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Crossing the American Crises Tour Dates


On September 15, 2008, the United States fell into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. The same day, we set out on a trip around the country to ask the American people what they had to say about it. In 2010, we went back to see how things had changed. The financial forecasters say the recession is over, but the reality is otherwise.

Their stories reveal desperation, indignation, hope, dreams and a disastrous economic breakdown; chaos generated by a system of inequality. But the financial meltdown is just one of several human rights crises now shaking the United States—in housing, education, health care, etc. The solutions to “Crossing the American Crises” are in the hands of the people.

Featuring the Vermont Worker’s Center, LA's Bus Rider's Union, Santa Fe's local business Alliance, Oakland's Green Jobs Now, Baltimore’s United Workers, New York’s Poverty Initiative, the U.S. Social Forum, and American workers, truck drivers, farmers, homeless, ex-felons, minorities, natural disaster survivors, indigenous, immigrants, and residents from coast to coast—covering nearly forty states across the nation.

Tour Dates:

Lunes, Febrero 7, 2011, 1-3pm
Caracas, Venezuela

Wednesday, February 16, 2011, 7pm
Red Emma's
800 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 230-0450

Monday, February 21, 2011
SUNY New Paltz
New Paltz, New York
Time and Location, TBA

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Hampshire College
Amherst, Mass
Time and Location, TBA

Thursday, February 24, 2011
Boston, Mass
Time and Location, TBA

Saturday, February 26, 2011, 7pm
Vermont Workers' Center
294 N Winooski Avenue
Burlington VT 05401

Sunday, February 27, 2011, 6:30pm
Black Sheep Books
5 State Street, Montpelier, VT 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011, 7:30pm
The Brecht Forum
451 West Street (between Bank & Bethune Streets),
New York, NY
(212) 242-4201

END:CIV's Tour Dates

END:CIV showings with Franklin Lopez

The acclaimed film END:CIV: Resist or Die, recently released on a PM Press DVD, is currently touring throughout North America, Europe, Japan, and Australia. This screening will also feature a talk by director Franklin Lopez. Admission is free. Follow the link below for more information on the film, including a streaming clip. While attending this event, please stop by the PM table to peruse books by authors included in the film and a selection of our other DVDs.

Our planet is in crisis. Every ecosystem is collapsing. Another 120 species will go extinct today. And the carbon level keeps rising. For years, Derrick Jensen (author of the recently published Resistance Against Empire and Mischief in the Forest—click here for more info) has asked his audiences, "Do you think this culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of life?" No one ever says yes. In END:CIV, based partly on the premises of Jensen's Endgame, explores Jensen's work and exposes the accelerating ecological and social disaster that is industrial civilization—and the environmental movement’s refusal to face the scale of the crisis. Through interviews with Jensen and other radical activists, END:CIV makes the case that industrial civilization is incompatible with life. Technology can't fix it, and shopping—no matter how green—won’t stop it. To save this planet, we need a serious resistance movement that can bring down the industrial economy. END: CIV is, finally, a call to act as if we truly love this planet.

features interviews with Paul Watson, Waziyatawin, Gord Hill (author of 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance, Michael Becker, Peter Gelderloos, Lierre Keith (author of The Vegetarian Myth), James Howard Kunstler, Stephanie McMillan, Qwatsinas, Rod Coronado, John Zerzan, Steven Best, Aric McBay, George Poitras, Shusli, Zoe Blunt, Dru Oja Jay, Maya Rolbin-Ghanie, Shannon Walsh, Macdonald Stainsby, and Mike Mercredi.


When: Tuesday, February 15 2011 @ 06:30 PM - - 08:30PM
Where: BSS Native Forum, Rm 162, BSS Bldg
16th and Union, HSU Campus
Arcata, CA

When: Thursday, February 17 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Sugarplum Vegan Cafe
2315 K Street
Sacramento, CA

When: Friday, February 18 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:30PM
Where: Humanist Hall
390 27th St.
Oakland, CA

When: Saturday, February 19 2011 @ 01:30 PM - - 05:30PM
Where: Artist Television Access
992 Valencia (at 21st St)
San Francisco, CA

When: Monday, February 21 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Firehouse 51
410 James St
Modesto, CA


When: Tuesday, February 22 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Cafe Fresno Infoshop
935 F St.
Fresno, CA

When: Saturday, February 26 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Pitzer College
1050 North Mills Avenue
Claremont, CA

When: Monday, March 28 2011 @ 07:00 PM - - 09:00PM
Where: Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Rd.
Boca Raton, FL


Buy DVD now | Back to Franklin Lopez's Page

A Conversation With Derrick Jensen

By Mickey Z.
Sunday, January 23, 2011

'We Need to Stop This Culture Before It Kills the Planet'

A Conversation With Derrick Jensen

As you begin reading this interview, take a look at the nearest clock. Now, dig this: Since yesterday at the same exact time, 200,000 acres of rainforest have been destroyed, over 100 plant and animal species have gone extinct, 13 million tons of toxic chemicals were released across the globe, and 29,158 children under the age of five died from preventable causes.

Worst of all, there’s nothing unique about the past 24 hours. It’s business as usual, a daily reality—and no amount of CFL bulbs, recycled toilet paper, or Sierra Club donations will change it even a tiny bit.

As you do your best to convince yourself of the vast chasm between the two wings of America’s single corporate party, I suggest you listen carefully to hear if even one of the politicians mentions any of the following:

    •    Every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic
    •    Eighty-one tons of mercury is emitted into the atmosphere each year as a result of electric power generation 
    •    Every second, 10,000 gallons of gasoline are burned in the US
    •    Each year, Americans use 2.2 billion pounds of pesticides
    •    Ninety percent of the large fish in the ocean and 80 percent of the world’s forests are gone
    •    Every two seconds, a human being starves to death

This is just a minute sampling, folks, and sorry, but your hybrid ain’t helping. That reusable shopping bag you bring to the market has zero impact. Your home composting kit is not gonna start a revolution.

In fact, even if every single person in the US made every single change suggested in the movie An Inconvenient Truth, carbon emissions would fall by only 21%—in contrast to the 75% emissions decrease that scientific consensus believes must happen ... now.

None of this, of course, is news to Derrick Jensen. He is the author of essential works such as A Language Older Than Words and Endgame. His worldview has nothing to do with party politics, incremental reform, leftist in-fighting, corporate compromise, or anything that seeks to tweak but ultimately maintain the ongoing global crime we call civilization.

“My loyalty,” he told me, “is with the nonhuman and human victims (or targets) of this culture, and my work is toward stopping this culture’s assaults on nonhumans, on the land, on the planet itself, on women, on indigenous peoples, on the poor.”

If you’ve grown weary (and wary) of the entrenched Left and all the words left unspoken, you owe it to yourself to read the rest of our conversation below. Afterwards, you just might start realizing that you also owe it to the planet to get busy.

Our exchange took place during the week of January 17 and went a little something like this …
Mickey Z.: We’re starting this conversation as another MLK Day is observed. Not much of a chance that we’ll hear this Dr. King quote—“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be”—mentioned much by the corporate media, huh?

Derrick Jensen: Just today I read an article stating that, no surprise, industrial-induced global warming will be far worse than estimated, and if carbon emissions continue as expected, could render much of the planet uninhabitable within 100 years. Even now, 150-200 species are driven extinct every day. This culture extirpates indigenous peoples. The oceans are being murdered. And today I saw a study of rates of fire retardant in every fetus. And on and on. And yet those of us who are working to stop this planetary murder are sometimes characterized as extremists.

I think the real extremists are the people who value capitalism over life, the people who value civilization over life. I cannot think of any more extreme position than valuing this insane culture over life.
MZ: Not surprisingly, another major African-American figure from the 1960s—Malcolm X—had some positive words for extremism in the name of toppling that insane culture. Using Hamlet as a springboard,

Malcolm wrote:

“(Hamlet) was in doubt about something—whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—moderation—or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you’ll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who’s in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you’ll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built and the only way it’s going to be built with—is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth."

DJ: I think the key has to do with wanting to change this miserable condition.

I try to be fairly inclusive of the people I would work with, but I’ve realized over the past many years that I’m not working toward the same goals as many of the environmentalists who are explicitly working to save capitalism or to save civilization, rather than the real world. In talks and interviews I often ask what all of the so-called solutions to global warming or the murder of the oceans, or biodiversity crash, etc, all have in common. And what they all have in common is that they all take industrial capitalism as a given, and the natural world as that which must conform to industrial capitalism. That is literally insane, in terms of being out of touch with physical reality. I mean, look at Lester Brown’s Plan B 4.0 to Save Civilization. What does he want to save? Could he be any more explicit? He wants to save civilization. But civilization is killing the planet. It’s like writing a book about how to save a serial killer who is murdering so many people he’s running out of victims. We see this attitude all the time. When people, for example, ask how we can stop global warming, they’re not asking how we can stop global warming; they’re asking how we can stop global warming without changing the physical conditions (burning oil and gas, deforestation, industrial agriculture, and so on) that lead to global warming. And the answer to that question is that you can’t. Likewise, when they ask how we can save salmon, they aren’t really asking how we can save salmon, they’re asking how we can save salmon without removing dams, stopping industrial logging, stopping industrial agriculture, stopping industrial fishing, stopping the murder of the oceans, stopping global warming, and so on.

A question I keep asking is: with whom (or what) do you identify? Where is your loyalty? Whom, or what do you want to save? And if what you really want to save is this “miserable condition”—capitalism, civilization, what have you—at the expense of the planet, then we’re not really working toward the same goal, are we? My loyalty is with the nonhuman and human victims (or targets) of this culture, and my work is toward stopping this culture’s assaults on nonhumans, on the land, on the planet itself, on women, on indigenous peoples, on the poor.

MZ: It’s a testament to the power of propaganda how even well-meaning folks will choose the options—both public and private—that work against their own interests. Gay rights activists are currently applauding the alleged repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” In the name of promoting diversity and inclusion, they are celebrating the ability to volunteer for an institution that exists to violently crush all diversity and inclusion.

The conditioning is so interwoven throughout every aspect of our culture that even respected Leftist thinkers simply cannot comprehend your comment, “civilization is killing the planet” and resort to retorts about “misanthropy.”

So, the question must be asked, Derrick: Can these people be reached with the message that we can’t have industrial capitalism as a given without all the murderous side effects?

DJ: There’s a great line by Upton Sinclair about how it’s hard to make a man [sic] understand something when his [sic] job depends on him not understanding it. I think that’s true even more for entitlement. It’s hard to make someone understand something when their entitlement, their privilege, their comforts and elegancies, their perceived ability to control and manage, depends on it.

