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A City Made of Words in Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
May 7th, 2019

Park pushes the boundaries of speculative fiction in this collection of eight fascinating short pieces that defy categorization. “Climate Change” details an intense erotic entanglement in the midst of global disaster. “A Short History of Science Fiction, or The Microscopic Eye” describes a fan’s encounter with John Palmer, the man who first viewed the ancient cities on Mars, and Palmer’s gradual mental deterioration. Both “Punctuality, Basic Hygiene, Gun Safety” and “A Conversation with the Author” eschew traditional narrative structure for tongue-in-cheek metafiction. “A Resistance to Theory,” in which postmodern literary students wage bloody wars against one another, is perhaps the most avant-garde work in the collection; Park’s inclusion of mundane details balances the over-the-top premise. A nonfiction piece, “A Homily for Good Friday,” takes an unsentimental look at the differences between belief and faith. Park’s writing is sharp, darkly comedic, and laced with pathos. He captures the fragility of the human condition (and the human ego) while offering a sympathetic rendering of human struggles to find answers in a complex world. Seasoned speculative fiction fans will enjoy Park’s innovative detour into the unknown and uncanny.

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America's Reproductive Slaves

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

by Chris Hedges
May 20th, 2019

On Wednesday, the day it was announced that the U.S. birthrate fell for the fourth straight year, signaling the lowest number of births in 32 years, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed into law the most draconian anti-abortion law in the country. That the two developments came at the same time could not have been more revelatory.

The ruling elites are acutely aware that the steadily declining American birthrate is the result of a de facto “birth strike” by women who, unable to afford adequate health insurance and exorbitant medical bills and denied access to paid parental leave, child care and job protection, find it financially punitive to have children. Not since 1971 have births in the United States been at replacement levels, considered to be 2,100 births per 1,000 women over their lifetimes, a ratio needed for a generation to replace itself. Current births number 1,728 per 1,000 women, a decline of 2% from 2017. Without a steady infusion of immigrants, the U.S. population would be plummeting.

“The effort to block birth control and abortion is not about religion nor about politicians pandering to a right-wing base, nor is it a result of prudery, nor is it to punish women for having sex,” Jenny Brown writes in her book “Birth Strike: Hidden Fight Over Women’s Work.” “It is about the labor of bearing and rearing children: who will do it and who will pay for it.”

Raising children is not a lifestyle choice. It is labor-intensive work that demands of parents, and especially women, huge physical, emotional, financial and time commitments. The wider society reaps the benefits of this work. It has a social and moral responsibility to compensate and assist those who raise children.

The birthrate decline is an indicator of the despair and hopelessness that define the lives of tens of millions of young Americans who struggle financially and see little hope for the future. Only by addressing this financial insecurity and desperation, by integrating back into society those who have been pushed aside, can the nation’s death spiral be reversed.

In Sweden, parents are entitled to 480 days of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child; the government-funded subsidy is 80 percent of the parent’s job pay for the first 390 days and a reduced amount for the remaining 90 days. Employers in Sweden pay a tax on salaries to fund parental leave. The unemployed are granted a parental stipend. Parents can split the leave between the two of them. Men take nearly a quarter of parental leave in Sweden, which has one of the highest birthrates in Europe.

America’s corporate state has no intention of funding programs and building institutions to ease the burden of rearing and nurturing children. Yes, the corporate state needs young bodies as fodder for the bloated military and endless foreign wars. Yes, it needs workers, especially a surplus of workers, to toil in menial, poorly compensated labor. Yes, it needs consumers to buy its products. But the corporate state, Brown argues, intends to achieve these goals “with a minimum of employer spending and a maximum of unpaid women’s work.” If women refuse to produce children at levels desired by economic planners, Brown says, then abortion and contraception will be banned or made difficult to obtain. Social Security and pensions will be abolished so the only financial protection from abject poverty for an elderly parent will be children willing to keep their mother or father fed and housed. Eight states dramatically restrict access to abortion, and legislatures in a number of other states are considering legislation to do so. Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia have only one abortion clinic.

The falling birthrate is the real reason women are being forced to become reproductive slaves. As long as wages are kept artificially low (nearly four in 10 middle-aged Americans have no emergency savings, and a third have less than $25,000 invested for retirement), as long as pensions are denied, children become, as in the developing world, the only form of retirement insurance. Policymakers assume that these assaults, coupled with the privatization and destruction of Social Security, will force women to up the birthrate. Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court makes likely the overturning of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. Indeed, the Alabama law, which makes no exception for victims of rape or incest, is designed to be legally challenged and brought before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The outlawing of abortion will not affect the elites. I saw this in communist Romania, where abortion and contraception were generally illegal from 1966 to 1990 under an unsuccessful effort to boost the country’s population from 23 million to 30 million by 2000.

As was the case in Romania, wives, girlfriends, mistresses, sisters and daughters of the elites in the U.S. will have easy access to safe abortions while other women die from procedures done in squalid backrooms at the hands of quacks charging exorbitant fees. Worldwide, almost 23,000 women each year do not survive unsafe abortions, primarily in countries where abortion is illegal or inaccessible. The death toll among Romanian women from unsafe abortions during the 1965-1989 reign of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who took harsh steps to raise the country’s birthrate, was estimated at 10,000.

I spent two years with the Christian right in the U.S., often with members of the so-called “pro-life” movement, in doing research for my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.” These Christian fascists, whose heretical version of Christianity is the primary ideology used to justify the outlawing of abortion, have little regard for the sanctity of life. They enthusiastically bless the military and the dropping of iron fragmentation bombs on Muslim families and villages in the Middle East, fervently support the death penalty and absolve militarized police who gun down unarmed people of color trapped in our urban internal colonies. Their bizarre apocalyptic fantasies revel in the mutilation and suffering of nonbelievers, including Jews who do not convert to Christianity and those they dismiss as “nominal Christians.” Once out of the womb, poor children are seen as not deserving of help, and 12 million of them go to bed hungry every night in this country.

The crusade for the unborn fires up Christian zealots and anti-abortion fanatics with righteous indignation that can lead to violence. It fosters a self-adulatory and repugnant moral absolutism. But its ultimate goal is to strip women of control of their bodies to reverse the decline in births, especially white births, as well as reinstate a tyrannical patriarchy.

The ruling elites use code words such as “dependency ratio” and “entitlement crisis” to express their fear about declining fertility rates. To indoctrinate the public, they employ mass culture to disseminate propaganda, including that which drives the “right to life” movement. These fake moral crusades, always a part of the mass propaganda used to justify war, are covers to perpetuate and consolidate the interests of the elites.

The architecture of the corporate state is designed to disempower women. Most wages are not sufficient for one worker to support a family. This means that both the father and the mother must have income-producing jobs. If a parent takes time off to raise a child, the family income declines, usually by half, and there often is also a loss of health benefits, leaving the parent raising the child dependent on the spouse. This economic dependency makes it harder for a woman to leave an abusive or failed relationship, perpetuating the powerlessness of women that is at the heart of the system. By forcing poor couples to stay together, it frees the state from providing even minimal benefits. If each parent, for example, earns $15,000 a year, a couple often is priced out of social programs such as welfare.

“There are several programs within the welfare system that pushes parents to get married,” Brown said when I interviewed her in April for my television show, “On Contact.”  “They have unimpeachable names like ‘Healthy Families.’ What they’re really trying to do is get people off of welfare by combining these incomes. But that doesn’t solve the problem for that couple, which still doesn’t have access to childcare. They still don’t have access to decent wages. They still aren’t going to be able to take any time off when they get sick. All of these things, [guaranteed] by law in most European countries, we don’t have here.”

Social Security is not a retirement savings account. It is a pay-as-you-go system to support retired workers. If wages remain low and the numbers of workers decline, payments into Social Security will go down and the program will go into crisis.

“My paycheck this week is paying my mom’s Social Security next week,” Brown said. “If the age structure of society changes, it changes how many people are going to be paying into the system. The problem is the wage structure. This is the issue for Social Security. The intense worrying about demographic shifts is about employers worrying about having to put in more for retirement if we continue with this system. They don’t want to do that.”

Families of color, meanwhile, are penalized for having children. African Americans have 2.5 times the infant mortality rate of non-Hispanic whites. African American infants have over twice the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) mortality rate as non-Hispanic whites. Such children are twice as likely to have asthma, 56% more likely to be obese and 61% more likely to attempt suicide during their high school years. Children of color are often taken from their families and placed in foster care, a system that provides money to foster-care parents but not the biological parents, who are often living below the poverty line.

These poverty-stricken Americans are demonized in mass culture as bad parents who should not be having as many children. Seventy percent of money owed by “deadbeat dads” are owed by those who make less than $10,000 a year. These men are obliged to pay on average 83% of their income for child support. They lose their driver’s licenses or are jailed when they cannot make the payments. Walter Scott, an African American father, had been arrested and jailed, initially because of a clerical error, three times on charges of failure to pay child support. His jail sentences saw him lose his jobs. When stopped by a policeman for a faulty brake light in 2015 he ran from his car, fearing that another arrest for failure to pay child support would again leave him unemployed. He ended up being fatally shot in the back by the police officer.

Ignore the religious rhetoric and moral posturing about abortion. This debate is not about the sanctity of life. It is about corporate capitalists who desperately need more bodies and intend to coerce women to produce them.

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Alvin Lucier: Do Something Original

By Ian Brennan
March/April 2019

Alvin Lucier is one of the most influential composers in the post-John Cage era. Having authored over 172 pieces for film, theater, television, and dance companies, it is fair to say that he is prolific. At the age of 87 he continues to produce new works, his latest involving sending his heartbeat to the moon. His experiments and compositions with speech and acoustics over the past six decades have changed the way we hear and utilize sound. His 1969 sound art composition, "I Am Sitting in a Room," famously utilizes re-recording of a spoken text into a room or space, and continues as the recording quality, speakers, mics, and room resonances mutate the material and sound into something new and fascinating. The piece remains the gold standard for this type of project.

How are you?

I am just sitting here, outside, listening to the wind. It is lovely.

You have an incredibly insightful quote, "The best way to produce variation in the sonic phenomena was to pick a setting and leave the setup alone."

I was watching a chef on television who said, "Just let the pan do the work." People are constantly stirring and poking at the dish as they cook. I just let the room do the work. I was working with an engineer to get the setup for my moon bounce piece. He was showing me all the various sounds you can get with pickups and so on. I said, "You're trying to manipulate it." The whole point of the piece is bouncing sound off of the moon. It will be hitting different spots as the moon spins around, hitting each location with a huge delay. The sound should change, and I want to let that happen. If I start fooling around with the sound before it even goes up there, the whole piece doesn't make any sense.

Do you care about microphones, such as using certain types or models?

No, for me they are just a means. When I did my first piece at Brandeis University, they used a special binaural microphone, but I never asked for it again. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in other phenomenon. I don't have a favorite way of recording.

How much resistance have you run into from engineers who think they know the "right" way to do it?

We did a piece in France for 30 people. We set the speakers all very carefully on the ground throughout the audience, as we wanted it to be like they were listening at home. When we came back from dinner, the engineer had moved and hung the speakers in all four corners of the room to project the sound at people. I had an experience with my sine wave and piano piece ["Music for Piano with Slow Sweep Pure Wave Oscillators"]; the engineer just couldn't stand it and started tweaking and tweaking things in the middle of the performance. I said, "Why did you do that?" It was all about ego. I had this student once who would always get up in the middle of this big class and change the volume of whatever was playing. It's power and ego. That was just his idea of what he wanted to hear. I always like to set the volume and allow things to go by themselves, as they are, and evolve.

