Don LaCoss
Charles Fourier Prefigures Our Total Refusal

Issue #12 of Internationale Situationniste reported that, during a general strike in Paris on March 10, 1969, a group identified only as the “Guy-Lassac Street Barricaders” erected a handmade bronze-coated plaster statue of Charles Fourier. The new monument was placed on the empty pedestal where his statue had stood before being torn down during the Nazi Occupation of the 1940s. Within a day, however, French security forces had restored control to the street and the technical service of the Paris prefecture tore the Fourier statue down; like the Nazis, the French government obviously regarded the presence of this early nineteenth-century utopian writer to be a distinct threat to public order.

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Don LaCoss
Potlatch Ritual Resistance to Capitalism

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Before becoming Situationists and involving themselves in the business of social war and cultural revolution in 1960s Europe, Guy Debord and his friends were active in the Lettrist International. They read too much Baudelaire and Marx, drank too much cheap Beaujolais, and aimlessly prowled the streets of Cold War Paris seeking liberty, love, the supersession of art, and an escape from post-Marshall Plan consumer culture while staying one step ahead of the cops. From 1954 to 1957, the Lettrists published a free periodical called Potlatch, which later became the Situationist International’s internal newsletter. Debord explained the choice of title for the publication in an essay in 1959: The goods that a free bulletin such as this distributes are non-salable. Only the further elaboration of these new desires and problems by others can constitute the corresponding return gift.” As would be seen later in Debord’s thinking on the spectacle, Potlatch was meant as a way to critically assess the vicious cultural logic of capitalism, the dead world of commodities, and the ways in which the accepted dynamics of the modern exchange economy had neutralized classical working-class Marxism. Instead, the Lettrists were hearkening to an alternative to the capitalist exchange of equivalence. This alternative was practiced by the aboriginal peoples of the Pacific Northwest famously described by late nineteenth century ethnographer Franz Boas and pre-World War II anthropologist Marcel Mauss.

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Don LaCoss
Freedom Dreams Book review

a review of

Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, by Robin D.G. Kelley, Beacon Press, Boston, 2002.

The word “dreams” in the title of this book is both a plural noun and a present-tense verb. In his compelling, daring book from last year (now available in paperback), historian and cultural critic, Robin D.G. Kelley, refuses to be forced to choose between the dreams of last night and the constant process of the awakened imagination now. This makes for an unruly read—the book is equal parts historical narrative, utopian conjecture, and prescriptive plan for rethinking what it means to be Black and what revolutionary transformation would look like from new perspectives.

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Don LaCoss
Democracy in Iraq Notes on a Greek Tragedy

Ironically, Iraqi Shi’ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is currently disrupting US plans to democratize Iraq by demanding that the upcoming election process be more democratic. The Coalition Provisional Authority has balked at al-Sistani’s proposals, as it prefers the process for creating a new government to be a “selectocracy,” a series of easily stage-managed regional representative caucuses that can produce the most manageable batch of Iraqi collaborators. Al-Sistani and his followers, however, are calling for a more immediate and more direct process’ that would curtail external manipulation and the policing of election results by the US.

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Don LaCoss
Mars First!

“The tighter that our humanity closes ranks to conquer nature on Mars, the tighter the elements close theirs to avenge the victory.”

—from Aleksandr Malinovskii Bogdanov’s Red Star (1908)

It’s easy to laugh off the Bush-Cheney regime’s plans for “establishing an extended human presence” on the Moon and Mars. “We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the Moon,” said Bush, a man who constantly fails to correctly pronounce the word “nuclear” and whose own scientific wisdom has had him publicly defending creationist fairy tales over Darwinian evolutionary theory. “We choose to explore space because doing so improves our lives and lifts our national spirit.” Coming out of the mouth of such a cowardly, belligerent, and proudly ignorant obscurantist like Bush, talk of interplanetary missions sounds as unbelievably silly as the music on a Christian rock CD.

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Walker Lane (Peter Werbe)
Don LaCoss
Sunfrog

Everybody but Bush

Don LaCoss

The election is already over and we have lost. The name of the president for the next four years won’t be announced until November 3, but I know right now that the guy who won is a white male millionaire from Yale who is drunk on arrogant feelings of self entitlement and privilege.

