It seems fitting that I start a blog at a time when no one reads blogs anymore. I’ve always been late to the digital game. Publishers have been bugging me for years to be more present on social media, but it doesn’t agree with my personality. It’s not like I never made an effort. A couple of years back, I even went through a social media tutorial by a good friend who knows about these things. As bad as I felt for wasting his time, the conclusion was that I’d remain absent from that world.
This blog is a bit of a compromise. It won’t do much for publicity, but it ties together my work in one virtual place. And blogs aren’t like social media. There’s no rush, you can turn off the comments, and, with a bit of good will, you can look at them like zines: a publishing outlet you control and can get creative about. Using it as an online archive also has its merits. There are a lot of loose ends with various texts circulating around the web and it helps my own sense of what’s out there by tying things together here. If anyone else is interested, too, it’s a bonus.
I have listed all of my books (even the ones I was tempted to leave out) on the Books page but have been selective on the pages for Articles, Reviews, and Interviews. However, you’ll be able to access full bibliographical lists through those pages.
I am also publishing a monthly newsletter on the blog and I intend to, on occasion, add original pieces, mainly reviews and articles (they will be announced in the newsletter and then added to the general archives).
I was born in Innsbruck, Austria, in 1972. My parents lived in Turkey at the time, but, for different reasons, my mother decided to give birth to me in her home town. I traveled to Istanbul when I was seven weeks old.
During the first six years of my life, I lived in Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Germany. My father is a musician. When it was time to go to school, my parents bought property in a small village in the Austrian Alps. That village was my home until I was 18 years old.
In my youth, I moved between two different worlds. I kept traveling with my parents, spending weeks or even months at a time in England, the US, and other countries my dad performed in. All of my vacations were used for that purpose and I was frequently released from school. I mingled with artists from around the world and it all felt very laissez-faire and cosmopolitan. At home, I made every effort to fit in, serving as an altar boy and joining the local sport teams. My friends came, in Marxist terms, from the peasantry and the rural proletariat. It took way into my adult life to realize how much these different experiences formed the person I became.
Until I was 15 years old, sports was my only passion. I competed in soccer, tennis, and downhill skiing and represented my school in athletics, basketball, and handball. Determined to become a professional athlete, I ended up focusing on soccer, where I saw my best chances. I trained at one of the country’s elite youth facilities for a couple of years and joined a second-division team when I was 15 years old, making me the youngest player in professional soccer in Austria at the time – my (only) soccer claim to fame.
Right at that time, however, I also developed new passions: music (first heavy metal, then punk), philosophy, and left-wing politics. The latter soon clashed with the authoritarian and corporate sports culture I was a part of, and, when I was 19, I ended a soccer career that had hardly started. I joined a political group (more below) and divided time studying between Austria and the US.
In 1996, I completed a PhD program in philosophy but had no interest in pursuing a career in academia. After defending my thesis, I gave up my apartment, got rid of most of my possessions, and went traveling for eleven years. There were many countries I only passed through, but I spent extended periods of time in places as diverse as Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Israel/Palestine, Ethiopia, and South Africa.
My traveling life differed significantly, depending on whether I was in the Global North or the Global South. In the Global North, I relied on friends’ couches and squats for places to stay and got around almost exclusively by hitchhiking. I slept outside a lot and knew how to get free food. If you ever read the book Evasion, you have a good impression of what the routines were like. In the Global South, I stayed in hotels that charged a dollar a night, on campgrounds, in remote villages, and with volunteers I met. I was still hitchhiking a lot, but added cheap bus and train journeys.
There is plenty that’s problematic about that kind of life. It is an almost exclusive domain of white European men. Yet, I feel that you can make worse choices as a white European man. My travels brought me valuable experiences and personal connections and helped me grow as a human being. It was a very formative period of my life. I do think there is a right way of traveling, even if I certainly diverted from it often enough.
