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Book review: Talking Anarchy by Colin Ward & David Goodway

Book Review of “Talking Anarchy” by Colin Ward and David Goodway

Review by Kathy Labriola

I rarely write book reviews, but this book got me so excited I just had to share my enthusiasm! This compact little PM Press book is essentially an extended conversation between two amazing British anarchist writers, editors, and activists. Weighing in at just 165 pages, it is jam-packed with anarchist history, events, and ideas, and is the one book I would give to anyone who wants to understand what anarchism is all about.

Colin Ward edited the anarchist journal “Freedom” and founded the journal “Anarchy” which he edited for decades. He was a tireless anarchist speaker and writer, eventually writing 30 books on the subject. David Goodway is a British social and cultural historian whose best-known book is “Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow.” He had the opportunity to interview Colin Ward at length, over a period of months, just before Ward’s death in 2010 at the age of 86. “Talking Anarchy” is the

result of those interviews,

published in the US earlier

this year.

Despite being a card-carrying

anarchist since 1968, I have

successfully avoided reading

Kropotkin, Bakunin, Read,

Bookchin, and all the other

anarchist heavyweights. I am

embarrassed to confess that I

always found

them tedious, maddeningly abstract and irrelevant to present-day reality. Ward’s take on anarchism is refreshingly

practical and tied to our

current challenges of creating

meaningful work, affordable

housing, useful and child-centric

education and child-care,

building meaningful community,

and doing effective political

organizing.

Ward emphasizes the importance of tenants taking control of their buildings, of students and parents organizing for more humane and relevant education, and for alternative forms of work such as worker co-ops and individuals working independently rather than for an employer. He sees all these as ways of living our anarchist beliefs by demonstrating that people can create the forms of organization that they need and can empower themselves to be in charge of their lives on as many fronts as possible without coercion or guidance from an authoritarian state. For instance, he talks about the importance of individuals and groups of people in cities growing as much of our own food as possible, providing for ourselves and being more food self-sufficient. All such self-help and mutual aid projects prove that anarchism works, that people at a individual and/or local level are competent to decide what our communities need, and then create our own ways to meet those needs. His approach seems very focused on putting anarchist practices into action to solve the life-threatening problems created by capitalism and imperialism. In another example, he says that squatting vacant buildings shows the irrational and barbaric nature of capitalism, a system that allows housing to sit vacant while people are homeless and freezing in the streets, and that people can take action to house themselves.

Of particular interest to me, as a deranged militant feminist, are Ward and Goodway’s discussion of the historical importance of anarchists, from Emma Goldman to Alex Comfort and many others, in challenging and successfully overturning the sexist and sex-negative attitudes and laws in Britain, in advocating for the right to birth control, abortion, sexual freedom, and equality for women. Ward reminds us that people today cannot even imagine the rigid and suffocating sexual repression, ignorance, and sex roles of compulsory heterosexual marriage that were the rule as recently as the early 1960′s. They emphasize the dramatic changes that have occurred in a very short time, and the role that anarchists have played in fighting for equal rights for women and for sexual freedom for all. They both see the rights of each person to control their bodies, their sex lives, and their relationship choices as core anarchist values, because people are competent to create their own relationships, families, and communities without direction or restriction from the state. Ward talks extensively about the central role women have played in founding and sustaining anarchist organizations in the UK.

Ward quotes frequently throughout the book from many anarchist writers, some totally fascinating and exciting stuff! Some of the books he quotes are from the usual suspects, but many were from books and anarchists I had never even heard of. Ironically, despite my afore- mentioned aversion to anarchist theory, by the time I finished the book, I had jotted down a long list of anarchist books that I intend to read!

Book Review: Weapon: Mouth – adventures in the free speech zone by Stoney Burke

Book Review

Weapon: Mouth Adventures In The Free Speech Zone by Stoney Burke ($20 regentpress.net)

Review by Jesse D. Palmer

Back in the mid-1980s, before I worked on Slingshot, a lot of us UC Berkeley campus radical types would come out most days during lunch time and sit in a big circle to listen to Stoney Burke’s hilarious political rants/performances. Stoney was a master at saying important things about injustice and the absurd contradictions of capitalism in a funny, engaging, accessible way. He wasn’t just about entertainment—he was a part of the radical scene and he influenced my thinking and helped me articulate my critique. In the very early days of Slingshot, he MCed some benefits for us because he was the people’s celebrity.

