Letters to the FE
Fifth Estate Letters Policy
The Fifth Estate always welcomes letters commenting on our articles, stating opinions, or giving reports of events in local areas. We don’t guarantee we will print everything we receive, but all letters are read by our staff and considered.
Typed letters or ones on disk are appreciated, but not required. Length should not exceed two double-spaced pages. If you are interested in Writing a longer response, please contact us.
“Hang Me For It”
Oops! In your write up of May Day (FE, Winter 1995), you forgot to mention Louis Lingg among the Haymarket martyrs who are commemorated on May 1st.
Lingg was 21 years old when he exploded a blasting cap in his mouth in his cell, preferring suicide to allowing the state to have the last word.
“I despise you. I despise your order, your laws, your force propped authority. Hang me for it.”
—from Lingg’s speech upon being convicted.
For the Wild,
Wob Not Castrated
To The Fifth Estate:
I enjoyed reading the article, “The Centralia Massacre,” by Alon Raab in FE #346, Summer 1995. but I must make a few corrections. I’ve written an article on Wesley Everest and a recent book, The Centralia Tragedy of 1919, published by the University of Washington Press.
Raab states that Everest wounded one Legionnaire, but trial evidence indicates that three Legionnaires were killed during the raid on the IWW hall and that Everest killed the fourth Legionaire during his capture. Raab repeats the widely reported myth that Everest was castrated, but a careful look at the evidence leads to the conclusion that it probably did not happen.
A police report after the lynching describes all of Everest’s wounds, but omits any account of castration. None of the many people who saw Everest’s body (including Wobblies) claim he was castrated and the IWW defense team made no statements about castration at the trial when it would have helped their case.
The first mention of castration occurred months after the trial in a book by Ralph Chaplin. Although Chaplin’s account is not supported by any evidence (the book contains many errors), it has become the source for nearly every mention of castration by historians and other writers ever since.
Raab also says that Everest’s body was “dumped into an unmarked grave.” Not so. Wobblies staged Memorial Day gatherings at his gravesite in the years shortly following his death.
None of these corrections changes the fact that Everest was brutally murdered and that the Wobblies suffered a terrible injustice in Centralia as they fought to improve working conditions.
St. Paul, Minn.
Alon Raab responds: Thanks for the careful reading of my article and the encouraging words. When writing, I was familiar with your Pacific Northwest Quarterly article about Wesley Everest. Your book became available to me only recently, but I consulted many other sources. You make three points regarding the accuracy of my statements.
1) The fate of Everest’s body: In your article you refer to the body being taken to a local cemetery and buried without ceremony. No book I used mentions a tombstone or a marker, and neither do you. (I also relied on my long conversation with the knowledgeable current owner of the cemetery.) If IWW members gathered at the graveside in 1921, it was at an unmarked site. No other gatherings were held until 1932, 13 years after his death.
2) What you say about Everest’ s shooting is correct. He probably fired from the hall, but killed one of his pursuers during his capture at the edge of town.
3) The most problematic issue is the castration. In your article you build a case against it occurring, but I was not convinced. I do not wish to repeat historical myths, and find Everest’s death horrific enough. Yet relying on a police prison report to describe the state of the body and the way of death seems dubious to me. There have been too many cases of police cover-ups, lies, and distortions (most recently the massive planting of drugs on people in Philadelphia, resulting in a reopening of thousands of cases) for me to believe a policeman’s report.
It is also important to remember the situation in a town so strongly dominated by hatred of the IWW, and where press, business, City Hall, and police worked so closely at suppressing a movement. I preferred to rely on Ralph Chaplin, Wobbly activist and writer, reporting shortly after the events, and on other works, such as Frank Walklin’s 1920 pamphlet “A Fair trial?” In your article you claim that Chaplin’s account is “anything but objective and cannot be relied upon as a historical record.” Perhaps, but since when are police reports objective?
A major intent of my article was to show the way that facts and memories interact, the way events that happened decades ago are still affecting a town, and people who were not even born then. Almost everyone we talked to in Centralia had some notion of the events of 1919, either as some hazy rumor, a subject of study, or as a violent and shameful family secret.