You have used the body in many pieces, like galvanic skin responses and brainwaves.

I'm not really interested in the body. I just want pieces of music. My brainwave piece ["Music for Alpha Waves, Assorted Percussion, and Automated Coded Relays"] was simply a way to create beautiful, resonant, low thunderous sounds that activate percussion instruments. That piece is more about the response of certain instruments. A big tam-tam needs a lot of energy to make it sound; only the loud pulses really make it work. A smaller drum, a snare drum, is very easy to make resonate. The birth of an alpha is uneven, and it causes instruments to vibrate in different ways. The most important thing about the piece is that I didn't exert any control. My skin galvanic piece ["Clocker] was that way too. When I make pieces now, I have to make sure that I do not exert personal control. I like the idea of non-control. I had an early piece called "Carbon Copies." I asked people to listen and play back exactly what they had heard. If a player starts improvising, you can hear it immediately and it spoils the whole thing. I just went and heard a beautiful performance of one of my new pieces. When you strike a pitch on the piano, two strings start vibrating at the same time. I had the piano tuned so each string was slightly off. When one piano plays against the other, there is a beautifully complicated beating. Each pitch has a different cell. While they were rehearsing the piece, the musicians were playing like...

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Caring for Labor -- Birth Strike in The Progressive Populist

By Seth Sandronsky
The Progressive Populist
June 1st, 2019

Female labor of carrying babies then caring for them, family and friends makes the world we know. Jenny Brown explains how the struggle over accessible abortion and contraception link to that vital labor in “Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work” (PM Press, 2019).

She opens with international comparisons of demography, in this case the statistics of birth rates. Her country-by-country survey is revealing.

Brown unpacks the history, politics and rhetoric of falling birth rates in the US. She situates today in historic context, from the Comstock Law of 1873 making abortion and contraception illegal, to 2019. What is really going on here?

Brown explains many facets of the powerful class trying to control women’s reproductive labor, from overpopulation to Social Security and immigration. Because her book focuses on the US, skin color looms large in a nation with an origin as a slaveholding republic.

Likewise, because the US is the world’s lone superpower, war and women play a central role in the socio-economic system. For example, the declining US birth rate hikes the cost of the military-industrial complex, the so-called defense industry. One interest’s costs, of course, are another interest’s profits. Brown explains the whys and wherefores from a feminist-Marxist view.

Similarly, she unravels, historically, debates on wages and workers among Malthus, Marx and Smith. Suffice it to say inequality and poverty in the economy are features of the system, and a birth strike is a tactic that points to women’s power to shape the class balance of forces away from the one percent to everybody else.

You might say that women’s opposition to the establishment status quo making rearing kids onerous is revolutionary even if their consciousness about is not, to paraphrase the late Herbert Marcuse in “One Dimensional Man.”

Consider the so-called conservative wing of politics, usually but not always associated with the GOP. Its tired and tiring refrain is that New Deal and Great Society policies are harmful. What to do? Cut public goods and services for the many and increasing government’s hand in the prosperity of corporations.

She writes, “What “pro-family” really means is families instead of government. Cut government, and put the work on families. And by families they mean women and women’s unpaid labor.”

Brown delivers powerful testimonies from women with and without kids. One gets a strong sense of the personal and political dimensions of the women’s decisions about rearing kids under late capitalism stateside.

The lack of public support explains why US women are choosing to have fewer kids, e.g., the birth strike. Reproductive freedom empowers women. Removing and weakening it weakens them and their families.

What to do? Organize the broadest range of people possible, e.g., on a basis of working-class politics, for more robust government policy to make it family-friendly in deed.

In this time of late capitalism, such politics are making a comeback after the one-percent’s class conquest of the 99%. Brown aims to strengthen this trend.

Universal health care, not the corporate-friendly Affordable Care Act, helps women to alter the power structure to help the 99%, of which they are an integral part, Brown writes.

In 11 chapters and an appendix with questions for consciousness-raising, she hits the mark of helping us to understand the system that puts profits before people and tactics to weaken it. Therefore, “Birth Strike” is a book for everybody. Read it.

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Making (and Raising) Babies

By Ron Jacobs
May 3rd, 2019

In recent months, statements by two very different politicians regarding the act of bearing and raising children have caused a fair amount of controversy. The first comment was from Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who remarked that many people in her generation were hesitant to bring children into a world facing possible climate catastrophe. Her comment was immediately taken out of context by certain right-wingers who pointed to it as a prime example of generational selfishness. A few weeks later, Senator Mike Lee from Utah, also talking about climate change, argued that the way to “fight” climate change was to have more babies. This comment was immediately challenged and mocked by many of the same media outlets which had supported Ocasio-Cortez’s musings.

The debates over having children represented by the statements of these two politicians is more than just a soundbite or a subject to ridicule according to one’s political opinion. Individuals and societies alike should include the nature of potential futures when they consider their choices as individuals to have children and, as a society, to encourage members to have children. Yet, most advanced capitalist societies (and any less advanced) have seen their birth rates diminish the past couple of decades. At minimum, a birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is considered essential for a stable population. Yet, in the US and other nations, the current birth rate is below this number.

The response to this statistic has varied depending on the nation. Some European nations with a recent history of social democracy already with universal and affordable health care have expanded maternal and paternal leave, greatly subsidized childcare, and even provided an income to mothers raising children and not working outside the home. Other nations, most notably the United States, have chosen a route that makes contraception of all sorts more difficult to obtain, especially abortion. In other words, a woman who has sex without the purpose of procreation is punished and potentially forced to bear a child she does not want.

Despite all this, women are still not having children like they used to. In other words, according to author Jenny Brown in her new book Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work, women are staging a birth strike—they are refusing to have children. Making the reasonable contention that societies need to maintain a stable birth rate for economic and other reasons, Brown examines the current and historical landscape of childbearing, with a particular focus on the United States. In her telling, she examines traditional arguments concerning the continuous attacks on contraception by various religious factions and political groupings. In this examination, she points out that while those guardians of the public morality who were on the frontlines in keeping birth control illegal may have been doing so for religious reasons, they were also shoring up the private understanding of various capitalists that their increasing profits depended on an ever-larger supply of laborers.

At the same time, author Brown points out that it is not an occasional overabundance of workers that keeps wages down, nor is that overabundance the reason for capitalist recessions and depressions. Even though this is a commonly held view fostered by capitalist theorists as old as Adam Smith, Brown points out that Karl Marx refuted this argument easily. Firstly, he noted that capitalism requires boom and bust cycles to control overproduction. Such cycles occurred every ten or so years in Marx’s time: certainly not enough time to reproduce another generation of workers to enter the work force and thereby keep wages low. Brown concurs with Marx, quoting him, “The general movements of wages are exclusively regulated by the expansion and contraction of the industrial army…not…by the variations of the absolute numbers of the industrial reserve army….” In other words, capitalism makes certain that there are always enough unemployed workers to ensure that wages do not cut into the surplus value of labor that the capitalist class counts on for its profits.

Birth Strike is bold in its attack on the way US society portrays the act of childbearing. Instead of portraying it as a social activity essential to the continuation of society, author Brown argues that among the so-called middle class this activity is almost perceived as a luxury; almost as another form of entertainment. Given the cost in the United States throughout the childrearing process, this perception is understandable. However, points out Brown, it is not an accident. Indeed, it is as intentional as the impoverishment of many public school systems and their replacement with essentially privatized charter schools. Under capitalism, an act which should be a perfect compromise between the individual and society has become privatized, with consequences for all, especially the children, especially in working class situations. Parenting services which other governments have socialized—health care, education, childcare, parental leave—are mostly left up to the individual parent or parents in the United States. Little or no tax monies are diverted away from military and other expenditures designed to enrich the already wealthy. At the same time, women of childbearing age are usually forced to quit their jobs once a child comes along precisely because they can’t afford to work and pay for privatized child care. In examining the place of children under capitalism and its manipulation of this fundamental human activity, she makes quite clear how having children is a political act with consequences. So, then, is refusing to have them.

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Fourth Shift Chicago

Photograph Source: The Two Dimension Collection – CC BY 2.0

“Instead of committing suicide, people go to work.”

– Thomas Bernhard 

By Martin Billheimer
April 30th, 2019

Zigzagging from crisis to crisis, Decline Chicago-style went full south in the wake of Vietnam, the gold-grain-OPEC hit, and the free-market killing floor of the Chicago School. Boss Friedman’s projects ran from the Heartland to Santiago Bay, Cortez/Mengele model economics whose legacy is murky offshore but clear as hell at home. ¡Mira! dying tool and dies, the Falstaff  Brewery’s dry ghost, US Steel’s sold-off South Works (they did Picasso in happier days), and the blight Calumet mills by the Skyway. Our Late Capitals of pain and pain relief, ads for phantom products, the coming forth of the pay-day loan… ‘70s-‘80s crack austerity was one long winter, still in season in Uptown and Edgewater and every poor elsewhere.

Dave Ranney’s memoir of economic electroshock in South Chicago is subtitled ‘from the outside in and the inside out’, which is apt for many reasons, not the least being the picture of a city flayed alive. Living & Dying on the Factory Floor is just what was done, with little life in between. Ranney was a member of Sojourner Truth among several Leftist groups, going from CLR James to Red Rosa politically and from professor to prole on his soles. A mixture of discontent with easy sitting-by and the spirit of Lenin’s old vanguardism made him quit his job in academia and go down past Senior’s Last Hour into the guttering world of the factories. Few predicted how quick it would vanish (Paul Sweeney was prophetic here – so was George Romero) or foresaw the strange familiarity of a hollowed-out Gold Rush landscape rolling back into the greatest American industrial towns.

The landscape is employment statistics in stone. Numbers are quite unnecessary for those who act out numberless spells in cities where the Best and Brightest and the silicon wizards have utterly lost control. But loss of control is rarely what it seems – it is usually a strategy of terror or tensions, a domestic counterinsurgency. So perhaps the stats were a projection rather than an analysis, no matter which came first. You still hear laments over the slow death-agonies of the middle classes, but the fact is that the poor got there ages ago. And that all seemed quite logical to the future dispossessed, who now see themselves in the crosshairs. Reagan truly was a revolutionary – a revolution of fools certainly, but he leveled a warhead at a complicit middle class, along with deregulation for all, property fraud and savings looting, union busting and the KKK made fiscally responsible.

Back in the small and medium producers, Ranney’s co-workers may dislike each other a lot of the time but even the most bigoted of them shows what he can be in a strike – which is still terrifying to capitalists in Bangladesh or Beverley and remains the main power of transformation, despite Zuckerberg and Tor (and even WikiLeaks, bless). After all, the enemy is never content with just the virtual. They still arrest, kill, rape, and coup. At the strike at the Shortening plant, one of Dave’s co-workers tells him he doesn’t care if they lose or not, if they’re fired or even shot by the cops because the unity of the picket line has been his proudest moment. Flesh is still a fierce form, no troll farm or web but sometimes immortal for an hour.

Chicago had an eerie beauty then, a skuzzy razing that moved in a slow power outage down elemental stations. Giddy enervation pressed lovingly against a creased blind: medusa heads in temporal defeat, a chain-smoking comic book gloss leaking over chipped doorway gods and open doors. It has all been folded up in thirty years’ reckless debt mining and the incarceration boom… Was it all a flash in the eternal Oxy dream of new technologies? Can a knife have a philosophy? Does genocide always wear jackboots? No wonder people are paranoid and suspect plots everywhere. They are quite right to – Dick Gregory is still right about everything, improvisations aside – the devil is a superstructure made of miniatures. And there is hardly any evidence of what is being done, except for evident actions in stressed real-time. This crime does not need adumbration or clues. It is not even necessary to identify the killer because everyone knows.