So I was excited to look at his new book. The book is organized around short chapters that are in part auto-biographical and many of which recall material from his rants. He also includes fliers, newspaper clippings and photographs. One of the early chapters about a formative incident from his childhood when racists shot into his parents’ house and wrote “nigger lovers” on the sidewalk to punish them for holding integrated political meetings actually brought a tear to my eye. There’s a lot about his many, many, many arrests for speaking in public places. Other chapters are odes to other street personalities he has known or other famous loudmouths. He goes through his experiences at decades of protests and historical events from the UC Berkeley anti-apartheid movement to the various Republi-crat conventions to Occupy.

The title of the book is from a police report where the officer filled in “mouth” for the blank titled “weapon.” Overall, what’s impressive about Stoney is how his 35 years as a street performer exemplifies what a do-it-yourself life is really about. Stoney life is all about creating his own venues and opportunities to perform while the mainstream entertainment biz ignores him. He lives life on his own terms with few compromises, which is so hard to achieve. I hope this book will turn more people onto Stoney’s amazing work. Laughing at the absurd capitalist/eco-destroying system might be one of our best tools to bring it down in flames.

Zine Reviews!

Read all about it. People are still making revolution on paper. Send money if you want their work, or make something and offer to trade them. Most of these zines we reviewed in the past. If you make something send it to us. Also received was new issues of Dwelling Portably, Muchacha and Razor Cake. All of them worth your time. (eggplant)

The Stowaways Summer 2014

5082 Wendover Rd. Yorba Linda CA 92886

A chronicle of the punk scene with emphasis on people activated by the DIY side of it. It has up till now been covering the dispersed LA area. In this issue the editor has relocated to the Humboldt area of Northern California – and surprise surprise, there is a healthy and vibrant scene to be found there. The amount of shows each issue records is impressive. A bit more elaboration on the bands’ sound and message could further the cause here. Also what makes this kind of journalism alive is vivid descriptions of the characters that populate the shows-which Stowaways could use more of. The zine is starting to look sharper since its early issues with large photos to spark the imagination. Also to keep you seated is interviews and reviews all of it done with care.

Mission Mini-Comix “What is Net Neutrality?” minicomix@gmail.com

This may be one of their most wide reaching endeavors committed to paper since these wanton artists from S.F. are currently at siege by high tech yuppies. The fight to keep the internet from being a two-tiered system is an issue that could bridge the gap. Every issue is a group effort, making for inconsistent artistic styles. The narrative seems like one voice, though, and the zine is so short there’s no time to linger in disorientation. The evolution of the Mission Mini crew has see them move from the gutter and shock tactics of their early issues to a present course of activism. At least their politics retain a bit of their gutter sensibilities. I had dreamed in the past to have anarchist type Chick Tracts corrupt the schools and the empty seats on mass transit…this is the closest we got.

Hug it Out #1

ppd: $2 US, $3 Canada/Mexico, $4 World

PO Box 73691 Washington DC 20056

“WHAT THE FUCK?” was my first thought. “Wrestling??” Then peering into how it is made by the editor of the magazine Give Me Back who is also a very accomplished photo journalist only furthered the question mark above my head. Still a competent documentation of a subculture–one I hadn’t taken seriously since I saw They Live. The writing is solid and the pages are laid out with care and style. This is an example of a fanzine being a little too excited about a cultural phenomenon over a facet of life often overlooked. As it should the excitement of wrestling in here is palpable.

Peops #8.9

PO Box 1013 Cooper Stn NY, NYC 100276 killerbanshee.com

Art and treasure hunting by the squatter punk Fly. She has the ability to unearth the most unique and brave people and get them to share a bit of their life story. Each page is a portrait with a brief bio to whet your interest. The portraits highlight punk, squatting, the lower East Side of NY and other facets of the counter culture. Essentially people who are making reality as opposed to being head locked by it. Like Peter Cramer of ABC No Rio & Aline Kominsky the underground comix artist. Fly’s handiwork is controlled and manages to get an accurate likeness of the lunatic fringe in repose. This was a quick issue giving us peops a peek at issue 9 that will be out soon. Really there’s enough here to keep you busy meeting some new faces. Who needs loud parties?

New Hearts New Bones

1037 South Broad St. Apt. D

Lancaster, OH 43130

Each issue is a visual journey of collages. The work is starting to depict a personal reflection of current events & issues. The imagery is quite striking as it tackles factory farming, corporate media, persecution of whistle blowers, environmental destruction, drones, the seedy side of sports . I wish more people cared about the state of the world and did something–even something as simple as cutting up pictures. But beyond just regurgitating politics a real sense of mood and dream state is being created. Sometimes the pages here are hampered by the shitty copy machine used to duplicate them. The originals are often posted on the We Make Zines website. There the true splendor of the art jumps out to shake you.

