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George Katsiaficas


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George Katsiaficas is author or editor of eleven books, including ones on the global uprising of 1968 and European social movements. Together with Kathleen Cleaver, he co-edited Liberation, Imagination and the Black Panther Party. A longtime activist for peace and justice, he was a student of Herbert Marcuse. Currently, he is based at Chonnam National University in Gwangju, South Korea, and at Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston. 

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The Global Imagination of 1968: Revolution and Counterrevolution
Author: George Katsiaficas • Preface by Kathleen Cleaver • Foreword by Carlos Muñoz
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-439-5
Published: 01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 352
Subjects: Political Science / History
$24.95


This book brings to life social movements of the 1960s, a period of world-historical struggles. With discussions of more than fifty countries, Katsiaficas articulates an understanding that is neither bounded by national and continental divides nor focused on “Great Men and Women.” Millions of people went into the streets in the 1960s and their aspirations were remarkably similar. From the Prague revolt against Soviet communism to the French May uprising, the Vietnam Tet offensive, African anticolonial insurgencies, the civil rights movement, and campus eruptions in Latin America, Mexico, Yugoslavia, and the United States, this book portrays the movements of the sixties as intuitively tied together.

Student movements challenged authorities in almost every country, giving the insurgency a global character, and contemporary feminist, Latino, and gay liberation movements all came to life. A focus on the French general strike of May 1968 and the U.S. movement’s high point in 1970 from the May campus strike to the revolt in the military, workers’ wildcat strikes, the national women’s strike, Chicano Moratorium, and Black Panthers’ Revolutionary Peoples’ Constitutional Convention in September reveals the revolutionary aspirations of the insurgencies in the core of the world system. Despite the apparent failure of the movements of 1968, their profound influence on politics, culture, and social movements continues to be felt today. As globally synchronized uprisings occur with increasing frequency in the twenty-first century, the lessons of 1968 provide useful insights for future struggles.

Praise:

“A well informed survey of the global ‘New Left’ of 1968.”
—Eric Hobsbawm, author of The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914–1991

“George Katsiaficas’s work presents an understanding how we of the New Left used our education as a practice of freedoms: confronting the racist, warmongering status quo with the objective of creative participatory democracy. As we continue to work toward cooperational humanism here at home and the world over, this insightful analysis provides a useful backdrop for social activism and the struggle for future democratic human rights.”
–Bobby Seale, former chairman and cofounder of the Black Panther Party

“This is the best book on the New Left, the only truly global history that historicizes the social movements of the Sixties. It is both a cautionary tale and a guide for dark times that require imaginative resistance. This new edition could not have come at a better time.”
—Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960–1975

“By including feminism prominently in the global insurgency of 1968, this book gives us comprehensive understanding of the broad mobilization that was at the heart of the movement. Everywhere in the world, people simultaneously challenged wars, racism, and archaic politics and also patterns of domination in everyday life.”
—Mariarosa Dalla Costa, professor emerita, University of Padua, and theorist of Wages for Housework

“Of all the many studies of the wave of radicalism marking the so-called long sixties, The Global Imagination of 1968 ranks among the very best. Nothing else rivals the lucidity and succinctness with which Katsiaficas captures not only the liberatory vision but the sheer vibrancy with which the period's global movement was imbued. The book should be considered essential reading by all who seek transformative change.”
—Ward Churchill, author and activist


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Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century
Author: George Katsiaficas
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-457-1
Published: April 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 480 Pages
Subjects: History-Asia, Politics
$28.95


Using social movements as a prism to illuminate the oft-hidden history of 20th century Korea, this book provides detailed analysis of major uprisings that have patterned that country’s politics and society. From the 1894 Tonghak Uprising through the March 1, 1919, independence movement and anti-Japanese resistance, a direct line is traced to the popular opposition to U.S. division of Korea after World War II. The overthrow of Syngman Rhee in 1960, resistance to Park Chung-hee, the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, as well as student, labor, and feminist movements are all recounted with attention to their economic and political contexts. South Korean opposition to neoliberalism is portrayed in detail, as is an analysis of neoliberalism’s rise and effects. With a central focus on the Gwangju Uprising (that ultimately proved decisive in South Korea’s democratization), the author uses Korean experiences as a baseboard to extrapolate into the possibilities of global social movements in the twenty-first century.

