The Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL)

By Scott Brown
Former RABL member

Bowl a strike, not a spare — Revolution everywhere! — RABL slogan

The original Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League, RABL, was founded in Minneapolis in the mid-1980s. I was one of the founding members of the organization, and in fact helped come up with the name at one of our meetings.

We were a revolutionary anarchist collective that participated in various actions locally and nationally. We were anarchists who believed in anti-authoritarian organization against racism, sexism, homophobia, and capitalism. We believed that an anarchist revolutionary insurrection was ultimately necessary to achieve a free and equalitarian society.

We were founded sometime after the 1986 Haymarket Centennial in Chicago. We periodically put out a paper in Minneapolis called The Rabble Rouser, hosted the North American Anarchist Gathering in 1989, and helped organize the now defunct Love and Rage newspaper, which was published monthly in New York. Over the years we organized many demonstrations, and worked and participated in dozens of other demonstrations and coalitions. Through our actions we obtained quite a bit of notoriety, both locally and to some degree nationally, and were considered to be one the most militant Anarchist organizations in North America.

We would often have meetings in bowling alleys, and put out a monthly paper locally called RABL Rouser, in which we used lots of campy bowling graphics. We also used the names of famous profession bowlers as pseudonyms for our articles. There was also a local anarchist bookstore, Backroom Books, which some of our members worked at, where we would have meetings.

In my opinion our most important action, of all the things we did, was throwing a bowling ball through the window of a recruiting center in Minneapolis. In a rarely remembered incident, the Reagan administration began telling the media that Nicaragua was “invading Honduras”, and that it might require actual U.S. troops to invade Nicaragua (as opposed to the U.S-proxy army of Contras operating out of Honduras, that it was then using). Because of this, there were large and militant demonstrations all across the country. Even small towns, such as Duluth or Mankato in Minnesota, to name a couple I know of first hand. Demonstrators blocked off the Golden Gate Bridge. The mainstream press, however, did not report the news. There was a news blackout about the demonstrations, similar to the kind of thing that happened later during the Gulf War. Attempts were made by the fledgling independent news media (such as Pacifica Radio) to spread this information.

In Minneapolis, there were barricades in the streets, and a major business and traffic intersections of the city were occupied for three days. It was during these mobilizations that a nearby recruiting center had a bowling ball thrown through its front window. We in RABL, while not taking direct responsibility, supported what had happened, but we were attacked by the liberals in the demonstration as being supporters of violence. Liberals lied and misrepresented us to the media just as bad as any conservative would have done.

We felt somewhat vindicated when we later found a quote in the NYTimes, by a Reagan administration official that one of the reasons they had backed off on sending US troops into Honduras was because of the damage to recruiting centers. While we had heard of militant actions in other cities, the recruiting center in Minneapolis was the only one that we heard had been damaged.

I like to think that that bowling ball actually helped stop a war.

RABL disbanded in ’91 shortly after the Gulf War, which, in the wake of the death, destruction, and the media’s self-censorship and prowar hysteria, severely demoralized much of the Left in this country.

A PDF version of the original article is available, or you can see the entire issue of the newspaper I pulled this article from. Daybreak hasn’t kept it online, and the wayback machine doesn’t seem to have it, but you can see the TOC.

Copyright 2009, Dave Polaschek. Last updated on Mon, 15 Feb 2010 14:07:07.