Ashlyn Mooney
School’s Out For Good

a review of

People’s Republic of Neverland: The Child versus the State by Robb Johnson. PM Press 2020

Raising Free People by Akilah Richards. PM Press 2020

In the grammar of education, children are often passive objects. Children get educated; children get schooled. And what does education do to them? Charles Dickens described schoolchildren as “little parrots and small calculating machines.” A century and an ocean away from Victorian-era England, another artist and resistance worker, the musician Bob Marley, disavowed traditional education entirely: “If I was educated, I would be a damn fool.”

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Nathaniel Hong
Of the Book and the Deed A Tribute to Stuart Christie

Stuart Christie, Scottish anarchist, who practiced both the propaganda of the deed and the book, died at age 74 on August 15, 2020. Farewell and thank you good comrade.

Stuart came of age and political awareness in Glasgow in the early 1960s. The arc of his early politics went from a prospective Protestant Orange Lodge member to the anti-nuclear war movement of the Committee of 100 to the Glasgow Federation of Anarchists by the time he was 16. He was drawn to anarchism because it “was a way of life rather than an abstract view of a remote future. It was not a theory, a philosophy, a ‘programme for life,’ nor yet a description of how individuals and society should one day be, but a whole new way of looking at the world we were in.... [It was] something I could measure myself in my actions right now.”

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Stacy Flynn
Bullet Points two reviews

Big Girl by Meg Elison. PM Press 2020

The body is the locus of authoritarian control in Meg Elison’s Big Girl (number twenty-five in PM Press’s Outspoken Authors series.) Gorgeously surreal, the collection includes speculative short stories, essays and an interview with Elison by Terri Bisson.

Elison, whose debut novel Book of the Unnamed Midwife won a Phillip K Dick Award in 2014, has a stunning emotional range. Her work can be prosaic, comic, rageful, grotesque and full of sorrow, all within the same piece, sometimes within the same sentence. The title story recounts, through news reports, the journey of a sixteen-year old girl who grows to enormous proportions. She wakes one morning with birds roosting on her eyelashes, she slogs through the San Francisco bay, she flicks away men who climb her, and she comes to occupy her own island like a B-movie monster.

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Carrie Laben
Freedom in the Marshes

A review of

The Beast and Other Tales by Jóusè d’Arbaud, translated by Joyce Zonana. Northwestern University Press 2020

“I was happy on this barren land that barely provides what I need to sustain this ancient body, but which grants me the wild wind I cannot live without…”

These are the words of The Beast of Vacares, the title character of the title story in Jóusè d’Arbaud’s powerful collection. First published in Provençal in 1926 and long treasured in its native land, the book has only now been translated into English. For many American readers it will be their first glimpse of a landscape, way of life, and language that were under threat even at the time this book was written, founded on the freedom of open spaces and solitude.

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Nick Mamatas
Individualism’s Dandy Daddy

A review of

Resist Everything Except Temptation: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde by Kristian Williams. AK Press 2020

At first blush, Kristian Williams’ literary and political biography Resist Everything Except Temptation: The Anarchist Philosophy of Oscar Wilde, could have been an interesting blog post about the famed playwright. After all, the details of Wilde’s politics are well-known enough, articulated as they are in the essay “The Soul of Man Under Socialism.” He was an enemy of the state as well, and was arrested and imprisoned for gross indecency and sodomy. All that needs doing is to rifle through the man’s creative works and surviving correspondence to find some political bons mot, and behold—clickbait!

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Panagiotis Kechagias
The Third Book ARB Fiction

This is the square and the building it serves is black and from above the glorious midday sunlight falls in long beams like wooden staves driven into the ground. I stand outside the entrance. The square is built in such a way that its four sides slope gently downwards to a wide flat surface at its center. The building is made of marble and granite and slate, all black and shining darkly. I am here. The double gates stand open. The air inside is cool and inviting. I am here, in the island of Myrmidon, in the Mandragora Archipelago, because I have to know.

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Carrie Laben
Plague for Profit

a review of

The Monster Enters: COVID-19 and the Plagues of Capitalism by Mike Davis. O/R Books 2020

As he has done in the past for California wildfires and famine in India, Mike Davis contextualizes pandemic disease in a matrix of capitalism and deprivation that make a particular kind of disaster inevitable. In The Monster Enters, Davis chronicles the emergence of a new virus; confusion reigns about how it spreads, how deadly it might prove, and how best to stop it. Some governments downplay the danger for political or economic reasons; others are hamstrung in their response by neglected public health infrastructure. People suffer and die—poor people most of all.

