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The Day the Country Died: A Review

By  Jake Slovis
H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews
January 2017

Punk and Politics

In The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk, 1980-1984, Ian Glasper tracks the formation and growth of the anarcho punk scene in the United Kingdom. According to Glasper, the time span the book covers is significant because it marks the period in which anarcho punk evolved from “an outlandish fashion statement” to a political subculture “yearning for internal and external peace and freedom” (p. 8). This loose description helps Glasper to separate the “anarchy and peace” punks from the “anarchy and chaos” punks documented in his Burning Britain: The History of U.K. Punk, 1980-1984 (2014). Glasper is likewise deliberate to define anarcho punk in abstract terms, as the movement prioritized ethics over the “rigid musical doctrines” that came to define other brands of punk (p. 9).

One of the successes of The Day the Country Died is that Glasper cites influential figures in the anarcho punk scene without elevating these figures above the movement itself. This helps to highlight the inclusionary politics of anarcho punk, which actively worked to disassemble “divisions between audience and band” (p. 50). It is therefore with some reluctance that Glasper credits the band Crass as one of the “leaders” of the anarcho punk movement. However, there is no denying Crass’s influence, as they were one of the first to combat the commercialism exhibited by punk acts in the late 1970s. According to drummer Penny Rimbaud, “‘commercial punk was a complete sham, part of the rock‘n’roll circus, operating in the same way as someone like Marc Bolan [from T. Rex]—which is not to denigrate it as such ... after all, music is an industry; it produces product and people enjoy product.’” For Crass, the attachment of music to “product” cheapened the anti-establishment ethos that they believed punk could embody. Crass therefore saw the need to pursue activism in more explicit and tangible terms. Glasper writes, “they [Crass] weren’t interested in sensationalist unworkable notions of anarchy and chaos, they wanted a gradual revolution from within” (p. 11). In this way, Crass differed from iconic bands like the Sex Pistols, who only “hinted” at rebellion. Instead, Crass favored direct action, which gave “shape and purpose” to the anarcho punk movement.

Glasper also cites Flux of Pink Indians as one of the more influential anarcho punk acts. Like Crass, Flux of Pink Indians avoided characterizing themselves as “leaders” within the anarcho punk community. However, unlike Crass, Flux of Pink Indians cultivated their political priorities as they developed, originally forming with “ambitions no loftier than making a bloody racket for the sheer hell of it” (p. 32). It was through touring and observing the rise of Thatcherism that Flux of Pink Indians turned toward activism. By the end of their tenure, the band not only took on an anticapitalist agenda but also embraced vegetarianism as part of their ethical code. Glasper writes that their “Neu Smell” EP (Extended Play) was “probably responsible for more punk rockers turning vegetarian than any other” (p. 32).

Outside of Crass and Flux of Pink Indians, members of Conflict, Subhumans, and Lack of Knowledge contribute lengthy oral testimonies to The Day the Country Died. The result is a documentary style narrative that privileges experience over any other form of evidence. This choice is both a success and failure. While relying on testimony underscores the collectivist ideals of anarcho punk, the length of the testimonies are overbearing at times. Furthermore, it absolves Glasper of being the primary storyteller, as the testimonies are surrounded by little analysis and it is often unclear as to how they fit into a larger framework. 

Structurally, the book is divided into chapters based on the regional affiliation of the bands discussed. This allows Glasper to show that while anarcho punk was widespread in the United Kingdom, it relied on local engagement in order to develop. Throughout The Day the Country Died, performers often cite experiences with other local activists, exposing an intimacy within the scene. According to Lack of Knowledge vocalist, Daniel Drummond, “‘being a part of it [anarcho punk] was more important than just watching bands’” (p. 50). Many other bands echo Drummond’s sentiments, demonstrating a serious interest in communalism and group participation. This is not to say that anarcho punk’s political priorities were limited to communalism. Bands like Conflict fully tested anarcho punk’s “no rules” mantra, as they “militantly” defended animal rights. Others advocated for sexual equality and many worked to challenge Margaret Thatcher’s reforms. This challenge is perhaps best characterized by the band Thatcher on Acid, who formed “chiefly as a name” and were primarily motivated by ideals of “freedom and co-operation” under fears of nuclear war (p. 221).

However, like many bands motivated by the movement of the early 1980s, Thatcher on Acid felt disillusioned by the scene as it began to change by the late 1980s and early 1990s. Guitarist Ben Corrigan says, “‘we felt that, even though there were an awful lot of bands and people involved within it, the scene itself was fragmented, permeated with a kind of inverted snobbery and was actually largely fake’” (p. 223). Corrigan also expresses concern that the scene seemed less about direct action and more about occupying an anti-this, anti-that position without clear purpose. Glasper does not fully clarify whether this change came as a result of the rapid growth of anarcho punk without a unified vision or as a result of the commercial success of anarcho acts like Chumbawamba. What is clear is that as anarcho punk became more prevalent, the effectiveness and intimacy of the movement was compromised.

Glasper concludes by dubbing anarcho punk “the most real and challenging incarnation of punk rock ever seen or heard.” That anarcho punk was something to be “seen” as well as “heard” does much to underscore that the movement was more than a sound; it was an experience and feeling. It is for this reason that nostalgia is often frowned upon, as so much of the movement was contingent on “doing.” Glasper also emphasizes that while the feelings that motivated anarcho punks were “stimulated” by the time, the spirit of the movement “remains an indomitable constant as long as there is injustice in the world” (p. 456). This “spirit” is perhaps best clarified by Scott Paton, guitarist of AOA: “‘We decided to vent our anger through music, and take a more direct approach with our protest, and for the most part it had the desired effect: an all out attack on what we wanted to change. And now here we are again; the relentless cycle of life and death continues unabated. There will always be something to be angry about ... and always a corresponding need for change’” (p. 455). While anarcho punk has faded, AOA’s message functions as a rally cry for future activists. It is founded on the hope that there is always an opportunity for change and suggests that anarcho punk’s ethical foundation will continue to endure within the social justice movements of tomorrow.

