This page contains information about the books I’ve worked on, be it as an author, editor, or translator (roles that, in many cases, overlap).
The beginnings of my work on piracy were pretty random. At university, I was part of a group of folks fancying themselves as radical philosophers. We wanted to bring out a book with Vienna anarchist publisher Monte Verità. This never happened, but I had sent them a text on piracy as part of our pitch, and, when the book fell through, they wanted to publish that essay. It used the pirates of the Golden Age (think Jolly Rogers, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc) as a backdrop for propagating antiauthoritarian beliefs and what I saw, at the time, as radical theory (plenty of poststructuralist lingo – it was that era). So, in 1994, Monte Verità released Leben unter dem Totenkopf. Anarchismus und Piraterie as vol. 8 in a series of neat, slim volumes called Wilde Mischung (Wild Mix).
About a decade later, while traveling, I received an email from an Australian friend, asking why I had told her that my pirate book was only available in German. She claimed to have found an English edition online, adding a link to a book titled Women Pirates and the Politics of the Jolly Roger, which I had never seen or heard of. The cover did indeed have my name on it, alongside those of Ulrike Klausmann und Marion Meinzerin, who I recognized as the authors of a German book about women pirates. Turns out that, in 1997, Black Rose Books had decided to merge the Klausmann/Meinzerin book with mine and create the English title cited above. I guess all of the publishers involved could have made a slightly bigger effort to track me down, but I was still happy about the book.
In 2007, when PM Press got off the ground, they figured a new book on piracy would be a good idea. Pirates, it seemed, were a safe sell. So, I got to work on Life Under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy, which was released in 2010. The book was a much expanded, historically more accurate, and theoretically less pretentious version of the old essay. A second edition was released in 2020, including interviews I had done on contemporary piracy, the ongoing fascination with pirates, and the colonial implications in the romanticization of them. A standout among the interviews was the one with David Tighe for his zine No Quarter. David is a true zinester, helping to keep a struggling art alive.
Life Under the Jolly Roger has been translated into German, Italian (second edition in 2018), Japanese, and Spanish. The German edition produced a review in one of the most unexpected forums for any of my books, a magazine called Yachting Blue, catering to circumnavigators. I was also thrilled to see the original English edition appear the online game New World.
While my work on piracy was fairly random, my work on straight edge was not.
I discovered straight edge when I was 18 years old. Hardly anything in my life felt more exciting. Where I grew up, the entertainment of young men was reduced to getting drunk and getting into fist fights. My luck was that I was good at sports and a troublemaker in school – this gave me enough status for peer pressure not to bite. The fact that everyone around me was drinking simply seemed normal. So, when I discovered that there were other people like me (rebellious but not into booze), and that they had even formed a movement, a new world opened up for me.
As long as I lived in Austria, where there was never a big scene, my association with straight edge relied on trading tapes and zines. I had a very romantic image of it. This changed when I moved to the US in 1994. The conservative elements that came with Vegan Straight Edge, Krishnacore, and, especially, Hardline were peaking at the time. Still, straight edge had become way too important for me to just give it up. I found a place on the margins of the scene – never willing to leave, but not feeling comfortable at the center.
Essentially, the books Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge, and Radical Politics (2010) and X: Straight Edge and Radical Sobriety (2019), as well as the German introduction Straight Edge. Geschichte und Politik einer Bewegung (2010), bear testimony to my attempts to reconcile this tension. They all seek to bring together a straight edge identity with progressive and left-wing politics.
Sober Living for the Revolution has sold better than any of my other books. I suppose it was published at the right time. I got a kick out of it being reviewed in Classic Rock opposite Chris Welch’s Treasures of Led Zeppelin and a Vince Neil ad, and I was very proud that, in one week in February 2011, I made the top then list of “record sales” at Tucson’s Toxic Ranch Records. The kind write-up on Bitch Media and the listing on the Queer Sobriety Support website were other reception highlights. So was a mention in a very funny Hard Times piece and a portrait in Accent, the magazine of IOGT-NTO, Sweden’s sobriety movement. One can find T-shirts based on the book’s cover online, and, in 2016, Australian straight edge band Rebirth released a song titled after it.