The asshole who has already won this election is a statist insider who has conspired with his colleagues to kill and rob more people around the world in the name of American exceptionalism. He’s pro-war (even worse, pro-“War on Terrorism” & pro-Iraqi invasion), pro-PATRIOT act, pro-No Child Left Behind, and pro-Israeli free-for-all militarism.

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Don LaCoss
Schools of the Americas

In The Underground History of American Education, the renegade educator John Taylor Gatto traces the genealogy of compulsory public-school education in the US back to the system of pedagogy created in the nineteenth-century northern European state of Prussia. Prussia is often seen by historians as the architect of German nationalist unification; after the Napoleonic invasion of 1806, the Prussian military aristocracy decided that it needed to reform education in that kingdom so that new, centralized schools could produce “obedient soldiers to the army; obedient workers for mines, factories, and farms; well-subordinated civil servants, trained in their function; well-subordinated clerks for industry; citizens who thought alike on most issues; and national uniformity in thought, word, and deed.” The Prussian education model became heavily geared toward patriotism and civic virtue after the near-success of the Revolution of 1848; the ruling class in Prussia wanted to insure that the contagion of revolutionary ideas was not being picked up in the schools.

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David Watson
Don LaCoss

Post-election post-mortem Four more years ... of resistance!

Editorial 1: Don LaCoss

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.

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Don LaCoss
Zapping the Pyramid Notes on the history of an anti-authoritarian symbol.

The design shows a pyramid surmounted by an eye being blasted by a bolt of lightning. Bannered beneath the collapsing pyramid is the motto, “NON SERVIAM.”

If English, Spanish, Italian, or French is your native tongue, then you can probably guess the Latin translation: “I will not serve.” The phrase is taken from Paradise Lost (1674) by the radical poet of the English Revolution, John Milton, wherein the archangel Lucifer refuses to obey God and is cast into the frozen lake of Hell for his rebelliousness.

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Don LaCoss
Strip Mining Big Rock Candy Mountain A Tuneful Utopia

“The Big Rock Candy Mountain” has to be one of the greatest anti-work anthems in American popular music. One-time Wobbly busker and radio-show hillbilly Harry McClintock of Knoxville, Tennessee connived to claim authorship of the song in the mid-1920s (as he also did with another one of the IWW’s greatest hits, “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum”), but the song has existed in one form or another since the nineteenth-century. Hal Rammel, in his ambitious and imaginative study Nowhere in America: The Big Rock Candy Mountain and Other Comic Utopias (1990), goes further and traces the song’s genealogy back to old European folk practices like the carnival and mummers’ plays. The song is a scruffy paean to the most potent weapon of the weak: the utopian imagination that can supersede the grim miseries of oppression, exploitation and want.

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Don LaCoss
The Lynching of Wobbly Frank Little Film review

a review of

“An Injury to One” (2002). Written and directed by Travis Wilkerson

Tensions in Butte, Montana between the Anaconda Copper Company, unions, and workers had been becoming more serious for about a decade when 164 men perished in the grisly Speculator Mine fire of June 1917.

When it became clear that the disaster was due to Anaconda’s contempt for safety regulations, 14,000 strikers took to the streets. However, the US had just entered the First World War and copper was a vital part of munitions production, so labor disputes in Butte were construed as a threat to national security. Newspapers owned by the bosses denounced the strikers as “pro-German” terrorists, and Federal troops soon arrived to quash unrest by putting Butte under martial law and forcing the miners back to work.

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Don LaCoss
Great Dismal Mercenaries Blackwater & Iraq

Three years ago, Fifth Estate ran an article on the activities of the two dozen or so privatized armies in Occupied Iraq. The essay claimed that the name of one rent-a-gun company--Blackwater USA--was derived from the term used by the US Navy to describe stealthy, night-time Swift Boat assaults (like the one that former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerrey went on in 1969 when he single-handedly cut the throats of at least twenty women, children, and old men in the small Vietnamese hamlet of Thanh Phong).

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Don LaCoss
All Power to the Forevertron!

“We have been fooled, conned into letting governments and armies get into space on our behalf. Occasionally they will dangle little tidbits in front of us like “life on Mars” or “ice on the Moon,” but nothing really changes. It must be apparent that their interests are not ours. Now is the time for everyone, for all of us here to do it for ourselves--and for each other.”

