The purpose of this column is to share some personal opinions from an AK Press author (and collective member), report on events AK does on the East Coast, share some book trade news, and of course give Punk Rock credentials to what is nothing more than another passing fad (the internet that is). Since this is the first blog, and I know the website will be full of political books, discussions of political books, debates about political books, ideas for political books… this one is going to swerve away from political books. Or texts at all, really. Please click on the links if you have time and a good internet connection, they all take you somewhere worthy of a visit.
It serves no purpose to review the “books on Punk” that AK carries. Because AK Press came out of the Punk scene, I can safely say that AK carries all the best ones, none of the really lousy ones, and only a couple of mediocre ones. AK may tend to define Punk literature a bit too broadly (everything from animal cartoons to train hopping to vegan cookbooks) but there’s a nice listing of the ones brave enough to use the word “Punk” in their title HERE
So, since we carry Punk books but mostly non-Punk music and video here at AK, what’s good that you don’t have to read? Well for this installment, let’s pay respect to my elders (and except for Utah, alive and kicking at over 40 years old!).
Our friend and elder in the struggle of memory against forgetting, Utah Phillips passed away this summer. Luckily for all of us, AK along with Daemon Records and John Smith from Trade Root Music were able to work with Utah to document some of the highlights of his long career as a radical historian, storyteller, musician, and Wobbly. A lot of folks came to know Utah, along with his traditional hobo garb and Santa-like appearance, through collaboration with Ani DiFranco. While I am forever grateful to Ani for exposing Utah to a large audience of impressionable young women, you have to hear the songs and stories delivered straight from Utah on the wonderful Starlight on the Rails box set. Here’s an audio sample of Utah’s long memory in the story behind Yuba City as well as the song Yuba City. Here also is the all too familiar story that produced the rollicking tune Talking N.P.R Blues. And since I’ve been bludgeoned with many piss-poor versions of the Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia since I’ve moved here six years ago (please don’t mention the 4-H Camp Girls Sing-along), the pricey box set is worth the cost for this original song alone.
Following in the footsteps of folky troubadours spreading the stories of unknown heroes, villains, rebels, and our “fellow workers” is the mighty Chumbawamba. (Yes, that Chumbawamba) Luckily for us they have given up on Tub-thumping and have reincarnated themselves as a righteous sing-along, drink-along, cry-along band of serious talent (but not always serious lyrics). You can see everything we have that includes them or even mentions them Here. It’s all good stuff, but the best is the latest, The Boy Bands Have Won, check out a bit of the cut El Fusilado.
As mentioned earlier, AK’s co-conspirator for the Radical Folk Music series was the mighty Daemon Records headed up by the unstoppable Amy Ray. (Yes, that Amy Ray). Amy has put together a kick-ass backing band for a trio of solo records with a new one on its way. AK carries her second release: Prom. Enlisting some Butchies in the band, the CD just plain rocks. And equally important for Punk Rock listening enjoyment, puts out the evil eye of the racist, gay bashing, upper class pricks we’ve all had the displeasure of knowing. Amy’s other musical project, The Indigo Girls, issued perhaps the only major label release with a “thank you” to AK Press in the fine print. And now that they have been ditched by their major label, most likely the last! They are releasing their next CD independently in February 2009, so pick it up. Our family had the pleasure of seeing the Indigos recently in VA, here’s a pic of my sister-in-law Andrea with rockin’ Amy Ray. (more…)
Below is a call for submissions for a book that myself and three amazing comrades are compiling about displacement and gentrification. In the last few years, I have been both honored and humbled by the amazing work that all of you do, and want to encourage you to submit something about how you do what you do…so please consider it! Also, please forward widely—and take care to forward to women, people of color, working class folks, queer folks, folks with different abilities, etc. Our voices are definitely UNDERrepresented, so to hear dispatches from folks not typically heard from or considered legitimate sources is even better!
Dispatches Against Displacement: From the Global Economy to the Eviction Notice
Edited by Guadalupe Arreola, Alicia Schwartz, James Tracy and Tom Wetzel
To be published by AK Press, 2009
In nearly every major U.S. city, the displacement epidemic is destroying communities and reshaping the urban landscape into zones of exclusion and elitism. An avalanche of eviction notices and redevelopment efforts fractures working class neighborhoods, particularly those of color. The causes lie far beyond bad landlords and poor public policies. Twenty-first century displacement is intricately tied to shifts in the global economy, where de-industrialized cities must continually re-invent themselves as high-end construction temporarily replaces the vanished factory, and forced migration and displacement intensifies.