A long overdue book focusing on the early years of one of punk rock’s most notorious and greatest loved bands, The Dead Kennedys.

In his prequel, author Alex Ogg reminds us that The Dead Kennedys have never been written about at length (see John Robb’s tribute here). The Ramones, Clash and Pistols have over 100 titles between them, and yet DK are arguably one of the bands that typifies punk at its best. They stuck two fingers up to the music industry and then lunged in to attack it. And who doesn’t recognise that logo?

If you don’t know the Dead Kennedys then:

  • a) seriously?
  • b) you need to book yourself into the punk reprogramming camp (does the opposite of the one in Aceh they sent Indonesian punks to) and immerse yourself particularly in their early works.

For those already inducted, read on…

“Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, The Early Years” does what it says on the tin. It starts by placing the key players and the band that would become Dead Kennedys in the context of the development of punk at a local San Francisco level and globally. It then charts their rapid progress in spite of, or possibly because of, a “cultural hand grenade of a name” from garage practices and their early performances, DIY released first 7 inch and onto their debut LP – all of which happened from their own reckoning by “pure dumb luck” – perhaps playing down the hard work and ingenuity which was partly responsible. As Louis Pasteur said “Fortune favours the prepared mind”.

Chapter titles are taken from DK songs, which is always a winner in my view, causing a wry grin. The pages are littered with band collages, Winston Smith’s art, gig flyers and Ruby Ray’s photos capturing the band in their infancy – which keeps the reader’s attention and makes this all the more difficult to put down. Photos of different covers and record middles from across the globe demonstrate how far their message spread across a world eager for acerbic high octane punk rock.  There are also excerpts from the “Hard Rock” comic about DK punctuating the story of pivotal events in the band’s early stages – in itself a humorous contradiction. I’ll be returning to this volume for a cursory browse at the pictures every now and then.

Alex Ogg manages to overcome the difficult job of providing a narrative that includes conflicting versions of events from former band mates who are at loggerheads, allowing the details and trivia to froth around so the reader can decide their own version of “the truth” from whatever bubbles to the surface.  He brings the story alive using interviews not only with band members, but with other contemporary witnesses including gig-goers. The writing manages to go some way to capturing the excitement, buzz, artistic freedom, true rebellion of punk rock in the early days when it really was a shock to the establishment rather than a music genre co-opted into corporate rock.  I came away from reading this book marveling once again at the musicianship, lyrical satire and sarcasm, theatrics, imaginative pranks and art that made Dead Kennedys stand out all those years ago – and still stand out now. Which led to me having a DK-athon over the last week!

Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, The Early Years is packed full of interesting facts and gossip:  I found out what that line about Serpents Eggs in California Uber Alles was really about rather than having a general gist it was “something bad”; the pizza delivery job Jello had back in Boulder being the inspiration for songs like Terminal Preppie and Holiday in Cambodia, and the true identity of Norm, the producer credited for Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.  Want to know about production processes and techniques they employed to capture and embellish upon their live sound to create  great records (and the obligatory conflict in the studio within the band and between the band and engineer)?  That’s in here as well.  Want to know who really wrote a particular song?  You’ll have to make your own mind up as each stakes their claim.

A chapter based largely on a stowaway-cum-roadie’s reminiscences provides an insight into the first UK tour Dead Kennedys undertook, bringing such cultural imports as stage diving and an amusing anecdote where the band misread the crowd’s sense of humour, thinking they had themselves misread the irony in the band’s lyrics.

The end notes detailing sources and full quotes provide a deeper level of trivia that some nerds…errmm, I mean “fact fans”, will absolutely love.  In the days before the internet this volume would have been a punk pub quiz host’s bible!   I have to admit I skipped much of the “Yakety Yak” chapter, comprised as it is of quotes about DK from some predictable punk/HC luminaries, a few journalists and the less predictable Pete Townshend (Who?), Elijah Wood and Massive Attack. Probably even something in there to impress Bruce “Punks can’t play their instruments” Dickinson.

Russ “Dr. Punk” Bestley, responsible for the image laden design of this book, submits a 3-page profile/homage to Winston Smith, whose artwork helped amplify the sound and lyrics of DK to create notoriety on a scale the Pistols could only have dreamt of.  Dada, situationism, Jamie Reid and Gee Vaucher all get a mention, of course.

The tale closes,as the title would suggest, after Fresh Fruit was released and drummer Ted left in December 1980.  Alex Ogg has left unpicking the rest of the DK story for “some other poor bastard” but I think he has proven he is the man for the job (go on, you know you want to, Alex!).  Whereas some band/artist biographies get bogged down in so much technical detail that you forget the generality of what you have read and lose track of what went on (I am thinking in particular of People Funny Boy by David Katz) our author has mastered the art of distillation which is just what you need to plot a path through a contentious story such as that of the Dead Kennedys.  Finishing the book, I was left reflecting that the Moral Majority and PMRC couldn’t destroy the band but they have done a pretty good job on each other since via the court system.  That’s another story in itself.

