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Accompany for Change

by Chris Kortright
Anthropology Now
February 25th, 2014

As an academic discipline that draws its force from work in the field, anthropology has a long and complex relationship with movements for social change such as anti- colonial and land claim movements as well as agrarian insurgencies. Some anthropolo- gists use ethnography to voice concerns and draw attention to rural and urban struggles at the local and global scale. Although they well may be committed to the support of, and solidarity with, social movements, more often than not their position is that of the “expert”—positioned outside. Researchers enter a location for an extended period of time but ultimately they return “home.” Home is, again, on the outside. That said, there are many intellectuals and researchers who are creating projects that challenge this position of outside expert; they attempt to produce research practices that involve working closely with the community, which in turn helps to set the direction, scope and goals of the research. There is much to learn from this approach to research practice and collaboration. And to learn, intellectuals are beginning to listen to voices rising from within social movements themselves.
One such voice—actually a pair of voices—is that of Staughton and Alice Lynd.

Although Staughton Lynd is author of record, his partner Alice Lynd has con- tributed significantly to the text; this makes for a dynamic volume informed by both their backgrounds.

They both wear a lot of different hats. Staughton Lynd is a labor his- torian, lawyer, author, conscientious objec- tor, peace activist and civil rights activist as well as tax resister. Alice Lynd is an author and paralegal turned lawyer who has worked with conscientious objectors and prisoners; she is a peace and civil rights ac- tivist as well as tax resister. This small and accessible book weaves together their expe- riences fighting for social change with oral histories they have compiled alongside philosophical and spiritual reflections.

The Lynds distinguish two different, yet entangled, strategies of social change: or- ganizing and accompanying.

In the first part of the book, they argue that the political left should move away from long-standing practices of “organiz- ing.” In this model, organizers are “experts” separated from those they are “organizing.” This practice of organizing has its tradition in the labor movement and is iconically rep- resented in movies such as Norma Rae and discussed through the example of the Con- gress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), Saul Alinsky’s Industrial Areas Foundation Train- ing Institute and the Student Nonviolent Co- ordinating Committee (SNCC).

Here the “or- ganizer” is sent into a town where he or she seeks to organize and unionize a local labor force. Win or lose, the organizer eventually hits the road for the next campaign, leaving the local workers on their own for better or worse. The Lynds dismantle this model in the first half of the book to raise questions about the role of expertise in relation to projects of political engagement. “If an or- ganizer considers that he or she already knows not only the objective to be sought but how to get there,” Staughton writes, “there is no reason to give equal importance to the people being organized. Listening, under these circumstances, will be merely tactical, asking the question: “Is there enough support ‘out there’ for our pre- planned campaign to succeed?”

In contrast to this model of teaching and tasking, “accompanying” is presented as practices of listening, learning and moving jointly—practices and experiences the Lynds believe are the first steps necessary for “walking together” into what the Zap- atistas call “another world.”

Accompanying, or accompaniment, is a loosely intra-related set of practices centered on equality, listen- ing and seeking consensus. Best articulated as equality of all participants, this practice is founded on listening and flexibility in which outcomes are not predetermined. But it does always require the elimination of verti- cal power relations (owners-workers as well as experts-community) and political alien- ation. The reader learns that understanding accompaniment is only possible through the possibility of “doing.” As a practice, rather than a model, accompaniment is ex- plored through the work and networks of conscientious objectors and war resisters, the journey of awakening by Archbishop Oscar Romero, insurgent prisoners and the Occupy movement.

The Lynds analyze “organizing” and “ac- companiment” by looking at five social movements in which they themselves par- ticipated: the labor, civil rights, anti-war, and prisoner rights movements as well as movements emerging from Occupy Wall Street. They criticize organizing methodol- ogy and philosophy by telling the stories of those struggling for horizontal relations and practices within vertical and hierarchical situations. While analyzing the organizing practices of the CIO, for example, Staughton tells the stories of individuals such as Marty Glaberman and John Sargent whose practices fell much closer to “ac- companiment” than “organizing” as they worked within their local unions challeng- ing the structure and direction of a central- ized and hierarchical labor movement.

True to their own practice of listening, the Lynds present the Little Steel strike of 1937 at Inland Steel as an oral history told by Sargent. The steelworkers had failed to win a contract, but got an agreement that obligated the company to recognize and ne- gotiate with either the Steelworkers Union or “any other organization” the workers wanted to represent them. So “the rank-n- file” took the local union in their own hands. Sargent tells the story in his own voice: “... as a result of the enthusiasm of the people in the mill you had a series of strikes, wildcats, shut-downs, slow-downs, anything working people could think of to secure for themselves what they decided they had to have.” Later when the official union was recognized as the workers’ ex- clusive bargaining power, many of the “rank-n-file” workers felt they lost power because of clauses prohibiting strikes for the life of any given agreement.

In a similar vein, the personal histories of individuals such as Sylvia Woods, Katherine Hyndman and Vicky Starr are used to illus- trate the gendered struggles of female work- ers as they demanded to be heard by their unions and their employers. Struggles within the SNCC are told through the stories of Ella Baker, one of its founders, who was skeptical of centralized organizing practices and institutional political structure in the early years of a movement that was a com- plex mixture of traditional organizing lay- ered with accompaniment.

