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Review by Dana Barnett
Originally published by Toward Freedom.
Nov. 25, 2009.
Reviewed: Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back, by Diana Block. Published by AK Press, 2009.

“We had gone underground in the early eighties, not a high-tide period for revolutionary activity in the US. Unlike the people who had formed the Weather Underground Organization in the sixties, we were not swept into clandestinity as a response to the Vietnam War or the militancy of the Black Panthers…As we saw it, armed struggle was still a necessary component of every revolutionary movement, and the movement within the US was no exception.” – Diana Block

How do we decide where to put our political energy? For many of us on the left our politicization began with critiques of the dominant ideology. Our critiques may have been a result of formal education, though for many our critiques were lifeboats we clung to keep from drowning in the chasm between what we were told and what we experienced. Upon confronting contradictions we look for explanations. We attempt to deconstruct the world and then reconstruct it to make sense of it and find our place in it. We make our underlying ideologies conscious. We develop our analysis and principles and then attempt to act in a way that is aligned with their logical conclusions.

As leftist revolutionaries we ask ourselves the same questions at different times in our history. What is to be done? What does revolutionary work look like in our time and what is my role within it?

Diana Block’s memoir, Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back, is an example of a leftist making sense of the world around her, attempting to act with integrity, and searching for political strategy and home. The memoir moves easily back and forth between two aspects of her story. The book begins with Block’s partner, Claude Marks, finding a bug in their car in 1985 after several years of organizing and living clandestinely, and only two months after she gave birth to their first child. This main narrative details her life underground and her re-emergence and re-engagement with organizing from 1995 to the present. It is interspersed with the back story of Block’s experiences, politics, and the context that led to her decision to form a clandestine revolutionary collective to support Third World anti-colonialist armed struggles. Block’s book is her answer to the question of what it means to be a revolutionary in one’s own time. In particular, Block analyzes her role as a white person in the US with feminist, lesbian/queer, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist politics.

I do not feel compelled to use this book, or this review, as a site to evaluate the usefulness of clandestine work, or the question of armed struggle. Read the rest of this entry »

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