L. Hobley, 'Bumping back: an activist's guide to getting there, doing the business and getting away with it'

IssueDecember 2009 - January 2010
Review by Milan Rai

Imagine a radical activist going through pretty much the entire publicly-available English-language literature on how to do soldiering (how to train a ground-hugging grunt), and also digesting quite a lot of the open literature on police forensics and government surveillance techniques – in order to extract the stuff that would be (or could be) useful for activists wanting to break into places and stop dastardly deeds.

Bumping Back is pretty much the result. Two randomly-selected sentences give a flavour: “Knowledge of the following sensory traits and how the dog uses them could help you think ahead of the dog [tracking you]”.

“Noise, movement and light discipline [I think this means disciplined use of torches, not gentle whipping] contribute to your individual CC [camouflage and concealment].”

There is a section knocking nonviolence at the outset; the whole thing is inspired by military sources (one of the author’s favourite books is Seven Pillars of Wisdom); and there’s also a lot of attention paid to not getting caught (see the subtitle) that many PN readers will find irrelevant. Nevertheless, this manual includes readable and sensible suggestions on navigation, climbing, first aid, forensics, reconnaissance and surveillance (and is sprinkled with quotes from Winnie the Pooh, Bilbo Baggins and other revolutionary anarchists).

Bumping Back is definitely worth reading for nonviolent activists carrying out high-intensity direct action in rural areas.

Having said that, lots of activists (especially in the Ploughshares movement) seem to have managed to do very adequate surveillance of bases and arms factories without the benefit of reading military manuals!

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