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Crises Can Be Openings













 

By Sasha Lilley

Adbusters

November 20, 2011

Defeating our enduring fatalism.

Audio version read by George Atherton—Right-click to download

The past several years have witnessed the spectacular unraveling of capitalism, or so it has appeared.

Venerated investment banks have vanished overnight, titans of industry have permanently shuttered their doors, and rich nations have lurched perilously close to default. The ideology of the free market, once seemingly unassailable, lies in tatters. While the death knell of capitalism may not yet be tolling, the crisis is undoubtedly of a different order of magnitude than anything seen in decades.

Crises can be openings: moments when the stanchions are kicked out from under the status quo, when the pieties of the recent past fall away and a revitalized sense of collective power takes shape. But crises aren’t always—or only—opportunities for radicals, mechanically ushering legions of the downtrodden to the barricades. In times of crisis the far right often harnesses the insecurities of the precarious, as well as the monied, in the service of xenophobia and austerity. Paradoxically, crises of capitalism are opportunities for capital.

Notwithstanding any frontal challenges to the old order, those capitalists who survive the shakeout and destruction of competitors can find fertile ground for a new round of expansion. Such demolition and regeneration are often aided by force of arms: contrary to the pacifist slogan, war is the answer, razing old capital and clearing the way for the new. Even the crisis of nature is fortuitous for capital, spawning green commodities and product lines as coral reefs, rainforests, freshwater lakes and rivers perish, and myriad species disappear forever.

Capitalism begets crisis and then crisis begets opportunities for profit. And so it goes. Or so it has gone.

For better or worse—often for worse—the left has a long history of diagnosing the death throes of capitalism and the final conflict heralding radical change. As the old witticism has it, Marxists have predicted ten out of the last two economic crises, a perpetual chronicle of a crisis foretold. Yet in the midst of what arguably is the fourth global crisis of the capitalist system, radicals—whether in North America or South Korea—find themselves adrift and tentative. We should be thankful for the departure of the old mechanistic view of the world, at least from most quarters. But what has taken its place? Anxiety about day-to-day survival has deepened the abiding anti-utopianism of our age. An enduring fatalism about the possibility of radical social transformation, the scar tissue of dashed hopes and sanguinary defeats, has us firmly in its grip. With the exception of a few pockets of militancy (and at times adventurism) the idea of organizing for a postcapitalist future commonly seems delusional: one thinks here of the now oft-quoted saying that it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Another crisis, one of both vision and organization, is painfully in evidence.

It doesn’t have to be so. We are living through an era of considerable flux. Ideas alone won’t solve the crisis of the left, and revolutions cannot be summoned by fervent wishes. But ideas matter, as the often-tragic history of the left has proved. They are born out of action and shape the deeds of the future. They help us understand the world we unwittingly have helped to construct, grasp the many vulnerabilities of the current order and devise avenues for fracture and revolt.

Sasha Lilley is host of the critically acclaimed program of radical ideas, Against the Grain. She’s the author of Capital and Its Discontents from which this piece was taken, and co-author of Catastrophism, due out in 2012 from PM Press. Lilley is also editor of the political economy imprint, Spectre.

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Notes From Underground

By Steven Heller
Imprint
December 5, 2011

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Between 1967 and 1972, when the baby-boom counterculture was at its height, many lives were dramatically altered and futures were shaped. Mine was one of them. During 1968, my last year in high school, I had been drawing cartoons that explored adolescent fixations with sex and death. People who saw them presumed I had a disturbed childhood and urged me to seek therapy. Instead I took my makeshift portfolio around to four Manhattan-based influential underground papers: the New York Free Press, the East Village Other, the Rat, and the Avatar.

The Underground Press, as it was called, was a groundswell of media activity running the gamut from radically political to seriously satirical. A new book, On the Ground: An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. (PM Press) Edited by Sean Stewart (who between 2007 and 2009 owned and operated Babylon Falling, a bookstore and gallery in San Francisco), recalls the Underground epoch. Through interlacing interviews with Emory Douglas (Black Panther), Paul Krassner (The Realist), Art Kunkin (The L.A. Free Press), Abe Peck (The Chicago Seed), John Wilcock (Other Scenes), Jeff Shero (The Rat), Trina Robbins (Gothic Blimp Works) and many more (including Al Goldstein of Screw), the remarkable journals that shaped my life (and career) are revived as oral history.

In this moment when the OCCUPY movement is seeking its visual identity, its instructive to see how the anti-war, anti-racism, pro-sex, drugs and rock n' roll generative movement sought to define is many disparate parts through media, and especially tabloid papers. There were many agendas - and graphically many styles - but as a whole the Underground Press defined a moment.

Also, watch my podcast on designing in the Sixties for more on the Underground and its cultural context.

Underground Press

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On the Ground: New Book Collection of Sixties Underground Press

By Robert Newman
The Society of Publication Designers
November 23, 2011

On the Ground: New Book Collection of 60s Underground Press On the Ground is a great new book about the 1960s (and early '70s) underground press, edited by Sean Stewart, the mastermind behind Tumblr site Babylon Falling. The book is packed with reproductions of underground newspaper front pages, comics, graphics, and much more, all in color, and most not seen publicly in over forty years. Represented are newspapers like the Berkeley Barb, Los Angeles Free Press, East Village Other, the Black Panther, and many more.  And there's a healthy dose of underground comics and comic book covers, too. In addition to the wonderful imagery, Stewart has collected an oral history of the time, interviewing former underground press editors, artists, and scene makers. On the Ground is a pure visual treat, and is our choice as our #1 holiday gift for friends and family.


On the Ground is now out and available at bookstores and at Amazon.com, or online here.

On the follow page, a collection of underground newspaper front pages, from On the Ground.

(Above): cover design by Simon Benjamin



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East Village Other, 1967


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The Black Panther Party newspaper, 1969. Illustration and art direction: Emory Douglas.


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Newspaper page from Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers. Illustration: Ben Morea.


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Gothic Blimp Works, 1969. Illustration: Spain Rodriguez.


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San Francisco Express Times, 1969. Photograph: Jean Raisler.


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It Aint Me Babe, comic book cover, 1970. Illustration: Trina Robbins.


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Rising Up Angry, 1970.

 

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On the Ground in Counterpunch

By Ron Jacobs
Counterpunch
December 2-4, 2011

There were two types of media my high school friends and I truly looked forward to on our colonial outpost in what was then West Germany. The first was the appearance in the post exchange of the latest album from our favorite band. The other was when one of us received the latest issue of an underground paper from the United States.  Since we came from towns and cities all over the nation those of us that we’re so inclined could read undergrounds from all over the nation. I always had a few hidden away in my bedroom to peruse: Quicksilver Times, Kaleidoscope, Berkeley Tribe and Barb, Georgia Straight from Vancouver, BC, and so on. These papers served a multitude of purposes. Like those record albums mentioned above, they kept us abreast of what was going on back in the States culturally (counterculture, that is), politically, and otherwise. In addition, they helped us frame our understanding of our situation in an overseas U.S. military community. They also inspired us to create our own media and protests.

