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West of Eden reviewed in Slingshot Magazine

By A. Iwasa
Slingshot Magazine
January 2016

Coming out of what started as the Communes Project, a collaborative effort between the Institute of International Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the Mendocino Institute in 2003, this book is a striking example of the radical potential to utilize the resources of academia when people make a point of making them accessible to the general public.

Communes are placed historically both in the broader sense of general Utopian history, and the more particular focus of the book revolving around the 1968 social upheavals.

Fantastic chapters on the Native American occupation of Alcatraz and communalism in the black Panther Party work to dispel the myth of communal living as a white people thing.

Prominent also are back to the land projects such as the Morning Star and Black Bear Ranches. First hand accounts abound, and sources are extremely well cited for those interested in following up. The ongoing legacies of the communes and the people involved are also addressed from the pot economy to high tech industry.

This book is a must read for anyone interested in communal living, especially those now who think our much smaller and tamer communal living movement, or lack there of, is The Revolution. We’ve got a long way to go to rebuild what was, and the lessons we can learn from past efforts should be studied in works like this.

I think virtually every commune dweller past and present could fill a book this size alone with great stories fun and sad, economic and historical.  All these sorts of details are very important, and the editors were great about never getting stuck on any of the specifics.

On a personal level, I was able to make it in the Bay Area from Slingshot 119 to 120′s editing largely because of a communal living situation I was able to get into on my credentials as a member of the Slingshot Collective doing research on the topic.  Almost every place I’ve lived since I moved out of my mother’s house For The Last Time back in 2003 has been some sort of collective, so the topic is very dear to my heart.

I made a specific point of getting our review copy at the Howard Zinn Book Fair from PM Press because of this, and even though it’s a little old, Ramsey didn’t hesitate to donate it to us.  It would be great to see more work like this, both about the 1960s and ’70s, and the time since then which has been fascinating in its own ways.

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Cal Winslow's Page | Back to Iain Boal's Page

No Gods, No Masters, No Peripheries in Antipode

by Adam J. Barker
Antipode: A Radical Journal of Geography
February 2016

It is not an easy thing to make an old refrain ring anew–to take a well-worn and understood phrase, loaded with specific histories, tied up with particular traditions, and to add to it, straining to make a connection to new and more diverse discourses. That is precisely the task that Barry Maxwell and Raymond Craib, the editors of No Gods, No Masters, No Peripheries, undertake when they assert that the imperialist core-periphery divide that continues to haunt much anarchist theory and study must be deconstructed and deposed as firmly as anarchists have rejected gods and masters. Arranged around five thematic sections, and spanning from traditional archival histories of labour and anti-statist movements, through literary “interventions” into the connections between capitalism, genocide, and some particularly scary stories about vampires, to surrealist grappling with Nietzsche’s “mercenary” words, this is a wild, fun, and varied collection. How much it contributes to a breaking down of core-periphery tensions and inequalities is debatable, but it is certain to show new perspectives on anarchism to even the most radical reader.

The five thematic sections of the book divide up the chapters into different clusters based on interesting and important–if occasionally vague–criteria. Titled, respectively, “Learning From Indigenous Experience: Anarchism and Indigeneity”, “A Thousand Links: Transnational Lines in an Anarchist Age”, “The Horizon at the Centre: No Peripheries”, “The Black Mirror: Anarchism, Surrealism, and the Situationists” and “Black, Red, and Grey: Anarchism, Communism, and Political Theory”, these sections have in common only their commitment to conjoin anarchist discourses with those potentially parallel or intersecting strands of libertarian thought beyond the recognized anarchist milieu. Many of the chapters are standard scholarly essays, including some very rich archival explorations related to labour movements or thinkers and leaders important to particular causes, but not all. First, the book is shot through with illustrations and photos, some related directly to chapters in the book and others to larger discursive frameworks. Further, two “interventions” push the collection beyond the expected: the first, a reflection on May Day by historian Peter Linebaugh that winds through terrifying tales of vampires, through critiques of austerity and the ties between capital and colonization, to argue for a need to slay the “monsters” of the global economic crisis (p.80-113); the second, a photo essay by Egypt-based artist Bahia Shehab of her sustained activist campaign that involved spray-painting an evolving series of protest slogans and symbols such as “No to military rule” and “No to stealing the revolution” in a public space in Cairo (p.233-241).

In addition to these methodological departures, the sheer diversity of topics and research makes this collection a veritable carnival of interesting and surprising ideas, though like any carnival some of the prizes are easier to win than others: in some of the dense archival histories and the highly-conceptual engagements with surrealism or political theory, the level of detail and specific knowledge required to see exactly what the chapter is trying to do can be daunting to those (like myself) who do not regularly work in those registers.

Across the five thematic sections, there are several apparent cross-cutting subject matters. First, there are those historical works that seek to excavate or expand our understanding of the way that anarchism has been particularised in specific place-based struggles or cultural-national-ethnic contexts. The majority of these studies are rooted broadly in Latin America, which is unsurprising given the strong history of Leftist organising throughout that region. There is: an investigation into the importance of the mestizo identity of “libertarian ideologue” Luis Cusicanqui in Boliva (p.12-21); an examination of the relationship between Indigenous and socialist thought in the practices of the Zapatistas (p.22-43); a critical refutation of the myth of the “itinerant, stateless radical” exemplified through In some editions of the book (including mine), the pictures associated with the “Spraying No” intervention are misplaced, appearing in the middle of the previous chapter.

the persecution of Spanish-born Chilean organiser Casimiro Barrios Fernandez (p.158-179); an unearthing of the vibrant and powerful anarchist-syndicalist alliances among marine and river-front workers in Brazil during the early 20th century (p.180-214); an exploration of urban-rural solidarity behind anarchist movements at the same time in Peru (p.215-232); and a complex mapping of the “articulation” of anarchist praxis in Mexican political discourses (p.336-348). That accounts for nearly half of the 14 “academic essay” chapters in the book, establishing that, for lived examples of anarchist practices, scholars should not only look to the common examples of the Spanish Revolution and the Paris Commune, but at the century and a half of Leftist struggle throughout Latin America. These chapters, while not methodologically homogeneous, often rely on reading against the archival grain and paying close attention to the lives and words of activists and organisers to show how theories that are articulated in simple terms in the abstract can become both more powerful and also far more complex upon application.