-- from a 1995 manifesto by the Association of Autonomous Astronauts

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Don LaCoss
Without a Glimmer of Remorse Book review

a review of

Without a Glimmer of Remorse by Pino Cacucci, translated by Paul Sharkey, illustrations by Flavio Costantini (2006, Christie Books/Read and Noir; 364 pp.)

Read and Noir is the anarchist crime fiction imprint of anarchist Stuart Christie’s publishing collective; it’s an intriguing idea that deserves to be supported and I look forward to future titles. Back in 2005, Read and Noir put out an English-language translation (also by Paul Sharkey) of Pedro de Paz’s murder mystery/political thriller The Man Who Killed Durruti. This time around, it’s Pino Cacucci’s 1994 fictionalized biography of anarcho-bandit Jules Bonnot (1876–1912), the pre-First World War burglar, counterfeiter, car thief, cop-killer, and bank robber who was the most wanted man in France at the time of his death. (Interested readers may enjoy Bernard Thomas’s La Bande a Bonnot [1967] and Richard Parry’s The Bonnot Gang [1987], two of the best non-fiction histories of that affinity group.)

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Don LaCoss
Counterfeiting Sovereignty Why the State jealously guards its currency

“Counterfeit coin is said to prove the existence of genuine--the terms being purely relative. But because there can be no counterfeit where there is no original, does it in any manner follow that any undemonstrated original exists? In seeing a spurious coin, we know it to be such by comparison with coins admitted to be genuine; but were no coin admitted to be genuine, how should we establish the counterfeit, and what right should we have to talk of counterfeits at all?

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Don LaCoss
The Car Bomb Poor Man’s F-16

reviewed in this article

Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb, by Mike Davis, 2007, Verso, 228 pp., $22.95

Mike Davis argues forcibly that the “vehicle-borne improvised explosive device” (in Pentagon parlance) is a weapon of mass destruction. Keying in on the terrible effectiveness of this weapon (“an inconspicuous vehicle, anonymous in almost any urban setting, to transport large quantities of high explosive into precise range of a high-value target”), Davis underscores the inevitability of its proliferation as globalized capitalism industrially overdevelops every corner of the world, “like a kudzu vine of destruction taking root in the thousand fissures of ethnic and religious enmity that globalization has paradoxically revealed.”

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Don LaCoss
The Disasters of Disaster Capitalism

In an airport recently, I idly watched the 24-hour cable TV news that they pipe into the waiting lounges. A big report on the current financial market smashup noted that the US stock market had tumbled 40% in less than 365 days; this, the telegenic blonde woman on the screen told me in her “No, I’m really serious, now” voice.

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Don LaCoss
Spencer Sunshine
John Brinker
J.L. Dale

Reviews

Oystercatcher #5 Review by J.L. Dale

I’m young, but I still had grade-school fantasies about bathing my neighborhood in a heavy wave of pirate radio--my voice and my songs out into the world.

So, I respect a man that can keep that way of thinking alive. The Oystercatcher #5, edited by Ron Sakolsky, though rather diverse in content and forms, keeps a strong, unified voice. Each piece is well edited and laid out nicely, taking advantage of The Oystercather’s full-size format.

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Don LaCoss
Sucker

Last summer, I was talking to a carnival-ride operator at one of those small, itinerant outfits that was crisscrossing its way across the Midwest. The carny looked to be in his mid-50s and said that he had worked all sorts of jobs with different wandering funfair amusement shows since his first gig as a travelling circus roustabout at age 14.

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Don LaCoss
Like a Thief in the Night

a review of

Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, edited by Paul Bogard. University of Nevada Press, 2008

The “Reconsidering Primitivism” issue of Fifth Estate #365 (Summer 2004) carried a short article called “Support for the Forces of Darkness” by Luci Williams that lamented the poisonous infection of the nighttime skies by industrial-commercial lighting and called for “direct action in defense of the dark” against “selfish aggressors waging perpetual war against the night.” Ringing with manifesto-like intentions in that same issue of FE was a piece by Peter Lamborn Wilson warning against electricity: “Some people like Black-Outs: consciously because they enjoy seeing things fucked up, perhaps unconsciously because the filth of dead light and noise suddenly dies with a moan. Other people fear Black-Outs for the same reasons. It depends on your relation with night, with darkness and primitivity.”