Sober Living made the cover of Maximumrocknroll (MRR), which is remarkable considering MRR‘s original stance on straight edge. It was also nice to receive interview requests from papers such as the Reno Gazette-Journal. The most comprehensive interview about the book I did was the one with La Terre d’Abord (English version here). I was thrilled by a Twitter recommendation of the book by Jyoti Mishra of White Town, who had a number one hit in the UK in 1999 with “Your Woman”. By all means, Jyoti, a Trotskyist, would have been featured in the book, had I only known that he was straight edge! An Italian edition was released in 2011.
X: Straight Edge and Radical Sobriety is a follow-up to Sober Living, released a decade later. Its focus is very similar – documenting the overlaps between straight edge and progressive/left-wing politics – but it is more grassroots, international, and somewhat broader in outlook, bringing in what has become known as radical sobriety as well. I hear that the book was “trending” on social media for a while, but I wouldn’t know. John A. Duerk wrote a great review, the Punk Scholars Network has referenced it on the call for their 2020 conference, and it being featured at Woke Vegana’s Woke Book Wednesday taught me a new word.
In the summer of 2021, I was invited to answer questions about the books for the beautiful Vol. X Zine, celebrating 40 years of straight edge. The zine was released, in connection with a compilation tape, by the great folks at DIY Conspiracy. Very proud!
Straight Edge. Geschichte und Politik einer Bewegung serves as a short introduction. Incidentally (though probably not surprisingly), it is my bestselling German book, too. Kindly covered by most of the punk and left press, it also reached far into mainstream media – otherwise, I’m rarely quoted in the Augsburger Allgemeine or the freesheet 20min. Swiss journalist Klaus Petrus wrote an interesting article in connection with the book for Tier im Fokus.
Sport has always been a big part of my life, and it seemed natural to combine my passion for it with my passion for writing.
This started with the pamphlet Anarchist Football (Soccer) Manual, which was released by Alpine Anarchist Productions in 2006. The intention behind it was simple: realizing that soccer was becoming a popular sport among US radicals, I wanted to provide a bit of historical and political background.
A few years later, I expanded the pamphlet into a book after PM Press had expressed interest. The result was Soccer vs the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics, released in 2011. It covers the overlaps between soccer and progressive/radical politics from various angles. An expanded second edition was released in 2019.
Soccer vs the State has been translated into Japanese, Portuguese (there is a separate translation for the second edition), Galician (no, it’s not Portuguese!), and Greek. The Greek edition would not have been possible without the persistence and dedication of translator Vangelis Tsirmpas. It includes a preface by former Greek international, left-wing thinker, and metalhead Savvas Kofidis. The French book Éloge de la passe: changer le sport pour changer le monde (2012) is also based on Soccer vs the State.
To my delight, Soccer vs the State was reviewed not only in the legendary When Saturday Comes but also in all of the football magazines I regularly read: 11Freunde, Ballesterer, and Offside. There was good coverage in the left press, from CounterPunch and the Anarcho-Syndicalist Review to the Socialist Worker and the Morning Star. Mind you, even the Independent gave it a thumbs up, and, upon the involvement of Ultra soccer supporters in the Arab Spring, I was interviewed by New York Times sports writer Jack Bell. I also did interviews with soccer journalists in Ireland, Poland, and India. Academic journals such as the Journal of Sport History and Soccer and Society carried reviews.
The inclusion of Soccer vs the State in Verso‘s 2012 “Reading List for the Olympics” (alongside the original Anarchist Football (Soccer) Manual) is probably the closest encounter with this most prestigious of left-wing publishing houses I’ll ever have. The book also helped me rub shoulders with the Guardian and a former England international, thanks to the makers of the Obscure Music and Football blog, whose sidebar, for a couple of years, read: “Praised by The Guardian, Dion Dublin and Gabriel Kuhn.” Another (now defunct) blog, Football Is Radical, was, according to its maker, inspired by the book.
Soccer vs the State‘s crossover appeal was illustrated by it providing an opening quote to the article “Football can help tackle gender-based violence” in the South African magazine New Frame, while, at the same time, enjoying a positive write-up in the (now also defunct) Jock Book Review. Most puzzling of all feedback was a quote on Donavan Hall’s Without Observers blog: “I’d just read a book by Gabriel Kuhn called Soccer versus the State and I’d realized that we’d been running our brewery as an anarchist collective (without realizing it) for nearly five years.” Go figure.