Another cluster of works pursues an interrogation of anarchism itself, in an attempt to figure out how it can be used to find “meaning” across seemingly disparate struggles in the
global present. Many of these chapters are more theoretical or conceptual in nature, while still speaking to the quotidian, material realities of people and communities in struggle against the
state and capital. These include: an intense and necessarily partial recounting of the interactions between the IWW-inspired Chicago Surrealist group and French surrealists spanning about four decades (p.244-262); a re-reading of Bakunin through the works of
surrealist poet Will Alexander in the hope of receiving “signals from places of life that we can hardly imagine” (p.282); a challenging meeting-of-the-minds between one-time situationist Raoul Vaneigem and anarchist bugbear (or bad boy?) Friedrich Nietzsche (p.283-313); and Silvia Federici’s closing chapter that meditates on the importance of seeing global anarchism as both always already present and also dynamically shifting, as anarchism, Marxism, and feminism are articulated in increasingly complex relational formations (p.349-357). Perhaps also in this section we could place Adrienne Hurley’s chapter, which draws out transnational links between student-driven protests in Quebec, Canada, and Japan, through the lens of educational institutions as part of new regimes of securitisation and the policing of dissent (p.116-130). While not as specifically probing of “anarchism” as the other chapters discussed here, Hurley’s chapter is a challenge to many anarchists who fall into one of two broad camps–those who have been radicalised through student politics and exposure to radical scholarship who often overlook their own role in reproducing social hierarchies, and those grassroots activists who dismiss universities as inherently oppressive and in so doing may miss the vibrancy and potential of university-incubated student and youth activism.

The remaining chapters, while not unified by approach or content, mark some of the most intriguing contributions of the volume, thinking through anarchism not as a primary current or referent, but as something that can be appended to or provide fresh critical perspectives on existing struggles. As Craib makes clear in the Foreword to the book, these chapters are not “looking for anarchism” in existing struggles–a worthwhile pursuit, and a vibrant one within geography thanks to the popularity of works like Weapons of the Weak by James Scott (1985), and recent provocations by Simon Springer and colleagues (2012) in this journal and elsewhere, but also a pursuit that reveals only a limited part of the wider spectrum of libertarian and autonomous action. So it is that the 2004 insurrection in Kabylia, Algeria, is examined not to find anarchist tendencies within it, but rather to reveal horizontalist practices, successes, and failures that many anarchists will not be aware of, and will undoubtedly find useful in their organising and critique (p.131-155). Likewise, two concepts–“revolution”, a term close to many anarchist hearts, and “enlightenment”, a term usually rejected as associated with liberalism–are brought into conversation through the framework of the Arab Spring (p.316-335). Rather than recuperating an anarchistic version of liberal enlightenment, this chapter demonstrates how the dialectics of “revolution”–the interplay between social and scientific paradigm shifts–require us to think through liberal and totalitarian interpretations of “enlightenment thinking” which inform the imaginations even of people seeking radical breaks with (some) social and political traditions. Finally, in what is for me the stand-out chapter of the book, Maia Ramnath deftly weaves together anarchist and anticapitalist theory, with social and cultural histories of India and Brahmanism, frameworks of indigeneity and belonging, and a strong dose of critical analyses of race and colonialism, into an open-ended discussion of these intersecting, conflicting, complicating trajectories (p.44-79). This chapter, more than any other in the volume, challenges the “stale formalism” of many anarchist inquiries, raising questions of how religion, culture, caste, race, indigeneity, and capitalist development all complicate and shift the frame of liberatory and autonomous thought. After underlining nearly every sentence in the chapter, I am convinced–not of any particular argument, as the chapter makes few set claims, but of the need for the conversation to progress.

The book overall is not without flaws. While the Foreword and framing of the first thematic section make clear that addressing the existence, persistence, and revolutionary aspirations of Indigenous peoples in the Americas is both a priority for this book and should be for anarchism more generally, there seems to be an obvious gap or hole in the text around this issue. While the first thematic section opens with a quote from Mohawk scholar Taiaiake Alfred, whose 2005 book Wasasé sought to begin sketching a political philosophy of “anarchoindigenism”, and the acknowledgements note that Yellowknives Dene political theorist Glen Coulthard–whose 2014 book brings Marx and Fanon into sustained dialogue–participated in the original conference, the absence of articles or interventions from them or their contemporaries is noted. The tradition of “indigenous resurgence” that they, along with Audra Simpson (Mohawk), Leanne Simpson (Anishinaabe), and similar scholars, are articulating is to me one of the most important developments for anarchist thought generally.

In a different vein, while the volume is explicitly set as an exploration of the messy, mutable entanglements between anarchism and other forms of thought and modes of social mobilisation, it does occasionally stray towards the “looking for anarchism” tendency that the editors obviously hope to avoid. Especially in some of the detailed histories, and perhaps out
of necessity given that these often excavate little-understood moments of resistance and rebellion, anarchism and anarchists seem constantly thrust to centre stage. This is not always
a failing: for example, in Geoffroy de Laforcade’s engagement with anarchist and syndicalist organising among marine workers in Brazil, the sustained focus on anarchism allows for a clarification of the dynamic relationship between anarchism and other forces at work in the Brazilian labour movement, both those hostile to and supportive of labour autonomy. de Laforcade’s chapter brilliantly shows how many anarchist victories came through cooperation
with trade unions of various kinds and relied on tactics that many “purist” anarchists might reject out of hand (voting, negotiating with government officials, and so on). Perhaps, though,
what this demonstrates is that there still is a need to “look for” anarchism in diverse social movements, but that–as de Laforcade demonstrates–this should be because partnerships with other social movements often hold the key to making anarchist ambitions into realistic activist goals.

In sum, this is book that anyone interested in radical politics should read. Not all of the contributions will inspire the same levels of excitement–or outrage–but they are likely to provoke some manner of response. And that, I think, is the point of an edited volume such as this one: by adding the demand to reject peripheries along with gods and masters, Craib, Maxwell, and their contributors are saying that even the radical vision of the world presented
by “classical” anarchism may still need further radicalisation. The book does not collapse the core-periphery dialectic any more than it eliminates divine beings with the force of its logic–
but it does demand that we consider looking for the locus of radical struggles in new and very different places, and in fact, almost everywhere.

Alfred T (2005) Wasáse: Indigenous Pathways of Action and Freedom. Toronto: University of Toronto Press

Coulthard G (2014) Red Skin, White Masks: Rejecting the Colonial Politics of Recognition. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Scott J C (1985) Weapons of the Weak: Everyday Forms of Peasant Resistance. New Haven: Yale University Press

Springer S, Ince A, Pickerill J, Brown G and Barker A J (2012) Reanimating anarchist geographies: A new burst of colour.

