Letters to the Fifth Estate
Dear Fifth Estate:
We appreciate your kind mention of our group in your last issue (see “300,000 at Pro-Choice Demo—Plus Us,” FE #333, Winter, 1990), but we are not “Storm Warning” as the article identified us.
Our name is Tornado Warning and we are a feminist action group devoted to Womyn’s self-determination, self-help, and self-knowledge.
We see womyn trying, sweating, and crying just to maintain the right to decide whether or not to have a baby, just surviving. We believe womyn need to unite and go beyond survival to self-determination, take back the knowledge to perform our own abortions, herbal or mechanical.
We are interested in making connections with other womyn’s groups.
PO Box 7627
Minneapolis MN 55407
To The Hills
Received your most recent issue of your newsletter and enjoyed it immensely. For several years now you folks have been kind enough to send me a free prisoner sub—really wonderful to know “free” people are out there. Most people who write me are more incarcerated than I am and I am in Ohio’s close security prison of Lebanon.
I am once more in the hole waiting for a turn at local control (long term hole). Seems among other sins too numerous to enumerate I had a “pro-fascist” book: Wilhelm Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism and a “porno” book: Reich’s Function of the Orgasm. When I saw the Reich books in your collection, I thought you might appreciate the humor.
Your newsletter gives me some hope that out there somewhere is some sanity. In the late ‘70s I led two major strikes at Chillicothe Correctional, since then my health has deteriorated (insulin dependent—90 units a day), diabetes and severe high blood pressure. I think I will last til my release date May 5, 2008 (a Monday). I am one of those disabled prisoners whose 10% Social Security and Workmens’ Comp was taken away and used to pay for our incarceration. Where else could I get such fabulous service for $50 a day.
I’d appreciate anyone’s correspondence real person to person talk. A self-addressed stamped envelope along with any letter would be appreciated. I have two masters (Education and Soviet Studies) so I am communicative on a lot of things.
I have a Complete Works of Shakespeare back here with me, so a friend or two of old William would be also welcomed.
I close wishing you the best and thinking of Bakunin who was seen loading machine guns in the rear of a truck aimed toward the hills as the revolutionaries streamed toward the Capital where victory was already won. When they asked where he and his guns were going, he replied, “To the hills for the new revolution.”
Robert Kim Walton
Lebanon, OH 45036
Not A Monster
Hi, FE folks:
I was very disturbed by the extreme moralism of the poem, “In the Real World Series, Nature Bats Last,” by Herrada. I will not be forced to kneel before any thing without question. Nor will I feel obliged to answer to anything.
Herrada’s conception of the Earth is no less ugly than the Yahweh of the Old Testament. It demands utter subordination, unquestioning obedience.. Were the Earth really as she describes it, then to use Bakunin’s phrase, “it would be necessary to abolish” it.
Fortunately, this disgusting, authoritarian conception of the Earth is only a monster haunting Herrada’s head—a monster she’d do well to kill.
Civilization is based on the suppression of our passions and desires, our subjectivity, in the name of some allegedly higher power. The name by which that power is called matters little; it is always just another name for domination, for the repression of the free, wild being.
Smash all authority,
Herrada replies: “serving a higher power” is not what I had in mind. Nowhere in my piece can one interpret that a voluntary act of obedience or worship will be committed. I purposely used the word “forced” because, regardless of how unwilling we may be to fall, our lack of sinew may disappoint us.
When the earth is vibrating, trembling, shaking with all its might, standing our ground may be very difficult indeed. Whether or not you “feel obliged” is not the issue. In fact, you might not kneel at all; you might be laid flat out.
If I thought the earth fit the role of a god, I would assert that “environmentalism” is a waste of time and energy, since a god can surely fend for itself. I do not view the earth as some spiritual higher power or omniscient deity to be worshipped, but as a living, breathing organism with powerful defense mechanisms that does not distinguish between those who treat it well and those who trash it. As with wild creatures, it will bite the hand that feeds it.
I admire your radical, uncivilized, anti-authoritarian attitude, Mr. Faun, but it becomes arrogance when you believe that it is your defense against earthquakes.
