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Q&A with Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (in pink scarf) works behind the counter at Other Avenues co-op in the Sunset District of S.F. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff (in pink scarf) works behind the counter at Other Avenues co-op in the Sunset District of S.F.

By Jonathan Kauffman
San Francisco Chronicle
March 16th, 2017

In the 1970s, the Bay Area developed a vibrant, interactive network of cooperatively run enterprises called the People’s Food System. Though it lasted only a few years, the movement gave birth to Other Avenues Food Co-op, Rainbow Grocery and Veritable Vegetable (now for-profit), all of which are still open. (Chronicle gardening columnist Pam Peirce started writing as one of the editors of the group’s newsletter.)

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff, a longtime member of the worker collective at Other Avenues in the Sunset District, has told this story in her new book, “Other Avenues Are Possible” (PM Press, 2016, 200 pp., $14.95). The Chronicle asked Nimbark Sacharoff to outline the movement’s arc.

Q: Chronicle: How did the People’s Food System start?

A: Nimbark Sacharoff: The history of the People’s Food System was influenced by the 1960s era, when the war in Vietnam was ending and people still had the energy to remain organized. What better way to remain organized than to get together and share food, distribute food? At the time, the system wasn’t so much about making money or creating jobs but about food for the people — and we were the people.

We started with buying clubs. We called them “food conspiracies.” Food conspiracies were about education and outreach to the whole community, using food distribution as a vehicle for social change.

Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s book “Other Avenues Are Possible” is a history book about Bay Area food co-ops and food-buying clubs in the 1970s. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle
Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff’s book “Other Avenues Are Possible” is a history book about Bay Area food co-ops and food-buying clubs in the 1970s.

Q: What was involved in a food conspiracy?

A: Typically, you’d get together with neighborhood people and sign up for the foods you want. The person who was hosting the ordering was also hosting a potluck dinner. He or she would provide the space, and you’d come and bring your money or food stamps, and that list would get compiled, and the food buying would be on Saturday or Sunday. Once a month was the “Great Divide,” when we divided up dried food.

Q: How many food conspiracies were there?

A: There were hundreds of conspiracies in San Francisco, concentrated in (the western half) of the city, the Mission and Noe Valley. In the Haight, the motto was “If you can’t walk to order food, you should start a new food conspiracy.”

Q: How did they turn into stores?

A: In the mid-1970s, we were moving lots and lots of food — probably hundreds of thousands of dollars of food, all combined. We thought not only would it be safer and cleaner if we opened up stores, we could reach more people. In 1974 the first store opened, the Noe Valley Food Store. Before that there was one called Seeds of Life, Semillas de la Vida, in the Mission.

Q: At its peak, how many businesses were in the People’s Food System?

A: Approximately a dozen storefronts. The biggest ones were the San Francisco Cooperative Warehouse, they did all the dry goods, and Veritable Vegetable, now a thriving national organic business. There was a big herb collective and a cheese collective. There was a one-woman milk business. There was a poultry place where we got eggs, and a Honey Sandwich co-op nursery school.

Ed. note: The People’s Food System fell apart in 1977 and 1978 due to political infighting and a turf war between two groups of former prisoners that ended in a shootout outside the warehouse. You can read Nimbark Sacharoff’s book for details.

Q: How did Other Avenues survive the collapse of the People’s Food System?

A: It was really difficult, especially for a small store like this. We had 10 years that were so difficult financially and organizationally — we almost closed down three times — but the community was our strength. Because we’re so isolated, the community that lives near us is drawn to us.

Jonathan Kauffman is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: Twitter: @jonkauffman

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The Food We Eat: Other Avenues in India Currents

By Praba Iyer
India Currents
February 18th, 2017

When I moved to the Bay Area in the 90s I came across a book called Flavors of India by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff. I was intrigued by the recipes as they were Indian but they had a little twist. For example Shanta‘s  sambhar (a soup made with vegetables and legumes) recipe called for  ginger and lime juice. Being from the South of India, I had never made sambhar without tamarind using ginger and lime juice. When I tried it, I was in for a pleasant surprise. It was delicious.
Shanta has been one of the very early writers for India Currents magazine and a pioneer in introducing Indian vegetarian cuisine to San Franciscans and others in the Bay Area. Her new book, Other Avenues Are Possible, is a comprehensive historical examination of the food co-op movement in the Bay Area and it talks of her involvement in The Other Avenues Co–Op Store. When she moved to the Bay Area in the early 70s, she joined the San Francisco natural food movement and thus began her lifetime of work with food and co-ops. This book is an in-depth look into the trials and tribulations of communities that have cooperated and supported sustainable farming and food sharing.  It is also quite daunting to read about the obstacles and challenges co-ops face even to this day when farm to table is an approved and accepted way of life.

In her opinion, there can never be too many organizations that work in the area of food co-ops. In her words, “The most valuable lesson that I got out of this journey is the symbiotic nature of the relationship between a co-op and the community it serves. When the Outer Sunset neighborhood where I live did not want a Starbucks in the neighborhood, we helped them, and when we needed financial backing, the community in turn helped us.”