You always wonder what happened to the people you chanced to work with if you are basically unskilled. All of you thrown together in some crap shop or in a kitchen, all cleaning, storing or putting-up and making. To cease wondering about them tells the great erasure of the working class, the purest proof a prosecution of ghosts would need in the investigation of Neoliberalism. No more chance encounters at the job, disturbances in demographics, conflicts or contradictions. No more action, no mingling of kinds or classes, no more wondering or wandering or changing one’s life like Rilke said you must (Fred Hampton said it too). Walking through the twilight of the places he was beaten, struck, stomped, and arrested, Mr. Ranney ends up at his desk looking out through the window and thinking of those dead or charged to disappear. His book is surely beautiful and hardly hopeless; the chapter There Ain’t No Justice – Just Usis especially masterful and vivid. These are hard-won conclusions, if they are won at all. But the question of ‘winning’ has no part in fighting if you fight just to fight. All in all, his picture of the city and its people is as unforgettable and as fleeting as an old reunion in Bashō. You have done your old and rainy comrades proud, Ranney.

Unemployment and ‘Missing’ notices are cannibal gaps in the labor cost-cut. But there is always a genius like Larry Hoover to find a void and fill it, which bring us roundabout to Compliments of Chicagohoodz, a stunning fotonarcorridoby Jinx and Mr C, published by the estimable Feral House. Hoover is not mentioned in Mr. Ranney’s book, but as founder of the Folk Nation he is more than a name in Chicago and he is always present in spirit. Although he is now in the Supermax for life, his genius was clearly of the permittedkind – a place ordained from the beginning by the power of City Hall as a protective device against real radicalism and as a testament to the paranoia of the rich. Local and national powers can afford a parallel incorporation; they even benefit from its price controls, its outlets for cash in danger of hording, and its dynamic figures who fight from nothing to ruthless heights. ‘I am a capitalist’, as bossman Larry Hoover said.

Drugs and gang work are too often confused; sometimes they are even at loggerheads (e.g., coke destroyed much of the Latin Kings’ leadership via addiction in the early ‘80s, leading to its severe proscription). Riding is also the simple fact of controlling areas, friendship and fighting together, redemption by violence and amateur policing – at least primarily in the period this book covers. Who would live without a circle of friends and who would deny that rank is also fellowship? What is more profound than leaving your group for an hour in the warm wind of mid-June? And graves, tit-for-tat, one going all out with the most momentous sign and leaving a name on a wall where strong streets collide. It’s not all glamour, though. Despite the busts and hypocrisy, there are security forces at every civic level. Fluidity between them is not only possible but desirable. Professionalism is moving from para to official, while keeping the game and past initiations close.

Chicagohoodzis also a psychological map of several decades of warring city zones, shifted by real estate, immigration, joblessness and assassination. The acted-upon act upon the city, indelibly – thus the rich photographs here can be seen as a continuum in the epoch, a similarity it shares with Ranney’s memoir. Gangland is a parody of the British Public School, with seals and codes drawn from religion, politics and the occult. New meanings are grafted onto the points of stars and swastikas, which is confusing to outsiders who only see apparently-disparate signs together on a wall. A city kid develops an educationin this symbolism, gang affiliation or no, specific to a certain time and a certain place. The institutions of highest learning are Pontiac, Stateville, Marion, Menard. Jinx spent years collecting the ornate calling cards of the mostly Northside Chicago gangs and he also provides superb photographs of his own or loaned from members’ scrapbooks – the warriors pose, guffaw, bristle and menace, acting steely or really being it. His own photos show him to be a master of the Kojak–Weegie snapshot, a purely American ballet in Technicolor gauze. Choreographed streets in successive rates of time creature-feature our own unstable memories, observation points washed with varsity colors and damp backroom glow. In contrast, Mr C’s text is icy clear yet unafraid to make a wild guess or two or repeat schoolyard legends as you might have heard them. Murders and fights are recounted Rashomon-style, which fits the postmodern Water Marginsurveillance chic of late-century war poetry. In Feral House’s trademark layout, the plates cluster like a city grid occasionally crossed with obscure warnings – but there is a secret economy here that betrays a very careful eye behind frame and juxtaposition, and in the choice of autographed scraps and ailing stars.

The tension in ‘factual’ books is between the point where the outsider peers in and what a chronicle of an inside world must do to keep him looking. Dislocations in time, the blurring of similarities, insecurity in the passages of both the time of the world and the time such a record would record. This persistence of vision is fatalistic, a momentum carried forward by the very line of typeset whose express heads toward a bitter final word. Luckily, both of these books tempt you off to the margins effortlessly if you know the places and recognize some of the faces. If you do not, the effect is more documentary and maybe even more hypnotic.

These books are about signs and numbers. As for the bosses and law enforcement, you see them rarely these days – except for the cops, whose faces are easy to exchange. But they have not ceased to win every time, have they? So what.

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Francesc Ferrer i Guardia: Anarchist Education and the Revolutionary General Strike

By Michael Long
ASR: Anarcho-Syndicalist Review
Summer 2019

Anarchist Education and the Modern School. A Francisco Ferrer Reader (AEMS), a new offering from PM Press, is edited by Mark Bray and Robert Haworth, two increasingly respected names in contemporary writing on anarchism past and present. Bray pub- lished Translating Anarchy: The Anarchism of Occupy Wall Street in 2013 and Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook in 2017. Haworth produced Anarchist Pedagogies in 2012 and Out of the ruins: The Emergence of Radical Informal Learning Spaces in 2017. Weighing in at 324 pages, their new book brings together Joseph McCabe’s 1913 English translation, revised and updated by Bray, of about two-thirds of Ferrer’s The Origins and Ideals of the Modern School, and new translations by Bray of the rest of Ferrer’s writings on La Escuela Moderna (the Modern School), the general strike and other topics, many appearing here in English for the first time. There are chapters detailing Ferrer’s life story, old black and white photographs, analyses of his ideas, including contemporary anar- chist critiques of the Modern School, articles from the Boletin de la Escuela Moderna, prison poems, a 60-page chapter by Bray on Ferrer the martyr, and more.

Having migrated from republicanism to anarchism, Ferrer is best remembered today for having founded La Escuela Moderna in Barcelona in 1901 – a libertarian model that continues to influence progressive education around the world. While the Modern School and Ferrer’s ideas about education are the main focus of AEMS, Bray and Haworth show that there were other sides to Ferrer the revolutionary, and not a few inconsistencies. Bray’s ‘Introduction’ and chapter 2, ‘Francisco Ferrer: the man’, are well researched, honest and critical (as opposed to judgmental) evaluations of Fer- rer’s life and achievements. Of special interest to many ASR readers will be a short section on Ferrer’s less-well-known advocacy of the general strike, violent if necessary. The following essay focuses about equally on Ferrer and the book itself.

Ferrer: The life*
The thirteenth of 14 children, Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia was born on January 10, 1859, to a fairly affluent, Catholic, Catalan family, owners of a vineyard in the small village of Alella, near Barcelona. His experiences at two abysmal local schools were a major reason for what would become a life-time interest in children’s education. He recognized how an unholy alliance of church and state used (and still uses) education to brainwash young people into a life of obedience and servitude, but equally, the politically transformative opportunities education could provide in revolutionary hands.

Ferrer’s own formal schooling ended at 13, when he moved to a nearby town to work for a merchant, Pablo Ossorio, whose republican views and activism influenced him greatly. At 19, he left that job for one as a ticket inspector on trains going to and from France. It was during one such journey that he met a young woman, Teresa Sanmarti Guiu, beginning the first of what would be a series of romances throughout his life. Francesc and Teresa married and had two daughters, but, it soon became apparent, little else in common. Ferrer liked to read and was teaching himself French; Teresa was materialistic, averse to republicanism, and simply wanted her husband to work his way up the railroad career ladder.

In 1883, aged 24, Ferrer joined a Masonic lodge. Freemasonry at the time was a secular hot-bed for radicals, including many well- known anarchists. Teresa was not pleased. The marriage fell apart, the pair separated, and in 1884 Ferrer quit his railroad job and moved to Paris, where he opened a wine shop, later converted into a restaurant, the Libertad. He kept in touch with Teresa, however, and she and their two young daughters joined him. She hated Paris and Ferrer’s continuing involvement with the Masons. The restaurant was doing well, but business suffered after 1886, when an anarchist, Clement Duval, fled into it after stabbing a police agent. Ferrer closed Libertad in 1889 and began giving Spanish lessons instead.

The couple had a total of seven children, of whom only three lived to adulthood. The marriage deteriorated very badly again, mostly, it seems, due to Teresa’s opposition to Ferrer’s polítics, and they separated for a second time, sending their daughters to live in Bendigo, Australia, with Ferrer’s brother, Jose. On June 24, having failed to have him arrested as an alleged anarchist, Teresa confronted Ferrer on the street, firing at him three times with a revolver. Fortunately, she was a rotten shot, and only managed to scratch his head. Teresa, not Ferrer, was arrested, but received just a one-year prison sentence, subsequently suspended. She then met a rich Ukrainian aristocrat and moved with Ferrer’s and her son, Sol Ferrer, to the man’s huge estate near St. Petersburg, where they had three children.

Increasingly disgusted by the careerism and corruption of establishment republican politics, Ferrer joined Jules Guesde’s socialist Parti Ouvrier Francais (French Workers’ Party, the POF). In 1896, as a POF delegate, he attended the fourth congress of the International in London, where an authoritarian socialist proposal to exclude everyone opposed to parliamentary action, i.e., the anarchists, was contested by Malatesta, Nieuwenhuis and others. Ferrer was the only POF delegate to vote with them. The proposal passed, and after leaving London, Ferrer left the socialist movement for good, moving ever closer to anarchism and the anarchists he befriended in Paris, such as Anselmo Lorenzo and Charles Malato. He was also drawn to the growing strength of revolutionary syndicalism, epitomized in France by the Confederacion Generale du Travail (CGT), established in 1895. While publicly condemning propaganda by the deed, much in vogue at the time, especially in France (Ravachol, Emile Henry, Auguste Vaillant, Sante Caserio, et al.), a hand-written note by Ferrer four years earlier, in 1892, had ended with ‘Viva la dinamita!’, indicating at least some sympathy for a more direct approach to social problems.
*This brief summary of Ferrer’s life story is closely based on Bray’s two opening chapters. Page numbers here and throughout the review refer to pages in AEMS, not in original documents such as Ferrer’s The Modern School, which appears as chapter 3, pages 44-154.

Ferrer went back to language teaching, even publishing a pedagogical grammar for Spanish that he claimed to be the simplest and fastest way to learn the language when taught using “the Ferrer Method.” In 1894, Ernestine Meunie, a wealthy, devoutly Catholic French woman, 12 years his elder, became one of Ferrer’s students. In the years that followed, Meunie gradually changed her politics as a result of listening to her Spanish teacher. Importantly for Ferrer’s ideas, three months before dying in 1901, she also changed her will, leaving him a valuable building in Paris, thereby providing the revenue he needed to fund the Escuela Moderna and other projects.

Meanwhile, Ferrer had an affair, and another son, with a politically much more compatible student, Leopoldine Bonnard, a French teacher and anarchist who would go on to teach French at the Modern School when it opened. Citing Archer (1911, 15), Bray reports (29) that Ferrer would happily have married Leopol- dine, but was already married to Teresa, and Spanish law forbade divorce. Sol Ferrer later claimed that it was Leopoldine, not his father, who had first come up with the idea of the Modern School.