~ Get your copy from turnaround-uk.com, activedistribution.org and pmpress.org - See more at: http://louderthanwar.com/fresh-fruit-for-rotting-vegetables-the-early-years-by-alex-ogg-book-review/#sthash.25ip858k.dpuf

Buy this book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Ian Glasper's Author Page




Birth Work as Care Work Firestorm Books and Cafe 2016 Best Seller

 December 31st, 2016

2016 Best Sellers & Collective Picks

Looking back at the last twelve months, our best selling new titles reflected the conversations taking place in our community around issues of local and global importance. Conversations that we’re proud to have been a part of! And while some of these gems have enjoyed mainstream acclaim, no doubt most found their way into the arms of our patrons as a result of social media, book clubs, and recommendations from other readers on parallel paths of discovery.

Additionally, unlike our list from last year, these titles are all published in 2016. So there isn’t any overlap (although, The New Jim Crow was our all-around best seller and it was published way back in 2012).

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The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

“Once again, Maggie Nelson has created an awe-inspiring work, one that smartly calls bullshit on the places culture—radical subcultures included—stigmatize and misunderstand both maternity and queer family-making. With a fiercely vulnerable intelligence, Nelson leaves no area un-investigated, including her own heart. I know of no other book like this, and I know how crucially the culture needs it.”
—Michelle Tea, author of Valencia and How to Grow Up





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Bædan 3: A Journal of Queer Time Travel

“Bædan marks a further attempt to pose and to flesh out a queer critique of civilization. Queer not only in the sense of coming from those outside and disruptive of the Family, but also in the sense of a critique weirder than its more orthodox cousins. We imagine the Bædan project as an effort to pose the critique of civilization otherwise, to begin from another place. In this issue (and beyond…) we have conjured a strange bestiary of thinking, trying to unearth and trace the tradition of anti-civilization thought in the literature of queerness and in queerness as immanent critique.”

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Birth Work as Care Work: Stories from Activist Birth Communities by Alana Apfel

“Becoming a birth supporter, getting to be an attendant to the miracle of childbirth, has transformed my social justice work... Learning to listen, learning to trust the body and the people, and learning to breathe 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




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The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes by Diane Ehrensaft PhD

“A critically important book to all those who support and/or love trans and gender non-conforming children and youth. It's well-written, accessible, thorough, and enlivened by combined profiles of some of the children, youth, and families whom Ehrensaft has helped to council.”
—Shannon Wyss, GoodReads.com


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Learning Good Consent: On Healthy Relationships and Survivor Support edited by Cindy Crabb

"What this book does is to stress consent: not 'no means no,' or even 'yes means yes,' but 'Do you want me to stay here with you?' 'Are you here?' 'I thought I wanted this, but I'm not sure now.' 'Do you think we should take this farther?' I'm moved that this book is here. It matters."
—Alison Piepmeier, author of Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism





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Princeless Book 1: Deluxe Edition by Jeremy Whitley

“Whitley (writer) and Goodwin (artist)’s Princeless offers a fresh and literally bright view of the young, female heroine of color and her struggle to create her own sense of agency in a world where princesses wait for princes to rescue them.  Princeless comments on the various issues facing women in comic books today, from impractical outfits juxtaposed by slapstick humor and jokes that entertain all ages.”
—Tony Le, RaceBending.com


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Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History by Schatz Kate

“[F]resh, engaging, and inspiring tales of perseverance and radical success…pairing well researched and riveting biographies with powerful and expressive cut-paper portraits.”
—BookRiot.com





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Swing Time by Zadie Smith

“Brilliant…With Swing Time, Zadie Smith identifies the impossible contradiction all adults are asked to maintain — be true to yourself, and still contain multitudes; be proud of your heritage, but don’t be defined by it. She frays the cords that keep us tied to our ideas of who we are, to our careful self-mythologies. Some writers name, organize, and contain; Smith lets contradictions bloom, in all their frightening, uneasy splendor.”
—Annalisa Quinn, NPR.org


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Taking Sides: Revolutionary Solidarity and the Poverty of Liberalism edited by Cindy Milstein

"From the arresting title through thirteen brilliant essays, this reader is a gem. Alliances and the problem with ally politics, decolonization demands, a defense of riots, exposing gender violence, fighting back against police violence, and contesting white supremacy are among the timely issues presented in militant terms… a handbook for every social justice activist."
 —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States




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Wild Fermentation 2nd Edition by Sandor Katz

“...a journey through time, taste, and anthropology, with a unique and refreshing look at the current state of the world… I laugh out loud when I think about this book being read by the public. It’s full of easily digestible radical analysis and the matter-of-factness of Sandor’s fabulous lifestyle among the radical faeries living in the rural wilderness of middle Tennessee.”
—The Fifth Estate



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Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?: Police Violence and Resistance in the United States edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré and Alana Yu-lan Price

"Would some communities be safer without police? That’s the question at the heart of Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?, a collection of essays and reportage penned by some of Truthout’s most compelling and enlightened thinkers—including #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza. With heartbreaking, glass-sharp prose, the book catalogs the abuse and destruction of black, native, and trans bodies. And then, most importantly, it offers real-world solutions."
—Chicago Review of Books

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Writing Home: The Story of Author Thomas Wolfe by Laura Boffa

Local author and educator Laura Boffa explores Wolfe's early life from his childhood home in Asheville, NC to his travels around the Midwest, and eventual return to Asheville. It is the story of one young man's journey to become a writer, a journey filled with triumph, longing, and a desire to follow one's dream.

