Join Our Mailing List
Email:

Bookmark and Share


  Home > News > Additional Stories

Antifascism, Sports, Sobriety: A Review in Freedom News

By Gregory Zobel
Freedom News
March 2nd, 2017

This book is too short. All the content is of high and tight quality. Read Kuhn’s introduction and mini-bio of Deutsch and you’ll want to know much, much more about Red Vienna. It’s a crack incisive introduction to the vital, visceral intersectionality of anti-fascism, sports, and sobriety.

Kuhn’s volume offers a detailed, readable, well-sourced, and accessible entry into health-centred anti-fascism. Veracity and believability stem from his refusal to present Red Vienna as an idyllic time. No. They made mistakes. Knowing this, it’s inviting and more honest in approach than many traditional narratives surrounding revolutionary utopian efforts and projects.

This is not a “back in the good ole days of state smashing” sales pitch. Instead, Kuhn helps readers understand more of the strengths and weaknesses from the era. He works to free the era from sole control and historical representation by communist party loyalists and historians. Just as reading about the 1936 Spanish Revolution would be problematic if only read from a communist or Stalinist perspective, so, too, with Red Vienna. With this book, Kuhn adds an important work to the relatively limited number of English works about Red Vienna.

If you’ve read Kuhn’s work on Straight Edge, you will find a number of connections between the volumes. Whether Kuhn read some of Deutsch’s work and the related authors first, and those moved him to Straight Edge, or the other way around, doesn’t really matter. What is interesting are the shared concerns: remaining sober, healthy and strong so that you can see the lies of governing forces, retain clarity, maintain strength, and build capacity to resist.

Kuhn makes the point that, unlike many socialist groups and parties throughout the German-speaking world, Vienna was different. They fought back. They lost, but they resisted. They had armed militias, they had training programs, and they knew the importance of providing access to the natural world, physical training, and sports leagues — management and operation were not trusted to petty bourgeois or ruling classes. Instead, resources were run by and provided to, for, and by the people where they lived and worked.

This is absolutely one of my favourite books. I sat down and read it in an evening.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to the Author's Page




Cooperators Then and Now; Other Avenues in The Progressive Populist

By Seth Sandronsky
The Progressive Populist
April 2017

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff unpacks the trials and triumphs of food co-ops that rose during the 1960s and 1970s in Other Avenues are Possible: Legacy of the People’s Food System of the San Francisco Bay Area (PM Press 2016). The author, as an observer and participant, delivers a bird’s eye view of this alternative project.

According to the cooperators of that time, distributing food for the holistic needs of consumers and workers was best. That perspective continues in our vastly different era of capitalism on steroids, with Democracy at Work a case in point.

Nimbark Sacharoff writes: “The goal of new-wave cooperators was to bring food back to the people and the people back to their communities to share it in a meaningful way.” Easy to say, challenging to do, as she narrates the rise and demise of co-op stores in one area of the US’ Left Coast.

The author, reared in Gujarat, India, shines critical light on how and why co-ops operated in the SF Bay Area decades ago. Spoiler alert: things were sweet and sour for such cooperators as they bid to build up their self-directed enterprises.

We see the strengths and weaknesses of challenging the capitalist order as a part of—not apart from—wider social movements, e.g., popular struggles for civil rights and against the Vietnam War. It was quite a unique time in US history, with unexpected twists and turns exposing the best and worst in movement politics.

The author helps readers, especially those born after the 1960s and 1970s, to grasp the counter-culture ethos that partially propelled the People’s Food System, rooted in the Bay Area Food Conspiracy. The high-water mark of the PFS was 1976-78, she writes, showing and telling how this achievement gave wind to the sails of co-ops later.

Such is the nature of social movements. Their momentum can extend beyond their shelf life, as the Occupy Wall Street encampments gave rise to Sen. Bernie Sanders near-upset of Hillary Clinton recently.

Throughout the book are wonderful vegetarian recipes. Nimbark Sacharoff, also author of Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, lays out how the collective process of preparing, eating and distributing plant-based fare dovetails with the co-op experience, then and now.

The second part of the book explores the enterprises that survived the demise of the PFS. Two retailers and one wholesaler still operate today.

There are several factors that explain this endurance. One of note is governance structures.
They allow member-workers such as the author to actively participate in day-to-day actions and decisions. On this note, the issue of paid versus nonpaid labor recurs.

In the book’s third part, the author fleshes out the personal aspects of her journey with community-building in the co-op movement of the SF Bay Area. I would say the practical matters outweigh theoretical insights.