Previous English language sources have emphasized leaders—whether Korean, Japanese, or American. This book emphasizes grassroots crystallization of counter-elite dynamics and notes how the intelligence of ordinary people surpasses that of political and economic leaders holding the reins of power. It is the first volume in a two-part study that concludes by analyzing in rich detail uprisings in nine other places: the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia. Richly illustrated, with tables, charts, graphs, index, and footnotes.

Praise:

"George Katsiaficas has written a majestic account of political uprisings and social movements in Asia—an important contribution to the literature on both Asian studies and social change that is highly-recommended reading for anyone concerned with these fields of interest. The work is well-researched, clearly-argued, and beautifully written, accessible to both academic and general readers." 
— Prof. Carl Boggs, author of The Crimes of Empire and Imperial Delusions

“This book makes a unique contribution to Korean Studies because of its social movements’ prism. It will resonate well in Korea and will also serve as a good introduction to Korea for outsiders. By providing details on 20th century uprisings, Katsiaficas provides insights into the trajectory of social movements in the future.” 
— Na Kahn-chae, Director, May 18 Institute, Gwangju, South Korea

“This book about people's power movements in Asia over the last sixty years makes the case, convincingly, that they should be seen as part of the worldwide new left. Reading it will broaden the perspective of activists and analysts in North America and Europe, a very important task.”
—Immanuel Wallerstein, Senior Research Scholar, Yale University
 
“Visionary historian George Katsiaficas writes like a novelist with the eye for detail of a poet and the moral weight of a philosopher. He has circled the globe applying his seminal theory of the Eros Effect. Asia’s Unknown Uprisings is the latest chapter of his grand epic. Like Pablo Neruda’s Canto General, Katsiaficas’s works are a blueprint for hope for “all the peoples struggling for freedom.”
—Richard Cambridge, author of One Shot News—Poetry of Conscience
 
“In Asia’s Unknown Uprisings, George Katsiaficas inspires readers with an exciting yet scholarly examination of the rise and interlinking of mass revolutionary waves of struggle. In no way Pollyannaish, Katsiaficas presents readers with an analysis of the successes and failures of these late twentieth-century movements. In view of the phenomenal Arab democratic uprisings begun in late 2010 and early 2011, Katsiaficas’s analysis is profoundly relevant in helping us understand how the metaphorical flight of a butterfly in one part of the planet can contribute to a metaphoric hurricane thousands of miles away.”
—Bill Fletcher, Jr., coauthor of Solidarity Divided, and BlackCommentator.com editorial board member

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Fire and Flames: A History of the German Autonomist Movement
$19.95
Author: Geronimo, with an introduction by George Katsiaficas and afterword by Gabriel Kuhn
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-097-9
Published May 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 208 Pages
Subjects: Politics-Activism/History-Europe


Fire and Flames was the first comprehensive study of the German autonomous movement ever published. Released in 1990, it reached its fifth edition by 1997, with the legendary German Konkret journal concluding that "the movement had produced its own classic." The author, writing under the pseudonym of Geronimo, has been an autonomous activist since the movement burst onto the scene in 1980-81. In this book, he traces its origins in the Italian Autonomia project and the German social movements of the 1970s, before describing the battles for squats, "free spaces," and alternative forms of living that defined the first decade of the autonomous movement. Tactics of the "Autonome" were militant, including the construction of barricades or throwing molotov cocktails at the police. Because of their outfit (heavy black clothing, ski masks, helmets), the Autonome were dubbed the “Black Bloc” by the German media, and their tactics have been successfully adopted and employed at anti-capitalist protests worldwide.

Fire and Flames is no detached academic study, but a passionate, hands-on, and engaging account of the beginnings of one of Europe's most intriguing protest movements of the last thirty years. An introduction by George Katsiaficas, author of The Subversion of Politics and an afterword by Gabriel Kuhn, a long-time autonomous activist and author, add historical context and an update on the current state of the Autonomen.