Returning to Barcelona after Meunie’s death, Ferrer opened the Escuela Moderna at number 56 (now number 70) Caille Bailen on September 8, 1901, with 18 boys and 12 girls in the first class. In a busy three-month period, he also founded the Boletin de la Escula Moderna in October, and the anarchist labor periodical La Huelga General in November.

The following year, he fell in love with Soledad Villafranca, 21 years younger than him, one of two sisters who came to teach at the school. His relationship with Leopoldine ended in 1905, whereupon she left, taking their 5-year-old son Riego with her to Amsterdam, and later to Barcelona. He had little contact with Riego thereafter, and Bray comments (31) that “given how much time and energy he put into working for the education and well- being of children, Ferrer seems to have given his own children a surprisingly small amount of his time.”

The School’s publishing arm, also founded by Ferrer in 1901, was a story in its own right. First, the pedagogic texts it produced were adopted by many other schools, thereby spreading the ideas and values of the Modern School elsewhere in Spain. Second, it published books by several prominent anarchists, including Jean Grave, Elisee Reclus and Georges Paraf-Javal, as well as work by local University of Barcelona academics. Third, and most important of all, its administrator, Mateu Morral, a young Catalan anarchist, moonlighted as a bomber. On May 31, 1906, he attacked the wedding procession of King Alphonso XIII in Madrid, killing 26 people and injuring 100 others. Surrounded by militiamen 48 hours later, he killed one before shooting himself. The events had catastrophic repercussions. Concluding he was implicated, the Spanish state arrested Ferrer and shut down the Escuela Moderna, never to reopen. Ferrer was eventually acquitted after a campaign on his behalf, but strong circumstantial evidence suggest he had indeed been involved, having met with Morral and others plotters the night before the attack, sending a large check to the man who assisted in Morral’s initial escape, and more.

Released from prison following his acquittal, Ferrer moved back to Paris with Soledad Villafranca, where he was very active, despite being under constant police surveillance. Among other things, he covertly funded the new revolutionary syndicalist labor federation Solidaridad Obrera, co-founded a new Masonic lodge in Barcelona, founded the International League for the Rational Education of Children, and in the summer of 1908, wrote The Modern School. (The book would not be published in his lifetime.)

In March 1909, the couple visited London, meeting with Malatesta, Kropotkin and others, and briefly with his and Leopoldine’s 12-year-old son, Riego, then at boarding school in London, before returning to Barcelona. There, a strike broke out in response to the Spanish government forcibly send- ing 20,000 working-class and peasant conscripts to quell an uprising in Morocco against the colonial Spanish government.

In what became known as the Tragic Week that
followed, barricades were erected in Barcelona and
surrounding towns and cities, violent clashes erupted
between strikers and the Guardia Civil, dozens of
churches and 30 convents were burned, over 100
people were killed, including several policemen and
priests, 296 civilians and 124 police were injured,
some 1,725 people were charged, and 2,000 others fled to France, mostly to evade conscription. Two-thirds of those arrested were discharged, but  17 were sentenced to death. Twelve death sentences were commuted, but five were not, including that of Ferrer, who was charged with having masterminded the whole uprising.

Although it had chosen not to sponsor the strike officially for fear of repression, Solidaridad Obrera had indeed been one of the main forces behind it, and Ferrer was a major force behind Soli- daridad Obrera. Nevertheless, his role had in fact been minimal, his attempts to influence decisions having been rebuffed by the working-class strike leaders as unwanted meddling by someone of different class origins. Bray comments (39) that “(A)t most, Ferrer was one of the hundreds or thousands of revolutionaries attempting to foment unrest and push the course of events in a more radical direction.” Unlike with Morral’s attempt to assassinate Alphonso, there was absolutely no evidence that Ferrer played an important role in the uprising. This did not deter the state.

It seems likely that the government was keen to use the fabri- cated “mastermind” claim as a way of securing revenge for Ferrer having escaped punishment for his alleged involvement in Moral’s assassination attempt on the king and/or for the threats to church and state posed by his ideas about education and the dangerous example of the Escuela Moderna. On October 13, 1909, aged 50, just four days after a sham five-hour trial by a kangaroo court in which Ferrer was not allowed to call any witnesses or even select his own lawyer, he was executed by firing squad in the moat at Montjuich Castle in what Avrich (1980, 32) described, accurately, as a judicial murder. His grave today lies in the Montjuich cemetary, side by side with those of Ascaso and Durutti.

Ferrer and anarchist education

A lengthy section of AEMS (pages 44-154) is devoted to a translation, completed and updated by Bray, of The Modern School: Posthumous explanation and scope of rationalist education. Ferrer wrote it two years after the school closed, and it was not published until after he died.

Although he is usually remembered as having founded (perhaps innocently enough, for simplicity’s sake) ‘La Escuela Moderna’ (The Modern School), and even though that is the name he used in the title of his own account – it is clear that what he viewed as more important about its full name has been lost over the years:

We created the Modern, Scientific, and Rational School, the fame of which soon spread to Europe and America. If in time it will lose the title of modern, over the centuries it will be strengthened more and more in its titles of rational and scientific. (58-59)

Ever virulently anti-clerical, Ferrer saw education in religious schools as the “systematization of ignorance.” (66) Time and again, he stressed the need to rid society of the stultifying role of religion (in Spain, the Catholic brand) in education and in society as a whole, replacing it with science and reason. Education’s emancipa- tory potential was emphasized:

For my part, I consider that the most effective protest and
the most positive revolutionary action consists in giving the oppressed, the disinherited, and all who are conscious of a demand for justice as much truth as they can receive, trusting that it will direct their energies in the great work of the regen- eration of society. (52)

There was a pressing need for co-education:
Coeducation was of capital importance for me ... Nature, philosophy, and history teach, against all the fears and atavisms, that women and men complete the human being, and ignorance of such an essential and transcendental truth has been the cause of the greatest evils. (60-61)

Equally important was co-education of the social classes:
The only sound and enlightened form of school is that which coeducates the poor and the rich, which brings the one class into touch with the other in the innocent equality of childhood by means of the systematic equality of the rational school. (64-65)

Were he alive today, Ferrer would undoubtedly have said the same thing about coeducation of the races. And then there was hygiene, which was primitive in Spanish schools in the early 20th century, resulting in numerous health problems for teachers, students and parents. At Ferrer’s invitation, local medical experts implemented a number of important improvements in the Escuela Moderna, which Ferrer describes in some detail. (67-76).

Better hygiene, boys and girls, rich and poor, in the same school – all this may seem unexceptional enough today, but such was not the case in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the period during which the first free schools opened. The Catholic Church had long held a suffocating grip on most aspects of society in southern Europe, nowhere more so than in Spain. What little public education existed was dominated by the Church, of miser- able quality, and available only to boys. Just one town in three had a school, and two-thirds of the population was illiterate (Smith 1983, 5). In sharp contrast, the values of the Modern School were openly anti-statist, anti-capitalist, and anti-militarist, and there was a clear commitment to social justice. Reasoning skills and practical scientific inquiry were central components in the curriculum. It was a free school where, in Emma Goldman’s words, ‘free’ meant “to free the child from superstition and bigotry, from the darkness of dogma and authority” (Goldman 1931, 458). It was understandable, then, if Ferrer viewed education and La Escuela Moderna as a path to emancipation for women and for the poor and downtrodden, and equally understandable if what he was doing was viewed with alarm by both the Spanish state and the Catholic Church.

Students paid to attend La Escuela Moderna, but working- class students were given a discount. Parents, children, and other adults flocked to lectures and whole courses, e.g., in physiology and hygiene, and geography and natural science, provided for them by sympathetic University of Barcelona faculty members in the evenings and on Sundays. The ideas caught on. Fourteen new Ferrer-inspired schools opened in Barcelona and 34 others elsewhere in Catalonia, Valencia, and Andalusia. The church was especially troubled by the mixing of boys and girls.

There were 30 students, 18 boys and 12 girls, from all social classes, when the school opened, 114 in June, 1904, and more than 120 when, after five years of continuous harassment, and at the urging of the church, it was finally shut down by the Spanish state in 1906 as part of the fallout from Mateo Morral’s disruption of Alphonso’s wedding celebrations.

In addition to organized opposition from church and state, Ferrer faced several other problems in Barcelona in 1901 that are perhaps less severe (in some countries, at least) for free schools today. One was finding suitable teachers. He wrote (76-80) that teachers competent to carry out rational instruction did not exist when the School first opened. Initially, therefore, the Modern School staff comprised individuals who believed in its values and goals, who then had to learn from practical experience. The supply of teach- ers for the Escuela and for branches that opened elsewhere was gradually supplemented by young men and women who underwent training at a rationalist teacher-training center Ferrer opened under the direction of an experienced teacher and in close cooperation with staff at the Modern School. Nevetheless, teachers of the kind required were always in short supply, especially as pay was so low.
Providing teachers with a living wage (and even minimal benefits) was a second problem, and one that certainly is faced by progressive schools to this day. This is especially true among those that encourage applications for admission for children from working-class families, whose fees are then often reduced or waived altogether. The Albany Free School, in New York State, for example, pays its full-time teachers around $11,000 a year, less than the already disgracefully low U.S. minimum wage for full-time work.

A third problem was the lack of suitable pedagogic materials. Ferrer describes (93-107) the difficulty the School had in finding suitable textbooks or people to write them, as well as items for the School library. Adopting books used in lay schools was not a solu- tion. Rational education was not simply secular education, with the religious content removed, for what had replaced the religious content was equally problematic:

I first read a large number of works in the French code of secular instruction and found that God was replaced by the state, Christian virtue by civic duty, religion by patriotism, submission and obedience to the king, the aristocracy, and the clergy by respect for the functionary, the prioprietor and the boss. (94)

Ferrer wanted neither: “Rational education rises above these miser- able intentions.” (96)
The difficulty in finding texts that did not indoctrinate children into thinking their needs could be met by belief in a deity, a govern- ment, or both, shows just how difficult the context was in which Ferrer was struggling to start a free school in Spain at the time – a school free of such illusions. He sought help from intellectuals of the day, and from the general public. One who provided regular assistance to the new school was the anarchist geographer, Elisee Reclus.

Even Reclus, however, could not suggest a suitable book, writing from Brussels:

Dear friend, in my opinion there is no text for the teaching of geography in primary schools. I do not know a single one that is not infected with the venom of religion, patriotism, or, what is even worse, administrative routine. (Reclus, 1903, 105)

Reclus and Ferrer agreed that a return to nature and discovery learning outside the classroom provided a much better alternative for learning geography, and many parts of math and science, as well. Nevertheless, new materials were written, and by the end of year 3 of the School’s existence, were being used not only at the Escuela Moderna, but at 32 other schools throughout Spain, including 16 elsewhere in Barcelona. (A complete list of the 32 schools and locations appears on page 126.) There were 51 girls and 63 boys attending the Escuela Moderna by that time. Textbooks produced especially for the original school and published by its in-house press were adopted in 120 secular schools started by the League of Freethinkers – schools that, like the Escuela Moderna, also provided literacy classes and other courses for adults. Despite its location in Barcelona, Ferrer deliberately made Spanish the language of the School and its publications, so that whatever they produced would be accessible beyond the Catalan-speaking region.

The last section of his monograph (148-151), ‘The closing of the Modern School,’ is an elegant expression of defiance after the shut-down following his arrest as an alleged accomplice (which he again strongly denies) in Metteo Morral’s attempt on the Spanish king. Rather than accept it as a defeat, Ferrer notes the year-long (1906-1907) international attention the case brought to the School and to his creation of the International League for the Rational Education of Children. He devotes considerable space to what he views as one of the biggest problems faced by free schools: the lack of teachers trained to work in them, and of any way to create them. Groups wishing to start new Modern Schools would contact him from many parts of the world, he reported, to say they had money, buildings, books and would-be students, but they often lacked suitable teachers.