EASTWEST An Anarchist Newspaper Free eastwest@riseup.net

The record of street smart resistance. The perspective here clarifies the impetus behind riots and broken windows. The news your mainstream media is getting wrong or misrepresenting; Ferguson, Israel’s slaughter of people in Gazat, fighting tar sands oil in Richmond and the final solution of turning West Oakland into an eyesore of rich lofts for the unconscionable drones. In many ways it reminded me of recently defunct publications Modesto Anarcho and Fireworks. It has a similar tone of bold antagonism and spunk. Really there should be 3 of these in every town.

Urban Shield – urban menace

By G. Smith

People calling for an end to militarization of the police protested September 5 at the Marriott Hotel in Oakland against Urban Shield exercises held there September 4-8. Urban Shield is a federal program that conducts military drills with local police and Sheriffs Departments in various cities to practice how local police would combat and respond to a terrorist attack. The events showcase military hardware and are co-sponsored by private defense contractors.

The U.S. government claims the program is designed to combat terrorism in the United States but what is the real motive behind Urban Shield? The War on Terror was a made up war to give the U.S. government an excuse to wage a war on us, and to go to war in Iraq shortly after the 9/11 bombings. A war on terror is not a war in a real sense, for terror is a tactic, not an enemy that can be fought. The U.S. Government claims that terrorism was directed by Osama bin Laden or radical Islamic jihadist groups, whose origins are in the Middle East. However, it was the U.S. which created Osama bin Laden. He was originally an ally of the U.S. in its fight to overthrow the Afghanistan government. The total cost of Operation Cyclone — the code name for CIA financing of the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet War in Afghanistan from 1979-89 — was $20 billion, the most expensive, undercover CIA operation in history. Our tax dollars at work!

The U.S. government, which is a tool of the bosses / the capitalist class, is not afraid of factions in the Middle East dropping bombs on each other. The U.S. encourages such wars to keep the Middle East unstable. In reality, the U.S. government is afraid of us, the working people!

That is why the government wants drills like Urban Shield. It is a preparation to quell urban unrest and uprisings by the masses. Anger is certainly growing, as witnessed during the Occupy Movements that swept the country. The bosses are scared of us!

This is why our opposition is so bitter to Urban Shield. Urban Shield is a way for the bosses — and their government in Washington — to try to intimidate us, to rule through fear. Urban Shield has donated military hardware and military vehicles to various police departments in major cities across the country. Why does a police department need a tank? It is a scare tactic on the part of the bosses and their state to instill fear into the American people.

The riots and police response in Ferguson clearly demonstrate that when the masses are mobilized and take to the streets in large numbers, the police can’t stop us. All the donated military hardware ends up being used against us. The police and military use terror against the working people in this country on a daily basis.

Down with Urban Shield military exercises!

On the tar sands trail

By Lesley Danger

I am huddled up in blankets by the wood stove in a tipi, sipping the coffee that is brewed at all hours here as the wind howls across the fallow cornfields that surround our little camp. Outside you have to squint to see lights off in the distance, but the sky is freckled with more stars than I have ever seen before. A small handful of us are gathered here, listening to a story first told 160 years ago.

The story is about a gigantic black snake that comes to cut across the land and poison the air and water. In the story, people from the four corners of the world must unite in a struggle for survival if they are to conquer the snake.

We have come here to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive tar sands pipeline that pumps crude bitumen, mined from the Athabascan region of Alberta, Canada and shipped down to refineries in Houston, Texas, that spit toxic black clouds into the air for whole neighborhoods to choke on. Activists from the Sicangu Lakota tribe on the Rosebud reservation have set up this Spirit Camp to block construction.

The story of the black snake haunts us.

All along the route of the Keystone XL pipeline people have congregated to learn direct action tactics, fight the TransCanada Corporation that is building the pipeline, and stop construction. The Keystone XL pipeline is one of many pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure projects that threaten our climate, our water, and our social systems.

Sitting at home in California, I saw as people climbed trees and locked themselves to equipment in order to stop the Keystone pipeline, and I was incredibly inspired by their bravery and creativity. But when the southern leg of the Keystone pipeline was successfully built I realized that more help was needed, and wanted to do whatever I could to support the work of people living in front-line communities along the northern pipeline route.