Antipode 44(5):1591-1604

Buy the book | Buy the e-Book | Check out Raymond Craib and Barry Maxwell Editor's Pages

One Chord Wonders in Scanner Zine

Scanner Zine
January 31st, 2016

Over the years there have been a number of tomes that have attempted to analyze, quantify, understand, justify, decry and simply observe the phenomena that was Punk Rock. Recent years have seen these books branch out into Hardcore and other sub-genres, but still the resounding bulk are those about the UK 1977 explosion (and implosion come to that!). So, does the world really need another succession of prose that over-analyze something that was as organic, uncontrived (in the most part), vitriolic and physical as Punk Rock - something which was born of its time - as a reaction against the depression and mediocrity of late 70s England?

In this case, the answer is a resounding YES! Y’see Scannerites, this book is a reprint of what was the first of its kind. Originally printed in 1985, this has been out of print for many years and represents the very first in-depth critique of the thing we call... The Punk Rock.

Taking up six chapters, Laing analyses Punk from its Formation and continues through Naming, Listening, Looking, Framing and the Aftermath before a Conclusion rounds the main book out. He uses what are considered to be the first of the UK Punk albums as templates (‘The Clash’, ‘Never Mind The Bollocks’, ‘Damned Damned Damned’, ‘Rattus Norvegicus IV’ and ‘Pure Mania’) along with a smattering of the early UK Punk singles and places them against what was happening in the charts of the era. All aspects of Punk are analysed in those chapters, from the bands that acted as precursors, through to the names of bands and individuals, the acts of Pogoing and gobbing, fashion, politics and lyrical origins, mainstream music press and fanzines, major labels and the advent of independents and the removal of the breakdown between band and audience. There is also a look at what was coming in the wake of ‘77 Punk with mentions of CRASS, PUBLIC IMAGE LTD, EXPLOITED, SOUTHERN DEATH CULT and AU PAIRS. It’s a well researched narrative and, while definitely written from a deeply analytical perspective, it rarely becomes ponderous, pretentious or overtly highbrow.

The books is filled out with a Foreword by TV SMITH, an Introduction from the original book and an updated Preface for this print. There is also a reprint of the original picture section and a bounty of Appendixes including a 1976-1980 Chronology, select discographies and a look at the 1976 charts and chart positions of the original brace of Punk releases.

It’s interesting to juxtapose this, the first of its kind, with the plethora of similar books that have been printed since. I’ve read a few lately that come on like some fucking University exercise written by ‘graduates’ who wanna get a high grade but retain a ‘cutting edge’ for a job - no doubt as some overly-educated, under-experienced music ‘journalist’. One Chord Wonders, and Laing’s narrative has no suggestion of that. This reads as a genuine study of what Punk was in the late 70s and born from a desire to discover what created the monster and not shy away from the monster’s failings and hypocrisies.

Let’s face it, 1976 was 40 years ago; a lot has changed. A lot has become eulogized, aggrandized, bastardized and mythologized. Given this was written in the early 1980s, it should be viewed as a first-hand account of one of the most inspiring times in UK culture and, if not a defining text on 70s Punk, then certainly one of the most unbiased and articulate of its kind.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Dave Laing's Author Page


In ancient Greek philosophy, kairos signifies the right time or the “moment of transition.” We believe that we live in such a transitional period. The most important task of social science in time of transformation is to transform itself into a force of liberation.

Kairos, an editorial imprint of the Anthropology and Social Change department housed in the California Institute of Integral Studies, publishes groundbreaking works in critical social sciences, including anthropology, sociology, geography, theory of education, political ecology, political theory, and history.

Find out more about the Anthropology and Social Change department at

Series editor: Andrej Grubačić

1. Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society by Michael Albert
2. In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism: The San Francisco Lectures by John Holloway
3. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism edited by Jason W. Moore
4. Birth Work as Care Work: Stories from Activist Birth Communities by Alana Apfel
5. We Are the Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader by John Holloway
6. Archive That, Comrade! Left Legacies and the Counter Culture of Remembrance by Phil Cohen
7. Beyond Crisis: After the Collapse of Institutional Hope in Greece, What? by John Holloway, Katerina Nasioka, and Panagiotis Doulos
8. Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons by Silvia Federici
9. Occult Features of Anarchism: With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples by Erica Lagalisse
10. Autonomy Is in Our Hearts: Zapatista Autonomous Government through the Lens of the Tsotsil Language by Dylan Eldredge Fitzwater
11. Battle for the Mountain of the Kurds: Self-Determination and Ethnic Cleansing in the Afrin Region of Rojava by Thomas Schmidinger, translated by Michael Schiffmann 













Practical Utopia: Strategies for a Desirable Society
Author: Michael Albert • Preface: Noam Chomsky
Publisher: PM Press/Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-381-7
Published: 08/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 288 pages
Subjects: Political Activism/Social Movements

Michael Albert’s latest work, Practical Utopia is a succinct and thoughtful discussion of ambitious goals and practical principles for creating a desirable society. It presents concepts and their connections to current society; visions of what can be in a preferred, participatory future; and an examination of the ends and means required for developing a just society. Neither shying away from the complexity of human issues, nor reeking of dogmatism, Practical Utopia presupposes only concern for humanity.

Part one offers conceptual tools for understanding society and history, for discerning the nature of the oppressions people suffer and the potentials they harbor. Part two promotes a vision for a better way of organizing economy, polity, kinship, culture, ecology, and international relations. It is not a blueprint, of course, but does address the key institutions needed if people are to be free to determine their own circumstances. Part three investigates the means of seeking change using a variety of tactics and programs.


Practical Utopia immediately struck me because it is written by a leftist who is interested in the people winning and defeating oppression. The book is an excellent jumping off point for debates on the framework to look at actually existing capitalism, strategy for change, and what we need to do about moving forward. It speaks to many of the questions faced by grassroots activists who want to get beyond demanding change but who, instead, want to create a dynamic movement that can bring a just world into existence. As someone who comes out of a different part of the Left than does Michael Albert, I was nevertheless excited by the challenges he threw in front of the readers of this book. Many a discussion will be sparked by the arguments of this work.”
—Bill Fletcher Jr., author of “They’re Bankrupting Us!” And 20 Other Myths about Unions

“Albert mulls over the better society that we may create after capitalism, provoking much thought and offering a generous, hopeful vision of the future. Albert’s prescriptions for action in the present are modest and wise, his suggestions for building the future are ambitious and humane.”
—Milan Rai

“Michael Albert is an important thinker who takes us beyond radical denunciations and pretentious ‘analysis’ to a thoughtful, profound meditation on what a good society can be like.”
—Howard Zinn

“With his combination of hard-edged logic and visionary hope, Michael Albert is one of the treasures of the Left.”
—Barbara Ehrenreich

Buy the book now | Buy the e-Book now | Michael Albert's Page


In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism: The San Francisco Lectures
Author: John Holloway • Preface by Andrej Grubačić
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-109-7
Published: 03/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 112
Subjects: Politics-Radicalism

In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism is based on three recent lectures delivered by John Holloway at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco. The lectures focus on what anticapitalist revolution can mean today—after the historic failure of the idea that the conquest of state power was the key to radical change—and offer a brilliant and engaging introduction to the central themes of Holloway’s work.