Overall, Ferrer concludes, the Escuela Moderna of Barcelona [was] a most successful attempt that distinguished itself in two ways:
1. While open to successive improvements, it set up a
standard of what education should be in a regenerated society. 2. It gave the creative impulse to education. (150)

The school had produced children with the knowledge and values needed to create a just, progressive society and had inspired similar projects elsewhere. In fact, it was its very success that had triggered the opposition that led to its closure. Ferrer was clear about a major source of that opposition, and optimistic about the future:

The spread of our influence attracted the hatred of Jesuitism of short and long habits, like vipers in their dens, who took shelter in the palaces, temples, and convents of Barcelona, and this hatred inpsired the plan that closed the Modern School. It is closed still, but it is currently concentrating its forces, defining and improving its plan, and gathering the strength for a fresh attempt to promote the true, indispens- able work of progress. That is the story of what the Modern School was, is, and must be. (151)

Bray points out that the Modern School was not without its critics, including some anarchists of the period, even though their views tended to be lost amidst all the praise lavished on Fer- rer in the immediate aftermath of his murder. Chapter 5 (AEMS 188-206) begins with part of a letter to Ferrer from the incoming first director of the Modern School, Clemence Jacquinet, written in 1990, two months before she arrived in Barcelona. Ferrer had famously promised:

I will teach them only the simple truth. I will not ram a dogma into their heads. I will not conceal from them one iota of fact. I will teach them not what to think but how to think. (Avrich 1980, 20)

Nevertheless, Jacquinet was worried that Ferrer’s strong beliefs might themselves become a new dogma. She was convinced chil- dren would be better off exposed to a variety of opinions, and that the obvious superiority of science over religion would be enough for them to win the day. The important thing, she wrote, was that children reach that understanding on their own, becoming independent thinkers in the process.

Jacquinet resigned as director after the first year, taught at the School for the second year, and then left, convinced that her worst fears had been justified, a view supported by the Catalan anarcho- syndicalist intellectual, Jose Prat: “Is it possible ... that emancipation rests precisely on the non-profession of such and such opinions that we today believe to be redemptive?” (192)

After leaving, Jacquinet wrote in a piece, originally a talk, entitled ‘Sociology in the School’:
The emancipation of humanity does not consist in professing
such and such opinions, but rather in searching for the free
and complete development of individuals . ... Why, then, do
teachers, even those who profess libertarian opinions, have
such little confidence in freedom? If they have done enough
to evade error in the school, then why do they fear simply
leaving free space for the truth? ... Moreover, if our aspira-
tions are just, if our social critiques are founded in the truth,
then it stands to reason that they will be spread on their own,
inevitably, from a sincere study of nature observed in all of its
aspects according to a rigorously scientific method in order to
deduce the consequences from the social point of view. (197) ★

Arguments of this nature in favor of “neutral” forms of “teach- ASR 76 ing free of all classes of isms” continued after Ferrer’s death. The Summer 2019 views of Ricardo Mella (1861-1925), anarchist collectivist and historiographer, built on those of Jacquinet. Mella maintained that children should be exposed to all ideas and left free to find their own way through them:

In clear and precise terms: school should be neither republican nor Masonic nor socialist nor anarchist, just as it cannot and should not be religious ... (202)
There is a big difference between
explaining religious ideas and teaching
a religious dogma; to expound upon
political ideas and teach democrarcy,
socialism, or anarchy. It is necessary to
explain it all but not impose anything, as
true and just as it is thought to be. Only
at this price will intellectual independence
be effective ... (203)
They don’t realize that forging minds
according to their favored model is anti-
libertarian, since it snatches away from
the child in their most tender youth the
ability to think according to their own
initiative ... (204)
Not even absolute liberty should be
imposed, but rather freely pursued and
accepted. (205)

Mella denied that science, rationalism and anarchism were inherently related. Rationalism could just as easily be argued to underlie all sorts of philosophies, he maintained. Even within an- archism, if science and anarchism were assumed to be one and the same, it could be used to justify anarcho-communism, individual- ist anarchism, mutualism, or anarcho-syndicalism: “Which is the truth, the science, to firmly establish this uncontrollable absurdity of the rationalist absolute?” (205)

Bray draws attention to the conflicting views within the an- archist movement on these issues. Understandably, he does not attempt to resolve them in a book like this. Suissa (2006), however, points out that implicitly or explicitly, educators in the anarchist tradition have a clear moral vision. They seek to build free, egali- tarian societies in which coercion and oppression of all kinds are banished, and in which every individual, not just a fortunate elite, can realize his or her potential. The schools tend to have a socially conscious curriculum designed to offer students opportunities to learn rational thinking, mathematics, science, arts and humanities, and simultaneously, the value of individual freedom (as opposed to mere license), equality, free association, mutual aid, cooperation, and social justice. The free school in Ferrer’s time, as now, was seen as the ideal society in embryonic form – building the new society within the shell of the old.

The revolutionary general strike

In his insightful Introduction, Bray is at pains to bring out the complexities, and sometimes inconsistencies, in Ferrer’s political beliefs and actions. His dedication, starting in 1901, to establishing networks of modern schools supposedly delivering non-ideological, peaceful, scientifically based, rationalist education – an ambitious enough goal – was only one side of the man. Simultaneously, Bray notes (5), Ferrer founded and financed an anarchist labor periodi- cal La Huelga General (The General Strike) in which, under the pseudonym ‘Cero’ (probably employed so as not to scare away parents of Escuela Moderna children), he published several articles indicative of distinctly non-pacifist beliefs. One was entitled ‘The Republicans are not revolutionaries – Only the general strike will make the revolution’, and another, ‘Will there be blood? – Yes, a lot’.

A third, ‘Preparing the revolutionary general strike’, argued that it would be better not to organize one at all if it had to be peaceful. And as noted earlier, there was also circumstantial evidence that Ferrer was willing to support propaganda by the deed, as in the case of Mateu Morral’s attempt on Alphonso in 1906.

La Huelga General published articles by many well-known Spanish anarchists of the day, and by such international luminaries as Kro- potkin, Malatesta, Reclus, Nieuwenhuis, Grave, Malato and Paraf-Javal. Ferrer’s own rhetoric was certainly appropriate for a supporter of militant anarchist working-class action. The following are brief quotes from just four of the six short articles (with titles and publication dates) by “Cero” reproduced in AEMS.
The complete emancipation of the workers
will come neither from the Church nor the state, but rather from the general strike that will destroy both. (‘God or the State: NO – The General Strike: YES.’ Nov. 25, 1901) What a devastating torrent will be unleashed by the popular masses upon all obstacles that oppose their supreme vindication. And so, yes, the blood will run and spill everywhere.

(‘Will there be blood? – Yes, a lot.’ January 5, 1902)
A general strike means the common, instant action of all workers not to ask for this or that improvement from their masters, but rather to eliminate the masters. It is about replacing the regime of wage labor, which is always neces- sarily unjust and expoitative, with a regime of solidarity and general well-being. That is the meaning of the general strike. (‘Preparing the revolutionary general strike.’ Jan. 25, 1903) Precisely, the craziness of those who don’t understand anarchy is based in their inability to conceive of a truly reasonable society. (‘Property and the Anarchists: The crazy and the reasonable.’ November 15, 1901)

The official state justification for Ferrer’s execution was his alleged role in fomenting the events of the Tragic Week. This was ironic, Bray comments, as more of his relationships with anarchists were with middle-class intellectuals and writers than with the kinds of anarchist workers involved in the rebellion that led to the declaration of martial law and his arrest. In fact, working-class anarchist militants were often distrustful of Ferrer’s middle-class origins and relative wealth (mostly, the money from the Ernestine Meunie inheritance after her death in April, 1901).

And there were some gounds for their distrust, Bray points out (214), as under his pseudonym “Cero,” Ferrer had also published an article claiming that after a general strike, the poor would be better off, but the wealthy would be allowed to continue living in their extravagant homes:
The rich will be happier than today, because they will continue to enjoy without seeing others suffer. The poor won’t envy the rich, bcause they won’t lack anything. (‘The General Strike will enrich the poor without impoverishing the rich.’ December 5, 1901)

Even Chicago School economists would hesitate before making such obviously ridiculous claims. Could it be dismissed as an off- hand remark by Ferrer on a bad day? Hardly. This was a short, carefully written article, another example of the inconsistencies Bray highlights in Ferrer’s thinking.

In fact, Ferrer’s participation in the militant labor movement often seemed to lack a clear focus. In ‘Preparing the general strike’, he noted, correctly, that any hard-won wage gains are quickly cancelled out by rises in the cost of living, arguing, therefore, that strikes were only worthwhile if revolutionary, and only revolutionary if state violence is met by working-class violence. As “Cero” in La Huelga General (but not as Ferrer, head of the supposedly pacifist Modern School), he urged readers onward to the “last baptism of human blood” necessary for the creation of a new world. Bray suggests (215) that the overall picture supports claims by some Spanish historians that “Ferrer and many of his anarchist comrades were not yet interested in the philosophy of revolutionary syndicalism per se as much as they saw the general strike as an opportunity to jump toward popular insurrection.”

Stronger evidence, I suggest, lies in the absence of any mention of trade (much less industrial) unions in any of the six articles – a strange omission, surely, for a true revolutionary syndicalist advo- cating militant industrial action. Who organizes general strikes if not labor unions? There is a single oblique reference to ‘resistance societies’ in one article, which Bray says in a footnote (n22, 224) was ‘(E)ssentially a synonym for a union during this period’, but that is all. La Huelga General printed its 21st and final edition in June 1903. Revolutionary syndicalist ideology would not take firm shape until the formation of Solidaridad Obrera in 1907, for which Ferrer was certainly a major funding source.

The International League for the Rational Education of Children

Ferrer announced the founding of the International League in the Boletin de la Escuela Moderna on November 1, 1908. Its purpose would be to spread the theory and practice of rational education internationally – education, not traditional teaching – with Ferrer as President. There would be a board of directors, and regular publications in French, Spanish and Italian. Ferrer’s vision of the emancipatory value of rational education was explicit:

Given the fact that simply by educating children rationally there can emerge generations capable of religious, political, and economic emancipation, we want to dedicate our efforts to the propagation, development, and defense of this education as far as our radius of action will reach.” (231)

The League did lead to new rationalist schools being founded in several countries, including three in Cuba, but rarely attracted more than a few hundred members in any one of them. Soledad Villafranca assumed the presidency after Ferrer’s death, but the League faded away within a few years. Why this happened despite the international outcry and opening of new Modern Schools in many countries following his execution is unclear.

Francisco Ferrer: The Martyr

Bray contributes another fine chapter (235-295) describing and analyzing the protest movement on several continents that built up around Ferrer’s arrest, trial and execution. He briefly notes the founding (and in many cases, due to oppressive regimes, untimely demise) of well over 100 Ferrer-inspired schools in over 20 coun- tries, including two by IWW affiliates in Cuba and Chile, and 47 Modern School affiliates in Spain that had been established even before Ferrer was murdered. Twenty Modern Schools were started in U.S. cities. Most lasted just a few years, but the Modern School of Stelton, New Jersey, ran for nearly 40, and one in Lakewood, New Jersey, for 25. (For an authoritative history of anarchist education and Modern Schools in the U.S., see Avrich, 1980.)