There have been a number of books written about this underground press. The granddaddy of them all is most certainly Uncovering the Sixties: The Life & Times of the Underground Press by retired Northwestern University professor Abe Peck, who began his journalism career as a member of Chicago’s groundbreaking Seed. More recent endeavors include John McMillan’s Smoking Typewriters: The Sixties Underground Press and the Rise of Alternative Media in America and the just-released On the Ground:An Illustrated Anecdotal History of the Sixties Underground Press in the U.S. Edited by Sean Stewart On the Ground is essentially an oral history that features the recollections of several people that were involved with underground papers from around the United States. Unlike McMillan’s work which runs toward the academic side of things, Stewart’s text has a populist feel to it. The recollections are straight from the speakers’ mouths; sometimes angry, sometimes humorous and always honest.

The best part of the book are the graphics. As I read through the memories of the folks Stewart spoke with for On the Ground I was repeatedly surprised at how well I remembered various illustrations and photographs Stewart reprinted throughout the text. Like the papers his interviewees are remembering, the most striking thing about On the Ground is the layout.

Even though I know the book was composed on a computer screen, the book looks as if it were laid out via the old cut and paste method by folks possibly stoned on weed and a day or two with minimal sleep–just like many issues of  almost every paper Stewart discusses.

Being in the Movement and the counterculture was generally an upbeat experience. So was  being in the Sixties underground media. Most folks were young and full of hope and those that were not necessarily young in years were where it counted–in their approach to life. Reporters did not cover stories as much as they took part in them and then wrote about it afterward. As Abe Peck says about working at The Seed: “We were very determined and unless something terrible happened—like [the murder of] Fred Hampton—up, just pretty upbeat.”  Politics was omnipresent, whether it was at a very political paper like The Black Panther or a paper that had a more counter cultural bent like The LA Free Press. This was because, as far as the authorities were concerned, everyone involved with the underground press—writers, printers, cartoonists, sellers and readers—were on the wrong side of the law and had to be watched. Sometimes, they were dealt with by methods legal and otherwise. This meant things the stores selling papers being harassed by police and vigilantes; the withdrawal of advertising because of pressure from the FBI and other agencies; and assaults against persons involved by cops and others.

When Richard Nixon took over the White House in 1969 the repression of the Movement and counterculture intensified. Naturally, this meant that the media that  represented these phenomena would be under greater attack. Black Panther papers were destroyed enroute to cities across the country and even to military bases overseas. Storefronts that newspapers worked out of were firebombed by vigilantes and shot at by police. Obscenity charges were brought against newspapers that then tied up the papers’ funds in court costs. High school underground press writers were thrown out of school and administrators suspended students selling and reading those papers. Although the reasons given for the expulsions usually had to do with attendance and other disciplinary infractions, the reality was that high school disciplinarians resented the threat to their authority and power. A friend of mine in Montgomery County, Maryland was suspended from the progressive John F. Kennedy High School for selling The Washington Free Press on campus. The issue in question featured a cartoon of a judge that had been involved in efforts to shut down the paper. The drawing showed the judge masturbating. Underneath the drawing was the phrase (made popular by the TV show Laugh-In) “here com da judge.” The cartoon was a response to a series of rulings made by the judge forbidding the distribution of the Free Press on high school grounds.  These rulings and the school board decisions that preceded them were being challenged by the ACLU.

As the 1960s turned over into the 1970s, many folks that had been on the front lines began to retreat for the sake of their sanity. Others just fell into the trap of individualism and self-satisfaction—an easy trap to fall into in the US of A. By 1974 or thereabouts, the curse of identity politics had taken over much of the political discourse on the left and effectively limited the reach of the Movement as people separated according to their gender, sexuality and ethnic origins. Intentionally or not, this trend hastened the demise of the underground press and the movements it was a part of. However, its legacy remains.  There are many websites and even some print journals that are more than observers of the protests and movements they report on.  Journalist Alice Embree notes that “The underground press was the connective tissue; it spread the news.” When the papers began to fail, the connectiveness was lessened.  The underground press was a vital part of what happened in the sixties. Sean Stewart’s wonderfully edited text On the Ground lets the reader know how and why that remains true. The striking graphics and compelling recollections in this text are at once a popular history and an inspiration.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way the Wind Blew: a History of the Weather Underground and Short Order Frame Up. Jacobs’ essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch’s collection on music, art and sex, Serpents in the Garden. His collection of essays and other musings titled Tripping Through the American Night is now available and his new novel is The Co-Conspirator’s Tale. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

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Black Flags and Radical Relief Efforts in New Orleans: An Interview with scott crow

by Stevie Peace & Kevin Van Meter
Left Eye On Books
November 13, 2011

“'Solidarity not Charity' is a way of feeding people while addressing the underlying problems that cause hunger. The way this manifested itself in Common Ground was to immediately deliver and render aid where the state had failed, and then to leave structures in place so communities can continue to rebuild themselves as they see fit.”

 In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina both federal and local authorities failed the population of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region. As a result, relief efforts from various sectors of American society flowed south. One of the first and most spectacular and aggressive efforts was Common Ground Relief—formed by strands of the anti-globalization and anarchist movements. scott crow documents these struggles in Black Flags and Windmills: Hope, Anarchy, and the Common Ground Collective, recently released by PM Press. In this interview, Crow describes the process of becoming an author after being an organizer, reviews the history and myths of Common Ground and explores possible lessons for future progressive and radical organizing. Visit crow’s website at http://scottcrow.org/.

Can you speak to the writing process behind Black Flags and Windmills and your shift from an organizer to an author?


One word: difficult. I don’t consider myself a writer; and while I have written a few pieces over the years, it has mostly been out of necessity. From my arrival in New Orleans I took copious notes. Every time I would get moments to get away, I would take notes about organizing and creating an organization to deal with the disaster following Hurricane Katrina. Additionally, I wrote communiqués from just days after the storm and continued for three years. I went back to all of those writings and began turning them into chapters. On a personal level it was healing to write: I came back with post-traumatic stress, couldn’t function in society and felt like the ghost in the machine a lot. The writing actually helped me to relive those traumas in a different way, to really dissect them. It was almost a five-year process; I feel so much better now than I did when I started the book. This is not to say that Black Flags and Windmills is a sorrow-filled book. There are lots of beautiful stories along the way and lots of really engaging organizing that was going on. The book describes the anarchist heyday of Common Ground, when the most self-identified anarchists came; this was early September 2005 until 2008. Afterward, the organization became much more structured in a traditional nonprofit way. This is not to denigrate it—just to say that the book focuses on this initial period of “black flags” at Common Ground.