For “accompaniment,” too, the authors deliver a series of cases to think with. Each case articulates “a” practice of accompani- ment that is contingent upon the particular- ity of the place and time as well as the spe- cific lives of those involved in the struggle. Each case offers an articulation of accompa- niment but not a blue print or formula. While looking at the Vietnam War, the Lynds track the lives and experiences of both draft resisters and conscientious objectors, but they complicate the analysis by looking at those who object to “a” war or “a” situation and not war in totality. The story of Howard Zinn as WWII soldier and anti-imperialist is placed next to the story of Hugh Thompson and his helicopter crew who not only re- fused to participate in the My Lai massacre but defiantly picked up Vietnamese civil- ians. The stories of the Vietnam War are read next to stories of resistance by soldiers re- turning home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Bringing the past and present war resisters together challenges the US government’s ar- gument that a “volunteer army” eliminates resistance from soldiers.

The book’s critical engagement with ex- pertise, social movements and community- building offers ideas for anyone doing par- ticipatory action research and/or politically and community-directed research; but it also offers ways to think about the practice of anthropology. The book proposes a new language to think with and suggests that the important work is in listening and consen- sus making. The text might serve as a wake- up call to those anthropologists who pride themselves on listening, on taking the emic ways of knowing seriously, yet fail to engage political projects in the field in a way that can be meaningful for those with whom they work. Much like the union organizer who can float in and out of a community, the lone intellectual who analyzes political projects in the field site, while remaining an outsider, continues to raise questions about power in the field. These are important is- sues for engaged intellectuals: about whether it is right to simply be organizers and power brokers who wander in and out of communities and whether one should cultivate intimacies and create longstanding relationships without moving toward some- thing more collaborative.

The Lynds join a long conversation that has been taking place in anthropology about relationships to informants, interlocu- tors and collaborators. This kind of work— engaged, collaborative, consensus-based, moving between the disciplines and the fields—has already emerged in several in- stances, including the “Community Knowl- edge Project” and “The Asthma Files.” Each of these projects is structured around differ- ent communities, needs, knowledge bases and constraints, but both are framed on an attempt to accompany the communities with which they are engaged. Inspired by the Environmental Justice Movements, the Community Knowledge Project is a co-de- signed project that focuses on community health policy and systemic change in Cen- tral Santa Ana. It tries to transform the rela- tionship between people and research by putting “on equal footing, expert and local knowledge makers.” The project creates new ways of community planning driven by residents while at the same time “explicitly addresses the systems and structures of in- equality in which all humans and nonhu- mans live.”

Further Reading


“The Asthma Files: A Collective Inquiry into Complex Conditions.” http://theasthmafiles.org/. Accessed December 1, 2013.

“Community Knowledge Project.” http://www. communityknowledgeproject.org/. Accessed De- cember 1, 2013.



Buy Accompanying: Pathways to Social Change now
| Buy this e-Book now | Back to Staughton Lynd's Author Page




Revolution at Point Zero reviewed in Feminist Review

by Emma Dowling
Feminist Review
(2014) 106

Revolutions do not simply result from changes at the top of a regime, from the replacement of one leader for another. Real transformations occur when the social relations that make up everyday life change, when there is a revolution within and across the stratifications of the social body. In Revolution at Point Zero, feminist scholar and activist Silvia Federici offers the kind of revolutionary perspective that is capable of revealing the obstacles that stand in the way of such change.

Her work concentrates on the hierarchies and divisions that divide and pit us against one another in a system that relies upon the devaluation of human activity in order to impose its rule. Moreover, for Federici, an unfinished feminist revolution characterises our present, meaning that any transformatory perspective must contest the subjugation of women’s bodies and labour, not as a separate sphere, but as part of the collective transformation of social relations necessary for real change to occur.

The essays in this volume are collected from nigh on four decades of involvement in social movements, bringing together Federici’s political thought across the myriad of everyday experiences that have informed the questions she has pursued in her writing. The guiding thread is the theme of social reproduction, ‘the complex of activities and relations by which our life and labour are daily reconstituted’ (p. 5). Importantly, this pertains to the ways in which women’s bodies, labour and emotional capacities have been exploited in the relentless and destructive pursuits of capitalist accumulation.

Revolution at Point Zero is divided into three parts. The first part of the book consists of Federici’s writing on the theory and politics of housework as it developed through her active involvement in the International Wages for Housework Campaign from 1972 onwards. The second part spans the period of the 1990s and early 2000s, when Federici spent some years teaching in Nigeria and experiencing first-hand the effects on developing countries of neo-liberal structural adjustment and a debt-fuelled austerity programme. The kind of feminist perspective she played an active role in furthering is one that looked to anti-colonial struggles and analyses to make visible the gendered and racialised dimensions of a global division of labour. It is a feminist perspective that can account for how the transformations characteristic of the neo-liberal era not only spell out a (partial) marketisation of domestic labour in response to feminist struggles, but also explain how the global reorganisation of work fuelled by the drive to impose the commodity form in ways that seek to harness and exploit labour in its unpaid and low-paid dimensions. The third part turns its attention to the commons and social reproduction, consisting of essays written in the early 2000s up until 2010 and the emergence of the most recent wave of anti-austerity struggles across the globe, including the Occupy movement.

