The Go'ing Insurrection

[The text below is from the introduction. For discussion on this zine, visit the Sensei's Library page: http://senseis.xmp.net/?TheGoingInsurrection ]

The game of Go originated in China or Tibet at least 3500 years ago, and in its simplicity and complexity, it remains the greatest strategic game that exists. Part of its interest is that it is quite abstract, just stones on a grid, and so it lends itself well to interpretation. The most obvious analogy for the game is war, but Go is not chess, where the pieces have military names and are lined up facing each other, making the war analogy inescapable. In fact, in many ways, the traditional image of war as opposing nation states advancing on each other is not applicable to Go. The lines are not so clearly drawn, and rather than starting with a full army that gets picked apart, the Go board begins empty and the players create the geography of the game together. Through its simplicity, Go can become a metaphor for thinking about conflict and struggle more generally.

In modern North American society, conflict is everywhere, and overwhelmingly it is a one-sided battle constantly waged by the economic and political elites against everyone else. This conflict is visible in the spread of security cameras and other technologies of surveillance; in the growth of prisons and the expansion of police forces; in the ongoing wars of occupation waged by imperialist nations to secure access to resources; in the ongoing colonization carried out against Indigenous Peoples to undercut their resistance and steal their territories; in the threat of being fired or evicted if we aren't subservient enough; in the mass media that teaches us to submit; and in our relationships where we exploit each other, mirroring the systems of domination we were raised to identify with.

As an anarchist, I seek to see this society for what it is: a permanent state of war. And I seek to join into that conflict to attack the systems of domination and create territories where new kinds of relations and affinities become possible. In this, I have found the game of Go to be a valuable tool for reflection on how to skillfully fight back. The purpose of this text is to apply some strategic concepts of Go to anarchist resistance.

I have been playing Go for more than five years, and have reached the rank of 1 kyu in online play. This level, with the kyu ranks almost behind me but looking out over the wide gulf to shodan, is enough to truly appreciate how little I really know about Go. It is not my purpose to speak authoritatively about Go or even to teach the game here – there are many excellent resources available, and I'd suggest starting at Sensei's Library, senseis.xmp.net or at gogameguru.com. If you do not know how to play Go, I hope you will still find this text enjoyable, but to really understand it, you definitely need to learn Go and play a few games.

The diagrams and analysis in this book rely heavily on resources produced by stronger players, professionals wherever possible, and I have simply tried to curate and interpret them. I do offer my own analysis of positions and do use examples from my own games, but those instances will be clearly indicated. In my examples of struggle, I have tried to use examples as local and as recent as possible, so there is a lot of discussion of the ongoing campaign against Enbridge's Line 9 pipeline that would move Tar Sands oil through Southern Ontario.

This text is divided into three parts. First, continuing from the paragraphs above, I will offer my reasons for why I feel Go is useful in strategizing for how to confront power. In the second section, I will offer a series of proverbs from the rich body of Go lore that apply as well to social struggle as to the game (there are also some anarchist sayings that can be mirrored on the Go board). Finally, we will look at how to fight in handicap games, where one player begins with a material advantage and the other player has to use special techniques to catch up.

The Go'ing Insurrection cover
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Go'ing Insurrection essay by Larry Holmgren (not verified)