For too many years the powers that ruled the town in 1919, and still rule it today, hid their part in those events. Now, however, the residents of Centralia are slowly coming to grips with their history.
Living in Exile
[Re: “Looking Back on the Vietnam War,” FE #346, Summer 1995]
My name is Robert Malecki and I need your help. I have been living in exile in Sweden for over 23 years because of my activities during the Vietnam war. If I were to return to the United States, I could be put in prison for a very long time. therefore this plea for help.
Between 1968 and 1972 I publicly took responsibility for the destruction of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of draft files and orders calling up young, mostly poor and working class kids to be sent to Vietnam. Statements to the newspapers, TV, and radio usually said, “We would not tolerate sending working class kids off to Vietnam to kill other poor and working class kids.” I also took responsibility for the destruction of the international computer network of the Dow Chemical Corp. in Washington DC. This company produced napalm and Agent Orange for bombs being dropped on Vietnam. Because of this action and others, Dow Chemical stopped its production of napalm. However, we were unable to stop the war.
In November of 1969 I was caught coming out of a draft board with military files. I was put on trial and sentenced to 12 years in prison. I used the Nuremberg trials after the Second World War in defense of my actions. I said there was no difference between the Nazi concentration camps and the American bombings of the Vietnamese people. Therefore, it was my duty to break national laws in protesting American war-making policy in Vietnam, in order to uphold International laws. This defense was not allowed by the court and I was sentenced to a maximum security prison in Lewisburg, Penn.
There were many others at this prison because of their activities against the United States government. There were black nationalists, Black Panthers, anti-war activists and even some Russian spies! So was Jimmy Hoffa, leader of the powerful Teamsters, and not the least Catholic priests like Philip Berrigan. I sat in this prison for 27 months.
The United States government had not succeeded in silencing the opposition to its criminal war policies. It found new ways like conspiracy trials to try to put and keep people in prison. One of the big trials of the time was the case against Phil Berrigan and other Catholic priests and nuns who, according to the government, were planning to bomb the White House and attack B-52 bombers stationed in Guam. The key person in this frame up was a government agent sent into the prison we were in to get the goods on Berrigan and others.
At the same time as the above was going on, I was charged by a secret grand jury for conspiracy to bomb public buildings and electric power plants among other crimes. The funny thing about this is that it never happened! The White House, planes on Guam, electric power plants, public buildings was a conspiracy according to the government. In reality, we were people who had always taken public responsibility for our actions.
At the same time this was going on, Jimmy Hoffa leader of the powerful transport union, received a pardon from President Richard Nixon. Was Nixon afraid that Hoffa would join an anti-war coalition and bring the working class out against the war? Serious discussions were going on and the possibility was a real threat. I watched Jimmy Hoffa walk out of prison and I believe his deal with Nixon was a betrayal of poor and working class people.
Soon after, Hoffa disappeared. I wonder who killed him? The government? The Mafia? Hmmm!
After 27 months in prison, I was released on bail in 1972 pending trial for the above. $25,000 raised by the anti-war movement gave me the chance to go underground and come to Sweden. I applied for political asylum and received humanitarian asylum mainly because the Social Democratic Party under the leadership of Olaf Palme had gone over to the Vietnamese side after Nixon’s massive bombings of Vietnam.
When Bill Clinton became President, I wrote him a letter demanding amnesty. I thought Clinton, who had gone to England during the war, would understand my situation. I waited nearly two years for an answer from him.
I will never say I am sorry for my actions against the war in Vietnam. Millions of people suffered and are still suffering because of the bombings. Tens of thousands have cancer and children are still being born deformed because of chemicals like Agent Orange! It was not I who was the criminal, it was people like Richard Nixon who were responsible for the war.
I have children and grandchildren in the United States who I would like to visit. I want the right to return to the U.S., the country of my birth and walk the streets as a free man. People like William Calley, leader of the My Lai massacre, are walking free today in the U.S. at the same time people like me can not return home. I do not intend to crawl back to the U.S. begging for forgiveness. However I would accept an amnesty or pardon. The United States government can call it anything they want as long as all the charges against me between the years 1968 and 1973 are dropped.