Jenny Cullemo was kind enough to call the book a “gate-opener” in her excellent master’s thesis Just idag är jag stark – En anarkistisk och intersektionell studie av läktarkultur och politiskt identitetsskapande (2011). Sweden’s top-notch political football writer Ekim Caglar gave props to it in the highly recommended Propagandafotboll (2017). Out of the book presentations I did, returning to home grounds was a standout: in December 2011, I presented it in front of an Innsbruck audience during the opening of the “Tatort Stadion” exhibition, which addresses racism, sexism, and homophobia in football stadiums.
In 2015, Playing as if the World Mattered: An Illustrated History of Activism in Sports was released. I had a lot of fun working on it. It was a “different kind” of project, not only because I had to collect the images (with no funds), but also because the layout required a word limit for each chapter. I was fond of the result (apart from not dedicating a specific chapter to Billie Jean King, which I should have done), but that didn’t help. The book “sank like a stone”, as one particularly considerate PM Press editor put it. However, the critics liked it, with kind reviews reaching from the Pacific Standard to the New York Journal of Books. Mark Perryman, cofounder of the marvelous Philosophy Football project, even called it “the sports book of the quarter” (summer 2015). Australian filmmaker Matt Norman, who did a great documentary, Salute, on his uncle Peter Norman (the man who shared the podium with John Carlos and Tommie Smith during the iconic 1968 moment in Mexico City), sent lovely feedback via email. So, stone or not, I’m happy.
Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety: Forging a Militant Working-Class Culture (2017) seemed like a risky (nerdy) project, but, in this case, it found a wider audience than expected. The book focuses on Red Vienna, Austromarxism, and the writings of Julius Deutsch. It digs deep into European working-class politics of the 1920s and 30s, but a catchy title (provided by the abovementioned PM editor) and the unforeseen Antifa hype at the time of its release seemed to ensure that it wasn’t only picked up by leftist history buffs.
Julius Deutsch was not only the president of the Socialist Workers’ Sport International (most commonly known under its German acronym SASI) but also the chairman of the antifascist workers’ militia Republikanischer Schutzbund, and, as most Austromarxists, a prominent spokesperson for the workers’ temperance movement. As hardly any of his writings were available in English, I saw an opportunity to translate some; half of Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety, however, consists of an introduction to Red Vienna and the Austromarxists trying to forge a way between reformist social democracy and revolutionary Bolshevism.
That the book’s audience is indeed diverse seems confirmed by the publications that have covered it, reaching from Radical Notes and Marx and Philosophy to the May Day Books blog and Recorder: Official Newsletter of the Melbourne Labour History Society. It has been featured on the website of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society, which I had never heard of before, and informed an interesting text on “Revolutionary Discipline and Sobriety” on the Cosmonaut blog. It was also responsible for landing a very enjoyable translation gig, namely, rendering the sports chapter for the Red Vienna Sourcebook (2020).
Die Linke und der Sport (2014) is a short introduction to sports and politics from a left-wing angle. It got me the only review ever in the unofficial Green Party newspaper taz, which tends to ignore anything written about autonomist and anarchist politics. In the magazine konkret, it caused the worst trashing any of my books have ever received because I wrote something about Israel that the author didn’t like. (The review doesn’t seem to be online and, frankly, I can’t be bothered to scan it.) In better news, Die Linke und der Sport got me on a panel on sports and politics, organized by Germany’s Left Party, at the stadium of SV Babelsberg 03, known for its lively left-wing support. Also on the panel was prominent German soccer journalist Ronny Blaschke, who later told me the best thing about the evening was my Austrian accent. I still don’t know what to make of that.
The books Tier-Werden, Schwarz-Werden, Frau-Werden. Eine Einführung in die politische Philosophie des Poststrukturalismus (2005) and Jenseits von Staat und Individuum. Individualität und autonome Politik (2007) are revised versions of my master’s thesis and my PhD thesis, respectively. I prepared them for publication ten years after they were written, which, I think, helped.
Tier-Werden, Schwarz-Werden, Frau-Werden, in particular, got more balanced. It’s an introduction to poststructuralist theory from a radical perspective. It got me an invitation to the 2007 colloquium of the Duisburger Institut für Sprach- und Sozialforschung (DISS), which is of relevance for two reasons: it was the first public speaking I did in over a decade (as more than 150 presentations followed over the next five years, it was a pivotal event), and I met people there with whom I ended up collaborating on different projects for years. Subsequently, a few autonomous groups organized Tier-Werden study circles. The Glitzer und Krawall one stands out, for the name alone. The book also appeared in less expectable contexts, for example a lecture on, indeed, Buddhism.