Dear FE Friends,
As to my not renewing my subscription to your paper, I’d like to share with you my thoughts. I’ve actually been reading FE for a few years, and have access to back issues at the Reality Now office Over the time I have been familiar with your work and your paper, your various messages have been as clear as a bell to me. I especially appreciate your anti-technology and anti-industrial sentiments, but I’m sure that if I were to continue receiving the Fifth Estate, the same messages and conclusions would simply be reinforced.
I have a friend who works in artificial intelligence labs at universities, and a friend who acts in television commercials, and a friend who is a stockbroker, and one who is a university professor, and even a relative who lives with an Israeli soldier! So, I have access to opinions and personalities of people who are directly involved in things you decry. Guess what! I have lent each of them books and magazines (including the FE) which oppose what they do.
I appreciate your convincing people, and reinforcing in me, such things as the wrongness of imperialism and the backwardness of technology. I try to do the same by buying several copies of books such as Elements of Refusal and Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television to lend to people. At the same time, though, people like my friends who work in artificial intelligence labs keep on doing what they are doing, and the world doesn’t seem to become a better place. No matter how many people subscribe to your paper or others like it, the various and single causes of anarchy don’t appear to be tangibly advancing.
Perhaps the most fundamentally wrong thing about schooling is being done by the anarchist movement: trying to teach people, rather than having them learn; and trying to force change, rather than letting it occur on its own. The only reason I am an anarchist is because I came to it by my own will. Do you know any anarchists who are anarchists for any other reason?
Many anarchists and non-anarchists, too, are strong believers in spreading discontent, or views which foster discontent. We’ve all heard legions spreading discontent about one thing or everything, and a million reasons why it is good to do so. I really wonder, though, isn’t the end result a more miserable world? Miserable people tend to do uncaring, miserable things. I would rather spread contentedness, make the world a less miserable place, and inspire people to do caring things. One step toward my being more content is declining to renew my FE subscription.
For a brighter future,
Glenn R. Harrington
London, Ontario, Canada
Dear FE Readers:
I have recently received some anti-authoritarian magazines from Greece in the mail. I can’t read Greek and am looking for someone who would be interested in translating them.
Also, if anyone has a copy of The Digger Papers from the ‘60s, I’d pay the cost of xeroxing and mailing to get a copy (I can’t afford more), as I’ve wanted to read them for a while.
If anyone can help me with either of these things please write me. Thanks.
1369 Haight St.
San Francisco CA 94117
Suicidal Straw Men?
In your eagerness to move “beyond anarchism,” in search of “utopian” and primitivist visions, you once again seriously misrepresent the position of those of us who continue to argue for the anarchist vision of a free, self-managed society. (See “Anarchy in San Francisco,” FE #333, Winter 1990.)
The leaflet we distributed at the San Francisco gathering, “Have anarchists Forgotten Their Principles?,” was hardly limited to the RSL’s infiltration of the anarchist movement. Rather, we criticized the takeover of the movement by Marxists (including the RSL): spiritualists, lifestyle “anarchists,” and cheerleaders for third world dictatorships and aspiring dictators.
We did discuss RSL infiltration, but as an example of how anarchists’ failure to hold to and take seriously our ideas has left the movement easy prey to non-anarchist elements of all types. Bob Brubaker could at least have taken the time to read our comments before discussing them.
Equally obnoxious was George Bradford’s distortion of Kropotkin’s writings in a cynical effort to connect your primitivist ideology to the anarchist tradition. (See “Revolution Against the Mega-machine,” FE #333, Winter, 1990.) In the article you mention Kropotkin made the point that in a revolutionary society workers would reorganize production, abandoning industries that served no useful purpose.
Anarcho-syndicalists are in full agreement with Kropotkin on this point. We would certainly either dismantle the factories where nuclear weapons and power plants (to cite just two examples) are produced, or convert them to more useful activities should that prove feasible.
As workers take control of our productive activity and of the communities in which we work and live, we would naturally completely reorganize industry—building upon what exists, but transforming it to meet our needs. But abandoning our workplaces would not only be suicidal, it would result in ecological disaster on an unimaginable scale. Without industry, famine and plague would be inevitable—with all the ecological consequences they entail. Nor can one simply walk away from nuclear power plants and oil wells without inviting catastrophe.