In 2007, I settled in Sweden to be with my partner. We had met in India some years before. As I’m writing this in the fall of 2020, I’m still living in Sweden, I am still with my partner, and I have become the bonus father (as they call it here) of two beautiful children.
When I became politically aware as a high-school student, it didn’t take long before I dove deep into the world of left-wing radicalism. The history of Europe’s urban guerilla movements and the German autonomist movement were the most important influences during my early politicization. I also took great interest in armed anticolonial and antiimperialist struggles, some of which were still ongoing. My reality, of course, was attending school in a small conservative town with no radical scene to speak of. Most of my “activism” consisted of annoying my teachers and fellow students with anticapitalist rants. Fortunately, there were two other students who shared my perspectives. We remain in touch to this day.
I guess the first time I took concrete political action was when I – surprise! – wrote an article for the school magazine addressing class divisions among the students and the injustices that came with them. I used the example of a lawyer who saw to it that his son could retake exams he had failed due to some formal oversight by the teacher. The working-class kids who had been affected by the oversight in the exact same way could not. Incidentally, said lawyer was an Austrian MP for the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ). The outfall wasn’t pretty (on one occasion, I was reduced to tears by a teacher who didn’t approve of the article), but it was an important step into the world of real-life politics.
When I enrolled at the University of Innsbruck in 1990, I joined the local TATblatt group. From 1988 to 2005, the TATblatt journal served as a mouthpiece for Austria’s autonomist movement. Local groups such as ours distributed the paper, occasionally contributed to it, attended protests collectively, and engaged in direct action. We were also involved in establishing a pirate radio station. I was with this group for four years.
In 1994, I accepted a research assistantship at Arizona State University. Despite being ranked as one of the top ten activist campuses in the US by the Mother Jones magazine merely a few years later, there was very little happening when I was there. I mainly used the time to learn about indigenous resistance, thanks to generous American Indian professors and students taking a clueless European under their wings.
While traveling from 1996 to 2007, my life was too unstable to be part of any longterm project. For some time, I was a dues-paying IWW member, but it was mainly a symbolic gesture. I hoped to make a difference through personal encounters and the like. This was partly to rationalize away the fact that I wasn’t organizing, but you can indeed make a political difference in your everyday life as well. Most importantly, I got a tremendous education, be it from meeting with women’s rights activists in Eritrea and democracy advocates in Tonga or from participating in skillshares and staying at Rainbow Gatherings. On a few occasions, I was able to join organizing groups, for example ahead of protests against the World Economic Forum in Davos or a European Union summit in Innsbruck. Right before moving to Sweden in 2007, I spent a couple of months as a volunteer at the Centre international de recherches sur l’anarchisme (CIRA) in Lausanne. It was great!
In Sweden, longtime organizing became possible again. I joined the syndicalist union SAC, eventually doing a one-year stint in the Central Committee. Currently, I am a member of the International Committee. I was a cofounder of the Stockholm Anarchist Bookfair and the alternative sports club 17 SK. 17 SK was part of a community groups’ network called Linje 17 (after the subway line), which I helped coordinate for a few years. We also tried to establish a wider network of community groups, most of them based in Stockholm’s migrant suburbs. The efforts never came to fruition, but the learning experience was priceless. I belonged to the anti-racist organization STARK until it folded in 2014, and I was active in a number of migrant justice initiatives, mainly teaching Swedish and organizing sports events. On occasion, I helped out at the infoshop of Stockholm’s countercultural institution Kafé 44.
I have always enjoyed writing. In high school, I became a co-editor of the school magazine. At university, I wrote a few articles for TATblatt and academic journals. I also did my first translations at the time.
While traveling, I founded a zine-publishing project, Alpine Anarchist Productions (AAP), which released around thirty pamphlets. It was the kind of publishing work that was possible to do at that time. I could put together a zine on a friend’s computer in a few days and have it printed at a local copy shop. Mostly, this happened in the San Francisco Bay Area, as AK Press distributed some of the pamphlets. In 2007, I moved AAP online and have since used it to publish articles, reviews, and interviews. (You can find more information on Alpine Anarchist Productions on the Articles page.) I also contributed to the zines of friends while traveling.