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Don LaCoss
Franklin Rosemont, 1944–2009 “A stranger to neither love nor laughter”

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Federico Arcos, Franklin Rosemont, Paul Avrich, Waldheim Cemetary, May 3, 1998 at the dedication of the Haymarket Monument as a National Historic Landmark. — photo Julie Herrada

Writer, painter, and publisher Franklin Rosemont died on April 12 in Chicago. He was buried in a private ceremony some forty feet from the Haymarket Monument in Waldheim Cemetery amid the graves and scattered ashes of Fred W. Thompson, Emma Goldman, Ben Reitman, Lucy Parsons, Nina Van Zandt Spies, Slim Brundage, Voltairine de Cleyre, and a number of other subversives and Wobblies.

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Don LaCoss
Principle of Hope

“Dr. Alfred Nobel, a man who became rich discovering new ways to kill more people faster than anyone ever before, died yesterday,” declared one French newspaper obituary in 1888.

Nobel, a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor, and munitions industrialist, had become obscenely wealthy producing and selling weapons all over the world. In addition to getting rich through his commercial activities as a shameless merchant of death, Nobel also owned hundreds of patents, the most lucrative of which was his 1867 process for weaponizing the dangerously unstable explosive compound nitroglycerine into an easier-to-handle form that he called “dynamite.”

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Don LaCoss
A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back

a review of

Ursula K. Le Guin, A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back. Illustrated by Julie Downing. New York: Orchard Books, 1992.

During a trip to Sweden in the 1980s, a friend gave Ursula Le Guin a small, red-painted wooden horse. This sort of figurine--called a Dalahiist, or “Dala Horse”--is a Swedish folk-art tradition that is at least four centuries old and is associated with the Dalarna region of central Sweden near the Norwegian border, and it fired Le Guin’s imagination.

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Don LaCoss
On Blasphemy and Imagination Arab Surrealism Against Islam

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“God can do anything except suicide”
--Malcolm de Chazal

In 1973, a small network of Arab students living in Paris, London, and Vienna founded the Arab Surrealist Movement in Exile. At the group’s core was Abdul Kader el-Janabi, Farid Lariby, Mohammed Awadh, and Maroine Dib; they re-oriented surrealist elements against the intense misery they saw rampant in the Middle East: despotic police-state politics, nationalism (particularly Ba’athism in Syria and Iraq), militarism, patriarchal oppression, neo-colonial European interference, grueling poverty, and suppressed imaginations.

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Don LaCoss
Surrealism & Atheism Review

a review of

Guy Ducornet, Surréalisme et atheisme... “A la niche les glapisseurs de dieu!” Ginkgo editeur, 2007.

Surrealist Guy Ducornet has been active in the Paris and Chicago groups since the late 1960s, as well as a participant in the para-surrealist Phases movement. In 2005, Ducornet began contacting surrealist groups around the world and announced his plans to re-issue the classic surrealist proclamation against religion from 1948, “A la niche les glapisseurs de dieu!” (“Get Back Into Your Kennels, You Yelping Dogs of God!”).

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Don LaCoss
A Q&A about DIY with Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna is a musician, zine writer, and feminist activist who was at the heart of the riot grrrl movement of the 1990s. This conversation between Ms. Hanna and Don LaCoss unfolded over a couple weeks in June 2010.

Fifth Estate: Is it an exaggeration to say that DIY culture helped to launch and sustain the riot grrrl movement?

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Don LaCoss
Zapping the Pyramid The history of an anti-authoritarian symbol (excerpt)

Excerpted from Fifth Estate #367–368, Spring-Summer 2005 40th anniversary issue. This is an edited version of Don’s essay.

The design shows a pyramid surmounted by an eye being blasted by a bolt of lightning. Bannered beneath the collapsing pyramid is the motto, “NON SERVIAM.”

If English, Spanish, Italian, or French is your native tongue, then you can probably guess the Latin translation: “I will not serve.” The phrase is taken from Paradise Lost (1674) by the radical poet of the English Revolution, John Milton, wherein the archangel Lucifer refuses to obey God and is cast into the frozen lake of Hell for his rebelliousness.

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