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




Fire and Flames: A Review

by Luther Blissett
Medium
December 18th, 2016

A classic German text about the history and emergence of the Autonomen, Gabriel Kuhn has provided the English reading world with access to this engaging text. Initially published in 1990, various versions emerged; this is a translation of the fourth, the 1995, edition.

Just over 180 pages, the book is engaging and filled full of interesting and fascinating details.

The book is a collection of vignettes. There are reproductions of flyers, posters, and publications from specific protests that are discussed through the book. Multiple short narratives about specific demonstrations, players, or challenges are also presented. Geronimo capably shifts between close reading and returning to the larger picture. Based on his representations, it appears as if this same challenge has been an ongoing challenge for the Autonomen as well: the ability to retain a set focus or to remain a life-long movement.

Honestly, I am not sure whether the Autonomen’s value would be enhanced by being a life-long movement, something that people would commit there lives and energies to for their whole life. That seems problematic at best–especially when you review the “Autonomous Theses 1981” (included as an Appendix). Then again, the very nature of the Autonomen appears to be doing what is right, then and there, for personal liberation and the liberation of others.

Geronimo’s history provides a properly detailed map for understanding the contexts in which the Autonomen emerged without having to fully know the history of West Germany, the intricacies of leftist politics, or the challenges of organizing. Geronimo’s summaries are deft and efficient. The material is easy to read. And there is no question of when critique is included. That’s not hidden.

For North Americans, or at least residents of the USA, some of the protest and demonstration descriptions might seem fascinating or odd. First, given the sheer numbers involved in some of the property-destructive demos. Second, given the completely different ways that contemporary law enforcement responds to Black Blocs and other groups that intentionally destroy property. As such, the book can help readers see another way that a culture could manage protest and resistance. However, at this point in the game, you can’t turn back the clock.

Probably the best part of the book is the overview it provides. While the Autonomen, rarely featured in North American press except perhaps in reference to Black Blocs, are not as well known as they might be, they cannot be reduced to the simple smash it up narrative which corporate media in Germany has tried to do to them for three decades. While one could assert, quite persuasively, that Black Blocs emerged from the Autonomen, Black Blocs are more of a strategy, a tool.

Just like Who’s Afraid of the Black Blocs?, Fire and Flames presents a rich, complex, and accessible path to understanding not just who and what some of the Autonomen are, but why they do what they do. Readers need not agree with any or some of the text. However, simplistic castigation of property destruction or internal wars against the rich or ruling elite as thoughtless violence can’t hold water after reading these texts. Yes, there will always be thoughtless fools who agitate for violence. How many more volunteer as mercenaries for Capital, to wear the State’s uniform?

If a broken window costs several thousand dollars to replace, is it better to have an officer break a protestor’s jaw, smash their teeth, or send them to the hospital for several days–all injuries that will result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills? So, once again, corporate profits and property are protected while the losses and damages are dealt out to citizens to pay.

Perhaps the least accessible portion of the book, for this reader at least, was the apparent endless in-fighting and factionalization around various Marxist, Leninist, and ecology-related threads. It does not take too much imagination to translate such factioning in the US context; however, the specifics were not familiar to me. Similarly unfamiliar was the control that some militant political parties expected, and perhaps still expect, in individuals’ political and personal lives.

What the author, and some Autnomen, apparently posit as a problem–the inability of Autonomen to remain involved for a long time–does not strike me as a problem. Instead, the role of Autonomen, their approach and paths, strike me very much like the Black Blocs: they are a strategy that is appropriate and viable for specific people in specific contexts. At some times, it may be most useful to support anti-imperialist or anti-fascist struggles and to work within those movements. However, conditions may change, internally or externally, when Autonomen need to emerge. That is the apparent beauty and freedom of the movement, the gift and the curse: the ability to be when needed and not be when not needed.

A final note: much of the Autonomen’s rise, and ongoing connection with local and national struggles, was rooted in their engagement around housing, squatting, and struggles for affordable, and free, housing. Reviewing the USA, it is difficult now to not see how this issue, affordable housing, could be an incredible gateway for widespread activism and engagement.

While some aspects of it definitely support and continue to feed Finance and Capital, at the same time, if such struggles lead to higher quality lives, and better and more affordable shelter, then it seems worth pursuing.

Buy book now | Download e-Book now | Back to Geronimo's Page | Back to Gabriel Kuhn's Page




Gypsy: A Review

by Luther Blissett
Medium
December 18th, 2016


This book is worth buying, or at least checking out from your library, for a couple reasons. It’s only $13 to start with; if you order directly from PM Press’s catalog, you could save up to five bucks on this. {questions about this? contact PM Press or request a catalog!} The second reason is the best reason I can offer for ever reading a book: After the first or second paragraph, I wasn’t sure if I would make it through the novella, Gypsy (it’s just over 90 pages), but I decided to give it a shot, relax, and suspend my disbelief — 30 pages later I looked up stunned: I was into the book. So, yes, the book, the characters, the concepts capture the imagination.

Perks of the book are that you can ride through some interesting and intense physics — this should make hard SF folks happy. I think it’s all accurate, but I’m not a science geek, so I can’t say. However, unlike Neal Stephenson, Scholz manages to integrate his riffs in a way that extend discourse a few paragraphs as opposed to a 20 pages. For readers like me, I appreciate integrating science into the storyline. Likable characters; interesting juxtapositions of characters and timelines; unexpected outcome.

In addition to Gypsy, there’s a great non-fiction gutting of the economic elite. It rocks. There are a couple of other shorter pieces, but it’s really Gypsy and “The United States of Impunity” that make this work.