In the chapter titled “Keeping the Vision,” she lays out ways of encouraging and supporting sustainable healthy food communities. Even though I am a chef and educator, it was an eye-opener for me at many levels. We are so far removed from the process of growing and distributing food that we forget the committed work involved in keeping sustainable methods of production alive. When asked about how young people can get involved in the food movement, she refers to Michael Pollan who says, “Cooking your own meals can be your best weapon to fight agri-business.”

Shantha’s passion and commitment is woven through the pages of her writing.  The decades of hard work, determination and struggles to keep Other Avenues Co Op Store open and successful is fully evident. This book is for all those people who care about a green planet, food politics, communal engagement and like Gordon Edgar says, “a must-read for anyone who eats food.”

Praba Iyer is a chef instructor, food writer and a judge for cooking contests. She specializes in team building classes through cooking for tech companies in the Bay

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Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest, if not THE finest, horror stylists we’ve seen.

By Andrew Andrews
True Review
March 2017

 I have always enjoyed the work of Elizabeth Hand, one of the finest, if not THE finest, horror stylists we’ve seen.

 In “The Saffron Gatherers,” in the present-day, professional authors and other artists gather to discuss their artistic work and the beauty of ancient art. This all happens when an East Coast author ventures to find a home near San Francisco. But appreciating art is all they may have, as a catastrophe on land happens during the artist’s plane trip home: a catastrophe that defines why even appreciation of long-ago art is not forgotten, and the work of an artist is oh-so transitory and subject to the tyranny of reality.

 In “Fire,” the tale-tellers are necessary, are part of our wonderful humanity, even if (or as) the world steadily comes to an end.

 In “Beyond Belief: On Being a Writer,” in her autobiography, Hand details her early yearnings to write and her experiences in life, in education and in the terrible traumas she has endured, and how she was shaped, as an artist, by them. But I wonder why she kept those early rejection letters in a freezer? And were the perpetrators of the violent night she recalls ever found?

 “Kronia” is a vignette about a woman recalling the years of someone she has a distant but somewhat potent relationship with. And an explanation for the existence of memories.

There’s an interview with Hand in “Flying Squirrels in the Rafters.” It details her life in Maine, the Cottage, her inspirations and all the things she either likes or doesn’t.

“The Woman Men Didn’t See” is a mini-biography of James Tiptree Jr. -- the pen name of female author Alice Sheldon -- a woman born about 50 years too early. It’s the true story of the daughter of wealthy safari-goers, world explorers and a woman who needed an identity, but was too complex to find (or trust) one to call her own. It’s a shame, really, because Hand believes that if Tiptree/Sheldon hadn’t left this world, a suicide, that Sheldon/Tiptree could have given us so much more.

“Tom Disch” is another mini-biography and tribute to the novelist of ON WINGS OF SONG, an artist angry at his upbringing, resentful at how short life is, furious with how the world became so blatantly ordered and predictable and boring, and looking for the voice of God to explain it all.

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Achieving Self-Governance

By Seth Sandronsky
Earth Island Journal
Spring 2017

We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell reveals what is at stake in governance struggles playing out across the country. Who are those taking on the corporate entities seeking dominance over people and nature? And how are they doing it?

Answers unfold in seven crisp chapters as the authors delve into the growing community rights movement in the United States. They draw powerful portraits of communities that have faced threats from environmentally destructive corporate projects and responded by passing local legislation to ban them. As I see it, the community activists featured in the book prefigure the water protectors opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock in North Dakota. Like the water protectors, they are coalescing around issues that affect their daily lives to push for policies and politics that advance human and environmental well-being rather than corporate profits.

The under-reported stories in the volume flesh out how a fledgling democracy movement is shaping up. Linzey and Campbell deliver a David versus Goliath narrative of a clash between people and corporations. The latter are “persons” under the law, legal fictions with the “right” to destroy nature. The current climate emergency is a leading example of the results. Thanks ExxonMobil!

Much is at stake in this movement to change that current arrangement and replace it with self-governance. From Pennsylvania to Oregon and points in between, the authors introduce us to ordinary people organizing and confronting the “complex layering of laws” that removes the rights of nature and living human beings and allows corporate entities to do business in enviornmentally damaging activites like hydraulic fracking, mining, waste-dumping, and factory farming. These communities have recognized that the law has “legalized” the damaging actions of corporations, while providing no recourse against harm. So now they are fashioning a new system that makes local control legal.

We meet activist Cathy Miorelli, a nurse and elected official in Pennsylvania’s Tamaqua borough, who, along with her community allies, faces lawsuits from companies that spew pollutants from coal burning power plants as she works for home-rule to replace corporate rule.

In Pittsburgh, activists joined forces to pass an ordinance banning natural gas drilling and elevating the rights of ecosystems and nature, becoming the first major American municipality to achieve that. To wit, “The Pittsburgh law contains provisions that eliminate corporate ‘personhood’ rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill,” the authors write.
This growing community-rights movement is more than a temporary mobilization to vote for a candidate or a ballot measure. In fact, the stirring stories of citizens organizing and mobilizing suggest the rise of a systemic, dare I say, revolutionary, movement to achieve popular sovereignty over quality of life and public health issues such as clean air, land, and water.