Send this letter to other people, other organizations, other countries. Send a letter to the White House. Send a letter to me. But please help. Don’t forget the dirty little war going on today in Bougainville. Especially you Vietnam veterans, now you have a real chance to get those corporate creeps responsible for sending you off to die for their profits! This mining company, Conzinc Riotinto, with offices in Australia and London, are carrying out a genocidal war today along with the Australian government. The people of Bougainville need your help! Put these creeps’ asses against the wall!
Demand the U.S. government take up this matter. Demand the charges against me be dropped. Demand the right for me to return to the U.S.
I feel like the Japanese soldier who was found on a deserted island in the Pacific Ocean 25 years after the Second World War. His first question was, “Is the war over?”
91531 Robertsfors, Sweden
Tele: 0934J106 44
I am sending you $5 for however many issues of #345 that will cover in postage so I may disseminate your wonderful newspaper to relatives, co-workers, strangers, etc. Secondly, I am curious to know if there are currently any anarchist videotape exchange networks in the U.S. or abroad.
As I began production of my own anarchist program (ICAST: Iowa City Anti-State Television) in August, I would like to connect/collaborate with others who are also using modern technology as a mirror in which culture may confront itself as it truly is.
To help fuel the program, I am asking for contributions in anarchist non-fiction, fiction, poetry, etc., which may be read along with things of a visual nature. I am also asking for help from people who would like to read some of these things and who would be interested in helping with visual assemblages. This would probably be most effective on the local level, but I can see how this could work through the mail system also.
As videotapes are produced I hope to have them available for private and public viewing through exchanges of material or a small fee to cover costs. Again, any information you may have on matters of this nature would be appreciated greatly.
122 Evans Street,
Iowa City, IA 52245
This is “Trip”—that anarchist from Glass House who got busted in Texas with acid and is now in prison doing a fifteen year sentence. They are holding me in solitary confinement, so all I see all day is this 5X8 cell!
The point is, I need mail. I want to know what’s up out there, so please drop me a line, send me a zine. Just remember: Every time you send me a page or two, it will cost the state an extra 10 bucks! I promise!
Chris Plummer (“Trip”) TDC #677345,
Central Unit 1 Circle Drive,
Sugarland, TX 77478
From the Belly
Dear Fifth Estate:
I’m currently incarcerated at East Jersey State Prison in Administrative Close Supervision Unit. I’ve just received several back issues of your paper from Comrade David of Claustrophobia ABC/DC and I must say I’m very impressed with the clarity and straightforwardness of your articles.
I once stayed in Detroit for several months in the early ‘70s when my brother was a college student at Wayne State University. I stayed the summer of ’73 and ’74 and it left an impression on me that has lasted all my life.
I was only 10 years old at the time of my first visit but my brother was involved in several anti-government movements and that inspired me to follow his path. As stated above, I’m locked down and have several more years before release. I would like to be put on the mailing list A.S.A.P. I just finished reading your 1994 Summer issue. It was refreshing to read all the articles, especially “American Guns and the Pathology of Empire.”
As the struggle continues for us all, it’s especially hard on us comrades in the belly of the beast. The racism, fascism and oppression go on 24 hours a day. We suffer every minute of the day. but with papers such as yours, each day is a little easier, knowing that someone on the outside is fighting just as hard.
Keep up the good work, comrades, and remember what Brother/Comrade Malcolm X said: “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything!!” The struggle continues from the belly of the beast.
James L. Ross #245560,
East Jersey State Prison A.C.S.U.,
Lock Bag R,
Rahway, N.J. 07065
FE Note: It is letters such as the two above (and the dozens which go unpublished), which affirm our belief in the need for continuing our free subscription for prisoners program. You can assist by adding an additional dollar or two when subscribing or renewing.
New in South Africa
Howzitz from South Africa:
I must congratulate your collective on your organization and input: excellent paper. Anarchism is truly international. Enclosed is R50 in South African currency for a subscription. I apologize for the inconvenience as it’s near impossible for me to get dollars.
Anarchism seems pretty new in S.A. The earliest anarchism in our history was at the turn of the century. He [?] made an assassination attempt on the country’s president at the time. They never caught him as he fled through Africa.
At the moment, there’s the Workers Solidarity Federation here which is a syndicalist movement, but very small with about ten active members. We are in contact with the Awareness League of Nigeria which is going from strength to strength. I heard they had more than 2,000 members.