Since memory is a tricky thing, I did outside research and revisited with people. I went back to news articles from grassroots media, reports and blogs to look at specific events and the way things unfolded. Then, I would ask key organizers and New Orleans residents, “Do you remember when this thing happened?” Sometimes it was completely different from how I remembered it. I don’t claim to speak for Common Ground, as I think that would do a disservice to the thousands of people who participated and the hundreds of key organizers that were there.

When I tell a story I want people to understand it and create common bonds. I wrote this book for people who might not have any understanding about radical or anarchist concepts. I always ask myself, “What would my mom think about this?” While I wrote it for people like her, my target audience was those who were coming into movements and might be inspired by what Common Ground was building. I used the stories in the book to give a primer on the theoretical background of anarchism in practice. Another part of the book is telling my own personal narrative. It’s not because I think my story is important, but I wanted to show that I am a regular person that was just caught up in extraordinary circumstances.

Can you describe the work of the Common Ground Collectiveas well as its guidelines of “solidarity not charity” as it sought to stabilize and improve the lives of traumatized New Orleans residents?

Common Ground grew out of short-term relief efforts with a long-term vision. What we wanted to do was rebuild infrastructure that had collapsed before the storm—even decades before the storm—and also to build infrastructure that had never existed in certain communities. The idea was that we would then turn it all over to community members and they would develop it further than we ever could. We never went in with the idea that we were going to save all of these people; we wanted to build capacity for the community, to empower them to do things for themselves and to expand the things that they are already trying to do. There are tons of organizations that feed people, but it doesn’t solve the problems of why people are hungry.

“Solidarity not Charity” is a way of feeding people while addressing the underlying problems that cause hunger. The way this manifested itself in Common Ground was to immediately deliver and render aid where the state had failed, and then to leave structures in place so communities can continue to rebuild themselves as they see fit. This involved medical clinics, women’s shelters, free schools, access to school supplies, basic things. It was basic service work; it’s only revolutionary in the way that we thought about it.

Can you trace out the early history of the organization, the initiatives it launched beyond the Algiers neighborhood into the devastated 8th and 9th wards, and other projects that developed?

When the levees failed and the flooding began, most of my friends hadn’t gotten out of New Orleans. One of them was Robert King—a former political prisoner who had been released in 2001, after being exonerated and held in solitary confinement for twenty-nine years. He had lived through hurricanes all of his life so he decided to stay. Brandon Darby, a friend of mine at the time—he came out much later as a FBI informant, which is a whole other story—said, “Hey, maybe we should go find King; we can gather supplies and go do it.” It was a crazy idea. Once we were on the ground we could see the failure of the state and watched bureaucracies and government agencies fight over who was going to have access to search-and-rescue boats and how things were going to be administrated. As they were fighting, people were dying.

I couldn’t stand it. They were more interested in restoring law and order then trying to help people, and it was heartbreaking. Then Malik Rahim, another friend of mine who’s a New Orleans resident and who used to be part of the Black Panther Party, called me and said, “Hey, we have these white vigilantes driving around and are threatening to kill me and my neighbors, and I need some support.” So we loaded up guns and ammo and some basic supplies and headed to Algiers, his neighborhood on the west bank of the river. While we were there, Brandon went across the river to look for King, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency ended up finding King and brought him to Brandon. We were totally elated; I cried I was so happy. I thought King was dead as it had been almost nine days since we had heard from him. In the midst of all this, I floated the idea of forming a relief organization that would be based on the principles of the Black Panther Party, the Zapatistas and anarchism. So I went back to Austin to gather supplies and the first of the volunteers. Upon our return, two weeks after the storm had struck, we unfurled tarps and started Common Ground Relief.

In the early stages, there were very few of us and little money. We started with a few programs and kept adding more; every time we saw something that needed to be done we would just organize a program. Mayday DC, a housing rights organization, opened a first aid station at the mosque Malik attended, and then other organizations came and turned it into a full-scale medical clinic. We set up portable medical patrols in Algiers and other locations; there were Vietnamese, Cajun and First Nation communities that hadn’t seen any medical attention. There were programs to remove tree debris, clean gutters and tarp houses. We provided access to food and water and started armed patrols to fend off the militias. In a way, Common Ground functioned as an incubator and as a network that gave support to programs as they grew: the Rhubarb Bike Collective, Women’s Health Center, Legal Aid, eviction defense, replanting grass along the coastline, community gardens. Not all of these projects were successful, but many were and many succeeded for a long time. What mattered was that we went into areas where the state said we could not be. If they said we couldn’t be there but we found residents that needed support, we would defy them, and then do it over and over again.

How did the collective use existing organizations and networks to funnel volunteers and resources into its work?


These networks were instrumental in obtaining support and volunteers for Common Ground. Early on we knew that we were not going to work with the Red Cross or government agencies, especially with the state failing and police brutalizing residents. It was the networks that formed in the alter-globalization movement that brought in medical, logistics and communications people. The idea was to draw on these networks to create long-term support and infrastructure. Additionally, we were willing to work with any organization that wasn’t looking to take over or tell us what to do, because we were clear with our objectives and what we wanted to achieve. Without groups such as Veterans Against the War, Food Not Bombs and the Bay Area Radical Health Collective we would have been dead in the first week, as they provided support by letting people know what was happening and often were able to give material aid and money. Another key piece was that they were able to spread information about what was taking place in New Orleans. But it wasn’t just our voice; we were able to amplify many different voices from different communities in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region.

What limitations did the Common Ground Collective encounter, and in what ways did it seek to challenge and possibly overcome these limitations?

This organization grew in the middle of a disaster from basically nothing, using existing relationships and political organizing experience. So we didn’t have a long history as an organization and I think that plays into why getting access to funding was critically difficult at the very beginning. Additionally, volunteers would come in waves that we weren’t anticipating.

During a Road Trip for Relief campaign that took place in November 2005, we went from under a hundred people to thousands. There wasn’t infrastructure to address basic needs: Where are people going to sleep? Where are they going to eat? How are we going to maintain people?

These tensions were always chronic to the organization and so we devised methods along the way to reach out to the immediate neighborhoods we were working in. We would approach churches and community centers and offered to gut and clean their spaces if they let us use them to house volunteers, or as a distribution center.

Even with a horizontal structure, we had no clear delineation as to how to deal with this stuff and often projects operated completely autonomously from us. Some projects worked very hierarchically, with one person in charge; we didn’t have mechanisms for accountability or even simple reports on the successes and failures of those projects. From the beginning I wanted to create a culture focused on challenging oppression. Starting an amorphous organization from scratch and then having thousands of people arrive made this really difficult. In early December 2005 we started to have trainings with the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond and over the next year we trained over 5000 people, mostly middle-class white students, giving them their first introduction to anti-racist ideas. This was incorporated into orientations where we talked about the historically marginalized communities of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. These ideas were also present in the language that we used: we didn’t say “poor black communities” or “poor Vietnamese communities,” we used terms like marginalized communities or historically neglected communities. We didn’t want to essentialize these communities so we were very conscious of the narratives we told. Eventually an antiracist working group was formed to continue efforts to address oppression. Unfortunately, Common Ground created an informal hierarchy of oppression within the organization. Race was valued first, class as a distant second, at distant, distant third was gender, and off the map were sexual orientation, disability and other forms of oppression. This was reinforced because we didn’t have effective ways to combat it.