Today, co-ops face challenges from the corporate “natural food” purveyors such as Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. This is no small matter for co-ops, since they operate on very thin margins.

Keeping the co-op movement alive is the special focus of the book’s final section. The author offers down-to-earth recommendations for readers to, if they are not already involved to be part of this progressive social change movement.

She wraps up the book with a list of additional readings, co-ops, and cooperative markets and groups. The author invites readers to join with other cooperators.

Who can resist that, given what we learn about the benefits in Other Avenues?

Seth Sandronsky is a journalist and member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild. Email sethsandronsky@gmail.com.

Buy Other Avenues now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff's page




The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance And Social Revolution In San Francisco, 1965 —1975: A Review

By Willis M. Buhle
Midwest Book Review
March 2017

Synopsis: As the fiftieth anniversary of the Summer of Love floods the media with debates over morals, music, and political movements; celebrations of "flower power", "acid rock", and "hippies"; "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965 - 1975" offers a critical re-examination of the interwoven political and musical happenings in San Francisco in the Sixties.

In "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams", author, musician, and native San Franciscan Mat Callahan deftly explores the dynamic links between the Black Panthers and Sly and the Family Stone, the United Farmworkers and Santana, the Indian Occupation of Alcatraz and the San Francisco Mime Troupe, and the New Left and the counterculture. Callahan's meticulous, impassioned arguments both expose and reframe the political and social context for the San Francisco Sound and the vibrant subcultural uprisings with which it is associated.

Using dozens of original interviews, primary sources, and personal experiences, Callahan shows how the intense interplay of artistic and political movements put San Francisco, briefly, in the forefront of a worldwide revolutionary upsurge.

Simply a 'must-read' for any musician, historian, or person who "was there" (or longed to have been), "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams" is substantive and provocative, inviting the reader to reinvigorate our historical sense-making of an era that assumes a mythic role in the contemporary American zeitgeist.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance and Social Revolution in San Francisco, 1965 - 1975" is a unique, comprehensive, informative, and thought-provoking read from cover to cover and unreservedly recommended for community and academic library 20th Century American Music History collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The Explosion of Deferred Dreams" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).

Buy Explosion of Deferred Dreams now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Mat Callahan's page




Q&A with Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (in pink scarf) works behind the counter at Other Avenues co-op in the Sunset District of S.F. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (in pink scarf) works behind the counter at Other Avenues co-op in the Sunset District of S.F.

By Jonathan Kauffman
San Francisco Chronicle
March 16th, 2017

In the 1970s, the Bay Area developed a vibrant, interactive network of cooperatively run enterprises called the People’s Food System. Though it lasted only a few years, the movement gave birth to Other Avenues Food Co-op, Rainbow Grocery and Veritable Vegetable (now for-profit), all of which are still open. (Chronicle gardening columnist Pam Peirce started writing as one of the editors of the group’s newsletter.)

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, a longtime member of the worker collective at Other Avenues in the Sunset District, has told this story in her new book, “Other Avenues Are Possible” (PM Press, 2016, 200 pp., $14.95). The Chronicle asked Nimbark Sacharoff to outline the movement’s arc.

Q: Chronicle: How did the People’s Food System start?

A: Nimbark Sacharoff: The history of the People’s Food System was influenced by the 1960s era, when the war in Vietnam was ending and people still had the energy to remain organized. What better way to remain organized than to get together and share food, distribute food? At the time, the system wasn’t so much about making money or creating jobs but about food for the people — and we were the people.

We started with buying clubs. We called them “food conspiracies.” Food conspiracies were about education and outreach to the whole community, using food distribution as a vehicle for social change.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s book “Other Avenues Are Possible” is a history book about Bay Area food co-ops and food-buying clubs in the 1970s. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s book “Other Avenues Are Possible” is a history book about Bay Area food co-ops and food-buying clubs in the 1970s.

Q: What was involved in a food conspiracy?

A: Typically, you’d get together with neighborhood people and sign up for the foods you want. The person who was hosting the ordering was also hosting a potluck dinner. He or she would provide the space, and you’d come and bring your money or food stamps, and that list would get compiled, and the food buying would be on Saturday or Sunday. Once a month was the “Great Divide,” when we divided up dried food.

Q: How many food conspiracies were there?

A: There were hundreds of conspiracies in San Francisco, concentrated in (the western half) of the city, the Mission and Noe Valley. In the Haight, the motto was “If you can’t walk to order food, you should start a new food conspiracy.”

