Anarchists and anti-fascists protesting for animal liberation

Total liberation, also referred to as total liberation ecology or veganarchism,[1] is a political philosophy and movement that combines anarchism with a commitment to animal and earth liberation. Whilst more traditional approaches to anarchism have often focused primarily on opposing the state and capitalism, total liberation is additionally concerned with opposing all additional forms of human oppression as well as the oppression of other animals and ecosystems.[2] Proponents of total liberation typically espouse a holistic and intersectional approach aimed at using direct action to dismantle all forms of domination and hierarchy, common examples of which include the state, capitalism, patriarchy, racism, heterosexism, cissexism, disablism, ageism, speciesism, and ecological domination.[3]

History and key concerns

Discussing "total liberation" in 1961's The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon emphasized a link between psychological and social freedom. He said: "Total liberation is that which concerns all sectors of the personality."[4] Third World movements, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization and African National Congress, subsequently used the term to signify a rejection of compromise with colonizers.[5]

Also in the 1960s, a new era of anarchist struggle was distinguished by its adoption of a range of concerns such as feminism, anticolonialism, queer liberation, antispeciesism, and ecology that were previously of little or no concern for most anarchists.[6] More specifically, the involvement by anarchists in the animal and earth liberation movements was in part characterized by the rising popularity of veganism within radical circles, something that has been grounded in concerns for both animal rights and environmentalism[7] as well as the formation of direct action groups such as the Hunt Saboteurs Association, Earth First!, the Animal Liberation Front and the Earth Liberation Front.[8]

Moreover, a commitment to total liberation, beyond its emergence from the historical development of the anarchist movement, is also typically grounded in a concern for contemporary schools of political thought such as intersectionality, antispeciesism, ecofeminism, deep ecology and social ecology.[9] As David Pellow summarises:

The concept of total liberation stems from a determination to understand and combat all forms of inequality and oppression. I propose that it comprises four pillars: (1) an ethic of justice and anti-oppression inclusive of humans, nonhuman animals, and ecosystems; (2) anarchism; (3) anti-capitalism; and (4) an embrace of direct action tactics.[10]

The concept of total liberation began to be used by anarchists during the 1990s in an explicit attempt to clarify important connections between all forms of oppression and to situate the often isolated political movements against them within a single overall struggle. The editors of No Compromise signed their summer 1998 editorial, "For total liberation!"[11]

In February 1999, animal rights activists organized a Total Liberation Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, featuring speakers from the American Indian Movement and MOVE.[12] Earth First! journal announced: "To make change, we must band together. Join MOVE, the Anarchist Black Cross Federation, American Indian Movement, Animal Liberation Front Supporters, Food Not Bombs and others at this important conference."[13]

On January 10–11, 2004, anarchists in Erie, Pennsylvania held a Total Liberation Fest featuring hardcore punk sets and speakers including Ashanti Alston, Russell Means, Rod Coronado, and Ramona Africa.[14] A few of the attendees formed a band called Gather and wore "Total Liberation" shirts modeled on well-known "Animal Liberation" shirts worn by the band Earth Crisis. Gather member Eva "Genie" Hall has explained what total liberation meant to the band: "We simply wanted to be clear that we weren't a single-issue band and that we believed in animal, earth, and human liberation. For us, that meant anarcha-feminism and the end of patriarchy; it meant acknowledging that a "vegan revolution" doesn't challenge the problems with modern totalitarian agriculture; it meant that we were aware that consumerist choices about our diets wouldn't lead to a magical downfall of oppressive capitalist systems; and it meant acknowledging the horrible costs of imperialism/globalization and industrial civilization. 'Total liberation' was our way of talking about 'intersectionality,' I suppose." [15]

In 2013, Warzone Distro, a "zine creating and distributing project focused on anarchy, insurrection and anti-civilization" was created with Total Liberation as its core inspiration. Warzone Distro provides free zine PDF's on veganism, straight edge and insurrectionary anarchy, while also including vegan individualist and nihilist perspectives as well.[16]

In his 2014 book The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century, American philosopher Steven Best argues for the necessity for disparate social movements to embrace the concept:

The global capitalist world system is inherently destructive to people, animals and nature. It is unsustainable and the bills for three centuries of industrialization are overdue. It cannot be humanized, civilized or made green-friendly, but rather must be transcended through revolution at all levels–social, economic, political, legal, cultural, technological, moral, and conceptual. We must replace single-issue approaches and fragmentary struggles with systemic battles and political alliances. In the most encompassing terms, these clashes address the war against humans, animals and the earth, and must combine in a politics of total liberation. We must link the liberation of humans to other animals to the planet as a whole. We need to build a revolutionary movement strong enough to vanquish capitalist hegemony and to remake society without crushing lodestones of anthropocentrism, speciesism, patriarchy, racism, classism, statism, heterosexism, ableism, and every other pernicious form of hierarchal domination.[3]