In March I packed a backpack and set out on an hitchhiking adventure that took me from the plains of South Dakota to the booming Houston metropolis. My own experiences as a white, middle-class, institutionally educated person necessarily shaped my interpretation of the world, and I have tried to stay critical of the problematic tendency of white settlers to dominate environmental movements.

Along the way I collected stories from people who were either dragged into the fight against the pipeline as TransCanada and the US government seized their backyards or threatened their livelihoods, or who came willingly, looking to share their skills. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, some are uplifting, all have something to teach us.

My journey began at the Spirit Camp in South Dakota, just a small circle of tipis on a slight hill in the middle of miles of fields, stretching out to the horizon. Hay bales are stacked around the camp to shield campers from the wind, and also as a buffer against gunfire, in case the camp is attacked. Each morning, campers greet the sun with prayer and each evening a sweat lodge is held to offer prayers to stop the pipeline.

On my first night at the camp, I was sitting in the kitchen tent talking to Gary Dorr, a Nez Perce organizer, and I asked him if he had been an activist before the Keystone XL pipeline proposal. He looked at me and said “I am an Indian. An Indian is an activist every day”.

The Keystone XL pipeline is just one more attack on a population that is always on the defensive. When I ask why people are camping here, almost everyone gives me the same answer. They are here because the water they and their children drink is imperiled by the pipeline plan. Because they have watched tribes up north in Canada disintegrate and First Nations people die of cancer from the water pollution. For the people at the Spirit Camp water is life. As crude bitumen flows over the Missouri river and the Oglala aquifer, their existence is being threatened, yet again and on just another front.

While folks on Rosebud are praying to stop the pipeline, neighbors at the Pine Ridge reservation are training, getting ready to use a variety of tactics. Oglala leader Debra White-Plume has worked through Owe Aku (meaning Bring Back the Way) to organize a series of non-violent direct action trainings called Moccasins on the Ground.

I left the Spirit Camp to join in this year’s training, which brought organizers fighting fossil fuel extraction from all over the U.S. and Canada to share knowledge and skills. Over the weekend there were workshops on writing press releases, using lockboxes, climbing trees, etc. to get people ready to put their bodies in the way of the Keystone Pipeline. While the training was specifically teaching non-violent direct action, many expressed that that was one of many tactics people were prepared to use.

It was at the Moccasins on the Ground training that I first got connected with people from Tar Sands Blockade, the Texan direct action group responsible for the well publicized tree-sit in the way of the pipeline as well as a number of other actions.

Many of the organizers in South Dakota are full of hope, confident that the pipeline plan will be rejected and excited about the connections that are finally being made. In Texas, however, where the pipeline is already built and pumping tar sands, people are still healing from the trauma they experienced.

“We threw everything we had at this pipeline,” one organizer confided, “and we still lost. Where do we go from there?”

The Tar Sands Blockaders spent months sleeping in rural squats, collecting climbing equipment, preparing to stop construction. They had been approached by a landowner, David Daniel, who had been coerced into signing a contract with TransCanada, and who wanted to fight the company off. The tree-sit they organized lasted for three months, until TransCanada routed the pipeline around the protestors.

Some members of Tar Sands blockade had decided early on that appealing to conservative Texas landowners was the best way to gain traction with the public, while others wanted to focus on appealing to radicals. The majority hoped to create an alliance across political boundaries. While several landowners did end up on the frontlines fighting TransCanada’s attempt to roll through their land, others were either uninterested, or fought the company with Tar Sands blocade until the stakes were too high or the incentives improved. TransCanada offered money to those who were resisting, and when that didn’t work threatened to sue them. Several, including David Daniel, signed out of fear that they might lose their property, families, and businesses if they continued to fight. Those who signed contracts allowing the pipeline on their land were made to sign gag orders saying they would not speak out about the project, and refused to speak to or work with the group again.

A number of other blockades popped off in Texas, eventually leading TransCanada to sue the Tar Sands Blockade. Internal stresses and fear of the lawsuit led some organizers to split off and head north to Oklahoma, where Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance organized a series of blockades, including locking down to construction equipment. Two organizers in Oklahoma were absurdly accused of bioterrorism after unfurling an anti-tar sands banner in a public oil company building, spilling glitter on passersby.

While many of the organizers are still grappling with legal charges and what the eventual construction of the southern piece of the Keystone Pipeline means for them, they have also started pushing in other directions, some focusing on building solidarity with communities in the Houston area, where the tar sands end up to be refined. The refinery area in Houston is a veritable hellscape that stretches for miles, pushed right up against low-income neighborhoods, primarily occupied by people of color. The air is thick with the black waste that spews from the giant processing plants, and associated health problems are rampant.