Practices in the schools varied considerably around the world, partly because groups of differing political persuasions founded and supported some of them, and partly because direct contact with Ferrer, his ideas, and his writings had been relatively limited before his death and in many parts of the world, and in an era before TV, the internet and (so-called) “social” media, inevitably remained so afterwards. Bray notes that, even among anarchists, support was not guaranteed. Stelton, for example, was regulary criticized by anarcho-syndicalist, Wobbly and founding ASR co-editor Sam Dolgoff (1902-1990) and his partner Esther, who published a mimeo sheet Looking Forward in the early 1930s “to protest what they considered the oppressive elements of the school.” (247; It should be noted that despite their criticisms, they enrolled their sons in the school.) Anarcho-syndicalists were the strongest sup- porters, however. The revolutionary syndicalist Solidaridad Obrera advocated “rational and scientific education for our children” in its mission statement, and its successor, the CNT, added ‘modern’ to that description. (249) Many anarchist educators of the period were also members of the FAI.

Bray reports (251) that anarcho-syndicalists implemented most of Ferrer’s pedagogy in a variety of schools for children and adults, in ateneos (aethenaeums), union halls, collectivised workplaces, and elsewhere. Interestingly, however, they largely surrendered Ferrer’s goal of cross-class education, focusing, instead, on an avowedly working-class agenda, one that took Kropotkin’s ideas about integral education more seriously, combining intellectual pursuits with a far greater focus on practical skills applicable to working-class trades.

The second half of the chapter consists of articles written by some of Ferrer’s most prominent supporters, including Rudolf Rocker, Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre and Alexander Berkman. The piece by de Cleyre (261-277) is magnificent.

Afterword by Robert Haworth

A silent partner until the very last, Robert Haworth comes to life with a brief ‘Afterward: Learning from Ferrer’ (296-306). He suggests that Ferrer’s contribution to current educational theory and practice is substantial, but that the Escuela Moderna was always faced with the problem of reconciling advocacy of a rational, scientific approach to education with “trying to instill a moral message within the curriculum that contested capitalism and promoted cooperation and solidarity.” (299) In other words, there was a disconnect between theory and practice, and some force to the claims by Jacquinet, Mella and others that the curriculum in the Modern School(s) would impose a new orthodoxy, rather than create children capable of thinking for themselves. Haworth writes:

It seems that many radical and progressive educators at that time were struggling to have a factual and science-based approach to teaching and learning, while, at the same time, wanting to instill particular beliefs and ideas about how the world operates and, ultimately, how they could transform it. (299)

On the importance of spontaneity in education, he notes (301) Emma Goldman’s belief that in both home and school, “education is the process of drawing out, not of driving in,” and asks whether it is really possible to build a relationship between a rational educa- tion, part of which involves showing students scientific facts about the world, and spontaneity. He quotes Judith Suissa approvingly when she describes the methodological tension in the Modern School at Stelton:

It is a serious failing of the work of anarchist educators that they made little systematic attempt to provide a theoretical account of the relationship between child-centered pedagog-
ical practice and their own anarchist goals and values. (Suissa, 2008, 85).
We will return to this issue below.

Evaluating Ferrer, and AEMS
Bray and Haworth have performed a valuable service in pre- senting so much of Ferrer’s work in digestible form for a modern audience. However, I think AEMS could have been improved in two ways: by including more historical information about anar- chist writing on education before Ferrer got to work, and at least minimal information about current “free schools” in many coun- tries, which are, after all, a significant part of his legacy. Third, the position they take on the criticism of Ferrer (and other anarchist educators) for “imposing a new dogma” is also open to challenge, although admittedly a very tricky issue.

Here, in that order, are a few comments on each.
Despite his reputation today as a pioneer in progressive education, and notwithstanding the radical status of the Modern School in the Spanish social context of the period, Bray notes that by his own admission Ferrer was not an innovative educational thinker, writing that “conscious of my incompetence in the art of pedagogy I sought the counsel of others.” (50) AEMS does not set out to provide a historical survey of anarchist educational theory and practice, so it would be silly to complain that it does not provide one. Bray briefly mentions some early theorists (not all of them anarchists) whose ideas were influential, but the book would have been stronger, and more useful for spending at least a few pages tracing the evolution of anarchist ideas about education before Fer- rer got to work. Identifying the sources and nature of the ‘counsel’ Ferrer sought at the level of both theory and practice, would allow a more clear-sighted evaluation of his contributions
To illustrate, the potentially emancipatory role of education, which was central to Ferrer’s thinking, and about which much is made in AEMS, had been stressed as far back as 1793 by Godwin, who recognized the sinister role played by the English state system as a powerful means for social control – the way children were socialized into their roles clearly designed to serve the interests of those in power. And it was not just state education systems that were to be feared, the ex-clergyman warned:

Even in the petty institutions of Sunday schools, the chief lessons that are taught are a superstitious veneration for the Church of England and to bow to every man in a handsome coat. (Godwin, quoted in Smith, 1983, 12)
Reading should not be forced on children too early, he argued.

Timing was crucial. Direct instruction was to be de-emphasized, and more attention paid to providing feedback on intrinsically motivated, student-initiated learning (Goodman, 1966; Smith, 1983). Schools and teachers should respond to children’s needs and interests when they emerged, not try to impose their own: According to the received modes of education, the master goes first, and the pupil follows. According to the method here recommended, it is probable that the pupil should go first, and the master follow. (Godwin, 1793, 1986)
At the theoretical level, Ferrer was strongly influenced by, and borrowed from, a number of other earlier and contemporary writ- ers and practitioners. Several are mentioned in AEMS, including Fourier, Proudhon, Bakunin, Ferrer’s friend Jean Grave (Grave, 1900), Kropotkin and Elisee Reclus, but little more than mentioned. L’educacion integrale, a core principle of anarchist education, does not merit an entry in the AEMS index. For histories, analyses and references to sources on integral education, see Avrich (1980, 3-68), Fidler (1989), Shotton (1993, 1-32), Suissa (2006), and, especially, Smith (1983, 18-61).

"lives without working by assuming that when people go to buy they are robbed by high prices? And so these 12-year- old economists conclude that the gypping of the working class must be perpetuated by the time the worker gets his paycheck, that “exploitation occurs predomonantly at the point of production.”

Similarly, students tackled the problem of unemployment, proving somewhat more astute than the U.S. Congress. When faced with the fact that 12 million lacked jobs, while 28 million worked for nine hours a day, they treated the problem as a simple mathematical problem, concluding that a six-hour day would al- low for full employment.

While the four-week summer program classes were structured by the WPC staff, students took charge of organizing social and recreational activities, putting their lessons in running meetings and organizing to practical use. Worker-students in the regular program played a more active role, helping arrange the curriculum, organizing the evening debates and lectures (as well as entertain- ments), and handling conflicts and discipline.

Work People’s College had neither traditional tests not grades nor diplomas. The faculty were not academics, but rather workers with many years’ experience as wage slaves and in labor agitation.

While there was a schedule of classes, Thompson recalled, there was little lecturing.Rather, students were encouraged to hunt up information and present it in the form of debates, soapbox talks, articles and skits, many of which found their way into the pages of the IWW press. (A WPC theater troupe also regularly toured northern Minnesota and Upper Michigan, performing for im- migrant and labor groups.) One of those plays, “Banker’s Island,” told the story of three workers stranded on an island with a banker who used his supply of gold to get them to build him a home and provide him with the necessities of life. But they organized when the banker decreed that they could not eat the bounty on “his” island without paying for it, and reorganized things to suit themselves. After a few days the boss capitulated, agreeing to wash the dishes in exchange for an equal share of the food.

Regular classes ended in 1941 (the summer program continued for a few years) and the army seized the campus during World War II. WPC did not reopen, and its building was sold in 1953.

‘Integral education,’ as many ASR readers will know, roughly translates as integrated, whole person, mind-and-body education. It is closely related to a second core principle, learning by doing. Both reflect the belief, argued forcefully by Kropotkin, that the separation of manual work and mental, or intellectual, work was a major cause of inhumane social stratification:

To the division of society into brain workers and manual workers we oppose the combination of both kinds of activi- ties; and instead of ‘technical education,’ which means the maintenance of the present division between brain work and manual work, we advocate l’education integrale, or complete education, which means the disappearance of that pernicious distinction. (Kropotkin 1890/1913, 1985, 172)

If knowledge is power, then providing socioeconomic elites with crucial information and skills while simultaneously denying them to others, Kroptkin argued, serves to perpetuate a two-tier system of haves and have-nots. Such inequality is enshrined in- stitutionally to this day in systems, on the one hand, of variously named private schools, grammar schools and academies, and on the other, of technical and vocational training schools. His solu- tion was straightforward: “Through the eyes and the hand to the brain – this is the true principle of economy of time in teaching.” (Kropotkin, ibid, 175)

Ferrer’s debt was not just to the theorists. When it came to practice, there were several early free school experiments that set out to change society by following these principles, or did so at roughly the same time as Ferrer – some inspired by the Escuela Moderna, some an inspiration for it – and they worked well under what were always adverse conditions. They included the anarchist orphanage at Cempuis with Paul Robin as director from 1880 to 1894, and schools established by Elias Puig in Catalonia, Jose Sanchez Rosa in Andalusia, Leo Tolstoy at his Yasnaya Polyana estate in Russia, and Sebastien Faure’s La Ruche (The Beehive) and Madeleine Vernet’s L’Avenir Social (The Social Future), both just outside Paris. As Bray and other historians have recorded, Ferrer was in communication, and in some cases, direct personal contact with several of these people.

Founded in 1904, three years after Ferrer’s initiative began, Faure’s La Ruche was an especially noteworthy, early example of both l’educacion integrale and learning by doing. In a rational, liberating, non-coercive, co-educational environment, “problem” children rejected by the traditional French education system learned mathematics, science and other academic subjects ef- fectively through operating an on-site agricultural cooperative, producing eggs, milk, cheese, vegetables and honey and selling them in nearby Paris to help support the school financially. There was a strict timetable for the indoor, classroom curriculum at La Ruche, however, and it was fairly traditional and more teacher- centered than is often recognized. (Gribble, 2004, 184) Similarly, in an urban setting, at la Escuela Moderna, children participated in practical training, museum and factory visits, and field trips to study physical geography, geology and botany (Suissa 2006, 80), part of a great emphasis Ferrer placed on learning by doing. Why look at pictures in books, Ferrer asked, if the real thing lay just outside the classroom window? Like La Ruche, the Modern School, too, had a more traditionally organized “indoor” curriculum, for which, as Bray notes, some anarchists criticized Ferrer at the time.

A second area where more information would have been useful ★ concerns the current situation of “free schools.” The experimental ASR 76 schools, as Bray describes, especially the Escuela Moderna, went on Summer 2019 to inspire numerous “modern schools” soon after Ferrer’s murder.

They also continue to inspire the revival and spread of free schools, alternative schools and alternatives to schools, for adults as well as children, in many countries today. At the very least, references to the growing literature on at least a few of those, e.g., Duane (1995); Fremaux & Jordan (2012); Gribble (1998, 2004), Mercogliano, (1998), Shantz (2012), Shotton (1993) and Ward (1995), would have been valuable for many readers.

Gribble makes the case that many so-called ‘progressive’ or ‘democratic’ schools are currently closer in spirit to Ferrer’s views than were the early 20th century anarchist schools. He distills (2004, 187-188) a ‘central core of common values’ shared by such schools: reliance on reason rather than doctrine, self-government or shared responsibility, freedom to choose, equality, and respect for and trust in the individual child. All five are consistent with the anarchist educational principles advocated by Ferrer. Beyond free schools, anarchist educational principles have permeated many areas of contemporary “mainstream” education, including Problem-Based Learning (Gijselaers, 1996) and, some would claim, the child-centered, teacher-de-centered philosophy and advocacy of exercises de la vie practique, or “exercises in daily living” (Kramer, 1978) of Montessori schools. In addition to its basis in developmental psycholinguistics, the nine philosophical principles underpinning Task-Based Language Teaching (Long, 2015, 63-83) are l’educacion integrale, learning by doing, individual freedom, rationality, emancipation, learner-centeredness, egalitarian teacher-student relationships, participatory democracy, and mutual aid and cooperation.