Active Distribution published an anonymously-authored book on Total Liberation in 2019. Insisting that "animal and earth liberation are no less integral to the new revolutionary mosaic" than human liberation, the volume explored the praxis of total liberation as exemplified in MOVE, the Animal and Earth Liberation Fronts, the 2008 Greek insurrection, and the Rojava Revolution.[17]

In 2022, Green Theory & Praxis Journal published a Total Liberation Pathway which involved "an abolition of compulsory work for all beings".[18]

Anarchism and animal rights

The anarchist philosophical and political movement has some connections to elements of the animal liberation movement. Many anarchists are vegetarian or vegan (or veganarchists) and have played a role in combating perceived injustices against animals. They usually describe the struggle for the liberation of non-human animals as a natural outgrowth of the struggle for human freedom.[19]

Veganism and anarchism

See also: Green anarchism

Veganarchism is the political philosophy of veganism (more specifically animal liberation) and anarchism, creating a combined praxis as a means for social revolution.[20]: 5–6  This encompasses viewing the state as unnecessary and harmful to animals, both human and non-human, whilst practicing a vegan lifestyle. Veganarchists either see the ideology as a combined theory, or perceive both philosophies to be essentially the same.[20]: 1  It is further described as an anti-speciesist perspective on green anarchism, or an anarchist perspective on animal liberation.[20]: 5  Vegan anarchist subcultures promote total liberationism, which seeks to unite the fragmented movements for human, animal and earth (ecosystem) liberation into a larger and stronger movement.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Springer, Simon (January 1, 2020). "Total Liberation Ecology: Integral Anarchism, Anthroparchy, and the Violence of Indifference". Undoing Human Supremacy: Anarchist Political Ecology and the End of Anthroparchy.
  2. ^ David N. Pellow (2014) Total Liberation: The Power and Promise of Animal Rights and the Radical Earth Movement; Minneapolis, USA: University of Minnesota Press, pp.5-6
  3. ^ a b Best, Steven (2014). "Conclusion: Reflections on Activism and Hope in a Dying World and Suicidal Culture". The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 163–164. doi:10.1057/9781137440723_7. ISBN 978-1137471116.
  4. ^ Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington (New York: Grove Press, 1963). 310
  5. ^ Sameer Abraham, "The PLO at the Crossroads," MERIP 80 (September/October 1979). "Armed Struggle and Umkhonto - Forward into the 1970s and '80s," O'Malley Archive,
  6. ^ Uri Gordon (2007) Anarchism and Political Theory: Contemporary Problems, Submitted to the Department of Politics & International Relations in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (retrieved from pp.44-50
  7. ^ Brian A. Dominick (1997) Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: A vegan perspective on anarchism, or an anarchist perspective on veganism (retrieved from
  8. ^ Anonymous (2003), "Down with the Empire! Up with the Spring!", Do or Die, issue 10.
  9. ^ David N. Pellow & Hollie N. Brehm (2015) "From the New Ecological Paradigm to Total Liberation: The Emergence of a Social Movement Frame"; The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 56, issue 1, pp.191-3
  10. ^ D. Pellow (2014) pp.5-6
  11. ^ "No Compromise".
  12. ^ Dan Berger and Chris Crass, "Getting to the Roots of Liberation: An Interview with Dan Berger," Colours of Resistance,
  13. ^ "Total Lib. Conference," Rubenstein, Michael, et al., eds., Earth First! Journal 19, no. 2 (21 December 1998). Republished by the Environment & Society Portal, Multimedia Library.
  14. ^ Anonymous, "Thoughts on Total Liberation Fest'," Green Anarchist 73, 2004,
  15. ^ X: Straight Edge and Radical Sobriety, ed. Gabriel Kuhn (Oakland: PM Press, 2019).
  16. ^
  17. ^ Anonymous, Total Liberation, 2nd Edition (Active Distribution & Signal Fire, 2019). Retrieved from The Anarchist Library,
  18. ^ Dan Fischer, "Let Nature Play: A Possible Pathway of Total Liberation and Earth Restoration," Green Theory & Praxis, volume 14, issue 1, pp.8-29,
  19. ^ "Anarchism – MSN Encarta". Archived from the original on August 9, 2007.
  20. ^ a b c Dominick, Brian. Animal Liberation and Social Revolution: A vegan perspective on anarchism or an anarchist perspective on veganism, third edition, Firestarter Press, 1997.
  21. ^ Best, Steven (2014). The Politics of Total Liberation: Revolution for the 21st Century. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. xii, 95. doi:10.1057/9781137440723. ISBN 978-1137471116.

Further reading