Jenseits von Staat und Individuum is my most underrated book. It’s really good! It raises urgent questions by asking how to build collective power in an age of individualism. If anything, these questions have become more pressing since I originally wrote the text in the mid-1990s. Jenseits is quite pomo and doused in cultural theory, but it was fun writing about the Silver Surfer, Spaghetti Westerns, and (yes, already!) straight edge. If Zizek gets away with it, why not me? Jenseits also caused something rather unique, namely, back-to-back reviews in one and the same journal. A first review in the now defunct Austrian Marxist quarterly Grundrisse tore the book apart so brutally that the editors felt bad and printed another, much more lenient one, in the following issue. Kind souls.
While I have written a number of articles and reviews on anarchism in English, most of my book publications on the topic have been in German.
‘Neuer Anarchismus’ in den USA. Seattle und die Folgen was released in 2008. It included first-time German translations of numerous authors, including a not-yet-famous David Graeber. It also brought me the longest book tour I ever did: 25 events in 33 days. And it earned me the 2008 Book of the Year award by Berlin’s Bibliothek der Freien. It is one of those awards that have about three contenders each year, but, hey, I’ve been able to call myself an award-winning author since, so no complaints!
Vielfalt, Bewegung Widerstand. Texte zum Anarchismus (2009) and Anarchismus und Revolution. Gespräche und Aufsätze (2017) are collections of articles and interviews. They were easy-to-do books for a limited but appreciative audience. Anarchismus und Revolution was reviewed on a blog called Das Mädchen im Park, a name that rivals “Glitzer und Krawall”.
Von Jakarta bis Johannesburg. Anarchismus weltweit (2010) would have deserved a wider audience. I edited it together with my good friend Sebastian Kalicha. We conducted interviews with fifty anarchists from around the world. Why ‘Neuer Anarchismus’ in den USA was significantly more popular is still a mystery to me. Perhaps people are indeed more interested in the USA than the world, even if that sounds very Trumpian. Some of the interviews got good traction after we published the English versions online. The one from Indonesia was translated into several languages, and a French translation of Mikhail Tsovma‘s interview on anarchism in Russia appeared in Le monde libertaire.
Der Anarchismus und seine Ideale (2013) is a translation of Cindy Milstein‘s Anarchism and Its Aspirations. The pamphlet Von post-zivilisiertem Leben und Städten, die keine sind. Visionen einer anarchistischen Zukunft (2013) is composed of essays by Margaret Killjoy, translated from the zine Dodgem Logic.
The only English book with “anarchism” in the title that I’ve been involved with is Pangayaw and Decolonizing Resistance: Anarchism in the Philippines (2020). I served as the editor, having known the author, Bas Umali, for fifteen years. I’m glad I could play a part in getting out one of the first English-language books by an anarchist author from the Global South.
Landauer / Mühsam / German Revolution
The volumes Revolution and Other Writings (2010) by Gustav Landauer, Liberating Society from the State and Other Writings (2011) by Erich Mühsam, and All Power to the Councils! A Documentary History of the German Revolution of 1918–1919 (2012) form an unofficial trilogy. The contents are related and the books have the same cover design and layout. They also have a common history.
It started with Chris Dunlap, an AK Press member when the PM Press founders still were at AK (don’t worry if it’s confusing), motivating his friend Stephen Bender to translate a few essays by Gustav Landauer. As Landauer is not the easiest chap to translate, I got involved when Stephen reached out for assistance. The result was the pamphlet Anarchism in Germany and Other Essays (2005).
There was talk about doing a Landauer book with AK Press, but AK seemed keener on a more general book about the German Revolution. In the end, AK brought out neither. I picked up the conversation again when PM Press was founded, with the result that we decided to do both and Mühsam on top of it.
I’m vain enough to believe that the structure of the Landauer and Mühsam books was somewhat innovative: I selected articles, letters, and diary entries, and compiled them in a way that would, with the help of introductory paragraphs and annotations, create a narrative. All Power to the Councils! followed the same pattern, although the common thread weren’t individual biographies but the revolutionary events in Germany at the end of World War I.
I was very happy that the books were well received in radical Jewish circles. I did a long interview on Landauer with Jewdas. The eminent Forward newspaper also covered the release. There was an article about the Landauer book in the Catholic Worker and reviews ranged from the Fifth Estate to Anarchist Studies to Choice. I translated some texts by Landauer on Oscar Wilde for the work of my friend James Horrox, author of the brilliant A Living Revolution: Anarchism in the Kibbutz Movement (2009).