I want people to understand that crisis was everywhere; there was a “top 10” list but everything was number one. In this situation you can’t operate sustainably, so individuals in the organization faced huge burnout, as well as mental and physical stress. The idea of self-care and collective care was a failure at Common Ground. I think it got better as things calmed down, but in the first few years people operated with “emergency hearts,” so much that it was hard to make organizers and volunteers stop working. For a number of the long-term people, either it was the best experience of their lives or it was the worst experience of their lives. I think a lot of this depends on how they came in, how they were treated, what kind of power they had, and how they were taken care of while they were in New Orleans.

Concepts such as non-violence, solidarity, accountability, self-determination, privilege, leadership and anti-authoritarianism are often debated in a vacuum; in the work of Common Ground, these concepts collided with the realities of organizing. Can you describe some of the ways these ideas raised challenges when translated into the work of the collective?

In the book I touch on the question of language. I think it is important to have language that doesn’t box us in. I’m not just radical or an anarchist; I’m a father, a son, a neighbor, a worker, a Texan, and all of these identities are valid. Additionally, it’s important to talk about power. I use power with a capital “P” to describe illegitimate power or power over someone; and, taking again from the Zapatistas, there is power from below.

Let’s look at this another way. Imagine that in the first few years, 10,000 self-identified anarchists and anti-authoritarians came through Common Ground. Every person brought with them assumptions, not just about privilege and power, but also about what anarchism, solidarity, accountability, self-determination and leadership means. What I found is that there wasn’t a lot of understanding about these concepts in practice. What does it mean to be a horizontal organization? What does it mean to be a collective? These questions always created conflict between the organization and people that came. Some anarchists would show up and would expect to have full input and decision-making power over the organization. I found it really interesting that people didn’t ask, “What do these things mean to you as an organization?”

Post-Katrina New Orleans has been described as a “disaster within a disaster.” How do we address current and less spectacular disasters with an eye to preparing for future large-scale relief efforts and organizing? 


I think that preparing for the future is the answer; we don’t need to look for the next disaster or the next crisis to organize. We cannot afford to be short-sighted when it comes to practical applications of long-term vision. We need to develop dual power: you have to resist on one hand, and you have to build and create on the other hand. What I would like to do is get people to really think about twenty-year, thirty-year and fifty-year futures. If we protest day in and day out, we squander our energy and limited resources to build long-term capacity and power. I am proposing that we build our own power all the time, and that we save resistance for when it’s really, really important and has dramatic, incredible and far-reaching effects. We should look at movements as having multiple points of intersection; it takes all kinds of things to make changes happen, and people come into movements for all different reasons. We need to make our mirror reflection bigger than ourselves, and we have to meet people where they are. This is a longer conversation that we are not going to wrap up in this one question, but I think these are key pieces. As I often put it, “Dream a future. Know our history. Organize ourselves. Fight to win.”

Stevie Peace and Kevin Van Meter co-edited, with Team Colors Collective, “Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States (AK Press, 2010) and co-authored the short book Wind(s) From Below: Radical Community Organizing to Make a Revolution Possible (Team Colors & Eberhardt Press, 2010). Both have been involved in various organizing efforts together for over a decade. Peace worked in various organizing and administrative roles at the Common Ground Health Clinic in New Orleans following the hurricane for fifteen months; Van Meter spent a few weeks volunteering at the clinic in the winter of 2005.

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Rad Dad on Left Turn

By Tom Ricker
Left Turn
November 4, 2011


"The other day someone asked why I keep doing Rad Dad even though my kids are teenagers. I smiled and said, 'I do it because I'm a father, and I know I'm a better father when I have community...'" - Tomas Moniz, co-editor, with Jeremy Adam Smith, of Rad Dad: Dispatches from the Frontiers of Fatherhood.

When I was asked to write a review of Rad Dad, I was like, "Oh yeah, I love that book!" Oddly that love has made this a real challenge. Over the last four weeks of fits and starts I began having the sinking feeling that I was not nearly rad enough of a dad to do the book justice. For a variety of reasons, mostly related to my son's adoption but then I suppose to habit, I stopped going to protests in 2007. I really stopped being any kind of organizer a year and half later when I moved to Houston with my wife. And though I recently got refocused on organizing, my work has been submerged under a barrage of institutional crises that are far from exciting. At the same time, the Occupy movement has taken off across the country. And though it reached Houston a couple of week ago, surgery and the new job (ironically) have mostly kept me away from the parks and stuck in the house.

At some point, however, what all of this has made me realize is that the key theme of the book, as I understand it, is that we all need a community of support to realize a vision of parenting which actually manifests that other, better world we've all been working toward for so long. In other words, the "rad" part has little to do with protests. The family is a microcosm for society, and the confluence of race, class, and gendered hierarchies flow right through it, often in the person of the father. It would be simplistic to say that challenging these hierarchies as they enter the household is the key to a revolutionary movement. On the other hand, it is hard to imagine a successful revolutionary transformation that doesn't include a radical redefinition of parenting, and fatherhood in particular.

And so whatever else Rad Dad has to say (and there is a lot here), I think it is clearly a call to fathers to get it together, literally, and start talking about the privileges we assume in the household and in the world. Then start to dismantle those privileges in favor of that deep sense of democratic practice that motivates movements like Occupy Wall Street, at least at their best moments. The women's movement challenged us to redefine our understanding of public and private-not as competing spaces, but as mutually reinforcing spaces. In a way, Rad Dad breaks down that barrier for activists.
Funny and moving

Now that I have presented a really heavy agenda for the book, I should say that it is often funny, always moving (I cried several times reading it), and constantly thought-provoking. There is no ten point platform here for effective radical fathering-and certainly no "radicaler-than-thou" kind of line. It is full of personal stories of fathers figuring out what it all means. Sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always finding that once you've determined parenting to be an intentional activity that challenges the conveniences, trends, and identities embedded in the dominant culture-it's really fucking hard.

There is the blatant consumerism that surrounds us and that we all take part in, even as we push back against the worst of it and try to live outside the "juice box." There is also the ever-present militarism that seems integral to the development of gendered understandings of maleness in this society. It's so prevalent that many dads who make extraordinary efforts to keep the celebration of violence and war out of the home find their sons pretending to shoot their friends and neighbors anyway. Then there is the constant discovery that even the most pro-feminist dads among us still exert power in our relationships or assume privileges that derive from gendered hierarchies.