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Corrine Manning
The Other Mother

A review of

The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Vaselka. Knopf Penguin/Random House (Bertelsmann) 2020

In Steinbeck’s East of Eden, an indecent woman comes gives birth to a set of twins: one cheats poor farmers to make back money for his father, one drops out of college and is eventually killed in World War I. Before all that can happen the sociopathic mother tells the cheating son that they are just alike but he refuses to believe it. He brings his altruistic brother to meet her and the shame he inflicts upon her is the end of her life. These characters are a mix of settlers: early colonial era, as well as recent Irish and Chinese immigrants. Of these settlers, only one set achieves whiteness in America. All benefit from stolen land. All think they have a choice like Cain and Abel. They can choose righteousness or they can choose sin. This is supposed to be freedom; that they can undo generational harm.

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Scout Lee
Exile, Revelation, Revolution McKenzie Wark Interrogates the Body

A review of

Reverse Cowgirl by McKenzie Wark. Semiotext(e) 2020

Told in vignettes, Reverse Cowgirl follows McKenzie Wark’s life through the ever-evolving landscape of Sydney’s gay and straight universes, exploring how the self is fashioned by time, clothes, class, music and sex. Wark’s multi-textual memoir pulls fragments of fiction, theory and correspondence into her own narrative, uncovering meaning through rewriting and reinscribing myth. Both a conversation with herself, and with the reader, Wark interrogates how the body’s meaning becomes created, observed, and interpreted. Her writing refuses a coherent trans memoir, imparting a sense of reverence for both that which the body knows but cannot name, and the power of self-definition. Essentially though, Reverse Cowgirl is about fucking, or more accurately, about being fucked.

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Jim Feast
Reticent Verse

A review of

Digigram by Barbara Henning. United Artists Books 2020

Many poets have used broad strokes to deplore the current reactionary environment (as Eliot Katz does so superbly in President Predator), expressing their outrage, disgust and sadness, but Barbara Henning in Digigram takes a different route, examining how the coarsened political climate has insinuated itself into all the interstices of everyday life.

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Jess Flarity
Diamond Dogs

a review of

Isle of Dogs by Jon Frankel. Whiskey Tit 2020

Every time Jon Frankel releases a novel it feels as if he’s managed to twist the English language into a new, illusory shape: a mobius strip made of words. Specimen Tank, his debut in 1994, is a lurid nightmarescape with one foot in the grimiest alley of 1980’s New York City and the other in the bizarro universe it took David Wong and all those Eraserhead Press writers another twenty years to finally tap into. If you strip down his latest book from Whiskey Tit, Isle of Dogs, it appears to resemble a political thriller—but it takes place in the year 2500 and all the politicians are multi-generational clones who ride flesh-eating horses around a war-torn, biopunk, feudalist-dystopian version of crumbling America. It’s like sitting down to watch a familiar courtroom drama and discovering your couch is releasing hallucinogenic spores while Netflix beams into your tv from two dimensions away. A word of warning: if you don’t first read Gaha: Babes of the Abyss (the sequel), you may ricochet off this book’s first chapter like a bullet shot into a centrifuge. Frankel must have snorted some Gene Wolfe recently, because he throws his reader directly into the center of the Sargon 4’s political web without wasting a single page on backstory, making it feel like a contemporary novel about life on Capitol Hill except now all the congress members have been replaced by techno-Spartans with delicate, epicurean palates. In a single scene, a couple of two-hundred year old clones might casually discuss mass genocide while drinking jasmine tea and referencing the latest issue of The New York Times, and Frankel continually mixes the familiarity of our modern day with his surreal vision of the future to keep the prose highly readable, yet somehow...askew. His style is a fusion of literary realism and highly imaginative science fiction that harkens back to works such as Philip K. Dick’s Martian Time-Slip, Samuel Delaney’s Trouble on Triton, and Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven. But compared to his other novels, such as The Man Who Can’t Die, Frankel has pumped the brakes on his graphic depictions of sexuality and violence, to the relief of some his readers and to the disappointment of others. This is possibly because Isle of Dogs is told from the perspective of the tyrannical Rulers rather than from their “genetically inferior” victims, and so the story has a familial warmth as the plot passes from character to character, almost as if the reader is peeking behind the curtains of the powerful kings or queens more typical of a high fantasy setting. Again, it’s difficult to pin a single genre on this or any of Frankel’s other works, but for the kind of reader who longs for a story that doesn’t have the slapped-together feel of too much of today’s popular fiction or the overwrought stylism of the literary novels hemorrhaging from Brooklyn’s coffee shops, this book will activate a part of your mind that you didn’t know was there before.