Core to the feminist notion of reproductive labour is its double character as ‘work that reproduces us and valorises us not only in view of our integration in the labour market, but also against it’ (p. 2). Here lies the crux of what this perspective can yield for praxis: the need to find ways of living not confined to the measure of value on capitalist terms. This is not only about the satisfaction of basic material needs, but also about the emotional and psychological dimensions of social life. Confidence in one’s own self-worth and the need for real communities of mutual care are crucial for a politics of the present and a view towards a common future.

The perspective of social reproduction offers a generative lens through which to make sense of the contemporary crisis, bringing into view how an austerity regime increases unpaid reproductive labour as the financial crisis is off-loaded via the state onto individuals and households, and especially onto women. Federici is also concerned with how this goes hand in hand with, and indeed is played off against, both the further marketisation and financialisation of social reproduction. Her recent work on micro-credit regimes attends to this latter aspect, where she is concerned with the ways in which individuals and communities are suffering under the yoke of debt. Indeed, the shift from the wage to debt as a disciplining device calls for a feminist analysis that can understand the transformations in political economy that are taking place: both the politics of the relationship between debtors and creditors and the affective dimensions of indebtedness and the ways that feelings of shame and inadequacy are mobilised. Precisely in this context, it is necessary to build collective practices of care to undo and transform individualisation and isolation.

Federici offers an appeal that is as astute as it is empathetic to the challenges that contemporary social movements face in building sustainable, self-reproducing social movements that can imagine and enact forms of sociality not beholden to capitalist appropriation and command—that is, a viable social body. Revolution at Point Zero will be of interest to anyone concerned with feminist history. But much more than that, this is a collection of essays that speaks to our present condition and how change can happen. In so doing, thought and action are not separated but constantly woven together in an inspiring and unwavering commitment to bringing about a better world.

Buy Revolution at Point Zero now | Buy Revolution at Point Zero e-Book now | Back to Silvia Federici's Author Page | Back to George Caffentzis's Author Page




The Cost of Lunch, Etc. reviewed in Ralph Mag

by Richard Saturday
Ralph Mag
Issue 249
2014


There are twenty stories here and instead of calling them The Cost of Lunch, Etc. they might better have been entitled just Etc. Or even better Leftovers from the Slush Pile. Some of these are so disjointed that we get the feeling that Piercy had gotten to the tail-end of the mine, was in a hurry to send them off to her agent to get published and make off (like a bandit) with the check.

It may have to do with logorrhea. Or just simply word weariness. By this time in her life, Piercy has published seventeen novels, eighteen books of poetry, and seven books known merely as "Other."

There are a few themes dotted about here and there that make it all very East Coast. There's lots of Martini drinking. Casual --- if not boring --- sex. Women who "breed." The clitoris makes a timely if ungainly appearance half-way through.

The last story, "How to Seduce a Feminist (or Not)," gives us five tedious date tales --- not date off the palm but the new guy on your doorstep: what are you gonna do with (or to) him?
There were a couple out of the collection that perked us up, though. In fact, two were about collecting. Stuff that older ladies pick up at garage sales, in Goodwill, or out on the sidewalks.

In "Saving Mother from Herself," Mom has to put up with a television reality program in which they show the world all this junk that she's carefully collected over the years. You have trouble getting in the front door, have to make a zig-zag path to get to the bathroom ... just like the Collyer brothers. So they clean her out, tote it off to the dump or to the junk shops in town and she has to sneak out furtively to the self-same junk shops to buy it all back --- the favorite (hers and ours) being a great dusty stuffed owl.

Then there are the cat ladies. In "What Remains," Sandra is dying of cancer so she leaves her three cats to her beloved sister. And after she is gone, the three cats take over Sis's house back there in Roslindale. She begins to add more and you have the distinct feeling that in a couple of years she'll be one of those people you read about in the National Observer who had 57 cats jammed in her house, yowling day and night, neighbors complaining because of the stink, the police come, she refuses to give them up, etc. etc.

The best story of them all --- "The Border" --- comes from Piercy's years as an antiwar activist. She drove young men to the border to help them escape the draft. In those days, back in the 60s, you could drive right up to the border town of Derby Line, Vermont; he'd slip out of the car, cross over Main Street ... and there he'd be in Canada.

Those were the days, right? When the USA trusted its own citizens to be honorable and good, when we pretended to be friendly with our neighbors --- and you could complain about our wars and get heard.

Or at the worst, get back to that genteel civilization there in the north.

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


Until the Rulers Obey on Booklist

by Diego Báez
Booklist
May 1st

The Arab Spring that dawned in December 2010 has been exceedingly well documented in real-time tweets, nightly news reports, and academic debates. Yet media coverage of equally revolutionary activity in the Spanish-speaking world has been surprisingly scant.