All of these struggles are discussed directly and also serve as a backdrop for personal narratives. It is impossible not to find yourself as a dad here, having made the same efforts and the same mistakes. The conversation that results is an important one. You discover you are not alone in the "failures" and that there are ways to navigate through them if you are willing to talk about it. Even the first chapter of the book, Keith Hennessy's "Notes from a Sperm Donor," which launches the conversation with a fascinating self-exploration of being a father but not a parent, raises interesting questions about what it means to even want to be a father to begin with. What is behind the desire to reproduce ourselves?

One of the great things about Rad Dad is how the collection gives voice to some of the concerns of fathers facing all of the above, plus additional hurdles. Sean Taylor's discussion of confronting racism in a visit to a park to play with his daughter is one of the most powerful stories in the book. Racism and identity politics are present throughout Rad Dad, but Sean's narrative forces a direct confrontation with the reality of racism in a way that is unique in the volume.

Burke Stansbury's discussion of the challenges he and his partner confront parenting a medically fragile child with an extreme muscular disorder raises many issues both personal (navigating the distance between his expectations of being a father and how things have unfolded) and systemic (serious problems of access in our healthcare system). Jack Amoureux talks about raising his child as a transgendered father and how this intersects with moving in social and professional life beyond a dichotomous notion of gender. If there is a second volume, I'd love to see more of these stories.
Leave no one behind

The book is rounded out by a section of thematic essays on "The Politics of Parenting" built around personal narratives that primarily feature the editors Tomas Moniz and Jeremy Adam Smith. Tomas Moniz's "A Kid Friendly Wild Rumpus" is particularly timely: "People have embraced the mythology of the revolutionaries and activists who left their families behind, so total was their commitment. But how about a new mythology, one that celebrates revolutionaries who refuse to leave anyone behind and refuse to remain silent."

I was just finishing the book the weekend Occupy Wall Street began. At the time the action itself seemed very far removed from my concerns as a father, even if the issues of economic inequality and poverty are inherently family issues. Indeed, it seemed the only way for me to participate (and I was certainly interested) was to leave the family behind. Since then it has been fascinating to watch some of the occupations incorporating a variety of "kid friendly" or family friendly activities. Parallel teach-ins focused on families; numerous Halloween activities, sleepovers, and art classes have become features of the movement. It is obvious that this was not part of the original "occupation plan" but that parents have created spaces to be included as parents-refusing to "leave anyone behind" and refusing to "remain silent."

This third section ends with a clarion call from Tata to "Wake Up, Dads!" and fight for a society that truly acknowledges and appreciates parents-while making it possible for more of us to play that role at home with our children. The volume concludes with a great collection of interviews with "rad dads" like Ian Mackaye, Jeff Chang, Raj Patel, Steve Almond, and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

So, I would encourage anyone to read this, dad or not. But for the dads there is real value here, a richness of explorations about the challenges of fatherhood that is unique in my experience. Jeremy Adam Smith writes in one of his essays, ending a passage about how his commitment to feminist ideals was challenged by becoming a parent:

There are alternatives; you don't have to be the man your father was; you don't have to be the idiots we see on TV; you can be a new kind of man, and you can help your sons become that kind of man.

I can think of no better aspiration, indeed a more radical agenda, for fathers. And we are going to need each other to do it. So, dads, let's get started!

Tom Ricker lives in Houston and is the proud father of Benjamin Won-bin Dennis Ricker.  He has been an organizer in social justice and solidarity circles since 1995 and is currently the director of the Quixote Center.   Also a musician and writer, in December 2011 he will release (with Austin based producer David Wilson) the CD Wünderland under the band name Minivan Gogh.

He can be reached at ricker.tom (at) gmail.com.

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Tomas Moniz's Author Page
Back to Jeremy Adam Smith's Author Page




The Revolution Will Be Fictionalized: Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail!

by Stefan Raets
Tor.com
November 14, 2011


Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail!
is a cross-genre anthology of stories themed around riots, revolts and revolution with a dash of crime and noir thrown in the mix.

The book came to my attention because it features a story co-written by Cory Doctorow in addition to contributions by Michael Moorcock and Kim Stanley Robinson, but I’m glad I took the time to check out the rest of the collection because it offers a potent (not to say, incendiary) and diverse mix of original and previously out-of-print stories that work together to deliver a powerful punch.

(If you’re curious about the origin of the book’s title, check out this song by The Flys.)

Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! features eighteen stories that vary in length from two page miniatures to novella-length works. The mix of contributors is equally varied, ranging from established SF authors such as Doctorow, Moorcock, and Robinson to writers who are better known for thrillers and non-genre fiction.

The common thread that loosely keeps this collection together is the subject matter: riots, revolutions, and uprisings. With a total of eighteen stories it’s hard to review all of them, so I’ll write about the three SF stories first, in order of appearance, and then highlight a few of my favorites from the rest of the collection.

The first science fiction entry in the collection is Kim Stanley Robinson’s “The Lunatics,” a beautiful story about slave laborers working deep underground in lunar mines, forced to excavate promethium, a mysterious substance that powers the distant Earth economy but also has the strange side effect of enhancing the slaves’ atrophied senses. “The Lunatics” is a great, claustrophobic story that feels somewhat like a lighter version of Joe Mastroianni’s stunning “Jordan’s Waterhammer.”

Next up is Michael Moorcock’s “Gold Diggers of 1977 (Ten Claims that Won Our Hearts),” which was originally published in 1980 as “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” to go along with the Sex Pistols movie by the same title, and then revised in 1989 by Michael and Linda Moorcock. This novella is a wild, crazy ride through London (and through time) featuring Jerry, Frank and Mrs. Cornelius, as well as the shades of several dead rock musicians and a cast of regulars from the Jerry Cornelius stories. If you’re familiar with the Jerry Cornelius mythos and the Sex Pistols movie, you’ll have a blast with this hectic novella, and for Moorcock fans its inclusion may actually be enough reason in itself to buy this anthology. However, if you’re not that familiar with the many adventures of Mr. J.C. and his friends, this novella may be challenging because it refers extensively to many of the side characters and plots from other Cornelius stories.

The third SF story in the collection (and the one that originally led me to pick up the book) is “I Love Paree,” co-written by Cory Doctorow and Michael Skeet. Lee Rosen and his young cousin Sissy get caught up in a workers’ revolution in a surreal future Paris. The story follows Lee as he tries to free himself and discover what happened to his cousin. “I Love Paree” is dark and violent but at the same time surreal and fun, in large part because of its odd Clockwork Orange-like version of Paris.

Most SFF fans will probably pick up Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! because of one or more of these three stories by famous SF authors, but if you don’t mind wandering outside of the boundaries of the genre, there are many other goodies to be found here. Here are a few of my favorites:

1.) “Berlin: Two Days in June” by Rick Dakan is a gorgeous little story about a young sales rep walking around present day Berlin, trying to sell a social marketing app to shopkeepers but getting caught up in the history of the city. The way this story hits the intersection of technology and human emotion is just wonderful.