Correspondence will be appreciated.
PO Box 1717,
White middle-class Arcata’s radical elements are working to develop as much autonomy as possible here. Hippeez in the mid-‘70s fought the state so that we could have a natural waste treatment plant. Now our human waste treatment plant doubles as a wildlife sanctuary and marsh interpretive center.
Since the hippeez took the town from conservative logger types in the early ‘70s, liberals (wishy-washy) haven’t done much since the marsh (except to declare Arcata a draftee sanctuary in 1971).
So, in 1992 we had a student-run class on anarchism at Humboldt State. In 1993, Food Not Bombs started here. There is a resurgence of radicalism that anarchist types are trying to mobilize. We are trying, for the second time, to start an info shop (the one in Eureka folded after three months in Summer 1993). We’re currently starting an above ground pirate radio station called “Free Arcata Radio.” hoping to be on the air in Sept., 1995.
An unorganized, loosely collective group is meeting irregularly to create a truly “Free Arcata.” Other plans are regular barter fairs, a barter bulletin board, a car-free 8th Street, and a city-wide “white bike” program. If any town is going to become autonomous in the foreseeable future, we think it’s ours.
Dear Fifth Estate:
Liked what I saw of your stuff in a book called The World of Zines. I really enjoy hearing about people who are working on ‘ community self-reliance instead of that “what’s in it for me” crap.
The only problem I see is that Indians firmly committed to a sustainable agrarian lifestyle are so easily slaughtered by greedy corporations.
What kind of community can form that will have the power to battle giant multinationals? Just a thought.
FE note: The writer above asked for a trade with his zine. but we lost whatever else he sent and unfortunately don’t even know what city this comes from.
I was very disappointed to learn that Sunfrog—by his agreement—is using the Internet to communicate.
After his essay, “A Treatise on Electronic Anarchy & The Net,” (see Fifth Estate, Winter 1995), I actually thought that here was someone who was going to live up to his own ideals. But noooooo...
As of August 1st, Sunfrog’s Web Page can be seen at URL (that’s Web jargon for Universal Resource Locator,): http://www.umich.edu/-babyfish/lasor.html
For me, Sunfrog’s Web Page (Web Page, no less!) is sticky with poignant irony: it’s entitled, “Liberals are Scared of Revolution.”
I feel sick.
Highland Park, Mich.
FE note: The writer of the letter above designed the Non Serviam logo which has graced our cover for over ten years.
Sunfrog replies (on his laptop computer) at 3 AM while visiting an anarchist friend in rural Illinois: Stephen Goodfellow expresses disappointment, but also reveals vindictive delight in having caught me.
Is my hand sticky with silicon sugar in the cybernetic cookie jar? He has not actually caught me doing anything. other than publishing in an “anti-copyright” fashion, refusing to claim “ownership” of my words when someone wants to reprint them.
For starters, in my writerly attempt to attack “the Net” by demythologizing it, I never took an unequivocal oath against all use of electronic media (or asked anyone else to do the same) and I never created the World Wide Web page Goodfellow found bearing the name “Sunfrog.” Perhaps Goodfellow could have explained the details more coherently to our readers about what he already knows, in order to clarify this “irony.”
Since 1988, I have published the anarchist ‘zine known as Babyfish. For the rag’s final edition, published in 1994, I collaborated with my good friend and comrade Craig. While Craig and I do not share an identical philosophy concerning computers and electronic media, it seems foolish to me that I would refuse his freely offered assistance based on this ethical diversity of opinion, especially when we share many other common passions. Craig was my co-editor, and a damn good one, for an explicitly anti-copyright project invoking what we call the “poetics of insurrection.”
Craig suggested creating an electronic edition of Babyfish for netheads, and including my writing in it. Should I have insisted on my ownership of those words and ideas or demanded they could only exist on paper or recited orally, especially when the magazine’s wide range of collaborators does not share the same ideological perspective on any number of “issues”? Craig created the net sites for Babyfish and I continue to offer my consent to be plagiarized, not just to Craig, but to anyone, whatever “media” they choose.