So much nature writing, social change theory, and environmental philosophy are at best irrelevant, and more often harmful in that they do not question human supremacism (or for that matter white supremacism, or male supremacism). They often do not question imperialism, including ecological imperialism. So often I feel like so many of them still want the goodies that come from imperialism (including ecological imperialism and sexual imperialism) far more than they want for these forms of imperialism to stop. And since the violence of imperialism is structural—inherent to the process—you can’t realistically expect imperialism to stop being violent just because you call it “green” or just because you wish with all your might.

Here’s another way to say this: as I say in Endgame, any way of life that requires the importation of resources will a) never be sustainable and b) always be based on violence, because a) requiring importation of resources means you are using more of that resource than the landbase can provide, which is by definition not sustainable (and as your city grows you’ll need an ever larger area to harm); and b) trade will never be sufficiently reliable, because if you require some resource (e.g., oil) and the people who live with or control that resource won’t trade you for it, you will take it, because you need it. It’s inherent. One of the many implications of this is that if you don’t question imperialism itself, the solutions you present will be absurd, and either irrelevant or harmful.

Here’s a story. A couple of weeks ago a tree fell down in a storm and knocked down an electric wire in this neighborhood. My neighbor told me about it, and when I saw the downed tree I looked and looked and looked for the stump, to see where the tree came from. I couldn’t find it. I’ve looked again every time I’ve gone by that place. Well, today I was walking and I saw where it came from. The top of a big tree had broken off. It was really obvious when I looked up instead of down. Point being (instant aphorism): You can search as thoroughly as is possible, but you’ll never find what you’re looking for if you’re looking in the wrong place.

This applies to everything from personal happiness to solutions to global warming.

But the problem is worse than mere entitlement. RD Laing came up with the three rules of a dysfunctional family:

Rule A is don’t.
Rule A.1 is Rule A does not exist
Rule A.2 is Never discuss the existence or nonexistence of Rules A, A.1, A.2

This is as true of dysfunctional cultures as dysfunctional families. So we cannot talk, for example, about the fact that this culture is only one way of living among many, that this way of living is based on conquest and the acquisition of power, that this way of life systematically destroys landbases, other cultures, and on and on. Systematically, functionally.

But it’s worse than this. In the 1960s a researcher attached electrodes to people’s eyeballs to track where they looked, and then showed them pictures. What the researcher found is that if the photo contained something that threatened the person’s worldview, the person’s eyes would not even track to it once: they would evidently see it out of the corners of their eyes, and know where not to look. So far too often you can make the point as reasonably as you can, and the person will have no idea what you are talking about.

MZ: Considering the glacial rate by which most humans—myself very much included—recognize and address destructive or self-destructive patterns in their personal life, it’s difficult to imagine a lot more humans allowing their eyeballs to focus in on global crises and their obscured causes. High Noon is approaching and it seems most of us don’t even know how to tell time.

Speaking of High Noon, I recently watched the classic 1952 film and found myself focused on the moment when Amy (Grace Kelly), the pacifist wife of Marshal Kane (Gary Cooper), shoots and kills a man to save her husband’s life. Earlier in the film, Amy had declared: “My father and my brother were killed by guns. They were on the right side but that didn’t help them any when the shooting started. My brother was nineteen. I watched him die. That’s when I became a Quaker. I don’t care who’s right or who’s wrong. There’s got to be some better way for people to live.”

However, she not only ends up shooting a man, she also fights off the main villain, which allows Marshal Kane to finish him. Now, before some readers run and tell Gandhi on me, what I’m proposing as the lesson is that when faced with the clarity a crisis can sometimes inspire, we can recognize that those clock hands are inching towards noon and surprise ourselves (as Grace Kelly’s character did) with our ability to take things to a new level.

If not, what chance do we (the animals, the trees, the eco-system, etc.) have?

DJ: Very little chance. Even if people don’t care about nonhumans, recent estimates are that billions, literally billions, of humans will die in what is beginning to be called a climate holocaust. This is if the temperature rises 4 degrees Celsius.

And the most recent estimates are revealing that global warming is far worse than previously believed (have you ever noticed how the previous estimates were always low?), and could go up 16 degrees C within 90 years, rendering much of the planet uninhabitable ("Science stunner: On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter—Paleoclimate data suggests CO2 ‘may have at least twice the effect on global temperatures than currently projected by computer models’"). This means that there are young people now who will die in this climate holocaust.

And there are too many people who prefer this wretched, destructive way of life over life on the planet, and literally over their own children. We need to stop this culture before it kills the planet.

MZ: Although I feel there’s way too much hand-holding in the realm of activism and far too many progressives sitting idle as they wait for a leader to give them direction, I must ask you this: What types of immediate direct action might you suggest to those reading this interview, in the name of stopping this culture before it kills the planet?

DJ: I think the important thing is that they start doing some form of activism. I can’t tell people what to do, because I don’t know what is important to them and I don’t know what their gifts are. But the important thing is that they start. Now. Today.

So how do you start? The problems are so huge! Well, the way I started as an activist was the result of the smartest thing I ever did. When I was in my mid-20s I realized I wasn’t paying enough for gasoline (in terms of including any of the ecological costs, etc), so for every dollar I spent on gas I would donate a dollar to an environmental organization (never a national or international organization, but rather local grassroots organizations), but since I didn’t have any money I would instead pay myself $5/hour to do activist work, whether it is writing letters to the editor or participating in demonstrations. My first demos were anti-fur demos and anti-circus demos. And don’t let your perceived ignorance stop you: I had no idea what exactly was wrong with circuses, but I knew they were exploitative of nonhuman animals and so I showed up, and other people handed me signs. If anyone asked me, What’s wrong with circuses? I just pointed them to the person standing next to me. I went from there to other forms of activism, including filing timber sale appeals, and so on. The point is that I started. At the time it cost $10 to fill my tank with gas, and if I filled it once a week, that meant two hours per week. And I started having so much fun with the activism that I stopped keeping track of how many hours I was doing activism, and just did it. But the important thing is that I got off my butt and started doing something.

It’s also important that when people do activism, that it not simply be personal stuff: environmentalism especially has gone down the dead end of lifestylism, where people think that changing their own life is sufficient. Just today I read an article that said, about water, “First of all, turn off the water when you don’t need it. It’s that simple. I don’t want to sound too preachy, but, according to UNICEF and the World Health Organization, lack of access to clean drinking water kills about 4,500 children per day. The water won’t magically travel from our taps to someone in need, but creating a mind-set of conservation will certainly help. There is absolutely no purpose served by letting water you are not using run down the drain.” This is just absurd. Yes, lack of access to clean water kills 4500 children per day, but it’s not because of my own water usage. 90 percent of the water used by humans is used by agriculture and industry. So all these environmental pleas for simple living are tremendous misdirection: these children (and what about the salmon children, and the sturgeon children, and so on) aren’t dying because I brushed my teeth: they’re dying because agriculture and industry are stealing the water. Just yesterday I read that Turkey is sacrificing all nature reserves to put in dams. This is not so people can have showers.

It’s for agriculture and industry.

I live pretty simply, but that’s because I’m a cheapskate. I turn off the water while I brush my teeth, too. Big fucking deal. That is not a political act. There are no personal solutions to social problems. None.

So when I say that people should do some activism, I mean do something good for your landbase. Stop destructive activities. Do rehabilitation. Or if your primary emergency is violence against women, then do work against domestic violence, or against pornography, or against the trafficking in women. Get started.
Like Joe Hill said, “Don’t mourn, organize.”

MZ: I like to tell people that we live in the best time ever to be an activist. We’re on the brink of economic, social, and environmental collapse. What a time to be alive. We can take part in the most important work humans have ever undertaken. How lucky are we? In this era of “hope and change,” I say action is always better than hope. Or, as Rita Mae Brown said, “Never hope more than you work."

DJ: Yes, I get so tired of people saying they hope salmon survive, or hope this or hope that. But what is hope? Hope is a longing for a future condition over which we have no agency. That’s how we use the word in every day language. I don’t say, “Gosh, I hope I put my shoes on before I go outside.” I just do it. On the other hand, the next time I get on a plane I hope it doesn’t crash. After I get on the plane I have no agency. Think of this: if a parent says to an eight-year-old child, “Please clean your room,” and the child says, “I hope it gets done,” we all know that’s ridiculous. I asked an eight-year-old what would happen if she said that to her parents, and she said, “Someone has to clean the room!”

That kid is smarter than a lot of environmentalists. It’s ridiculous to say we hope global warming doesn’t kill the planet when we can stop the oil economy that is causing global warming. I’m not interested in hope. I’m interested in agency, and I’m interested in people no longer waiting for some miracle to solve their problems. We need to do what is necessary.

MZ: When you first began writing and speaking about civilization and the eventual collapse, did you ever truly imagine that you’d be around to see things as bad as they are right now?

DJ: No. And even though I wrote in The Culture of Make Believe about the ways in which economic collapse can lead to more and more brownshirt-ism and fascism, I’m still kind of stunned at the way it is happening here. But more to the point, even though I’ve written something on the order of fifteen books about this culture’s insanity, I still cannot believe this isn’t all a bad dream, with this frenzied maintenance of this culture as the world is murdered. I keep wanting to wake up, but each time I awaken this culture is still killing the planet, and not many people care.

MZ: I’m sure you can’t even calculate how many times you’ve been interviewed but I’m wondering if there’s a question you always wished you’d been asked but so far, no one has done so. If so, by way of wrapping up, please feel free to ask and answer that question.

DJ: Four questions:

Q: You’ve said many times that you don’t believe that humans are particularly more sentient than other animals. Where do you draw the line?

A: I don’t draw the line at all. I don’t see any reason to believe anything other than that the universe is full of a wild symphony of wildly different voices, wildly different intelligences. Humans have human intelligence, which is no greater nor less than octopi intelligence, which is no greater nor less than redwood intelligence, which is no greater nor less than flu virus intelligence, which is no greater nor less than granite intelligence, which is no greater nor less than river intelligence, and so on.

Q: How did the world get to be such a beautiful and wonderful and fecund place in the first place?

A: By everyone making the world a more beautiful and wonderful and fecund place by living and dying.

By plants and animals and fungi and viruses and bacteria and rocks and rivers and so on making the world a better place. Salmon makes forests better places because of their existence. The Mississippi River makes that region a better place because of its existence. Bison make the Great Plains a better place because of their existence.