The grassroots process of humanizing what author Noam Chomsky calls our “corporate-run and propaganda managed democracy” is an arduous task. It involves people learning to develop structures of self-governance that weaken the prevailing economics and politics of the bottom line. Witnessing what happens when people depart their comfort zones to say “no!” to predatory businesses, when working families fend off attacks on their community from corporate actors and their political cronies, can be incredibly inspiring.

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, run by Linzey, plays a central role in the book. Its Democracy School aids citizens in city halls, town meetings, public hearings, and courtrooms. Workshops attract groups such as Black Lives Matter and the United Auto Workers. The fruits of this shared labor, which features community charters and ordinances of self-government, take up an appendix. This is the real deal, folks.

Make no mistake. We the People details a class conflict over the definition of democracy, with elected officials representing the interests of corporate entities against people striving for a system of self-government. It’s an uphill battle, but a winnable one.

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Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader: A Review

By Christopher Scott Thompson
Gods & Radicals: A Site of Beautiful Resistance
February 23rd, 2017

Romantic Rationalist: A William Godwin Reader, edited and introduced by Peter Marshall, is a brief but wide-ranging introduction to the writings of a man who is often considered the founder of anarchism. William Godwin (1756–1836) was the first major philosopher to propose a decentralized directly-democratic society made up of small self-governing communities, and he also anticipated several of the major arguments of later radicals such as Marx and Kropotkin on issues such as private property and the labor theory of value.

If you’re interested in the classical anarchist philosophers but you don’t know where to start, you could definitely do worse than this collection of short passages drawn from Godwin’s works. Unlike Bakunin and Kropotkin, who can be difficult to read because of their frequent references to events and conditions that are no longer current, Godwin expressed himself in general principles. This gives his ideas a clarity and directness often lacking in other works. Here’s his argument against the benefits of government:

The most desirable condition of the human species is a state of society.
The injustice and violence of men in a state of society produced the demand for government.
Government, as it was forced upon mankind by their vices, so has it commonly been the creature of their ignorance and mistake.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but it offers new occasions and temptations for the commission of it.
By concentrating the force of the community, it gives occasion to wild projects of calamity, to oppression, despotism, war and conquest.
By perpetuating and aggravating the inequality of property, it fosters many injurious passions, and excites men to the practice of robbery and fraud.
Government was intended to suppress injustice, but its effect has been to embody and perpetuate it. (Pages 48-49)
Despite his radical philosophy, Godwin was not a revolutionary like Bakunin or Kropotkin. He believed that society would steadily improve through rational discussion and calm debate, eventually leading to the abolition of the State without revolutionary violence. Many anarchists will see this as a flaw in his analysis, because Godwin’s approach would force millions and millions of people to suffer patiently for generations under tyrannical rule in the naïve hope that reason must eventually prevail. Despite this flaw, I find Godwin’s calm approach much more accessible and humane than Bakunin’s fiery apocalyptic pronouncements. Godwin may also have more to offer pagan anarchists, because major elements of his philosophy are drawn from the ancient pagan thinkers.

Bakunin was not only an atheist, but a militant materialist and anti-theist. Godwin was officially an atheist too, but in a much more nuanced way. He was an “immaterialist” or idealist, believing matter to be a function of mind rather than the other way around. This unusual viewpoint is most often found among Platonists, and it tends to lead to the vague non-anthropomorphic theism which Godwin apparently adopted in later life. He was also fascinated with the occult, and wrote a Lives of the Necromancers which has probably not been read by very many anarchists.

The influence of pagan philosophy on Godwin is less obvious, but anyone familiar with Epicurus and Epictetus will easily recognize the ideas of these bitterly opposed ancient thinkers in Godwin’s writings. For example, Godwin tells us:

The true object of moral and political disquisition, is pleasure or happiness.
The primary, or earliest, class of human pleasures is the pleasures of the external senses.
In addition to these, man is susceptible of certain secondary pleasures, as the pleasures of intellectual feeling, the pleasures of sympathy, and the pleasures of self-approbation.
The secondary pleasures are probably more exquisite than the primary… (Romantic Rationalist, page 48) 

This is nothing other than the core doctrine of ancient Epicureanism. The Stoics, enemies of the Epicureans, accused them of decadence and hedonism because they based their ethics on human pleasure. The Epicureans countered that the highest pleasures were friendship and stimulating conversation, and therefore the true Epicurean was not so much a hedonist as a person who knew how to throw a really great dinner party.

Godwin also tells us:

Justice requires that I should put myself in the place of an impartial spectator of human concerns, and divest myself of retrospect to my own predilections… Duty is that mode of action which constitutes the best application of the capacity of the individual to the general advantage… The voluntary actions of men are under the direction of their feelings.
Reason is not an independent principle, and has no tendency to excite us to action; in a practical view, it is merely a comparison and balancing of different feelings.
Reason, though it cannot excite us to action, is calculated to regulate our conduct, according to the comparative worth it ascribes to different excitements.
It is to the improvement of reason therefore that we are to look for the improvement of our social condition. (Romantic Rationalist, pages 49-50)  

Godwin’s claim that reason is “a comparison and balancing of different feelings” is an original contribution (and a convincing one). Everything else in this argument is simply a paraphrase of the core argument of ancient Stoicism: justice is the highest good; reason is the uniquely human capacity to choose between rival claims on our judgment; we can best improve society by making our reason the cornerstone of all our decision-making.