Praise:

"The target audience is not the academic middle-class with passive sympathies for rioting, nor the all-knowing critical critics, but the activists of a young generation." —Edition I.D. Archiv

"Some years ago, an experienced autonomous activist from Berlin sat down, talked to friends and comrades about the development of the scene, and, with Fire and Flames, wrote the best book about the movement that we have." —Düsseldorfer Stadtzeitung für Politik und Kultur

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Asia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 2: People Power in the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand, and Indonesia, 1947–2009
Author: George Katsiaficas
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-488-5
Published April 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 520 Pages
Subjects: History-Asia, Politics
$28.95


Ten years in the making, this book provides a unique perspective on uprisings in nine places in East Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. While the 2011 Arab Spring is well known, the wave of uprisings that swept East Asia in the 1980s became hardly visible. This book begins with an overview of late 20th century history—the context within which Asian uprisings arose. Through a critique of Samuel Huntington’s notion of a “Third Wave” of democratization, the author relates Asian uprisings to predecessors in 1968 and shows their subsequent influence on the wave of uprisings that swept Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s. By empirically reconstructing the specific history of each Asian uprising, significant insight into major constituencies of change and the trajectories of these societies becomes visible.

It is difficult to find comprehensive histories of any one of these uprisings, yet this book provides detailed histories of uprisings in nine places (the Philippines, Burma, Tibet, China, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Thailand and Indonesia) as well as introductory and concluding chapters that place them in a global context and analyze them in light of major sociological theories. Richly illustrated, with tables, charts, chronologies, graphs, index and footnotes.

Praise:

“George Katsiaficas has written a majestic account of political uprisings and social movements in Asia—an important contribution to the literature on both Asian studies and social change that is highly-recommended reading for anyone concerned with these fields of interest. The work is well-researched, clearly-argued, and beautifully written, accessible to both academic and general readers.”
—Carl Boggs, author of The Crimes of Empire and Imperial Delusions

“George Katsiaficas is America's leading practitioner of the method of 'participant-observation,' acting with and observing the movements that he is studying. This study of People Power is a brilliant narrative of the present as history from below. It is a detailed account of the struggle for freedom and social justice, encompassing the different currents, both reformist and revolutionary, in a balanced study that combines objectivity and commitment. Above all, he presents the beauty of popular movements in the process of self-emancipation.”
—James Petras, professor of sociology at Binghamton University

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Blog (Author's Blog)

  • Managing the North Korean Crisis
    On April 10, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned North Korea that it “has been, with its bellicose rhetoric, with its actions, skating very close to a dangerous line.”

 

What Others are Saying

Reviews

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
By Sun Chul-Kim
The Journal of Asian Studies
Volume 72 / Issues 03 / August 2013
pp733-734

Designed as the first of a two-volume serial on “Asia’s unknown uprisings,” South Korean Social Movements in the 20th Century is an ambitious attempt at chronicling the long history of popular struggle in South Korea, as well as revealing the universal logic behind it. From the Tonghak Farmers’ War of 1894 to the Candlelight Protests in 2008, the book covers a broad range of popular mobilization in Korea across more than a century’s span. The book is organized into thirteen chapters in chronological order, with eight chapters devoted to the popular struggles of the last three decades.

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
By Michael Novick
Turning the Tide
September 2013

Katsiaficas’s history of South Korea’s “long Twentieth Century” of rebellions and insurgencies (from the Farmers’ War of 1894 to the 2008 candlelight protests of over a million Koreans, ignited by teenaged girls protesting the neo-liberal import of U.S. beef) is must reading. I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is well-sourced, clearly-written, and fascinating in its detail about the role of South Korea’s lumpen, farmers, youth and women, as well as factory and office workers, in wave after wave of massive clashes with the puppet regime aand the U.S. itself.

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fireFire and Flames: A Review
By Rob Jacobs
Counterpunch
Weekend Edition July 5-7, 2013

Fire and Flames is introduced by George Katsiaficas, author of The Global Imagination of 1968 and several other books examining various protest movements around the globe, including his look at the European squatters’ movement of the 1980s.  The choice of Katsiaificas is an intelligent one.  His approach to modern social movements extends well beyond a traditional Marxist-Leninist or anarchist understanding.  The phenomenon he calls the “eros effect” is similar to what Immanuel Wallerstein calls “antisystemic movements.”  While incorporating a Marxian analysis of capitalism and its history and its mechanics, both reject the approach to systemic change experienced in previous modern revolutions.  In other words, for these men the vanguardist model is dead.  Meanwhile, both consider the changes in consciousness and culture brought on by the events of 1968 (and in Wallerstein’s thesis, 1848 as well) to be intrinsically revolutionary in a perhaps even greater sense than the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th century and the Leninist ones of the 20th.ions. Along with the text are numerous graphics, photos, and posters from the movement.