Within this, politicians and policy makers also rely on displacement as a method of policing, thinning, and managing low-income people and the surplus population. Yet every action has its reaction, and people’s organizations challenge and confront the real estate industry. Together, these campaigns call into question exactly who has the “right to the city” and suggest an alternative urban life rooted in economic and racial justice.
Dispatches Against Displacement examines the struggles for the city and asks how they might be combined, strengthened, and critically examined in order to forge an agenda for land-reform within the United States.
The book will have three main sections:
Articles in this section will clearly lay out the causes of displacement; and make links between this and other issues such as the global economy, prisons, class struggle, etc.
Dispatches From the Space Wars
Articles in this section will look at what organizations and individuals are doing to fight displacement in their own communities. It is intended that these pieces will: explore the tactics, strategies, successes and failures used in campaigns and identify parts currents of the campaigns which could contribute to an urban land-reform agenda.
Land and Liberation
What would it look like if the hundreds of disparate organizations and campaigns could coalesce around, and win urban land reform? What shape would the demands take? What changes would be made? Is it possible for any meaningful reform to occur under market-capitalism?
Style and Format
Accessible in tone, yet well-written. While the book will be academically sound, we want to make sure that it finds a readership in the neighborhoods it is written about.
Bring together book smarts and street smarts. We strongly encourage collaboratively written articles. Articles co-authored by activists who primarily do on-the-ground grassroots organizing and activists who primarily work in the academy will receive preference. Talk to people in the community you are writing about, quote them and respect their point of view.
Back it up! If you say something is so, then give some facts establishing your point.
Please use Chicago Humanities style endnotes, not footnotes.
To submit: Please in Word format, as an attachment, to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1, 2008. We are happy to review queries to determine if a proposal fits the scope of this book.
It may come as a surprise even to gay activists well-read in their history that, more than a half-century before the 1950 founding of the Mattachine Society as the first, lasting modern association of homosexual liberationists, there was a strong and vibrant discourse in America which unfailingly defended the right to same-sex love.
It came not from homosexual intellectuals, but from American anarchists.
In the just-published Free Comrades: Anarchism and Homosexuality in the United States, 1895-1917, Terence Kissack, the former executive director of San Francisco’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society, has given us the first book-length study of this little-known phenomenon. The work is a vital and important addition to gay historiography.
It was thanks to American anarchist writers and propagandists that the defense of homosexuality developed in Europe by the likes of Karl Ulrichs and Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany and Edward Carpenter and John Addington Symonds in England crossed the Atlantic to these shores—at a time when no other political movement or notable public figure in the US dealt with the issue of same-sex eroticism and love.
“The anarchist sex radicals,” Kissack writes, “were interested in the ethical, social, and cultural place of homosexuality within society, because that question lies at the nexus of individual freedom and state power.”
The towering figure of American anarchism, Emma Goldman, was an extremely charismatic public speaker who lectured to large audiences all over the United States, reaching, she estimated, some 50,000 to 75,000 people a year. And quite frequently she spoke about homosexuality, repeatedly devoting whole lectures to the subject.
A contemporary account of one of those Goldman lectures on homosexuality reported: “Every person who came to the lecture possessing contempt and disgust for the homo-sexualists [sic] and who upheld the attitude of the authorities that those given to this particular form of sex expression should be hounded down and persecuted, went away with a broad and sympathetic understanding of the question and a conviction that in matters of personal life, freedom should reign.”
The reason that Goldman and other anarchist figures began to include a defense of same-sex love in their discourse toward the end of the 19th century was that “homosexuality had become a focus of surveillance and regulation by police and other authorities… convictions for the crime of sodomy jumped and medical journals began to feature articles on the subject…” (more…)
AK Press Collective member, Zach Blue, recently conducted an email interview with David Berry, the author of AK’s forthcoming paperback edition of A History of the French Anarchist Movement, 1917–1945. The book will not be available until December, but David is busy with plenty of other projects in the meantime. He is the reviews editor of Anarchist Studies journal and is currently co-organizing the first Anarchist Studies Network conference at Loughborough University (UK), where he teaches French and politics. David has been active on the Left in one form or another for over thirty years, most recently in the local branch of his union. He’s also on the editorial board of the Journal of Contemporary European Studies.