The Fifth Estate’s current trajectory is simply irrelevant to the task of building a self-managed, ecologically sound, and free society. Your vision runs directly contrary to the most basic needs of our fellow workers, and to the potential survival of this planet on which we live. Because your case is too weak to stand except when buttressed by straw men, you are constantly forced to misrepresent other positions. It is time either to reconsider your position, or to admit that you have long since ceased to have anything in common with the anarchist movement.
See response by Bob Brubaker in Letters, FE #335, Winter, 1990–91.
Not For Sale
To The Fifth Estate:
The Winter 1990 FE is really great! Almost unbelievable! We already have a continental anarchist newspaper: the Fifth Estate!
George Bradford’s article, “Revolution Against the Megamachine,” is excellent at painting another clear picture of our life or death ultimatum. I have a 1985 issue of Harbinger in which Debbie Bookchin interviewed Rudolph Bahro, where he said it is going to require World War III or some other holocaust before there will be hope! So, when Bradford quotes Bahro as the article’s voice of some hope, I really don’t feel very encouraged!
Also, I have read many commentaries from people who attended the Without Borders anarchist conference, but your coverage and analysis were by far better to someone who wasn’t there. (See “Anarchy in San Francisco.”)
I’m really full of respect for those who dared discuss the topic of anarchists in the sex industry. Every wage worker is a prostitute, and it’s really incorrect to single out one trade as wrong. It was in the Summer 1988 FE that I saw topless women marching down the middle of the street with “NOT FOR SALE” painted on their chests.
Is it more morally right to pump gas?, or serve hamburgers? or deliver newspapers? In fact, the sex trade seems more anarchistic to me than most any other job, and they don’t pay the taxes that pay for my Prison guards.
A Little Flippant
To the Fifth Estate,
The exchange between me and the FE in the last issue’s letter pages [FE #333, Winter, 1990] seemed to me a little flippant on both sides. I feel the need to add a few words of perspective and argumentation.
It was definitely a thrill when Fredy Perlman turned me on to the FE in 1975. Since late that year I have been a periodic contributor to a project which for a long time had no peers, and became friends with its creators. We’ve never agreed on everything as is obvious to FE readers, but I think our relationship was based on mutual respect and stimulation. I still expect the paper to contribute importantly to the movement of liberation, especially through its consistent critique of modern technology. Over time I’ve come to expect a lot from the FE, perhaps too much.
To give my opinion that FE, in a most demanding time, is now lacking in terms of originality or critical zip is not a pleasurable act. Rather I feel anguish, especially in the absence of a correspondence no longer desired by my erstwhile Detroit friends, to say publicly what we are no longer debating privately.
I refer, for example, to the strong affinity at the FE for symbolic protest, the limits of which were obvious to many already in the ‘60s. An affinity which seems to have grown stronger in the ‘80s as FE’s critique has grown duller. Other friends of mine have lost interest in the paper in recent years, criticizing me for my lasting affiliation to it.
In the last issue I leveled brief but harsh criticisms at both the summer ’89 A conference in SF and the FE. The reply strongly suggested that my negative judgments were really based on resentment over the A Con’s refusal to print a letter of mine and the fact that nothing of mine has appeared in the paper recently. This level of pettiness and evasion is disappointing.
In the first instance, only if mine were the only critical letter received (which I very strongly doubt) by the Conference Newsletter would its nonappearance be of much importance to me or anyone else; in the second case, what I see as a decline in the paper, and much less interest in communication with me, has meant that writings of mine now appear in such places as Anarchy and Demolition Derby. This is not exactly the same as nursing a grudge at having no publisher.
The FE reply also implied that since I was present at neither the A Con nor the anti-incinerator protests, there is nothing meaningful I can say about either. In fact, I know quite a bit about both from several sources, public and private. Such a riposte seems very weak; were FE writers at Valdez or in Nicaragua, etc.?
I cannot deny that personal feelings may be influencing my words: the relationship has been personal as well as political. I wish the FE folks well in the new decade, for all our sakes.
Eugene, OR 97402
Love & Rage: RSL or Independent?
FE Note: The following letters and response are comments on Keith Preston’s article, “The RSL Is Dead, Long Live the RSL” [FE #333, Winter, 1990], which was critical of the founding conference of the new anarchist news monthly, Love and Rage/Amor y Rabia.