Mühsam didn’t attract as much attention as Landauer, but the book appeared in surprising places, for example the master’s thesis ‘Tourism Rules Everything Around Me’: A Case Study on Alienation and Tourism in the Austrian Alps.
The venues I got to present the books in were rather diverse. In Stockholm, I spoke both at the Jewish Library and the Archive of the Workers’ Movement. After a talk at Housemans in London, I got a flattering stamp of approval by no other than Ian Bone, who called me “very affable and erudite” – and Landauer a “top geezer“.
Unsurprisingly, All Power to the Councils! attracted the interest of left communists. It was reviewed in journals like the Socialist Review, Workers Control, and the International Socialist Review. The editors of Brill’s Historical Materialism series invited me to do a volume, which I felt honored by, although I never had the time for it. I also was honored by the book being mentioned in the legendary communist Frontier magazine of India, listed in the “English-Language Bibliography” of the Bavarian Studies in History and Culture website, and serving as an inspiration for a poster honoring the Revolutionary Stewards (highly influential union organizers). Amazingly, a group of Chinese labor activists translated the book into Chinese. A French edition was released in 2014.
Antiimperialism has acquired a bad reputation, particularly in the German-speaking world: romanticizing, naive, antisemitic. There is some truth to that, but as imperialism is still quintessential for the global capitalist order, there is no anticapitalist struggle without antiimperialism. If my extended travels convinced me of one thing, that was it.
The main book I worked on in this context was Turning Money into Rebellion: The Unlikely Story of Denmark’s Revolutionary Bank Robbers (2014). It tells the tale of the so-called Blekingegade Group (or, as the sensationalist press likes to have it, the Blekingegade Gang), which had a unique approach among Europe’s antiimperialist groups of the 1970s and 80s. The robberies they committed and the circumstances of their arrest are of movie-like quality (there was indeed a fictionalized Danish TV series about them), but this is not what I focused on in Turning Money. Rather, the book is an “inside story“, based on long conversations with two former members, Torkil Lauesen and Jan Weimann.
I got the idea for the book after reading Peter Øvig Knudsen‘s bestseller Blekingegadebanden (2007). Knudsen’s volume was well-written and compelling, but it was dissatisfying from a political perspective. The only former member of the group he talked to (or, more precisely, who would talk to him) was the one who has made public amends for his involvement. This motivated me to look up other members, willing to tell their side of the story and explain their politics for an international audience. It was a great book to work on, with long, memorable meetings in Copenhagen.
Apart from the English edition, the book has come out in German, Swedish, and Greek. A Spanish translation, done by a Basque prisoner, is still awaiting publication. The audience of the book is small, but enthusiastic. Long reviews were written for the Monthly Review, The Primer, the Partisan newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada (PCR-RCP), and the blog of the Leading Light Communist Organization. On reddit, a reader stated that the Blekingegade Group was “like MIM in theory, but way better in practice“. Berlin’s radical bookstore Schwarze Risse recommended the book as a Christmas gift (that’s right), and the daily junge Welt offered it as a prize for crossword puzzlers. Canadian punk rock band The Fallout released a song, “Robin Hood”, inspired by it. Particularly heartening was to see one of the group’s slogans, “Solidarity is something you can hold in your hands“, being picked up by Rojava solidarity groups. The slogan was also used as the title of a pamphlet with selected texts from Turning Money and related writings, published by the Rhizzone Pamphlet Factory Thread.
Turning Money also inspired further publications. The Revolutionary Anti-Imperialist Movement teamed up with Kersplebedeb to bring out new editions of the booklets Marx and Engels on Colonies, Industrial Monopoly and the Working-Class Movement and V.I. Lenin on Imperialism and Opportunism, both originally compiled in 1972 by the Communist Working Circle, the legal organization the Blekingegade Group members belonged to.
Turning Money also aroused mainstream interest. Articles appeared in Sweden’s Aftonbladet, Austria’s Der Standard, and Switzerland’s Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The reactions in Denmark were summarized in a PM Press blog post.
Last but not least, working on Turning Money led to a continued collaboration with Torkil Lauesen, a rigorous analyst of imperialism to this day. I ended up translating two of his books, The Global Perspective: Reflections on Imperialism and Resistance (2018) and The Principal Contradiction (2020), into English, and one, Die globale Perspektive (2022) into German.