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D.G. Gerard
Housing is a Human Right ARB Interview

By August 2020, nearly one third of all Americans had outstanding rent or mortgage payments. As eviction moratoriums expire, communities should look to successful actions against the American housing system for inspiration. Moms 4 Housing of Oakland, California is a notable example. The organization formed when Carroll Fife, the director of Oakland Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) was approached by several mothers who had recently become homeless. The moms formed a collective, and together, they occupied a spectator property that had remained vacant for years. The occupation continued for two months while a legal battle to evict them ensued. As the case dragged on, Moms 4 Housing became a media sensation, gaining support from liberal journalists and politicians. Moms 4 Housing lost their court case on January 10th 2020, and the mothers were evicted during a nighttime raid four days later. But the community stood by them, attempting to block the eviction and demanding justice. In response to the outcry, the landlord agreed to sell the property to a community land trust. Moms 4 Housing has drawn substantial attention to the severe failures of market housing.

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Marissa Holmes
The Political Vision of David Graeber

Throughout his life, David Graeber remained an eternal optimist who refused to accept the world as it is, and saw only what it could be. He envisioned international, directly democratic, and egalitarian politics. To achieve this required practice.

An Hypothesis

In Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology, Graeber made an hypothesis: majoritarian democracy was in its origins essentially a military institution, a coercive political process in which the minority was compelled by force to do as the majority wanted. Often the “majority,” as in the case of Ancient Athens, was comprised only of white property-owning men. A real democracy could be found in non-Western examples, where people made decisions based on consent rather than coercion. He wrote, “If there is no way to compel those who find a majority decision distasteful to go along with it, then the last thing one would want to do is to hold a vote: a public contest which someone will be seen to lose.” Thus, in communities where the mechanism of coercion, most commonly the state, was absent, there was no reason to engage in a majoritarian process. Instead, he claimed, they operated by not only a formal consensus decision-making process, but a culture of consensus.

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Octavio Alberola
Farewell Comrade David Graeber’s Practical Anarchism

Perpignan, 18 September 2020

The untimely death of anthropologist and activist David Graeber has triggered a wave of emotion in social networks and, in the world press, generated headlines recognizing the intellectual worth of his wide-ranging work and militant activism.

Which is why, in the posthumous tributes, there have been frequent references—more or less well-meaning—to his anarchist activism and his conception of anarchism. Although it needs to be highlighted that he did not enjoy being classified as an “anarchist anthropologist” because, in his view, anarchism is a practice rather than an identity: “anarchism is a matter of doing, not of being.”

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Heather Bowlan
More and Better Trouble

A review of

We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics edited by Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel. Nightboat Books 2020

We Want It All is a big, unwieldy, overflowing book—in this particular moment, there is a need for excess to respond to excess; to the smug American Horror Story of overblown, overglossed oppression and hatred. As We Want It All’s editors, Andrea Abi-Karam and Kay Gabriel, state, “Our aim in the present collection is therefore both to register and to amplify this tendency” to write against these excesses of power. They identify eight separate “overlapping strategies and concerns” in this anthology, acknowledging they are far from comprehensive, among them explorations of the ecological and the historical, collaborative exchanges and serial poems, satire and lyricism.

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Various Authors
Letters

Send letters to fe — AT — fifthestate — DOT — org or Fifth Estate, POB 201016, Ferndale MI 48220.

All formats accepted including typescript & handwritten.

Letters may be edited for length.

SEXUALLY DIMORPHIC

My partner brought home a copy of The Anarchist Review of Books and I wanted so much to love it.

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Fifth Estate Collective
Issue intro

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This issue’s theme, “What’s Next? Demand the Impossible,” is a challenge to all our imaginations.

We live in a world faced with the scourge of a plague, and in a country that is an armed madhouse with a good portion of its population seemingly gone off the rails with fascist rage and white fear.