The gathering was held in Chicago Thanksgiving weekend 1989 and has been the subject of debate ever since. Preston charged that the conference was controlled by the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL), the Revolutionary Anarchist Bowling League (RABL), and Hay-day, a Chicago-based anarchist group.
A much longer response to Preston by Ned Day and a sample copy of Love and Rage are available from P.O. Box 3, Prince St. Station, New York NY 10012.
On Anarchist Organization, FE #336, Spring, 1991.
Dear Fifth Estate:
Keith Preston’s article on the Anarchist newspaper project conference, “An Open Letter to the Anarchist Movement” (FE #333, Winter 1990), was incorrect in many ways.
The most exciting part of the conference was the 11 hour discussion on the political statement. There was not one time I can remember that any group of people voted as a bloc on any issue of disagreement.
It took 11 hours because most of us thought it was important to define the parameters of the paper, as well as seeing where folks you didn’t know were coming from. To think that such a discussion should take an hour means that you don’t think political principles are important.
It is also amazing to me that Preston didn’t notice that over 50% of the conference was women and that 90% of the facilitation was by women. (Some from Atlanta, Knoxville and the Bay Area that K.P. didn’t notice was there at all!) If Preston had stuck around he would have seen that 50% of the elected editorial council was women.
Anarchists should ask Preston how the hell any kind of revolution is possible without the active participation of young people, which the conference had plenty of and that he neglects to mention. If I didn’t know better I would think he attended a different conference.
To me, Anarchism means freedom, solidarity and mutual aid and support. I am angered by Preston’s tone. Our movement should encourage many different newspapers, projects and bookstores, from various points of view. While we all may not agree on the politics and have disagreements on where to focus activity we can at least have respect for each other. In this Preston fails also.
It is with some hesitancy that I am responding to Keith Preston’s account of the Anarchist Newspaper Conference that launched Love and Rage, a revolutionary news monthly. Such exchanges too often turn into the sectarian squabbles that keep so many anarchists busy with everything but anarchy.
Preston’s account is filled with many inaccuracies. His claim that RABL, Hayday and the RSL voted as a bloc during the conference is an outrageous lie as could be attested by any honest observer of the conference. His speculation about the purposes of the RSL meeting to disband was edited by someone at the Fifth Estate to give the impression that their little funeral/therapy session was an organizational caucus or fraction meeting.
Preston paints a picture of a stage managed conference dominated by a few groups (RABL, Hayday and ex-RSLers) by making things up and luridly describing democratically made decisions in the most ominous tones. In describing a decision on whether the Editorial Council (elected to make decisions about the paper between conferences) should be in general agreement with the political statement drafted by the conference, Preston claims that he opposed this requirement because “a newspaper which professes to be the continental paper of the anarchist movement should be open to all individuals, groups and tendencies But Love and Rage makes no such claims.
In fact, the Political Statement explicitly states “We do not purport to represent the full spectrum of diversity in the contemporary anarchist movement.” What could be clearer?
Preston claims he came to the conference as a supporter of the project. Either he did not understand that the conference represented a particular orientation within the broader movement or he opposed the project in the first place. At any rate he quickly aligned himself with other self-described “obstructionists” who came to the conference only to disrupt it in the most authoritarian fashion.
As long as those who disagree with the politics of Love and Rage can convince people that we claim to be The paper of The movement they can justify their own efforts to attack and disrupt a project organized by freely associating groups and individuals.
Preston says that Love and Rage is “nothing more than the latest RSL project in collaboration with RABL and Heyday.” This is bullshit. This project was initiated by RABL and from the beginning has had considerable support beyond the RSL. The 18-member Editorial Council, which has the power to make decisions between newspaper conferences, has three former RSL members on it, two of whom did not sit on any decision-making body in the RSL. The Editorial Council includes people from Knoxville, Miami, New Orleans, Raleigh, Madison, the Bay Area and Atlanta. These supporters of the project are all dupes of the RSL in Preston’s eyes.
By ignoring the active participation by other groups Preston also shows some of his sexism. The Bay Area and Atlanta were represented at the conference exclusively by womyn. The Editorial Council is a majority womyn. In the male dominated parts of the anarchist movement womyn are invisible. It is inconceivable to many men that womyn might behave autonomously, not as appendages to men. So Preston builds his conspiracy theory around the groups with prominent men in them: RSL, RABL and Hayday.