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
By Michael Munk
Socialism & Democracy, 2013
Vol. 27, No. 1
pg. 203-207

The highlight of the book is its intimate and detailed analysis of the 1980 Gwangju Uprising. Katsiaficas spent several years in the city since 1999, and regards it as his “Korean hometown” where, in his words, “I was a public figure whose views were well known because my books were translated and I therefore had the privilege to be granted insider status in movement circles.” He regards the significance of Gwangju to be “comparable to the Paris Commune of 1871” (xxii) and a paradigmatic example of the eros effect. “Historically speaking,” he writes, “the Gwangju People’s Uprising of 1980 is the pivotal moment around which dictatorship was transformed into democracy.” Students joined with workers, even the white-collar “necktie brigade,” to take over the city from the brutal military junta. That junta had come to power through a US-backed coup against the short-lived popular government that followed the student-inspired overthrow of Rhee in 1961. For several weeks in May, according to Katsiaficas, the Minjung4 community demonstrated “the spontaneous chain reaction of people coming to each other’s assistance, the erotic occupation of public space, and the loving embrace in which the city united nearly everyone in it,” all of which constituted “one of the twentieth century’s clearest expressions of the capacity of millions of ordinary people to govern themselves beautifully and with grace” (164). His analysis of the Gwangju uprising comprises about 100 of the book’s 420 pages, but its impact informs the entire work.

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fireFire and Flames: A Review
Vancouver Media Co-op
September 24th, 2012

Unlike Katsiaficas' more academic writing, Geronimo's account of the movement's history and development is not that of a professional writer but of an active participant. He presents this history in a highly readable and accessible manner, with short sections devoted to particular campaigns that had considerable impacts on both the movement and W. German society (i.e., the anti-nuclear, squatting, and urban guerrilla struggles).

Included in this history is the development of street fighting techniques from the 1970s to the black bloc tactic of the 1980s (a tactic that first emerged in W. Germany), a fact that led to W. German cops becoming some of the most experienced in riot control in all of Western Europe. There are also accounts of the inherent conflicts with social democrats, liberal pacifists, etc. during campaigns and mobilizations. Along with the text are numerous graphics, photos, and posters from the movement.

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
by Rob Jacobs
Counterpunch.org
Weekend Edition, October 12-14th, 2012

The first volume of Asia’s Unknown Uprisings is an important book. For too long, western historians, activists and students of history have focused mostly on their own histories. This has created a myopic vision and understanding that has limited historians’ ability to analyze their world and social justice activists’ ability to change it. This study has been a long time coming. The scholarship and pen of George Katsiaficas has made it worth the wait.

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
by H. T. Wong
CHOICE: Journal of SOCIAL & BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES
October 2012

His 160-plus interviews include only citizen activists. Korea's deep authoritarian political and social roots were not created by the US. The US military has shielded South Korea from hostile totalitarian North Korea. Thirteen chapters explore major Korean uprisings from the 1894 Rice War to the 2008 Candlelight Protest, Jeju and Yeosun Insurrections, and the overthrow, assassination, and incarceration of Korean presidents. There are 34 tables and 11 charts, graphs, and maps.

Summing Up: Recommended. For general readers and undergraduates, because it fills a void in English-language studies on Korea.

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asiasAsia's Unknown Uprisings Volume 1: A Review
APOC Love
July 1, 2012

Katsiaficas starts off this work with a preface that both explains his political background and personal experiences and interest in Korea.  It annoyed me a bit, especially when he wrote “My overwhelming sense is that Korea is simultaneously the most civil society I have ever experienced and the most Americanized Asian country I have ever visited.”  (xxiv)  But I appreciated his being upfront, and felt that it helped put his perspective into place, and as I got into the main part of the work, his personal narrative dropped off for the most part.

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