What appears in these pages is nothing like a blueprint for where or how to focus our energies. We know well what we don’t want and what doesn’t work. In general, we know that creating alternative communities of resistance is what brings results and can provide a model of the world we desire.

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Fifth Estate Collective
Masthead

The Fifth Estate

Radical Publishing since 1965

FIFTH ESTATE #409, Summer, 2021, Vol. 56 No. 2, page 3

The Fifth Estate is an anti-profit, anarchist project published by a volunteer collective of friends and comrades. www.FifthEstate.org

No ads. No copyright. Kopimi — reprint freely

Fifth Estate Collective
Unfuck the World

Unfuck the World, says the sign on this page and the next. It isn’t just a one-off, rude slogan held by someone justifiably angry at the state of things.

It stems from the 2017 rap/rock song of that name by The Prophets of Rage, a band comprised of members of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill. It’s an anthem for what has become a worldwide movement that will host its 9th annual UTW Day, September 18.

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Philippe Pernot
Direct Action Creates Community Unfuck the climate: Occupy the forests!

Anarchist utopias are alive and well, not only in Chiapas or Rojava but also in the heart of capitalist Europe. In Germany, police repression and gentrification have dealt a decisive blow to traditional anarchist strongholds like Berlin, with numerous free spaces closed down since the pandemic started.

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Steve Welzer
The Path to Change: Community

The movement for social change must be comprehensive and multi-dimensional. There is no simple Solution and no single Best Way to get from here to there.

But there has recently been a shift of sentiment regarding where and how our efforts for social change are most likely to be rewarded. Individuals and families, increasingly atomized within mass society, lack the resources and leverage to have that much of an impact. At the other end of the spectrum, the dominate institutions (corporations, government agencies, large universities, non-profits, etc.) possess institutional inertia to a degree that frustratingly impedes change.

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Ben Olson
Music & Domestication Hope lies with those musicians who resist

We need to affirm the value of music, especially undomesticated music, particularly during the social deprivations of the current pandemic. The past year has been a blur of social isolation, sheltering-in-place, and lockdowns.

The muted horrors of 2020 and beyond have led to increasingly isolated pleasures, fearful desires, little moments of secret forgetting (or seeking forgetting), private escapes that often only exacerbate the effects of being alone and afraid. In this situation, for many people, the experience of media, watching movies, reading, or listening to music, becomes a coveted refuge, a vain attempt at relaxation and respite from constant, only half-acknowledged anxiety, a survivors’ kit for augmenting the effects of collectively (though unevenly) distributed, and privately suffered, cultural trauma. But the isolation of music, the intertwining of the musical experience with our increasing domestication, means that our attempts to heal may fall short.

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Noah Johnson
To Live as the Trees Do

In Peter Kropotkin’s 1902 Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution, countless examples are provided of cooperation among animals, countering the social Darwinist concept of ruthless competition as the framework for both nature and human society.

Yet a frustrating exception to the seemingly ubiquitous importance of mutual aid was the apparent hyper-individualism of plants. Kropotkin dismissed this as due to their immobility, thus making competition a requirement for their survival. It is true that plants seem quite solitary, each concerned exclusively for its own survival.

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Karen Pickett
Revolutionary Ecology 40 years of the Earth First! Journal

The direct action-oriented Earth First! radical environmental movement and its public-facing arm, the Earth First! Journal, turned 40 years old in 2020. And, 2020 almost killed the venerable Journal.

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An Earth First! direct action blockade to defend a forest

The scrappy and irreverent publication was plunged into pandemic and quarantine hell, as its volunteers and tiny staff at its office in southern Oregon, used to working collectively in person, passing around articles being edited, was suddenly in chaos, navigating through poor internet in rural Oregon and steering over other considerable bumps in the road.

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Eric Laursen
Only Change is Permanent

Critical theory is a bit like pornography, as a Supreme Court justice once said when asked to define the latter: “I know it when I see it.”

Critical theory can be defined pretty loosely as well. It’s the multitude of intellectual spin-offs from Marx that began to take flight roughly a hundred years ago, at about the time that Lenin and his acolytes thought they have codified what Orthodox Marxism was, forever.

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Fifth Estate Collective
Good-bye to the Draft?

The Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 was introduced in Congress on April 14 with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. If this becomes law, registering for the hated draft will no longer be required.

