A Brilliant Red Thread: Revolutionary Writings From Don Hamerquist

By Don Hamerquist

[C]apitalism will not topple “through … exhaustion.” It will not “stop running on its own.” It must be overthrown by a politically conscious, mass counter-force, and the primary issue for us concerns how such a force might develop…
—from “Financialization and Hegemony”

From the Communist Party of the 1950s, to autonomous European movements in 68 and the revolutionary armed liberation movements of the ’70s and ’80s, to the antifascist organizing of ARA in the ’90s, to cutting-edge analysis of the fallout of on-going capitalist crisis, right up to today, Don Hamerquist’s biography reads like a history of the post-war US radical left. But Hamerquist is not some political scenester, being blown by the winds of whatever latest fashion. Instead, he uses his decades of experience in collective struggle to analyze a world constantly in motion, always living his own advice to “look at what is new” – not a simple quest for novelty, but a prophylactic against getting mired in old left debates which are grounded in a world that no longer exists. Bridging gaps, sorting wheat from chaff, Hamerquist calls on those who (like him) still identify as Leninists to recognize the failures of the vanguard party and “actually existing socialism,” while also calling on anarchists, who share his commitment to a struggle outside of and against the state, to recognize the necessity of disciplined organization and a rejection of purity politics.

I think that it is a fundamental problem to look for a viable perspective for today in some segment of this tradition or in the positions taken by some set of historical figures as if it is something to discover. Instead, we have to realize that this perspective is not there to discover, it must be created out of the ingredients that exist—one of which is our collective history—through an effort of will and analysis.
—from “Thoughts About Organization”

In this book, a selection of Hamerquist’s writings from 2000 to 2022 – some of his contribution to this creative “effort of will and analysis” – have been collected together for the first time. Written as emails to comrades or for the websites of various collective, radical left projects, these essays touch on the anti-globalization movement, anti-fascism, revolutionary organization, Occupy, the 2008 financial crisis, changes in global capitalism, Ferguson, state repression, and more. Along with their specific content, Hamerquist’s work offers a model for conducting revolutionary analysis: always in conversation, humble without retreating disagreement, historically-informed without being stuck in the past, moving fluidly between the specific and the general, the global and the local, the theory and the practice.

With Introductions from both Hamerquist and Dave Ranney (with whom he has been in conversation since their days in the Sojourner Truth Organization together in the ’70s and ’80s) and editorial material designed to make Hamerquist’s wide-ranging references accessible to any reader, this book is an invaluable tool for anyone who want to make a contribution to the development of a left capable of committed and unrelenting struggle against the logic of capital, while also being “accessible to regular-assed people.”

We are living in the aftermath of an extended revolutionary process that had its debatable successes. But these were rapidly transformed into limits that are now obstacles to a more basic struggle against capital. To think seriously about revolutionary politics we must challenge some left presuppositions and develop new categories of strategic analysis that fit the qualitatively changed circumstances of the present period. However, while we cannot adequately deal with new political questions without a clearer understanding of the struggles of the past century, an understanding that avoids both nostalgia and meaningless recriminations, we are going to have to act, moving ahead with whatever intellectual, moral, and material resources are available to us, well before we have this adequately grounded understanding of our collective past.
—from “Barack, Badiou, and Bilal bin Hasan”


The foundations of our society are crumbling. In such times of great instability our actions may fundamentally affect history’s trajectory — toward the more beautiful or the more brutal. For those committed to the former, this book’s arrival should be recognized as a significant event. This is not an academic, scholarly, or historical collection. This book is a weapon to be turned on the powerful for maximum impact. —from the Preface by Luis Brennan

This book will be valuable for today’s radical activists as well as for historians. The essays contained within demonstrate how the author has translated the current trajectory of capitalism and responses to it into timely adaptations and sometimes changes in his ideas on a whole range of topics, including: revolutionary organization, the nature of the capitalist state, capitalist institutions including government and trade unions, state repression and how to combat it, and the nature of fascism and prospects for organizing against it. —from the Introduction by Dave Ranney