2.) “Cincinnati Lou” by Benjamin Whitmer was, for me, the big discovery in this anthology. The story’s protagonist, Derrick Kreiger, is a fascinating scumbag you will want to read more about — and luckily, it looks like Whitmer’s debut novel Pike features the same main character. Based on “Cincinnati Lou” I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for more works by this author.

3.) “The El Rey Bar” by Andrea Gibbons (who co-edited the anthology with Gary Phillips) is a sad, beautiful snapshot of a group of people in a Los Angeles dive bar in the wake of unspecified terrorist attacks and riots. It’s one of several stories in this book looking at the human cost of revolutions, and one of the best ones.

Other favorites include Sara Paretsky’s “Poster Child,” a scarily plausible look at what the extreme polarization of a complex issue can lead to; Summer Brenner’s “Orange Alert,” a hilarious story about Golden Girls planning the next revolution from their retirement home; and Tim Wohlfort’s “One Dark Berkeley Night,” a beautiful two part story about the wide-ranging aftermath of a random shooting. And that’s not even mentioning other gems like “Masai’s Back in Town” by Gary Phillips, “Look Both Ways” by Luis Rodriguez, and the two gorgeous, mysterious miniatures “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and “Darkness Drops” by Larry Fondation.

Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail!
is an excellent, eclectic anthology of stories, a perfect book to read now the cold autumn weather is starting to chill the OWS protesters. The struggle continues... so get your grind on!

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Rad Dad in Bitch Magazine

by Rachel Fudge
Bitch Magazine
December 2011

Although this new collection features work by some undeniably cool cats—like iconic punk rocker Ian MacKaye, hip hop chronicler Jeff Chang, and skater/photographer Mark Whiteley, to name just a few—what makes the titular dads rad is not their tattoos, subcultural street cred, or half-pipe prowess. It’s actually way more radical than that: These are men who are deeply invested in questioning and challenging what coeditor Tomas Moniz terms “the social stereotypes of fathering that for so long have been used to justify gender-specific parental roles.” If that sounds a wee bit dry or self-righteous, don’t stop reading. The contributors may be earnest, but didactic they are not.

Drawing from pieces published in Moniz’s zine of the same name and Jeremy Adam Smith’s sympatico website, the Daddy Dialectic [see “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pop,” no. 50], Rad Dad’s short personal essays are, in keeping with the book’s zine and blog roots, more heartfelt than they are polished—but it’s precisely the raw, unedited nature of these pieces that gives them their emotional power. Happily, this is not just a collection of self-congratulatory essays about encouraging sons to wear pink and daughters to play football; as all the contributors herein could—and do—tell you, progressive parenting is way more complicated than that, and it’s the exploration of those complications that make for the most interesting reading.

When Moniz writes in “Losing the Battle, Winning the War” about his teenage children’s seeming rejection of his progressive values (his son embraces thug life; his daughter wants to look more white), his ability to rise above petty disappointment and trust them to make their own choices is all the more heartwrenching. As is Shawn Taylor’s “A Day at the Park,” wherein he captures both the beauty and the challenges of being a “tattooed, visually Black” father of a “little ethnically ambiguous toddler.” He addresses his fear of becoming “an absent father sleeper agent”; his pain at being invisible as a father (always mistaken for an uncle, cousin, or babysitter); fighting back his own violent impulses when faced with overt racism; and proving all his self-doubts wrong by simply putting his children’s needs first.

Rad Dad’s contributors are a politically engaged, profeminist, anticonsumerist bunch, but the truth is, even if they weren’t, this would still be a pretty radical book. Even in 2011, nearly 20 years after the debut of the like-minded Hip Mama zine, for men to talk seriously and introspectively about parenting is a pretty revolutionary act. As writer Steve Almond points out in his interview with Smith, “A lot of parents—particularly prosperous, over-determined parents like myself—get sucked inward by parenting. It’s a trap, because our apathy and moral disengagement is going to cost our kids in the long run.” For some men, however, especially those who are already marginalized by mainstream culture, simply telling their stories as fathers is a crucial challenge to the dominant discourse.

GIVE IT TO:
Anyone who describes fathering as “babysitting” (and anyone who reads “fathering” to mean “impregnating”).

Buy book now | Buy e-Book now | Back to Tomas Moniz's Author Page
Back to Jeremy Adam Smith's Author Page




Common Notions


logoCommon Notions seeks to translate and circulate the tools of research utilized in movement-building practices in an effort to generalize common notions about the creation of other worlds beyond capitalism. Inspired by various autonomist traditions of militant research, Common Notions aims to aid in our collective reading of struggles and formulate new directions for living autonomy in our movements today.

1. In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism — George Caffentzis
2. Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle — Silvia Federici
3. Sex, Race and Class--the Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952–2011 —Selma James
4. The Debt Resisters' Operations Manual — Strike Debt/Occupy Wall Street

  

 

 

 

The Debt Resisters' Operations Manual
Editor: Strike Debt/Occupy Wall Street
Publisher: PM Press/Common Notions
ISBN: 978-1-60486-679-7
Published: 03/2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 8x5
Page count: 224 Pages
Subjects: Politics-Social Movements/Current Events/Economics
$15.95

Over the last thirty years, as wages have stagnated across the country, average household debt has more than doubled. Increasingly, we are forced to take on debt to meet our needs—from housing, to education, to medical care. The results—wrecked lives, devastated communities, and an increasing reliance on credit to maintain our basic living standards—reveal an economic system that enriches the few at the expense of the many.

The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual is a handbook for debtors everywhere to understand how this system really works, while providing practical tools for fighting debt in its most exploitative forms. Inside, you'll find detailed strategies, resources, and insider tips for dealing with some of the most common kinds of debt, including credit card debt, medical debt, student debt, and housing debt. The book also contains tactics for navigating the pitfalls of personal bankruptcy, and information to help protect yourself from credit reporting agencies, debt collectors, payday lenders, check cashing outlets, rent-to-own stores, and more.

Written and edited by a network of activists, writers, and academics from Occupy Wall Street, additional chapters cover tax debt, sovereign debt, the relationship between debt and climate, and an expanded vision for a movement of mass debt resistance.