Civilized humans do not make the world a better place because of their existence. They are collectively and individually making the world a less beautiful and wonderful and fecund place. How can you make the world a better place? What can you do to make the landbase where you live more healthy, more beautiful, more fecund? And why aren’t you doing it?

Q: What will it take for the planet to survive?

A: The eradication of industrial civilization. Industrial civilization is functionally, systematically incompatible with life.

The good news is that industrial civilization is in the process of collapsing.

The bad news is that it is taking down too much of the planet with it.

Q: So if industrial civilization is collapsing, why shouldn’t we just hunker down and make our lifeboats and protect our own, and basically take care of our own precious little asses?

A: I would contrast the narcissism and cowardice of this attitude with that expressed by Henning von Tresckow, one of the members of the German resistance to Hitler in World War II. When the Allies invaded France in 1944, anybody paying any attention at all knew that the Nazis were going to lose: it was just a matter of time. So some members of the resistance suggested that they stop working to take down the Nazis, and instead just protect themselves until the war was over, basically hunker down and make their lifeboats and protect their own. Henning von Tresckow responded that every day the Nazis were killing 16,000 innocent civilians, so basically every day sooner they could bring down the Nazis would save 16,000 innocent civilians.

There is more courage and wisdom and integrity in that statement than in all the statements of all the craven lifeboatists put together.

Between 150 and 200 species went extinct today. They were my brothers and sisters. It is not sufficient to merely hunker down and wait for the horrors to stop. Salmon won’t survive that long. Sturgeon won’t survive that long. Delta smelt won’t survive that long.

Here’s another way to say all this. I would contrast the narcissism and cowardice of the lifeboatists with the attitude expressed by my dear friend, and the person who really got me started in environmentalism, John Osborn. He has devoted his life to saving as much of the wild as he can, through organized political resistance. When asked why he does this work, he always says, “We cannot predict the future. But as things become increasingly chaotic, I want to make sure that some doors remain open.” What he means by that is that if grizzly bears are around in 30 years they may be around in fifty. If they are gone in 30 they are gone forever. If he can keep this or that valley of old growth standing, it may be standing in 50 years. If it’s gone now, it will be gone for a long, long time, maybe forever.

As you said, Mickey Z, we are living at a time when we have perhaps more leverage than at many previous times. Any destructive activity we can halt now may protect that area until the collapse: people couldn’t realistically say that in the 1920s. I believe it was David Brower who said that every environmental victory was temporary while every loss was permanent. I think we are quickly reaching the point where every victory can be permanent.

One final thing: the single most effective recruiting tool for the French Resistance in WWII was D-Day, because the French realized once and for all that the Germans weren’t invincible. Knowing that this culture is collapsing should not lead us into narcissism and cowardice, but should give us courage, and should lead us to defend the victims of this culture.

For more about Derrick Jensen and his work, you can find him on the Web here.

Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, Mickey Z. can be found on a somewhat obscure website called Facebook.

Back to Author's Page
| Back to Interviewer's Page | Back to Derrick Jensen's Page

From Here to There: A Review

The Sixties: A Journal of History, Politics and Culture Vol. 3, Iss.2, (December 2010): 255-262.
Luke Stewart

The admirable radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War dissent, 1945–1970, by Carl Mirra, Kent, Kent State University Press, 2010, 224 pp., US$34.95 (hardback), ISBN 9781606350515

From here to there: the Staughton Lynd reader, edited by Andrej Grubacic, Oakland, PM Press, 2010, 305 pp., US$22.00 (paperback), ISBN 9781604862157

Stepping stones: a memoir of a life together, by Alice Lynd and Staughton Lynd, Lanham, Lexington Books, 2009, 191 pp., US$26.95 (paperback), ISBN 9780739127506

The release of Carl Mirra’s biography of Staughton Lynd, The Admirable Radical: Staughton Lynd and Cold War Dissent, 1945–1970, Andrej Grubacic’s edited collection of Lynd’s writings, From Here to There: The Staughton Lynd Reader, and Lynd’s dual memoir with his wife, Alice, Stepping Stones: A Memoir of a Life Together will help to deepen our understanding of the long Sixties and the important debates about postwar American radicalism. Furthermore, these three books contribute to our understanding about Staughton Lynd as an historical protagonist and as a historian.

This past summer Carl Mirra’s biography – and to a lesser extent Grubacic’s edited collection and the Lynds’ dual memoir – sparked a lively exchange between John Summers, Staughton Lynd and Carl Mirra in The New Republic about Staughton Lynd’s scholarship. For instance, Summers, a visiting scholar at Boston University, argued “Lynd was never a historian who selects significant problems for study, but one who knows most of the answers in advance.” Moreover, Summers claimed Lynd, and new left historiography more broadly, helped to “turn history from a means of understanding to a record of heroes and villains.”1 Such broad strokes and swipes, painted by Summers, skirted a real analysis of Mirra’s biography and represents the continuing struggle for the kind of radical, bottom-up history that Lynd advocated in the Sixties and throughout his career.2

In Staughton Lynd’s response in The New Republic, he took issue with Summers’ inference that he refused to acknowledge “the many-sidedness of history.” Instead, Lynd listed the many historical debates that he has engaged with throughout his career and argued: “I have been concerned not so much with rescuing the voices of the people ‘below’ as with exploring whatever light their views may seem to throw on a variety of problems of interpretation.”3 This is particularly evident in the publication, with Alice Lynd, of Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers4 and Lynd’s belief in guerrilla history.5 Lynd’s response to Summers touched on his academic work with steelworkers and his attempt to understand why the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) did not produce a radical trade union movement in the United States. Through employing guerrilla history, Lynd argued that the steelworkers:

reported that in the late 1930s the CIO had not been recognized as an exclusive bargaining representative in Little Steel but bargained with management as a members-only or
minority trade union that retained the right to strike. They were adamant that workers
then enjoyed wages and benefits better than after the adoption of a comprehensive
collective bargaining agreement complete with no-strike and ‘management prerogative’

Indeed, Lynd’s work with steelworkers in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped produce an alternative interpretation of the CIO’s importance in the 1930s and beyond. With regard to Lynd’s work as a radical labor historian and labor lawyer, Mirra writes in The Admirable Radical that Lynd “offends the advantage class but is often embraced by the working class” (p. 6).

While Staughton Lynd has always played a background role in the literature on the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War and in critiques of New Left historiography,7 these three books, and Lynd’s current renaissance, demonstrate the significance of Staughton Lynd in the history of American radicalism, historiography and radical intellectualism. Or, as Carl Mirra has written elsewhere, that Lynd is a “[h]istorian with a place in history.”8

Carl Mirra, associate professor in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education at Adelphia University, has written an excellently researched, and long overdue, biography of Staughton Lynd. Mirra places Lynd in the broader context of postwar radicalism in America and covers the formative years of Lynd’s life to the beginning of Lynd’s transition to becoming a labor lawyer in the early 1970s. If there is one criticism of this political and intellectual biography, it is that Mirra does not go far enough as he only covers the turbulent years from 1945 to 1970. While Mirra addresses Lynd’s early life and exposure to the “Old Left,” his dishonorable discharge from the army, the Lynds’ experience at the Macedonia commune, his historical scholarship, and his participation in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, he stops short of the Lynds moving to Ohio and their readjustment in the 1970s, and beyond, as labor lawyers. While this is, according to Mirra, a “preliminary biography,” Mirra does indeed provide a refreshing look at postwar radicalism from the vantage point of one of its most controversial protagonists. Students of the Sixties, or the “long Sixties,” will no doubt find this book a welcome addition to the literature.

Mirra sketched an outline of Lynd’s political philosophy that acted as a blueprint for Lynd’s participation in the movements for social, economic, and political justice in the United States. Mirra clarifies that his biography is an unconventional one as it should be read as a “movement biography” and not simply a biography of ideas. He states that “[t]he analytical framework that shapes Lynd’s thought is inseparable from the social movements that both stimulated and modified these political predilections.”

Mirra points to three basic principles that guided Lynd. First, “Lynd argued for the right of revolution among the oppressed.” Second, that social transformation will only advance through “solidarity and commitment to the despised, downtrodden, and degraded.” This is better known as accompaniment,9 the phrase taken by Lynd from the late Archbishop Oscar Romero. Finally, that people make decisions for themselves, or, political decentralization (p. 8). Through analyzing Lynd’s contribution to social, economic, and political justice, Mirra has found that Lynd espouses these principals in both theory and practice.

While each chapter covers the important events and engages specific debates in Lynd’s life and the historical literature, the heart of the biography is Mirra’s analysis of Lynd’s participation in the Civil Rights Movement, the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War. The clash between radicalism and Cold War liberalism informs Mirra’s analysis of Lynd’s participation in these struggles and is an important current running through his analysis of Lynd’s scholarship. In the core chapters on the Civil Rights Movement, the Mississippi Freedom Summer and the antiwar movement, Mirra links Lynd’s belief in participatory democracy and horizontal decision-making to his experience in the Civil Rights Movement and the antiwar movement. Mirra found that Lynd’s participation in the Mississippi Freedom Summer, more than any other experience, “signifies the most potent political expression of Lynd’s liberation spirituality” (p. 50). By contrast to Lynd’s experience in the Freedom Summer, Mirra argues that the 1964 Democratic National Convention compromise in Atlantic City between the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and the national Democratic party “signified the absolute failure of coalition-style politics and reinforced his allegiance to alternative institutions and to local organizing over national coalitions” (p. 65).

The struggle between radical alternatives and Cold War liberalism also informed Mirra’s analysis of Lynd’s opposition to the Vietnam War. In two chapters on the antiwar movement, Mirra provides an invaluable analysis, from Lynd’s perspective, of the important events such as the first antiwar march in Washington on 17 April 1965 and the Assembly of Unrepresented Peoples in August 1965. Mirra’s analysis of Lynd’s sojourn to Hanoi during the Johnson administration’s second bombing pause and first major “Peace Offensive” is second to none. While the trip is criticized elsewhere as “political tourism,”10 Mirra argues that Lynd’s controversial trip to Hanoi helped to humanize “the other side” when the mainstream press, politicians, and pundits were blinded by the fog of war. He points to Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968, reaching many of the same conclusions in 1995 that Lynd had reached in 1966 (pp. 100–101). Furthermore, Mirra argued that the trip opened the door for journalists (such as Harrison Salisbury) and activists (such as Howard Zinn and Jane Fonda) to travel to North Vietnam (p. 117).