The lectures take as their central challenge the idea that “We Are the Crisis of Capital and Proud of It.” This runs counter to many leftist assumptions that the capitalists are to blame for the crisis, or that crisis is simply the expression of the bankruptcy of the system. The only way to see crisis as the possible threshold to a better world is to understand the failure of capitalism as the face of the push of our creative force. This poses a theoretical challenge. The first lecture focuses on the meaning of “We,” the second on the understanding of capital as a system of social cohesion that systematically frustrates our creative force, and the third on the proposal that we are the crisis of this system of cohesion.

“His Marxism is premised on another form of logic, one that affirms movement, instability, and struggle. This is a movement of thought that affirms the richness of life, particularity (non-identity) and ‘walking in the opposite direction’; walking, that is, away from exploitation, domination, and classification. Without contradictory thinking in, against, and beyond the capitalist society, capital once again becomes a reified object, a thing, and not a social relation that signifies transformation of a useful and creative activity (doing) into (abstract) labor. Only open dialectics, a right kind of thinking for the wrong kind of world, non-unitary thinking without guarantees, is able to assist us in our contradictory struggle for a world free of contradiction.” —Andrej Grubačić, from his Preface


“Holloway’s work is infectiously optimistic.”
—Steven Poole, Guardian (UK)

“Holloway’s thesis is indeed important and worthy of notice”
—Richard J.F. Day, Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | John Holloway's Page


Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism
Editor: Jason W. Moore
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-148-6
Published: 04/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 304
Subjects: Political Theory/Nature-Environment

The Earth has reached a tipping point. Runaway climate change, the sixth great extinction of planetary life, the acidification of the oceans—all point toward an era of unprecedented turbulence in humanity’s relationship within the web of life. But just what is that relationship, and how do we make sense of this extraordinary transition?

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? offers answers to these questions from a dynamic group of leading critical scholars. They challenge the theory and history offered by the most significant environmental concept of our times: the Anthropocene. But are we living in the Anthropocene, literally the “Age of Man”? Is a different response more compelling, and better suited to the strange—and often terrifying—times in which we live? The contributors to this book diagnose the problems of Anthropocene thinking and propose an alternative: the global crises of the twenty-first century are rooted in the Capitalocene, the Age of Capital.

Anthropocene or Capitalocene? offers a series of provocative essays on nature and power, humanity, and capitalism. Including both well-established voices and younger scholars, the book challenges the conventional practice of dividing historical change and contemporary reality into “Nature” and “Society,” demonstrating the possibilities offered by a more nuanced and connective view of human environment-making, joined at every step with and within the biosphere. In distinct registers, the authors frame their discussions within a politics of hope that signal the possibilities for transcending capitalism, broadly understood as a “world-ecology” that joins nature, capital, and power as a historically evolving whole.

Contributors include Jason W. Moore, Eileen Crist, Donna J. Haraway, Justin McBrien, Elmar Altvater, Daniel Hartley, and Christian Parenti.


“We had best start thinking in revolutionary terms about the forces turning the world upside down if we are to put brakes on the madness. A good place to begin is this book, whose remarkable authors bring together history and theory, politics and ecology, economy and culture, to force a deep look at the origins of global transformation.”
—Richard Walker, professor emeritus of geography, UC Berkeley, and author of The Capitalist Imperative, The New Social Economy, The Conquest of Bread, and The Country in the City

“We live in the Capitalocene, the contributors to this volume argue, and the urgent, frightening and hopeful consequences of this reality-check become apparent in chapters that force the reader to think. In a time when there is generally no time or space to think . . . we need a book like this more than ever.”
—Bram Büscher, professor of sociology, Wageningen University, and author of Transforming the Frontier: Peace Parks and the Politics of Neoliberal Conservation in Southern Africa

“In this pioneering volume, leading critics call for a different conceptual framework, which places global change in a new, ecologically-oriented, history of capitalism—the Capitalocene. No scholar or activist interested in the debate about the Anthropocene will want to miss this volume.”
—Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, associate professor of history, University of Chicago, and author of Enlightenment’s Frontier: The Scottish Highlands and the Origins of Environmentalism

“Jason W. Moore’s scope is vast, and few could pull off so ambitious an analytical achievement. . . . There’s enough scholarship, wit and insight . . . for a lifetime.”
—Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing

“Jason W. Moore’s radical and rigorous work is, and richly deserves to be, agenda-setting.”
—China Miéville, author of The City & the City

Buy the book | Download e-Book | Jason W. Moore's Page


Birth Work as Care Work: Stories from Activist Birth Communities
Author: Alana Apfel • Foreword: Loretta J. Ross • Preface: Victoria Law • Introduction: Silvia Federici
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-151-6
Published: 05/01/2016
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 128
Subjects: Health-Childbirth/Politics

Birth Work as Care Work presents a vibrant collection of stories and insights from the front lines of birth activist communities. The personal has once more become political, and birth workers, supporters, and doulas now find themselves at the fore of collective struggles for freedom and dignity.

The author, herself a scholar and birth justice organiser, provides a unique platform to explore the political dynamics of birth work; drawing connections between birth, reproductive labor, and the struggles of caregiving communities today. Articulating a politics of care work in and through the reproductive process, the book brings diverse voices into conversation to explore multiple possibilities and avenues for change.

At a moment when agency over our childbirth experiences is increasingly centralized in the hands of professional elites, Birth Work as Care Work presents creative new ways to reimagine the trajectory of our reproductive processes. Most importantly, the contributors present new ways of thinking about the entire life cycle, providing a unique and creative entry point into the essence of all human struggle—the struggle over the reproduction of life itself.