Praise:

“That debt is neither inevitable nor ethical is one of the powerful assertions of Strike Debt, whose brilliant manual is both a practical handbook and a manifesto for a true debt jubilee: an economic rebirth in which the indebted are freed and financial institutions are reinvented.”
— Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

“The impact of the neoliberal assault on the U.S. population in the past generation has rightly been designated a ‘failure by design.’ This failure is sharply class-based—for the designers it has been a grand success, and a failure for most of the rest. The same is true of debt. That sets two tasks for those who care about the health of the society: change the design, and find ways to cope as effectively with the failures it imposes. This valuable monograph by Strike Debt provides a good guide to undertake both.”
—Noam Chomsky, author of Hopes and Prospects

The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual is a powerful tool for resistance and creation. It shows how we can say 'no!' to debt—resist and refuse—at the same time it opens the possibility of alternative ways of relating and creating real value together, based on solidarity and care.”
—Marina Sitrin, author of Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina

“This Manual is a practical guide that will aid anyone who is struggling with debt. But even more important it is a political guide that illuminates the myriad kinds of debt relationships that define our society and helps us imagine how we can begin to organize collectively against debt.”
—Michael Hardt, author of Commonwealth

The Debt Resisters’ Operation Manual is a sober, practical book that will save its readers much money and many sleepless nights. At the same time it is a visionary text that goes into the bowels of the debt machine to chart a collective way out of the state of debt-induced indentured servitude that millions of Americans face. Get a copy and join the movement.”
—Silvia Federici, author of Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle

About Strike Debt:

Strike Debt is a network of activists, writers, and academics from Occupy Wall Street. Key contributors include authors David Graeber, George Caffentzis, Andrew Ross, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Astra Taylor, Amin Husain, and Natasha Singh.

The Debt Resisters’ Operations Manual is a project of Strike Debt, which is building a movement of debt resistance and liberation based on principles of anti-oppression, autonomy, democratic decision-making, and direct action. In addition to this manual, Strike Debt initiatives include launching the “Rolling Jubilee,” a mutual-aid project that buys debt at steeply discounted prices and then abolishes it; hosting debtors’ assemblies; and planning direct actions across the country, ranging from debt burnings to targeted shutdowns of predatory lenders.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Strike Debt/Occupy Wall Street's Page
 

In Letters of Blood and Fire: Work, Machines, and the Crisis of Capitalism
Author: George Caffentzis
Publisher: PM Press/Common Notions
ISBN: 978-1-60486-335-2
Published April 2013
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 288 Pages
Subjects: Philosophy/Economics
$19.95

Karl Marx wrote that the only way to write about the origins of capitalism in the sixteenth century is in the letters of blood and fire used to drive workers from the common lands, forests and waters. This collection of essays by autonomist Marxist George Caffentzis argues that the same is true for the annals of twenty-first century capitalism. Information technology, immaterial production, financialization and globalization have been trumpeted as inaugurating a new phase of capitalism that put it beyond its violent origins. Instead of being in a period of major social and economic novelty, however, the course of the last decades has been a return to the fire and blood of struggles at the advent of capitalism. 

Emphasizing class struggles that have proliferated across the social body of global capitalism, Caffentzis shows how a wide range of conflicts and antagonisms in the labor-capital relation express themselves within and against the work process. These struggles are so central to the dynamic of the system that even the most sophisticated machines cannot liberate capitalism from class struggle and the need for labor. Moreover, the theme of war and crisis permeate the text but are also given singular emphasis, documenting the peculiar way in which capital perpetuates violence and proliferates misery on a world scale. The collection draws upon a careful re-reading of Marx’s thought in order to elucidate political concerns of the day. The essays in this collection have been written to contribute to the debates of the anti-capitalist movement over the last thirty years. This book is meant to make them more available as tools for the struggle in this period of transition to a common future.

Praise:

“George Caffentzis has been the philosopher of the anti-capitalist movement from the American civil rights movement of the 1960s to the European autonomists of the 1970s, from the Nigerian workers of the oil boom of the 1980s to the encuentros of the Zapatistas in the 1990s, from the feminists of wages-for-housework to the struggle of the precariat for the commons. Trained as both an economist and a physicist he has taken fundamental categories such as money, time, work, energy, and value and re-thought them in relation to both revolutionary Marxism and to the dynamics of our changing movement. An historian of our own times he carries the political wisdom of the 20th into the 21st century. He is a lively and dogged polemicist; he dances circles around the pompous marxologist; with the passing of time his thought has grown in depth and increasingly tends to be expressed with pleasure and humor. The lever by which he overturns the world is light as a feather, and its fulcrum is as down to earth as the housewife, the student, the peasant, the worker. Here is capitalist critique and proletarian reasoning fit for our time.”
—Peter Linebaugh, author of The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All 

About the Author:

George Caffentzis is a political philosopher and autonomist Marxist. He is a Professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern Maine and a founding member of the Midnight Notes Collective.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | George Caffentzis's Page 

 
Revolution at Point Zero: Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle
Author: Silvia Federici
Publisher: PM Press/Common Notions
ISBN: 978-1-60486-333-8
Published April 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 208 Pages
Subjects: Women's Studies/Politics/Sociology
$15.95

Written between 1975 and the present, the essays collected in this volume represent thirty years of research and theorizing on questions of social reproduction and the transformations which the globalization process has produced. Originally inspired by Federici’s organizational work in the Wages For Housework movement, topics discussed include the international restructuring of reproductive work and its effects on the sexual division of labor, the globalization of care work and sex work, the crisis of elder care, and the development of affective labor. Though theoretical in style, the book is written in an explanatory manner that makes it both accessible to a broad public and ideal for classroom use.

Praise:

“Finally we have a volume that collects the many essays that over a period of four decades Silvia Federici has written on the question of social reproduction and women’s struggles on this terrain. While providing a powerful history of the changes in the organization of reproductive labor, Revolution at Point Zero documents the development of Federici’s thought on some of the most important questions of our time: globalization, gender relations, the construction of new commons.”
—Mariarosa Dalla Costa

About the Author:

Silvia Federici is a feminist activist, writer, and a teacher. In 1972 she was one of the co-founders of the International Feminist Collective, the organization that launched the international campaign for Wages For Housework (WFH). In the 1990s, after a period of teaching and research in Nigeria, she was active in the anti-globalization movement and the U.S. anti-death penalty movement. She is one of the co-founders of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa, an organization dedicated to generating support for the struggles of students and teachers in Africa against the structural adjustment of African economies and educational systems. From 1987 to 2005 she taught international studies, women studies, and political philosophy courses at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY. All through these years she has written books and essays on philosophy and feminist theory, women’s history, education and culture, and more recently the worldwide struggle against capitalist globalization and for a feminist reconstruction of the commons.

Buy book now | Download e-Book nowSilvia Federici's page

 

Sex, Race and Class--the Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952–2011
Author: Selma James
Foreword by: Marcus Rediker
Introduction by: Nina López
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-454-0
Published: March 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 300 Pages
Subjects: Feminism, Literary Collection, Politics
$20.00

In 1972 Selma James set out a new political perspective. Her starting point was the millions of unwaged women who, working in the home and on the land, were not seen as “workers” and their struggles viewed as outside of the class struggle. Based on her political training in the Johnson-Forest Tendency, founded by her late husband C.L.R. James, on movement experience South and North, and on a respectful study of Marx, she redefined the working class to include sectors previously dismissed as “marginal.”