For those looking for an analysis of Lynd’s scholarship, his blacklisting from the academy, and the reaction to New Left historiography more broadly, Mirra has provided an excellent investigation. Despite critiques over the years by Eugene Genovese, Christopher Lasch, and John Summers, Mirra demonstrates that Lynd’s scholarship was well received and has lasted through the rigors of historical analysis as Lynd’s academic books during his time at Yale have been re-released with much praise.11 In this investigation, Mirra dedicated three chapters to Lynd’s scholarship and the reaction it provoked. Mirra argues that “[t]his chapter of Lynd’s life amounts to a study in political repression, inasmuch as it illustrates a tendency among US historians to dismiss scholars falling outside the mainstream” (p. 122).

Mirra moved beyond his previous analysis in “Radical Historians and the Liberal Establishment: Staughton Lynd’s Life with History” in Left History and concluded that “Yale’s president described Lynd’s politics as traitorous, its History Department chair called him strident, and Yale alumni clamored for his removal. Is it not reasonable to assume that these political denunciations influenced Yale’s decision to deny Lynd’s tenure?” (p. 145). Mirra does not reach this conclusion lightly. He discusses the friction between the “Big Three” in Yale’s History Department – C. Vann Woodward, Edmund Morgan, and John Morton Blum – and Staughton Lynd; the History Department’s lack-lustre review of Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism; Kingman Brewster seeking legal advice in September 1967 for the possible legal ramifications of the Lynd tenure case; and John Morton Blum’s admission in his memoir, A Life with History, that Lynd was not denied tenure at Yale because of financial constraints despite his pronouncements in the late 1960s to the contrary. Mirra concludes that “[i]t would be a mistake to reduce Lynd’s scholarship to mere activism; it was an attempt to provide a historical foundation for the participatory politics of the New Left. Lynd’s work was critical research on praxis, which was no less rigorous than traditional historiography” (p. 130).

While John Summers took aim at Mirra’s admiration for Staughton Lynd and questioned his objectivity, I found that Mirra’s analysis was fair as he allowed for Lynd’s critics to be heard (including Eugene Genovese and William Buckley). While Mirra did not shy away from his admiration for Lynd in his introduction, I found this was a reasoned historical analysis that shed light on many crucial events during the Sixties as well as analyzing Lynd’s scholarship after more than 40 years of rigorous analysis by other historians. While Mirra favors Lynd’s historical approach, the Summers-Lynd-Mirra exchange demonstrates that there is indeed more than one way of doing history. As Mirra demonstrates, Lynd’s particular brand of radical history has drawn accusations of anti-intellectualism from his critics and led to his blacklisting from the academy. Therefore, it is no surprise Lynd’s work continues to draw both praise and disdain.

Andrej Grubacic, a radical historian and anarchist from the Balkans, has compiled a set of valuable, and sometimes obscure, selections of Lynd’s writings over the past four decades. From Here to There offers the reader a glimpse into the possibilities and alternatives to capitalism, war, racism and top-down institutions. The Reader demonstrates Lynd’s commitment to justice for African Americans, workers, prisoners and the victims of American imperialism during his involvement in the civil rights, anti-war, labor, and prisoner rights movements. Grubacic’s edited collection, despite Summers’ claim that Lynd “vanished from intellectual society,”12 demonstrates Lynd’s contribution to the intellectual climate long past “the sixties.” Grubacic’s introduction is autobiographical as he states: “My intention is to describe the process that led myself, an anarchist revolutionary from the Balkans, to discover, and eventually embrace, many of the ideas espoused by an American historian, Quaker, lawyer and pacifist, influenced
by Marxism.” Grubacic’s intention is to present to the reader “the relevance of Staughton
Lynd’s life and ideas for a new generation of radicals” (p. 4).

In the introduction Grubacic advocates, as in Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History, a fusion of Marxism and anarchism. Grubacic calls this the “Haymarket Synthesis” or “libertarian socialism” and finds in Lynd’s writings three basic ideas to get us from here to there. First, Grubacic finds in Lynd’s essays “Toward Another World” and “From Globalization to Resistance” the belief in “self-activity” or horizontal organizing which was also the basis for the Industrial Workers of the World’s concept of “solidarity unionism” and the Zapatistas’ “vision of a government ‘from below’ that ‘leads by obeying’” (pp. 11– 12). Second, Grubacic addresses the belief Staughton has in creating local institutions, or what E. P. Thompson called “warrens.” Through Staughton’s work with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the Civil Rights Movement and in his work as a labor lawyer in Youngstown, Ohio, during the steel mill closures in the Mahoning Valley, Lynd had discovered the possibilities of organizing horizontal institutions. Therefore, in two of Lynd’s essays, “Edward Thompson’s Warrens” and “Remembering SNCC,” Grubacic finds that the best way to transition from capitalism to libertarian socialism is to “buil[d] on the positives of a socialist commonwealth emerging from existing creations improvised from below.” In other words, Grubacic defines a “warren” as a “local institution in which people conduct their own affairs – an immigrant center or local union, for example – that expands in time of crisis to take on new powers and responsibilities, and then, after the revolutionary tide ebbs, continues to represent, in institutionalized form, an expanded version of what existed to begin with” (pp. 12–16). Finally, Grubacic argues, “[i]f capitalism developed as a practice of the idea of contract, libertarian socialism should be developed as a practice of solidarity” (p. 16). Moving from the dual concepts of self-activity and the creation of warrens, Grubacic finds in Lynd’s essays “From Globalization to Resistance,” “Toward Another World,” “The Two Yales,” and “Intellectuals, the University, and the Movement,” and their book Wobblies and Zapatistas that in order to build “communities of struggle,” it should be done through the process of “accompaniment.” Grubacic states: “Revolutionaries should accompany workers and others in the creation and maintenance of popular self-governing institutions. In this process, we should not pretend to be something we are not. Rather, we can walk beside poor people in struggle just as we are, hopefully providing support and useful skills” (p. 17).

Whether you agree with Grubacic’s interpretation of Lynd’s writings and life, whether you are a radical or a historian, or both, there is something for everyone in this collection. There are important primary sources – such as Lynd’s critique of the academy in “Intellectuals, the University, and the Movement” – and analytical secondary accounts such as “Remembering SNCC.”

Finally, the Lynds’ dual memoir touches on the issues, debates, and events that are raised in Grubacic’s collection and Mirra’s biography. Perhaps most importantly we see the significance of Alice Lynd in these events. Staughton has received most of the attention, and for good reason. However, in this dual memoir we see that Alice and Staughton’s relationship, and their work together, was central to anything they would accomplish individually or together in the antiwar, labor, and prisoner rights movements. Mirra acknowledges the centrality of Alice in Staughton’s life. However, Mirra’s political and intellectual biography “minimized” Lynd’s family life because it was “unlikely to yield high dividends in understanding him or the period” (p. 4). As we see in the dual memoir, there was also a much more practical reason for this. While Lynd was facing increasing trouble at Yale for his politics, and Alice was working as a draft counselor, Staughton writes:

To Alice it seemed that the Movement came first, the children second, and she came
third. Up to this point Alice and I had carried into life outside community the assump-
tion that the Movement, the cause, was one’s highest commitment, and everything else
must find its place afterwards. In the spring of 1966 we decided that in an effort to
build a communal society one must begin with the community of family. If commu-
nity could not be brought off with spouse and children, parents and grandchildren,
how could one presume to try to create it in the larger society? Many Movement
marriages failed to survive the sixties. Ours, in the end, put down new roots and flour-
ished. (pp. 89–90)

From Alice we find that while the Assembly of Unrepresented Peoples helped found the first national antiwar organization, the National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, she attended a workshop hosted by the Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO) and so began her role as a draft counselor in New Haven for draft-aged men. Out of this experience came the book, written by Alice, We Won’t Go: Personal Accounts of War Objectors and her theory of the “two experts.” Alice wrote: “When I was counselling, I believed, there were two experts in the room: I was an expert on the Selective Service regulations and what was required to support a particular kind of claim; the counselee was an expert on what he had experienced, what he thought, and what he was willing to do. We put our expertise together” (pp. 85–7). According to Alice, both Staughton and she carried the “two experts” theory into their work as labor lawyers.

The remaining memoir covers the Lynds’ memories and experiences from the 1970s onward. While historians are rightfully cautious of memoirs, we gain from Stepping Stones an invaluable insight to how participatory democracy did not pass away in Chicago in 1969. From Stepping Stones we see the Lynds move to Youngstown, Ohio, and the battle for community ownership of the three US steel mills in the Mahoning Valley from 1979 to 1981, the Lynds’ five trips to Nicaragua in the 1980s, their trip to Palestine in the early 1990s and their work with prisoners in the 1990s and 2000s. The only thing missing is Staughton’s defence of Iraq veterans who refused to be deployed to Iraq. However, this was included in From Here to There in the essay “Someday They’ll Have a War and Nobody Will Come.” These three books address key debates and important events in Lynd’s long career as well as in “the Movement.” Together these three books demonstrate that the struggle for justice did not decline perilously after American troops withdrew from Vietnam in 1975. In fact, very few scholars have recognized the importance of the Lynds in continuing the struggle long after “the sixties.” In trying to help understand this dramatic period, the Lynds have left a cache of materials in the special collections of Kent State University, the Swarthmore College Peace Collection, and the Wisconsin State Historical Society. We can learn a lot from Staughton and Alice Lynd about the struggle for justice during the Sixties as well as how to get from here to there today.


1. John Summers, “What Politics Does to History,” The New Republic, July 19, 2010. http://

2. See Staughton’s critique of the academy in “Intellectuals, the University, and the Movement,” in Grubacic, From Here to There. Lynd’s paper was given at the March 1968 New University Conference and was originally entitled “The Responsibility of Radical Intellectuals.” According to Lynd, this paper was intended to go further than Noam Chomsky’s February 1967 “The Responsibility of Intellectuals” in the New York Review of Books. In Lynd’s paper, he argued: “A radical intellectual considers himself part of the
movement to create that new society which Jim Cockroft calls ‘participatory socialism.’

Whatever other intellectual tasks he undertakes, the radical intellectual feels a responsibility to help clarify the Movement’s emergent experience. He may or may not teach in a university; if he does, his most important teaching may occur outside his regularly scheduled classes and off the campus […] To do this we ourselves must have at least one foot solidly off the campus.”

3. Staughton Lynd, “The Battle Over Radical History,” The New Republic, August 4, 2010.

4. Lynd and Lynd, Rank and File.

5. For a definition and discussion on Lynd’s conception of guerrilla history, see Staughton’s essay “Guerrilla History in Gary,” in Grubacic, From Here to There.

