Everything Is Just Dandy!

Tom Nomad – The Master’s Tools

The Anarchist Library

2022 04 15

Author: Tom Nomad
Title: The Master’s Tools
Subtitle: Warfare and Insurgent Possibility
Date: 2013
Notes: The Master’s Tools was originally published by Little Black Cart and can be found in book form here.
Source: Retrieved on 23rd May 2021 from libcom.org


The following collection of essays began their current evolution around 2005, when some anarchists began a concentrated study of police tactics, largely born out of necessity in the moment, but becoming over time a focus for some of us. The first of the following texts, A Primer On Police Crowd-Con- trol Tactics and Frameworks was released in 2007, in the lead-up to the October Rebellion demonstrations in Washington DC. It has been updated numerous times over the years, appearing under a variety of titles depending on the context of its distribution, which almost always occurred person-to-person at gatherings and workshops. At the time that these initial writings were being done anarchist praxis and direct action still operated under the assumption of the primacy of mass street actions. As the summit era ended, the understanding of street actions became more nuanced and these studies on tactics moved beyond looking at crowd control and police procedure into discussions and research projects about policing on a broad and theoretical level, attempting to construct ways to understand particular police operations in particular moments in the most nuanced way possible, to find a way out of the tactical impasse that seemed to have gripped the scene after 2010 (a situation not helped by the problematic tactical assumptions and police collaboration that saturated much of Occupy).

When people started moving away from the assumption of street actions, and beyond mass movements (and their imposed, policed pacifism), they began to focus on isolated acts of property destruction, and approached property destruction as a primary objective, in isolation of the tactical effectiveness of these actions in reference to broader tactical dynamics. Combined with a mentality centered on affectivity, the subjective desires that lead to action and the affective benefits of action led to a form of analysis completely separating the dynamics of the action from the terrain of the action, and totally eviscerating any ability to even begin to discuss effectiveness. Oddly enough, even though this approach to action began its trajectory with a rejection of pacifism, these people came to replicate the exact same structure; their actions became isolated from their dynamics and context and became nothing but the manifestation of some concept, some ethical or subjective imperative. Far from a conscious engagement with insurgency, action became reduced to some odd politics of complaint, directly replicating activist complaint, but through the medium of broken glass. This question is dealt with in the second essay, “Beyond Property Destruction,” which was released in the summer of 2012 around the Radical Convergence in Philadelphia.

All of this is an attempt to push tactical discourses and narratives into a discourse of effectiveness, and this necessarily means a fundamental shift away from activism and into a mentality grounded in insurgency, a tactical, immediate, and material confrontation with the state, or its material possibility, the police. But, to begin to engage with the materiality of police and policing we need to shift away from a tendency in radical thought to analyze police based on a sociological-historical framework, in which spatially and temporally disparate moments are brought together into a single narrative of the police as such. When this occurs we obscure the particular dynamics of police actions in a particular time and space, and fail to have the discussion of what insurgency and effective action could look like in that terrain. What is Policing?, a new essay that appears at the end of this collection, engages this question through a broader discussion of insurgency and tactical fluidity, the necessity of thinking of police as a mobile logistics of force attempting to occupy all possible space, which necessarily fails, leaving gaps in coverage and conflict in its wake; this conflict and these gaps and the very impossibility of total policing, and thus the very possibility of insurgency.

Following the main body of the text there are also three appendices that build off some of the narratives presented in the main text. We Give A Shit! is an analysis of the actions that occurred during the Pittsburgh G20 demonstrations, and an analysis of how police logistics were almost stretched to the point of rupture. This piece began as an internal document to a single cluster, as a working paper contributing to a series of wider analyses. “Tactical Terrain Analysis: A How-To Guide” discusses ways to framework a nu- anced analysis of the terrain structured through action and policing, and aims to provide some tools and present some methods that have been used in this sort of analysis in the past. The final appendix is an introductory reading list for those who want to move on in this sort of analysis, which I fully encourage. No single text could possibly fully discuss the nuance and conflict of tactical terrain and how to understand it: this text is best approached as one of innumerable possible narratives. The more we engage in this sort of analysis, the more eyes and ears we bring to it, the more detailed our analysis can be and the more effective our actions can be. But, it is not just a conceptual shift that must occur, away from hypothetical discussions of theory and into a focus on the materiality of conflict and insurgency, but also a tactical shift, away from the politics of complaint, even if that complaint is amplified through breaking stuff, and into a more focused discourse based in effectiveness and the immediacy of insurgency.