The draft laws have always contradicted the 13th Amendment that forbids involuntary servitude. The draft laws are the worst kind, forcing citizens to do the dirty, and often criminal work of the government in its endless wars, almost all of which are based on lies.

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Bill Weinberg
Anarchy in Belarus Anti-authoritarian Voices in Uprising Against the Dictatorship

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The former Soviet republic of Belarus exploded into angry protests last August in the wake of contested presidential elections resulting in a totally implausible landslide victory for long-ruling strongman Alexander Lukashenko. Police, riot squads and army troops unleashed harsh repression, using rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades and water-hoses against demonstrators who objected to the results in the capital of Minsk and other cities.

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Steven Cline
Future Shock: 2077

The prisons? Open. The army? Disbanded. And much more, besides.

Capitalism’s debraining machines have ceased all their debraining. Capitalism’s debraining machines lay rusty kudzu covered dead gone utterly forgotten.

It’s a love sex & shamanism world now, baby, yeah it’s everywhere ya look. Here, now, in this strange and marvelous and most lackadaisical of places—we all wear masks. Cuz we’re tricksters, kiddo, cuz we’re Monkey cuz we’re Crow. The ol’ Br’er Rabbit, reincarnated. But these masks of futurekind, they aren’t like any old mask that you knew from the waybackwhen, no siree.

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Jess Flarity
She Exists Only to Please Sexbot Take-over

Love dolls. Robo-whores. Slutbots. Synthetic options. Whatever you call the life-sized Barbies made by California-based Abyss Creations and other companies around the world, these 70-lb, orifice-slotted mannequins have one primary purpose: to be the ever-obedient, surrogate sexual partners of their owners, which are almost always men.

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Kim A. Broadie
Letter from the Trenches Can Schools Teach Freedom?

The late David Graeber perhaps said it best. “Bureaucracy has become the water in which we swim.”

For over 20 years, I was embedded within the New York City Board of Education as a licensed agent authorized to deploy weapons of mass instruction. These weapons were placed in our arsenal to control, and perhaps teach, but above all avoid scenes like the following, which happened just days after I started:

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Ania Aizman
From Tolstoy to Pussy Riot Teaching the History of Anarchism at the University of Michigan

In the fall of 2019, I taught a course at the University of Michigan: “Art and Anarchism: from Tolstoy to Pussy Riot.” The curriculum at the Ann Arbor, Michigan college concentrated on Russian anarchists, historic and contemporary, and was designed to be as accessible as possible even for those students with little knowledge of art, or Russia, or history, let alone anarchism.

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Martha Ackelsberg
Then and now The Spanish Revolution of 1936

July 19 marks the 85th anniversary of the Spanish Revolution.

This seems an opportune time, then, to reflect on multiple aspects of that revolution. It began as a response to an attempted right-wing military coup against the legally-elected left-wing government, unfolded in the midst of a brutal civil war, and came to an end with the victory of fascist armies in the spring of 1939.

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Octavio Alberola
Cuba: The Economy Changes The Authoritarian State Remains the Same

The Cuban state has usually been able to keep a tight lid on protests. Generally, it only allows demonstrations that have been organized by government ministries. However, during the fall and winter of 2020–21 the dissident San Isidro Movement in Havana began publicly defying the rules by demonstrating for freedom of expression for artists. The government responded with intimidation and even arrests.

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Max Cafard
Deserving the Best The Continuing Appeal of Surrealism

a review of

Surrealism: Inside the Magnetic Fields by Penelope Rosemont. City Lights Books 2020

I used to know an amazing old working-class philosopher (an electrician) and practical utopian who had a wonderful phrase to sum up his inspired anarchism: “We deserve the best.”

“The best” means, as Penelope Rosemont shows in this book, what the surrealists call “the marvelous,” a world of beauty, joy, and goodness. “We,” means everybody, of course.

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Sunfrog (Andy “Sunfrog” Smith)
Summer on Fire In 1967, it was the Summer of Love in San Francisco. In Detroit, it was a Summer on Fire.

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a review of

Summer on Fire: A Detroit Novel by Peter Werbe. Black & Red 2021

Summer on Fire, a debut novel from long time Fifth Estate staff member, Peter Werbe, takes place during seven weeks in 1967, the year I was born, during the months I lived in my radical mama’s belly. So, I definitely need the narrator’s front seat to those tumultuous times.