Overall a really enjoyable book. Worth your cash.

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Sober Living For the Revolution: A Review

by Luther Blissett
Medium
December 18th, 2016

Note: If you are part of the sXe scene, then you know more than I do, so I can’t say whether or not you should get this book. Check with your scene’s best reviewers. If you do decide to read this review, thanks for your time and attention. If not, no worries.

Published about seven years ago, Kuhn’s edited volume holds significant value. It is a great overview and introduction to the powerful potentials of straight edge (sXe).

Best passage of the book: Page 24 where MacKaye goes off on people leaving the scene:

“There is the classic moment when people say, “Yes, and then punk, or hard core, or straight edge, or whatever, died.” But it always died when they left the picture or when their band split up. It seems that they are talking about an energy that was contained within them — whereas I see an energy that is a constant ever-flowing river.”

Other gems: The Antifa Straight Edge; ManLiftingBanner interview; Interview with Jenni Ramme of Emancypunx.

Kuhn divides the book into five sections: Bands, Scenes, Manifestos, Reflections, and Perspectives. These divisions largely make sense, but the reflections seem to be more discussions of past projects. For anyone who actually works or tries to build, to create, or to get things done in DIY or punk cultures, this section is probably the most valuable. In most cases, except for the Hurley interview which appears to be included because of either his anarcho-primitivist perspective or his band’s status, the material is useful and engaging. Nick Riotfag and Jenni Ramme, in particular, share extensive reflections both on what worked well but also what flailed in their projects. More importantly, they indicate how they go forward. The Hurley interview, in contrast, seemed more like one guy attempting to rehash what he’s read about anarcho-primitivism and then put that in some context with sXe for this book. Frankly, that interview should have gone in a zine, not a book.

Far more interesting were the Perspectives, especially the Gomez brothers’ discussion of hardcore networks and sXe as intuitive resistance. Santiago engages in textual play at a level that’s only bested, in this volume at least, by Point of No Return’s “Bending to Stay Straight.”

While the manifestos will interest some folks, and as many online readers indicate they may be the most important part of Sober Living, the only one that I find inspiring was The Antifa Straight Edge. Then again, I’m an aging fag that isn’t straight edge… Hence some of my bias.

This may be my age showing. While Nick Riotfag’s piece is well-developed, and pretty well defended, there are repeated tones, structures, and references that remind me of academic writing–and I found that a bit troubling. That’s my personal taste, though. Having said that, it’s Riotfag’s type of analyses, internal to a scene that are well articulated and in-depth, that can bring important changes or crises of identities and issues–and then allow folks to move forward.

As Riotfag’s second piece indicates, this occurs.

Kuhn’s interview style, overall, is solid. He clearly knows the content and the context. There were a couple points when his questions seemed a bit leading, but then it also felt, in several places, like interviewees were dodging the question or not understanding the question. If the interviews were by email, Kuhn’s approach makes sense. Wish more interviewers in punk culture asked equally thoughtful questions.

Setting the tone for the whole book is, of course, the requisite opening interview with MacKaye. Next up was ManLiftingBanner. As a reader who started to read the book chronologically, these were two solid and important ways to open and frame the book. Roots and then radicalism.

Great framing.

While I did enjoy the diversity, both in terms of internationality and gender, there was a real gap in the presence of women. No doubt this, in part, reflects both turnover in the sXe scenes as well as the absence of women which so many interviewees discussed. The scene interview with Tanja about Sweden and then Jenni about Poland were exactly what they should have been: informative, detailed, connecting personal with the larger scene. They added useful and interesting perspectives of sXe — at least in portions of Europe. I just wanted to see more. For example, the Laura Synthesis interview had limited depth and breadth compared to the other interviews. However, at least she avoided pontificating like Hurley.

The book is worth buying. Kuhn takes straight edge out of a self-imposed ghetto and shows just how diverse and powerful sXe has been in shaping youth resistance cultures globally. From what we read, sXe caused some of the resistance in some scenes, while in other scenes, sXe was, and still is, a strategy for resistance. Sober Living for the Revolution, most importantly, offers multiple paths and examples for people interested in sober living and political militancy.

This is an opportunity to learn from others.

For those interested in neither sobriety nor social change, the book is still powerful and interesting. Sober Living collects multiple diverse perspectives on a complex scene, a scene that appears to be white middle class male meathead at first; take a moment and look past that and you find something quite diverse: something that bursts the heavy USA-centered myopsy when thinking, writing, and researching punk cultures. Kuhn helps you start to look.

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The Bonnot Gang: The Story of the French Illegalists: A Review

by Luther Blissett
Medium

This is part of the two part review:

Anarchism’s Icky Bits


A review of two tasty tomes that address some of anarchism’s more controversial aspects.

Anarchism’s multiplicitous nature defies, annoys, offends, and confuses many–including anarchists. Worse, though, is that pundits and peaceniks unfamiliar with what anarchism actually is have no problem labeling any and every behavior or practice they find troubling as “anarchist.” Naturally, anarchism is conflated with senseless violence and chaos.

It would be nice, comforting, and simplistic to be able to say clearly and finally just what anarchism is. However, there are so many strains with so many self-identified and differentiated practices that there are very few common threads. And we haven’t even talked about whether anarchism as a lifestyle is authentic.

In the midst of this morass, there are many polemics, claims, assertions, and a slew of people claiming moral high ground. Others assert their definitions are the only ones; just like punk rock, individuals or collectives seek to claim and define just what an anarchist is.