6. Staughton Lynd, “The Battle Over Radical History,” The New Republic, August 4, 2010. See also Lynd’s introduction to his edited collection, “We Are All Leaders”.

7. See Unger, “The ‘New Left’” Lemisch, On Active Service; the fall 1989 Journal of American
History on United States historiography; the winter 2001 special edition of Radical History Review on radical history; O’Brien, “‘Be Realistic’,” Mirra, “Radical Historians” and other books on the subject such as Tomes, Apocalypse Then; Van der Linden, A Revolt Against Liberalism; Novick, That Nobel Dream; and Vogelgesang, The Long Dark Night.

8. Carl Mirra, “Staughton Lynd: A Historian with a Place in History,” History News Network, April 12, 2010.

9. For a discussion on accompaniment, see Grubacic and Lynd, Wobblies and Zapatistas, 51–3, 137–46. Lynd also discusses accompaniment in his essays “Oral History From Below,” “The Once and Future Movement,” and “Liberation Theology for Quakers” (written with Alice Lynd) in Lynd, Living Inside Our Hope. Finally, the Lynds discuss their experience in accompaniment in Stepping Stones, 93–139.

10. See Hollander, Anti-Americanism; Hollander, Political Pilgrims.

11. In 2009 Cambridge University Press published new editions of Lynd’s Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism and Class, Conflict, Slavery and the United States Constitution.

12. John Summers, “What Politics Does to History,” The New Republic, July 19, 2010. http://


Grubacic, Andrej. From Here to There: The Staughton Lynd Reader. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2010.
Grubacic, Andrej, and Staughton Lynd. Wobblies and Zapatistas: Conversations on Anarchism, Marxism and Radical History. Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2008.
Hollander, Paul. Anti-Americanism: Critiques at Home and Abroad, 1965–1990. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
———. Political Pilgrims: Travels of Western Intellectuals to the Soviet Union, China, and
Cuba, 1928–1978. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981.
Lemisch, Jesse. On Active Service in War and Peace: Politics and Ideology in the American Historical Profession. Toronto: New Hogtown Press, 1975.
Lynd, Alice, and Staughton Lynd. Rank and File: Personal Histories by Working-Class Organizers. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1973.
Lynd, Staughton. Class, Conflict, Slavery and the United States Constitution. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
———. Intellectual Origins of American Radicalism. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
———. Living Inside Our Hope: A Steadfast Radical’s Thoughts on Rebuilding the Movement. Ithaca, NY: ILR Press, 1997.
Lynd, Staughton, ed. “We Are All Leaders”: The Alternative Unionism of the Early 1930s. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
Mirra, Carl. “Radical Historians and the Liberal Establishment: Staughton Lynd’s Life with History.” Left History 11, no. 1 (2006): 69–101.
Novick, Peter. That Nobel Dream: The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the American Historical Profession. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
O’Brien, Jim. “‘Be Realistic, Demand the Impossible’: Staughton Lynd, Jesse Lemisch, and a Committed History.” Radical History Review 82 (2002): 65–90.
Tomes, Robert R. Apocalypse Then: American Intellectuals and the Vietnam War, 1954–1975. New York: New York University Press, 1998.
Unger, Irwin. “The ‘New Left’ and American History: Some Recent Trends in United States Historiography.” The American Historical Review 72, no. 4 (1967): 1237–63.
Van der Linden, A.A.M. A Revolt against Liberalism: American Radical Historians, 1959– 1976. Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1996.
Vogelgesang, Sandy. The Long Dark Night of the Soul: The American Intellectual Left and the Vietnam War. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

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In and Out of Crisis: A Review

by Kanchan Sarker
Socialist Studies
The University of British Columbia, Okanagan
Among the many books on the contemporary economic crisis, In and Out of Crisis is in a class of its own. Three prominent scholar-activists have teamed up to provide an insightful and provocative analysis of the crisis and its implications for the future of neoliberalism, the American empire and the North American Left. In doing so, this new book picks up themes common to Panitch and Gindin’s on-going work on the American empire and Albo’s research on neoliberalism. 

This is a concise, relatively accessible book, which presents a robust political intervention into current political economy and strategic debates on the Left. It begins with a concise history of the history of financial crises, state management of crises, the rise of neoliberalism and financialization. It then moves on to provide a detailed history and analysis of the current financial crisis and the American state’s role in managing and containing the crisis. Along the way, the authors also provide a chapter focused on the sweeping restructuring in the North American auto industry. Overall, Albo et al. argue that some key points which the Left has historically tended to poorly theorize (such as the relation between state and market, deregulation and neoliberalism, and American imperialism) have weakened the Left’s analysis and response to the current crisis. 

To appreciate the specificity of their approach to theorizing the crisis, it is useful to carefully identify what is distinct, if not necessarily 186 unique, and notable in their analysis. First, the authors argue that the crisis was primarily a crisis within the American financial system. The dramatic growth of securitized sub-prime mortgages, which comprised 60 percent of the American market for asset backed securities, meant that the whole financial system became extremely vulnerable to the volatility in this segment of the market. This financial crisis, unlike some stock market crashes, became a general economic crisis because of its specific locus in the housing sector and the centrality of that to consumer spending. The global reach of the crisis was due to both the global circulation of complex financial assets based on consumer mortgages but also due the global importance of the American consumer market. The authors insist that this was not a crisis rooted in a profitability decline in the sphere of production.

However, as they outline in chapter five, the North American auto sector (the big three, if not the foreign transplants) was the one sector of the economy that was in crisis before the recession.  Second, in a related point and contrary to some other Left theorists, Albo et al. argue that neoliberalism had succeeded, at least on its own terms (generating modest economic growth while maintaining low inflation thus reviving corporate profitability) after the crisis of the 70s. They refer to the dynamic nature of capitalism under neoliberalism (unlike those, such as Robert Brenner, who refer to a long downturn or depict the period since the 70s as one largely of stagnation and financial speculation).

In part, this dynamism was due to the very success of financial capitalism, unstable as it is. Again contrary to many on the left, these authors argue that financial innovation was a key part of capitalist dynamism over the past thirty years or so, rather than being mere speculation, or working at cross purposes to the “real” economy. This new age of finance played a central role in disciplining and integrating labour into markets as workers, consumers, investors (particularly of pension funds), borrowers, and

Third, they argue that the massive budget stimuli, state bailouts of financial and manufacturing, and talk of re-regulation do not represent a shift away from neoliberalism. Albo et al. forcefully insist that many on the left have misunderstood neoliberalism as the withdrawal of the state. This is a misunderstanding of the relationship between states and markets.
Instead, they explain that “capitalist markets and capitalist states are deeply intertwined in the class and power structures of global capitalism” (10). The fundamental relationship between capitalist states and financial markets cannot be understood in terms of how much or little regulation the former puts upon the latter. It needs to be understood in terms of the 187 guarantee the state provides to property. “Neoliberalism should be understood as a particular form of class rule and state power that intensifies competitive imperatives for both firms and workers, increases dependence on market in daily life and reinforces the dominant hierarchies of the world market, with the U.S. at its apex” (28). The authors point out that “Neoliberalism brought a change in the mode of regulation, but there wasn’t less regulation. Moreover, freer markets often require more rules” (35).

Fourth, just as reports of the death of neoliberalism have been greatly exaggerated, the crisis does not represent the end, or significant weakening, of the American empire. Albo et al. go so far as to suggest that the crisis “confirms U.S. imperial leadership” (86). The imperial relationships that built today’s global capitalism have persisted through the crisis.

Finally, Albo et al. paint a particularly bleak picture of the contemporary North American left as weak, defensive, defeated, marginalized, and lacking organizational coherence. As they note, “Competition…fragmented the working class. It eroded their one ultimate strength — solidarity” (79). The various challenges currently facing the Left are analyzed critically and comprehensively. The decline in trade union membership due to the neoliberal offensive as well as sectoral change of economy has put the trade union movement on the defensive. They place the labour movement at the centre of left politics analysis but in doing so they stress the need for the renewal of the labour movement. Unions need to reinvent themselves by adopting various tactics like “living wage” struggles in alliance with community organizations (96). Arguing that the labour movement can not lead the struggle for social transformation, the authors remain supporters of the need for a socialist political party. On the policy front, among other bold declarations, they call for the nationalization of the banking sector and its transformation into a public  utility. 

Perhaps not all readers will be convinced by their arguments about the continuing strength of neoliberalism and American economic leadership but their evidence is compelling and provides a useful reminder not to, once again, prematurely pronounce the end of American hegemony.

The authors’ arguments and analysis are nicely summarized in the “Ten Theses on the Crisis” in the concluding chapter. With all its propositions the book could be considered a manual for the contemporary Left. An economic crisis combined with wishful thinking is insufficient to defeat neoliberalism. The missing variable is an organized, visionary and militant working-class movement. 

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Lickin' the Beaters 2: A Review

By Mark Robison
Reno Gazette Journal

We loved the first Lickin' the Beaters cookbook at our house. Although it focuses mostly on low-fat desserts, it contains one of our go-to recipes for knocking the socks off people that is most decidedly NOT low-fat: a chocolate turtle torte with not one but three sticks of vegan margarine in it.

This new cookbook from Siue Moffat through PM Press and Tofu Hound Press focuses on chocolate and candy. Moffat includes lots of tips for making your desserts turn out better and the whole process easier.

For instance:
Heavy-bottom pots are required [to make candy]. If you use cheap aluminum pans I can almost guarantee your candy will burn.

It's a good idea to soak your pots in hot soapy water immediately after making candy. It saves a cleanup headache afterwards.

Her recipes are generally simple, as you'll see, and yummy. This is the kind of cookbook you'll pull out regularly when the holidays come around and you want something to share with friends and family.

Easy Chocolate Truffles

This first recipe comes from the candy section, which has more involved recipes requiring thermometers and such, but I like easy ones and this certainly lives up to its name.
2 cups chocolate chips
2 tablespoons margarine
2 tablespoons soymilk
1/4 cup ground nuts, fine coconut, cocoa, etc.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (a pot on top of a large pot of simmering water) and add the margarine and soymilk. When cool enough to handle, scoop out by the heaping teaspoons-full and roll into nuts, coconut or cocoa.
Note: One of her candy tips is that if you screw up a recipe, think of what you can do to save the end result, such as crushing up candy and using the crumbs to roll truffles into.

Triple Chocolate Pudding

This is a fairly standard pudding recipe, except that Moffat boosts the chocolate levels. I generally use cornstarch instead of arrowroot because it's cheaper and easier to find. I haven't noticed that it makes a difference.