This volume, an expansive compendium of interviews and essays, seeks to reconcile that disparity. Editors Ross and Rein, activists at the forefront of international labor movements, have collected testimonials from grassroots organizers across Central and South America. The chapters span 15 countries and include dozens of firsthand accounts, from middle- school instructors in Honduras to the mayor of reclaimed native lands in Ecuador to leaders of rural agrarian movements in Paraguay. The editors strike an appreciable balance between Marxist jargon and everyday articulations of social and political realities, and succeed in marrying theory with an unmatched collection of primary sources. Given ongoing protests in Venezuela, unprecedented inequality in Brazil, and rampant exploitation of the natural resources throughout the region, Latin American social movements deserve this kind of timely and rigorous attention. An irreplaceable addition to current discussions of global struggles against social injustice.

Buy the book now | Buy e-Book now | Return to Clifton Ross's Editor Page | Return to Marcy Rein's Editor Page




Check Out PM Press Authors at Left Forum 2014, May 30th-June 1st

Check Out PM Press Authors at Left Forum 2014, May 30th-June 1st

Left Forum is happening May 30th through June 1st in NYC at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. A unique phenomenon in the U.S. and the world, Left Forum convenes the largest annual conference of a broad spectrum of left and progressive intellectuals, activists, academics, organizations and the interested public. As always, PM Press will be there, so here's your chance to hit up some radical and important panels with our authors, editors, and activists.


Can't make the conference?

Get 25% OFF all the PM Press books and eBooks from the featured authors listed below on Left Forum panels when ordering online with coupon code: Left Forum

To use the coupon code- go to https://secure.pmpress.org/ and place the titles from Left Forum attendending authors (listed below) into your shopping cart. Then when in the 'view cart' type in the coupon code and press apply. Then proceed with your checkout as normal.

Read more about the specific panel listings HERE

PM Authors participating include:

Mat Callahan, editor and composer for Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook and music CD; John P. Clark, coeditor of Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus; James Kilgore, author of Prudence Couldn't Swim; Matt Meyer, coeditor of We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America, editor of Let Freedom Ring: A Collection of Documents from the Movements to Free U.S. Political Prisoners, and contributor with Theresa Shoatz to Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz, as well as Oscar Lopez Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance; Ben Morea, coauthor of Black Mask & Up Against the Wall Motherf**ker: The Incomplete Works of Ron Hahne, Ben Morea, and the Black Mask Group; Vikki Law, author of Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles Of Incarcerated Women, 2nd Edition, and coeditor of Don't Leave Your Friends Behind: Concrete Ways to Support Families in Social Justice Movements and Communities; Richard Greeman, translator of Men in Prison; Alan Ruff, author of "We Called Each Other Comrade": Charles H. Kerr & Company, Radical Publishers; Angela Davis, lecturer on The Meaning of Freedom; Quincy Saul, coeditor of Maroon the Implacable: The Collected Writings of Russell Maroon Shoatz; Richard Greeman, translator of Men in Prison and Ken Wishnia, author of 23 Shades of Black, Soft Money, The Glass Factory, Red House, and Blood Lake; Stephanie McMillan, author and artist of The Knitting Circle Rapist Annihilation Squad, Earth at Risk: Building a Resistance Movement to Save the Planet, and Mischief in the Forest: A Yarn Yarn; Immanuel Ness, editor of New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism; Seth Tobocman, coeditor of World War 3 Illustrated: 1979–2014; Russ Davis, of Jobs with Justice and contributors to Jobs with Justice: 25 Years, 25 Voices; and Greg Albo and Leo Panitch, coauthors of In and Out of Crisis: The Global Financial Meltdown and Left Alternatives.




One Day We Will All Strike for More Than One Day

By David Swanson
warisacrime.org
May 15th, 2014

An international one-day strike by fast-food workers is something new, and also something old.  People without a union are organizing and acting in solidarity.  Others are joining in support of their moral demand for a living wage.  They're holding rallies.  They're shutting down restaurants. 

They're using Occupy's people's microphone.  They're targeting the one-percenter CEO of McDonald's who apparently is paid $9,002 per hour for the public service of ruining our health with horrible tasting processed imitation food.

Jeremy Brecher has released a revised, expanded, and updated edition of his 40-year-old book, Strike, that includes the origins of these fast-food worker strikes and puts them in the context of a history of the strike in the United States dating back to 1877. This opening passage of Chapter 1 sets the context beautifully:

"In the centers of many American cities are positioned huge armories, grim nineteenth-century edifices of brick or stone. They are fortresses complete with massive walls and loopholes for guns. You may have wondered why they are there, but it has probably never occurred to you that they were built to protect America not against invasion from abroad but against popular revolt at home."

And what revolts there have been! Brecher's book should be read for inspiration.  The most marginalized of workers have repeatedly taken matters into their own hands and won radical changes for the better.  Success has followed selfless acts of solidarity.  Failure has followed strategic calculation and compromise.  The potential for greater victories has been frustrated time and again by the decision not to press working people's advantage forward -- a decision generally made by labor unions.

The vision of replacing capitalism has driven the efforts that have reformed it.  A century ago, World War I provided the excuse to beat back workers. But their demands exploded upon the war's conclusion.  Workers took over Seattle and ran the city, effectively replacing the government.  In the 1930s, coal miners opened their own coal mines. Unemployed workers during the great depression joined picket lines in support of striking workers rather than competing with them.  Workers at a rubber factory in Akron developed the sit-down strike, which spread like wildfire and might work well in McDonald's restaurants all over the world today. Customers could join workers by sitting in at tables and not eating.  We could bring our own food; McDonald's has internet.