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Ngu Thi Yen
A Red Country (poem)

My country’s red, long so I was told

Victories, a star glows

Flag crimson, glorious so

Vanguard leads, the people follow.

.

Red in sight, we have traded lives

Beat armies, lay siege to empires.

Red in mind, we have triumphed fights

Bathed rivals in blood and plight.

.

Why today I see but grey

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Sean Alan Cleary
1984 Still Knocking at Our Door George Orwell’s haunting tale takes on new power in this graphic novel

a review of

1984: The Graphic Novel: George Orwell, Adapted & illustrated by Fido Nesti. HMH 2021

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It might be that everyone has something to say about George Orwell’s 1984. It’s not only a perennial favorite among curriculum builders in American high schools, but also a ubiquitous shortcut for political meaning.

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S. Laplage
A Sacco and Vanzetti Mystery with a Modern Twist

a review of

Suosso’s Lane by Robert Knox (Web-e-Pub 2016). web-e-books.com/suosso/paperback.html

During the Red Scare following World War I, Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were the perfect candidates for judicial murder. Italian, immigrants, and anarchists.

They were convicted in 1921 of murdering a paymaster and a guard during an armed robbery at the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts. Although their innocence became increasingly evident, they were executed in the electric chair in 1927. Mass demonstrations protesting the trial and the verdict took place across North America and the world.

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William R. Boyer
Death Squad Thy Name is FBI

a review of

Judas and the Black Messiah

Director: Shaka King 2hr 6m (2021)

“You can kill a revolutionary, but you can’t kill a revolution.”

—Fred Hampton, 1969

But what if killing a revolutionary does kill a revolution?

—Curious Film Critic

Until recently, few high school social studies classes, let alone the general adult population, ever stumbled upon COINTELPRO, state terrorism, or Fred Hampton, the last of four prominent African American leaders assassinated during the 1960s, after Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. As the mainstream seems even less aware of our essential protest past, perhaps Hollywood has oddly begun to fill a disturbing void.

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Carrie Laben
The Booksellers of our Better Nature

New York City. March 2020, the first days of the crisis that would define the year. The words “mutual aid” began to appear where they’d not been seen before, from lamp post flyers to Reddit neighborhood forums.

Everyone from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to Britney Spears was using the expression. Loosely organized groups ran errands and made deliveries. Friends sewed masks for friends, then for friends of friends. And well before the summer’s boiling-over of righteous rage at police brutality, sustained protests attempted to hold Cuomo and the prison system accountable for leaving incarcerated at-risk people in facilities like Rikers Island, which became a hotspot for COVID.

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Marieke Bivar
Diane di Prima (1934–2020) Beat Poet & Activist

Diane di Prima has died. Now we have no choice but to introduce her to each other, since she is no longer here to introduce herself.

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Diane Di Prima, 1960s

On paper, you could say, “she was a poet, she was a feminist, beatnik, anarchist, Buddhist.” You could list her famous friends and lovers. Promote her books, her poems, her art. But she was so many things.

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Penelope Rosemont
The Paris Commune, The Right To Be Lazy & Surrealism The People Ruled the City for Three Short Months

“Work, now? Never, never. I’m on strike.”

—Rimbaud

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, an experiment in self-governance that is still inspiring today. It was born in response to the suffering caused by the Franco-Prussian War and the betrayals of the French central government.

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Tom Sykes
The Human Life Exchange Rate Mechanism Liberal Rights, Double Binds, the West, & the Rest

In our neoliberal societies, elites like to quantify the worth of human lives in various ways. A telling example is per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product) that determines the economic contribution each citizen makes to a nation.

Such a view gives succor to Social Darwinists and free-market right-wingers. If some lives are more valuable than others in this formulation then why should those of lower value be aided by the wider community? While few elite figures today would say things like this out loud, similar calculi tacitly inform many political decisions.

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Ernest Larsen
Prison Abolition It’s Time!

Through the uproar of the sustained near-uprisings of Covid summer 2020 against police violence and systemic racism, one could sometimes hear more radical voices. The assertion from them that everybody behind bars should be recognized as a political prisoner is no longer completely beyond consideration. If so, then it’s worth looking at how radical prisoners have conceptualized their experiences within the state’s institutionalization of punishment.

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