Preston’s real objections to Love and Rage are its politics, which don’t fit into his narrowly class-reductionist version of anarcho-syndicalism. He complains that so much time was devoted to drafting a political statement, a task which he thinks should have taken only an hour. For him, anarchism can be boiled down to a few paragraphs attacking the State and the Bosses and that’s enough.
Preston is annoyed that so much attention was given to the specific oppression of certain groups. He says “It would seem that if we say that we as anarchists oppose all oppression it would follow that we oppose racism, sexism, ageism, etc.” I wish it were so. But as the experiences of the San Francisco Gathering should have made clear enough, the anarchist movement is rife with sexist, racist, homophobic, ageist and other oppressive behavior and ideas.
It is vital if anarchism is to speak to the lived experiences of the majority of humanity that we need to speak explicitly about racism, sexism, etc. Furthermore, it is not sufficient to simply oppose these evils. We need to understand how they operate if we are to intelligently attack them. I hope that Love and Rage will foster further discussion of these questions in the anarchist movement.
Love and Rage,
Christopher “Ned” Day
New York N.Y.
Bert Wirkes replies: Ned Day’s response denying RSL domination of the Love and Rage/Amor y Rabia project would be more credible if the newspaper was not being produced at the old RSL office in New York City and on the same equipment used to publish the now-defunct RSL paper, The Torch/La Antorcha, and if its Spanish section didn’t use the same translator as La Antorcha. Further, had Day not printed his call for the initiation of such a paper in the hari kari edition (Oct. 1989) of The Torch/La Antorcha and, when he published his pamphlet, “The Case for a Continental Anarchist Monthly,” not featured the RSL paper so prominently on the cover, one might take his protestations more seriously.
We weren’t in Chicago for the founding of Love and Rage and, hence, were left depending on the accounts of others who were. We selected Preston’s report of events because he went there as a supporter (not as an “obstructionist” as Day tries to paint him) of the idea of creating a continental anarchist newspaper only to be disillusioned by what he described as the successful effort by “RSL, RABL (Day’s group) and Hayday to dominate the entire conference.”
We received several other severely more critical accounts from those whom Day refers to as obstructionists—read: people who attended but didn’t agree with the procedure, politics, etc., including a member of the Resurgence group which favors both a continental newspaper and an anarchist federation.
The reports are available from: Some Chicago Anarchists, Box 163, 1340 W. Irving Park Rd., Chicago IL 60613; Karen Eliot, Box 3502, Madison WI 53704; Resurgence, PO Box 2824, Champaign IL 61825; and, Lance Klafeta, 661 W. Sheridan, no. 605, Chicago I L 60613. Enclose an SASE or $1 for postage.
To start with, I’m always suspicious when the man in charge brands his critics as sexist and I think Day’s label seems particularly demagogic here. Roni, an exRSL woman from Detroit makes the same observation, but it is unclear why the gender composition of the conference or the Editorial Board is germane to the criticism that much of what occurred was fashioned by three groups working in concert.
Next, Day charges that Preston’s criticisms imply that everyone outside of the inner RSL/RABL/Hayday loop are “dupes.” I don’t think it denigrates the aspirations or intentions of others involved in the Love and Rage network to say that the ex-RSLers and Day have much more in mind than the simple production of an anarchist newspaper.
For one thing, Day and his ex-trotskyist buddies know that small leftist cadres often control much larger front groups. For example, the RCP dominates Refuse and Resist, the Workers World Party controls the All People’s Congress, and the Revolutionary Workers League runs many abortion clinic defense efforts. Sometimes the people active in the fronts know about the relationship to the smaller leftist grouping and don’t care, other times the participants are simply unaware of it.
In regards to the newspaper; Day has suddenly developed a bout of modesty when he disclaims a central role in the anarchist movement for his newspaper. Earlier, in his Oct. 1989 Torch article, “Increase the Pressure,” he seemed to envision bigger plans for himself and the paper: “The conscious development of strategy, of plans for actually smashing authoritarian society in the real world, is essential.” (emphasis added)
This strategy is no less than the one Lenin advocated almost a hundred years ago: create a newspaper and then organize a party around it. The platform, then the apparatus. The RSL has shed its formal organizational cloak and denounced the counter-revolutionary mass murderers they supported for so many years, but it has maintained the core of leninism: instrumental politics—moving people to your agenda, and Day is along for the ride.