* * *
Thanks for taking some time to answer these questions today, David. For starters, could you tell us about the Anarchist Studies Network: what work does it do and what do you hope for it to achieve?
The ASN was basically established, I suppose, to do two things: create and foster links between the growing number of people doing research on anarchism (whether they were students/academics or not); and, building on that, to promote further research in the area and help disseminate the results. A group of us (lecturers and postgraduate research students) in the Politics Department at Loughborough University who were working on various aspects of anarchist history, politics, and theory were keen to raise the profile of research on anarchism—because, without wanting to be paranoid, it’s still difficult to get scholarly (i.e. properly researched) work on anarchism taken seriously within the education system in Britain. Some of us belonged to the Political Studies Association, which allows its members to create “Specialist Groups” on all kinds of subjects, so we set up a Specialist Group for the Study of Anarchism, which means that we get a certain amount of funding from the PSA. The name was later changed to ASN. With the help of our more techie members, we’ve since set up a wiki web site and an e-mail discussion list. There have also been a couple of annual meetings where all the members got together to discuss plans. The PSA funding (which has no strings attached so long as it’s used to do what we want to do in any case, i.e. promote the study of anarchism) has allowed us to fund various seminars, workshops, and conferences, and to give financial support to members who needed help to be able to attend these events—not to mention the forthcoming ASN conference in Loughborough this September.
In its succinct definition of anarchist studies, the ASN states “For a number of us, what we are calling ‘anarchist studies’ no longer necessarily takes anarchism as its object of study but as a standpoint from which to study the world. Anarchist contributions to thought are making a reappearance in a number of fields, challenging established orthodoxies. Perhaps, against all odds, we are witnessing the emergence of a new anarchist paradigm in academia.” Can you describe some current examples of how anarchist ideas are informing new approaches to the imposing challenges leveled by capitalism in recent years? And what is the relationship of anarchist studies to the ongoing revolutionary project to achieve anarchy? (more…)
Film fans and anyone interested in the history of anarchism during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) will want to check out La Mujer del Anarquista (Trans: The Anarchist’s Wife), a new movie by Marie Noelle and Peter Sehr. Although it has yet to be released in Europe or the United States, it has already earned one award (the Bernhard Wicki Peace Price) and will likely win others.
The story begins in 1937 in Madrid, at a time when the city was besieged by fascists and in the throes of war and revolution. Justo, the anarchist, is a radio propagandist who does battle on the airwaves and in the trenches, while his wife Manuela and their daughter Paloma desperately try to preserve a semblance of domestic normality in the midst of the tumult. However, what little stability they acquire is soon robbed from them when Justo is seized and disappears. His separation from the family, it turns out, will last for years, as Europe descends into the chaos of World War Two. Throughout it all, Manuela never stops fighting to reunite her family, which, one day, she manages to do.
Anarchist viewers will probably be annoyed by the sexist implications of the story and the title–why is it that he has politics and she is just the wife?–and disappointed by the fact that Justo’s anarchist activities are really only a backdrop for the story of this particular family. However, perhaps the movie’s exploration of love, loss, and redemption will resonate with some, despite these political issues.
We really appreciate it when people review our books. It helps get the
word out about AK publications and also prompts discussions
about the ideas that they contain. Those are very,
very good things!
We will publish reviews of AK books on this blog as often as we
can. Below is a review of Murray Bookchin’s Social and
Communalism (AK Press, 2007). It first appeared in TowardFreedom.com, a progressive perspective on
world events. We repost it here with permission.
The American presidential election season has pundits and pollsters proclaiming “change” a primary factor in the minds of many voters. It’s little wonder that this stark period – marked by the so-called “War on Terror,” the extension of neoliberalism across the globe, and the urgency of global warming – has motivated such vague desires among the citizenry. Undefined, undifferentiated and ultimately relegated to mere platitudes, “change” here means little; it is cosmetic, commodified, and reinforces the status quo. Absent is a lens, a coherent perspective through which current and future movements might comprehend and ultimately transcend the prevailing order, inspiring the crucial transformative “change” so necessary to reverse today’s regressive and reactionary tendencies.