Q: How did they turn into stores?

A: In the mid-1970s, we were moving lots and lots of food — probably hundreds of thousands of dollars of food, all combined. We thought not only would it be safer and cleaner if we opened up stores, we could reach more people. In 1974 the first store opened, the Noe Valley Food Store. Before that there was one called Seeds of Life, Semillas de la Vida, in the Mission.

Q: At its peak, how many businesses were in the People’s Food System?

A: Approximately a dozen storefronts. The biggest ones were the San Francisco Cooperative Warehouse, they did all the dry goods, and Veritable Vegetable, now a thriving national organic business. There was a big herb collective and a cheese collective. There was a one-woman milk business. There was a poultry place where we got eggs, and a Honey Sandwich co-op nursery school.

Ed. note: The People’s Food System fell apart in 1977 and 1978 due to political infighting and a turf war between two groups of former prisoners that ended in a shootout outside the warehouse. You can read Nimbark Sacharoff’s book for details.

Q: How did Other Avenues survive the collapse of the People’s Food System?

A: It was really difficult, especially for a small store like this. We had 10 years that were so difficult financially and organizationally — we almost closed down three times — but the community was our strength. Because we’re so isolated, the community that lives near us is drawn to us.

Jonathan Kauffman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: jkauffman@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @jonkauffman

Buy Other Avenues now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff's page




The Food We Eat: Other Avenues in India Currents

By Praba Iyer
India Currents
February 18th, 2017

When I moved to the Bay Area in the 90s I came across a book called Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff. I was intrigued by the recipes as they were Indian but they had a little twist. For example Shanta‘s  sambhar (a soup made with vegetables and legumes) recipe called for  ginger and lime juice. Being from the South of India, I had never made sambhar without tamarind using ginger and lime juice. When I tried it, I was in for a pleasant surprise. It was delicious.
Shanta has been one of the very early writers for India Currents magazine and a pioneer in introducing Indian vegetarian cuisine to San Franciscans and others in the Bay Area. Her new book, Other Avenues Are Possible, is a comprehensive historical examination of the food co-op movement in the Bay Area and it talks of her involvement in The Other Avenues Co–Op Store. When she moved to the Bay Area in the early 70s, she joined the San Francisco natural food movement and thus began her lifetime of work with food and co-ops. This book is an in-depth look into the trials and tribulations of communities that have cooperated and supported sustainable farming and food sharing.  It is also quite daunting to read about the obstacles and challenges co-ops face even to this day when farm to table is an approved and accepted way of life.

In her opinion, there can never be too many organizations that work in the area of food co-ops. In her words, “The most valuable lesson that I got out of this journey is the symbiotic nature of the relationship between a co-op and the community it serves. When the Outer Sunset neighborhood where I live did not want a Starbucks in the neighborhood, we helped them, and when we needed financial backing, the community in turn helped us.”

In the chapter titled “Keeping the Vision,” she lays out ways of encouraging and supporting sustainable healthy food communities. Even though I am a chef and educator, it was an eye-opener for me at many levels. We are so far removed from the process of growing and distributing food that we forget the committed work involved in keeping sustainable methods of production alive. When asked about how young people can get involved in the food movement, she refers to Michael Pollan who says, “Cooking your own meals can be your best weapon to fight agri-business.”

Shantha’s passion and commitment is woven through the pages of her writing.  The decades of hard work, determination and struggles to keep Other Avenues Co Op Store open and successful is fully evident. This book is for all those people who care about a green planet, food politics, communal engagement and like Gordon Edgar says, “a must-read for anyone who eats food.”

Praba Iyer is a chef instructor, food writer and a judge for cooking contests. She specializes in team building classes through cooking for tech companies in the Bay Area.praba@cookingmastery.com

Buy Other Avenues now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff's page




Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest, if not THE finest, horror stylists we’ve seen.

By Andrew Andrews
True Review
March 2017

 I have always enjoyed the work of Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest, if not THE finest, horror stylists we’ve seen.

 In “The Saffron Gatherers,” in the present-day, professional authors and other artists gather to discuss their artistic work and the beauty of ancient art. This all happens when an East Coast author ventures to find a home near San Francisco. But appreciating art is all they may have, as a catastrophe on land happens during the artist’s plane trip home: a catastrophe that defines why even appreciation of long-ago art is not forgotten, and the work of an artist is oh-so transitory and subject to the tyranny of reality.

