“The Snowmobile Revolution”
Note to Web version: In the print edition this article is erroneously attributed to Coquilles St. Jacques.
The invasion by technological civilization of indigenous societies, be it through massive industrialization or through seemingly innocuous “microtechnologies” in the form of commodities, undoes a society overnight.
Jul 8, 2017
We All Live in Bhopal
[Web archive note: The original print edition of this article did not list an author. The article was reprinted in David Watson’s Against the Megamachine (Autonomedia, 1998).]
The cinders of the funeral pyres at Bhopal are still warm, and the mass graves still fresh, but the media prostitutes of the corporations have already begun their homilies in defense of industrialism and its uncounted horrors. Some 3,000 people were slaughtered in the wake of the deadly gas cloud, and 20,000 will remain permanently disabled. The poison gas left a 25 square mile swath of dead and dying, people and animals, as it drifted southeast away from the Union Carbide factory. “We thought it was a plague,” said one victim. Indeed it was: a chemical plague, an industrial plague,
Aug 31, 2020
The Fall of the 500-Year Reich
“How can the spirit of the earth like the White man?...Everywhere the White man has touched it, it is sore.”
—a woman of the Wintu tribe (California)
Among the many places too numerous to name that have been defiled and destroyed by western civilization, there is a mountain in a place called Arizona, a mountain called Dzil nchaa si an (Big Seated Mountain) in the language of the earliest known human inhabitants, Mount Graham on modern maps. This is the abode of the Spirit Dancers (Ga’an), who taught the Apaches their sacred songs and dances. It is the highest peak in the Pinaleno Mountains, situated at the meeting place of four biotic zones—the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts and the Rocky Mountain and Sierra Madre forests.
Jan 27, 2020
The President Came to Boipatong
“Police shot at an angry crowd Saturday, killing three people just after the mob forced President Frederik W. de Klerk out of a black township where 39 died in a massacre last week...
“As soon as his motorcade arrived the crowd accused de Kirk of complicity in last Wednesday’s massacre of women and children by about 200 men. Some youths pounded on his car, shouting ‘Go away murderer’ and ‘Get the hell out of here.’
Mar 5, 2020
Catching Fish in Chaotic Waters
Empire and Mass Society
The following text is a speech given by Fifth Estate staff member David Watson at a conference on July 9, 1994 at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, hosted by the New Jersey Greens. Entitled “A Radical Ecology Forum: Ecological and Communitarian Visions,” the gathering drew approximately one hundred people. For a report of the conference, and the introductory remarks made by Steve Welzer, see the latest edition of the Jersey Greens Journal, c/o Green World, P.O. Box 2029, Princeton NJ 08543. Please send $2 to cover costs.
May 23, 2020
Looking Back on the Vietnam War
History and forgetting
This article first appeared in FE #320, Spring 1985 under the pen-name George Bradford. It is reprinted on the 20th anniversary of the defeat of the U.S. empire in Vietnam.
by Richard Drinnon
Another decade has passed and it is Spring 1995, twenty years since the “fall of Saigon to the Vietnamese,” in David Watson’s mordant words, and the man who gave his name to that war has just published In Retrospect, a memoir from which he broadcasts what everyone by now has heard: “we were wrong, terribly wrong.” Now the ur-Whiz Kid tells us that he had become a covert convert to the antiwar movement even by 1967, the year twenty thousand resisters tried to shut down his Department of Defense. If only the erstwhile carpet bomber had then come outside to join the fair number of us who had slipped by the soldiers and the marshals to piss on the Pentagon, what a triumphant relief that would have been, what an epiphany! Yet after twenty-eight years we can still say that Robert S. McNamara’s tardy outing is better late than never, no?
Feb 5, 2015
Beyond Bookchin (excerpts)
New FE book examines the work of North America’s best known anarchist
The text which begins on the following page is excerpted from Beyond Bookchin: Preface for a Future Social Ecology, a new title co-published in fall 1996 by Black & Red, Detroit, and Autonomedia, Brooklyn. Its author is Fifth Estate staff member David Watson.
In Murray Bookchin’s extensive writings on ecology and anarchism spanning four decades, he has tried to take us beyond Marx toward a more fundamental critique, a holistic rationality, a deeper freedom. He is recognized in many anti-authoritarian circles as an anarchist luminary and elder of significant importance to the extent that some identify themselves as “Bookchinites.” Under the watchword of “coherence,” Bookchin has sought nothing less than the full explanation. But David Watson’s latest book shows that Bookchin’s work ultimately falls far short of its pretensions, and thus fails to guide us toward the promised “pathways to a green future.”
May 8, 2018
The New Earth First!
An Exchange on Deep Ecology and Radical Environmentalism
Dear Fifth Estate:
As an Earth First! sympathizer and subscriber to many deep ecology principles, I read David Watson’s How Deep Is Deep Ecology? with great interest. I learned a tremendous amount from it. His criticisms were penetrating and well taken. I also appreciated the tone of sympathy despite profound differences.