“I love this book, all of it. The polished essays and the interviews with birth workers dare to take on the deepest questions of human existence.”
—Carol Downer, cofounder of the Feminist Women’s Heath Centers of California and author of A Woman’s Book of Choices

“This volume provides theoretically rich, practical tools for birth and other care workers to collectively and effectively fight capitalism and the many intersecting processes of oppression that accompany it. Birth Work as Care Work forcefully and joyfully reminds us that the personal is political, a lesson we need now more than ever.”
—Adrienne Pine, author of Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras

“All we are doing in this world is living and dying, creating and destroying. We generate new life in our children and in our ideas. Becoming a birth supporter, getting to be an attendant to the miracle of childbirth, has transformed my social justice work. Our visions for justice are what we are birthing in this world. Learning to listen, learning to trust the body and the people, and learning to breath will transform our movement work. Birth Work as Care Work demonstrates these lessons through showing us ways we can learn together to support the birth of new worlds.”
—Adrienne Brown, coeditor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements

“This book places the doula—as a caring birth activist—at the heart of reproductive care work in our modern society. Doula, a new name for an ancient traditional role, reappears today as women daring to reclaim their power through birthing and caring for their children.”
—Valérie Dupin cofounder and cochair of the Association Doulas de France

“Alana Apfel is an artist and a robust one. Weaving the logic behind birth, care, and reproduction together, Birth Work as Care Work documents how caregivers and communities are marginalised in society on a daily basis whilst working to sustain themselves and ironically, to sustain life itself. Her thesis seeks to put the human back into being.”
—Chitra Subramaniam, Editor-in Chief of The News Minute

Buy book now | Download e-Book nowAlana Apfel's Page


We Are the Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader
Author: John Holloway
Publisher: PM Press/Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-225-4
Published: 03/2017
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 320
Subjects: Political Theory

We Are the Crisis of Capital collects articles and excerpts written by radical academic, theorist, and activist John Holloway over a period of forty years.

Different times, different places, and the same anguish persists throughout our societies. This collection asks, “Is there a way out?” How do we break capital, a form of social organisation that dehumanises us and threatens to annihilate us completely? How do we create a world based on the mutual recognition of human dignity?

Holloway’s work answers loudly, “By screaming NO!” By thinking from our own anger and from our own creativity. By trying to recover the “We” who are buried under the categories of capitalist thought. By opening the categories and discovering the antagonism they conceal, by discovering that behind the concepts of money, state, capital, crisis, and so on, there moves our resistance and rebellion.

An approach sometimes referred to as Open Marxism, it is an attempt to rethink Marxism as daily struggle. The articles move forward, influenced by the German state derivation debates of the seventies, by the CSE debates in Britain, and the group around the Edinburgh journal Common Sense, and then moving on to Mexico and the wonderful stimulus of the Zapatista uprising, and now the continuing whirl of discussion with colleagues and students in the Posgrado de Sociología of the Benemérita Universidad Autùnoma de Puebla.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now |  John Holloway's Page



Archive That, Comrade! Left Legacies and the Counter Culture of Remembrance
Author: Phil Cohen
Publisher: PM Press/Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-506-4
Published: 07/01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 192
Subjects: Archive Studies/Politics

The book explores issues of archival theory and practice that arise for any project aspiring to provide an open access platform for political dialogue and democratic debate. It is informed by the author’s experience of writing a memoir about his involvement in the London “underground” scene of the 1960s, the London street commune movement, and the occupation of 144 Piccadilly, an event that hit the world’s headlines for ten days in July 1969.

After a brief introduction that sets the contemporary scene of “archive fever,” the book considers the political legacy of 1960s counterculture for what it reveals about the process of commemoration. The argument then opens out to discuss the notion of historical legacy and its role in “the dialectic of generations.” How far can the archive serve as a platform for dialogue and debate between different generations of activists in a culture that fetishizes the evanescent present, practices a profound amnesia about its counterfactual past, and forecloses the sociological imagination of an alternative future? The following section looks at the emergence of a complex apparatus of public fame and celebrity around the spectacle of dissidence and considers how far the Left has subverted or merely mirrored the dominant forms of reputation making and public recognition. Can the Left establish its own autonomous model of commemoration?

The final section takes up the challenge of outlining a model for the democratic archive as a revisionary project, creating a resource for building collective capacity to sustain struggles of long duration amongst groups on the front lines of resistance to globalization. A postscript examines how archival strategies of the alt-right have intervened at this juncture to elaborate a politics of false memory.

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Beyond Crisis: After the Collapse of Institutional Hope in Greece, What?
Editors: John Holloway, Katerina Nasioka, and Panagiotis Doulos
Publisher: PM Press/ Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-515-6
Published: 08/01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 9x6
Page count: 256
Subjects: Political Science/Economics

The government led by Syriza in Greece, elected in January of 2015, seemed, at least in its initial months, to be the most radical European government in recent history. It proclaimed itself as the “government of hope” and became a symbol of hope throughout the world. It represented for many the proof that radical change could be achieved through institutional politics. Then came the referendum of July 2015, the vote to reject the austerity imposed by the banks and the European Union, followed by the complete reversal of the government’s position and its acceptance of that austerity.

The dramatic collapse of the Syriza government’s radical discourse showed the limits of institutional politics, a lesson that is apparently completely overlooked by the enthusiastic followers of Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders. But it also poses profound questions for those who reject state-centered politics. The anarchist or autonomist movement in Greece has been one of the strongest in the world yet it has failed to have a significant impact in opening up alternative perspectives in this situation.

Is there then no way out? Is there nothing beyond the world of capitalist destruction or can we still see some possibility for radical hope? The essays in this collection reflect on the experience of the crisis in Greece and its political implications for the whole world. They do not point a way forward but seek to open windows in the darkening sky of apparent impossibility.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | John Holloway's page | Katerina Nasioka's page | Panagiotis Doulos's page 



Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons
Author: Silvia Federici • Foreword: Peter Linebaugh
Publisher: PM Press / Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-569-9
Published: 11/01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 6x9
Page count: 256
Subjects: Women’s Studies-Feminism / Politics-Marxism / History

Silvia Federici is one of the most important contemporary theorists of capitalism and feminist movements. In this collection of her work spanning over twenty years, she provides a detailed history and critique of the politics of the commons from a feminist perspective. In her clear and combative voice, Federici provides readers with an analysis of some of the key issues and debates in contemporary thinking on this subject.

Drawing on rich historical research, she maps the connections between the previous forms of enclosure that occurred with the birth of capitalism and the destruction of the commons and the “new enclosures” at the heart of the present phase of global capitalist accumulation. Considering the commons from a feminist perspective, this collection centers on women and reproductive work as crucial to both our economic survival and the construction of a world free from the hierarchies and divisions capital has planted in the body of the world proletariat. Federici is clear that the commons should not be understood as happy islands in a sea of exploitative relations but rather autonomous spaces from which to challenge the existing capitalist organization of life and labor.

