Red Pepper Book Review: Turbulent Tome

What Would it Mean to Win? by Turbulence Collective (PM Press), reviewed by James O’Nions

Since 2007, the Turbulence Collective has produced five issues of Turbulence: Ideas for Movement. It’s a newspaper-format journal of political theory, reflections on organising and debate that comes unmistakably from the recent anti-capitalist or alterglobalisation movement. Indeed, the first issue was produced specifically for the big mobilisation around the G8 summit in Heilingendamm, Germany in July 2007. It’s that issue of Turbulence that is reproduced in this book.

So why publish in book form something that was produced for a particular moment three years ago? There are undoubtedly some valuable articles here. The collective’s politics are the kind of ‘new anarchism’ that has enlivened the alterglobalisation movement – drawing strongly on autonomist Marxism, post-structuralism and the practice of the Zapatistas. Yet the articles don’t remain on a plane of complex theory but, in the main, relate this to concrete problems of organising. They range from a conversation between two union organisers in the US about the ‘Justice for Janitors’ organising model of the Service Employees International Union to analyses of the idea of a basic citizen’s income, solidarity economics and the intriguingly titled ‘politicising sadness’.

On the down side, the authors (both of this book and other issues of Turbulence) are largely based in the academy, which sometimes produces language that’s obscure to those not steeped in theory. This book also contains only one contribution by a woman, which is partly written to address the issue that she is the only woman contributor.

It’s possible to read most of this book online (, though the interview with two of the editors at the end, which wasn’t in the original publication, is a worthwhile addition.

I did wonder why they didn’t put together a collection drawn from all five issues so far – after all, the theme running through this one is fairly loose. Nevertheless, the Turbulence project is a thoughtful and valuable contribution to the radical libertarian left and the practice of movement-building, of use to open-minded leftists across the spectrum.

James O’Nions is co-editor of Red Pepper.

This review of our book, What Would it Mean to Win?, was published in the December/January 2011 issue of Red Pepper magazine. The original version of the review can be found via the Red Pepper website here. Further discussion of Turbulence can be found here.

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