While such practices may be entertaining or facilitate identity politics or practices, they’re actually kind of boring. Tedious, really. That’s where these two books from PM Press have some significant contributions for people inside, on the edges of, and outside anarchist practices and communities.

The first book deals with the Bonnot Gang. In short, this is a non-fictional representation of one of anarchism’s most noted armed gangs of robbers. Yes, most of them died from gunfire. Yes, they stole from banks and other people. Yes, they had no problem making a living as thieves and counterfeiters and robbing the middle and upper classes. And they were willing to use force to do so.

This approach is offensive to peace police and other self appointed guardians of social change who believe that meaningful change will only be peaceful and through massive non-violent resistance. Such folks would do well to read this book. Reading this reprint of The Bonnot Gang will not change any minds. Instead, if offers something more useful: an improved understanding of a group dismissed as radical, violent, and thoughtless. Such dismissals are foolish.

Whether or not you agree with class war, stealing from the rich, or shooting it out with police–and few sensible people support such approaches–the book helps readers understand the perpetrators’ social backgrounds, tensions, and mindsets when approaching acts that are perceived as being so socially transgressive. This also helps to understand why, when Wall Street can squeeze $1 Trillion out of US taxpayers, the media is seemingly more interested in focusing on moderate property damage at #Occupy or #BLM protests or a few small smashed businesses that are collateral damage at post-election riots. Yes, these lives matter. However, The Bonnot Gang helps understand why and how some members–usually just a few fringe members–turned to armed struggle and expropriation (i.e. Armed robbery and theft).

Equally disturbing to many idealistic anarchists will be the discussions of whether or not it’s revolutionary to steal to improve your own immediate financial situation. Again, this book posits no answers. Instead, it explores the ongoing tensions that were present then as those same tensions are now.

The Bonnot Gang is well written. It is easy to become involved with the text. Documentation is solid. The narrative flows. And it’s surprising that this is not fiction. The key players are fascinating, friendly, and repulsive. Most intriguing was the seeming blind loyalty to other anarchists, to harbor them no matter what, and to never, ever give any information to the cops. Then, as now, snitches thrived. However, historical portraits and studies like this allow current anarchists to compare and contrast their own culture and values to their own traditions.

Similarly, those outside of anarchist cultures, or with a few friends on the edge, would do well to read this book. The Bonnot Gang was hard core, and this book makes it clear why. Most anarchists you will ever meet have no interest in ever being the Bonnot gang. Similarly, few accountants plan to rip off an entire company, and few stock traders want to crash entire markets. But these things happen. But for some reason, a few radical anarchists are more terrifying than the single largest theft of wealth from the working classes to the ruling elite (the bank bail out).

Buy The Bonnot Gang: The Story of the French Illegalists | Buy The Bonnot Gang: The Story of the French Illegalists e-book | Back to Richard Parry's Author Page




Who's Afraid of the Black Blocs: A Review

by Luther Blissett
Medium

This is part of the two part review:

Anarchism’s Icky Bits


When you see “Black Bloc,” it is usually incredibly negative and disparaging. Whether it’s the peace police upset that a group is using the cover of their demonstration to do material damage to corporate enemies (with some innocent collateral usually in the way) or the police using the Black Bloc as an excuse to justify exert force in response to a demonstration, nobody really seems to like the Black Bloc.

But does the Black Bloc actually get anything done? What useful or important work do they engage in?

This is where Who’s Afraid of the Black Blocs? has value: it features interviews with multiple participants from multiple demonstrations and actions globally. As the author points out, a Black Bloc is never the same Bloc twice. Different people attend, participate, and leave, at every site–yet the Bloc is referred to in many discourses as if it is a singular or fixed identity.

Perhaps it is like Borg and some join while others leave.

The author helps make clear that many BB participants are not dolts bent on destruction or thieving a pair of Jordans; instead, their actions are strongly motivated by politics.

Equally important, the author addresses Black Blocs’ gendered and racial nature of Black Blocs, from how labor is divided to how members from more oppressed populations can actively engage without risking additional problems. For example, if people of color or undocumented residents join a BB and then are arrested, what level of risk–financial and physical–do they have compared to a college age white male? The author offers no solutions, but at least acknowledges and addresses these concerns.

The book is an enthusiastic engagement with and representation of perhaps one of the most reviled political protest tactics. It is easy to read, well-documented, and has plenty of references to follow up. One of the most important themes that comes to light through the text is the transformative nature of participating in a Black Bloc and how that can impact and empower individual activists as well as their political activities.

At least within the framing of the text, many Black Bloc participants–or at least those willing to be interviewed–seem interested and open to having multiple or diverse types of protest from non-violent to property destructive to potentially violent protests. And those choices should be left up to individuals. In sharp contrast, the police, the media, and many other liberal, but not radical, protestors are disinclined to allow or permit individuals to protest, and accept consequences, as they see fit.

Whether or not you agree with Black Blocs, property destruction, or a diverse array of protest methodologies, this book is excellent for several reasons.

First, rather than relying on hype or interpretation of events by outsiders, or by media seeking flashy conflicts or hits to websites, the author actually interviews multiple participants and he connects and engages with existing research, scholarship, and engagement with the Black Bloc. While it is clear that the author sympathizes with and appears to support, or at least understand, the value of Black Blocs as political tools and methods, he does not offer blind support for them. But he also does not question their importance in some political processes.