During the conceptual incubation of my article on e-mail we had some lively discussions at Fifth Estate staff meetings about the position(s) the paper should take. I had even suggested that a piece sympathetic to the Internet, providing some details about access, appear alongside my critique. The collective firmly rejected that idea in favor of a more radical denunciation without pro-tech dissent.
One of my comrades who spoke with passionate vigor against e-mail at one of those meetings now uses the Internet at his work. Such “convenient” use of technological gadgets in industrial society exists across the board by people who remain critical of the society which created them. Stephen Goodfellow provided compelling visual artwork for our famous anti-car issue (See FE, Spring 1987), but he still uses automobiles. Does this make him a hypocrite?
If I did make an incorrect turn at an ethical crossroads by granting Craig permission to plug my poetry and prose into the Net, that’s a critique I’d rather hear from a fellow neo-Luddite.
Some fellow zinesters who have seen Babyfish in cyberspace and have not read my FE piece, assume I share their enthusiasm for electronic zines. On another front, some friends have encouraged me to acquire Internet access to make it more convenient for them to communicate with me while I pursue a nomadic lifestyle. Though dissimilar in their implications, these problematic quandaries provide a more interesting challenge to my position than Goodfellow “catching” me.
The open paths for genuine, physical experience in an electronic era remain persistently -difficult to find. When we choose wildly we may not find a path at all. If we learn to communicate silently with flowers, trees, wind, water, sun, amphibians, fish, four-legged creatures and creatures who sing and fly through the air, would we still crave access to the consumers’ global village?
I’d still rather learn to remember the magic my ancestors knew, than use a computer to reproduce the misery of my contemporary society—even if that misery is masked with the superficially happy face of technological progress.
E-mail remains a curious novelty for the uninitiated. Users experiment with it like a psychoactive drug. Many get hooked.
Cyberspace is anything but neutral. It is quickly becoming commercialized. Utopian hacker enclaves and electronic peep shows for every kind of pervert may flourish today but the cybertroopers of state and federal governments are preparing for hardball. Someone who loses a confrontation with the cops over content and ownership of the medium doesn’t have the luxury of incarceration in a “virtual prison.- though I still argue that the entire Internet scene is one. The information superhighway has no defining quality other than amorphous techno-fetishized amplifications of the society which created it.
In his new book Rebels Against the Future, Kirkpatrick Sale writes: “In a real sense every use of technology, particularly such a piece of quintessentially high technology as the computer, no matter how supposedly benevolent the ends, embeds its ‘intrinsic aspect’ deeper and deeper into the soul of the user however wary or self-conscious, in fact embeds the values and thought processes of the society that makes that technology, even as it makes the user insidiously more and more apart of those values and processes.”
Could we interrogate the virtualization of everyday life? My writing’s appearance on the World Wide Web does not validate that forum nor invalidate my earlier remarks about “abolishing the information age.” My writing’s “there” in the no-place cyberspace. It’s there because my friend put it there. Big fucking deal. Why does this bother Goodfellow?
Should I change the title of my piece to “Computers Are Scared of Revolution” or “Humans Are Scared of Revolution”? I remain terrified of the technological revolution which makes this ostensibly petty discussion even necessary.
Another FE Note: Since writing this response, Sunfrog’s two computers, a Macintosh Power Book he travels with, and the Mac Classic he loaned the FE have both “crashed.” Now, that is “sticky with poignant irony.”
Dear Fifth Estate:
Politically-motivated bombings are more commonplace over here, courtesy of “Justice Department.” (See “Mad Bombers & Anarchy?” FE #346, Summer, 1995.)
Slingshot’s [magazine’s] attitude to FC was just wank. If there’s an underground operating, they should expect attention from cops trying to bury it. They shouldn’t act like hostages or cops themselves, trying to suppress actions more militant than their own.
Get real—all effective action incites State reaction. What can’t these professional anarchists stomach—being turfed out of their cozy niches? Bob Black’s Anarchism & Other Impediments To Anarchy is spot on here. ARNI targeted Green Anarchists over its support for animal liberationists, but we’ve not moderated our line and don’t expect them to moderate theirs. We take what precautions we can, but we’d sooner do time than have the underground do it for us.