Brecher's book brings the story of strikes, including general strikes, up to the present.  The lessons it teaches open up possibilities not usually considered. Brecher sums up what we're up against:

"The ideology of the existing society exercises a powerful hold on workers' minds. The longing to escape from subordination to the boss is often expressed in the dream of going into business for yourself, even though the odds against success are overwhelming. The civics book cliché that the American government represents the will of the people and is therefore legitimate survives even in those who find the government directly opposing their own needs in the interests of their employers. The desire to own a house, a car, or perhaps an independent business supports a belief in private property that makes expropriation of the great corporations seem to many a personal threat. The idea that everybody is really out for themselves, that it can be no other way, and that therefore the solution to one's problems must come from beating other people rather than cooperating with them is inculcated over and over by the very structure of life in a competitive society."


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


Kuper & Tobocman Celebrate “World War 3 Illustrated”

By Alex Dueben
Comic Book Resource
May 14th, 2014

With extensive careers in art, illustration and comics, childhood friends Peter Kuper and Seth Tobocman founded "World War 3 Illustrated" ("WW3") in 1979, an anthology series with a left-wing political focus. Edited by various creators over the years, "World War 3 Illustrated" contributors include artists James Romberger, Sandy Jimenez, Sue Coe and more. Kuper and Tobocman continue to edit and contribute to the anthology, distributed in the modern era by Top Shelf.

To mark the anthology's 35th anniversary, PM Press is publishing a book collecting "World War 3 Illustrated" content from the series' many contributing cartoonists. It's a beautifully designed book, but it's also an incredible look at both the politics of recent decades and life in the United States and abroad.

CBR News spoke with Kuper and Tobocman about the anniversary of "WW3" and its impact on comics and social movements, as well as the publication of PM Press' big 35th Anniversary hardcover and the lasting impact of "World War 3 Illustrated" as an anthology.

CBR: Peter, Seth -- it's been 35 years since the debut of "World War 3 Illustrated." Looking back to the series' beginnings, where did the concept of the book come from? What was the impetus in creating the anthology?

Peter Kuper: Seth and I grew up together in Cleveland, Ohio -- we met in first grade and lived a street apart until the end of high school. We discovered comics around the age of 7 and when we were 11 did our first zine with several to follow through our teens. We attended many comic conventions in New York each summer and got to interview everyone from Jack Kirby to William Gaines. Inspired by these trips, we separately made our way to New York City in the late 1970s. Seth had gone there to be a film-maker studying at NYU and I came a year later based on an animation job offer. Neither ever materialized and we both found ourselves at Pratt Institute in the late 1970s. We were still fans of comics and had become serious about creating them, but there were few venues to get our work published. The undergrounds were mostly gone and the alternative movement didn't exist yet. Since we'd done zines, the idea of self-publishing wasn't remote. Beyond publishing our own work we also wanted to print work that moved us -- much of it was on the street posted on walls and lampposts. It was work that was talking about our reality in 1979 with a hostage crisis in Iran, the Cold War in full swing and a B-actor about to have his itchy trigger-finger on the nuclear launch button.

Seth Tobocman: There was no place for an intelligent comic book artist to get published back in 1979. So it was inevitable that we self publish.

I think what spurred me to make a political comic book was the Iran Hostage crisis. I knew a lot of Iranian students who were at school with me. So I knew about how the Shah of Iran was put in by the US and how my Iranian friends were afraid of the Savak, the Iranian secret police, even while walking around NYC. So when the Shah fell and Iranians took over the US embassy, I understood why they did that. But for many Americans this was an outrage, like 9/11, and there was this wave of patriotic hysteria. So I felt, if all these ignorant people can express themselves, so could I. I decided to throw my hat in the ring.

Publishing a single issue is an accomplishment in and of itself, but what pushed you to turn it into a series? How did it become an ongoing anthology?

Tobocman: Growing up in the 1970s it seemed like any time you found something cool, you immediately discovered that it was over. It was very disheartening. So I didn't want to add to that big pile of negativity by making yet another thing that blew over. What has also made it continue is that wave after wave of younger artists has come to the book. Today there are people working on it who were born the year we started.

Kuper: We were presented with [the subject matter] everyday. We felt desperate to communicate the things we were seeing in the world around us and the things we were experiencing directly and we were not alone. Issue after issue more people joined the magazine. Every time I thought I could find other venues that served a similar purpose I discovered catches. Either they wanted to censor the ideas, or simply couldn't devote the space for a full-length piece. Really for the first decade or so that we were publishing "WW3," interest in comics -- especially with political subject matter -- was near zero.

You're both busy people doing a diverse amount of work, but you both continue to contribute to and edit issues of the anthology. Why?

Tobocman: There is no place where I am so free to express myself. I just did a pretty honest piece describing my mother's death, with all the ugliness of a hospital room included, for the latest issue of "WW3." I don't have anyone telling me I can't do that here. Yes, I could find a publisher for that at some point, but that takes a lot of negotiation, and meanwhile the idea is getting old in my head.