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Occult Features of Anarchism: With Attention to the Conspiracy of Kings and the Conspiracy of the Peoples
Author: Erica Lagalisse • Foreword: Barbara Ehrenreich
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-579-8
Published: 10/01/2018
Format: Paperback
Size: 5x8
Page count: 128
Subjects: Politics-Anarchism / Anthropology

In the nineteenth century anarchists were accused of conspiracy by governments afraid of revolution, but in the current century various “conspiracy theories” suggest that anarchists are controlled by government itself. The Illuminati were a network of intellectuals who argued for self-government and against private property, yet the public is now often told that they were (and are) the very group that controls governments and defends private property around the world. Intervening in such misinformation, Lagalisse works with primary and secondary sources in multiple languages to set straight the history of the Left and illustrate the actual relationship between revolutionism, pantheistic occult philosophy, and the clandestine fraternity.

Exploring hidden correspondences between anarchism, Renaissance magic, and New Age movements, Lagalisse also advances critical scholarship regarding leftist attachments to secular politics. Inspired by anthropological fieldwork within today’s anarchist movements, her essay challenges anarchist atheism insofar as it poses practical challenges for coalition politics in today’s world.

Studying anarchism as a historical object, Occult Features of Anarchism also shows how the development of leftist theory and practice within clandestine masculine public spheres continues to inform contemporary anarchist understandings of the “political,” in which men’s oppression by the state becomes the prototype for power in general. Readers behold how gender and religion become privatized in radical counterculture, a historical process intimately linked to the privatization of gender and religion by the modern nation-state.

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Autonomy Is in Our Hearts: Zapatista Autonomous Government through the Lens of the Tsotsil Language
Author: Dylan Eldredge Fitzwater • Foreword: John P. Clark
Publisher: PM Press / Kairos
ISBN: 978-1-62963-580-4
Published: 02/01/2019
Format: Paperback
Size: 6x9
Page count: 224
Subjects: Politics-Activism / Latin America / Linguistics

Following the Zapatista uprising on New Year’s Day 1994, the EZLN communities of Chiapas began the slow process of creating a system of autonomous government that would bring their call for freedom, justice, and democracy from word to reality. Autonomy Is in Our Hearts analyzes this long and arduous process on its own terms, using the conceptual language of Tsotsil, a Mayan language indigenous to the highland Zapatista communities of Chiapas.

The words “Freedom,” “Justice,” and “Democracy” emblazoned on the Zapatista flags are only approximations of the aspirations articulated in the six indigenous languages spoken by the Zapatista communities. They are rough translations of concepts such as ichbail ta muk’ or “mutual recognition and respect among equal persons or peoples,” a’mtel or “collective work done for the good of a community” and lekil kuxlejal or “the life that is good for everyone.” Autonomy Is in Our Hearts provides a fresh perspective on the Zapatistas and a deep engagement with the daily realities of Zapatista autonomous government. Simultaneously an exposition of Tsotsil philosophy and a detailed account of Zapatista governance structures, this book is an indispensable commentary on the Zapatista movement of today.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Dylan Eldredge Fitzwater's page


Battle for the Mountain of the Kurds: Self-Determination and Ethnic Cleansing in the Afrin Region of Rojava
Author: Thomas Schmidinger • Preface: Andrej Grubačić • Translator: Michael Schiffmann
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-62963-651-1
Published: 03/01/2019
Format: Paperback
Size: 6x9
Page count: 192
Subjects: Current Events/Middle East

In early 2018, Turkey invaded the autonomous Kurdish region of Afrin in Syria and is currently threatening to ethnically cleanse the region. Between 2012 and 2018, the “Mountain of the Kurds” (Kurd Dagh) as the area has been called for centuries, had been one of the quietest regions in a country otherwise torn by civil war.

After the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the Syrian army withdrew from the region in 2012, enabling the Party of Democratic Union (PYD), the Syrian sister party of Abdullah Öcalan’s outlawed Turkish Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to first introduce a Kurdish self-administration and then, in 2014, to establish the Canton Afrin as one of the three parts of the heavily Kurdish Democratic Federation of Northern Syria, which is better known under the name Rojava.

This self-administration—which had seen multiparty municipal and regionwide elections in the summer and autumn of 2017, which included a far-reaching autonomy for a number of ethnic and religious groups, and which had provided a safe haven for up to 300,000 refugees from other parts of Syria—is now at risk of being annihilated by the Turkish invasion and occupation.

Thomas Schmidinger is one of the very few Europeans to have visited the Canton of Afrin. In this book, he gives an account of the history and the present situation of the region. In a number of interviews, he also gives inhabitants of the region from a variety of ethnicities, religions, political orientations, and walks of life the opportunity to speak for themselves. As things stand now, the book might seem to be in danger of becoming an epitaph for the “Mountain of the Kurds,” but as the author writes, “the battle for the Mountain of the Kurds is far from over yet.

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An Interview with Mark Van Steenwyk


Where did you get the idea for A Wolf at the Gate?

I’ve loved the legend of Saint Francis and the wolf for years. It is one of the stories about peacemaking I’ve told my son. Unfortunately, Jonas prefers violent stories. I wrote A Wolf at the Gate for him. I wanted to tell the most exciting story I could, but one that still subverted the old myth of redemptive violence.

Previously, you’ve written or contributed to works of non-fiction–particularly in areas of spirituality and radical politics. How did you decide to write a story for children?

We live in a dark world. Our nation has been at war for most of my life. Increasingly, folks are protesting economic injustice, environmental injustice, racial injustice…but we don’t seem much closer to justice.

Adults are often set in their ways, but children often have an imagination for a new world. In a way, I don’t see this book as very much of a departure from my earlier books. The big difference is my audience. I’m starting to write for children because I believe that our hopes for justice rest with them.

Have you been inspired by any authors in particular?

I’ve been reading Lloyd Alexander’s stuff my whole life. I love the Prydain Chronicles. He has a way of playing with folklore that keeps it timeless but fresh. I’m also a huge fan of Neil Gaiman and have been influenced by his willingness to let his children’s stories linger in darkness. And I’m indebted to Ursula Le Guin. She’s one of the greatest writers of the past 100 years. Her storytelling and prose are amazing, but the thing that sets her apart is her ability to explore social constructs in her work without being preachy.

Why is the wolf red?

There are a couple reasons for that. Firstly, it is a bit of a visual pun. The book presents what could be interpreted as a leftist economic vision. So, she is a red wolf both literally and figuratively. Secondly, the color red captures the violence of her character. But I also think it just works better aesthetically. It is a children’s book, after all. We don’t need to be bound by convention…and something about a bright red wolf captivates my imagination.