They’re making more difference than us—our role is to show them solidarity. Clowns that don’t show us solidarity, refusing to distribute Green Anarchist “because [they] might get raided” and siding with state assets against us and all common sense in the interests of business, just emphasize what’s already been said above.
On other impediments to anarchy, the two anti-road pieces you printed were both passive media spectacles choreographed by protest professionals, the sort of farce Black’s on about in “Anti-Nuclear Terror.” These peace police ensured there was no ecotage, no protester violence—even in self-defense—and local “bailiff busters” who chased the poll tax out of Pollok four years before they were reduced to cheer leading tree-climbing pros stunting in front of cameras.
Now, trees, pros and media have gone, locals fight on with an arson wave against the road builder’s assets to spare their kids asthma. However popular and effective it is, clandestinity and criminal damage threaten the pros’ nice little niche—no smiley-spectacular photo today, no promotion to Greenpeace tomorrow. Aufheben #4’s critique of careerist “fluffies” is worth reading, if not their views on primitivism in the same issue.
Glad Mumia was mentioned in FE—“fluffies” wouldn’t screen the PDC vid at Glastonbury as he says “self-defense is natural” in it. Unlike solidarity campaigns presenting Mumia as the po’ victim of legal lynching, Friends of MOVE are trying to put his radical Green politics across to people.
We’re surprised Fifth Estate didn’t and that you maintain “industrialism can’t be destroyed by a lone individual,” as if we can’t start somewhere.
Oxford Green Anarchists
London WC1N 3XX,
To The Fifth Estate:
Passion Brigade was formed in response to the need for a group that focused on all sexualities in the fight for a sexually liberated and free society. Embracing the Lesbian and Gay Freedom Movement, the Passion Brigade hopes to bring sexual liberation politics to the anarchist movement and anarchist politics to those involved in sexual liberation.
Passion Brigade is an anarchist group which believes society’s attitudes are not all that needs to change, but that society’s organizations and the state need to go in order to make any sexual liberation possible or lasting. Passion Brigade is committed to fighting for a free, sexually liberated society using any peaceful means necessary.
Love and Liberation for all,
Catch A Fish?
Dear Fifth Estate:
I found David Watson’s “Catching Fish in Chaotic Waters” (see Winter 1995 FE) a profound and lyrical indictment of industrial civilization, if not civilization itself. What puzzles me, however, is the mildness of the conclusions drawn from such a thoroughgoing analysis.
Watson suggests a moratorium on further techno-capitalist development, it is true, along with a skeptical attitude toward “progress.” He also calls for “a synthesis of primitive and modern,” and explicitly denounces “‘going back’—which we have never proposed and which could never happen anyway.”
To me this sounds too close to conceding that we’ll never be able to roll back alienation, the massive estrangement blighting ourselves and the planet. Skepticism is of course essential, but dismantling every aspect of the mad global order is the real work—which Watson’s critique makes, to my reading, abundantly, ringingly clear, at least by implication.
I recently came across, in a 1993 collection called The Politics of Nature, an essay by Keekok Lee, “To De-Industrialize—Is it so Irrational?” Lee’s analysis is not nearly as complete and radical as Watson’s, yet his conclusion is not only logical but more advanced than Watson’s.
If our awareness of the actual depth of the engulfing crisis does not lead us to name what in reality must be done, such awareness ends up as a mere radical trope, a figure of speech with no consequences.
David Watson replies: After reading John Zerzan’s letter several times, I still don’t understand how, if he thinks I make “abundantly clear” the need to dismantle “every aspect of the mad global order,” exactly what he thinks is wrong with my essay.
My point was that we have to find ways, as individuals and communities, to live both in and against our time, and that people are in fact already beginning to do so. Given the vastness of the planetary crisis and how deeply embedded it is in our culture and characters, vague talk of “roll[ing] back alienation” is one thing, but actually bringing about substantive psychic and practical social transformation is quite another. Surely Zerzan, who recently conceded to a New York Times reporter that even he owns a tv set for sake of “narcotizing” himself, must understand that dismantling everything about the way we live is a tricky problem.
Rome didn’t fall in a day: we start by recognizing that we do not, and cannot, have all the answers. Humility requires that we avoid not only recuperation by the institutions of domination but also the danger of turning radical opposition into empty caricature.