For James, the class struggle presents itself as the conflict between the reproduction and survival of the human race, and the domination of the market with its exploitation, wars, and ecological devastation. She sums up her strategy for change as “Invest in Caring not Killing.”

This selection, spanning six decades, traces the development of this perspective in the course of building an international campaigning network. It includes the classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community which launched the “domestic labor debate,” the exciting Hookers in the House of the Lord which describes a church occupation by sex workers, an incisive review of the C.L.R. James masterpiece The Black Jacobins, a reappraisal of the novels of Jean Rhys and of the leadership of Julius Nyerere, the groundbreaking Marx and Feminism, and “What the Marxists Never Told Us About Marx,” published here for the first time.

The writing is lucid and without jargon. The ideas, never abstract, spring from the experience of organising, from trying to make sense of the successes and the setbacks, and from the need to find a way forward.

Praise:

"It's time to acknowledge James’s path-breaking analysis: from 1972 she re-interpreted the capitalist economy to show that it rests on the usually invisible unwaged caring work of women."  —Dr. Peggy Antrobus, feminist, author of The Global Women’s Movement: Origins, Issues and Strategies

“For clarity and commitment to Haiti’s revolutionary legacy…Selma is a sister after my own heart.”  —Danny Glover, actor and activist

“The publication of these essays reflects in concentrated form the history of the new society struggling to be born. Their appearance today could not be timelier. As the fruit of the collective experience of the last half-century, they will help to acquaint a whole new generation with not only what it means to think theoretically, but, more importantly, the requirement of organization as the means of testing those ideas. In this respect, Selma James embodies in these essays the spirit of the revolutionary tradition at its most relevant.”  —Dr. Robert A. Hill, Literary Executor of the estate of C.L.R. James, University of California, Los Angeles, Director, Marcus Garvey Papers Project

About the Author:

Selma James is a women's rights and anti-racist campaigner and author. From 1958 to 1962 she worked with C.L.R. James in the movement for West Indian federation and independence. In 1972 she founded the International Wages for Housework Campaign, and in 2000 helped launch the Global Women's Strike whose strategy for change is "Invest in Caring not Killing". She coined the word “unwaged” which has since entered the English language. In the 1970s she was the first spokeswoman of the English Collective of Prostitutes. She is a founding member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. She co-authored the classic The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community which launched the “domestic labour debate.”  Other publications include A Woman’s Place (1952), Women, the Unions and Work, or what is not to be done (1972), Sex, Race and Class (1974), Wageless of the World (1974), The Rapist Who Pays the Rent (1982), The Ladies and the Mammies—Jane Austen and Jean Rhys (1983), Marx and Feminism (1983), Hookers in the House of the Lord (1983), Strangers & Sisters: Women, Race and Immigration (1985), The Global Kitchen—the Case for Counting Unwaged Work (1985 and 1995), and The Milk of Human Kindness—Defending Breastfeeding from the AIDS Industry and the Global Market (2005).

About Marcus Rediker (Foreword):

Marcus Rediker is a an activist and Distinguished Professor of Atlantic History at the University of Pittsburgh. His books include: Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea (1987), The Many-Headed Hydra (2000), Villains of All Nations (2004), The Slave Ship: A Human History (2007), and many more.

About Nina López (Introduction):

Nina López is the joint co-ordinator of the Global Women’s Strike. Her writings and edited volumes include: Prostitute Women and AIDS—Resisting the Virus of Repression (1988), Some Mother's Daughter: The Hidden Movement of Prostitute Women Against Violence (1998), The Milk of Human Kindness (2002), and Creating a Caring Economy: Nora Castañeda and the Women’s Development Bank of Venezuela (2006).

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Selma James's Page




Crises Can Be Openings

Adbusters
by Sasha Lilley
"The Big Ideas of 2012" issue


The past several years have witnessed the spectacular unraveling of capitalism . . . or so it has appeared. Venerated investment banks have vanished overnight, titans of industry have permanently shuttered their doors, and rich nations have lurched perilously close to default. The ideology of the free market, once seemingly unassailable, lies in tatters. While the death knell of capitalism may not yet be tolling, the crisis is undoubtedly of a different order of magnitude than anything seen in decades.

Crises can be openings: moments when the stanchions are kicked out from under the status quo, when the pieties of the recent past fall away, and a revitalized sense of collective power takes shape. But crises aren't always-or only-opportunities for radicals, mechanically ushering legions of the downtrodden to the barricades. In times of crisis, the far right often harnesses the insecurities of the precarious, as well as the monied, in the service of xenophobia and austerity. Paradoxically, crises of capitalism are opportunities for capital. Notwithstanding any frontal challenges to the old order, those capitalists who survive the shakeout and destruction of competitors can find fertile ground for a new round of expansion. Such demolition and regeneration are often aided by force of arms: contrary to the pacifist slogan, war is the answer, razing old capital and clearing the way for the new. Even the crisis of nature is fortuitous for capital, spawning green commodities and product lines as coral reefs, rainforests, freshwater lakes and rivers perish, and myriad species disappear forever. Capitalism begets crisis and then crisis begets opportunities for profit. And so it goes. Or so it has gone.

For better or worse-often for worse-the left has a long history of diagnosing the death throes of capitalism and the final conflict heralding radical change. As the old witticism has it, Marxists have predicted ten out of the last two economic crises, a perpetual chronicle of a crisis foretold. Yet in the midst of what arguably is the fourth global crisis of the capitalist system, radicals-whether in North America or South Korea-find themselves adrift and tentative. We should be thankful for the departure of the old mechanistic view of the world, at least from most quarters. But what has taken its place? Anxiety about day-to-day survival has deepened the abiding anti-utopianism of our age. An enduring fatalism about the possibility of radical social transformation, the scar tissue of dashed hopes and sanguinary defeats, has us firmly in its grip. With the exception of a few pockets of militancy (and at times adventurism) the idea of organizing for a postcapitalist future commonly seems delusional: one thinks here of the now oft-quoted saying that it has become easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Another crisis, one of both vision and organization, is painfully in evidence.

It doesn't have to be so. We are living through an era of considerable flux. Ideas alone won't solve the crisis of the left, and revolutions cannot be summoned by fervent wishes. But ideas matter, as the often-tragic history of the left has proved. They are born out of action and shape the deeds of the future. They help us understand the world we unwittingly have helped to construct, grasp the many vulnerabilities of the current order, and weigh, and devise, avenues for fracture and revolt.

Sasha Lilley is host of the critically acclaimed program of radical ideas Against the Grain. She's the author of Capitalism and Its Discontents from which this piece was taken, and co-author of Catastrophism, due out in 2012 from PM Press. Lilley is also editor of the political economy imprint, Spectre.

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