Do you have another project in the works? If so, what is it?

In terms of children’s literature, I’ve been working on a five-part epic about a post-apocalyptic squirrel that I’m calling the Hackberry Saga. It actually takes place within the same world as A Wolf at the Gate, but thousands of years in the future. The main character, Hackberry, lives in a world where certain animals have risen and human beings are almost entirely lost to legend.

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Gypsy reviewed in Locus Magazine

by Paul Di Filippo

To examine the forty-year-long bibliography of Carter Scholz at ISFDB is to dream of alternate timelines. First, a continuum where, perhaps, circumstances—interior and exterior to the author—allowed Scholz to produce a far greater amount of fiction than the modestly substantial amount on display. But also we can imagine a timeline where this exact same CV in all its glory has drawn the notice of myriad critics and fans, and thus elevated Scholz to the stratosphere of literary acclaim due to his grace, sophistication, and unflinchingly bravura storytelling.

But, alas, our genre is full of unsung geniuses—at least, unsung in the mainstream world. R. A. Lafferty, David Bunch, Avram Davidson, Carol Emshwiller, where are your laurels? If Scholz is keeping company with these illustrious peers and forebears, he is already in as magnificent a legion as any writer could want.

Scholz’s new book—a short novel, two stories, an essay, and an interview—appears from PM Press, a publisher with a progressive slant who has been dipping a toe into science fiction under the auspices of curator Terry Bisson. They’ve published Le Guin, John Shirley, Eleanor Arnason, Rudy Rucker, Karen Joy Fowler, and the VanderMeers, among others, so Scholz shares eminent stablemates.

Gypsy is the tale of a meticulously rendered but kludgy slower-than-light starship fleeing a systems-crashing totalitarian Earth. As that synopsis might foreshadow, the tale is not a barrel of laughs. To cut to the chase, the starship mission fails. Or does it? Scholz gives us a devastating tale where an admirable, almost superhuman heroism does not result in a clear-cut victory—or any conventional victory at all—but rather in a spiritual or symbolical triumph amidst ashes, rendered all the more laudable by a kind of defiant, Battle of Thermopylae stubbornness and clarity of purpose.

We start out with a devastating portrait of our planet, ecological and cultural, circa the 2040s. All the harshest physical and sociopolitical trends we can see in 2015 have been accelerated and pushed to the max. Even the invention of clean practical fusion power has been subverted and denied. The Earth and human civilization seems to be circling the drain. “Its failures, its cruelties, its grandeurs, its aspirations—all extirpated to the root, in a fury of self-loathing  that fed on what it destroyed.”

Now, you can argue whether this is a likely future or not. But you cannot argue with the forcefulness and almost cyberpunkian ingenuity with which Scholz builds this future. In minute detail, he illustrates all our “poison poetry of ruin and catastrophe and longing.” Fittingly for a writer who came of age in the 1970s, he harks back to the great quartet of doomsday novels by John Brunner. But he layers on four additional decades of bad news and disappointments.

Having established this background, he foregrounds scientist Roger Fry and his sixteen compatriots. These are the core plotters who want to build, with stolen materials, and to launch, all in secret, the starship Gypsy to Alpha Centauri. (Shades of another Seventies icon, Jefferson Starship’s Blows Against the Empire.) Our point of view lies mainly onboard the failing ship as a succession of “stewards” are awakened from cold sleep during crisis points in the ship’s 80-year-plus journey. These travelers are particularized with an incredible depth of character seldom found in most science fiction. And despite plot-addicted naysayers among fandom, such deep persona-building is hardly wasted effort, as each starfarer’s nature determines how they handle each crisis. And we get similar treatment of Fry, who we learn early on has been captured by the authorities and left behind when Gypsy takes off.

Ultimately, in an unforeseen ending, the efforts of the Gypsy and crew are proven to amount to that of a beacon guttering into extinction while having done its job of both lighting the ship of Earth to safe harbor and also thumbing its nose at the dominant paradigm of greed and indifference and materialistic anhedonia that has wrought so much ill over the past several centuries. A “tiny splinter of human will forge through vast, uncaring space.”

Obviously, this book stands in dialogue with such recent novels as Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora and Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves, and with Barry Malzberg’s classic Galaxies. But much starker and existential even than those, it is primarily an anti-space-opera, if you will, a charnel-ground meditation on what lies at the end of all efforts.

Following this knockout story, the shorter works agreeably extend our feel for Scholz’s talents without necessarily magnifying his scope.

“The Nine Billion Names of God” is an epistolary metatextual tale about an SF writer with a manic idea. It references Borges explicitly, and lives up to that high standard. “Bad Pennies” is told adroitly in the form a Congressional interrogation, and reads like the economic SF of Mack Reynolds as filtered through the modernist sensibilities of William Gaddis. This is a Good Thing.

The essay on “The United States of Impunity” offers a by-now-all-too-familiar chronicle of the major missteps taken by our government and corporate citizens since 9/11. Impassioned yet somewhat predictable at this late date, it would benefit from an extension that looked at matters, for good or ill, after 2008.

Finally, the happy, playful dialogue between Bisson and Scholz reveals a writer at ease with himself and the world, still casting about for new themes and topics and techniques after his masterly achievements.

This world of ours might not be the one where Scholz had his ideal career. But it is the one world we can be certain is lucky enough to have him around.

Paul Di Filippo has been writing professionally for over thirty years, and has published almost that number of books. He lives in Providence, RI, with his mate of an even greater number of years, Deborah Newton.

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Jewish Noir Reviewed in The Big Click

by RRS
The Big Click
January 2016

There’s been a glut of Jewish-themed books lately, especially in YA, ones that seem to wear Jewish-ness as a trapping, as much an accessory as the novel having the love interest be a vampire, neither conscious of nor caring for the very real and living culture and traditions. So when I saw Jewish Noir,my first thought was all right, what the hell have I got to complain about now?

As it turns out, nothing. It’s a solid collection from a wide range of writers, most more-or-less writing from a uniquely Jewish perspective. Crime? Yeah, there’s a lot of crime, a lot of hard time and short luck all thematically enmeshed into Jewish roots. The particular focus of the collection, which despite my initial skepticism, I enjoyed, never felt unnecessary, but provided a commonality between the wildly different voices that flowed well throughout. Like most anthologies, a couple of the stories towards the middle felt like filler, but several — perhaps most notably in the first story in the collection, R.S. Brenner’s “Devil for a Witch”— ended on neatly executed little screwturn gut-punches, which is the kind of feeling I look for in a noir.