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa, sifted
1/4 cup arrowroot
pinch of salt
1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 cups chocolate soymilk
3 tablespoons margarine
2 teaspoons vanilla

1. In a medium pot mix sugar, cocoa, arrowroot and salt.
2. Chop the chocolate finely.
3. Slowly whisk the soymilk into the pot, making sure there are no lumps
4. Heat on medium, add chocolate. Stir constantly until chocolate melts and pudding thickens. Let it boil for about one minute and then take off heat.
5. Add the margarine and vanilla mixing well.
6. Eat warm or cold. To prevent "pudding skin," put a piece of plastic wrap on top of the pudding and poke a few holes with a toothpick.
Use 1/3 cup arrowroot for a very thick dessert.

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Union Victory at Starbucks

By Daniel Gross
January 14, 2011
Three years ago, union baristas at Starbucks made a simple demand of the world's largest coffee chain: respect the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. by paying baristas the same time-and-one-half holiday premium that you pay on six other federal holidays. It was an emotional and symbolic demand to make for two reasons. Many baristas are deeply inspired by Dr. King's legacy on racial equality, and King was murdered while supporting sanitation workers who were on strike for the very right to form a union. This is the same struggle facing millions of Americans today who desire union membership but are denied by the prospect of relentless union-busting and terribly flawed labor laws. Calling for holiday pay on MLK Day also made sense for workers' pocket books- with the low wages and inadequate work hours that Starbucks offers, holiday compensation is certainly welcomed to help make ends meet.

Starbucks' treatment of MLK Day as a second-class holiday was particularly hypocritical. The company and its billionaire CEO Howard Schultz pay an incredible amount of lip-service to the idea of "embracing diversity." Yet, their lack of respect for Dr. King's holiday was typical of the company's real orientation towards racial equality. For example, Starbucks employees of color are disproportionately represented in the lowest-paid entry-level jobs at the company, and while the company brands its coffee as ethically-sourced, farmworkers in the Global South growing coffee for Starbucks find themselves living in grinding poverty on the low prices that the coffee giant insists on paying.

Given the empty nature of Starbucks' commitment to "embracing diversity", the company was put into a difficult position when the IWW Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) called on it to honor Dr. King's holiday starting in 2008. The company had never spoken publicly about its substandard treatment of MLK Day. When the Union made Starbucks' MLK Day policy public, the company was faced with two options, neither of which it liked: a) refuse to pay the premium and allow a glaring hypocrisy to fester in the public arena, or b) pay the premium and concede an important victory to the SWU which it is fighting tooth and nail to delegitimize and to destroy.

For three full years, the company chose the former approach and resisted. The SWU's campaign forced the company for the first time to discuss publicly its denial of holiday pay on MLK Day and offer a defense for the indefensible. Starbucks argued that the policy was justifiable in light of the (abysmally low) prevailing standards of the food service sector. It's interesting that when Starbucks markets itself to prospective workers and prices products for its customers, it's fanatical about distinguishing itself from its fast food competitors. But the Burger Kings and the Taco Bells of the world are where Starbucks runs for safety to cover up the huge gap between the company's public relations hype and the reality on the ground for baristas.

In response to the company's refusal to meet its demand, the SWU along with Industrial Workers of the World members around the country embarked on a determined effort to win time-and-one-half holiday pay for every worker that does a shift on MLK Day. Shop floor actions, pickets, rallies, massive e-mail actions, as well as creative media advocacy started takings its toll on the company. But instead of doing the right thing and ending the second-class status of MLK Day, the company chose more rhetoric- statements about its respect for MLK and promoting volunteer service unrelated to social or economic justice on his holiday. That's the strategy of big business, the corporate non-profits, and the mainstream media: divorce Dr. King from his powerful actions for economic justice, racial equality, and peace in favor of a generic, non-confrontational charity model of "change" or "service."

The elites don't want us to know that the workers King was supporting during those fateful days in Memphis weren't hosting a charity car wash, they were withholding their labor and demonstrating against a violent, racist government that was denying them the very right to freely associate in the form of a labor union. They don't want us to know that King spoke out passionately for a living wage and against so-called right-to-work laws. They don't want us to recall Dr. King's words on the relationship between racism and union-busting: "...the labor-hater and labor-baiter is virtually always a twin-headed creature spewing anti-Negro epithets from one mouth and anti-labor propaganda from the other mouth."

As Starbucks and its public relations firm Edelman ruthlessly carry out a large-scale anti-union operation, they certainly don't want baristas to associate MLK Day with Dr. King's positive view on labor unions:
"The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress....The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome."

Baristas persevered and continued carrying out creative and energetic actions year-after-year. After three years of struggle, Starbucks finally conceded to the Union's demand and informed workers in November that the company will pay the holiday premium to employees who work this Monday and every Martin Luther King Day. It's a moving and emotional victory for the Union to be able to honor Dr. King's legacy in our own modest way.

While there is still a long way to go to win good jobs at Starbucks, the victory is significant for the tens of thousands of Starbucks employees who will end up with some well-deserved additional money on their paychecks. And it's a great win for the solidarity unionism organizing model where rank & file workers organize their own unions and lead their own campaigns around workplace justice issues. Other fast food workers are following suit. IWW workers at the Jimmy John's sandwich chain in Minnesota initiated a demand this holiday season for a time-and-one-half premium on Christmas Eve and New Year's Day.
By one estimate, the holiday wage premium on MLK Day means Starbucks will pay something in the neighborhood of an additional one million dollars to employees each year. While a million dollars a year might not sound like a lot for a large corporation like Starbucks, it's a tremendous figure to win for a grassroots labor organization forging an innovative path to justice in the massive and unorganized fast food sector.

In these times of economic hardship and escalating attacks on workers' rights, I hope we can all pause on Dr. King's holiday to assess how we can honor his true legacy of movement action for social justice and the ultimate sacrifice he made to rise up in solidarity with the striking sanitation workers of Memphis. No one will do it for us, least of all the corporate executives and their social responsibility rhetoric. Another world is inevitable; if we do the hard work together to achieve it.

Daniel Gross is a former Starbucks barista and a member of the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, online at He is the co-author with Staughton Lynd of "Labor Law for the Rank and Filer: Building Solidarity While Steering Clear of the Law" and "Solidarity Unionism at Starbucks," (artwork by Tom Keough), both available at

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Drawing the Line reviewed in Theory in Action

By Veronica Manfredi
Theory in Action
Vol. 4, No. 1
January 2011
Globalization and militarization have accelerated the concentration of corporate and executive power in the United States, and this centralization of authority has proceeded virtually unchecked despite the emergence of populist protest movements in the past decade. Drawing the Line Once Again: Paul Goodman's Anarchist Writings is a collection of nine texts edited by Taylor Stoehr. Paul Goodman was an influential American activist of the 1960's, and this book provides a fresh perspective on how to combat this disastrous trend. The essays were originally published between 1962 and 1972, but incorporate over 25 years of Goodman's anarchist writings. Drawing the Line Once Again is a thoughtful, modern guide for individuals interested in combating institutional violence and securing individual autonomy. 

In his preface, Taylor Stoehr introduces the reader to the life and work of his friend and mentor, Paul Goodman. Stoehr's perspective contextualizes the appeal of Goodman's ideas to the 1960's youth movement in America. The preface includes excerpts from Goodman's writing not found in the body of the book which underline Goodman's ever-present concern with the penal system, which Stoehr believes is the “apotheosis” of the modern state. Unfortunately, the preface does not provide background information on the specific essays present in the collection, nor does it give the reader a clear idea of why Stoehr selected these specific texts and ordered them in this way. The essays appear out of chronological order, which obscures the trends in Goodman's writing that became more pronounced and refined over the course of his experience with the American student uprising. Nevertheless, the texts presented in the book provide a solid overview of Goodman's anarchist thought on a variety of issues of continuing relevance.
The first text introduces Goodman's notion of revolution as a “piecemeal” process that develops out of everyday “millenarian,” or prefigurative, practices. Penned in 1945, “The May Pamphlet” was subsequently revised in Goodman's 1962 book Drawing the Line, which is the version that appears here. In this essay, Goodman holds individuals responsible for the coercive system in which they find themselves. For Goodman, institutional crimes are the sum of acts committed by individuals when they conform in ways that limit their ability to realize their human powers according to their instincts. Thus, modern man's characteristic act is “drawing the line:” determining the point at which he will no longer acquiesce to this unnatural coercion. This act of refusal serves as the starting point for Goodman's vision of a free society by forcing the consideration of alternatives which were previously submerged and opening up a space for free positive action. A revolutionary free society is built as these spaces are expanded. Goodman sketches concrete and thought provoking ways that this expansion may be achieved by individuals and small groups and maintains that individuals may assess the revolutionary potential of their actions to the extent that these acts are punished as crimes, since the system will respond to acts that threaten its existence. While a few of his specific exhortations may seem idiosyncratic or outdated, such as the importance he places on childhood sexuality and group psychotherapy, the essay provides a modern revolutionary vision and program that empowers the individual to pursue autonomy without having to wait for a large-scale social restructuring. 

The second essay, “Reflections on the Anarchist Principle,” originally appeared in 1966 in the journal Anarchy. Here Goodman argues that anarchism is based on the “social-psychological hypothesis” that “more harm than good” results from the restriction of individual autonomy by external authority. Goodman's anarchist society is not a fixed ideal, but the result of a “continual coping” with, and “vigilance” against, the threat of unnatural coercion by institutionalized forms of power. Though anarchists' targets evolve according to historical conditions, this principle allows one to recognize the anarchist spirit in all movements that seek to “increase intrinsic functioning and diminish extrinsic power.” Thus, he sees anarchism at work historically in developments as disparate as the Jeffersonian Bill of Rights, the emergence of free enterprise by joint stock companies, and the introduction of congregational churches. The essay provides an inclusive model by which one can trace a history of anarchism in action, distinct from later co-optations, and judge current practices. 

The most recent essay, “Freedom and Autonomy,” was originally published in 1972, the year Goodman died. Here he contrasts the call for freedom, which emerges from a state of desperation, with the call for autonomy, which emerges from a desire to be left alone to continue to do as one wishes. For Goodman, while freedom may provide a stronger motive for revolutionary change, anarchy “requires competence and self does not thrive among the exploited, oppressed, and colonized.” Whereas “The May Pamphlet” emphasized the universal experience of drawing the line and proceeding on one's own terms, this late essay focuses on the greater suitability of skilled workers and independent peasants to the prefigurative practices of anarchist revolution: “The pathos of oppressed people lusting for freedom is that, if they break free, they don't know what to do.” The essay crystallizes Goodman's disillusionment with the student movement, whose alienated character he became increasingly vocal about and critical of over the course of writing the essays which appear in this book.