Finally, and perhaps most important–at least in terms of traditional representations of the Black Blocs in mass media — the author calls into question and compares the relative damage of a Black Bloc trashing a downtown or financial sector, most of which is covered by insurance, when compared to the environmental devastation or economic thrashing that some of these institutions inflict. For example, is smashing a few windows really comparable or more despicable than supporting the DAPL with its ongoing treaty violations and promised future environmental destruction and reinforcement of racism that directs what routes the pipeline is built on?

If you want to join a Black Bloc, reading this book would certainly expedite the enculturation process. But if you’re going to critique Blocs, at least have an understanding of them. You don’t have to support or endorse Black Blocs in order to understand them.

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Not THE Real Dad, Not A Real Dad: Amy Abugo Ongiri’s RAD FAMILY in MUTHA Magazine

MUTHA Magazine
by Amy Abugo Ongiri
December 7th, 2016

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I unexpectedly became a parent at forty-seven. I say unexpectedly, but we had actually been preparing for weeks and trying for years. After years of failed attempts at fertility treatment, our financial resources were exhausted, so conventional adoption was out of the question. We made the decision to look into foster care as a possible means toward parenting. We must have looked like strong candi­dates or the county was really desperate, because they rushed our application and after a month and a half of intensive training we found ourselves with two little boys in our care. They were just two and seven years old. We had wanted girls, but the need was great­est for African American boys. Being African American myself, I knew that we wanted black kids, but since we were queer wom­en we assumed that they would be girls. In the rural Midwestern county where we lived, there weren’t that many black kids in the system, so we didn’t want to miss our chance. Also, when the social worker described their struggles with racism in school and how they had been in multiple placements in a very short period of time, we knew they needed us as much as we needed them.

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I was ready for a lot of the challenges of foster care but like all parenting I wasn’t ready for everything. I wasn’t ready for the shift in perspective that having a two-year-old boy in your life would bring. He literally saw things from a different angle than I did. Once when I was putting him in the car, he pulled away from and wiggled past me and began for a second to run at full speed. In my panic as I snatched him back I screamed emphatically at him at him, “What are you doing?” even though I know full well that this is a question that no two-year-old is prepared to ever answer. He responded equally emphatically, “Birdie!” We both stood there in a parking lot for a full five minutes to watch a bird that I’m sure that I wouldn’t have otherwise even known was there. Whether it was a leaf stuck to your shoe with a particularly interesting pattern or a nearby squirrel, he was so good at drawing your appreciative attention to little bits of nature that you wouldn’t have noticed. The older boy and I had interests that were so similar that spend­ing time together was just fun. We’d shoot hoops together, listen to music, go for a walk in the woods, hang out in what my partner called “big-boy time.”

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The only problem with big-boy time and all the other time that I shared with the boys was that I was not a boy, big or other­wise. The hardest part of the experience of foster care was experi­encing my gender difference through the lives of these two little boys, who hadn’t necessarily even asked make family with us. As a masculine-of-center butch dyke, I had long ago learned to not only to accept but to love my gender difference. I loved the look of myself in men’s clothes. I loved embracing the masculine as well as feminine parts of personality. I loved the dynamic between butch­es and femmes. I loved being a gender outlaw. I had also long ago learned to accept the discomfort that my gender could invoke in others. What I was not used to was having that discomfort visited on two little kids in my care.

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The kids, like most kids, pretty much accepted me without question. They seemed to really appreciate any attention and care that I gave them from working on phonics to teaching them to skateboard. We rarely have conflict. The truth is that I took to par­enting like a duck to water. I even gladly traded in my prized cus­tomized low-rider for a minivan. My instinct to protect and care for these two little guys who had already been through so much was so great that it surprised me. When I picked up the toddler at daycare and he ran excitedly to me and screamed “Daddy” I in­wardly cringed out of the fear that daycare workers would report me to social workers as an inappropriate role model. When other parents at school gave us the cold shoulder, I feared the negative effect it might have on the kid’s ability to make friends.

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Foster parents are literally co-parenting with the state and are justifiably under more scrutiny than other kinds of parents. Many people involved in foster care in my county were conserva­tive Christians, and I worried all the time that my gender and our queerness as a couple would impact our ability to protect and nur­ture these two little guys whom we had grown to love so much.

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Foster care is meant to be a temporary arrangement. We know it is our job to love, nurture and protect these kids just as long as we have them. I worried that our time with these little boys would be cut short because of my status as a gender outlaw.

As a foster parent, I am not the real dad. As a woman, I am not a real dad. Nevertheless, fatherhood means everything to me and I know by these kids’ love for me that I am good at it. I’ve waited a long time for this and I have chosen it. I know by my success at it that that it has also chosen me. When these kids leave my care they will know how to ride a bike and skateboard, how to read and set a table, how to dress themselves and meditate. Most importantly, they will know that I love them. I can only hope that one day they will come to think of my gender difference as much of gift as I do.

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“Not the Real Dad, Not a Real Dad” is reprinted, with permission, from Rad Families: A Celebration, edited by Tomas Moniz.

“Rad Dads, Rad Families, Rad Children. These stories show us that we are not alone. That we don’t have all the answers. That we are all learning. I’ve never been a parent before. Here are stories to learn from. Here are the stories that I need.” – Nikki McClure, illustrator, author, parent

“I love this book! Wonderfully written, tenderly honest, unabashedly hilarious, deeply important stories from the messy beautiful world of real-life parenting. Thank goodness it exists.” – Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave (and founder of MUTHA!)

It’s RAD FAMILIES WEEK at MUTHA! We’ll be running other excerpts from the collection this week—so stay tuned and you can check out our interview with Tomas Moniz.