Kuper: "WW3" remains one of the very few venues that provides complete freedom of expression. At critical points like after 9/11 no other publication was willing to touch the subjects we wanted to discuss -- like the stupidity of our rush to war in Iraq. When I lived in Oaxaca, Mexico during a teachers' strike, there was no other publication willing to give me the space to tell the full story. This is true for many of the contributors including artists from places like Egypt. I also feel like we are still relatively unknown and doing this new anthology was a way of codifying "WW3's" history and the history we've spent the last 35 years writing and drawing about.

An inside look at PM Press' "World War 3 Illustrated" collection.

At what point–assuming there was one–did you begin to see "WW3" as something bigger than the two of you?

Kuper: When we heard from people around the world who had somehow found copies, when people joined the magazine who had seen it in a record store in another state and were inspired to move to New York and do comics, and when a teenager came up and said "I grew up reading 'WW3' -- my mom showed it to me!"

Tobocman: I always wanted it to be bigger than me. I wanted it to be a collective, and part of a wider movement that encompassed both art and politics. But in the '80s that often felt like wishful thinking. To me, the moment when my hopes began to be realized was the 1988 Tompkins Square riot and the wave of protest that grew out of it, because that was the first movement in which my generation of activists, and artists was in the lead.

In 1988 the city tried to impose a midnight curfew on Tompkins Park in New York's Lower East Side. Such a curfew targeted several groups of people. Young people who liked to hang out late, long time area residents who sort of viewed the park as their back yard, and homeless people who slept in the park. Resistance to this curfew resulted in several nights of rioting. Large numbers of police came into the neighborhood to try to enforce the curfew. The cops wound up attacking everyone who was on the street. But after several rough nights, the bad publicity from video of cops attacking bystanders embarrassed the city into lifting the curfew. A movement of locally based radicals was born out of these riots. This movement fought the city over issues of housing, homelessness and police brutality. There was a very deep connection between "World War 3 Illustrated" and this scene.

Which comics are you most proud of being involved with during your tenure with "WW3?" You can choose whatever criteria you want, but what are a few stories that stand out?

Tobocman: I'm very proud that so many of the early graphics by "World War 3" artists got picked up by political movements to be used on flyers and posters. With regard to my own work, that would be the "Why are Apartments Expensive?" series that describes the causes of gentrification. There were a couple of years when I saw that reprinted everywhere. More recently, a young cartoonist named Ethan Heitner put us in touch with comic book artists in Egypt and Lebanon who now have work in the magazine. We are one of the few English Language magazines carrying these guys.

Kuper: In the new anthology we published a color piece by James Romberger called "Jesus in Hell" He brought that to us in about 1984 and we ran it in black and white --which was all we could afford. We've always wanted to see it in full color and it finally happened after thirty years! Artists like Mac McGill whose amazing work may have never seen the light of day but for "WW3" and Sabrina Jones who has gone on to have a full-blown career as a graphic novelist, thanks in part to the opportunities the magazine provided for her growth. Really, for all of us, "WW3" has been a place to experiment and interact with other artists, which has made everyone's work that much better.

Kuper's "The System" is also set for a reprint from PM Press.

Talk a little about this anniversary collection. What did you want to do and how did you end up at PM Press?

Kuper: We wanted to put together a collection that showed off great examples of what we've been doing over the years -- work that demonstrated the possibilities of comics as a medium for political and personal expression. Hopefully we've created a book that winds up in schools and libraries so we reach a whole new audience into the future. We first assembled the book back in 2008 -- Abrams had expressed ongoing interest and we hoped to have it out to coincide with a thirtieth anniversary retrospective that we mounted at a gallery in New York called "Exit Art." With the crash the publishing industry was in a shambles and the idea of a 320 page full-color book of political comics was next to impossible. (Actually a French publisher stepped up with interest and will do it next year.) I had begun working with PM in 2009 and they not only said they wanted to do the book, but that it could be hardcover. When they saw the bill for the collection though, they realize it was over their heads, so we agreed to do a Kickstarter campaign to help them with the costs, which happily exceeded expectations.

Tobocman: I'm glad that there is an anniversary anthology, but I'm even more glad that there is an anniversary. For me, the magazine is what matters. I am glad it's still coming out.

An answer to a question you really didn't ask, "What matters to me about this?" -- it isn't the anthology or even the magazine or any of my own artwork. What matters is that I see a lot of young cartoonists now using comics in a way that was very rare thirty years ago. To talk about social change in a very practical and direct way. So this is a new language, now spoken by many people but once spoken only by a few. So I think this magazine has been part of bringing that language into existence. I think we did that. I hope it has a positive effect.

Peter, you have another book coming out from PM Press at the same time. People might remember "The System" which came out from Vertigo in the nineties as part of their short-lived Vertigo Verite sub-imprint.