The Stoics would defy authority rather than obey an unjust order, but in practice they tended to be politically conservative. The Epicureans were also a lot more likely to be found hosting dinner parties than putting up barricades. Yet Godwin somehow synthesized these opposing philosophies from the ancient pagan world to produce modern anarchism. If the whole point of society is to improve and increase human happiness and if this is best achieved when we allow our reason to regulate all our actions, then the greatest mistake any society can make is to interfere with the free exercise of our autonomous judgment and thus interfere with the general happiness. Thus, all systems of government are both oppressive and inefficient. Godwin may well have been overly optimistic about the power of reason, but his synthesis of pagan philosophies produced a vision that remains inspiring: a society of equality, dignity and autonomy.

Romantic Rationalist
includes passages from Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice as well as his novels and other writings. The passages are organized into chapters (such as “Ethics,” and “Politics”) and themes (such as “Duty” and “Rights”) to make it easier to find Godwin’s thoughts on any particular topic. Editor Peter Marshall is the author of Demanding the Impossible: A History of Anarchism, which is a comprehensive if not massive work. At under 200 pages, Romantic Rationalist is a less intimidating way to dip your toes in the deep waters of anarchist thought.

Christopher Scott Thompson

Christopher Scott Thompson became a pagan at age 12, inspired by books of mythology and the experience of homesteading in rural Maine. A devotee of the Celtic goddesses Brighid and Macha, Thompson has been active in the pagan and polytheist communities as an author, activist and founding member of Clann Bhride (The Children of Brighid). Thompson was active in Occupy Minnesota and is currently a member of the Workers’ Solidarity Alliance, an anarcho-syndicalist organization. He is also the founder of the Cateran Society, an organization that studies the historical martial art of the Highland broadsword.

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Demanding the Impossible: A Review

Ground Control  Magazine
I Wanna Be Literated #144
February 22nd, 2017

Demanding the Impossible has been on my to-read list ever since I saw its cover with a Noam Chomsky quote on the book racks at Powell’s. However, this is one hefty book and I didn’t want to tackle it until I knew I was mentally prepared. I’m glad I braced myself because Demanding the Impossible is thorough to say the least.

I’ve read a good amount of anarchist literature and have been interested in its history and theories over the years. I still can’t quite decide whether I should have read this book at the beginning of this journey because Demanding the Impossible does an impeccable job of summarizing the history of anarchism, its most important contributors, their theories and what advances the movement has made over the years. It might have improved my understanding later on if I had used this book as a crash course.

Starting with the Taoist movement many centuries ago, Peter Marshall elegantly takes us through the different political movements that have adopted anarchist ideas. Demanding the Impossible discusses the forerunners of anarchism that were prevalent in old Asian, Greek, Christian and European societies, then touches on the old libertarian thinkers who had an anarchist slant in their beliefs, followed by the more prominent thinkers. Throughout, Marshall displays an expertise for their philosophy and gets at the core of what their ideas were. At the end, Marshall focuses on the trends worldwide and movements that have claimed anarchist principles, like the Mexican revolution, the Spanish civil war, the 1968 protest in France, and more recent events. Regretfully, this book was not updated in time to include the Occupy movement.

Having read most of these authors before, I can tell Marshall is doing a lot of the heavy work for us in trying to understand what some of them were trying to get at. A lot this source material is dry, convoluted, and very difficult to read and having someone like Marshall extract its meaning for a general audience is vital. What’s also important is how Marshall shows us the complete picture of the philosophers, warts and all. So for example, he makes it a point to talk about Proudhon’s patriarchy and anti-Semitism, Bakunin’s contradictions in stressing the importance of a secret police, Kropotkin’s support of the war and imperialist powers, Goldman’s jealousy in open relationships, and Bookchin’s reversion to Marxism towards the end of his life.

This may sound like nitpicking, but it’s important to remember that these representatives of freedom had flaws themselves. I cannot stress it enough: this book is thorough and well put together.

Many more Anarchist anthologies will be written and undoubtedly the day will come when this book will be obsolete, but that won’t happen for a very long time. Demanding the Impossible is simply exhaustive and Peter Marshall has done an incredible job. Every historian will have to reckon with it.

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Entscheidend ist die Besatzungsmentalität: What’s crucial is the mentality of conquest and occupation

By Gabriel Kuhn
February 21st, 2017

The following interview with J. Sakai was conducted by Gabriel Kuhn for the German radical monthly, “analyse & kritik” ( commonly known there as “AK” ).  Both the German-language translation in that  journal and this version, have been edited down considerably for reasons of space.


Q. In an interview from the year 2000, titled “When Race Burns Class”, you said the following with respect to the status of the white working class within the U.S. Left: “So the white workers as a whole are either the revolutionary answer – which they aren’t unless your cause is snowmobiles and lawn tractors – or they’re like ignorant scum you wouldn’t waste your time on. Small wonder rebellious poor whites almost always seek out the Right rather than the Left.” This almost seems prophetic considering the results of the 2016 presidential election. What has gone wrong within the U.S. Left?

A. This is going to be bumpy, since there was both a left generational change and a dramatic class shift in American society itself.