Read on, then head to your local indie store or ask your local library to order it….. OR you could also win a copy! How? It’s our first ever MUTHA giveaway contest (woo)!

Get on it: 1) follow MUTHA on twitter/Facebook, and then 2) tell us quick why your family is one of the #radfamilies, too, or why you’re starting parenting with that goal in mind, and be sure to 3) use that hashtag (#radfamilies) to (help promote indie publishing!), and to tag MUTHA. I WILL FIND YOU, then I’ll put you on the list from which a random selection will be be sent a gratis copy. Bonus points if you’re a new follower. Love and STAY RAD – Meg Lemke

 

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




RAD FAMILIES: The Book You Need—an Interview with Tomas Moniz

MUTHA Magazine
December 7th, 2016

It’s Rad Families week at MUTHA!

Rad Families: A Celebration, edited by Tomas Moniz, is a new (obviously radical!) and necessary storytelling collection that’s OUT NOW, about all the different ways families come together, parents push through, and what we intentionally choose to pass onto our kids. You really want to read it. Contributors include Ariel Gore, Ian Mackaye, Madison Young, Zach Ellis, Airial Clark, Simon Knaphus, Artnoose, Bronwyn Davies Glover, Shawn Taylor, Amy Abugo Ongiri and many more.

“Rad Dads, Rad Families, Rad Children. These stories show us that we are not alone. That we don’t have all the answers. That we are all learning. I’ve never been a parent before. Here are stories to learn from. Here are the stories that I need.” – Nikki McClure, illustrator, author, parent

“I love this book! Wonderfully written, tenderly honest, unabashedly hilarious, deeply important stories from the messy beautiful world of real-life parenting. Thank goodness it exists.” – Michelle Tea, author of Black Wave (and founder of MUTHA!)

We’ll be running several excerpts from the collection this week—so stay tuned. And to start, we asked Tomas to share some of the reasons he made Rad Families a reality. Read on, then head to your local indie store or ask your local library to order it….. OR you could also win a copy! How? It’s our first ever MUTHA giveaway contest (woo)!

Get on it: 1) follow MUTHA on twitter/Facebook, and then 2) tell us quick why your family is one of the #radfamilies, too, or why you’re starting parenting with that goal in mind, and be sure to 3) use that hashtag (#radfamilies) (help promote indie publishing!), and to tag MUTHA. I WILL FIND YOU, then I’ll put you on the list from which a random selection will be be sent a gratis copy. Bonus points if you’re a new follower. Love and STAY RAD – Meg Lemke

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MUTHA: Why now a book called RAD FAMILIES?

Tomas Moniz:  The simple answer is we need each other. I am a better parent and a better person when I am reminded and inspired by the multitude of ways we create radical loving families despite so many obstacles. To me, in these seemingly hopeless, powerless times, the stories found in RAD FAMILIES are both reason to resist and respite from hateful and fearful narrative surrounding families in the mainstream media.

MUTHA: What is your hope for who this book will reach?

Tomas Moniz: My hope is that  RAD FAMILIES reaches those who already know that all of our families are a source of power and inspiration. But I also hope the book reaches people who are struggling to find their family or believe that families look only one particular way. I want this book to blow their mind, to help people change through the stories so many people, young and old, parents and chosen family, share.

MUTHA: How it will be shared?

Tomas Moniz: The best thing is for those who read the book to share it with others. Pass it along. Donate it to birth centers, libraries, Planned Parenthood offices. I wish I could send a copy to every politician and judge and cop as a reminder as well as perhaps a threat.

MUTHA: What are you up to next?

Tomas Moniz: I have been working on parenting projects for well over a decade. I hope to celebrate this book and then put my energies into supporting new projects by other parents and parent allies because there are some many Rad Families out there!

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Tomas Moniz and his RAD FAMILY!

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Going Underground: A review in Razorcake

by Jimmy Alvarado
Razorcake

August 25th, 2016

Despite the glut of punk history books in recent years, still precious few attempt an overview of the “hardcore” years referenced in the book’s title. The best known, Steven Blush’s American Hardcore, is a highly flawed and wildly inflammatory cesspool of factual inaccuracies, lurid sniping, backbiting, and axe-grinding posturing as “documenting” one of the most important subcultures of twentieth century music history. Though covering the same ground, Hurchalla’s tome is easily superior on a number of levels, not the least that he not only understands the subculture of which he was a part, but he makes a concerted effort to explain it—its motivations, codes of conduct, strengths, weaknesses, and very raison d’etre.

Rather than focusing solely on the country’s larger, and more famous regions, Hurchalla weaves his tale of the American hardcore scene’s patchwork of sub-scenes almost like a tourist’s guide, adroitly focusing each chapter on a given city, state, or region of the country, its musicians of note, and how they fit into the larger picture. He culls the bulk of his tale from both contemporary interviews and the assorted fanzines long before the worldwide web became the all-encompassing resource/boondoggle it is now. Respectful of his subject matter, Hurchalla is also not afraid to address the scene’s shortcomings—the sexism, racism, and other –isms it still struggles with. He also addresses its cliquishness and often narrow-mindedness, the violence and mayhem that both charged and plagued its formative years. On the flip, he also celebrates the things that continue to make it an inspirational, crucial outlet for so many generations of pissed-off kids of all classes and ethnicities.

In this third edition, Hurchalla tightens up the time period and trims his personal recollections while expanding his scope to include input from women and punks of color. The result is a more focused and fluid narrative that provides a more holistic view of a very diverse subculture. It remains the go-to tome and an essential read for punks and historians alike.

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