In “Anarchism and Revolution,” Goodman defines anarchist revolution as “the process by which the grip of authority is loosed,” in contrast to the revolution-as-regime that appears in traditional Marxist and liberal thought, and assesses the causes and anarchist tendencies of the social upheaval of his day. The essay originally appeared in the 1970 Encyclopedia Britannica's Great Ideas of Today. Addressing a middle class audience, Goodman laments that the anarchist politics of the youth movement tend to be “Bakuninist,” or agitational, because students are “exploited and lumpen in principle,” but holds out hope that a more “Kropotkinian,” autonomy-focused community anarchism will be revived with the participation of “authentic young professionals.” He states that student alienation supports the Leninist tendencies of the youth movement (“fighting the Cold War in reverse”), contradicting their anarchist gut instincts. He traces the character of the revolutionary situation to a “crisis of authority,” in which citizens aren't able effectively to manipulate structures which traditionally allowed them to correct the course of their government, and a “crisis of belief,” caused by a widespread distrust of authority that emerged when the universal belief in science was shaken due to its inhuman applications (e.g. the atom bomb). While recent decades have seen the emergence of new professionals in technological fields, who have arguably succeeded in addressing the religious crisis by “altering the...relationship of science, technology, and human needs” in the collective consciousness through the advent of high-tech personal consumption, the crisis of authority has only escalated. The cur-rent situation speaks to the resiliency of institutional, managerial modes of power.

In “Some Prima Facie Objections to Decentralization,” Goodman makes a case for decentralization while addressing its risks and limitations in a 1964 issue of the journal Liberation. Addressing student objections, he shows that decentralization is not disorderly, but rather relies on a different kind of order; that the existence of some necessarily centralized functions does not preclude its application in other spheres of human action; that we should question the usefulness of automation and not value it as an end in and of itself; that decentralist traditions can be traced to both peasants and urban professionals He claims that “States Rights” is not a valid form of decentralization and a limited amount of deurbanization would make decentralization feasible. Decentralization requires less faith in human nature than centralization, for both individuals in voluntary associations as well as centralized organizations can and continue to buck the trend towards concentration of power when it is expedient and efficient to do so.

Combining peasant and professional critiques of decentralization, he makes the case that centralization is “economically inefficient, technologically unnecessary and humanly damaging.” He urges the reader to adopt the pursuit of decentralization wherever possible as a “political maxim.” Goodman values decentralization as such, regardless of whether it is achieved through the formation of voluntary associations of individuals seeking solutions to shared problems, or through the actions of a central authority which recognizes that it would be more efficient to delegate power away from the center. While contemporary readers may be skeptical of this second form due to its association with the practices of certain large technology firms, by easing the the institutional regimentation of individual action this corporate concession fits Goodman's criteria for anarchist revolution. Modern anarchists and reform-minded individuals will benefit from the wisdom of Goodman's careful attention to decentralization, for example when analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of an anti-Iraq War movement. Here, many people protested the imposition of centralized authority abroad on the basis that it limited the ability to expand universal health care and access to institutional forms of education, which centralizes power domestically. This inconsistency could have been corrected with a dose of Goodman’s ideas.

 “The Black Flag of Anarchism” identifies and assesses the anarchist tendencies in the student movement for a mainstream audience. Originally published in New York Times Magazine in 1968, it contains an earlier version of many of the passages found in “Anarchism and Revolution” (1970) with only minor changes. In this earlier essay Goodman does not dwell on the disadvantage posed by the alienated character of student anarchists, nor does he see the movement as primarily “Bakuninist.”

While the youth movement's limited exposure to anarchist ideas leads to confusion, Goodman here is hopeful that the uprising itself will provide clarity and enable students to “become aware of and solve their own problems” and act in the anarchist tradition. Additionally, in this earlier essay he considers the conflict between the New Left activists and the hippies to be a contributing factor in the “confused anarchism” of the time. He criticizes the activists for failing to recognize the hippies' call to drop out as a political position, which “seduc[es] by offering happy alternatives” and refuses to engage on the enemy's terms, while cautioning that the hippies are insufficiently critical of themselves. Yet for Goodman, hippies and dropouts do not present a persuasive model for revolution: “play and personal relations...are not what men live for.” 

“The Limits of Local Liberty” is re-published from the journal New Generation in 1969. It identifies two urban problems that are of consequence to “this nation of cities”: the lack of citizens who feel a sense of ownership and responsibility towards their city, and the excessive density in urban areas. Goodman believes that the lack of citizenship can be addressed by delegating power to the people who live in the neighborhood in a way that increases self-determination in both family and professional life. On the topic of self-determination, he echoes other late essays in the collection, arguing that the participation of the oppressed is necessary but not sufficient to support radical decentralization, and insists a place for “professional thought and political action different from activism” is necessary in order to come to functional solutions for decentralized life.

The danger of alienated leadership in the fight for local self-determination is that it neglects professional liberty and becomes more interested in seizing power than “program, function, and final satisfaction,” as is the case when students focus on seizing control of academic institutions instead of targeting the “system of credentials...and draft that oppresses them.” On the issue of urban density, Goodman believes that current levels overwhelm an individual's capacity for meaningful social exchange and entail a “sudden disproportionate rise in costs” to maintain.
Hence, he argues that rural revitalization and some dispersal of urban populations, specifically of city children, the elderly, and mentally ill, is necessary. His concern with the cost of urban density and his proposed plan of redress highlights a potential danger of professionalism in planning for local self-determination, for such professional expertise is informed by judgments about what constitutes a “better life” that might not be universal. Goodman fails to account for the possibility that people with disabilities and the young might be as attached to their city of origin as members of non-marginalized groups who are simply better equipped to reject exile.

In 1968, with several comrades under indictment, Goodman “rehearse[s the] case” for lawlessness in “Civil Disobedience,” published first in Liberation. Writing in part to advise activists on how to present their actions in a court of law, some of the passages found here can also be found in the two other essays addressed to middle class audiences.

Here Goodman argues that “the authority of law is limited” by its underlying purpose of securing life and liberty, which is what “men mean to promise” when they enter into the social contract; that a reliance on Law and Order does not ensure harmony but rather allows individuals to avoid anxiety; that “civil disobedience” is a misleading term which fails to capture the essence of challenges to the legitimacy of the regime itself; and that “lawless” and “civilly disobedient” actions emerge when the political means for reform are lost to the encroachment of centralizing managerial and technological styles. As Stoehr suggests in his preface, the need to question the legitimacy of law is particularly relevant today as unprecedented numbers of individuals are ensnared in the prison industrial complex, and those who profit from incarceration advise lawmakers on ways to expand and police the definition of “lawlessness.”
“'Getting Into Power': The Ambiguities of Pacifist Politics” first appeared in a 1962 edition of Liberation and is the final essay in this collection. Goodman sees pacifism as necessarily anarchist and revolutionary, as the existence of sovereign national power thrives on violence, “is the ideal executive of murderous will,” robs individuals of their initiative, and sucks the vitality out of communal life. Both pacifism and anarchism require that we cease to practice a politics centered on “getting into power”, which reinforces patterns of dominance and submission, and instead return to the “normal politics” which tends to the mediation of “relations of specific functions in a community.” By doing so, we “positively...replace an area of power with peaceful functioning.” For contemporary readers, this last essay clarifies why peace cannot be achieved through electoral regime change, which has merely resulted in a rhetorical shift from “preemptive war” to “preemptive drone attacks.” 

Drawing the Line Once Again does an excellent job of gathering and introducing Paul Goodman's anarchist thought to a new generation. Given the recent emergence of large, populist movements which confronted military aggression with permitted protests, channeled the desire for a system responsive to the needs of individuals into a mobilization on behalf of a presidential candidate, and branded the call for limited government as the domain of reactionary elements interested in increasing in corporate power, it is useful to revisit Goodman's ideas. His millenarian and decentralized approach to revolution celebrates persistence and offers hope when meaningful structural change seems out of reach.
 Veronica Manfredi is a student at Corvid College in the Boston, MA area. 

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Don't Mourn, Balkanize! on Znet

By Deric Shannon
February 07, 2011

The term “balkanization” is typically used to refer to fragmentation, disunity—a breaking down into bickering sects. One might speak of the balkanization of a given group of voters, for example, as politicos analyze the behavior of voting blocs that fragment into separate interest groups. What often gets lost in these references are the racist and colonialist connotations of the word—centered on the historical experience of people in the Balkans.

The common narrative of the Balkans is one of typical colonial civilizing rhetoric. We’re told that “ancient ethnic hatreds” abound in the region that prevent these “brutal savages” from forming the alliances that paternalist colonial powers in the EU and USA would like to see emerge—exhibiting “(t)he essence of good society” such as “free market and pluralistic democracy” (127). In his essays in this collection, Grubacic mines through speeches and writings by politicians and media darlings as they use this essentializing and colonial rhetoric to justify interventionism and their attempts to force a “balkanization from above”, as Grubacic terms it.

And he offers an alternative narrative, as well as an alternative to the balkanization from above forced onto the region. Rather than situating the Balkans as a place marked by ethnic strife in need of colonizing and civilizing, Grubacic traces a different history of the Balkans. Rather, he notes a “decentralized and fragmented world of anti-colonial struggles; heretics (bogumili); maritime and land pirates (hajduci and uskoci); rebels and revolutionaries; anti-authoritarians; Romanis; self-governed communities; socialist federations; partisans; and antifascists” (126). Indeed, for Grubacic, “Balkanization is…about fragmentation, but it is not (only) ethnic fragmentation: Balkanization implies resistance and a decentralized and federated alternative to the violent centralization of states and empires” (126). In this, he avoids the nationalist trap while extending his vision for this “balkanization from below” to the rest of Europe: “Together with the Yugoslav avant-garde artist Ljubomir Micic, I believe in the need of the ‘Balkanization of Europe’” (130).

This book is basically a collection of essays and interviews from a participant of this process of “Balkanization from below” and Grubacic, a historian, sociologist, and organizer advocates throughout for this fundamentally anarchist position. Spelled out directly, he argues for “a politics of a Balkan Federation: a participatory society built from the bottom up through struggles for the creation of an inclusive democratic awareness, participatory social experiments, and an emancipatory practice that would win the political imagination of all people in the region. It is a politics that says unequivocally to the European Union and its state-architects in Bosnia and Kosovo: get the hell out of here!” (131).