 In “Fire,” the tale-tellers are necessary, are part of our wonderful humanity, even if (or as) the world steadily comes to an end.

 In “Beyond Belief: On Being a Writer,” in her autobiography, Hand details her early yearnings to write and her experiences in life, in education and in the terrible traumas she has endured, and how she was shaped, as an artist, by them. But I wonder why she kept those early rejection letters in a freezer? And were the perpetrators of the violent night she recalls ever found?

 “Kronia” is a vignette about a woman recalling the years of someone she has a distant but somewhat potent relationship with. And an explanation for the existence of memories.

There’s an interview with Hand in “Flying Squirrels in the Rafters.” It details her life in Maine, the Cottage, her inspirations and all the things she either likes or doesn’t.

“The Woman Men Didn’t See” is a mini-biography of James Tiptree Jr. -- the pen name of female author Alice Sheldon -- a woman born about 50 years too early. It’s the true story of the daughter of wealthy safari-goers, world explorers and a woman who needed an identity, but was too complex to find (or trust) one to call her own. It’s a shame, really, because Hand believes that if Tiptree/Sheldon hadn’t left this world, a suicide, that Sheldon/Tiptree could have given us so much more.

“Tom Disch” is another mini-biography and tribute to the novelist of ON WINGS OF SONG, an artist angry at his upbringing, resentful at how short life is, furious with how the world became so blatantly ordered and predictable and boring, and looking for the voice of God to explain it all.

Buy Fire. now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Elizabeth Hand's page




Achieving Self-Governance

By Seth Sandronsky
Earth Island Journal
Spring 2017


We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell reveals what is at stake in governance struggles playing out across the country. Who are those taking on the corporate entities seeking dominance over people and nature? And how are they doing it?

Answers unfold in seven crisp chapters as the authors delve into the growing community rights movement in the United States. They draw powerful portraits of communities that have faced threats from environmentally destructive corporate projects and responded by passing local legislation to ban them. As I see it, the community activists featured in the book prefigure the water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Like the water protectors, they are coalescing around issues that affect their daily lives to push for policies and politics that advance human and environmental well-being rather than corporate profits.

The under-reported stories in the volume flesh out how a fledgling democracy movement is shaping up. Linzey and Campbell deliver a David versus Goliath narrative of a clash between people and corporations. The latter are “persons” under the law, legal fictions with the “right” to destroy nature. The current climate emergency is a leading example of the results. Thanks ExxonMobil!

Much is at stake in this movement to change that current arrangement and replace it with self-governance. From Pennsylvania to Oregon and points in between, the authors introduce us to ordinary people organizing and confronting the “complex layering of laws” that removes the rights of nature and living human beings and allows corporate entities to do business in enviornmentally damaging activites like hydraulic fracking, mining, waste-dumping, and factory farming. These communities have recognized that the law has “legalized” the damaging actions of corporations, while providing no recourse against harm. So now they are fashioning a new system that makes local control legal.

We meet activist Cathy Miorelli, a nurse and elected official in Pennsylvania’s Tamaqua borough, who, along with her community allies, faces lawsuits from companies that spew pollutants from coal burning power plants as she works for home-rule to replace corporate rule.

In Pittsburgh, activists joined forces to pass an ordinance banning natural gas drilling and elevating the rights of ecosystems and nature, becoming the first major American municipality to achieve that. To wit, “The Pittsburgh law contains provisions that eliminate corporate ‘personhood’ rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill,” the authors write.
This growing community-rights movement is more than a temporary mobilization to vote for a candidate or a ballot measure. In fact, the stirring stories of citizens organizing and mobilizing suggest the rise of a systemic, dare I say, revolutionary, movement to achieve popular sovereignty over quality of life and public health issues such as clean air, land, and water.

The grassroots process of humanizing what author Noam Chomsky calls our “corporate-run and propaganda managed democracy” is an arduous task. It involves people learning to develop structures of self-governance that weaken the prevailing economics and politics of the bottom line. Witnessing what happens when people depart their comfort zones to say “no!” to predatory businesses, when working families fend off attacks on their community from corporate actors and their political cronies, can be incredibly inspiring.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, run by Linzey, plays a central role in the book. Its Democracy School aids citizens in city halls, town meetings, public hearings, and courtrooms. Workshops attract groups such as Black Lives Matter and the United Auto Workers. The fruits of this shared labor, which features community charters and ordinances of self-government, take up an appendix. This is the real deal, folks.

Make no mistake. We the People details a class conflict over the definition of democracy, with elected officials representing the interests of corporate entities against people striving for a system of self-government. It’s an uphill battle, but a winnable one.


Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Thomas Linzey's Editor Page


Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader: A Review

By Christopher Scott Thompson
Gods & Radicals: A Site of Beautiful Resistance
February 23rd, 2017

Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader, edited and introduced by Peter Marshall, is a brief but wide-ranging introduction to the writings of a man who is often considered the founder of anarchism. William Godwin (1756–1836) was the first major philosopher to propose a decentralized directly-democratic society made up of small self-governing communities, and he also anticipated several of the major arguments of later radicals such as Marx and Kropotkin on issues such as private property and the labor theory of value.

If you’re interested in the classical anarchist philosophers but you don’t know where to start, you could definitely do worse than this collection of short passages drawn from Godwin’s works. Unlike Bakunin and Kropotkin, who can be difficult to read because of their frequent references to events and conditions that are no longer current, Godwin expressed himself in general principles. This gives his ideas a clarity and directness often lacking in other works. Here’s his argument against the benefits of government:

The most desirable condition of the human species is a state of society.
The injustice and violence of men in a state of society produced the demand for government.
Government, as it was forced upon mankind by their vices, so has it commonly been the creature of their ignorance and mistake.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.
By concentrating the force of the community, it gives occasion to wild projects of calamity, to oppression, despotism, war and conquest.
By perpetuating and aggravating the inequality of property, it fosters many injurious passions, and excites men to the practice of robbery and fraud.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but its effect has been to embody and perpetuate it. (Pages 48-49)
Despite his radical philosophy, Godwin was not a revolutionary like Bakunin or Kropotkin. He believed that society would steadily improve through rational discussion and calm debate, eventually leading to the abolition of the State without revolutionary violence. Many anarchists will see this as a flaw in his analysis, because Godwin’s approach would force millions and millions of people to suffer patiently for generations under tyrannical rule in the naïve hope that reason must eventually prevail. Despite this flaw, I find Godwin’s calm approach much more accessible and humane than Bakunin’s fiery apocalyptic pronouncements. Godwin may also have more to offer pagan anarchists, because major elements of his philosophy are drawn from the ancient pagan thinkers.

Bakunin was not only an atheist, but a militant materialist and anti-theist. Godwin was officially an atheist too, but in a much more nuanced way. He was an “immaterialist” or idealist, believing matter to be a function of mind rather than the other way around. This unusual viewpoint is most often found among Platonists, and it tends to lead to the vague non-anthropomorphic theism which Godwin apparently adopted in later life. He was also fascinated with the occult, and wrote a Lives of the Necromancers which has probably not been read by very many anarchists.

The influence of pagan philosophy on Godwin is less obvious, but anyone familiar with Epicurus and Epictetus will easily recognize the ideas of these bitterly opposed ancient thinkers in Godwin’s writings. For example, Godwin tells us:

The true object of moral and political disquisition, is pleasure or happiness.
The primary, or earliest, class of human pleasures is the pleasures of the external senses.
In addition to these, man is susceptible of certain secondary pleasures, as the pleasures of intellectual feeling, the pleasures of sympathy, and the pleasures of self-approbation.
The secondary pleasures are probably more exquisite than the primary… (Romantic Rationalist, page 48) 

This is nothing other than the core doctrine of ancient Epicureanism. The Stoics, enemies of the Epicureans, accused them of decadence and hedonism because they based their ethics on human pleasure. The Epicureans countered that the highest pleasures were friendship and stimulating conversation, and therefore the true Epicurean was not so much a hedonist as a person who knew how to throw a really great dinner party.

Godwin also tells us:

Justice requires that I should put myself in the place of an impartial spectator of human concerns, and divest myself of retrospect to my own predilections… Duty is that mode of action which constitutes the best application of the capacity of the individual to the general advantage… The voluntary actions of men are under the direction of their feelings.
Reason is not an independent principle, and has no tendency to excite us to action; in a practical view, it is merely a comparison and balancing of different feelings.
Reason, though it cannot excite us to action, is calculated to regulate our conduct, according to the comparative worth it ascribes to different excitements.
It is to the improvement of reason therefore that we are to look for the improvement of our social condition. (Romantic Rationalist, pages 49-50)  

Godwin’s claim that reason is “a comparison and balancing of different feelings” is an original contribution (and a convincing one). Everything else in this argument is simply a paraphrase of the core argument of ancient Stoicism: justice is the highest good; reason is the uniquely human capacity to choose between rival claims on our judgment; we can best improve society by making our reason the cornerstone of all our decision-making.