When first joining the u.s. left in the late 1950s, we had our local social-democratic group’s small May Day celebration in a room at the cheap edge of downtown. Memorably, there was a strip-tease joint downstairs, giving the building a kind of lumpen/proletarian air. At the speaker’s side of the room there was an older Jewish worker from one of the garment unions, with an elderly woman garment worker representing the inactive social-democratic “Italian chapter”. The audience was less than thirty persons, almost all whites The meeting was a remnant, of an old u.s. left from the 1930s industrial labor battles.

If you could skip ahead in time only a few years to the start of the 1960s, There would be many more people, but the old white trade unionists would be gone. The white side of the left was mostly young, university students or drop-outs. The many workers and poor street people in the struggle would be Black, and had their own movement. Almost everyone in the young left mixed in the civil rights movement or the student anti-war movement—or often both. It was easy for the u.s. white left to become dominantly middle-class, and the full future implications of that were never faced. This New Left would constantly attract a small stream of white working class kids, but almost as migrants from across a national border.

Once the u.s. left became allies and activists with the Black freedom movement in the 1960s-1970s, white areas even working class ones became enemy territory for us—those were places where you worried about physical attacks and violent mobs. Remember that America was always divided into oppressor territories and oppressed colonial territories—called the rez, barrios, and ghettos—and the white settler population were constantly engaged in daily social policing. Informally, a low-level war by whites of beatings and terrorism and killings happened every day to keep the angry colonies inside their social prisons.

But there was a real division in the white working class communities in the 1960s-70s. The white labor aristocracy, like hard-hat construction workers and over the road truckers, were used as patriotic shock troops by the government, politically and in attacking anti-war protests. On the other hand, we worked with many white working class youth who were being drafted to fight in Vietnam, and were anti-government and sharing a rebel youth culture. Many white working class GIs became antiwar in Vietnam, and some joined us in the resistance.

After Washington’s Vietnam pull-out in 1973, though, this contact with white working class rebels sharply dropped off. Recall, for a while was working in a major parts factory in the far South Side. A crew of young white guys there, who were mostly ’Nam vets and dope smokers, invited me to join their clique and come party at the Indianapolis 500 auto race with them. They even supported me for being night-shift union shop steward. The only thing they warned me about—is that i had to stop hanging with the young Black workers or else they wouldn’t even say hello. The euro-settler/Black divide was and is everything here, really.

Q. In the 1980s, you wrote the book Settlers: The Mythology of the White Proletariat. A new edition has been published recently. How is settlerism different from racism? It seems that some folks use the terms interchangeably.

A. Yes, often young anarchists or socialists here do use the words in an uncertain way, as though they mean the same. Settlerism, as we know, is a very specific type of capitalist colonialism. It is the most complete colonialism. A conquest society, where a loyal national population was brought in to both economically populate and be the permanent garrison for capitalism over the conquered territory.

Settlerism has within it the broader phenomena of racism, but is importantly different. The culture is capitalist but twisted further. Sometimes you can see the cultural mark of being a garrison population, like the American white “gun mania.” The ruling class has always supported a heavily armed white citizenry to keep colonized people under the boot. This is their neurotically guilty culture of would-be conquerors and genocidists. Settlerism means that we are always fighting “Americanism” itself, not just some extreme nationalistic form.

Q. You have said that settlerism has made fascism in the U.S. unnecessary because “however good or bad the economic situation was, white settlers were getting the best of what was available”. Is this changing? Does it, at least partly, explain Trump?

A. Think of settlerism as having its own shape but being co-terminus with fascism, its kith and kin. To sum it up, believe that fascism is much more widespread among settler Americans than anyone admits. The unspoken key to Trump’s victory was certainly fascism, although no one wants to say it. Instead, we get all this liberal capitalist coverup about how resentful white workers and others in their backward “loser” post-industrial communities are to blame.

What the real deal is: Between 1963 and 1968, as violent and massive Black ghetto “riots” spread, the u.s. ruling class made two critical decisions. That Civil Rights would be made national law as an “airbag” to cushion the crash of repressing Black revolution, and that the real costs of any “integration” would be shifted completely onto the euro-settler working class.

People who weren’t around then can’t realize how bitter and explosive this was. Before, euro-settler workers may have gotten their hands dirty, but they had all the good paying jobs, it was that simple. Suddenly it was the same but different. About that time was graduating from the u.s. government mechanics school, trying to find a job. The state employment office sent me to the mechanics department at the big railway freight yards. In the office, the supervisor leaned back in his chair and said unhappily: “We heard that the government was going to pass this law, so we figured it was better you than a nigger!” That was still in the old days, when we always knew what white men were thinking, because they felt free to say out loud whatever crossed their minds. Of course, the white mechanics had gathered nearby in the garage to see the “new hire”, and together serenaded me with the then popular toothpaste commercial: “You’ll wonder where the YELLOW went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent.” ( Starting the daily harassment on the job. )

The point was, the white working class never had any “democratic” vote or say over this social tax on their communities. For two generations the u.s. ruling class solidified government, political parties, media and elections into an iron wall, enforcing this unpopular strategic concession. For the euro-settler working class communities shifting from being very privileged to less privileged. There never was any plebiscite or national popular vote on civil rights—which wouldn’t have passed. When the rare candidate to major office appeared who dead-on opposed civil rights, the establishment united to shoot him down. Famously, when Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazi leader David Duke ran for governor of the state of Louisiana in 1991, both parties united behind the Democratic candidate to block Duke, who still won 55% of the white vote. That was a signal flare of shipwreck sent up by settler communities, including but no means limited to their working class.