A remote fit in this category is the pamphlet Prison Round Trip (2009), a prison survival handbook, authored by Klaus Viehmann, a one-time member of the German urban guerrilla group Bewegung 2. Juni (dissolved in 1980). Viehmann, who wrote the preface for Turning Money, spent fifteen years in prison. The preface to Prison Round Trip was written by US political prisoner Bill Dunne, incarcerated since 1979. The pamphlet was reprinted in 4StruggleMag and is included in the Suggested Readings list of the Jericho Movement.
National and Indigenous Liberation
In 2016, I translated Oso Sabio’s book Rojava: An Alternative to Imperialism, Nationalism, and Islamism in the Middle East into German (now out of print). I felt it was a modest contribution to help draw attention to one of the most important national liberation struggles of our time. I also translated chapters from the Lower Class Magazine book Hinter den Barrikaden. Eine Reise durch Nordkurdistan im Krieg (2016): a text titled “We Want Peace. But We Will Not Surrender“, and “We Will Intensify the Guerrilla’s Activities“, an interview with Bese Hozat, co-chair of the Group of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) and leading PKK member.
In 2020, the book Liberating Sápmi: Indigenous Resistance in Europe’s Far North was released. The work on it was extremely rewarding, allowing me to visit a breathtaking area and meet with wonderful people. Initially, I struggled with the idea of doing a book about the Sámi as a non-Sámi, but, as someone now living in the north of Europe, I saw an opportunity to inform an international audience about a regional topic I consider to be of great importance. It was the support I got from within the Sámi community that made the book possible; two thirds of it consist of interviews with Sámi activists, artists, and scholars. Together with some of the people I interviewed, I did a few podcasts upon the book’s release, listed on the Audio/Video page.
From an anticapitalist and socialist perspective, class does not indicate one form of oppression alongside others. As adaptable as capitalism might be, it cannot do away with class contradictions; they are an inherent part of the capitalist system. Class struggle, therefore, remains key for revolutionary action.
In 2009, I translated a few essays from the Swedish anthology En knuten näve i fickan: om klass, normer och vänstern into German. En knuten näve i fickan addressed middle-class dominance within the left, a problem that extends far beyond the personal discomfort it may cause working-class people, as it jeopardizes the entire leftist project and is a major reason for the left’s decline. The translations were published by the great people of Syndikat-A in a pamphlet titled Mit geballter Faust in der Tasche. Klassenkonflikte in der Linken – Debatten aus Schweden. It was covered in a number of working-class outlets such as the blogs Klassismus and Ten Thousand Spoons as well as the journals Dishwasher and Barrikade. It also appeared in the widely spread article “Prololesben und Arbeiter*innentöchter” by Tanja Abou (online on the blog Mädchenmannschaft), and inspired Arslan Tschulanov‘s contribution to the book Solidarisch gegen Klassismus (2020), titled “Die geballte Faust aus der Tasche holen – Klassismus innerhalb der deutschen Linken”. Radio Helsinki in Graz and A-Radio in Wien broadcasted features based on the pamphlet, and there were a couple of public readings, for example in Berlin’s Tante Horst café.
Based on the German pamphlet, André Moncourt compiled one in English, named Clenched Fists, Empty Pockets: True Life Experiences of Working-Class Activists in the Middle-Class Left. It caused a well-known anarchist comrade from Quebec, Nicolas Phebus, to write a very engaging personal piece. French-speaking comrades translated two of the essays for the book Refuser de parvenir: idées et pratiques (2016).
I also translated parts of the 2017 edition of David Gilbert‘s essay Looking at the U.S. White Working Class Historically to bring out an abridged German edition, Die weiße Arbeiterklasse, rechte Gefahren und linker Widerstand – Erfahrungen aus den USA (2018). Once again, the pamphlet was published and distributed by the fine folks of Syndikat-A.
In 2019, the book Wobblies. Politik und Geschichte der IWW appeared in the series Klassiker der Sozialrevolte of Unrast Verlag. Reviews appeared in outlets such as Solid: Flugschrift der IWW Wien, CulturMag, and Neues Deutschland.
The German autonomous movement played a crucial role in my politicization. In 2009, two comrades and I formed the editorial collective ak wantok with the intention to bring out a book about the current state of the autonomous movement – and, ideally, to breathe new life into it. The result was Perspektiven autonomer Politik (2010), which included contributions from around fifty comrades. I don’t know if we managed to breathe much new life into the autonomous movement, but we got to speak to a Rolling Stone journalist, and someone on revleft.com called the book “really, really awesome“, so there was some outcome.