The third matter, the charge that the Modern School was guilty of imposing “a new dogma” is a difficult, and in my view still unresolved, issue more broadly in anarchist education. As noted earlier, from Godwin on down, writers about anarchist approaches to education have devoted serious attention to the “new dogma” issue raised at the time about Ferrer’s Escuela Moderna by Jacqui- net, Mella and others, and AEMS is no exception. Bray suggests that Ferrer’s rejection of state education (important enough) was a mostly a matter of its church and/or state content, rather than of the traditional form that education took, some aspects of which
continued to operate in the early day-to-day organization of the School, as they did at La Ruche. Ferrer was taken to task for this at the time by anarchists such as Ricardo Mella, who argued in favor of the opposite approach, providing politically neutral content (is there such a thing?) while concentrating on ridding education of its traditional form. When Haworth talks about imposing a new orthodoxy, rather than creating children capable of thinking for themselves, the need “to help students name the world they live in as opposed to having someone name it for them” (302), he appears to agree.

In addition to Bray and Haworth, both Gribble (1998) and Suissa (2006), devote considerable space to the issue, which is often linked to the broader one of child-initiated learning. For example, Gribble notes that after agonizing over the matter, many alterative schools have decided that reading needs to be started for some chidren well before they would otherwise choose to do so if left to their own devices. These are all scholars I admire, yet variants of the charge that showing children scientific facts about the world works against child-centered, discovery-based learn- ing strikes me as overblown. Children at the modern schools, it should be remembered, were encouraged to discover facts about biology, math, etc., not just in the classroom, but through nature walks, field trips to factories, work on the farm at Cempuis, and other kinds of ‘manual work.’ Even such discovery-based learning could be criticized as planned, “pre-determined discovery,” not the genuine article, but if so, then why not argue against all organized learning, including schools of any kind?

If anarchists believe that their analyses of the causes of social injustice are fundamentaly correct, and that religion, capitalism, fascism, and authoritarian socialism clearly all conflict with the interests of free peoples, then it is obviously important that children learn as much. It is absurd to hope that chidren and young adults will discover on their own, in a few years at school, what it has taken (and then, only a minority of) adults decades and count- less tragedies to discover. Why risk throwing away that hard-won experience and those insights?

In any case, if it is the ability of children to discover things themselves and reach their own analyses and conclusions about society that is the (only?) priority, the two goals are not incompatible. Numerous examples come to mind, but for reasons of space, let us imagine just one. While on an urban field trip, children observe a noisy street demonstration or see a picket line and banners hanging outside a factory. Children and adults of any age will want to know what is going on, why those people are doing what they are doing, what this or that shouted slogan means, and so on. One possibility, depending on the students’ age, is to join the demonstration (assuming, these days, it is not some sort of neo-fascist spectacle) or talk to the strikers and stand in solidarity with them for a while, perhaps spawning a group project and regular follow-up visits to the picket line. Back at the school, student-initiated discussions about what they saw are likely, but teacher-initiated ones will work, too. Either can easily lead to the children digging into the causes of the demonstration or the strike. At that point, however, how many teachers, in whatever kind of school, are, or even should be, capable of limiting themselves to answering student questions about the events without adding information the children did not explicitly ask for, e.g, about corporations off-shoring jobs to cheaper labor markets? Is that imposing a new dogma or saving time?

The fact is, waiting for people of any age to learn from things they happen upon in the environment or from asking questions is prone to failure and at best, hopelessly inefficient. First, children will not “happen upon” a lot of things they would benefit from knowing about.

How will children, even teenagers, know of the existence of activities and whole disciplines (playing the clarinet, physics, chemistry, field hockey, linguistics, computer programming, spycraft, electronics, etc.) that they might be perfectly cut out for if teachers do not
alert them to their existence? Is there a clear line between “alerting”
and “imposing”? And what of the fact that an early start is often
crucial in many fields if someone is eventually going to reach their
true potential, or even just a useful level, in one of them? Many
scientists supposedly make their most important discoveries in
their twenties, for example, and the evidence is clear that there
are maturationally constrained “sensitive periods” for achieving
native-like abilities in new languages. Start first exposure to the
new language after various (surprisingly early) ages, and you may
do well, but can never achieve nativelike abilities in (successively)
pronunciation, collocations, or grammar. When tested in her mid-
twenties, Mary found out she had exceptionally high aptitudes
for language learning, but unfortunately, only began learning one
when she was 25.

Second, learning from things children or adults happen to encounter in their environment, i.e., from so-called ‘positive evi- dence,’ is often unsatisfactory for being incomplete. To illustrate, people can learn what is grammatical in a new language, e.g., about adverb placement in English as a second language, by hearing or reading countless examples of such sentences as (1) I drink three cups of coffee every day and (2) Every day, I drink three cups of coffee. But they cannot learn on that basis alone that (3) *I drink every day three cups of coffee, is ungrammatical (due to the constraint in English against interrupting verb and direct object), as such sen- tences do not occur in the input, so would require them to notice the absence of something. Native speakers of the many languages in the world, such as French and Spanish, in which sentences like (3) are perfectly grammatical, will produce sentences like that in English as a result. To learn that sentences like (3) are ungrammati- cal, they will need implicit or explicit ‘negative evidence’ in the form of an intervention of some kind (explicit “error correction,” implicit corrective recasts, clarification requests, etc.).

To take another example, watching people play chess provides positive evidence about many of the moves different chess pieces (knights, bishops, kings, queens, pawns, etc.) can make, but trying to learn the game that way will mean having to wait a very long time before witnessing rare, yet important, moves, like en passant. And the observer will not know the limits, or constraints, on the moves he or she witnesses. For instance, a pawn can advance either one or two squares on its first move (except in an en passant situ- ation), but only one square at a time thereafter. An observer sees pawns advancing up the board, sometimes one square, sometimes two squares, at a time. How does he/she learn, simply by watching people play and not seeing something happen (like not hearing someone say *She understand most of the time her classes), that two squares at a time is not allowed after that first move, and not al- lowed on the first move, either, if it means an opponent’s pawn is passed by on an adjacent square in the process? Given enough examples, the observer may eventually understand the constraint, but only after a long time, and possibly never.

The point of these examples is not, of course, to suggest that anarchist educators are guilty of ‘imposing a new dogma’ if they teach, say, a French- or Spanish-speaking child wanting to learn English about constraints on adverb placement, or a child inter- ested in learning to play chess the rules about en passant. Rather, it is to highlight the frequent need to teach children (or in many cases, adults) things the learning of which they could not possibly initiate, for the simple reason that people often don’t know they don’t know something, or what it is that they don’t know. Back from the field trip, is it acceptable, for a teacher to use the fac- tory strike and off-shoring to explain the evils of capitalism, or is preaching anti-capitalism to impose a new dogma? When does the educator cross the line between “following the child’s lead” and “imposing knowledge”?

Such “interventions” seem entirely reasonable to many, myself included, but Jacquinet, Mella and some current anarchist com- mentators appear to disagree and feel that Ferrer was at fault. Put
another way, is the priority in a free school that children develop in
any direction they choose, however ideal that may sound? Should we ★ stand by if they want to join a fascist march? Isn’t there an anarchist analysis of society’s injustices, and of what a better society would look like, that it is in everyone’s interest that children (and adults) learn? However and whenever children and adults are ready, is it not reasonable for the curriculum to reflect anarchist values and analyses? In other words, is it not the main purpose of anarchist- inspired schools (universities, etc.) to graduate anarchists? If not, why bother with free schools and anarchist-inspired education in the first place?

AEMS is an honest book, by no means a Ferrer hagiography. While admiring Ferrer’s undoubted accomplishments in the face of organized opposition and repression, Bray does not shy away from criticism where criticism is due. Among other things, he points out several inconsistencies in Ferrer’s thinking, or between his proclaimed principles and Modern School practice. One ex- ample concerned the issue of grades, rewards and punishments. In a section (87-93) entitled ‘Neither Reward nor Punishment,’ Ferrer laid out the case against both:

Having admitted and practiced the coeducation of boys and girls, of rich and poor – having, that is to say, started from the principle of solidarity and equality – we are not prepared to create a new inequality. Hence, in the Modern School there were neither rewards nor punishments, nor exams to puff up some children with the flattering grade of “outstanding,” while others received the vulgar grade of “pass,” and others still suffer the shame of being scorned as incompetent. (87)

In fact, however, Bray notes (11), it was clear from Modern School textbooks, articles in the Boletin de la Escuela Moderna, and Ferrer’s own writing that daily activities at the Modern School were, initially, at least, “far more scheduled, disciplined, routinized, and traditional than many would imagine from what some have hailed as the preeminent “anarchist school.” In the early months, students were even issued number grades that were published in the School newspaper, and were subject to rewards and punishments, e.g., not being allowed to go on a School outing, for misbehavior. These practices were discontinued after the first year, fortunately, with Ferrer opposing grades and emphasizing student initiative.

One possibile explanation for the inconsistency, I suspect, is simply that Ferrer himself, like the early teachers, was learning as as he went along (note the title of Mercogliano’s book), correcting prejudices and habits he had ingested from his own school experi- ences as a small child. Given the radical nature and complexity of what he was doing, and the extremely hostile Spanish context in which he was doing it, it was surely unreasonable to expect him to get everything right first time. His eventual position on punishment, at least, was certainly crystal clear, if rather optimistic:

Scolding, impatience, and anger ought to disappear with the old title of “schoolmaster.” In free schools, all should be peace, happiness and fraternity. (93)

More puzzling in an anarchist project, however, as Bray points out, was evidence of hierarchical decision-making. For example, even if well motivated, Ferrer wrote of having rejected a proposal from the (advisory) Modern School Committee for an extravagant School opening with hundreds of invited guests because “I was, in that and all other things related to the Escuela Moderna, the executive power.” (55)

Another strength of AEMS is its inclusion of raw data of various kinds – enough to inspire graduate students (and faculty) in col- leges of education to undertake scholarly research on the Modern School, and on free schools in general. The book’s bibliography is a treasure trove of lists of newspapers of the day, archives, and original and secondary sources. One example is the reproduction of issues of the Modern School Bulletin. (155-187) Here are yearly
enrollment numbers for boys and girls, hour-by-hour details of the children’s daily schedule, curricula for children of different ages, children’s course grades, and individual personal comments on the first year’s students (a practice quickly discontinued as part of Ferrer’s opposition to rewards and punishments), student presentations, a summary of students’ attitudes towards money, and short articles by Ferrer and outside sympathizers on such topics as ‘Discord in the Family,’ ‘Direct Action’ and the potential for free schools to influence traditional schools. The piece on direct action (177- 179), penned by physician and Socialist Party politician Adrien Meslier, included the claim that physical violence (propaganda by the deed) was justified in extreme cases of state oppression. Bray suggests that its publication in the school’s Bulletin reflected Ferrer’s and comrades’ desire to link pedagogical work and revolutionary struggle. Whatever the motive, it is certainly something unlikely to be found in the newsletters of the freeest of free schools today. Another strength of AEMS is the attention devoted to Ferrer’s less-well-known, militant support for revolutionary syndicalism and, especially, the general strike.