While the US Green Party struggles on and plans yet again to rely on a presidential candidacy to foster a “trickle down” growth for state and local parties, there is little to suggest that Greens or any other marginalized American Left movements are positioned to fill this void of coherent analyses and strategies for reconstructive action. Yet the American Green movement’s early history included the influence of social ecology, a body of thought primarily developed by Murray Bookchin, that articulates just such a vision based on ecological principles, notions of radical democracy, and a celebration of our uniquely human potentialities. Bookchin was a keynote speaker at the first national gathering of US Greens in 1987 and his work, including more than 20 books, numerous essays, articles, speaking engagements, and the co-founding of the Institute for Social Ecology, affected the formation of the Left Greens and played a prominent role in debates over direction for the nascent American Green movement.
Social Ecology and Communalism, a recently released collection of four essays written in Bookchin’s later years, offers an accessible introduction to social ecology’s fundamental rejection of social hierarchy and domination, critique of instrumental reasoning in favor of a dialectical philosophical orientation, and it’s ecological “libertarian municipalist” political strategy. It should be noted that Bookchin’s version of “communalism” bears no relation to the (largely religion-based) sectarianism it evokes in South Asia. Instead, here communalism refers to the theory and system of government in which local communities are associated in a confederation. (more…)
Call for Submissions for Anarchitecture / Building / Power
The editors of Perspectives on Anarchist Theory are seeking essays, photo-essays, project documentation, interviews and book reviews for an issue of theoretical, practical and activist engagements with architecture
Theory & History: ANARCHITECTURE
We are seeking anarchist reflections on the relationship between social change and the built environment, the peculiar relationship of modern construction to capitalism, and aphorisms that fumble towards an anarchist theory of the city.
We are seeking documentation of alternative practices in the built environment, detailed discussions of alternative models of property or the architecture of anarchist communes, discussion of vernacular architectures and practical examples of autonomous construction.
Domination unfolds in space: How have people challenged domination in space? We are interested in everything here from professionals engaged in combating Eminent Domain / displacement and grassroots organizations challenging the spatial agenda of the War on Drugs/Terror to collective efforts to reimagine the city and private spatial experiments in freedom.
We welcome finished essays as well as proposals for new work. If you are interested in writing for this issue, but do not have a specific topic, please send us a statement of interest and we may provide you with a project to respond to. We also welcome suggestion of projects / actions that we should consider.
This issue will be published in Spring 2009. Statements of interest, suggestions and proposals for new essays should be submitted by December 15th, 2008. A statement of interest is not required for submissions of completed works: Completed works may be submitted before May 15th, 2009. (Please inform us if any submissions have been published previously.) Final drafts of all submissions will be due in December 2008.
This issue is guest edited by Alexis Bhagat, Francesca Manning, and Etienne Turpin.
Perspectives on Anarchist Theory is the publication of the Institute for Anarchist Studies (IAS), a nonprofit foundation established in 1996 to support the development of anarchism. The aim of the IAS is to promote critical scholarship that explores social domination and reconstructive visions of a free society. Primarily, the IAS is a grant-giving body, supporting work by radical writers. To date, the IAS has funded almost sixty projects by authors from countries around the world, including Argentina, Canada, New Zealand, Lebanon, Chile, Ireland, Nigeria, Mexico, the Philippines, Germany, Uruguay, South Africa, the Czech Republic, and the United States. Additionally, the IAS annually organizes the Renewing the Anarchist Tradition (RAT) conference in Vermont and the Radical Theory Track at the National Conference on Organized Resistance (NCOR).
The Public School Nightmare: Why Fix a System Designed to Destroy Individual Thought?
By John Taylor Gatto
John worked as a scriptwriter in the film business, an advertising writer, a taxi driver, a jewelry designer, an ASCAP songwriter, and a hotdog vendor before becoming a schoolteacher. He climaxed his teaching career as New York State Teacher of the Year after being named New York City Teacher of the Year on three occasions. He quit teaching on the Op Ed page of The Wall Street Journal in 1991 while still New York State Teacher of the Year, claiming that he was no longer willing to hurt children. His books include: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (1992); The Exhausted School (1993); A Different Kind of Teacher (2000); and The Underground History Of American Education (2001).