Kuper: "The System" was a remarkable fluke. Vertigo hired an editor named Lou Stathis and encouraged him to bring in new and different projects. I had worked with him for years at every other magazine he'd been with and he asked if I had any ideas. "The System" had been percolating for about 8 years and it flew. I was really trying to push the boundaries of the form, so I did the whole book in stencils and spray paint (a medium that Seth first introduced me to), chose real-world themes and made it wordless. I wanted people who assumed comics -- especially coming from a mainstream publisher -- had to have word balloons and be in a certain style, would be forced to reconsider their assumptions. Right after it was published, sad to say, Lou died and the door on Vertigo slammed shut again. This is among my favorite projects and I was distressed that it had been out of print for 15 years so many people had never seen it. PM was up for not only getting it back in print, but also doing it as a larger hardcover that I redesigned. By the way, "The System" was the work that "MAD Magazine" saw that led them to ask me to try out for "Spy vs. Spy," which I've now done for 17 years.

Buy WW3 Illustrated now | Buy WW3 Illustrated e-Book now | Back to Peter Kuper's Author Page | Back to Seth Tobocman's Author Page




Gabriel San Roman Remembers Víctor Jara, the Man and the Movement

By Gabriel San Román
OC Weekly
May 15th, 2014

gabriel1.jpg
 
Gabriel San Roman with Victor Jara painting
[Editor's Note: This week's edition of Locals Only is the preface of Venceremos: Víctor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement, a new booklet available from PM Press; pmpress.org. It is republished with the permission of the author and publisher, veteran Weekling Gabriel San Roman]

Víctor Jara's "Manifiesto," the definitive song of La Nueva Canción Chilena, served as background music during the episode of CNN's Cold War series titled "Backyard," in which his widow, Joan Jara, was interviewed about her folk singer husband's murder at the hands of General Augusto Pinochet's forces. As a youthful teenager learning about the world, this segment on Chile and U.S. intervention during the latter half of the 20th century piqued my already-budding interest in politics and history. The basic history of the Sept. 11, 1973, coup that toppled the democratically elected socialist presidency of Salvador Allende in Chile had already been known to me, but it was the series, oddly enough, that first introduced me to the music of Víctor Jara.

The sonorous melodies were as captivating as the lyrics were pensive. Who was this Chilean folk singer? What was it about his idealism, life and music that had him meet the tragic fate of a political martyr? As I sought out those answers as both a lover of good music and radical politics, I also eventually discovered Violeta Parra, Quilapayún, Inti-Illimani and all the superb musicians who formed the foundation of the historic cultural movement known as La Nueva Canción Chilena. Later, academic research and my life in journalism allowed me to delve deeper into this profound musical world.

This brief history of Chile's New Song movement examines its rise as a distinct cultural phenomenon that became a concurrent component of a political revolution, with a particular emphasis on the lyrical content, themes and musical forms of the era's songs as they morphed through their own particular history, as well as the politically tumultuous times in Chile that helped to shape them.

History does not exist solely for the purposes of reflective gazes into the past. The lessons of Chile's New Song movement remain relevant to our world today. Currently, three major record-label corporations--Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music Group--control an overwhelming majority of music distributed worldwide. As increasing consolidation takes its toll on creativity and political expression, the historical example of DICAP, La Nueva Canción Chilena's alternative record label, is ever more urgent as a cultural, political means of organization no matter what leftist political persuasion or preferred musical genre.

South American countries still have radio stations under similar circumstances that Chilean musicians described decades ago within the framework of colonization. Under the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, the Ley de Responsabilidad Social en Radio y Televisión (RESORTE) opened up the country's frequencies to more Venezuelan music, requiring DJs to dedicate half of their playlists to national contemporary and folkloric artists. Just as in Chile during the 1960s, record company colonization permeated the airwaves with rock bands and other music from the United States.

And then there is, of course, the lasting legacy of New Song singers such as Víctor Jara who continue to inspire successive generations of activists and musicians alike, including this author. "I think he is an example who gives young people a motivation and courage to not be content with the world as it is today, but to think that they can actually produce a difference to make a better world," Joan Jara said to me of her late husband. "Victor somehow goes on living in that sense today."


Buy “Venceremos”: Víctor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement now | Buy “Venceremos”: Víctor Jara and the New Chilean Song Movement e-Book now | Back to Gabriel San Román's Author Page




The Cost of Lunch, Etc.: A Review in Swans Commentary

By Paul Buhle
Swans Commentary
May 4th, 2014

A Writer On Her Own Path


Many of Marge Piercy's readers have been following her assorted writings across the span of their adult lives. We were young with her in the later 1960s and have snapped up, poked through, or otherwise taken note of her volumes ever since. So the notion that this new volume is a "debut collection" strikes an odd note. Then again, novelist and poet Piercy has not been doing much in the short-story vein all these decades. At points, The Cost of Lunch more than makes up for the lapse.

This is a tough book, not by sentence structure or fancy words, but "tough" in the sense that her protagonists yield no ground, reject men after awhile, and deal sharply with women who are hopelessly male-oriented. Piercy's favorite women are Piercy Women. And they are unforgiving.

Taking the last title as more than metaphor, How to Seduce A Feminist (or Not), we learn that strong-minded women like sex well enough, and intellectual company too, but what sets their nerves on end is the assumptions that men make almost constantly. They assume women are ready for a relationship -- at least a one-nighter -- on a moment's notice and men's terms, they assume women are actually interested in hearing what they have to say, and they assume that politically, mentally, and so on, women are just about the same as each other. Big mistakes.

