Fri Nov 16, 2007 04:17 
 99   I still disagree     Global Dissident    Fri Nov 16, 2007 06:14 
 100   Still Misunderstandings & Wishful thinking..     Jonathan    Fri Nov 16, 2007 15:31 
 101   Is having to have title really necessary?     Global Dissident    Sat Nov 17, 2007 04:49 
 102   whatever     redboots    Sat Nov 17, 2007 06:30 
 103   vomit     g_train    Tue Nov 20, 2007 12:58 
 104   Constructive?     f    Mon Nov 26, 2007 05:51 
 105   punk rock Be Here Now     struggleironvolcanoes    Thu Nov 29, 2007 12:18 
 106   Alleged Immaturity     Global Dissident    Sat Dec 01, 2007 10:46 
 107   Why?     madcap    Thu Dec 06, 2007 10:59 
 108   Thinking.     Adam    Thu Dec 06, 2007 19:02 
 109   check checkit.     Android    Sun Dec 23, 2007 04:30 
 110   Good Luck!     Global Dissident    Sun Jan 06, 2008 08:49 
 111   The poetry of it is worthwhile.     Jack Skinner    Tue Jan 15, 2008 04:37 
 112   perspective     a thought    Mon Jan 21, 2008 17:22 
 113   let's put it like this     the cat is a lion    Thu Feb 07, 2008 07:09 
 114   slander     response to "perspective"    Sat Feb 09, 2008 17:11 
 115   In response to "perspective"     Global Dissident    Wed Feb 13, 2008 12:03 
 116   gateway     alone_and_forgotten    Wed Feb 20, 2008 07:24 
 117   a marxist anarchist crimethinc fan     jimmy hoffa    Fri Feb 29, 2008 15:14 
 118   hypocrite...?     john    Tue Mar 18, 2008 01:05 
 119   Come on, there is stuff to do     andy whoo    Wed Mar 19, 2008 00:59 
 120   hai.     guydebordisdead//w.    Mon Mar 31, 2008 21:45 
 121   activism     goreverment    Tue Apr 15, 2008 16:22 
 122   Misleading Criticism     Jim    Thu Apr 24, 2008 03:01 
 123   ..     ara    Thu Apr 24, 2008 04:02 
 124   stop the empty criticism- at least make it constructive!     ashley    Sat May 03, 2008 09:11 
 125   Holy shit.     RobRedd    Thu May 22, 2008 01:03 
 126   My take on Crimethinc     Oroboros    Sat May 24, 2008 07:30 
 127   Another Thing     Oroboros    Sat May 24, 2008 07:54 
 128   why?     scarlet    Wed May 28, 2008 02:40 
 129   The purpose of criticism     Oroboros    Wed May 28, 2008 04:37 
 130   No title?     Potato    Wed Jun 25, 2008 05:06 
 131   wtf?     Bryan Brick    Mon Jul 07, 2008 15:43 
 132   Are you serious?     Orors    Fri Jul 18, 2008 06:23 
 133   sounds like people have to much time on their hands!     non    Wed Aug 06, 2008 06:00 
 134   naw     keep it going    Sun Aug 10, 2008 13:07 
 135   What else?     confused crimethincer    Fri Sep 26, 2008 03:52 
 136   You've found it ;-)     Jon    Fri Sep 26, 2008 15:45 
 137   Bashing for the sake of bashing?     Chanda    Tue Sep 30, 2008 07:40 
 138   Judge no one, but Yourself, heathen...     Matador    Mon Oct 20, 2008 03:36 
 139   I'm not so sure crimethinc is useless...     Bagel Caper    Mon Oct 20, 2008 15:02 
 140   Who's Revolution Is this Anyway?     isla    Sat Nov 22, 2008 08:29 
 141   Why are YOU so scared?     Rogue    Sun Nov 23, 2008 11:00 
 142   CrimethInc     Luxemburgist-Autonomist    Wed Dec 03, 2008 11:18 
 143   oh god     w.    Mon Jan 05, 2009 00:16 
 144   Get over yourself.     SERIOUS!11111!!11!!!!!!111!!!!    Fri Jan 16, 2009 04:09 
 145   mixedapproach needed     starratz soulbucket    Wed Jan 28, 2009 07:22 
 146   If they are not COINTELPRO, they should think about getting on the payroll.     WorkersMovement    Tue Feb 03, 2009 22:40 
 147   yes and no     false prophecy    Wed Feb 04, 2009 07:08 
 148   Thank you, thank you..     bastard grandson of frank little    Thu Feb 19, 2009 05:08 
 149   Re: Crimethinc, alternative " lifestylism" and black blocs     Boots    Thu Feb 19, 2009 14:56 
 150   we have bigger problems     Ts    Sat Feb 21, 2009 05:21 
 151   Bigger Problems?     Boots    Sat Feb 21, 2009 22:09 
 152   No Good Choices     Summerspeaker    Wed Feb 25, 2009 06:07 
 153   Excellent     Anonymous    Mon Mar 30, 2009 23:52 
 154   I like Crimethinc.     Seke    Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:29 
 155   first     stanley    Mon May 18, 2009 18:27 
 156   i agree with your underlying critique, but...     billie rain    Fri Oct 16, 2009 06:42 
 157   Why     Nate..    Thu Dec 03, 2009 16:38 
 158   a few questions. and one observation.     ashley    Sat Dec 26, 2009 06:39 
 159   person     Person    Tue Jan 05, 2010 15:20 
 160   my feelings     mikey    Sat Jan 23, 2010 08:50 
 161   agreed     alwaysastudentneveramaster    Sat Feb 13, 2010 03:55 
 162   lets work together     Las Vegas kid    Sat Feb 27, 2010 03:21 
 163   MIx and Match it     Jay    Wed Mar 17, 2010 12:00 
 164   pointless bickering     anonymous    Fri Jul 09, 2010 15:17 
 165   How about right action instead of bitching     Dane    Sun Aug 29, 2010 07:42 
 166   over arching blanket statement awesome!     mos jef    Mon Dec 13, 2010 06:36 
 167   Get real     Wolf    Fri Dec 31, 2010 06:12 
 168   the youth respond     Ananomus    Mon Jan 31, 2011 09:23 
 169   Art     Miss mayday    Mon Feb 07, 2011 22:43 
 170   Nova Mob and the Dreamers     Pink0™    Fri Aug 26, 2011 07:01 
 171   A constructive critique     Jimbou    Mon Apr 09, 2012 03:45 
 172   "anarcho" life-stylist, reflection of a neoliberal society     Juana    Mon Apr 09, 2012 08:26 
 173   well...     eddyp    Sun Jul 08, 2012 20:02 
 174   really, this should be taken down     tomas    Mon Jul 14, 2014 16:09 
 175   Seriously     Dismayed    Sat Aug 15, 2015 14:48 
 176   Ugh     Chris    Tue Jan 23, 2018 00:23 

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