Beginning with a tragic car crash accident feels like a strange way to introduce a collection of political essays. But it is with this strange beginning that the reader is really given insight into the curious mind of Natasha Lennard. After memorialising the friend lost to this fatal accident, she refers to cultural theorist Paul Virilio who sees accidents as an inevitable aspect of invention: invent the car, invent the car crash. The seemingly irrelevant introduction leads to the root of the coming essays. Lennard expands on Virilio, by arguing that current growth of fascism is the accident inherent to the invention of liberal capitalism. As capitalism has spread through every avenue of our lives, in order to exist non-fascistically – as the title calls for – one must actively practice non-fascistic ideals in your everyday life. Making the seemingly irrelevant extremely relevant to Lennard’s philosophy on life.
Natasha Lennard is a journalist and teacher at The New School for Research – the private non-profit university which critical theory has a strong grounding in The Frankfurt School – who from her own accounts practices the radical views that she preaches. Lennard was involved the 2011 Occupy Movement, the Dakota Access Pipeline protests at Standing Rock, and a long-standing active member of Antifa. And if she wasn’t there herself one of her many fellow activists in arms were. Her protest history, and continued involvement is not only impressive, but important as too many published theorists spout activist rhetoric without actively involving themselves.
This collection of essays attests to Lennard’s commitment to a non-fascist life. Lennard uses anecdotes, theory and facts to present an argument for living, sleeping, breathing the anti-racist, anti-capitalist, queer feminist politics, she espouses. Delivering the same introspective theoretical lens for protestor’s rights as she does her sex life, and experiences with ghosts. As it is a collection of previously written work it can be forgiven for not flowing smoothly from one to the next. But her approach through her politics is consistent on all subject matter brought to light. Lennard is a writer whose consistent unwavering political analysis demonstrates her commitment to the life the title suggests.
While the examples used are mainly from the USA’s protest front lines, the points made are easily transported and unpacked across the pond. With the recent debates centring around XRs tactics, Lennard’s essays serve as an important reminder to protesters to be wary of police and the arm of the law. One example used is the mass arrest from Disrupt J20 March, in which 214 protestors were arrested with felony charges. As the trials unfurled it became apparent that the majority of evidence brought against the arrested was flimsily based on their black attire and footage of their continued presence in the march. Whilst many of those arrested were acquitted due to the weak evidence presented by the prosecution. The Disrupt J20 March is emblematic of the length’s government is willing to go and the power that the law is willing to exert over leftist protestors.
Police tactics in the USA are more explicitly brutal however the disdain towards the force is one that should be echoed in England, as there are still instances of police brutality and an ongoing threat to black life by the UK police force. Lennard holds the position, which she argues for vehemently throughout the essay collection, that counterviolence is a necessary tool in the non-fascist’s life. Demanding that police brutality should not be met by peaceful response, as institutional violence cannot be met with civility. Lennard is often mocking of the neoliberal hypocrisy that discourages punching Nazis claiming pacifism whilst dropping bombs on countries is seen as a necessary tool for ‘peace’, the NIMBYism of violence. For anyone looking for a well-articulated reasoning for punching Nazis look no further than this book.
The descriptions of the activists she engages with breathes life into her politics. Standing Rock activist, Rattler, the narrative of etymology of this name leaves you momentarily forgetting you are in a political work rather than a brilliant novel. Lennard’s attention to personal details reinforce the view that the personal is political, although she takes this idea on in a new manor. Stating that the personal is political not merely because our personal issues are political, but because personhood in itself is political. Especially now, especially in Trump’s America, in immigration-brexit obsessed UK who is granted personhood is political.
Most of the views that she underlines in the book such as a defiance towards heteronormativity and careerism, as well as the advocation for punching Nazis, are not new ideas. But it is her tying them to the radical left anti-fascist ideology and grounding them in practical actions that makes this book so uniquely inspiring. It is the interconnectedness that revitalises radical left politics and inspires its reader. Reminding you that politics is not a grandiose battle fought on abstract ground but one that takes place every day.
Being Numerous: Essays on Non-Fascist Life by Natasha Lennard is now available in all bookstores of good taste and here.
Words, Billie Walker – @queen.feta