This story unnerves me slightly because the would-be seducer has an academic job in Madison, Wisconsin. Did I see him on the streets or in a coffee shop? He has the hots for our Chicagoan.

He's cute, he seems to have become a literary success -- as if this were a turn-on -- and he had some kind of relationship with the feminist of the title in the high days of The Movement (suddenly, that sounds like a long time ago). Now she wants him out of the apartment and out of her life. Actually, How to Seduce has several other shorter vignettes and one even turns out as happily as any in this book, "she is happy she met him," because he is the rare considerate type. This would mark the fellow in question a happy exception.

Marge Piercy is so good at exploring details, whether apartments, relatives, or friends and sex partners, that such generalizations are risky. We turn from stories set in Chicago in 1960 or 1970 to the Boston area decades later, marking Piercy's own locations. Some are political only in the once-familiar sense that the Personal Is Political. Others are deeply political in the old way, young men in the later 1960s on the run from Selective Service, needing all the assistance they can get, at risk to whoever helps them. All the protagonists are women, and the careful reader will discover that as much as they differ, nearly all have a bit of Marge in them and many quite a bit more.

I am inclined toward the protagonist fiction-writer or poet because, after all, this is as close to Marge as we are going to get in fiction. Her writers seem to enjoy the work, being alone at the tasks of inventing characters and scenes, giving readings, and life is easier when they acquire the self-confidence to become their successful selves, mining personal experience along with memories and social and environmental observations for material and insights. It never becomes clear that company, the company of a man, the involvements of family or any others, are quite so welcome. Now and then a touch of Jewish continuity sneaks in, providing a different kind of continuity; now and then a political moment reminds us of past engagements, but mostly is a writer on her own path, making new discoveries, inviting us to join her.

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‘The Living Spirit of Revolt: the Infrapolitics of Anarchism’: Book Review

by John L Murphy
Slugger O’toole
May 4th, 2014

How can anarchism get beyond marginalized impacts, finicky theorists, and squabbling activists? A Slovenian political scientist, Žiga Vodovnik, offers suggestions forward. This concise survey occupies a space, if pre-Occupy (despite a 2013 copyright for the English translation this offers no updates but the late Howard Zinn, who died in 2010, provides an encouraging introduction), where an overview of anarchism’s philosophies and history segues into a connection to not only Continental and British thinkers, but its overlooked, attenuated American Transcendental roots.

For, Vodovnik argues that–given this idea itself did not fully emerge until the late 19th century–the counterculture of the 1960s revived it looking back not to Godwin, Bakunin, or Benjamin Tucker so much as Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman. They ally in their attitude against ‘foolish consistency’ for an approach allowing contradictions to advance equality (as does socialism) along with freedom (as does liberalism).

Vodovnik supports a flexible nature for anarchism. He grounds it in the ‘absence of a leader or ruler’ as its meaning, and its anti-authoritarian ethos rather than one that avoids any authority. This key distinction aligns with Dave Neal’s ‘small-a’ methodology rather than a ‘capital-A’ ideology insisting on no overarching plan. As many motivators cited here agree, the spark lies in the ‘infrapolitics’ where ‘seemingly non-political’ or hidden forces seek to undermine unjustly imposed and unfairly distributed power structures, where the majority lack viable options to pursue opportunities to enrich self-fulfillment.

Vodovnik sides with an anti-statist and civil disobedience- charged resistance. Hakim Bey’s ‘Temporary Autonomous Zones’ (TAZ) offer one model where a ‘tendency for actualization of theory’ meets the personal space opened, if for a while, for a ‘liberated zone’ and ‘political laboratory’ that allows real progress ‘outside the boundaries of commodification or spectacle’.

This encouragingly commonsensical attitude links anarchists by name with many more who enter part or all of its many fluid channels, while flowing into, as historian Peter Marshall sees it, a common river.

David Graeber’s post-ideology of Direct Action is here linked to Oaxaca in 2005 and Seattle in 1999, but while this book unfortunately was not updated for Occupy Wall Street and the anti-austerity EU or Tahrir Square protests recently, that anthropologist’s aspiration ‘to reinvent daily life as a whole’ remains relevant. Zinn’s pragmatic revolutionary reform that pushes progress within systems as well as undermining unjust control may be more realistic, Vodovnik suggests. Instead of street theatre or fervent factionalism, fitting this stereotyped strategy into its many vibrant and changing forms appears more practical. There’s some slow spots given this is written by a professor, one wonders how pop culture applies to foster anarchism, and more clarification of how the ‘young Marx’ offered a more liberating version of labor as self-identity could have helped a non-specialist. But, despite a few clunky parts perhaps in translation, this is welcome.

In closing, this handy guide stands in the space between brief pamphlets or Colin Ward’s Anarchism: A Very Short Introduction in Oxford UP’s series and Marshall’s magisterial Demanding the Impossible. PM Press published many of the inquiring texts quoted here, and adding Žiga Vodovnik’s compact treatment will guide the reader to many more books, and even better, piers from which to leap into an arguably the last remaining viable revolutionary current, this free river of human longing.

Buy A Living Spirit of Revolt now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Žiga Vodovnik's Author Page



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