In Oklahoma, Bailey, one of the “glitter terrorists” tells me that while there is a lot of disappointment there’s also a lot of energy and excitement for what comes next.

“We can’t just attack all the pipelines. ALL pipelines go through Cushing, Oklahoma. It’s all coming here. It’s all hitting us. We’re trying to step back, reflect on what we learned, start building connections, and start pushing back against a dominant culture that needs to change. It’s not something immediate we can fight back against, it’s not something we can go chain ourselves to. It’s more complicated than that.”

Back up in Nebraska, the fight against the Keystone Pipeline rages on. There, a lawsuit filed in Nebraska has stalled the permitting process, giving organizers needed time to prepare to fight the construction, and opening up the possibility that the pipeline will be flat-out rejected throughout the state. A number of projects have been created by the group BOLD Nebraska, a liberal group focused on stopping the exploitation of eminent domain, which is used by the government to usurp privately held land for projects that supposedly are for public use and which has been used to force the pipeline through unwilling landowners’ backyards.

The group has planted a sacred strain of Ponca corn and built a clean-energy barn in the way of the proposed route, hoping to exacerbate legal barriers to construction. One landowner, Tom Genung, says that getting involved in the fight against the Keystone XL pipeline has changed his life, inspiring him to get arrested in Washington DC and introducing him to many people who are now his close friends.

“Who would ever have imagined that this would happen? You know? It wasn’t part of my life plan,” Genung says.

Back up at the Spirit Camp, the legal challenges in Nebraska have delayed construction in South Dakota so that the permits have expired. In order to construct the pipeline TransCanada will have to go through the long permitting process all over again. When I began my journey we huddled to keep warm as snow piled outside. I returned to the camp as the hot South Dakota sun beat down and flies swarmed. Still the camp goes on, with prayers offered every day.

For more stories from activists along the pipeline route, pick up a copy of the zine Fueling Dissent, or visit fuelingdissent.org

 

Radical Agenda – Calendar

November 28

Buy Nothing Day – trade, dumpster, play. Everywhere.adbusters.org/campaigns/bnd

 

December 6 • 10-5

East Bay Alternative Book & Zine Fest – Speakers V.Vale & Janelle Hessig. Workshops, numerous tables. Berkeley City College, 2050 Center St. eastbayalternativebookandzinefest.com

 

December 7 • 10-6 pm

East Bay Anarchist Book Fair – Dozens of publishers and tables. Emphasis on conversations and discussion. Art @ Humanist Hall 390 27thSt. Oakland eastbayanarchist.com

 

December 10

5th Anniversary of the Arab Spring. RIOT!!! Spokescouncil. Picnic. Everywhere / organize your own event.

 

December 13 •10-6 pm

7th Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair – Food Not Bombs, child care, readings, Kristian Willaims, puppet show, @ Manila Community Center 1611 Peninsula Dr. Manila humboldtgrassroots.com

 

January 9 • 8 pm

East Bay Bike Party – starting BART stations tba: eastbaybikeparty.wordpress

 

January 25 • 4 pm

Slingshot new volunteer meeting / article brainstorm for issue #118

 

January 29 • 6 pm

San Francisco Critical Mass bike ride. Gather at Justin Herman Plaza

 

February 14 • 3 pm

Article deadline for Slingshot issue #118 – 3124 Shattuck Berkeley

 

February 17 • Sunrise ’til you pass out

Berkeley Mardi Gras – Neo pagan surrealist reappropriation of X-tian holiday—oh yeah & lots of booze and weed! You can find the parade @ People’s Park noon

 

March 8

International Women’s Day

 

April 1 • Noon

St. Stupid Day Parade Roving party of pranks and radical history. Downtown SF

 

April • 25 10 -6 pm

20th Bay Area Anarchist Book Fair. Books & info tables, skillshares, speakers, films @ Crucible 1260 7th St. Oakland

bayareaanarchistbookfair.wordpress.com

 

April 15

Steal Something From Work Day – STOP BEING A VICTIM OF CAPITALISM steafromwork.crimethinc.com

 

Sometime in Spring

All Power to the Imagination Conference brings together community organizers and academics New College of Florida Sarasota allpowertotheimagination.com

 

May 13 noon -9 pm

Protest the 30 year anniversary of the police bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia. Rally at 62nd & Osage Ave and march to First District Plaza 3801 Market St., Philadelphia. Onamove.com