The Stoics would defy authority rather than obey an unjust order, but in practice they tended to be politically conservative. The Epicureans were also a lot more likely to be found hosting dinner parties than putting up barricades. Yet Godwin somehow synthesized these opposing philosophies from the ancient pagan world to produce modern anarchism. If the whole point of society is to improve and increase human happiness and if this is best achieved when we allow our reason to regulate all our actions, then the greatest mistake any society can make is to interfere with the free exercise of our autonomous judgment and thus interfere with the general happiness. Thus, all systems of government are both oppressive and inefficient. Godwin may well have been overly optimistic about the power of reason, but his synthesis of pagan philosophies produced a vision that remains inspiring: a society of equality, dignity and autonomy.

Romantic Rationalist
includes passages from Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice as well as his novels and other writings. The passages are organized into chapters (such as “Ethics,” and “Politics”) and themes (such as “Duty” and “Rights”) to make it easier to find Godwin’s thoughts on any particular topic. Editor Peter Marshall is the author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, which is a comprehensive if not massive work. At under 200 pages, Romantic Rationalist is a less intimidating way to dip your toes in the deep waters of anarchist thought.

Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson became a pagan at age 12, inspired by books of mythology and the experience of homesteading in rural Maine. A devotee of the Celtic goddesses Brighid and Macha, Thompson has been active in the pagan and polytheist communities as an author, activist and founding member of Clann Bhride (The Children of Brighid). Thompson was active in Occupy Minnesota and is currently a member of the Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist organization. He is also the founder of the Cateran Society, an organization that studies the historical martial art of the Highland broadsword.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Peter Marshall's Author Page




Demanding the Impossible: A Review

Ground Control  Magazine
I Wanna Be Literated #144
February 22nd, 2017

Demanding the Impossible has been on my to-read list ever since I saw its cover with a Noam Chomsky quote on the book racks at Powell’s. However, this is one hefty book and I didn’t want to tackle it until I knew I was mentally prepared. I’m glad I braced myself because Demanding the Impossible is thorough to say the least.

I’ve read a good amount of anarchist literature and have been interested in its history and theories over the years. I still can’t quite decide whether I should have read this book at the beginning of this journey because Demanding the Impossible does an impeccable job of summarizing the history of anarchism, its most important contributors, their theories and what advances the movement has made over the years. It might have improved my understanding later on if I had used this book as a crash course.

Starting with the Taoist movement many centuries ago, Peter Marshall elegantly takes us through the different political movements that have adopted anarchist ideas. Demanding the Impossible discusses the forerunners of anarchism that were prevalent in old Asian, Greek, Christian and European societies, then touches on the old libertarian thinkers who had an anarchist slant in their beliefs, followed by the more prominent thinkers. Throughout, Marshall displays an expertise for their philosophy and gets at the core of what their ideas were. At the end, Marshall focuses on the trends worldwide and movements that have claimed anarchist principles, like the Mexican revolution, the Spanish civil war, the 1968 protest in France, and more recent events. Regretfully, this book was not updated in time to include the Occupy movement.

Having read most of these authors before, I can tell Marshall is doing a lot of the heavy work for us in trying to understand what some of them were trying to get at. A lot this source material is dry, convoluted, and very difficult to read and having someone like Marshall extract its meaning for a general audience is vital. What’s also important is how Marshall shows us the complete picture of the philosophers, warts and all. So for example, he makes it a point to talk about Proudhon’s patriarchy and anti-Semitism, Bakunin’s contradictions in stressing the importance of a secret police, Kropotkin’s support of the war and imperialist powers, Goldman’s jealousy in open relationships, and Bookchin’s reversion to Marxism towards the end of his life.

This may sound like nitpicking, but it’s important to remember that these representatives of freedom had flaws themselves. I cannot stress it enough: this book is thorough and well put together.

Many more Anarchist anthologies will be written and undoubtedly the day will come when this book will be obsolete, but that won’t happen for a very long time. Demanding the Impossible is simply exhaustive and Peter Marshall has done an incredible job. Every historian will have to reckon with it.