Donald Trump was today’s more respectable version of Duke. Marketing smarts told him that running on a platform of settler nationalism, of restoring the white nation to power and having a state publically dedicated to only their racial interests, would be the path to his elevation. The key to that would be his “dog whistle”, silently giving the piercing signal to euro-settlers that his was a united front of all whites in their common racial interests. He wouldn’t sell them out. What better way to silently do that than by conspicuously including the neo-nazis and klan haters in his campaign. Promoting the Confederate flag at his campaign rallies. Every Trump sexist vulgarity, every hate message and bullying threat, was only further proof to his enraptured followers that he wasn’t “politically correct” against them. That he would restore the white nation because at long last through him they could vote “civil rights” and the whole establishment agenda down.

Q. After Trump’s victory, Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times: “There turn out to be a huge number of people — white people, living mainly in rural areas — who don’t share at all our idea of what America is about.” This quote makes it sound like there is a bad backward America and a good enlightened America – represented by people who live in the big cities and read the New York Times. What do you make of this?

A. Think that Krugman and his wife, who co-writes that column, mean well, but got sucked into this liberal capitalist propaganda line, because it uses in a flattering way their own falsely positive views of their elite.

The metropolitan elite, university-educated, residing in major urban areas, dominates the computer industry and global corporate sectors like finance and media. While backing Hillary and LGBT human rights for public politics and all that, in their own worlds they live in apartheid racial/gender discipline. In the futuristic Silicon Valley, computer firms like Twitter and Pinterest are each coincidentally 92% white and Asian for tech employees. Google is right there, too, with tech employees being 94% white and Asian. Same at other computer corporations. It isn’t hard to guess that there are ethnic quotas or near-blanket exclusions secretly agreed upon between these outspokenly liberal corporate leaders. It’s ironic that conservative white factory workers and small industrial employers in the Midwest may be for Trump, but have much more integrated workplaces. Incidentally, the liberal icon New York Times, where Paul Krugman’s columns appear, has 6 White House reporters, but none of them are Black. It has 21 sports reporters, but none of them are Black ( although basketball and American football, for instance, are heavily Black ). Their lifestyles section has no Black writers, although Black people do have real lives. So who is more racist and backward?

Right now we are at intermission. As the previous left from the 1960s-70s has finally faded away, and exited the stage. In this transition, protest and struggle is starting all over again from ground zero. A new kind of radical movement with its own politics and startling ideas is still to come. But it had better have a real power hook-up for working class heroes and outcasts.

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We the People: A Review

By Melissa Wuske
Foreword Reviews
February 13, 2017

This emboldening book will equip movements to fight for community rights.

We the People: Stories from the Community Rights Movement in the United States, by Thomas Linzey and Anneke Campbell, presents the inspiring stories of everyday people and communities who stood up for their rights in the face of corporate and legal opposition.

Drawn from the work of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, each chapter presents a narrative case study of a particular community rights movement, each seeking to preserve the autonomy of groups of people and to protect the natural realm. Together, they form a picture of the struggles and victories that change agents face across the United States.

These stories are both aspirational and accessible for average people and communities. They show the high commitment needed to secure rights and fight legal battles, and yet they also demonstrate that, with the right strategy and persistence, those of modest means can triumph over the immense powers that oppose them.

The book is at once timeless and timely. With echoes of David versus Goliath, it embodies the cries for community rights and environmental protection voiced by prominent movements like the Standing Rock protests. In a time when corporations are more and more hungry for profits at the expense of communities, and when communities are increasingly voiceless in response, these stories of persistence and hope are incredibly vital.

Linzey, an attorney at CELDF, and Campbell, a writer and filmmaker focused on justice and the environment, lend their varied expertise to create a balanced look at accounts of social change from a narrative and legal perspective. The appendix shifts more fully toward the legal side of the issues, compiling a variety of laws and statues relevant to issues discussed in the book.

This balance of authorial expertise lends itself to legal minds who want to delve into activism, as well as to environmental activists who want to know how to scale the walls of legal restriction. For both groups, the narratives here paint a picture of what can be, allowing each to glean wisdom to apply to their own challenges.

We the People is an emboldening book that equips movements to fight for community rights.

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#VansBooksClub - Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag de Stevie Chick

By Wenceslas Bruciaga
February 14th, 2017

Black Flag es una declaración de principios, distanciados de la típica banda que habla de la hermandad de sus integrantes como si narraran el cuento más pinche diabético de Disney, y Spray Paint The Walls es La Biografía a leer de la banda más relevante del Hardcore,