May 10, 2018
On the road to nowhere
Notes on the new nomadism
Looking to change my life, at the age of nineteen I decided to pack my belongings into a knapsack and hitch-hike to California. Two miraculous rides carried me through prairies, deserts and mountains into Los Angeles to a friend’s place at the edge of Hollywood. In those days, at least, California was considered the ultimate destination for every dream of freedom and opportunity, spiritual and economic.
Feb 13, 2016
Primitivism and the “Ideological Vortex:” Farewell to All That
A review of the following texts:
Green Apocalypse, Luther Blissett, Stewart Home, and the Neoist Alliance (London: Unpopular Books [Box 15, 138 Kingsland High Street, London E8 2NS UK], 1996), £3.50
Into the 1990’s With Green Anarchist, Steve Booth (London: Green Anarchist Books [PO Box 407, Camberley GU15 3FL, England], 1996), £4
Feb 12, 2016
The Empire’s War Was Averted
What Will We Do About The Peace?
By last count, 1.5 million Iraqis, one million of them children under five, have died as a result of the U.S./U.N. sanctions, either through starvation or from lack of medicine for easily curable diseases. People are dying at a rate of about 11,000 a month, and some four million more are on the verge of starvation. In the seven years since the 1991 Gulf War’s intense and devastating bombing campaign, Iraq has become the international oil economy’s extermination camp.
Feb 3, 2016
Rudolf Bahro and Cornelius Castoriadis
In December 1997 two writers died who influenced our perspective: Rudolf Bahro and Cornelius Castoriadis, both former marxists capable of valuable insights as well as highly questionable positions. Bahro and Castoriadis were original thinkers, nevertheless, and deserve recognition as important voices in the breakup of traditional leftism and the emergence of new forms of radicalism.
Feb 4, 2016
A Humble Call to Subvert the Human Empire
“A Humble Call to Subvert the Human Empire” by longtime Fifth Estate collaborator David Watson is from a recent collection of his writing, Against the Megamachine: Essays on empire & its enemies (Autonomedia, 1999); it’s one of a few in this highly recommended volume that has not previously appeared in this newspaper. See Bookstore page for ordering information.
Nov 21, 2019
All Isms are Wasms
Introduction by Sunfrog
As one of the more outspoken non-atheists in the FE collective, it’s fitting that one of my early memories of the project was an argument about religion. I was hanging out in the office under the auspices of helping the collective members in their battle to stop the Detroit trash incinerator. While I could usually hold my rhetorical own, I was outnumbered and intellectually outgunned that afternoon in early 1988. Before I left the office that day, one of the collective members pulled me aside, sensing that I was feeling emotionally bruised after taking such a verbal beating. He encouraged me not to take the discussion personally, told me that he valued my participation, and gave me a book by Frederick Turner called Beyond Geography. If it weren’t for that gesture by David Watson, I wonder if I might not be here as a co-editor, writing this intro to his most recent article.
Jul 14, 2016
Swamp Fever (excerpts)
FE note. Excerpts from “Swamp Fever, Primitivism & the ‘Ideological Vortex’: Farewell to All That” first published in the Fall 1997 issue of Fifth Estate (vol. 32 #2 (Whole Number 350)). End note.
Civilizations, most people know, destroy themselves. Radical greens, anarchist or otherwise, need to ... develop a constructive politics of solidarity, justice and renewal that moves beyond one-dimensional opposition to and unintelligible confrontation with mass society.
Jul 15, 2016
Four more years ... of resistance!
It’s finally over. Now we can get back to work. Over the last seven months a surprising number of our comrades were increasingly distracted by the seductive spectacle of humiliating Bush and Cheney on a grand scale. Anarchists I know, respect, and love voted, ferchrissakes, in their overwhelming desire to publicly rub Bush’s nose in it. But in the back of their minds they all knew that a Kerry victory wouldn’t change anything other than infinitesimally retard the atrocities, plunder, and human rights abuses carried out in the name of the USA.
Oct 20, 2015
Marx, Thoreau, and Us
Political economy, perennial economy
From July 1845 to September 1847, Thoreau lived at Walden Pond outside of Concord in a small cabin he built largely from scrap. Uninformed cynics typically criticize him either for staying close to town instead of seeking authentic wilderness—or for staying in the cabin only briefly; Thoreau himself made no great claims for his experiment, as he called it, explaining that he was attempting to “live deliberately,” to explore himself, to turn his attention to the woods. (In his essay, “Walking,” he also says that he prefers a kind of “border life” at the boundary between civilization and wilderness). Thoreau finished Walden after returning from the woods to embark on the “other lives” he said he still needed to live.
Nov 5, 2015
Notes toward a history of the Fifth Estate
Part 1: 1975–1981
“Only movement can know movement.”
Someday, if anything is left of any of this, and this epoch’s fascination with historical records and documentation endures, I imagine some historian, grad student, or amateur archivist will write a text detailing, accurately or less than so, the vicissitudes of the small group of friends and comrades in Detroit and elsewhere who have produced the FE. This task will probably have to fall to such a person, I fear. My original attempt to write something that was both memoir and intellectual history led to arguments not only about how the history should be presented, but about what happened. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, it was Rashomon all over again. Woe to anyone who tries to write the history of shared, intense activities.