Like the editor says, if you’re looking for the hardboiled, the rootless, the persecuted and the cornered, you don’t have to look much further than the Jews, so what better thematic match could there be?

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Jewish Noir Reviewed on New York Journal of Books

by Michelle Martinez
New York Journal of Books
January 19th, 2016

Jewish Noir isn’t for the faint-hearted nor is it for the typical noir fan, and not due to the Judaic symbolism, mythology, or history, but rather because Jewish noir, as it is defined by editor Kenneth Wishnia through the short stories he collects in this anthology, is not the typical detective and damsel-in-distress trope readers may expect.

Wishnia has gathered diverse writers to create a dark and bitter selection of short stories featuring Jewish tropes, themes, and characters. Not all the stories deal with the Holocaust, like “Feeding the Crocodile” by Moe Prager, and those that can do so in surprising ways, such as “Blood Diamonds” by Melissa Yi.  Most of the short stories in this collection are appearing for the first time. There is a wide variety to the stories from that of the misunderstood professor who holds out for his integrity but snaps, to the magical realist “The Golem of Jericho” in which a golem may or may not have been behind some murders.

Truly, the majority of these stories are dark and disturbing on a psychological level. Fans of horror may enjoy this new genre, and a reader doesn’t need to be Jewish to enjoy the tales within, though some understanding of Judaism and its mythology may help make the stories resonate more with their symbolism and references.

- See more at:

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Damnificados reviewed on Helios

Damnificadosby Ken Finton
January 21st, 2016

JJ Amaworo Wilson’s Damnificados is based on real events, which seems almost incredible until you remember what a truly strange world we live in. These are the facts of the real-life story: In 1990 constuction began on an enormous skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Centro Financiero Confinanzas (more commonly referred to as the Tower of David). In 1994 Venezuela was hit by a banking crisis and construction on the tower halted, never to be resumed. Beginning in 2007 the half-completed tower, which is the third tallest in the city and the seventh tallest in all of South America, became occupied by homeless squatters, and eventually as many as 2,500 people lived in the building. They rigged up electricity and running water and set up businesses in the building. Contrary to popular perception, the building was far from a war zone. It was a functional city within a city, forgotten people reclaiming a forgotten relic of civilization. In the last year the government has relocated most of these tenants to new housing, and plans are being explored for how best to use the hulking structure. It is unlikely a better use will be found than free housing for a couple thousand homeless people.

Wilson takes this bizarre real-life story and molds it into a compelling fable about the collision between the haves and the have-nots in a fictional South American city. In Damnificados (the Spanish word for victims, most commonly victims of disaster) we follow the efforts of Nacho Morales, the physically disabled leader of a band of homeless outcasts. Nacho is brilliant–he knows a dozen languages and scrapes together a living doing translation work, though he could make far more if he was willing to abandon the ragged families who need him most. He is not willing to do this. He chooses poverty because to do otherwise would be to side with oppression; those with power and money in this city use it only to gain more, regardless of whom they trample in the process.

The book starts with Nacho leading his band of outsiders into the tower. We get our first taste of the book’s use of magical realism when the group discovers the tower’s first floor is currently being occupied by a pack of wolves, and the leader of the pack has two heads. They drug the wolves and relocate them and then begin turning the tower into a home. Nacho starts a school and teaches children and adults to read. Maria, a former beauty queen, starts a salon. A few brothers start a bakery. Nacho uses one of his contacts to get water to the building and has a homeless electrical engineer connect the tower to the city’s electrical grid. Word spreads and more and more homeless families come to the tower. Word also spreads to individuals who don’t like the idea of homeless folks taking over a rich man’s tower for free.

The tower was originally built by a man named Torres (the Spanish word for towers). The land it was built on was once the city’s trash dump, and it was occupied by thousands of poor families who were subsequently displaced when Torres decided to build his tower. He ran out of money and never finished the hulking building, and Nacho feels he is reclaiming land that belongs to the poor by taking over the abandoned structure. The Torres family, disinterested in the tower for decades since construction ceased, feels differently. Violence is threatened and violence is enacted. Prayers are offered and miracles occur. Magical realism plays a significant role in the book, and strange events take place. For the most part these integrate well with the realism of the story, though there are a few times when these feel like deus ex machina that retrieve the novel from a narrative dead end. However, given the parable-like feel of the novel, these never derail our investment in the book.

Wilson’s novel is an invigorating tale about human beings clinging by their fingertips not only to a sustainable way of life, but to their very dignity, and shouting back at the wealthy with what breath they have, proclaiming they will not be ignored or silently pushed aside. The novel is delightfully imaginative and cuttingly insightful. If Gabriel García Márquez wrote a politically-revolutionary novel with dystopian overtones and published it through an indie press, it would be something like this. That is a compliment. Damnificados is engaging, provocative, and wholly original.

David Nilsen is the editor and lead critic for Fourth & Sycamore and works at Greenville Public Library. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can find more of his writing on his website and follow him on Twitter.

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Damnificados on The Discerning Reader

Damnificadosby Melinda
The Discerning Reader
January 11th, 2016

Damnificados is loosely based on the real-life occupation of a half-completed skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, the Tower of David. In this fictional version, 600 “damnificados”—vagabonds and misfits—take over an abandoned urban tower and set up a community complete with schools, stores, beauty salons, bakeries, and a rag-tag defensive militia. Their always heroic (and often hilarious) struggle for survival and dignity pits them against corrupt police, the brutal military, and the tyrannical “owners.” Taking place in an unnamed country at an unspecified time, the novel has elements of magical realism: avenging wolves, biblical floods, massacres involving multilingual ghosts, arrow showers falling to the tune of Beethoven’s Ninth, and a trash truck acting as a Trojan horse.

My Review

Damificados is full of wonderful magical realism, motley characters you become attached to, a narrative capturing your attention, sturdy writing. Imaginative and creative read.

Wilson demonstrates inventiveness with his dynamic characters. Magical realism plays an important part, as well as smart satire in the very clever narrative providing twists and turns when least expected – two-headed wolves, rescuing dragonflies, floods. Belonging, loss and love play a vital part among the colorful cast, the damificados might be fractured, certainly not broken.

The plot focuses on the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’, privileged and burdened, power and politics. The outcasts struggle for dignity and a home in an abandoned skyscraper – which I found very symbolic.

A colorful landscape gives this book a boost of beauty – a wide variety of people coming together, working together despite their varying backgrounds and circumstances. Differences aside they form a team, an extended family of sorts in concert to fight for a mutual cause.

Wilson’s innovativeness really comes alive, a poignant tale, strong messages carried throughout the characters and narrative. Looking forward to more from this talented author.

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