Buy book now | Back to Peter Marshall's Author Page




Entscheidend ist die Besatzungsmentalität: What’s crucial is the mentality of conquest and occupation

By Gabriel Kuhn
Kersplebedeb
February 21st, 2017


The following interview with J. Sakai was conducted by Gabriel Kuhn for the German radical monthly, “analyse & kritik” ( commonly known there as “AK” ).  Both the German-language translation in that  journal and this version, have been edited down considerably for reasons of space.


trump-white-working-class-b

Q. In an interview from the year 2000, titled “When Race Burns Class”, you said the following with respect to the status of the white working class within the U.S. Left: “So the white workers as a whole are either the revolutionary answer – which they aren’t unless your cause is snowmobiles and lawn tractors – or they’re like ignorant scum you wouldn’t waste your time on. Small wonder rebellious poor whites almost always seek out the Right rather than the Left.” This almost seems prophetic considering the results of the 2016 presidential election. What has gone wrong within the U.S. Left?

A. This is going to be bumpy, since there was both a left generational change and a dramatic class shift in American society itself.

When first joining the u.s. left in the late 1950s, we had our local social-democratic group’s small May Day celebration in a room at the cheap edge of downtown. Memorably, there was a strip-tease joint downstairs, giving the building a kind of lumpen/proletarian air. At the speaker’s side of the room there was an older Jewish worker from one of the garment unions, with an elderly woman garment worker representing the inactive social-democratic “Italian chapter”. The audience was less than thirty persons, almost all whites The meeting was a remnant, of an old u.s. left from the 1930s industrial labor battles.

If you could skip ahead in time only a few years to the start of the 1960s, There would be many more people, but the old white trade unionists would be gone. The white side of the left was mostly young, university students or drop-outs. The many workers and poor street people in the struggle would be Black, and had their own movement. Almost everyone in the young left mixed in the civil rights movement or the student anti-war movement—or often both. It was easy for the u.s. white left to become dominantly middle-class, and the full future implications of that were never faced. This New Left would constantly attract a small stream of white working class kids, but almost as migrants from across a national border.

Once the u.s. left became allies and activists with the Black freedom movement in the 1960s-1970s, white areas even working class ones became enemy territory for us—those were places where you worried about physical attacks and violent mobs. Remember that America was always divided into oppressor territories and oppressed colonial territories—called the rez, barrios, and ghettos—and the white settler population were constantly engaged in daily social policing. Informally, a low-level war by whites of beatings and terrorism and killings happened every day to keep the angry colonies inside their social prisons.

But there was a real division in the white working class communities in the 1960s-70s. The white labor aristocracy, like hard-hat construction workers and over the road truckers, were used as patriotic shock troops by the government, politically and in attacking anti-war protests. On the other hand, we worked with many white working class youth who were being drafted to fight in Vietnam, and were anti-government and sharing a rebel youth culture. Many white working class GIs became antiwar in Vietnam, and some joined us in the resistance.

After Washington’s Vietnam pull-out in 1973, though, this contact with white working class rebels sharply dropped off. Recall, for a while was working in a major parts factory in the far South Side. A crew of young white guys there, who were mostly ’Nam vets and dope smokers, invited me to join their clique and come party at the Indianapolis 500 auto race with them. They even supported me for being night-shift union shop steward. The only thing they warned me about—is that i had to stop hanging with the young Black workers or else they wouldn’t even say hello. The euro-settler/Black divide was and is everything here, really.

Q. In the 1980s, you wrote the book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. A new edition has been published recently. How is settlerism different from racism? It seems that some folks use the terms interchangeably.

A. Yes, often young anarchists or socialists here do use the words in an uncertain way, as though they mean the same. Settlerism, as we know, is a very specific type of capitalist colonialism. It is the most complete colonialism. A conquest society, where a loyal national population was brought in to both economically populate and be the permanent garrison for capitalism over the conquered territory.

Settlerism has within it the broader phenomena of racism, but is importantly different. The culture is capitalist but twisted further. Sometimes you can see the cultural mark of being a garrison population, like the American white “gun mania.” The ruling class has always supported a heavily armed white citizenry to keep colonized people under the boot. This is their neurotically guilty culture of would-be conquerors and genocidists. Settlerism means that we are always fighting “Americanism” itself, not just some extreme nationalistic form.

Q. You have said that settlerism has made fascism in the U.S. unnecessary because “however good or bad the economic situation was, white settlers were getting the best of what was available”. Is this changing? Does it, at least partly, explain Trump?

A. Think of settlerism as having its own shape but being co-terminus with fascism, its kith and kin. To sum it up, believe that fascism is much more widespread among settler Americans than anyone admits. The unspoken key to Trump’s victory was certainly fascism, although no one wants to say it. Instead, we get all this liberal capitalist coverup about how resentful white workers and others in their backward “loser” post-industrial communities are to blame.