Perhaps the best place to see where all of this is going comes in the recent No. 13 edition (no date) of the anarcho-syndicalist paper, ideas & action. In it, Mike Kolhoff, a perennial booster of forming an anarchist organization, says quite candidly, that the “handling of the whole (newspaper) conference by RABL, Hayday and the ex-RSL people was unfortunate,” but to him, only “from a purely public-relations standpoint.”
Kolhoff desires a “formal organization of anarchists” and writes that he discussed this with Chris G. (Day’s other persona) and Billy Falk, a long-time RSL functionary and the grey eminence behind the Love and Rage project.
Here’s how Kolhoff assesses the possibilities for an anarchist organization in the pages of ideas & action: “It was the position of both Chris G. and Billy Falk that a base for such an organization did not presently exist. Despite this, they both agreed that a more formal organization of anarchists in North America was both desirable and necessary. Their approach to achieve this increased organization was the Continental Anarchist Newspaper Project. It was their belief that, in creating a semi-formal organization around the newspaper, we would lay the foundation for a broader organization in general.”
There it is, leninism without Lenin, and a process which will assure for anarchists results no less dismal than when the RSL practiced the same strategy within the socialist movement. Grafting this tired and universally recognized failed perspective on to an anarchist current which is just beginning to define itself is, indeed, “the dead hand of the past.” One wonders whether the people in the L&R network who Day is trying so hard to protect from being called “dupes” are aware of these high level strategy sessions and the larger purpose of the paper.
Part of the problem here is that the RSLers haven’t a clue what anarchism really is. They have stricken the word “socialism” from their lexicon, replaced it with “anarchism,” and they’re off and running. I spoke to one RSLer (who still speaks of “we”), who told me she knew a lot about anarchism from having read two anthologies on the subject! Really, these folks need about a year of study groups, sort of like de-tox, before intervening so decisively in a movement or ideas they know so little about.
Finally, Day continues to assert that the FE editing of Preston’s letter was done intentionally to misrepresent the RSL’s role in Chicago even after he was assured of the contrary in a previous communication. Preston wrote (in the version which appears in other papers): “Upon arriving at the conference site, I was able to witness the disbanding of what appeared to be a fraction meeting involving members of the RSL.”
We substituted: “Upon arriving at the conference site, I witnessed the end of a fraction meeting involving members of the RSL who had just voted to disband their organization.”
We thought (and continue to think) that our edit portrayed a better sense of what occurred. Also, we wanted to include the information that the RSL had ended its existence as a formal organization. If either sentence were to be found objectionable by Day or the RSL, I would think it would be the original.
Lost in all of this, as I’m sure Ned would agree, is the newspaper itself. The first two issues of Love and Rage seem like a decent effort although somewhat weak on ideas. -However, the declared intent of the publishers is to spotlight action (part of Day’s ‘conscious strategy”), and the numerous articles from around the world including Bob McGlynn’s excellent Eastern Europe reports and prisoner support news conform to this perspective.
Our worst fears about the content, derived from Day’s slightly hysterical Torch article, never came to bear, in part we understand, because of the RSL’s opposition to Day’s barely critical support of leftist national liberation movements. Day’s Torch statement that, “The ecological crisis is rooted in the social organization of industrialism- is pure marxist hooey, and fortunately hasn’t seen the light of day.
Overall, Love and Rage does contain information of note about the worldwide anarchist movement, as well as other rebellious activity, and, like its predecessor, contains a section in Spanish.
Hi! Just got three back issues of your paper and am very impressed. I lived in Detroit until 1978, and would occasionally read your paper, but was involved in feminist movement; didn’t make the connection to anarchism until passing through various authoritarian feminist and marxist groups.
Reading your paper is like a brain explosion. Many new ideas, especially article about the “Myth of the Proletariat” (see FE Summer 1989). I grew up in the working class and on the one hand I object to the invisibility that goes along with that (the only working-class people on TV are idiots or racists). But at the same time I always felt that there was something wrong with the romanticization of the working class that I saw everywhere in the left. Finally got it clarified from your article!
Los Angeles, CA