This is perhaps one of the most interesting narratives running throughout the book—the one that takes place between the civilized world and its unruly and unrule-able uncivilized resisters. Not only are the terms laced with racist essentialism and colonial paternalism, but it provides an uncivilized subject position from which to resist this forced process from above. Like Gabriel Kuhn writes about in his history of piracy[1], this uncivilized subject position and the embracing of values contrary to those bound up with colonialist and hierarchical ways of life have tremendous radical potential. Grubacic incorporates this as he eviscerates the politicians and policy-makers that would force their version of “The Good Society” on his home, even while playfully juxtaposing “Balkan primitivism” with the suggested “European future” peddled by the EU’s political class (111).

I don’t want to overstate the book’s focus on this particular problematic, however, as it has a wide variety of analyses and stories to tell. Some of the best essays are when Grubacic provides his alternative to dominant narratives in US and European media. These include questions like “Should Milosevic be tried at the Hague?” (47); writings about what’s come to be called “New Europe” (e.g. 85); and sobering discussions about “(t)the torture of prisoners arrested in the ‘black sites’ of Eastern Europe. Torture in the name of democracy” (139); as well as a section that details pieces of his vision for a “Balkanization from below”.

Despite my enthusiasm for the book, I do have two minor quibbles with the contents.

First, in the section where Grubacic is making suggestions for possible visions of this balkanization from below, Michael Albert, one of the developers of participatory economics (parecon), interviews him. Grubacic states, “I do not see myself as a pareconist” and that “we need as many utopian proposals as we can come up with. Fragmentation of knowledge, or—why not—balkanization of knowledge, can help us discover many parts and building blocks for new revolutionary synthesis” (161). To be honest, I absolutely love this approach and it can serve as an important corrective to Correct Line-ism and sectarian politics. And Grubacic does an excellent job mining through interesting contributions from parecon such as its three-class analysis; its distrust of society’s coordinators and bureaucracy (put forward also in many ways by Bakunin); its criticisms of market socialism, etc.

But when Albert asks if there is opposition to parecon’s suggestion that we have norms of remuneration based on effort and sacrifice, Grubacic suggests that the only people who have problems with this are “’anticapitalist’ intellectuals” (complete with scare quotes) and his “colleagues who teach” (176). I would have liked to see a developed discussion on this particular proposal from parecon. I don’t put forward this criticism because I have a detailed position on norms of remuneration (I suppose I’m an agnostic on the question), but because there is a history of hostility among some anarchists—particularly anarcho-communists—to remuneration in a post-capitalist society. From Malatesta, to Kropotkin, to Cafiero, some anarchist revolutionaries have historically taken issue with this idea (which was likewise put forward in Bakunin’s collectivism). It is a personal obsession of mine—a desire to see this discussion through (mostly due to the unproductive nature of the “debates” I’ve seen on it—typically centered on questions of whether or not remunerative norms are “properly communist” and such), however, and I doubt it would detract from the quality of the book from most people’s perspective.

Finally, this narrative that runs throughout about “Balkanization from below” and the practical and theoretical contributions of this narrative would be an appropriate topic for an entire book. What we have here are often disconnected essays and interviews—all valuable contributions and recommended. But I would like to see “Balkanization from below” and what we might learn from this developed into a book of its own. Grubacic touches on subjects throughout—the struggle between the “civilized” and “uncivilized”; racist and colonial paternalism; the realities (and dangers) of organizing in an area that has been the focus of Euro-American interventionism—that deserve a booklength analysis in their own right. And what better person to pen this than Grubacic?

When reviewing books, it’s common practice to either recommend that one’s readers examine a given tome or reject it and not waste their time. I wholeheartedly recommend this book. As an American with only a passing knowledge of the history of the Balkans, the essays and interviews provided analyses that taught me important history lessons and tied them to a radical analysis of the political situation there on the ground. This is an important contribution both for the lessons we can take from it historically and because Grubacic's political insights are invaluable.

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Political designs for our times


An interview with Josh MacPhee and Alec Icky Dunn of Signal, a new journal of international political graphics and culture.

What are your backgrounds in political artwork?

Josh MacPhee: I grew up in the punk rock scene, and began making zines and t-shirts in high school in the late '80s  and early '90s. Through the do-it-yourself ethos of the punk scene, and also by becoming politicised with the U.S. invasion of Iraq in the early nineties, I turned towards making more political art. I became involved in the anarchist movement, particularly the creation of "infoshops," which consisted of bookstores, libraries, meeting spaces, Food Not Bombs, and lo-fi community organizing. I made posters and graphics for the anarchist community, as well as broader left activism around diverse issues such as prisoner’s rights, healthcare, anti-war, and global justice. In recent years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the history of what I was doing and have worked on a number of projects unearthing and analysing politicised art production.

Alec Icky Dunn: I have a similar background but also, when I was a teenager, I worked putting up posters for rock clubs, so I started making my own (political) posters to put up on my rounds of the city. It has been a sporadic but continuous pursuit since then. Art and politics started to get a little more focused when I lived in New Orleans in the late '90s. I was involved in some of the solidarity work around the "Angola 3" political prisoners in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, and I also saw the first few "Celebrate People’s History" posters, which Josh was curating and printing. I made one and sent it to him unsolicited, which he then printed, which was pretty exciting at the time! A few years later we ended up living together in Chicago and have collaborated on many projects since then.

I think one of the main things we have in common is we both come to political art not only as producers but also as fans. We are both very interested in the history of cultural work as it relates to political struggles and we’re both excited about its potential (both historically and currently) to add to social movements and movement-building.

Why did you feel there was a need for an international journal of political graphics and culture?

Josh: Over here in the States, when you see any political graphics or artwork used at all, a lot of it is the same set of images, which have been used over and over again. But there is an incredibly rich amount of artwork and aesthetics that have been used in left/anti-authoritarian/liberation struggles all over the world, and I think we are in some ways hoping to expand the base of what people here think is possible.

It’s easy for a lot of political graphics to blend into our sensory landscape. For example, you see a poorly copied poster with a fist or a peace sign or an anarchy symbol and it’s an easy thing to ignore, because it’s boring! And often those uncreative, ineffective, posters are tied to uncreative and ineffective protests. Obviously, it’s not quite as simple as that, but I think we’re looking for ways that cultural work can help clarify political movements and work with them to feel more urgent or effective.

The U.S. Left has a fairly distinct tradition of graphics, but when we started discovering stuff from around the world, we saw many commonalities and a lot of cross-pollination. In 1968 you had the agitprop artists in Paris and the poster brigades of Mexico City both making really expressive, simple images to be put up on the street. We can see the influence of this work subsequently in the student movements in the late 1960s and early 1970s around the globe, later within the anarcho-punk scene in Europe, then also taken a step further with the silk-screening movement that worked in South African townships during the anti-apartheid struggle, and more recently during the financial meltdown and bottom up re-organisation in Argentina in the last decade.

This influence was not only aesthetic – strong, minimal, and often biting images – but also organizational. Artists were setting up ad hoc workshops so that people could make posters for things in a really immediate way. These are interesting models and examples of what can be done.

Alec: We are also interested by things that haven’t had that type of cross-pollination, because there are really different graphic traditions all over the world. For example, I just saw a Japanese poster for a protest against the U.S. military base in Okinawa – it was really vibrant and celebratory looking. It had very bright colours and a cartoony goose honking in one corner. This type of poster is almost unimaginable in the U.S. and I’m not sure why. A friend of mine just came back from Tanzania and she brought some fabrics, once again very bright colours, and what you would think of as African style, but with political themes. The point is that we think there’s a lot to be gained from a more international perspective.

And finally, we think there is value is history and memory. For instance, we’ve been slowly accumulating images – posters, book and magazine covers, stamps, et cetera – from the CNT/FAI in Spain. They often have really amazing illustrations or type treatment. What’s interesting to me is that it’s a good example of what a broad-based working class movement looks like. These images were made by people in the movement, people who had a craft; they were working illustrators, typographers, and printers.

Josh: As largely self-taught artists from the United States, it has been a life-long struggle to try to find and understand people making artwork akin to ours in other parts of the world and in other time periods. The U.S. tends to be so myopic.

Signal is an opportunity to both reveal a rich and diverse historical (and contemporary) field of cultural action that is outside of our view and to share it with others. I feel strongly that this culture is something that should be held in common by all those struggling for equality and justice in the world, but is too often locked in the vaults of cultural institutions or the heads of individuals.

What is the range of culture you intend to cover?

Josh: We’re very ecumenical. As a visual artist, and in particular, a maker of political graphics, that is what I’m most knowledgeable about, but I’m interested in a much wider range of cultural production. Social movements have successfully used everything from printmaking to song, theatre to mural painting, graffiti to sculpture. We’re open and curious about this entire range of expression and its implications for both art and politics. For future issues we are already collecting material related to comics, newspaper promotion, guerrilla print studios, photocopy art, pirate radio, architecture, billboard correction and postage stamps.

Most of the articles are illustrated interviews with artists and designers, rather than essays. Why did you take this approach?

Josh: There is very little politically engaged art writing today that doesn’t exist in rarefied academic or art-world discourses. Unfortunately, most critical exchange excludes the vast majority of those who might be interested in the intersections of art and politics.

Alec: We wanted to show as much of the work as possible! That’s really one of the big focuses of what we’re doing. And also it was partly about expediency. This was a first issue, and it was hard to solicit longer writing when people didn’t really know what we were about. We are hoping to have more writing – not just interviews, but ideas, criticism, and even (gasp!) theory.

Josh: Our goal is to incorporate critical writing, but it is a challenge to find essays that are accessible, well-written, and insightful. So as we develop that writing, we have been excited to publish interviews with engaged cultural workers whose voices are rarely, if ever, heard.

The first issue seems quite strongly grounded in broadly anarchist politics. Is that a fair assessment of your intentions for the journal? 

Josh: This is the background we come from, but we are not interested in narrowly focusing on cultural expressions that come from groups or moments that self-define as "anarchist." I’m much more interested in exploring the breadth of left cultural expression, and trying to understand how social movements and cultural producers within them articulate their politics and goals, both to themselves and others. The field of politicised visual communication has largely been ceded to advertisers, but it is essential that engaged artists attempt to understand how their work operates in the world, and looking at a wide range of examples seems like a good place to start that process.

Alec: I think it’s not quite a fair assessment. One of the five features was strictly anarchist (Rufus Segar), two had strong associations (about Red Rat and adventure playgrounds), and the other two didn’t identify as anarchist at all. I think you could say we’re pro-anarchist, but I don’t think it defines this project by any means.

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