I want you to consider the frightening possibility that we are spending far too much money on schooling, not too little. I want you to consider that we have too many people employed in interfering with the way children grow up-and that all this money and all these people, all the time we take out of children’s lives and away from their homes and families and neighborhoods and private explorations, gets in the way of education.
That seems radical, I know. Surely in modern technological society it is the quantity of schooling and the amount of money you spend on it that buys value. And yet, last year in St. Louis, I heard a vice-president of IBM tell an audience of people assembled to redesign the process of teacher certification that, in his opinion, this country became computer-literate by self-teaching, not through any action of schools. He said 45 million people were comfortable with computers who had learned through dozens of non-systematic strategies, none of them very formal; if schools had pre-empted the right to teach computers use we would be in a horrible mess right now instead of leading the world in this literacy.
Now think about Sweden, a beautiful, healthy, prosperous, and up-to-date country with a spectacular reputation for quality in everything it produces. It makes sense to think their schools must have something to do with that. Then what do you make of the fact that you can’t go to school in Sweden until you are seven years old? The reason the unsentimental Swedes have wiped out what would be first and seconds grades here is that they don’t want to pay the large social bill that quickly comes due when boys and girls are ripped away from their best teachers at home too early.
It just isn’t worth the price, say the Swedes, to provide jobs for teachers and therapists if the result is sick, incomplete kids who can’t be put back together again very easily. The entire Swedish school sequence isn’t twelve years, either-it’s nine. Less schooling, not more. The direct savings of such a step in the United States would be $75-100 billion-a lot of unforeclosed home mortgages, a lot of time freed up with which to seek an education.
Who was it that decided to force your attention onto Japan instead of Sweden? Japan with its long school year and state compulsion, instead of Sweden with its short school year, short school sequence, and free choice where your kid is schooled? Who decided you should know about Japan and not Hong Kong, an Asian neighbor with a short school year that outperforms Japan across the board in math and science? Whose interests are served by hiding that from you?
One of the principal reasons we got into the mess we’re in is that we allowed schooling to become a very profitable monopoly, guaranteed its customers by the police power of the state. Systematic schooling attracts increased investment only when it does poorly, and since there are no penalties at all for such performance, the temptation not to do well is overwhelming. That’s because school staffs, both line and management, are involved in a guild system; in that ancient form of association no single member is allowed to outperform any other member, is allowed to advertise or is allowed to introduce new technology or improvise without the advance consent of the guild. Violation of these precepts is severely sanctioned-as Marva Collins, Jaime Escalante and a large number of once-brilliant teachers found out.
The guild reality cannot be broken without returning primary decision-making to parents, letting them buy what they want to buy in schooling, and encouraging the entrepreneurial reality that existed until 1852. That is why I urge any business to think twice before entering a cooperative relationship with the schools we currently have. Cooperating with these places will only make them worse.
Out of the dusty, desolate, dreary, dark depths of the Bay Area comes a ray of hope, a new ambition, a harbinger of good things: it is the Alexander Berkman Social Club!
The ABSC is a group of anarchists who want to talk about what anarchism is, how anarchists see things, and what anarchy could look like. Named after the editor of San Francisco’s mighty The Blast, they hold continual monthly meetings that are open to all.
Their second event, like the first, was a tremendous success. Held in commodious chambers on a third floor of San Francisco’s 522 Valencia Street, it featured a broad ranging discussion of anarchism and sexuality. Esteemed anarcho-archivist Jessica Moran began the discussion with a fascinating introduction to anarchism and free love in the United States in the late nineteenth century; AK author, Terence Kissack spoke about his excellent new book, Free Comrades: Anarchism and Sexuality in the United States, 1895-1917; and long-time Sanfranarchist, Joey Cain, brought the evening to a close with a thrilling presentation on Edward Carpenter, who was arguably the great grandfather of the modern gay rights movement. There were also delicious snacks and the (now world-famous) ASBC raffle!!
To keep informed about future meetings and see more photos, go to the Alexander Berkman Social Club website. You can also download audio recordings of the first two events at this website.
The next event will occur on Thursday, August 28 and will focus on prisons and prisoners. It will feature Barry Pateman, who will speak about the early days of the Anarchist Black Cross; Isaac Ontiveros from Critical Resistance, who will speak on prison abolition; and music by the ABSC house band, featuring Devin Hoff.
Jessica Moran, speaking on anarchism and free love in the US.