Great Moments in MondoDC History
Tute Nere Zine: 
Black Bloc Not Just for Your Boyfriend
In Anarchy Comics #2 from 1979, Jay Kinney and Paul Mavrides penned a spoof on "Archie" comics they called "Anarchie," where the proverbial all-American boy goes punk along with the whole gang in their small town of Riverdale. Predictably, Betty and Veronica had marginal roles in fomenting revolution. But in a real Riverdale--Maryland, that is--the four core members of the Tute Nere Anarchist Women�s Collective tried to change that gender dynamic. In four issues of their house publication, also called Tute Nere--Italian for "Black Overalls," a name collective member Annie picked up in 2001 during her visit to Genoa, Italy for the G8 protests--the group outlined a plan to combat gender bias within the anarchist movement and encourage other women to join by giving them a safe point of entry. The Tute Nere motto, after all, is "Black bloc not just for your boyfriend."

"We thought it was important to have a monthly anarchist magazine that came out of a militant female perspective," Annie says. "Our ultimate goal is getting rid of the capitalist structure. But in order to do that, we need more women involved in this, just like we need more minorities...I think one of the crucial ways of doing that is giving something, like a magazine, that people can get their hands on and say 'Oh, these are women putting this out, these are women doing these things, these are women organizing, going to these events, writing these pieces--hmm, I bet I could do this too; I�m interested in this.'"

The group came together in August of 2001 and immediately printed up its first issue (#0). Their  planned "monthly" zine wasn't been quite that regular, but it did grow larger (from digest to standard sized) and longer, picked up a color photocopied cover, and printed 150-200 copies. Editing problems slowed issue #4: "We started printing them and we realized 'Oh, Jesus, we forgot an "i" in anti-capitalist!'" A larger obstacle was their involvement in a number of other projects--some as mundane as college and work, others more radical, like traveling to the recent WEF protests in NYC, organizing DC's first Anarchist Book Fair at American University last January, establishing links with Riot Grrl DC and the Anarchist Women of Color Collective in DC, and acting as a "supporter collective" in the production of Northeastern Anarchist, the voice of the Northeastern Federation of Anarcho-Communists. The Tute Nere collective disbanded before completing  issue #5 of their house zine.

From the start, the standard size zine presented a strong mix of historical pieces, documentation of radical action--and articles on how personal experience reflects political reality. One of the most powerful pieces from issue #3 was a compilation of four women�s experiences confronting the "anarchist boys club." As one of the authors, Annie admits that anarchist collectives reflect the gender bias of the punk scene from which most American radicals spring: "I think every subculture runs into the same problems of the main culture; we all have the same issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, and all this sort of stuff we have to battle with...I think anarchists really do try to deal with these things and confront them, which is good, but there are still problems."

While there are clear historical parallels between the radical 70s women's liberation group Redstockings and Tute Nere--anti-capitalism and consciousness raising "bitch sessions" among them--Annie instead cites the Mujeres Libres, anarchist women organizers in the Spanish Civil War, as a personal influence. She wrote in Tute Nere #3 about their activism outside the domestic arena, the gender bias they faced from men in the movement, and their rejection of feminism. 

Tute Nere could have released this material through the Internet, which has proven to be a powerful tool for radical activism ever since the Anti-Capitalist Convergence used it to ramp up the WTO and World Bank protest events in Seattle and Washington, but Annie cites the power of print as an outreach tool: "We have to provide as many options and ways for people to get information about anarchism, about what we're doing. That's our only way to combat corporate media lies and government repression--getting things out to people in more than one way."

The group also presented an overt stand in favor of radical violence in its mission statement and the zine's editorial content that remains undiluted in the wake of the terrorist bombings of 9/11, which occurred a month after the collective formed, and the more recent passage of the Patriot Act. "Most of us are not 'anti-war,'" Annie says "we're into government war and nationalist war, and this whole concept of class war. We feel it's more crucial than ever to be in the streets saying, 'This is why we're against capitalism. This just shows the inherent problems in all these things.'"

Through all their work, Tute Nere just wanted to be a "bad example"to women on the verge of smashing the state but don't know where to start. "We want other women to feel like, yeah, if we want to go into a black bloc, we can go into a black bloc; if we want to organize collective cells, we can organize collective cells," Annie declares. "We can be a part of anarchist history, anarchist theory, anarchist organizing, whether it is more confrontational tactics or more pacifistic tactics, because both are present."

[A slightly different version of this article appeared in The Washington City Paper, March 1, 2002.]

Read an interview with Tute Nere Collective member Annie.