What the real deal is: Between 1963 and 1968, as violent and massive Black ghetto “riots” spread, the u.s. ruling class made two critical decisions. That Civil Rights would be made national law as an “airbag” to cushion the crash of repressing Black revolution, and that the real costs of any “integration” would be shifted completely onto the euro-settler working class.

People who weren’t around then can’t realize how bitter and explosive this was. Before, euro-settler workers may have gotten their hands dirty, but they had all the good paying jobs, it was that simple. Suddenly it was the same but different. About that time was graduating from the u.s. government mechanics school, trying to find a job. The state employment office sent me to the mechanics department at the big railway freight yards. In the office, the supervisor leaned back in his chair and said unhappily: “We heard that the government was going to pass this law, so we figured it was better you than a nigger!” That was still in the old days, when we always knew what white men were thinking, because they felt free to say out loud whatever crossed their minds. Of course, the white mechanics had gathered nearby in the garage to see the “new hire”, and together serenaded me with the then popular toothpaste commercial: “You’ll wonder where the YELLOW went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” ( Starting the daily harassment on the job. )

The point was, the white working class never had any “democratic” vote or say over this social tax on their communities. For two generations the u.s. ruling class solidified government, political parties, media and elections into an iron wall, enforcing this unpopular strategic concession. For the euro-settler working class communities shifting from being very privileged to less privileged. There never was any plebiscite or national popular vote on civil rights—which wouldn’t have passed. When the rare candidate to major office appeared who dead-on opposed civil rights, the establishment united to shoot him down. Famously, when Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazi leader David Duke ran for governor of the state of Louisiana in 1991, both parties united behind the Democratic candidate to block Duke, who still won 55% of the white vote. That was a signal flare of shipwreck sent up by settler communities, including but no means limited to their working class.

Donald Trump was today’s more respectable version of Duke. Marketing smarts told him that running on a platform of settler nationalism, of restoring the white nation to power and having a state publically dedicated to only their racial interests, would be the path to his elevation. The key to that would be his “dog whistle”, silently giving the piercing signal to euro-settlers that his was a united front of all whites in their common racial interests. He wouldn’t sell them out. What better way to silently do that than by conspicuously including the neo-nazis and klan haters in his campaign. Promoting the Confederate flag at his campaign rallies. Every Trump sexist vulgarity, every hate message and bullying threat, was only further proof to his enraptured followers that he wasn’t “politically correct” against them. That he would restore the white nation because at long last through him they could vote “civil rights” and the whole establishment agenda down.

Q. After Trump’s victory, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times: “There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about.” This quote makes it sound like there is a bad backward America and a good enlightened America – represented by people who live in the big cities and read the New York Times. What do you make of this?

A. Think that Krugman and his wife, who co-writes that column, mean well, but got sucked into this liberal capitalist propaganda line, because it uses in a flattering way their own falsely positive views of their elite.

The metropolitan elite, university-educated, residing in major urban areas, dominates the computer industry and global corporate sectors like finance and media. While backing Hillary and LGBT human rights for public politics and all that, in their own worlds they live in apartheid racial/gender discipline. In the futuristic Silicon Valley, computer firms like Twitter and Pinterest are each coincidentally 92% white and Asian for tech employees. Google is right there, too, with tech employees being 94% white and Asian. Same at other computer corporations. It isn’t hard to guess that there are ethnic quotas or near-blanket exclusions secretly agreed upon between these outspokenly liberal corporate leaders. It’s ironic that conservative white factory workers and small industrial employers in the Midwest may be for Trump, but have much more integrated workplaces. Incidentally, the liberal icon New York Times, where Paul Krugman’s columns appear, has 6 White House reporters, but none of them are Black. It has 21 sports reporters, but none of them are Black ( although basketball and American football, for instance, are heavily Black ). Their lifestyles section has no Black writers, although Black people do have real lives. So who is more racist and backward?

Right now we are at intermission. As the previous left from the 1960s-70s has finally faded away, and exited the stage. In this transition, protest and struggle is starting all over again from ground zero. A new kind of radical movement with its own politics and startling ideas is still to come. But it had better have a real power hook-up for working class heroes and outcasts.


Buy book now | Download e-book now | Back to J Sakai's Author Page | Back to Gabriel Kuhn's homepage



Search

Quick Access to:

Authors

Artists

New Releases

Featured Releases


No Trump, No KKK, No Fascist USA T-Shirt

William Godwin: Philosopher, Novelist, Revolutionary