In 2011, I was asked to translate Feuer und Flamme, a classic account of the German autonomous movement, authored by longtime participant Geronimo (apparently, named after a friend’s dog, not the Apache freedom fighter). PM Press had announced an English edition before discovering that the translation that had been handed to them was incomplete and faulty. I did a new one and wrote an afterword. It was nice to get involved, since I had devoured the book as a 19-year-old and got to know the author quite well. The title of the English edition is Fire and Flames: A history of the German Autonomist Movement.
For the lack of any other better fitting category, I am also including the books VerkehrsMachtOrdnung. Zur Kritik des Mobilitätsparadigmas (2015) and The Traffic Power Structure (2016) here. They are, respectively, the German and English translations of the book Trafikmaktordningen by planka.nu, everyone’s favorite Swedish activist group. Planka campaigns for free public transport and runs a freeriders’ union. Folks who have shown interest in the book reach from Polish bloggers and Belgian urban developers to writers for Peace News and the Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsgeographie.
Before Antifa became a household name in the United States, it was known as the “entry drug” into radical politics in Europe. Antifa (short for “antifascist“) groups soared in the 1990s, and the abbreviation Antira was soon used in a similar way for antiracist groups.
The book Tötet den Bullen in eurem Kopf! Zur US-amerikanischen Linken, White Supremacy und Black Autonomy (2009) contains translations of Greg Jackson and the Black Autonomy project. It was kind of an addition to ‘Neuer Anarchismus’ in den USA. While working on the latter, I had gathered material I found to be of great importance but couldn’t fit into the book. So I decided to do an extra one. I am still disappointed that it didn’t find a wider audience despite antiracism receiving much attention in radical German-speaking circles. It seems to confirm my impression that the related debates are often academic and rather abstract, with little connection to on-the-ground organizing. Of course, that impression might be nothing but a rationalization of the disappointment that this particular title didn’t find more readers. Still, it really should have!
In 2014, ak wantok gave out another book, under circumstances similar to those of Tötet den Bullen. While working on Perspektiven autonomer Politik, we got our hands on quite a lot of material on Antifa Genclik, a migrant antifa organization in Germany from the early 1990s. We couldn’t fit everything into Perspektiven but felt the material should be published. So, we decided to do Antifa Gençlik. Eine Dokumentation [1989-1994]. I am happy we did. And this title has been read! It went into a second edition in 2020 and has played its part in inspiring a new generation of “Migrantifa” groups, whose reasons for existence are, sadly, as relevant as they were thirty years ago. Props to Cagri Kahveci, who not only wrote an afterword but also traveled around Germany for presentations.
In 2015, I translated a manuscript by Matthew N. Lyons, which appeared in German as Arier Patriarchen Übermenschen. Die extreme Rechte in den USA. Lyons, who has been running the Three Way Fight blog since 2004, used parts of the manuscript for his 2018 book Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire.
Another translation I did related to Antifa/Antira was that of Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor‘s book From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, which came out in German in 2017 under an almost identical title, Von #BlackLivesMatter zu Black Liberation (2017). The book was reviewed by media outlets far beyond the usual radical circles, for example Deutschlandfunk and Spiegel Online.
The novel david oder die lust am hassen (1992) is a title I am tempted to deny. Fortunately enough, it is out of print. Yet, I am obsessive enough about making “complete lists” indeed complete, so I have no choice but list it. I was very young when I wrote it (18), and maybe it wasn’t that great of an idea to have it published. Then again, maybe it’s not even that bad? I haven’t touched it in a long time and, many years ago, threw the last copies I had into a recycling bin (save two). The primary purpose of writing the book was therapeutic. It was a literary way of handling the frustration and anger I had accumulated during my years in school. I don’t think I come across as very likeable – which I probably wasn’t.
For-Giving. Schenken und Vergeben: Eine feministische Theorie des Tauschs (2008), authored by Genevieve Vaughan, was the first big translation I did. It’s very second-wave feminism, which I was strongly influenced by during my politicization. In that sense, it was fitting. The work also made me realize that, ironically, translating books allowed me to make more money than writing them.
In November 2021, a history of the Swedish left appeared in German under the title, well, Die Linke in Schweden. The book is part of a series about the left in various countries/regions, released by Vienna publisher Mandelbaum.
(Page last updated: December 1, 2022)