Según cuenta Stevie Chick (periodista de revistas que han marcado tendencia en el periodismo musical como Mojo o The Guardian) en Spray Paint the Walls, Henry Garfield (verdadero nombre de Rollins) fue un niño maltratado por su padre que por como lo describe Chick, se puede deducir que poseía los mismo rasgos intolerantes y gañanes del Trump que tuitea acaso compitiendo con el tuitsar más simplón y bufonesco; además, Henry fue abusado sexualmente de niño, múltiples veces, quizás por eso desarrolló una rabiosa conducta hiperactiva que le hizo acreedor a una inscripción a la Academia Bullis (el nombre es absolutamente real) sólo para varones y dónde los castigos corporales eran tan comunes, como las sumas y restas en el pizarrón: “Pero debo admitir que aquello fue muy bueno para mi, realmente me benefició que alguien me dijera No significa no y tu te vas a quedar aquí sentado hasta que lo entiendas. Lo cierto es que Bullis desarrolló en mi una autodisciplina muy rigurosa… lo único malo es que no había chicas y eso fue muy duro… me molestaba ser tan socialmente inepto por culpa de haber estado separado de las chicas todos esos años. Además que… sólo soy un freak” dice Rollins en el libro de Chick. La disciplina aprendida en Bullis fue un factor determinante para Black Flag perfeccionara sus riffs y su caos veloz fuera perfecto.

Rollins no era el único. El fundador de Black Flag, Greg Ginn, hijo de un profesor de literatura del Harbor College y habitante de Hermosa Beach, California, también era un freak, pero en un sentido retraído y concentrado de los aparatos que pasaba el tiempo en solitario, reconstruyendo viejos radiotransmisores de la Segunda Guerra Mundial, a ese negocio de reparación y venta por correo a radioaficionados lo bautizó como Solid State Turner, SST:

Cuando era niño, pensaba que el rock era estúpido. Cuando Janis Joplin murió, ni sabía quién era. Yo estaba en la electrónica y escribiendo poesía” recuerda Ginn. Hasta que leyó un artículo de algo llamado punk en el Village Voice y su vida cambiaría para siempre. Después conocería al desmadroso y borracho Kieth Morris y el hermano de Ginn, Raymond Pettibon perturbado ilustrador que inventó las cuatro franjas de Black Flag emulando las banderas de los piratas y daría vida al concepto visual del grupo que terminaría inventando el hardcore bajo una simple premisa: tocar como si Black Sabbath tuvieran cuernos de chivo en lugar de guitarras; los trazos de Pettibon desafiaban los peinados gringos con sus violentas caricaturas, que destruían las postales del idílico sueño americano con sus escenas de policías mamando el cañón de una pistola o el padre de familia volándose los sesos frente a sus hijos. Pettibon fue el pintor oficial de la imagen de la primera generación del rock subterráneo norteamericano, desde el hardcore de Black Flag hasta la inmortal portada del Goo de Sonic Youth.

Ginn conocería después de descubrir al punk al desmadroso Keith Morris que a finales de los 70 sólo perdía el tiempo emborrachándose y metiéndose ácidos y surfeando porque en Hermosa Beach todo era tan estereotípicamente californiano, que hablar de punk era tan críptico e ininteligible como una fórmula física de los agujeros negros alrededor de Saturno:

Entonces, de repente, estamos listos para tocar, y el chico saca la puerta del garaje, como si fuera una cortina de madera, y comenzamos a dar guitarrazos. Y lo primero que pasa es que sucede es una pelea que estalla, como a unos cuantos centímetros de distancia. De repente, la gente empieza a preguntrase, ¿Qué es esta mierda? ¿Quiénes son estos chicos? Fue entonces cuando las botellas, las latas y las tazas vacías comenzaron a volar a través del aire, y el vaso se estrellí delante de mí, y se puso realmente salvaje. Había empezado la fiesta” recuerda Keith Morris.

La violencia fue el prejuicio que persiguió a Black Flag a lo largo de sus ochos años de trayectoria. Chick recuerda que la policía los odiaba con la misma saña que un Minutmen practica deporte cazando migrantes. De hecho, se cuenta que incluso el departamento de policía de Los Ángeles inventaron un código numérico que cuando se transmitía por la frecuencia policial significaba Black Flag está a punto de dar un concierto, las patrullas encendían la torreta y los fanáticos de Black Flag estaban dispuestos a partirse la madre con tal de defender su derecho a romper el aburrimiento y la marginalidad del California Dreaming a punta de moshpit. Fue este acoso lo que inspiró probablemente el himno de Black Flag, Rise AboveEstamos hartos de que nos maltrates, ¡Tratar de detenernos no servirá de nada!”.

Después se unirían personajes como Chuck Dukowski (quién co-escribió Spary Paint), Robo Valverde, un colombiano ilegal, Dez Cadena, Bill Stevenson (quien luego fuera batería de los Descendents), Kira Roesseler con la que se rumora Henry tuvo un fugaz romance.

Spray paint the walls no sólo es LA biografía (indispensable) de la banda que inventó el hardcore y que fue perseguido por la policía (tal y como ciertas autoridades pretenden perseguir hoy día a los inmigrantes en Estados Unidos, incluyendo mexicanos) por su inconformidad y rabia que tradujeron en riffs y gritos y madrazos que entusiasmaron a los surfistas aburridos de las promesas californianas, traidoras, de los comerciales perfectos y las películas con finales felices y las palmeras y la fama televisada ; Chick aprovecha la fábula de Black Flag para desenterrar los fuertes contrastes de California y ejercer una severa crítica social a sus espejismos hollywoodenses que conviven con la miseria y sobrexplotación de los inmigrantes mediante una historia de precisión tan exacta como libro de texto. La parte en como revisa la fundación de California permite una reflexión para entender su contexto multicultural, sus gruesas venas mexicanas que circulan desde 1865 y su constante deseo de separarse de los Estados Unidos y fundarse como un país propio.