Feb 21, 2014
Life in the Kali Yuga: Civilization as Tsunami
A natural disaster is not a moral event, but how we respond to a disaster inevitably is. If the tsunami demonstrates that the earth is not on anyone’s “side,” then it behooves us even more to be on the side of the earth.
The awesome magnitude and incomprehensible physical destruction and human suffering caused by the tsunami that ravaged and rattled the earth in December render any statement about it, any explanation, painfully inadequate. Towns were demolished, villages and whole stands of trees smashed to splinters, trains swept off their tracks and bent and twisted like toys. People were swept back into the sea, crushed under rubble, pulled from each other and drowned in the flood waters, left mangled and askew in trees and power lines by the terrible waves.
Mar 9, 2014
For Pat ‘the Rat’ Halley
“The layman Ho asked Basho: ‘What is it that transcends everything in the universe?’ (another version: ‘If all things return to the one, to what does the one return?’)
“Basho answered: ‘I will tell you after you have drunk up all the waters of the West River in one gulp.’
“Ho said: ‘I have already drunk up all the waters of the West River in one gulp.’
Oct 13, 2014
Remembering Jim Campbell
Our longtime friend and comrade Jim Campbell died suddenly last September 17 of heart failure. He was 57 years old. Jim was a mainstay of the Toronto (and larger Canadian and international) anarchist community. Though we had not been in close touch lately, we had a long political and personal relationship going back to the late 1970s, including political collaboration, correspondence, and visits in Detroit and Toronto.
Oct 13, 2014
An Anarcho-Crossword Puzzle
to test your knowledge of anarchist history and culture
<strong>View or download PDF [57 KB]
Hints are displayed below the puzzle.</strong>
<strong>See below for answers and annotations
3. Brit anarcho-punk band; also rude or distasteful
5. Not charity; the Prince agrees 6,3
8. Anti-roach spray, early punk band, but you can
Oct 6, 2013
A Stalwart of the Spanish Revolution Passes
As we go to print, it is with great sadness that we report the passing of our compañero, amigo, padre, and abuelo, Federico Arcos, in Windsor, Ontario, at the age of 94. The last several months were very difficult for him, but all in all he lived long, fully, and admirably. He stood for lasting and noble human values. He cared about human beings and the Earth. He believed in justice and freedom and human solidarity and compassion. He had a powerful and permanent effect on us.
Jun 21, 2015
The Vietnam War
History & Forgetting
When this essay first appeared in the Fifth Estate in Spring 1985, the Vietnam War already seemed to be receding into ancient history. Central America was at that time being battered with money and proxies, rather than with “American boys,” who tend to get themselves unceremoniously killed while smashing up other people’s neighborhoods. A few hundred thousand deaths and mutilations later, we still await the tearful retrospectives with their admixture of regret and denial.
Jul 14, 2015
Remembering Federico Arcos
Federico Arcos (July 18, 1920-May 23, 2015), a lifelong anarchist, participated in the Spanish Revolution and Civil War in the 1930s, and later took part in the antifascist underground there. He immigrated to Canada in 1952, where he continued his commitment to anarchist goals. He eventually compiled an extensive archive of anarchist writings and other material.
Nov 30, 2015
Limitations of Leftism
Excerpted from “Stopping the Industrial Hydra: Revolution Against the Megamachine” by David Watson (writing as George Bradford)
The article from which this excerpt is taken, “Stopping the Industrial Hydra: Revolution Against the Megamachine,” appeared in our Winter 1990 issue. It provides analyses of the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989 from the standpoint of a global criticism of industrial capitalist society.
The Valdez was the source of the worst oil spill to that date in U.S. history, spilling eleven million gallons into Alaska’s Prince William Sound, where it ran aground.
Feb 24, 2016
Federico Comes Home to Barcelona
Compañeros from Detroit Bring the Ashes of a Son of the Spanish Revolution to Rest in Spain
In June and July, during a visit to Spain, my partner Marilynn Rashid and I spread some of the ashes of Federico Arcos, a companero, friend, and mentor to many of us in Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, including those on the Fifth Estate. Fede, as he was called, died in 2015 at the age of 94.
Jan 28, 2019
Unabomber Cops a Plea
As bombs are back in the news, so is Ted Kaczynski
During the outrage expressed in the national media following the delivery of over a dozen mail bombs in Late October addressed to prominent Democrats and a cable network, several commentators invoked the name of the Unabomber. (This ignores the role many of the targeted officials played in bombing other countries, but that’s a different story.)
Jan 28, 2019
Detroit trash incinerator closing
The news in March 2019 that, due to “financial and community concerns,” the Detroit trash incinerator was to be closed was weirdly reminiscent of news back in the spring of 1986 that it was going to be built: It came as a surprise to almost everyone in the city. This time, obviously, it came as good news; people who had been working to shut it for decades naturally celebrated the closing as “a glorious day for the city and its residents,” as Sandra Turner-Handy, a long-term environmental justice activist, member of the Michigan Environmental Council, co-supervisor of Zero Waste Detroit, put it. 
Sep 5, 2019