Settling in Sweden gave me the time to work on books (although, as a matter of passion, I still work on zines as well). The publishers I have mainly collaborated with are Unrast in Germany and PM Press in the US. I also do a fair bit of journalist work. In German, mainly for the daily junge Welt and the monthly analyse & kritik (ak); in English, for CounterPunch. I have contributed to the soccer magazines Offside (Sweden) and Ballesterer (Austria) and other periodicals. I like to think of myself as a text worker, which sounds pretentious but is an apt summary of what I do, namely, writing, translating, and editing. I love it and feel very fortunate that the boundaries between hobby, work, and activism are very blurry in my life.
For a few years after coming to Sweden, I was an avid public speaker. I embarked on week-long speaking tours of Europe and gratefully accepted most offers to present at infoshops, festivals, and conferences. I tabled for Alpine Anarchist Productions, PM Press, and the Montreal-based radical publishing outfit Kersplebedeb on many occasions. My first long speaking tours felt like substitutes for the punk rock tours I never got to do, not least because, in Europe, radical book talks and punk rock shows are often held at the same venues. The tours were also a low-key extension of the traveling life I was still missing. I cherish the experiences I made and the people I met, but the appeal wore off after some time – low-budget tours can be exhausting and I’m not getting younger either. I still do talks on occasion, but much less frequently.
When you have made radical politics a focus of your life for more than thirty years, you sometimes forget why. It becomes routine and you go through the motions. Whenever I try to think about the origins, two things stand out: One, a very pronounced sense of social justice. Life needed to be fair; just like sports. Cheating was unacceptable. In life, getting ahead just because of who your parents were was cheating. Two, a very pronounced sense of individual freedom, which was fueled by a liberal home clashing with the social confinements of an authoritarian and Catholic social order. With that combination, it probably wasn’t surprising that I leaned toward anarchism early on – especially if you throw in a romanticized image of simple living in small communities, which I was a huge fan of.
I like to think that my political ideas have become more mature over the years. However, I was never a sectarian anarchist. The impact that antiimperialist Marxist movements had on me was way too strong to ever become a strict anti-Marxist. Being a “radical leftist” was always my primary political identity; being an “anarchist” was secondary.
I am critical of the weaknesses of anarchism in terms of organization, vision, and strategy. I strongly believe that only a unified radical left can bring sustainable change for the better. Yet, there is one thing I still believe anarchism has going for it, and it’s not a minor one: anarchists understand the psychology of power better than their Marxists counterparts. Anarchists know that power corrupts. The idea that an enlightened vanguard is going to pave the way to communism is tempting, but it is a dead end. The masses can only liberate themselves.
I am no sectarian within anarchism either. I think that divisions along the lines of “lifestyle anarchism” vs. “class-struggle anarchism” or “synthesism” vs. “platformism” are of no help. They hurt anarchism as a movement. Not only do they contradict the need for unity, but they neglect that liberation requires everything: personal transformation, cultural change, lived utopias, and capable organizations.
I reckon (hope) that the beliefs sketched above are reflected in my work, which discusses culture (including “body culture”, i.e., sports) as much as revolutionary organizing. What does that make me politically? How about an undogmatic radical leftist with anarchist leanings? Although, really, I’m open to various interpretations.
While I also publish in German and (occasionally) in Swedish, this blog is held in English, for the simple reason that it will reach most readers that way. No escaping language imperialism.
The images used on this blog either come from my personal archive or are, to the best of my knowledge, creative commons. If I’m mistaken, please send me a mail! The drawing in the top right corner was done by Findus, illustrator of such fine books as Kleine Geschichte des Anarchismus (2010) and Kleine Geschichte des Zapatismus (2014).
You can reach me at contact[at]lefttwothree.org. I always enjoy hearing from people (okay, save insults), so don’t hesitate!
(Page last updated: January 1, 2021)