También contrapone el circuito de música independiente contra la industria comercial que por aquellos días dominaba casi todo el espectro de la Frecuencia Modulada, sentando las bases de lo indie: “El rock de masas consistía en vivir a lo grande; el indie, en vivir de forma realista y estar orgulloso de eso. Los grupos indie no necesitaban presupuestos promocionales de millones de dólares ni múltiples cambios de vestuarios. Lo único que necesitaban era creer en ellos mismos y que unos cuantos más creyeran en ellos” reflexiona Michaek Azerrad en el libro de Chick, el libro incluye adictivas entrevistas con todos ellos más citas de legendarios fanzines que fueron la hemeroteca oficial. Auténticos vetados en la era Trump y un jugoso y valiosísimo acervo fotográfico

Un libro que mas allá de ser la delicia de los melómanos, los punketos, los seguidores de Black Flag, a los que nos cambió la vida Black Flag, editado por PM Press editorial especializada en títulos contestarlos e iconoclastas que cuestionan el sistema gringo desde sus tripas.  Son páginas para reflexionar sobre la resistencia a la autoridad que pretende imponer un orden según sus prejuicios y pisoteando las libertades

Si, otra vez, Black Flag. Porque es la mejor banda de hardcore, lo que el punk siempre debió ser; porque ahora que el fascismo intransigente y enajenado con el patriotismo despótico y xenófobo y acosador de lo desigual se ha apoderado del país más poderoso del mundo que por mucho tiempo fue el atlas de las promesas doradas, las fantasías de glamur y el sueño más anhelado, es vital para sobrevivir al tsunami fascista que se viene, la beligerancia ideológica que fue la insignia de Black Flag, por encima de sus muros de ruido y su agresividad vocal y los reconcomios de sus errantes miembros, que fueron integrantes de una banda, pero nunca compadres. Lo importante era transmitir el mensaje: “si no te gusta el sistema, invéntate uno”.

Un libro que inspira a crear nuestro sistema.

Y porque Henry Rollins sigue estando bien pinche bueno y su sabrosura aumenta conforme su cabello se pinta de canas.

Nota del Ed. : Wenceslao nos pidió que  “por favor, por favor, por favor” pusiéramos esta foto de su tatuaje de Black Flag.


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The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams: Musical Renaissance And Social Revolution In San Francisco, 1965 —1975: A Review

By Nick Kuzmack
February 7th, 2017

The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams is an essential book that explores the powerful relationship between music and politics. Author Mat Callahan highlights the struggles that defined the 1960s and although it is a subject well covered, he shows that this era was fresh with sounds that made one move, and groove in a way that was totally revolutionary. This culturally and revolutionary period was far from perfect and could not be boiled down to the popular idea of simply having flowers in one’s hair. In his study, Callahan uses the San Francisco as his model to understand a deep political history that coincides with the cultural renaissance of the 60’s. To do this, Callahan explores a history of the civil rights, labor struggles and the emergence of feminism.

To understand the complex relationship between music and politics, Callahan first shows that the sounds that came out of the era defied traditional modes of authority because it was a form of expression that was beyond the ability to control. Music was and still is an expression of feeling. Callahan shows this by highlighting the power of performance as a way to channel revolutionary sentiment and even action. Callahan does not shy away from this medium’s controversial pitfalls or its limitations. For example, Callahan explores the capitalist motivations of people who worked behind the scenes and the fans/ musicians flirtations with the intoxicating effects of substances for inspiration. This being said, The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams is very much about the relationship that music plays with politics, for good or bad.
This is fascinating particularly because of the raw nature of sounds that came from folk, rock n’ roll or soul to evoke feeling—a notion not truly understood then by the powers that be.

However, as Callahan cites this as an impressive and powerful feat, this revolution did not last. The raw feeling that largely defined the revolutionary aspects of the sounds that came out of the ‘60s were eventually co-opted and filtered into family friendly or acceptable means. Although this resulted in a certain potency being lost, Callahan does show that was to a large degree regained by the punk movement in the late ‘70s.

While Callahan’s look at music as ungovernable medium is above all fascinating, his explorations of topics like feminism, labor struggles and civil rights are intriguing and are important to understand the times. Callahan’s explorations of feminism are of particular note as a philosophy of brutal honesty. As a movement it challenged all things from the fundamentals of the revolutionary movements to societal relationships. Not only that, but Callahan shows that women’s part to play in musical growth is fundamental it’s evolution. Although, he does take care to point out women’s exclusion from the machinations of the music industry.

The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams
is an important read to understand the power that music has in the realms of political change. The feelings invoked by rock n roll, soul, folk or other forms were exciting and raw—and arguably they still are. To couple music with forms of resistance was not a new idea, but for the turbulence of the ‘60s, it was truly revolutionary and considered a plausible threat to the establishment. No doubt music still plays a key role in expression, both politically and recreationally. Given the uncertainty of modern times and arguably our collective future, The Explosion Of Deferred Dreams may not only be an interesting read, but an essential one to explore what made music a definitive power of resistance and what were the shortcomings of it.

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