As is often the case when state violence is unleashed, short-term losses, tragic though they are at the time, often become victories in the long run, and so it was with Ferrer. “The military firing squad,” Bray concludes (39), “may have eliminated Francisco Ferrer, the man, but in so doing they created Francisco Ferrer, the martyr, whose legacy would spread rationalist education around the world.” AEMS is a fine book and a fitting tribute to Ferrer.


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Fidler, G. C. (1989). Anarchism and education: Education integrale and the imperative towards fraternite. History of Education 18, 1, 23-46. Fremaux, I., & Jordan, J. (2012). Anarchist pedagogy in action: Paideia, Escuela Libre. In Haworth, R. H. (ed.), Anarchist pedagogies. Collective actions, theories, and critical reflections on education (107- 123). Oakland, CA: PM Press.
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Kramer, R. (1978). Maria Montessori. Oxford: Blackwell. Kropotkin, P. (1890/1913). Brain work and manual work. The Nine- teenth Century March, 456-75. In Ward, C. (ed.), Peter Kropotkin’s Fields, factories and workshops tomorrow (161-187). Freedom Press, 1985. Long, M. H. (2015). Philosophical underpinnings: L’educacion in- tegrale. In Long, M. H., Second language acquisition and Task-Based Language Teaching (63-83). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
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Shantz, J. (2012). Spaces of learning: The anarchist Free Skool. In Haworth, R. H. (ed.), Anarchist pedagogies. Collective actions, theories, and critical reflections on education (124-144). Oakland, CA: PM Press. Shotton, J. (1993). A century of libertarian education. A theory, a practice, a future. In Shotton, J., No master high or low. Libertarian education and schooling in Britain 1890-1990 (259-273). Bristol: Libertarian Education.
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Soccer vs the State: A Review

International Soccer Network
March 2nd, 2019

If you spend much time on Twitter, you’ll see all kinds of people calling for change in the beautiful game.

Hashtags like #ProRelUSA and #UncorporateSoccer are quite common here in the States, while influencers like Ted Westervelt offer a love/hate relationship in the social world.  Overseas, players are still dealing with the more serious issues of racist chants, anti-antisemitism, neo-Nazis and the far-right.

Simply put, football and politics continue to be intertwined and not always in a good way.  Creating change, especially of the positive variety, in either is not easy.  But there is help on its way.

The second edition of Soccer vs. the State: Tackling Football and Radical Politics is the go-to guide to creating change and experiencing a paradigm shift in your thinking towards the game of football.  It’s written by by Gabriel Kuhn, an author that has seen his fair share of controversy.  The first edition was a slim 260 pages and drew rave reviews from ISN and just above everyone else all the way back in 2011.

The second is a hefty updated version that includes 332 pages of content.   There are lots of true updates in the form of new content.  Kuhn catches readers up to all the happenings over the past eight years, including the Middle Eastern uprisings, the FIFA scandal, and the strike by the Danish women’s team.  There’s even a foreword from musician Boff Whalley, who is best known for being the former lead guitarist for Chumbawamba.

Kuhn is passionate about his work and that comes through loud and clear in Soccer vs. the State.  This proves to be a must-read for any football fan that is not satisfied with the status quo.  It is a text that will get you thinking.  It will get you past the world of billionaire owners, celebrity players, and global brands, taking you back to the roots of a game that is called beautiful for a reason.

For those trying to create positive change in football, pick up this book and get to work.  It will definitely show you the way.

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David Ranney on Living and Dying on the Factory Floor

By Christian Belanger
Chicago Reader
April 17th, 2019

The UIC prof and former factory worker has no nostalgia for the days of middle-class manufacturing jobs.

In the mid-70s, David Ranney quit his position at the University of Iowa, where he was a tenured professor of urban planning, and moved to Chicago for a job at the Workers' Rights Center, a free legal clinic for industrial workers run out of a southeast Chicago storefront. When money got tight, Ranney decided to look for work at one of the many factories in the neighborhood. Armed with a made-up work history and a couple of friends willing to act as fake references, he landed a position at a shop that built centrifuges. Over the next seven years, he'd bounce from factory to factory, working at a box maker, a freight car manufacturer, a steel fabricator, and the Solo Cup Company.

Burned out and nearly broke, Ranney eventually made his way back to academia after a chance encounter at a cocktail party led to a position at a community research center affiliated with UIC, where he's now a professor emeritus.

Living and Dying on the Factory Floor, released earlier this month, is Ranney's account of his time spent laboring in southeast Chicago and northern Indiana. At the heart of the book is the story of a year-long stint at Chicago Shortening, where Ranney helped organize and lead a prolonged wildcat strike. While the strike ultimately failed, Ranney says the experience was illuminating: within the racially charged environment of the factory, the action was able to, however briefly, bring together different groups of white, Black, and Latinx workers in solidarity. At his apartment in Pilsen, where he's lived for the last 35 years, I spoke with Ranney about Living and Dying. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

In the introduction, you write that the book isn't a memoir. Can you explain what you mean by that?

I went to a memoir class, and the teacher said, "Write down three events that you think were transformative in your life. And you have 15 seconds to do it." So I just jot these down, and they were all deaths. One was a kid that, when I was in fifth grade, got hit by a car. My dad died when I was a senior in high school. But the third one was the death of Charles Sanders. [Sanders was an employee at Chicago Shortening who was stabbed to death by a scab worker shortly after the strike ended.] And that really surprised me, and I realized that his death was about more than just his death although that was very, very traumatic.

You know, he's a person who had some rough edges, you might say. But during the strike, he sobered up. I never saw him high during the strike. And it meant a lot to him, to stand up to these fuckers.

The things that happened at the plant that really shed a lot of light on the relationship of race and class, immigration policy, class policy, this whole idea about middle-class jobs as seen through the eyes of not just me, but workers that I encountered over a period of seven years. And so that's not exactly a memoir.

One person at Chicago Shortening that really interested me was Heinz, the avowed Nazi. Can you explain what was going on with him?

Well, Heinz took on all the symbols of fascism, you know. He had swastikas, he had Confederate flags on his jacket and on his motorbike. But he hung out with the Black workers.

And he'd come down the hall and they'd all go "Sieg heil, Heinz, sieg heil!" They'd laugh and so forth. And he was very militant during the strike. He was solidly working class, and he saw all the other workers as his allies. But why he did the other thing? I don't know. He was just a real contradiction.

You mentioned earlier, and in the book, that you're really annoyed by the rhetoric around bringing back "middle-class jobs" to the U.S. from some politicians and pundits. What do you mean by that?
It's not just that we probably will never have manufacturing at the level that we have—there were a million-and-a-half manufacturing workers in the area. It's also that I don't want people to have to work at jobs like that. There's nothing "middle" about it. A lot of it's really awful.

At that time, workers really could run the factories. I mean, there was enough knowledge there that they could do that. The autoworkers could have run a plant. So one point of view is: OK, workers will take over all these factories and run them. But the other truth is that a lot of them hated their jobs and didn't want to do that. So what is our goal as radicals: Do we want to help workers run these factories for the other society, or do we want to just get rid of those jobs and get rid of work altogether? At Chicago Shortening it was the second thing—those workers hated that place. They called it "the job." And they were always doing little petty acts of sabotage, or they were drunk or stoned. They had no desire to, you know, make shortening.

Reading about all the different groups that came out and supported the strike, it seems like there was a really vibrant, if fractured, leftist world in Chicago at the time.

Oh yeah, really, really vicious.

I was in the Sojourner Truth Organization for a time and we had a number of people that worked at a plant called Stewart-Warner on the north side. And every left group had people in Stewart-Warner, because it was one of the few plants where the workers entered from the sidewalk into the plant. And the parking lot was across the street. And so you could leaflet people as they came in.

At the end, all these differences really do come out. This Marxist-Leninist group wrote a critique of how we behaved in the Chicago Shortening strike. It was quite fascinating, really. They were totally critical because, you know, we didn't see ourselves as a vanguard party and we didn't take [the plant] over and organize it better. They thought that we had made this huge mistake.
Were you still working in factories when Harold Washington was elected mayor?

I actually left factory work in 1982. But I think that the Harold Washington business—I was working at UIC for that—he did try to see if you could have progressive public policy at the city level. There was one point where, after Wisconsin Steel closed down [in 1980], they had this thing called the Steelworkers Committee to Save our Jobs. And it was organized by a black steelworker named Frank Lumpkin who was in the Communist Party. I did sort of material support, helped them write a newsletter.

They had an ongoing lawsuit, because International Harvester had sold Wisconsin Steel to a firm that had no assets, so they couldn't be sued. And then they closed the mill and just literally locked the gate. We came up with a proposal that the city would buy the mill, mothball and preserve it, and then sell it once the price of steel went up again, and hire these guys back.

At that time, there was a thing called the Mayor's Task Force on Steel in South Chicago. I was on one of the subcommittees, but I did have standing to make proposals. So the steelworkers from Save our Jobs Committee asked me if I would go and make this proposal before the task force [on Steel in South Chicago]. So I did, and they didn't like it. The guy who was the chairman of the committee was Phil Klutznick, one of the biggest developers in the city at the time. And he kept saying, "OK, we've heard enough from you, son, we've heard enough." I said, "I'm not finished yet." I disrupted the meeting.

I went back to the office of Save Our Jobs Committee, and told Frank and the guys that are sitting around what had happened. And Frank says, "Shit, we got to tell Harold about this." And he picks up the phone and dials and says, "Harold, this is Frank Lumpkin." He says, "Can we come down? See you in about half an hour? OK, we'll see ya." And this says a lot about who Harold was, too, because he was close to these people. I don't think it was a [Communist Party] thing. I think this Black steelworker was a community leader and Harold respected it.

We went in—he had his office that, for security reasons, had no windows and was completely surrounded by an outer office. When you walk into this room and there's this desk had absolutely nothing on it but a yellow pad, and Harold was sitting behind the desk. We talked to him for about an hour, and he said, "The thing you guys have to understand is I really don't have much power. I'm trying, I'm doing my best. But when push comes to shove I doubt they'll go along with it, and I can't make them do it." I thought that was all very insightful. 

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Deflating the Legend of America's Golden Age of Industry

By Jenni Herrick
Shepard Express
April22nd, 2019

In 1976, there were more than 1.5 million heavy industrial jobs available to workers in Chicago and northwest Indiana. Today, when we hear politicians promising to bring middle-class manufacturing jobs back to American cities, they erase the harsh realities of what now-closed factories looked like in the United States only a few decades ago. Honestly, manufacturing work was dirty, dangerous and destructive to the environment. Racism, low pay and deplorable working conditions were the norm at most American factories long before deindustrialization reached its current levels.

An eye-opening and provocative new book by labor activist and professor emeritus David Ranney, Living and Dying on the Factory Floor: From the Outside In and the Inside Out, takes readers to Chicago as the author recounts his own experiences working in factories and organizing for better working conditions. Between 1976 and 1982, Ranney held jobs at seven manufacturing plants in the heavily industrialized area in the heart of Chicago’s South Side. He recounts sordid tales of illegal immigration raids, supervisor abuses, serious injuries and high tensions over race and class. During his year-and-a-half stint at the Chicago Shortening plant, Ranney found himself in the center of a wildcat strike, a work stoppage so named because it occurs in violation of a no-strike clause. The personal recollections in Living and Dying on the Factory Floor are passionate depictions of social struggle and outline tangible ways that activists of today can mobilize for a more just society.

Ranney left a faculty position in urban planning at the University of Iowa in 1973 to pursue socialist labor organizing. He later returned to academia at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He will speak at Boswell Book Co. at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 25.

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